The end is here! And it is not without pain, suffering, sadness, and tears. Oh my – I think I sound quite depressive, but then again, how else can I feel when such a wonderful series comes to an end? There are enough happy moments, but all tempered with a tinge of dread as we all know what’s going to happen to Sun-Man. I hope you’ve enjoyed watching this series, more so than reading recaps; What’s Up is quite the rare gem, and it’s definitely up there in my list of favorites.
Now let me just whip out a box of tissues…
SONG OF THE DAY
This ballad plays quite frequently in What’s Up. [download]
Sun-Man is rushed to the hospital, and fades in and out of consciousness. Doo Ri and Jae Hun sit in the waiting area all night; Soo Bin plays his violin in an attempt to distract himself; Byeong Gun practices dance moves, but falls down and doesn’t get back up.
Meanwhile, in his own dark practice room, Do Sung sings his Hades song, “Lunatic,” but he doesn’t get very far when he realizes someone is in the room with him. It’s Chae Young. She doesn’t buy his story that he’s trying to “mimic” Hades’s music, and wants to know why he’s hiding the fact that he’s Hades. It’s no use trying to deny it to her.
Chae Young also has a proposal – how about Do Sung sign on with her? She will be his manager – for five years. (Those are going to be one heck of a loooong five years dude.) Do Sung’s uncle can be demoted to his driver. Do Sung tries to explain that he has his reasons for not wanting to be Hades and live a public life. She promises she will take care of the reporter so that none of his secrets will spill out; if she does this, will he trust her? Do Sung made promises to stay under the radar in exchange for attending college, but Chae Young tells him to just break it. Easier said than done, lady.
He finally admits that it’s a family affair, but doesn’t divulge any further than that. Chae Young resorts to blackmail: Do Sung should tell his family that he had to sign on with Chae Young, otherwise the family secret will be exposed to the world. She has no qualms about blackmailing, because she’s come to terms with who she is. She is a B-list star, but she can spot A-list talent. More than anything, she hates it when people just let their talents go to waste, because she herself is talentless, but is working hard to prove she does.
Driving her point home, she asks him, “Coming down to a dark room and singing and practicing where no one can hear you – is that really considered “living”? You’re Hades. The king of the underworld.” Chae Young has a new goal – she will start her own management agency – she will be in control of all the other “kings” of the entertainment world.
Back at the hospital, the doctor informs Doo Ri and Jae Hun that Sun-Man finally woke up. Doo Ri rushes for the door, but Jae Hun sensibly pulls her back and asks for the doctor’s permission first. The doctor warns them that Sun-Man may not be lucid when he is conscious. He doesn’t have much time left, having lost all liver function and having difficulty breathing. Doo Ri is about to faint, but Jae Hun jerks her back upright.
The doctor hopes that as Sun-Man’s guardian, she keep up strong appearances. After all, Sun-Man will be able to pick up her emotions, and it will transfer on to him.
Sitting inside his room, Doo Ri softly whispers that Sun-Man better not die yet. He promised to watch their performance. Weakly, Sun-Man raises his hand to her hair and ruffles it, acknowledging her words. That’s too much for Doo Ri to bear, and she runs out of the room so that he won’t hear her sobs. Sun-Man then beckons for Jae Hun to come in.
Despite his weakened state, Sun-Man still has some acting advice for Jae Hun to impart upon the other students. For example, he wants the students to know that they shouldn’t imitate other actors. Rather, the smart actors acknowledge what level they are at and know how good or bad of an actor they are. So once the students can acknowledge their true selves like a smart actor, they can properly act.
Jae Hun repeats the words to Doo Ri, Byeong Gun, and Soo Bin back at school. Byeong Gun puffs up his chest. He is a smart actor then – he knows he’s good looking, and he knows that his singing and acting are top-notch. Doo Ri smacks his head to the left. Soo Bin smacks his head to the right. Doo Ri smacks his head down for good measure. Aww – my favorite trio!
We cut back to the hospital, where Sun-Man and Jae Hun are reviewing the script, and Sun-Man gives his notes. Therefore, when Jae Hun heads back to practice, he can properly guide the actors on the right emotions. For example, Ka Young and Sung Jae are acting out the “I’m your father!-Let me do what I want!” scene that occurred between Tae Hee and Jae Hun. Jae Hun has them do it over again, because Ka Young is too “pretty” when she’s whining to her father Sung Jae to let her go on this audition. Because she is too “pretty,” she sounds like she’s lying. Jae Hun challenges her to not worry about how she may look, but to think about her situation. Isn’t she angry? Isn’t she afraid? Isn’t she desperate to go on this audition? Ka Young turns back to Father Sung Jae, and this time delivers her line much more believably.
It’s cute that Doo Ri gets inspired to put in another line – “My life turned to ruin because of you dad!” And everyone starts screaming, “That’s too cheesy!” Jae Hun tries to mediate and has Ka Young try it out. She says it, and the whole class protests at the ridiculousness of the line. I love collaboration.
When Sun-Man wakes from his unconscious state again, he finds Prof. Yang sitting by his bedside. Prof. Yang admits that she gave up her class time so that the kids can practice for the musical performance in two weeks. She also informs him that both teams have now joined forces. Her voice wavers, and I wonder if it’s because of the difficulty of the words she’s saying, or because of the fact that she knows she’s speaking to a dying man.
In true Prof. Yang fashion though, she’s not sure if the students can do it. “I don’t really believe people who say they’ll do their best. Who wouldn’t do their best? You have to do great!”
Sun-Man notes that Eun Hye used to say that line all the time. Either Eun Hye got that line from Prof. Yang, or Prof. Yang stole it from her and pretended it was hers. (Haha!) Prof. Yang: “For a dying man, you sure do have an active mouth.”
Sun-Man has another favor to ask, the final final wish. Can Prof. Yang make sure that Doo Ri never see him at his end? Doo Ri would never listen to him, so he hopes Prof. Yang can lock her up somewhere.
Oh God – where are my tissues. WHERE ARE MY TISSUES!?!!
Prof. Yang promises to keep Doo Ri occupied with the musical, fully realizing that Sun-Man cares for his student deeply even though he acts like he doesn’t. But in a small voice, she asks if Sun-Man will come to the performance. It’s in two weeks – he’ll make it right? Sun-Man says he will, but he’s already falling out of consciousness again.
Back on campus, the students are all rehearsing. Young Jin and her production design team come in, a set design ready for review. It thrills the students, but the issue is money. Byeong Gun dumps a plastic bag that has an embarrassingly small amount of money on the table – $216.43 USD to be exact. With that budget, they are to get lighting, props, and costumes done?
Already, Young Jin’s team is shaking their heads, hoping she’ll turn the freshmen down. Young Jin asks when the deadline is. Jae Hun: “Two weeks.” Young Jin: “Are you crazy?” Jae Hun: “That’s our goal!” Her team shakes its heads even more fervently.
The freshmen start pouting and put their hands up in prayer, begging that she accept. She looks at all of them, then spies Soo Bin all the way in the back, putting his hands up as well, begging her. OK that does it – she takes the job! After all – how can the president of Soo Bin’s fanclub reject Soo Bin’s pleas?!
However, she has one condition – everyone must help out in the set design, because she doesn’t have enough people.
Cue everyone dancing and singing to “Those Magic Changes,” cutting between the practice room and the stage as they build sets. It’s almost like they are practicing for that very performance that occurs in Byeong Gun’s imagination. Doo Ri is on trash can-drums; Jae Hun pauses to swing his arms around on an air guitar; Byeong Gun takes center stage, singing into a whisk or hammer.
(Can I just pause and say that Jae Hun looks really hot doing his air guitar and then walking away as if nothing happened? *Goes back to rewatch that 1 second*)
Rehearsal devolves into kids simply having fun, dancing their hearts out. But as soon as Byeong Gun hits his final note, everyone collapses in the practice room, except Jae Hun.
Jae Hun: OK everyone, get up. Let’s do it again.
Byeong Gun: WHY?! What wasn’t right with what we just did?
Jae Hun: *shrugs* I don’t know. So let’s just start from the top again. One more time!
And Jae Hun hits all of their butts with his broom. At the doorway, he sees Min Woo watching him direct. He gives a small bow, but doesn’t go over to say hello.
Out in the hallway, Chae Young and Director Oh are having their own private conversation. She’s going to take the project from Director Oh away, which pisses him off because… he just got played! Chae Young hands over the article the reporter gave her about their little coup d’etat. If it had gone out last week as planned, both of them would have been totally ruined. She managed to stop it, and so she kind of expected Director Oh to thank her.
He hides the article in his jacket before Min Woo can see. This time, Chae Young wants Min Woo to help produce this combined-team’s musical. Min Woo isn’t too interested in investing in some amateurs, but Chae Young has the trump card: if he invests in this musical, she will bring in Hades into the performance.
She also has another condition: Min Woo will also have to get rid of the pesky reporter from Hades’/Do Sung’s back.
The cast practices their “You and I” routine with Jae Hun and Soo Bin supervising, and practice takes them all the way through the night. Many fall asleep on the cold floor, while others lean on each other as pillows. Jae Hun wanders around the campus, thinking about Tae Hee, missing Tae Hee.
When he heads back to the school buildings, he senses someone else with him in the dark night. It’s the Red Tracksuit Ghost! But the ghost isn’t talking today. Rather, he just shakes his head, and tries to hold back his tears. The ghost brings Jae Hun’s attention to Prof. Yang coming back from the hospital before disappearing.
With just one look, Jae Hun can read Prof. Yang’s message on her face.
They enter the practice room, both wearing similar somber expressions. Slowly, each student notices their presence and bows in greeting. But neither Jae Hun or Prof. Yang speak. Eventually Byeong Gun sees their expressions, and, understanding, he quickly goes to wake Doo Ri up from her slumber.
She wakes up, and sleepily takes part in the wordless conversation. Doo Ri, “No… it’s not true, right?”
No answer. And that’s the worst. Doo Ri collapses to her knees in tears (as “Seasons of Love” plays in the background). The rest of the students huddle around her, trying to comfort her. Even Soo Bin tries to pat her on the back, but it’s hard for them to comfort her when they’re grieving themselves.
(Show – I have no more tears left!!!! ARGH!!!)
And now, we are at Sun-Man’s funeral. We are back to where we started in episode 1. A photo mosaic of all the students in the musical department creates Sun-Man’s likeness, and it hangs from the church ceiling. The service begins; Sun-Man’s coffin is carried into the church.
Meanwhile, Jae Hun is standing outside, waiting for Tae Hee to arrive from her agency. She slowly makes her way up to the steps, their first time seeing each other in weeks. The both of them struggle to hold back their tears, and Tae Hee leans her head against Jae Hun’s chest, shuddering as the tears fall. He embraces her. Poor girl – she’s lost her aunt, her father, and now her pseudo-uncle.
It’s time for the eulogy. Doo Ri does the honors:
Professor Sunwoo Young, we are here to send you off. When you first walked into our classroom a year ago, we thought that some homeless person walked into our school by mistake. Truthfully, your first lecture made us think you were a jerk. The reason was because we’d never seen someone like you. A soul so free and confident, that’s the kind of person you were. You were always very real.
Tears pouring down her face, it becomes difficult for her to continue.
A haunting, lone, whistle to the tune of their “What’s Up” theme floats down the aisle. Everyone turns back to see who this person is – it’s Jae Hun. (Who else!?)
Do Sung picks up the next line of the melody, and then Byeong Gun continues, picking up the tempo. Soon everyone on Jae Hun’s side of the church are whistling, and they look over to the other side. Sung Jae, the rapper, and Ka Young pick up right after, even with Chae Young staring at them incredulously. Everyone in the church smiles, and then Soo Bin plays his electric violin at the front of the church.
And… Jae Hun stands up, and he leads the students down the aisles as they perform their musical for their professor one last time. It’s a fusion of “What’s Up,” Hades’ rock song, and “You and I” – a mix of rock, classical, hip-hop, and ballad all rolled into one. [download]
As they perform, we see flashes of their year together. From how they first met, to how Do Sung dealt with his mother, to how Byeong Gun gained the confidence to sing, to how Doo Ri discovered the truth of Sun-Man’s disease, to how Tae Hee realized that her dream was to be happy.
Doo Ri takes the solo in “You and I,” and we go from the church to the students’ performance. It doesn’t look like it’s an official performance on a stage, but they are performing to the rest of Haneul Arts school. Everyone – including Chae Young and Tae Hee at the piano – are in this performance. Even Prof. Yang, the reporter, and Detective Cho are in the audience, dancing along!
It’s one big party. It’s one big celebration of life.
These last two episodes may have been the most cathartic episodes ever. How much sadness can one endure!? I must admit that the ending was a bit rushed, and there were two things that irked me completely. The first occurred in episode 19, with the conclusion of Tae Hee’s story.
The second thing that irked me was Do Sung. He was mostly absent until the final episode, and only then, all of a sudden his problem with keeping Hades a secret is resolved. All that had to happen was for Chae Young to take him under her wing. I thought he was composing with Soo Bin – how come he’s not with Soo Bin more!? His story felt unfinished, especially because we never get a confirmation from him that he will sign on with Chae Young. I also was very curious about what the aftermath with his mother could have been. Perhaps his story was meant to continue, or perhaps his story was cut out. Either way, the two strongest and most prominent plot lines faded into the darkness by the end.
Now on to this series as a whole: I don’t know if there could have been a more inspiring series than this one. After a long 2011, this was a shiny diamond hidden under a huge pile of coal that then helped start of 2012 with a bang. I felt like I saw these characters grow up and transform as if they were my own kids; that’s how close I felt to these characters.
This drama kept extolling the virtues of actors being true to themselves; only then could our students bring out their most passionate performances. What I loved was that the actors themselves followed that same idea – their acting as students was phenomenal and real. In every moment of this drama I felt an emotion towards a character, whether it was sympathy, hate, or love. One of my favorite moments was when the students were informed of Sun-Man’s death. It was quiet but emotional, and the fact that it needed no words allowed for the scene to play out poignantly without insulting the intelligence of the viewer. Clearly, these actors put everything they could into this drama.
Perhaps it’s a testament to the writing as well, because Song Ji Na managed to capture the spirit of a student who isn’t a child, but not yet an adult. She trusted her actors to express the correct emotion without giving them so many lines to work with. Perhaps it helped also that not all of the actors were professionals, but some were nobodies selected through an audition process. They had no acting experience, but only their own real life to draw from. Whatever it is, this drama had heart, and it had a wonderful message – to live life to the fullest, and always ask, “What’s up?” You never know what answer you’re going to get by asking yourself, or anyone else, that question.
- What’s Up: Episode 19
- What’s Up: Episodes 17-18
- What’s Up: Episode 16
- What’s Up: Episode 15
- What’s Up: Episode 14
- What’s Up: Episode 13
- What’s Up: Episode 12
- What’s Up: Episode 11
- What’s Up: Episode 10
- What’s Up: Episode 9
- What’s Up: Episodes 7-8
- What’s Up: Episodes 5-6
- What’s Up: Episode 4
- What’s Up: Episode 3
- What’s Up: Episodes 1-2