It’s the end of the road for our Miss Lonelyhearts and her flower boy neighbors, in a finale about the difference between what each character thought was love, and how that perception changes when they experience it firsthand. Is love watching from afar? Seeing the world through the other person’s eyes? Meeting each other halfway? Is it constant? Is it ordinary? Grand? Or is it simply a work in progress?

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Kim Dong-ryul – “Like a Child” [ Download ]

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EPISODE 16: “Love thy neighbor.”

A year has passed, and Dok-mi sits among other editors at her publishing house, as they go over last year’s biggest books—among them is Enrique’s, which brings a smile to her face.

She steps out to find Jin-rak waiting for her with a goofy grin. He asks what they should do to “celebrate one year.” Omo, your one year together, as a couple? That’s a fakeout right?

Flashback to the scene that ended the last episode. Enrique tells his Crazy Club that he’s going back to Spain, but not because of the animation project. He tells them that his dream is not their dream, and encourages them to live for their own lives. Yeah, and stop ruining other people’s.

He tells them that he knows now what’s most important to him: “The person standing in front of me. The one who loves me. I don’t want to lose her.” Aw. So… are you staying or going?

Stalker Girl argues back, and Enrique asks why they’re wasting their time on things that have no bearing on their own lives. He asks if they really think he can go to Spain knowing that his fans are hurting the person he loves. I suppose this is the best line of reasoning you can take, yunno, with a bunch of crazy people.

Jin-rak hurries Dong-hoon along to the PD’s office, intent on taking his webtoon down if it’s hurting Dok-mi. I get why, but maybe you boys should just help her cope, instead of shielding her and sacrificing your various artistic life goals? Just sayin’.

Once they leave the fan club meeting, Enrique asks if Dok-mi is okay, worried that the confrontation might’ve been too much for her. He says that it had to be done though, because people instinctively have a harder time attacking people they’ve met in person than some girl who exists out there on the internet.

Dok-mi says she’s okay actually, and that the experience felt like the punctuation on a part of her life. He doesn’t believe that she’s really fine and whines that she should say what she feels.

She brings up the trip they were supposed to take, and suggests that if their first trip was based on a lie, their next could be a runaway trip. He digs his heels in to say that he’s going to confront this problem head-on, not run away from it.

But Dok-mi’s not really running, and bites back that it’s really difficult for a woman to ask a man to go on a trip, so can’t he just play along?! Cute. Suddenly he’s like, “Where do you want to go? Someplace far? An island?”

She shyly pinches his sleeve and says that he’s always dragging her around, so for today, she’s going to take the lead. Good for you.

Jin-rak and Dong-hoon arrive at the PD’s office, and Jin-rak starts in on his prepared speech with his eyes closed, afraid of the PD’s wrath. So he doesn’t see that the whole time, she and Dong-hoon are making eyes at each other. Cute.

When she finally hears what he’s saying (that he wants to change the direction of the webtoon), she comes to her senses and asks what on earth he’s talking about when the webtoon just barely found an audience, and because of Enrique at that.

He suggests maybe something like the episode she put up in a pinch, this time about love. But her reaction cuts deep: “Flower Boy Next Door discusses love? Are you kidding? Do you know love? You said there was no such thing as a timid confession! What does a guy who’s done nothing but stare out his window know about love?!” Oof.

It makes him think about Dok-mi, from their first encounter to their last, and then he finally says, “I didn’t know love. Love is something that people do, so you can be rejected or make mistakes… but I put love in too high a place, and just looked up at it. So I want to tell people not to be like me, to give courage to those who can’t confess, and I want to comfort hurting loves.”

The PD gives a hearty “Okay” at that, and asks if he has any ideas then for new stories. He does, and starts to tell the tale of a woman who only sleeps four hours a night and a man who works all night to scrape together a living. He says that theirs is the stuff of everyday melo, where love isn’t some high unreachable thing, but just right in front of them—the kind of love that co-signs debt.

How adorable. Dong-hoon and the PD slowly turn to each other, and Jin-rak smiles. Aw, look at you, playing cupid.

Dok-mi takes Enrique to a temple, and he notices a little carved figure perched under the roof. She tells him the story of the man who built the temple, who had to be away from his wife as he worked on it. She finally got tired of waiting and left him, and they say that the figure is of her, holding up the heavy roof forever as her punishment.

Enrique wonders if maybe it wasn’t the other way around, that maybe he was carving his own hurting heart a little at a time (much like his pencil sharpening) and then people attached meaning to it later. He says that love and hate seem like very different things, but really they’re separated by so very little. Dok-mi decides she likes his version better, and chooses to believe that from now on.

They look out over the ocean and he starts playing word games with her, the point of which is to ask her pick her favorite phrase: “I’m sorry, thank you, or I love you?”

She’s startled when he says the last one like a declaration, and says that she likes all three. He tells her to incorporate them all then, so she complies: “I’m sorry that I pushed your feelings away until now. It was a long road but you didn’t lose your way and came… thank you.”

He gets super excited for the last sentence and starts mouthing “I love you” like he’s willing her to say it… and she says, “Because of you, I came to love myself.” Hee. Puppy pout.

She tells him it’s his turn, so when he’s done pouting he says, “I’m sorry I didn’t come find you sooner. Thank you for making me love. Ajumma, I love you.” He takes a step closer to kiss her on the forehead, and pulls her in for a hug.

Dong-hoon tells Jin-rak not to worry too much, because the scandal is starting to die down. He adds that Do-hwi put up a lot of comments online, and Jin-rak whirls around, ready to kick up a fuss.

But he means nice comments, ones defending Dok-mi and saying that those high school stories are all lies. Well, it’s something. Not enough to redeem her, but it’s something.

She walks past them sheepishly, and Jin-rak stops to ask where her friends are tonight. He says they seem like good friends, ones who always take her side and stick around, and advises her not to lose that friendship this time around.

It gives her pause and then they walk in opposite directions down the street.

Enrique and Dok-mi sit by a campfire, and he sings her a love song because he’s adorably earnest that way (Kim Dong-ryul’s “Like a Child,” posted above). She has something for him too, and shows him the pictures she took of him that day when he told her to start capturing a little of the world.

The note on the picture is “That Woman’s World” and she says, “The first thing I saw of the world to capture was you. It’s what I realized as I wrote the title… You are my world.”

She asks for a redo on the game they played earlier, and says, “I’m sorry I’m confessing only now. Thank you for becoming my world. I love you.”

It sends tears streaming down his face, and he finally looks up to call foul—if she says that, it makes his confession seem like nothing. Oh you would pout about that. It’s not a contest!

She counters that his song was really moving, and wishes she had recorded it so she could hear it every day. She asks him to do it again, but he calls her a dummy and says he’ll just sing it to her every day. Yes please.

Dok-mi: “From now on, will you be my world?” He nods and agrees to always be her peaceful, bright world. She says there’s no such thing—sometimes it’ll rain, and sometimes they’ll fight, and other times they’ll hurt.

She says the world doesn’t disappear because of those things, and tells him that she’ll wait for him to realize his dreams and come back. “Like the sun rises and sets, without change, I’ll wait.” His request is that they stop telling each other to go or stay, and act like they’re the only two people in the world from now on.

Inside, Dok-mi starts in on a project to make Enrique Korean through and through… which amounts to a spelling test. Pfft. He complains that her insistence on handwritten letters is archaic, and figures that his copy editor girlfriend can read fix his mistakes while reading anyway, but she won’t have it.

She sneaks his test paper to correct it, inciting a grabby fight, which quickly lands them in awkward proximity. They blink and gulp and pull away. What? Where be my kisses, people?

Late that night, Enrique tucks her in and watches her sleep. He thinks to himself:

Enrique: I thought love was giving half of myself and the other person filling the other half. That woman thought her half was dark and shameful, and so she pushed love away. That love is taking an incomplete half and going towards completion… is something that woman only now realizes.

We see flashes of their relationship, and then in the present, Dok-mi wakes up to find Enrique asleep at her feet. This time as she thinks back we get her voiceover:

Dok-mi: Love is a wind-up clock. When it’s shiny and new, it tells the exact time. But as time passes and you forget to wind it up, the clock breaks and stops. That man began to wind the clock, so that it would run a long time without stopping.

And then back to the scene that opened the episode, one year later.

Dok-mi comes out of work, surprised to see Jin-rak there. He’s on his way to meet an editor who wants to turn his webtoon into a book. She congratulates him on his success and his popularity as the love expert. He makes her promise not to tell anyone that he’s so inadequately versed in it in real life, and she laughs.

The anniversary he mentioned isn’t theirs or even hers with Enrique—it’s the security ajusshi and the fourth floor ajumma. Dok-mi asks if he’s seen the security booth lately, and notes that the hat is no longer there. In its place is a picture of the couple, and she says that someday it’ll leave a mark just like the hat did, but of the two of them and their life together.

Jin-rak asks if Enrique really is away in Spain, because he gets bombarded with messages from him every day, wondering if Dok-mi is doing okay. He wonders how little difference there could be with him so far away and yet so ever-present and annoying.

The neighbors gather at Ryu’s for a dinner to celebrate the anniversary, and Dong-hoon asks the security/landlord ajusshi why he doesn’t requite security deposits to live in this building. Ajusshi says he was once young like them and so hungry and so poor, that he said to himself that if only someone would house him, he’d repay that for the rest of his life.

Aw, he’s been like a dad this whole time—not requiring security deposits from the young kiddos, but insisting they make their rent on time so that they learn how to be responsible for their lives.

They gather around the table with a cake, and then suddenly someone crashes the party… PD? Without dark circles?

Jin-rak shrinks back, while Dong-hoon beams. Turns out he’s brought her here to look at Apartment 404 (ajumma’s place, since she’s going to move into ajusshi’s unit), and she asks a litany of questions about the building that scares everyone. None of it matters though, when she hears that there’s no security deposit, and so she welcomes them as her new neighbors.

I love how horrified Jin-rak is, to have his boss move in across the hall. Dong-hoon is over the moon, and they cuddle to celebrate. Jin-rak gapes, “Are you two dating?” They stick out their tongues in unison.

Ryu announces that it’s time for him to move on to the next new country to learn its cuisine, and the group sighs that they’ll miss him. He gives Dok-mi a little owl and tells her it’s a good luck charm.

Dong-hoon gets ready to announce his bank account balance to the group like it’s going to be a fortune… and says it contains about 50 cents. He declares with tears in his eyes, “I’m no longer in debt!” Heh, yay for you!

Dok-mi watches the happy group with a twinge of sadness, missing Enrique and remembering the days when he was here.

She opens a new letter from him in her now brighter, more colorful apartment. It says that he’ll be just a little longer, and boasts the lack of spelling mistakes this time. She agrees, but then trips up on his use of “just a little,” pouting that a year and three months is not little.

She decides to hell with waiting and calls her editor to take the rest of her vacation days. She gets up and looks out her window, and hides immediately at the sight of a man standing there looking right at her. Is that… Enrique?

She shakes the thought out of her head, thinking she’s hallucinating now, but inches back over to the window to peer out again. No one’s there.

She grabs the yellow binoculars and takes another look… and there’s Enrique, with his signature move I’ve got my eye on you! The binoculars fall out of her hand, and she swings her door open to run down.

There he is, standing in the street between their buildings. She doesn’t say a word, but he hears her thoughts, and says this isn’t a dream and that he’s really here.

Smoochies.

Their kiss turns into comic book frame, as Jin-rak flips through a new artist’s portfolio. He decides he likes the work and asks when she can start. Park Se-young? How cute, she’s dressed exactly like the old Dok-mi, and stammers that she’d like to work from home.

That makes him take notice, and he asks if maybe she doesn’t like to go outside, describing the way Dok-mi used to live. She looks up: “How did you know?” Ha, did Jin-rak find his Go Dok-mi 2.0?

Do-hwi goes out for drinks with her friends, and sets her sights on a new runaway chaebol. Some things don’t change.

Ajumma and ajusshi are happy together, and Ryu packs up his stuff with a wistful smile. Dong-hoon and his PD honey wear matching couple shirts and snuggle.

Dok-mi sits at her desk and opens a new file called “That Woman’s World.”

Knock on a closed door. Wrap your arms around a tired shoulder. Wipe away tears. Listen to the sound of each other’s hearts. Love each other like that.

She looks out of her window with a smile.

As Dok-mi and Enrique run down the street hand-in-hand, their neighbors follow right behind them.

Enrique: One person can’t change the world. But you can become another person’s world. A warm, bright, and peaceful world. If all people could be someone’s bright, peaceful, good world, one becomes ten, and then a hundred, and the good world grows. Ke-geum’s world, Go Dok-mi.
Dok-mi: Go Dok-mi’s world, Ke-geum-ie.

 
GIRLFRIDAY’S COMMENTS

The finale was exactly what I expected—a neatly-tied conclusion for every single character, with no loose ends. It wasn’t a particularly moving final episode for me, in that I stopped caring whether or not Enrique would go to Spain about half a century ago, so the show was sapped of all conflict by the time that we got here. I did like the episode itself, which makes me think that if the last quarter of this drama hadn’t wound itself in such a circular rut and we had skipped all that to come straight to this finale, we would’ve saved me a lot of grief and lost nothing from the story. Because when your entire final arc is based on a decision that could be made with or without anything that happens in the episodes, we get bored. Make up your goddamn mind is basically what I’m thinking, no matter how much cute you throw at me.

It’s too bad because the show started out so wonderfully rich and interesting, full of quirky characters that weren’t cookie cutouts from every other drama, and layered with such fascinating depth. But it felt like the writer never thought past the moment when our couple gets together. Up until then it was gold, and then suddenly it was And Now What…?

Everything from the beginning through to when Go Dok-mi comes out into the world is A+ material, but after that we’re pretty much done with the story, only the show keeps going. And going. And I want to tell it that we’ve already told the best stuff and we should probably pack up and go before the tomatoes start flying, but by then it’s too late. I think the central conflict got away from the writer, because when I’ve spent all those episodes invested in whether or not our heroine steps foot outside her door, once she does I can’t be made to care about stalker fans and internet rumors and a boyfriend who’s meandering about studying abroad for a year. It’s all small beans at that point, and none of it holds a candle to her shutting herself away in her own world. It’s like having your heroine climb Everest, and then watch her struggle with a molehill for four frickin’ episodes.

It doesn’t make me love Dok-mi or Enrique any less, but it does reduce my love of the show, because it took a steep dive from awesome to snoresville and I struggled to care about the final conflict. (I couldn’t muster it, I’m afraid—being apart for a year to vaguely pursue a dream isn’t really earth-shattering stuff. Now if it had been a one-episode conflict without all the back-and-forth noble idiocy fakeouts and crazy fanclub whims, then sure. You can only be a barista in Italy and an animator in Spain. Whatever. The point is, it would’ve been quick.)

That plot dive aside, I did love the characters in this world, and the simplicity of a story about drawing the heroine out of her sheltered cave, and getting her to love and accept herself. I like that love isn’t painted as grand or all-powerful, but something to work at, day by day. Enrique and Dok-mi’s story wasn’t that they found love, but that love motivated them to change each other bit by bit, and at the climax of that (Episode 12, when she decides to come out into the world), the show really had me by the heart. The rest took most of that luster off, but at least they all got their happy endings. And we got our smoochies.

 
JAVABEANS’ COMMENTS

Despite the criticisms I wrote in the last recap, I do want to give the show its due for being a heartwarming and sometimes thought-stirring romantic comedy, with plenty of endearing relationships and more depth than your run-of-the-mill, forgettable trendy drama. When taken in the context of dramaland as a whole, it’s still better than many, many shows out there. It was beautiful to look at and had a lovely low-key atmosphere and sweetly melodic soundtrack.

Still, it’s too bad that most of the drama’s best parts were in its first half, and the last four episodes took a significant nosedive from its earlier highs. Sadly, order matters: When you end on a lower note than you started on, the overall trajectory is still pointed downward. I’ve watched subpar dramas—dramas much worse than this one—that pulled out a satisfying finale, and ending on an upswing has a palette-cleansing effect. You forgive a lot when that happens.

When the opposite happens, however, no matter how much your brain tells you that the overall quality remains fairly high, your heart can’t get over that taste of disappointment. Pacing matters. Trajectory matters. Because once you start falling out of love, momentum slows and you start checking out, and then it’s all over. It’s similar to what happened to me with Queen In-hyun’s Man and Answer Me, 1997, both of which were among the best-written and best-produced dramas of last year but which lost my heart in the last stretch.

Flower Boy Next Door was a welcome breath of fresh air that was buoyed by adorable chemistry and had great characters, whether the motor-mouthed Enrique or the decent and steadfast Jin-rak. And the heroine’s emotional journey was gratifying to watch, not just in the realization of love but more importantly in her ability to conquer demons and grow into a happy, healed woman who learned how to value herself. I do wish the magic lasted a little longer and carried me through the entire series, but here’s where I employ my selective memory, to try to ignore the less than satisfying moments, because I’ll always have fond feelings for what it did well—the laughs and character growth and sweet romance.

 
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