Dear Show,

How do I love Thee? Let me count the ways.

1. Your hero is Woongtastic.
2. Your heroine is the cutest thing since cats started having babies.
3. You do crazy things, but then you recover with The Cute.
4. You hurt, but you hurt so good.
5. You speed along like a bullet train, and make me wish time passed more slowly.
6. I find myself flipping through pictures of our time together, remembering you fondly.
7. You break my heart, and then put it back together again.
8. I can’t quit you, even if I tried.
9. You love me…just as I am.

 
FINAL EPISODE RECAP

After revealing her only remaining tail in the moonlight, Dae-woong asks her with angry tears, “Then…you’re still dying?” The thought that this is only occurring to him now makes me want to smack him with a large encyclopedia. She responds that she couldn’t give up the desire to become human.

Emo Hair is busy staring holes into the sandglass of mystical ki, which he has put upright again. He watches as Mi-ho’s life slowly pours out, leaving very little left. He begs for her to hold on a little longer. Is that the best you can do? Don’t you have any mystical powers other than your glowy knife and milky skin? Now’s the time to break them out, Highlander Boy. We’re in the finale.

Dae-woong can’t believe she’s still dying. After everything he had to do to let her go, she’s STILL dying. Yeah. Hence the moniker Noble Idiot. Don’t you watch dramas? Mi-ho says that it’s not just because of love—she couldn’t give up the desire to become human, and she feared that by his side, she’d have done anything to stay alive, even take the rest of his life if she became desperate.

At that, he gets up and puts her hand on his chest, saying, “Then take it. Take it all.” Ack! Crushing. My. Soul.

She looks down, stricken, pulling away from him. That’s treating her exactly like what she doesn’t ever want to be—a monster. Dae-woong doesn’t care—he’ll do anything to save her life. He says that she’s a scary gumiho, and he’s a human under her spell, so she should play the role and just take his life. He grabs her by the wrist (gah) and yells at her to take it. [And here’s where I start bawling and hardly let up all episode long… –javabeans]

Mi-ho can’t even look him in the eye as she steps away. She says he really is an immature human, and that she’ll come back then, and really take his life. She leaves him with a half-hearted death threat.

She returns to Dong-joo and confesses to removing her fox bead. He reels at the realization that since the moment she came to him, she had already given up. She can’t become human, or even half like him, so this is the extent of what she can do, to protect Dae-woong. She asks him to return the bead to Dae-woong, and lie to him so that he’ll take it back. Great. Just what we need. Two Noble Idiots running about. [Why can’t they just cancel each other out? Sigh. –jb]

Dong-joo meets Dae-woong on a rooftop and feeds him the lie—if he takes the bead back, and fills it with the rest of his ki, Dong-joo will kill him at the end of the hundred days and return the bead to Mi-ho, saving her. He starts to say that he understands if he hestitates…

…and Dae-woong downs the bead in one shot. Without so much as an ounce of fear or hesitation, he tells Dong-joo to come to kill him alone, and to make sure that he returns the bead to Mi-ho safely. As if I didn’t already love you enough, you’re going all gallant-knight-in-shining-armor on me now. How’s a recapper to stay focused with all of the swooning?

As Dae-woong leaves, Mi-ho appears around the corner, having witnessed it all. Thank heavens for that. Dong-joo is floored from Dae-woong’s unflinching conviction to give up his life for Mi-ho. I love that wimpy Dae-woong became the kind of person to shake up Dong-joo’s belief that humanity is selfish and weak.

Mi-ho comes up to him, smiling as she gives him a big fat I-told-you-so, about her fantasy-love being the real deal. Aw. But then she continues to be a Noble Idiot, insisting that they go far away, and never appear in front of Dae-woong again.

Show, are you TRYING to kill me? [Just your sanity… –jb]

Dae-woong prepares to give up his life for Mi-ho, as Mi-ho prepares to leave. He cries, as he regrets not being able to be there for her, but is satisfied with being able to protect her with his life. Dong-joo watches him from afar, amazed at his bravery in this act of love.

Dong-joo shows up at the airport to meet Mi-ho, and he asks her one last time if this is what she really wants. He tells her that he thought love was doing what the other person wanted, but then regretted it for a thousand years. He swore to never make that mistake again, but this time, he’s retracing his steps. So he did the only thing he could do to protect her, because even if he gave his own life, it wouldn’t save her. Well, that answers that question.

He told Dae-woong the truth. APPLAUSE for Dog Teacher! [And thank jeeves for that. At least that Big Misunderstanding is finally cleared, and she knows Dae-woong lied in order to break up. –jb ]

Mi-ho’s eyes fill with tears, as she hears him acknowledge that their love is true. “Why did you do that? You’re cruel. I hate you. But…thank you.” Aw. He tells her that he’s not the one to stay by her side till the end. That person…is right there…

Dae-woong runs into the airport right on cue. Dong-joo tells her to go to him, and leaves them to fate. Well, you didn’t actually turn out to be very useful, mystically, but points for killing the Noble Idiots, anyway.

Mi-ho goes to Dae-woong, who says with tears and trembly lips:

Dae-woong: You’re really…a terrible evil gumiho. You put a human under your spell and took his ki, and now you’re ripping his heart to shreds, you scary gumiho!
Mi-ho: I’m sorry. But even if being with me is scary and painful, can I stay by your side?

He pulls her in for a hug, as Mi-ho finally lets herself cry in his arms. Gawd, these two kill me. I’m such a sucker for the angry blurting of hurtful things to mask true feelings. [Seriously. Bawling. –jb]

At the temple, the monk explains the painting to a group of ladies, as he recounts the promise the Samshin Grandmother made to the gumiho: if she found a husband to give his life for her, she would allow her to live in this world. One of the ladies turns around, musing to herself that a promise is a promise…

Ten points for Team Samshin Grandma! You are free to take your victory lap now.

She appears to Dong-joo first, as she asks him what he thinks is right: “I’m sorry,” (Gil-dal’s last words) or “Thank you,” (Mi-ho’s last words to him). He smiles as he realizes who she is, and says that “Thank you” is the right answer. She smiles as she tells him that he’s fine then. Sad that it took him a thousand years for Mi-ho’s thank-you to heal the wound from Gil-dal’s “I’m sorry,” but it’s a nice bookend for his character.

Dae-woong and Mi-ho walk hand-in-hand, but their happiness takes a dip as they walk past an elderly couple, knowing that they’ll never make it that far. They tell each other, “Right now, being with you—is the greatest happiness.”

They return to their loft and eat together. Dae-woong tries to get her to eat kimchi, which she doesn’t like, but he insists that she’s got to, if she’s Korean. Yeah, that’s what my parents used to tell me when I was a kid and didn’t like kimchi. It’s cultural identity peer pressure! She asks for a kiss on the cheek if she eats it, and he offers her one on the lips, so she plans to eat up all the kimchi on the table. Yay, Cute, you’re back! We’ve missed you! [I bet you would’ve tried that kimchi if you had similar motivation… –jb]

Mi-ho shows him the tea set that she bought for Aunt Min-sook’s wedding gift, and he praises her for knowing his aunt’s taste. She wonders if it’s not right for Director Ban, but Dae-woong tells her that it’s better for the man to match his tastes to his wife’s. Okay, can I marry you now? [Only if you’ve got the confidence to square off against a possessive gumiho. Sorry babe, I’m putting my chips with her. –jb]

They wonder if they should’ve bought a set for themselves, but then realize the heartbreaking fact that they’ll never be married and picking out china. Mi-ho makes an excuse about them being too breakable, and decides that they should buy ones that don’t break so easily. Dae-woong agrees: “Let’s get ones that never ever break.”

It’s Min-sook’s wedding day, and while the bride worries about her nervous farting habit, Director Ban shows up in his usual trenchcoat-and-sunglasses garb. Really, Chow Yun-fat Lite to your own wedding, huh? But thankfully Dae-woong intervenes and helps him out of his nervousness, calling him Uncle.

The wedding commences, where of course the point is not so much the bride and groom, as it is the best man and maid of honor, making moon eyes at each other. Samshin Grandma makes an appearance in the crowd, eyeing the pair with an air of disapproval and worry.

As Grandpa gives Min-sook away, she trips and Director Ban catches her, asking if the baby is okay. Whoops. Egg’s out of the bag. Grandpa rejoices, and everyone cheers.

After the wedding, Mi-ho walks around and stops when she sees a bride and groom dressed in traditional hanboks, and remembers her own lonely wait as a bride five hundred years ago. Dae-woong asks if she regrets not meeting her match then, but she of course doesn’t regret a thing, since she had to be trapped in that painting to meet Dae-woong now.

Knowing how much she’s always wanted to be a bride, he takes her by the hand and gets her some red dots for her cheeks, and they take a picture to commemorate it. Adorable.

Later, Mi-ho puts the picture in her album, as she declares to the universe, “In five hundred years, I’ve finally found my groom. Because he loves me so so so so so much, he can give me everything. I’ve found him.”

The fateful hundredth day arrives, and Dae-woong tells himself that he won’t count the time, or cry, and that he’ll spend this last day with her in happiness. He swallows back his tears and puts on a brave face. There’s…something…in my…eye. [There are a hundred somethings in mine. –jb]

He comes out and asks if there’s anywhere she wants to go. She asks if he isn’t tired, since they haven’t slept for days. (From wanting to spend every waking moment together? That’s so cute!) She takes out the lotion that Dae-woong bought her, and puts some on his face, and the look in his eyes…Oh my god, now I’m really crying. Gah! People crying buckets of tears does not move me as much as someone trying their damnedest NOT to cry…it crushes my heart into pulp.

They wonder what they should do, thinking that maybe they should replay their first date and go see a movie…except the only passes Dae-woong has are all for future days. They decide to go see the chicken shop ajumma, but then she’s away in the country, so she won’t be back till tomorrow. Ack, their struggle to find something to do on their last day without acknowledging the pain is so heartbreaking.

Dae-woong wonders why everyone, even Aunt Min-sook and Grandpa, are away until tomorrow. Mi-ho then finally says the words out loud: “Tomorrow…I won’t be here.”

They decide to go to the fountain that Mi-ho likes, except when they show up, it’s off for repairs, until…yup, you guessed it…TOMORROW. Mi-ho says it’s okay, but it’s enough to put Dae-woong over the edge. He starts shaking as he says it has to be today, and walks off, angry.

With his back turned so that Mi-ho can’t see, he cries. She watches him, knowing what a brave face he’s putting on for her benefit. He pushes his tears back, and then turns around, smiling as he reaches out his hand to her. I swear, I’m not crying. I’m NOT!

They go home and light some fireworks, and Mi-ho lights up in glee. They spend the rest of their night in the gym, because that’s the place where Dae-woong saw her true nature, for the first time.

Mi-ho: Were you really that scared, back then?
Dae-woong: Yes. But as scared as I was then, I’m a hundred times more…right now.

He clutches her hand. She covers his eyes as he starts to cry. Tears streaming down her face, she tells him to think of it all as a dream, from the moment she appeared. That way, when he opens his eyes, it won’t hurt. They cry, with her covering his eyes to keep him from having to watch her disappear.

Dae-woong: Don’t go.
Mi-ho: Forget all the scary stuff. And remember me as a really really really really good dream.

With that, she gives him a kiss, and her tail comes out in the moonlight. It fades away, as the last grains of sand trickle down in the hourglass, and just like that, Mi-ho disappears.

Dae-woong uncovers his eyes to see that she’s gone, and his sad tears turn to angry ones, as he says to himself, “A dream? When I open my eyes, it won’t hurt?! It hurts this much…how can you be a dream?”

He slumps to the ground, sobbing. If there’s any more sadness to be had, I’m going to have to borrow someone else’s tears, because I’m fresh out of my own. [I’ve got buckets to spare. –jb]

Back at the temple, Samshin Grandma has returned to the painting.

Dae-woong wakes up the next morning in the gym, having cried himself to sleep in that position. He realizes that she’s gone and left him there all alone, and he refuses to let it go that way. He runs, as he says in voiceover:

Dae-woong: Mi-ho-ya, you must be crying, but it doesn’t rain anymore when you cry. No matter how sad you are, I have no way of knowing…because you’re not here anymore. Mi-ho is gone. Mi-ho is gone. Mi-ho…is gone.

He cries her name out one last time, and then…stands in the path of an oncoming truck. WHAT? WTF Dae-woong?! Aaaaaaaargh!

He lies there in the street, still conscious, as he cries a tear. It starts to rain, and he clutches his heart, happy that she’s still here, somewhere in the universe. Can you please be happy AFTER you attend to your gaping head wound?! Show, you’ve been itching to pull some crazy stunt like this, haven’t you? Are you testing me?

I suppose since he has the friggin’ fox bead, he’s not going to die or anything. But still. Reckless, party of one?

Dong-joo and Samshin Grandma sit in the park, and Dong-joo asks what she’ll do with Mi-ho. She says that she can’t return a gumiho who’s lost her nine tails and given her ki to a human, but says that if they wait, perhaps the heavens will intervene.

Some months later, Dae-woong’s movie comes out and it’s a big hit, making him and Hye-in stars. Aunt Min-sook has her baby, Byung-soo and Sun-nyeo are dating. Dae-woong lands on the cover of magazines, and Hye-in shoots a CF with…Hong-ki? Hong-ki! We’ve missed you! What’re you doing here, puppy? He’s here as Jeremy, of course, although it’s unfortunate that he’s here alone to represent A.N.Jell. Well, you were my favorite anyway, so I’m pleased as punch.

Sun-nyeo knows that Hye-in has a crush on him, so she tells her to get off her high horse and do something about it…otherwise she’ll end up like she did with Dae-woong. That’s enough to scare her, so she swallows her pride and practices Mi-ho’s tactic: “I really, really, really, really like you.” Complete with finger guns. Ha.

Byung-soo has come up in the world too, making his own movies. He shows Dae-woong the script he wrote, using his idea—a love story between a human and a ghost. Dae-woong tells him it’s supposed to be a gumiho, but Byung-soo balks that a gumiho requires too much CG, for nine tails. He went with ghost instead. HA. I love the meta.

Dong-joo appears on the set, and Dae-woong is pleased to see him. He’s still posturing, of course, because he’s Dae-woong, but they’re friendly as they catch up. Dong-joo is a professor now, having decided to live amongst people. He asks if Dae-woong is still waiting. He clutches his heart, saying of course he’s waiting…because she’s not gone yet.

Dong-joo tells him that today there will be an eclipse. “The sun and the moon—they can’t exist in the same space. But they break that rule, and come together, in the eclipse.” Nice imagery.

He tells Dae-woong that it’ll come today, the day when the heavens go crazy. Sure enough, as the eclipse begins, Dae-woong’s phone starts ringing. Only he realizes it’s not his phone, but Mi-ho’s. He answers it, and it’s Mi-ho, using the eclipse to speak to him.

He runs around looking for her, asking her where she is, but she just answers that she’s watching him, and that she’s close to him. The eclipse passes, and their connection is lost. Dae-woong and I both curse the heavens for their cheap trick, and he sheds a tear, asking angrily if that was it. [You and me both, buddy. –jb] He thought the heavens were supposed to go mad—doesn’t that mean Mi-ho would be returned to him?

He cries in disbelief. And then, from a distance, he hears her voice. “Woong-ah!” He looks up, and Mi-ho stands there, calling his name. Hooray~! [I LOVE this mirroring of the very first scene of this drama — such similar scene setups, but with such different emotions underlying it. How far we’ve come. –jb]

He walks over to her, not knowing if he’s hallucinating, and pokes her face, just to be sure. She cries a tear at his touch. He asks if she’s a ghost, and she’s about to answer, but he hugs her, saying it doesn’t matter. [More callbacks to the beginning, when he poked her cheek thinking she was a ghost. Yay for continuity and emotional throughlines! –jb]

Dae-woong: It doesn’t matter if you’re a ghost, or a gumiho, or a person. It doesn’t matter. It’s enough that you’re in front of me. If you’re back, that’s enough.

Gah, it rivals: “Whether you’re a man or an alien.” Really. Such a perfect thing to say to her.

That night, they return to the loft and sit together in the moonlight. She asks if he isn’t curious whether she’s returned as a human or a gumiho. He says it doesn’t matter, but he is curious. Mi-ho: “The moon is out and everything. Should we do a round of hoi-hoi and find out?” YES PLEASE.

Dae-woong’s pleased to see that she’s tail-less, which makes Mi-ho upset that he’s not actually fine if she’s still a gumiho. She confesses to having one tail left, as she wraps it around his waist, with her best come-hither look in her eyes.

Now THAT’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

They get snuggly, as Dae-woong says in voiceover, “As always, my girlfriend, she’s still…a fox.” Haha. Cute!

GIRLFRIDAY’S COMMENTS

What a great resolution. It would have left me unsatisfied, if she just became human, and didn’t retain any of her gumiho-ness. I love that Dae-woong’s ultimate confession of love is that it doesn’t matter what supernatural creature she is—he just loves her, for being her. It’s the best kind of declaration in my book, because he adores her exactly as she is, no more, no less.

I honestly wasn’t expecting this much angst in the finale, because I thought the mystical whozit would get resolved earlier, but I don’t mind it at all, because the angst actually played out so beautifully, and moved my ice-encased heart to tears. I thought that knowing they’d get a happy ending would have lessened my reaction to their last day, but it turned out not to matter—what moved me was the fact that they didn’t know it wouldn’t be their last day. So their brave front in the face of such crushing loss was epic, and romantic.

What I love about a story like this (and why my heart belongs to Buffy) is that the mystical mumbo jumbo is just a device—it’s a metaphor on a large scale that allows the high-concept life-or-death choices to drive the story, while forcing characters to face basic questions about mortality, self, sacrifice, and love. Their epic love story can have the dramatic tension found in all dramas, but the supernatural element provides a framework to justify the angst—it’s story-driven, and calls out Fate as the main operator in the universe, whereas other dramas use the same elements without giving the same level of narrative justification.

It’s my own bias, for sure, since this kind of story isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But for me? This show owns me, heart and soul. I may have found a new favorite. Of. All. Time.

JAVABEANS’ COMMENTS

I agree with everything Girlfriday just said, but still, I must offer a slightly different take on the ending and the drama as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed so much about this drama. But I think my reaction to the wrap-up is a bit less enthused.

A few criticisms:

As you well know, I’m a big fan of the Hong sisters. I’ve seen all their dramas, I’ve enjoyed all their pairings, and laughed at their jokes. They have a way of telling fun, funny stories in an accessible way that doesn’t talk down to you or try to be what it was never meant to be. Their style can dip into slapstick or hammy humor, but it never gets pretentious. Major kudos for that.

That said, there is a difference between a trademark and a crutch. The Hongs do both, and while I love the former, the latter can suck the zest out of a show.

Hong sisters trademarks: Pop culture parodies. A middle-aged couple finding love. Tongue-in-cheek references to famous dramas and/or movies. Cute catchphrases (“Bassha,” ‘I lub you,” “hoi-hoi,” “kkoraji hagoneun,” “You will be blessed”) and quirky-cute terms for things (“cow” rather than beef, “bubble-fizz water” instead of soda).

Crutches, on the other hand, are what you get when writers fall back on certain plot devices, conflicts, or resolutions, which feels more like a lack of creativity than an intentional callback. That’s why in my book, Delightful Girl Chun-hyang will always be my favorite Hong sisters drama, because everything was fresh, fun, and new back then. My Girl was super-peppy and entertaining, but it doesn’t rank as high in my book because there were certain recycled elements from DGCH that lacked the fresh factor. They broke with those patterns, thankfully, for Fantasy Couple — which is why I have a lot of respect for that drama even if it’s my least favorite of theirs. Hong Gil Dong took them further from their stable of favorite cliches and setups, but then You’re Beautiful brought a portion of them right back. (As in, extended separations, overhyped melodrama forcing the couple apart, dastardly meddlers, toxic parents, hapless second leads who never get the girl.)

What worked marvelously the first time doesn’t hold up as well the fourth time around, which is what I felt with the past few episodes. Like with Dae-woong following Mi-ho around (which we saw in DGCH and My Girl) and one character telling a huge lie to spare the other pain, which ends up keeping them apart (also from both DCGH and My Girl). I adore these writers, but for their next drama they’re really going to have to explore some untrod territory.

THAT SAID, I actually think Gumiho works despite those recycled elements because its fantasy angle is SO interesting and clever. By giving the conflict a true life-or-death gravitas, these elements are given a bit of a twist, so ultimately I accept them. I just can’t feel excited about them.

Regarding the ending: I’m generally satisfied, or at least as satisfied as I can be with a huge deus ex machina swooping in to save the day. As far as deus ex machinas go, it was done pretty well — I’m glad that they didn’t have Samshin Grandma merely wave a mystical wand and bring Mi-ho back, as I feared about halfway through this episode. If she did that, all the angst and conflict of the previous several episodes would have been moot, and that would have made me bitter. No, we are told that even in this fantasy world, there are supernatural laws, and Mi-ho cannot come back since she has given literally everything of herself. So only in this freak occurrence when “heaven goes crazy,” when the sun meets the moon, does she have a chance of crossing the cosmic divide and rejoining Dae-woong. But he has to earn it by waiting for her steadfastly, and it appears that a few years have passed since she disappeared.

I appreciate that the angsting had a narrative purpose (other than to keep them apart), because both had to prove that they would give up their lives for each other in a real, tangible way rather than just saying that they would in hypothetical scenarios (as Mi-ho tried to get Dae-woong to do). The lore says that only when the gumiho meets a man who is willing to give up everything can she step into the human world. They had to go through that trial by fire so that in the end, there is not a shadow of a doubt that they earned their happily ever after.

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