Am I dead? I think I might be dead. City Hunter may have gone killed me dead.
This finale hits all the right notes for me, wrapping up the plot and giving us some emotional payoffs along with the narrative resolutions, and doing it with suspense, tension (my blood pressure is still spiked, I swear), and satisfaction. The ending leaves me feeling wistful and bittersweet at the cost it took to get to this point of resolution, but the series signs off with enough openness that I can imagine my own continuation of the story from here.
Or, you know, they could give us a Season 2.* JUST SAYIN’.
*Seriously! We have such ideas for another season! Really good ones. Auuuuugh, Season 2 aja!
SONG OF THE DAY
Mate – “Play” [ Download ]
Let me just take a moment to talk about Young-ju’s death, which I freaking love and yet totally am shattered about. He was the one person — aside from Yoon-sung — whose death would have really meant something to me, which would’ve knifed me in the gut and then twisted the blade, and I’m totally in awe that the drama went there. Even if I’m also feeling a little raw and upset about it.
Just when we thought they weren’t going to actually get dark and serious and kill anybody to add that bit of gravitas you can’t fake with near-misses, the drama went and knocked one off that really, really counts. Nana and Shik-joong had their moments, and if they’d been killed at this stage, I would have been dissatisfied — it would’ve been too late to have impact, and lost its shock factor, and I would have argued that both characters would have been more effectively killed earlier.
I may be one of a minority who loved the Young-ju character the whole way through — so determined, so passionate, so upright and fair — but even more than that, his death has such resonance because it makes a difference on an ideological level. As was pointed out in the previous recap, these two men were capable of doing what the other couldn’t, and therefore they both needed each other to mete justice. Now with Young-ju gone, he practically mandates that Yoon-sung do the right thing, without distractions or wavering or letting personal feelings interfere with the truth. It sets us up for a pretty dramatic conclusion in this episode, for sure.
They way he dies is so thematically perfect, and consistent with character. Of course Young-ju would choose to face the bad guy over his own safety; he always has the greater good in his sights, even if he’s sacrificing his own health to ensure it would be protected. When he took out his phone to ward Yoon-sung away from him, gaaaaahhh that just about killed me.
So I was already half-dead when starting this episode, which killed me all over again.
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Beaten to a bloody pulp by Chun Jae-man’s minions, Young-ju dies, hand clasped in Yoon-sung’s.
And then…Kim Jong-shik wakes up in his hospital bed. Oof. What timing.
You know what? Now I’m glad Kim Yong-shik is alive, because waking up to find that his cohort-in-crime killed his son? It’s the perfect way to make him regret his actions for the rest of his life, in a way that his suicide attempt would never have achieved.
(I’m sorry for doubting you, City Hunter. I should have had more faith. *sobs*)
Yoon-sung takes Young-ju’s phone, and sees the text message supposedly sent from the City Hunter that directed him to the junkyard.
He asks Jin-pyo why he did it, and Jin-pyo replies that all he was doing was sending the prosecutor to find the truth. Yeah, if you put the truth in the middle of a lion’s den and strapped a bloody steak to his chest.
Yoon-sung says that Jin-pyo essentially killed the innocent prosecutor, to which Jin-pyo says that his comrades were innocent men who died, too: “Now Chun Jae-man will die at my hands.”
Chun arrives at the port for his getaway, only to be stopped by Jin-pyo, who takes out the two minions swiftly with his cane. He doesn’t even break his stride, much less a sweat.
Chun stutters, “What do you want?” Jin-pyo: “Your life.”
Chun makes feeble excuses for the 1983 massacre, saying he had no choice. Jin-pyo turns that right back on him, saying there’s no choice now, either: He’s gotta die.
Chun dashes for the boat, scrambling away from the slowly advancing Jin-pyo, who at one point is beautifully framed by the Korean flag behind him and the ship’s light casting him in shadow — now there’s an avenging angel of death if ever there was one.
As Chun kneels and begs for mercy, the camera shifts focus to their two shadows. We hear Jin-pyo drawing his sword-cane, then striking.
Yoon-sung arrives at the dock and makes his way to the boat, finally finding the bodies of the minions unconscious, and Chun Jae-man lying in a pool of blood. He shouts in frustration.
Yoon-sung flips through the secret book, reading about Operation Clean Sweep’s origins and the five men who orchestrated the affair: now-dead Senator Lee Kyung-wan, former presidential candidate Seo Yong-hak, recently comatose Kim Jong-shik, freshly killed Chun Jae-man…and President Choi Eung-chan.
The last name is the surprise, and Yoon-sung understands now: “This is what it all comes down to?”
In the morning, he goes to his father to tell him he’s responsible for Young-ju’s blood as well as Chun’s. Jin-pyo says calmly that Chun was the one who killed Young-ju, but Yoon-sung counters, “You’re no different from Chun Jae-man. He didn’t kill those special agents himself, either. He merely borrowed the hands of others.”
That pushes a button, and Jin-pyo whips his blade around to point at Yoon-sung’s throat: “You dare put me in the same category as Chun Jae-man?!”
Surprising Jin-pyo with his knowledge of the full truth, Yoon-sung asks if the final step in Jin-pyo’s cruel revenge was to have President Choi Eung-chan die at his son’s hands: “You’ve had quite a lot of fun these past 28 years, stealing me from my mother, making me believe a different man was my biological father, and telling me to take revenge against my real biological father. That revenge — I don’t think I’ll be able to do it.”
Jin-pyo asks if it’s because of their blood tie, but Yoon-sung says no, and that he’s seen up close what a good president Choi is. Jin-pyo counters that he didn’t get to his current position with clean hands, and says, like the sadistic bastard that he is, “I look forward to seeing your expression when you find out what he’s really like.” Yoon-sung says, “Don’t look forward to seeing my expression, period. Things won’t happen the way you want.”
Seo Yong-hak — ironically, he’s the safest of the targets in prison — sees the impending shitstorm and tries to pre-emptively strike to protect himself. Calling the press, he announces that the fifth City Hunter target will be the president, and that the five targets had been involved in Operation Clean Sweep together — but that the first four were “scapegoats of revenge.” The actual leader, he declares, was the president.
This forces the president to also speak to the media, and he calls an emergency press conference. He plays the “I know nothing about this” angle, though — and why do I feel like you’re reliving your childhood regret of refusing to cop up to the stolen lunch? The harder you insist now, the more disgraceful this is going to be later…
The president ends the press conference having stated nothing of relevance, but is stopped by one last question: Was he aware that the Seoul district prosecutor who was in search of the confidential records has died? Judging from his reaction, this is a surprise.
When Sang-gook hears the latest news, things finally click into place for him. He’d wondered all this time why Jin-pyo was wasting his time talking up senators and high-ranking officials when he had the book in his possession, but now he guesses that Jin-pyo was purposely bribing the people around the president, to feed the corruption before taking him down for it.
Sang-gook pleads for Jin-pyo to end this now, to restore honor to the dead and stop there. Jin-pyo ignores him, as usual.
The mood is heartbreaking at Young-ju’s funeral. Sae-hee collapses in tears, his father weeps quietly, and his co-workers mourn his loss. Surprisingly, more than the tears or apologies, I’m moved by his boss’s reaction; he says in a shell-shocked voice, “Dead or alive, you’re one of my boys. What you couldn’t finish, I’ll do it for you. I’ll catch all the bastards who did this to you and feed them prison rice, and that society of justice that you so wanted to see realized… As long as I’m wearing my prosecutor’s robes, I’ll do everything to preserve it.”
Oh, that breaks my heart. Why does this make me cry even more than his actual death? It must be that painful understanding that Young-ju’s death carries narrative purpose, and that makes it particularly poignant to see that people are spurred by it. When you live a life so passionately and unwaveringly, your conviction moves people, even if it’s belatedly in death.
The president arrives and pays his respects, and a few moments later Yoon-sung steps through the doors. Young-ju’s assistant Pil-jae gets in his face belligerently, asking why he’s here: “This happened to our prosecutor because he was chasing you. The City Hunter! That’s you!”
He calls Yoon-sung a murderer and screams his vow to catch him.
(Aggggggh, this is such a perfect setup for Season 2, it’s kills me. No really, there are little bits of my sanity dying right now, so aggrieved are they that such a fantastic setup won’t get to see fruition — ’cause this means we have the dumber, slower, but now incredibly impassioned second prosecutor taking the place of the first, but operating under an incomplete understanding of the truth, vowing with all the best of intentions to capture the City Hunter…)
Without confirming or denying the City Hunter accusations, Yoon-sung tells the president quietly, “I came because of the loss of a worthy prosecutor, but I’ll go.”
Sang-gook joins Team City Hunter to share what he’s found regarding the connection between the president and Chun Jae-man. There are signs of deals and favors being made between them, such as the large amount of Haewon Group money that funded Choi’s presidential campaign.
President Choi mulls over the accusation of Yoon-sung being the City Hunter. Not happy news for him. He looks over immigrations records that place Yoon-sung’s entrance into the country just months ago, and puts together the facts that have been there all along, such as Yoon-sung’s proximity when the City Hunter routed his incriminating videos through the Blue House’s network.
Those suspicions are confirmed when prosecutor Pil-jae drops by to fill him in on the City Hunter investigation. He explains that Young-ju had been chasing Jin-pyo and Yoon-sung, the former of whom is linked to the 1983 incident. Yoon-sung, on the other hand, was born to former Secret Service agent Park Mu-yeol…and Lee Kyung-hee.
This comes as news to the president, who clenches his hand as he registers the implication.
Nana warns Yoon-sung that the president may have caught on to his identity, and has requested his personnel file. Yoon-sung is called in to his office, and for a moment both father and son look at each other, both knowing the truth but pretending not to.
President Choi asks if he’d seen the press conference. Yoon-sung asks the loaded question about whether his statements (denying knowledge of Operation Clean Sweep) were true — will he cop to the truth, or deny it? He waits tensely for the answer.
Choi says, “It’s true.”
Aw, that’s disappointing. Choi explains that being president requires him to make decisions, too many in number for one person to handle alone, so he’s chosen to concentrate on two causes: the health and education of the people, which he will do his utmost to protect. It’s why he was against Chun’s bill to privatize health care, and against Kim’s methods of denying university students tuition. In a few days’ time, an amendment regarding these social issues will be up for a vote, and he’s determined to pass it.
Yoon-sung asks if he’d still stand by those causes even if the methods he uses are unjust.
Nana hears the truth of Yoon-sung’s paternity from Kyung-hee and asks Yoon-sung about it. She understands the dilemma he faces of going up against his father, and doesn’t want him to continue.
He tells her that Targets 1 through 4 all had corrupt skeletons in their closet: “If they hadn’t, I would have forgiven them.” When Nana asks if he’ll act against the president, too, he hesitates a moment before replying, “If he’s corrupt.”
Nana tries to argue that he doesn’t have to be the one to punish the president, but Yoon-sung cuts her off to say that that’s the dilemma faced by Young-ju, who didn’t act and covered up his father’s misdeed: “But was that really to his father’s benefit?”
In strategizing their next move, Team City Hunter focus their attention on Senator Lee Young-taek, who is under investigation for taking bribes regarding Chun’s privatized medical care bill. He’s a necessary figure in passing the president’s amendment.
True to expectation, the president meets with Lee Young-taek in a restaurant, asking for privacy. Lee asks what he’ll get in return for backing the bill, and President Choi offers to get the police to back off their investigation. Oh no, you just gave the City Hunter reason to go after you…
Choi isn’t happy with the deal — he clenches his fist tellingly — but sees it as a necessary evil. Lee accepts the deal and leaves, at which point Choi’s expression darkens.
And then, the sliding door to the adjoining room opens, and there stands Yoon-sung: “I had no idea you were so skilled in striking deals, Mr. President.”
Choi stands by his choice, though: He doesn’t regret the compromise made because it will enable countless students’ educations. People want this amendment to pass because tuitions are too high, but the people with power are the politicians and rich fat cats. He says that in politics you have causes that require you to make deals, and there’s no other way to effect change.
Yoon-sung asks the Jean Valjean question of whether it’s okay for orphans to steal in order to eat. I’m guessing he didn’t see Les Mis, because the whole tenor of that story runs counter to his point. But he argues that you can’t sacrifice things along the way when brokering your backdoor deals, and use them to cover up corruption.
He informs the president that he has the confidential book: “That decision you don’t regret — I’ll make you regret it.” Phew. Badass son.
Nana has been keeping watch with the bodyguards outside, but picks up on a strange noise and heads off in search of the potential trouble. She bursts into the president’s dining room moments after Yoon-sung’s departure, but the whole point of the distraction was to allow Yoon-sung this confrontation without Nana in the mix.
Posing as a reporter, Yoon-sung tracks down a man involved in President Choi’s presidential campaign and asks about the funding source. The man has his own suspicions, but suggests that Choi kept record of it somewhere, since he’s scrupulous about keeping ledgers.
The man then warns the president that a man had sought him out asking for information, and Choi guesses that Yoon-sung will seek him out soon.
Yoon-sung goes to the presidential quarters and cites tutoring for Da-hae as his reason for gaining entrée, but hides himself in a separate room. He goes through the study looking for that ledger, but finds nothing.
President Choi senses Yoon-sung is around and retrieves the ledger from its hiding place inside his pillow, and finds Yoon-sung mid-search. Holding out the book, he asks if this is what he came for, and wonders at Yoon-sung’s motivation for doing this.
Yoon-sung: “Because of faith. The faith that citizens have that the politicians they elect will act in good conscience. The faith that soldiers who enlist to protect their country have that their country will protect them. The faith that universities will turn out talented people, for the sake of our next generation. The faith that businesses will both suffer with and grow alongside their workers. And the faith of twenty-one men who were promised by their country to be met off the shores of Nampo. Protecting that faith is my cause.”
Goddamn that is a good speech. Young-ju is deeply principled in his belief in the law and the quest for justice, but despite their differences, Yoon-sung is just as principled in his own cause, even if that requires him to break some laws.
The president says, “In the past 28 years, I never for one day forgot Operation Clean Sweep. I understand well how much pain Jin-pyo felt.” Uh, unless you were shot in the chest by the bullet that pierced your best friend’s heart, I’m gonna say you don’t. But okay, we’re being figurative here.
President Choi gives Yoon-sung the book, calling this the record of the illegal funds “I had no choice but to receive.” Dude, I get that you’re a decent guy with a moral compass that’s relatively normal — not like the skewed megalomania of your Council-mates — but your tendency to frame everything as though you’re a victim of your own choices is starting to piss me off.
But at least he’s a man who understands that his actions will have consequences: He tells Yoon-sung that he’ll be grateful if he’s the one to handle this. Yoon-sung takes the book and heads out silently, stopped when President Choi calls out, “Yoon-sung-ah. The father who made you live this way is sorry.”
Ack! Yoon-sung is stunned at this admission, but not swayed from his own cause. He walks out quietly, determinedly, with tears in his eyes.
Nana asks if he means to continue to the end, saying that the longer this goes on, the person most hurt is himself. Yoon-sung says he must, as there’s nobody else to do it.
He’s disheartened as he swoops into action, but doesn’t stray from his path; he sends copies of the confidential 1983 file to media outlets, as well as the ledger pages detailing the illegal campaign contributions.
Voting begins on the amendment, just as the packages arrive at the papers. The amendment passes, to the president’s relief, but that elation is cut short by the breaking of the news of his two scandals. Calls are made for impeachment.
Choi tells an aide ruefully, “It’s okay. I feel a weight has been lifted. This is how it should have been from the start.”
The next delivery to the front of the prosecutor’s office is a six-parter, with the bribed senators roped together and delivered with photographic evidence of their misdeeds.
After monitoring the news, Yoon-sung gets up to prepare for the inevitable confrontation: “Father will be coming.”
Meanwhile, Jin-pyo readies his handgun and puts on the remaining dog tags.
Nana is entered into the system as being off-duty tomorrow, to her surprise. Aw, Yoon-sung, trying to take her out of harm’s way — and consequently putting her right in the thick of it, because what are the odds Nana is going to sit this out knowing that he’s planning to move? Thinking of the possible conflict, Nana contemplates her own gun.
Yoon-sung prepares his gun, too, and can I say that I do not care for this elegiac background score? I care for it NOT AT ALL. It’s making me crazy nervous. Also, there are too many guns for this to end well, I’m thinking… Damn you Chekhov and your gun rules!
Jin-pyo calls President Choi to give him the warning: He’s due for his judgment, and not from the people but from Jin-pyo. Choi is resigned to his future, and tells the lead bodyguard that he’ll be expecting an important guest, who should be led to him politely without being frisked. He asks for time alone and gets it, while Nana peers into the room to check — she didn’t take her day off after all.
Jin-pyo arrives and is told the president is waiting for him, and is led inside. Yet when he steps inside the hall, it’s Yoon-sung who meets him instead.
Jin-pyo will not be thwarted from his final target and tells Yoon-sung there’s nothing for him to do anymore: “You can’t stop a revenge 28 years in the making.”
Yoon-sung counters that he’ll take care of this, leading to a standoff as they stare each other down…and then both grab for their guns. Ohhh, fuck.
Jin-pyo and Yoon-sung pull their guns out at the same time and level them at each other. Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck. This is just like that damned dream, only a hundred times worse ’cause it’s REAL.
Yoon-sung: “The cruel revenge that requires me to shoot my biological father — do you think I could carry that out and live well? Having to point a gun at the woman I love — do you think I could do that without a care? Having to fight the father who lost his leg for me — how do you think I’d feel? I wanted you to think just once of me, and stop. I…just want to live an ordinary life…happily with you. But…that was all a dream.”
And then he points the gun at his own head.
And for one moment, finally, Jin-pyo looks surprised. Yoon-sung vows: “If this is my fate, then I will end it by my own hand.”
Yoon-sung’s finger tightens on the trigger…hand shaking…Jin-pyo looking on in shock…
A voice shouts, “No!” It’s the president, standing with Nana, who points the gun at Jin-pyo.
Nana tells Jin-pyo to stop, and then pleads with Yoon-sung to lower his gun.
President Choi tells Jin-pyo he’s been waiting for him. Jin-pyo returns, “I’ve come for that life I promised to take.”
President Choi tells Nana he’s sorry, then shoves her out of his way. He closes his eyes, having accepted his fate, and awaits Jin-pyo’s bullet.
Jin-pyo turns his gun from Yoon-sung to President Choi — and there Yoon-sung is, with the choice to let one of his fathers die. He can let Jin-pyo shoot Choi, or shoot Jin-pyo first.
But no, he’s got to be a goddamned hero, because he jumps in front of Choi instead — and takes the bullet through the heart.
Nana recovers her bearings, turns to see Yoon-sung shot, and shoots Jin-pyo.
HOLY SHIT. They’re going all Hamlet on us. Blood, blood, everywhere. It happens so quickly that it’s almost over before anyone’s fully taken in what’s happened.
The bodyguards rush in and escort a thunderstruck President Choi away, while Yoon-sung collapses to the ground, wheezing in pain. Nana rushes to his side.
Jin-pyo is bloody and badly injured but still able to hold his gun up. Ordering the bodyguards surrounding them to stay still, he points his gun at Yoon-sung on the ground.
With effort, Jin-pyo addresses the room (not unlike Young-ju in his dying moments as he declares himself):
Jin-pyo: “I am the sole survivor of 1983’s Operation Clean Sweep, Lee Jin-pyo. To avenge my comrades who were betrayed by our country, I killed Lee Kyung-wan and Chun Jae-man with my own hands, dropped Kim Jong-shik from the overpass, and sent Seo Yong-hak to the prosecutors. Now I will kill the last, President Choi Eung-chan. I am the City Hunter.”
Oh god, he’s taking the fall for his son. He’s exchanging their lives, and now he drops the clip out of his gun. He whirls to face the bodyguards with an impotent gun, and they fire away reflexively.
Jin-pyo is hit with several bullets and collapses slowly, with Yoon-sung watching in horror, too injured to do anything but lie there in pain.
Yoon-sung reaches out his arm toward his fallen father, and with difficulty, father and son inch their fingers toward each other until they can clasp their hands together, both lying amid their own blood.
Oh god oh god. This is just like Yoon-sung’s nightmare, except waaay worse. At least his Nana fears were realized happily when they reached toward each other with his blood infusing hers, but this time it’s a literal death-dream come true.
Heartbreakingly, Jin-pyo looks at Yoon-sung with a faint smile.
And then, we rejoin our characters an unspecified time later.
Da-hae works in a small cafe — perhaps one she runs, or at least manages. Nana visits her, her usual upbeat attitude in place although her father has recently passed away.
Ki-joon and Eun-ah are finally an official couple, and come bearing wedding invitations. Eun-ah complains that the Blue House is a lot less interesting now that Nana has quit and Yoon-sung is “gone” (deliberately vague to keep us on the edge of our seats).
At Yoon-sung’s apartment, a wreath of flowers has been sent by now-former President Choi Eung-chan, wishing someone a healthy and happy recovery. They’re for Mom, telling her that he’s thankful and sorry, and that he wishes her happiness. Kyung-hee and Shik-joong have packed their bags and are ready to embark on new lives in the U.S.
Nana walks through the airport with her own packed suitcase in tow. Spotting a familiar silhouette in the distance, she hurries toward it — but to her disappointment, she doesn’t see him.
But the camera whirls around, revealing Yoon-sung standing behind her, alive and well after all. Not that we doubted. But still! Phew, relief. You can start breathing again.
She turns around and sees him…she smiles…and he smiles.
At the military cemetery, a large memorial has been erected to honor the memories of the 21 valiant soldiers who died for their country, the first two names being Lee Jin-pyo and Park Mu-yeol.
And later, Yoon-sung drives along in the night.
What a satisfying way to wrap up this story arc, yet leave the story open-ended enough that we can imagine Yoon-sung continuing on to become the City Hunter for hire that characterized the original manga story. Even if we never get more of this City Hunter, the setup works in creating an origin story with its own, complete wrap-up that still points to more in Yoon-sung’s life in the road ahead, whether or not we get to see it unfold onscreen. (Although, we really should see it unfold onscreen. Really.)
I think the idea of Jin-pyo’s death was pretty much a possibility from Day 1, so it’s not a surprise. But what it did was achieve a lovely sense of closure for this story, and while I think Jin-pyo wouldn’t have given up his quest for the fifth target on his own — I don’t really think he got to acceptance or forgiveness — if pushed to choose between that and saving Yoon-sung, he had no qualms in making his choice. *Tear*
The cruel irony of the sacrifice is that Yoon-sung now knows that Dad did love him after all, but it needed Dad’s sacrifice to prove it. And Jin-pyo gives not only his life to Yoon-sung but takes the blame, so that Yoon-sung could in fact have a happy life after all this darkness and revenge. That’s been the big question all series long, hasn’t it? Not whether City Hunter would survive, but how he would be able to live as a normal person as he so desperately wanted. And until ten minutes before the end, there didn’t seem to be much hope of that for him. It’s a pretty damn satisfying resolution, in my book.
As I said in the podcast, this drama isn’t perfect, and it has plenty of flaws along the way. But it had a special magic about the way it stirred my emotions, got me invested in these characters, kept me on the edge of my seat, and surprised me at multiple turns. It’s beautiful to look at, scored with music that fit every mood, and boasts a gorgeous melancholy ambiance; it would have made me a fan even before we got to the tight plot. (It wasn’t airtight, but it was well-thought-out and developed well.) But then you add in heaps of thematic and emotional resonance to the mix, and you’ve basically owned me for the past two months.
Not a perfect finale or a perfect show by any means, but damn was it gripping all the way till the end. I love that the final episode’s central conflict was the showdown between Jin-pyo and Yoon-sung. To me that was always the heart of the show — the father-son relationship that was so fraught with pain and misplaced love. It was the central love story to me, above Yoon-sung’s relationship with Nana.
One thing I absolutely love about this show’s treatment of the paternal conflict is that Jin-pyo IS the real dad, in the only way that matters. The fact that the president is the biological father does not somehow transfer nineteen episodes of daddy-angst onto someone new because of blood. Yoon-sung remains, from beginning to end, Jin-pyo’s son. Not by blood, obligation, or anything else but unconditional love. And Jin-pyo’s sacrifice in the end proves that Yoon-sung’s love for Dad wasn’t unrequited. Finally, a story that acknowledges that blood is NOT the end all be all! Welcome to kdramaland!
Jin-pyo was the most tragic character in this drama, and I knew from the start he would never survive. (A character that extreme can only end in epic death; it’s like a law of the universe.) But no matter how totally screwed up his worldview was, his all-too-late realization that Yoon-sung was the only thing that mattered, and his final resting place alongside Mu-yeol as a soldier finally put his vengeance to rest and his soul at peace in a satisfying way.
I’m good with the open-ended relationship with Nana (and prefer it in fact to a candy-coated version), because no matter which way you slice it, their relationship will always be an open-ended one. I would’ve liked more interaction, more words, more time, even if the end result were just as open-ended. But I got the sense that it was a casualty of the live-shoot, which is too bad.
As a series, City Hunter gave me that perfect combination of action and heart – what began as a quest to avenge a death became a young man’s journey to becoming a hero. It tapped into the core of what I love about hero fiction, in illustrating the cost of being an idealist in a corrupt world.
That’s why the death of Young-ju is so fitting in an ideological sense, because he was the most upright defender of justice, who paid the gravest price. To me that death is what seals Yoon-sung’s fate as the City Hunter. What came before are the stirrings of a hero; in taking up the mantle after Young-ju’s death, he becomes the hero both men were meant to be.
My biggest disappointment with the finale is the drama’s failure to nail this in a concrete way onscreen, at the end. It’s there thematically, and Young-ju’s death resonates with all the characters, but if I were writing this show, the last scene would’ve been Yoon-sung at Young-ju’s grave, overlooking the city he’s sworn to protect.
No words necessary; just that image alone would’ve satisfied the promise of the City Hunter’s future, spurred by the sacrifice of his brother in arms, the perfect mirror to the opening brotherhood between Jin-pyo and Mu-yeol, also separated by death. The moment was there in his death in Episode 19, and their relationship is the perfect bookend, but that tiny push of thematic resonance and closure would’ve been my ideal send-off for the City Hunter.
I loved City Hunter for a million reasons, but the biggest is this: it gets me right there, that place in my heart where my six-year old self refuses to give up on the idea that heroes fight evil and good prevails. It ran the gamut from hilarious and cheeky to kickass and epic, and though the finale’s delivery wasn’t pitch-perfect, as a whole the show swept me up in its world and made me want to live there.
- City Hunter: Episode 19
- City Hunter: Episode 18
- City Hunter: Episode 17
- City Hunter: Episode 16
- City Hunter: Episode 15
- City Hunter: Episode 14
- City Hunter: Episode 13
- City Hunter: Episode 12
- City Hunter: Episode 11
- City Hunter: Episode 10
- City Hunter: Episode 9
- City Hunter: Episode 8
- City Hunter: Episode 7
- Lee Min-ho gets into a car accident, escapes injury
- City Hunter: Episode 6
- City Hunter: Episode 5
- Lee Jun-hyuk for Bazaar
- Behind the scenes with City Hunter
- City Hunter: Episode 4
- City Hunter: Episode 3
- City Hunter: Episode 2
- City Hunter: Episode 1