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49 Days: Episode 20 (Final)

If I tried to explain this episode in a paragraph, I think I’d spill more tears, and frankly, I don’t know if I have any left. So here it is in a nutshell: It’s FUCKING PERFECT. Gah. Okay, fine, it’s maybe a hair shy of perfect, but damn if it isn’t the most satisfying ending I’ve seen in a long time. It solidifies the assumption that I started this drama with—that the best thing about this show would always be the writing, which elevates everything else, and brings all our characters full circle.

 
FINAL EPISODE RECAP

Yi-kyung asks if Ji-hyun really remembers her, and Kang, from her 49 days. She says she does, but then adds, “I’m going to die soon.” What the?

Lest we think it’s her assumption because her memories are intact, we flashback to earlier in the hospital, when the Scheduler appeared in front of Ji-hyun. She recognizes him and asks why he’s here, why she can see him, if she’s not dead…

As soon as the words come out of her mouth, it dawns on her that something is wrong. Why does she remember her 49 days? Why is he appearing to her?

And in his trademark blunt but sympathetic way, the Scheduler says, “This is your last cruel gift. You can refuse it if you like.” She asks, trembling, if this means she’s going to die.

He says that he received his last schedule for his remaining time, and the last person on that list… is her. Ooof. I knew his last schedule would come back to bite us in the ass, but this is too cruel.

He tells her that she is to die six days from now, and that this date of her death was determined as she was born. He says that because she experienced the 49 days and even earned her three tears, only to be met with this, the powers that be have given her the gift to remember her time on the other side, if she chooses.

It’s crushing to watch this, because it’s clearly even upsetting the Scheduler, to have to deliver such news. But he gets through it, and tells her that she can choose not to remember, in which case six days hence, he’ll appear to her as if for the first time ever.

He tells her to go ahead and get angry. She shouts through tears, “Get angry at whom?! No matter how unfair it is, no matter how much it tears up my insides, I know it won’t change a thing. No matter how much I beg.” Heartbreak.

He puts a hand on her shoulder as she cries, and tells her that it’s one thing human hands cannot control—life and death. Still, for the love of all that is hopeful, I can’t believe she went through all that just to die again. I mean, I know she’ll die eventually, but SIX frackin’ days? Show, I know you love your circular narratives, but this is just mean.

Back in the present, Yi-kyung asks who would deliver such cruel news to her, asking defensively for Ji-hyun, not realizing that Yi-soo’s been her afterlife guide all this time. Ji-hyun just says that such beings exist.

Yi-kyung says what we’re all feeling, that it’s so unfair for her to have go through all of that, just to end up having to die all over again. But Ji-hyun shows just how much she’s matured over her 49 days, and the new perspective that’s come with being on the other side:

Ji-hyun: If I hadn’t gone on my 49 days’ journey, my father’s company would be in Kang Min-ho’s hands, and I wouldn’t be in my right mind from the trauma of being betrayed by my fiancé and friend. It’s possible that my fate was to commit suicide from that shock. But because of my 49 days, I was able to receive love from someone like Kang-ie. I was able to love. I was able to guard my father’s company. And I was able to look back on the life I had lived. I’m grateful actually, because if I hadn’t known anything and died, I would’ve lived a fake life until death.

Yi-kyung asks why she’s pretending not to remember then. She says that she wants to show the people in her life that she lived happily, as the immature, naïve, sweet Ji-hyun. Aw. But then when she saw Yi-kyung, she couldn’t hide it from her.

She clasps her unni’s hands, and it’s so sweet how happy they are to see each other, and sit next to each other in their own bodies. That sounds weird out of context, but you know what I mean.

Yi-kyung reminds her that her family might not know anything, but Kang remembers all of the 49 days, and he asked her to tell him how she feels, and not to leave without a goodbye. Ji-hyun thinks it’s no use giving him more heartache, if she’s destined to die. She’s leaving; he’s staying, and knowing isn’t going to change that. In fact, it’ll make things harder.

Ji-hyun adds that she’s learned one thing from watching Yi-kyung, and it’s that the living need to go on living. She wants to leave as Kang’s friend, so that he can live his life once she’s gone. Oh man, I’m already welling up just thinking about how sad this is going to be.

Kang goes to see Min-ho in prison, and though he does admit to being satisfied that he blocked the Haemido takeover, he asks Min-ho to serve his time and repent, and someday return to the hyung that he once respected and liked.

Ji-hyun goes home and eats with her parents, putting on a cheery smile for them, but holding back tears. Watching them be so happy that she woke up is just making it even sadder, knowing that they’re going to suffer all over again.

See, this is the stuff that totally gets to me. It was the same with Yi-kyung / Yi-soo. Their happy moments put my heart through the wringer more than anything, because of the bittersweet end that I knew was coming. It’s the happiness before the fall. When she starts doing this with Kang, I’m gonna be a wreck.

Ji-hyun shows up the next morning to Yi-kyung’s house holding a picnic basket. On her way down those familiar stairs on her street, Ji-hyun takes a moment to put her hand on the rail as she walks down, as if she had been dying to put her hands out and feel the world that she couldn’t for so long.

Yi-kyung helps her make a kimbap lunch, and Ji-hyun takes her basket to see Kang. She tells him that she’s never once been on a picnic with a boyfriend, and asks to borrow his car, his mp3 player, and he asks what else she wants to borrow. Ji-hyun: “You.”

Aw. Proper swoon. He does a double take, but agrees to play her boyfriend for a day, as long as she agrees to play his girlfriend tomorrow. Hehe. It’s just like their I-know-you-know game from before. Except, I guess, Kang doesn’t actually know this time.

They have a picnic, being adorable together and play-fighting like little kids. While they’re fighting over who looks best in their pictures, Ji-hyun’s bracelet falls out of his pocket, and she pretends to be surprised, asking if he’s had it all this time.

Then she tells him that it’s actually his mother’s, and that they were close once. We flashback to her high school days, when she’d go see Kang’s mom from time to time, and eat food and chitchat with her about Kang.

Ji-hyun asked why Kang was so mean to Mom, and she had told her that it’s because there are things she didn’t tell him. Because when you love someone so much, sometimes it’s better to just have him misunderstand, so that you can spare him pain. They’re the same words that Ji-hyun had repeated to Kang, the day she had quit Heaven before her first tear.

As they walk along in the present, Kang realizes that back then, Ji-hyun had given his mother’s words back to him. He adds, quoting 49-days-Ji-hyun, that hiding your feelings is a lot harder than not knowing (as in, the person sparing the other’s pain has the harder time of it).

That stops her in her tracks, not only because they were her words, but because it’s true of her, right now.

He takes her to a wishing statue, and tells her to toss a coin and make a wish. She gives it a toss and then closes her eyes to make her wish, and Kang turns to her, his eyes giving away more sadness than he ought to be feeling…

…Which is when we flashback to yesterday, when Yi-kyung had come to see him. She tells him the truth, and that she wasn’t supposed to say anything, but she can’t stand watching Ji-hyun go through this alone.

She tells him that she understands Ji-hyun’s wishes, to go smiling rather than crying, and to give the people she loves less pain. AHA! So it totally IS their I-know-you-know-but-you-don’t-know game!

Kang finally looks up at her, tears brimming in his eyes. “The thing I hoped for the most was for Ji-hyun to live. Isn’t there something like that? It’s okay if I never get to see her again—she just has to live!”

Nooooo! Aaaaand, here start the tears. Oh god, I can’t handle this. I can pretty much take anyone else turning into a wreck, but Kang-ah? Waaaaaaaaah.

Back in the present, Kang closes his eyes and makes a wish: “That Ji-hyun lives and stays by my side.” And Ji-hyun makes her wish: “That Kang forgets me.” God, that’s just… so… heartbreakingly perfect. Gah.

They smile at each other adorably. After he drops her off, Kang says to himself that he did the right thing, over and over again. Aw, stiff-upper-lippy Kang is so cute. And so sad.

Back at the hospital, Ji-hyun sweetly tells each of her parents that she’s so happy to have been born as their child, and hugs them. They laugh and smile together, and then… she gets a sharp pain in her stomach, and doubles over, falling to the ground.

Dad calls out but her eyes start to close. Her soul gets up, while her body lies there, and then the Scheduler appears, all dressed up, and puts out his hand. No! Already?

She looks up at him and asks if he’s been waiting all this time. She tells him that they should go, and he stands her up. She looks back, and there’s Dad, holding her lifeless body, crying, trying to wake her up.

The Scheduler walks her to the elevator. Without a word, he puts out his hand for their final goodbye. She takes it and looks up at him, smiling in gratitude. He tells her that she worked hard, and with a wave of his hand, he opens the door.

She steps inside and looks out at him with a smile, and he smiles back at her. As the doors slowly close, they betray tears at their final parting.

The doors close, and then the elevator disappears, leaving the Scheduler alone.

Mom and Dad weep over Ji-hyun’s body, now covered with a white sheet. Kang comes running in, and cries.

In Jinan, In-jung gets a phone call, and collapses in tears. So does Min-ho, only now showing true regret as he cries.

They hold the funeral, and bury her ashes by planting a tree in her name. Oh, I love that. It’s so beautiful, and simple, and marks her death with new life.

In-jung watches everything from afar, crying but unable to go near, knowing all the wrong she’s done. Min-ho weeps in his jail cell, finally repenting for the person he’s become. Kang, Yi-kyung, and Seo-woo send her with full hearts and tears.

Back at home, Mom and Dad walk into Ji-hyun’s room, and are shocked to see it stripped of all her belongings, as if she had known she was dying, and prepared for it. That’s when Dad asks what Ji-hyun had whispered in Mom’s ear that last day at the hospital, and they realize that Ji-hyun just woke up for a short time, to say goodbye.

The Mom and Dad part is where I really start to lose it. I need a tissue break.

Kang lies around in his office, hearing Ji-hyun call out his name and jumping up to find no one there. He then remembers that she’d entrusted a box of stuff to him, and opens it up. He finds a letter addressed to him:

Ji-hyun: This is Song Yi-kyung. Please return these things to me… they’re important. I’m someone who needs a friend. It would be nice if someone like Han Kang would be a friend to someone like me, who has no one to lean on. Like he was to Shin Ji-hyun…

Oh my god. She’s sending him to her. It’s breaking my heart. It’s perfectly perfect, and yet… crushingly crushing. It’s her last gesture, to send him to her, to fulfill her wish that he live go on living his life. I didn’t even know I HAD this many tears.

He returns the box to Yi-kyung, whose eyes open wide when she sees a key inside, which had been Yi-soo’s locker key, in his music studio. They go to the abandoned studio and she opens up his locker.

Inside, she finds a stack of his old music notebooks, and in the back, she notices something familiar. It’s a little child’s backpack, and she tells Kang that it was hers, from when she was first abandoned at the orphanage. They were supposed to have gotten rid of those things, but Yi-soo must’ve kept it all this time.

She looks inside and finds her little pink shoe, and then a bank book. We flashback to the day they had run into Ji-hyun and Kang and gotten the pink rose, when Yi-soo took her to the bank later that day.

He asks for her student ID card, lying that he doesn’t have his on him, and that he needs it for something. While she waits, he opens an account in her name.

The even cuter part is that every time he makes a new deposit, he adds a line in the description, and over time the whole thing reads like a letter, or rather more like song lyrics, line by line, with each deposit. It’s maybe the sweetest thing ever.

She reads it now, in the present, with tears:

Yi-soo: Yi-kyung-ah, it’s Yi-soo
The thing I promised
The February Pension
To give it to you
I made an account
In the future little by little
Our dream
Will be built
Even if we encounter hardship
If we are together
We can conquer it
This is a secret, but
Truthfully, Song Yi-kyung is
Song Yi-soo’s guardian
Because you’ve given
Me a reason to live
In all the world
Someone who needs me
You are the only one

She clutches it to her heart and cries, and we see that Yi-soo is there watching her, crying too.

Kang goes to visit Ji-hyun’s parents, and finds them arguing over old photos, as Mom clutches to her memories and Dad argues that she has to move on. Dad leaves the room in a huff, and Kang sits down next to Mom. He picks up one of the photos, but doesn’t recognize it as Ji-hyun. He asks who it is.

Mom: “It’s Ji-hyun’s unni, Ji-min.”

DUN DUN. Man, I knew they hinted at this possible thread and left the door open, but I actually didn’t think that they’d go there. I… honestly don’t love this story thread, only because there was plenty of connection and resolution without this. It seems unnecessary to me. Anyway, here we go…

Mom tells him that Ji-hyun had an unni, and that she’d lost her one day at the bus station. A lady had kidnapped her, and called to ask for ransom twice, but each time they went, no one was there. Finally the calls stopped coming. Ji-hyun was traumatized at first, but was too young to remember it as she grew up.

Kang looks at the picture of Ji-min and immediately recognizes the little girl’s shoes (not just randomly, but because Mom’s story included the bit about the girls wanting the same shoes). They’re exactly the ones Yi-kyung took out of her backpack, from Yi-soo’s locker.

They go to see Yi-kyung, and Mom asks to see the shoes. Yi-kyung denies that it could be her. She firmly remembers being abandoned by her mother. But Mom asks just to see. She adds that Ji-min liked stars, so that’s how she had differentiated the girls’ shoes.

Yi-kyung cautiously hands her the backpack, and Mom’s eyes immediately well up at the sight of it. She instantly recognizes the star Ji-min drew on it, and then takes out the shoe. She looks up at Yi-kyung and cries, “You were alive. Our Ji-min-ie was alive.”

Aw, despite the fact that I dislike how quickly this thread is being wrapped up and forced on us, it’s still tear-inducing. We see that Yi-soo is there, watching the scene unfold, and it shocks him. This is a twist he was not expecting.

But then this leaves a big gaping hole in the plot… Flashback to the Scheduler, explaining that the three tears exclude blood relations. Then on Ji-hyun’s final walk to the elevator, she asks him who her final two tears were from.

She guesses Seo-woo and Yi-kyung, but he tells her that Yi-kyung wasn’t one of them. Then flash back? Forward? Gah, who the hell knows anymore – to In-jung when she had come to try and kill Ji-hyun.

She reaches her hand toward Ji-hyun’s respirator, and in spirit form, Ji-hyun screams for In-jung to stop. I don’t know if she hears it, but something makes her stop and turn around, and she’s met with her own reflection in the glass behind her.

It’s enough to knock her back to her senses, and she cries, as she says, “What am I doing? What am I doing to you?” We see that this is when she began to regret what she had become. She confesses that this wasn’t because of Ji-hyun, but herself, and then she gets on her knees, and says that she was wrong.

She gets up to touch Ji-hyun’s face, and that’s when Kang had found her, thinking the worst. She tries to get Min-ho to stop, calling him out on his own feelings for Ji-hyun, and the fact that he pushed everything back when Ji-hyun’s dad needed surgery.

She knows that he can’t admit it, but he’s grown attached to them, and feels sorry. But he refuses to acknowledge it, and says he can’t stop it now. He’ll drag it out till the end. So In-jung goes to his mother, and asks for the file that he entrusted to her.

At first she refuses to give it up, but In-jung pleads with her that Min-ho is becoming worse than his own father. And to save him from himself, she sends the file to the prosecutor.

Outside the hospital, In-jung says to Ji-hyun that she wishes she could turn back the clock, to when they would just look at each other and laugh. And she sheds a tear. It was Ji-hyun’s third and final one, that brought her back.

Back to Ji-hyun pre-elevator-ride, the Scheduler tells her that her final tear was from In-jung. Ji-hyun looks surprised, but then instantly she lights up with a smile. “That girl. I knew it was sincere.” Wow, even after everything she’s seen, she’s so genuinely happy and trusting, that her friend really loved her. It’s amazingly pure of heart and completely without bitterness.

She turns to start her walk to the elevator, satisfied. The Scheduler looks on with a smile, and then follows her down the hall.

Alone, Yi-kyung clutches her backpack and cries, calling out Ji-hyun’s name, regretting all the things she wasn’t able to do for her, not knowing that they were sisters. Yi-soo watches her, and then realizes now the full weight of his sunbae’s words.

Flash-(listen, if you think I’m gonna keep this timetable straight, you’re sorely mistaken) to when granny sunbae told the Scheduler that he could meet Yi-kyung. She asks if his wish is still the same, to give her the rings and tell her that he loves her.

He scoffs that she assumes he’s still a child, and she laughs, kind of impressed that he’s not just a lovesick puppy anymore. And then he catches on, realizing that she gave him his memory back early on purpose, so that he’d change his wish and not waste it on something that doesn’t help the living.

She calls him smart for catching on, and then he surmises that she also broke the barrier between Yi-kyung and Ji-hyun for a reason. She doesn’t divulge what it is, but does muse that they might be connected well into the next life as well.

Then in the present, Yi-soo turns to Yi-kyung, to say his final goodbye. Gah, I HAVE GIVEN YOU TOO MANY TEARS. Stop taking more!

Yi-soo: Now I can leave with my heart at ease. Live happily, for Ji-hyun’s life too.

He reaches out to touch her face, but knows that he can’t anymore. He draws back and looks at her one last time. He smiles, and as a tear falls, he disappears.

He takes his final walk through the garden, dressed in his reaper finest, and vanishes, having completed his work.

In the coming days, Yi-kyung begins to finally live her life, eating rice instead of ramen, and looking for a new job.

Han Kang goes to… Han Kang (the river) and says his final goodbye to Ji-hyun:

Kang: Ji-hyun-ah, now I understand why you wanted to leave without a word. Though you were lonely, you’ve allowed those of us you’ve left behind to be encouraged by you. I’ll trust your words, that your 49 days were a blessing. Because they’ve returned many things to their rightful place. Be happy somewhere, Ji-hyun-ah.

Two years later.

In-jung is in Jinan, and she flashes back (wait, did we just flash forward in order to flash back? Is this drama trying to kill ME on its way out?) to when the girls were in high school.

She smiles as she thinks of Ji-hyun, and then goes to see Min-ho in prison. It’s been two years since they’ve seen each other, and she tells him that she’s moved his mother down to a hospital in Jinan.

He tells her to stop coming here, and to forget him and go her way. She tells him that she’ll continue to take care of his mother for three more years—the rest of his time in jail. She says it’s her fault that all this happened, but he makes it clear that he was the one who made the decisions and acted. She tells him that she’s living her life, and that he’ll see—someday he’ll be able to forgive himself too. He finally says that he’s sorry.

Kang is… wait, is he… WORKING? Oh my god, the man DOES have a job! It’s a miracle! He oversees a construction site for a building he’s designed.

Yi-kyung is working at Heaven, though today is her last day. Manager Oh and his wife have a baby on the way, and Seo-woo is happily dating Ki-joon.

In comes Dr. Noh. NOOOOOO! Not the doctor! No Dr. Noh!

But then, here comes Kang-ah. Oh, thank god. KANG-AAAAAAAH!

Phew. Seriously, I nearly had a fit at the reappearance of Dr. Creepy. Thankfully they hint at his being paired off to her waitress friend.

Yi-kyung confirms her plans with Kang for tomorrow, and heads to dinner with her parents. She’s heading to Haemido to work at the new resort, which is of course what Kang is designing and building.

Though the whole losing a daughter / finding a daughter thing isn’t my favorite, it IS really satisfying to see Yi-kyung with a family, and not off on her own anymore. Mom and Dad are as cute as ever, now doting on Yi-kyung, as they talk about Ji-hyun fondly. Aw.

On their last day before going down to Haemido, Yi-kyung and Kang go to pay their respects to Ji-hyun and Yi-soo, whom they’ve buried side by side with identical trees. Aw, it’s kind of killing me how poetic it is, to bury them next to each other, as they were each other’s friend and guide in the afterlife.

Kang and Yi-kyung put a bouquet of pink roses by each tree, and stand next to each other, the two in this life mirroring the two in the afterlife. In voiceover, we hear their thoughts:

Yi-kyung: Ji-hyun-ah, Han Kang is busy working, and as you requested, he’s been a really good friend to me. Because of your bright personality and your connection to others while you were with me, I was able to adjust well.
Kang: Ji-hyun-ah, though people know they’re going to die, they live as if they aren’t. Because of your 49 days, I’m living my life as if it’s 49 days. Because I saw things change that never would have happened, if you hadn’t known when you’d die. Here lie the two most important people in our lives.
Yi-kyung: Here are the two people who changed our lives and left beautifully.
Kang: Because of the 49 days’ journey that we were on with these two
Yi-kyung: We live today as if it’s precious, and our last.
Kang: Ji-hyun, because I met you
Yi-kyung: Yi-soo, because I met you
Kang: I was happy.
Yi-kyung: I was happy.

THE END

 
GIRLFRIDAY’S COMMENTS

Wow, I don’t know if I’ve ever been so satisfied with a drama ending as I am with this one. Maybe Return of Iljimae, which also has this circular, contemplative tone and structure. I was fidgety about the sister thing (still am, only because it’s unnecessary, not because it doesn’t fit) but I see why it’s part and parcel of the whole resolution. I still contend that there is enough mirroring in Yi-kyung living for Ji-hyun that their blood relation isn’t needed, but I will yield that it’s very satisfying to see Yi-kyung with a family. That alone is worth the deus ex machina plot twisting that had to occur in the last episode, when all I really wanted was the death and epilogue. Thankfully, most of the episode was just that, so I got what I wanted, full-throttle.

Truthfully, until the end of Episode 19, I wasn’t expecting Ji-hyun to die. It was something I was expecting earlier on, but then the drama did a number on me, focusing all our expectations towards what would happen when she woke up, by bringing her back so early. I was so engaged with how Kang would bring her memory back that it hit me like a ton of bricks when her death watch was reset.

And though I wasn’t anticipating it, this is exactly the ending I wanted, and even better than the one I was expecting. I thought we’d get this ending for Yi-kyung, while Kang and Ji-hyun went on to be happy in this life. But the parallel send-off actually makes Ji-hyun and Yi-soo’s lives much more poignant, in what they each leave behind in their deaths. It also fits the parallel life / afterlife mirroring better.

Throughout this drama, we’ve had the motif of mirrors and circles, both as a visual motif and figuratively as a theme, in characters facing each other across the divide and living parallel lives. It’s a theme that is rendered so poignantly, because it’s a simple one: that life is circular; that life ends in death, but death brings new life; that the way you live this life affects the life you live after it.

Yi-kyung begins the story wanting death, and ends choosing life. Ji-hyun got to live the happy, secure existence that Yi-kyung so cruelly had stripped from her; and then it gets returned to her, in Ji-hyun’s death. Yi-soo guides Ji-hyun as her friend in the afterlife, and Kang guides Yi-kyung as her friend in this life. Yi-kyung’s struggle to hold onto Yi-soo’s memory is what informs Ji-hyun to leave Kang without that tether, and her choice to do so is what helps Yi-kyung move on from her pain.

In the end, Ji-hyun makes it so that Yi-kyung can live, while at the same time, Yi-kyung helps Ji-hyun to move on in the afterlife without regret or remorse. It’s the idea that regardless of the moniker “life” or “death,” that each is a road and a journey, and that you can’t go from one to the other without letting go.

There must be death to make new life, and it’s the same in love. You let go of your last love, in order to love again. The last scene sets up Kang and Yi-kyung not necessarily to be lovers, but in the position to be able to love again, which is what’s important, and what Ji-hyun and Yi-soo made possible in the way they left the ones they loved.

 
JAVABEANS’ COMMENTS

Hm, Imma have to deviate and express some dissatisfaction. I’m of two minds of the finale. I admit to not having expected that the drama would actually go as far as to let Ji-hyun die, not because it didn’t make narrative sense — it did, as girlfriday points out — but because it wasn’t the way the show was positioning itself. The dramatic trajectory didn’t suggest it, even if the seeds were planted (a little clumsily in some cases) well in advance. Examples: Ji-hyun’s mother crying in an early episode about how she can’t lose “my one remaining child” or the hint that the Scheduler’s last assignment was a shock to him.

I do think there’s a difference between dropping a few hints and paying off a storyline satisfactorily. The drama did the former; I don’t think it did the latter. Introducing, and then completely resolving, the mystery of Yi-kyung’s birth in the finale feels like cheating, frankly. Being mysterious successfully requires more than sheer withholding of crucial information.

For instance, In-jung being the third tear is an example of a successfully paid off storyline — because it was properly set up. We saw plenty of hints that In-jung still loved Ji-hyun, that she felt remorse, and that she could be the tear, so the twist works. Not so much the birth secret. Yi-kyung happens to get her old locker contents back, happens to find Yi-soo’s old stuff, happens to discover that he kept her childhood belongings, and Kang happens to be there so he can days later recognize that backpack in old photos at the Shin household? Yeah, I’m calling that one out, drama. What this show has done pretty well so far is keeping coincidence OUT of the equation, so to provide such a huge puzzle piece through a whole series of them is kinda lazy.

In a lot of cases, I think I’d be taking girlfriday’s line and expressing satisfaction for the symbolic, metaphoric, narrative completeness of this kind of ending. Heck, I’m someone who felt perfectly satisfied by the infamous Hong Gil Dong ending, and appreciated that the writers went for a meaningful wrap-up on a deeper level. It’s just that this kind of ending wasn’t paced properly into the story — not like the Yi-kyung/Yi-soo storyline, which I think was beautifully done. I’m now recalling the pitch-perfect ending of Flowers For My Life, which accomplished what I think 49 Days was aiming for, but in a more skillful, emotionally satisfying way.

Furthermore, I do think that effect is as important as intent, and if a large portion of your (hitherto avid) viewership has to convince itself that the ending works, then it doesn’t wholly work, does it? And I don’t mean we need to bow to fanservice, because cheap fanservice that gives us the easy resolution independent of story logic is, well, cheap. 49 Days never positioned itself as a comedy, or a light-hearted drama, so I don’t think you can accuse it of hoodwinking the audience with a slightly bittersweet ending. But I don’t blame some people for feeling bait-n-switched, because you can’t spend 19 episodes hyping up one soul’s struggle to survive, and then…just…NOT.

Having written all that, maybe I’m not so two-minded about the finale after all. I’m not bitter or upset, because I agree with all that girlfriday points out so incisively above. This is a case where I’m bumping on execution, despite being happy with the dramatic intent. On a gut level, it just didn’t hit that spot for me. I leave feeling dissatisfied, and as we know, with dramas, often the heartspeak is stronger than the headspeak.

 
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I don't know. Maybe, I'm heartless or just didn't connect with Jihyun's character, but I wasn't overly sad with her dying. I guess everything comes full circle. She "stole" her older sister's life by running away and hiding at the bus station and her long lost sister ended up causing her death.

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49 DAYS!!! buckets of tears on the last week...

I probably won't be able to cry for some time...

This is one of my most favorite endings ever... it's bittersweet but so realistic.

While watching this episode I thought I was going to vomit. I felt I was riding a rollercoaster... Ji Hyun was dying, she didn't tell anyone except Yi Kyung, Kang knew, she died, In Jung cried for her, she had a sister, Scheduler had another purpose, scheduler left and Kang... poor Kang!!!!

I expected Ji Hyun to die cause that way it would be somehow meaningful but then I never expected it to be this harsh. How could she struggle to get her life back just to die again? Does that make sense?

The Sceduler has made his grand exit... bring on his best buddy! City Hunter next week!

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how could you love the ending..???
like i don't understand.
kang and jihyun loved each other. can they not hug each other? or kiss? .-_______-. i know it's fan service to us, but come on. it won't hurt to see kang kiss jihyun :(

or more so, that kang STILL isn't with anyone after two years. just a friend of yikyungs...

wow..... i waited so long to see kang's kiss :(

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Although I may not be in complete wrath as i was last night after reading this recap and girlfriday's thoughts (thanks by the way), i still don't like the ending. :/

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I loved a lot... I think I loved this even more than Secret Garden... oooh the travesty... lol Yes even more than binnie Kang won my heart that much more and the writing was way more solid than SG and it was meaningful.... after watching this episodes three times already, two times without translation, I can't stop the tears that fall, this show has made me cry more tears than i've probably cried my whole life... If my parents saw me they'd thump me a good one since I didn't even cry when I left the house and country almost four years ago!

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this has been a very thoughtful drama.
i like the fact that it wasn't just love, love and love.
it shows that there's so much more to life.
family, friendship, conscience, repent, the circle of life (lol! i don't know how else to put it other than in the lion king way), etc.
i thought it had plenty of life lessons. which is probably one of the reasons why it felt so satisfying at the end.
it has been a good ride with 49 days.
perhaps i should re-watch this 5 years from now and see if i have indeed learnt anything from this drama.

thanks for recommending this drama. definitely a gem of 2011! oh gosh! i'm so happy and relieved now, after I was done with the crying haha.

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me too... I'm kind shocked the writers will turn the story that way. Unlike her previous drama where I feel satisfied with the way the writers solved the problem.

Technically speaking, the writers gives us hope our heroine can alive and continue her life..... aghhhh I'm dissatisfied, too.... Episode 20 really spoiled the drama for me. Especially with birth secret issued.

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thanks JB for this wonderful recap and for doing 49 days!

i am ever grateful for ur site for doing this!

i agree with you, 49 days is PERFECT!

and i still spill a bucket-full of tears ...

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btw... wasn't it mentioned earlier that Yi-kyung thought she was abandoned when her "brother" arrived in their family? i can't remember very well though...

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We have to assume that the younger brother she mentioned was the kidnapper's son. She abandoned YK/JM when she was able to have her own child.

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Thank you for the recap (and all the previous, as well).

I'm not quite sure what to think about the ending. I'll probably like it once I see it, but I was really hoping that Ji Hyun would live and get a happily ever after with Kang-ah.
However, the ending of the series (particularly the scene in front of the trees) sounds beautifully bittersweet. I love the whole "because of you, I was happy" dialogue, because it leaves the viewers on a more positive note; instead of mourning the deaths of their loved ones, Kang and Yi Kyung celebrate the fact that they lived, and promise to live their own lives to the fullest.

I don't usually like series where the main characters die, but 49 Days may become a favorite.

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woooaaahhhh.... What a ride!

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It was satisfying and unsatisfying at the same time. It satisfies my brain but did not satisfy my heart.

What! Not even a kiss! They could've done it while they were pretending to be boyfriend girlfriend anyway! They didn't even hold hands!

But no, that's not the real thing that bugs me, yes the YK lost daughter seemed like something that belonged to a makjang instead. Secondly, I was still sad about JH being dead I didn't care at all for the In Jung story. It's a good twist, but the scenes that revealed In Jung's side seemed disruptive to my grieving self. It was also too lengthy, the scene at the hospital, etc.

I do like the fact that in the end JH received so many tears from people around her, although she isn't there to see it. It shows that she is the great character that she is.

Also, I don't like seeing everyone being paired. It's unnecessary. I would've liked if the episode give me more JH and less about the society.

Actually I personally think NGR did a great job of acting, because she's like the embodiment of JH's spirit. She did a perfect show of her character. While I acknowledge LYW had the difficult job of portraying two characters. But even apart from that, sometimes I feel her being self-conscious and stiff.

I had a problem with JIL's acting when he was being naggy saying "NO No No No!" which is unnecessarily overacted. I know some dramas need that because it's more of a comedy, but this drama doesn't really have that comedy side into it, and him putting that sort of acting made him the odd one out.

Overall I definitely like the drama despite its flaws, because most drama has more flaws than this probably. Hehe

Thanks for the recaps jb and gf!

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I think this is no doubt the BEST korean drama I've watched till date. There is actually a message given to the viewers - death is unavoidable, enjoy your life and we need to move on when someone in our life dies. The plot does have many twists that shock me, which I like about this drama. Generally, I am the type of person who never cries for dramas and movies, but this episode forced tears into my eyes. Also, I hope the actors and actresses in this drama do well in their career as they are very talented.

I will also look forward to the writers of this drama in future as they have done an excellent job of creating suspense in almost ALL of the episodes.

Thanks, Girlfriday and Javabeans for covering this drama. Now, you guys can have a proper sleep.

*Looks at the clock* What the time is 1:00 am?? Gotta sleep, but who cares I have holidays now LOL

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*you can’t spend 19 episodes hyping up one soul’s struggle to survive, and then…just…NOT.*

*I do think there’s a difference between dropping a few hints and paying off a storyline satisfactorily. *

Oh GOD, I felt so cop out by the ending that after it's all done I felt so cheated and empty. I will never understand how the same writer who has given us those wonderful well-thought 19 episodes, suddenly created this sloppy rush to the "intended" dramatic effect without properly paving the way to sell the poignancy of this ending. It frustrates me to the point that I want to bang my laptop and pull my hair and scream, WHY????!!!!!

*I’m now recalling the pitch-perfect ending of Flowers For My Life*

Seriously, this ending will never holds to the ending of flowers of my life where I bawled my eyes out but felt strangely content and satisfy with it. This ending did not give me any of that. It only gave me a bitter aftertaste.

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I didn't watch the episode yet, but after reading the recap I'm kinda disappointed in the ending…
Not because I thought it was bad, but I watched this drama so that at the end I could see Ji Hyun and Kang end up together…and they didn’t because Ji Hyun was always meant to die young. That’s so sad!!!!! *tear*
This is a life changing drama though. It makes me appreciate life and made me think about who outside my family would cry true tears for me….

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I agree with JB on this one.

Intellectually, I can appreciate and understand the ending.
Emotionally, I feel like I just got skunked!

19 episodes with one goal - and the rug gets pulled out.
This has been an exhausting drama - I think I'm ready for my own Elevator ride. Call the Scheduler, please.
:)

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sorry but no way, I refuse to watch the ending, I am sooo disappointed. yuck, ugh, boo!

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remember episode 18? when YK first time get to see JH body? isn't she startled as she know her before?

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I wanted her to live because when there was a chance of Jihyun coming back to life, I began thinking "Hot damn, maybe she will live." NOW! Now, they kill her off. Maybe I prefer endings where the main characters don't die, maybe I'm a softy like that, but damn this drama. It would be cool if they did the whole sister storyline and still NOT kill of Jihyun.... But all in all, it was sad. At least Yikyung found family and friends in the ones that Jihyun had. Her and Kang? I don't know, they have too much history in a way that they'll just remind each other of what they lost. But if they can come from being friends to lovers? Than hey, if it was meant to be than it was.

All I could think with the ending was that it reminded me, like it did jb, of Flowers for My Life. Maybe it's because the main lead also dies (ah, sorry if I spoiled that for anyone) but at least I never once had hope that he'd live. I knew going in that he was set to die and to make most of his life. But to have Jihyun fight to live only to die? Sucks. But I can appreciate what the 49 days taught Jihyun, and what it did for Yikyung. We live life to the fullest, and than we have death. I hope in kdramaland Yikyung and Kang live a happy life (something akin to Kal Ho Naa Ho) and as for death, I give you nerd wisdom: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoa4lGKxbw4

Thank you for the recaps and your wonderful insight ladies. It was wonderful and does not go unappreciated.

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This last episode was pretty satisfying...aside from the big reveal about Yikyung, that just ruined it for me.
but still, this is one of the few dramas that I really enjoyed watching. Thanks so much for the recaps =)

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WTF?? i didnt like this ending at all. what was the use of 3 tears? dont tell me its about learning of life.

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Yup, I think that's what they were selling. Pretty much about learning to live and appreciating what you've got or something like that. I think they should have sold us that and than a happier ending, logic be damned..... But I guess if you invest so much in a drama, the drama might as well provide you with a logical storytelling through and through, fanservice be damned. *sigh* Boy this sucks.

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I hated it.. give me my damn fanservice

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The learning of life thing was already done with the YK/YS pairing, to add JH/HK was just redundant and blah and cheap ¬¬

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Thank You, Javabeans and girlfriday..you are awesome...I love your recap....just go to the
best love :))

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I must say I agree with JB. There is something miss in the finale - well actually the long lost sister is what's missed. I actually prefer that Yi Kyung becomes the Shin family daughter not through the blood-relation, but through the way she comforts Ji-Hyun's parents during their hard time.

But I understand the writer's logic. She (he? They?) need to make the last tear for Ji-Hyun comes from In-Jung. Hence, the long-lost-sister plot.

Nevertheless, this is the first time, after so long, that I feel so satisfied about one drama. The symbolism, the beautiful meaning and the way they close the story with thousand of possibilities is amazing. And for that, I applaud the writers.

Oh and thank you for giving me an idea that Grim-Reaper can be so incredibly pretty. I hope mine looks like Jung Il Woo too :D

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"But I understand the writer’s logic. She (he? They?) need to make the last tear for Ji-Hyun comes from In-Jung. Hence, the long-lost-sister plot. " -- true!! I think the writer really liked her YK character and wanted her to cry sincerely for JH, but then she wanted IJ to cry for JH too or to make it a surprise that it was IJ's tear that was the final tear. IJ was a bad person, but she had always loved JH. The happy memories they shared together were not faked. The part where JH talked about the shoes in ep 19 still brings tears to my eyes.

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My, just reading the recap made me begin to cry. I don't know what's going to happen when I have time to watch the actual episode.

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I BAWLED. My eyes are so puffy right now and I have to go out soon! Gah.

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And this is from just reading the recap! I can't imagine what it would be like watching the actual episode :(

Anyhoo, this is one of the best k-dramas I've watched thus far. Wonderfully executed throughout with top-notch performances. However, I must say that the final episode did leave me a little disappointed only because of the whole 'long lost sister' storyline. Was that really necessary? Especially in the final episode? I felt that story arch was just randomly inserted there and honestly, the drama would have been fine without it because in the end I do believe that Yi-Kyung would somehow still be connected to Ji-Hyun anyway.

Despite that one quibble, this drama was fantastic and ended quite satisfactorily.

Sad that it's over though but that means no more puffy eyes from crying so much!

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There, cried again...waves of tears throughout the ep and been at the verge of tears all day after the finale... I don't think I've cried so much for a drama since MISA. Thanks so much JB and Girlfriday for giving me a good closure to this drama with your comments, don't think I can bare to watch this one again anytime soon.

As a sucker for happy endings, my heart wished the magical realism continued and hoped for a miracle, but I can't deny that the writing was good throughout the drama - which is why I was left feeling the loss when JH and scheduler didn't make the cut.

I feel like the scheduler sunbae is kind of like the representation of the writer in the drama, as she seems to have a hand in controlling whats went on, and remained untouchable. =.= And my initial feeling was definitely not far from wanting to send the writer up the elevator with them!!

At least they should have left poor Kang-ah with a kiss or hug as the closure to the "I-know-you-know-but-you-don’t-know game!" YS-YK got theirs! SO unfair.

Big Big hugggss to everyone here who were invested in the 49 days journey and the wonderful characters!!! Mopping up my tears and leaving it behind with a smile :)

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After watching the episode I felt betrayed and cheated *I watched 18 episodes to see her not die, epi19 to be relieved that she's alive and epi20 to see her die again...*

But then I started to wonder what will happen if 49days did happen? Maybe she'll end her live because of her husband and friend's betrayal and not enter the elevator with the smile she had in this episode. Kang may never be able to let her go and blame himself for letting her marry min ho without even trying to fight for her.

As the series progress, we tend to look forward and try to figure out what the next episode is about. But maybe sometimes it also satisfying to look back and think abt what would happen if otherwise.

I agree with girlfriday that 49days was good in writing (minus that mum loses daughter and finds the other long lost daughter) If they started paving for this in epi19, it would not have been so un-credible and overly coincidental as it seemed...

All in all, I love 49days farewell episode *but in my heart really hated how Kang and ji had to part again...not for 10yrs, but forever* Life is short, live it like there's no tomorrow.

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Thank you! I love this show! I love the ending even though it's not the happy ending i wanted! it's still perfect! <3

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I agree with the comment of Javabeans that goes "I don’t blame some people for feeling bait-n-switched, because you can’t spend 19 episodes hyping up one soul’s struggle to survive, and then…just…NOT."- It could have been better for ME if the ending is somewhat romantic for Ji hyun and Han Kang but the final episode does prove that Ji hyun also love Kang- ah that's why she wants him to "forget about her"?- that's so heartbreaking for people like me who always want a happy ending!!!!

Heartspeak is stronger than the headspeak!!!- AGREE

Anyways, the ending is still beautifully done especially when it showed that In Jung cried for Ji hyun- that In jung had also loved her friend sincerely!!!

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:( I only read the recaps and didn't even watch the drama... but dang it... I still cried like a little baby...
WHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I want my happy ending....

:(

Cries...

I haven't cried this much since Chuno. :(

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LOVE the ending, perfect indeed.

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Thank you so much Javabeans and girlfriday for recapping this awesome drama. Each episode I truly enjoy.

This finale made me sick...not the ending but literally sick from crying way tooo much. I cried with the live transcap, I cried with the raw episode...and I still am crying reading this recap. I think that this will be the last drama that i will shed so much tears. I didn't even cry this bad when I broke up with my first love...lol

49 days is a wonderful journey...the ending might not be the one we expected....but nevertheless, the drama delivered a great story.

I will miss Kang-ah....LWY...JIW...okies, the rest of the cast. They were all great.

I hope Kang-ah will have another drama soon. While Hyun Bin is in the military...Kang-ah will suffice..:))

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This is the first time I'm actually commenting on her after being a reading for quite a while now. first and for most thank you GF and JB <3 you guys rock!
I think I side more with JB here.

Ok I aint even gonna lie, I was in a rage when I first saw the ending. Then I read the recaps again and once I calmed down I tried to look closer at what this drama was trying to say. Mind you I still feel a bit dissatisfied. Then I realized I've become so engrossed in the story and with JH. I became so emotionally involved with that character that naturally I wanted her to live and when she didn't I was upset. We all hope she would live, but the drama really speaks out and says, death is unavoidable and at some point we're all going to have to deal with it. I do, I get the the whole emotional bit that it was going for, I just felt like it didn't do in a satisfying way. Like a lot of people, by head was pleased but my heart was not. Overall though Great drama! I love a roller coaster ride drama and this was just that. strong acting, strong writing. I just don't think I'd ever be able to watch this a second time.

Thanks again JB and GF<3

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I'm making my own ending, where they all live happily ever after. I mean, come one, at least for Ji Hyun and Han Kang man! The writer's warped. It was so good, til this episode. Just doesn't feel right.

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Me too, I changed my ending!!!!

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Me too!

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Oh my gosh the final episode is so heartbreaking. I'm cring while read it. I never expected That Ji Hyun will die. will Han Kang be with Ji Hyun? why they didn't make it like that !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
any way 2 thumbs up for 49 days....

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Seriously?! As much as I cried in this episode, I think they really fucked up the ending in an EPIC manner... I really thought that this was going to be one of my favorite dramas this year but I guess Best Love will be taking that title...

Nice try, 49 Days...

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It's over. Wow, talk about coming back down to earth with a bump.

As I was watching it unsubbed this episode was a little hard to understand with the yo-yo of future/past. Glad to clarify things here but still the ending made me feel bruised.

I didn't like the Seo-woo pairing with the waiter-I thought he'd get with the waitress if anyone and the appearance of Dr. No was a major :( Also although I love the Ajumma and Ajussi I thought them getting pregnant was a bit of a stretch...

By the 19th episode I was really hoping Ji-hyun would live and Yi-Kyung would somehow be able to be with Yi-Soo.

I guess the ending could have been worse though and have Ji-hyun die, Yi-Kyung get with Dr. No and Seo-woo (-though I love her) get with Kang-ah and Yi-kyung end up being Min-ho's sister.

Oh well, it was good while it lasted and I now have 2 more favorite actors-'the Scheduler' and 'Yi-Kyung'.

Thanks to the DB for bringing us the drama within a drama that was 49 Days.

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P.S. Re: the format of this page-has the text suddenly got really small? All the other pages I have open have normal size text...

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Uh, if you're using Google Chrome, it shows each site depending on the settings you have set for it. You may have just accidentally made the page smaller (zooming out). Just click on CTRL and + at the same time and it should get bigger. The same could be said about other browsers, although the setting gets applied to all the sites you go to.

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Thanks Ani for your advice.

I've tried but nothing seems to work.

'Luckily' it's my problem-I've now reduced the text in every window:(

Oh well, at least with dramas you don't need text:)

KDrama Fan

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Im sad that the drama has ended, but even though Im not 100% satisfied with the ending, I do understand its point and think it was a great drama, one of the best in fact.

The connection between the characters was incredible. Ji Hyun's friendship with Yi Kyung and with Yi Soo himself, was so meaningful. She matured so much from a silly girl to a wise woman.

Im happy that Yi Kyung has a family at the end (I figured she was the lost daughter a looooong time ago, I have a knack for guessing) and that Kang is finally working (lol). It just... has soo much meaning.

I personally love it because most dramas wouldnt dare to go there but here, we got reality (it was a fantasy drama but you get me) life is not always sugarcoated, happy endings are only for fairytales and its refreshing to see reality once in a while. Personally, 49 days went to my favorites list as one of the best dramas ever...

Never has a drama made me think so much about how I live my life and how I treat people around me... and of course, how precious everyday is (even though I spent a lot of time watching dramas hehe) I have no regrets of taking this drama on, it was great, it was more than great.

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I wish they drop some warnings of the bomb earlier down ep 15 or sth.

I understand the message but I feel cheated.

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love love love the ending except for the long lost sister/daughter scenario. for me it lacked substance but I agree with girlfriday it was FUCKING perfect

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Having her live would have just made the whole thing seem so "Good vs Evil and Good always wins!". Life isn't always straight good and evil, there are blurred lines (gray lines). The sister thing added that little bit of a zing to the twist they gave us, I'm still trying to figure out if it was a good zing or not (maybe it was both). I enjoyed the drama very very much (with lots of tissues). I think I'm dehydrated by now *sigh*.

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I can't believe they actually killed her off! I would totally have taken a less than good finale for some fan service with LIVING characters. That's totally narrow minded and weak of me but oh so true...

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like i mentioned before in ockoala's blog, i think writer-nim wants to give some love to JiHyun's parents. losing a child is enough to cause a lifelong heartache, but losing two?

so i think laying the groundwork for YiKyung to be JiHyun's real unni is more of giving some love to the parents. And also, in the flashback, we can see that it is because JiHyun ran away following some balloons that inadvertently cause YiKyung's kidnapping. so in terms of the circle theme in 49 Days, JiHyun helped return her unni to their parents.

of course there're going to be views that it is still unnecessary to write off JiHyun, but in 49 Days universe, if things are pre-destined, then perhaps their parents are only fated to have 1 child for most of the time, not 2, not none, just one.

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I was thinking the same thing...that finding long lost dauther is actually made for the parents. So they have a happy ending.

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Thanks alot for the recap, really appreciate.. So touching and heartbreaking story. Sob..sob.. cried.. :( Anyway felt happy for the ending..

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Been crying for two days straight, and I don't usually cry. I never thought Jihyun would die. The writer really thought this through from the beginning. I just didn't see that coming. I guess I appreciate what the message they were trying to convey was, but man. I am so devastated.

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49 days needed 3 tears, but this show has gotten millions of tears ard the world!! One of the best kdramas i have watched for a long long time. Didn't expect it to be such a tear jerker but its makes me crave for more every week.

The ending is nothing short of inspirational, life and death could not be better represented in 49 days. Live everyday with a heart that love and when death comes, there will be no regrets and we live with a smile.

A minor dent in 49days perfect series prob would be
YK as JH unnie, unnecessary to get that way after we have gone this far. But that doesn't take the fact that 49 days is AWESOME.

Thanks you DB and 49days. Live life like 49days and love with all your heart

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agree wholeheartedly. i love the ending. if YK & HK had ended up being together, my impression of the drama would be different.

the sister part is a bit unnecessary. and i dont care abt the lack of fanservice in ep20. with only the voiceover at the end..i am very satisfy with the drama. Thank you 49 Days.

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ooppsy. its JH & HK*

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thanks for the recap!! =)

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Soooooooooo sad!!!!!!! D: I wanted a happy ending. :(

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I'm going to reread teh recaps for Lie to Me cuz i want to be happy.

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BAD ENDING.. ANOTHER SHI.T DRAMA.

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Thanks for the recaps, JB and GF! It was truly a roller-coaster ride and it was great getting insights from you both!

I bawled so much at this episode I'm going to have some explaining to do later when I head out :S Overall, the writing was great and I really felt this was one of the best dramas I've seen. And like you've said, JB, logically it all makes sense but somehow I felt like something was missing. Not that I needed HK to end up with someone or anything though. I thought that worked for the story and the symmetry between HK and YK at the end was beautiful to watch.

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As much as I wanted the fairytale ending, I'm happy with the way this finished. It was beautifully done. The motif of living every minute to the full wouldn't have been as fulfilling if she had lived. Even as Ji Hyun died, her hope and love were the reasons for two more people to be able to lead better lives.

I loved how in the last episode, right when we didn't need anymore tears, everybody actually cried for her. It shows how much she, as well as everybody else in her life, was able to achieve because of the 49 days in some way. I guess she's a bit of a martyr, really.

And oh, I thank the writer for not letting Kang and Yikyung get together. It would've been a pity match. I think it's better that they have the relationship Jihyun and the Scheduler did - friends who can empathise wholeheartedly because they've gone through the same, heartbreaking rollercoaster.

Thank you for the recaps. I actually didn't watch most of the drama, but they were done so well I could easily slip in as I watched the last three episodes.

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