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Life on Mars: Episode 16 (Final)

After weeks of questions, it’s about time we get some answers. Tae-joo has wrapped up Kim Min-seok’s case, but his unfinished business in 1988 still haunts him. It’s the final hour and Tae-joo will have to figure out where his happiness lies.

 
FINAL EPISODE RECAP

A cold case file on the gang attack that resulted in the death of Dong-chul and Co. back in 1988 lies open on Tae-joo’s desk at home. Meanwhile, Tae-joo is speeding down to Insung Station to investigate further.

In the records room, Tae-joo locates the incident report and frantically flips through the crime scene photos of his friends’ bodies. His head snaps up at a cackle of familiar voices and he steps out into the hall where Dong-chul and the team are laughing loudly. He calls out to them, but they turn a corner.

Of course, when he reaches that corner, they’ve vanished. Anxiously running outside, Tae-joo grapples with his sense of reality as he wanders out into the middle of traffic. (Have you learned nothing from all your near-death scrapes with cars?)

Afterwards, Tae-joo is calming down on a bench inside when the current captain finds him. The captain hands over the case file on the gang incident and everything is as Tae-joo had said it would be… except Chief Ahn Min-sik doesn’t exist. Another name is listed in the file, but that individual has since died.

Tae-joo runs to the records room to crosscheck the documents, but Ahn Min-sik doesn’t appear anywhere. What’s more, the captain tells him Ahn Min-sik is absent from the police database altogether. He suggests that Tae-joo try contacting the Police Mutual Aid Association to be sure, but they tell Tae-joo no such person has ever worked within the force.

More confused than ever, Tae-joo stops by the hospital to visit 2018 Chief Ahn Min-sik at his office. Chief Ahn invites him inside and Tae-joo asks if there are any side-effects to his surgery. He explains that he’s been seeing apparitions from his coma dream and Chief Ahn agrees that it’s possible for brain surgery patients to experience delirium and hallucinations.

Chief Ahn reasons that Tae-joo’s dream was a product of his subconscious distorting memories from his traumatic childhood. The “apparitions” he saw there were created from his memories and pain as a sort of defense mechanism.

Tae-joo points out that all the people he met had actually existed, but Chief Ahn asserts that dreams are influenced by the subconscious. In short, if those people were real, Tae-joo had to have interacted with them in some way prior to the dream—passed them on the street, or seen them on TV or in the newspaper.

Thinking over the conversation back at home, Tae-joo’s eyes fall on the cold case files on his desk. Rifling through, he pulls out a report on the Hangbok Welfare Center incident and recalls the current Insung police chief saying that when he looked into the people Tae-joo had requested, he’d been told Tae-joo already had the information.

Turns out, Tae-joo had pulled the documents a few months ago with the intention of investigating unsolved cases. A flashback shows Tae-joo poring over documents on the Hangbok Welfare Center—as well as the Seobu Gang incident where the team died—shortly before his accident.

That’s when ex-fiancée Seo-hyun had approached him for help on Kim Min-seok’s case and commented that Tae-joo must’ve wanted to return to the field (because he was looking into cold cases). Realization hits and Chief Ahn’s words echo in Tae-joo’s ears, “All the things that you see are hallucinations that are created from your subconscious.”

Tae-joo thinks back to his first meeting with Dong-chul and the others and how those relationships had deepened over his time there. It’s too much and Tae-joo fumbles for the antidepressants Chief Ahn prescribed, choking one back.

That night, Tae-joo has fitful dreams of his last moments in 1988 where Na-young cries out desperately for him to save them as the gangsters attack. Jolting awake, Tae-joo sits up and his snowy TV emits Na-young’s desperate radio call.

Before he has the chance to process, however, Tae-joo’s phone rings. The TV cuts to a “no signal” screen and Tae-joo answers the call, greeting his mother on the other line.

He drives over and Aunt runs out to greet him. She fusses over him affectionately as Mom looks on with a smile, and then they all go inside. Tae-joo gapes at the feast Mom has prepared and Aunt gushes that she and Mom were at the market all morning getting all the freshest ingredients.

When the meal is over, Tae-joo finds Mom tending to her plants on the balcony. She worries about him going to work tomorrow rather than resting a few more days, but Tae-joo assures her he’s rested enough.

Mom laughs that Aunt no longer seems interested in marriage—she just likes living with Mom. That’s why Mom moved here, and now she feels she has someone to rely on and laugh with. Tae-joo smiles, saying he’s happy to hear it but Mom perceptively notices something is bothering him.

“There are people who are in need of my help,” Tae-joo admits, “But I wasn’t able to help them.” He tells Mom they’re waiting, but he can’t reach them and he doesn’t know what to do.

Smiling gently, Mom echoes Na-young’s words to just close his eyes and listen to his heart. A genuine smile spreads across Tae-joo’s face and he tells her she just reminded him of someone. Mom guesses it’s a girl, noting that it’s been a long time since he’s smiled like that. Hee.

Taking Tae-joo’s hand, Mom tells him that she just wants him to be happy and that she’s on his side, no matter what. Aunt calls Mom inside to watch TV, but Tae-joo remains on the balcony, lost in thought.

At the Seoul Metro Police Agency, Tae-joo reports to his new position as captain of the Violent Crimes Unit 1. Seo-hyun drops by to congratulate him and check how he’s doing. He assures her he’s not sick, but Seo-hyun argues that he doesn’t look happy.

She points out that it was his desire to return to field work and Tae-joo agrees, but his expression remains lackluster, despite his efforts to look happy. “I’ve had the feeling that something was strange for quite a while,” Seo-hyun huffs, crossing her arms, “When you recovered, you didn’t seem like the same person.”

She recalls he seemed out of place after waking up, like he’d returned to the wrong place. “You felt like a stranger to me,” she says. She starts to ask about his dream, but before Tae-joo can answer, a team member peeks his head in to say everything’s ready to start the meeting.

Seo-hyun excuses herself and good-naturedly shoots down Tae-joo’s promise to call, saying she won’t answer. However, she does want him to be happy and implores him to smile more—she’d heard he smiled a lot as a kid. “I wish I could see you smile,” Seo-hyun says at last, and then she leaves.

The unit starts their meeting and a detective briefs the others on the current case. Tae-joo listens absently, twirling a small metal plate in his hand. The detective plays a phone call recording, but instead of the victim, it’s Na-young’s voice that rings out.

Tae-joo shoots out of his seat as Na-young’s voice is swapped for Dong-chul demanding that he hurry, and finally Nam-shik’s frantic cries. The other detectives cautiously address Tae-joo and he asks for the recording to be replayed… but this time it’s an unknown woman fearfully telling a dispatch officer she’s being followed.

No one is really listening though, because they’re all looking warily at Tae-joo. Finally the presenting detective asks if Tae-joo’s all right, pointing at Tae-joo’s hand that has been grasping the metal plate so tightly that it’s drawn blood.

Tae-joo stares at his bloody hand with a dazed expression. “I can’t… feel a thing,” he mutters, and then turns and walks out of the room. He ends up on the roof and remembers that Na-young had talked him down before. She’d held his hand to her heart to prove they were alive and he presses his palm against his own chest now.

Tae-joo:“I had a dream. In that dream, I met people who are no longer alive now. But… could it really have been a dream… or could it be that I’m still in a dream?”

Tae-joo takes a step forward and as scenes of his friends in 1988 being beaten by the gangsters flash through his mind, he starts to run and finally takes a leap off the roof…

Right back into 1988! Tae-joo holds Chief Ahn’s gun out as he races towards the horde of gangsters and fires off three shots. One gangster is hit in the leg and collapses to the ground while the others take a step back.

Still holding the firearm, Tae-joo orders the gangsters to drop their weapons. One member tries to rush him, but without even a second’s hesitation Tae-joo plants a bullet in the man’s shoulder. His message comes across loud and clear and weapons clank to the cement floor as the men raise their hands in surrender.

Dong-chul grumbles at Tae-joo for taking so long while backup finally arrives and officers arrest the gang members. Yong-ki checks on Nam-shik while Tae-joo kneels next to Na-young. He apologizes for taking so long and they all rise to their feet.

The officers drag all the gangsters away while the team shambles out of the warehouse. Tae-joo confirms to Dong-chul that Chief Ahn is responsible for everything and Dong-chul gripes that he never liked that guy. He barks out an order to call for backup since Chief Ahn couldn’t have gotten far, but only manages a few more steps before crumpling to the ground.

Manager Park checks Dong-chul over at the clinic and assures the anxious group that he’ll be just fine. When Yong-ki continues to whine, Manager Park snaps, “He won’t die! His head is much harder than yours.” Hee.

He tells them the injuries Dong-chul suffered were actually quite minor and he just passed out from all the stress. Unfortunately for Manager Park, the chaos has just begun as Dong-chul’s mother-in-law bustles into the room, Dong-chul’s wife and daughter in her wake.

Assuming Dong-chul is dead, the women immediately start caterwauling. His wife smacks at his body, simultaneously sobbing and berating him for getting himself killed. Manager Park attempts to interject, but Mother-in-law has already switched gears and grumbles that she shouldn’t have approved the marriage.

The team listens awkwardly as Mother-in-law declares it’s not too late and suggests that her daughter hook up with a man from her past. Dong-chul’s daughter stops crying to ask if she’s talking about that rich man and when Mother-in-law nods, the daughter mutters that she’s not against the idea.

All their tittering stirs Dong-chul and he sits up grouchily, scaring the daylights out of the women. Mother-in-law fusses over him in disbelief and his daughter hugs him tightly. He barks that they must want him dead and when his daughter denies it, he tells her to go say that to her new rich daddy. Hehe.

Dong-chul’s wife starts smacking him for faking dead and Dong-chul whimpers that he almost died. The team watches with bemused expressions as the wife lets loose, only muttering, “Please, stop” when Dong-chul begs them to help.

Afterwards, Tae-joo sits with Dong-chul and snickers. Dong-chul snaps at him to stop laughing and says that Tae-joo’s marriage will be the same. They sober when Dong-chul asks about Chief Ahn, but he’s still at large.

Yong-ki and Nam-shik jog in and report that Chief Ahn showed up at the docks, trying to charter a boat. To Tae-joo’s horror, Dong-chul rips out his IV (ouch) and declares that he’s going to catch Chief Ahn with his own hands. “A police officer shouldn’t be afraid to die at the scene!” he shouts and runs out of the room.

Tae-joo’s handcuffs—that he’d used on Chief Ahn—are found discarded at the docks. Dong-chul asks Yong-ki for the name of the boat Chief Ahn cut a deal with and then draws the others in to tell them his plan of attack.

Later, Chief Ahn runs down to the dock but is quickly hounded by an army of officers. He breaks into a sprint and manages to leap onto the boat, shouting for the captain to hurry. To his dismay, Dong-chul emerges from inside and chides him for trying to escape. He then proceeds to pound on Chief Ahn while the other officers, including Tae-joo, look on.

Down in the interrogation room, Chief Ahn refuses to speak. Tae-joo plays the tape Detective Shin had secretly recorded of Chief Ahn admitting to killing Chief Kim and framing Dong-chul, before he’s heard shooting Detective Shin as well. Chief Ahn smirks and Dong-chul flies over the table at him.

Hoisting Chief Ahn up by his collar, Dong-chul growls that he should beg the judge to keep him in jail because the minute Chief Ahn is out, he’s dead meat. Chief Ahn remains silent so Dong-chul drops him to the ground and storms out.

Tae-joo comes upstairs to report that Chief Ahn won’t talk. Luckily, Dong-chul found the ledger of various police officers’ dirty dealings with Insung Construction that Detective Shin had hidden. Na-young says that Chief Kim had probably tried to pressure Chief Ahn with the book when he wasn’t promoted, as expected.

Along with the recording, Tae-joo says they have enough evidence on Chief Ahn to hand him over to prosecution. A couple officers escort Chief Ahn to a police car for transport, but he tries once more to appeal to Tae-joo. He warns Tae-joo that if he goes to prison, Tae-joo will never go home.

“Think about it,” Chief Ahn implores, “I’m the only person who could help you here.” Tae-joo opens his mouth, but his reply is cut off by Dong-chul telling Chief Ahn to shove it. He gripes that Chief Ahn sure is talkative now and tells the officers to take him away.

As the car pulls out, Dong-chul asks Tae-joo what Chief Ahn wanted. “I couldn’t care less,” Tae-joo replies, “Don’t worry about it.” The car starts turning out of the parking lot and they both send Chief Ahn an obscene gesture… except Tae-joo flips the bird and is immediately embarrassed because Dong-chul doesn’t recognize it.

That evening, the team drops in on their favorite haunt like a bunch of gangsters. They inform the barman (whose name is Mr. Yang) that they’ll be having dinner there but he deadpans that they should go to another establishment. Dong-chul whips out an envelope full of cash and Mr. Yang asks what they want to eat.

As soon as Mr. Yang walks away, they drop the act and giddily take their seats. While Mr. Yang grills their beef, Dong-gul toasts the team. After they throw those back, Yong-ki respectfully offers to pour Tae-joo a drink and the others look on proudly as the two awkwardly toast each other. Aww.

Dong-chul suggests that Yong-ki sing a song, so he and Nam-shik jump up and start dancing. Na-young pulls Dong-chul up to join them and Tae-joo watches the others dance around like fools with a grin on his face. Mr. Yang comments that it’s the first time he’s seen Tae-joo smile like that, and says it’s nice.

Na-young comes back and urges Tae-joo to join them. The other three beckon from the dance floor and he eventually gives in. Though his moves may be a bit tentative and stiff, Tae-joo’s smile is genuine as he sings along with his friends.

The party winds down and everyone spills out onto the street. Dong-chul steers Yong-ki and Nam-shik in one direction, but Nam-shik runs back to bid Tae-joo and Na-young goodnight. He eyes them suspiciously for a moment, but then shakes it off and runs back to the other men, who’ve disappeared around a bend.

Na-young starts to excuse herself, but to her surprise Tae-joo offers to take her home. She can barely contain her joy and practically skips after him. As they walk, Na-young tentatively broaches the topic of Tae-joo leaving, wondering when he plans to go. Without missing a beat, Tae-joo answers that he isn’t.

Stunned, Na-young asks why and Tae-joo stops to face her. “Because I’ve grown fond of this place,” he says. Smiling shyly, Na-young says that’s a relief and Tae-joo blurts out that if she ever has the time, they should go see the movie they never had the chance to see (from the tickets she gave him forever ago). Na-young replies that she’d like that and then runs home, while Tae-joo watches with a smile.

The next morning, Tae-joo arrives at the station to find Na-young, Nam-shik, and Yong-ki fussing over the paper. Joining them, Tae-joo sees that Ahn Min-shik’s case has made headlines and Dong-chul’s picture is in the paper.

Dong-chul appears behind them and grumbles at Reporter Bae’s photography skills, but his expression is clearly pleased. Yong-ki wonders if Dong-chul will receive a promotion and although he’s intrigued by the idea, Dong-chul snaps that detectives should catch culprits out of a sense of duty, not for greedy ambition.

He adds that he also just likes being captain and Nam-shik innocently asks if he should inform HR not to promote him, then. Dong-chul snipes that Nam-shik has grown up and then asks Na-young if she would make him some coffee.

Turning to do so, Na-young is stopped by another officer delivering some paperwork. When she opens the folder, she freezes. Tae-hyun notices her odd reaction and asks what’s wrong, but she doesn’t answer. She doesn’t respond to Dong-chul either, so Nam-shik takes the folder.

It’s a transfer notice for Tae-joo to return to Seoul and Dong-chul asks if he requested it. Tae-joo is as shocked as the rest of them and denies any involvement, but no one is convinced. Yong-ki mutters accusingly that it doesn’t make sense for him to be transferred without asking for it and Na-young won’t even look at him.

That night, Tae-joo sits in his house and stares at the transfer notice. A knock behind him alerts Tae-joo to Dong-chul’s presence. When asked how he got in, Dong-chul replies the front door was unlocked and wonders if Tae-joo was waiting for someone. He guesses Na-young but Tae-joo just looks away sadly.

Dong-chul came bearing gifts of chicken and alcohol and he digs in, laughing heartily at the TV while Tae-joo silently sips soju. Finally, Tae-joo speaks, guessing that Dong-chul came in order to tell him something. Dong-chul denies it and Tae-joo wonders if he got kicked out again. Hee.

Sitting up, Dong-chul barks that he’s not a stray cat and Tae-joo asks why is he here, then. “I was just passing by and dropped in. Can’t I do that?” Dong-chul asks, and Tae-joo can’t argue. Sighing, Tae-joo muses that this will likely be his last chance to go home.

Dong-chul stares at him for a beat and then agrees, noting that getting transferred to Seoul from the countryside is a rarity. He wonders why Tae-joo doesn’t look happy though, and points out that it’s ultimately Tae-joo’s choice.

The evening alarm blares and Dong-chul remembers he was supposed to bring his wife soy sauce. Tae-joo stands to see him out and Dong-chul says he never told Tae-joo thank you. “I would’ve died without you,” Dong-chul tells him, “Thank you, Tae-joo.” He pats the young detective on the back, wishing him luck in Seoul, and takes his leave.

The next morning, Tae-joo watches a bunch of kids run past and he flashes back through his time here in 1988, bonding with the team and healing old scars. The memories bring a smile to his lips.

At the station, Tae-joo stops Na-young as she rushes by, but freezes up, unsure of what to say. She says if he doesn’t have something to tell her, she’ll return to work and walks away. Behind her, Dong-chul makes eye contact from his desk for a moment, but returns to his paperwork. Yong-ki also eyes Tae-joo but turns away without saying anything.

Nam-shik is the only one to address him, and asks if Tae-joo has finished packing. Tae-joo says he hasn’t and Yong-ki grunts that he should hurry up already—he’s making them restless. A call comes in and Nam-shik informs the team that a body has been discovered, apparently belonging to a member of the Seobu Gang.

Yong-ki wonders if it was internal strife and Dong-chul vows to clear the gang out of their town. Dong-chul orders Yong-ki and Nam-shik to get ready and tells Na-young to call in forensics and a backup team. Tae-joo waits expectantly but when Dong-chul turns to him, he hesitates and then leaves.

Everyone follows and Tae-joo takes a step to join them but stops when the TV flickers on. He turns to look at the snowy screen and Doctor Jang’s voice addresses him while an apparition of the doc appears behind him.

Doctor Jang asks if Tae-joo is happy, or if he’s still confused whether this place is a dream or reality. Tae-joo doesn’t answer and Doctor Jang tells him the answer is simple: “The place you can live with a smile… is your reality.”

Tae-joo walks past him and follows his team outside. Na-young is telling Dong-chul that backup is unavailable and Nam-shik adds that it’s due to the Olympics. Yong-ki spots Tae-joo and says there’s no point in accompanying them, as he’s leaving soon. Dong-chul agrees that there’s a lot to prepare, but Tae-joo refuses.

“I’ll come with you,” he says, pulling out the transfer notice and tearing it up. Nam-shik warns him that he’ll be disciplined for ripping it up, but Tae-joo is unfazed. Dong-chul smiles and Nam-shik cheerfully asks if this means Tae-joo’s here to stay.

Tae-joo nods and Yong-ki calls him inconsistent, but he’s smiling too and steps aside for Tae-joo to ride shotgun. Dong-chul tells Na-young to get in the car as well. She’s taken aback, but he points out that she needs field work experience.

Everyone happily piles in and Dong-chul shouts, “This car is Back to the Future!” before peeling out of the parking lot.

As they’re driving, Tae-joo’s ears begin to ring and Chief Ahn calls out to him desperately from the radio. Tae-joo looks over at his oblivious car-mates and turns the volume down. Dong-chul questions him and Tae-joo replies that he just didn’t want to hear it.

Dong-chul tsks and switches the station, turning the volume back up on an energetic pop song. Everyone rolls down their windows, so Tae-joo follows suit and when the others start bobbing their heads he awkwardly tries to imitate their movements. Finally he starts singing along and his face breaks into a smile as they drive into their future.

EPILOGUE

On another day, Tae-joo sits alone in the office finishing up paperwork. He grabs his jacket and starts to leave when the phone rings. He picks up and waits for someone to speak but there’s only silence. Finally he asks, “Hello?” and a familiar voice answers, “Hello, Chief Han Tae-joo. It’s been a long time.” The man wonders if Tae-joo has forgotten his voice, but Tae-joo smirks and calls him by name—Kim Hyun-seok.

 
COMMENTS

I can’t believe it’s already over! Although, that epilogue does leave it open if they ever wanted to pursue Tae-joo’s adventures in this new timeline he’s created. Or is it a new timeline? Honestly, I’m still not entirely sure whether he time-traveled, warped to an alternate reality, or if he’s really just running around in an extremely realistic coma dream. I love the twist that he’d been researching those cases before his accident, filling in a few coma theory holes and throwing Tae-joo back into the “What is real/what is a dream?” dilemma once more. I actually like how it’s left somewhat open for interpretation, but I prefer the alternate reality theory, so I’m going to stick with that for my own peace of mind.

I’m so glad Tae-joo was able to return to 1988, because that’s truly where he belongs. He’s happy there, and it really goes to show how miserable he was before, by the way everyone reacted to the “new” Tae-joo that woke up from the coma. His time in 1988 helped him heal long-forgotten scars and become the happier, healthier person he deserves to be. I feel a bit sad to leave Mom and Aunt behind, but that scene when he visited them really felt like closure. Mom let him know that she had Aunt and she was going to be okay, and gave him permission to do whatever he needed in order to be happy (while also giving her seal of approval for the girl who could make stoic Tae-joo grin like a fool).

After returning to 1988 (and solving the immediate problem of saving his friends’ lives), I love how Tae-joo melted into that life. He finally stopped restraining himself and while he’s still a little awkward (the guy needs to get some groove, that head twitch looked painful!), he’s showing his expressions more openly, he took a solid step in forming a relationship with Yong-ki, and he asked Na-young on a date! And how cute was it when his transfer notice came in and everyone was salty? The smiles on all their faces when he ripped it up were so genuine and heartwarming, and I’m crying bittersweet tears to see them all go.

I want to give major props to all the cast and crew for doing such an amazing job from start to finish. Especially Jung Kyung-ho, who somehow made me forget he wasn’t an emotionally stunted cinnamon roll that didn’t even know how to smile (despite watching him play multiple goofy characters over the years). I’ve always adored him but this character really highlighted how skilled he is as an actor. Everyone did such a great job. I love all the characters so dearly and wish them all the best on their journey. The only upside to seeing this gem of a show come to a close is that now I can finally go back and watch the original BBC version! I hope y’all had as much fun with this as I did. Until we meet again on our next drama adventure!

 
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One of the best for 2018!
Great cast and good ending, no complaints here.

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Tae Joo has such a strong case of depression that he used a cold case file to create a life for himself that he still was unhappy with until the end. This would not have been a problem for me if it was like that from the very beginning but it was not. He was so deeply unhappy, and possibly attempted suicide before, that he could not allow himself to have that from the beginning of his own damn dream.

This episode was emotionally draining and I feel that his death was romanticized. He is pretty much stuck in 1988. There will be no or anything after that. While the cases might differ, the outcomes will still be the same.

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I must say I agree. I asked on my wall if Tae Joo's happiness is more important than truth & reality.

IMO, There's enough evidence to show it wasn't actual time travel. I'd believe alternate reality, but he also exists in this reality in a coma i.e. the only way to get to that reality is to be in a coma in this one? Or near death? Or actual death? In all of these cases, Tae Joo has essentially attempted/committed suicide to return to '88 because he has died in this reality.

There's no way of knowing for sure what '88 was. I think the most obvious explanation is what it is - a long dream. Tae Joo's depression - as you've rightly identified - deluded him into believing that world is real.

In which case, his happiness in 88 is no different from that of a mental patient or drug addict.

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I had a hard time accepting that TJ had committed suicide and left his mother behind so I’ll go with a theory that TJ was already dead from the beginning. He died when he was shot and hit over and the whole series was about him being in some kind of purgatory to deal with the fact that he indeed was dead.

So waking up in 2018 was just part of that journey to finally let go of his mortal life and choosing to stay in 1988 was his acceptance to move to the afterlife.

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After reading Beanies' comments, I've decided to adopt this theory too. T_T It's so much nicer.

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Agreed. Just because he is happer there, does not mean it is the reality. Unlime what Dr Jang say.

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Jung Kyun Ho <3 <3 <3
Every time I think he's done the best he can, he goes and make another drama where he makes me forget about all those characters he played and I loved to death. For me, he has been the best actor there is out there and I don't get how he can be so underrated. He can do it all ! He makes me laugh, cry, shiver in angst. He can play the guy with no emotion or the most adorable goofball. He can even be both at the same time and make it beliveable. He saves dramas that weren't good just by acting in them... I really don't get why the hell when I asked for a calendar with his face in Korea people were like : "Joon Kyung who ? Want some Lee Min Ho instead ?".

So when you pair him with THAT cast, well... I knew those guys were going to be amazing because come on : Park Sung-Woong. Also, Go Ah-Sung is amazing and with so much raw talent and little star power (which kind of sadly confirms that in Korea, better be known for your beauty or your singing/dancing abilities than actual acting abilities...) it just was going to be epic.
The end of the drama really lacks sense or actual answers but then I realised I totally didn't care and that all that mattered was that Tae Joo was smiling. I think it's the first time I'm so aware the end isn't really good but I'm totally gonna forget that fact because it was so satisfying. When Tae Joo goes back to the future, I was genuinely sad. My heart was ging to burst when he "woohooed" in the car at the end. It was so adorably awkward and out of character but also so in character... I don't know, this head jerking movement made my day.
I really don't see how it could get any better. l guess I'll just have to watch Jung Kyun Ho's next drama to find out =)

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You'll have to make your own JKH calendar. :D

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Sigh. Wish he could read your post!

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Thanks for your post and for your love for JKH. I’m just a new fan but there’s no denying he blew my mind away with his acting! Now I need to check his other works.

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There are many actors who remain consistently good during an entire drama but there are a few who show amazing acting range in few moments while remaining consistently good throughout the show. For me Lee Jun Ki, Jo Jung seok and Jung Kyung ho lie in the latter category. JKH is not maybe Hallyu star level yet but he is better than many Hallyu stars. I was missing on his great acting because Missing 9 and OMHE weren't that good so I skipped them and PP didn't give him as much screen time. However, I didn't watch LOM fully too but seeing JKH acting out the same moment with three different levels of emotion in the rewind scene in ep 8 reminded me of how good he is. Wish Korea gave his talent more recognition.

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Wow! Thanks for the recap. I can't remember a show where the ending was left open to interpretation and still Left me satisfied overall. I'm probably in the minority, in the sense that while I understand his decision, I don't necessarily agree with it.

1. If we are to go with the theory that he's in a coma, then I feel that he modelled NY's character after his mother, seeing that they have similar views on life and are soft spoken but determined women.
2. Also the weird crush that his aunt had on him in the alternate timeline/coma/whatever it was- is it possible that it was TJ's admiration for her that was somehow twisted by his subconscious?(please don't be offended, it's just my thoughts)
3. I still have so many questions like how did TJ know Ahn min shik's name ? If we're following the coma dream theory, he should've heard his name somewhere before. Yet in the previous episodes, he introduced himself as the one in charge of DC's case, before the doctor informed TJ through his TV that the guy operating on him had the same name. Or am I missing something?
4. Re the epilogue- why KHS? He was caught in 2018. Then why that call? Is it because TJ knows now that he survived and his subconscious is finding a new case for him to solve?
Sorry for my disjointed Post. It's because my thoughts are disjointed after the finale.

However it's definitely one of the best shows in this year. It was consistently good from the beginning till the end, enhanced by the wonderful acting of the pentad.
I definitely should check out more of JKH's shows.

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He will be on auto pilot now. He might have caught KHS in 2018, but he survived the fall in 1988 and was letting TJ know this with the phone call.

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Good answer. Relieves my disappointment with the epilogue somewhat.

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Truly the best show out there. So well done. It's been days since the drama finished airing but I can't bring myself to start watching another one. Still in a hangover.

Usually open ended endings used to leave me frustrated and waste of time, but with this show, I was truly content with the way it ended. Like even if there was so many questions left hanging, the answers were in the questions itself.

I have said it so many times that I lost count, but here I say it again. I love you, show. You truly were amazing and one of my all time fav.
Ok I will shut up now or else I might go on forever.

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Even though I didn't really follow the show so my interpretation might be wrong but it seemed like 1988 part was actually an extended dream that occurred in the coma state and in the end TJ sacrificed his life to be there i.e. he preferred an escape from his reality which was maybe always dull. If that happens to be interpretation then it hits home. I thought after waking up TJ was given a chance to be a chief and make his team like that of DC's but he preffered to be there where he was happy. Somehow I pondered over this way too much. It is just like how I personally day dream so much that I am hardly even connected to my reality. Five minutes if I let myself be in my reality and try to ponder what I have to do with life, I instantly feel unhappy. Hence, I choose to be in my happy but unreal phase most of the time. However, I didn't particularly like TJ's end. I felt that he was given a chance to improve his present life and make it happy but he chose to maybe remain ignorant of what lies there. That definitely struck a chord with me on personal level.

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Well said. Tae Joo's day dream definitely got out of hand.

Like you, and for the same reasons as you, Tae Joe's choice struck a personal chord. If we think of his 88 as an extended dream, then he has essentially attempted/committee suicide in 2018. And it feels like the Show is expecting us to cheer him on as he does so. Because we've lived his delusion with him.

I find this too frustrating for words. Ugh. This Show gave us the wrong answer, imho.

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I totally think the same, the show was expecting us to be happy with him staying in 88 but I personally was not happy with that since he ended up running away from his reality.

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Which answered my question from episode 15, did he ever get help for his depression. Looks like he did not.

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Thank you so much for recapping LIFE ON MARS, Sunny. It has been a pleasure reading your commentaries and insights into the show every week.

I'm still feeling kind of mindblown, so I'll sign off for now, and let my further comments marinate for a spell. I'll be BAAAACK. ;-)

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i'm with you... i'm rather speechless. in a good way, tho!

do i want a sequel? maybe, if my mind stops spinning or i rewatch the drama another 3 or 4 times to wrap my head around all of this....

regardless, I LOVED THIS RIDE!

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@spazmo,

I'm most definitely mindblown in a good way. Initially, I was reminded of the ending of THELMA AND LOUISE. As far as the emotional impact is concerned, I feel as if I've watched a cross between SIGNAL, LOOKOUT, THE KING AND THE CLOWN, and SEVEN DAY QUEEN, but I'm (mostly) not a basket case because of it. THE SIXTH SENSE is also lurking in the back of my mind.

LIFE ON MARS is one of the few dramas whose open ending has not felt like a cop-out or loss of vision. Instead, it organically falls within the realm of possibility for Tae-joo.

I'm okay with the ending as it is. So many second-season Kdramas bomb out that I wouldn't want to sully LIFE ON MARS with a sequel that fails to live up to the original production. All I can say is, the stars were in alignment for this show, and lightning hardly ever strikes twice in the same place. I'm not greedy. I got to see the unicorn once, and that's enough for me.

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exactly!!! dang, i had to immediately rewatch The Sixth Sense cuz it just blew me away... same with Memento, but i wished i could've watched it in reverse....
; )

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Here's my theory, based largely on what I know of the BBC shows and my certainty that there are some things that kdramas just won't do, or at least won't make explicit:

- All the mysteries & inconsistencies are easy to explain away -- There Is Supernatural Going On.
- Tae-joo died back in ep 1, or soon thereafter in the hospital.
- He wasn't ready to leave it all behind and accept being dead.
- So he spent 15 episodes in some sort of purgatory or limbo, the afterlife equivalent of the waiting room at the psychiatrist's office.
- Jumping off the roof was his way of moving on and accepting it.
- A car full of (all dead) cops singing on their way to a case is their version of heaven. A movie date is icing on the cake.

Sorry.

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A consistent and logical theory. Sad and happy at the same time. I like it.

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That was the story he made up while in a coma and dying. His jumping off the roof and going back to 1988 to rescue his friends was the moment before he died. As in the last season of LOST.
Car full of dead cops singing their version of heaven - ha! Love it. You've managed to lighten the heavy load.

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The thought that Tae-joo was already dead did occur to me briefly-- it seemed nearly impossible that Tae-joo could've survived getting shot in the head and run over by a car. Dong-chul's saying (in this ep.) "A police officer shouldn’t be afraid to die at the scene!” could be a clue that this theory is correct.

However, I hadn't seen anyone suggest the possibility that he might've been dead this whole time, and I was leaning towards the coma theory. That suspicion grew stronger after seeing the clip from BTS's Fake Love MV included, which seemed to suggest that he was trapped in his mind, unable to escape. I didn't think his return to 2018 was real-- I felt it was his subconscious getting some closure (e.g. a "last supper" with his mom and aunt), and sussing out that he just didn't belong in 2018 anymore and would be unhappy if he returned. I thought the transfer to Seoul represented an opportunity for him to wake up, but as Dong-chul pointed out, Tae-joo didn't seem happy about it, and ultimately it was Tae-joo's choice. I saw his tearing up of the transfer order, and turning off the 2018 transmission coming over the radio, as his choice not to wake up, but I wasn't sure if that meant that he'd stay in the coma or pass away.

I'm looking forward to reading everyone else's theories, and to pondering more this afterlife waiting-room idea. I've been holding on to my theory loosely, with a lot of uncertainty. I'm actually surprised to learn of the BBC version's ending. I think I read that the American version had a different ending?

I'm so, SO grateful that no one who already knew the ending (BBC or American) spoiled this for us-- I loved being dumbfounded the whole way. Thank you so much for your self restraint!

And heartfelt thanks again to @Helcat and @Sunny for doing such a wonderful job recapping this not-easy-to-recap show. And last but not least-- thanks, Beanies, for sharing your love, enthusiasm, and theories that helped make this such a special ride.

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What is the BBC's ending? Can share? I am curious.

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Read at your own risk

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_on_Mars_(UK_TV_series)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashes_to_Ashes_(TV_series)

Scroll down to the "Ending" section of Ashes to Ashes. Or don't.

In kdrama land they can't do that. Or at least can't spell it out and beat you over the head with it.

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You said it well! I am of the same opinion... thank you for articulating it for me :)

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I actually like this theory, and it does make every plot points more consistent. The idea of dedicated cops choosing to still be a detective solving cases in their afterlife as a form of their own heaven is bittersweet indeed.

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@lordcobol,

There's nothing to be sorry about. ;-)

You've raised some excellent points, and they sit well with what I've seen of the show. They certainly feel right to me at this time.

I agree that there is Supernatural Going On, and it has Mugyo / Muism written all over it. In Korean shamanism, death is just part of life, and time is not linear. I'm reminded in a good way of Park Do-kyung's premonitions of impending death in OH HAE-YOUNG AGAIN. He, too, is a very closed-off individual who has suffered serious trauma as a child (being present for his father's accidental death) and is still saddled with an abusive, parasitic mother. His quest is to learn to love without reservation. The physical pain he feels is what mudangs and baksus experience in their elevated spiritual states.

With Tae-joo, we may be witnessing something along the line of 49 DAYS. Or, a tantalizing possibility: Tae-joo's retrospection (life passing before his eyes) as he comes to grips with his transition from earthly existence. The thought has occurred to me that he is already dead. What has seemed to be a month in a coma may actually be a much shorter period of time that has been drawn out. The "squishiness" of cosmic time makes it hard to tell just how long all this has been going on. The dates on the milk cartons in Min-seok's hideout throw me.

- Jumping off the roof was his way of moving on and accepting it.
- A car full of (all dead) cops singing on their way to a case is their version of heaven. A movie date is icing on the cake.

I cannot agree more.

It seems to me that elements of native shamanism, kishotenketsu plot structure, and Dream Record are some of the features of this adaptation of LIFE ON MARS that give it its uniquely Korean flavor. It's worth acquainting oneself with them in order to more fully appreciate this truly wonderful drama.

I posted pointers on Mugyo, Dream Record, and other nifty Korean storytelling devices in the finale recap for WOK OF LOVE under the heading Greasy Kishotenketsu: Secret Ingredients in Kdrama. It's in 2 parts, and starts at strand #29 July 24, 2018 at 4:11 PM; permalink:
http://www.dramabeans.com/2018/07/greasy-melo-episodes-35-38-final/#comment-3277180. It's also accessible from my fan wall.

I also think that kishotenketsu plot structure accounts for Tae-joo's overarching mission: to break out of his shell and begin caring for other people. The fact that he accomplishes that mission is what matters to me.

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@Lord Cobol That's an interesting theory.

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I did not expect Dong-chul to be my favorite character but he was. I was always surprised by him and he always had me laughing.

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I've always loved Park Sung-woong, but never as much as I did watching him play Dong-chul. What a wonderful character-- I bet he had a blast playing him. It was a hoot to see Dong-chul get a good smacking from PSW's wife in real life!

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I knew that I will miss the 1988 gang when he will wake up. And episode 15 was hard, he missed them so much. I was so happy when he went back to save them :D He's so cute trying to stay serious but failing, like at the end in the car when he sang he seemed so suprised :D

For the theory... It seems he was in a coma and he mixed the informations he had with his lost memories of his own past. But coming back in the past means he's in the coma again or dead... Not really a happy end in fact :p

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Is he alive, dead, in an alternative reality, alternative universe? I don’t know and for the first time watching a drama it didn’t matter to me. The most important thing is TaeJoo is happy. If TaeJoo chose death to gain his happiness, I don’t condone it or agree with that decision but I understand it.

My personal theory is that TaeJoo is in an alternate universe and his return to 2018 was a dream in that universe. TaeJoo was involuntarily brought to the 1988 timeline/universe and desperately wanted to return to 2018, mainly because he was worried about his mother and was sorry for getting SeoHyun kidnapped. He realized that was happier in 1988 and wanted to stay there but couldn’t because of his attachments/commitments in 2018. So he had a dream where he got closure on the 2018 stuff and voluntarily chose to return to 1988. So 1988 is reality while 2018 is a dream. That’s my theory/interpretation and I’m sticking to it!

This show was AMAZING!! I loved every character. But TaeJoo stole my heart and I’m having a hard time moving on from the show.

Thank you to the recapping team-Sunny, Helacat! Your analysis and comments were great to read and reflect on.

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Thank you @Sunny for this recap.
Well, first of all, i'm a big fan of the original BBC LoM and Ashes to Ashes, and it's forever on my top ten of the best shows. So after hearing the news i was hopeful, but with american LoM remake dreadful fiasco in mind very, very doubtful about LoM k-drama. Well.. i was wrong to doubt. What a roller coaster ride it was)) Butterfly Dream - only after the great awakening will we realize that this is the great dream..
Is Han Tae-Joo imagining he's from the future? Is he living inside his coma-induced reality? Or did he really travel back in time?
Is it a time travel thriller or police procedural on crack?
LoM offers so much to think about, especially when considered through the lens of the drama's final episode. I love that Life On Mars doesn’t give a solid answer to exactly what Han Tae-Joo situation is.
This wonderful and weirdly alluring blending of culture clash of past and present, surreal weirdness that remind us of Han Tae-Joo’s situation, the ways that murder cases Han Tae-Joo and gang solves in 1988 are in some way connected to events in the future. And then, of course, there’s Gene Hunt/Kang Dong-Cheol and his 1988 gang. Character larger than life. On the surface the two men could not be more different, but it’s that shared morality that binds them together, and I just love their bromance.

For the sake of clarification - i really think that Han Tae-Joo is dead. And was dead from the beginning (mostly coz of bbc Ashes To Ashes storyline)..
For me this is the story of a man realising that the last place he wanted to be is exactly where he is meant to be + time travel/coma element. All he wants is to go back to the life he knew, and when the chance finally comes he realises that he has accepted his new life and is happier there. Also taking the idea a bit further it’s really all about denial and acceptance. Fate and faith.
Imo on some level Han Tae-Joo has to accept that he has died in 2018.
His return to 2018 in the finale ep. and the moment that inspires him to jump is the moment that he realises he is not alive because he can’t feel anything. And his return to 1988 represents first step towards accepting what has really happened to him, even with the consolation prize of a new and better life with those he loves in 1988.

Enyway: at the end of the day LoM ended leaving us all to believe what we wanted to believe. I'll happily settle for that. It’s a dark and at the same time lite, touching and often very funny drama about death, friendship, love, pain and finding your place in the after/life and accepting change.
And maybe, just maybe there gonna be korean "Ashes To Ashes" after all. One can only hope))

P.S.
Also this drama remind me a little of "The Brothers Lionheart" fantasy novel written by Astrid Lindgren. In a way, this novel was one the main reason for my deep love for books, and i can't recommend it enough))

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i agree with your assessment after reading about lom/a2a

in a way i felt kinda cheated and unsure and i always get sad when people leave their one life for another but i think it means so many things and i think it really is about his death and accepting the truth within his life. (basically....what you said) super glad i watched this

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I agree with your returning to 2018, going back to 1988 thoughts. Kind of reminds me of the last season of LOST, which many people didn't get, but this follows the same theme of where your happiness lies and in that moment you can create your happy world.

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I read "The Brothers Lionheart" out loud to my children many years ago and discovered it to be beautiful and comforting but at the same time (and somewhat inconsistently) melancholy and a little disturbing. Sort of like this drama.

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The Job being dead the whole time is a more consistent & a happier theory than him committing suicide out of his depression - which is my understanding. I'll try & think of it this way.

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LOL Tae Joo* (my autocorrect is being overactive )

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I'm betting my money on extremely realistic coma dream which leaves the ending bit wanting as I have hard time buying another season of him being in.. well, coma. On the other hand, the squad is back! Yey!

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i was so busy when the drama was airing eps 1-10 that i couldnt get engaged and got a little bored. but then i moved (countries, actually) and sat down and watched eps 8-14 again then had to wait agees for 15/16 and became SO engaged in the drama.

after ep 16 i had to look what the british drama ending was and what people though about it and your uncertainty about what was what was their intention. they leave it up to the viewer (if you want to learn more just wiki it cos i dont want to give spoilers in case there is a second series.)

but what an engaging show. the core characters were great and their relationship was so lovely. the only major problem i had with it was the abuse done by police but i am a very big leftist and it was also 1988 lmao. it was really well-written, too. i was surprised because i kinda didnt expect it to be so good but the last 6 episodes are sooooooo engaging. and it was really lovely about human connection.

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the crazy thing is even though we all have diff theories or thoughts and even the original writer does, literally all interpretations are correct in the fact that it's what we make of it. and i guess the different situations point out different things in our own psyches and what we thought about han tae-joo's psyche. for me that's how thoughtful the original and the remake are.

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@amara
Exactly, that's what makes this writing exceptional.

... literally all interpretations are correct in the fact that it's what we make of it. and i guess the different situations point out different things in our own psyches ...

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Thank you Sunny for the recaps.

Now that it's over, I want to go back and watch it all over again to see the details that I missed.

I have 2 interpretations of the ending.

1) TJ suffers from deliria, fell into depression, and eventually committed suicide. Sad, but that does give me some peace to believe the few people that I know of who committed suicide is now "living" happily in a dream world where they can forever smile. Thankfully the greater half of the finale depicted TJ being happily reunited with his beloved 1988 gang. Downplaying the melancholy really helped me come to terms with this ending.

2) He never woke up. If they will make a sequel/season 2 I think this is the way to see it. It is unlikely TJ fell into coma again after the leap. If we were to believe a person will stop dreaming once dead, it could be that he never woke up. His short escape from 1988 was merely a dream in a dream (I've had those before). Or a short interruption caused by the surgery and may have flatlined him at one point. That would explain how he recovered and grew his hair back so quickly. He practically jumped out bed when he woke up. The emptiness he felt in 2018 was not different from what he felt in 1988 before he accepted it. With the pace of dream time, he could still be on his first week of comatose after the gun wound. So he and his gang can keep solving cold cases for however long he wants.

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for your #1, for some reason really resonated with me. it makes me happy as well if this is what it all is. so may everyone's afterlife be the peace they felt they needed in the end.

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Your #1 is too sad but probably highly possible. It’s been floating on the edges of my mind for awhile. Someone like TaeJo was probably a high-functioning depressive who was clinging to his job and rules to make it through each day. However, it makes me sad to think of anyone (fictional or real) living in so much pain.

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It is sad. Depression is absolutely painful. Due to my own experience I understand why people seek relief via suicide. It is impossible to overcome it on your own.

After I spoiled myself by reading up on BBC version, I hoped that with SK’s high suicide rate the writers will be inclined to change the ending. I’m quite surprised they stuck to the original ending — very gutsy.

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You said it. I was afraid a wrong message might be sent - that if you can't find happiness in reality, you can seek it in delusion(drugs) or afterlife.

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@sph_7
I'm going with # 2) 😄

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I don’t doubt Tae Joo’s choice to be with the team because screw reality over happiness, and I’m glad a show decided to go there as well. But as a viewer I can’t help but ask because I have to know the mechanics of everything. which realm was the reality and what happens to the real Tae Joo? Is he still in a coma and his soul is floating in 1988?? What about the people in his present. I kinda wished we could have gotten a glimpse of that but maybe that’ll just make all our heads hurt

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I'm glad there were no concrete answers. I think we fans who watch and love kdramas know the difference between reality and dreams and which one we choose as much and as often as we can.

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This show is interesting and different from most time travel/alternate reality shows because it let the protagonist choose the new reality over the original. Most time travel/alternate reality shows let’s the lead answer as “what if” question and usually they end up seeing that the alternate answer does not make them happy. This show is unique in its message and approach. It seems to say that sometimes we do need something different than the life we have built.

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Death? Dream? Reality? It doesn't really matter to me. I'm just glad Tae-joo is back with the gang because that is where he is happy. This was an excellent show with solid acting and writing. I fell in love with Jung Kyung-ho all over again and Go Ah-sung was like a breath of fresh air.

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Hi @mysterious. Let me just give you an Amen!

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Did anyone watch all versions of Life on Mars? Can someone do a comparison and rate them in order of your favorite? I'm curious what the similarities/differences were and if the ending was the same.

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I loved the British version. I refused to watch the American version, though I heard at the end it turned out he was literally on Mars. Anybody know if this is true? Never thought another version would beat the Brit one, but in our hearts it did.

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Yes, Tae Joo is here with me. Thank you, America!

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Thanks, maybe I'll check out the British one.

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Loved the British and US version - I think I'm one of the only people that loved the US version as much as the UK version. It had a terrible initial pilot, but it got rejected and they redid everything to match the original more closely. IMO they managed the localization to 70s Era NYC perfectly with the difference in vibe as more... American in tone with that aggressive sense of hopefulness. Buuut it got cancelled unexpectedly and the last bullshit 15 minutes of it where they're literally on Mars = a big fuck you from the producers to the network. Or maybe they ran out of stuff that would round everything off. Everyone I know that watched the series pretend that last bit never existed since it's so visually different (looked like it was cobbled together with a budget of $5) and didn't make sense narratively. Honestly, I would recommend watching it and just stopping before it gets to the end. It holds up as well as the Korean one. Goals is to get my hands on the other countries versions to watch as well (Spanish, Czech and Russian)

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@news
I'm doing a re-watch of this K version and comparing it with the BBC version now... will be trying to give my few thoughts on this in the Open Thread. 😅

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Oooh, that's awesome! I love it when people dissect and compare re-makes with a critical eye :-) I'll look out for your thoughts! Thank you.

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This show wass soooo good. 9/10 from me. Loved it. What an amazing ride. For anyone who hasnt seen it yet: BINGE IT

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I've never felt so satisfied with a show that ended with more questions than answers. I thought the last episode would focus on Tae-joo bidding his farewells to the Violent Crimes Unit 3, but I was really glad that they were reunited and were together in the end towards the God-knows-where road to happiness. The epilogue gave me high hopes for a second season, which may be focused on Kim Hyun-seok if the cast remained the same (please Dramagods I love these actors), or may be a remake of Ashes to Ashes (LoM BBC sequel which I am also not familiar with), where he may or may not play a part.

While I do not agree with the way Tae-joo did to save our 1988 gang, I was really happy with how the show build up his decision: from his unhappiness due to missing the team in episode 15, to people noticing and wishing him to be happy in episode 16. The people from 2018 sort of being okay without him and supporting whatever he will do to pursuit happiness may have pushed him to go back to his happy place: 1988. I was both happy and sad with his decision, but the show has always been telling Tae-joo to close his eyes and listen yo his heart, which is happy and belongs in 1988.

As someone who did read the synopsis and spoiled herself before watching the Korean remake of LoM, I was really delighted with how the show decided to present us its plot. We may never know if the writer intended for the plot to change or to stick with the original premise, so this is where the theories will kick in. Excluding the ending/plot from the original, I currently have two: 1.) Everything was a dream/made up due to his mental condition caused by the Kim Min-seok case and his forgotten childhood memories, and 2.) Tae-joo did travel to the past but was on a loop until he decided to ho back again to 1988.

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If everything was a dream/hallucination: then I am questioning why the show is pushing Tae-joo to be in the real place where he is happy. This supports Chief Ahn's (the doctor one) assessment of Tae-joo's situation: that the people in his dream are people that he may have seen before since he was investigating some cold cases before he was shot and the memories in his subconsius is the reason why he feels that he came back to 1988, a time that he has forgotten when he was a kid. (Correct me on this one since I'm a chemist and not a psychologist)

If he really did travel to the past and was on a loop until he decided to go back in 1988 again: This explains why things did not really change in 2018 even after Tae-joo returned because he was in a loop, meaning that the adult Tae-joo has always been a part of 1988. Imagine what would happen if the cases were solved without Tae-joo in 1988? It would've been different. We may not be able to see the effect of him travelling back in 1988 (if he really did travel through time) until he goes back in 2018, but this theory gives us hope that Kim Min-seok can be saved from his current self and that the murders in the present timeline would be prevented if the Violent Crimes Unit 3 manages to lock Kim Hyun-seok in jail this time (perhaps in Season 2?).

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I think this is the first time a drama ended its run with several questions left unanswered, yet I'm still fully satisfied with it. I'm not sure what's the '88 world actually represent, and whether or not it's a 'reality'. But personally, I like to believe that it's some sort of parallel world that's been built using Tae-joo's subconscious memories.

I think I would want a more concrete answer about Tae-joo's choice if he has things to lose in the 2018. But with both his mom and his ex-fiance giving him "permission" to find happiness any way he can, I feel more assured about him choosing to stay in '88. Besides, I'm not 100% sure he has woken up in the last 2 eps. Isn't it possible that his mind somehow created that sequences from what he heard happening in 2018? Because there is this sense of "too good to be true" permeating the 2018 scenes (like his ex-fiance being safe and well, Min-seok's health deteriorating fast that led to his capture, or how easily they cracked Hyun-seok's years worth of cover).

But whatever it is, I think what's really important is that Tae-joo finally found his elusive happiness. That after such a long time, he found a way to truly live his life, make important connections with people around him, and pursue love in a way that he didn't allow himself to in the present.

All in all, Life on Mars, thank you for giving me this enjoyable and head-spinning ride. Let's meet again. 🤗

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The best drama of 2018 for me! I adore the cast to bits. LoM really showcased JKH's acting prowess and the others too. And it also highlighted how gripping a story can be with great production and editing skills on top of acting chops (I can still not forget the behind the scenes clip, TJ clasping his chest Hahaha).

Thank you to @helcat, @sunny for all the recaps and thoughts. And thank you to all beanies for making this journey memorabale with all the theories and discsussions we made.

I really like our 1988 gang being together. Their scenes usually puts a smile on my face. How cute was TJ trying to bob along to the song 🤣

Until the end, i'm not sure if everything is only a mind game of TJ's subconsious or is it just a long dream. For sure to me it is not reality. But TJ is happy in this alternate world he made for him self.

I've shared this before on my wall, and i would like to reshare my thoughts. This drama is open to intrepetation. However regarding TJ's jump, any one with reasonable judgement will know or at least reason that suicide is not an answer to your problem. But this is a drama, and lets treat it as such, please do not replicate what you see. If anyone have thoughts of running off a building to end it all, or encounter someone with such thoughts or see a dear friend acting way out of norm, please seek support or offer a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on. Everyone needs someone, and its not wrong to voice it out 😊

Till the next drama beanies! It has been a pleasure discussing LoM with everyone. And JKH, get some rest. I'll see you in your next drama/movie. Till then let me rewatch your previous ones hahahha

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I was conflicted about the choice of death to be happy since that is one of the possible interpretations. I don’t condone suicide and it makes me very uncomfortable to think of TaeJoo (or anyone) suffering so much that they choose death. I think that is why I’m really happy that the ending is open- ended and I can think of other possibilities.

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Me too. I think he never woke up from a coma, therefore he didn't commit suicide. Could he have chosen to wake up? We don't know.

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After I posted I thought maybe he did briefly wake up in 2018 but actually never got out of bed.

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Hahahaha best cameo from Park Sung-woong’s real wife!

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Best cameo ever! His wife talked so fast while beating him 🤣

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Though it’s a happy ending for Tae Joo, but I can’t help but questioning his decision. It seems like he ran away from his reality to live in his imagination. It’s a happy ending, but a dark and messed up one. I don’t like how this drama somehow romanticize suicide. Though his mother assured him to do what made him happy, but just think about how sad his mother and aunt would feel knowing that he comitted suicide right after he woke up from a long coma.

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I don't think he ever woke up from his coma, so if you think that way, he didn't commit suicide.

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I know some people took it as he never woke up, but I’m convinced that he did wake up and killed himself later.

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Thanks for the recaps! It was always great to read yours and Helcat's insights.

It's been a while since I've really enjoyed Park Sung-woong in a drama, and I'm glad the ratings came out well. Also, loved the cameos by Shin Eun-jung and Park Jung-soo in this finale since they're actually family. Especially Shin, who I always love seeing since both her and Park Sung-woong seem to enjoy appearing in each other's shows.

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I laughed out loud when I realised that she's his real life wife. What a hoot, being able to beat up one's hubby in the public eye! Wonder if they did multiple takes on that!!! 😆 😏

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What an amazing show. I am so glad I decided to watch this one. Amazing acting, writing, directing, music, humor -- this was so well done in all ways possible. 11/10. Screw that, 100/10.

As to the ending... I agree with others that either A) Tae-joo really did wake back up in 2018 and then chose to commit suicide to return to 1988, or B) (which is the option I prefer) he never woke up and either died in episode 1 or is still in a coma.

All throughout episode 15 I kept having this nagging feeling that 2018 was still a dream, and after the show's ending, I more firmly like to believe that Tae-joo needed closure and that's why he returned to the present, albeit briefly.

Thank you so much for recapping this show! I'm going to miss talking to all the Beanies about Life on Mars!

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Yes to B) ... my understanding of it.

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This drama has been one heck of a ride. Thanks for all the recaps and commentaries, Sunny & Helcat.

My mind is still processing this episode. I was relieved and happy when I watched Tae Joo save the team. It didn't really hit me until a little later that he had committed suicide. So seeing his decision to stay in 1988 and seeing them dance & sing in the car left me unsettled. I couldn't feel much joy. I was worried about his mother in the present. Now I'm wondering if the 2018 scenes weren't actually real, but a part of Tae Joo's imagination/dream.... If he was unable to get back to the present, then I would want him to be with his 1988 family. It's still bittersweet though. The ambiguous finale definitely makes me ponder the different possibilities.

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Its plausible that 2018 is not even reality. He never woke up from coma but his mind is compensating what 2018 might have been. It might have been him visioning that his mom and his ex fiancee willingly tell him to be happy. Or it might be the other way around, his mom and ex is telling him he has hold on long enough and it is time to let go, they are willing for him to go and move on.

So many variations of one drama ending. Hahaha. I'm usually not a fan of endings like this, open and up to viewers interpretation, but for some reason i'm ok with LoM ending. I'm happy seeing TJ being the happiest in ep 16 after all his sadness and turmoil from beginning to end ☺

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@katakwasabi (still not ready to let LoM go 😄)
Yes,... you know how it is in the hospital with unconscious patients, we are told to talk to them? They can actually hear us. I believe that his mum, aunt, ex-fiancee, doctor, etc, did speak to him and tell him to be happy ... so that he could let go and be at peace leaving them.

It sort of happened to me with my dad too. I was told to tell him, while he was unconscious and unresponsive, how I was going to be fine so that he could go in peace. And it really happened easily after that. A blessing, really.

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Thank you @sunny for letting us tag along on your journey here. Glad to hear that this has been a rewarding experience for you.

A few thoughts...

I don't think open endings are the travesties that they're often made out to be. The problem is that they're usually done without any thought or justification, and sometimes just to be hardcore or avant garde. In this case, I think it fits.

Years and years ago when I was still watching Star Trek with some degree of fervour, there was an episode that still stands out in my memory. The captain of the Enterprise (Picard) was zapped by a probe and found himself in a foreign planet surrounded by people he didn't know. Before he knew it, he was living the life of one of its inhabitants until the planet was destroyed. The moment that happened, he returned back to his own reality only to realise that he had lived an entire lifetime in a space of an hour.

At the end of the day, my understanding of the mechanics of this time slip is that TJ was somehow transported into an alternate reality we call 1988 because he was fixated with a number of cold cases that he was researching while in 2018. At the end of it, we find out that they're intertwined with his own personal history so that in order to unravel that mystery of his life, all of the other mysteries must come to light. When he was in a comatose state, these cases that had been dormant his mind, surfaced and they played out in vivid fashion while he was in limbo. We're not told at this point if "limbo" means "purgatory" but for him to go back and forth through near death and death encounters, in all probability it has to be something along those lines. For me, however, the whole thing is complicated by everyone telling TJ that he needs to be happy... it doesn't matter where he goes, the important thing is that he's happy. So he chooses what is essentially suicide and now he's back in limbo again because he still hears hospital voices and noises but this time he chooses to tune out (LOL quite literally).

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There's no time travel in the Back to the Future sense.

The show manages to skirt the whole notion of suicide by introducing the hallucinations, his personal guilt at not being able to be there for them and hearing voices even while he's back in 2018. They took the edge of the whole thing by portraying him as a man caught between two worlds, torn by loyalty and obligation. But there's a strong suggestion that he was already "mostly dead" and really belonged with the dead. He only came back to 2018 to finish what he started when he worked on the KMS case and resolve some personal business. That's my perspective anyhow.

It's the transition the soul makes before making its final departure from the body. There is a mysterious hand of fate working to help TJ work through all these things before he can, as it were, "choose death" willingly.

To me it's about second chances and the chance to make peace with our past before "shuffling off one's mortal coil" with no regrets.

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This is an amazing theory. *Claps*

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A beautiful theory!

I saw the message of the show as sometimes you have to let go of the current narrative of your life and take a bold step to move in the direction of your happiness. While death or alternate world/reality/universe seems to be the example used, the message can be applied to any major life decision such as deciding to quit your cushy job or have a baby or get married or get divorced, etc.

I guess I want to have a positive take away from this gem of a show.

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Well said, @lilium.

I've never gotten the feeling that time travel was involved in the show. I've always had the sense that Tae-joo was unconscious, in a coma, at death's door... and towards the end, might even already be dead. Certainly his inner life was "mostly dead."

I was dismayed to think that his colleagues in Insung Violent Crimes Unit #3 were only hallucinations conjured by his subconscious after his having read cold case files. Then I recalled that he met them as a small child following his father's murder. They were in the vanguard of the search party. But it was the adult Tae-joo who exchanged meaningful gazes with them.

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@lilium
This is closest to my theory. Thanks for putting it so well, into words for us. I'm reading all the comments while listening to the LOM OSTs. So much fun!!! 😆

Re-watching Ep 1, I don't think TJ/Sam Tyler could have really recovered fully from that head wound with or without that accident. The show was a great take on what might/could be when a person's body is comatose or dying, while the brain is still alive. It accounts for all the plot holes (if any) and gives the most 'reasonable' ending. Best of all, it leaves it up to us to interpret how we wish and it doesn't matter that it's not what the writer may have decided.

I agree that when an open ending is not a lazy way out, not to be arty for the sake of it, but actually depicts what we can know or up to the point that we can know, when it follows appropriately from what is consistent ... it is perfectly acceptable and right, as in this case. 😃

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This was the role of Jung Kyung-ho's life. He was incredible in this.

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Even though I'm personally not sure about the ending, I do appreciate the writing of this drama. It never felt like it faltered at any point. I liked how they weaved real life historical events seamlessly into the story. The show maintained an air of mystery to the end. Interesting characters. Great cast of actors. The 1988 team warmed my heart more than I expected.

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Agreed about the writing. Its such a consistent drama. I was excited for every ep. Kudos to the writer!

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At first, I was like "NaYoung, come on! Use your fighting skills against those gangsters" but if she did, she wouldn't have the strength to call after TaeJoo hence the voice that he consistently hears.

Also, my theory is that he is still in a coma and that he subconsciously thought how 2018 would end so he could go on living in the 1988 timeline. I never thought that it was suicide because I refuse to think that after all the show has taught us, they wouldn't deliver that message.

To the cast and crew of Life on Mars, THANK YOU FOR MAKING THIS INCREDIBLY, AWESOME and MASTERFUL DRAMA.

I love you.

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What a wonderful journey! For a mystery-thriller, the plot is so tight that whatever holes there are doesn't mar the enjoyment. Can't say enough for the humour and the humanism, plus the superb chemistry between the cast.
Thank you @helcat & @sunny for the faithful and enlightening recap!
Really love, love the ending, because I always wanted Tae-joo to end up in 1988 and I got my wish. It's not perfect, coz he could've at least say goodbye to mom..? But I see his haste to go back to 1988 as his sheer determination to not fail the people who put their trust in him. So thank you show, for allowing me the vision that somewhere out there in 1988, those 5 people continues to squabble their way out of mysterious case by mysterious case.
As for the time travel, I still believe that 1988 is not Tae-joo's dream. Point in case, the photograph of 3 Kim siblings, didn't Tae-joo see it in 1988 before having ever laid eyes to it in 2018? Am still leaning on parallel world theory, but heck if I can explain the system, what with existing doppelgänger and all. Maybe it'll be explored in the sequel? ^^
So what will happen if life continues on Mars? Would Tae-joo still have intel to 2018 through TV and radio waves? If he catch Kim Hyun-seok in 1988, can he stop 2018 Min-seok from ever being a serial killer? Would he be mega rich through all the sport betting? Come on, OCN, we need more!

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💐 💐 Many thanks, Helcat and Sunny, LOM has been an amazing experience made more amazing and full through your recaps and all the Beanie comments. I won't forget it.

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a lot of people are saying that the ending is perfect for them, because at least JKH is happy.
i don't see any problems with that, i myself would like to think that... but i just can't help having this niggling feeling and aching the more i think about it.
no matter what, we can't deny that 2018 was THE reality. 1988 might have been HIS reality, but the 2018 age was where he was living in. he had relatives (mom, aunt), friends (fiance), and people who knew him.
it was so apparent he was suffering from depression and possibly dissociation and he created this 1988 world for himself to feel happy in. it was nonetheless a dream, those dreams we have at night that seem so realistic and in a way idealistic (he found happiness) that we want to stay in forever. it will always seem so dreamy, things going in our way, and we can manipulate it also because it is our subconscious. unfortunately, that is not real and will never be.
in the end, JKH ended his life because he was so unhappy in the reality that he wanted to create and be in his reality. it was happy ending for himself and the team, but i can't help feeling this darker underlying tone.
everyone can choose to escape their reality, and live in a dream, and that's when a lot of people want. what stops us then, from ending it all, or, plugging ourselves a lucid dream machine? what would we consider reality and living? 1988 always had that dreary, dreamy feeling, while 2018 had that harsh, blunt reality. must we always choose to live in reality? if reality is so hard, why do some people still choose to live in it?
LOM is truly, amazing. i loved the thrill, the intricate crime cases, the underlying mystery. i'll miss it.

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Getting us thinking about our lives and reality, in the light of a drama reality that we may not agree with, is a mark of great writing and a jolly good show. 😃

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I certainly believe there are several ways to interpret the ending primarily because of how contentious the whole area of life after death is.

The reason that most of us choose to soldier on despite the harsh realities of life has to do with our worldview. If we believe that things happen to us for a reason and there is more to life than what we see and touch... that there is a life after death that's better than what we're experiencing, then we're perhaps more likely to hang in there despite the pain and suffering we experience. Of course being part of a community and having a base of support around us always helps makes things more bearable.

But if a loner who is already on the cusp of death, who has unfinished business and needs to deal with them, then I think he may conclude that death is a release but only perhaps when all the big unanswered questions of his life are answered.

So yes I'd say, this show is probably one long goodbye.

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Riding on your comment, I had also wondered what if Tae Joo was married with wife, kids and all. I think it would be different but then again, there are people who have their own families, yet feel lonely and depressed enough to commit suicide.

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Another thing I’ve been thinking about is that, in the earlier episodes of the show the medical team in 2018 mention that the damage to TaeJoo is extensive and that even if he wakes up he will never be the same. In fact, it was so bad that they took him off the ventilator. Maybe TaeJoo did die then and the rest of the episodes is him coming to turns with being dead.
His return to 2018 seems unreal to me. He was too quick to recover, everything fell into place too quickly. I think it was just a simulation of how things could have been had he stayed alive and not reality.

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Thank you so much 🌷 🌻 🌼 🌻 🌷 @Sunny and 🌷 🌻 🌼 🌻 🌷 @Helcat for your good recaps, reviews and hard work!! Our viewing pleasure has been sustained and enhanced because of your generous contribution and sharing of your thoughts and knowledge. I look forward to reading you again and again!

I'm enjoying this Recap and the comments, especially with the show's OSTs playing while I read. What a wonderful day!!

To all Singaporean Beanies, 🎆 🎉 🎇 Happy National Day and Happy Holiday!! 🎇 🎉 🎆

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This is home truly
Where I know I must be
Where my dreams wait for me
Where that river always flows

This is home surely
As my senses tell me
This is where I won't be alone
For this is where I know it's home

🇸🇬

Happy National Day!

When I look up this lyrics(although I've been singing them all this time) and reading this recap, I wonder how many people feel displaced in real life? For Tae Joo, his home is sadly not reality.

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@outofthisworld Thanks for the lyrics. One of our most loved national songs.

Displacement... so true. The lyrics have taken on a poignant note in the light of LOM's ending. I guess we can't take for granted that what we call home, is the same for some others.

But the lyrics are so apt for TJ :

This is home surely
As my senses tell me
This is where I won't be alone
For this is where I know it's home

That was what his senses told him... the place where he could feel and the place he was not alone. To him that was home. 😄

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This is late but, Happy National Day! Am glad seeing there are Singaporeans here :))

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Hi @lazy ~ gogo!
Thanks! Are you a fellow citizen as well?

There are quite a number of us on DB, but few who write, as compared to those who lurk. 😃

See you around!

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It's been said before: While he was dreaming in a coma like state, he sorted out the hidden scars from his childhood, especially his father's murder. Though he was still in a coma, he came back in his mind to 2018 to say goodbye to those in the present. Then his last thoughts were of going back to 1988 and leaving this world with a smile.

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Thank you @helcat and @sunny for your recaps! I love reading your insights as well as many LOM beanies.

I was holding my breath till the very end. This show has done such a marvelous job of keeping me on the edge, not knowing what will come next. While beautiful cinematography like the one in Mr Sunshine enthralls viewers, it's the mood of a drama that captivates me most. I like the nostalgic feeling which it invokes. Sometimes, it can be heartwarming and at other times, it feels surreal and paranormal.

I share similar thoughts with @lilium. It also explains why Tae Joo literally leaped out of his bed when he woke up from his coma and started pursuing the criminals soon after.

Perhaps I like this theory best because the alternative is that Tae Joo jumped to his death in reality. This was brought up on some fanwall posts after the finale was aired. Is happiness the end goal in spite of everything?

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"Is happiness the end goal in spite of everything?"

As one of the fan wall posters with this question, I have two answers:

1. The happiness found in a delusion/day dream/come induced dream is not true happiness. It lasts as long as the delusions lasts & in reality, one might come away weaker for it. Running away from problems only adds to them.

2. We err when we treat happiness as a goal. It is better to be happy as we achieve our goals, rather than saying we're unhappy until we've achieved happiness/our goals. This is something I'm personally trying to implement in my life.

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I like your #2 and whole heartedly agree with it. I’m reminded of the phrase “Happiness is a journey not a destination.”
The more I think of LOM the more to me the main question/theme is “Are you on a journey in the right path that makes you happy?” Too many times we just do what society or family or friends tell us. I think LOM is asking us to choose the path that is right for us.

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Loved this show!

My personal thought on this is that Tae Joo never returned to 2018 at all. He slipped into a deeper coma during the surgery while he was in the gang-fight warehouse and, like the film "Inception" he had a dream within a dream that mirrored his 2018 reality.

The real Tae Joo never woke from his initial coma. For all we know, his dad really did die in Saudi Arabia and his family never lived in Insung. Everything has been a construction of his subconscious, even supposedly waking up.

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When I was in my second semester of college, I made the grave mistake of reading J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. I couldn't put it down, and blasted through it in a week. Not bad considering my full course load. Alas, I was hooked, and proceeded to read the entire Lord Of the Rings trilogy, and basically played hooky from my Soviet history reading for a month. As I reached the end of the final book, a great sadness came over me as I realized that I was nearing the end of a remarkable journey shared with memorable characters I had come to know and love, warts and all. The sadness wasn't for the heroic deaths of some, or the tragic ends that befell others. It was for the recognition that the tale was over. Reading the four volumes had felt like a consciousness-changing experience, and now it was finished.

I'm having the same sensations of drama bereavement now that LIFE ON MARS has aired its final installment. As impressions of the drama and its characters continue to marinate in the back of my mind, I will console myself with the final image of Violent Crimes Unit #3's ultimate road trip, and borrow a line from the master himself: The Road Goes Ever On...

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@pakalanapikake
I feel you, PakalanaPikake. I may not have been as 'subsumed' into the world of Mars, but I certainly know the feeling. I felt the same over Just Between Lovers and possibly over Healer. A grieving time is not at all amiss.

I'm sure you'll be back to share your thoughts with us. I look forward to reading you. 😌

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You have beautifully illustrated my emotional state since watching the finale.

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I'm pretty sure he killed himself at the end to live in his own "reality", hence saving the lives of the whole gang and staying with them in 1988. Just like what the doctor said, all of the things that happened while he's in coma was just his subconscious. He got carried away and lost grasp of what's real and not.
"The place where you are happy is your reality".
I think the reality is the world he’s in before his coma. And after his coma everything is just in his dream, including him waking up.
What I still don’t understand is why towards the end, the drama focuses on Ahn Min Sik, yet never explain why he’s not to be trusted. I guess Tae Joo is comfortable inside his dream and don’t want to wake up, so his subconscious is trying to push Ahn Min Sik away, the surgeon who could’ve possibly save his life?
I loved this show. One of the best show of 2018.❤️

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Your theory about AMS Makes sense. I also thought that if he indeed is a surgeon then TJ wouldn't have wanted to through him away. He couldn't have punished someone who is not even related. His revelation of being his surgeon also made me think who the real perpetrator was then but I suppose that wasn't even a point since as you said he might just be a figment who TJ wanted to push away since he was bringing him to his reality.

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Another thing i like about LoM is how balanced the 1988 gang were. The show mainly focuses on TJ but none of the 1988 gang seems to be out of place or forgotten at any point of time. We had multiple pairs YK-NS, TJ-NY, TJ-DC and also trios YK-DC-NS, TJ-DC-NY, NS-TJ-DC, YK-TJ-DC. Ultimately they are a group of 5 ☺

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Please.. Which Cho Yong-pil song is played and sung in the car?

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Unknown world by cho yong pil

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Thank youuuu!

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Thank you, @coolsmurf!

I found the song under the title "Outfield" -- and posted two versions of it on my fan wall.
http://www.dramabeans.com/members/pakalanapikake/activity/577064/

It's also the first song that plays when Tae-joo wakes up in 1988 in Ep. 1, right after Dong-chul hits him with his brand-new car. In later scenes, his bumper is held on with duct tape. LOL.

It's totally apropos that this is also the last song we hear as the cops drive off into the sunshine.

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I've really enjoyed reading all of the wonderful interpretations of the final episode. I am crossing my fingers for a second season because I feel that there is so much left to explore.

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I will have some final thoughts on this wonderful drama later.
Right now I just want to share my second favorite cast party pic:
Jung Kyung-ho (Tae-joo) planting a kiss on the cheek of
Oh Han-kyul (the child Min-seok):
https://www.instagram.com/p/BmKCKrsAN_4/?hl=en&taken-by=hankyul_oh0601
O/T. I see one degree of separation between LIFE ON MARS and ARE YOU HUMAN TOO? and that is the child actor Oh Han-kyul. He played Nam Shi I in AYHT.
PS I think all the child actors in LOM were terrific.

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Aha! So I was right about the cold case theory! I had fun discussing this theory with my pal @buffy86 a little over a week ago. I almost doubted myself, but I'm glad that I was on the right track.

How fun was it that Park Sung-woong's real wife played his wife in that cameo? I loved that so much!

I have mixed feelings about the ending. Tae-joo's mother finding comfort in her sister-in-law/Tae-joo's aunt and telling her son that she wanted him to be happy did feel like an attempt to make way for Tae-joo's departure. I get that his mother wouldn't be alone, but how cruel would it be for her to lose her son? Poor mother!

On the other hand, I can understand that Tae-joo would have gone insane. He learned how to open up and make friends in the 1988 world. How could he go back and pick up the pieces of his former life after all that?

I did a little reading (more like skimming) on the British series. I won't spoil anything. All I will say is that I get the feeling that the Korean adaptation did something very different with the world the lead character inhabits.

I think that Tae-joo's 1988 world is a fictional one, albeit a little too rich detailed (but I'll suspend my disbelief). The whole plot with Chief Ahn confirms this in my opinion (I wrote something about this last week).

I still have the following question: Is Tae-joo dead or in a coma? I mean, it would take a miracle to survive that jump, but the fact that the outside world is still trying to get to him implies that he would have to be alive. I feel that the communications should cease if Tae-joo were truly dead. And if he were still alive but beyond recovery, the plug might eventually be pulled. Then the world of his mind would cease to exist completely. If there is a continuance of that world after Tae-joo's physical death, then he would be in some kind of afterlife.

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This drama was amazing and I enjoyed discussing theories with you :)

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@peridot,

Actually, Tae-joo had been on a ventilator and has been taken off it. The plug has already been pulled, but he's able to breathe on his own. That might also explain why he could not respond to his mother's voice -- he'd had a tracheotomy.

I do not recall hearing the monitor's alarm going off, so he has not yet flatlined (unless he has been dead all along).

I don't know where Tae-joo is, either... although I could believe that he is comatose and in a version of 1988 that his subconscious has constructed as it works on solving the cold cases, and finally starts processing his childhood trauma.

I wasn't looking forward to the possibility of a second season because LOM has been perfect. But hearing Hyun-seok's voice in the epilogue makes me think that Tae-joo is on some kind of mission from God to capture the first Manicure Murderer in 1988 -- and intervene so that his younger brother Min-seok gets help before he goes off the deep and follows in hyung's footsteps.

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Thank you, Helcat and Sunny, for the wonderful, insightful recaps and comments! Yours complete this truly, outstanding ride of the show. I am satisfied with the ending for its narrative sake. I am against suicide, so I'll go with one of the theories shared here: that all these happen in Tae Joo's mind and that he's still in coma or dead all this time. His 2018 visit is his closure before moving on in whatever he is now with a more mature, accepting self. Nonetheless, it's interesting to read all the theories the beanies share here and how each has its own right!
What a great ensemble of cast, director and writer (Lee Jung-Hyo and Lee Dae-Il.. okay, I'll remember your names from now on!)! Thank you, LoM, you've made my 2018 'bearable'... :)

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Hi @kakiperi. Whatever was (is) going on In Tae-joo's situation I personally don't believe suicide was involved.
I am just guessing and, not having much experience with psychology or mental illness for that matter, but probably a big determinant in choosing to end your own life must be to stop the hurt one is in (the black hole one can't get out of) rather than leaping into an alternate, "happier" reality that has already been thought out. If anything there is a more inward turn than outward.
My apologies to the Mental Health professionals out there if I am screwing things up.

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The finale was great overall, but really all I can say is: he finally asked her out! Since he blocked her attempts earlier still expecting to leave 1988 insung eventually I was happy he took the first step this time around.

The best part of that season 2 hook is more adventures with dong chul, na young, tae Joo, and the other 2 I don't really care about lol. I expect to see
even more of their private lives since he's comitted to living here now so that could be really fun.

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