Descended From the Sun: Episode 16 (Final)
Cuteness abounds as we watch the soldiers and doctors we’ve grown to adore settle into their lives, finding ways to compromise and love one another despite their occasional clashes. It hasn’t been an easy road, as they’ve struggled to meet in the middle without compromising their own principles. But there are many ways to wage a war, and those battles are worth fighting when the reward is love.
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Shi-jin walks over the dune to Mo-yeon, picking her up when she falls to her knees in her shock at seeing the man she was told was dead. Mo-yeon stammers, “You were dead?!” and Shi-jin hugs her, apologizing tearfully.
Once she accepts that he’s alive, Mo-yeon grows characteristically angry, pushing him away and snapping at him that being alive doesn’t make everything okay. She goes through a gamut of emotions — crying, yelling, calmly saying that she doesn’t need him, then back to hugging him and declaring her love, while Shi-jin patiently waits for her to work it all out.
Over in Uruk, now-Sergeant Ki-bum exclaims over the rare snow they’re getting, and Myung-joo wanders outside to see it up close. As she holds out her hand to catch a snowflake, a figure turns the corner in front of her — it’s Dae-young, injured but also alive.
He stops right in front of her, just looking at her with those eyes, already crying. He says the words that he’s probably been dying to say for a year: “I’m sorry I took so long to reply. We’re not separating. I will never separate from you again.”
Myung-joo weakly beats his chest, sobbing wordlessly, and Dae-young pulls her close for a kiss. She pulls away to hit him some more, and he just takes it, then kisses her again.
Sergeant Kim-bum is confidently in charge of his men, sending them out to the training grounds. But he immediately loses his composure when Dae-young walks into the barracks unannounced, bursting into childlike tears to see his friend and savior alive.
Dae-young indulgently hugs Ki-bum, and teases him for crying in front of his men. He asks how the high school equivalency test went, and Ki-bum squeaks out, “I passed.” Proud, Dae-young smiles and hugs him again.
Later that night Myung-joo gives Dae-young his dog tags back, which she’s been wearing all this time. She cleans him up, shaving him while he watches her intensely, and he promises never to die on her again. Myung-joo doesn’t believe him, though she wants to, because having him come back to her has used up all of her luck.
He tells her that Shi-jin is alive as well, and that as soon as they were able to report that they weren’t dead, they found out where Myung-joo and Mo-yeon were and each went there. Myung-joo asks what really happened on their mission, and he tells her that the enemy militia captured them just before the bombing.
They were kept in a bomb shelter, then a prison cell for several months. We see them, beaten and bloody, saved by a masked man just as their captors came to kill them. The man bends to release them and takes his mask off — it’s Jung-joon! He’s alive, and he came to fulfill his promise to pay Shi-jin back for his help in Seoul.
Shi-jin also tells his story to Mo-yeon, and she fusses at him for breaking his arm again. He just jokes that he’s lucky to have a girlfriend who’s a doctor, and she says that she missed his jokes and hugs him again.
He thinks back on all his injuries, how he’s been shot, stabbed, and beaten in the course of his job. He says that it won’t happen again, and he’s surprised to see the food for his own memorial set out nearby. Mo-yeon suddenly worries, and grabs a nearby volunteer to verify that Shi-jin is really here and not another figment of her imagination.
Satisfied, she offers him the food from his memorial (“It’s meant for you whether you’re a ghost or not.”), and takes a video call from her friends at the hospital while he eats. She turns the phone to find better light, and everyone gapes to see Shi-jin sitting right behind her. Hee, they all assume they’re seeing a ghost, and Sang-hyun actually faints.
Mo-yeon laughs, and when Shi-jin complains that this isn’t funny, she’s all Are you really going to pass up the chance for an awesome joke? They call her back, and Chi-hoon cries as he instructs her to tell Shi-jin’s spirit that she loves him so he can rest in peace.
Mo-yeon giggles at her friends’ histrionics and tells Shi-jin that they’re trying to get rid of him already. He complains that his widdle feelings are hurt, making them all shriek in fright again. Mo-yeon trills that she’ll explain everything when she gets home, and hangs up. Only now does everyone back home realize that that really was Shi-jin, alive and well.
Dae-young and Shi-jin make their way home, and before they can even salute Lieutenant General Yoon, he grabs them both in a giant hug and thanks them for coming home safely. Even Lieutenant (now Colonel) Park can’t make it through his grumpy speech before bursting into tears.
All attempt at formality is abandoned when Team Alpha come screaming up to grab Shi-jin and Dae-young in a group bear hug. Miffed at being left out, Colonel Park orders Shi-jin and Dae-young to write up their report in excruciating detail, and the rest of Team Alpha hilariously bail on them.
Shi-jin lets Dae-young do all the work while he offers ideas to spice up their story (Dae-young: It’s not like they’ll write to the enemy militia for confirmation!). They decide to base their embellished story on the Bourne movies, and Shi-jin skips out leaving Dae-young to do all the work. He says it’s because his girlfriend is here and Dae-young’s is still in Uruk, which, ouch.
He takes Mo-yeon to their coffee shop and asks if she remembers dumping him here, and she says that she might do it again today. She asks seriously if he plans to continue going to “the department store,” and he responds that no soldier plans to become a dead hero. Mo-yeon takes that as a Yes, but she tells Shi-jin that she won’t object.
Even though he’ll always feel sorry and she’ll always hate him for it, she says that she’ll support him. It’s her way of fighting for peace — his peace. Shi-jin apologizes that all he can do is be sorry, and to cheer him up, Mo-yeon asks him to go fishing with her tomorrow.
So they go, and while Shi-jin is finally getting the relaxing fishing trip he’s wanted, Mo-yeon complains that she’s bored. She wants to do something else, but Shi-jin objects to her ideas, and has one of his own. He chirps that they have a tent right there, and suggests that they take a break. Ha, he’s practically waggling his eyebrows at her.
Shi-jin’s big plans are foiled when Mo-yeon actually catches a fish, and he goes adorably squeamish when it comes time to clean it. Mo-yeon handles with with surgical precision, laughing at Shi-jin’s cute shivers.
That night they lay in the tent, while Mo-yeon looks up nearby hotels on her phone (so much PPL, ugh). She shows him the white stone she still has from their beach and says that this got her through the year of thinking he was dead. She thought that if she could go back and replace it on the beach, she could finally forget him. Over and over she bought plane tickets and canceled them, never able to actually do it.
Shi-jin starts to scoot over to her side of the tent, and when she doesn’t push him away, he tries for a kiss. Mo-yeon shoots him down, petting him on the head like a little kid, while he whines that she’s too hard to get. I’ll say.
Dae-young calls Myung-joo to complain about his report, but really just to hear her voice. She tells him that she’s asked Ki-bum so often if he’s really back, that now Ki-bum just says, “It’s not a dream, he really is back,” every morning as soon as he sees her, ha. Still, she can’t relax unless she hears Dae-young’s voice.
Dae-young invites her to call him any time, though tomorrow he’s escorting a VIP. In fact all of Alpha Team is on the job, though they argue whether it’s Dae-young’s or Shi-jin’s job to actually escort whoever it is.
Ha, it turns out to be girl idol group Red Velvet, who are entertaining the troops today. No wonder the boys were fighting. Dae-young even dances along as they perform their hit song “Dumb Dumb,” and Shi-jin holds up a fan sign that says “Red Velvet is sweeter than my girlfriend.” You better hope your girlfriend doesn’t see that, buddy.
Which is exactly what happens, when Mo-yeon gets a gander at a fan video featuring Red Velvet’s performance. And there’s her man, fanboying all over them.
While getting ready for her television show, she asks the host to ask her if she has a boyfriend. When she does, and Mo-yeon makes a point to innocently say that she’s much too busy for a boyfriend. Shi-jin gets all huffy, and Mo-yeon breezily says that since he was acting like he didn’t have a girlfriend, she just figured they weren’t together.
She’s even tattled to Myung-joo, who gives Dae-young an earful the next time she calls him. Both men try to justify that it was just awkward editing, and that they were actually cheering for their battalion commander. Yeah, right.
Dae-young tries flattery, while Shi-jin falls back on his charm, not that either tactic works. What does work on Mo-yeon is the news that Shi-jin is being promoted to squadron leader, and Shi-jin teases her for being a little too happy about the boost in pay.
Mo-yeon narrates as Shi-jin receives his promotion, then leaves and returns from another mission, that she’s in love with a squadron leader who protects women, children and the elderly. She’s now the most famous doctor at Haesung Hospital, and it looks as though she’s finally been given that instructor position she’s wanted.
Myung-joo comes home from Uruk, and tells Dae-young that she’s spent her time there deciding exactly how to kill him. He obediently hangs his head, until she says that all that thinking of him just made her miss him that much more, and he risks a glance up at her. He’s entirely too adorable.
He suggests that they go see her father tomorrow, though he’s decided that he won’t leave the army. He’s fully prepared to tell her father so, which makes Myung-joo so happy she forgets all about being upset with him.
So they stand in front of Lieutenant General Yoon, hand in hand, until Myung-joo throws a wrench into the whole thing: “Father, I’m pregnant.” At Yoon’s glare, Dae-young stammers that it’s not true, and he stage-whispers to Myung-joo, asking if she planned this. She just says that she decided it’s best to go on the attack.
Confused, Yoon sits them down to get the straight story, insisting that his daughter let Dae-young speak for once. He respectfully tells Yoon that he can’t keep his promise to leave the army. Even while he was locked up and tortured, he never once regretted becoming a soldier, and he doesn’t believe that his country should lose a soldier like that.
He promises to find another way to gain Yoon’s approval, but Myung-joo’s father says that he’s already proud to call Dae-young “son-in-law.” He tells them that he had already decided on the day that Dae-young left to approve their relationship, and that he spent a year regretting letting him go.
Myung-joo’s face shines when she tells Mo-yeon that they finally received her father’s blessing, but that’s not why she came to see her. She delivers a Christmas card from Fatima, who’s been studying Korean and has decided that she wants to become a doctor.
Chi-hoon borrows Sang-hyun’s laptop to show everyone the video that Myung-joo made him from Uruk. Chi-hoon’s little friend finally got his goat, which bleats when he finally tells them his real name. Poor Chi-hoon, he’s never going to learn the kid’s name.
Curious, Ja-ae decides to see what’s really on that file Sang-hyun is so nervous about. It’s full of pictures, but they’re not porn as she suspected — it’s pictures of one person, a girl, and the photos range from her childhood to adulthood. Every single picture is of Ja-ae.
A little stunned, Ja-ae wanders through the hospital halls like a ghost, until a visitor knocks her down and Sang-hyun comes running to help her up. He sits her down and tells her to rest, and says that he knows she looked in his secret folder.
Ja-ae apparently threw it in the trash folder, because “you said you wanted it deleted.” She asks why he has those pictures in the first place, and he says it’s his proposal, his proof that he’s loved her since they were kids together.
Ja-ae thinks he just feels pity for her, but Sang-hyun says that he knows what he feels, and it’s love. Ja-ae tells him to stop, that he doesn’t need to convince her any more, and that she’ll confess or whatever he wants after she finishes paying him back the money he loaned her. Then she runs off “to earn money,” hiding her shy little smile.
Mo-yeon names her new car Big Boss, and she instructs Shi-jin to drive somewhere secret, to his confusion. Mo-yeon explains that she’s scared to drive Big Boss, since she tends to destroy cars, and they head to a car wash where she makes him wash the car, too.
Mo-yeon gets out to help and immediately blasts Shi-jin in the face with water, and she gives him her coat, joking that she can see through his clothes like he did to her once. Shi-jin takes advantage and snuggles up to her, claiming to be freezing.
Dae-young and Myung-joo have lunch at the base headquarters, where he complains that she’s torturing him — by playing footsie with him under the table. She says she’ll leave him alone if he’ll visit her in the medical area, then loads up his plate with her own food to give him indigestion.
She gives him an invitation she received to Ye-hwa and Daniel’s wedding in Canada, and we see that the entire Uruk medical team have also been invited. Ha, the women are all upset, having been told they were only colleagues, just now learning that Ye-hwa is snapping up the handsome doctor.
Dae-young is confused, since he thought they were married already. Myung-joo explains that Daniel once had to pretend to be her husband to gain her political asylum, which saved her life.
Dae-young asks if Myung-joo ever read his final letter to her, and when she says she didn’t, he calls her a coward. He continues and we realize that he’s reciting it by heart: “If you’re reading this will, I, the cowardly one, will remain as a painful memory until the end. Don’t forgive me, and as much as I always thought of you, I hope you live a happy life. I love you with all my heart, Yoon Myung-joo. That will never change, whether I live or die.”
Myung-joo doesn’t believe that he’s really memorized his letter, and takes it from her pocket to prove it. But it’s true, and she gasps as she reads the words that he just said, perfect down to the last word. He tells Myung-joo that he wrote that letter a hundred times, and the whole cafeteria catcalls until he snaps them to attention.
Dae-young stands, and orders anyone of lower rank than himself to close their eyes. They do, and he leans down to kiss Myung-joo’s forehead while those of higher rank continue their Oooohs.
So Myung-joo stands and issues the same order, which gets everyone in the room to close their eyes, including Dae-young. She plants a real kiss on him, and every soldier defies orders and cheers them on.
Shi-jin and Mo-yeon share some beers at her apartment, where Mo-yeon tells him that she still donates monthly to Daniel’s cause as repayment for dropping his car in the ocean. He gives her a hard time about her schooling, and she wonders when he plans to go home, ha.
She thinks about what it means to take vows like her doctor’s vows, and narrates that there are a lot of words that stay in your heart. We see a new doctor taking her vows, and a new crop of Special Forces soldiers taking their vows to their country. We get a montage of the doctors and soldiers in Uruk, upholding their vows even when it means their lives were at stake.
Mo-yeon calls in her promise to whisk Shi-jin away at a moment’s notice, and they hop on a plane to Uruk. They finally visit their beach and replace their stone, and Mo-yeon teases that since Shi-jin lived, she lost her chance to come here with a different man.
They stay to watch the sunset and Shi-jin grows serious, refusing to share Mo-yeon’s wine because he’ll have to drive the boat back. Mo-yeon snarls that they have to go back at all, but she offers him another way to taste the wine. Rawr?
She admits that she was nervous when he kissed her that first time, and Shi-jin says that he’s nervous right now, at a beach with wine and a beautiful woman. They look up to see a shooting star and Shi-jin asks if Mo-yeon made a wish, and tells her that his wish is sitting right next to him.
She urges him to continue, and he says that she’s shining brightly, which brightened up his life. He wonders softly how such a woman became his, and she jokes that he must have been a soldier in his previous life and saved the nation. Which means that they’ll date in their next lives again, since he’s still saving the nation.
Shi-jin asks again what Mo-yeon wished for, and she says that she wished for a kiss. Shi-jin is more than happy to make her wish come true, only pulling away long enough for them to exchange “I love yous,” then going right back for more.
Everyone heads to Canada for Ye-hwa and Daniel’s wedding, and HAHA, Dae-young caught the bouquet. He looks at it fiercely, refusing to put it away when Shi-jin complains.
Chi-hoon breaks the fourth wall, asking the audience if they like endings like this. Everyone overcame life’s difficulties with love, and lived happily ever after. Suddenly the lights go out and everyone wonders out loud what’s wrong with the scene, and when the lights come back up a waitress comes running in to shriek that there’s been a volcano eruption.
The guests flee while the soldiers and doctors just hang their heads, then start preparing for another disaster. Dae-young says he should have taken that discharge, Myung-joo wipes off her lipstick, and Ja-ae puts her hair up. Mo-yeon tells her pretty heels to prepare to be destroyed, and Shi-jin loosens his tie, already dreading the report he’ll have to write.
That ending was both odd and amusing, but I have to admit that I found the tongue-in-cheek poke at the overwrought dramatic happenings everywhere these people go to be pretty damn funny. By this point it’s too late to expect realism, so we may as well go with the obvious laugh.
I thought that both couples were given good, strong endings, showing how much they grew and proving that they’ll all have happy futures together. Dae-young’s decision to remain in the military, and Myung-joo’s father’s approval of him based only on his merits as a good man and a good soldier, especially got me right in the heart. Dae-young has never wanted anything but to be seen as worthy of Myung-joo, and to earn that regard honestly and sincerely meant a lot to him. We don’t know a lot about his past, but I have the feeling that being respected isn’t something he got a lot of growing up. You could see that having a father figure see him as a good man means the world to him.
Mo-yeon and Shi-jin’s relationship didn’t have as much angst, but that can be a good thing. They only had their self-inflicted hurdles to conquer, and both being people of strong moral convictions, that wasn’t an easy task. But they found a way to make it work with a little compromise and a lot of understanding, and I actually appreciated that their personal love story was simple and clear.
I worried for a while there that Shi-jin would quit his career, but regardless of the danger it puts him in and the worry it causes Mo-yeon, I’m happy that he didn’t. He’s said from the beginning that he believes in fighting for peace, and I respect that even after his year-long ordeal, his beliefs still hold strong. He has no intention of dying, but he’s not willing to give up the fight, not even for love.
And it’s a testament to Mo-yeon’s growth as a character that this time, she accepts his answer and decides to stay with him, even if it might mean losing him again. She knows now that Myung-joo is right — the only thing worse than losing the man you love, is not letting yourself love him while you can. She’s found a way to help Shi-jin, by being his peace when he’s home, and she’s content to be that for him, which is beautiful.
I also adored the friendships, particularly Shi-jin and Dae-young, and Myung-joo and Mo-yeon. The bromance between the soldiers was alternately adorable and heart-rending, as they proved that not only did they genuinely like each other, but they loved each other enough to lay down their life for their friend. Mo-yeon and Myung-joo started out as bitter rivals, but also learned, through their love for their soldiers, to put those things aside and learn to respect and even like each other. Again, I love that nothing ever really threatened those relationships but their own behavior, and that in the end, the friendships all came out the stronger for their struggles.
I do admit that I’m a little disappointed in the nice neat bow everything was tied up in. It’s not that I wish for Shi-jin’s or Dae-young’s death — the drama-lover in me wants everyone to have their romantic happy ending, naturally. It’s just that, again, the show deprived us of some pretty rich emotional moments by making both of it’s main male characters practically immortal. I think back to a particular King and his Earnest Bot, and while their story nearly killed me, it was realistic, and paved the way for some incredibly poignant moments and growth for those who were left behind. It’s just that Descended From the Sun had such potential to be great, and fell short by shooting itself (literally) in the foot, and not letting us feel any real fear or grief because we knew that the boys were coming back. They always came back — there were never any true consequences when they went off for another dangerous mission.
I’ve thought about it for weeks, and I think that the major weakness of Descended is that it set up some pretty heavy-duty background for the main story, yet the main story never elevated itself beyond the typical romance stories we see in other dramas. For a drama set in a war zone, I expected a lot more realistic situations, yet even the events like the earthquake and Shi-jin and Dae-young’s repeated threats to their lives never landed with any more gravity than moments in dramas with much lower stakes. My expectation was of a grand, sweeping show with a lot of angst and drawn-out plot lines, but what we got instead felt like a series of vignettes about life as a doctor and a soldier. Every plot point was solved within an episode and a half, so we never got to feel any real fear that there was any real danger.
And what really irks is that I could see the potential for better, in some of the characters and situations. Take North Korean soldier Jung-joon for example. His story arced over the entire length of the show — when he showed up he made a splash, then he’d fade back just long enough for us to forget him, then BAM, there he was again. Because he was allowed to be mysterious and sometimes lurk in the background, the impact of his appearances carried a lot more weight. When he showed up to rescue Shi-jin and Dae-young, it was a truly exciting surprise. There were several characters who hinted at the possibility of more, such as Daniel, Fatima, and Ye-hwa — just imagine if more of the characters had been handled like Jung-joon’s character was handled… we would have been truly blown away.
But as I’ve said before, it’s the characters and their wonderful relationships that really made this show a success, and despite my complaints about what could have been, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Honestly, recapping a show does make you analyze a bit more harshly than you might otherwise, but the part of me that’s just a regular viewer has completely loved this journey, and is willing to remember the show while overlooking the flaws and plot holes. For me, the most important thing that makes or breaks a drama is the characters, and in that sense, Descended From the Sun exceeded all of my expectations. There were no stock-drama-trope characters, no messy annoying love triangles, just genuine, flawed (in a good way!) people trying their best to love one another in a difficult situation. The men were respectful and adoring, the women were strong and capable and stood up for their beliefs, and the friendships were loving and lasting. In that sense the show exceeded expectations, and that’s what I’ll carry away with me.
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 15
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 14
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 13
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 12
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 11
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 10
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 9
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 8
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 7
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 6
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 5
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 4
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 3
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 2
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 1