After extensions and preemptions, weekend suckstravaganza Dr. Jin has finally come to an end. Some would say twenty-two episodes too late. Okay, I said it.
Shows as spectacularly awful as this don’t come around too often, and they aren’t a palate cleanser as much as a sledgehammer to the teeth. To the production team’s credit, I’m all for this kind of mildly forgettable bad (as opposed to completely forgettable blandness). I’ll certainly remember the clown car operating rooms, that time Hyuk cured cancer, and that time Song Seung-heon was so woefully miscast that he became the butt of every joke for the past three(-ish) months.
I’ll miss you, Inexcusably Terrible Show. I’ll miss you for five whole minutes.
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
It’s all out war on Ganghwa Island as French soldiers try to overtake a fort guarded by Korean soldiers. Cannon fire peppers the ground inside, and everything around Young-rae turns into chaos.
In a meeting of the Court, Ha-eung promises to take responsibility and lead additional forces to the island. Dae-gyun tries his hand at political scheming and gets taken to school by Ha-eung, who’s all, The adults are talking. Hee.
Ha-eung goes over the pros and cons of leading the troops with Officer Lee and Young-hwi, who have differing opinions – sure, it’ll be great for Ha-eung’s political career if he wins the war, but what if he loses?
In a move true to history, Ha-eung orders Young-hwi to gather together a special forces unit made of tiger hunters, planning to use their exceptional gunning skills as well as their balls of steel. He also wants Kyung-tak to join them, though Young-hwi isn’t sure that he can be won over.
And lastly, Hyuk crashes the meeting and asks to go with them to Ganghwa Island, because Young-rae is there.
Kyung-tak tries to drown his grief for Daddy Dearest in alcohol, and makes it clear to Young-hwi that he doesn’t want to hear one “I’m sorry” from him the second he shows up. So Young-hwi cuts to the chase – Ha-eung wants him to head to the front line with them tomorrow. In fact, Ha-eung has ordered it.
This earns a scoff from Kyung-tak, who wonders how much more ruin Ha-eung wants to bring upon his family. But Young-hwi paints a different picture – if Kyung-tak is successful in this war, then he has the chance to wipe away the infamy of the Andong Kim clan’s corrupt history and carry his clan into a new age.
Whether he does that, as Young-hwi says, is up to him. Young-hwi: “As a friend, I don’t know what to say. However, I hope you don’t just crumble away and find the will to get up again.”
He leaves Kyung-tak stewing, though Kyung-tak seems to remember that he does have a will, and murmurs Ha-eung’s name in an ominous, assassination-happy voice. If what I think is happening is happening… it better not be.
There’s plenty of fanfare as Ha-eung leads his merry band of extras through the streets as they head off to war. Hyuk and Heo Gwang bring up the rear, with the latter tearfully wishing for Hyuk’s safety as he sends him off.
And Hyuk, being such a historical genius, reminds us in voiceover that he doesn’t remember a history where Ha-eung went to war with the French. O rly? You don’t say. Gee golly, Hyuk, you sure do seem surprised that history is a little different than the way you remember it. How could this have happened?
They’re stopped on their way out by the sound of a horse neighing, which cues Kyung-tak’s reluctant hero entrance. Ha-eung sees him and thanks him (in voiceover), and continues, “Instead of your personal feelings, you have chosen the greater good. You won’t believe me, but I am truly sorry about the Left State Minister.”
Dae-gyun gets his very own alien queen hat and gleefully sits where his father once did as the new head of the Council of Evil, which by now is just the threesome of evil. Wait, that sounds bad.
Doctor Yoo reminds him of the trouble they’ll face if Ha-eung wins the war, but Dae-gyun’s already come up with a plan to stop that from happening. He wants to send men to contact the Western priest (I’m guessing he means Ridel), citing the old adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
We don’t know what the plan is, but we do know that Dae-gyun is going to try to tip the scales enough for Ha-eung to lose the war. But if he loses this war, isn’t it a loss for Joseon? Why are all these people excited about losing a war? There has got to be an easier way to oust Ha-eung than this sorry excuse for a plan, which is getting more nonsensical and convoluted by the second.
Ha-eung strategizes with his buddies (and Kyung-tak) about how they’ll defend a fort vastly outnumbered by French soldiers surrounding it. The isolated fort is in desperate need of a resupply, but there’s extra danger because the fort is in range of the French’s battleship cannons.
Something’s up with Kyung-tak’s silence throughout the planning session… almost like he’s listening in as a spy. Which, let’s face it, he probably is.
However, he pipes up and agrees with Ha-eung that a rash move would be dangerous – they have to wait for the right time to attack without mercy. I’d call that a good strategy if it wasn’t the unspoken and basic strategy of every war ever. How ’bout we contribute some actual strategy, Kyung-tak? I’m imagining a Braveheart level pep talk where he tells his men, “This isn’t the right timing and we’re making a rash move, but yeah! War! No mercy!”
In yet another unsurprisingly jarring cut, we see Young-rae try and fail to ward off starving peasants from stealing the clinic’s rice.
Ha-eung points out Jeongjok Fortress as their last strategic defense point to Kyung-tak, even though it’ll be hard to take the fortress when the French are better armed than they are.
Since they’re alone, Kyung-tak gives Ha-eung the hairy eyeball as he begins to draw his sword… Aww, come on, Kyung-tak. Really? You’re really going to go down this path? You really think assassinating Ha-eung will avenge your dad? You’re really going to not take one thing from your father’s sacrifice and do something stupid? Ugh. If you die this episode, I hope your daddy slaps you one in the afterlife.
Hyuk bursts into the tent (unknowingly waylaying Kyung-tak’s assassination attempt) and throws a temper tantrum. “I hear that people inside the fortress are starving. We should do something about it!” Hyuk yells. This man should not be in charge of anything.
Ha-eung has to finally point out, “When a doctor makes mistakes, you lose one patient. But when a commander makes mistakes, thousands of lives will be lost!” Ha-eung: 1,143. Hyuk: -5,000.
Dae-gyun arranges a secret meeting with Ridel and a French commander, giving them gold and the gift of Ha-eung’s strategy to bring supplies to the fort – if they can stop the supplies from going through, Ha-eung will lose the war.
The commander asks what Dae-gyun gets out of the deal, and Dae-gyun proudly proclaims that once Ha-eung is taken care of the country will be his, and he’ll be willing to work with the French.
O-kay, but then you have to trust that they’ll stop waging war after overtaking one island. Plus the thousands of troops you’re losing in this war which would leave you really open to attack. Basically, Dae-gyun, my grandma could strategize a war better than you.
It’s the middle of the day outside of a war zone and Ha-eung… is taking a nap? Whatever. This is the prone position Kyung-tak finds him in as he readies his dagger to do some assassinating, only to miss at the last second when Hyuk bursts through the tent flap.
He throws himself in front of Ha-eung for protection and tries to talk the ghost of Kyung-tak out of the plan, while Ha-eung tries to talk him into it, and offers his heart for the stabbing.
Hyuk keeps up his position as Ha-eung’s human shield. “If you must kill him, you have to go through me first,” he insists, and Kyung-tak seems fine to oblige. He’s ready to kill Hyuk when nearby cannon fire distracts them, and Hyuk uses the opportunity to body slam Kyung-tak onto a table, effectively disarming him.
Young-hwi arrives as backup and holds a sword to Kyung-tak’s neck. I feel kind of sad for what Kyung-tak has been reduced to – this is almost embarrassing. Scratch that, it’s actually embarrassing.
Ha-eung sees his supply ship go down in flames thanks to Dae-gyun, and decides that with their limited supplies, they can only fight one battle – so they have to make it count.
Hyuk takes himself away from his moping to offer up a war strategy – what if they coordinate an attack with the fortress, and sandwich (or would it be croissant?) the French between their forces and the fortress?
Everyone thinks that’s a great idea, but it depends on how synchronized the attack is. Hyuk volunteers to alert the fortress.
But he doesn’t want to go alone, since he recruits Kyung-tak to send the message to the fortress while he gets Young-rae out. He knows Kyung-tak loathes both him and Ha-eung but implores him to help save Young-rae, who might share the same bad fate with Mina.
Hasn’t it been like five minutes since Kyung-tak tried to kill him and Ha-eung? Why on earth would you trust someone like that with delivering a message that could decide the course of a war? In what universe does this make sense?
Ha-eung even sends him off with no hard feelings, which is almost sadder for Kyung-tak because no one takes him seriously. Assassination attempt? Pfft, it was just a Kyung-tak temper tantrum. No biggie.
Ha-eung: “The future of Joseon is in your hands, Doctor Jin.” (That is the worst possible place it could be.) Hyuk and Ha-eung share what sounds like their final goodbyes, even though Ha-eung asks if they’ll ever see each other alive again.
“We’ll meet again, definitely.” Hyuk says, and Ha-eung believes him.
In the dead of night, Hyuk and Kyung-tak try to find a way to sneak into the guarded fort. It’s not long before Hyuk is found by a French soldier, but Kyung-tak swiftly slices him down.
At Hyuk’s shocked face, Kyung-tak deadpans, “What? Are you going to perform surgery on him or something?” HA. Where was snarky, deadpan-y Kyung-tak this entire series?
Ha-eung readies his own troops, and tells Young-hwi that they’ll wait for Hyuk’s signal before they attack.
Our ambiguously heroic duo get caught by Korean soldiers, who drag them into the fortress thinking that they’re spies. Luckily, Young-rae spots them and clears them of suspicion.
When he finds out that Young-rae came to the fortress to die (since she found out about Mina dying in the future), Hyuk has a shining moment of finally being the second biggest idiot in the room instead of the first, and chastises her for believing that she shares the same fate as Mina. Even though he just told Kyung-tak that he believes she shares the same fate as Mina. Whatever, consistency was never Hyuk’s strong point.
Either way, idiocy loves company, and Hyuk decides to stay at the fortress with her.
Kyung-tak successfully delivers the strategy message to the soldiers in the fortress, and they wave the signal flag to Ha-eung the morning of the battle. Ha-eung prepares his men to execute the plan.
Kyung-tak battles throat cancer while his men battle the French, who’ve set up positions outside the fortress with guns and cannon fire. It’s all out war, and Hyuk and Young-rae are busy tending to the wounded.
Just when things are looking grim, Ha-eung’s men advance from the rear and start to move in on the French battalion. Cannon fire keeps pelting the fortress and it’s too close to the trauma tent for Hyuk’s liking, so he and Young-rae help move the patients to a safer spot.
Kyung-tak mans the front lines and throws himself into the thick of battle once the French break down the door and start funneling into the fortress. Hyuk finds Young-rae missing while they take a secret path out, and heads back toward the battle, finding her huddled near the clinic tent.
He protects her from nearby cannon fire, and she hurriedly hands him Mina’s ring, which she’d been keeping all this time. Their escape path is soon blocked by French soldiers, until Kyung-tak arrives to drunkenly swing his sword around, providing them an escape route while he keeps the soldiers busy, looking like he’s already got one foot in the afterlife.
Hyuk goes back to save Kyung-tak, but not soon enough to save him from getting two stomach stabs from a bayonet. Hyuk kills the soldier and does that thing where he looks at blood on his hands like he’s never seen it before, you know the one I’m talking about.
Young-rae panics over Kyung-tak’s condition, and it’s clear from Hyuk’s facial expression that he’s dying. Cue inappropriately timed romantic ballad while he delivers his dying words, which happen to be ones he’s said to her before: “No matter what the world says, you’re mine. My lover.”
And with that, Kyung-tak dies.
Now that I’m wearing black; remember the candlelit breast exam, when the romantic ballad cut off the second he found a lump? Same thing here, only the abrupt cutoff comes in the form of a cannonball exploding nearby.
However, Young-rae gets stabbed by shrapnel and loses consciousness. Hyuk gives that “What is this foreign substance?” look at his bloody hands again before he carries her to the clinic. Lordy, is that a rock wedged in her tummy?
Young-rae stops him from going through with the surgery, claiming that this is her fate, because it was Mina’s fate. She doesn’t want him to interfere and disappear like Chun-hong said, but Hyuk insists tearfully, “If I let you go like this, then all the time that I spent here will become meaningless. Even though I lost her… at least I will save you.”
He puts the anesthesia mask on her and prepares for surgery.
Meanwhile, Young-hwi informs Ha-eung that the French soldiers are on the retreat, which means they’re winning.
The Jar Fetus brain zaps Hyuk just as he’s about to start the surgery, with that disembodied voice saying: “I must go back.” I love that Hyuk is talking to the fetus in his brain by saying “No, not right now!” Ha.
Without gloves and with his hands shaking like a leaf, Hyuk pulls the rock out of Young-rae and starts suturing.
Meanwhile, soldiers bring Kyung-tak’s dead body to Young-hwi, who breaks my heart when he tearfully holds his old friend and speaks to him as though he were alive. This is surprisingly super, super sad.
Young-hwi eventually just devolves into sobs and makes me curse the day the writers gave up on Kyung-tak.
Hyuk finishes suturing Young-rae up and heads to the well, where a wounded French soldier bayonets him in the stomach. Hyuk has a vision of the Bandaged Man, and again, he doesn’t want to go back.
So he randomly crawls up a high wall, which I’m hoping is part of his back to the future plan and not just because it was in the script. He thinks of Young-rae, then Mina, before he falls off the wall.
Fade to white.
Hyuk wakes up in the hospital (of the fuuuture!) with a bandage on his head. Oh hell no, are they pulling a This was all a dream! on us?
His colleague tells him the surgery was successful, but Hyuk still stumbles down the hall to Mina’s room… where she’s not dead. He grabs her hand in relief and tells her: “Oppa is back. Oppa came back from very far away. Mina… you’ve been alright so far. So nothing will happen to you. Don’t worry, got it? Don’t worry.”
We find him back on the hospital roof trying to absorb that he’s really come back to the future. His colleague meets him for some verbal exposition – he disappeared from the hospital and was found on Ganghwa Island only a day after, wearing a “strange outfit.”
Best part? The colleague is all, Oh yeah! They found a strange tumor in your head and removed it. Which, like, what? He gets brain surgery and gets one whole decorative ribbon as a bandage? C’mon, people.
Hyuk wants to know about that other guy with the brain fetus they removed, but his colleague has no idea what he’s talking about. He tells Hyuk that the brain fetus was removed from his brain. There was no other patient or brain fetus.
Hyuk deduces the obvious – something has changed. In this universe, he didn’t fall off the hospital roof, but just disappeared and reappeared on an island a day later. After four days of surgery he woke up, and no one remembers the Bandaged Man.
Lo and behold, he sees Chun-hong Lite wheel her way around with her rubik’s cube, but she wheels the other way as soon as she sees him. He doesn’t get a chance to follow her when chaos breaks out in Mina’s room, since she’s flatlining.
Hyuk starts emergency resuscitation, and actually stops in the middle to think of Chun-hong’s dying words that Mina was already dead. He refuses to believe it and doctors harder, eventually performing the holy grail of medical dramas: The Dramatic Defibrillator.
Cue flashback of all his times with Young-rae as he desperately tries to save Mina. I love that one of his memories is of her chest squirting blood during the cancer surgery.
His colleague urges him to give up, but Hyuk refuses and only pumps her chest harder, saying, “If it was going to end like this, then why?!”
Back in the past, we see Young-rae wake from surgery. And of course, at the same time, Mina’s heart starts beating again in the future.
Hyuk finds Mini Chun-hong in the hallway, and surprises her by knowing her name and where she came from. He assures her that she’ll get to go back to her own time, but asks for a favor: “Later, when you become an adult, you might see me again. When you see me then, make sure you mention this: That the person called Mina… woke up safely.”
He thanks her, and apologizes for misunderstanding her most of the time. He realizes that originally, Chun-hong heard that Mina was supposed to die from the Bandaged Man. Hyuk wonders if that man came back to this world to save Young-rae. Hyuk wonders, in voiceover: “Could he be… yet another me?”
So Hyuk runs to his local library (gasp! History he doesn’t already know? Pinch me.) and finds a faint record of Young-rae working as a doctor in Joseon. He sighs in relief that she lived, and wonders if that means Mina will be okay.
He keeps vigil by her bedside until she wakes up from her coma. He cries from relief, and she whispers, “I… had a very long and strange dream. For a dream, it was too vivid…” He’s stopped dead in his tracks when she calls him “Doctor Jin”, using the Joseon word that Young-rae always called him.
Mina claims that’s what she called him in her dream. “Isn’t it strange?” she wonders. “You probably won’t believe me if I say it to you.” But Hyuk is overwhelmed as he assures her that no, he’ll believe it.
“Thank you,” Mina ekes out. “And… I’m sorry, Oppa.” Hyuk just cries.
There’s a brief fake out when we see a good ol’ fashioned Joseon sword fight, but it’s just a show for the tourists. Hyuk is among them, and stands on the palace grounds where he once did with Ha-eung.
And then… Ha-eung stands right next to him, with Hyuk happy to see him. I’m sure it’s a vision but the fact that he’s talking to it is a little weird. Either way, Vision Ha-eung remarks on this modern Joseon happily, and Hyuk smiles: “No matter where we are, people’s joy, anger, happiness, and pleasure are all the same.”
He asks Ha-eung if he achieved the Joseon he dreamed of, and Ha-eung tells him that he can come back to the past if he’s so curious. Hyuk declines because he has Mina to protect, and Ha-eung nods his understanding.
Ha-eung: “Doctor Jin. I think I will miss you a lot.” Hyuk: “I… will never forget you.” Aww. This show is so awful, but this moment has me all choked up. Especially when they exchange inside jokes from their first meeting, and when Ha-eung calls him “100 Nyang”, just like old times.
As Ha-eung walks off into oblivion, Hyuk tells us that he didn’t ask if Young-rae was doing well, since he knows that if Mina is safe and happy here, so is Young-rae.
Hyuk brings the engagement ring (which was found in his “strange outfit”) to Mina, and slips it on her finger as he explains that he was going to propose the day of the accident.
Holding her hand, he asks, “Oppa’s not too late, right?” She smiles. He smiles.
I thought I was pretty resigned to having a terrible ending for a terrible show, but this finale was supercalijinilisticterribleidocious. On one end of the spectrum I’m both awed and amazed that the writers gave us such a hearty middle finger by not answering any of the problems they set up, and on the other, I’m just trying to figure out what story I was being told for the last twenty-two episodes, and for that matter, why that story needed to be told at all.
First thing’s first: Kyung-tak’s death. No surprise there, since his fate was pretty much guaranteed the moment he showed up on screen. For one of the few characters I actually found interesting, it was sad to see his trajectory spiral downward from episode one. There was potential for him to go places and do things, but he never went to those places, nor did he do those things. If the show had one message to convey that it actually worked at conveying, it’s that Kyung-tak’s life sucked, and then he died.
His trajectory was maybe one of the more thought-out ones in the series, and Jaejoong really did put his all into the role and acted his heart out until the bitter end. But let’s face it, Kyung-tak was a crappy character. Slightly less crappy than the other characters, but crappy nonetheless – and there’s only so much an actor can do.
There was such a wasted opportunity for him to make a redeeming change in this episode, but instead Kyung-tak felt like killing Ha-eung just so he could be magnanimously forgiven afterward, even though he almost killed Ha-eung once by, yunno, shooting him in the chest. I’m glad(?) all was forgiven but it just doesn’t make sense that Hyuk and Ha-eung would be chomping at the bit to trust Kyung-tak with country-saving information. Surely any other warm body would do, right? Unless they really just saw him and his assassination attempts as a cry for help and… you know what, I’m not even going to try. It’s just no use.
So then we went from Assassination Kyung-tak to Zombie Kyung-tak, and sort of glossed over the reason behind helping Hyuk, though I’d guess it had something to do with Young-rae. I don’t quite know what the intention was with having his final words be totally irrelevant, and it just cemented the fact that Kyung-tak never lived for himself because he thought it was his “fate”, which is one of the worst cop-outs. Ever.
Except that’s really just a cop-out blip on the cop-out radar that was this entire finale. I’d normally guess that the writers had no idea how they were going to end the show when they started it, but then I remember that this is an adaptation from a successful Japanese drama, and wonder why they couldn’t have just stolen that drama’s ending so at least this nonsense could make some godforsaken sense.
If I understood what this episode was trying to say, it’s that Young-rae and Mina have this metaphysical tie that only works sometimes, or one way – and either way, Young-rae’s health impacts Mina in the future. Hyuk figured this out at some point, or something, and got fatally wounded for no reason in the past so he could walk up a random wall and fall into the future, where his brain fetus was promptly removed offscreen. The end.
Except he fell into a world where the the Bandaged Man never existed. Where Chun-hong was still a child. Where no questions were ever answered. Where Mina and Young-rae are the same person kind of sort of because Mina dreamed she was Young-rae.
Most of all, a world where history vaguely remembers Young-rae but not the fact that Hyuk cured cholera, cancer, syphilis, arsenic poisoning, bullet wounds, shrapnel wounds, gastric ulcers, neck tumors, breech births, blood clots, ear bugs, brain tumors, tummy branches, and pretty much everything except Kyung-tak’s bayonet wounds.
Where all the questions this show initially set up (Brain fetus! Bandaged man!) were given a passing mention at best but no resolution at all. Where nothing made sense. Ever. Maybe it really is Jinception, and Hyuk is just in a parallel universe within a parallel universe where he gets to live happily with Mina. Or maybe he’s still dreaming this all up from a hospital bed. Or maybe he died in the past from that stomach wound and this is all the afterlife. Maybe any one of those explanations would be more palatable than the negative amount of explanations we were given.
Still, there’s only so much ranting to be done in the scope of this sheer level of fail, and I’m pretty sure I filled that quota. At the end of the day this show was one big kingly fart that we’re all waiting to air out of the room. Did that fart mean anything? No. Were the comments fun? Yes. You all helped turn Dr. Jin into something to look forward to, and for that I’m grateful. Thanks for the laughs. And as they say in Jin, we’ll meet again.
…But hopefully on a show that sucks just a little less.
- Dr. Jin: Episode 21
- Dr. Jin: Episode 20
- Dr. Jin: Episode 19
- Dr. Jin: Episode 18
- Dr. Jin: Episode 17
- Dr. Jin: Episode 16
- Dr. Jin: Episode 15
- Dr. Jin: Episode 14
- Dr. Jin: Episode 13
- Dr. Jin: Episode 12
- Dr. Jin: Episode 11
- Dr. Jin: Episode 10
- Dr. Jin: Episode 9
- Dr. Jin: Episode 8
- Dr. Jin: Episode 7
- Dr. Jin: Episode 6
- Dr. Jin: Episode 5
- Dr. Jin: Episode 4
- Dr. Jin: Episode 3
- Dr. Jin: Episode 2
- Dr. Jin: Episode 1