Persevere, Gu Hae-ra: Episode 12 (Final)
We’ve made it to the final episode, where everything finds its way full circle. Team Persevere takes on the ultimate challenge of facing Hwangje, through which they realize the power of their team as a unit. Despite the individual contentions or struggles, Team Persevere represents more than a selfish desires and pursuits. They’re in it together because they know that perseverance is a little more bearable with good company to jam with on the journey towards their dreams.
EPISODE 12: “You are a gift to me”
Se-jong is rushed to the emergency room with Hae-ra running alongside, calling out to him frantically. He slowly falls out of consciousness as he enters the surgery room, and Hae-ra nervously waits outside.
Ray runs in belatedly and assures Hae-ra that Se-jong will be all right. Se-jong’s mom and the rest of Team Persevere come running in. Mom bangs on the surgery room glass door and desperately yells out to Se-jong, pleading that he too can’t leave her.
The surgeon comes out, and everyone rushes to ask about Se-jong’s condition. He says that Se-jong lost a lot of blood and needs someone with blood type A for a blood transfusion. Mom immediately volunteers, but she has type B blood. Hae-ra volunteers because she has type O, but Ray steps up. “I’m type A, I’ll do it. Se-jong is Se-chan’s hyung, and Se-chan is my younger brother.”
After the surgery, Ray and Tae-poong find the two culprits — Manager Pyun and the sasaeng fan — getting interrogated at the police station. Tae-poong tells the officer to investigate Manager Pyung further for this incident and Hae-ra’s kidnapping. The crazy fan curses Hae-ra, and when Ray defends her, she argues that Ray should be on her side. She knows that Ray likes Hae-ra, so he should understand how she feels to see Se-jong with Hae-ra. She admits to the officer that her only crime is loving Se-jong. Oh dear.
Irritated by the fan, Tae-poong yells at her for not understanding the impact of her so-called love. “If you love him that much, shouldn’t you wishing for his happiness first and foremost?” Although the words weren’t directed at him, Ray seems to take them to heart.
Post-surgery, Mom anxiously watches Se-jong from the window, and Hae-ra thinks back to Se-jong’s confession to her in the rain. From home, Ray calls Hae-ra to ask about Se-jong’s condition, and Hae-ra cries that he looks peaceful, which makes her even more scared that he won’t wake up. Ray tells her to stay strong and hangs up with a sigh. He turns to the song message board and writes Shinhwa’s “I Pray 4 U” for Se-jong.
Producer Jamie sits in a meeting with President Hwang and presents his artist picks to represent K-pop. Team Persevere is among the great lineup, which includes Kim Tae-woo, ALi, K.Will, and Kim Feel (runner-up in Superstar K Season 6). President Hwang clearly disapproves of this decision to include Team Persevere and informs Jamie about Se-jong’s serious injury. He adds that Team Persevere is known to not perform without their full team, and Jamie notes that it’s a shame.
President Hwang gets a call from Manager Pyun but ignores him. Manager Pyun sits at the police station, thinking back to President Hwang’s orders to keep his mouth shut and bear with the procedural investigation until he can get him out. But Manager Pyung starts to doubt President Hwang, wondering if he’ll put all the blame on him if Se-jong’s condition further deteriorates. He shakes off that feeling, saying that President Hwang would never do such a thing. Oh really? I’d beg to differ.
Hae-ra watches Se-jong from the window, and we see his finger start to twitch. He slowly gains consciousness, and the doctors rush to his side. Mom, Hae-ra, and Hae-ra’s mom gather by the window, grateful to see Se-jong awake.
When Se-jong wakes up, he finds Hae-ra asleep by his side. He strokes her hair, and she wakes up asking if he’s okay. He apologizes and recalls the moment right before he lost consciousness when he saw Hae-ra unharmed. “I realized that even if you’re not right by my side, seeing you alive and happy would make me satisfied. I mean it.” Hae-ra thanks him for waking up, and Ray watches their interaction from outside the hospital room.
Hae-ra wheels Se-jong out of the hospital room, and they’re met with Team Persevere. Jang Goon encourages him with his speedy recovery, and Se-jong thanks them for their support. He turns to Ray and thanks him for the blood transfusion, and Henry jokes that now they’re brothers who literally share the same blood.
Se-jong asks Tae-poong if they have any set schedules and requests that they continue working without him. He replies that they don’t and says that they’ve decided to take a break as a team while Se-jong recovers. Team Persevere awkwardly laughs and fakes smiles in front of Se-jong, clearly hiding something.
Back home, Team Persevere discuss their dilemma about not making their appearance on Jamie’s 2015 Show because of Se-jong. They know they can’t tell Se-jong because he’ll be disappointed, but this is a big opportunity. Henry brings up the possibility of Se-jong being released from the hospital early enough for them to participate in the show, but Hae-ra says that they have to wait at least another month for his full recovery.
Just as they finish their conversation, Se-jong walks in on crutches with his mom. Everyone’s surprised that he’s out of the hospital, and Se-jong asks why everyone is lazing around. They’ve got the 2015 Show to prepare for.
They look around at each other, confused about how he figured that out, and in a flashback, we see Ray telling Se-jong at the hospital. Ray explains that that he would have liked to know about this situation if he were in Se-jong’s shoes. Se-jong would find out later anyway, but he deserves the option to decide what he’d like to do. Ray leaves this up to Se-jong to decide his participation and asks to keep this reveal a secret.
Back in the present, Se-jong tells the team that he wants to take part in the show. He’s met with opposition, but he reminds them of Super Week, when they continued as a team even with Henry’s injury. “I’ll take responsibility for my own body. Let’s make Se-chan’s bucket list and our own dreams come true. When the opportunity presents itself, we’ve got to do our best to make it count.”
They all nod in agreement, but Tae-poong regretfully reveals that they already rejected the offer. But when they call up the head of the Korean Music Association, he tells them that the flight for the investors got delayed because of a typhoon (which is tae-poong in Korean, ha) and welcomes Team Persevere back on board.
In President Hwang’s office, Ki-joon gets threatened with his secrets, now that his ammo with Scarlet’s secrets are no longer useful. President Hwang tells him that he’s laid out everything for him, and it’s his turn to deliver, just as he’s done all throughout his training. Ki-joon seethes and grits his teeth as he agrees to get rid of the opponent.
The night before the 2015 Show live performance, Team Persevere does a sound check at rehearsal. They’re excited with the prospect of being on stage with Korea’s best artists and go through the sound check with no problems. Ki-joon watches them from afar, and the perfect sound check sparks an idea.
Gathered at chicken shop, Team Persevere raise a toast to their big break. They all take a swing of their beer, but Hae-ra stops Se-jong and gives him water instead. Ray watches the small gesture and takes a step outside for some fresh air. Henry notices and follows him outside, where he asks about Hae-ra. Ray tells him that Hae-ra has decided, and he has as well. He saves the contents of the decision for later, and Henry advises his best friend to do his best until the very end so that he won’t have any regrets.
It’s the big day, and a large crowd gathers for the K-pop Live 2015 Show. The mothers meet Woo-ri’s parents, who are quickly eating their snuck-in food, and they’re joined by Jang Goon’s father. He’s holding a large poster for his son, which reads: “Proud of my son, Jang Goon.” Awww.
Backstage, Se-jong walks by Ki-joon, who trips him by kicking his crutches. He throws out an “oops sorry,” and continues on with a string of doubts regarding Se-jong’s ability to perform. Team Persevere helps him up, and when Se-jong tries to retaliate, his team steps up for him and criticizes Ki-joon for being scared of them. Ki-joon smirks, but Hae-ra tells him to prove he’s indeed not fearful of them by challenging them on stage, fair and square.
The show begins with all the dramatic music and loud cheers, and the MC explains the rules of the competition. The score will be decided with 50% judge votes and 50% audience votes, and the top 2 teams will return the following week for a final showdown. He announces the line-up (which now includes Impact), and Team Persevere prepare to show off their perfect harmony backstage.
First up is Kim Feel with his remake of Noh Young-shim’s “The Longing Only Grows.” He meets and exceeds the expectations, and Woo-ri awes at his talent backstage. Jang Goon agrees and gives two thumbs up saying, “As usual, Superstar K alumni are very good.” A nice meta note, as Park Kwang-sun is a Superstar K alumnus himself.
As Tae-poong walks down the hallway, he’s stopped by ALi, who greets him in a familiar manner, but he doesn’t seem to recognize her. She uses her real name, Cho Yong-jin, and Tae-poong recognizes her as the vice president of Tae-poong’s fan club back in the day. She says that she was one of the successful ones out of their fan club, but the epitome of success as a former fan is to transition from fan to lover. Then she takes his phone to give him her number and walks off, promising to text. Tae-poong looks delighted.
Next up is K.Will performing Cho Jang-hyuk’s “Addicted To Love,” a classic remade perfectly with K.Will’s powerful vocals. Hae-ra’s mom seems touched by his performance, but Se-jong’s mom is too worried about her son to appreciate the remake.
As K.Will finishes his performance, President Hwang gets a call from Ki-joon, and he seems somewhat relieved, which is bad news for us. ALi takes the stage, singing Lim Jae-bum’s “For You.” She delivers a solid performance, and Henry and Woo-ri take a closer look from backstage. Woo-ri notes how the lyrics are so sad and turns to Henry, “You won’t abandon me and leave, right?” He pauses for a moment and asks her if she’d follow him to China if he went back.
Their conversation is interrupted by a staff member, who’s got news for Team Persevere. Woo-ri and Henry return to the waiting room and tells the team that the order got switched last minute, so they’re up next. They quickly prepare backstage while Kim Tae-woo performs Kim Gun-mo’s “Beautiful Goodbye” in his distinct musical and fashion style, donning his sunglasses.
After his performance, Tae-poong gives his kiddos a last word of encouragement before they head onto the stage. As Team Persevere performs N.EX.T’s “For The Weary Lovers,” Impact sneaks into the audio room and asks permission to change there since they just received their stage outfits. They’re given a nonchalant nod by the audio engineer, but Ki-joon is surely up to some funny business.
The performance goes smoothly until Ki-joon pushes his team member into the audio panel, which causes the audio system to output a high-pitched screech. President Hwang looks smug and gets a message notifying him that the audience votes have been rigged to favor Impact. Team Persevere has to stop their performance to deal with this interruption, but Hae-ra takes out her ear piece and continues on. Everyone follows, and when they successfully finish, the crowd gives them a standing ovation. This is not the reaction President Hwang was anticipating, and he angrily leaves.
Backstage, Tae-poong compliments the team for pulling through even with the interruption. Unfortunately, they can’t redo their performance because it was live, but Hae-ra stays optimistic. They did well, so they should stay hopeful for a favorable outcome.
Meanwhile, President Hwang meets up with Jamie to suggest changes for the final showdown the following week. Even though they had agreed that remakes were the premise of the show, President Hwang finds that winning a show with a remake would not be appropriate. The top 2 should be required to perform with their own original content.
Impact takes the stage with g.o.d’s “Friday Night,” and they make an impact (hur) with their lively performance. And you know, Ki-joon looks pretty cute and fun-loving when he’s not acting as President Hwang’s minion devil. Henry grooves along to the performance backstage, and Woo-ri nudges him to stop. He apologizes, saying that he just got into the lively song, to which Se-jong apologizes. They would have performed a more exciting song if it wasn’t for him. Hae-ra stays positive and reminds him that it’s exciting just being here.
All the contestants have performed, and now it’s time for the top 2 reveal. Drumrollllll… and it’s Impact and Team Persevere! Both groups celebrate with their teams, and Jamie congratulates the two teams. He then announces the rule change: Both teams will need to perform an original song for their final performance.
Team Persevere is stuck at a road block with this new rule, especially since they’ve relied on remakes for their musical career thus far. Se-jong brings up the unfinished song by Hae-ra’s dad as their only hope, but Hae-ra seems doubtful. She has yet to finish the song, and she doesn’t know if she can complete it in a week. But it’s all they’ve got, and they’re all willing to help with the completion.
Hae-ra attempts to play on the piano, Henry on the violin, Jang Goon through other music samples, but they don’t seem to fit with the missing end to the song. In her room, Hae-ra is surrounded by crumpled up music sheets, and Ray steps in to ask for some time to talk with her.
President Hwang talks to his beloved Scarlet on the phone, updating her about the current situation. He recalls when he found the final sheet in the composition that flew away from Hae-ra’s dad in his fallen state. He ripped up the sheet, making sure that it would never be heard of. He assures Scarlet that he’ll prepare her comeback after Impact wins this competition.
Ray tells Hae-ra that she should try thinking about her dad like he did when he was composing this song for her. Go back to the young Hae-ra, and try to find inspiration from that. That sparks something in Hae-ra, but before she can get back to work, Ray stops her.
He tells her that she can go to Se-jong. He knows that she’s been hesitating because she feels apologetic towards him. “I thought that if I waited, you would come to me. I knew it was hard on both of us, but I just wanted to be by your side. I’m sorry. What I really want is for you to be happy, so you can go. This is my last gift as Santa Ray.” He’s relieved to have finally told her, and he tells Hae-ra to just focus on the composition as young Hae-ra.
Following Ray’s advice, Hae-ra searches through the house for any remnants of her father. She only finds a family picture, since the rest of her father’s things were in the box that was stolen by President Hwang. Se-jong joins her search, and they head down to the basement to look for the old camcorder that captured their youth. The dusty basement is full of nostalgic treasures, and luckily, they’re able to find the camcorder in the mess.
Se-jong turns on the recordings on the TV, and they watch their young selves performing in elementary school. Suddenly, static changes the recording to an older recording of her father singing the unfinished song. Hae-ra calls out to her mom, and they sit together to watch the clip. Her father addresses Hae-ra, saying that she’s his most precious gift in the world. He apologizes for being late for her birthday celebration and says that he loves her.
The timely coincidence gives Hae-ra a fresh sense of inspiration. Listening to the recording, Hae-ra has a clearer direction to complete her father’s song, and Se-jong helps her complete it on the piano.
The day of the competition, Team Persevere come face to face with President Hwang and Impact. President Hwang warns them to step down, but Hae-ra confronts him by saying that you never know what will happen. President Hwang begs to differ, since he can manipulate what will happen, given his heightened status in this industry. They walk off, and Tae-poong changes the mood with a team cheer.
Impact is up first, and they perform their original song with their sharp idol dance moves and a catchy beat. Woo-ri acknowledges their skill from backstage, and Hae-ra brings them back to the moment by asking that they sing their song warmly, as if they are singing to each other, not like a competition. She starts to ask Tae-poong something about their performance, but he agrees knowingly. I guess we find out later.
As Team Persevere walk out from backstage, we get a quick montage of all their covers leading up to this final performance. The stage begins with a quick clip of Hae-ra’s father singing the song followed by baby pictures of Team Persevere as they begin to sing. The pictures progress throughout their youth to now and includes Se-chan. Matched with their beautiful harmony, it’s definitely their most touching and meaningful performance.
Both teams are brought onto the stage for a final word before the results. Ki-joon thanks President Hwang and all of his fans, like the good idol he is. On Team Persevere’s side, Hae-ra steps up and asks for a full replay of her father’s video message. In it, he tells Hae-ra that this song is for her, but it could be taken from her if its existence is known. He tells her to keep it dear to herself and hopes to watch her perform it one day, when the world becomes a more advanced and better place.
On stage, Hae-ra continues on with her statement, revealing that her father was the real composer behind all of Hwangje’s hit songs. “He fought hard to keep this song from being stolen, but he passed away. Composer Gu Chang-je, I hope that you all –”
Hae-ra’s voice is cut from the microphone after the audio staff is directed to shut it off. President Hwang barges into the audio room and yells at the staff for letting her say all of that live. Even though they cut her off, she’s said enough for fans to start questioning the legitimacy of Hwangje. Desperate, President Hwang makes a call and demands for everything to be released immediately.
In the final judge points, Team Persevere is ahead, but they’ve still got to factor in the audience votes. The results are in, and after a tense moment of silence, the winner is revealed to be… Impact. Ki-joon takes the opportunity to thank their father President Hwang and promises to work hard in their overseas pursuits. Team Persevere is given a chance to express their sentiments as well, with Hae-ra and Se-jong speaking on behalf of the team in thanking everyone for the opportunity to share this song. Team Persevere then exit the stage, clearly deflated.
The next day, the news is full of news surrounding Hwangje. Hae-ra cries as she watches her dad’s works being reclaimed, partly in thanks to Tae-poong revealing some inside information through social media. A blurred out figure on the news also speaks about other wrongs committed by President Hwang, and Tae-poong wonders if it’s Manager Pyun.
It is Manager Pyun, and from his scruffy look in jail, it seems that President Hwang didn’t fulfill his promise to him. He takes out all his recordings against President Hwang, including one that would clear Se-jong’s name. President Hwang seems to know that he’s in some deep shit, as he tries to run off sneakily. But the investigators catch him at his door drag him off for multiple charges of fraud, a big blow to his company.
Team Persevere gather to say goodbye to two of their members: Ray and Henry. Both have decided to return home to pursue their individual dreams. They’re all saddened by this sudden farewell, but they know that they’ll be back together soon.
Scarlet arrives at the airport under a new identity, this time a professional golfer. She’s escorted by her caddy, Ki-joon, but she quickly hides away when she sees Team Persevere at the airport. The whole team is there, except for Jang Goon, and we see him signing autographs at his father’s Chinese restaurant.
Henry and Woo-ri are headed off to China, where they promise to promote Team Persevere and their song. Ray is headed back to the United States, and he promises to do the same. He asks Hae-ra to smile, since this isn’t goodbye forever, and he shakes Se-jong’s hand. Se-jong thanks him for yesterday, and Ray tells him that if he’s thankful, he should treat Hae-ra well. With that, Ray goes on his way.
On the plane, Ray sits down and listens to their song. The woman sitting next to him shows interest in his song, and he offers to let her listen. She compliments the song and asks what business he has in the U.S. He vaguely replies that he’s returning for a new start, and she implies that this new start may already be happening. The camera focuses to the newspaper behind them, and it shows the woman, a famous Korean-American producer.
Hae-ra says that Se-jong looked sad to see Ray go, and he admits that he did feel sadder than he’d expected. She then asks why he thanked Ray for yesterday, and we see the reason in a flashback. On the balcony, Se-jong tells Ray that he’ll finally have the room to himself. Ray asks if he’s that excited, but Se-jong admits that it’ll be lonesome without him. Ray agrees and says that he’ll miss the food made by Se-jong’s mom. Se-jong corrects him, saying that his mom should just be Mom to him now, and he can call Se-jong hyung.
Before he walks back in, Ray stops him to say a final word about Hae-ra. He tells Se-jong to fess up the courage to approach her once again, since they both know that Hae-ra won’t be able to make the first move because she’s still apologetic towards Ray. But Se-jong knows. “Up until now, all I’ve either pushed her away or demanded something from her. So this time, I’m going to wait.” Ray jokes that he shouldn’t wait too long, in case he changes his mind about Hae-ra. They laugh off the friendly competition, now only slightly resembling the brotherly bond.
Back in the present, Se-jong turns to Hae-ra and tells her that Ray gave him the courage to approach her again. “I’m done waiting. Gu Hae-ra, I love you.” He goes in for the kiss, and she accepts him this time.
We get a glimpse of everyone as Hae-ra narrates. Tae-poong has a press conference about his new company, 78 Entertainment. Jang Goon gets his own taste of fame at his autograph signing. Woo-ri and Henry snuggle in the plane. Ray looks at Se-chan’s now completed bucket list ready for his fresh start.
Hae-ra:“Failure is difficult. But the great consequence of failure is the opportunity to strive towards whatever is next. We have friends to accompany us as we continue to dream, and our show has no end. As always, we will love and sing. Because that’s true perseverace.”
One year later. We’re back at the university reenacting the opening scene from the first episode, except this time, with Team Persevere as the main highlight. They perform Kim Won-joon’s “Show” along with Ki-joon and Scarlet. During Woo-ri’s solo ad-lib, we get a hilarious split screen of Scarlet lip-syncing along with Woo-ri’s real singing. The scene ends with Team Persevere being introduced as Korea’s best group, a title they’ve worked relentlessly to deserve.
What a journey. Team Persevere brought me along to some great highs and some disappointing lows, but I’m glad that this last episode reminded me why I loved this show in the first place. It’s got so much heart, great comedic timing, and a wonderful cast. Granted, this show was way far from perfect, it still had a compelling element to it, especially when it came to Team Persevere as a whole. The growth of the team was my favorite part of the storyline, and I wish we’d gotten more time with them together.
The downhill parts of the show always had to do with the wretched love triangle that was never as gripping as the show played it out to be. I’ll admit that I was interested to see how the Se-chan/Ray confusion would get resolved, but I was severely disappointed with Ray’s character, or lack thereof. I don’t think it has to do with Jinyoung’s acting, since he convinced me with his portrayal of Se-chan, though I do think Se-chan was a more impactful character than Ray ever was. I didn’t care for him as much as I did for Se-chan, but again, it could have to do with the nature of Se-chan’s character being killed tragically.
That being said, I don’t think that Ray is a completely two-dimensional character. He’s got a different more subdued charm than Se-chan, which really came through in this final episode. I really appreciated Ray emerging out of noble idiocy to noble brilliance when he decided to communicate effectively with both Se-jong and Hae-ra. Not hiding anything and making his feelings clear, I would nominate Ray as the most refreshing character in this one episode. He’s really the one who brought Team Persevere together by giving Se-jong the chance to decide his involvement in the team affair, rather than having people decide for him. That was the biggest problem with this show, especially with Hae-ra. Too many times, people decided Hae-ra’s fate for her. And I had such a problem with seeing her being pushed around by all her bullies.
Se-jong was one of the most frustrating characters to deal with because of his silence, but I found his growth the most gratifying. He had legitimate reasons to remain silent and secretive, but that got old really quickly when he was throwing himself a pity party about not being understood. I’m glad he got himself out of that pit because his character now is so much more enjoyable. I actually enjoyed him, but I saw a lot of lost potential when the show decided to continue making him a sad, mopey dude drowning in his own misery. He’s got so much to offer when he gives himself the freedom to speak and express, so seeing him smile and care and enjoy being with people he loves — it makes me satisfied with his character growth. He’s actually got a pleasant aura when he’s not so mopey all the time.
Hwangje was an easy enemy to hate because he was just so despicable. But I disliked how Ki-joon just became that complete enemy figure alongside President Hwang. He started out with some potential gray areas in his character, but he quickly became President Hwang’s robot, choosing evil over good because there was no way he could be anywhere in between. That would complicate dramaland’s easily recognizable depictions of the bad guys, and the show simply didn’t have time to further develop the baddies.
I recognize the time constraint (only 12 episodes) of this drama, but I do think this final episode was rushed and relied on so many assumptions and conveniences. The sudden cuts and plot holes were very evident (Henry suddenly decides that he wants to go back to China? Scarlet returns as a professional golf player without Daddy’s support?), but I turned a blind eye and let them slide because the music was too great. You gotta do what you gotta do to enjoy.
This show was everything and nothing I expected from a musical drama, as it surely gave me the wonderful music but then gave me so much more in terms of genre. At times, I felt like I was watching a melodrama, other times slapstick comedy, and sometimes a sort of makjang. But at its core, the show was a true underdog drama about friends who love music. I loved the music (especially this episode, those picks were spot on), absolutely loved the meta, and fell in love with the camaraderie that formed within Team Persevere. I don’t see myself rewatching this drama, but you’ll surely find me looking up sections of the series – all the musical numbers, and Tae-poong and the noonas for sure. Watching Team Persevere fall time and again, but still manage to get back up for the eighth time was exhausting to watch. Because I know for a fact that if I fell seven times, I would just go back to by day job. They literally did embody the true meaning of perseverance, a naïve and inspiring ability that I loved seeing pay off in the end.
- Persevere, Gu Hae-ra: Episode 11
- Persevere, Gu Hae-ra: Episode 10
- Persevere, Gu Hae-ra: Episode 9
- Persevere, Gu Hae-ra: Episode 8
- Persevere, Gu Hae-ra: Episode 7
- Persevere, Gu Hae-ra: Episode 6
- Persevere, Gu Hae-ra: Episode 5
- Persevere, Gu Hae-ra: Episode 4
- Persevere, Gu Hae-ra: Episode 3
- Persevere, Gu Hae-ra: Episode 2
- Persevere, Gu Hae-ra: Episode 1