Itaewon Class: Episode 15
As Sae-ro-yi fights to survive, he encounters a reflection on his life guided by the person he’d most yearned for. Life is hard, and he comes to a crossroads where he needs to decide if it’s all worth the struggle. Meanwhile, Geun-won continues to wreak havoc on his family and his own possibility at redemption. He realizes that he’s a demon of his father’s making and seeks revenge in blind rage.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
As the car races toward Geun-soo, Sae-ro-yi pushes him to safety and gets hit. He rolls down the hill and goes limp, with blood covering his head. Geun-soo yells for his hyung and calls the police, but he quickly realizes that he’s being cornered by the mob. In a last effort to seek help, he calls Seung-kwon and yells for help before his phone is trampled on. The mob knocks Geun-soo unconscious and dumps him into the car with unconscious Yi-seo.
Geun-won looks at Sae-ro-yi at the bottom of the hill and notes the familiar scene, alluding to his hit-and-run of Sae-ro-yi’s father. Mob Boss Hee-hoon apologizes to Sae-ro-yi and justifies his betrayal as business. Before they can check on Sae-ro-yi’s consciousness, sirens approach, prompting the mob to clear out.
Sae-ro-yi arrives at the hospital in critical condition and enters surgery. After seeing the news of Sae-ro-yi’s accident, Min-jung and Officer Oh join the IC team and Soo-ah in the waiting area. Seung-kwon asks to talk to Officer Oh in private and shows him photos of Yi-seo’s kidnapping from the surveillance cameras.
Then, he shows the hostage photos that he received. He decides to go to the meeting spot on his own as instructed without informing the police. Seung-kwon remembers seeing a suspicious van at the hospital and says that he needs to confirm a hunch.
President Jang hears about Sae-ro-yi’s accident and then asks Secretary Kim to summon Geun-soo. Geun-soo has not reported to work that day, and President Jang’s instincts tell him that this is no coincidence.
Geun-won reads the headlines on Sae-ro-yi’s accident to Geun-soo and Yi-seo, initially lying about Sae-ro-yi’s death. He regrets that Sae-ro-yi is only in critical condition. Geun-soo demands that his brother let Yi-seo go, but Geun-won refuses because he blames Yi-seo for his imprisonment.
Geun-soo drops the truth that Geun-won was imprisoned because President Jang chose Jang Ga over his son, but Geun-won seems to deny that reality. He shows no interest in redeeming himself for Jang Ga and fixates on ruining Sae-ro-yi. With that goal, he applauds himself for identifying Yi-seo as the key to luring both Sae-ro-yi and Geun-soo.
Pulling Yi-seo’s hair, Geun-won recalls her confession that she loves Sae-ro-yi like crazy and asks how she feels, now that Sae-ro-yi got injured trying to save her. Yi-seo cries uncontrollably, causing Geun-won to laugh and Geun-soo to angrily writhe, tied to a chair.
Geun-soo asks how Geun-won plans to deal with the consequences of his crimes, but he blithely says he’s keeping the two of them alive because he doesn’t care about the consequences. He leaves in a satisfied mood and locks the door behind him, but as soon as he’s out of sight, Yi-seo gets to business.
Yi-seo breaks out of her act and stands to find an edge to undo the ties around her wrists. Geun-soo looks surprised at Yi-seo’s sudden emotional stability, and she explains that Geun-won is merely looking to torture her — that’s why he left her half tied up while completely strapping Geun-soo to the chair. She’s just playing along with the victim role that Geun-won wants to see. Smart.
Outside the shack, Mob Boss Hee-hoon asks when he can expect to be paid, but Geun-won isn’t paying him until the Hee-hoon fully delivers his side of the deal. Hee-hoon tells Geun-won to take it easy, explaining that he goes back 10 years with Sae-ro-yi, and Geun-won bursts into laughter.
He figured that Hee-hoon accepted this mercenary task because 1 billion Won was worth more than the 10-year relationship with Sae-ro-yi and orders that he do a better job than merely putting Sae-ro-yi in the hospital. Geun-won grins at Hee-hoon and tells him to work like a dog to earn his money, and Hee-hoon fumes as he leaves.
In his office, Hee-hoon’s underling shows him the newspaper headlines and tries to convince him to back out, since Geun-won’s requests are getting out of hand. Then, he hears a familiar visitor’s voice calling out to him. It’s Seung-kwon, and the mobster at the door refuses entry. Seung-kwon obliges to seeing Hee-hoon next time but finds issue with the mobster’s tone.
In the hospital, unconscious Sae-ro-yi dreams (or finds himself in limbo?) about seeing father in his high school uniform. He runs into his father’s arms and tears up in his warm embrace, telling his father that he missed him. Dad asked if something happened at school, and Sae-ro-yi says that he’s just tired. Holding Dad’s hand, Sae-ro-yi tries to hold onto this moment for a bit longer, but his dream is interrupted by loud knocking.
Seung-kwon continues to knock obnoxiously against his former boss’s door, demanding to meet with Hee-hoon. Tired of Seung-kwon’s antics, the guard mobsters knock him to the ground. Seung-kwon reports the assault to the police, and that earns him a punch to the face. Instead of retaliating with violence, Seung-kwon continues to knock on the door and announces his suspicions about Hee-hoon’s involvement in Sae-ro-yi’s accident.
The guard mobster doubts that the police will believe the testimony of an ex-convict, and that reminds Seung-kwon of Sae-ro-yi’s conviction that you shouldn’t diminish your worth just because of the ex-convict label. Seung-kwon shows off his business card and retorts that the police will take him seriously because he’s the director of IC. He warns them, “Don’t you dare determine my worth.”
At the hospital, Soo-ah desperately asks Sae-ro-yi to wake up. Hyun-yi receives a call from Seung-kwon that he’s at the police station, and he asks if Soo-ah is there. Meanwhile, Sae-ro-yi continues to meet his father in his dream, this time dressed as an adult at the pub where he first had alcohol with his father.
Dad pours Sae-ro-yi a drink and asks if he’s made friends. Sae-ro-yi shares that he has Soo-ah, Ho-jin, and many close dongsaengs, and Dad marvels at Sae-ro-yi’s changed social life. Dad asks about the dongsaengs, and Sae-ro-yi names Seung-kwon, Hyun-yi, and Tony. Then, he tries to recall one more person and seems to only carry a blurry memory of Yi-seo. He doesn’t remember Yi-seo in this dream and has a drink with his father.
Hyun-yi and Soo-ah arrive at the police station and find that Seung-kwon was assaulted. Hyun-yi worries about Seung-kwon’s injury, and he had intentionally asked Soo-ah to come because he knew Hyun-yi would overreact. Then, he sees Hee-hoon in the parking lot waiting for him.
Seung-kwon confronts his former boss and asks for Yi-seo’s whereabouts. He has surveillance footage of the mobsters taking Yi-seo and doesn’t want to create more trouble for the gang, but Hee-hoon denies that the abduction is his doing. Seung-kwon warns Hee-hoon that if Yi-seo and Geun-soo don’t return, he’ll give up on living properly, implying that he’ll retaliate with violence.
The threat doesn’t shake Hee-hoon and drives off, telling his underling that they have a job to finish. Seung-kwon doesn’t share any details with Hyun-yi or Soo-ah, but he hands Soo-ah an envelope from the police station.
Soo-ah tells President Jang that Geun-won is behind Sae-ro-yi’s accident and the abduction of Yi-seo and Geun-soo. She hands him the envelope from Seung-kwon, which shows Geun-won captured on the surveillance cameras at the mob’s office. Though President Jang initially denied that Geun-won would be capable of attempted murder, Soo-ah reminds him that the hit-and-run from 15 years ago and his abandonment of Geun-won four years ago made Geun-won capable of such crimes today.
President Jang plans to deal with the impact of Geun-won’s crimes on Jang Ga’s image and seems to prepare for another cover-up. Soo-ah looks disillusioned by President Jang’s response and asks if he dealt with the hit-and-run 15 years ago in the same manner.
After sawing at the ropes all night, Yi-seo finally frees herself from the ties. As she unties Geun-soo, he doubts that they can escape the locked room. Yi-seo rebukes Geun-soo’s unmotivated approach and says that this is why he can never win against Sae-ro-yi. Geun-soo accuses her of knowing nothing about his struggle in Jang Ga, but Yi-seo knows that essentially, he lost himself by entering Jang Ga.
Annoyed by Yi-seo’s admiration of Sae-ro-yi, Geun-soo argues that not everyone can be like Sae-ro-yi. But Yi-seo disagrees, and we see the truth in that argument as Soo-ah submits her resignation letter to President Jang. She reminds him of his hatred of spineless people, and she asserts that she’s making a decision for herself for the first time.
President Jang accepts her resignation, and then Soo-ah puts a pouch on the table. It’s her collection of files documenting 10 years’ worth of Jang Ga’s corruption, from stock scams to slush funds to bribes. She says, “There’s a limit to influencing people with power and fear.” Soo-ah warns President Jang that he should worry about the greater damage on Jang Ga instead of just covering up this incident.
As Soo-ah leaves, she remembers her promise with Manager Park, who lent her money for college and told her to pay him back when she’s successful. She promised to pay him back three time the amount, and Soo-ah looks at the resignation letter and corruption files tearfully. She finally paid him back.
Yi-seo finishes untying Geun-soo and tells him that living by your values is possible, and people like him just make excuses to live more conveniently. Geun-soo admits that Sae-ro-yi got injured while trying to save him and fears for the worst, but Yi-seo rejects the possibility of the worst. She claims that Sae-ro-yi has never let her down.
In Sae-ro-yi’s dream, he follows Dad to a bridge, and Dad explains that Sae-ro-yi’s bitter nights will be over when he crosses over. It finally dawns on Sae-ro-yi that he’s suspended between life and the afterlife, and this reminds him of a conversation with Yi-seo. She told Sae-ro-yi that she used to not want to be reborn because life is hard.
Dad knows that Sae-ro-yi’s life has been difficult, and Sae-ro-yi admits that no matter how much he convinced himself that he could persevere, he never lived a day comfortably. Tearing up, Sae-ro-yi’s voice trembles as he shares that missing his father and hating someone was burdensome. Dad looks at his son with sympathy, and Sae-ro-yi hugs his father.
Embracing his father, Sae-ro-yi says that if he’s reborn, he wants to live as Dad’s son. He says, “I love you very much.” Dad says ditto, and Sae-ro-yi remembers the rest of his conversation with Yi-seo. She said that after meeting Sae-ro-yi, she found herself relating more to a poem.
Sae-ro-yi takes a step back from the bridge and tells Dad that he’s not coming. We hear Yi-seo reading the poem: “No matter how many times, I’ll live this terrible life again.” Sae-ro-yi says that he has a date and apologizes to Dad. He tells Dad that his nights are no longer just bitter because he has a family who needs him and he looks forward to the future days he’ll spend with them.
Mustering up the courage to say goodbye, Sae-ro-yi tells father, “Though I don’t have you, Dad, I’ll live on carrying my longing for you.” Dad smiles and says that this is life, that as long as you’re alive, nothing is a big deal. As a final gesture, Dad approaches Sae-ro-yi and holds his son’s shoulders and says, “I’m proud of you, son. Continue to live on.” Aw, Dad… Is anyone else crying???
Dad heads across the bridge, and Sae-ro-yi watches his father longingly before he wakes up in the hospital. When Sae-ro-yi sits up, Soo-ah runs to his side, but he can barely register anything. He breaks into sobs, and Seung-kwon enters the room to find Sae-ro-yi crying hard. Seung-kwon says that this was the first time he saw Sae-ro-yi crying, and though he didn’t understand why Sae-ro-yi was crying, he was relieved.
President Jang receives a late night call from Geun-won, who confirms that he’s holding Geun-soo and Yi-seo hostage. He assures his father that he won’t touch Geun-soo, since he knows how much President Jang values his selected heir. Geun-won sadly admits that he wanted to be a proud son for his father and wonders when it all went wrong — if it was when he first met Sae-ro-yi or when he committed the hit-and-run.
Geun-won reminds President Jang of the night that he broke the chicken’s neck and says that he held onto the analogy that Sae-ro-yi was the chicken. He convinced himself that it was unnecessary to feel bad about killing pigs or chickens. Geun-won admits that he was always scared, but he’s not scared now, thanks to his father’s teachings. He’s sick of being abandoned by his father because of a worthless chicken like Sae-ro-yi. He vows to end himself and Sae-ro-yi for good.
Geun-won shares that he’s in Pajin and says that only President Jang can stop him, since this is all thanks to him. He instructs his father to just abandon him again, if he wants to stop him. President Jang is shocked by his son’s impetuous decisions, but Geun-won can’t be convinced otherwise. Geun-won hangs up and makes another call as a gift to his father.
When Geun-won looks inside the locked shed, he sees that Geun-soo has disappeared. He busts into the room, and Geun-soo hits him with a piece of wood. Geun-won falls to the ground in pain, and Yi-seo takes the wood and seems determined to kill Geun-won, saying that she can claim self-defense. Geun-soo convinces her that Sae-ro-yi wouldn’t want her to kill someone for him, and she reluctantly leaves Geun-won alive and writhing in pain.
Resurrected Sae-ro-yi heads out of his hospital room as Soo-ah tries to talk some sense into him. She reminds him that he’s still weak, but Sae-ro-yi insists that he needs to save Yi-seo. He knows that Geun-won is after him, and Soo-ah tries to stop him, knowing that Geun-won will kill him. She holds his hand desperately, but Sae-ro-yi finally admits the truth: He likes Yi-seo.
Soo-ah drops her hold and says that everyone knew except for him. He tries to leave, but Soo-ah grabs him again in distress. Sae-ro-yi says that he’s not going to Geun-won to die; he’s going there to live. He says that he’ll fall apart if something bad happens to Yi-seo, and he leaves despite Soo-ah’s tearful pleas.
Yi-seo and Geun-won try to run away from Geun-won, but they’re met with the mobsters just as they arrive on the site. Geun-won finally catches up, and Mob Boss Hee-hoon says that he’s there to finish up the job. Provoked by the beating, Geun-won decides that he’ll forget Sae-ro-yi and just kill Yi-seo.
Sae-ro-yi receives a message from Geun-won informing him that President Jang knows his location. He enlists Seung-kwon’s help, and they meet with President Jang to ask for Geun-won’s location. President Jang tries to deny any knowledge, but Sae-ro-yi cites the messages from Geun-won and threatens to report this to the police. He advises President Jang to cooperate in the interest of protecting Jang Ga.
President Jang remembers why he made Jang Ga — to ensure that his family would not starve like him. He reflects on what it has become and blames Sae-ro-yi. While mountains and rivers change in over 10 years, Sae-ro-yi hasn’t budged at all.
As Sae-ro-yi grows impatient, President Jang recalls what he’s wanted all these years. He tells Sae-ro-yi to kneel in front of him. THE NERVE! Seung-kwon can’t believe President Jang, but Sae-ro-yi knows exactly where this is going.
Sae-ro-yi remembers his confrontations with President Jang, and he narrates, “There are impossible things, things beyond death. For President Jang, kneeling is one of them. But for me, in this moment, I could easily kneel a million times.” Then, Sae-ro-yi proceeds to kneel in front of a smug President Jang.
My first reaction to Sae-ro-yi kneeling was disappointment, and I think that sentiment applies to most of this episode. While I understand why Sae-ro-yi’s submission to President Jang’s orders is significant, the weak build-up didn’t convince me that this moment is a major turning point for Sae-ro-yi. In theory, I understand that Sae-ro-yi loves Yi-seo and has finally come to a realization about his feelings, but we didn’t see this happen. We’re tasked with imagining that the feelings developed off screen during the 4-year time jump we weren’t privy to, so when we’re presented with this defining moment, it falls flat. It’s doesn’t feel romantic; it doesn’t feel satisfying; it just feels a bit confusing. I get what the story is trying to convey, but I’m not quite picking up what they’re putting down.
The haphazard final conflict resulted in a predictable episode, but I found some redeemable moments in the characters. While this ending limped along, the performances by Ahn Bo-hyun, Kim Da-mi, and Park Seo-joon reminded me why I generally enjoyed this show. The characters were cartoonish at times, but the actors portrayed these characters with depth. Despite the limited screen time, Ahn Bo-hyun’s despicable Geun-won made quite an impression. He was infuriating and so unlikeable, but the cowardice and insecurity were perfectly ingrained behind the arrogant exterior. Though pitiful and pathetic, Geun-won evoked a sense of sympathy. He desperately wanted his father’s approval, but he suffered from a paralyzing fear of his father. That’s incredibly sad, and Ahn Bo-hyun managed to capture that through the end.
The sudden turn of events deterred us from experiencing the growth and full arc of our characters, especially Yi-seo, Geun-soo, and Soo-ah. Though Soo-ah finally came around, I think it was too late. She left Jang Ga on her own terms and fulfilled the promise she made with Manager Park, but her arc wasn’t timed well. Soo-ah leaving Jang Ga now felt like an afterthought. Both Yi-seo and Geun-soo didn’t get many moments to shine in this episode, and though we still have one more episode, I don’t think the finale can solve their choppy character shifts. I wish there were time to smoothen out their character arcs, but I think the writer just ran out of time.
To be fair to this show and the writer, I consider Itaewon Class a well-executed webtoon adaptation and great drama for a first-time writer in this medium. The webtoon writer penned the drama, and while there were some rough patches, I think the show had heart. The writing felt intentional, and the characters carried a sense of purpose that inspired hope and conviction. The slight makjang crutch at the end hasn’t spoiled this series for me, especially when you have such heartfelt moments that shine through the fog of a rushed ending.
The highlight of this episode is definitely Dad. The father-son relationship was truly the keystone of this story, and I loved how Dad was tied into the ending. Sae-ro-yi’s deep affection and longing for his father was apparent, and my heart broke seeing how hard it was for him to say goodbye to Dad. Though Sae-ro-yi’s decision to stay behind for his date lacked the fluttery punch I wanted, the yearnful hope gave me the emotional punch that saved this episode for me. As we bid farewell to this drama and usher it across the bridge, I’m hoping for an impossible ending that will make me as wistful as Sae-ro-yi watching his father pass over.
Editor’s Note: Please don’t discuss spoilers because we’d hate to delete your comment! This includes anything shown in previews.