Chicago Typewriter: Episode 16 (Final)
Here we are at the last chapter of Chicago Typewriter, where our characters have one final shot to look into their past lives. Words will go beyond the page in this finale as our trio reconciles the truth with the guilt they’ve carried into the present. As we approach the last page of this beautiful tale, I have to ask—does a story ever really end when we carry these characters in our hearts?
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
A tear escapes from Hwi-young’s eye as he breathes his last. Some time later, a box of his possessions is dropped off at Yul’s home where Yul sits in a daze. He opens the chest to find the gold pocket watch, the typewriter, and a letter from Hwi-young.
In it, Hwi-young writes that he decided to leave his three most prized possessions with his friend before leaving to Manchuria. He remembered the day they saw this typewriter for the first time and admits that he was overjoyed when Yul bought him that machine. Knowing that he would never be able to repay his friend’s endless generosity in this lifetime, this typewriter is all he can give him.
Hwi-young has a request, however: “I hope you’ll complete the novel I never finished with this typewriter you gave to me as a gift. Write our story in my stead; our times together, show the world that we lived on this earth, that we lived in a dark reality, that we suffered real pain, that there was hope in the midst of despair, that we chased after happiness in the midst of danger, that we lived our lives and fought with all our strength.”
Clutching his chest, Yul sobs as Hwi-young requests that his friend remain by Soo-hyun’s side and make sure she is never alone again. He regrets that he didn’t tell Yul enough how much he trusted him “so let’s make sure we come out alive to meet again. No, even if we die, let’s meet again.”
Hwi-young writes that he already has a response ready if he’s asked by god if this lifetime was a happy one: “I was happy that I met you two.” If he is praised for his valiant efforts, then he will make a request—should he be lucky enough to be reborn, he wants to be with them again.
At the hospital, Seol is filled in about the heated exchange on the rooftop that led to Se-joo’s fall. She relays the message to Ji-seok and Secretary Kang about having Se-joo tested for internal bleeding, but that’s when Se-joo rises from his hospital bed.
Assuring Ji-seok that he isn’t a ghost, Se-joo tells them the honest truth about how a ghost possessed his body and saved him from certain death. Cue simultaneous open-mouthed reactions, followed by Ji-seok concluding that Se-joo needs psychological help. Ha.
Worried that he might’ve actually killed a man, a frightened Tae-min rushes to his workspace. He grabs his passport (so you can flee the country?) only to find himself face to face with Jin-oh, who sourly remarks that Tae-min looks like he’s seen a ghost.
Now Tae-min remembers that he saw him in Se-joo’s office and yells, “Who on earth are you?” Jin-oh replies that’s the wrong question to ask; given the current circumstances, he should be asking if the man he pushed off the roof, Se-joo, is safe.
Frazzled, Tae-min claims that Se-joo fell of his own accord, but Jin-oh bellows that he should’ve checked if Se-joo survived the fall instead of running away from the scene. Jin-oh doesn’t buy the excuse that Tae-min was in shock and notes that Tae-min tried to do away with him by running him over.
The fact of the matter is Tae-min tried to take two lives today, and Jin-oh lets out a disappointed sigh when Tae-min asks if he has any proof because Tae-min hasn’t changed one bit: “You’ll commit a crime and try to cover it by committing another crime. You make excuses instead of apologies, you forget rather than feel regret. As always, you know nothing of penance.”
Jin-oh grabs him by the lapels, but that triggers his memory of angrily grabbing Young-min in the interrogation room. Tae-min uses that moment to try and escape, but he opens his door to find detectives here to arrest him for kidnapping.
Se-joo and Seol return home with Ji-seok, who still can’t believe that Se-joo survived his fall with a minor head wound. When Seol goes weak from her worries, Se-joo rushes to her side and snaps at Ji-seok to leave. Ji-seok immediately frowns. D’aww.
The pair is hooked up to IVs later that night, and though Se-joo is upset she put Se-joo’s life in danger again, she is grateful that Jin-oh was there to save him. He wonders where their resident ghost has gone, and Jin-oh shows up as if on cue. Seol is worried when Se-joo asks if Jin-oh is still flickering in and out, but Se-joo jokes that their ghost runs on batteries.
Later, Se-joo shares with them how he saw vivid memories of his past life during his fall. His scintillating preview of action, melodrama, and tragedy puts Seol and Jin-oh on the edges of their seats.
We later learn that Se-joo left out a few key details, like who was responsible for Hwi-young taking his own life on that cliff. Seol enters his room just then, and he wryly asks if she’s hoping to sleep with him tonight.
He’s amused when she lets out a nervous giggle and invites her to his bed to chat. She’s still worried about who she shot dead in her past life and asks if he has any theories. He tells her not to worry about whether or not she’ll remember, and she says he only remembers the memories where he comes off looking cool.
Inching toward her, Se-joo shares that Hwi-young’s dying wish to the heavens was to be reunited with his friends in that lifetime. He realizes that prayer was answered because Jin-oh is here and Seol is sitting here before him. Swooooon.
He leans in with the line that he’ll “do something for our homeland” but Seol foils his attempt to kiss her. Seeing him pout, she initiates the goodnight kiss. Stop being adorable.
Jin-oh notices the cracks in his arm deepen and worries if seeing Young-min in his past life means that Young-min was the one who murdered him.
When Tae-min’s parents visit him at the police station, Tae-min’s mother is convinced that her sweet son would never commit a crime and he’s been framed. What else is new, crazy woman.
She sits there spinning ridiculous theories until Tae-min can’t take it anymore and screams at her to quiet down. Writer Baek ushers his shocked wife away to speak to his son alone, but Tae-min softly admits that he ran someone over. He requests a meeting with Se-joo, believing that Se-joo would know who that man was.
Elsewhere, Bang-jin is out grocery shopping with Dae-han when she serendipitously sees Mom stocking the shelves. She surreptitiously takes a photo and sends it to Seol.
Per usual, Ji-seok barges into Se-joo’s house and does an about face when he sees Se-joo and Seol fast asleep in his bed. Putting two and two together, he runs back and trips onto the floor.
Se-joo and Seol wake up from the noise and sit up, surprised to see the other in bed. He wonders when she joined him in bed, to which she counters that it was his idea to stay up talking all night. She fires back that he’d offered to sleep on the couch and wonders when he crawled into bed. Pfft.
That’s when Ji-seok makes his presence known and Seol slips away to check Bang-jin’s text. She gets Mom to meet her that evening and tells her that she’ll decide how to handle the truth of her past life, so it’s Mom’s turn to share her memories.
She knows Mom was the mole who betrayed their group and she was captured by Young-min, but she reminds her mother that she is her daughter, not Soo-hyun. Her past identity may have vowed never to forgive the maternal figure in her life, but that isn’t the case with her.
What she previously couldn’t forgive was how Mom abandoned her, but Seol needs to hear Mom’s side of the tale and that way Mom can move on.
Se-joo and Jin-oh are having a similar conversation at home, where Jin-oh says he wonders why he still can’t remember the details surrounding his own death. Se-joo asks if he has to remember in order to move on into the afterlife, which suggests to Jin-oh that Se-joo does know something.
When Se-joo hedges, Jin-oh presses for more information. Se-joo asks if his friend is prepared to hear the truth, and Jin-oh nods.
Neither of them is aware that Seol has arrived home and can overhear their conversation. After repeating the portion that Yul turned himself in, Se-joo prefaces that what follows is his own theory. He believes Yul succumbed to Young-min’s demands because Yul couldn’t bear to see Soo-hyun suffering.
Jin-oh refuses to accept that possibility, but Se-joo notes that the safe house was raided the day their group was supposed to flee to Manchuria, and the only other person who knew of that location aside from Hwi-young… was Yul.
He repeats that this is merely a theory, but Jin-oh is caught up in the idea of the one who shot him. And that’s when Seol enters the office announcing, “It was me. I was the one who killed Shin Yul.”
She says her mother helped patch the gaps in her memory, and we see that Yul have Soo-hyun released from custody. Given clothes and money, she’s told to live her life however she wished, but she ends up in front of Carpe Diem, which is now boarded up.
She picks up a newsletter that announces Hwi-young’s death and storms into the club to retrieve the Chicago Typewriter. While Yul fulfills Hwi-young’s final wish to continue writing his novel, Young-min re-opens Carpe Diem as a safe house for the Japanese police.
Calling this day the happiest day of his life, he rallies the others to eat and be merry. Just then, a half-masked Soo-hyun crashes the party and fires the submachine gun into the crowd. She shoots down the officers along with the man Young-min uses as a human shield.
She keeps her gun trained on Young-min, who hides behind the bar and picks up a gun. He waits a few moments before rising to his feet, gun in hand, only to find the club empty and the submachine gun lies on the bar counter.
And then Soo-hyun appears from behind pointing a gun at his head. Young-min chuckles, saying that guns aren’t very ladylike. She tells him to put his gun down before she blows his brains out.
Young-min does as he’s told and offers to let her live, but Soo-hyun has nothing to lose now. He says this moment reminds him of Hwi-young’s death, and Soo-hyun responds by shooting him in the temple. Damn.
Once Yul learns that there’s a masked vigilante assassinating those in the name of the youth independence fighters, he heads to the old hideout behind Carpe Diem. Finding the boxes of firearms empty, Yul decides to wait for Soo-hyun here at the club.
Having heard the rumors about a masked assassin, Madam Sophia walks the streets in fear. A rickshaw stops in front of her, and a gun-wielding hand extends out of the carriage. It’s Soo-hyun, who reminds her that those who betray their comrades must be punished.
Madam Sophia cries that she was also deceived and her son died anyway. But it’s too little too late, and Soo-hyun hopes they meet under better circumstances in their next life, then pulls the trigger.
Now we arrive at the moment of truth as Soo-hyun bursts into the old hideout where Yul is busy typing away on the typewriter. Yul is neither surprised by her arrival nor by the gun pointed at his head.
He turns to face her and shares that Hwi-young left behind a gift for the both of them. He believes she should have the gold pocket watch, and when Soo-hyun asks why he betrayed them, he insists that she end it quick.
Angry tears fall from her eyes as she repeats the question, and Yul answers, “Because I couldn’t stand… to see you dying before my eyes.”
Soo-hyun barks back that it shouldn’t have mattered—he shouldn’t have spilled the beans anyway. But Yul hollers, “Comrade Ryu Soo-hyun! Hurry up and execute your mission. That is an order.”
Soo-hyun’s hand shakes as she accepts the order. Pointing out her quivering hand, Yul places a hand over hers to steady her hand, reminiscent of when he first taught her how to shoot. He reminds her to keep her eye on the target and not to be afraid of the recoil.
He orders her to shoot, and when she hesitates, he asks if he should do it himself. Soo-hyun takes a moment to collect herself, which pleases Yul because he can see that cold-hearted look in her eyes again.
He removes his hand and she asks if he has any last words. “Punish me by your hand,” Jin-oh says. “That way, I think I can be at ease.” Just like before, Soo-hyun states the words of execution… and shoots.
As his head falls on the typewriter, Yul apologizes to Hwi-young that he couldn’t keep his promise of remaining by Soo-hyun’s side. He made her cry instead, and he couldn’t complete his novel either.
He vows to fulfill both promises should he be reincarnated “and I’ll do everything I can to protect you two so that you two can be happy.”
After Soo-hyun loudly mourns Yul’s death, she heads to the mountains carrying the pocket watch. She takes refuge in the shade of a large tree surrounded by flowers and closes her eyes.
Hwi-young walks toward her and bends down to softly touch her hair. She opens her eyes and says, “You came back.” Hwi-young: “I said I’d come back.” Tears well up in her eyes as she tells Hwi-young that she killed Yul, who was like a brother, father, friend, and comrade to her.
She blames herself, but Hwi-young wipes away her tears, reminding her that she knows she isn’t responsible for either his death or Yul’s. She asks if he’s going to leave again, and he nods. She touches the corner of his sleeve and asks to go together.
“No,” Hwi-young gently replies. “You need to survive and live to see a liberated Joseon.” She says she’s too sleepy and rests her head. The pocket watch falls out of her hand, and years pass before Seol’s father picks it up.
Shell-shocked, Jin-oh asks Se-joo if he betrayed him, Hwi-young. He then turns to Seol and says he made her, Soo-hyun, get her hands dirty. He realizes that he’s responsible for their deaths, and then the thunder claps and Jin-oh glows before them before falling onto the floor.
Seol calls in Bang-jin’s mother and carefully explains that Jin-oh collapsed from shock. Bang-jin’s mother says Jin-oh’s days are numbered—soon he’ll return to nothingness. She advises that Seol and Se-joo grant their spirit friend his final requests.
Se-joo sits in front of the typewriter, and when Jin-oh walks in moments later, he asks why Jin-oh didn’t say anything. Jin-oh says it wasn’t all bad because now he knows why he voluntarily tied his fate to this typewriter. “I wanted to ask for forgiveness from you both,” he explains. “And to keep my promise to Hwi-young.”
He believes he kept his promise to let Hwi-young have Soo-hyun in their next life, and says that he wants to meet another woman in his next life, words that get Se-joo to chuckle. Se-joo levels with his friend, sharing that Hwi-young trusted his friend to the bitter end even though he knew that Yul betrayed him.
“Hwi-young has already forgiven you,” Se-joo clarifies. “And I have no reason to forgive you… because you’re Yoo Jin-oh, not Shin Yul.” He tells Jin-oh to give the self-pity party a rest and find a way to avoid turning into nothingness.
He asks Se-joo to let him borrow this office so he can fulfill his promise to Hwi-young to finish the novel, then sits with Seol to thank her because her memories completed the puzzle.
She apologizes for causing him pain, but Jin-oh now speaks as Yul: “Soo-hyun-ah. It’s not your fault, you merely did what you had to do back then… so don’t feel guilty anymore. Forget your past and live in the present.”
“Please do the same, Shin Yul hyung-nim,” she replies, “because your betrayal was your way of saving me.” Seol says Soo-hyun knew that; even in the moment that she pulled the trigger, Soo-hyun was both sorry and grateful toward him.
“To me, you were a respectable teacher, a faithful comrade, and a gentle hyung-nim.” She was able to live a magnificent life thanks to him, and she thanks him for taking her in and liking her so much. Moved, Jin-oh softly strokes her hair.
Se-joo agrees to see Tae-min, who leans in to ask who the man he ran over really is. He says that man haunts his dreams and tells him to repent, though he believes he’s done nothing wrong.
“Is admitting your wrongs that hard for you?” Se-joo asks. “Is saying sorry that hard?” He tells Tae-min that there are people who have waited decades hoping to be forgiven or risk their lives to keep silly promises. Life isn’t always filled with rosy days; it’s best to admit your mistakes and move on.
He hopes Tae-min can find value in his life in order to start over. He leaves Tae-min shedding a tear in his wake.
Se-joo returns to a quiet house and searches all over before sighing in relief when Jin-oh appears with a smile.
Now that Jin-oh has completed Hwi-young’s novel, he and Se-joo share a beer together. Jin-oh says it took 83 years to fulfill his promise to his old friend, so Se-joo declares it’s time for Jin-oh to keep his promise to him.
He takes out their first contract and reminds him of the very first clause of living and working together until their novel’s completion: “Han Se-joo and Yoo Jin-oh’s novel isn’t finished yet.”
He plans on saving Jin-oh by writing this novel, and he later lets out a satisfied sigh once he’s done. He makes Jin-oh promise him one thing before letting him read it: for Jin-oh to tie himself to this story he finished because that way Jin-oh can still live on.
He wants Jin-oh to wait inside this novel until Se-joo’s time comes and they are reunited: “Promise me that you’ll come back then.” His eyebrows furrow with concern when the cracks in Jin-oh glow once more, and the three of them head out to a fishing spot, just like Hwi-young wanted once their homeland was liberated.
Seol suggests that they bet on whether or not Jin-oh will be reincarnated, and whoever’s line moves first, wins. Jin-oh is appalled that his friends would gamble with his future, and whereas Se-joo isn’t sure that Jin-oh will be reincarnated, Seol hopes that he will be. Jin-oh bets that he will.
Jin-oh can feel himself start to break, but keeps it together as Se-joo thanks him for pulling him out of his writer’s block, and it was thanks to him that Seol entered his life. Seol excuses herself, and Se-joo thanks Jin-oh for breaking down the walls of his heart.
Se-joo warns, “So don’t you dare disappear again without a word–” but finds the chair empty. Se-joo instructs Jin-oh to send a sign to let him know that he’s still there, but nothing happens.
Seol returns to find Se-joo barking at the empty space and drops her things to hold him. She points out that Jin-oh’s fishing line is moving.
One month later, Se-joo speaks of Yul at a book signing event for the full-length novel of Chicago Typewriter: “He was my muse, a ghost, and my friend who crossed eighty years to get me back on my feet. Miraculously calling me through an antique typewriter, that special time was a pillar of strength enabling us to live in the present.”
He dedicates the novel to his dear friend Jin-oh, and Seol sends him two thumbs up. They go for a stroll that evening, and Seol worries that his fans will feel betrayed if they see them together.
She feels bad about being so happy, and then trips on her shoelace. She says someone must be missing her, and Se-joo bends down and repeats the words he said the first time he tied her shoelace: “There is someone who does. A person who has been waiting for you for almost 100 years. Someone who can’t leave because of a tenacious fate.”
Asking if that person is a mystical being, she wonders what could’ve happened to Jin-oh. Se-joo hopes that he found his way into his novel, and she asks if he’s happy there. Deciding to leave that question up to the coin gods, Se-joo declares that heads means Jin-oh is fine and tails means he failed.
He flips the coin, and they check to see which one it is… and we cut to Hwi-young typing the last few words of his novel in Carpe Diem. He prevents Soo-hyun from trying to catch a sneak preview, telling her that she can buy a copy if she wants to know the ending. Lol.
Footsteps approach, and Yul appears to join his friends, who ask him what took him so long. “I had a dream,” Yul answers, and Soo-hyun jokes that their homeland will never be liberated at this rate.
“Don’t worry,” Yul confidently replies. “Liberation will surely come.” Asked what he dreamt about, Yul thinks, “A dream where you two are living beautiful lives in a liberated Joseon.”
He discovers a picture in his pocket—the one of Se-joo and Seol standing outside Gwanghaemun… which he now appears in. He thinks, “A dream where even for a brief moment, I was with you two… and the hope that we will be reunited sometime in the distant future.”
If I were to describe this finale in one word, it would be this: heavenly. Well, apart from the grueling experience of having to see Hwi-young and Yul’s death more than once. All I wanted from this show’s last moments was to see a glimpse of Hwi-young, Yul, and Soo-hyun together again, so it warms my heart to see the friends live on within the written pages of their own story.
Even if we aren’t told the logistical details of exactly how Jin-oh leapt back into Se-joo’s novel, it’s personally enough for me to know that Yul has rejoined his friends of the past with his conscience wiped clean and looks forward to being reunited with the friends of the present. Being separated from his loved ones would be the greatest negative consequence Jin-oh could face in his will-he-won’t-he-disappear narrative conflict, and when he asked to be forgiven by Se-joo and Seol, I love that they both made it clear that they are not their past selves, but also grateful to Jin-oh because his impact on their lives enabled them to dream of a future.
It’s that sense of hope that was so deeply rooted in the 1930s storyline that captured my heart. There’s no doubt that the Japanese Occupation era was a tumultuous and dark period in history, and yet there’s something powerful about a story that revolved around a group of young voices struggling against injustice and fighting for a day they may never live to see themselves. Even Hwi-young’s parting words carried weight that extends beyond one lifetime, and I can only hope that Soo-hyun did as Hwi-young instructed and lived to see their homeland liberated.
Which brings me to that heart-wrenching confrontation between Soo-hyun and Yul. Many of us guessed that Soo-hyun pulled that trigger, but I don’t think any of us was prepared to watch Yul’s final moments with her to mirror the one memory they both cherished, when he first taught her to shoot. I loved that Yul got a chance to reconcile the circumstances of his death with Seol, and that he was able to work out the guilt he carried for decades.
But that serves to show just how much Se-joo and Seol have matured over the course of this series. The painful memories of their past lives taught them to see the greater picture of what it means to live and how precious life can be. I found the honesty they shared in their romantic relationship and their friendship with Jin-oh to be wonderfully refreshing, since there have been plenty of dramas where misunderstandings are left to fester and the viewers are left frustrated. Even Mom, who betrayed her comrades to save her son (though did she really think that Young-min would keep his promise?) settled things with her daughter, who knew that it was her responsibility to figure out how to handle the truth, not anyone else.
On the production front, I truly loved how the direction enhanced the story that was told. Even when I felt a bit unsure about where this story would go, I held onto the notion that the writing knew where it wanted to take us. And boy, was the payoff worth the wait. Once the emotional ball got rolling, it hardly let us catch our breath. Nearly every word spoken felt important and wanted to teach us something about stories, relationships, or society as a whole. I wouldn’t be surprised if writer Jin Soo-wan wished to use this drama as a platform to explore the ongoing struggles and stressful demands on a writer, because what better chance is there to project those feelings than through an author as your hero?
One of the beautiful things that Chicago Typewriter has done is to shed light on how freedom is an ideal that is hard-earned and that the current generation is privileged to enjoy. Knowing the cost helps us appreciate just how fragile and precious a notion it truly is, and if a fictional tale can stir our hearts, how much more would learning the actual history break our hearts and leave us breathless? In truth, there aren’t enough words to properly describe how this show made me laugh and cry. Let’s just say that Chicago Typewriter hit the bullseye of my heart from its opening chapter to its final page, and my love for it will surely go beyond this lifetime.
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