“Pride and Prejudice” stays loyal to its dark message in episode 21.
From the beginning, “Pride and Prejudice” has depicted justice as elusive. Fictional lawyers on television can usually get the verdict they want. Whatever the flaws in the system, they can be overcome by a main character with the right stuff. Or perhaps overcome with the help of a nineteen-year-old judo-chopping mind reader using psychic powers to suss out where the jury stands. (The heroine of “I Hear Your Voice” was particularly lucky even for TV-land.) “Pride and Prejudice” lawyers don’t find things as easy, making for a tense last episode.
Episode 21 does have flaws. Although episode 20 appeared to end with imminent confrontations, episode 21 starts several days later. Certain key plot elements aren’t fleshed out, so it feels like there’s a missing episode between 20 and 21. And the editing is confusing in places.
Nevertheless, what an ending! The show produces surprises until the last minute. (I predicted they’d spring something on us about ten seconds before the credits, but I think the last surprise was about 120 seconds before the end.) Given the live shoot system, it’s not unusual to get a haphazard last episode. But the content here is great, despite the oddities of its execution. To viewers who are surprised or disappointed, here’s 10 ways the ending is brilliant.
The last episode continues asking the question “Pride and Prejudice” has asked all along: Can the weak obtain justice against those more powerful? Chief Moon has said you can only catch criminals in high places if you have the support of other people in high places. He speaks from experience. When he was on the special prosecution team in 1999, they caught a group of prosecutors who were embezzling funds, it’s true. But they only succeeded because the Hwa Young Group wanted to catch those guys in order to make Hwa Young more powerful.
Dong-Chi has a different way of looking at it. He basically argues that prosecutors can catch powerful criminals by working together instead of fighting among themselves.
In Prosecutor Choi’s trial it looks like justice will elude our heroes. The evidence that comes from the victims is discounted: first Kang Soo, then Song Ah-Reum, then Dong-Chi’s father. Only the evidence from the powerful has a chance of sticking—only Choi’s personal confession does the job.
But Dong-Chi and Chief Moon do succeed and get a murder conviction. Does that mean you can catch the bad guys if you’re willing to make big sacrifices? “Pride and Prejudice” doesn’t answer definitely, leading me to reason #2.
2. The Mysterious Inspector.
“Pride and Prejudice” sets up a delicious contradiction in the finale—once again surprising me after I thought the surprises were over.
A mystery man appears throughout this episode. He’s not a completely new face. Dong-Chi bumped into him coming down the hallway once. I believe he was one of the inspectors who came to review the team’s conduct when Director Oh decided to disband them. And at the very end of episode 20, he approached Inspector Yoo in the parking lot. (For what? Ah! I wish we knew!)
He sits in the back of the courtroom and never speaks. He spies on the “kids” when they meet for a quick meal at a sidewalk joint. And at the end, he appears silently behind Chief Moon, a grim reaper. The mystery man probably has connections with Hwa Young, since he shows up to murder Chief Moon for betraying the organization.
I don’t think he’s “the real Park Man-Geun,” so to speak. I think his identity is more mysterious than that—the only thing we know about him is that we know nothing about him. He’s a closed case. Prosecutor Choi asks Moon in court, “Isn’t it possible there’s more than one Park Man-Geun?” He says it in a way that suggests there are lots and lots of bad people. Get rid of me and another bad guy will appear.
He’s the silent, discreet, sincere guy that Moon calls “the scariest kind of bad guy.” We can easily imagine he’ll take Choi’s place as secret leader. And if he wants to take charge, that could explain why Dong-Chi and Moon were actually able to convict Choi.
This makes the ending ambiguous: did Dong-Chi and Moon succeed because they put everything on the line? Or did they succeed because the Mysterious Inspector let them put everything on the line?
The finale also stays true to the show’s focus on the victims of violence, especially six-year-old Han Byul. A number of stories have competed for our attention the past 21 episodes. But in the end, we linger on Han Byul. We get the last puzzle pieces to understand that he was unconscious but still alive when Choi saw him. Prosecutor Choi’s recorded confession suggests he started the fire, in order to kill Han Byul and destroy the evidence.
Although he’s long dead, Han Byul is the reason Dong-Chi and Chief Moon go ahead with the case. I didn’t doubt that Dong-Chi would submit the arraignment after he tells Yeol-Moo in episode 20 that he owes it to her brother. It’s poignant that Yeol-Moo wants him to stop, but he goes ahead anyway.
“Pride and Prejudice” often focuses on those left behind after murder. The grief of Yeol-Moo’s mother, for instance. But in the last episode, Dong-Chi and Moon aren’t thinking of the survivors. Instead, they’re trying to salve their own consciences. Both feel some responsibility for failing to rescue Han Byul.
Moon, of course, doesn’t say as much. But think of the last image in the scene where Moon meets his end: a kid in a yellow coat blurring into a haze. Moon’s no softie—and he’s been taking dirty money for years—but Han Byul’s death haunted him.
For at least ten episodes, I’ve expected either Jung Chang-Gi or Moon Hee-Man to get killed. When Moon joins Dong-Chi’s side in episode 20, he knows he’s putting his life on the line. The fact that he says something nice to Yeol-Moo in episode 20 suggests he’s putting his affairs in order before death. (I note he dislikes Dong-Chi to the end, though!)