I love the shot above – so artistic and yet served a purpose in the storytelling. So let’s go down into the depths of hell together, and finish the series!
I’d really like to thank those who stuck through with aberdeen_angus and me as we recapped this drama – all the way down to the bitter end. Your comments were sweet and supportive, and it was always fun to read your thoughts/discussion (whenever discussion made sense rather than “Oh let’s just forget how to rationalize that,” – a thought which I’m sure happened often enough). Secondly, I can never forget to thank javabeans and girlfriday for giving us the space to write!
SONG OF THE DAY
“Order” by Baek Chan (Athena OST) [download]
Despite his initial excitement, Son Hyuk receives some bad news. Hye In is at a hotel nearby with Jae Hee and the rest of the NTS team, strategically plotting how to nab him. Sean Richard intervenes, but Son Hyuk will not be stopped. Fine then – they’ll go together. Sean Richard gives in too easily.
Since Jung Woo doesn’t have concrete evidence of Son Hyuk, he can’t get any more back up. But! He does get help in the form of Ki Soo, and they meet up far from the hotel/makeshift command center. Ki Soo admits he’s on a wanted list (preferably dead than alive), and Jung Woo immediately wants to give Ki Soo NTS-protection. Thanks but no thanks – he’s Kim Ki Soo! Former intelligence agent! He can survive anywhere! As long as he gets to join the team that finishes off Son Hyuk.
Jung Woo says he’ll consider it.
Jae Hee and the team make their rounds around the hotel to ensure the security. Everything is secured, and Hye In has already gone up to her room. However, Jae Hee passes a frantic hotel clerk who’s wondering where a cart of luggage went. Immediately, she heads up to Hye In’s floor.
That missing cart of luggage is currently trailing Hye In, pushed by Bellhop Son Hyuk. He wants her to leave; he’s going to start something big, something that no one can ever stop. She needs to get herself out of here, or else she’ll die too. Hye In puts her foot down – she won’t leave, and she won’t stop if Son Hyuk won’t.
Jae Hee catches them and chases after him, gun drawn. The others are alerted, and Son Hyuk makes his escape through the kitchen. Jae Hee only manages to find him (thanks to a helpful cook who guides the way) right before he drives off in Sean Richard’s car. She can’t even shoot at the car, that’s how bad her hand is shaking.
It’s at her shaken state that Ki Soo sees her as he comes bounding up to her in the hotel. (Clearly, Jung Woo allowed him to join.) He’s the only one who cares about Jae Hee though: “You got more beautiful I couldn’t even recognize you!” Jung Woo only asks after Hye In and Son Hyuk. The Flirt versus the Inconsiderate Love of Your Life – which do you choose, Jae Hee?
Director Kwon is informed that Son Hyuk had warned Hye In, so even though there’s no concrete proof, it looks more and more like Son Hyuk will attack the nuclear reactor. Jung Woo wants the military deployed to the reactor’s location, rather than the other 20 locations, but Kwon cannot provide more than just the military police and two teams of SRT. This is exactly the situation that Son Hyuk wants, and Jung Woo knows they’re playing right into it.
Jae Hee is reminded on how much she seemed like Son Hyuk – holding on to someone who doesn’t love them back and acting recklessly. It took her a while to realize how pitiful the act was. Jung Woo: “Erm…”
Hye In reminisces, and actually it’s really sad to see how far Son Hyuk has gone. He went from being her protector and trying to keep her out of it, to pleading to her to wait for him so that he can make all the work they did worth it, even if it’s not exactly legal. To the very end, he wants to protect Hye In.
Auckland! Kim So Yeon! She visits the grave of her daughter and husband, laying white roses and her daughter’s stuffed sheep by their memorial plaque. She remembers her vow for revenge – and heads to the airport. Wait – I just said hi to you, and now I have to say bye!? Noo!
Here ends the cameo of Sun Hwa.
Ugh – back to NTS: Kwon is convincing a couple of Secretaries from the President’s cabinet that Son Hyuk will attack the nuclear reactor. They don’t want to take the risk by removing support from the other locations, but they won’t notify the public and cause a frenzy. Meanwhile Son Hyuk’s team moves out, and that’s when Joon Ho finally locates Son Hyuk’s getaway car – at the Hall of Performing Arts, which had been “closed for renovations.”
One of their black vans arrives at a checkpoint in front of the nuclear reactor and it passes the inspection, with good reason; the van is disguised as a broadcasting station’s, and so all they can find are cameras and equipment.
Jung Woo and his small team arrives in front of the Hall of Performing Arts. Son Hyuk’s two watchmen report this to the Athenians still inside. Son Hyuk confirms if the package has been loaded first, and then orders everyone to move out first. He’ll buy some time, and meet them in half-an-hour at the rendezvous point.
The SRT team sees a garbage truck and tells the drivers to pull out quickly; too bad they don’t recognize the drivers as Athenian agents. Jung Woo enters through the front door and slowly everyone makes their way up the building. They encounter a few agents putting up a fight, and then Jung Woo spots Son Hyuk, watching them a few floors above.
Jung Woo notifies Joon Ho, who then informs the rest of the team of a confirmed sighting of Son Hyuk. Ha – it’s like no one will believe the alien exists until one of them sees it with his very own eyes. Jae Hee orders her team to keep an eye on Hye In at the hotel, and she heads over to the Hall herself. Kwon wants a live feed of what’s happening at the Hall, and he witnesses his men shooting back at some Athenians.
Jung Woo races up the steps, while Son Hyuk runs down. Will they meet!? Nope – Son Hyuk exited off a floor in between, and Jung Woo follows. They barely miss each other, as the elevator doors close between them. Son Hyuk heads to the first floor and eliminates anyone in his way. He gets into Sean Richard’s car, and Jung Woo wants NTS to track their car via satellite. Unfortunately, they have a very smart car that can parallel park automatically by itself, and so they squeeze into a spot while a decoy car takes over.
I WANT THAT CAR! (Yes, I fell for the damn marketing ploy.)
Anyways, NTS tracks the wrong car, and lead Jung Woo far from the Hall of Performing Arts. He literally drives right past Son Hyuk and Sean Richard.
SRT agents swarm the basement and locate the missile in the basement. They uncover it, showing a live feed to NTS, and to Tae Hyun and Joon Ho. The bomb section is uncovered, and when they get a closer look, Tae Hyun yells, “It’s a trap!”
Too late – video feed goes fuzzy, then dead.
Ki Soo is a tad late in the game, as he finds out last that everyone is being sent to get Son Hyuk, but him! Jung Woo finally catches up to the decoy car, and he realizes that he just got tricked. He requests for CCTV feeds, and Tae Hyun and Joon Ho realize that the Athenians have a bunker buster – a smaller missile equipped with a laser-guided system that could penetrate deep walls. What’s worse is, the missile can hold a nuclear device.
Kwon wants Sook Kyung to run a test and see what the casualties would be if the weapon were a standard or a nuclear missile. I think you’re wasting valuable time and resources on this, because honestly, no way is either test going to come out with “more favorable” results.
Jung Woo heads back to the makeshift headquarters, and he sees a garbage truck roll by. He asks Joon Ho if any left the Hall before they broke in, and they realize that they had accidentally sent the missile on its way. Plus, they don’t do inspections on garbage trucks. Luckily, Jae Hee (who is still on her way to the Hall) spots the garbage truck in question and tales it.
The only way to stop the missile is to get it before it launches; anytime after that is too difficult. Jae Hee spies the agents transporting the missiles from behind the truck into a large tower at the expo park. Jung Woo wants her to be on standby until he and the team arrive, but no way is she gonna do that. Even Joon Ho is itching to go on the field, leaving Tae Hyun in charge of the makeshift headquarters.
The Athenians set up the missile, and finally Jae Hee can wait no longer. She takes her gun and sneaks into the tower’s adjacent building. Son Hyuk and Sean Richard are already there, and they’re five minutes away from launch. Meanwhile, the two Athenians pretending to be journalists enter the nuclear reactor center, where they are given a tour of the place. Using their specially equipped camera, they use lasers to help mark a guided path for the missile.
Jae Hee breaks the neck of one guard silently, and goes up the stairs, to where the baddies are assembled. The computer techie encounters a frequency jammer, so they are delayed by a few minutes. That gives Jae Hee enough time to sneak up on them. She shoots one that has spotted her, and then aims her gun at Son Hyuk. It’s one against oh, fifteen? agents. Son Hyuk sneers, and orders the techie to continue. But Jae Hee yells that if he does continue, she’ll kill their leader. Poor techie – quite the dilemma eh?
Techie chooses to continue, and Jae Hee shoots him down. Son Hyuk quickly throws her across the floor. She shoots at the agents, grabs the laptop and runs.
The Athenians aim to kill, but Son Hyuk stops them. He grabs his gun, and with a few carefully aimed shots, he hits her back and her leg. She stumbles down to the lobby. Son Hyuk, lording over her, demands she return the laptop. She throws it at his feet, but when he bends over to get it, she uses her last bullet to destroy the computer.
The female Athenian (who appears to be the only competent one out of the bunch) says she can set off the missile manually, even though it might take a little longer. Jae Hee is turning deathly white, but she taunts Son Hyuk, saying he’ll never succeed. Ooh – get on his bad side will you? He aims his gun at her head, and that’s when Ki Soo comes racing in, firing bullets at Son Hyuk and the Athenian agents a floor above.
Son Hyuk calls them all off, and they leave the scene. Ki Soo rushes to Jae Hee’s side, and that’s when Jung Woo finally arrives. He slides across the floor and grabs Jae Hee, telling her to stay awake. She uses her last breaths to tell him that the missile is on top of Gyeongju Tower, and that they’re manually setting it off.
Jung Woo shakes her, repeating that she can’t die. A small smile creeps up on her lips as she says, “Jung Woo, are you still gonna sit there like that?” Reluctantly taking his attention off of her for a second, he reports it in to the rest of the team. However, when he looks back at her, Jae Hee is gone.
I gotta say, Son Hyuk reaaaaally knows how to make enemies.
The medics arrive too late, and Kwon gives the belated order to send fighter jets to Gyeongju Tower. Joon Ho arrives at the lobby when the medics are taking Jae Hee away. Since they haven’t covered a white sheet over her, he thinks that she’s just passed out. He shakes her to wake her, but her head lolls to the side. A medic confirms her death. Joon Ho stares, and tears roll down his face. He grabs her into his arms and screams at her to wake up, calling her “noona” instead of “sunbae.” Poor Joon Ho – he never got the girl… (Side note: Choi Si Won is amazing!)
The SRT tail Son Hyuk and his men through the basement, and start battling it out. Backup arrives, and finally the Hall of Performing Arts becomes a full scale battlefield. Out in the snow. The SRT backup team makes their way into the building, but as they climb up the steps, bombs explode in their path. Much like what happened outside the mall in IRIS…
The female Athenian is still plugging away at manually launching the missile; some SRT agents are dragging their injured away from the crossfire; F15 planes are on their way to Gyeongju Tower; and no one at NTS knows the status of Jae Hee. It’s chaotic to say the least.
Jung Woo grabs a rifle from a fellow agent and storms his way up the steps. He kills his way to the location of the missile, where the female Athenian is ready to launch with just the press of a button. The two of them stare down, and he warns her not to move. She tests him, and lowers her finger to press the button.
Jung Woo riddles her body with bullets. He also saves the day.
Son Hyuk is wondering why the female Athenian didn’t confirm that she launched the missile, and that’s when he hears Jung Woo’s voice on the other line: “It’s over. Remember what I told you. I will end your life. So wait there. I’m on my way.”
Furious as hell, Son Hyuk fires a few more shots at SRT agents he’s battling, and his underlings have to force him out of there. Ki Soo comes in and starts taking out the remaining Athenians who stayed behind to buy some time – with a small automatic gun. Dude is badass.
The missiles have been recovered, but Son Hyuk and a few of his men have gotten away, disguised as SRT agents. Jung Woo finally reports in to NTS that they are in pursuit, but that Jae Hee is dead. That sends shock waves throughout the agency.
Several days later, NTS finally tracked down all the trucks that carried missiles in them. Or, supposedly carried them, as there was actually no trace of explosives in them. Though Athena may have turned its back on Son Hyuk, they start prepping for his next attack; Son Hyuk would not give up so easily. Hye In privately tells Jung Woo that Son Hyuk might just be waiting for someone to stop him – and the only one who can do that is her.
Suddenly, we get a glimpse into Sook Kyung’s private life. She exits a restaurant with her mother and sister to celebrate her mother’s birthday. (Of course, her mother has to say that the best birthday gift would be a son-in-law.) Sook Kyung drives her mom and sister to the Cultural Center, but on the way she is blocked by two silver vans, one in front and one in the back.
It’s a kidnapping, and Sook Kyung discreetly raises an SOS alarm on her phone to notify NTS. Brought to an abandoned warehouse and separated from her family, the Athenian agents have a simple request for her: log in to the NTS server and turn off the security motion sensors on the outer walls.
Yep – Son Hyuk and his men are going to invade NTS.
Sook Kyung refuses, so the agent raises a gun to her head. Then he comes up with a better solution; he has her sister brought in, tied at the hands, and has her shot in the leg in front of Sook Kyung. The next bullet will be in the head.
That’s enough for Sook Kyung to do as she’s told.
Son Hyuk and his men wait until the sensors are turned off before making their way inside from the lowest levels. Meanwhile, Joon Ho and Tae Hyun (in matching leather jackets and skinny pants) arrive at the location of the kidnapping. They see her car left there, and with careful deduction, they figure out that she was kidnapped. Once notified of this, Kwon sends Jung Woo out on the scene.
The next thing that needs to be done is for Sook Kyung to lock down NTS. Reluctantly, Sook Kyung does it, and Son Hyuk’s agent sets up the EMP, which sends out a pulse that disrupts all electricity and forms of communication. Massive blackout ensues. Jung Woo also can’t get out, as the gate locks down on him. When his phone doesn’t work, he and his partner realize Son Hyuk has arrived. Hye In knows it too.
The Athenian kidnappers are told to pack up and leave, and Sook Kyung desperately pleads for them to let her and her family go. As that happens, she spies out of the corner of her eye someone grabbing one of her kidnappers. She distracts her captor by screaming, but he slaps her and pulls his gun on her. Just as he’s about to shoot, Tae Hyun fires a bullet into him. Joon Ho serves as backup, and now we have the two idol boys battling it out with the baddies. Yeah yo.
Sook Kyung is freaked out, but she informs Joon Ho that NTS is under attack. He asks Tae Hyun to take care of Sook Kyung and her family, and heads right over to headquarters.
It’s a full fledged attack as Son Hyuk and his team go on the offensive, quickly eliminating the SRT agents in the perimeter of NTS. Kwon sends all non-comative agents to the safe room and initiates Code Red, where all field agents must prepare for combat – including himself.
Jung Woo and his partner have to manually open the elevator doors and get their way back to the control room. Meanwhile, Son Hyuk has a no-survivors policy, going into every single room and killing everyone there. They reach the control room and open fire. Kwon impresses me by taking down a few men himself.
Hye In walks through the ghostly halls, scattered with dead bodies…Jung Woo and his partner are making their way through the first level of NTS…A couple of Athenians are on the prowl, searching for more agents. They encounter a group of non-combatants, including all the techies, and pushes techie Kyung Won against the wall to execute him. Hye In bursts in, uses one’s gun to kill the other, disarms him, and points his gun at him. She tells the others to get into the safe room, before asking where Son Hyuk is.
It’s seriously an eerie place, as everything is dark, gunshots echo everywhere, and the agents have to sneak around in their own territory. Kwon forces Chul Hwan to get in to the safe room, so that he can protect the others in case anything happens to him. Chul Hwan is a stubborn mule, and it requires Kwon to push him inside and then blast off the lock so that no one can get in or out.
Son Hyuk stations one of his agents outside the safe room, and then sends others to go search for Hye In and Jung Woo. Lucky for the agents, they encounter Hye In almost right away, alone. She tells them to move, but since they refuse, she takes down all of them, one girl versus four guys. She is shot in the arm, but she gets up and walks off like nothing happened.
Meanwhile, Jung Woo and his partner are slowly making their way through NTS, taking down all Athenians in their way. The partner goes up the stairs first and freezes – Sean Richard is pointing a gun at him. He looks back at Jung Woo, and then raises his arm to shoot. Sean Richard shoots him down, and Jung woo takes that opportunity to kill Sean Richard.
Moving on – Jung Woo makes his way through the basement, and finds a C4 bomb planted on the pipes. Behind him, it’s Son Hyuk. He aims his flashlight at Son Hyuk, temporarily blinding him and they fight, Jung Woo shooting Son Hyuk in the leg.
Son Hyuk takes the moment to say that the person he really wants to kill is Jung Woo, who took everything away from him. Brutal fist fight ensues – and I mean seriously brutal; they’re punching each other’s guts and lifting the other up and slamming him down.
Hye In limps on, looking for Son Hyuk, when she is shot in the back by a couple of Athenian agents. Kwon to the rescue! He appears out of nowhere and shoots those two men down. He helps her up and then sends her along her way, telling her that he’ll handle the rest of the agents himself.
Jung Woo is clearly winning the fight against Son Hyuk, as he’s still fresh as linen and Son Hyuk is bloody as hell. Son Hyuk is crawling on the floor, and he takes the opportunity to withdraw another gun inside his coat pocket. Aiming it at Jung Woo, he says “I’ll see you in hell.”
Before he can pull the trigger, Hye In appears. She tells Son Hyuk to stop, but he replies, “No, I came too far to stop.”
Without hesitation, Hye In raises her gun and shoots several times into Son Hyuk’s chest.
OH MY GAWD – and who didn’t say that with me when that happened?!
When he was shot, Son Hyuk also pulled the trigger of his gun and injured Jung Woo. But nothing can compare to the pain of betrayal. Hye In kneels beside a dying Son Hyuk…and raises the gun to her head.
!!!!!!!!!!!!! WT@%!$?!?!?!?!? I DID NOT watch 20 episodes for this! Hell no! If you freakin’ pull an IRIS stunt on me I will kill you!!!!
Son Hyuk grabs her arm as she pulls the trigger, and both of them fall wayside. The bullet missed Hye In, but she’s still down from shock. (Good.) Son Hyuk: “Don’t die Hye In. This wasn’t what I planned for you. I wanted to give you a life with blessings and celebrations.”
He tells her not to cry, that he’s OK, and then lets out his final breath. Hye In closes her eyes, unconscious, and both are holding hands.
NTS will take a week to get back on line as they’ve been attacked with an EMP, but the loss of lives looms over each agents’ head.
Hye In’s surgery goes well, but she will require intensive rehab. She is transferred to another hospital by ambulance, and Jung Woo sees her off. Thing is, that ambulance is being driven by none other than Ki Soo and his lackey.
Jung Woo contacts Ki Soo, who informs him that he sent Hye In well on her way, and that she left something for Jung Woo. He says his final goodbye to Jung Woo, tosses his phone in the trash, and disappears into the crowd.
Hye In’s final gift? A cheesy recorded message thanking him and telling him that she is going to reform her life.
A year later, Jung Woo visits Jae Hee on her death anniversary, leaving flowers at her plaque. Joon Ho joins him, and we find out that Jung Woo is on an indefinite leave of absence from NTS. Joon Ho says that the nuclear plant is going well, so NTS is once again a boring workplace.
Jung Woo arrives at Auckland. Having remembered Hye In’s story about her trip to New Zealand, he goes in search of her. Isn’t it amazing, though, that he goes to a riverside park, and there is Hye In – standing in the grass, overlooking the boats in the waters.
She is surprised to see him. They stare deeply into each other’s eyes, and smile.
I used to extol its virtues and be so excited about it! And then I got to the later episodes and my excitement and love for it waned. I had even argued that ATHENA was better than IRIS! I’m not going to take that statement back, but I will take a step back and analyze how I felt about this series.
The thing about Athena was that it was definitely enjoyable the first time around. When I recap in general, I watch an episode twice – the first time just to watch it, and the second time to actually sit down and recap it. Therefore, I had watched Athena in its entirety a couple months ago, and only started to rewatch it for the recaps. When I first watched it, it was enjoyable. Cheesy, but enjoyable. Rewatching it made it painful, and has highlighted the flaws even more. Perhaps knowing how it all ends has also made me more impatient, as I know what will happen and just want the series to get there. So I admit – maybe it’s the way I watch it that clouds my judgment of the series.
However! Athena definitely had flaws. I already mentioned that its tendency to tell rather than show has been one of its weaknesses. It’s way more exciting to watch people beat down the doors of bad guys and catch them, than to sit in a conference room and say, “We beat down the doors of the bad guys.” The story can be tight and fast-moving, but very boring. Another thing was that the entire series felt like a mash up of elements that worked in IRIS, and then was re-used in Athena whether it fit or not. Action and romantic scenes ran amok in the drama, making it feel like there was no connectivity between the story lines within an episode. They even had grand overseas shoots; for example, the whole Italy sequence with Soo Ae and Jung Woo Sung (which was awesome). Except! It was a dream! So instead of the cool Hungary hunt-down that was all real and necessary to the plot, we got the coolest fight scene in Italy for a useless dream!
Overseas fight scene? Check. Makes sense within the story. Nope.
There was also the romantic love story. I believed that Jung Woo was in love with Hye In, but I really hated how he was so head-over-heels-ga-ga for her. It was repeatedly pounded into our heads that he loved her, but the romance remained quite stagnant. The romance didn’t really grow or evolve into something deeper; it only helped Hye In realize that she wanted to become good. I would have liked it if Jung Woo benefited from this “great love” as well.
IRIS had one big advantage: it was the first one in its genre to explore the whole spy-action drama, and so when watching it, everything felt new. The twists and turns, betrayals, and fight sequences. (You thought I would say Kim So Yeon, didn’t you? Anyways…) Despite being somewhat predictable and cheesy, it was still a spy drama, and you were curious how it would unfold. Athena came on to the scene and had the immense burden of having to up the stakes from its predecessor. By the time we watch Athena, we know what to expect: love, betrayals, twists and turns, etc. Therefore nothing is a surprise, but everything is made on a grander scale.
I personally still enjoy(ed) Athena much more than IRIS, so I guess you could say I think it was better in terms of watchability. I think the actors made up for this series, because they were far more interesting characters than the ones in IRIS. Plus, these actors all have credibility and I know they can do several genres before coming into this drama; that makes their acting ability a little more impressive. (Case in point: compare Soo Ae in 9 End 2 Outs and Athena.) On the other hand, IRIS had actors who had only/mostly done melodramas before, so watching them was like a repeat performance. If Kim Tae Hee had done My Princess and then IRIS, I would have been far more impressed. Something about Athena got me itching to watch more; perhaps I really just wanted to know who would die. But hey – that’s a good enough hook to get me to finish watching, yeah?
If an IRIS 2 comes out, I’m going to send a missile over to Taewon Entertainment.
- ATHENA: Episode 18
- ATHENA: Episode 17
- ATHENA: Episode 16
- ATHENA: Episode 15
- ATHENA: Episode 14
- ATHENA: Episode 13
- ATHENA: Episode 12
- ATHENA: Episode 11
- ATHENA: Episode 10
- Kim So-yeon makes her appearance in Athena
- Athena accident puts broadcast at risk
- ATHENA: Episode 9
- ATHENA: Episode 8
- ATHENA: Episode 7
- ATHENA: Episode 6
- Behind the scenes on the set of Athena
- ATHENA: Episode 5
- ATHENA: Episode 4
- ATHENA: Episode 3
- ATHENA: Episode 2
- ATHENA: Episode 1