Last episode! I wasn’t sure whether Miss Ripley would wrap up in a surge of melodrama or in unearned happy endings, but it delivers a dose of peace and resolution, with a smattering of bittersweetness. It’s somewhat satisfying, though a little pat for my tastes, but most importantly it gives each of our characters an ending that I think is fitting. (Ish.)
This started out a drama about one desperate woman’s lie to save herself from a miserable fate, and became an interesting study on the power of love (and the devastation wrought by a lack thereof). The mother-daughter conflict was a late entry, but emerges as the core of Miri’s conflict, both internal and external.
SONG OF THE DAY
The One – “그만해” (Enough) [ Download ]
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Yoo-hyun jumps into the water to save Miri after she falls from the dock, and the accident renders her unconscious with a head injury.
Lee Hwa makes a recovery and returns home in time to hear of Miri’s trip to the hospital, but she can’t bring herself to see the daughter she abandoned.
Yoo-hyun explains to the prosecutor that Miri had been resisting Hirayama when she’d sustained the injury, which mitigates the situation, since she wasn’t running away of her own will.
As with Lee Hwa’s bout with unconsciousness, Miri conjures the same dream of meeting her mother in the park. She starts out as an adult, but the image of Adult Miri blends with Young Miri racing toward her mother, which is a little heartbreaking — after all this trauma and angst, these two women really want the same thing. And yet, because of the lives they’ve lived in the interim, they can’t have this simple, pure reunion.
Yoo-hyun sits at Miri’s bedside, and entreats:
Yoo-hyun: “Wake up. I still have so many things I haven’t said to you. I haven’t told you I hated you for lying to me, or asked why you had to be Mother’s daughter. There are things I haven’t done, too. I wanted to go to the movie theater with you and fight over popcorn, and walk down the street and argue about why you were looking at another man. I haven’t been able to do those things yet, or go to those places — so how can you be like this? This is going too far, Miri-sshi.”
He hadn’t been able to express his feelings before, being as conflicted and confused as he was, but now with Miri’s health hovering in the balance, he finds the words. He tells Myung-hoon that he doesn’t know what he’ll do about the future, and that all he can think of right now is wishing Miri would wake up.
Miri continues to dream of her mother, in a mix of past and present. She imagines herself as a child, but her mother’s return after a long absence corresponds to their real-life, 20-year rift. Miri worries that she’ll disappear again, but Mom promises that she won’t go away, and that she missed her like crazy.
There’s something so tragic about these dreams, which is the only state in which both Miri and Lee Hwa can show their love for each other without the bitterness and hate getting in the way. At least on Miri’s end, because now Lee Hwa is wracked with regrets, particularly upon recalling her cruel treatment of the adult Miri.
Yoo-hyun maintains a constant presence by Miri’s bedside, not letting go of his conviction that she’ll wake up despite her worsening condition.
While Yoo-hyun is out, Hirayama makes his own visit, noting ruefully that Miri’s insistence on staying in Korea to pay for her crimes is proof of her feelings for Yoo-hyun. He tells her in a resigned tone that it wasn’t the day she asked him to let her sell cigarettes that they ought to lament, but the day he’d first heard her playing the flute. It’s then that he was first captivated with her, and as he tells her not to remember him too horribly, Hirayama pulls out the wooden flute to play one last song.
His words have a note of finality to them, and sure enough, he tells her he’ll let her go now, so she should wake up now and live as she likes. Nothing like a near-death experience to knock some sense into everybody, huh?
Yoo-hyun hears the sound of the flute from the hallway and sees Hirayama leaving, and races to catch up with him. Offended and upset to see him here, Yoo-hyun demands that Hirayama save Miri, as though it’s a thing he could do.
Hirayama tells to convey a message for him upon Miri’s revival: that he’s letting go of her. That eases some tension from Yoo-hyun’s expression, especially when Hirayama assures him that he means it, and that he’s giving up the idea that Miri is his woman: “I envy you.” Hirayama hands over the flute in a literal baton pass, which I suppose might be more romantic if it didn’t suggest that Miri’s significance is as an object to be passed from man to man…
Lee Hwa musters the courage to visit Miri’s room, tearfully telling her daughter she ought to return to the world so she can take her revenge on her mother. It’s interesting to note that these people appeal to Miri’s hate and bitterness, preferring to have that rather than losing her to death, which is a backwards way of expressing their love.
Lee Hwa:: “If you hate me, wake up. As much as you resent me, as much as you hate me — use that strength to wake up. Wake up and fight with me, dummy, and ask why I left you. Why I left you to live as you did. Argue and swear at me. If you don’t, I’m going to disappear. So wake up. Miri-ya.”
Myung-hoon is arrested, while Miri’s is pending, to be drawn up after she recovers consciousness.
Yoo-hyun asks his father what is to be done, loath leave Miri all alone and damaged. President Song says that there’s no way for her to escape prison time, and advises his son to go his own way and give up on his feelings for her. Dad philosophizes that there’s such a thing as fate between people, and that if it’s not meant to be, you can’t force someone to be that fate: “I don’t think she’s your fate.”
Yoo-hyun says no matter what others do, he and Dad really don’t have the right to cast stones at her: “You should never have let her be abandoned — no, even if she was, you should have taken responsibility for it.” He says that they have to find a solution and give her life back to her.
And then, Miri awakens. She appears to be fine, although the doctor cautions that the extent of her injury requires monitoring and checkups.
Hee-joo tends to Miri while Lee Hwa stands by, both afraid to approach and afraid not to. She tries to tend to Miri as well, but Miri shoves away her hand: “You don’t have that right.” She uses the word dangshin, a thoroughly distancing word she’d use on a stranger — and one she doesn’t like, to boot.
Mom gets down on her knees in that ultimate gesture of supplication, sobbing as she admits that she behaved wrongly, and asks, “What would you like me to do?”
Yoo-hyun and his father arrive at the doorway, and overhear Miri telling her mother she doesn’t want her to do a thing, and that it’s been twenty years that she’s lived as an abandoned orphan.
To get across just how deep the betrayal runs, Miri describes her childhood self looking for her mother every day, and when Mom’s face and voice grew hazy in her memory, she would draw pictures and sing songs. Miri starts to sing now, a folk song Mom used to sing (Island Baby) about a baby left in the house with the sound of the waves while Mom dives for oysters in the sea. We get a lovely chilling effect as Miri’s glaring eyes clash with the lullaby that goes, “The baby is left in the house, alone…” which is when Lee Hwa begs her to stop.
Mom says she’s sorry again, which angers Miri anew. She asks if Lee Hwa enjoyed the riches and nice new house she’d gained while her abandoned child was suffering at the hands of drunk adopted parents, filling her belly with tap water.
Lee Hwa pleads, “Can’t you understand me just a little bit?” She hadn’t known the extent of Miri’s misery, and says, “If I’d known it would be like that—”
Miri cuts her off, ruthlessly laying bare her whole wretched youth, longing for one lousy taste of a dumpling, and why she chose to work in the bars. And then to know that it was Mom who spread those photos of her shameful past far and wide.
Yoo-hyun steps in and tells Miri to stop, but Miri continues, screaming, “How can I forgive you?!”
Yoo-hyun reminds her that this is her mother, and that can’t change just because you want it to. Miri declares that it’s because she’s her mother that she can’t forgive her.
Mom wearily admits she was only thinking of herself and gets up with difficulty, leaving the room. Miri asks Yoo-hyun how she’s supposed to forgive the mother who went on to live happily without her, and breaks down. Aw, I’m actually shedding tears for Miri. It’s hard not to, until you remember how nasty she was to other people, but in this raw, unvarnished state, picking at that rather feels like kicking someone when they’re down.
Now it’s Miri’s turn to face arrest. Dully, she acknowledges everything, telling the prosecutor that she did it all: She forged the diploma and sent the confirmation fax, and her entire persona was a forgery.
He asks why she did it, incredulous at the extent of her actions, saying that she didn’t have to go as far as she did. She answers, “I didn’t know of any other way.” Under her own identity, nobody wanted anything to do with her. All her life, she’d found that being an orphan brought her mistreatment, and being a single woman got her sexually harassed. So she learned that being honest only got her hurt.
Even as she worked in bars, she posed as a university student, created a mother she didn’t have, and fabricated lies of an elegant family background: “But the world is funny that way. When I did that, people approached me more — I got more regular customers, and the tips they gave me increased.”
That’s why she created her fake school credentials: “That one thing is all I needed. With that one thing, the world changed, and I changed.” People started treating her differently, and even love came to her.
Next, Yoo-hyun visits her in the interrogation room, at a loss for words. He starts by apologizing, now that he knows that he’s connected to the source of all her unhappiness. True, he’s done nothing to her to be sorry for, but it’s the whole issue of transferred sins, from father to son. Or at least shared culpability.
When he asks if she had to do what she did, if she couldn’t think of any other methods, she answers that she hadn’t known at the start what a good person he was:
Miri: “But the more time we spent together, I understood, ‘Ah, this is a really good man. When people speak of good people, they must mean someone like him.’ And I started to dream, ‘If I’m with this person, perhaps my shameful and terrible past could be erased. If this person were with me, maybe my crimes would be forgiven and I could be protected.'”
Yoo-hyun says that she should have still come clean with the truth. Miri: “I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I was afraid I’d lose you.”
Yoo-hyun: Yoo-hyun: “That’s not love, that’s greed.”
Miri: Miri: “Yes. I must really have lived not knowing what love is.”
Yoo-hyun: “If we hadn’t met like this, could things have been different?”
A moot question. Miri is transported to prison, and as Yoo-hyun thinks back on all their happier times, the memories bring him to tears.
Then, we jump: One year later.
Myung-hoon is back to practicing medicine, working at a small clinic in the countryside, which sort of cracks me up: He’s discredited from the business world for forgery and fraud, but able to practice medicine? Oh well, I want him to have a happy life, so let’s go with it.
Inmates are released from prison, many of them greeted by family members. Miri steps out of the gates, having served her time, and looks up at the sky a free woman.
President Song wants to send Lee Hwa and Miri to the States together, thinking it may be the most they can do for both women. The tricky part is convincing Miri along with it, but Dad wants them to both work to re-create that family tie, of making Miri into Lee Hwa’s daughter again. To that end, President has agreed to correct the family registry, to make their familial relationship official, which would take her out of theirs. But that, he says, is just a formality — he won’t consider them any less connected than they were.
A bit of jumpy editing takes us to the airport, where Lee Hwa waits for Miri, who has (apparently, in the intervening time) agreed to go with her to the States. Mom waits nervously, while Dad assures her to wait, that Miri is probably just running late.
But no, she’s not. Miri boards a train to the countryside, while Lee Hwa reads a letter left for her:
Miri’s letter: “Mom…It’s taken twenty years to call you that. I still don’t believe it — that I can call you Mom at any time, and that you’ll come quickly if I call you. I’m sorry for not keeping my promise. But I want to stay here. I want to stand up from the start. I want to overcome the painful, shameful days of the past when I’d felt longing but endured it. I’m really sorry I can’t go with you. And I thank you. Because…just as you’d said you’d come if I played with your necklace, just like those words, you did really come. I love you. I love you, Mom.”
It’s with a bittersweet smile that Lee Hwa boards her plan alone.
Meanwhile, Miri travels to her old orphanage, where Hee-joo greets her with a wide smile.
Mondo Group establishes a child welfare center, and Yoo-hyun gives the opening speech. Chul-jin worries that Yoo-hyun’s overworking, and wonders if he’s busying himself because of Miri.
Walking along that night, Yoo-hyun pauses at the sight of a lit sign, which reads, “Knowing how to love yourself is the greatest love of all.” A short distance away, Miri also stops to read the sign, not seeing Yoo-hyun standing just on the other side of the tree that separates them, looking up at the same sign.
She continues on her way, passing behind him, and he walks along. Missed connection. Perhaps for the best, if this is a relationship best left unkindled, so as not to controvert Fate.
Meanwhile, life putters along for our characters, each of them healing in their own ways, some together and some apart. Lee Hwa works at a food bank, with President Song by her side again. Perhaps there was no reason for her to remain abroad, with Miri’s simultaneous acceptance and declining of her mother (acceptance of her identity and relationship, but declining her presence).
Miri and Hee-joo seem to be on the road to a proper friendship this time, which makes me happy for Hee-joo’s benefit at least — perhaps she’ll finally get the friend in Miri that she deserves, unclouded by all that bitter jealousy and resentment.
And Yoo-hyun lives on, though we can’t quite say he’s over Miri, or recovered from the heartbreak. As he runs, he thinks those words that opened the series back in Episode 1:
Yoo-hyun: “On one spring day, I met her. I recognized it at first sight — the woman with eyes like my long departed mother. Her smiling face was beautiful. I’d grown weary of the world, and she taught me the joy of life. She was like my heart. I loved her. I really…loved her.”
What, no Myung-hoon counterpart to the ending? That really says a lot about how the drama changed direction, didn’t it? I suppose you might call this one of the more favorable examples of live-shoot drama production, in that the writing clearly catered to aspects that were resonating with audiences (Hirayama, Lee Hwa), and ditching those that weren’t quite landing as well. Well, favorable for the audiences, though not for the actors who got shunted off to the sidelines, like the wonderful Kim Seung-woo and Kang Hye-jung.
Meanwhile, Lee Da-hae finally has a solid, passionate performance after a few years of seeming half-asleep. I knew she had this in her, and part of what frustrated me so much about her in recent years was the fact that she didn’t seem to be trying. She does have a tendency to overact (gasping, glaring, shuddering), but for the most part she was intense and dialed in to her character, to a degree that was surely exhausting.
Yoochun actually was a pleasant surprise for me, because while I liked him in Sungkyunkwan Scandal, I wasn’t moved by his acting in it. It was cute, he was fine, but he didn’t stir me. In Miss Ripley, he had a few really nice moments where he felt in the moment, wracked with pain and conflict. I don’t just mean the crying (it’s easy to point to crying as an example of emotion), but also those conflicted scenes of him struggling with his conscience in the latter few episodes. His scene with Young Miri in Episode 14, when he realizes his role in Miri’s fate, remains one of my favorites.
I will say in defense of the drama, though, that I don’t think its direction changes were necessarily bad moves, even if it keeps the ending from having quite the thematic resonance that I feel it was set up to have in the first half of the drama. Myung-hoon, for instance, became a non-entity and plot device, while the mirroring image with Hee-joo in the end seemed just to highlight how much they totally dropped that ball, and how great that conflict could have been. I think they pulled waaaay back on Hirayama, because no matter how awesome the actor, it’s a bit much to give the sleazy, sexually harassing pimp/abuser a semi-hero edit in the end. On the Lee Hwa front, though, I am perfectly satisfied, because the tormented mother-daughter relationship is where I really felt this drama emotionally, particularly once the birth secret was out in the open. While it was still a secret, I was afraid it would just be another makjang cliche brought out to wring some melodrama, but it was written in nicely.
Part of me is a bit disappointed that the finale seems a little soft for a drama that was played with such fierceness all throughout its run. Everyone gets their bittersweet-but-uplifting ending, and wounds are on the road to recovery. It’s almost like Hurricane Miri has made their lives better for the revelations she’s left uncovered in her wake, even though she’s also the one who caused so much of that damage. I’m a little disappointed with how neat it all seems, but I do really like that the drama leaves everybody sort of open-ended in their own paths.
I wouldn’t have been happy if Yoo-hyun and Miri ended up together, for instance, no matter how sincere their love was, and if she’d been able to accept Lee Hwa after that traumatic abandonment, I would have felt it too easy a solution to their angst. But I didn’t necessarily want Miri to die, either. For one thing, death tends to put that weird sheen of glory onto a person’s existence, and that would have taught Miri nothing. Her acceptance of her sins, payment of penalty, and subsequent second chance at an honest life seem fitting.
Hopefully Miri’s new start will be a happier, more successful one, because although she embarks on this life without her mother, she has at least acknowledged her love. And I think that’s the crux of her complicated, twisted, anti-heroine characteristics — that she never knew love, as she tells Yoo-hyun even in this last episode. I don’t like Miri as a person, but I can sympathize with her plight. It’s the difference between living a life with the understanding of what unconditional love is, and living without awareness that such a concept even exists. How is anybody supposed to have a healthy idea of what romantic or even friendly love is when the one person who was supposed to be your wellspring of love burned you? It’s like a chick that imprints on an inanimate object instead of its mother; you can’t undo that action once it’s done, and it’ll affect you forever. Now that Miri understands, though, there’s hope.
What really kills me about this drama is that nobody actually went to the dark side. People flirted with it, took little vacations there, but even Miri, who was supposed to be this hardcore unscrupulous anti-heroine, ended up totally watered down.
What’s it take for a show to just take a character down into hell and bring forth some horrifying consequences? By the time she chooses to turn herself in, the jail time isn’t really meaningful anymore, beyond just being her price to pay to society. She’s already learned her lesson, (which by the way, what’s with the conscience out of nowhere?) so it’s resolution, but there’s no drama there.
I did like Miri’s mother angst, and the fallout and resolution of that thread was definitely the most, if not only, satisfying thing. Basically I wanted the overall story to be darker, more tragic, more… something. I feel like it went too soft on everyone, because I guess I’m sadistic like that. I wanted suffering.
If Miri does get a second chance at life, I think this is the only way to do it in a satisfying way — to give her a fresh start without Yoo-hyun and without her mother, despite both those relationships being the core of what she wanted for her entire life. Because they’re also the source of what drove her close to the brink, and part of the version of herself she needed to let go.
Based on where they did choose to take Miri’s character (toward redemption), I’m good with the resolution that they gave her in the sense that what she’s found is peace, not necessarily happiness. Her character was all turmoil, no rest, and in that sense, I do feel relief for her to have finally found some peace.
- Miss Ripley: Episode 15
- Kang Hye-jung dismayed over Ripley role
- Miss Ripley: Episode 14
- Miss Ripley: Episode 13
- Miss Ripley: Episode 12
- Miss Ripley: Episode 11
- Miss Ripley: Episode 10
- Miss Ripley: Episode 9
- Miss Ripley: Episode 8
- Miss Ripley: Episode 7
- Miss Ripley: Episode 6
- Miss Ripley: Episode 5
- Miss Ripley: Episode 4
- Miss Ripley: Episode 3
- Ripley’s Park Yoo-chun and Kang Hye-jung looking cute
- Miss Ripley: Episode 2
- Miss Ripley: Episode 1