I did say I was very hesitant to watch Episode 16 because of the spoiler that I saw in the previews, but it wasn’t as bad as I initially thought (more on that later, or skip to my comments section). Honestly, I think this series could end by episode 18, because it’s been unraveling so fast. Case in point: by episode 15 we know who is on whose side and the lines are set for battle, and all it took was an episode and a half to establish that.
We’ve reached the critical moment – will the North and South enter a nuclear war?
We ended the last episode with Seung Hee and Hyun Joon pointing guns at each other in the lab where the nuclear bomb was assembled. The two of them are clearly shocked to see each other again under such circumstances, and Sun Hwa gets the hint immediately that she does not belong there.
This is finally the chance where the lovebirds can ask and answer all their questions. Seung Hee asks simply for Hyun Joon to hold her, and as they embrace, Seung Hee reveals that she left the car when Sa Woo called her. Hyun Joon also tells her that Sa Woo was the one who tried to kill him, and that his orders to kill Minister Yoon came from IRIS. Seung Hee has no idea what he is talking about, and for the first time she becomes suspicious of Baek San and Sa Woo.
However, because Sa Woo and his cronies have arrived, Sun Hwa rushes in to drag Hyun Joon away. Seung Hee stays behind to buy them some time, reassuring Hyun Joon that Sa Woo will never shoot her. As Seung Hee says this, Sun Hwa immediately looks away – as though she can’t bear the sight of the saintly Seung Hee standing before her Hyun Joon and saving their lives.
As Sa Woo approaches the building with his team, Seung Hee appears. And this time, she tells him not to approach her. With each step forward he takes, she shoots the ground at his feet. He comes still closer, and asks what she’s doing. Seung Hee flips the gun towards him and dares him, “Try and shoot me. Just like what you did to Hyun Joon.”
After driving away, Hyun Joon broods by a fountain, and Sun Hwa apologizes. She knew about Seung Hee being alive when she was captured way back when, but she couldn’t tell him when she saw Hyun Joon again. He asked her, “Why did you do that?” Sun Hwa only looks up at his face, tears welling in her eyes, and immediately looks down again. And in that instant, Hyun Joon understands, and he comforts her by leaning her head against his shoulder.
Secretary Jung visits Chul Young and lets him know that they have decided to arrest Director Yeon. Since Hyun Joon lost the other terrorists, they have no other choice. Chul Young phones Hyun Joon, who picks up this time, but Hyun Joon thinks they shouldn’t go through with the arrest. He decides to head over to the hotel where Director Yeon is staying.
Chul Young has a heart-to-heart with his Sidekick. The Sidekick is a little hesitant to turn over someone to South Korea, but Chul Young reasons, “Yeon Ki Hoon is no longer part of the republic. If he was a part of the republic, he wouldn’t have insisted on sacrificing numerous citizens.”
They head over to Director Yeon’s living quarters, and Chul Young and Sidekick swiftly take out the guards. Chul Young goes in and tells him that Secretary Jung wishes to speak to him face-to-face – it’s urgent. As soon as they reach the hallway, Chul Young pulls the gun on Director Yeon. Director Yeon is surprised at the betrayal, but Chul Young counters, “Compared to your betrayal to the country and its citizens, my betrayal is nothing.”
Director Yeon ends with his threat – there’s nothing they can do because the nuke will explode in Seoul at dawn. (That’s actually a lie, because Director Yeon had just confirmed with Leader Kang that the nuke will explode at 5pm.)
Yeon is amused that Chul Young would sell him off to South Korea for this, but Secretary Jung corrects him – they’re arresting him because he’s part of IRIS. Now that’s not too funny.
But before they can take him away, Vic appears and shoots Director Yeon down. Just at that moment, Hyun Joon and Sun Hwa arrive, and along with Chul Young, they chase after Vic. Hyun Joon manages to fire a few shots at Vic, only injuring him, before Vic gets into his getaway car.
Seung Hee is led into NSS like a prisoner, with everyone watching her. She enters Baek San’s office, and Baek San tells her that if she is going to keep going rogue, he can no longer protect her. Seung Hee replies that she never wanted his protection, and asks him instead about IRIS. Baek San tells her that Hyun Joon is just making things up to blame others, and that she should only trust him (although by now, she clearly doesn’t).
Tae Sung – the blabbermouth – goes on to Manager Hwang and tells him about his suspicions regarding Sa Woo, and how Seung Hee was taken away. Manager Hwang thinks it’s too much now – all of the team leaders and chiefs are being taken away in the middle of a nuclear crisis, and he warns Tae Sung to keep his mouth shut.
Sa Woo enters the conference room, where Seung Hee is held, and tells her that he will answer all of her questions. But Seung Hee says she no longer cares about what he has to say.
Sa Woo: No. I need to do it.
Seung Hee: Why do you need to do that?
Sa Woo: Because the beginning of all this was you. Because the reason I’m here right now, is because of you, Choi Seung Hee.
Seung Hee: So, is that why you were trying to kill Hyun Joon in Hungary? Why can’t you say anything? Try to make up some excuse.
Sa Woo: Because Hyun Joon was better off dying by my hands.
He tells her about Baek San’s orders, and that, “After the moment you had entered my heart, I was always standing on the edge of a cliff.”
But Seung Hee ruthlessly brings him down:
“What difference does it make now, having this emotional rant? So, how does it make a difference if I came to understand you? Even if Hyun Joon forgives you, I can never forgive you.”
Secretary Jung informs the President that Director Yeon was killed; since no one else knew of the plan, IRIS has deeper connections than they ever knew. With the nuclear bomb going off at dawn, the President decides that he can at least stop the coup d’etat by calling North Korea’s Leader Kim and expose the truth. Hyun Joon leads Chul Young to the President’s office and Chul Young is sent back to the North to stop the coup in any way possible.
Chul Young wishes Hyun Joon luck, and tells him to try as much as possible to stop the bomb from going off in the first place.
It is D-Day, and Leader Kang receives a phone call notifying him of Director Yeon’s death. He is much more heartbroken than I’d expect. Despite this setback, the plan goes forth – the bomb will be detonated at 5 o’clock at Kwang Hwa Mun, the main gate of Gyeongbok Palace. They’ve already planted the bomb in a city tour bus that goes around Seoul, and it makes a stop in front of Kwang Hwa Mun at 5 o’clock. When it makes that stop, they will detonate it remotely through a cell phone. Once they confirm the nuclear bomb cloud in the distance, they can make their escape via boat.
Just then the President’s security team arrives at NSS to come and arrest Baek San. Baek San informs Sa Woo to buy some time while his right-hand man (who is NOW given the name Oh Sung Shik) incinerates all incriminating files. They have no way to escape arrest.
Sa Woo and his own right hand man go up to the rooftop and wait for the President’s security detail to find them. Meanwhile, Oh Sung Shik goes to another rooftop to start erasing all the files on the computer and burn them all up. Baek San locks himself in his office as the Head of National Security, Yoo Kwang Ho, comes into NSS and arrest him.
Up on the roof, Sa Woo shoots at the Presidential security team without killing them, only delaying until Oh Sung Shik finishes burning everything up. Once Oh completes it, Sa Woo calls Baek San, and they all surrender to the security team. Baek San comes out of his office and surrenders to an audience, with Yoo announcing that he will take charge over NSS for now.
Sun Hwa and Hyun Joon map out the possible locations that the bomb could be placed, based on the GPS system that showed the locations the terrorists had scouted several times. They figure that the amount of uranium could affect anything within a two-kilometer radius, and the location has to be significant historically.
Back in North Korea, Chul Young is holding an interrogation session, but his captive is not talking. They bring in his wife and son, and Chul Young threatens to shoot his family if he doesn’t talk. He’ll be executed anyways, but his family could be spared. The captive still doesn’t say a word, so the guards blindfold everyone, and Chul Young raises his gun aiming at the wife. He shoots, and the son screams for his parents. The captive – unable to see anything – crumbles and talks. (Chul Young didn’t really shoot the wife, but another guard has his mouth clamped over the wife’s mouth so that she can’t scream.)
Chul Young calls up Hyun Joon and tells him that the targets are the Federal Building Complex, the U.S. Embassy, and the Blue House. With that information, Hyun Joon and Sun Hwa do the math and figure that there is only one place that can provide that sort of intended effect.
It’s 20 minutes to detonation time, and at NSS Seung Hee asks for information regarding detonation devices. Sang Hyun is informed about the bomb going off in Kwang Hwa Mun, but still doesn’t know where the bomb is exactly located. Seung Hee comes in saying that they will detonate the bomb remotely, so they need to jam all satellite signals in that area. How long will that take? Mi Jung says 20 minutes.
The moment Seung Hee hears that Hyun Joon informed the Blue House, she heads out on her own too. (That girl just won’t let Hyun Joon save the world by himself.)
At 5 o’clock, with the bus, Hyun Joon and Sun Hwa, and Seung Hee all heading to Kwang Hwa Mun, Mi Jung completes the jamming. Leader Kang detonates the bomb through the cell phone, but he’s just as confused as the people on the street with no signals on their phones when nothing happens.
Leader Kang says they have to detonate the bomb themselves, even though they will all die (Hwang Soo doesn’t like that plan). Kang tells Dae Hyun and Hyun Seok, along with a couple others, to stay back and be backup – if they can detonate the bomb remotely, then do it.
Sun Hwa and Hyun Joon arrive Kwang Hwa Mun and look around. There’s no sign of a specific place that they could have planted the bomb. Hyun Joon thinks back to the maps at the hideout, and the short glimpses he had of the information he wasn’t privy to. He sees the Seoul Tour bus and the number K915, which triggers his memory.
He runs to the bus and has Sun Hwa check the cargo area. Hyun Joon boards the bus and tells all the tourists in English to get off the bus. Everyone thinks he’s crazy, until he pulls out a gun.
With the bus empty, and the cargo area empty, Hyun Joon finds a large bag encasing the bomb behind the last row of seats. They take the bag and run. At the same time, Leader Kang and his small group are speeding towards the bus.
The terrorists equip themselves, and Leader Kang shoots at a bystander blocking his view of Hyun Joon and Sun Hwa, alerting them of danger.
Gunfight ensues as all pedestrians run for safety. No one is spared in the gunfire, and the battle lasts all the way into early evening. Leader Kang and the terrorists inch closer to Hyun Joon and Sun Hwa every chance they get, while the two of them fight back. Each side manages to hold their own with no real progress except a few casualties on the terrorists’ side.
The news on the radio reports about the gunfight and how no authorities have arrived yet because of the jammed signals. Dae Hyun makes the decision to join Leader Kang in this fight.
The terrorists are being picked off, one by one, and Hyun Joon grabs the ammo and extra guns from fallen terrorists to reload. When Dae Hyun, Young Bum, and Hyun Seok join Kang in the fight, he’s surprised but clearly grateful for their loyalty.
But backup does not last for long – Hyun Joon manages to pick off Young Bum, and he kills Hyun Seok. (!!!!!!!!!!!!) Leader Kang and Dae Hyun have the same reaction as I do at the sight of Hyun Seok being cruelly gunned down. (And this was one moment that I hated Hyun Joon because he did it with no hesitation – I like to imagine that he had a small soft spot for Hyun Seok. Clearly, the other terrorists do.)
Hwang Soo is pissed, so he aims to fire at Sun Hwa and Hyun Joon, having made it all the way to where they were hiding.
But they are saved – by the Angel Seung Hee with her own big badass gun.
Seung Hee joins Sun Hwa and Hyun Joon, and she hands Sun Hwa another gun. It’s now the three of them against Dae Hyun and Kang. The three of them take turns, popping up from behind the car to fire off a few rounds. Hyun Joon takes a few bombs that Hwang Soo had hidden within his jacket and tells the girls to run. He plants the bombs inside the car they were hiding at and retreats.
Kang and Dae Hyun move forward, and belatedly, Kang realizes that he’s standing next to a car full of bombs. Hyun Joon fires at it, and Kang tells Dae Hyun to run before the car blows up. Too late – she is killed.
Kang, all alone, shoots at Hyun Joon but it’s futile – the NSS security team has arrived and they gun Kang down. Hyun Joon, Sun Hwa, and Seung Hee drop their weapons and give up to NSS.
Days later, the President has a meeting with all of his entire Cabinet and answers their questions regarding the incident. Advisor Hong is the most displeased of the bunch. The President says that he will continue plans for another summit conference with the North.
At NSS, Advisor Yoo tells everyone that he will oversee all NSS activities, since it has been corrupted to the core. He will be ruthlessly strict with everyone, so no one should even dare try to do anything illegal. Only Hyun Kyu complains about the strictness of Yoo’s policies.
Hyun Joon is being interrogated by the National Assembly at their facilities, along with Sun Hwa. They verify their histories and how they reached this point. The interrogator for Sun Hwa asks her why she chose to turn her back against her countrymen and side with Hyun Joon, but a tear falls in response.
They ask Hyun Joon about Sa Woo and Baek San as well, and IRIS. Hyun Joon is unaware that those two are being held at the same facilities. Sa Woo is placed in a room, perhaps getting ready to be interrogated as well, and he reflects on his misdeeds.
Secretary Jung later picks up Hyun Joon to bring him to the President. The President thanks him – for the second time – for saving his life. He then asks a favor – to speak to Baek San, however painful it may be, to complete the list of IRIS members. Hyun Joon is their best candidate to get that information. (He’s the best candidate for everything!)
Hyun Joon meets with Baek San, who is chained up. Baek San decides to just start talking – he killed Hyun Joon’s parents thinking that the order came from NSS. He later found out that the order came from IRIS. He was supposed to kill Hyun Joon but decided not to because he felt that he just shouldn’t.
Baek San: Your life became as I had designed. Your life should have ended already, but the fact that you’re here now, is because of me.
Hyun Joon: If you were responsible for my life, why did you throw me away?
Baek San: Asking me that is the same as asking me to tell you everything about the organization I serve. That is a secret I must take to my grave.
That’s an unsatisfactory answer, and so Hyun Joon kicks Baek San to the ground and grabs him by the collar, insisting for an answer on why Baek San saved him, only to abandon him. The other guards pull them off of each other. Before Baek San is led away, he says, “You were being punished for eating the forbidden fruit. The life I designed for you did not allow for you to do that.”
(I’m guessing that forbidden fruit may have been getting involved with Seung Hee, but I’m not too sure. It could also be that Hyun Joon’s superhero complex and off-the-cuff tactics in missions were derailing IRIS’ plans.)
Hyun Joon calms down, and they bring Sa Woo in. However, Sa Woo does not want to speak to him. Instead, he says “If you believe that our relationship was real for even one second, please don’t make me more pathetic than I already am,” and leaves.
Back in North Korea, Chul Young is continuing with his own investigations on who within the North Korean government is part of IRIS, investigating even the Head of Security. He asks his Sidekick where Sun Hwa is, and tells him they will have to prevent any due process that will occur when she returns.
Before Sun Hwa is let go, she has a private talk with Hyun Joon. He tells her that she could just stay in South Korea or go to another country – he already asked the President for a special pardon for her.
But Sun Hwa merely smiles and says that she’s going home. Even though she has no one there, she doesn’t have anyone in South Korea either. She asks him for a final favor – he’s never said her name before.
Hyun Joon brings her into an embrace and says, “If it weren’t for you, I would never have made it to this point. Thank you for being with me, Sun Hwa.”
Outside, a car is waiting to bring her back to North Korea. They shake hands, and as the car drives away, Sun Hwa allows her tears to come pouring down.
Hyun Joon’s interrogator hands him an envelope, saying it came from Baek San. It details the location of where Hyun Joon’s parents’ ashes were scattered.
At NSS, Mi Jung goes to Hyun Kyu’s office, where he’s looking very depressed. Turns out, he really does not want to work with Yoo as the director of NSS – Yoo won’t let him monitor his stocks! (“Oh the travesty!” thinks Mi Jung). He begs her to unblock him on the server, but she refuses to do anything that will risk her position in NSS. He continues to bug her down the hallway, until she stops in her tracks.
HYUN JOON HAS ARRIVED AT NSS!
He is greeted warmly by everyone on the team. He and Seung Hee don’t say anything to each other, but acknowledge each other only with smiles. Jung In teases that this is the happiest she’s seen Seung Hee in a long time.
But business first – Hyun Joon meets with Yoo, who tells him upfront that he’s suspicious of Hyun Joon’s motives, and if he tries to do anything against the government, he will pay for it. Sang Hyun later tells him that they’ll catch up another time, and knows that he’s tired.
Seung Hee takes Hyun Joon to her home for rest, and he stands awkwardly in her living room. She prepares to make some dinner for him, and he comes up behind her for a surprise hug. He says, “That I can have moments like this again, I could never have imagined it. I keep thinking it’s a dream that I’ll wake from and that scares me.”
Seung Hee replies comfortingly, “The dream is what you went through. This is the absolute reality.”
She finishes preparing for dinner, but Hyun Joon is asleep on her couch.
At Mi Jung’s, Vic tends to his wounds. He won’t tell Mi Jung what’s wrong with him, but he grabs her into a hug and asks a favor from her. When she goes to work the next day, she’s fidgeting and nervous enough to capture Tae Sung’s attention. She decides to go to Hyun Kyu and suck up to him by buying him coffee. If Hyun Kyu gives her his security pass, she’ll unblock the server for him so that he can access his stocks. She begins to download things into a small USB drive at the server room.
Secretary Jung updates the President and the other advisors on Baek San – they still haven’t been able to get any additional names for the list. They decide to change their focus of investigation by targeting anyone that’s worked for Baek San and anyone who has security clearances. This alerts Advisor Hong, who is growing more fearful as the investigation goes on.
Hyun Joon wakes up from his sleep just as Seung Hee arrives home. She tells him that he slept for 33 hours straight. For the first time, Hyun Joon was able to sleep soundly because he no longer had any nightmares. Seung Hee has taken some vacation days, and so he suggests that they go to where his parents’ ashes are scattered.
Mi Jung returns home that night and is greeted with a romantic setting – wine glasses and candles – from Vic. She hands him the USB that has the code he needs to access the files from her computer. He takes her face into his hands and thanks her, and leans in for a kiss…
…Before he violently twists her neck and allows her body to drop on the floor.
Sooo… I’ll start with what was going through my head when I watched episode 17:
OMG!! WHAT THE FRICK JUST HAPPENED?! ARGH! YOU WRITERS JUST HAD TO KILL HYUN SEOK – MY HYUN SEOK – AND THEN AS IF THAT WEREN’T ENOUGH YOU HAD TO KILL MI JUNG TOO! (Although honestly, what’d you expect for going out with a bad boy? That hair had to have clued you in, plus all those kickass moves at the club.)
BUT YOU HAD TO TWIST HER NECK?! THE POOR GIRL – I WOULD HAVE RATHER SEEN HER SHOT DEAD DEFENDING HER COMPUTER AT NSS OR SOMETHING RATHER THAN SO EASILY BROKEN LIKE A TOY BUNNY!
And then after that little scream I calmed down. (I don’t know why I thought bunnies – I think it’s because my favorite stuffed toys are bunnies.) To this moment, I can’t watch that scene without getting goosebumps. The preview in episode 15 had shown Hyun Seok dying, but that was nowhere near as bad as the episode 17 ending.
The most amazing thing about these two episodes was watching the dynamic in the Hyun Joon-Seung Hee-Sun Hwa triangle, because for me it was the first time seeing two female leads who could be in the same room (so to speak) and not want to tear the other’s hair out because the other had “her guy.” It was brilliant watching Seung Hee hand Sun Hwa a gun as though it were nothing, as though she were saying, “Yeah, you’re working with my man and so I like you too.” She has no antagonism or jealous feelings towards Sun Hwa – basically, she is one confident girl in terms of her feelings and her relationship with Hyun Joon.
I feel for Team Sun Hwa-Hyun Joon shippers, but I think their relationship was made out to seem more like a brother-sister relationship than that of a lovers’. Looking back at the old episodes, I feel that Sun Hwa first felt indebted to him, then looked up to him for being such a compassionate spy almost like an older brother. And then it developed into love when she realized that Hyun Joon wasn’t hers for keeping. She’s had no man to hold onto and so with Hyun Joon being the first person to care for her, she eventually fell for him. She wants a man to take care of her, and that’s all Hyun Joon has ever done for her.
As for Hyun Joon, he definitely looks after her like a dongsaeng because when Sun Hwa admits that she knew about Seung Hee that was her way of confessing her feelings for him without ever saying it out loud. One look, and Hyun Joon understood everything. AND YET he didn’t push her way – instead he hugged her. Cruel – I mean, he’s kinda playing with her feelings even though he doesn’t mean to – but he’s not heartless. He’s not like other male leads who push the girl he’s not interested away even though she is. He accepts her love, but they have an unspoken mutual understanding that it’s not going to be anything more than friendship. All Sun Hwa has to do to figure that out is to watch how he treats Seung Hee.
It was so sad to see them shake hands at the end, because that was the closest thing they had to holding hands, ever. And then at the car when Sun Hwa just cried – it’s a shattering of the whole cold agent-façade and her catharsis for letting go of Hyun Joon and everything that has brought her to this point. I honestly wish he could have convinced her to stay. It might be cruel to want her to stick around as a younger sister, but Hyun Joon is the closest thing to family for her and they both know it. Still – it was nice to see Sun Hwa smile. She’s stunning – and she needs to smile more.
- IRIS: Episodes 14-15
- IRIS: Episodes 12-13
- IRIS: Episodes 10-11
- IRIS: Episodes 8-9
- IRIS: Episodes 6-7
- IRIS: Episode 5
- Scorecard: How did IRIS’s stars measure up?
- IRIS: Episode 4
- IRIS served with plagiarism suit
- IRIS: Episode 3
- Lee Byung-heon won’t star in IRIS sequel
- Kim Tae-hee attempts new challenges with IRIS
- IRIS’s popularity still falls short of expectations
- IRIS: Episode 2
- IRIS: Episode 1