Circle: Episode 12 (Final)
The two worlds have collided, and the disparate timelines have merged. Now, all that remains is for our heroes to find a way to defeat the all-powerful Human B and escape Smart Earth with their lives and memories intact. Tall order? Maybe. But this group of loyal, stubborn friends have stuck to their guns through years of loneliness and oppression. Now that they’re together, nothing will stop them from giving the evil corporation running Smart Earth a run for their money.
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Running from Professor Park and his goons, Woo-jin comes out of the woods and stumbles straight into the path of an oncoming car. It hits him at high speed, and he goes hurtling through the air before falling hard on the asphalt.
As blood pools under his head, he reaches toward the broken star as he thinks of his brother and Jung-yeon. The alien cube that powered the device dims as the life ebbs out of Woo-jin.
Sometime later, Woo-jin lies in a coma in a hospital room, the cube in a glass box on the side table. Professor Park stares at his unmoving body, while Sunbae Lee sits by the door with his head clasped in his hands. The surgeon who operated on Bum-gyun and Min-young arrives and tells the professor that it’s uncertain whether either will wake up any time soon, or if they will even retain their memories.
Min-young wakes up though, and the first person she asks about is Bum-gyun. Chief Hong takes her to the boy and tells her that they don’t know when or if he will ever wake up. Leaving her by Bum-gyun’s side, Chief Hong emerges from the room and receives an email from Woo-jin. In it, Woo-jin tells Chief Hong to give Bum-gyun the memory footage stored in a hard drive, in case he doesn’t regain his own.
Chief Hong finds the external hard drive in Woo-jin’s backpack and tries to call Woo-jin, only to hear his voicemail. Just then, Chief Hong gets a call from his superior telling him that he’s been transferred to the Cyber Crimes Unit.
Min-young runs out of the hospital room and says that she also just received a pre-scheduled email from Woo-jin that told her he wouldn’t be able to return. “I feel like something bad happened to Woo-jin,” Chief Hong concludes worriedly.
Jung-yeon gets to a safe place and plugs in her phone to her laptop. Going through the images on her phone, she comes across the one she and Woo-jin had laughed over. Remembering how she’d told him to smile more, Jung-yeon tears up in the present.
Suddenly, an email notification pops up, and Jung-yeon gets her own pre-scheduled email from Woo-jin. In it is another video of Woo-jin, but this time, he says that if he isn’t back by now, then his plan must have failed. He tells her to hide and never look for him.
Even as Jung-yeon shakes her head, Woo-jin says he knows that it would go against the grain for her. But he adds that if she doesn’t protect herself, then she would be wasting his sacrifice as well as Byul’s.
As tears stream down Jung-yeon’s face, Video Woo-jin tells her that he’ll definitely come back to her and Bum-gyun — it’ll just take him a little longer than he’d expected. “Wait just a little bit longer,” Woo-jin says, adding a small, reassuring smile.
We return to 2037, and to the scene that ended the last episode as Woo-jin remembers what he’d said to Bum-gyun back in the hospital room: “Hyung, I’m scared. I’ll.. be back.”
With tears streaming down his face, Joon-hyuk asks if Woo-jin was leaving to meet Professor Park when he said those words to him. “Were you going to trade my surgery for dad’s research? Is that what you were scared of?” Joon-hyuk asks.
Sobbing with grief, Joon-hyuk apologizes for letting Woo-jin go alone and pulls his little brother into a hug. While Woo-jin resists at first, still believing himself to be a clone, his face crumples up as he hugs Joon-hyuk back.
Dong-soo runs into the church and tells everyone that Joon-hyuk and Woo-jin are nowhere to be found. He wonders if Joon-hyuk could have done something to Woo-jin, which makes Jung-yeon run out to look for them.
While everyone else panics inside, the two brothers are busy catching up on a bench outside. Joon-hyuk tells Woo-jin that he’s forty-one years old now and rues that he wasted his youth looking for his younger sibling.
Narrowing his eyes, Woo-jin wonders if his brother still hasn’t ever dated anyone. Joon-hyuk sputters, then points out that Woo-jin hasn’t, either. (Ha. I think Woo-jin has a better excuse though.)
Jung-yeon finds them at the bench and sighs in relief as the two turn to her with smiling faces. Joon-hyuk slings his arm around his little brother and familiarly tousles his hair while Jung-yeon looks on, smiling. Aw.
The trio walks back into the church, and this time, it’s Joon-hyuk who says that he won’t be giving up Woo-jin to Human B. “He has Woo-jin’s memories, so he’s Woo-jin, no matter what anyone says,” Joon-hyuk asserts.
Dong-soo comes forward and pouts that his teacher is still so baby-faced. Woo-jin asks him if he studied hard, and Dong-soo says that he didn’t, but adds that he lives a “crime-free” life now using computers. Pfft.
Seeing how friendly Joon-hyuk is with Dong-soo, Woo-jin asks how they know each other, and Joon-hyuk explains that he’d saved Dong-soo’s life years ago. In a flashback, we see that teenaged Dong-soo was about to enter Professor Han’s blood donation van when he had been dragged away by Bum-gyun. When Dong-soo wasn’t convinced by Bum-gyun’s talk of an “alien conspiracy,” Bum-gyun paid him cash money to avoid the van (and thus, avoid a bug in his brain).
In the present, Dong-soo admits that he later found out that the Bum-gyun who saved him then is the Joon-hyuk they know now, complaining that Joon-hyuk has used that favor to torment him for years, ha. He turns to Joon-hyuk to ask if he can leave now that Joon-hyuk has found his brother, but Joon-hyuk just deadpans that Dong-soo can go after he performs seven more favors for him. (Dong-soo: “Why does that number never decrease?!”)
Chief Hong asks Woo-jin what happened that night twenty years ago, and Joon-hyuk explains that Woo-jin had lied about the research to save their lives. Chief Hong realizes that they were right about their assumptions: Woo-jin had been used to run the supercomputer with the help of Byul’s memory device.
Joon-hyuk tells them that they now have to choose between making the perfect escape, or taking Human B down for good. For his part, Woo-jin refuses to run away, explaining that the world turned out this way because he tried to run away twenty years ago. Joon-hyuk agrees, which whittles down their options to one: take Human B down.
Inside Human B, Deputy Chief Lee becomes visibly nervous when Minister Park calls in the SWAT team to deal with the “terrorists” on Smart Earth. Deputy Chief Lee worries that the SWAT team will cause unrest among the citizens, but Minister Park is past the point of caring.
Even as Minister Park becomes aware of Lee’s doubts, Secretary Shin comes in and informs them that they don’t have enough doctors to attend to the many citizens suffering from pain because of their emerging memories. Minister Park directs her to call in doctors from Ordinary Earth and to tell the citizens that their pain is the work of the terrorists.
We then see the cube that used to be in Byul’s star attached to the wall. On the other side of the wall is the empty room where Woo-jin had been comatose all this time.
As the number of aggrieved citizens with headaches grows outside Human B, Mayor Yoon lies with his eyes open in his hospital room.
Dong-soo intercepts a radio message about the arriving SWAT team, and Detective Oh worries that if Jung-yeon and Woo-jin will be apprehended, the rest of them will be shot on sight.
Joon-hyuk says that they need evidence that will prove that Minister Park has control of both Human B and Smart Earth. Chief Hong says that it would be impossible to get to any such evidence, but Jung-yeon points out that there is one person who could help them: Mayor Yoon.
She explains that only Bluebird or Human B could have erased Mayor Yoon’s memories, and since she didn’t do it, then Human B must have because he learned something they didn’t want him to know.
The group is energized at this realization, but Jung-yeon knows that it won’t be easy with Mayor Yoon in a guarded medical center. They can see no way to get in, until Dong-soo’s radio crackles with the order for Ordinary Earth doctors to be allowed into Smart Earth. With that revelation, Joon-hyuk says that there is only one person who can get in there without getting caught.
Cut to: Min-young heading through Smart Earth security after identifying herself as a doctor. She gets into the medical center with ease and walks straight up to a heavily guarded corridor, where she ducks out of sight to survey the area.
An anonymous caller tips Minister Park off about the fugitives hiding at the church, and Deputy Chief Lee alerts the SWAT team. Even as Minister Park begins to look smug, Deputy Chief Lee asks hesitantly if the other four must be shot on sight.
Minister Park asks what else should be done with them, and Deputy Chief Lee says that killing them would be going too far. With narrowed eyes, Minister Park reminds Lee that he was the one who killed Woo-jin all those years ago. Deputy Chief Lee defends that it was only an accident, though Minister Park calls even that into question before asking his old pupil to be patient just a little longer.
The SWAT team surrounds the church and searches every corner until someone shouts that they’ve found something. As they drag Woo-jin out, we see Joon-hyuk explain his plan in flashback: He says that there is one person who can safely get into the hospital, but Dong-soo asks what the point would be in getting to Mayor Yoon if the person needed to run the supercomputer (Woo-jin) remains here.
Woo-jin volunteers to go, so Detective Oh makes the call that tips off Minister Park. They estimate that it will take about forty-five minutes from the moment of apprehension to Woo-jin being reconnected to Human B, which means they only have forty-five minutes to reach the mayor and hack into Human B.
In the present, Minister Park is notified that Woo-jin has been caught and orders him to be brought to the 99th floor. The moment they push Woo-jin into his old room, the cube in the wall lights up, and the whole building powers up again. In the control room, the technicians are taken aback when the supercomputer boots up again, seemingly by itself.
Minister Park smiles slyly at Woo-jin as he asks why he was left behind: “Did they say that you weren’t Woo-jin?” He advises Woo-jin to just accept that he’s Circle 8-III and tell him where Jung-yeon is. Woo-jin denies knowing her whereabouts, but Minister Park simply smiles and calls someone to check Woo-jin’s memories as soon as the computer is back online.
Woo-jin grits his teeth and quietly prays for his team to hurry. In the health center, Min-young checks the time and walks confidently into the guarded corridor. Seeing her ID, the guards let her in to check on the mayor, and Min-young takes the opportunity to inject a sedative into Mayor Yoon’s veins. Then, she calls out for help, claiming that Mayor Yoon needs to be taken in for a CT scan immediately.
The guards put him on a gurney and get into an elevator with her. As the elevator stops on the third floor, Chief Hong, Detective Oh, and Dong-soo enter in patient garbs and wait until the elevator descends to attack the guards inside.
After the guards are dispensed with, Chief Hong grins triumphantly at Min-young and turns around, leaving him unaware when a guard pops back up behind him. Luckily, Min-young still has her handy pink taser, and she tazes the guard down, leaving all the men shocked.
The news of Mayor Yoon’s kidnapping reaches Minister Park, and he immediately realizes that something is off. Thinking about it for a moment, he turns to Woo-jin and asks him if he got caught on purpose. Only now does he figure out that they needed Woo-jin to connect to the supercomputer so that they could look through the mayor’s memories to find evidence against him.
Deputy Chief Lee suggests disconnecting Woo-jin from the supercomputer, but Minister Park is confident that they can replay Woo-jin’s memories faster than Bluebird can hack into Mayor Yoon’s chip. As they leave the room, Woo-jin thinks back to their plans in the church.
We flash back to see that Dong-soo had pointed out that as soon as Minister Park played back Woo-jin’s memories, their whole plan would be laid bare. Everyone realizes that this is true, but Joon-hyuk says that this is the only plan they have for now, adding that they’d have to take the chance that Minister Park wouldn’t play back Woo-jin’s memories.
In the present, Woo-jin grimaces and urges his brother to hurry as Minister Park and the deputy chief reach the control room and send all the technicians out. The minister orders the memory footage played and watches as Joon-hyuk tells his team where they will meet with Mayor Yoon while he and Jung-yeon ready the place to hack into the mayor’s memories.
Minister Park has the supercomputer disconnected from Woo-jin, and the entire building plunges into darkness once again. He orders Deputy Chief Lee to go and apprehend Jung-yeon, and while Lee agrees, he looks less than enthusiastic.
On his way to the location, the deputy chief tells Secretary Shin that they need to finish this without anyone ending up dead. But when they reach the warehouse Joon-hyuk mentioned in the memory file, they find it empty.
And back at Human B, the building lights up again as the supercomputer comes alive.
Minister Park sends his minion to see what’s going on while Woo-jin smiles in relief before leveling a glare at Park. And we see why he was smiling as we cut to the control room, where the head technician sits tied on the floor as Jung-yeon and Joon-hyuk work one of the consoles.
Up on the 99th floor, Woo-jin asks Minister Park, “Did you say you can see everything in our memory footage?” But Woo-jin already knows the answer as he notes triumphantly, “Even if you can see into my memory, you can’t experience it.”
We flash back to the church once again, when everyone had realized that their plan would be exposed the moment Minister Park replays Woo-jin’s memories. Just then, we hear a series of knocks.
Joon-hyuk looks over at Woo-jin, who raps out a tattoo against the wood of the benches. They both think back to their childhood games of deciphering Morse code messages from each other, and Joon-hyuk understands what Woo-jin’s saying in code: “Let’s use this method. Trick me.”
Joon-hyuk takes Jung-yeon outside and tells her the real plan. Fast forwarding to five hours from the present, we see Min-young entering Smart Earth with a suitcase, which is smoothly swiped by Dong-soo as he walks past her. Joon-hyuk and Jung-yeon open the suitcase to reveal SWAT team gear.
So, when the real SWAT team arrives at the church to find the fugitives, we see Woo-jin hiding in a smaller room along with Jung-yeon and Joon-hyuk, who were dressed as members of the SWAT team.
Upon hearing the real SWAT team grow closer, both Joon-hyuk and Jung-yeon had pulled down their masks and acted as though they—ordinary members of the team—had just found Woo-jin.
Mingling with the other SWAT team members, the two get are able to get inside Human B and quietly separate from the rest of the team as soon as chance permits. Getting into the stairwell, they take off their masks and arm their guns.
Thirty minutes before the present, Detective Oh carries the mayor down to the health center’s basement as Dong-soo uses his radio to sound the alarm that Mayor Yoon has been kidnapped.
Then, ten minutes before the present, Minister Park finishes watching the footage and orders the supercomputer disconnected from Woo-jin. They did this by powering down the building, which made it easy for Jung-yeon and Joon-hyuk to enter the control room as soon as the minister left.
Now, even as Minister Park realizes that Jung-yeon must be in the control room and yells for security to be sent there, his minion hands him his phone. The footage playing on it is from Mayor Yoon’s last moments. (Oh. Snap.)
In the video, Minister Park asks the mayor what would be the easiest way to silence Joon-hyuk and answers his own question: “Block his memories.” As he reveals himself as the CEO of Human B whose chip is inside the mayor’s head, the footage is sent to every phone and television on Smart Earth.
Everyone from Secretary Shin to the normal citizens of Smart Earth are taken aback by Minister Park’s duplicity. Everywhere in Smart Earth, Stable Care Chips turn livid red in the necks of all the people who watch the minister gloat about his power on screen, and that’s even before Minister Park makes the call that would erase all Mayor Yoon’s memories.
Woo-jin looks at Minister Park in his room and scoffs, “What will we do now? Everyone knows.” The minister throws away the phone in rage.
Ho-soo watches the footage with his superior standing beside him. He turns to the man, who now believes his claims, and tells him that Minister Park must be arrested. Borrowing his superior’s phone, Ho-soo calls Joon-hyuk, who tells him that he needs a favor.
Up on the 99th Floor of Human B, Minister Park is having a panic attack as more and more people in power call his phone. Woo-jin just smiles even as Minister Park loses it and calls for his private helicopter. Wherever he’s going, he plans to take Woo-jin with him.
Minister Park goes out to where the memory device is safely ensconced inside a glass box and takes the cube out. As Joon-hyuk and Jung-yeon reach the 99th floor, they hear Woo-jin being dragged into the corridor and follow the minister and Woo-jin up the staircase to the helipad on the roof.
As Joon-hyuk and Jung-yeon make it onto the helipad with their guns aimed straight for Minister Park, their enemy just laughs at their effort as he wonders why they’re trying so hard to save a clone. When Joon-hyuk yells that this is Woo-jin, Minister Park says, “Wake up, Joon-hyuk. Your brother, Woo-jin, died in an accident fifteen years ago. He stopped breathing. I buried him with my own hands.”
When Joon-hyuk makes as if to shoot him, Minister Park just doubles down as he says that that Woo-jin is dead. “If this is Kim Woo-jin,” he asks, pointing at the clone, “then what does that make your dead brother?”
As Joon-hyuk struggles to come up with something to say, Jung-yeon answers: “Fate. Woo-jin became our fate. Joon-hyuk dedicated his life to finding Woo-jin when he didn’t even have his own memories. I dedicated my life to finding Woo-jin because of my memories with him. And now, we’re at the end of our journey. This time, we’ll protect him the same way he protected us twenty years ago!”
Looking at his brother, Joon-hyuk asks, “Didn’t I tell you I’d never go anywhere without you ever again? This time, I’ll keep my promise.” (My heart!)
Taking out his own gun, Minister Park points it at Woo-jin’s head as he orders Jung-yeon and Joon-hyuk to leave if they don’t want to see him killed. It doesn’t matter to Minister Park either way—he can always make another Woo-jin.
Deputy Chief Lee and Secretary Shin walk back into Human B just as Smart Earth’s security personnel arrive to arrest Minister Park. The deputy chief orders his men to block them, and as the two small armies collide, he and Secretary Shin continue on their way.
Back on the helipad, we see Minister Park tell Joon-hyuk (in an eerie singsong voice): “Don’t make him [Woo-jin] die again.” Something inside Woo-jin snaps at this, and he throws his body into Minister Park’s in an attempt to disarm him.
During the scuffle, Jung-yeon shoots Minister Park’s minion in the arm and kicks his gun away. Joon-hyuk looks for a clear shot as Minister Park and Woo-jin wrestle for control of the gun, and just when Minister Park is able to throw Woo-jin off and level his gun at him, Joon-hyuk shoots him in the leg.
The minister’s precious memory cube slips out of his grasp and falls on the ground. Woo-jin scrambles to grab it before returning to the safety of Joon-hyuk and Jung-yeon. From the ground, Minister Park begs for the cube, promising/threatening that everyone can go home if he gets it.
Woo-jin clasps the cube tight and says that it never belonged to Minister Park to begin with. Just when it looks like our heroes will be able to walk away from all this, Deputy Chief Lee and his people arrive with guns in hand to surround them.
In the ensuing standoff, Deputy Chief Lee’s people drag Minister Park over to their side. Joon-hyuk and Jung-yeon are vastly outnumbered as Park orders Deputy Chief Lee to kill all three of them. As the two sides wait for the first shot to go off, Minister Park realizes that the deputy chief is hesitating. “You killed Woo-jin once before, why can’t you do it a second time?” Minister Park asks Lee. “Shoot! Shoot!”
Hearing this, Joon-hyuk aims his gun at the deputy chief, but Lee still hesitates. Recognizing his sunbae in Lee, Woo-jin takes a slow step forward. Speaking to him as his sunbae, Woo-jin asks, “How did you end up like this?”
A conflicted look passes over Deputy Chief Lee’s face as he says that he only wanted to survive, so he did as he was told. Then, loosening his collar, he looks over at Minister Park and asks, “Professor, is this the brave new world you always spoke about?”
This seems to get to Minister Park, as he shrugs off his minions’ support and takes a step towards Woo-jin. “What did I do wrong?” he asks defensively. “Justice and responsibility? Why are they important? They said they wanted to be happy. They said all they wanted was happiness. That’s what I gave them. I gave them what they were asking for. I… simply did what I thought was right.”
Woo-jin steps close to Minister Park and says, “Then I, too, will do what I think is right.” He pulls his arm back and throws the memory cube off the top of the building with all his might. Minister Park moves to catch it, and as it flies over the edge of the roof, the minister follows the cube blindly into the empty air below.
Everyone goes still in the immediate aftermath, and Deputy Chief Lee cracks a very small smile. More than a hundred floors below, the minister’s broken body lies on the pavement (an eerie mirror to Woo-jin’s demise) as he spends his final moments watching the memory cube roll into the sewer — hopefully never to be seen again.
Up on the roof, Deputy Chief Lee whispers, “So, this is how it ends.” Before anyone can sigh with relief, he snaps up his gun, and everyone follows suit. They freeze again in a tense standoff, until, suddenly, Deputy Chief Lee presses the barrel of his gun into his own temple.
Secretary Shin catches his arm and shakes her head. After a long beat, the deputy chief gives in and drops his gun. Both sides finally breathe easy as their standoff come to an end.
Some time later, Ho-soo holds a press conference that is aired live across both Smart and Ordinary Earth. He reveals that Minister Park had secretly been running Human B, and that he’d been blocking the memories of Smart Earth Citizens under the name of the Stable Care Chip System.
He tells them about the murder that first opened Smart Earth to Joon-hyuk’s investigation. Ho-soo explains that the minister blocked Mayor Yoon’s memories while trying to cover up his tracks and that he blamed Bluebird, who had been working to unblock the citizens’ memories. In response to what will happen now that the Care Chip system has been deactivated, Ho-soo says:
“To the citizens who have had your memories blocked, your memories will return to you. You will feel very confused, possibly even tormented. There are certainly those who will have been made happy through the memory block. However, the result of blocking painful memories have made some forget the wrongs they have committed. And someone else will have forgotten someone who must not be forgotten.”
As he says that, Ho-soo flashes back to happier times with his girlfriend as he thinks to himself, “There was a woman who certainly existed, whom I certainly loved.” Then, he resumes his speech:
“Please accept the memories that come to you. If you have forgotten something you ought not have forgotten, remember it. And if you have forgotten a wrong you committed, take responsibility for it. And if you have forgotten sadness… if you have forgotten sadness…. I wish for you to feel sadness. Because that is what it means to be human. Finally, no matter what, please remember what happened to us in the year 2037. As of today, Human B does not exist.”
As the press conference airs, a conference room full of politicians wonder what Human B has done and how they can recover from it. Into that chaos walks in Mayor Yoon, who quiets the room and tells them that he’ll take the responsibility for bringing peace and stability to the city.
Joon-hyuk packs his bag of belongings to leave Ho-soo’s house. Ho-soo tries to make him stay by asking him to lead the new police force of Smart Earth. “I’m asking you to participate in a society that takes responsibility,” he tells Joon-hyuk.
With characteristic devilry, Joon-hyuk turns Ho-soo’s head to check if he still has a chip in his head. “How else do you say such a cheesy thing with a straight face?” he asks his erstwhile partner. Ha, and aww.
After making Ho-soo laugh, Joon-hyuk declares his intent to leave the police force and become a pastry chef. Ho-soo tells him not to do it: “To be honest, I don’t hate bread. I just couldn’t eat the bread you made.” He predicts that Joon-hyuk’s bakery will go out of business. “Is that your advice?” asks Joon-hyuk. “It’s a warning,” says Ho-soo. Then, the two burst into laughter.
Outside, Joon-hyuk walks towards Woo-jin and Jung-yeon. The camera moves with Joon-hyuk as he turns and puts an arm around his brother. Then, smiling, the three go down the path.
Then, the moment turns into a sketch, and we see Chief Hong putting the finishing touches to the final scene of his webcomic. Detective Oh appears beside him, and Chief Hong remarks that all three of his old cases have now been resolved, so now, he needs something new.
Joon-hyuk visits Min-young at her hospital, and we learn that he comes almost every day with new burn injuries from his attempts to bake cakes. As Min-young patches up his hand, we see a flashback to twenty years ago, when a younger Min-young used to take care of a comatose Bum-gyun.
Joon-hyuk smiles at her now, and after she’s done, he hands her a cake box. “I burnt my hand making that, so enjoy it,” he tells her. Min-young looks down at the box, a wide smile spreading over her face.
Jung-yeon stands over Professor Han, who is now hospitalized. She tells the sleeping old man that she’ll visit again, calling him “Dad” just like she used to. She comes out of the hospital depressed, but wipes away her tears when she sees Woo-jin waiting for her.
As they walk together, she points out that he’d drawn a heart between “Woo-jin” and “Byul” inside the star he’d given her. “Was that when you started liking me?” she asks with a grin. Woo-jin dismisses it by saying that all kids like anyone who’s nice to them. Jung-yeon refuses to give up on teasing him about liking her for so long, and Woo-jin ends up laughing.
Joon-hyuk comes out from his cake delivery to Min-young and smiles when he sees the two together. He walks at a distance to give the two some space, and Jung-yeon admits that she was happy when Woo-jin gave her that star.
Woo-jin smiles at this, and the two walk along in sweet awkwardness, until Woo-jin looks up and notices a news flash on a jumbotron. There was apparently a dark fog and a blackout in Gimpo the night before. The newscaster says that witnesses saw a bright gleam of light, which they note as being similar to the incident that happened in the brothers’ neighborhood thirty years ago.
They both get thoughtful expressions on their faces, and Woo-jin asks if Jung-yeon remembers what happened back then. Looking confused, Jung-yeon says that while she can’t remember the moment specifically, she remembers how she felt.
Joon-hyuk comes up from behind them and tries to surprise Jung-yeon, but neither of the two react. He asks why they’re so serious, when the newscaster says that the fog and light incident is similar to something that happened thirty years ago. And even before that, in 1986, there was one more instance when a large ball of light fell from the sky.
As the newscaster wonders what that light could be, the brothers look at Jung-yeon. The camera zooms close to her face, and suddenly, Jung-yeon’s face loses all expression as her irises shine with the cosmic spirals of faraway galaxies.
Whoa. They just couldn’t resist pulling out the rug from under us one last time. I had wondered if they would address Jung-yeon’s extra terrestrial origins at all, but in characteristic Circle style, they didn’t just bring it up, they posed it as a tantalizing final puzzle for us to break our collective heads over. Time to pray for a Season 2, I guess!
Circle was unrelentingly awesome for its entire run. It pulled off the impossible and escalated our interest and engagement with every single episode before delivering a nearly flawless finale geared to blow our minds. Every heart pounding moment, every slow realization was built upon a solid groundwork of emotions and logic. The closer we came to the end, the clearer the connections between the two time lines became. The casting of the older actors suddenly made perfect sense, as we began to see glimpses of their younger selves in their actions. Every reveal was timed beautifully, and every question was answered before it could drag down the pace of the story. Looking back at all twelve episodes, I can only sigh at the incredible amount of work that went into creating this tightly packed, beautifully crafted masterpiece. This feels like an experience that won’t be soon repeated. So, I just want to take a moment to savor the feeling of having just finished something unique and precious.
Circle may have marketed itself as a science fiction thriller, but it was so much more. The cleverness of its conceit wasn’t in introducing an extraterrestrial technology that humans couldn’t crack, which meant the story never had to fully explain it. The beauty was in the simple idea that given an unknown, powerful technology with the potential to do great good as well as great harm, humans will never be able to just leave it be. There was no need to explain Byul’s memory device, since the point was always that it’s beyond our grasp. What was very much within our scope of understanding was the consequences of using such technology on mankind. And it’s to the writers’ credit that the answers were never black and white.
While Minister Park was an out and out evil antagonist, the man who brought him into the game wasn’t. Professor Han truly believed that the ability to erase memories could raise humankind above war and cruelty. Perhaps that’s why Jung-yeon still called him “Dad” despite knowing what had motivated him throughout. He was a murderer, but in the name of a higher purpose, unlike Minister Park, who simply wished to be the puppet master. I suppose the existence of Smart Earth proves that given a choice, people would willingly tamp down their darker selves and live as peacefully as they could. However, the choice was an illusion, and the peace was simply a denial of accountability. The alien tech that could have been a boon, if used for a few and with great care, turned into a weapon to subjugate thousands by enforcing ignorance.
Despite the grim theme of this dystopian future, I never felt that Circle was oppressively dark. The pace of the story and the constant feeling of solving the next clue never allowed the tragic implications of the plot to weigh down on me. The idea of having your will manipulated without your permission is incredibly violating, but the emerging themes of identity and the importance of memory pushed those darker thoughts to the back of my mind. At the end of the day, this was ultimately a story of people deciding their fates based on their memories.
Joon-hyuk decided to devote his life to finding Woo-jin, whose borrowed memories were his only connection to the past, while Jung-yeon battled a powerful conglomerate for decades because she didn’t want Woo-jin’s sacrifice to become pointless. For both these people, their memories were the touchstones upon which they had based their crusades. But the character that gave heart to this tale was Woo-jin — the reluctant boy who jumped into this world of conspiracies for the sake of his brother and became the symbol of a fight that lasted twenty years and enveloped the lives of four tenacious people who refused to give up their quest to find him again.
- Circle: Episode 1
- Premiere Watch: Circle, Fight My Way, Lookout
- Seeking one truth between two worlds in Circle’s posters and teasers
- The game is afoot in sci-fi mystery Circle
- Kim Kang-woo searches for memories and a murder in Circle’s new teaser
- A look into the future in sci-fi mystery Circle’s first teaser
- Stealthy gazes in first stills from tvN’s sci-fi mystery Circle
- Alien sci-fi mystery drama Circle’s first script read
- Lee Ki-kwang cast in tvN’s sci-fi thriller Circle
- Gong Seung-yeon tapped for leading role in tvN’s Circle