And here it is. The last episode!
I have to say, for a series I was only half-interested in for the first half of its run, this was a pretty good finale. I was simultaneously surprised that I liked it, and sad that the rest of the series couldn’t be as solid. If I had to put it to a phrase, I’d say it was quietly moving. Which isn’t to suggest it’s boring or uneventful, but you see people dealing with their choices and consequences in a thoughtful way. And the end, in case you were worried, is happy enough for me!
SONG OF THE DAY
Infinity of Sound – “Spring.” (This song was played in Episode 5. New pop group composed of triplet sisters making eclectic music with traditional musical instruments.) [ zShare download ]
Also, if you thought Episode 19’s recap was long, this one’s a real mother! Seriously, it’s monstrous. You have been forewarned.
Joon resigns himself to the fire, recalling events of the recent past. He remembers the scene from last episode which I left out of the recap (the summary was getting long), when Joon and Shi-yeon reminisce on how they met. But since Shi-yeon has earned it:
Joon remembers meeting young Shi-yeon when they were 7. She was so sad at being separated from her parents that she cried, and barely spoke. One day, they went out to play and he remembers the first time she laughed; they fell into the river and got in so much trouble. Joon likes how simple things were back then, before they knew anything, just happily playing.
Anyway, back to the fire. Joon is drowning (and burning) in his sorrows when Shi-yeon finally finds him, slumped over, and rescues him…
…and Joon wakes up in the hospital. Hyo-jang coldly tells him he must get his act together in front of the royals when they name him Hwang Taeja. But Joon’s a little more sad over the fact that — wait, what? — Shi-yeon died?!?!?! While rescuing Joon?!
It’s sad, because despite all the wildly inconsistent character portrayals that have driven me crazy (Hwang Tae-hu foremost among them), Shi-yeon has never wavered. Sure, she did some awful things for the Evil One, but she was in service of her master. She once told Joon she would die for his father if he needed it. I guess she fulfilled that duty, but perhaps she got a small victory in death, in that she was serving her love just as much as she was serving her master. *Tear*
Hoo introduces Yang Soon-yi to his uncle, the Hyo-sung Dae-gong. Hoo wonders if he has to leave the Palace once Joon is named Hwang Taeja, and he probably will, since that’s the royal law.
On some score, Hoo’s disappointed — he tried hard and truly wanted to do well. “But on the other hand, I do feel free. Because if I leave the Palace, I want to marry her.”
Soon-yi: “It feels odd… I thought you’d always live in the prince’s quarters in the Palace.”
Hoo: “It doesn’t feel real for me, either. I’ll have to go to where my parents once lived… But since I can be with you, I feel fortunate. Let’s try and live happily.”
The Queen Mother comes to Hoo, upset (yet again) that he introduced Soon-yi to his uncle. If he continues to be stubborn, she’ll consider that to mean he’s disrespecting her. She asks if he’s doing this to get revenge for her role in his mother’s banishment. (Which… isn’t a bad idea, really. Seriously, using your happiness to make someone unhappy? Best revenge ever.)
But Hoo asks if she can’t be more open-minded now that he won’t become the Hwang Taeja: “Yang Soon-yi and I may both be young, but we just want to be together, that’s it.”
Han Sang Gung (Yang Soon-yi’s strict boss) approaches the Queen Mother and speaks up for Soon-yi. She has also noticed that the relationship between Hoo and Soon-yi is similar to the fate of Hoo’s parents. But cutting off Hoo’s mother from the royalty was an act of cowardice. She remembers that the Queen Mother had been a strong supporter of Hoo’s parents’ marriage. She had strongly persuaded the elders, who opposed the match, into accepting. True love isn’t something that status can divide. If status is taken too seriously, in the wrong way, it can bring many people misfortune. (Go, Han Sang Gung! I take back every unforgiving thought I’ve ever had of your character.)
Joon asks his mother if she believes he has the qualifications and eligibility to be Crown Prince. After all, he’s not of the royal bloodline. Evil Mom asks if Joon’s spoken to Jo Sang-ki — because Ajusshi is mistaken, Joon is absolutely his father’s son. But Joon doesn’t believe her — he didn’t hear the news from Jo Sang-ki, he heard it from his father.
Evil Mom is, understandably, shaken, and tells her husband that Joon believes Hyo-jang isn’t his father. And Hyo-jang matter-of-factly agrees; after all, he’s not. All these years, Joon’s mother thought she was fooling him, but he knew. He knew she had another man. She admits to being unfaithful, but is certain Joon is definitely his son. But Hyo-jang reveals another shocking truth — he can’t father children. He was told by the hospital that he’s sterile, so there’s no use insisting on the matter. Joon’s mother says if he’s really doesn’t believe it, they can perform a test to find out.
Joon gives the evidence to Hoo, who then goes to see Hyo-jang and his wife. He tells them, “It’s time for you to confess.” Hoo doesn’t intend to expose them to the outside world. But he wants them to apologize for what they did to his parents. But the couple are dismissive — they think he’s bluffing, and say they had nothing to do with his mother.
So Hoo resolutely says: “I understand. Then for the sake of the truth, I will settle the score for what you did to my parents, trampling over their lives.”
He leaves. Hyo-jang thinks Hoo seems different — the look in his eyes is stronger, different. But they brush it aside as empty threats.
Joon goes to see Soon-yi. But unlike his last few visits, this time, he seems calm and at peace.
“I’ve always lived according to what my father told me to do. But after meeting you, that changed little by little. I had such a hard wall around me. Only concerned for my own feelings, I made things hard for others. Because I was hurting, I disregarded your feelings too. There were so many things I wanted to do for you, but I couldn’t do anything. I’ll stop here. I won’t continue. And this time, it’s for my sake. I won’t forget what you’ve taught me.”
Now, THIS! Is the gentle prince Joon we should have seen more! If we had, I might actually care about him as a character.
Likewise, Sae-ryung and Hoo talk as well.
Hoo: “I’m always thankful to you, and sorry.”
Sae-ryung: “We’re too different, aren’t we? If you’d lived as royalty from the start, or if I was your schoolmate like Soon-yi… would I have had a chance?”
Hoo gives her a ticket to New York, and tells her: “If there’s a place you wanted to go most in the world, I thought it would be there. I’ve felt you’ve always longed for your mother. Don’t hide it any longer, and tell her in person, that you missed her.”
Sae-ryung is touched at the gesture — and it’s a pretty damn good gesture. Hoo’s the only person in the world whom she allowed herself to be vulnerable with, and although he couldn’t accept her love, he still cared for her and remembered something this deeply important to her.
(Dude, I know Seven’s a major star, and he’s the main character, and this is the last episode, and Hoo is supposed to be a strong, wonderful person… but any more of this hero edit and I’m going to melt into a gooey puddle on the floor and you’ll have to scrape me off with a spatula. I can’t take it; he’s too lovely.)
At the announcement of the royal successor, they tally the scores of the challenges, which Joon has won. However, before they can officially announce him the Hwang Taeja, Joon interrupts. He announces he isn’t fit for the Crown Prince. During the challenges, he cheated and acted dishonorably. Everyone’s shocked and in disbelief, particularly the Hyo-jang (who looks like he’s swallowed a goat), but Joon tells them that Hoo is the rightful successor; Joon cannot be the Hwang Taeja.
As for the matter of Hoo’s mother… The Pye-ha calls Joon’s parents to her chambers, and ask if they remember the incident 20 years ago. Hoo presents an audiotape of Joon’s parents saying that the crime couldn’t be traced back to them. Luckily for them, blame fell to Hoo’s mother. They threaten the subordinate with his life and his family’s safety if he tells.
Apparently Joon handed over the evidence to Hoo under the condition that they don’t prosecute his parents. Hoo says he’ll keep their promise; all he wants is to clear his mother’s name.
Hoo asks why Joon gave up. Joon: “Because from the start, it was not my road to take. But you’re different. You may not know it yourself, but your fate with the Palace goes back a long while.”
At the river, Hoo and Soon-yi talk.
Soon-yi: “If you look at it one way, it’s like it was originally your place to begin with. Without being greedy or ambitious, it came back around to you, simply.”
Hoo: “We met again like that, too. Nothing will change because of me being Hwang Taeja. If we just keep our hearts as one, we’ll be fine. I’ll try hard. Whatever happens, just trust me and follow, no matter what, okay?”
Soon-yi: “With such a refined man telling me so, how can I not trust you?”
Hoo: “I am a bit refined, aren’t I? You must’ve fallen for me somehow.”
Soon-yi excuses herself to go to the restroom, but of course she’s really using that as an excuse to LEAVE! And she takes a cab to the AIRPORT!
Hoo anxiously waits for her, and finally finds a letter she slipped into his pocket. It reads (and if you don’t tear up reading/watching this, you are made of stone. Stone, I say!):
“Do you know? I’ve liked you for a really long time. The first day we met, we ran into each other and I fell down, and my skirt flipped over. You were surprised, but I thought to myself, ‘When I grow up, I’m definitely going to marry you.’ Maybe that’s why, but whatever you did, I liked you. I wanted to make you pretty things, or share my lunch with you. When we had homework, I wanted to do it all for you. It was like that. I thought that’s just how our feelings were back then… but those feelings have brought us this far.”
As we see a flashback of all the sweet moments between Hoo and Soon-yi, her letter continues:
“But, they say first loves don’t come true. So, I think I’ll stop here. I don’t want to be more selfish. Because… I was really happy.”
Hoo tries to find her, and finally learns from Young-Nam that Soon-yi’s going abroad to study. It’s too late to catch her, because she’s already boarded the plane and is probably gone.
Hoo, shocked and crushed, goes back to his room, alone, as Soon-yi finishes her letter:
“Thanks for becoming someone I can see, wherever you are. I’ll always be cheering you on.”
The Queen and the Prime Minister still want to push through with Sae-ryung marrying Hoo, but she surprises them by asking them to forget about those intentions. She sees now that she lacks many things befitting Hoo’s wife. Her father is angry that she ruined a done deal, but Sae-ryung says that (kind of marriage) is the same self-sacrifice her mother made. She’d always resented her mother, but now she feels she can understand her.
Paternity results are in! Joon still believes he’s Jo Sang-ki’s son, and asks his father to forgive his mother for deceiving him. But Hyo-jang grabs Joon into a crushing hug, wracked with tears.
Wow, this is so sad. So beautifully ironic.
Even though Hyo-jang was so violently insistent that Joon was his son, and that he didn’t care if he wasn’t, you get the sense that he didn’t truly think of him as his own. He thought he did, but once he realized Joon really is his blood, he realizes how much it means that it’s true — and feels the pain of everything he’d lost and wasted by believing otherwise.
Joon’s mother explains that she’d lied to Jo Sang-ki, so he would keep the evidence safe. “It was to protect you. If it’s to save my son from harm, I can do anything.”
Meanwhile, Jo Sang-ki sends Hoo a letter, acknowledging that he’d let Hoo down by falling for one woman’s lies. He feels he must leave the country and start afresh to atone.
……..AND THREE YEARS LATER…….. (I know!!)
Hoo has been made Jeonha, having officially assumed the successorship to Pye-ha (who is still Pye-ha). Hoo has become quite busy attending to his royal obligations.
In all this time, he hasn’t seen Soon-yi at all, until she ends up as a foreign delegate’s attendant.
Hoo is unsettled at seeing her, and when he goes back to his office, he wonders to Han Sung Gung: “Though time has passed, why have my memories grown stronger?”
Han Sang Gung wisely replies: “Though time passes, your mind may not allow it to forget. In those times, follow the path of your heart, Jeonha.” (How awesome is she?)
Hoo is startled to realize her meaning. She was always the stiff Sang Gung who used to always tell him personal feelings should stay out of things. Why the change? Han Sang Gung tells him, “Because you are a person before you are a prince.” She also tells him that it’ll be difficult persuading Hwang Tae-hu. Also, in order to succeed, he must be sure to do something — and then whispers a secret tip into his ear.
On an official trip to Jeju Island, Hoo and Soon-yi are brought together, but things are awkward. They’ve also gone back to speaking polite (joen-dae) speech, and Soon-yi keeps her distance There, they run into Sae-ryung, who’s watching over of a bunch of kids as their teacher.
Sae-ryung and Soon-yi are genuinely glad to see each other again. Soon-yi also notes that Sae-ryung and Hoo have become closer over the years, and even speak in informal (banmal) speech. It appears that while Soon-yi has been away, Hoo, Joon and Sae-ryung have all become close friends.
They accompany Sae-ryung and her kids to the beach, where they sit, not talking, but both remembering the same conversation from when they were kids:
Young Hoo: “Hey, is this the first time you’re seeing the ocean?”
Young Soon-yi: “It’s my first time here. It’s so pretty, huh? When I’m older, gotta come here for my honeymoon, right?”
Young Hoo: “Who says I’ll marry you?”
Young Soon-yi: “Who says I’LL marry you? And I’m already claimed anyway.”
Young Hoo: “What? By who?”
Young Soon-yi: “I have my worry bear, Manito. I’m going to marry Manito.”
Sorry to be shallow, but Hoo and Soon-yi make such an attractive couple. I like them even better together as adults.
These days, Hoo even calls Joon “Joon hyung,” which is weird because he used to only ever call him “Moon Sung Gong.” Joon’s become a successful indie musician — still a prince, but mostly living a private life.
Soon-yi and Joon catch up, and Joon tells her Hoo was very lonely these past years.
Hoo: “I was curious, why you had to go to such lengths to leave me.”
Soon-yi: “If I didn’t, you wouldn’t have let me go.”
Hoo: “All right, fine. ‘I’m a commoner, you’re royalty, so we don’t suit and there would be a lot of problems” — let’s not say those things. In the past three years, I tried really hard to forget you. I thought I’d forgotten, but the moment I saw you, I knew. That hating you, forgetting you — for me, that’s impossible. Yang Soon. Let’s start again.”
Soon-yi: “It’s not that easy. You know it too. And also…”
Hoo: “Also what?”
Soon-yi: “My work. It wasn’t always easy, but I’m doing a good job now. There are people depending on me, and I want to do well for this work I like.”
Soon-yi was planning on leaving Korea to go back abroad in a few days, but Hoo is surprised when his new attendant is brought in. (The former male attendant to the Pye-ha is retiring, and so the female Shi Jong Gwan has been promoted. So to take her place…)
Soon-yi received a particular recommendation from the Pye-ha to be the new Shi Jong Gwan.
Soon-yi: “I worried a lot, but you look good. You look like you belong in this place. I thought a lot about whether this was the right decision. But then I received Pye-ha’s recommendation. But I still have a lot of worries… I worry that I might ruin things for you.”
Hoo: “Follow me. I have something I want to show to the girl with lots of worries.”
Hoo explains about all how there are so many things to worry about in the world… Soon-yi says he’s simple so he won’t have many worries, and Hoo agrees: “You’re right. Except for one thing. My worry over lost love. But now, I have a feeling that’ll work out well, too.”
“Men… are all about 19+!” (i.e., risque, mature situations)
(Note: Literally, he says, “Men are all about the 19+ restriction!” If you’re American, it’s similar to an NC-17 concept. So, they’re about the risque. :D)
FINAL GOONG S THOUGHTS
This post is already insanely long, if you’ll indulge me:
I usually groan at the “__ years later” trick pulled in many kdrama finales, but I was good with this one. In Delightful Girl Choon Hyang, for instance, I liked the time lapse because both characters needed to grow up — particularly Mong-ryong, who’d always been supported by Choon-hyang. In My Girl, on the other hand, I thought it was unnecessary and melodramatic.
For Goong S, it worked for me because Hoo and Soon-yi needed time to grow up, to experience life, and find themselves before coming back together. Life experience and struggle makes you stronger, and Hoo matured nicely in the intervening time. Also, Soon-yi has always been buffeted around by the whims of people more powerful than her — she needed to take charge of her life and realize her own potential. She’s become the capable, intelligent woman of the world she promised Hoo she’d become in Episode 19. And now, no one can accuse them of being thoughtless teenagers operating on fleeting feelings, because their connection goes so much deeper.
Unlike most Goong S fans, or more likely what I think the perception is of most Goong S fans, I was not a Seven (or Se7en) fan, and didn’t start watching the drama for him. In fact, when I heard he was cast, I was disappointed because I wasn’t optimistic about his acting skills (I didn’t hate him; I just didn’t care about him). And although I enjoyed watching the original Goong, I wasn’t a diehard fan. So I started watching Goong S out of curiosity.
Initially, I was disappointed that the show didn’t seem to live up to its potential. But for some reason, I kept watching… No matter how you criticize the show, I feel like it’s got a certain X-factor that hooks you in, that allows you to overlook objective weaknesses because of its overall charm. I even grew to like Seven, whose acting is still raw, but the guy’s got presence. I still don’t care for his music, but I respect him and think he did a good job with his role. I don’t know if someone else would’ve played Hoo so pure-hearted, eager, noble and yet vulnerable all at once, and that would have been a loss.
There were a few episodes in the middle there that nearly made my eyes bleed in boredom, but the latter half of the series picked up. I’ve had such fun translating and recapping this show. Okay, I’m (finally) shutting up now.
Gomawo-yo for reading along!