I don’t know if it’s me, but I’m just not hitting it off with finales this time around. [It is SO NOT just you. --javabeans] It’s just, when you think about it…you’ve spent sixteen, or TWENTY friggin episodes in the will-they-or-won’t-they-oh-god-they-won’t-even-get-close, and speak!-please-for-the-love-of-all-that-is-holy-speak! So it’s not asking for too much to be rewarded at the end with a satisfying conclusion. It’s actually the cardinal rule of episodic storytelling. Otherwise why on earth would we submit ourselves to such torture? (I mean this generally, in terms of enduring all lengthy plots of all dramas.)
I wanted to love this finale. Hell, I even wanted to hate this finale. Either would have been awesome. But it just sort of fell flat, without kicking up the tension, the chemistry, or even the cuteness, which I would have accepted in exchange. Maybe. What makes me extra crazy is that it has a pre-ordained ending in the Cinderella framework—all you’d have to do is turn it on its head, and add a touch of whimsy, and you’re golden. It’s a classic fairytale for a reason. I would have forgiven all your sins for a great finale, but you missed your shot, Show. And for that, I am truly sad. [And I'm pissed. --jb]
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Eun-jo and Ki-hoon pick up their minute-year game, this time stepping into the future. Eun-jo adorably draws out their little home in the woods, and muses that once Hyo-sun gets married, they’ll have to take her mother in because she’ll miss having someone to drive crazy. And you’re volunteering for the position? Have you learned nothing?
Ki-hoon seems subdued and pensive, which Eun-jo notes, knowing that he can only think about his father right now. And not big bro? I’ve often wondered why this story takes such pains to make despicable Daddy Hong redeemable, but not Ki-jung. [Requires too much thought. Trying to cram resolution into one hour after wasting twelve. --jb]
Ki-hoon tells her that the drawing and the trip down future bliss lane has helped, and that she can’t change her tune later, or else. What, or you’re going to smile at her to death? He tells her that the stuff he’s about to endure seemed unbearable before, but now none of it matters. They go to tell Hyo-sun the truth. And that right there is Mistake #1: waiting till now to tell Hyo-sun the truth only deflates the dramatic possibilities. Telling someone in the finale is like announcing that they’re going to fold right away anyway, so why worry?
At the winery, Mom hands out gifts to the workers to thank them for a job well done. She promises more to come, as long as they continue to work faithfully in the future. Mom asks to see Hyo-sun’s uncle, and when he hems and haws out of fear, Hyo-sun reassures and sends him in.
Hyo-sun’s face lights up when Ki-hoon and Eun-jo arrive, but alas, Ki-hoon is thwarted again by the presence of investigators who take him away. Will you not let anyone tell the truth out of his own mouth, Show? The investigators tell him that they’ve discovered off-book Hong Ju bank accounts in his name. Oh, crap. Ki-hoon says that it’s going to be okay, and asks Eun-jo to tell Hyo-sun everything. He gets carted off by the men in black, as the girls watch in fear. Eun-jo runs after the car, asking them to stop so she can say something, but they drive on.
Mom sits Hyo-sun’s uncle down for a talk, where she states bald-faced that neither of them wants to see the other. But kicking him to the curb (again) would incite the wrath of Hyo-sun (not to be taken lightly, as she has witnessed firsthand), as well as the ire of the elders. So she’s settled upon a solution: she’s going to marry him off, and she’s even prepared to set him up financially and got a prospective girl lined up. She shows him the picture and he falls for her instantly. Ha. This scene is as much to show the change in Kang-sook as it is to send the uncle off. It illustrates her taking Dae-sung’s place as the caretaker of the winery and the household; she finds a happy medium between staying true to herself, while mellowing out and adopting Dae-sung’s nurturing style. [I like soft and cuddly Kang-sook -- er, less-abrasive and less-wintry Kang-sook? -- and could have used a lot more of this kind of development in the last few episodes rather than hurried Hong Ju plots. --jb]
Meanwhile Eun-jo has filled her sister in on Ki-hoon’s deep dark secrets. This is really the most anticlimactic way to do it, Show. Hyo-sun doesn’t believe it at first, thinking that maybe Eun-jo is making it up to get revenge because of The Letter. I know you’re not very bright, but that makes no kind of sense. She decides that Eun-jo is the bad guy, spitting out that she can’t suffer a girl like her anymore, and that she regrets trying to hold onto her for the past eight years.
Hyo-sun: “Ever since you appeared, do you know how my life has changed? Dad’s gaze started to shift towards you, then permanently landed there. I had to share my Dad. Then, without my knowledge, I became unable to see him at all. I learned that Mom’s love was all a lie, and I found out that Mom had betrayed Dad. And I had to cry because I was the pathetic girl who couldn’t let her go. Because I’m only a stepdaughter…I had to be happy just to be considered a stepdaughter. But now…it’s Ki-hoon oppa?”
It is really sad when you consider it from Hyo-sun’s perspective, and there’s a logical reason she could blame Eun-jo, or the fact of having a stepsister, for all of her major turmoil. But I feel like if we’re adding Ki-hoon into the blame bucket, this is a conversation they should be having after she’s told about their relationship. ‘Cause then it makes a little more sense, and has more oomph behind it. Needless to say, it makes Eun-jo feel so guilty that she can’t even bring up the relationship part.
Hyo-sun makes a run for it, flashing back to all her sweet memories of Ki-hoon oppa. Again, would’ve had more impact if she were already told about him choosing Eun-jo, forcing her to confront the loss. At this point, we know she’s going to have to go through this AGAIN. She falls and Eun-jo rushes to her side. She doesn’t want to be comforted by her, but Eun-jo embraces her, holding her sweetly like a big sister, as Hyo-sun cries.
Eun-jo tends to Hyo-sun’s scraped knee, and then they sit side by side. Eun-jo tells her that she has more to say, and that while she wondered if it was the right thing to do, she thinks it’s best to just hurt all at once. I totally agree. She starts, “Me…and that person…” But Hyo-sun doesn’t let her finish. Aaaargh! Seriously, Show? It’s the final episode. You’re still not letting people speak when they want to? This? Makes me crazy. [Nobody learns in this drama, hardly ever, and I think I am half-insane because of it. They fall into misery and then luck rescues them years later, because finally even IT figures that if it didn't step in, we'd never get our finale. These people would still be stumbling and failing to make any progress for years to come. --jb]
Hyo-sun says that she feels bad for Ki-hoon oppa; that she wants to hug him. Oh boy. Just put her out of her misery! Do it! But Eun-jo clams up. Hyo-sun tells her that Dad wanted to take care of Ki-hoon, and she wonders if he hadn’t left for eight years, he might not have ended up so broken. Ain’t that the truth. She wonders if she offered to put him back together, he’d let her. Um…this might be a good time to tell her you already did that, Eun-jo. Hyo-sun asks her to tell Ki-hoon not to run away. This is painful to watch her be so hopeful. Eun-jo thinks to herself, “In the end, do fairytales not suit me? The sweet, beautiful fairytale world…is that something I’m not allowed to have? I’m not trying to conquer space. I’m not trying to save the planet. Not even trying to save the country…”
Ki-hoon stays calm during the investigation, answering honestly that he never even considered that such an account could exist, and that he has no knowledge of the millions funneled through it.
Eun-jo’s narration continues: “I haven’t ever been able to call him by name. So I’m just asking to live calling his name. Is that really something that can’t be?”
Jung-woo packs his bags and plays one last game of baseball with Jun-su. He hits the ball so hard it disappears into the sun, and then he throws the bat into the river, as he lets go of his love. Aw, bye bye, Eun-jo-is-my-woman bat.
Ki-hoon gets to see his father, who looks impeccably dressed and normal, for someone who’s having such a hard time of it in interrogation. Ki-hoon says that he wants them to live together, bringing tears to Daddy Hong’s eyes. He says that there have been many times he’s wanted Dad to just be a father to him, and nothing more. Ki-hoon says he knows that asking his father to just be honest is probably sentencing him to jail time for god knows how long.
Ki-hoon: “I’ll wait for you. Together with a pretty girl, we’ll get a house for you to live in, and we’ll wait for you. That girl promised to do so. Other than me…don’t hold onto anything else, Father.” And he walks over, holding his father’s hand as both men cry. Daddy Hong looks really tiny for the first time, and he finally opens up to Ki-hoon, putting his own hand on his son’s, grateful for his love. I’m not sure you deserve it, but I’m happy for Ki-hoon nonetheless.
Eun-jo’s a ball of nerves, waiting for word from Ki-hoon. Hyo-sun comes in to tell her that all the elders have reneged on selling their shares to Hong Ju, which is no surprise to Eun-jo since she knows the score. But she doesn’t tell Hyo-sun why. Hyo-sun wants to tell Ki-hoon, so she asks Eun-jo to go to Seoul with her in the morning to try and see him. Eun-jo starts to tell her, but then stops. Again. She thinks to herself: “I wanted to say, what if I only thought about myself? If I just did as I wanted, what would you do? But, this kid who said I stole everything from her, who says she has nothing left of her own…I couldn’t open my mouth in front of her.” You’re killing me. Just put her out of her misery! I know you think you’re sparing her some kind of pain but this is getting really hard to watch. You’re making a fool out of her. Eun-jo agrees to go, making Hyo-sun smile, grateful that Eun-jo’s doing her some huge favor. Augh.
Eun-jo goes outside, and Hyo-sun’s uncle hands her a note from Jung-woo. Another letter? Jung-woo: “No matter where I am, no matter where you are, the only woman in my heart is you. No matter what you do, I’ll always be rooting for you. If you ever need me, I’ll come running. Remember that.” All the “you”s are “noona”s, making it all the cuter. Seriously, how can you pass up this adorable boy and his undying love? Will no one marry this kid? It’s breaking my heart!
She runs out, murmuring “Jung-woo ya,” making my heart flutter in hopes that she might realize at the last moment that she loves him….yeah, I know. Doomed. But this whole sequence coming up is the most dramatic and emotionally charged of the entire episode, so explain that one to me, Show.
Eun-jo runs all the way to the bus stop, calling out his name, and when he sees her coming, he runs to her. You’re tugging at my heartstrings for a couple that will never happen, and I really hate you for that, Show.
Eun-jo asks him where he’s going, if he has anywhere to go. Jung-woo reassures her he has lots of places he can go. She tells him to stop acting rashly and grabs his wrist. Except she’s so small he doesn’t budge an inch (heh) and instead he pulls her in for a hug. Jung-woo: “I wanted to hold you like this, just once. If I let go of you now, you’re going to hit me, right?” Haha. Quippy while being heartbreaking? I may have to marry you myself.
He says it’s okay, he’ll just get hit before he leaves. He assures her he won’t starve, so she doesn’t have to worry about him. “If you don’t live well, I’ll know right away. If you think you might need me, I’ll know right away. If you don’t want me to come running…live well.” Ack! Stop him!
Eun-jo tries, telling him he can’t go when she hasn’t done anything for him. She pleads with him to wait, but he’s insistent that he has to go. How can you expect a guy who loves you that much to sit around and watch you be with another man? He smiles, saying, “No matter where you go, I’ll be with you. You know that, right?” And he gets on the bus, leaving her with one last smile.
I’m going to need a moment to peel myself off the floor. That right there was a stellar send-off and the way all character interactions in the finale should be. Sadly, it’s kind of the highlight of the episode, which is strange. It irks me because I know the drama is capable of it—see, above. So why is it not firing on all cylinders for the rest of the characters? I have no idea. It’s frustrating, mostly because I know it’s attainable.
Jung-woo’s departure stirs something in Eun-jo. She thinks to herself that it’s easier to leave than she thought—you just do it like that, simply and with a smile, like Jung-woo. [I take it back -- these characters occasionally learn things. Only they're all the WRONG THINGS. --jb] She goes to her room and takes out her old rucksack, remembering Dae-sung’s words that she could rely on him. Ki-hoon calls, on his way home to her. He tells her that he’s coming to her, that he misses her, and that he did well, thinking of her. She cries, not letting on what’s going through her head, as she tells him he did well. Ki-hoon: “Eun-jo ya, I’m hungry. I’m coming to you now…to my rotten girl.”
And then? She packs her bags anyway and leaves. Whaa? Why? [Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. --jb] Forced separation twenty minutes from the end? Really, Show? So the man you love is finally done with everything and coming to you, and you pack your bags and leave? Because you’re afraid to tell Hyo-sun that you’ve stolen yet another thing from her? Even though he was never hers to begin with? This is beyond stupid. We’ve spent twenty episodes watching you excruciatingly peel off each of a thousand layers of your onion heart, making you, everyone else, and us cry in the process, and now you’re regressing to your teenage runaway days? Way to reward your viewers. I feel like I just got kicked in the groin.
The other reason this is ineffectual is that when you force a separation this far along into the final episode, it saps all the dramatic tension right out of it. She’s just going to be found fifteen minutes later. Or what, do you really think you’re scaring us into believing that it’s going to end this way? In the end it just makes Eun-jo a coward at precisely the wrong moment. Why not have her show growth by standing upright and facing her sister? She could accept what’s coming and be the bigger person, the titular unni, as it were. But no. You made her run.
Ki-hoon returns to find yet another letter: “Please take care of Hyo-sun,” and Eun-jo gone. Hyo-sun quakes at the realization: “Unni abandoned me and left.” Ki-hoon entreats Mom to tell him where she went, but Mom refuses to tell him, lying badly that she doesn’t know where Eun-jo went.
A few months pass, and the winery is doing well. Hyo-sun’s uncle is still there, so maybe the wedding didn’t go as planned? Hyo-sun gets word from a friend that someone knows a Gu Eun-jo at a lab, so she rushes over to check it out. She asks if it’s real this time, implying that she’s been looking tirelessly for months. Ki-hoon’s car is parked outside, raising her hopes. But alas, this Gu Eun-jo is a man, so they both leave dejected.
Outside, Hyo-sun asks Ki-hoon if he and Eun-jo made any promises before she left. She means ‘promise’ specifically here, as a euphemism for marriage or engagement. Ki-hoon answers that they did. She lets go of his arm, asking why he didn’t say anything before, when she asked that they start over. He replies that he needed time to think, because Eun-jo had asked him to take care of Hyo-sun in her letter, but he didn’t know what it meant. He thought until Eun-jo came back he’d take care of Hyo-sun…and Hyo-sun finally gets it now. She tells him to stop. My heart breaks for her a little here, that they’ve reduced her down to this, loving him for this long without knowing. But she takes it in stride, and tells him that they should join forces to find Eun-jo.
As he walks away, she calls after him that he’s just been rejected by her. It’s adorable and plucky of her to turn it around like this and make him smile about it, instead of feeling guilty. And she picks herself up quite well on her own. She asks, smiling with tears, that when Eun-jo returns, if he could go away for a little while. That way, when he comes back, she’ll be able to regard him as her brother-in-law. Aw, what a long way you’ve come, little girl. Ki-hoon says he will. Hyo-sun lets a tear fall as she says that she misses Eun-jo.
It turns out that guy wasn’t Gu Eun-jo, of course, but just Eun-jo’s officemate, who she asked to lie for her. Ki-hoon happens to overhear the guy on the street, introducing himself by his real name over the phone. It gives him pause, but he doesn’t think anything else of it. Do we have to spell it out for you?
Hyo-sun calls him later that day, saying that she ran across a short article about yeast in a magazine, which doesn’t have Eun-jo’s byline, but sounds totally like she wrote it. It names that same lab as the place of research, which reminds Ki-hoon of the guy using his real name. He rushes over. [Worst. Logic. Ever. You read a scientific article that SOUNDS like it was written in your sister's "voice"? Who does this show think Eun-jo is, David Foster Wallace? --jb]
Eun-jo leaves work, and when she comes out, Ki-hoon is standing across the street, staring at her. He looks mad. Who wouldn’t be? She bolts down the street, and he chases her down his side, calling out to her. She keeps running, and he makes a run for it, crossing the street in the middle of traffic. We hear horns honking and tires screeching, as Eun-jo turns in slow motion.
Come on, really, Show? You’re going THERE? This is going to be such a cheap fakeout. If Ki-hoon were going to die, you’d have been allowed true bliss and togetherness, in order for it to be stripped from you oh so sadly. But you guys have barely had a moment to be happy in the present, what with spending your precious few happy minutes reliving the past or dreaming of the future. Not to mention the stupid past fifteen minutes when you ran away for no good reason.
She zombie walks toward the street amidst the honking horns, but Ki-hoon appears and puts his hand on her shoulder to stop her. He takes her by the hand (The hand! Success!) and leads her to…where else? More picturesque surroundings.
Ki-hoon yells at her (as well he should) for the supreme idiocy of her ways. She just asks, “Number Four…what was it? In ‘The Things to tell MMM’…what was number four?” Ki-hoon: “Do you want to hear it?” Eun-jo: “I might never have been able to hear it, and you could have died!” We’ve come this far and you STILL can’t address him by name? Ki-hoon: “I love you. You rotten girl. I love you!” Haha. I have to say, it’s the least romantic-sounding love confession I’ve heard, but it’s adorable and SO befitting the two of them.
She hugs him, and they kiss, with the sun streaming down on them. She asks what MMM stands for, and he tells her, “Mi malo muchacha. My bad girl.” (I think the gender on that is wrong, Spanish tutor. But I suppose you never really knew Spanish, just learned it to get close to Eun-jo, so that’s okay. Also, we’ve been translating “my bad girl” as “my rotten girl” throughout, because frankly, “my bad girl” sounds, um, wrong in English.)
The whole family picks up an award for the winery, and Ki-hoon shows up, presumably months later, having gone away like Hyo-sun requested.
The sisters come into Dad’s office, offering up their prize and flowers to Dad in silence. Hyo-sun turns to Eun-jo: “Don’t you have anything to confess, in front of Dad? Do you not know what I mean? I…missed you.” She looks at her sister with hopeful eyes. Eun-jo: “I…missed you too.” Breakthrough!
Hyo-sun tenderly takes Eun-jo’s hand, with Dae-sung’s picture in the background. They hug, finally able to love each other as sisters. Dae-sung literally shows up to envelope them in a hug, making each of them feel his presence. It’s a little ham-handed and slightly creepy, but their reactions are sweet.
I think the picture of Dad was anvils a plenty—we get it. Dad’s love brought them together in the end. We didn’t really need the cameo at the end. What I wanted, though, was an actual confrontation between these two. If Eun-jo had been given a chance to say her piece in the beginning of the episode, if she’d just ripped off the band-aid, then we could have actually gotten a dramatic scene between them, causing a rift, maybe giving Eun-jo a real reason for the forced separation (other than stupid, boring noble angst). Then the reunion between the sisters could’ve been the climax. Instead we skip over their reunion (what the?) and instead get this in the epilogue.
If you’re setting up the main conflict in the finale to be not will-Eun-jo-and-Ki-hoon-or-won’t-they, but will-sisters-be-able-to-overcome-loving-one-man, then you have to SHOW THE CONFLICT. I feel…let down. Not because things didn’t end the way I wanted, because in essence, everyone got their happy ending like they should. But because I feel like I was robbed of the good stuff that I wanted to see. Even Mom, who got the brush-off this episode, didn’t get a single satisfying conversation with Eun-jo, after ALL of that to-Hell-and-back drama we’ve endured between them for twenty episodes.
I thought, if there’s one thing this drama knows how to do, it’s the angst and histrionics, so I was really looking forward to a dramatic finish with a happy send-off at the end. But sadly, I feel like I got all dressed up for the prom…and Show stood me up.
That’s not to say there weren’t things I didn’t love about this drama. It had all the makings of a hit, what with a stellar cast and some really poetic moments, most of which involved people running from each other. It was lush, and beautiful, and at times very moving, and sometimes darkly funny in the most poignant ways. But it never went anywhere interesting, plotwise, and took forever to get there, and in the end, it didn’t even deliver on the most basic interactions that I wanted, nay needed, to see in the finale. I’ll choose to remember this one by the highlight reel, and my own dreams of what it could have been.
I debated not writing a commentary section for this episode, because I feel like the only people still watching at this point are people who actually enjoyed the angst and slow pacing and therefore did not share my intense frustrations with the show. If this sort of thing WORKS for you, I can see how jeering from someone for whom it did not work at all can make for some unpleasant reading material.
But for the sake of frankness and because these twenty hours would have felt too much of a shame to cop out at the last minute, I’ll proceed, but I promise to keep it short and to the point.
That said, I haaaaaaated this finale. Like, hated with the burning fire of a million venereal diseases. As you may have gleaned from my recap of Episode 19, I was going into this episode with upbeat spirits, feeling optimistic about the upswing of the last few episodes. I didn’t need everything to be airtight and perfect; it just needed to be a reasonably satisfactory finale and I would have been happy to let it go with one eye (okay, almost both eyes) closed.
But Episode 20 served up such a platter of whatthefuckery that I felt like it insulted my intelligence as a viewer. A slow, plodding, meandering finale that was true to the plot and spirit of the show would have been preferable to what we got, which was a really weird, last-minute attempt to throw in every cliche in the book, with no thought to how it made sense in the story (because it didn’t). The resolutions of the big angsty conflicts were so long overdue that they were anticlimactic, not moving. Eun-jo’s running away was a giant bowl of ridiculousness served up way too late to have any narrative impact and resolved too quickly to even have the drama of that Finale Episode Separation and Reunion.
What’s most unfortunate is that a weak, lame finale diminishes the memory of the drama in our minds, and replaces some of the more shining moments earlier on — and this drama did have plenty of those. I just wish they weren’t all in the first half.
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 19
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 18
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 17
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 16
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 15
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 14
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 13
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 12
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 11
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 10
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 9
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 8
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 7
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 6
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 5
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 4
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 3
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 2
- Cinderella’s Sister: Episode 1
- Cinderella, Prosecutor, Taste: First episode impressions