School 2013: Episode 16 (Final)
It’s time for School 2013 to come to an end, and what a ride it was. Talk about an emotional ride—poignant, wrenching, and yes, even a touch bleak at times. But what it gives us at the end of the day is an uplifting sense of closure, not with ends tied tightly and triple-knotted for neatness but in a sense that we’re at a changing of the seasons of life. We leave these characters with a sense that they’re looking forward to their futures, with hope and promise down the line.
SONG OF THE DAY
Never Mind – “눈물비” (Rain of tears) [ Download ]
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
After receiving word that Nari is safe at home, Se-chan slumps down, shaken by his fears that history was about to repeat himself. He tells In-jae that the student who died on his back had been a troublemaker, always cutting class and fighting. After her father’s business went bust and he went to prison, her family broke up, and when she came to see him he put her off.
He doesn’t let himself off the hook either, saying that he had an inkling something was different that day, but still he let it slide. He starts to break down.
It’s enough to keep him home the next day, which he takes off. He leaves In-jae in charge of his class.
I love how our two groups of rebels have now teamed up to become a sort of superteam, and they (minus Jung-ho) gather to worry about this latest problem. With Ha-kyung injured by Jung-ho’s outburst and her mother taking this up with the school, it’s not looking good.
We know that he was provoked by the mean girl’s accusation of thievery, but unless she speaks up this information won’t do them any good. I know I said I hated her too much to learn her name but I suppose for clarity’s sake it’s worth using; her name’s Eun-hye. But I still think of her as She Who Does Not Deserve To Be Named.
Ji-hoon blames himself for being the reason Jung-ho got so upset, and tries persuading Eun-hye to help them. This goes about as well as you’d expect. Eun-hye says in her infuriatingly haughty way that she did nothing wrong and only repeated something that her fellow mean girl Kyung-min said. Both girls basically sniff that everything was Jung-ho’s fault.
The guys are fuming but they hold back, and Yi-kyung gives up trying to get their help—clearly Eun-hye’s not going to do anything. Still, he demands that she apologize to Ji-hoon for calling him a thief. She refuses, stirring their tempers even more, and at this Heung-soo and Nam-soon decide to step in.
Unfortunately, they’re about two steps too slow. In-jae arrives in class, sees the angry boys grabbing the girls’ arms, and takes them all away for a talking-to.
On the upside, at least In-jae doesn’t automatically assume the boys were instigating a fight. She seems to have the pulse on the problem, and sits the four of them—Yi-kyung, Ji-hoon, and Mean Girls 1 and 2—down to write punishment essays.
Not content with making the boys’ (and our) blood boil, Eun-hye gives major ‘tude to In-jae, saying that she can’t miss English class, asking if In-jae will be responsible for her lapse in education. Gah, this girl. Hate her so much. Frankly I’m relieved this is the last episode so I know she can’t stir up too much crap at this stage, and the knowledge that the world is peppered with Eun-hyes is just something I’m going to have to be in denial over for a while.
In-jae takes Eun-hye aside to her office, telling her that there are more important things in this world than good grades. Eun-hye points out that the world doesn’t treat you like a person unless you’re well educated, so what does a good personality matter if you’re a bad student anyway?
In-jae counters that it also means nothing to be a good student who has so little grasp of right and wrong. Eun-hye huffs that she suspected those boys of stealing because they deserve to be the brunt of suspicion—she wouldn’t have doubted someone like Min-ki. Gah. Can I slap her?
In-jae says firmly that nobody in this world “deserves to be the brunt” of suspicion, which goes in one ear, out the other. But Uhmforce has been listening from his desk, and he steps in to suggest a disciplinary hearing for school violence. And Eun-hye is the offender: She spread false rumors based on nothing, which is an act of violence, and under the school rules she’s subject to a hearing.
That instills a bit of fear, and Eun-hye loses her strident air, apologizing. Uhmforce instructs her to apologize to the boys and write an essay for In-jae, and he’ll consider letting go of the hearing.
Clearly he hadn’t intended to go forth with the disciplinary hearing, though he does sigh that it’s a problem when such a threat is the only thing to get the kid to even show a pretense of remorse. Neither believes that Eun-hye means her apology, but Uhmforce says that for now at least she acknowledges the wrongdoing outwardly.
So they return to the room where the others are writing the essays, and Eun-hye manages to eke out a mere “Sorry.” In-jae presses her to really mean it, but Eun-hye grits out that she put a lot of effort into this much, and adds the snappish warning that her mother will be giving her a call.
In-jae starts writing a text to check on Se-chan, but stops because she doesn’t know what to say. He’s much in the same condition, contemplating his phone and starting and stopping a message of his own—to Nari. Aw. He taps out, “Are you okay?” but ends up deleting it. Seconds later, he gets In-jae’s message: “Are you okay?”
In class, phone-theft victim Hye-sun glumly thinks over her fractured relationship with Nari, reading over Nari’s notes about how she wishes they’d be in the same class next year, and go to the same college. Now Hye-sun remembers Nari slipping her that note that day she got distracted, and looks around for it. She can’t find it, so she slides over to Nari’s desk and finds the paper crumpled up in her desk.
In addition to the original message, Nari has scrawled a bunch of other notes, like “I didn’t mean to” and “Will you forgive me?”
Nam-soon hesitantly asks Ha-kyung if she can do something about the school violence complaint against Jung-ho. She says nobody’s likely to win that battle against her mother, and mutters that it’s embarrassing as hell to have her mother interfere like that. And Nam-soon’s request makes her feel even worse.
Jung-ho’s still at his school cleanup duty, and his friends find him out sorting the trash. Yi-kyung asks whether he’s told his father about his upcoming hearing (he hasn’t), and then to the surprise of all, Ji-hoon speaks up: “Thank you. And sorry.”
It’s unexpected, but he also means it; Jung-ho’s never been one to express his feelings in words but he sure stepped up in Ji-hoon’s defense, even though that landed him in this mess. Ji-hoon wonders if begging Ha-kyung’s mother will do any good, an idea that Jung-ho rejects immediately, threatening “You’re dead” if he does.
But as he walks off, Yi-kyung mutters that he’s always just saying “you’re dead,” and adds, “I’m not giving up on you.” Ji-hoon sighs that they’d all promised each other they’d graduate together.
Uhmforce takes the angry call from Eun-hye’s mother, who calls his disciplinary move a threat. Uhmforce handles it very well, all things considered, saying that he’s sorry for Eun-hye’s “emotional distress,” but that she had to be corrected for her wrongdoing. The other teachers sigh that it’s no good trying to teach these kids when their parents are insisting that they didn’t do anything wrong.
Teacher Jo asks if something is going on with Se-chan, and as a roundabout way of answer, In-jae muses that teaching is a job where you can let kids slip by you pretty easily. She asks what Teacher Jo did when that happened to him.
He tells her that people aren’t perfect, and a teacher can’t predict what’ll happen—you can only tell yourself to try a little harder, to pay a little more attention next time.
In-jae calls Se-chan to a cafe just to check that he’s really okay, smiling in relief when he assures her that he’ll be returning to school. Seeing how worried she’d been, he jokes that he’ll have to ditch classes every once in a while, to keep her concerned. Aw.
The boys enter Nam-soon’s room armed with stacks of manhwa books and tons of junk food. Preparing my heart for an overload of squee… okay, let me have it!
They remind each other of their long-standing rules—first one to talk has to be the other’s servant. But they seem to let that slide as Heung-soo asks what Nam-soon did when he quit school the last time, and why he went back when he never liked it.
Nam-soon says he spent most of his time just sleeping, until finally he figured he should leave the house. But there was nowhere to go wandering the streets—just school. Plus, he remembered his mom telling him to graduate high school. Heung-soo smiles and tells him in his typically gruff way, “Good for you, bastard.”
Then Nam-soon orders Heung-soo to get him water, servant. HA. Heung-soo totally forgot the rules, but grudgingly complies, and Nam-soon totally milks it. Which leads to a pillow fight that ends thusly:
Nari comes to school the next day, but loses her nerve at the school gates. She gets a text from Hye-sun, who shows up to show her wryly that her brand-new smartphone has been swapped for a dumb phone just like Nari’s; Dad took it away for her poor grades.
Nari asks her friend if she hates her, surprised at her friendliness. Hye-sun admits that she does kinda, but she still likes her too. That unleashes the dam, and Nari starts to cry as she blurts out that she really didn’t mean to steal the phone, it’s just that she was so upset…
Hye-sun tells her to tell her how she feels in words next time. Nari’s scared to face her class in case they make her the outcast, but Hye-sun assures her she’ll stick with her.
Sure enough, the students see them together and circle the wagons, all ready to give Nari a hard time. But Hye-sun tells the class Nari actually borrowed the phone, and it’s only because she got distracted that she never read Nari’s note telling her so. Aw, that’s sweet of her. I don’t know if it’s a relief or an extra pinch of salt in the wound that the kids let it drop right away with that innocuous explanation; they can turn things into such miserable experiences on a mere whim.
As Nari waits by Se-chan’s empty desk, In-jae bites her nails hoping that he’ll come in today. When he walks through the door she beams at him, although he’s not looking quite his normal self with his shoulders slumped more than usual. Nari offers Se-chan a box of cookies with a thank-you note written on the front (and another of her patented “I couldn’t do my homework because I was so emotionally distraught” excuses, haha), adding shyly that it was the most expensive snack at the stand.
Se-chan says he’ll consider the gift accepted but tells her to eat the cookies herself, which seems like a nice thing to say but also sort of feels like rejection. Then he adds that In-jae will take over supervising her homework, and Nari leaves with her shoulders droopy.
Remedial class. In-jae says they have ten minutes left, and Young-woo adorably asks, “Are we gonna write p-poetry?” The other boys shoot him alarmed looks. Ha.
But instead, she turns over the floor to Ji-hoon, who has something to say. He’s written it out in advance and reads from his note awkwardly, “I don’t know what I should say….”
But he’s too mortified and asks for permission to just give the note to Young-woo to read. We don’t get to hear what it says, but after class Young-woo comes up to Ji-hoon saying sweetly, “T-thanks. For ap-pologizing. Actually, I wasn’t okay about it. But I think I will be now.”
Young-woo waves his hand goodbye, and Ji-hoon waves back at him. He admits to his friends that after writing his punishment essay (the kind that makes you reflect on your wrongs) he kept tripping on old wrongs, and reminds Yi-kyung that he felt sorry too.
Jung-ho remains silent throughout, but Ji-hoon sees that he probably feels the same and adds that his apology will cover Jung-ho’s too. The boys catch up to him and sling an arm around Jung-ho, to which Nam-soon wonders why he feels secondhand embarrassment for them for making such a big show of the apology.
Nari hangs back after class to say something to Se-chan, starting out by saying that at first she didn’t really like him. He never woke her up in class, and when a teacher doesn’t even bother to wake you up, it kinda makes you feel bad. “But now, I hope you can be my homeroom teacher next year too.” It’s sweet, yet it seems to weigh even more heavily on Se-chan’s mind.
Jung-ho’s disciplinary hearing is only a day away, and In-jae urges him to ask his father to come—it might help his case to have him present on his behalf. Jung-ho brushes it aside, since that is clearly not an option.
Se-chan cautions her against calling Dad, saying that Jung-ho probably has a good reason for keeping him out of the loop. Still, she can’t help feel that she has to at least try.
…and the next thing we know, Jung-ho’s in the hospital, having had the stuffing beat out of him. Ack! (I do find it heartwarming that his friends called Nam-soon and Heung-soo (and that they run over in a hurry), saying that they didn’t know anybody else to call. Do they figure four heads are better than two?)
There’s another problem, though, because nobody has the money to pay the hospital bill. Nam-soon and Heung-soo step aside to discuss what to do—isn’t it cute how they do that, like parents?—and figure that they ought to call the teacher about this.
In-jae gets the call while at school that night, and bursts into the office to ask Se-chan about it—only she sees that he’s there late contemplating his resignation letter. Oh no. He says that he’d gotten much more entangled in his students’ lives than he’d intended, and now he has to cut those ties as quickly as possible.
It’s a setback, but one I totally understand given the trauma of his first life as a teacher and his need to set up defenses against that kind of thing happening again. Looks like that thing with Nari really gave him a scare—not only about her well-being but in recognizing that he cared so much. In-jae asks in disappointment, “After holding onto them like that, you’re just going to go like this?”
But she has the more pressing concern of Jung-ho to attend to and runs to the hospital, asking who did this to him. Yi-kyung mouths at her “Father,” and she realizes what must have happened. It takes the wind right out of her sails.
Jung-ho can’t stay the night at the hospital, so she asks if any of the boys can put him up for the night. It looks like the others can’t, but thankfully they have Heung-soo there to offer up Nam-soon’s house. Hee.
In-jae calls Se-chan afterward for some advice/consolation, thoroughly dejected from the realization that she triggered his father’s anger and caused the beating. It’s all her fault, she says glumly. Se-chan corrects her: “No, it’s the fault of the person who hits.”
She asks what can be done about his situation, and Se-chan gives her the sad truth that protective services won’t be much help to kids like Jung-ho. He adds with sad resignation, “One must take care of one’s own life.”
In-jae recognizes Se-chan distancing himself again, and asks with tears pooling in her eyes, “Have you really let go? How easy, letting go. But what’s the difference between losing something and letting it go? Losing something hurts, but is letting go okay?” Oof. Good questions.
Slumber party at Nam-soon’s house! Jung-ho has been silent this whole time and goes right to bed, facing the wall. Yi-kyung and Ji-hoon just spread out bedding right next to him, to Nam-soon’s disbelief, ignoring his urging for them to go home. They’re all, And leave Jung-ho? No way! A-dor-a-ble.
Again, Nam-soon and Heung-soo totally look like they’ve turned into the parents. Hm, who’s the dad, and who’s the mom?
Oh well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. So Heung-soo pulls out more bedding and spreads it out for himself. Nam-soon gripes, “Aren’t you gonna get up?!” Answer: Snooooooore.
He finally gives up and settles in to join them, next to Heung-soo of course. Lights off, they head off to sleep. Except by the wall, Jung-ho opens his eyes, having been awake the whole time.
In the morning, Se-chan arrives before everyone and places his resignation letter on Uhmforce’s desk.
The five musketeers file into class together, and one look at Jung-ho’s battered face sets off a new wave of gossip. Nam-soon pulls Ha-kyung aside to pay her back for the tardy pig incident, and she asks whether they’ve found a solution to the Jung-ho situation since her mom isn’t budging.
Nam-soon informs her that the victim doesn’t show up to the hearing, they can’t proceed. She practically rolls her eyes at him—now he says so! Aw, I love that she doesn’t even consider the alternative; of course she’d help.
Se-chan comes face to face with Jung-ho in the hallway, and can’t quite dismiss him despite his obvious wish that he could. He tells him he should’ve run away from the beating, and asks if he’s eaten.
Meanwhile, Yi-kyung and Ji-hoon nervously await Ha-kyung’s mother in the lobby, bowing respectfully and introducing themselves. The instant she hears they’re Jung-ho’s friends her eyes narrow like they’re scum, and huffily ignores their plea to forgive the accident. Jung-ho witnesses the scene as she storms off.
Disciplinary hearing. The suggestion to go light on Jung-ho’s punishment is dismissed immediately, because Principal Im points out the ramifications—it’ll give the school the reputation for going easy on delinquents, attracting more of them, and the good students will all leave, blaming the teachers. Principal Im says she doesn’t want to expel Jung-ho either—and to give her credit, I believe her—but her duty is to the school, and he’s been given enough chances.
In-jae leads Jung-ho to the meeting, giving him some final words of encouragement, asking him to put in a good appearance because she really wants him to stay at school. So it’s to everybody’s utter shock that Jung-ho finally opens his mouth to ask for a second chance. He even admits that he was wrong and says that he’ll do better in the future.
Of course, he says it in his gruff, grudging way—but all the teachers recognize what a huge leap forward this is for him. Not Ha-kyung’s mother, though, who sniffs at his poor attempt at supplication.
Ha-kyung slips out of school with Kang-joo, jumping the fence to ditch for the rest of the day. Kang-joo wonders, “For Oh Jung-ho?” She replies, s”No, for me.” After all, who wants to be the reason some kid got expelled? They race away, giggling.
Thus Ha-kyung doesn’t show at the hearing, and she sends In-jae a text: “Please tell my mom I’m playing hooky.” Ha.
All this does is delay the hearing another two weeks, and Ha-kyung’s mother says she’ll see them then. In-jae’s plea to reconsider falls on deaf ears, but now Se-chan speaks up—and as we’ve seen, he does have a particular persuasiveness with parents. Even when he’s giving them unpleasant news, they listen.
He presses Mom to consider why Ha-kyung ditched the meeting, reminding her that Ha-kyung was the offender against Kang-joo in that incident with the ruler. How must Ha-kyung feel with her mother wielding her power to slide her school-violence case under the rug while insisting on expelling Jung-ho?
His words are effective, and Mom drops the case. In-jae, perhaps sensing a turnaround for Se-chan, asks him to give Jung-ho the news.
Se-chan does, and asks Jung-ho if he wants to leave home. Jung-ho’s voice breaks on the question, “Where would I go?”
Se-chan gives him materials on a teenage shelter and tells him to think on it, and to come to him for help.
Jung-ho spends one more night with Nam-soon (and Heung-soo), but leaves in the middle of it, and morning finds him wandering the streets, looking pensive.
At school, Teacher Jo hands Se-chan’s resignation letter back, asking him to consider. Se-chan admits, “The kids are too heavy.”
Teacher Jo agrees that they can be, if he’s trying to be responsible for their lives through the end. But teaching isn’t about that—they’re just there to hold out a hand for the short time they’re passing by in the students’ lives. And if they should form connections, all the better—because even the most desolate kids might not fall apart because they have that thread.
He assures Se-chan that nobody ever fell to ruin just because of one person, and urges him to let go of his burden just a bit. Se-chan listens, but doesn’t take his letter back.
Jung-ho doesn’t show up to school, and that has In-jae fretting up a storm—he can’t face more truancy just when he’s just faced threat of expulsion. Only, an even more distressing text comes in from Jung-ho, stating his intent to quit school altogether.
Immediately In-jae gets up, ready to track him down. Se-chan balks, but when Teacher Jo offers to take over the class, he heaves a sigh and grabs his coat.
The teachers try Jung-ho’s house, and his friends scour the usual haunts trying to locate him. No dice. He doesn’t turn up at home, nor does he at school the next day.
Se-chan keeps waiting outside his house, though, and the next night Jung-ho finally does come home. Turns out that his father got hurt, and that means Jung-ho needs to earn money to stay afloat. Se-chan urges him to go to school anyway while they figure out a solution, and in desperation he even offers to help him with money.
Jung-ho asks him how long he’d do that—a month? Two? What about next year? “Are you going to give money to every bastard like me you come across?” He knows he wouldn’t be able to pay back the debt, and since there’s no hope of college, he may as well enter the workforce early.
“So let go now,” he says. He means physically, referring to Se-chan’s death grip on his arm. Se-chan doesn’t for a long moment, but slowly the words sink in and he lets go, ever so slowly. Even Jung-ho looks a little stricken by it, not wanting to be let go.
But as he heads inside, he turns to give Se-chan one last teary promise: “Don’t worry too much. I won’t live doing bad things.”
Se-chan laugh-cries in response, sort of quietly devastated. When he returns to school, he gives In-jae a long, speaking glance through the classroom window. Rueful, perhaps.
But when he returns to his desk, he rips up his resignation.
Some time passes, and then they’re at the end of the semester and it’s time for the class to move up a year. In-jae’s still at her phone, texting Jung-ho that if he comes today, he can still advance to the third year.
Se-chan sees what she’s up to, noting that she’s still at it. As the head out to class, she asks if he’ll come back to teach next year. He asks the same of her, and she half-jokes that she will if he will.
Together, they congratulate their class as third-years, and dismiss them for the day.
The students file out, and Nam-soon and Heung-soo head up to the roof where they marvel at the fact that they’ve both made it to this, their final year of high school. They wonder what they’ve got planned for the future now, and Nam-soon answers that he’ll have to start thinking about it. Heung-soo answers likewise.
In-jae stays behind in her class, looking at Jung-ho’s empty seat. She’s hopeful even now, as someone enters the classroom—but it’s just Se-chan.
He knows what she’s hoping, and points out that the schoolday’s not over yet. They beam at each other and stick around. She’ll keep waiting.
Oof, what an ending. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the end even as the minutes ticked down and I saw that there was so little time left—how to resolve the Jung-ho situation and give a sense of closure about the rest of the characters’ lives? I fully expected Jung-ho to come back to school until quite late, but ultimately I’m really pleased with the way this drama handled his character and his storyline.
The thing is, if they had won him the right to stay at school and then sent us off on a hopeful note that he would graduate along with his best friends, half of me would have loved it, while the other half would have been rolling my eyes at the neatness of the resolution. In the scheme of things, while this way leaves a sense of bittersweetness behind, I appreciate what it means for the story—and I mean for reasons other than simply “It’s more realistic.” (I hate when bad things happen for seemingly no narrative purpose and then get explained away as being realistic. Realistic doesn’t guarantee that a story makes sense!)
What it does, though, is turn the story back around to a different message, one that is ultimately more uplifting, I think, even if it ends with a bit of a heart-breaker for Jung-ho himself. What I didn’t want this show to be about was delivering the message that at the end of the day, all a troubled soul needs is a caring teacher to have faith in order to straighten out and live right. Not for this kind of story, which lives in a world that’s similar enough to our real world that the logic does need to reflect some real-world resonance, and that seems like the wishful thinking version.
Instead, it gives us the moment of realization for Se-chan to have to actually let go, to see that this is as far as his role in this kid’s life takes him. He can help, but he can’t take over Jung-ho’s life or become his new father figure. Se-chan’s struggle is with extremes, either caring too much or not at all.
But there was that lovely scene with Teacher Jo where he talks of holding out your hand while you have these students in your keeping, but not feeling that you are a success or a failure based on how those kids do. For a teacher, I think that’s one of the hardest struggles, balancing how much to care. But it’s a valuable insight, to know that you don’t have to be everything in order to be something. And a freeing one.
By the way, I do think they give us hope with Jung-ho as well; it’s just a different kind than may have been expected with the expulsion storyline. The true moment of hope for him was when he promised Se-chan he would live right. He might not finish school and his future may be riddled with hardship, but he’s gonna live honestly. And that, really, was when I felt he would be okay. Had he stayed at school I would have still felt uneasy for his future, because let’s face it, he would probably face expulsion at every turn anyway. But for him success is a vaguer notion, and perhaps one that’s more important—this decision to try being a decent person.
So it’s meaningful that Se-chan comes back from that last talk with Jung-ho and decides to stick around after all. The old Se-chan would have fled, taking this failure to heart and retreating into himself, but now he’s figure out a little more clearly that you do what you can and hope for the best.
It’s a similar trajectory for In-jae, although admittedly her idea of “doing what you can” is a bit different from his. But I love the ending scene, where she continues to faithfully wait for Jung-ho—not because she expects him, but because she will always have hope. And Se-chan may tease her about it, but at the end of the day (literally!) he’s there to wait with her, and encourage that hope.
Looking at School 2013 as a whole, I’d say it’s not a perfect series and there are things I wished were done a bit differently, or better. The show isn’t that interestingly filmed, and the visual quality isn’t among the standouts of dramaland—whose numbers are growing with every season. Some of the acting was pretty green from the unknowns, and the pacing, though mostly good, did lag.
All that aside, those factors didn’t really register while I was watching the show (except for in a vague sense in the back of my mind), because this was a drama where the story really came on strong and tugged our heartstrings with so much earnestness and true-to-life angst. I wanted the best for everyone, and felt my emotions well up alongside the characters. It was an immersive watch, to be sure, and one of the most heartfelt in recent months.
I really appreciated a finale that felt like every other episode of this show. So often finales feel rushed, cobbled together bits and pieces, too busy tying everyone’s bows that the hour does nothing but feel like a laundry list. It was so nice to get a finale that was in the spirit of the show both in tone and story, that gave closure in a realistic way.
I’m actually surprised that Jung-ho’s story was left open-ended, but it resonates so much more with me because it is. We already got one neatly bow-tied happy ending in Nam-soon and Heung-soo’s friendship, so it was a nice balance to leave Jung-ho’s story less resolved. Maybe he’s a lost cause and maybe he isn’t; maybe school’s what’s best for him and maybe it’s not. What works is that there’s no simple answer to his problem. But it was enough for me that he said with sincerity that either way, he wouldn’t live badly.
Se-chan’s return from the brink felt earned in a really nice way. The easy solution would have been to have him save Jung-ho and be the hero. But it’s actually the harsh lesson that brings him back—he learns that he can’t save a kid from his own life. More than saving Jung-ho from his latest crisis, I thought it poignant that he joins In-jae at the end of class to wait hopefully for Jung-ho to return. It’s a sign that he’ll stop hanging everything on one success or one failure, and that he’ll keep trying, and keep hoping.
This drama certainly had its weak moments—recycled plots, a huge build-up to In-jae’s central conflict that sort of petered out and didn’t deliver its full potential, a lack of subtlety when it came to pointing out the problems with the system. But it did some great things too. It carried an entire narrative without romance, and I for one found it really refreshing. It wouldn’t have hurt to give our leads some teenage rom-com cuteness, sure, but at the end of the day I like that the character development stuck with friendship at the core. In-jae and Se-chan didn’t need to fall in love to change each other’s lives and make each other better teachers. Nam-soon and Heung-soo had a bond and a brotherly love and affection that was as sweet and gripping as any love story. And Jung-ho didn’t end up a thug on the street because he had friends looking out for him and teachers who cared.
My favorite thing about this show was its sense of realism, from beginning to end. There was nothing easily earned; nobody’s life was drastically altered, in a dramaland fairytale way. And yet, they were all changed by the end. Nam-soon and Heung-soo went from being lost to finding home in each other and smiling again. In-jae and Se-chan chose to get back up and keep fighting the good fight. It was a hopeful drama through and through, despite the lack of perfectly sealed happy endings. I love that they all graduated to being seniors without fanfare—tomorrow will be a day just like any other, and kids will go to school, and their problems won’t be magically solved. And teachers will go on trying to make a difference, even if they face failure after failure. Sometimes that’s the most heroic thing of all.
- School 2013: Episode 15
- School 2013: Episode 14
- School 2013: Episode 13
- School 2013: Episode 12
- School 2013: Episode 11
- School 2013: Episode 10
- School 2013: Episode 9
- School 2013: Episode 8
- School 2013: Episode 7
- School 2013: Episode 6
- School 2013: Episode 5
- School 2013: Episode 4
- School 2013: Episode 3
- School 2013: Episode 2
- School 2013: Episode 1