Before I launch into my many-word description of the finale, I have a one-word description: catharsis.
There’s something really cathartic about the way this story resolves, and I’m so pleased to report that I found the finale to be all things a finale should be — and above all, satisfying.
SONG OF THE DAY
The The Band – “우는 날” (The day I cry) [ Download ]
EPISODE 17 RECAP (FINAL)
Seung Hyo has been making preparations to return to New York, but decides to submit his resignation instead. Mr. Yoon doesn’t understand, but Seung Hyo merely explains that he can’t go because of personal circumstances.
But Il Gun has seen how hard Seung Hyo has worked and can’t let him throw it down the drain because of him… so he asks the Reaper to cut his time short. He’ll give up the remainder of his time with Young In:
Il Gun: “I can’t make him into a jobless loafer, then meet my kid and happily chat with her. He’s someone who’s given up his future for me and Young In.”
The Reaper accepts his request, but gives him some advice:
“Stop thinking that Cha Seung Hyo lost everything because of you. From the start, both of you were given another chance. He was going to die initially — he would have passed after spending forty-nine days in a coma. But somehow, it seems like you and your daughter have breathed new life into his body. Life has grown stronger in him with every day. Cha Seung Hyo’s fate is out of my hands now. After you leave, nobody knows what will happen to him.”
Ho Joong’s father demands to know if Ho Joong really was responsible for Il Gun’s death. His father tells him to run away before he’s brought to justice by his own brother’s hand. (This scene felt weirdly over-dramatic, but it was the only weakness in an otherwise good finale, and it was short, so that’s all I say on that.)
Also feeling continued guilt is Jae Ha, who tries to make a feeble attempt to repair the damage. I still have no sympathy for Jae Ha, but I think Jin Yi Han does a credible job of portraying Jae Ha’s uncertainty.
Jae Ha tells Young In that she’ll get some of the money from her father’s paintings, that he’ll make sure that she has enough so she won’t have to struggle to work and put herself through school. Almost scared to hope for a good reaction, he says he’d like to go back to the start and set things right, one by one. “But I suppose that won’t work … will it?”
He’s right about that; Young In tells him she’d rather not him anymore, “and even if we met by chance on the street, please don’t acknowledge me.” Jae Ha accepts this painfully, and leaves.
Seung Hyo asks Il Gun what it’s like to be a parent, and Il Gun answers that parents are fools, only able to think of their own children, willing to do anything for them: “But if you’re curious, why don’t you become one yourself?” Il Gun gives him some practical advice:
Il Gun: “Parents create their children, but children are the ones who make people into parents.”
Then, Il Gun startles Seung Hyo by telling him he’s decided to let go of Ho Joong’s wrongs. It’s for Young In’s good — he doesn’t want to prolong things and further pain her: “So you let it go too.” Il Gun doesn’t want Seung Hyo to have to drag his brother off and cause more pain to his own father, either: “I’m fine. If my Young In is okay, and you’re okay… then I’m truly fine.”
Seung Hyo visits his father and asks him to turn himself in (rewatching this, it could also mean to have Ho Joong turn himself in; he asks for the father to bring about surrender). Seung Hyo will provide for a lawyer — this is the most he can do. He also tells his father of his intent to return to the States.
Seung Hyo: “I’ll probably think of you from time to time, since I know what you look like now. I was surprised that you were smaller than I’d expected. In my memories, you were so much larger than me. I don’t know when I’ll be able to see you again, but until then, I hope you can stay well. I’d like for you to live a long, long time.”
As Seung Hyo walks off, he says, “If you give me time, if you wait for me, I will try living as your son.”
Seung Hyo goes home and looks fondly on his turtles: “Soccer Ball, Miracle. I’ll send you to the ocean now.”
He smiles, feeling light-hearted… and then collapses.
His time has come; Reaper stands by and watches. Seung Hyo is taken to the hospital, where he’s reverted to his coma.
At the hospital, Il Gun comes and sits by his daughter as she cries, and starts singing a song that used to always make her stop crying as a baby.
It works today, too, but for a different reason — because sometime in the middle of his song, Young In has become aware of his presence. She can see him, and hear him.
She realizes, “You were always by my side. You were watching over me all this while.” Both weep happy tears at their reunion.
From a distance, the Reaper watches with satisfaction — this is what he’d intended for Il Gun to do when he granted him his 49 days.
Over the next few days, Seung Hyo remains in his coma. Young In stays by his bedside, watching him sleep and telling him of her day. Starting to worry in earnest, Il Gun pleads, then insists that Seung Hyo wake up, so that he can at least say goodbye before leaving.
Il Gun: “Let me look you in the eye, hear your rude voice, so I can tell you thanks and that I’ve come to like you, a whole lot. Let me talk to you before I leave. What about our Young In? What are you going to do about my daughter? What happens to her if I leave and you stay like this, huh, you punk? I’ll give her to you, I’ll give you my daughter. So please just open your eyes!”
Must be the last promise that does the trick, because Seung Hyo slowly opens his eyes. At first, Young In and Il Gun react in excitement, but Young In starts to grow worried at Seung Hyo’s blank gaze, fighting back tears as she asks disappointedly if he remembers who she is, if he recognizes her.
But Seung Hyo breaks into a small smile and tells her tiredly, “Soccer Ball, you sure talk a lot. It makes my head hurt.”
They visit the orphanage, where Il Gun continues to give Seung Hyo last-minute tips about taking care of Young In in the future (“Since she’s your soccer ball, it’s up to you how to treat her, but just take care to make sure it doesn’t deflate. Renew it with new air every day…”).
As this talk reminds Young In that her father’s departure is impending, she stays silent and listens on tearfully. Seung Hyo says a quiet “Yes” after every piece of advice:
Il Gun: “If you fight, make up right away. If you make her cry, wipe her tears right away. And love her lots, enough for both of us. Take care. Because if you’re well, then my daughter is well. Thank you, Seung Hyo.”
Seung Hyo, who’s answered “Yes” to each instruction, tells Il Gun, “Thank you, too. Father.”
Under Il Gun’s direction, Seung Hyo starts digging until he uncovers something Il Gun buried ten years ago — a time capsule. All that’s inside are two slips of paper, and Young In unrolls the first, written in her own ten-year-old hand.
It reads: “Young In’s dream for ten years from now: To be Miss Korea! And fall in love with a handsome prince like my dad, marry maybe when I’m 28?”
(Seung Hyo teases about the “handsome prince like my father” part, saying Il Gun’s more like a Frog Prince. Il Gun tells him to shut up.)
Il Gun’s paper reads: “Dad’s dream for ten years from now: A healthy, kind, grown-up 20-year-old daughter Sohn Young In!”
Seung Hyo smiles and tells Il Gun, “Your dream came true.”
Seung Hyo stays behind as father and daughter walk together. The next conversation may sound flowery, but it’s expressed with such simplicity that it’s easily the most moving scene thus far in the series.
Young In: “Thank you for coming back. Thank you for giving me life. Thank you for raising me well, for loving me to overflowing. Even if I were born again, I’d want to be your daughter.”
Il Gun: “Even if I were born again, I’ll live as your father. We’ll live together for a long, long time in that life, okay?”
Young In: “Okay.”
Il Gun: “The best thing I did in this world was bringing you into it, Young In. Thank you for being born to me. I love you, my daughter. Take care, kiddo.”
Il Gun tells Young In not to come any further, bids her farewell, and walks on alone.
Seung Hyo takes his place by her side, and both watch Il Gun make his way down the road.
A ways down, Il Gun turns and gives them a final wave goodbye before fading into white light.
We get a little more closure with Jae Ha, who visits the police station — for what, it’s not explicitly clear, but we can be assured that he’s doing what he can to make things right, even if that won’t win Young In’s favor back. So maybe he had some heart left.
Young In brings Young Ae the engagement ring she’d found in her father’s desk drawer, which moves her and makes her recall her last encounter with Il Gun. It appears that just as Il Gun became visible to Young In at the end, he also became visible to Young Ae.
I’m not sure of the rules of Il Gun’s spirit life other than that they’ve always been evolving, and perhaps he’d earned this right through realizing what he was actually sent back to accomplish.
In Young Ae’s memory, Il Gun had encouraged her to live her own life after he leaves — to meet a good man, marry, become a mother.
Il Gun: “Just remember me a little. You can think back, ‘There was once a man who loved me, who followed me around,’ and remember me like that. Forget the other things.”
Some time later — not too long after — Seung Hyo waits outside Young In’s place for her to come home. His voiceover is addressed to Il Gun as he reflects on being alone again after having shared his body for months:
Seung Hyo: “Thank you for breathing fresh air into my dried-up, dying life. Thank you for leading me to realize that the pain of my hardened, always angry heart was actually a love toward the world. I will love diligently — the world, myself, your daughter. I might be old, being eleven years older than her, but I’ll do my best to love her enough for both you and me. I won’t push it aside for later, I’ll love her today. Because, of the remaining days of my life, today is the youngest.”
When Young In finally arrives, we find out Seung Hyo’s currently unemployed (but sure to bounce back!), and although he pretends to be annoyed at waiting for so long, he looks at her with patience and contentment.
Seung Hyo: “Hey, Soccer Ball. I love you. And I’ll love you even more in the future.”
It’s been a while since I’ve been so satisfied with a finale. I’m so glad they gave us a sweet, satisfying, but simple ending. It reminded me of the ending of Samsoon, but without the bittersweet touch. (I loved the realistic hint in the ending of Samsoon, but I don’t always want to have to say, “But that’s realistic!” to justify an ending that was a little less than I hoped for.) Plus — and I don’t know if this applies to you, or just to me — it was an ending that I cared about. Sometimes we get our happy ending but I really couldn’t care less about the couple winding up together. Here, I’m really happy for the characters and hope they live a long, happy life together and have lots of kids and grandkids etc. And look how far Seung Hyo and Young In have come! Not only them, but look how far Il Gun came — and frankly, everyone else, too.
I’m glad they gave us hints of closure for the rest of the characters, but didn’t dwell overly long on their futures either (unlike, say, Coffee Prince, which overdid its epilogue just to fill air time). Naturally we want our loose ends tied, but there’s no need to go into too much detail about Jae Ha (who’ll probably live the rest of his life doing his best to earn his soul back) or Seung Hyo’s father (whose relationship with Ho Joong might improve now that Ho Joong knows his father’s willing to sacrifice himself for him), or Young Ae (who may or may not go on to live a nice, normal life with a new love).
Most of all, I’m glad the parting message wasn’t a trumpets-blaring, hyped-up grand drama moment that proclaimed that Attainment of Romantic Love was the end-all of the story. Instead, it takes it one step further and says that achieving romantic love is great, but don’t forget to live that love out every day, because “of all the days in the rest of my life, today is the youngest.”
Who Are You? was a drama I had little expectation for and which caught me totally unawares, but I’m so glad I tuned in. I appreciated the way it was poignant and meaningful but not sappy, not (usually) too dramatic, and always balanced with a healthy dose of humor. It’s not perfect, but this one will go on my keeper shelf.
- Who Are You: Episode 16
- Who Are You: Episode 15
- Who Are You: Episode 14
- Who Are You: Episode 13
- Who Are You: Episode 12
- Who Are You: Episode 11
- Who Are You: Episode 10
- Who Are You: Episode 9
- Who Are You: Episode 8
- Who Are You: Episode 7
- Who Are You: Episodes 5 & 6
- Who Are You: Episodes 3 & 4
- Who Are You: Episodes 1 & 2