Mr. Sunshine: Episode 24 (Final)
Guns, glory, sad ending — here we come! Our finale doesn’t disappoint in maximizing the potential of our cast and the remaining story. It’s incredible and quite overwhelming. The Joseon people suffer immeasurable losses in family, pride, and history, but they still persevere in their fight, believing that they will see a free Joseon. The Righteous Army invests in the future of resistance and continues to fight until the very end because history ought to and will remember their names.
EPISODE 24 RECAP
The traitor ministers line up in front of the throne for a photo taken by Hee-sung, who considers it an honor to document these ministers in history. They proudly display their badges as Hee-sung’s smile turns into a fierce glare at these unashamed traitors. He snaps photos of the ministers, each shutter release sounding like a gunshot.
A real gunshot rings, and Eugene collects the hitlist from Duk-moon’s dead body. Dong-mae enters the room, and Eugene offers to return Hwawollu, which he just reclaimed from dead Duk-moon. Then, they hear gunshots caused by the Japanese soldiers’ onslaught on Ae-shin’s servants, which Ae-shin witnesses from above in shock. When the soldiers find an empty carriage, they quickly retreat to report this news.
Suffering fatal bullet wounds, Ae-shin’s maid reaches for the servant. She can’t reach him but promises that she’ll join him soon. The soldiers report the empty carriage to their commander, who orders them to return to the scene to salvage any evidence.
When the villagers come out of hiding, they recognize Ae-shin’s servants and try to keep the maid conscious. Ae-shin rushes to hold her maid, who greets her and reveals her identity to the surrounding villagers. The maid says that she came to save Ae-shin and the Righteous Army, that she lived for the joys of watching Ae-shin grow up and will die for her as well. Then she takes her last breath.
Ae-shin wails in mourning as the Japanese forces return to the site of their murder. Dong-mae and Eugene arrive too, and the villagers hide Ae-shin under their garments and line up as a human wall against the Japanese. Commander Hasegawa orders the Joseon people to move, but they link arms and stand resolute in defense of Ae-shin and their fallen people. Dong-mae and Eugene (and I as well) stand frozen behind the crowd, moved by the sight.
As Eugene remembers the written accounts about the Joseon people, he tells Joseph that the Joseon people have not changed. He reads the record of the Joseon people persevering against the American forces: “The enemies are still desperately fighting back, even in the face of crushing defeat. Despite being on the verge of losing, there has not been a single deserter. Even while being cornered by the overwhelming military power of our forces, the enemies keep getting back up time and time again under the battle flag of their general.”
Eugene watches them with tears welling in his eyes, as he remembers Ae-shin’s conviction to save the undercover Righteous Army geisha. She had told him that she needed to save her comrade because one day, that woman could be her. As the prophecy is fulfilled before Eugene’s eyes, he thinks, “The Joseon that the woman risked her life to protect is now protecting her.” Commander Hasegawa looks flabbergasted by the resolute Joseon people and the American teacher standing in solidarity. He lowers his gun and orders his troops to retreat, as these people will be crushed by the Japanese anyway.
As Commander Hasegawa rides away on his horse with his ensemble of troops, Eugene tells Dong-mae that he’ll need a horse, a privilege only granted to Japanese soldiers. They approach two soldiers on horseback and each claim a soldier to fight. Dong-mae kills his target first by throwing a knife at the soldier’s chest, and Eugene claims to have drawn his gun faster but restrained from shooting to avoid attention. Ha, I missed these two being petty.
Eugene offers to escort Ae-shin back to the hideout, but she refuses to put Eugene in danger. She didn’t expect the death of her servants in her resistance journey, and she wants Eugene to remain safe as an American. Eugene warns her to prepare for anyone’s death, since this is a war. He assures her that her servants will be buried with the help of the other villagers and urges her to head to the meeting spot.
At the new Righteous Army basecamp, comrades distribute handfuls of raw barley to eat, as smoke from fire will reveal their location. A jaded comrade complains that their suffering won’t make an immediate impact, and the younger rickshaw runner insists that they can remain persistent. Another comrade points to the children playing in the water as a reminder that they’re living, not just enduring.
They hear a sound of horse hooves and see that Ae-shin has returned. She reports the successful completion of her mission as well as the death of her comrades, whose mission to protect their fellow comrades’ escape was also a success. Eun-san comforts Ae-shin with the reminder that their sacrifice protected the young children, and it’s now their duty to protect them.
Eugene burns the servant’s and maid’s belongings, wishing them to a good place. He also throws his mother’s wooden hair ornament and asks them to deliver it to his mother if they meet her there. Dong-mae sits in his hideout smoking opium, counting down the days until he meets Ae-shin: D-5.
Hee-sung prints the news of the assassination of innocent Joseon people and the relentless attacks by the Japanese. In the newspaper, he encourages the Joseon people to face these fears as they continue into the storm. Hee-sung’s worker (Ae-shin’s language school friend), Reporter Yoon, worries about the distribution of their paper, since the Japanese are becoming stricter with their newspaper policy, even threatening to deport an English reporter.
Hee-sung embraces these threats as consequences of telling the truth and assures Reporter Yoon that he purposely left his newspaper nameless so that he couldn’t be traced. He commends his own foresight, and his reporter laments Hee-sung’s optimism at a time like this. She assures him that she’ll take care of the newspaper distribution, and Hee-sung says that he picked a great worker while the worker jokes that she picked the wrong job.
As Hee-sung packs up his printing press, Eugene enters the pawnshop, to Hee-sung’s delight. He’s come to retrieve the item that he left with Hee-sung — the Joseon flag that the emperor gifted him — and Hee-sung jokes that he couldn’t sell his country because of that flag. Eugene asks about the pawnshop duo, and Hee-sung explains that they’re away because of their aid in blowing up the hotel.
As payment for the camera that Eugene sent to Hee-sung, Eugene hands over the list of Righteous Army members, as it could be a hitlist in the hands of the Japanese but a record in the hands of Hee-sung. Eugene warns Hee-sung that this hitlist is worth a lot of money, and Hee-sung offers to buy drinks for trusting him with this invaluable record. They laugh that Hee-sung is finally buying drinks.
At the bar, Hee-sung notices a familiar figure and excitedly greets Dong-mae with flowery words. He orders drinks as his treat, but Dong-mae and Eugene can’t quite believe him. Hee-sung raises his glass as a toast among friends, and Eugene and Dong-mae gladly clink their glasses with Hee-sung’s glass.
Hee-sung looks surprised that they didn’t take out their gun and sword at the mention of “friends,” and he raises a toast one more time as confirmation. They all clink their glasses and happily drink as friends. As we watch the three friends drinking together, Eugene narrates: “The first words that Ae-shin learned were: gun, glory, sad ending. Although we were walking our own paths, we were all heading toward the same destination.”
Hee-sung’s newspaper extra is distributed throughout the streets, and as they watch the newspapers fall from the sky, Eugene continues, “Our paths resembled us: a newspaper written in place of a will, a broken body burning through its remaining life like opium, and a foreigner who carries the Joseon flag. Between glory and sad ending, where will our destination lie? Perhaps we didn’t know how to stop, didn’t have a reason to stop, or maybe it was patriotism because the hot summer night allowed a previously nonexistent friendship to blossom.”
Resident General Ito Hirobumi angrily throws the newspaper in his office and seethes that one line in the newspaper can move the Joseon people more than a hundred words from him. Commander Hasegawa explains that the nameless newspaper could not be tracked down. Minister Lee Wan-yong then suggests that they fight agitation with agitation by providing a large bounty for the wanted Righteous Army members, and General Hirobumi likes this idea.
The significant bounty tempts the villagers to seek out the comrades, and Eugene and Gwan-soo overhear the conversations. Gwan-soo informs Eugene that Soomi, Domi’s older sister, is in the palace after delivering a message to the emperor from Hina but wishes to join the Righteous Army. Though Eugene knows that the palace is safer, he offers to help her escape.
Dong-mae throws a bag of money to the baker for the candies and tells the baker to keep the change. He doesn’t need money anymore and hopes that the baker will continue to make good business. As he walks away, Dong-mae coughs up blood and collapses onto the street.
When Dong-mae wakes up, he’s in his hideout with Eugene taking care of him. Eugene says that he redressed Dong-mae’s wound and notes all the blood Dong-mae coughed up. Dong-mae asks him to turn a blind eye and says that he can’t die today even if he wanted to because it’s mid-month — time to meet Ae-shin. Eugene tells him to take care of his body, and Dong-mae sincerely wishes Eugene the same. Eugene knows that he should hate Dong-mae but admits that Dong-mae has grown on him.
As Eugene enters Hwawollu, he’s stopped by journalist Frederick Arthur McKenzie (a real historical correspondent) from the Daily Mail newspaper asking for help to find the Righteous Army. He’s hoping to cover their story in his newspaper, and he was directed to Eugene. Initially Eugene reacts defensively, but Frederick says he was told to ask, “How’s the picnic, Eugene?” It’s from Kyle, of course, and Eugene complies with the request.
Eugene leads Frederick to the Righteous Army’s hideout, and they’re immediately surrounded by comrades. A few lower their guns once they recognize Eugene, but others remain suspicious of his guest and motivations. Eugene explains that Joseon’s struggle remains unknown and hidden to other countries as Japan continues to cover up their atrocities. He insists that sharing their story to the world will be meaningful.
A comrade finds this storytelling meaningless and tells Eugene to fight with a gun instead, but Ae-shin takes Eugene’s side by claiming that she called for them. Even though other nations may refuse to listen, she urges her comrades to attempt to share their story about the weight of their fearless fight for Joseon’s sovereignty.
The mechanic offers to be interviewed, and he shares that the Righteous Army has incredible courage but lacks necessary supplies. Their guns are old, and they’re almost out of bullets. He knows that he’ll probably die fighting, but he’d rather die free than live as a slave. A comrade asks Frederick to procure guns for the Righteous Army, but as a journalist, he can’t help either side. Instead, he offers to take a photo of the Righteous Army, and they agree to be recorded in a photo.
Ae-shin thanks Eugene and says that she’s once again indebted to him. Eugene says that her smile already repaid that debt and adds that he’s even risked his life to return her lost shoe. He’s referring to the time that Ae-shin ran after him to say goodbye, and she asks if that was the moment he fell for her. She comments that he was late and heads off to rejoin her comrades.
Ae-shin turns around and remembers the moment she fell for him, when they first met on the rooftop holding each other at gunpoint. She shows Eugene her ring hanging around her neck, and Eugene lifts his hand to show his ring. They smile sweetly at each other, and Ae-shin continues on her way.
Dong-mae waits for Ae-shin at the tea shop, remembering his intimate moments with her at the book shop and in Tokyo. Night falls, and the tea shop owner approaches Dong-mae not for closing but for a guest. The guest offers a coin on the table, and Dong-mae looks up to find Ae-shin. He didn’t expect her to come, since she didn’t show up on their promised mid-month schedule, and he expresses relief that he could see her on his last day.
Dong-mae tells Ae-shin that she’s completed her repayment and doesn’t need to see him anymore. Ae-shin asks if he’s leaving and offers to help, and Dong-mae asks if she’s offering her carriage to save him again. He declines her help this time, as his end was predetermined the moment he joined the Musin Society. He knows that riding the carriage will put Ae-shin in danger, so he insists that he will endure the threat alone. He tells Ae-shin to fly as she did and walks away.
Before Dong-mae leaves, Ae-shin admits that his scathing insult of her as a noblewoman spoiled in luxuries haunted her. Dong-mae seems to resonate with that sentiment, and he continues on his way without turning back.
Joon-young trains the Righteous Army comrades to shoot guns, and the tailor asks why they have two people to one gun. Joon-young explains that they don’t have enough guns, so the second person must pick up the gun and continue to fight if the first person dies. The tailor freezes at the harsh reality of their fight.
The pawnshop duo delivers funds and a letter to Eun-san as the jaded comrade sneakily watches the exchange. That night, the jaded comrade carefully steals the letter from sleeping Eun-san and runs away to read its contents. The letter reads: “In the name of 20 million compatriots, we must punish the traitor.” The jaded comrade has been caught red-handed by the pawnshop duo, and Choon-shik kills him with a slice of a sword.
The sound of horse hooves approaches from behind, and the pawnshop duo quickly hides from the Japanese forces, who discover the traitor’s dead body. Choon-shik suggests that they run away, but Il-shik says that a gunshot must alarm the Righteous Army to escape. Choon-shik points out that gunshots will ring even if they run away. Point well taken, Il-shik and Choon-shik grab the attention of the Japanese soldiers and run for their lives in the opposite direction of the Righteous Army hideout. The gunshots wake the Righteous Army, and they quickly prepare their escape.
Eun-san meets with Eugene and informs him that the Righteous Army has moved their hideout again. The bounty and increasing pressure has forced Eun-san to request a favor. He hands Eugene a bundle of funds gathered from comrades around the country — notably Hina and Hee-sung’s mother — and asks him to buy twelve train tickets to Pyeongyang, since he’ll attract less attention as an American. He explains that these tickets are for those who must carry on the future of Joseon: children, women, youth, and Ae-shin.
Dong-mae waits at the port with his swords prepared in both hands. As expected, the Musin warriors arrive and appreciate Dong-mae’s convenient greeting. Dong-mae comments that they were one day late and wonders if it was the heavens or maybe Yang-hwa (Hina) that helped delay the ships. Dong-mae prepares to accept his death, but the Musin warriors have a surprise for him. They drag the limp body of Yujo and taunt Dong-mae about how his right-hand man was searching for him in Japan.
Dong-mae’s eyes sharpen as he reminds himself that he can still cut anyone. With that, he runs into an outnumbered battle, skillfully killing his enemies but also suffering fatal piercings. Covered in blood and out of breath, Dong-mae fights to kill one more warrior, and then, a sword cuts through his chest. As he coughs up blood, Dong-mae falls to the ground and looks up at the sky.
Dong-mae smiles as he remembers Ae-shin and her confession that his insult haunted her. He says, “Alas, I am a bad guy. I hoped she forgot those harsh words, but when she admitted that those words hurt her, I was content that I possessed one moment in Ae-shin’s life.” Then, Dong-mae closes his eyes and concludes his battle.
The Musin warriors drag Dong-mae by his wrists and head off to destroy Joseon. As they drag Dong-mae’s dead body, we see the reflection of Dong-mae and his gang walking into the opposite direction. Dong-mae’s gang fades away, and the phantom Dong-mae gives his dead counterpart one last look before disappearing.
On a rainy night, Eun-san shares his new plan with the Righteous Army to reach Manchuria, where comrades Minister Lee Jung-moon and Song Young have gathered supplies. Due to Japan’s control of the railroads, they can no longer deliver the arms to Joseon and must travel to Manchuria instead.
Eun-san divides the fighting comrades into three platoons, with Ae-shin leading the platoon that will take the train to Pyeongyang and then travel to Manchuria. Eun-san orders Joon-young and the rickshaw runner to steal Japanese uniforms to facilitate the safe boarding onto the train. The remaining platoons will meet any scattered comrades and travel to Pyeongyang by land.
The children with the Righteous Army cry from hunger, so Ae-shin provides her portion of barley. The mothers gratefully accept the food, and Ae-shin plays the music box, which provides a sense of solace and sorrow for Ae-shin and the rest of the Righteous Army. Ae-shin cries to the sorrowful tune, and suddenly, Eugene appears with a gift for Eun-san. He hands over his Joseon flag, and Eun-san jokes that their fourth platoon leader is a foreigner. Eugene announces his one-man platoon and gives Ae-shin a nod.
The next morning, the comrades unfold the Joseon flag and admire its beauty. A young boy trips and leaves muddy handprints on the flag, and the older comrades tease the boy for his seal of patriotism. That gives them an idea, and a woman offers the juice from flower petals for their handprints on the flag. One by one, the comrades leave their stamp on the flag, and the faint blood color of the petals coincidentally makes the handprints look more meaningful.
Ae-shin lifts her hand to look at her flower-stained pinky fingernail. Eugene joins her, and Ae-shin laughs that she’s never seen a man stain his fingernail. Eugene jokes that he saw another man (disguised Ae-shin) do this, so he followed suit. Ae-shin says that she’ll be a woman tomorrow and warns him not to fall for her too hard.
The next day, Ae-shin prepares to board the train with her disguised platoon. Disguised in a Japanese uniform, Joon-young urges her to board quickly, and Ae-shin says that she’s taking one last look at Joseon, as she may not return.
Gwan-soo provides Soomi with a disguise, and he repeats the words of one blue-eyed American soldier to assure her that God is always with the Joseon people. He places the gat on her head and says that it will protect her. “God (gat) bless you,” he says. Aw, that’s a sweet use of a pun.
The post office manager brings records of newspaper type acquired in Hee-sung’s name to the police chief, and they suspect that Hee-sung is the nameless newspaper culprit. They seize this opportunity to regain the favor of Minister Lee Wan-yong.
Meanwhile, Hee-sung develops his photos in the dark room, his collection ranging from the photo of the traitor ministers to Hina’s staff to fighting Joseon soldiers to the sketch of Ae-shin. He pauses to admire the comrades who’ve fought and died for Joseon, and he says that it’s been an honor to know them and bring meaning to his life. He wraps the photos and looks at the sketch of Ae-shin one more time before packing his records.
Hee-sung’s reporter arrives at the pawnshop as he’s burying the chest of records and photos, and he gives her his camera. He says that someone gave him the camera to root for him, and he’s paying it forward to her. He tells her to leave and stay away from the pawnshop, since she could be in danger. He gives her smile and confirms that he’s firing her.
Realizing the impending threat, Reporter Yoon takes the shovel and tells Hee-sung to quickly cover up the spot. She makes him promise to return for the chest, and Hee-sung jokingly promises to come back for the shovel. Just as Hee-sung finishes covering up his treasures, the police chief arrives to arrest him, and Hee-sung willingly surrenders.
Eun-san leads his unit of comrades through the hills to find Japanese soldiers lining up their scattered comrades for murder. It seems like their escape plan leaked, which puts Ae-shin’s platoon in danger, but they’ll be too late to save the comrades on the train. Eun-san must rely on the remaining platoons to protect those on the train and leads his unit to save their comrades in front of them. Before the Japanese soldiers release fire on the captured comrades, the Righteous Army fighters shoot at them, and their scrappy guerilla warfare makes a dent in the Japanese forces.
As Eugene arrives at the train station to meet Soomi and Gwan-soo, he overhears the Japanese forces command to delay the train’s departure and wait for supplemental soldiers for a thorough search of the train. Eugene realizes that the Righteous Army’s escape has been compromised and tells Soomi that they need to take a detour.
Eugene tells Gwan-soo to take Soomi to Stella with his bag and check on her frequently. Then, he spells out Gwan-soo’s name in his hand in Korean, causing Gwan-soo to burst into tears. Gwan-soo hugs Eugene, imploring him to return to Joseon, and he takes Soomi to safety. Eugene keeps a close eye on the Japanese forces at the train entrance and checks for his gun under his jacket.
In the train, the two disguised comrades check Ae-shin’s ticket and inform her they’ve been discovered. Ae-shin knows that the Japanese forces are delaying the train departure to wait for supplemental troops and stresses that the train must depart now. Joon-young says that they’re missing two comrades, and Ae-shin knows which two: Eugene and Soomi. Regardless, she must continue with the plan and orders a comrade to follow her to force this train’s departure.
Eugene’s suspicious loitering catches the eye of a Japanese soldier, but the soldiers are distracted by a Japanese baron that they salute to. The Japanese baron complains about all the ruckus in Joseon, and Eugene casually joins his conversation. Eugene pretends to know the Japanese baron and namedrops Takashi Mori as his connection. The Japanese baron regrets to inform Eugene that Takashi died three years ago, and Eugene pretends that he had no idea.
A Japanese soldier stops the baron from boarding the train because of intel about the Righteous Army rebels escaping on this train, and the baron orders the soldiers to find them quickly before they ruin his business. Eugene continues to walk with the baron, who shares that he has a coal mine business in Pyeongyang and has an important business deal that day. The baron asks why Eugene is headed to Pyeongyang, and Eugene honestly responds that his lover is headed that way. They continue their conversation, and Eugene easily slips in with the baron.
Ae-shin and her comrade barge into the cab and demand the train’s departure, holding the conductor at gunpoint. Ae-shin orders her comrade to keep the train moving and to lock the door to the cab. The Japanese soldiers run after the departing train, and Eugene grabs the businessman to chase the train, just barely boarding as the train takes off.
On the train, the baron tries to thank Eugene with whiskey, but Eugene politely declines and heads to general class. When he enters the general passenger car, he’s met by Joon-young, who quietly greets his instructor. Eugene tells him to save their greetings and gives him the rundown: About six more Japanese soldiers boarded the train, and there’s a useful item in first class. He orders Joon-young to make it to Pyeongyang dead or alive, protecting his comrades, and reminds Joon-young that he’s a lion (a reference to the proverb from his last lesson).
Then, Eugene takes the time to exchange greetings. He tells Joon-young that he’s proud of him. Holding Joon-young’s hand, Eugene says that he missed him and takes his ticket to head to his seat. Joon-young takes a moment to collect his emotions and continues with his mission.
As the Japanese soldiers search the passengers with the sketch of Ae-shin, the young boy with the Righteous Army points to them and calls them Japs. The disguised tailor scolds the boy in Japanese, and the disguised nurse quickly covers up the slip to avoid further suspicion. The Japanese soldiers don’t think twice and continue their search.
Ae-shin reaches into her bag for her gun when someone suddenly sits next to her. She turns to find Eugene, who commends her excellent execution of the mission. She says that it’s because she’s the wife of an excellent American. Eugene smiles at the compliment and proceeds to check his gun. He only has one bullet to use for his mission in first class, and Ae-shin holds his hand to stop him. Eugene assures her that as always, he’ll just need to use his one bullet well. He squeezes her hand, and we see that they both have their rings on.
After successfully fighting off the Japanese soldiers, Eun-san orders the remaining Righteous Army fighters to gather the injured comrades and to scavenge any weapons. Then, they hear the echoes of marching soldiers and horses approaching, and Eun-san looks at the regrettable sight of Japanese forces lined up on the hills. A comrade fearfully asks if they’ll be able to fend off these forces, and Eun-san responds that they can’t turn back now.
Eun-san tells the fighters. “It’s not only the magnificent days that make history. Although we know that we will lose and barely endure with our crude weapons, we must fight and make it known that we were here, that we were afraid but fought to the end.” The comrades agree that they only die once and seem determined to take a few of the Japanese soldiers with them. They run into the battle with the Joseon flag waving with the promising handprints of Joseon’s future.
Eugene enters the first class passenger car to meet with the baron, who once again offers whiskey. Eugene declines once again and says that he needs to save his lover. Then, he asks who killed Takashi, and the businessman infers that it was the deed of a Righteous Army rebel, like their train inconvenience today. Drawing his gun, Eugene corrects him and reveals that the culprit was an American who escaped Joseon.
A Japanese soldier brutally beats Hee-sung and demands to know where his photos are. The soldier notes the detail and bias in his newspapers, and he demands the list of Righteous Army rebels, as he knows that Hee-sung is on the side of rebels Eun-san and Ae-shin. Bruised and bloody from the beating, Hee-sung looks up with a smile and says that those are beautiful names. That earns him another beating, but Hee-sung continues, “I only like beautiful and useless things: the moon, stars, flowers, smiles, jokes. If I am linked with the rebels for this reason, then I am honored.”
The soldier yells at Hee-sung to speak in Japanese and continues to beat him. Hee-sung suffers a fatal blow to the head, and he falls to the ground. He slowly loses consciousness and closes his eyes to the sound of the ticking pocket watch.
The Japanese soldiers continue to search the train passengers, and Joon-young lingers in front of Ae-shin with the sketch in his hand. A soldier approaches Joon-young and asks what troop he’s from, since he’s never seen him before. When Joon-young fails to answer, Ae-shin stands up and reveals her identity. Then, she takes out her gun and shoots at the enemy soldiers.
At the sound of the gunshots, the Japanese soldiers gather to attack Ae-shin and Joon-young. They’re outnumbered and look desperate in their fight against the enemy soldiers. Then, a voice orders the soldiers to seize fire. It’s the baron, and he’s held captive by Eugene, who orders the Japanese soldiers to retreat.
Eugene walks toward the soldiers with the baron hostage, and Ae-shin follows him with her gun pointed at the soldiers. The soldiers continue to backpedal into the next train car, and Ae-shin admits that her gun is empty. She asks what his plan is, and Eugene says that he’s walking the path to delay Joseon’s ruin. He asks her to endure a little longer until the tunnel and asks her not to cry. He says, “This is my history and my love story. That’s why I’m going. I pray for your success.”
As they near the tunnel, Eugene hold back his tears and turns around to Ae-shin. He tells her, “Continue to go forward as I take a step back.” He gives her one last smile and yells at the soldiers to move forward. Once they enter the next train car, Eugene points his gun at the coupler of the two train cars. Realizing what he’s doing, Ae-shin runs to the end of the train, but Eugene has already decoupled the trains with his last bullet.
Ae-shin cries for Eugene as he falls victim to the gunshots of the Japanese soldiers behind him. As the train continues to separate from Eugene’s car, she screams, “Choi Yoo-jin!” The train exits the tunnel, and she crumbles at the edge of the train. Eventually, Eugene’s train car reaches the end of the tunnel, and he’s covered in blood from the gunshots. He looks to the sky as he once did in his youth and falls, blood dripping down his ring-bearing hand.
Resident General Ito Hirobumi orders Commander Hasegawa to bury the names of the deceased Righteous Army rebels and ensure that their existence is never documented. But the names of the deceased fighters don’t die, as Gwan-soo repeats the names of the Righteous Army fighters to Emperor Gojong. Gwan-soo sobs through his report to the emperor, who also cries silently in mourning.
At the language school, Soomi opens Eugene’s bag to find his mother’s ornament and the photo of Eugene and Ae-shin from the Japan studio. She cries when she sees the photo, and we hear the voiceover of Gwan-soo’s letter to Kyle, who tearfully reads the letter: “I deeply regret to inform you of Eugene Choi’s death. Born in Joseon, Eugene lived as an American and a foreigner until he died, and he wished to be buried in a country that never accepted him. So I ask of you to request that Eugene be buried in the foreigner’s burial site.”
Il-shik and Choon-shik return to their pawnshop, and they find a note from Hee-sung asking them to accept his pocket watch as payment for rent. Villagers enter the pawnshop with remnants from a destroyed Joseon, including the medicine cabinet and Dong-mae’s sword. Hee-sung’s pocket watch, Dong-mae’s sword, Eun-san’s pottery, and the shoes of an unknown Righteous Army comrade are displayed almost as memorabilia.
Il-shik finds Eugene’s matryoshka doll in one of the medicine cabinets, which used to be Ae-shin and Eugene’s secret correspondence vehicle. It seems that Eugene wrote a letter to Ae-shin in the doll before he left for Japan with her. He writes, “Our trip to Japan will likely be our farewell. Wherever you went, I always wanted to be with you. I didn’t know you would make me say goodbye.”
When Eugene returned to Japan after completing his time in prison, he visited the photo studio to retrieve the photo of him and Ae-shin. He smiled and cried at the photo, and we hear him continue to narrate his letter: “Every step I took with you fulfilled my life. Every moment with you felt like a picnic. Oh, by the way, picnic starts with a P.”
Back when Eugene and Ae-shin went fishing, they had returned to the medicine shop to cook the fish they caught. Eugene boasted that he was good at everything on a boat, and Ae-shin didn’t know, insisting that she doesn’t know much other than paintings — her usual excuse of being an innocent noblewoman. She asked what fish was in English and assumed that the word started with a P based on the pronunciation. Eugene corrected her that it was F, and she pouted about him spoiling her mood.
Continuing with his letter, Eugene asks, “Are you still saving Joseon? Please do so. Go Ae-shin had a burning passion, and I loved that Go Ae-shin very much. Now, I say goodbye.” Two years later in Manchuria, Ae-shin teaches her comrades under the waving Joseon flag. She tells her comrades that once they shoot, they’re location is revealed, and she asks what to do next. Soomi (yay, she joined!) wonders if they shoot again, but Ae-shin corrects her: They run fast.
With that, Ae-shin orders her comrades to run up the hill, and they all race to the top. Ae-shin smiles at her running comrades, “These were brilliant days. We were all flames, blooming and wilting passionately. Now we burn our flames once more with the embers left by comrades. Since my English hasn’t improved, I kept my farewell short: Goodbye, comrades. In our freed nation, see you again.”
In the year 1919 at the foreigner’s burial site in Gyeongseong, we see a Joseon soldier honoring the Eugene, whose grave reads: “The Greatest & Noble one, still on a picnic here in Joseon.” The soldier remembers his youth, when Eugene told him that this was his fight — it’s Domi (cameo by Kim Min-jae)! Grown Domi says that he won’t stop in their fight and salutes to Eugene with his comrades.
The closing message reads: “Goodbye Mr. Sunshine. In a freed nation, see you again.”
Goodbye, indeed. Woo, we made it! In true tvN fashion, we were gifted/cursed with a loooong monster of a finale, but I’ll admit that the show made a grand and memorable exit. This episode was bursting with emotion and nose tingling feels that signal the floodgates to open, and I would have been a mess if I had watched this in one go. Fortunately, recapping required lots of pausing and excuses for me to take breathers when a scene got too overwhelming, which happened quite frequently. Starting from the moment we entered the episode, I was captured by Hee-sung’s duality in photographing the traitor ministers and the symbolism of the camera shutter gunshots. He knew that that they were standing on the wrong side of history and understood the importance of documenting the names and faces of the oppressors. This is the duality I needed from Hee-sung ten episodes ago because Byun Yo-han is so damn capable of carrying this character, as we saw in his final moments as Hee-sung. At least Hee-sung died in glory, honoring and protecting the history of the oppressed.
Though Dong-mae was possibly my favorite character, I was ready for him to die. Even he was counting down the days until his death. Regardless, I appreciate that we got to see him until the end because close-ups of Dong-mae drenched in emotion were just the best. Also, his last interaction with Ae-shin was so important to closing his character arc. He had always regretted saying those piercing words to her, but he also took pride in affecting Ae-shin so deeply. Ae-shin’s confession clarified the impact of that insult, which I believe motivated both Ae-shin and Dong-mae to their respective places in the resistance.
As with the appearance of An Chang-ho in a previous episode, I love when shows pay homage to historical figures because it adds another fascinating dimension of realism to the events on screen. I live for these moments in historical fiction, especially when they’re done with a subtle touch as this finale did with Frederick Arthur McKenzie, a real-life correspondent who gave a voice to the Righteous Army. The photo that he took in the scene really resembles the real-life photo taken by the real journalist, and I appreciate how this small detail adds to the pathos of the show.
These last few episodes really brought me back to the initial hype of this show and reminded me of the epic drama I was promised. For a blockbuster show with great ratings and an aesthetically beautiful production, I wasn’t impressed with a good middle chunk of the show, which was disappointingly devoid of any necessary action. I’m glad someone turned on the switch for the last couple of episodes, making it an action-packed, tear-jerking ride until the end with a sprinkle of whiplash. Ultimately, as promised, there were guns, glory, and a sad ending, though I would consider those last few minutes more hopeful than sad. I’m interested to revisit my thoughts on this show in a few weeks to reflect in retrospect and consider this show in a more objective light because this finale shook me to my core.
Peace out, Mr. Sunshine. (Maybe probably not) See you (and your Paris Baguette PPL) again!
- Premiere Watch: Your House Helper, Mr. Sunshine
- The epic battle for Joseon in tvN’s Mr. Sunshine
- Lee Byung-heon’s period drama Mr. Sunshine gets delayed
- Period drama Mr. Sunshine secures slot on tvN’s early 2018 schedule
- Byun Yo-han added to Mr. Sunshine’s star lineup
- Yoo Yeon-seok joins Mr. Sunshine as tragic second lead
- Film ingenue Kim Tae-ri cast opposite Lee Byung-heon for Mr. Sunshine
- Lee Byung-heon makes drama comeback with Goblin writer’s Mr. Sunshine
- Goblin writer Kim Eun-sook returns with period drama Mr. Sunshine
- Goblin writer Kim Eun-sook discusses her next project