Basketball: Episode 18 (Final)
I’d say the end is here, but you’d need to watch the episode to find out why that’s inappropriate. At this point, our best course of action is to just purge this drama from our collective memory in 3, 2, 1…
Darn it, it’s not working. Help! If I can’t forget, that means I have to discuss this episode, which could drive anybody to drink. I’m so thoroughly done with bad shows, do you hear me, 2013? I’m done with them. Next year better be better, or else. *shakes ineffectual fist*
SONG OF THE DAY
Song Ji-eun – “False Hope” [ Download ]
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
San ends up finding a pin he gave his mother in the forest and cries now that the reality of her death has come crashing down.
Meanwhile, Takeshi’s dad tells him that he’s taken care of things so that Takeshi will end up playing in the finals (even though his team lost). But their talk is interrupted when San bursts into the house wielding a bat, smashing everything he can before he demands to know where his mother is.
Takeshi’s frightened, but asks San, “Do you have any proof? Do you have any proof I killed her?” This pushes San over the edge as he starts beating the living daylights out of Takeshi until he’s hauled off by the house servants.
“You murderers!” San screams as he’s dragged away. “Bring my mom back! BRING MY MOM BACK!” Then he’s locked in an upright cell the size of a coffin by the Japanese police.
The good news: since Secretary Kim followed Takeshi’s minions, he was able to save Mom from certain death by hospitalizing her. But Daddy Choi sees Takeshi’s crime as an opportunity to wipe Count Byun off the map for good.
Daddy Choi frets over what to do when the Inspector General entrusts him with getting Mr. Min to sign over his wealth before he’s executed tomorrow, until a malicious idea strikes him. He’ll literally kill two birds with one stone by getting rid of Mr. Min and San, because he still hates him for whatever reason.
Bookie Gong has been held as Daddy Choi’s prisoner all this time, which means he’s more than willing to do anything Daddy Choi asks as long as it means his freedom. Even if he has to kill San.
But Daddy Choi’s doesn’t task him with killing San—instead, he’s to make sure that San actually detonates the bomb during the finals. Ajumma and Mi-sook will be kept as Choi’s hostages until the job is done.
San eats spilled food off the prison floor like a lunatic. He thinks only about his mom and Hong-ki’s bomb-detonating revenge plan, eating as though he’s saving his strength to go through with it.
Sung-won shows the boys how they’ll detonate the bomb by hiding it in a basketball, pressing the switch, and throwing it into the stands with the important pro-colonial spectators and Japanese officials.
For some reason they trust Bok-joo with this sensitive information, while Bookie Gong eavesdrops nearby.
Meanwhile, Daddy Choi gives Shin-young an opportunity to prove herself worthy enough to be his successor, by tasking her (so many tasks this episode) to get Chi-ho to convince his father to sign over his wealth.
So Shin-young does as told, and presents the form to Chi-ho by saying that signing it might save his father from execution. Chi-ho is justifiably outraged (“Is this the type of person you’ve always been?!”) and refuses to sign, but his mother has overheard and is desperate for any way to save her husband.
Chi-ho and his mother visit his father in prison and present him the form. It’s Mr. Min’s wife who does the talking, since she knows the character of her husband well enough to know he’d want to refuse signing it.
I do love her speech, which is not only about respecting him as a husband but as a fellow human being, but all the same entreating him to go against his principles just this once. There are so many people who need him, his family included.
Chi-ho has to help his father just to stand, and he grips his wife’s hands as he tells her, “That’s why… I can’t. Because there are so many who look up to me. The world that our children will live in, at the very least… it has to be better than the world we lived in.” I’m not crying. It’s just been raining… on my face.
He then addresses his son, knowing how hard it must be for him to accept his decision to die, but all the same asking him to think deeply about why he’s choosing this path.
“The reason for my decision isn’t because of any law made by man, but because of the conscience God gave me. My conscience. Your father cannot abandon it.” His decision is made. Chi-ho and his mother watch helplessly as he’s escorted away.
On the dawn of his execution, Mr. Min is visited by his whole family. It’s incredibly moving how he tells his children that he’ll see them all again someday, and entreats his wife to live happily and take her time before they meet again (in the afterlife).
Last but not least, he tells Chi-ho: “Don’t trust anyone who tries to instill hope in you. However, when you meet a person who tries to kill your hope… then you must fight. Do you understand what your father is telling you?” I’m not sure I do, but this is sad.
The last we see of Mr. Min is him walking down a long hallway to his death.
Daddy Choi tells the Inspector General that San won’t be playing in the finals, and gets the exact reaction he wanted when the man throws a fit and demands that San be allowed to play no matter what. They’ve got to show Japan’s glory to the world.
So San is released from prison to play in the finals, and tells the boys (who’ve been practicing how to pass the Ball Bomb in less than thirty seconds) about Takeshi killing Mom. He decides to join their bombing plot, because he made Mom a promise that he’d show the world that even poor people can have a chance. He intends to keep that promise. I’m not following his logic.
They practice passing an actual bomb this time, which Hong-ki panics and throws to the side when time runs out, narrowly avoiding having it explode in his arms. Are these guys idiots? Seriously? Practicing with a live bomb?
The boys debate among themselves as to who will be the last person to receive the bomb before throwing it, since it’s guaranteed suicide. Sung-won wins the argument in the end, claiming that it’ll give the others time to escape.
Hong-ki sort of works as the voice of the audience during the worst game of hot potato ever, wondering things like “Why can’t we just throw the bomb without passing it?” and “Why can’t any of us just throw the bomb if we have it?” Hong-ki, you should know by now to take your rational thinking elsewhere.
Bong-soon angrily confronts Sung-won over the news that Team Baekhwa will play as a representative of Japan, challenging him over his patriotism and who he really is. Did he ever even love her, she asks?
So Sung-won decides to show her who he really is by showing her the bomb: “I’m an independence fighter.” He tells her how he’s devoted his life to Korea’s liberation and how his resolve falters when he’s around her. That’s why he doesn’t think they can be together…
But she shushes him with a kiss. And then another.
Hong-ki gives Officer Hee-bong a gold watch before he drops to his knees to beg for his forgiveness in order to get his mother released. Outside, he takes comfort in the fact that Chef likes his mom, and seems to be saying his goodbyes when he tells Chef to take her away from the capital and never return.
Mom and Son share a heartwarming moment once she’s released from prison, even though Hong-ki lies that he’ll meet her at home later… when he talks as if he knows he’s going to die. “Was I a good son to you?” he asks, because he knows he’s never done anything for her. His mother says that he’s everything to her, so nothing else matters.
It’s only when Hong-ki tells her not to cry too much and be proud of him that she grows suspicious, but he swiftly passes it off as silly talk for their future together. He waves and cries even long after her car has disappeared and hopes that she’ll live a long and happy life. (Everyone’s going to die, aren’t they.)
Shin-young learns from Secretary Kim that San’s Mom is in the hospital, and takes San to see her. She’s remarkably fine after such a head injury, and the two of them share a tearful reunion.
But when San tells her that he can’t go home with her because he has something he needs to do in order to keep the promise he made her, Mom seems to understand that he’s saying his final goodbyes. She cries briefly before telling San not to worry about her, and that she’ll support anything he does.
While cupping his face in her hands, Mom says, “I’m so grateful to have you as my son.” They both cry together before she sends him off by telling him that she’ll live a long life in the world he’s going to create and join him (in the afterlife) much later. If you’re getting a sense of deja vu, it’s okay—this is maybe the fourth pre-death-goodbye-scene this episode.
But wait! There’s more. San says goodbye to Shin-young with a hug and a “It’s been a joy to love you.”
And yet, there’s still more. Bookie Gong says his goodbyes and sends his two minions off so that they can take care of Ajumma and Mi-sook. Lordy, is there anyone even left who hasn’t said goodbye? I guess Chi-ho hasn’t…
The boys worry about their plot when they find out that there’ll be increased security at the game, but Bookie Gong arrives on the scene and promises to take care of it. He tells them that he was kidnapped by Daddy Choi because he wouldn’t kill San and that he’s tired of living like he has been, so he wants to join their cause.
Remember one paragraph ago, when I said Chi-ho was the only one who hadn’t said goodbye? The show is totally on that, since it’s now Chi-ho’s turn to say goodbye to his mother and sisters by bowing formally to them.
But in the true spirit of Basketball, his mother and sisters are arrested by the guyliner’d cop, who pretty much threatens to kill them unless Chi-ho signs over his father’s wealth… now that they’ve killed his father and he’s the head of the household.
Since Daddy Choi knows about the bomb plot, he tells his
zombie daughter to stay inside the house at all costs.
Chi-ho shows up to make the deal with Shin-young to sign away his father’s wealth, effectively making Mr. Min’s sacrifice 100% moot. I get it, in that Chi-ho’s family is on the line… but seriously? After all that, after ALL THAT, this is what’s made of his sacrifice? I can’t even. Boo. Booooooooo, I say.
Shin-young offers two tiny protests, but may as well not be present. Once it’s over and Chi-ho’s signed everything, she has the nerve to be struck by disbelief that her father did something to Chi-ho’s family. Totally legitimate. I mean, it’s not like her dad has a track record for doing stuff like this, right? It’s not like she gave a dossier on his crimes to an underground newspaper or anything, right? I mean, c’mon. If any of that had happened, she couldn’t possibly be shocked.
She overhears her father talking about using San’s mother as a hostage in order to keep San under control, and finally confronts him about what he’s doing. It’s then that Daddy Choi conveniently word vomits that San plans to detonate a bomb at the game, leaving Shin-young in shock. Now she realizes San was saying goodbye to his mom at the hospital.
The boys are worried when security deflates the basketball Bookie Gong brought, only to realize that he didn’t hide the bomb in there. He got Daddy Choi to sneak it in instead, since no one would dare suspect the Inspector General’s security detail.
Team Baekhwa (now just part of a bigger team that includes Takeshi’s) enters the court, all of them wearing uniforms bearing the Japanese flag. San’s Mom and Bong-soon listen to the game from the hospital radio, while Shin-young cries at home before making A Decision.
Even though Team Takeshi lost the semifinals, they declare that they’ll be playing the finals, while San and his teammates get to sit this one out. The boys fret, since their plan won’t work unless they actually get to play.
Lucky for them, Team Takeshi ends up sucking so bad that they decide to let San play to try and even the odds. Now it’s up to San to play well enough to prove that his teammates should be allowed to play in order to go through with the plan.
Chi-ho hasn’t shown up yet because he’s outside the arena thinking on his dad’s final words, bidding him to fight those who would take away his hope. He thinks to himself that he’ll find a way to fulfill his father’s wishes by living to fight another day. “The sacrifice made by my comrades today… I will never forget it.”
After San scores a few points, he gives the signals to his teammates. Daddy Choi has Secretary Kim deliver the Ball Bomb to Bookie Gong, but he makes it clear that Ajumma and Mi-sook won’t be safe unless Gong hurries with the detonating.
He has to let them know when the bomb is going to go off so Daddy Choi can heroically save the Inspector General, and his urgency to get that info from the boys raises their suspicions.
But Bookie Gong is saved when Sung-won assumes that he just wants to know so he’ll have time to escape, in which case Sung-won will give him a signal when it’s about to go off.
The problem is, only Sung-won is called out to the court, leaving Hong-ki behind. He takes the Ball Bomb with him because there’s no more time, which has Bookie Gong hurriedly flailing the signal to Secretary Kim.
What’s even worse is that Sung-won doesn’t get the chance to swap the balls, and ends up leaving the Ball Bomb on the sidelines.
Chi-ho’s about to walk away from the arena when he sees Shin-young going in. His efforts to stop her are futile, because she claims that she wants to watch San as he creates his brave new world. (Question: Why is everyone acting like the entire human race will change with this one bomb? Did anyone ever explain? Am I taking crazy pills?)
San and Sung-won try to throw the ball out of bounds in order to switch it out for the Ball Bomb, but fail. Somehow, one of their opponents randomly decides to switch out the ball, unknowingly, for the Ball Bomb. Y…ay?
San makes it a point to grab the ball, whereupon he and Sung-won activate the switch while Bok-joo activates the stopwatch on the sidelines. Thirty seconds. Through another series of missed opportunities, Hong-ki ends up with the ball.
Bookie Gong eventually convinces Hong-ki to leave the bomb in his care—he’ll detonate it. In the longest twenty seconds ever, he throws the bomb to San.
But with only ten seconds left, San is detained by Takeshi & Co., who know something’s up. Bookie Gong runs away as San passes the ball to Sung-won. Five seconds.
Sung-won sheds a tear and passes it to Hong-ki. As Bok-joo counts down from the sidelines, Hong-ki looks at his teammates and thinks, “In our next life, let’s meet in a better place.”
The timer counts down as the ball is passed to San, who then performs a jump shot toward the st—
HOLY FASHIONKINGBIGSWORDANDFLOWERDRJIN, BATMAN!
Do you know what’s worse than all those endings combined? This. This is worse. Cutting off in the middle of a scene is worse. A show’s ending has one job, one job, and that’s to conclude the story. Of course we get our share of bad conclusions, completely unsatisfactory conclusions, conclusions where the writers are clearly flipping the audience the bird—but this? I’m trying to remember how Roger Ebert always said to critique something for what it is, not for what it isn’t. So I can’t say “This isn’t an ending” or “This isn’t worth anyone’s time,” but I can say that it is just so very, very terrible. It’s so terrible I’m almost impressed by its terrible terribleness.
I was worried I’d missed something crucial for a hot second when San was talking about detonating the bomb like it really made sense to him, or like he was really going to create a new world with it. I had literally no idea what he was talking about for an entire episode. He went on and on about how he was going to fulfill the promise he made to his mother, but somehow avoided ever saying how. No one ever bothered to explain how San thought detonating one bomb would create this new, equal-opportunity world. And even if we were to say that their motivation was liberation… it wasn’t. Out of all the boys, only Hong-ki seemed to have slightly legitimate and immediate motivation when it came to killing those men. He was doing it for revenge.
The show half-heartedly tried to argue that Sung-won was a freedom fighter, and that bombing the game was his way of fighting for freedom. Okay, let’s say they earned that point and that I bought it, even if he wasn’t any good at his job. The problem—and this is a big one—is that the main character did not give any sane reason for his stake in the bombing, even though everyone acted like he did. Worst of all, they acted like his ambiguous, amorphous ideal somehow made TOTAL AND COMPLETE SENSE, and that he could accomplish all his dreams by bombing the game. San’s existence was never about liberation or even patriotism, really—liberation and patriotism were things he encountered based on his hardships, but those two ideals didn’t control his existence. Which is to say, the idea of liberation mattered less to someone like him (though it still mattered) than it did to someone like Sung-won. Even then, the show could’ve made the argument that San did care about liberation, and that he cared about it soooo much that he saw bombing as a step toward achieving that. But they didn’t.
The promise he made to his mother was about evening out the class divide. What this show then did, to my complete shock and awe, was completely fail to establish San’s motivations for pretty much everything he did in this final episode. Explain to me how killing Japanese officials and Korean conspirators would help San fulfill the promise he made to his mom, Basketball. Go on.
And while you’re at it, maybe try explaining how Chi-ho planned to do what his father said and fight injustice… by not doing that. Explain how him leaving his friends to possibly die was a noble choice, or even explain why Chi-ho’s last grand gesture had to be a slap in his dead father’s face. What was the point of Mr. Min’s enormous (and for the first time in this show, actually moving) sacrifice when Chi-ho turned around and negated what he fought for a few scenes later? I suppose the argument could be made that Chi-ho did do like his father and follow his conscience in signing everything over to Daddy Choi, but without resolution afterward all we’re left with is that the bad guys won and the good guys lost. Hooray.
Is it even worth mentioning that Shin-young’s character actually got worse over these past few weeks, or that this is all a moot discussion when nothing really mattered anyway? One could point to the episode cut as a reason for this non-ending, which is an argument I might’ve accepted before seeing how End of the World handled its larger episode cut while still managing to tell a complete story. Basketball had weeks (months if we convert that to dramatime) to figure out how to wrap things up. There’s no excuse. So all we got were eighteen episodes of, “Oh, we’re gonna tell you a story. Here’s how it goes, you ready for it? Okay, once upon a time…”
- Basketball: Episode 17
- Basketball: Episode 16
- Basketball: Episode 15
- Basketball: Episode 14
- Basketball: Episode 13
- Basketball: Episode 12
- Basketball: Episode 11
- Basketball: Episode 10
- Basketball: Episode 9
- Basketball: Episode 8
- Basketball: Episode 7
- Basketball: Episode 6
- Basketball: Episode 5
- Basketball: Episode 4
- Basketball: Episode 3
- Basketball: Episode 2
- Basketball: Episode 1