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[Happily never after] 49 days of still bitter

By KatiePeep

Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers.

When I read the theme for this month, there was one drama that immediately came to mind: 49 Days. If it hadn’t been for the ending of the drama, I am quite sure it would have gone down as my favourite drama of all time. It had all the elements I love in a show: an original plot, a great cast, stellar acting and directing, and great writing (the writer had done Brilliant Legacy and Prosecutor Princess, both of which I loved as well).

Alas, in the very last few episodes we the viewers were burned, our happily ever after snatched away from us for not just one, but two OTPs! That’s right, folks, if you haven’t watched 49 Days, both the main female lead and the second male lead die in the end.

The whole premise of the show is that the main female character, Shin Ji-hyun (played by both Nam Gyu-ri and Lee Yo-won) dies before her time and but is given 49 days to collect three teardrops from people who truly love her. If she succeeds, she gets another chance at life. The idea is that you’re watching to see if she can complete this mission and come back to life—and she did!

Ji-hyun borrows the body of Lee Yo-won’s character, Song Yi-kyung, and manages to collect the tears of three people who aren’t biologically related to her and comes back to life. The assumption by most viewers was that she would forget everything that happened while she was “dead,” but she’d figure out once more that her soulmate is Han Kang (Jo Jae-hyun). They’re meant to be! Unfortunately when Ji-hyun does come back she can remember everything, because it turns out she’s going to die soon anyways. So I hoped that maybe, just maybe, she’ll find a way out of it again… but she doesn’t, and so our first OTP is torn apart.

The secondary storyline that occurs involves a character who is the Grim Reaper, played by the phenomenal Jung Il-woo, though they call him the Scheduler here. His narrative is great as it turns out he’s actually the deceased boyfriend of Yi-kyung. She was so in love with him and torn by despair at his passing that she’d been contemplating suicide in order to join him in the afterlife. They are eventually re-united and it was easy to wonder if somehow he would also come back to life. After all, this is dramaland. Maybe the Scheduler wouldn’t return to life, but perhaps Yi-kyung would trade places with Ji-hyun, so that at least both OTPs would still be together. Unfortunately that was not the case, and there went the second OTP of the drama, up in flames and torn apart by death.

I was devoted to this drama, eagerly and anxiously awaiting the new episodes every week so I could get my fix. I was invested. I read all the Dramabeans recaps and watched every episode as soon as the subtitles were loaded in English. I was an avid reader of the comments on every post; I read every bit of news I could get my hands on about it. I laughed, I cried, I rooted for our main characters like they were personal friends. In the end however I was left feeling like I had been robbed. I had been so immersed in the show but I was left with all memories of it tainted by the un-happy ending they went with. I really wish I could forgive and forget because until the end, literally episode 20, the drama was honestly impeccable.

All in all if you’re feeling up to it the Dramabeans team wrote some fantastic recaps of the series which can be found in their recap library. At least you, unlike me, will have been warned about the fate that lies ahead. #stillbitter but maybe #workingonit.

 
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I am honestly shaken, just imaging the toll this show would take on me. Losing the female lead and the second male lead?!?!? I literally cannot. I'm even sadder for that sort of ending, because you've talked about how exemplary the show was in every other respect. Ugh. Awful. I am sorry you had to go through this, and if I were a genie, I would fix that for you STAT.

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Aww thank you @anothernicole! That sentiment is much appreciated.

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The pain is worth it, I promise.

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I don't think it was as bad as the commentary suggests. First of all with regard to the secondary couple, the entire series we were told that his reward for doing X years of duty as a reaper would be to come back to life for 1 day to wrap things up, and that's exactly what he got. Secondly it was pretty tragic that the main female lead died in the end but in the process of doing it she found out a WHOLE BUNCH of stuff that was going on and ended up protecting her family. Even her folks took it well they were all, "oh she came out of her coma to say good bye to us," which ... was accurate.

It's also important to keep in mind that because this show did this, it makes the chance of it happening again some day greater than 0 and helps sustain the drama and suspense.

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Agree with Alessar and Mary. The drama was GREAT. I loved every minute of it so the end spoiled it a bit for me... I wished it had been different (which is why it's not an all time favorite either)... But even it is was bittersweet, it wasn't tragic. Ji Hyun changed Yi Kyung's life and her family through her journey and that is what I mostly remember. I know we all love our romance but to me that wasn't the most important thing I remember. What I remember is how Yi Kyung learned to live again through her pain instead of just seeing her live passing by without caring.

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Thanks, @alessar, for mentioning how the Scheduler got the job in the first place. I'd forgotten the fine points. It's coming back to me.

Now that I think of it, there's a chain-reaction traffic accident that ends up serving as a PSA against distracted driving -- as well as a warning that one's own self-centered actions can harm innocent third parties.

Then there's the subplot of the back-stabbing friend and the scheming fiance. As if there weren't enough going on already. It provided the motivation for the female lead to regain consciousness to protect her family. I think this show was my introduction to melodramatic chaebol business shenanigans.

Not only did Ji-hyun get a chance to say goodbye, tsundere Han Kang got a second chance to tell her how he felt. I don't remember why he was so inhibited, but at least he got to speak up at last. That wouldn't have happened if he hadn't first expressed his feelings non-verbally.

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OMG yes! I was OBSESSED with this drama when it first aired, but the ending destroyed me! I am still upset about it! But it introduced me to Jung Il-woo and Jo Jae-hyun and Lee Yo-won so I can't blame it too much.

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Very true - I was also introduced to those three through this drama, and I have enjoyed a lot of other projects the three of them worked on, so in that respect it was worth it! So glad someone else can relate though! :)

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OMG this Show !...

Thanks for the nice write-up !

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@halfmoon you're very welcome! Thank you for reading it!

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This drama was great! No, it wasn't perfect but not because of the ending. The ending made perfect sense. It was about making the most of your time, understanding the effect you have on other people and how they really feel about you, and maybe finding redemption. It was about learning, and all of those things were better explained with that resolution. Not every good story needs a HEA, sometimes it's the very opposite. This wasn't about any couple, they were just there to tell the bigger story and very few kdramas ever dare to be that brave.

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i loved it and i love the actors. i like a story that tells a message about life.

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I call it "and the ending came to its logical conclusion..."

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it was a great story.....i just won't watch it again.

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Reminds me of the ending to High Keck Through the Roof. Though in that case, it was mercifully quick. I had enough time to say, uh oh, they wouldn’t dare ... then right between the eyes, BAM! Argh.

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@katiepeep,

Thanks for your essay on 49 DAYS. It was one of my first non-sageuks as I worked my way through Jo Hyun-jae's filmography following THE KING'S DAUGHTER, SU BAEK HYANG. It was also my introduction to the twists that come out of nowhere in Kdramas and mow down your heart like a pedestrian in the path of a Truck Of Doom.

I may have tuned in for JHJ, but Jung Il-woo stole the show as the Scheduler, which led me to check out his filmography. Come to think of it, the Scheduler was my introduction to Kdrama grim reapers in general. They came as quite a revelation after seeing the reapers and gravelings in the American TV show DEAD LIKE ME. Only later did I encounter the classic Joseon reapers in ARANG AND THE MAGISTRATE, plus additional contemporary reapers in BLACK and the ALONG WITH THE GODS movies. I found the Buddhist metaphysical and spiritual aspects of 49 DAYS to be quite interesting, actually.

Happily Ever After may not have had a ghost of a chance in the show, but the ending made as much logical sense as what inexplicably happens in real life sometimes. Some things are unpredictable. They happen anyway, and that's that.

Thanks for reminding me of 49 DAYS, which for me was a thought-provoking drama.

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@pakalanapikake - thanks for the great response! 49 Days was probably the first Kdrama I watched that featured grim reapers as well. Glad I could remind you of a good drama, it was very thought provoking I agree. Always happy to share drama love with fellow Kdrama fans! :)

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@katiepeep,

After thinking about it some more, I can understand how betrayed you felt by 49 DAYS's ending. If I had hung on tenterhooks for 10 weeks while hopefully awaiting developments, I would have thrown a table or two over the finale. As it is, I got to marathon the show, which ameliorated the frustration a bit. At least I didn't stew in my juices for two and a half months only to be sucker-punched in the face not once, but twice.

More recently, I have felt a sense of betrayal, frustration, and letdown similar to what you have expressed with regard to 49 DAYS after live-watching way too many Kdramas that have ended up going off the rails in the past two years or so.

On the upside, 49 DAYS has some beautiful music.

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Scheduler really did steal the show! Towards the end of the drama, his story was what kept me going and felt so broken for him in every scene he was in. Love Scheduler to bits!

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love your comment and agree with all of it. it opened up my life to jung il woo and the grim reaper theme.

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@diana-hansen,
Yay for Kdrama reapers! Han Jung-soo had a sad backstory as chief reaper Moo-young in ARANG AND THE MAGISTRATE, as I recall, although the details escape me. Another reaper came into being in that show, too. Grim Reaperhood in A&TM killed a couple of birds with one stone, not the least of which was the working out of karma, which could be viewed very broadly as redemptive in the sense that no one could escape the consequences of their actions. It might take a long time, but the books would be balanced. Unless the reaper persisted in their error. *shudder*

I eventually soothed my Scheduler-shredded heart by medicating with FLOWER BOY RAMEN SHOP. And then got it busted all over again by MOON EMBRACING THE SUN.

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yes it did take a while to get over the scheduler..good thing he is is a lot of other dramas so we can fall in love all over again and again and-----!

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Oh... Have you watched Ballads of Seodong? That drama made me watched almost all of Jo Hyun Jae's dramas..

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@Amyrza,
I sure did watch SONG OF THE PRINCE. I haven't seen all of Jo Hyun-jae's works, but I've seen many of them. It cracked me up that he played his own royal Baekje (great-?)grandpa. It was a blast to see him looking regal in Joseon-era GREAT AMBITION / DAEMANG with Jang Hyuk, too.

But JHJ will always be the quintessential Baekje Seja, Myongnong. He and Lee Jae-ryong made a terrific father-and-son pair of rulers.

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#foreverbitter
The ending ruined the whole show for me, which was really too bad because as you said the rest was so good. I don't get why some writers undermine their whole message just for...dramatics? to be different? I don't know. I just felt so cheated.

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@crysta I felt exactly the same!

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So true. It really felt anticlimactic watching that finale. Honestly when they showed the reason why fiancé turned out to be a fraud, that already felt anticlimactic. I was hoping for some amazing twist like how her family owed him something, but nope, I dunno his reasons felt lame..?

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This show destroyed me! I cried buckets when Scheduler and Yi Kyung said goodbye for the last time, but he was already dead so it made sense that they couldn't stay together. But when they ripped apart our main couple I just about threw my computer across the room. What was the writer thinking?! I'm still not over it. I love to rewatch my favorite shows, but this is one where the ending spoiled everything good about the show; I haven't been able to watch it again since.

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@mysterious Exactly! When I read this it's exactly how I feel/felt. I rewatch favourite dramas all the time, but I don't know it I'll ever be able to with this one.

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Omg! 😭😭😭

Thank you for writing 49 Days! I mentioned in the Happy Never After thread that there’s just no way we could get HEA from this gem because it’s just tragically beautiful. I loved Yi Kyung and Yi Soo’s parting, it was so beautiful it broke my heart. The main pairing didn’t hurt me tas bad, but Han Kang deserved a better ending.😭

I rewatch this drama from time to time except Episode 20 😡😡 for the same reason as you do. I was sooo devoted to this drama too for weeks, loved the cliffhangers every episode, but I really felt so betrayed by that Uber makjang plot Long lost sister 😒

I’ll always remember 49 days for its memorable scene that is my all time favourite. I’ve posted it on my wall http://www.dramabeans.com/members/13infamyss/activity/687892/ Scheduler and Yi Kyung have a special place in my heart ♥️

And let’s not forget the awesome ballad OST! Ahhh so many things to love about this drama ❤️ That it def overweighs my hate for Episode 20....

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I am shocked at myself. I have seen this drama. I loved it. But I don't remember the ending. My memory of this ends when she got the last tear drop. I don't know how but it seems my brain has somehow erased the ending for me.
I find it strange because I usually re watch all dramas i have re- watched every drama except this one and i don't know the reason. I absolutely loved the drama. The Scheduler obviously stole the show. And i was under the illusion that it was a happy ending.

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As a non-Korean Drama fan, the trick is knowing when to stop a drama....before they throw the story under a bus so it complies with Korean social norms or they just got too scared of the world they setup. It is not only the obvious cultural differences, it is also the jarring differences in moral code.

Back in hallyu heyday, typically the point where my brain severed drama was the last two episodes. That is no longer the case and some shows only manage 4 episodes where the world and characters are consistent. EG. these are where dramas ended in my head....as they stopped being consistent with the worlds the drama set up and morphed to become about Korean societal norms.

* Secret Garden - Ep 17
when he drove into the storm

* Marriage Not Dating - Ep08
when she chooses the second lead
(who didn't treat her like sh*t)

* 49 days - Ep 19

* Encounter - Ep 06
Before they broke his character fundamentals
(after that he was not the guy she would have ever gone out with)

* Goblin - EP08

* "W" Two Worlds - Ep11
I weep for this show. It could have rivalled Dennis Potter shows in the pantheon of TV

My brain holds 2 versions of almost every KDrama. One version is the entire show, the other is the one I love and is up to where the drama stopped being about the world it set up.

These days, it is a rare drama that manages to hold it together until the end. Hence, why I love "Forest of Secrets" and "Missing" with all my heart - they are rare feats.

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My brain had, on its own, deleted the ending for me that many many years later I accidentally was reminded of all the emotions I'd felt for the show and of how much I'd enjoyed the whole ride and decided to watch it again. The ending ambushed its way and left me half dead.... again.... If you were to turn off the show right when ji-hyun wakes up... that would be P.E.R.F.E.C.T!

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Love this drama.
I didn't find the ending bad at all, only that last bit about the girls being sisters is a little too contrived.

About the OTPs being torn up, I would think it will be more ridiculous if Scheduler returns to life. For Ji Hyun, she has the chance to find love and say proper goodbyes, there is no regret in her passing. All is good.

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Same here, the only part of the ending that bothered me was that last bit. It felt thrown in at the last minute and once coincidence or circle of fate too many. But I guess it provided some sort of happy ending. I guess one reason I didn't mind the lack of OTP closure is that I was used to seeing Lee Yo Won with the male lead and seeing Nam Gyu Ri swapped in at the end wouldn't have computed with me.

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I hated the end for the main couple. It was really unfair and cruel. They could let her die without knowing how her fiancé and her best friend betrayed her. But no, she had to learn it in a very cruel way but at least she discovered that a great was in love with her, all of that for nothing because she has to die anyway?
For the second couple, it was very sad but I think the story was that the girl learns to live without him.

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Yes! I felt at peace with Yi Kyung and Yi Soo’s ending. I liked their closure, I couldn’t really ask for more since there’s just no way he can come from the dead. I don’t want him either. He’s had his time. And really sends a good message that you don’t always get second chance - they fought a petty, normal couple fight, something we know they can fix in a day or two, but time didn’t let them. Tomorrow doesn’t always come for all of us, it’s a privilege that we have to treasure. If they were the only pair in this drama, I would have liked it to the end, but nope the writer threw in some more unwanted plot twists especially with the other pair, it lost its magic in the end😑

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I feel the same way...everyday i watched 1-2 episodes, and was so happy she was able to wake up from her coma and get her 3 tears n finally be able to be with Hang Kang...but wth??? Shes gonna die again??? I felt so bad, like iv been betrayed by the whole drama..time wasted..effort :( the ending could have been better !

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I get traumatized by endings such as this. Hello, Autumn in My Heart and What Happened in Bali! I can’t.....

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It’s crazy your post came out this week. Last week for some reason I felt the urge to rewatch the drama knowing perfectly well how it all played out. Still loved the drama though and still love the scheduler. When he finds out the connection between him and Yikyung is still one of my favorite scenes in a drama.

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I was also upset that Ji-hyun pretended not to remember what happened to her during her 49 days journey. I understand why she felt that it was necessary but it still bothers me.

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Kinda unrelated but I'm literally having the exact same thoughts and feelings about The Last Empress (An Empress's Dignity)'s ending. I started watching because of my baes, Choi Jin Hyuk and Jang Nara (2 of my top favorite actors), and also because the plot was so intriguing and got me hooked in spite of all it's ridiculousness. Like you with 49 Days, I became so invested in this show, I kept up with all the news surrounding it, laughed & cried & cursed in frustration more times than I'd like to admit, and I rooted for the main characters every single episode until the very end. But alas, all good things must come to an end and such was the case with this drama. It's ending left me feeling empty and cheated (lol), and I will continue to be bitter until Jang Nara and Choi Jin Hyuk do another drama where they finally get their happy ending. Please drama gods make it happen!!! Anyways, say what you will about this outrageous show and it's ridiculous characters, Sunny & Wang Shik deserved better than they were given. But even if they couldn't be together in the end, at least Wang Shik deserved a better ending. Bae could never catch a break even with his 9 lives. I will never forgive this writer for writing off Choi Jin Hyuk they way that she did 😭😭😭 Now excuse me while I try to cheer up by rewatching Tunnel and all it's bromance glory! ♥️♥️♥️
***Prays for Jang Nara x Choi Jin Hyuk reunion to happen ASAP***

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I am still trying to read and not read your review at the same time, cause I haven't finished it yet. But I am aware of the greatness of the drama from the 2-3 episodes I have watched. Lee Yo Won was amazing in it, and she had great chemistry with Jung II Woo's ripper. It sucked that they were not together in a literal sense but the backstory hurt so bad. Hmm, I aspire to finish this drama now lol.

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Thank you for writing the essay about 49 Days!

This drama has a special place in my heart. It was the first time I watched a Kdrama live, and thanks to it, I found Dramabeans site.

To me, the ending makes sense and I applaud write So Hyun-kyung for sticking to her idea and crafting a meaningful story rather than finishing the drama in fairy tale, HEA style. I remember feeling dehydrated because I cried so much watching episode 19. Yi-soo and Yi-kyung's closure was satisfying, though bittersweet. They loved, they fought and would have had made up in a day or two if fate had not interfered in a cruel way. At that point of my life, I also lost someone who meant the world to me a few years earlier. I kept thinking how lucky they were to have that one day to clear up any misunderstanding, to let the other person know how much they meant to each other, and to say goodbye. For Ji-hyun, if she woke up and went on with her life without remembering those 49 days, what would she learn from it? Though it seems unfair, she got the chance to learn the truth, set things in order and said her last goodbye to her parents. Not everyone got that kind of chance in real life.

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