Angry Mom: Episode 16 (Final)
I expect no less from Angry Mom than a satisfying conclusion that includes righteous fury, heroism, bittersweet reality, and heartwarming sendoffs for everyone I love. That’s a tall order, but the finale does a pretty great job of giving us the things we want—some moments that we’ve been waiting for since day one, and others that we never knew we wanted at all.
SONG OF THE DAY
MC Mong ft. Ailee – “마음 단단히 먹어” (Brace Yourself) [ Download ]
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Sang-tae’s mom, aka Team Princess’s smoking gun, arrives in country and apologizes to Sang-tae for being so late to come back for him. He cries on her shoulder and then counters with an apology of his own for not being able to protect her back then, which just breaks my heart even more. But he assures her, “I’ll protect you now. I’m all grown up.” Aw.
Gong-joo is waiting to pick them up (I love that she still defaults to introducing herself as Bang-wool’s mom), but so are Chairman Hong’s goons, who have spotted Mom’s arrival.
Thankfully Sang-tae sees them first, and he sends everyone ahead while he throws himself on the hood of the baddies’ car to play interference. Noah assures Mom that Sang-tae will be okay because Chairman Hong wouldn’t do anything to his son.
Sang-tae is indeed brought back to his room safely, where Chairman Hong lays into him for disobeying and plotting to take down his own father. He uses the age-old excuse that this is all for Sang-tae’s benefit, but that just makes Sang-tae snap: “For me? Don’t say that it’s for me! Then I feel like I have to go and die, because that’s the only way you’ll stop!”
Chairman Hong is done trying to negotiate with him and steals Sang-tae’s phone before locking him up in his room. He then calls his ex-wife to threaten her with the only thing that might keep her from spilling their family secrets: her son. Of course it works like a charm, and immediately Mom retracts her testimony with apologies—she can’t risk Sang-tae for this.
Minister Kang gives the contrite father speech at a press conference, even asking that the justice system be harsh towards his son no matter who his father is. Wow, only you would turn your son’s criminal indictment into a publicity opportunity.
The prosecutor makes Jung-woo watch the press conference, perhaps in a last-ditch effort to get him to turn on his father since his hands have been tied in the slush fund investigation. It seems to work, because Jung-woo asks to make a phone call. He calls Ae-yeon and asks if she’ll pay him one last visit in prison, which she refuses. She’s about to hang up when he tells her that there was something he wanted to give her on their last date, and asks her to go back there at times and drink on his tab. He adds sincerely that he hopes she’ll meet a better man someday, and she’s brought to tears as she hangs up.
Chairman Hong brings Minister Kang a tape recorder from the vault, which puts him at ease. But news of Sang-tae’s mother being in town doesn’t, and he warns that she could very well put both of them in jeopardy.
Yi-kyung’s mom shares her story with Sang-tae’s mom, and admits to turning her back on Kang-ja at first, thinking she was protecting her child, only to realize that the only true way to protect their children was to fight back. Then Kang-ja and Noah return with police officers in tow and encourage Sang-tae’s mother to fight for him—she’s his mother after all, and if he’s being held against his will she has a right to rescue him. Oh right. And here I was thinking up wild Mission Impossible rescue schemes involving ski masks.
So the whole gang walks right through the front door with the cops behind them, and Chairman Hong sputters that they can’t do this. Minister Kang quickly sees that the situation has gotten out of control, and gets everyone to try and talk this out.
Noah goes straight for Sang-tae’s room, and when he sees the padlock on the outside, he yells at Sang-tae to stand back and then proceeds to break the door down. But! You’re a nerdy teacher! It takes a while but the door busts open with great force, and Sang-tae watches agape as Noah strides in like a big ol’ hero.
I love this moment. It’s like Sang-tae has stars in his eyes, and when Noah looks him over in worry to make sure he isn’t hurt, Sang-tae smiles: “I have never in all my years seen anyone like you.” Noah quips back that he hasn’t lived all that long.
Minister Kang sits the three mothers down and tries to smooth-talk them, but Kang-ja cuts him off to say that she knows his two faces all too well, so he can skip to the point. So he opens up a briefcase full of money, which is met with a resounding scoff.
Kang-ja yells that he turned his son into a monster who killed their children, but he doesn’t seem to have an ounce of contrition in him about it. That comment just rolls right off his back and Minister Kang changes his tack, offering to pave the way for Ah-ran’s future and Sang-tae’s as well. He tells them to keep their mouths shut and keep living the way they have, because that’s what’s best for their children.
Right on cue, Sang-tae storms into the room to announce that he’ll decide that for himself, thank you very much. Woot! Chairman Hong blusters that they can’t leave, but Noah informs him that his lawn is filled with reporters who can’t be paid off, so he can go ahead and try to stop them.
In one last ditch effort, Chairman Hong cries that there’s no such thing as a son who abandons his father, and despite the hypocrisy dripping in his statement, it gets to Sang-tae. He turns to Mom and asks her to go and do what needs to be done, and he’ll stay here. Sang-tae actually says he feels sorry for his father and doesn’t want to abandon him. He reassures Mom again and again that Dad never hits him and the worst thing he does is lock him in his room, and asks her to stay the course.
It works, and Mom gets to walk out with assurances from Sang-tae that he wants her to testify. Minister Kang immediately gets on the phone with the prosecutor’s office and demands to be given a week before interrogation, and orders Chairman Hong to bring him the real slush fund accounting book first thing in the morning.
Chairman Hong lies that he had it moved to a bank for safe keeping, but then later that night he takes it out at home and smiles as he talks to someone on the phone, whom he refers to as a presidential candidate. It’s what he calls Minister Kang, but somehow I don’t think he’s the one calling. Ah, and from the hallway, Sang-tae eavesdrops—maybe this is part of the reason he braved his father, to get his hands on that book.
The prosecutor is surprised at how readily his boss signs off on Minister Kang’s arraignment, but is met with opposition when it comes to the search warrant for Chairman Hong’s vault. Hm, it looks like the power has shifted, and it must have to do with that phone call.
Meanwhile Ae-yeon mulls over Jung-woo’s words to her and decides to go to the restaurant to pick up the gift he left for her. I’m surprised that it isn’t the tape recorder—it’s a necklace, and a letter about how much he regrets not giving this to her right away. He hopes to see her wearing it in court, and says it’ll be the greatest gift she can give to him, and the greatest revenge.
It’s court day, and Minister Kang sees for himself on television that all of his colleagues are distancing themselves from him as fast as they possibly can. Sang-tae’s mom testifies about the slush fund and Chairman Hong’s lifetime of threats to keep her from talking, and when the prosecutor asks what made her change her mind, she says, “Because I’m a mother too.”
She says that she had to step in before he turned their son into a monster too, and we see Sang-tae watching from a viewing room with Ah-ran and Bok-dong by his side. Ah-ran silently takes his hand, and Bok-dong mutters that there are bad sides to having a rich dad after all. Yeah you forgot psycho. Psycho rich dad.
A few rows behind them, Yi-kyung’s mom gets a call and tells the other person to hurry. In the courtroom, Minister Kang and Chairman Hong take turns telling clashing sob stories on the witness stand, each claiming that the other was responsible for the slush fund.
The prosecution says that they have a last-minute witness and asks for some time, and we see Ae-yeon arrive at the courthouse and hand over a recorder to be admitted as evidence.
Jung-woo is there in handcuffs and sees her wearing the necklace, and we flash back to the moment when she opened the box to find the recorder tucked inside. She tells him that this isn’t for him, but he smiles sincerely and tells her that she looks pretty today.
Jung-woo takes the stand and testifies to the true inner workings of the foundation and how it funded his father’s campaign. When the lawyers attack his credibility, the prosecutor plays the recording that damns Minister Kang so completely as a cold-hearted father who called his son a stain on his perfect record.
The lawyers try to object, but the judge notably looks to Chairman Hong for approval before allowing it to be played. I’m guessing that someone else is going to become the new president because of that little nod right there.
Jung-woo turns to his father in court and says that he’s the one who turned him into a monster, and that if he had just once accepted his son or his wife and loved them, it wouldn’t have gone this far.
Minister Kang screams that Jung-woo ruined his life, and snaps: “I should’ve killed you long ago!” By the time he remembers that he’s in court, it’s too late. As they walk out, Jung-woo tells his father that he’ll be waiting for him in prison.
Chairman Hong yells at Sang-tae for showing up at the courthouse, but Sang-tae is fixated on what happened inside the courtroom today. He asks shakily, “When I grow up, do I become Do Jung-woo?” Agh.
He continues, “Why didn’t you live better, Father? When I see the two of them, I feel like that’s our future, and it scares me.” The horrifying fear falls on deaf ears, naturally, but Ah-ran is there to stand by Sang-tae’s side as he cries.
The prosecutor’s office gets permission to raid every office and vault for evidence, but they still come up empty on the one thing they really need: that damned log book that Chairman Hong has moved someplace.
At last, we get to see all our baddies sitting in a row in prison jumpsuits as their trial begins, and it’s a satisfying sight. The prosecutor delivers an impassioned set of charges against each of them, calling them collectively an example of the worst kind of corruption in this nation down to its roots, and the very destruction of hope and trust in this country.
He moves for the highest prison sentence that each of their charged crimes allows: seven years for Minister Kang, six for Chairman Hong (too few if you ask me), a lifetime sentence for Jung-woo, two years for Dong-chil, and one for Ae-yeon.
Yi-kyung’s mother bursts into tears at Jung-woo’s announcement, and Kang-ja notices Ah-ran’s worried reaction to Dong-chil’s sentence. The prisoners are led out after the trial, they’re met by an angry mob of mothers screaming that their sentences weren’t enough for the deaths of their children.
Chairman Hong in particular managed to squirm away with only TWO measly years in jail, and of course he’s the one shouting that he doesn’t deserve to be punished.
He’s pelted with eggs by angry mothers, and Kang-ja and the gang look on with steely gazes, knowing that he deserves far worse. But he’s obviously in someone else’s pocket now. A man is there watching, but all we see is a pair of shoes.
Three months later.
Kang-ja and the girls drag Mom-in-law out for some fresh air to keep her from wallowing in depression, and shopping puts a small smile back on her face. She ignores their choices for matronly outfits and points over to a very brightly colored shirtdress, and Kang-ja gently points out that it’s for younger people to wear.
But Mom-in-law means for Kang-ja to try it on, and sighs that she looks so pretty that Jin-sang would fall in love with her all over again if he were here. Aw. She caresses Kang-ja’s face sweetly through her tears.
The mystery man is watching the girls from afar, and then he’s there again in the crowd when Chairman Hong gets out of prison. Wait, it’s only been three months! Bok-dong and Noah see his release on TV—apparently the new president gave him a special pardon. URG. That must’ve been the deal all this time.
Chairman Hong goes to see the president’s aide to make sure that they’ve kept the notebook safe, and reminds them that he’s put his life in their hands by giving it to them. The book ominously joins a pile of many other books that look just like it.
The skeezy vice principal tells Chairman Hong that he’s got a man watching “them,” and Chairman Hong says there’s no need to go after them all. He just needs one to make his point. It’s not hard to guess where his revenge will be directed.
Dong-chil is being moved to a new prison facility when he hears the radio report about Chairman Hong’s release, and panic sets in instantly. He knows what Chairman Hong is after without having to guess, and uses a bathroom break at a rest stop to make his escape.
Jung-hee and her friend ask Ah-ran to join their threesome to make it a threesome again, but Ah-ran is stunned when she gets a call…
Noah calls Kang-ja over for dinner tonight, and she tells him cheerily that she’s already bought ingredients to cook for them. But he says soberly that it’s a strategy meeting, because Chairman Hong has been released.
Kang-ja doesn’t even have a chance to recover from the shock of that news before the hitman on her tail yanks her into the shadows. Eep.
Ah-ran runs to meet Dong-chil. That must’ve been the call she got, and she pleads with him to hurry up and go turn himself in. She asks why he’s always doing the wrong thing, and he doesn’t seem to disagree with her on that.
She asks if he escaped because he wanted to see her, and he chokes back tears and calls her crazy. She believes more than ever that he’s her biological father, and finally, FINALLY, he gives her a straight answer: “You’re not my daughter. You’re my niece. You’re the daughter of the brother I accidentally killed.”
THANK YOU. Was that so hard? Ah-ran’s eyes fill with tears as he hands over a picture of him and Bum. He’s a blubbering mess as he describes how Bum was so smart and good and different from him. For all of Dong-chil’s many faults, you could never say he didn’t love his brother more than life itself.
Bok-dong runs up, confused to see them both in tears, and Dong-chil tells Ah-ran to study hard and listen to her mother. He gives her a pat on the head, then collects himself and tells Bok-dong to make sure she gets home safely. Why does it feel like such a final goodbye?
Dong-chil goes straight for the vice principal and threatens him until he spills Chairman Hong’s location. He’s at a construction site (goodness I hope it’s not one of his own), with Kang-ja held captive.
She asks if Sang-tae shouldn’t be the first person he visits, relaying how hard it’s been on him the last few months. He argues that that’s the very reason he’s coming after her, because she drove a wedge in between him and his son. Oh, Kang-ja did, and not your sociopathic greed?
He grabs a pipe to show her just exactly how unforgiving he is about people who cross him, when Dong-chil arrives and shouts his name. I could hug you right now! Okay, maybe not hug so much as cheer on from a safe distance, but whatever.
He makes short work of the minions, until it’s him and Chairman Hong with just Kang-ja between them. Chairman Hong grabs her to use as a hostage, and there’s this hilarious beat where Kang-ja just rolls her eyes before kicking the crap out of Chairman Hong herself. Yes please, I’ll watch that again!
Dong-chil soon takes over and starts beating the living daylights out of Chairman Hong, screaming, “Die! Die! Die!” until Kang-ja pries him off. She tells him to stop, but Dong-chil argues that she saw it for herself—the law doesn’t work for cockroaches like Hong, and he’ll always find a way back. He has to be killed.
Kang-ja argues that he’ll have to rot in prison for the rest of his life, and he asks why she isn’t repulsed by him. She in turn says that she knows he secretly helped Ah-ran: “Was it because she’s your brother’s daughter?”
He hangs his head: “Because she’s your daughter. I was wrong, Jo Kang-ja, for pushing what was mine onto you. I’m sorry, Jo Kang-ja.” Wow, is he finally admitting to her that he killed Bum?
And then, like the cockroach that he is, Chairman Hong rises to his feet with a pipe in the air, ready to swing down on Kang-ja’s head. Dong-chil sees him first and shoves her out of the way, and rushes Chairman Hong until they both go flying into a wall of loose bricks.
The whole thing comes crashing down on them, and Kang-ja runs over to the rubble to lift Dong-chil up. Chairman Hong is bleeding but conscious and asks for their help, but Dong-chil tells him that this is exactly how those children felt: “You should feel it too.”
They walk away and leave him there, and even his minions desert him. Then a familiar pair of shoes (belonging to the president’s aide) approach menacingly, and Chairman Hong actually looks frightened…
The news reports Chairman Hong’s death, trapped under rubble at Myeongseong’s new construction site. A little on the nose, but damn satisfying all the same.
Six months later.
It’s spring again, and Kang-ja is back to working in the kitchen of her restaurant. She narrates just like she did in the opening, that there are strong and weak people in the world. Most people speak of strength as money or power, but she has people in her life who are strong without those things.
She tells us that Gong-joo’s nightclub went bankrupt, but she still talks to her princess minions like a boss. Kang-ja: “They called that loyalty.” We watch them hang up a new sign that reads: “Gong-joo and Bang-wool’s Lunchbox House.”
Bok-dong meets his brother outside of prison with tofu at the ready, and they hug each other happily. Hyung jokes about what a pain Dong-chil was on the inside, and Bok-dong says he wants to stop and bring Dong-chil some food, inciting a little hyung-to-hyungnim jealousy.
Kang-ja narrates that her young friend who used to use his fists became an innocent lamb from that day forward. “He called that love.”
Noah greets his students as they arrive at school, and now he’s the school’s most popular and beloved teacher. Kang-ja: “They called that respect.”
Ah-ran does become part of Jung-hee’s trio, and they pass by the vice principal (how does he still have a job in education?) and stick a mocking note on his back. Kang-ja narrates that when teachers don’t act like teachers and adults don’t act like adults, children see it right away.
Kang-ja wants to stop to buy Ah-ran a new pair of sneakers, and asks why Gong-joo is looking at boys’ shoes. Gong-joo chides her for not thinking of Bok-dongie enough, when the kid is practically shouting her name from the rooftops.
Kang-ja chuckles and calls it a lack of motherly affection in his life, and that gives Gong-joo pause, wondering if she should become a mother for real. Yes! Duh! Kang-ja nags her not to mess with the kids like that, and they go. But you’ll keep thinking about adopting Bok-dongie, right?
Noah takes the class on a trip into the mountains, where he asks them to take a picture of something that inspires them and write an original poem. Kang-ja and Gong-joo join them with lunchboxes for everyone, and the class greets them with cheers.
Kang-ja hands her box over to Noah and jumps up to throw her arm around Bok-dong, and he shinks back, acting like she has cooties. Crush still going strong, I see. Oh, puppy.
Both Noah and Kang-ja notice the way Sang-tae sticks to Ah-ran’s side and stoops down to offer her a piggyback ride (cute), and Ah-ran hurries him up before other people see.
Kang-ja narrates, “Still, there are the kinds of relationships in this world where people don’t have money or power, but they still treat each other with loyalty, love, and respect. And the one who loves more is the weaker one. But I’m sure that a world in which the one who loves more is the stronger one exists, somewhere out there.”
Gong-joo and her princess minions fight good-naturedly over kimbap, and Ah-ran makes an effort to befriend the girls who were mean to her all year long. Sang-tae and Bok-dong sit together and moon over Kang-ja and Ah-ran, which is hilarious given that they’re mother and daughter. Sang-tae says that Ah-ran is becoming more like her mother every day, and she’s becoming really strong.
Bok-dong assures Sang-tae that he’s plenty strong, perhaps even stronger than he is, and Sang-tae’s like, Yeah no duh. Sang-tae’s always got his nose in a book these days, and says offhandedly that they say a person needs love and dreams in order to succeed. He asks Bok-dong if he has that.
When the question gets thrown back at him, Sang-tae says that he’s going to become a prosecutor because his father left some homework for him: that slush fund notebook, which likely got passed up the chain to the highest command. You’d be right about that. Sang-tae plans to bring that corruption to light someday.
Bok-dong gazes up at Kang-ja and says, “I don’t know about love, but I have a dream too.” He just smiles a big boyish grin.
Noah joins Kang-ja at the top of the bluff overlooking the city, and she notes that it really is spring again, making them forget already when it was so cold and painful. She asks if spring will come to their school again, and Noah says that if there’s spring, there will be winter too: “In every spring they say there’s a winter.”
Kang-ja replies, “That also means that in every winter, there’s a spring.” Noah smiles and says that she’s right, and she tells him that it was because of him that she was able to withstand the fight. He counters that it was because of the mothers that it was even possible. Kang-ja adds with a note of sadness, “And the fathers…”
Noah narrates, “It was truly a long and harsh winter. In the world where spring has come, I often think of the seeds that are asleep within the ice, unable to sprout. I’d like it if warm spring showers would fall and melt the ice away, so that the seeds could sprout and stand, and the world could be covered in spring flowers.”
Everyone gathers for a class picture, as Kang-ja ends the narration: “I’d like it if there were many more strong ones [kang-jas], and I’d like if it would hurry up and come sooner—the world where the ones who love more win.”
If I had to sum up this finale in two words, it’d be poetic justice, for sure. I wasn’t expecting to get this much plot in the finale, though I’ll never regret a thorough showdown with solid payoffs. It was important to see how Minister Kang and Chairman Hong had driven their sons to the point of betrayal, and it was particularly satisfying to watch them get burned by their own children, since this war essentially boiled down to bad parents vs. good parents. I would’ve preferred a little more time spent on happy sendoffs and more adorable moments for our makeshift family (with real adoption papers would’ve been nice, just sayin’), but I did love the tone of the ending. It’s the kind of open-ended that I love, with just enough closure to show us what path everyone is on, but enough openness to make us wonder what their futures could hold.
The ending leaves me feeling bittersweet in that great way where I don’t want the story to end, because I’ve come to love these characters so much. Kim Hee-sun has never been better, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every character she’s ever played, cute, terrible, or otherwise. But this was her most honest performance—simple, down-to-earth, believably vulnerable and strong at the same time. This was an ensemble drama, but she really carried it on her shoulders and made me care from start to finish.
The supporting cast was lovely as well, from Kim Yoo-jung to Ji Hyun-woo, and even evil Kim Tae-hoon (Do Jung-woo) and Kim Hee-won (Ahn Dong-chil). I had a special fondness for Gong-joo (Go Soo-hee), who was one of the best moms in the entire show, and of course the show’s breakout star Ji-soo, who took Bok-dongie and turned him into a teenage rebel heartthrob. His epic puppy love will warm my heart for nothing short of a century.
It was really nice to get lost in the characters and trust that the story had been planned out from the start, and though the music choices were jarring at times, I found the directing to be consistently engaging. The suspense, the humor, the horror, the emotional pain, the poignant moments of reflection—each was given its own measured space to play out, and no matter how disparate the emotions from scene to scene, I never felt like it wasn’t a natural part of the Angry Mom world. A very dark world where I’d be scared to go to high school, but honestly not so different from the real one.
The fact that I was so moved by Dong-chil’s turnaround is the thing that surprised me the most. I found him to be a complex and interesting character, sure, but I had always thought of him as a lost cause who could come around enough to regret his actions, but never really redeem himself. But his pain was so raw when it counted, and when he broke down in front of Ah-ran and finally told her the truth—not only about her parentage but about his part in killing his own brother by accident—I felt such unabated sympathy for him when I thought I never would.
He’s such a tragic figure in this story who doesn’t necessarily deserve a second chance or a happily ever after, but I feel like he earned it anyway, despite the odds. Maybe not happiness, but acceptance and peace, and people to be connected to. It counts for a great deal when you risk everything to save our heroine in the final hour, and like most things in this drama, it brought their story full circle to have him protect the girl who took the fall for his biggest regret in life.
I loved that Angry Mom could be a story about such fierce love without romance. There was romantic love within the story (mostly one-sided and completely adorable, gah), but this was a show about family and the universal love of a parent for a child, and most importantly, that this love extends beyond biological connection or familial obligation. We ran the gamut from terrible parents who were responsible for creating monsters, to average parents who struggled to do what was best for their children, to those who stepped up to become surrogate parents, to the most heroic kind who would continue to fight no matter what it cost. And the message was loud and clear: You reap what you sow. I especially appreciated what Noah contributed as a teacher, because he showed that there is such a thing as course-correcting when you intervene at the right time. He loved his students as much as (or sometimes more than) any parent, and changed Sang-tae and Bok-dong’s lives completely.
I like the balance we got between realism (powerful men like Chairman Hong get away with murder, quite literally) and dramaland satisfaction (Fate says you get squished by a ton of bricks in the very spot where you let children die on your watch, asshole). His trajectory reminds us that most of the time, corruption like his goes unchecked and the powerful stay in power because there is no loyalty among thieves. It’s why Kang-ja’s speech at the end about strength coming from loyalty, love, or respect is such a satisfying way to tie up the difference between the strong and the weak in our story. Because the strong had everything at their disposal except those things, and our underdogs had nothing but each other. And in the end the so-called strong ones just tore each other part because they had no loyalty to speak of.
I always prefer the kind of ending that rings true to life, where the fight simply continues and corruption goes on, but so does the hope of people who believe in justice and righting wrongs. Maybe this one battle is just a blip in a long war between the little guys and the people who abuse their power, but the fact that heroes continue to hope is what makes them strong, and inspires a new generation of kids to dream in their footsteps. Maybe protecting her child is a mother’s greatest mission in life, but I think the most impressive thing she could ever do is to make the world a slightly better place, and to inspire a child to become a fighter just like her. And it turns out that you don’t even need to be strong to do it—just full of love.
- Angry Mom: Episode 15
- Angry Mom: Episode 14
- Angry Mom: Episode 13
- Angry Mom: Episode 12
- Angry Mom: Episode 11
- Angry Mom: Episode 10
- Angry Mom: Episode 9
- Angry Mom: Episode 8
- Angry Mom: Episode 7
- Angry Mom: Episode 6
- Angry Mom: Episode 5
- Angry Mom: Episode 4
- Angry Mom: Episode 3
- Angry Mom: Episode 2
- Angry Mom: Episode 1