Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 16 (Final)
Time to say goodbye to Village: Secret of Achiara, which turns out a pretty satisfactory finale episode that not only answers questions of plot but, more importantly, does a good job of reaching emotional closure with our characters as well.
Given that a main character is still dead, perhaps we can’t have a perfectly happy resolution… But if we can’t prevent that death from happening in the first place, next best is giving that life due respect by acknowledging how it really ended, and what that meant to the people closest to her. And perhaps surprisingly, it turns out to have meant more than we might have guessed for some.
SONG OF THE DAY
Ra.D – “엄마” (Mom) [ Download ]
EPISODE 16: “Goodbye, Mom”
The carpenter’s wife recounts witnessing Ji-sook strangling Hye-jin, and So-yoon is stunned speechless.
The cops arrive to follow up with the wife’s story, having checked on the family’s alibi. The wife had visited her family with their daughter, but the carpenter had gone in for emergency dialysis treatment. Ignoring for a moment the logic hole where he forgot he had an alibi when he was insisting on innocence, this means the carpenter couldn’t have been in Achiara that day—so did the wife kill Hye-jin?
As she recounts that day, we see in flashback as the wife and daughter arrive at the mill to pack up the carpenter’s supplies. They measure the daughter’s height, and then she suddenly vomits, sending them rushing out to the hospital. (Hello, another alibi missed?)
When returning to the mill, a strange car is parked in front. Her first thought is fear that Hye-jin brought a reporter with her, having threatened to go public with the story. Instead, she sees Ji-sook throttling Hye-jin in the workshop, and Hye-jin gasps, “Mom… save me…”
Those words make Ji-sook recoil, and she looks at her hands in shock as Hye-jin comes to her feet. Hye-jin cries, “Do you hate me that much? So much you want to kill me?”
But Ji-sook doesn’t look murderous (anymore), and shakes her head, pleading for Hye-jin to stop doing this, and to leave the past buried. Hye-jin asks how she can when he’s the one who wronged them and now lives happily with his family. She insists that he has to suffer the same pain that he dished out.
And then, the carpenter’s wife swoops in and slams a heavy object into the back of Hye-jin’s skull. She drops like a rock. The wife shakes with rage, saying that they’re living diligently now.
Ji-sook trembles violently, shocked, while Hye-jin reaches out with a hand. She can only reach the wooden box, breaking her nail on the lid, and slowly goes limp. It’s the wife who says harshly that it’s better for Ji-sook to cover this up, while Ji-sook gags, then falls to the ground in a crying jag.
So now the story’s out. So-yoon asks angrily why the wife did it, and Woo-jae scoffs at her reasoning that she did it to protect her family.
The wife is taken in for interrogation, where she tells of burying the corpse in the woods with Ji-sook, then burning her purse and disposing of her belongings. Ji-sook had taken an envelope out of Hye-jin’s purse, and although the wife doesn’t know what was inside, So-yoon guesses it contained the hospital business card we’d seen before.
Ji-sook’s in the middle of a photo shoot when the police arrive to arrest her for attempted murder and the concealment of the body. She’s escorted away, protesting all the while.
Assemblyman Seo and Ki-hyun both hear of the arrest, and Ki-hyun urges his father to contact their lawyers right away. But the assemblyman is ready to wash his hands of his wife, saying that he and his mother have known about Ji-sook being Hye-jin’s mother for two years, and kept quiet about it. Now that she’s the source of all this attention, he’s not having it. Ki-hyun looks crushed at his father’s cold response.
In interrogation, Ji-sook is presented with a recording of the call the other day where she tells the wife it’s better to let her husband go to prison than to go herself. That proves she at knew about the wife’s actions, though she insists on her innocence and says they have no proof of her involvement.
When Ki-hyun visits her in custody, he tells her about getting an attorney, and is surprised when Ji-sook seems fixated on less important things—like worrying that her husband still wants to divorce her. She says she’ll be out of here soon, telling him not to worry.
When Ki-hyun asks if anything really happened, Ji-sook leans in closer and whispers, “I only tried to get rid of a monster.”
That night she huddles to herself in the jail cell, and hears Hye-jin’s voice calling out, “Save me.” Grabbing her head, Ji-sook screams and screams.
Ji-sook asks to see So-yoon, who visits the next day. Ji-sook explains that she’d thought Hye-jin would let things drop after she told her of her birth origins, but instead, Hye-jin became determined to track down her father. Ji-sook thought that since Hye-jin had come to her wanting to live, if Ji-sook offered her a kidney, that would put an end to everything.
However, that spurred Hye-jin in the opposite direction, and when Hye-jin saw that hospital card in that envelope, she’d decided to go to the mill and confront her father.
In flashback, we see Hye-jin calling Ji-sook from the carpenter’s workshop, telling Ji-sook that she’s here to end things once and for all today. Ji-sook urges her to leave the mill right away, and when Hye-jin refuses, she rushes over. She freezes at the gates, recalling being lured here as a young girl, spurred now by fear to drag Hye-jin out of danger.
She envisions her childhood self in the workshop and presses Hye-jin to leave right away. But Hye-jin interprets Ji-sook’s panic as a selfish desire to shut her up. She shakes off Ji-sook’s arm and vows to stay and confront the monster, asking why she’s concerned now when she’d coldly rejected her before. “Do you really want to save me?” she asks. “Even though I’m not a human? To you, I’m just a monster.”
Hye-jin gets increasingly worked up as she cries that she feels miserable and pathetic, and is here to get revenge on the man who turned her into a monster. That’s why she’s here: “I’m not trying to hurt you!”
But those words trigger a memory. Ji-sook suddenly sees the carpenter in Hye-jin’s place, telling young Ji-sook, “I’m not trying to hurt you.” Ji-sook screams, confronted with her buried trauma, and shakes with rage. She lunges at Hye-jin and shoves her to the table, hands at her throat, shouting, “You’re a monster!”
It’s only when Hye-jin says “Mom, save me” that Ji-sook comes back to her senses, falling back in alarm.
In the present, Ji-sook tells So-yoon that she just wanted her to disappear, like it hadn’t happened. So-yoon asks what she was thinking when she hid the body.
Ji-sook replies, “I’d better cover it up. Let’s forget everything, like it never happened.”
That’s enough of a confession, and Ji-sook is arrested. Joo-hee visits her sister upon seeing the news, feeling terrible now that she’s heard the whole story. But Ji-sook tells her confidently that she’ll be out soon, since she did nothing wrong. She says she’ll live well, have a baby, and live happily with her family. She warns Joo-hee not to dare pity her, but Joo-hee asks sympathetically how her sister lived all this while bearing such a burden. But Ji-sook seems locked in her denial that everything is fine.
So-yoon checks in on the kids, who are holding up pretty well. Ba-woo is determined to find the real time capsule, thinking that the one they found wasn’t the right one, while Yoo-na sees her mother as sick, rather than a bad person. She asks So-yoon if she hates Ji-sook, and So-yoon answers that while she does, she also feels heartache about her.
So-yoon comes home to find a creepy package at her door: There’s a clown mask inside with a note that reads, “Did Kim Hye-jin merely hate her mother?” She knows it’s Agasshi, and logs onto the web address on the note, which is a foreign chat site.
Agasshi joins her in the chat, asking if she’s happy now that that criminal has been caught. When she says no, he points out how difficult happiness is, and asks if she wants to be happy. He proposes that they meet in person, using that cryptic question about Hye-jin as the lure.
So-yoon is both tempted and wary, and takes it to the police. They outfit her apartment in security cameras and promise to be there anytime she needs.
Ki-hyun brings a lawyer to talk to Ji-sook, who explains how she took Hye-jin’s keys after she died, and went to her place looking to get rid of that DNA evidence. She didn’t find it, but did get rid of a laptop, assuming it would contain damning information. When the lawyer asks if she was afraid of that truth being leaked, Ji-sook insists with wide-eyed innocence, “It wasn’t because I was afraid—it was because it wasn’t true!”
Ji-sook insists she has no relation to Hye-jin, calling her a monster who appeared one day out of nowhere.
The police officer stationed at Agasshi’s shack is approached by a passing vagrant—and doesn’t recognize that it’s Agasshi in disguise until he gets knocked out and tied up. Agasshi rummages through his house for the hidden supplies he’d stashed away, then asks the officer if he wants his pain taken away.
Ki-hyun updates So-yoon on Ji-sook’s condition and psychological evaluation. So-yoon sighs that she wishes Hye-jin had someone with her, the way Ki-hyun is there for Ji-sook, and says it’s heartbreaking to think of her sister dying alone. Still, she can’t shake the feeling that there’s something more to this whole situation, her mind flashing back to Ji-sook’s attempt to take Hye-jin away from the danger at the mill.
When So-yoon gets home, her fortuneteller neighbor informs her she has a package for her—and it isn’t until So-yoon steps inside the door that she sees that the woman has been taken hostage by Agasshi, who holds a loaded syringe to her neck.
With the ladies tied up and subdued, he prepares his drugs, explaining how he’s mixed up a new batch that has great results.
So-yoon tells Agasshi that she has to check in with police every three hours, and that if she doesn’t call them now, they’ll come to check on her. So he allows her to call Woo-jae, and she tells him in very stilted language that she’s totally safe and nothing weird is going on. I’m assuming the check-in was a lie, and Woo-jae finds the call odd enough to suspect Agasshi is involved.
He and Sergeant Han hurry over to So-yoon’s apartment, and when they find nothing, they check the camera footage and see that she went next door. They burst into ajumma’s apartment, but she’s the only one there—Agasshi has taken So-yoon somewhere else.
Seeing the drug supplies laid out, they guess he may have taken her back to his laboratory and move out to the shack. That’s indeed where they’ve relocated, and Agasshi resumes mixing up his drugs while So-yoon surreptitiously tries to untie her bound wrists. She asks what Hye-jin said about her mother, but he says he’ll tell her “once you’re happy.” Then she asks why he began killing, and he replies that Hye-jin had told him her wish was to become happy. He couldn’t do it for her, but promises to do so for So-yoon.
She asks why he never uses the drugs on himself, wondering if he doesn’t want to be happy himself. He scoffs, “What, and die?” That confirms to her that he does know what he’s doing, and she calls bullshit on his “making you happy” line as an excuse to kill people.
He gets upset that she won’t believe that he just wanted to make Hye-jin happy, and when he approaches with a syringe, she shoves him aside with newly freed hands. But he regroups quickly and has her cornered in no time, ready to dose her with his needle.
Thankfully, Woo-jae and Sergeant Han burst in then, and Agasshi backs away from her. He manages to knock Sergeant Han aside and shoves Woo-jae to the floor, and overpowers him with multiple punches. He’s about to stick Woo-jae with his needle when So-yoon grabs one of the dropped guns and points it at Agasshi, shaking with fury and telling him that he deserves to die too.
She looks like she may just pull the trigger, but Sergeant Han leaps in to take down Agasshi and handcuff him, while Woo-jae diverts her gun. The rest of the police arrive to take over the matter, leading Agasshi away just as So-yoon steps in his path to demand an answer. What did Hye-jin say about hating her mother?
Agasshi replies, “How can a child only hate their mother? Not when they yearn so much for her. I was like that, and so was Kim Hye-jin.”
Ki-hyun brings Yoo-na to visit her mother at the jail, and Ji-sook lights up to see her. She assures Yoo-na that she’s fine now, while Yoo-na tells her mother that it’s not a bad thing to be sick, and that Hye-jin would have thought so too.
Ki-hyun wants to get Ji-sook to serve her time in a treatment center, saying that’s what she needs most. So-yoon has decided to return to Canada, and expresses disappointment that the real criminal hasn’t been punished adequately—the carpenter.
A man drops by the police station to fill out an application for gun possession, and Woo-jae compliments him on his expensive shoes. The man says he bought two pairs since the first one got lent and ruined, and when he turns in the form, the name of his business catches Woo-jae’s eye—the fitness center he runs is the same fitness center owned by the deceased Chairman Noh.
Something niggles at Woo-jae’s memory, and he realizes the shoes were the same ones worn by that man found hanging in the meat processing factory. What could this mean?
Elsewhere, Assemblyman Seo meets with… Chairman Noh? Not dead after all? What? The chairman chuckles that he’s returned from the dead and thanks Assemblyman Seo for making it happen.
So-yoon visits Ji-sook one more time to ask about her real reason for going to the mill that day. Ji-sook says it was to stop Hye-jin, but So-yoon has made sense of all the details now, and guesses that Ji-sook really went to save her. She also points out that Ji-sook first looked into kidney donation before Hye-jin had even started looking for her father.
Ji-sook explains that the day after she’d told Hye-jin about her birth origins, Hye-jin had returned to tell her she’d leave her alone. She’d said there wasn’t anything she wanted from Ji-sook, and that the people she’d considered family hadn’t turned out to consider her as such. So she hadn’t sought Ji-sook out because of their blood tie, or even for the transplant: “It’s just, I was so lonely. The feeling of hiding alone in this world… it was so saddening that I thought seeing my mother might make it a little better.”
“But I know now that all that is nothing,” she’d said. “I’m sorry. For being born to you. For being a monster to you. Goodbye, Mom.”
Ji-sook cries recalling this. “I couldn’t accept her,” she says, “But I could save her life. I thought that might be okay.”
So-yoon asks why she didn’t tell Hye-jin this before she’d started on the hunt for the carpenter. Ji-sook asks pitifully, “What if I confused myself and thought of her as my daughter? I didn’t want to let her know that I thought that even for a moment.”
So-yoon replies, “But at the very least, you saw her as a person. Not a monster. If she’d known that, even that alone would have comforted her. And my unni isn’t a monster. She’s our mother and father’s daughter, and she’s my sister.” Ji-sook manages a smile and nod.
Aw, our trusty cops are promoted—Sergeant Han to lieutenant, and Woo-jae to sergeant.
Woo-jae is sad to hear that So-yoon is leaving, though she recognizes that she stirred up a lot of discomfort in her quest for the truth. Woo-jae counters that it doesn’t justify covering up injustice.
Yoo-na and Ba-woo continue to dig in the woods, and finally come upon the real box buried in the dirt. They bring it to So-yoon, who opens the envelope containing Hye-jin’s wish.
Inside she finds an old family photograph with her, Hye-jin, and their parents. The girls wear their matching heart necklaces.
There’s a second photo—of Yoo-na with Ji-sook, taken one day when Hye-jin had walked in on a sweet mother-daughter moment.
It brings So-yoon to tears, thinking of Agasshi’s words: “How could a child only hate their mother? Not when they yearn so much for her.”
It’s a complicated tangle, but finally we unravel enough of the knots to see the truth hidden behind all the secrets and tragedy. The final “twist” wasn’t much of a twist, in learning that Ji-sook wasn’t quite the unfeeling monster she was presented to be, but I credit the actress with doing such a fantastic job acting the conflicting emotions that I could clearly see Ji-sook’s inner turmoil as it unfolded. So when So-yoon figured out that there was more driving Ji-sook’s behavior, it wasn’t a surprise for us, because Shin Eun-kyung had already shown it in the moment.
That’s probably my one lingering disappointment with the show, which had a lot of strengths to recommend it—tight story, ever-changing directions, suspense, chilling cliffhangers—but it was never quite put together as delicately as it wanted to. The direction wasn’t as intricate as the story demanded, so I often felt like we were getting the oversimplified, hit-you-over-the-head version of events.
Sometimes I feel wistful for what could have been if Village had just been produced with a bit more… skill, style, and/or directorial finesse. Its themes and narrative motifs could be quite moving and thought-provoking, but the effect was sometimes compromised with clumsy handling. So-yoon’s character bore the brunt of that mishandling; she had to pull double-duty as our heroine/driving force and also exposition device, and sometimes this resulted in So-yoon just seeming stupid. I do think Moon Geun-young faltered a little in her portrayal, because even with flat writing it should have been possible for a great actor to do something more than what was given on the page, but I can’t blame her too much when it was mostly a writing issue. The same goes for Woo-jae, who was necessary in propelling the investigation onward, but missed some laughably easy leads and jumped to enough wrong conclusions that I couldn’t take him too seriously as a sleuth. You never want to sacrifice a character’s intelligence just to keep the mystery going—you should always make the villain smarter, not the protagonist dumber.
I do think the show had a tendency to get lost on convoluted storylines—I’m still trying to wrap my head around what the whole deal was with the expensive shoes and the fitness center guy and the very-much-alive Chairman Noh. Well, I would still be trying to wrap my head around it if I ever cared in the first place; I only ever paid attention because I figured it was a key clue to the Hye-jin mystery, but now looking back that whole detour was a red herring, and since it is neither relevant to the plot nor interesting, I can’t be bothered to care. I know a mystery has to have some red herrings sprinkled in to keep us guessing, but it kind of feels like they dropped a big thing in our laps in the last moment and ran away snickering, doesn’t it?
I’ll write off the chairman as a negligible plot detail, but I share So-yoon’s chagrin in the carpenter not being given an adequate punishment. He’s been the source of so much misery in this town, and although I’m sure he’ll suffer a little after all this, with his wife gone and all, it does seem he’ll get to live on and stay out of prison, with the rapes past their statute of limitations. Maybe it shouldn’t matter too much what becomes of him because I’m more interested in Ji-sook and everyone around her, but it still feels like an oversight.
All that said, I’m content enough with the last episode, because it chose to end with a poignant emotional resolution rather than a crime whodunnit. Of course I wanted to know the truth of how Hye-jin died, but it was more important that the drama gave us insights into her thoughts and desires; I like that the moment we end on is more of a thematic revelation than a plot one. Rather than seeing Hye-jin in a moment related to her death, we’re given a glimpse into the emotion that become her driving force—the longing for a mother’s love that was both the thing that shaped her whole life and led to her death.
Village wasn’t without numerous flaws, but I appreciate the show for trying something different—for telling a complete story and painting rich characters who didn’t conform to a set of familiar tropes, and for not being afraid to get muddy and gray in its character depictions. It wasn’t a ratings hit, but it rewarded you for paying attention, and made an impact with its complex storyline and commanding performances, with hardly a weak acting job in the bunch. Dramaland would be better off with more shows attempting the same.
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 15
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 14
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 13
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 12
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 11
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 10
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 9
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 8
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 7
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 6
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 5
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 4
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 3
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 2
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 1