Who Are You—School 2015: Episode 16 (Final)
Go figure, I was happy to be able to come back and write the final recap for Who Are You—School 2015. It’s a franchise near and dear to my heart and I had hopes that it would pull through in the final hour, to at least wrap up our characters’ arcs in a satisfying manner before sending them off. Yeah. So then I watched the episode. And then this happened…
SONG OF THE DAY
Yook Sung-jae – “Love Song” for the School 2015 OST [ Download ]
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
It’s the moment of truth, literally—Eun-bi stands before the class ready to confess that she’s been pretending to be her sister for the last few months, when suddenly Eun-byul bursts into the room, guns blazing. Okay, it’s more like laser eyeballs blazing, but she’s here to save to the day.
So-young has got the twins right where she wants them—together in front of everyone, so that she gets to prove that Eun-bi is still alive. Way to go. You drove a girl to suicide but she survived. Yay, you?
Eun-byul steps closer and tells Eun-bi to go ahead and say what she wants, and tells So-young to follow her outside. So-young won’t go willingly, but Eun-byul doesn’t care what she wants and drags her out, leaving her classmates reeling.
Eun-byul demands the video (I’m presuming it’s the one where the bullies forced Eun-bi to undress at the start of the series) from So-young, who scoffs that the game would end if she handed it over so easily. Eun-byul demands to know what the video is and what she did to her sister, and So-young actually has the nerve to say, “Don’t worry, it’s not like she’ll die if it gets out.” Are you freaking kidding me right now?
Instead of slapping her like I would, Eun-byul has the good sense to reach into her bag calmly, hopefully to do something smart like record their conversation. So-young says that she just wants people to see the video and talk about the two sisters with the same face, and Eun-byul presses for her to admit that she took the video herself.
Back in the classroom, Eun-bi admits who she really is, and her friends quickly put together that Amnesia Eun-byul was Eun-bi all this time. Jaws drop, and Song-joo asks Yi-an if he knew. He says yes, and they feel betrayed all over again.
Eun-bi tells them that she really thought she was Eun-byul, and by the time she had recovered her memories, too much had happened. She says that whatever the reasons were, she lied to them and deserves their anger: “I’m really sorry.”
Meanwhile, Eun-byul drags So-young by the hair into the bathroom, where she plays the recording she just made of their conversation. God, I love that Eun-byul is a badass. She warns So-young to go ahead and make her video public, and Eun-byul will make sure she goes down with it.
So-young makes a grab for the phone so Eun-byul pins her up against the window and snarls, “As long as I remember, the only way for you to live is to not appear before my eyes. To not do a single thing. That’s the only way.” So-young sheds a tear as she trembles in fear.
Yi-an finds Eun-bi sitting outside and she admits that it feels irresponsible to cause others pain because she wanted to apologize—it feels like a way for her to feel better when she has no way of knowing if they’re hurting worse because of her. Yi-an says that’s what he must’ve felt towards her, and why he couldn’t say he was sorry.
She tells him that it’s okay because you should be able to refrain from saying the things you don’t want to say. She wonders how nice it would be if you could refrain from hearing the things you don’t want to hear.
Yi-an puts his headphones over her ears, and from a distance Tae-gwang watches them with a defeated sigh.
The next day, Eun-byul runs up to her friends, who eye her suspiciously and ask, “Who are you?” They’re just teasing her though, and soon Shi-jin is suggesting that they call Eun-bi to hang out in a foursome, and Song-joo is demanding that Eun-bi call her. Aw.
So-young feels a little vindicated when she overhears some of the other students admitting that she was right about a lot of things, but Song-joo comes up to her and asks, “Why is it that once I found out you were telling the truth, I find it even harder to understand you?”
When So-young is confused, Song-joo asks if she really doesn’t know why the kids are colder to her than to Eun-bi, who lied to them all this time: “Do you make friends because you need someone to validate you as the best and strongest? I’m saying this sincerely for your benefit: Don’t live that way.” It’s satisfying because it’s calm and mature and spot-on, and So-young starts to shake as the other kids give Song-joo a slow clap.
Mom comes to school and demands that So-young be punished for threatening her daughter, and So-young’s mother insists that the video in question was never discovered, and asks why they’re getting so worked up over kids playing pranks on each other. Oh you have got to be kidding me.
Eun-byul’s mom says that she always thought So-young was scary, but now that she’s met her mother, she can see why. Dayum. The principal says that they have no choice but to open a disciplinary hearing for So-young, so her mother demands that one be opened for Eun-byul as well, because she won’t go down alone.
The class gets their new homeroom teacher (cameo by Bae Soo-bin), who announces that he doesn’t care about anything except grades, and anyone who doesn’t keep to themselves and study won’t be tolerated. Ack, he’s scary! Bring Teacher Kim back!
Teacher Kim is currently working as a tutor at an academy, and he gets up to lecture that day and finds Tae-gwang sleeping in the back row. I luff this bromance. After class, Teacher Kim asks if he missed him that much to come to tutoring, and Tae-gwang says he really did: “Your voice is better than a sleeping pill. I just had the sweetest nap.”
Yi-an begs his coach to let him compete in the next swim meet, and promises not to strain himself trying to win a medal or anything. He just wants to be back in the competition now that he’s feeling better.
After practice, Yi-an sits in the locker room trying to figure out what to text Eun-bi, and he erases a few attempts before accidentally sending the curt and shouty, “Hey! Come outside this instant!” He cringes at the mistake, but lights up the second that Eun-bi replies, saying that she’s at tutoring.
But it’s Tae-gwang she sees first after class, because he’s enrolled here as well. He asks if she’s doing okay, and Eun-bi says that she is, because she doesn’t have to lie to anyone anymore.
Yi-an waits outside for Eun-bi to come out, and his face hardens when he sees her walk out with Tae-gwang. Yi-an scoffs to hear that Tae-gwang goes to tutoring, which I would agree is rather transparent, given his notorious rebel ways.
Yi-an says he’s here to take Eun-bi home and takes her away by the wrist, only to have Tae-gwang grab the other one and say it’s not necessary. OMG. THIS AGAIN? Why are we still doing this? Eun-bi, make up your mind, before these boys rip you in half!
She decides to break free from both and says that she wants to go home alone. Not a bad choice, after that caveman display.
Mom sits the twins down to suggest that they move and start over at a new school together, and they both agree. Eun-byul adds that she’s found something that she wants to study, which sounds like she means to go far away.
At school, Eun-byul stops Tae-gwang and invites him (er, orders him) to sit down at their lunch table. She tells her friends that she’ll be transferring and moving soon, and studying abroad soon after that. Tae-gwang stomps off, and Eun-byul considers her message delivered.
Tae-gwang goes to see Eun-bi that night, and he tries to keep the mood light as he asks if she wants to see a movie this weekend. He insists that it doesn’t matter where she moves to, but asks if it matters at all to her that she’ll be far away from him. *sniff* I’m not sure I want to hear the answer to this…
Eun-bi starts, “Tae-gwang-ah, every time I see you, I’m thankful and sorry. I wanted to be as good to you as you were to me.” Oof. That doesn’t sound good. He cuts her off and says that she doesn’t have to answer—he’s fine with things just the way they are.
But this time Eun-bi calls him out on it: “That’s a lie. That’s why I’m saying this now. I can’t look at you the way you look at me.” Saaaaaaad. He stands up abruptly and says this is all stuff he already knew, and leads the way out. Augh, puppy.
So-young ends up having to transfer as well, and it’s unclear what the source is, but we get a diagnosis in voiceover that she suffers from anorexia. And don’t forget bulimia—we’ve seen her throwing up her lunch in the bathroom.
She looks up her new school online and finds that people are already talking about her there because they’ve heard all about her trouble at Sekang and Tongyeong, and she cries.
Eun-byul sits with Yi-an by the pool like they used to, and she tells him about moving and preparing to study abroad once the semester is over. She tells him to do well so that she can brag about being his friend even when she’s abroad, and he counters that he’s been bragging about being her friend since they were eight.
Eun-byul says that she’s thought a lot about herself and her friends since everything happened with Soo-in, and she wonders why it took her this long to realize that other people’s eyes don’t matter, only what’s in her heart.
She says that’s why she’s decided to spend more time chasing her dream. Yi-an tells her to be well and that he’ll always be cheering her on, and she says the same to him. She asks if he’s met with Eun-bi, and when he grows silent, Eun-byul sighs that they’re both super frustrating and totally not her style. Dude, right there with you.
So-young’s father comes bursting into her room in a fit of anger, screaming at the top of his lungs that he told her to lie low or squash the problem, but because she couldn’t manage to do that, he’s lost his nomination for public office. And that’s not at all your fault? I mean, she’s scum, but you’re worse.
He’s enraged that they had to start all over because of what she did in Tongyeong, only to have it happen again. Uh, that’s kind of what happens when you cover up crimes instead of dealing with the root of the problem, buddy. He screams that if she does something stupid like this again, he’ll just disown her. So-young collapses on the floor in sobs.
Eun-bi goes to a sleepover with Shi-jin and Song-joo, and they promise to hang out like this often, even after she moves. She gets a text that night that surprises her—it’s So-young, with one last thing to say.
They meet up the next day, and Eun-bi asks why she called her here. So-young says that Eun-bi is stupid and always runs to help pitiful people, no matter what it costs her: “You said you felt sorry for me, from the start.”
She admits that she doesn’t have the video—it was lost when Eun-byul crushed her phone, and So-young scoffs that she’s so grateful she could cry: “I think I forgot a long time ago how to stop.”
She says she’s not going to apologize or ask for forgiveness, and she knows that nothing would change even if Eun-bi forgave her. But Eun-bi turns to her and says, “I know you regret what you did. The only thing I can offer to you in comfort is the fact that I’m alive.”
Eun-bi thinks of her sister and asks how horrible it would be to realize what you did wrong, only to know that you can’t apologize to someone who’s dead. She’s a bigger person than I am, and says that she hopes the fact that she’s alive and well is some comfort to So-young, when the day comes that she wants to say something to her. She gets up to go and So-young calls out her name, but can’t bring herself to say anything else. Eun-bi walks away and So-young breaks down in tears.
Tae-gwang is lost in thought at tutoring, and Teacher Kim asks what’s wrong to make him stay awake all the way through class. Heh. Tae-gwang asks if it’s possible to live without seeing the person you like most in this whole world, and Teacher Kim says wistfully that yeah, living is possible.
He asks why Tae-gwang would have to, though, and he answers, “Because… she likes someone else most in this world.” *craaaaack* Yup, there goes my heart.
Teacher Kim says that he can avoid seeing her, but that won’t stop his feelings from existing. He gives him the advice that it’s possible to endure, but adds honestly that it isn’t a happy way to live. And then he teases Tae-gwang for growing up and liking girls, and chases after him asking about the crush.
But when he goes home that night, Tae-gwang’s question lingers in his head: “Teacher, what is it that you like most in this world?” He opens up a website for a high school looking for a math teacher.
Tae-gwang waits outside for Eun-bi to get out of class, and they sit in a playground feeling awkward for a while. Eun-bi says that she’s moving in a few days, and Tae-gwang asks if she plans to avoid him until then.
He puts her at ease by saying that he’s going to clean up his feelings so she needn’t be uncomfortable around him, and lightens the mood by joking, “You’re definitely going to regret it later—rejecting me!” I KNOW, RIGHT?
He tells her that he’s not even going to walk her to the bus stop and tells her to go, but as soon as she starts to walk away, he changes his mind and goes running after her. He stops just behind her and holds onto her shoulders to keep her from turning around and looking at him, and with her back turned, he screws up the nerve to tell her the truth.
He admits that Teacher Kim told him that it’s possible to endure if you really like someone, so he was planning to lie tonight about being able to stop how he feels about her: “But now I don’t want to. So I’m just going to be honest. No matter how I think of it, I can’t come up with a way not to like you, so I’m just going to stay like this. You don’t have to be sorry and you don’t have to do anything… Just know my heart.”
Tears roll down Eun-bi’s cheeks but she gives no answer, and Tae-gwang tells her she can really go now, and lets go of her shoulders. She walks away without turning back.
Eun-byul finds Eun-bi staring at the Yi-an Bear and asks her outright if she likes him. Eun-byul tells her not to look so shocked and calls her stupid. Eun-byul says that all she’s ever wanted is for them to be a family with Mom—she has what she wants, and Yi-an has always been and will be a good friend to her: “Whether or not you accept his feelings is your choice.”
Eun-bi goes to meet Yi-an to say goodbye before the move, and he deflates to hear that she can’t come to his swim meet because it’s her first day at her new school. He asks why she’s acting like she’s never going to see him again, and Eun-bi finally admits, “Han Yi-an, I like you.”
But she says that right now she needs to figure out who she is before thinking about the person she likes, so that when she’s loved she knows it’s for her, just as she is. She thinks she can accept his feelings then.
He tells her that he’ll wait as long as it takes, and she puts her hand out for a shake to say goodbye. He takes it and puts her medal in her hand, and asks her to give it back to him when she’s found herself as Lee Eun-bi and is sure about her feelings for him. He makes her promise to return it though: “It’s my most prized possession.”
A few days later, Eun-bi is lost in thought as Mom drives her to her first day of school, and she keeps nervously checking her watch. Yi-an steps up to the platform to begin his first race after his injury, and all eyes are on him to gauge how his recovery went.
He leads the race at the start, and the commentators note that it hardly seems like he was injured and out of training at all. But then he suddenly stops dead in the water mid-race, clutching his shoulder in pain. The crowd comes to a still as they wait for him to move, and Eun-bi races to the stands, here to cheer him on after all.
She thinks to herself, “Be strong,” and Yi-an finally begins to move. He keeps going with only one arm to make his strokes, even as the other swimmers lap him. But he refuses to quit and finishes out the race in last place, bringing the crowd to resounding cheers.
Six months later.
Teacher Bae Soo-bin leads a new transfer student into class, and everyone gasps: “Go Eun-byul?” “No, Lee Eun-bi?” “Who are you?” Eun-bi breaks out into a huge smile and answers proudly, “My name is Go Eun-bi.” Aw, she took unni’s last name.
Tae-gwang saunters into school late that day, and breaks into a grin when he gets a familiar text from Eun-bi: “Roof!” He races up there and beams when she turns around to face him, and he realizes from her uniform that she’s transferred back.
But she suddenly hits him on the head in a classic Eun-byul move, and his smile disappears. He stares at her, confused: “Is it not you? No I’m right! You’re Lee Eun-bi!” The attitude is all Eun-byul, but she corrects him: “I’m Go Eun-bi!” She finally smiles and shows off her new nametag. I don’t know whether to be happy that you guys are friends again, or go cry in a corner.
Teacher Kim is teaching high school math again at a new school, Min-joon is learning new hobbies like playing the guitar, Shi-jin has finally discovered something that interests her and buries her nose in a book about cake decorating, and Song-joo does a photo shoot.
Eun-bi narrates in voiceover: “Eighteen. It’s too early to realize your dreams, but the perfect age to begin dreaming. Falling down hurts, but it’s the perfect age to learn a hundred ways to get up again.”
We see Yi-an winning races again, and Tae-gwang greeting his father who’s been released from prison and is back at home. They sit down to dinner together and Tae-gwang puts a piece of tofu on Dad’s spoon (to make sure he stays out of jail, per the old superstition), and they laugh.
Eun-bi runs to Mom with a postcard from Eun-byul, and they light up to hear that she’s coming home soon.
The next morning, Eun-bi sees Yi-an on the bus and sneaks past him undetected. She peers over his shoulder as she texts him about how his meet went. She lies that she didn’t watch it and he lies that he didn’t do so well, so she calls him out on the lie and dangles her medal right in front of his eyes. He whirls around and smiles, and they tease each other on the way to school.
Eun-bi laughs with her friends as they head into class, and then she stops to look into the camera as the narration closes:
Eun-bi: We’re eighteen, so we live every day as if it’s our last—loving and hating fiercely. It’s an age where we falter and get hurt easily, and are hurting more than anyone. Despite that, the reason we can look back on that time and say we were happy is one person’s warm outstretched hand. Not more, not less, but just one person—if we each approach one friend who’s crying and stretch out a hand like this, there’s nothing that I—we—can’t endure. It’s okay. You can hurt. Because you’re eighteen.
Yes, but what about MY PAIN?! WhatEVER, Eun-bi. All I’ve gotta say is, there’s no accounting for taste in this world. I have no idea why anyone would like Han Yi-an over Gong Tae-gwang, but I guess to each her own. Oh, who am I kidding. That’s just CRAZY. My problem with the resolution isn’t simply her choice—Eun-bi has been consistent from the start in liking Yi-an, so I get that it’s the obvious choice for her and I honestly didn’t expect her to waver, even when I was screaming at my screen, How can you not love that adorable friend who’s been by your side all this time?! Because I understand that it would’ve been just as strange to suddenly have her change her mind this late in the game, despite her feelings being alien feelings from another planet.
My problem is with the way Yi-an’s character was plotted from the start, because I’m still confused as to when he stopped liking Eun-byul and started liking Eun-bi. I feel like they hastily gave him a way to sort out his feelings retroactively, without bringing us along for the change in the moment. So at the end of the day, Yi-an says he likes Eun-bi, and I’m like, I guess I’ll take your word for it? It’s not very satisfying narratively, seeing as how he began the series so completely to devoted to Eun-byul that I was rooting for them to find their way back, even after all the hurt feelings. It’s mainly due to the writing that Yi-an’s character motivations didn’t always click for me, but he also wasn’t helped by Nam Joo-hyuk, who’s still too green to play a leading man(boy). I could feel his limitations when he was trying to convey complex emotions, and it was difficult at times to look past that when seeing his character as a whole.
Maybe they thought it’d be too pat for the two sisters to each get one boy instead of making as many triangles out of four people as possible, but I found Eun-byul’s wrap-up dissatisfying too, given that she just gets written off the show after saving the day and gives Eun-bi tacit permission to date Yi-an as if it’s no big deal. I don’t see why she had to go abroad when all I ever wanted was for the two sisters to go to school together and be best friends. And it pains me to think that Tae-gwang is left pining away after Eun-bi at the end, even when YOU HAD THE MATH TO MAKE IT WORK. Two boys, two sisters, no brainer, right?
The thing is, I might not be this focused on the lovelines had the show developed anything else. But the story was essentially reduced to the love triangle (and you couldn’t even manage to do that right), and everything else ended up feeling incidental. Truthfully the love triangle was compelling and it’s what sucked me in early on, but it kept going, and going, and going… and soon I started to feel like they were just dragging poor Eun-bi around by the wrist to prolong the romantic angst. And of all things, I’m pretty sure it was mostly at the expense of Yi-an’s character development, which seems to be shooting yourself in the foot if he’s your endgame. Hello. You did it wrong. Not to mention the fact that I don’t want to be mad at my heroine for not being clearer about her feelings or for choosing the boy who seemed to be in love with her sister, over the one who basically declared he’d love her till the end of days. Augh.
Had any of these things been cleared up sooner instead of being prolonged for the sake of the love triangle, we could’ve had time left to focus on Eun-bi’s growth and change, and on So-young. I feel like their storyline got shafted for the lovelines, which is a crying shame. I wanted more for So-young—both more punishment and more resolution—partly because the character was so layered and interesting at the start, and partly because Jo Soo-hyang was so phenomenal in the role. In comparison to the pain she’s inflicted all series long, I didn’t feel like it was enough to see that she just had to live with the guilt (welcome to life) or that she had terrible parents (which we knew). Yes, it’s somewhat satisfying to know that she can’t keep running away to a new school and wipe her slate clean because her past follows her, but I’m pretty sure she needed to be sent to juvie or at least an asylum. You can’t write her to be that much of a sociopath and then just have her feel sorry.
I saw so much potential in the setup where Eun-bi suffers as the victim of So-young’s bullying and Eun-byul mirrors it in the reverse with Soo-in, but the resolution left so much to be desired. The one thing that would’ve made it satisfying is what we never got: We needed Eun-bi to be the one to stand up for herself and put So-young in her place. Isn’t that obvious? Why did we not get this? I love when Eun-byul shows up like the badass she is and sticks up for her sister, but then they skipped the all-important part where the two sisters actually influence and change one another, and Eun-bi grows strong enough to stand up for herself. That’s the character arc I wanted, and I’m actually confused as to how someone could set this story up and not give us that penultimate moment of triumph.
We basically spent the entire series with Eun-bi being meek, and only in the last five minutes do we get to see the new Go Eun-bi, who’s finally figured out how to adopt her sister’s sass but stayed true to herself. Five minutes. Sixteen hours, and five minutes is all you give me. It’s a good thing that I love Kim So-hyun as much as I do, because I think she tempered my frustration with Eun-bi whenever she remained passive (or loved Yi-an for some unknowable reason). It helped when Eun-byul showed up, though again I feel like her character was mishandled and only brought in to save the day and then leave so that the Eun-bi Show could go on, which made me sad. I wanted way more sister love, which perhaps wasn’t on the menu because Kim So-hyun would’ve had to play both sides of that relationship. Even still, I loved her performance as both sisters—she always makes me feel for her in the moment, and it was great to see her carry a drama on her young and talented shoulders, because she’s certainly capable of it.
It’s no shock that Yook Sung-jae is the breakout star of the series, and deservedly so. He was already good in Plus Nine Boys, but nobody saw that drama—thankfully School has a way of catapulting people to stardom, and here he got to really play up the angst, and of course the epic puppy love. I guess if he couldn’t get the girl, it’s some consolation that he walks away the more empathetic character in the end, with all the fan love and praise for his performance. Sometimes it pays to be the Chilbongie, even if the path is littered with heartbreak.
I thought this installment of School an interesting departure from the usual slice-of-life focus in the franchise, and honestly enjoyed it a lot as it was airing. There was a much bigger dramatic pull in the setup of twins with swapped fates, and amnesia—it had the melodramatic works, and it sucked me in completely. But it fell short in developing the story that I found so intriguing at the outset, and in bringing that narrative to a satisfying close. In that regard I can’t help but wonder if they tried to do too many things by adding the high drama and lost on both fronts.
I remember feeling the angst of School 2013 down to my bones, but this time around I feel like things were resolved too swiftly, too easily, and without carrying me along for the moments that really hit home. It was slickly directed, beautifully scored, and on the whole well acted. But there’s a distinct lack of depth and follow-through on the writing that you can’t gloss, no matter how much the other stuff shines. Still, what it couldn’t manage to do as a whole doesn’t negate that I did love its parts, sometimes a great deal. I just wish there were a B-side to this drama that followed Teacher Kim and Tae-gwang around. What I wouldn’t give for that reset. Get on it, School 2017.
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 15
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 14
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 13
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 12
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 11
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 10
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 9
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 8
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 7
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 6
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 5
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 4
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 3
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 2
- Who Are You–School 2015: Episode 1