I knew Love & Marriage would end on a happy note, and that nothing totally unexpected would come in the last hour. But I was still pleasantly surprised with how well the drama wrapped up its romance — even managing to pull out a bit of cleverness to keep the inevitable from being totally predictable.
I’ll be the first to admit that Love & Marriage isn’t a perfect drama, or even a particularly noteworthy one. But what it did, it did well: happy romance that endeared its characters to those of us who don’t necessarily like our dramas traumatic. Also, I always want to give extra points to dramas whose finales manage to satisfy AND add a little something extra to the series, rather than ending on a disappointing note — or even just an adequate (but unexciting) one.
SONG OF THE DAY
Love & Marriage OST – “Come to Me” by J [ Download ]
EPISODE 16 RECAP (FINAL)
Hyun-soo admits that he’d like a little more time to himself, which worries Kang-hyun despite her attempt to be accepting. He’s had enough of fishing, but he’d like to bike back to Seoul, using the physical exertion to invigorate both body and mind.
Kang-hyun apologizes for dropping in on him unexpectedly and agrees to his plan, covering up her disappointment to everyone around her. But she doesn’t fool Kyung-hwan, who knows how she feels and counsels her to be understanding of Hyun-soo.
Kang-hyun wonders if they ought to step back from each other now that their relationship is over (I don’t think she means to stop all contact, but to stop being so friendly). People are usually suspicious of exes who remain friends. Kyung-hwan isn’t worried, and assures her that he’s not going to renew his attentions to her. Instead, they’ll define their relationship in new terms — since she’s Pluto, he’ll be her “Chyron” (Pluto’s moon). Instead of being friendly exes, they can consider theirs to be more of a platonic/sibling relationship.
Hyun-soo bikes his way toward Seoul, taking time to write Kang-hyun postcards and muse at how this kind of exertion makes him feel alive. I think this is just an excuse to show Kim Ji-hoon in a tight-fitting bodysuit
Hye-sun sympathizes with Kang-hyun’s uneasiness at Hyun-soo’s continued absence, but Kang-hyun keeps up her “cool” act and says she’s totally fine with it. In fact, she’s so open-minded that she would even be willing to send Hyun-soo to Cuba if he wanted to go. Hye-sun is suitably impressed.
Lee Bi-yin’s divorce suit is still casting a shadow over the firm, with rumors swirling that Hyun-soo is the celebrity couple’s homewrecker. Therefore, Kang-hyun takes it upon herself to address this problem, and calls in the aid of her Chyron (who promptly deserts her at the first sign of trouble. LOL).
Her plan involves scoping out Lee Bi-yin’s mansion, but her attempt to climb a gate triggers an alarm. She’s left hanging — har! — while a panicked Kyung-hwan runs off. (Love the motion blur!)
Take two. Kang-hyun watches as Lee Bi-yin’s daughter is brought home from school and admitted through the gates. The next day, Kang-hyun pretends to be the daughter’s schoolteacher and requests a meeting to discuss something with the student’s mother.
Kang-hyun is admitted to see Lee Bi-yin (who’s wearing a face mask because of a “cold”) and starts talking in general terms about the child’s future. When Lee Bi-yin leaves the room momentarily, Kang-hyun sets up a hidden camera, then eavesdrops. She also witnesses the star without her mask — hiding a recent nose job.
Lee Bi-yin recognizes Kang-hyun as her attorney’s girlfriend, and with her identity revealed, Kang-hyun confronts her openly about the case. She grabs her camera, then threatens to release the footage of the star’s plastic surgery unless Lee Bi-yin speaks out to correct the damage to Hyun-soo’s reputation. (Vanity = fastest way to appeal to a celebrity.)
Her hand forced, Lee Bi-yin holds a press conference wherein Hyun-soo is cleared of the rumors, and all is well again.
Next we have another couple-matching event for the Last Love membership, which has a pretty clever theme, in my opinion. Using a school motif, Kang-hyun instructs the members to act as though they’re 17, which means that they should talk to each other in “banmal” (common, familiar speech) and refrain from asking about one’s job or income. Therefore, the resulting mood is casual and fun-loving as members play games with each other. The employees in particular have a lot of fun talking “down” to Sung-ho in banmal (which they can’t normally do as his employees).
When Kang-hyun hears that Hwa-young is leaving for her new job in Morocco that day, she’s upset on Hyun-soo’s behalf that he’ll miss her departure (he didn’t even know she was leaving). Kang-hyun leaves a voicemail for Hyun-soo informing him of Hwa-young’s plans, but he doesn’t get it right away.
Sung-ho wonders at her reaction, so Kang-hyun explains that she feels bad for Hwa-young, whom she has discovered to be a kind, good-hearted person. While everyone is the star in their own life, Kang-hyun recognizes that from Hwa-young’s point of view, she (Kang-hyun) has been the antagonist, and it makes her feel sorry.
Hyun-soo is about a day away from Seoul, but he checks his messages and hears about Hwa-young’s departure. He immediately hails a cab, managing to catch Hwa-young as she’s leaving for the airport. (He’s in a rush but he had time to shower and change?)
Hyun-soo is upset that she was about to leave without telling him again, but Hwa-young explains that she didn’t want to add to his worries.
She also reminisces about a song he’d once sung her prior to their marriage. Once they’d decided to marry, their plans sped by so quickly that she’d been a little disappointed at the lack of romance, and asked him to sing for her. Later on, the song cheered her up whenever she felt uncertain about whether he loved her back.
At the airport, as she’s about to go inside to board her flight, Hyun-soo holds her back, and starts to sing.
It’s “화려하지 않은 고백” (An unextraordinary confession) by Lee Seung-hwan. Hwa-young tears up as he sings, touched by the gesture, and we see a montage of their past together.
[ Download ]
The song lyrics add a layer of meaning to the scene, because while the words can be seen as optimistic as the couple’s “proposal song,” now they have a tinge of bittersweetness.
The lyrics start out, “The brilliant bouquet of flowers I’d once given you wilts sadly, fading in brightness and scent… I’ll make a silent promise to you, the one I love, to protect you until your tears dry…”
Hyun-soo ends on the last line of the song with an emotional, “Out of all those many people in the world, I’m thankful I met you.”
Hwa-young thanks him for leaving her with a good memory. It’s a really lovely moment.
On the plane, Hwa-young reads a book Hyun-soo had lent her (it’s Kafka on the Shore! — I LOVE THIS BOOK), and flips to the very end, where Hyun-soo has highlighted the final passage. It says (and I dug up my copy to transcribe the English translation of the book):
“You finally fall asleep. And when you wake up, it’s true. You are part of a brand-new world.”
Meanwhile, Kyung-hwan and Kang-hyun have their own bittersweet parting. At first, Kyung-hwan turns down Kang-hyun’s request for a ride home on his bike, because his new girlfriend is uncomfortable with his familiarity with her. But as he leaves, he’s reminded of his previous promise to give Kang-hyun a ride on his bike — in the past, she always pedaled with him riding behind, because Kyung-hwan was bad at cycling with passengers. He turns back to fulfill his promise
(It’s probably mean of me, but I was thinking all the while that it would be funny if they fell.)
On the way home, they pass by the bridal shop where they’d posed as models, and look in the window, recalling memories of the time they’d spent together.
A little while later, they stop once more to peer in at a group of students at a restaurant, which reminds them of how they got together. Kang-hyun wonders, “When love ends, where does it go?” Somewhat depressingly, Kyung-hwan answers, “When time passes, it erases.”
However, Kang-hyun thinks otherwise, and tells him so when Kyung-hwan drops her off at home. After thanking him for leaving her with a good memory, she tells him:
“I’ve been thinking — love that’s over doesn’t disappear. Love turns you into the other person. As I dated you, I came to like the things you liked. The time I spent with you, our tastes, feelings — they all became me. At first they were only yours, but now they’ve become mine. They say that before falling in love, a man isn’t a man, and a woman isn’t a woman. Thank you. Through knowing you, I’ve become a woman, and through our breakup, I’ve become a person.”
Both Kyung-hwan and Kang-hyun well up with emotion at the symbolism of this moment — they will probably see each other again in the future, but this is their official goodbye — and Kyung-hwan grabs her in a hug. He tells her, “I’m sorry. And thank you.”
He turns to leave, somewhat reluctantly, and Kang-hyun tells him to go: “Now we can look at a bigger world, and experience a bigger love.” When he starts to turn back to face her, she tells him not to, and to look only forward instead.
Kyung-hwan does as she instructs him and leaves. When she turns around, Hyun-soo is waiting for her. (Symbolism!)
Kang-hyun asks if Hyun-soo has figured out everything he’d wanted to on his trip, which was figuring out what to do with a woman from Pluto and a man from Neptune. He decided that although they may experience some friction (metaphorically), because Pluto is tilted (Neptune isn’t), they won’t ever collide.
Pointing to herself, Kang-hyun replies, “Then that means a twisted Pluto like me must meet a straight and orderly Neptune.” Hyun-soo agrees, and then brings up her previous math-oriented proposal (where she calculated the value of the remaining 55 years of her life with Hyun-soo). He has another math proposal for her: Pluto orbits the sun once every 248 years, which means that one Pluto year equals 248 Earth years.
He asks, how many Earth years would pass in Kang-hyun’s (Pluto’s) remaining 55 years? The answer is 13,640 years, so he asks her, “Can you give me 13,640 years?”
She tells him, “Let’s never break up again, Neptune man.”
He answers, “Yes. Let’s get married, Pluto woman.”
Sung-ho and Hye-sun get married (again), and I like the vows they exchange — or rather, what they call “Advice for Fighting Couples.” They include such words of wisdom as: “Don’t interrupt the other person,” “Don’t drag up past issues. The fight is in the present,” and “Forgive, and ask forgiveness.”
And we see all the happily paired couples still together at the wedding:
Hye-sun gives Hyun-soo a ticket to Cuba as a thank-you for his help and because she’d prevented him from going earlier. She tells him he can return the ticket or use it, but since he and Kang-hyun are planning for a spring wedding, now’s the perfect time for Hyun-soo to embark on one last solo trip. After all, Kang-hyun had said she was totally cool with the idea. (She is NOT totally cool with the idea, but pretends she is.)
Hyun-soo assures Kang-hyun that he has no intention of leaving, but when she sees him looking at his ticket, she starts worrying. When she tells him to go, he replies that he doesn’t need to go, and that he’ll just miss her anyway.
Somewhat reluctantly, she encourages him to take the trip, quoting a Cuban poet to remind him: “The world doesn’t open by merely waiting. You have to approach it yourself and open it.”
Neither Kang-hyun nor Hyun-soo is gung-ho about this trip, but both seem to recognize that it’s one loose end that should be tied — he’s wanted to take the trip for a long time, and she doesn’t want to be the reason for holding him back. On the day of his flight, they arrive at the airport a bit early and have about three hours to kill, so they take a short trip to the nearby beach.
Kang-hyun tells Hyun-soo how, as a kid, she had thought Superman was the most romantic movie she’d ever seen, and relates the earthquake scene (when Lois dies in an earthquake, and Superman reverses the spinning of the earth to “turn back time” and save her). It touched her that he loved so much that he turned time backward for her (although she concedes that this was something he had the superpowers to do, unlike, say, mortal man).
But still, the scenario works as a relationship metaphor, and Kang-hyun tells Hyun-soo that when a love ends, it feels like the earth stands still. “But now that I’ve found love again, the earth has started to turn.”
As they have about a half hour before they have to leave, Kang-hyun takes a short nap, and when she wakes, it’s time for them to return to the airport.
However, as they reach the entrance, Hyun-soo tells her not to come with him to the gate. She’d planned on seeing him off and assures that she won’t cling if that’s what he’s worried about. Hyun-soo is a little too cool to be playing this scene straight (although Kang-hyun doesn’t catch on) and tells her he wants to check in alone, settle down, and maybe read a bit before boarding.
Disappointed (and annoyed), Kang-hyun returns to the beach, complaining about Hyun-soo’s cold goodbye all the while.
Kang-hyun falls asleep on the sand… only to be woken up by Hyun-soo.
(Now, I know this is an obvious turn of events because we’ve got ten minutes to wrap up this series, and I don’t think he’s going to Cuba. However, what I like about this ending isn’t WHAT happens, but rather HOW it happens.)
Reunited, Hyun-soo takes an ecstatic Kang-hyun on a boat (to nowhere in particular, just enjoying the ride) and explains, to her complete amusement, that he’d missed his plane because he had been reading a book. She teases him mercilessly about it, overjoyed that he’s back. She announces that she gave him the chance to go away and he messed it up himself — therefore, no more trips to Cuba!
But there’s something more to the story, and Kang-hyun can tell in Hyun-soo’s expression that she’s missing something. So we flash back to fill in the blank spots, starting with the scene on the beach where Kang-hyun took her nap.
Hyun-soo had tried to wake her at the appointed time, but then thought back to her Superman story and adjusted her watch back a half-hour, knowing he will miss his plane. He let her sleep more, turning her watch back another hour as she continued to nap. By the time he woke her up, it had actually been an hour and a half later than she thought, and the plane had already taken off. (He’d then faked walking into the airport terminal and followed her back to the beach.)
Thus Hyun-soo had decided on the beach that he wasn’t going to leave her again, and performed his mortal version of turning back time to keep his girl by his side.
I appreciated that they let Hwa-young remain single but showed her happy with her new direction, rediscovering the slow pace of life in Morocco. No, we didn’t get to see the Cash King find love, but I’m okay with that, and confident that Kang-hyun will see him settled before long.
The romantic conclusion was a nice touch, because even though I wasn’t surprised at the ending, it was nice to have a little twist that tied in with Kang-hyun’s (and Superman’s) idea of love. (It’s also a nice counter to their matter-of-fact, “scientific” proposals — I liked them for not being big, dramatic gestures, but it’s nice to have one grand gesture to end on.)
But I think what made the final episode work for me was the respectful way we saw the exes say goodbye to their past relationships. These previous couples have been officially “over” all series long, but the emotions have lingered for Hwa-young and Kyung-hwan, and now they get closure in a realistic, rather poignant way.
Many (if not most) kdramas villainize the hell out of the second leads to create as much drama between the main couple as possible, and then redeem the second leads in the very last moments, kind of like an afterthought. That stretches credulity for me, because if I’m supposed to like you at the end, why did you do your best to make me hate you in the middle? It feels emotionally manipulative, so usually I check out of those secondary characters.
Now, Love & Marriage has never been high on the angst factor (which has both positives and negatives), which makes it easier to humanize Hwa-young and Kyung-hwan. It also means that Kang-hyun and Hyun-soo’s obstacles were mostly about themselves, and not about the Psycho Obsessive Stalker Exes who would stop at nothing to get them back.
So we send off these exes in a way that reminds us why the couples were ever together in the first place. It really let the bittersweetness come through, of one relationship ending to make way for the next. The scene with Kyung-hwan was particularly well-done (although the Hyun-soo and Hwa-young airport scene was nice too), and while I didn’t think Kyung-hwan was still in love with Kang-hyun, I did believe that both showed the emotion you’d expect at seeing their five-year love come to an end.
Most romantic comedies focus on the One Great Love of your life and how to attain it, but because one of Love & Marriage‘s central motifs is divorce (which, yes, sometimes they take too far), we have a more muted sort of message. It’s nice to see people learn from their past failures to get it right the next time around, in what we hope will be their New Great Love (or, in Sung-ho and Hye-sun’s case, Renewed Great Love).
Overall, Love & Marriage isn’t a drama I’d recommend to everyone, because if you don’t like sweet and/or romantic, you’ll probably gag on this drama’s candy-coated fluffery. On the other hand, if this kind of drama IS your type of thing, there are a lot of energetic, fun moments to make it worth your while.
As with everything, it’s all a matter of personal taste.
Hope you enjoyed watching (and reading)! Now I’m hoping that at least one of the upcoming dramas will stick. I’ve recapped a good number of shows by now, and sometimes it does get painful finishing one out of obligation. I’m sure you know what that feels like. At least watching Love & Marriage reminded me that it’s much more fun to be following a show that pushes my happy buttons.
- Love & Marriage: Episode 15
- Love & Marriage: Episode 14
- Love & Marriage: Episode 13
- Love & Marriage: Episode 12
- Love & Marriage: Episode 11
- Love & Marriage: Episode 10
- Love & Marriage: Episode 9
- Love & Marriage: Episode 8
- Love & Marriage: Episode 7
- Love & Marriage: Episode 6
- Love & Marriage: Episode 5
- Love & Marriage: Episode 4
- Love & Marriage: Episode 3
- Love & Marriage: Episode 2
- Love & Marriage: Episode 1