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[Alternate Endings] Circle’s unexplored possibilities

By @peridot

Even though there are many dramas whose endings were lackluster, frustrating, nonsensical, or plain old disappointing, when it came time to write about a particular drama for this month’s theme, I decided that I would write about tvN’s Circle. On the whole, I liked this little sci-fi drama centered on the deep bond between two brothers, even though the “Brave New World” section suffered from various inconsistencies and lacked the same dramatic pull as “Beta Project.”

I was most disappointed by the choice to keep Yeo Jin-gu at the end, playing a clone of his original character. One could argue that the drama itself wrestled with questions of identity and the nature of being. What makes someone the person that he or she is? Is identity tied to one’s physical form? Is identity inextricably linked to memories, even if one has not actually lived out the experiences tied to those memories?

I could understand the opinions of my fellow Beanies regarding this choice, but ultimately, I could not help thinking that the writers just wanted an excuse to keep Yeo Jin-gu in the role. I’ll never forget the lively discussions and theories we shared with one another, and the creative ideas. I guess I would love to have seen an older Woo-jin in the final two episodes. I could imagine Bum-gyun as the brave prince of some fairytale, bracing himself against the various snares of the Human B headquarters in order to rescue his brother and awaken him from his unnatural slumber.

I thought I might reimagine certain aspects of the final episode and rewrite a portion of one scene. What follows is a small attempt on my part to change the ending:

The long years of being in a coma have left our Woo-jin—played by Won Bin in his comeback project—with a wasted body, although his mind has been painfully active, forced to constantly relive the events of twenty years ago in order to keep the machine, so to speak, running. These memories, played in a continuous loop, have become a nightmare from which Woo-jin cannot escape, until one day…

As Bum-gyun and Jung-yeon make their way up to the topmost floor of Human B, they cannot contain the hope they are allowing themselves to feel for the first time in a long while. For Bum-gyun, much of that time has been wasted. For many years, the complete absence of memories from his youth had turned him into a shell of his former self. For Jung-yeon, the years have felt painfully and agonizingly long, but her desire to repay Woo-jin for all that he had done on her behalf gave her the strength and endurance to continue.

An unknown force seems to guide them to the right room, one of many in a long corridor. Bum-gyun hesitates for a moment, but following one long, deep breath, he pushes the door, meeting no resistance as the security system has been temporarily disabled.

Though the figure lying on the bed, hooked up to various machines that monitor his vitals, is frail and frighteningly thin, Bum-gyun knows that he has finally found his long lost brother. “Woo-jin-ah,” he cries, embracing his brother. Tear drops begin to fall from Woo-jin’s eyes. Though he cannot speak, his eyes convey a plethora of emotions. “Forgive me, brother,” Bum-gyun continues, “forgive me for forgetting you.”

As to how Woo-jin is able to suddenly wake up after all those years, let’s say that it is due to the power of twin telepathy. Since we are dealing with a sci-fi fantasy, and not a work of strict science fiction, I think that we can just leave it like that.

I imagine Bum-gyun carrying his brother in his arms and escaping Human B—aided by his fellow detectives and the forces of the recently awakened mayor of Smart Earth. I even have no problem with the drama’s depiction of the final showdown and the downfall of Minister Park. But I was disappointed in the failure of the show’s writers to explore the shady corporation of Human B itself. I always thought it would be fascinating to make Minister Park the figurehead of that organization. I simply couldn’t believe that this secret organization would have yielded to Park so easily.

I could imagine an epilogue to the final episode, in which mysterious figures in a dark room in an unknown location (after all, we need to create the right ambience), concede that the experiment of Smart Earth was a failure. Human B has lost Byul’s mysterious cube and Park is dead. But these individuals would see this failure as a temporary setback, not an actual defeat. They have been working behind the scenes for many years. Perhaps they have even gotten hold of another alien and will continue to work towards their goal, which is the total control and manipulation of the human population. They are not limited by the constraints of time and financial resources, and they will never give up.

This brings me to the issue of aliens in the show. I guess that the writers had enough on their plate and couldn’t develop that part of the story. The ending of the show does take us back to the alien question and leaves open the possibility of a second season. I wish we could have found out more about what the aliens were doing and why they landed on Earth in the first place, but we would have needed a longer show.

I’ll just pretend that other aliens arrived at the same time as Byul. Like Byul, those aliens were somehow left behind. They have been living secretly among humans. Perhaps they are conducting experiments—some for nefarious purposes, others out of genuine curiosity. One of those unfortunate aliens finds itself in the clutches of Human B in my imagined epilogue.

In conclusion, Circle remains one of my favorite K-dramas, but I was not completely satisfied with its ending. I wish the reunion of both brothers would have included the Woo-jin we all cheered for and grew to love. I wish we would have learned something about the forces behind the original Human B, and the goals of the aliens, who have visited Earth on more than one occasion. I wasn’t able to write an alternate ending that satisfied all of those wishes for the show, but I thought I would just share my thoughts about some of the possibilities that could have been explored. Thanks for letting me do so.


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