I have good news: The ending of You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin is legitimately solid. Who would’ve expected that, especially with the trajectory we were on? Sure, we had some very neatly tied ends, but by and large I felt we got our characters fitting, satisfying end notes. There was a cathartic feeling to watching these two episodes, as characters by and actually made strides in their emotional journeys, ending in a slightly more actualized place than where they started. Hey, I’ll take it.
After the news hits about Mi-ryung’s role in the hit-and-run death, she disappears on everyone by retreating to the seaside area where she grew up. Soon-shin declares that she isn’t interested in talking to Mi-ryung or knowing anything about her, though her mind is troubled nonetheless.
Yeon-ah expresses worry over Mi-ryung’s safety, having retreated from her crazy ledge of manipulation and malice. She’s not totally redeemed (thankfully, since she doesn’t deserve it) but has at least returned to the realm of standard human emotion and sympathy. I do enjoy how Young-hoon chides her, though, by pointing out that she is worried about Mi-ryung suffering a fate that she had threatened to inflict upon her personally.
Mi-ryung walks into the sea to end her life, but is fished out by a local resident. Manager Hwang finds out from the boardinghouse ajumma and comes to collect Mi-ryung, who states that she is only here to rest for a while, and that it’s best for everyone that she disappear. She tells him to move on and think of his own life too, and orders him to go back and leave her here.
Still afraid that she may do something dire, he appeals to Jun-ho for help, who broaches the subject with Soon-shin. Though he has no great love of Mi-ryung himself, he acknowledges that she has done everything she could to help the situation, getting evidence from the accident to the police. Soon-shin resists the idea of talking to Mi-ryung, though his concern is that continuing to block her out is doing more harm to Soon-shin.
Manager Hwang pleads with Soon-shin to see Mi-ryung, a proposition Soon-shin angrily rejects. She confides in her mother that she hates Mi-ryung and the very idea that she was born to such a person, but I think it’s safe to say that she wants to hate Mi-ryung more than she does. Thus her inner turmoil.
In the end she decides to confront Mi-ryung and finds her on the beach. Her words are both biting and pleading; she asks if Mi-ryung thought she could get forgiveness by dying. Mi-ryung says that she doesn’t expect forgiveness, feeling that Soon-shin is better off not having her in her life, and suggests that they pretend they’d never met—she can live the way she did before knowing Mi-ryung.
But Soon-shin calls Mi-ryung a coward for always running away, and the vulnerability flashes through as she says that it was bad enough that she abandoned her once—and now she’s going to die and leave again? She reminds Mi-ryung that she’d said she regretted leaving her the first time, and that she was happy to have reunited.
She says, half in challenge and half in plea, “Don’t run away. Don’t make it so I can’t hate you. You’re my mother! Once, just once, act like a mother to me.”
Woo-joo’s petulant bastard of a father decides to return to Hong Kong, and when Grandma hears about it she immediately blames Hye-shin. Sigh, Grandma. This time Woo-joo speaks up to defend her mother and informs the adults that her cheater dad is going back to his mistress, and to back off on the Mom-blame. So glad somebody said it.
Woo-joo refuses to see her father off, even though Hye-shin tries to coax her, fearing that it’ll hurt her to not say goodbye. So when Bread Man sees her walking down the street crying, he takes her to the airport and convinces her to really consider whether she’d be okay with her decision. He explains how when he was in prison, he was so ashamed to see his grandmother on a visit that he refused to see her, not knowing that she was sick. Nothing like “and then she DIED” to hammer in the point.
It works, though, and Woo-joo faces her shamefaced father. She tells him it’s okay, not in the sense that everything is cool, but that she understands and he doesn’t have to make explanations.
Bastard Ex isn’t being painted as suddenly decent or misunderstood, but it’s nice to see that he understands he messed up and has grown enough to respect Woo-joo’s wishes. Last week she’d ordered him to get out of her life forever, so he accepts her words as a sort of goodbye—and thus it’s poignant when she asks him for a favor: Don’t ignore her calls anymore. He looks relieved and promises to do that, and while the rift isn’t fully healed, at least it’s been patched up a bit.
Hye-shin joins them late at the airport, and Bread Man removes himself from the situation, not wanting to impose. So it’s extra sweet when it’s Woo-joo who stops him, and mock-complains that he’s backing out on his promise to buy her dessert. Bread Man lights up, and they walk out holding hands and grinning. It’s adorable and tear-inducing.
Chicken Ajumma gets annoyed to find the house in disarray and gives Yoo-shin her usual brand of scolding, adding that she should quit working entirely. In light of the latest news, though, Yoo-shin is feeling extra sad about her father’s death today and starts to cry indignantly, saying that Ajumma won’t recognize that she’s trying to be a good wife and daughter-in-law.
Ajumma belatedly hears the news and feels terrible, but is so awkward at trying to make nice that she can’t quite make the apology. So she brings Yoo-shin food at the office while she’s working late again and apologizes, especially since she knows exactly how hard it is to both work and support a family.
The apology is gruff but sincere, and he relationship rebounds stronger than ever. In fact, when the men comment on how well they’re getting on, Ajumma retorts, “When did we ever have a bad relationship?” And no, she’s totally not being sarcastic. Hey, sometimes you just gotta embrace the selective memory.
Adding a bit of hilarity to the mix, Ajumma starts experiencing nausea and upset stomach, before the same happens to Yoo-shin and tips us off to that finale favorite, pregnancy. Yes, Ajumma literally gets sympathy morning sickness, and that’s without even knowing about Yoo-shin’s condition.
Yoo-shin is a little freaked when she finds out, because it’s so sudden and she’s not ready. Chan-woo is thrilled and assures her that he’ll do everything to help her short of having the baby himself, which is sweet but doesn’t quite solve her quandary—what about her career? What about her identity as a professional woman?
So when Chicken Ajumma suggests that Yoo-shin think about quitting work to raise the child, there’s a lot of unease in the air. Until Chan-woo steps in to make good on his promise and inform everyone that he will stay home and raise the baby, because he has a really great paternity leave program at his hospital. Convenient solution? Yes, it is. But I do really love what that decision means, so I will take the convenience readily.
After Soon-shin’s confrontation, Mi-ryung returns to her house and makes some big decisions. She packs up her house and tells the full story to the press, not only about her role in that accident but also the part about her fictional background and upbringing. She says it’s not because of Soon-shin, but because she needs to take responsibility for everything in order to start over.
Yeon-ah has a similar trajectory in that she seems to have figured out that it’s best to remove herself (and stop inflicting her presence upon those who don’t want it). So she tells Jun-ho that she’s sorry, which he acknowledges with a silent nod before going on to meet Soon-shin. This resolution feels fitting in a nicely simple way, because we’re not pulling Yeon-ah back to the warm and fuzzy land of good guys after all the crap she has pulled—Jun-ho simply accepts her apology, has nothing to say in response, and moves on with his life.
There’s a scene I find hilarious in that Grandma actually has a moment of clarity and wonders whether maybe she’s the source of all this trouble and not everyone else. I know! It’s kind of amazing. She’s definitely not turning over a new leaf, but she grudgingly comes around and seeks out Bread Man to say that she’s just worried that her tender-hearted granddaughter will get her heart trampled again.
Then she invites Bread Man to dinner, adding gruffly that she is NOT approving of their relationship. (Although basically, she is.) She’s just gonna keep an eye on him and see how things go. Which, in Grandma-land, is as much of an upswing as we could have hoped for.
The family even finds out who the hit and run driver is, and it’s nobody we know or really need to care about except in the context of this case finally being closed. He’s penitent and cries that he’s sorry, and we’re told he’ll probably get a number of years in the clink, and that’s enough to sigh that Dad’s soul may rest in peace now.
Jun-ho totally finagles his way into the family dinner, which is cute because he tells Soon-shin he wants to make a good impression with them… you know… in preparation for later… He’s totally thinking marriage, which is adorable.
This also means that dinner is entertainingly awkward as Grandma and Yoo-shin take turns mock-grilling the two boyfriends. The others laugh at them to cut it out, and Yoo-shin pertly points out that they’re all glad they have her around to ask the hard questions, which is totally true. The icing on the cake: Woo-joo cuts in to defend Bread Man from nosy aunt Yoo-shin, which is just awww.
Speaking of cakes, Bread Man brings an actual one for Woo-joo’s birthday, and elicits some tears when they see that it reads, “You’re the best, Han Woo-joo.” He explains how Dad had asked him to make that cake for Soon-shin, which is how he met Hye-shin.
Then Soon-shin shows Jun-ho her room, where he pulls her into a hug. Mom walks in on them, Soon-shin literally shoves him away, and he gets all flustered and embarrassed. I think we can enjoy the fact that she pushed him onto the bed, yes?
Mi-ryung retires to a house in a more remote area, and finds a measure of peace. When she runs into Mom at Dad’s gravesite, she says that apologies are insufficient and assures Mom she won’t be around anymore. Mom has come around to pity, and is the one to offer Mi-ryung a ticket to Soon-shin’s new play.
Mi-ryung tells Manager Hwang a story from her childhood featuring the Dickensian scene where she watched a warm family dinner through a window and felt such envy from the outside. So throughout her whole life, despite her success, that scene always stuck in her mind. But these days she’s no longer dogged by those thoughts, and feels much lighter in spirit.
We’re wrapping up all the threads now, so Dr. Shin and his wife are back on the mend. What I like about this thread has little to do with a reunited family, but rather that the solution comes about because Dr. Shin has made the decision to show a little interest in his family. That seemed to be the real issue at the root of the Shin family discord, that he never seemed to care one way or another what his family did or felt, and now he’s the one calling family dinners and suggesting dates with the wife. See, old dogs can learn new tricks.
Soon-shin’s new play opens, and I assume she’s actually good in it, though you certainly can’t take Jun-ho’s word for it because he is just ridiculously and adorably over-the-top with his praise. He goes to every one of her performances and heaps her with compliments about how awesome she is. She gives as good as she gets, though, and teases back that she has a hard time focusing when she only sees him in the audience: “Who told you to be so distractingly good-looking?”
Soon-shin spots Mi-ryung leaving the theater quietly on her own, and chases her out. By now she’s heard about what Mi-ryung has done and changed in her life, and while she isn’t ready to be buddy-buddy, those actions mean something.
So she stops her say, “Thank you, Mom.” It’s the first time she’s ever called her that, because it’s the first time Mi-ryung’s earned that right.
A closing sequence wraps up the stories as we see snippets of the sisters’ lives, sometime in the near future. Bread Man is still dating Hye-shin and teaching her how to make bread, only now Woo-joo has joined them and he finally gets his happy family interlude.
Yoo-shin continues working well into her pregnancy, and Chan-woo is the doting husband.
We end with a bit of a fake-out scene as Soon-shin is dressed up as a bride, and Jun-ho beams at her and calls her beautiful. Her big event isn’t a wedding, but rather her first movie role—although watching Jun-ho as she films the scene shows us that the real thing is certainly on his mind. Then he pulls out a ring box of his own and practices a proposal to himself, assuring us that they’re well on their way to wedded bliss too. Eventually.
And we are done! Phew.
You know, I was fully expecting the ending to disappoint, in that while I knew we’d go out on a happy note, I though we’d do everything by the book and end up with a paint-by-numbers, empty-hearted affair. But on the contrary, I really enjoyed the way everyone’s stories resolved, with a sense of catharsis and growth to cap off their experiences.
Some plotlines were tied up in neat bows and others with more open futures, but in either case I felt the resolutions were fitting. I’m not a fan of dramas that create absurdly evil characters to muck up the plot, and then bring them around to redemption and give them cheery ends, as though a happy ending requires everyone to feel happiness. It was more affecting, though, to feel that for some characters it was more important to achieve a sense of understanding or peace than to get nice things.
For instance, Yeon-ah didn’t need to end with a new love interest or a warm maternal relationship to heal all her wounds, nor do I think she deserved any sort of reward for her terrible behavior. I probably wouldn’t have minded if she were given a punishment of an ending, but if we weren’t going to get to see her reap her karmic rewards, at least she got to a place of realizing her wrongs and owning up to them. Perhaps it’s best that her apology was accepted, but not made into a big deal—Jun-ho literally just moved on past her. She no longer matters, and there’s a satisfying poetry in that.
Throughout the course of the show I was anticipating that our drama would end with a My Two Moms scenario, where Soon-shin would accept both in her life and cultivate a relationship with the new mother and reinforcing the bond with her adoptive mother. I honestly didn’t give the show a lot of credit to be able
to pull off anything more nuanced than that. So I was pleasantly surprised that the Mi-ryung solution feels measured and thoughtful, and not too unrealistically neat. I didn’t want her to get off the hook so easily just because our main character was the kind of warm, loving person who wouldn’t cut her out or let bitterness take over.
I appreciated that with Mi-ryung, it really came full circle to her needing to fix herself, not that she needed to learn how to be a good mother. The change in her character seems much more significant this way, because she finally confronted what we saw along the way—that she was deeply unhappy with herself. It may be a bit pat to say that you have to love yourself first to find love in others, but maybe it feels more apt to frame the thought in the reverse: If you don’t love yourself, you can’t be a proper person to others. So she’s making that journey, and maybe some day in this drama’s distant future she’ll be more of a mother to Soon-shin.
There’s a nice aspect in these final two episodes that illustrate the beauty of family dramas as a whole, and that’s the way each character had somebody to step in to champion them when they were low. It’s one of those double-edged swords, where your family will drive you nuts and these sprawling, interconnected casts can get unwieldy, but over the course of these fifty episodes, these people made and strengthened bonds, so that in the very end, they all had that person there to pick them up when they fell to pieces.
The easiest example of that is the main couple, of course, in the way that Soon-shin confronts Mi-ryung with all her angry, hurt words and then sobs into Jun-ho’s arms. It’s also there in the way her mother comforted her and gave her a nudge in facing her feelings about Mi-ryung, rather than continuing to let those wounds fester.
Even Chicken Ajumma had Yoo-shin, which is as unlikely a pairing as you would think. But it’s so satisfying to have the person she had the most problems with turn out to be the one who would stick up for her most in her own family—Ajumma can definitely be hard to take, but considering that her husband and children rarely take her side, you can see how she feels lonely.
But perhaps the most touching instance is the Bread Man scenario with Woo-joo, where he ushers her to heal a rift with her father. He’s the perfect person to change her mind about him, and afterward she’s the one who pipes up in his defense. I love unexpected alliances that crop up and surprise you with that does of poignancy.
Was this a great show? Perhaps not, and it certainly had shaky plots and underdeveloped characters and a frustrating tendency to linger longest on things we didn’t care about, while glossing over the stuff we did. But it did manage to hit the right notes with its highs, and make me care about the emotional payoffs; in the end, I’ll have fond memories of the good times and enjoy rolling my eyes at the crazy. And there was a lot of crazy. Thankfully, though, it knew well enough to stay the hell out of finale week, and for that I’ll always be grateful.
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 47-48 [Open Thread]
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 45-46 [Open Thread]
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 43-44 [Open Thread]
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 41-42 [Open Thread]
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 39-40 [Open Thread]
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 37-38 [Open Thread]
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 35-36 [Open Thread]
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 33-34 [Open Thread]
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 31-32 [Open Thread]
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 29-30 [Open Thread]
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 27-28 [Open Thread]
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 25-26
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 23-24
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 21-22
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 19-20
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 17-18
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 15-16
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 14
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 13
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 12
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 11
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 10
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 9
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 8
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 7
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 6
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episode 5
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 3-4
- You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin: Episodes 1-2