The end is here. Not that it’s a surprise, but the Heirs finale doesn’t step outside its prescribed frame for even a second, so mostly what we get is an hour to wrap everything up neatly and send our characters on their way. Truthfully it wasn’t really a drama that had twenty episodes of story to sustain it in the first place, so I’m pleased that at least there are a few good character beats to leave on, if nothing else.

Heirs topped out at 25.6% ratings for its finale.

 
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Cold Cherry – “성장통 (Growing Pains)” for the Heirs OST [ Download ]

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FINAL EPISODE RECAP

Tan and Young-do look out over the city from the rooftop, each lost in thought over his father. For once they both agree—that tonight the city is cold, and dark.

Tan has his legal guardianship changed to his brother Won, and then they prepare to show a united front to the shareholders in a meeting. But they wait and wait, and only two faithful managers show up in the end. The rest—including all of the chairman’s actual family members—are busy plotting their takeover led by Madam Jung.

Chan-young’s dad VP Yoon tells them they have lots of work ahead of them if they have to chase shares down, and whisks Tan abroad to start shaking hands and getting signatures. Tan understands he is to play the part of the dutiful son, and he wonders how his father lived an entire life doing this.

Eun-sang only hears about the chairman’s collapse the next day from Chan-young, and then finds a note that Tan left for her at home.

Young-do eats a tense dinner with his dad, wanting to know what’s going to happen. Dad is for once a little nice, and assures Young-do that even if he does end up going to prison, life will resume as normal for Young-do, who is to trust only their hotel VP.

Dad puts on a smile and says he’ll be out in no time, reminding Young-do not to shirk his dishwashing duties at the hotel. But the very next day Young-do watches as his father’s face gets splashed all over the television along with news of his indictment.

Dad’s team of lawyers tells Young-do not to worry, and to live his life like before. They do have one message from his father though: “There need to be rules. You can’t cheat.” What. Did Crazypants finally teach his son a good thing? Granted it’s through a lawyer so I find it highly suspect that he really said it, but I’ll take what I can get.

Young-do takes it to heart and goes to see Joon-young, the kid he bullied so horrendously. He finds him at his new school, and Joon-young immediately tenses up at the sight of him, asking if he’s here to torment him some more.

But Young-do says he’s here to apologize, and says he’s sorry—sincerely, contritely. It floors Joon-young, who admits he didn’t think Young-do knew how to do that (me neither), but he says with grim determination that he won’t ever accept his apology. Joon-young tells him that if he’s really sorry, he should live the rest of his life feeling guilty, and Young-do doesn’t argue, agreeing to do so.

Eun-sang sees news of Young-do’s dad on TV, and writes to Tan wondering what kind of misfortune it is to bear the kind of weight that includes seeing your loved ones on the evening news.

She continues to narrate as she says that being the first to arrive at school meant that she often witnessed the fake corpse-outline graffiti that was a staple at their school. But what surprised her was that it wasn’t just one person—sometimes it was Hyo-shin, or Rachel, or even Myung-soo. “And today… it was Young-do.”

She wonders if it was since discovering that the graffiti wasn’t someone but everyone that she stopped being able to hate the other kids at Jeguk High. She asks if there was ever a morning when Tan came to school with spray paint in hand.

Young-do braces himself before walking up to a café window. Inside is his mother, smiling at customers. He gazes at her for a moment, but when she turns to look in his direction, he bolts behind a wall to stay out of sight and starts to cry.

Eun-sang narrates: “Even if it’s too heavy, or too cruel, or too sad, I hope that the only thing you can do isn’t to get hurt.”

Won greets Tan and VP Yoon on their return, and even praises Tan for doing a good job. He suggests they move back into the house together to show people that they won’t leave it empty, so the two brothers finally end up under the same roof.

Won asks Tan to go see Young-do about receiving power of attorney for his father’s shares, and Tan asks in return for Won to continue with his development project with Zeus. He agrees to do keep his word on that score even with Young-do’s dad in prison.

Tan goes to see Eun-sang and sticks his arms out for a bear-hug, and they have a happy reunion.

He visits Young-do next, and apologizes for having to come to him for a business matter at a time like this. Young-do guesses that Madam Jung is trying to take over the company, and sighs, “Moms. Whether you have ’em or not, they’re trouble.” Ha.

Tan knows they’re not friends, but promises to repay him for the favor if he’ll stand on their side. Young-do tells Tan to repay him now, and asks that he forgive him for the stuff he said to his mom. Aw. I really like 12 Steps Young-do. So…can you be friends NOW?

He gets up to go downstairs for dishwashing duty, which surprises Tan. Young-do points out that right now washing dishes is the only thing he has the power to do.

VP Yoon goes to see Rachel’s mom, who made it clear to Madam Jung earlier that she hadn’t yet chosen which side to take. It really only takes a moment of connection between the two exes for her to take the boys’ side, and they exchange well wishes that seem genuine and not laced with bitterness for the first time ever.

Won meets with his maybe-fiancée next, and agrees to marry her for her vote. I wish I could say this episode weren’t as choppy as it sounds on paper, but things just happen one right after the other. At this point I’m glad we even met this girl before now.

Then it’s time for the stockholders vote to edge Chairman Dad out, and despite Madam Jung’s smugness, the brothers win majority vote in the end and protect Dad’s position. She tells Won not to rest on his laurels thinking the war is over, and says they’ll be doing this again in no time (meaning when the chairman dies once and for all).

But as soon as she says the words, VP Yoon gets the call that Chairman Dad is awake, and he’s going into surgery now. Guess you’ll have to wait a little longer for your war, lady.

The brothers wait outside the surgery ward with VP Yoon and Madam Han, who is beside herself with worry. They get word that surgery went well, and she bursts into tears. Tan chides her for crying over a man who kicked her out, but she obviously doesn’t care about that now, and even Won sees how broken up she is about Dad.

Young-do returns to his mother’s café, and this time he gets up the courage to walk through the door. Mom recognizes him instantly and he just starts to cry standing there in the doorway.

She wipes away his tears and hugs him close, saying that she’s sorry she didn’t wait longer, that she didn’t go to see him. He ekes out, “Mom, Mom…” like he’s trying out the word for the first time.

At school, Hyo-shin passes his books down to Eun-sang and thanks her for being a bright spot in an otherwise dreary high school career, and she notes that it sounds an awful lot like a farewell.

Rachel gets called into the office to give her opinion on her mother’s new line, and her mom asks if she wants to take a single girls’ trip somewhere warm for the winter. At least she’s trying to be a mom now.

Her main concern is that Rachel seems to be taking her sleeping pills, and Rachel says it’s just because she hasn’t been sleeping well. Mom sends her to the psychiatrist anyway to get her own diagnosis and prescription, just in case.

Rachel runs into Hyo-shin at the doctor’s office, and he surprises her by saying rather plainly that he’s a regular patient here. He floors her with even bigger news that he’s headed to the army, and she asks if he has a girl to wait for him. He doesn’t have an answer for that.

He tells her it’s a secret, but she must’ve told Tan anyway, because he comes running to the train station to send Hyo-shin off. I love that Tan is using banmal now, calling Hyo-shin by name (and also “crazy bastard” interchangeably).

He asks how Hyo-shin could just up and go to army without even graduating high school or letting anyone know, but Hyo-shin says it was all he could think of to buy some time and distance from his parents. He knows it’s nuts, but he seems happy about the decision. Tan hugs him, which is super cute because of how awkward it is, but Hyo-shin finally hugs him back and says he’ll return safely. Aw.

Eun-sang sees that Mom is making more bean powder, and wonders why she’s making so much. Mom hesitates to admit that half is to send to her sister, who called to let her know that she got a job.

Eun-sang demands unni’s number, and Mom worries that she’s just going to start another fight, but Eun-sang surprises her by saying she’ll just tell unni that they’re living well and wish her well too.

Mom asks if she really is happy, thinking that all she does is bring her daughters more pain. Eun-sang swears that being Mom’s daughter makes her happy, and hugs her with an “I love you.”

Chairman Dad wakes up after surgery and tells Madam Jung he’ll be filing for divorce. She isn’t the least bit troubled by it, declaring that if she can’t swallow Jeguk whole, she’ll at least take half in the divorce.

Tan brings Eun-sang by for a visit, and though Chairman Dad isn’t exactly warm and friendly, he doesn’t reject the books she brings him.

Tan takes his mom for a walk out in the world as promised, but she quickly decides that this carefree business is hard. Tan points out that it’s the high heels she’s wearing, but she refuses to dress down: “It was my dream to be Miss Korea. I can’t give up the heels.” Ha.

Chan-young and VP Yoon go on a father-son fishing trip like the adorable duo that they are, and then Won and Tan totally crash it, which is even cuter. Chan-young tries to teach Tan about the art of waiting for the fish, which Tan is of course way too impatient to even listen to.

VP Yoon tells Won that the trip is in honor of final exams being over, which reminds Won to ask how Tan did this time around. Tan beams as Chan-young tells them about his fiftieth-place score, and Won looks so proud… that is, until Chan-young’s dad gapes, “Is that good? I didn’t even know there WAS a fiftieth place at Jeguk High.” Haha.

Won scowls and asks how Chan-young placed, and VP Yoon oh-so-casually says he stopped checking long ago because Chan-young is always, so predictably in first place. Hee. They’re cute when they’re being petty about the kids.

Won is instantly back to sneering at Tan after having just been so pleased at fiftieth place, and Tan drags Chan-young away in a huff for being the cause of his grief. VP Yoon asks if Won has told Tan yet, and Won says the story will be in the news tomorrow.

It turns out to be his wedding announcement they’re talking about, as we see Hyun-joo read the story in the news. This is how you let her find out? What the hell, Won? She cries alone at the bus stop after seeing the story, knowing that this time it really is over.

She meets him and takes out the wishbone he gave her long ago and breaks it. Her side is longer so she gets the wish, and she swallows back her tears as she tells him, “My wish is to break up.”

She says she always knew that despite looking at each other from across the same table, they were always worlds apart. All he can do is repeat that he’s sorry over and over. She promised to wave at him as he rose higher, and does so now. She gives a wave: “Goodbye, Oppa,” and leaves him.

Tan greets him with a barrage of questions at home about the sudden wedding, but Won just says it’s the price of the crown he wears. He tells Tan that he’s thought about it, and he doesn’t have to go to the States anymore. But instead he has to stand behind hyung and learn the family business properly.

He makes it clear that this means there is no other future for him to dream of. Won admits it’ll be a little less lonely this way, though still, they both know it’s a lonely road.

Young-do returns to the bike shop and remembers seeing Eun-sang there. He finally takes out the band-aid she gave him and uses it to wrap the cut on his finger from washing dishes at the hotel, perhaps ready to let himself heal.

Chan-young sneaks a kiss with Bo-na, and Tan receives his journal in the mail from his old professor. It’s returned with a note asking what kind of crown he was trying to wear, whether money, fame, or love.

Tan begins to write again, and as he narrates, we see Won sitting at his father’s desk. “The owner of the study has changed. Hyung rose to the place he wanted to rise to. He became strong, but at night he cried. Was his place of exile perhaps the place he lived his whole life—this house?”

As Tan writes the words, Won sits in Dad’s chair and takes out the broken wishbone, breaking down in sobs at the price he paid to sit here.

Tan becomes a senior in high school (which just makes me laugh to realize they were just juniors all this time, holy cow) and Myung-soo greets him with a camera in his face as always, while Rachel walks past without a word.

Tan warns Chan-young to watch his back in first place because he has no middle ground, and Bo-na quips, “So you’re going for hundredth place again?” Ha.

Young-do approaches, and they walk past each other with no friendly words, but no fighting either. Tan narrates that nothing has really changed, and they have yet to properly learn reconciliation.

And then he sits next to Eun-sang, who asks what it was he wished for on his birthday. He says he wished for everyone he knew to be happy, and describes a fantasy that in ten years’ time, he’ll be throwing a big party at his house, and everyone will be there.

We see his fantasy future, where Bo-na and Chan-young and still together and busy working, Hyo-shin is a movie director and still flirting with Rachel who runs her mother’s company, and Young-do is taking over the big project that Won began with his father.

Dad and all the moms are happy and well, and then Tan goes upstairs to his room, where Eun-sang is waiting, and he gives her a kiss.

Back in reality, Eun-sang says it’s a nice fantasy, and Tan says that maybe it’ll come true someday.

Tan narrates: “At eighteen, we fell for each other, we loved, we cried, we ran, we knelt, and we turned our backs on each other countless times.”

A flashback sequence brings us to the present where they walk away hand in hand, and then we fade to some time in the future as they walk down the street the same way.

Eun-sang: “But despite that, at eighteen, we ran toward each other, held hands, and held each other with all our strength. We might stumble again, or kneel again. Despite that…”

Tan: “We go forward.”

 
COMMENTS

The finale pretty much confirmed that this was a twenty-episode drama based on zero conflict and a vague notion of a story. We’ve been on this road for a while so it was no surprise, and in that respect the final episode delivered exactly what I expected—loose ends tied at warp speed, and everyone’s terrible parents suddenly being nice for no real reason other than we’re at Episode 20. I sort of wanted to ask about everyone’s lobotomies but then Dad really went and got his brain re-wired literally, so that kind of takes care of that on a meta level. I could’ve stood to see him suffer more, but he was, like most of the roadblocks in this drama, a device more than a person.

It wasn’t like I hated the drama with a fiery vengeance or anything, though I doubt it’s news that I didn’t love it. It’s just deflating when you get to the end and realize it was all empty, and the conflict that we thought was driving the entire series was basically all for nothing. Talk about a letdown. For a drama that talked of crowns and kingdoms, I still have no idea why Tan and Eun-sang had to do so much running away from each other when they were just going to defy their parents in the end and have Dad become a softy anyway, or when Tan was just going to make nice with his brother and have his cake and eat it too. What is the point? The final flashback sequence actually had the unintended side effect of making me remember just how much drama and angst there was, and for no real reason to boot. I would’ve forgotten, but thanks for the parting reminder, Show.

At least Won got a somewhat interesting ending, though it only made me wish he had been an equal star in this drama. The brothers’ relationship remained the most engaging part, and it’s really a terrible waste that it was sidelined as a bookend story rather than the meat and potatoes, which it should’ve been. I really liked that Won got the gloomier ending, and that it took him getting what he wanted all this time to fully feel the weight of what he had given up to get there. Had the brothers been the central conflict in the story, I might’ve actually cared. A lot, in fact. Oh well. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

As a drama universe, I did like peering in on the world of kids acting like adults, and sort of skipping their youth to go be groomed to run corporations. Only you can’t really skip that part, because then everything comes out sideways as we saw with the myriad of dysfunctional relationships that populated this world. I wish the drama had said something about it other than pointing it out though, because nothing changes. The world goes on and the rich stay rich, and the dysfunction just evolves. I suppose they’re meant to be growing pains like any other, but somehow I feel like we basically got told twenty times that first-world problems are hard too. Cry me a river.

I guess in the grand scheme of things I had a better time in Episodes 19 and 20 because everyone finally got to be happy or nice, so at least we end on an up-note, even if it hurts the head a little to ask too many questions like why or how. I wish I could say that the drama followed through on its most interesting ideas, or that the romance truly earned a happily ever after by walking through the fire and sacrificing everything for love. But mostly I think we just went through the motions. We sure went through a lot of hoops, but I never once felt the temperature rise.

 
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