Age of Youth: Episode 12 (Final)
It’s a funny thing, our youth. It’s a time when we feel virtually everything – when we’re thrown into each and every day and expected to start shaping the rest of our lives. It’s a time when everything can seem possible one minute and then pointless the next. Like the five girls we’ve come to know and love in Age of Youth, our hearts beat with excitement and exhaustion. With hope and fear. With fullness and emptiness. It’s always a lot to take in, and at this certain age, it can almost feel like too much. But if there’s one message this drama has left with me, it’s that we have plenty of time to balance it all out. After all, our youth is only one part of our lives.
EPISODE 12: “Even so, life still goes on #aftermath”
Ye-eun is at an appointment with a therapist, where she lets out all of her shocked feelings over Ji-won’s lie. Ye-eun never really believed in ghosts, but she tells the therapist that the lie affected all the other girls in the house. She wonders why Ji-won did such a thing.
Ji-won comes home to find Eun-jae by herself. Ji-won considers apologizing to Eun-jae with the reassurance that she won’t blab about the Dad secret, but decides against it. But it seems like Eun-jae might actually need that reassurance, because she’s filled with worry. “They’ll all find out when the autopsy results come out. What will they say?” Eun-jae thinks.
She notices Ji-won eyeing the apple she’s cutting, so she holds up her knife, asking if Ji-won wants some. Ji-won flinches at the sight of the knife, which Eun-jae notes sadly. She lowers her hand and asks a different question: “What would you do if someone said you only had a few days left to live?”
Her voice eerily calm, Eun-jae elaborates that she was just wondering what people would do in that kind of situation. She walks past the shaking Ji-won and takes her apples to her room.
Eun-jae looks at her journal and jots down “Things I have to do,” and then pauses before writing, “Things I want to do” right underneath. Oh God. Just when I thought all my anxiety from the last episode was gone.
Eun-jae goes out with Jong-yeol for dinner, and she tries parsley for the first time. She tells Jong-yeol she wanted to try it at least once, making Jong-yeol look at her oddly. He’s even more surprised when Eun-jae suggests they drink some soju. He complies and pours her a drink, asking if she’s worried about something. She mumbles that she is.
Eun-jae doesn’t exactly feel like elaborating, and since Jong-yeol knows by now not to push her into talking, he just encourages her to drink her worries away and says that he’ll take care of her if she gets too drunk. Fast forward to four bottles later and Jong-yeol’s the one drunk as a skunk. Still fairly sober, Eun-jae hesitantly tells Jong-yeol not to hate her too much when he finds out the truth about her. Jong-yeol’s head drops to the table with a garbled “Okay,” and Eun-jae just stares at him.
Ye-eun continues telling her therapist how worrisome Eun-jae’s been acting. She moves on to talk about Yi-na and how she’s trying to start anew by becoming a designer. Yi-na’s even taking drawing lessons with younger kids. At home, Yi-na practices her shading, and, frustrated with the results, she wonders if setting this objective was too far-fetched for her age and if she should just quit.
Right then, Jin-myung comes out to leave for her job, and Yi-na quickly hides her artwork. Once Jin-myung’s gone, Yi-na sighs, feeling like she’s too embarrassed to quit. She flips back to her drawing and starts again. Attagirl.
The next morning, Ji-won walks over to the fridge and… hears or feels something. She turns around, getting a bad feeling, but nothing’s there. The second time she turns around, she gasps, startled to see Eun-jae right in front of her.
Eun-jae nonchalantly grabs herself a glass of water, and Ji-won asks when the autopsy results will come out. Still a little too calm, Eun-jae responds that they’ll be out next Wednesday. “If you…” Ji-won starts to ask, only to get interrupted by Ye-eun and Yi-na’s entrance. They’re all wearing black, about to leave for Jin-myung’s brother’s funeral.
It’s pretty empty at the brother’s service, and Jin-myung’s surprised when her four housemates walk in. She welcomes them in with a grateful smile, though it immediately gets awkward once the girls face the brother’s picture.
It seems like Eun-jae is the only one who really knows what to do, and the others follow her lead, though they all goof up with the formal bow. Jin-myung stifles a laugh, and the other girls soon follow suit. They turn to bow to Jin-myung next and they’re all trying so hard to contain their laughter that it sounds like they’re sobbing.
Jin-myung leads them outside and they all laugh freely, figuring everyone inside must’ve thought they were crazy. Jin-myung realizes that her mom will be coming soon and tells the girls to go ahead and leave. Now that the laughter’s subsided, the girls look at Jin-myung, reluctant to leave her alone. “I’m really okay,” Jin-myung reassures them. They start to leave, but Ji-won hangs back.
Ji-won nervously asks Jin-myung about the day her brother passed away. Ji-won: “If your mother hadn’t done that…” Jin-myung: “You’re wondering if I would’ve done it instead?” Jin-myung says she probably would’ve.
Ji-won voices her worry that Jin-myung only developed those thoughts after the lie about the ghost. And it’s true – Jin-myung admits that before the lie, she only thought about whether her brother was alive or dead. She never thought about her brother’s soul, how he felt, or what he’d want.
“So… thanks for lying to me,” Jin-myung says, patting Ji-won’s arm to let her know it’s okay. Ji-won responds by pulling Jin-myung into a tight hug and then rejoins the other girls.
The four girls walk to the bus stop, feeling bad for leaving Jin-myung alone. Yi-na points out their sunbae probably needed some time to herself anyway. “I wouldn’t want to be alone if I were her though,” Ye-eun says, almost to herself.
Yi-na brings up the fact that Eun-jae knew what to do at the funeral, and Eun-jae explains she saw it all before for her dad’s funeral. The other girls admit that they were pretty nervous back there since it was a first for them.
It dawns on them that, like Eun-jae, they could get used to going to funerals. “That could happen,” Yi-na muses, “There will be many people I know who will die. And we’ll die someday too.” Ji-won puts a stop all the depressing talk.
Jin-myung heads back into her brother’s hall to see that her mom has arrived. Mom stares at the picture of brother Soo-myung for the longest time, and she continues to stare at it outside on a bench. Jin-myung takes a seat beside her and asks why Mom won’t meet with the attorney.
Mom replies that she’d rather just receive proper punishment for her sins. Tears form in Jin-myung’s eyes as she raises her voice at Mom: “If you’re remorseful, then why did you do it? Why? Perhaps, because of me? Because you thought I might…”
Mom’s head snaps up. She tells Jin-myung that her sin is feeling too lighthearted after what she did to Soo-myung. She begins to say she knows she shouldn’t feel this way and then starts rocking back and forth with sobs. Jin-myung looks away, letting her own tears fall.
Some time later, Jin-myung does some homework at the school library, but something stops her. She leaves her studies and browses the shelves until she finds a certain book (Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair’s Youth by Hermann Hesse).
Jin-myung then heads to the convenience store for work, where she gets a pleasant surprise visit from Jae-wan. He sits her down and asks why she didn’t tell him about her brother’s funeral. Jin-myung smiles gently, saying it wasn’t exactly good news, so she didn’t want to bring it down on him. She tells him not to worry, since she didn’t tell anyone about it.
“Am I just ‘anyone’ to you?” Jae-wan asks. “I thought I was a little more special to you.” He gets up to leave when Jin-myung’s hand shoots out and grabs his. She apologizes, saying she’s just been feeling weird lately – it’s like she’s lost her way, but she doesn’t even know where she first took a wrong turn. Jae-wan slowly sits back down, squeezing her hand back. So sweet.
It’s cleaning day at the Belle Epoque house, and as the girls busy themselves with chores, their minds are flooded with their individual worries. Ji-won is feeling uneasy about confronting Eun-jae about her lie. Eun-jae is feeling dread as the date for the autopsy results grows near. Yi-na is feeling exhausted from working so hard toward a new career path. And Jin-myung is feeling pathetic after her realization that she’s lost her way.
Ye-eun watches all of them, thinking they’re weird. She wonders if she’s the only normal person in the house, only to change her mind when her phone starts beeping with texts asking about the kidnapping incident.
The girls are still preoccupied with their thoughts as they take a snack break, and they all sigh in unison.
On her way out, Ji-won finds Eun-jae sitting outside watching a neighbor’s dog. Eun-jae brings up the dream she always has with her dad saving her from a dog. “Why do you think my dad saves me?” Eun-jae asks, “Maybe because the dream and reality are opposite?”
Ji-won tenses at first, and then says that all Eun-jae did was switch the thermoses. Whether there was poison or sleeping medication inside has nothing to do with Eun-jae, since it was her father who poured it in. In Ji-won’s eyes, Eun-jae was simply protecting herself and her mom, so she’s innocent. “So don’t feel guilty. Everything will be okay,” Ji-won says.
However, Eun-jae doesn’t see how anything will turn out okay.
Eun-jae believes the investigators will eventually find out the truth, and then her worst suspicions will be confirmed – about the car accident, the house fire, and her brother’s death. She remembers her father treating them so well up until that fire.
“So I have to tell them how scared I was,” Eun-jae explains, “I have to tell them I haven’t been able to sleep since then. I have to tell them that the day my brother died, the first thing my dad did was to wash the cup my brother last drank from. In order to expose the fact that I’m not a murderer, I have to say that my dad was a murderer.”
And to Eun-jae, that isn’t an “okay” outcome. She says it feels like Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun – there’s no way things will turn out okay.
Eun-jae slips back inside, and as she shuts the door, the landlady comes out from another door, muttering that Eun-jae was acting so serious. The landlady waters her plants with a smile and says that if Eun-jae is playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun, all she has to do is not shoot. Why is this lady so awesome?
At school, Ji-won clings onto Sung-min, begging him to get in contact with a sunbae they know to dig up some information concerning the autopsy. Sung-min won’t budge, so Ji-won has to put on her best aegyo by shaking her shoulders at him. Sung-min finds the sight so repulsive that he agrees if she’ll just stop, lol. Though when Ji-won skips off, his hand goes up to his beating heart. Kyaaa.
Eun-jae lets her bus to the campus drive off without her and she goes to visit her mom instead, who’s busy picking apples in their orchard.
Mom is ecstatic to see her daughter, especially since it gives her an excuse to take a break from working. Eun-jae suggests they work together then, making Mom pout like a grumpy child. Eun-jae’s face grows serious and she tells Mom to be strong. It seems like she’s going to bring up Dad’s case when Mom screams bloody murder.
“It’s a snake! It’s a snake!” Mom cries, suddenly frantic and cowering behind Eun-jae. Eun-jae quiets her down and says it’s just a tree branch. Mom sighs with relief and says that she’s absolutely terrified of snakes, squirming at the very idea of them.
Eun-jae’s gaze toward her mom turns cold as she says, “I’m scared of snakes too.” Her voice grows louder as she says that Mom always hides while she has to do the protecting.
Mom doesn’t understand where all of this is coming from, but it doesn’t stop there – Eun-jae is tired of being the only one filled with worry and doubt while Mom gets to roam around carefree. She calls Mom the worst and storms off.
Back at school, Sung-min gives Ji-won the documents she asked for and she sifts through them, her eyes filling with more worry with every turn of the page.
Ji-won rushes home to look for Eun-jae, but Jin-myung’s the only one there. Each time the door opens, Ji-won bolts to the door, only to be disappointed when it turns out to be Ye-eun, and then Yi-na. The girls ask why Ji-won is so on edge when the doorbell rings. It’s the landlady, and she’s here to let them know Eun-jae went home instead of school only to run off, and now her parents can’t reach her.
It’s not clear where Eun-jae is, but it looks like she’s lying somewhere outside on what must be a roof. Oh God. Please, oh, please don’t be a roof.
Jin-myung stops Ji-won from walking away and urges her to tell them what’s going on with Eun-jae. Ji-won hesitates, feeling like it’s not her place to tell, but with the situation so dire, she decides to tell them everything.
Now knowing the entire story and knowing that the results of the autopsy are coming out tomorrow, the girls fear what Eun-jae might do. They can’t just sit around and do nothing, so they all go out to search for her, with Ji-won hanging back at the house in case Eun-jae returns.
Ye-eun and Yi-na search the neighborhood while Jin-myung takes the school campus. As they check every possible place Eun-jae might be, they flash back to when Eun-jae had first moved into the house – when they’d initially pushed her around and she silently took it all in until she finally exploded.
With no sign of Eun-jae anywhere, the girls retreat back to the house, now more scared than ever. Ye-eun’s panic even has her in tears, and she cries that she feels terrible for not understanding Eun-jae till now.
We go back to Eun-jae, now lying in the dark, and the camera pans over to reveal that she is on a roof – the roof of the Belle Epoque house. Her blank expression is so haunting as she remembers the events before and after her brother’s death.
When she was young, Eun-jae had noticed her dad watching her brother sleep, an unreadable expression on Dad’s face. Dad had brought home fried chicken to her brother’s excitement, and the next thing she knew, her brother had dropped his glass of milk and collapsed, choking.
Just as Eun-jae said earlier, the first thing Dad did was wash up the milk on the floor and clean the brother’s cup. At the brother’s cremation, Dad looked as devastated as any father would in front of Eun-jae and her mom, but then we see that same scene with Dad and the thermoses, his face, again, unreadable.
The memories are too much for Eun-jae, and she lets out a shaky sigh, tears streaming down her face. She doesn’t move from her spot on the roof all night.
The other girls are up all night too, unable to do anything but wait and pray. They all jump at the sound of the door opening, all eyes waiting for Eun-jae’s face to appear. When it finally does, relief comes pouring out of everyone. Yi-na screams at Eun-jae for worrying them to death, while Ye-eun straight-up bursts into tears.
Eun-jae looks up at everyone with shock. “I’m sorry,” she says innocently. Jin-myung’s crying too, and she immediately embraces Eun-jae, telling her it’s okay now that she’s back. The rest of the girls join the hug one by one, grateful to have their friend in the safety of their arms.
Please excuse me – I need to get a new box of tissues.
Eun-jae tells everyone where she was and even holds out her arm with a weak smile, saying she got bit by a ton of mosquitos all night. Jin-myung asks her in all seriousness if she went up there because she was having suicidal thoughts.
“Yes,” Eun-jae admits, crying again. She had thoughts that she had to die and that dying was the only option. “But,” she says, “no matter how much I thought about it, I didn’t want to die.” The girls tell her to live then, which only prompts more tears from Eun-jae. She’s so scared of what will happen if she does.
“We don’t know what will happen, but don’t worry in advance. You can deal with it when it comes,” Jin-myung tells her. And in the meantime, they’ll all have Eun-jae’s back. Eun-jae cries even more at the sound of that.
Ye-eun tries to lift the mood with breakfast, but it only comes crashing down again when the doorbell rings and the insurance investigator’s face shows up on the monitor.
The timid investigator must face all of them this time, since the girls refuse to leave Eun-jae. Jin-myung tells the man they already know the full story. The investigator confirms that he has the results, and Jin-myung takes Eun-jae’s hand. Eun-jae takes a breath and… the investigator apologizes. Heads turn.
According to the results, there was no foul play involved. The investigator apologizes again for going to such drastic measures. But I don’t think Eun-jae’s even listening anymore – her eyes dart back and forth, trying to make sense of all of this.
After the investigator takes his leave, the girls try to figure this out. Jin-myung asks how old Eun-jae was at the time of her brother’s death and of her father’s death. Eun-jae answers she was in fourth grade and then eight grade. Jin-myung wonders if Eun-jae misunderstood something, but Eun-jae isn’t sure — maybe the autopsy wasn’t detailed enough?
Ji-won thinks back to the autopsy files she read through, where it said if there was no reagent, you’re not guilty – so she realized that even the autopsy can’t reveal a lot of details. However, she tells Eun-jae that when she looked into it, she found that there are no chemicals that go undetected by an autopsy.
Eun-jae still seems pretty shocked, so the girls tell her she must’ve misunderstood, and they call her a dummy for worrying over nothing. They give her reassuring smiles until she smiles back.
On campus, Sung-min spots Ji-won staring off into space on a bench. He looks her up and down and thinks that she is pretty, and they do get along well. Omg, is this really happening?
He takes a seat next to Ji-won and asks her what she’s thinking about. Ji-won wonders out loud if she did the right thing. Sung-min urges her to go on, but for once, Ji-won doesn’t feel like talking. That worries Sung-min, and he even checks to see if she has a fever. Ji-won tells him to lay off. Starting today, she’s going to be more silent. Sung-min insists that she’s the prettiest when she talks, though.
“Really?” Ji-won says, finally looking at him. And then she picks her wedgie. HAHAHA. Sung-min just sighs and gets up, totally done with her before he barely started. Back to her peppy self, Ji-won chases after him. Ah, this couple, seriously…
Meanwhile, our next cute couple, Eun-jae and Jong-yeol, take a stroll, with Eun-jae talking about memory really being an untrustworthy thing while Jong-yeol’s plans an entire romantic getaway in his head and smiles to himself. When she asks him why he’s so smiley, he responds that just looking at her makes him smile. Real smooth, this fella.
They run into another boy who Jong-yeol calls Yool-bin. *double take* Whoa there. Is this really who I think it is? It is! It’s Eun-jae’s oily ex-crush, Yool-bin. I was wondering where you went. I’m a bit sad to see your luscious locks gone though.
Yool-bin totally checks Eun-jae out, which doesn’t get past Jong-yeol. He suggests Yool-bin run along. Yool-bin does leave, but not before giving Eun-jae one last cheesy wink. Jong-yeol scoffs that the dude did get better looking, and then waits for Eun-jae’s input. Eun-jae smiles brightly at him and says she doesn’t care for looks, which he soon realizes isn’t exactly a compliment. Hah.
On to Couple #3: Jin-myung and Jae-wan. Jin-myung tells Jae-wan her plans to go to China for a month. She’s not sure what she’ll do after that, but right now, she wants to do something unpredictable for once in her life. In his head, Jae-wan is saddened that she came up with this decision out of nowhere, but he encourages her out loud.
Jin-myung says she’s glad he’s on her side, otherwise she would’ve felt alone in this, which gets Jae-wan’s hopes up that she does see him in her future. And sure enough, she asks for his address so she can write to him. He’s so adorably excited that he starts blurting it out, and then stops so he can simply show her on his phone.
Next up is Dong-joo and Yi-na. Dong-joo quickly hides the picture of Yi-na he’d been looking at when she shows up. “You cut your hair,” he notes right away. She asks him what kind of gift a man would like. Dong-joo asks if she’s getting something for him, but she says it’s for another man. Gah, that sad smile Dong-joo gives her.
It turns out the other man is Jong-gyu. Yi-na presents him with cologne, proud to be giving him something she bought with her own money. She asks if he notices anything different about her, but Jong-gyu remains clueless.
Ye-eun receives a letter from Doo-young telling her that he cherishes all the time they spent together and that she doesn’t need to forgive him. He’d just like it if she were happy…
And then we see Doo-young writing another heartfelt letter in prison, with a woman telling him exactly what to say. He groans and asks how long he has to write these letters. “Until the victim writes a positive response,” the woman says. Doo-young curses in annoyance.
On Jin-myung’s last night before heading off to China, the girls celebrate with drinks. Ji-won suggests they all toast and spill some juicy secrets. Ji-won goes first, declaring, “I still haven’t dated anyone!” The girls scoff, having known that already. They all burst into laughter and raise their glasses, toasting to Belle Epoque.
Ye-eun goes to another therapy session and starts babbling about her housemates again when the therapist cuts her off, asking for Ye-eun to stop talking about others and talk more about herself.
“Me? There’s not much to talk about,” Ye-eun says with a smile. She’s eating well and sleeping well – all in all, she’d consider herself doing fine. In fact, she thinks she doesn’t need to show up for therapy anymore.
Still smiling, Ye-eun is on her way home when a man sneaks up on his girlfriend to surprise her a few feet away, also managing to scare the grin right off of Ye-eun’s face. Ye-eun starts to hyperventilate, the crowd around her moving about while she’s stuck in place.
Meanwhile, Jin-myung sets off for her trip to China. A worker at the airport ticket counter watches Jin-myung walk away, expressing jealousy that she gets to travel like this. Hearing this, the biggest smile forms on Jin-myung’s face.
And back at the Belle Epoque house, the landlady listens to her epic French music while getting ready for yet another day.
Huh. Well, there’s a bittersweet ending if I ever saw one. It left me feeling incredibly uneasy – much like the entire run of the show did – but it also left me with juuust the right amount of hope. None of the storylines were really tied up, but the show gave us just enough space to imagine all the possibilities ourselves.
Right now, I want to be pissed that Ye-eun’s last scene had to be such a negative one, but deep down, I know the show included that for a reason. I think if Age of Youth wanted to piss us off with a half-assed ending, it could have, but it’s not that kind of show. It’s much smarter than that. So when I watched it again, this scene with Ye-eun seemed totally well-calculated. Rather than an implication that Ye-eun was doomed for unhappiness, the scene serves more as a reminder that there are many roadblocks we face in life.
The scene is “the end” for us since it’s the last we see of her, but for Ye-eun, it’s just one moment in her life that feels a little tough. Could the kidnapping trauma ruin the rest of her life? It’s possible. Could she eventually get over it like she eventually got over her love for Doo-young? That’s also possible. It could go either way. And though we may be dying to see it resolved onscreen, we really don’t need to. I think we’ve already got enough evidence from our girls that they can be crying with despair one minute and then laughing hysterically in the next. They’ll be fine, guys. Maybe not right way, but in time.
Another reason I praise this drama’s ending is because of the final moments dedicated to Belle Epoque’s landlady. I thought she was a wonderful presence in the girls’ lives, silently protecting them and silently caring for them. And at times I was beginning to doubt she was even real because she was the spitting image of a guardian angel (but that was when I still believed the ghosties in this drama were real). I don’t know, there was just something about this woman I found extremely comforting. The show’s last scene with her getting ready made me realize that what made her comforting was simply being there all this time, showing that life indeed goes on. She could’ve been a young girl just like the five heroines – just like any of us, really – with her own strange issues, but she grew up and ended up perfectly fine. For me, this character was the example that I wanted the girls to follow, and she’s the example I think a lot of people should follow. Who better to have as a role model than an independent woman just living her life?
This drama has etched itself a special place in my heart and it’ll definitely stay there for a long time, but that doesn’t mean the drama is getting off scot-free. I’m all for the ambiguous ending, but the drama still failed to answer questions that we deserved to know. Why did the ballerina ex-housemate from Episode 1 move out? Why were the girls so sketchy at every mention of her? And then the big question: Can Ji-won really see ghosts? If the whole thing was a lie, then what was with that high-pitched noise? Who is this “Hyo-jin” Ji-won called out to? These questions keep the drama from being a perfect show to me, but it doesn’t make me like the show any less. If anything, I guess it plays with the idea that not everything in life can be answered. I won’t complain since I got answers to the rest of my long list of questions. Along with that, I got five more strong drama heroines to admire. Here’s to those five girls who told us it’s okay to be shy, to be unique, to dream late, to fall in love, and to simply live for ourselves.