No—because “Pride and Prejudice” wants to make you think. If Dong-Chi were friends with Oh, he’d probably face reduced charges and simply pay a fine. Three years is appalling to all of us who adore Dong-Chi. But it’s in keeping with his outsider status. The people with power will get back at Dong-Chi one way or another. I didn’t expect the ending to be fair, because the show has highlighted the lack of fairness in the system. Many Koreans believe their justice system exists to serve the powerful, and this show taps into that anxiety.
I did hope for an ending in which the characters maintained their principles. And Dong-Chi proved himself awesome.
(He may also be guilty of Noble Idiocy. Now that we know he’d already figured out he was a killer, it looks like maybe he pushed Yeol-Moo away because he might go to prison. But, oh, the look on his face before he confesses! He looks at Yeol-Moo with so much pain, and she shakes her head to tell him not to do it. For Yeol-Moo, it must be admirable but a little frustrating that he puts Truth and Justice ahead of staying out of prison. I think that’s why he looks awkward in the scene when he gives Yeol-Moo his robe. He made her cry again, darn it—and did it by sticking to his principles. Luckily, Yeol-Moo is idealistic, too. They’re perfect for each other. I refuse to believe the epilogue’s suggestion that they don’t talk for three years. Clearly they write each other long, passionate letters.)
7. No Personality Transplants.
Sometimes K-dramas resolve things by giving a few characters personality transplants. The meddling, evil mother who suddenly turns well-behaved. The confused hero who suddenly changes his mind.
But here, everyone remains wonderfully themselves. Dong-Chi’s stubbornly honest. Moon is misanthropic and looks like he needs a cigarette. Yeol-Moo still doesn’t get that poor Kang Soo likes her. Yeol-Moo’s mother cries a lot (but does it so well). Prosecutor Lee refers to himself as “the team’s ace” and Gwang-Mi gets things done with style. Chan still can’t talk. Kang Soo keeps looking like an adorable lost puppy. (Okay, that last part probably wasn’t written in the script, but we’re all thinking it.)
Even Prosecutor Choi is unchanged, though we see him in a new light. Many episodes ago, Dong-Chi asked Choi what side he was on. Was he a good or bad prosecutor? Choi replied that no one’s a good prosecutor. The position comes with too much power. Any little mistake affects too many lives. I remember thinking it was strange. (Can anyone remember what episode this was? I can’t find it!)
It might not be a happy ending for everyone, but it’s the ending that fits with their personalities and actions the past 21 episodes.
This last episode has a lot of stuff that doesn’t make sense. Most of it is connected to finding two last pieces of evidence: the recording pen that belonged to Kidnapper Baek and the micro-cards on which Song Ah-Reum’s boyfriend recorded Park Man-Geun’s confession. These two recordings show up at the very last minute, a deus ex machina that doesn’t save Dong-Chi or Moon, but at least allows the conviction to stick.
Here’s how I figure the scenes that don’t make sense. The opening scene shows Dong-Chi digging in the middle of the night. The image is eerie, and there’s no explanation. He looks frustrated. (Update: Great deduction from reader Nushie: Dong-Chi is looking for the lead pipe to find evidence of his own guilt. Now that’s thinking ahead.)
It’s possible he was trying to find the recording pen that Twin Brother Baek told him about. But he wouldn’t have found it in Kidnapper Baek’s old grave, because Koo senior didn’t bury it. Father Koo gave the recording pen to the young Kang Soo and Grandmother put it in a box with the yellow coat. How did Lee and Gwang-Mi figure out Grandmother had it? The show doesn’t tell us.
The micro-cards were one of the things that Song Ah-Reum ditched in episode 5 at the site of her friend’s suicide. Yeol-Moo finds them in possession of the homeless man who took trinkets from the crime scene. But because he has schizophrenia, I’m not sure how they figured out he had them. Another irritating example of missing scenes.
Irritating, but not unforgivable, like personality transplants or characters abandoning their principles.
In the conclusion, it becomes clear that a whole series of individuals bear responsibility for failing to prevent Han Byul’s death. Choi is the one who lit the fire. But Yeol-Moo could have walked her brother home. Chief Moon could have grabbed the kids from the trunk. Kidnapper Baek could have refused the order to kill. Dong-Chi didn’t have many options compared to everyone else, but would things be different if he hit Baek with a piece of wood? Or ran in a different direction and didn’t fall? And what if Koo senior had turned to helping the two boys before burying Baek? Or what if Koo senior had hit Prosecutor Choi over the head with a steel pipe before he could commit arson?
The show isn’t saying these people are guilty. Not legally. But they’re morally responsible for their actions, for the things they did and didn’t do. And they feel it on their consciences, with the exception of Choi.
At the MBC awards two weeks ago, Choi Min-Soo, who plays Chief Moon, declined an award, citing the shame of the Sewol ferry disaster. He suggested those deaths are on the national conscience. Moon’s remarks to Choi in episode 21 seemed to echo that statement.
“That kind of behavior is beyond our imagination,” Moon says, referring to Choi’s abandoning Han Byul, “Unless you don’t give a damn about people. There’s no way you would be able to watch a person die in that cold, dark and lonely place.”
If you give a damn about people, you care when people die. You do everything you can to be a good prosecutor or a good person. The higher-ups have the power to get away with murder sometimes, but that doesn’t excuse them. The finale leaves me with a sad feeling about all the people who might have prevented the Sewol disaster at some point along the way. And a sad feeling about the tragedies I might, like Yeol-Moo, have prevented at points in my life.
Do your best. Build good karma. Take responsibility.
10. The Cast.
Since it’s the same cast we’ve had all along, maybe #10 is cheating. But they sold me on this story, and they sold me on caring about Han Byul and his family. After 21 episodes, I could have been bored by another iteration of the story, but I wasn’t. And after 21 episodes of obscurity about who’s plotting against whom, and who was there in 1999, I still like these characters enough that I want to watch every minute.
A lot of the credit goes to Choi Min-Soo and Choi Jin-Hyuk. Choi Min-Soo, for being so damn unlikable yet strangely compelling. His Moon Hee-Man is ironically the moral compass of the finale. He gets the last word in court, saying Prosecutor Choi is guilty of behavior unworthy of a human being. And we figure the morally flexible Moon knows what he’s talking about.
And Choi Jin-Hyuk made Dong-Chi’s character not just plausible, but likable, though on paper the guy could come off as self-righteous. He reminded me of a book I read about people who risk their lives to help others. The writer researched a number of such “heroes” to find out what they had in common. And he found they had nothing in common. Economic status, religious beliefs, marital status, whatever it was, he couldn’t figure out what made them tick.
In the end, he said, the one thing they shared was how ordinary they were. They were like everyone else except for one thing—they couldn’t understand how anyone could not help. Protecting others, telling the truth—why wouldn’t you just do it? Choi Jin-Hyuk gave us that kind of ordinary, extraordinary character.
What unanswered questions are bothering you most? Are you furious at the ending?