Duel: Episode 16 (Final)
Even though Duel never really netted the ratings that OCN has recently grown accustomed to, there was a steady and loyal viewership that remained until the end. Now it’s time to see if that perseverance has paid off — will we get the resolution we desire, or will there be more last-minute surprises as the plot continues to twist and turn?
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Deuk-chun is shot, but valiantly continues to hold his ground while Mi-rae and Sung-joon escape from Sanyoung’s men. Through the van windows, an agonized Sung-joon screams for Deuk-chun as Chief Park drives away.
Later, Sung-joon sits in the ICU next to Deuk-chun’s unconscious body. Whew, at least he’s alive.
Sung-joon cries as he remembers all the bonding moments the two men have gone through the past few days, starting from the moment Deuk-chun literally dragged the clueless Sung-joon off the bus, to the time they jumped off the bridge to escape the police, and then to the recent conversation where Deuk-chun encouraged Sung-joon to just live his life as Sung-joon.
Soo-yeon goes into cardiac arrest, and Sung-joon rushes into her room as Mi-rae watches the doctors perform CPR. Thankfully, the doctors are able to resuscitate and stabilize Soo-yeon, but the doctor warns Mi-rae that Soo-yeon will most likely not survive another attack like that.
Mi-rae insists on immediately starting the bone marrow treatment in order to save Soo-yeon. Mi-rae brushes off the doctor’s concern about her own recovery. There have been enough people who have been hurt or killed in protecting Mi-rae — she couldn’t bear it if Soo-yeon was added to that list.
The police station is filled with Sanyoung’s battered-and-bruised security guys. As the other detectives focus on booking them in, Chief Park turns his attention to Big Boss. Chief Park is furious by Big Boss’ stoic silence. When Big Boss actually smirks, Chief Park grabs him by the collar and screams in his face, demanding to know if Big Boss is laughing at him.
Chief Park starts to break down as he yells that, thanks to Big Boss, his good friend and fellow detective is in the hospital. Soo-ho and Hyung-shik have to literally drag Chief Park away as he starts to kick Big Boss. Chief Park doesn’t care about police protocol as he screams that Deuk-chun already endured enough pain thanks to Soo-yeon’s kidnapping — he didn’t need to get shot trying to save her, too!
Sung-joon sits with Mi-rae after the doctors retrieve a bone marrow sample. Smiling, she weakly reassures Sung-joon that she’ll be fine — she recovers quickly, remember? Sung-joon tells her that Soo-yeon will get the treatment in about an hour, which satisfies Mi-rae.
Even though she’s the one in the hospital bed, Mi-rae still asks after Sung-joon, worried about how he’s doing. She promises that she’ll save him next. Sung-joon gently tells her that what’s most important is that Mi-rae rests and gets better herself.
In an almost parallel image, Seo-jin sits by her father’s bedside, asking about Chairman Park’s health. She asks if she should bring Mi-rae back to the lab, but Chairman Park orders his daughter to stay in the hospital. Seo-jin’s only just been released from custody — he doesn’t need her causing more trouble.
Chairman Park insists he’ll take care of everything himself. A new Big Boss arrives, and Chairman Park tells Boss 2.0 that he’s heard the doctors are getting a sample of Mi-rae’s bone marrow to treat Soo-yeon. He orders Boss 2.0 to make sure that sample goes to the chairman and not Soo-yeon. Seo-jin quietly takes in this new information.
Sunbae and Sung-joon nervously sit by Soo-yeon’s side, wondering what’s taking the doctors so long to start the treatment. It’s already a half-hour past the scheduled time, so Sung-joon decides to find the doctor and check on the delay.
Sung-joon finds the doctor just as the man is hurrying out of his office in his street clothes. When Sung-joon asks what’s going on, the doctor weeps as he confesses that he gave away Mi-rae’s bone marrow. The doctor blubbers that he had no choice — his family and the entire hospital were at risk of being ruined if he didn’t obey Sanyoung’s orders to give the sample to someone else.
Sung-joon studies CCTV footage of the doctor handing the box of Mi-rae’s bone marrow to Boss 2.0. But as Boss 2.0 walks to his car, he’s knocked out by Sung-hoon, who takes the box for himself. Sung-joon is surprised to see Sung-hoon is involved.
Sung-hoon returns to his lair with the bone marrow. He downs whisky like it’s tea as he studies the transfusion bags inside the box. Seo-jin calls Sung-hoon, warning him that her father is going to steal Mi-rae’s bone marrow. She asks Sung-hoon to steal it first, casually adding that he can do whatever he wants with it — maybe even cure himself. Seo-jin just wants to make sure her father never gets it.
After Seo-jin hangs up, Sung-hoon wryly notes that one person wants Sung-hoon to die so he can save his daughter’s life (Deuk-chun and Soo-yeon). But another person wants Sung-hoon to live so she can make sure her father dies (Seo-jin and Chairman Park).
Chairman Park also gets a copy of the hospital CCTV footage. Once he realizes Sung-hoon has the bone marrow, the chairmen angrily orders his men to bring back “his” cure.
Sung-hoon’s nearly finished drinking the entire whiskey bottle when he hears the front door unlock. He cocks a gun and sets it on the table, ready for the visitor, who turns out to be Sung-joon. He sees how awful Sung-hoon looks, and worriedly asks how the other clone is doing.
When Sung-hoon doesn’t answer, Sung-joon carefully asks for the bone marrow box, adding that it doesn’t belong to Sung-hoon. Sung-hoon snarks that it’s not like there’s a name on it, so it should be “finders, keepers.” Sung-joon pleads for Soo-yeon’s life, insisting that she needs the transfusion immediately.
Sung-hoon says that Sung-joon can take the box if he can find it. But as soon as Sung-joon turns around to look search for the box, Sung-hoon grabs the gun. Sung-hoon shoots at the liquor cabinet right next to Sung-joon. It’s a warning shot, I assume, or else the bottle of whiskey he drank is throwing off his aim.
Sung-joon slowly turns back around. Sung-hoon doesn’t understand why Sung-joon is doing all this for Soo-yeon and Deuk-chun, people Sung-joon barely knows. Sung-joon simply says that he wants to keep his promise to save Soo-yeon.
Sung-hoon scoffs at Sung-joon’s answer, then screams that Sung-joon also made a promise to Sung-hoon — he promised to come back! A flashback to the tiny clones reminds us of Sung-joon’s promise to look for tiny Sung-hoon, no matter what. But Sung-hoon says Sung-hoon never came, and tiny Sung-hoon, huddled on his hospital bed, cries as he wonders where his brother is.
Adult Sung-hoon continues to point his gun at Sung-joon as he asks the other clone what he was doing all that time when tiny Sung-hoon was growing up in the lab, enduring a life of painful testing and experimentation. Sung-hoon starts to cry as he says that he waited twelve years for Sung-joon, but Sung-joon never came.
Sung-hoon demands to know why he should let Sung-joon have the bone marrow, since Sung-joon apparently only reappeared in his life to take the cure away from Sung-hoon. Sung-hoon adds that Sung-joon is no different than Doctor Mom, and he suspiciously asks if Sung-joon is being paid by Sanyoung.
Sung-joon reassures him that he isn’t, revealing that Doctor Mom was actually blackmailed into staying at Sanyoung so that she could help find a cure specifically for Sung-hoon. Sung-hoon wavers as he recalls the way Doctor Mom threw him out of the way of the oncoming car twelve years go, taking the full impact herself. Sung-hoon slowly lowers his gun as he remembers Doctor Mom quietly apologizing right before she died.
Sung-joon continues to earnestly explain that he did try looking for Sung-hoon, but when tiny Sung-joon found his way back to the research lab, it had been locked up and shut down. Then Sung-joon was passed from orphanage to orphanage, all the while believing that Sung-hoon was living happily with Doctor Mom.
Sung-joon starts to cry as he explains that even though he spent his life surrounded by strangers, he lived each day in hope that Sung-hoon and Doctor Mom would find him. His voice filled with emotion, Sung-joon tells Sung-hoon that now that they’ve found each other again, they should start a new life together as ordinary humans.
Sung-hoon aims the gun at Sung-joon again, paranoid that Sung-joon is only trying to trick him. He reasons that if Sung-joon cared about him as much as he says, then Sung-joon should want Sung-hoon to keep the vaccine for himself. Sung-joon vows that he’ll save and protect Sung-hoon, but first they have to save Soo-yeon.
Sung-hoon’s failing organs cause him to clutch his chest and stumble back onto the sofa. Sung-joon sees his chance and he leaps on top of the other clone. With tears streaming down his face, Sung-joon injects Sung-hoon with the anesthetic, causing the younger clone to lose consciousness.
Regaining consciousness, however, is Deuk-chun, who weakly asks Mi-rae what happened. She tells him he’s been out for three days, which just serves to remind me I have no concept of time on this show. He asks after Soo-yeon, and Mi-rae says that she’s fine, but hesitates when Deuk-chun asks about Sung-joon.
Sung-joon is currently ransacking Sung-hoon’s place, looking for the bone marrow as the unconscious Sung-hoon sleeps off the anesthetic upstairs. Despite looking in all the possible — and some improbable — places, Sung-joon is unable to find the box of bone marrow.
He doesn’t have much time to worry about it, though, because Boss 2.0 shows up with a bunch of Sanyoung’s security guys. Boss 2.0 assumes Sung-joon is Sung-hoon, and Sung-joon plays along. To protect the real Sung-hoon from being discovered upstairs, which would also prevent Sung-joon from saving Soo-yeon, Sung-joon gloatingly tells Boss 2.0 that he used the bone marrow treatment on himself.
Boss 2.0 decides that Chairman Park can still take the cure from “Sung-hoon” anyway. They forcibly drag Sung-joon away just as Sung-hoon starts to awaken.
Now alone, Sung-hoon reveals the bone marrow box is in the trunk of his car. Sung-hoon seems to have been conscious enough to hear that Sung-joon lied about giving himself treatment, and he drives away, thinking about Sung-joon’s pleading promise to live together like normal, ordinary humans.
Sung-joon, now in hospital garb, is dragged to the secret lab where he’s strapped face-down on the bed, much like tiny Sung-hoon used to be. Sung-joon screams and resists, but Boss 2.0 just covers Sung-joon’s mouth with tape as they zip-tie his limbs to the bed.
Watching from his phone, Chairman Park starts to laugh in satisfaction, but ends up coughing up blood. He isn’t concerned, though, since he assumes that his team will soon be extracting the cure from “Sung-hoon.”
Except the real Sung-hoon arrives at the lab and swiftly takes down Chairman Park’s security guards with some pretty awesome flying kicks. Sung-hoon doesn’t even break his stride as he enters Chairman Park’s hospital room, flips on the lights, and aims his gun directly at the chairman’s head.
Chairman Park is surprised to see him, since he assumes that Sung-hoon is strapped to the bed. He quickly realizes that the clone in the lab must be Sung-joon, and even though Chairman Park is shocked to lean that Sung-joon is alive, he can’t help but wonder if Sung-hoon barging in is some brotherly attempt to save Sung-joon.
Chairman Park immediately decides that such a thing is impossible, since they’re “just clones” and “lab rats.” Besides, he’s not afraid of Sung-hoon killing him, because the chairman is a dead man anyway. Either he dies by Sung-hoon’s hand or he dies from a lack of a cure for his disease.
But Sung-hoon knows that Chairman Park will do anything to try and stay alive, and Chairman Park laughs, agreeing. He asks who really has the cure, and , and Sung-hoon says that he injected himself with the cure, not Sung-joon.
Chairman Park is suspicious, but Sung-hoon reminds the chairman that Sung-joon didn’t know about the plan to steal the cure from Mi-rae’s doctor, so there’s no way Sung-joon could have intercepted it and taken it for himself.
Sung-hoon smiles as he tells Chairman Park that he actually found out thanks to Seo-jin, adding that she ordered him to take it so the chairman couldn’t have it. Ha, at least Chairman Park seems surprised by his daughter’s betrayal.
The security guys finally arrive, and Sung-hoon grabs Chairman Park to use as a hostage. Sung-hoon tells the security guys to let Sung-joon go or else Chairman Park will die, but Chairman Park warns Sung-hoon that if he kills the chairman, then his men will kill Sung-joon. He tells Sung-hoon that he can swap places with Sung-joon, since the chairman doesn’t really care about the clones — he just wants the cure.
Chairman Park shows Sung-hoon the live feed of Sung-joon tied face-down on the bed as the doctors cut open his hospital gown. It’s exactly like what tiny Sung-hoon used to endure, and adult Sung-hoon reels at the vivid memory of those painful experiences. Sung-hoon yells for the men to stop — he’ll take Sung-joon’s place. But only if they release Sung-joon first.
Chairman Park agrees, and Sung-hoon slowly lowers his gun, allowing the security guys to grab him. Elsewhere, Sanyoung’s security guards drag the unconscious Sung-joon to a waiting car and drive away.
On his knees, with his hands tied behind his back, a defeated Sung-hoon patiently endures Chairman Park’s gloating. Chairman Park thanks Sung-hoon for preventing him from getting the wrong bone marrow treatment. Oh, if only he knew.
Chairman Park rescinds his promise to free Sung-joon, and instead orders his men to take Sung-joon to the research team so they can continue to do experiments on him. Ugh, of course, because the chairman doesn’t have an ounce of humanity in him.
But Sung-hoon just smirks as he says Chairman Park is too predictable. Deuk-chun is already hot on Boss 2.0’s tail, forcing the car off the road. There’s no warning shots this time as Deuk-chun shoots the security guys in their kneecaps, then continues to fight until he can retrieve the unconscious Sung-joon.
When the doctors arrive to take Sung-hoon’s bone marrow, he starts to laugh. Chairman Park orders the doctors to hurry up, but Sung-hoon confidently says that it doesn’t matter — the chairman is going to die soon, anyway.
A flashback reveals that Sung-hoon went to Soo-yeon’s hospital. Aw, Mi-rae first calls him Sung-joon, but quickly realizes he’s Sung-hoon. I love the way that she protectively stands between him and the hospital bed, ready to sacrifice herself to save Soo-yeon.
But Sung-hoon just sets down the box of bone marrow, telling Mi-rae he’s returning it to her and she can use it however she wishes. Mi-rae asks him why, and Sung-hoon pauses a moment before simply saying that he’s found a way to live like a normal, ordinary human.
Sung-hoon’s next stop is to find Deuk-chun. It’s a tense stand-off as Deuk-chun, barely-recovered from his gunshot wound, looks down the barrel of Sung-hoon’s gun. Deuk-chun asks him why he’s there, and Sung-hoon reveals Chairman Park’s clone mix-up, telling Deuk-chun where Sung-joon is. That’s why Deuk-chun was prepared to take down Boss 2.0 and the other security guys in order to save Sung-joon.
Back at Sanyoung hospital, Chairman Park sputters as he demands to know what Sung-hoon is talking about. In response, Sung-hoon uses a scalpel that was hidden up his sleeve to cut the ties around his wrist. Then he leaps forward, using that same scalpel to cut Chairman Park’s throat.
Sung-hoon smiles at the gasping, gurgling, and dying chairman. Sung-hoon even continues to smile as Sanyoung’s security guys riddle him with bullets. Sung-hoon falls to the floor as everyone else rushes to attend to Chairman Park.
It’s a beautiful sequence of slow-motion and haunting music, full of emotion as Sung-hoon whispers his last words: “Sung-joon-ah.” Even though Sung-joon is still unconscious in the backseat of Deuk-chun’s car, a tear falls from his closed eyes. The scalpel slips from Sung-hoon’s lifeless hand.
An undetermined amount of time later, Deuk-chun softly calls for Soo-yeon, who wakes up. It seems that the bone marrow transplant went well. Soo-yeon immediately notices that her father is also in a hospital gown, and he says it’s because he got hurt while catching bad guys.
Sung-joon is also in a hospital bed, with Mi-rae at his side. He’s grateful that she made the difficult choice to go through with the bone marrow transplant, but Mi-rae says that they know who really made the tough decision.
Sung-hoon told her he was angry at the world for treating him only like a clone, which is why he was so obsessed with fighting to survive. But then he realized he was just as bad as everyone else since he thought of himself as nothing more than a clone, and had given up on living like a real person. Mi-rae’s voice softens as she says that’s why Sung-hoon decided he should at least die like a human being.
With tears streaming down his face, Sung-joon asks why Sung-hoon told Mi-rae so much about himself when Sung-hoon barely told Sung-joon anything.
Another undetermined-yet-short amount of time later, Deuk-chun gathers his team of detectives to head out and “crush the bad guys.” Aw, the way they stand at attention reminds me of the beginning when Deuk-chun was cracking down on the illegal gambling, before Soo-yeon was kidnapped and his life fell apart.
One of Jo-hye’s superiors is furious that she’s planning on going after Sanyoung, which could make the prosecutor’s office a public laughingstock due her claims of a highly respected company performing illegal experiments of human cloning.
Jo-hye calmly hands him photos of the Doctor Lee’s frozen body — and Sung-hoon’s body, too. Sniffle, sniffle. Deuk-chun made sure to take photos for her while he was at the lab. He got her the evidence after all!
Jo-hye explains how Doctor Lee was cloned over twenty years ago. Her superior scoffs at that story, and she hands over photographic evidence of the current-day surrogate mothers, pregnant with genetically engineered fetuses. She also mentions Jeong-dong and his attempt to have Sanyoung clone his daughter.
It’s enough for her to get permission to go after Sanyoung. The same time Deuk-chun arrives at Sanyoung is when Jo-hye and her team arrive with their blue boxes, ready to confiscate Sanyoung’s files. Ahhh, this meeting is no accident — finally Jo-hye and Deuk-chun have a copacetic partnership.
Boon-suk and Song-yi apprehend Seo-jin before she can escape to America. I will never tire of seeing Seo-jin in handcuffs. Deuk-chun also arrests Chairman Oppa (he is, after all, the official head of Sanyoung now that Chairman Park is dead).
One year later, Soo-yeon — with a head full of hair! — visits a columbarium where she places memorial flowers next to Sung-hoon’s urn. Sniffle, sniffle. She asks if “ajusshi” is enjoying heaven and if he’s seen her mother there. She adds that while she likes being around “Uncle Sung-joon” who looks just like “ajusshi,” she still misses Sung-hoon.
Deuk-chun, Sung-joon, and Mi-rae are also there, and Sung-joon quietly tells Sung-hoon that he’s doing better now. Sung-joon adds that he’s really sorry he couldn’t keep his promise to live a normal life with Sung-hoon.
As Deuk-chun drives everyone home, he asks Sung-joon if he’s still confused about who he is and how he should live is life. Sung-joon smiles and says that he no longer worries about that. Instead, Sung-joon has decided to just let life lead the way. After all, isn’t that how normal people live? Deuk-chun teases that Sung-joon must really be human now.
Rolling down the window, Sung-joon sticks his hand out to feel the wind. Soo-yeon follows his lead, and they ride into the sunset with the wind between their fingers.
Excuse me while I try to compose myself. Those last twenty minutes or so were pretty rough on my tear ducts. Let’s think about the positives first: Soo-yeon is healed! Yay! Sung-joon seems to be doing pretty well, too, so I’m not sure if he somehow was healed by Mi-rae’s bone marrow in the past year or if he simply wasn’t as in bad a shape as we all originally thought. Maybe one of Sanyoung’s doctors was able to offer up a plea bargain (after Jo-hye obviously revealed all of Sanyoung’s evil doings) by using their illegally gained vaccine-creating knowledge to find a workable cure. Maybe the details don’t matter, since the most important thing is that this little ragtag family of Sung-joon, Mi-rae, Soo-yeon, and Deuk-chun are just that in the end: a family. Soo-yeon calling Sung-joon “Uncle,” clearly implying that Sung-joon is a part of her daily life, made me want to cry for joy (instead of all the other reasons I’ve wanted to cry in the last few minutes).
I can see how some might think the ending isn’t satisfying because it glosses over all those questions we’ve been wondering about since the beginning, and we’re forced to fill in the massive blanks with our own assumptions — but I loved it. Soo-yeon may not necessarily be a “lab rat” like the clones, but she certainly spent most of her life in a leukemia-built cage that prevented her from experiencing so much of the “real” world. Watching her delight in feeling the wind, just like the twelve-year-old clones did, makes me realize that she’s been given a second chance not just at her own life, but also a chance to live the life that Sung-hoon never got to live, with freedom and family and the ability to do whatever she sets her mind to. She’s no longer trapped by her failing body.
As heartbreaking as it was to see Sung-hoon purposefully throw his life away, it was also a beautiful sacrifice. I ache for the way Sung-hoon has been mistreated, and I still wish, somehow, he could be in that car with Soo-yeon and Sung-joon, with his hand out the window, feeling the wind. But Sung-hoon managed to redeem himself through his noble sacrifice, proving that even though he knew he was irrevocably broken thanks to Sanyoung, he still was able to claim some ownership of his body. Sung-hoon likely knew that going to the chairman that night was a suicide mission, but it was also completely his choice. No one forced him to give the bone marrow back to Mi-rae. No one forced him to tell Deuk-chun where Sung-joon was. That was a decision Sung-hoon made on his own after weighing the options presented by the (lying) Chairman Park and the (earnest) Sung-joon. For someone so bitter that Sung-joon never fulfilled his promise to find him when he was young, Sung-hoon’s last gift was to provide Sung-joon the means of finally fulfilling his promise to save Soo-yeon.
Overall, while Duel might have had pacing issues and some plot threads that got a bit knotted and frayed along the way (not to mention all the hand-wavey science), I really enjoyed being a part of this “chase thriller.” The conspiracy theorist in me might have delighted over the hours of speculation this show provided, but without a doubt the show’s strength was watching the growing trust and relationships between the characters. I know I’ve said it before, but Yang Se-jong deserves all the accolades for his incredible portrayal of Sung-joon, Sung-hoon, and Doctor Lee. I never doubted that these were all three different characters, even when Sung-joon was pretending to be Sung-hoon (an acting feat that still boggles my mind). I may have been doubtful in the beginning, knowing this important role was given to a rookie with only a couple of small supporting roles under his belt. But now I consider myself Yang Se-jong’s fan for life and am looking forward to wherever dramaland takes him next.
The rest of cast were also solidly reliable, especially once the edges were rubbed off from the harsh characterizations of the first few episodes (thank you, Jung Jae-young, for dialing down the screaming, and Kim Jung-eun for not looking quite as unbearably smug). I have a lot of respect for Lee Na-yoon, the child actress who was so committed to her role that she actually shaved her head. She also managed to make Soo-yeon wise beyond her years yet still believably young and childlike. I’ve mentioned my undying love for Mi-rae previously, so let me also thank this show for taking a chance on yet another “green” actor and introducing me to Seo Eun-soo.
Even more gratitude must be placed in the hands of the production team. Despite an over-reliance of flashbacks and flash-forwards, I really appreciated the way the director was able to portray such a complex and dense story. All the little clues along the way were fun to pick up and puzzle over, even if they ended up being red herrings (or fake red herrings — is that a thing? A red herring for a red herring?). While no drama is perfect, the hours spent analyzing every little detail felt like a gift instead of a burden. Thanks to everyone who joined me on the adventure — may our shared memories of this drama be happier than a clone’s.
- Duel: Episode 1
- Premiere Watch: My Sassy Girl, Seven Day Queen, Best Hit, Duel
- The hunt for the clone is on in new Duel teaser
- Three-way face-off between clones and a desperate father in Duel
- The clone face-off begins in Duel posters
- Chilling sci-fi thriller Duel to cool the summer with killer clones
- Kim Jung-eun considers OCN’s evil-clone crime thriller Duel
- Jung Jae-young returns with OCN suspense thriller Duel