Fight My Way: Episode 16 (Final)
Despite all of the many loose ends this final episode needs to tie up, it manages to do so nearly perfectly. Somehow all the questions are answered, and the Fantastic Four can look forward to their new futures armed with a deeper maturity and understanding of themselves. But wherever the world takes them, they will know that no matter what, they live life their own way.
Round 16: “Neverending My Way”
It’s 1996, and Ae-ra, Dong-man, and Seol-hee climb onto a ride at an amusement park. Dong-man complains that he’s scared in a seat by himself, and then a burly little boy jumps into Dong-man’s seat. His mother calls out, “Joo-man, look here!” and snaps a picture of the four children who have no idea that someday, they’ll all be best friends and more.
Back in the present, Ae-ra helps Seol-hee pack up some orders of her plum wine and asks why she’s making wine when she doesn’t even drink. Seol-hee says that everyone in her life drinks a lot, and grows happier when they do.
She says sadly that she misses the four of them drinking at Namil Bar on the roof and eating breakfast together. Ae-ra barks that one of them shot himself in the foot and the other ran off to fight, then she growls Joo-man’s name and throws a box at the ceiling. HA.
Upstairs, Dong-man finds Joo-man making mountains of kimbap in a frilly pink apron, claiming that he’s starting a lunchbox business. He takes a lunchbox down to Seol-hee’s doorstep, saying that he’s going to provide all her meals, and Dong-man complains that he’s making him look bad. Apparently Joo-man missed the entire drama of Dong-man and Ae-ra dating then breaking up, and he asks if Dong-man is sure he didn’t imagine it, hee.
The girls come outside and wow, that’s a lot of eye-rolling going on between Ae-ra and Dong-man. Ae-ra tells Joo-man to quit leaving lunches, and he says it’s between him and Seol-hee. He pulls Seol-hee aside to talk and shows her the new car he bought recently, asking if she wants to carpool.
Aw, sweet, he’s decorated the entire inside with pink accessories, but Seol-hee refuses the offer. When she sees him muck up his attempt to drive in reverse though, she takes pity on him and gets behind the wheel. She even executes the sexy hand-on-the-back-of-the-seat reverse maneuver perfectly. It’s cute how impressed Joo-man is by her driving.
Dong-man hangs back to help Ae-ra with some boxes, then he asks her how she’s so okay, only two weeks after their breakup. He says that he’s not okay, because he feels exactly the same about her as he did before: “When I see you, I want to hold your hand and take you home.” Ae-ra asks if they can’t even talk, but he tells her that he can’t handle it, so unless she plans to get back together, then he’d rather she didn’t speak to him.
Needing her soup pot back, Ae-ra takes some vegetables up to Landlady Hwang’s apartment. Landlady Hwang complains that Ae-ra is always coming over unannounced, and when she asks what the vegetables are for, Ae-ra asks if she has cancer.
Landlady Hwang gets sassy about Ae-ra prying, but she says that she had breast cancer and is fully recovered now. Ae-ra wanders to the air conditioner to cool off, and she spots a stuffed animal in the corner of the room that looks very familiar. It triggers a memory of herself stomping home from school, angry that so much of her schoolwork had to do with mothers.
She’d asked her father why she was the only kid without a mom, demanding that he produce one immediately. Her father had told her that her mother died, but Ae-ra said that she heard her mother got kicked out. Her dad had insisted she died, so Ae-ra pulled out a box of things she made in school for her mother and told him to throw it out.
In the box was the stuffed critter that Ae-ra finds at Landlady Hwang’s house. Everything clicks into place when she squeezes it and her own voice calls out, “I love you, I love you! Ae-ra says she loves Mom!” Ae-ra turns to Landlady Hwang and asks accusingly, “Ajumma, who are you?”
Landlady Hwang stops her from leaving, promising breathlessly to explain everything. In shock, Ae-ra says that it’s strange how she would understand if her mother had died, but it’s upsetting to see her alive and beautiful. Landlady Hwang says that she didn’t leave, not like Ae-ra thinks, but Ae-ra cries that it’s unfair that she didn’t watch over her as a mother, but now she watches her in secret.
Crying, Landlady Hwang gasps that she just missed Ae-ra so much. Ae-ra says that she feels like she was thrown away, then she collects herself and tells Landlady Hwang that she doesn’t want to see her.
Dong-man finally eats some of the porridge that Ae-ra made while he was sick, grumbling that she shouldn’t cook for him if she’s just going to break up with him. He seems surprised by the taste, but his doorbell distracts him, and he’s taken aback to find Hye-ran on his doorstep.
She hands him a container of porridge that Ae-ra had given her, claiming that she made too much. Hye-ran tells Dong-man that it’s the same porridge Ae-ra made when he went to the army, which Dong-man had always thought was from Hye-ran.
Now Hye-ran confesses that it was Ae-ra who made the porridge and waited for him to come home, and that she’d also convinced Hye-ran not to come back to him just before she got married. We see Ae-ra stopping Hye-ran from knocking on his door the night before her wedding, saying that Dong-man wasn’t calculating about his love like she was, and if she shook him up that night and got married the next morning, Dong-man wouldn’t survive.
In a montage of flashbacks, we see Ae-ra pushing her way into Dong-man’s place after Hye-ran left him, claiming that her heater was broken. She’d snored on the floor while Dong-man complained, only we see that she was faking her snores, hee.
She continued to bug him at every opportunity, cooking for him and even checking on him when he was in the bathroom. Once she went to his place to find him passed out next to a bottle of pills, and she’d panicked at his racing heartbeat. He’d finally popped up and said it was just medicine for the indigestion she’s giving him with all the food, ha.
He said that he knew her heater wasn’t broken, and that he knew she was just hanging around because she was afraid he was going to kill himself. Ae-ra insisted that her heater was broken, but Dong-man was all, “It’s summer.” HAHA. He whined that he actually started gaining weight after being dumped, thanks to her.
Now Hye-ran apologizes for getting between them, and she tells Dong-man not to lose Ae-ra. “A dummy like you needs a dummy like her,” she says with a smile.
At work, Joo-man hears that he’s up for a promotion again. Excited, he runs to the copy room for a happy dance, only to find another doe-eyed intern pouting up at him next to the broken copier, face smudged with ink. But this time he’s all business as he tells her to stand, then shows her how to fix it herself. Hey, the boy learns!
Later Seol-hee’s boss pulls her aside to tell her that she’s been passed over for a full-time position. Seol-hee hands her a resignation letter, but she says that she’s not quitting out of anger, but because her plum wine is selling so well she’s decided to do it full-time. Her boss is ecstatic for her, and urges Seol-hee to sell her wine on their home shopping network someday and give the managers a hard time.
Nam-il arrives home to find Landlady Hwang despondent, and she says she wants to get her flip phone back. Tears slipping down her face, she adds sadly, “Let’s go back to Japan.”
Nam-il goes to Coach Hwang for the phone, and he asks if there are valuable documents on it. Coach Hwang tells him that the password is Landlady Hwang’s son and daughter’s birthdays, and that the phone contains the will she made when she had cancer. When he’s alone, Nam-il opens the phone to find it full of pictures of Ae-ra as a child… but there are just as many photos of himself there (and aww, I recognize that last one), proving how much Landlady Hwang loves him.
Nam-il takes the phone to Ae-ra, telling her that their mother never left Ae-ra for a moment. She looks through the pictures as she takes a bus to see her father, and when she gets home she demands some answers.
Dad tells Ae-ra that her mother came to all of her school events in disguise, and that his own mother treated her horribly. He says that she sent most of her income home for Ae-ra, enough to send her to college and pay for all of her youthful indiscretions, at least until her business failed.
As she heads home, Ae-ra changes the contact in her phone for “Landlady” to “Mom.”
Dong-man hops off a bus and grabs Ae-ra’s bag, and he guesses right away that a trip to Dad means she figured out that Landlady Hwang is her mother. He tells her to wait and not to date, just for two months, though she snaps defiantly that she’s going to go clubbing, heh.
In voiceover, Dong-man tells us that for a while, they all went their own ways. Ae-ra becomes even more outspoken in her new career, refusing to wear skimpy outfits and standing her ground, while Seol-hee’s plum wine business takes off. Joo-man continues apologizing to Seol-hee with food and stuffed animals, until her side of the apartment is overflowing with dolls.
Dong-man trains like a beast, and John continues to refuse to let him tap out (“We ain’t got time for tap!” LOL). He tells Dong-man that he only has two months to learn three finishing moves, though he only needs one move to win.
Quite the kiss-up these days, Joo-man takes a birthday gift to Seol-hee’s father. But then he’s terrified by the arrival of Seol-hee’s two massive brothers, who stare down at him and demand to know why he’s here. When Seol-hee arrives, he smiles like he’s scared to death, hee.
Nam-il serves Landlady Hwang his new chicken recipe, pouting that he thought there was something really important on that phone and complaining that she made him look bad. She reminds him of how they met when he was fifteen and he picked her pocket.
He tears up as she says that the Korean orphan alone in Japan reminded her of the daughter she couldn’t raise. She tells him that he wasn’t a replacement, but her son, and that she’s lived for him since she met him. “I didn’t save you. You were the one who saved me,” she says, and she chides him for thinking that she’d throw him away when she’d found Ae-ra.
Choked up, he asks if she’s trying to make him cry. He admits that she’s all he has, so of course he feels jealous, and she asks affectionately if he’s going to ever grow up. Nam-il says that he’s going back to Japan alone, since he’s had her for fourteen years and now it’s Ae-ra’s turn.
Seol-hee is annoyed at Joo-man, who lies on the floor moaning in pain from eating too much at her father’s birthday party. Looking for any excuse, Joo-man whines about the sore burned spot on his back, only to have Seol-hee smack him and call for her scary oppas.
Worried about his upcoming rematch with Dong-man, Tak-soo whines at Coach Choi to come back and train him. Coach Choi asks if he plans to bribe or cheat this time, but Tak-soo promises that if Coach Choi helps him, he’ll fight fair.
Two months pass quickly, and soon it’s time to send John home. He apologizes for being so hard on Dong-man, but Dong-man only understands the word “sorry” and says that all he feels is thankful. He says, “See you again,” in his limited English, and John says that maybe soon they’ll meet in the ring. Coach Hwang hears “soon” and hands him a big bag of soondae, hee.
Ae-ra has the honor of announcing the rematch, and everyone is in the audience—Dong-man and Ae-ra’s fathers, little sister Dong-hee, Joo-man and Seol-hee, and even Landlady Hwang. Dong-man is brought into the arena first, but instead of his usual theme song, Ae-ra is surprised when he enters to the song she always sings for him.
Turning to Coach Hwang, Dong-man says that he’ll only fight standing until the second round. Instead of arguing, Coach Hwang says to forget his coaching and do whatever he wants. He tells Dong-man to look around and realize that just being here makes him a winner. But Dong-man says that he doesn’t like ambiguous endings, so if he’s going to win, he wants to win properly and end this for good.
Tak-soo enters the arena, and the fight begins. Ae-ra shuts her eyes tightly, and all she can hear is the pounding of fists against flesh as the two men fight. After a few seconds she resolutely opens her eyes and makes herself watch.
Interestingly enough, Dong-man and Tak-soo’s fight almost perfectly mirrors their last match. Dong-man throws Tak-soo to the floor where he lies there beckoning Dong-man to join him, but Dong-man stays on his feet. Tak-soo gets up and grabs Dong-man, crushing him to the fence.
He tries to trip Dong-man, who fights hard to keep on his feet. Tak-soo taunts him that he can’t fight on the floor, but this time instead of getting angry, Dong-man just thanks him for the show and says that he’ll start playing now.
He throws Tak-soo off, then just like last time, Tak-soo jumps up and wraps his legs around Dong-man’s middle. Again Dong-man flings him to the mat, following him down and landing on top of him. Dong-man lands several solid punches, then Tak-soo grabs him by the head and flips him over.
He tries to get up, but Dong-man is too quick—he leaps onto Tak-soo’s back, grabbing him in a headlock so that Dong-man is stuck on his back like a turtle. He’s got Tak-soo in a death grip as he flips over on the mat, and Tak-soo can’t escape. They don’t budge, and the referee finally stops them and they break apart.
When the fight resumes, Tak-soo is losing control, and he swings at Dong-man wildly. He attempts Dong-man’s famous roundhouse kick, missing by a mile, and Dong-man tells him to do it properly if he’s going to copy him. Then to make his point, he executes that exact kick, then follows it up with a reverse kick, knocking Tak-soo to the mat. It’s a KO, and Dong-man is declared the winner.
The arena bursts into wild applause as Dong-man sinks to his knees. His humiliating fight from ten years ago runs through his head, and all of his defeats since then at the hands of Tak-soo. With tears in his eyes, Dong-man raises his head and lets loose a triumphant roar.
There’s not a dry eye in the house as Ae-ra looks on with relief and both dads cry with pride. Dong-man’s mother, watching at home, wails that she’s going to break his legs to stop him from fighting. Even Hye-ran is watching the fight, and she says with a smile, “Why is he so cool? How annoying.”
Dong-man presents Coach Hwang with the gold victor’s belt, grinning as Coach Hwang sobs and makes a big show of waving the belt around. Ae-ra nervously enters the ring to interview Dong-man, and she gets choked up as she says that this victory was ten years in the making.
He thanks everyone who rooted for him as the crowd cheers. Ae-ra can’t even look at Dong-man as she congratulates him sincerely, trying to hold back her tears.
Everyone else exits the ring, but Dong-man grabs Ae-ra’s wrist before she can leave and asks why she’s crying again, because she shouldn’t care if her ex wins or loses. She snaps that they never should have dated.
Dong-man says that he can’t live without her, but he can’t ask her to take him back in case they break up again. So he suggests that they forget all about this dating and breaking up business. Ae-ra finally looks at him, wide-eyed, when he says, “Just live with me.”
Shocked, she asks if he’s asking her to shack up, but Dong-man reminds her that he’s a simple guy: “If we kiss, we’re dating. If we live together, it’s marriage. Marry me.” OMG, he’s proposing!
Ae-ra just sniffles at him as Dong-man says that for twenty years, he hasn’t been able to live without her. So if he has to choose between never seeing her and seeing her every day, then he chooses to see her forever. Ae-ra asks him about MMA fighting, and he barks, annoyed, “You. You you you. It’s you! Even if I die, it has to be you.”
Again he asks Ae-ra to marry him with the most adorable begging-puppy look on his face. Ae-ra just wails, “Why are you asking?!” which is all the answer he needs. Dong-man pulls her in for a hug as the arena erupts in applause all over again.
Seol-hee lets Joo-man hold her hand, though she says it means nothing and she doesn’t forgive him. Joo-man just gives her a kiss on the cheek, and by the grin on his face I’d say the resulting beating was worth it. “I’ll be happy getting beat to death for kissing you!” he blurts in between hits.
Sometime later, Dong-man stuffs wedding invitations while Ae-ra complains that he’s going to ruin the wedding by rushing things. He says he has a plan, and Ae-ra coos sarcastically that he shouldn’t strain his weak little head by thinking, hee.
Suspicious noises draw them upstairs to Joo-man’s apartment, where they find him innocently peeling plums for Seol-hee. With matching hands on hips, they ask accusingly why he’s peeling Seol-hee’s plums, and while Dong-man glares, Ae-ra roots around the apartment and finds Seol-hee hiding in a trunk, lol.
Ae-ra reminds Seol-hee of her own words that she wasn’t human if she got back together with Joo-man, and tells her to dump him and live an awesome life. Seol-hee tries and fails to insist that all they were doing was peeling plums, but she trails off when her excuses sound weak, and Joo-man hugs her and begs dramatically, “Just let us love each other!” Both Dong-man and Ae-ra send flying kicks in his direction.
Later on the roof, Ae-ra and Landlady Hwang sit together awkwardly, and Ae-ra says casually that she’s going to start calling her “Mom.” She says it’s just manners, and Landlady Hwang looks like she could explode with happiness as she thanks Ae-ra for being polite, hee.
Ae-ra asks if she’s rich now, but she’s shocked when her mother tells her that she had three businesses fail, so the villa and store are heavily mortgaged. She reminds her daughter to pay her rent on time, and Ae-ra sighs that she should have known, though her mom reminds her that she did buy the gym.
Suddenly remembering, Ae-ra asks why she’s the “Nam-il” in Namil Villa. Her mother tells her that it was what they called her before she was born, and when Ae-ra asks what it means, her mom just says, “I have no idea,” with the guiltiest look on her face.
That night, Landlady Hwang gets sloppy drunk with Coach Hwang and tells him the truth—that Namil Expressway is where Ae-ra was… He assumes she’s going to say Ae-ra was born there, but she slurs happily that Ae-ra was conceived in a motel there, hee. Landlady Hwang changes the subject and suggests they open a soondae business together.
Hye-ran decides to move out, and she leaves Ae-ra a wedding envelope, wishing her happiness and congratulating her. She does tease that if she sees a way in, she’ll be back, but it comes across as a playful joke now.
Coach Hwang presents their grand plan to Ae-ra—that he and Dong-man will run the gym as a business together, and that Dong-man will only fight during the busy season. Ha, Dong-man growls that he wasn’t going to tell her that last part until after they registered their marriage.
Ae-ra isn’t thrilled about having to see Coach Hwang for the rest of her life, but Coach Hwang says that aside from his friendship with Dong-man, her mom sure thinks he’s cute. (Wait, did he just make a “your mom” joke? LOL.)
The four friends spend the night before the wedding drinking on the roof. Joo-man asks if Ae-ra will move into Dong-man’s place, but she grumbles that she doesn’t know because Dong-man has no plan. Dong-man argues that if they weren’t reckless, then she wouldn’t be an announcer, he wouldn’t be a fighter, Seol-hee wouldn’t be running her own business, and Joo-man wouldn’t have found his diaphragm. HA.
They toast to their lives, lived their own way.
The friends wake the next morning, still on the roof. Ae-ra is flustered, and Dong-man says that she looks even uglier than usual today. She shrieks that she’s getting married today, but all three friends just ask if she met someone and why she’d want to get married.
Ae-ra wails, wondering if it was all a dream. Then Dong-man kisses her and says it’s cute that she’s still drunk, looking forward to teasing her for the rest of his life.
Aw, I love that ending, even though it’s not at all what I expected. I was anticipating a wedding for Seol-hee and Joo-man, while Dong-man and Ae-ra continued dating, but this really makes more sense now that I think about it. Dong-man and Ae-ra already know everything there is to know about each other, so marriage is the next logical step, plus it’s just like Dong-man to want to lock Ae-ra down so she can’t break up with him again. And Joo-man and Seol-hee are very different people now, so they need time to get to know each other all over again.
In general I’ve loved Fight My Way more than I ever expected to—it was smarter and more insightful than I generally require a rom-com to be (though I should have known by the cast, who have a tendency to pick great projects). I do have a few quibbles about the show, though none of them are really that serious. Mostly I wanted to see more of the so-called Fantastic Four interacting, but we really never saw them all doing anything together besides the occasional drink on the roof. Given how little we saw of Joo-man and Seol-hee at all during nearly the entire first half of the drama, I think I would have cared more about their problems if we’d bonded with them as friends before diving right into their problems and their breakup.
Other than that, and a few small issues like occasional awkward editing making it difficult to figure out the timeline, I think that Fight My Way is one of the better-written rom-coms in recent years. Secrets weren’t telegraphed weeks before the truth was revealed, and situations were clearly set up well in advance and teased in such a way that we didn’t realize we’d been teased until the right time. The characters were all well-developed and interesting, and even though they often did the same things we expect from rom-com characters, they didn’t just follow the script because dramaland laws say that this happens at this point in the story. They had reasoned, logical motivations for their actions, which really should be standard and not a plus, but when it works out so well, I have to give credit where it’s due.
What I enjoyed most about Fight My Way was that it did one of my favorite things in a drama—its adult characters behaved like adults and spoke their minds. Ae-ra endeared herself to me very early with her outspoken, bold personality. Dong-man took a bit longer to show that side of himself, but when he did, the swoony moose more than made up for his initial fear of voicing his attraction to Ae-ra by telling her exactly what he wanted at all times. I loved how he complained about her holding him at arm’s length physically, while still being respectful of her nervousness… which, by the way, falls into what I mentioned earlier about characters having actual reasons for their behavior. Ae-ra wasn’t putting off a physical relationship because she was immature, but because she had a very real worry about changing the nature of their friendship to something they couldn’t come back from.
Though the ending was a bit too perfect to be realistic, I am glad that Dong-man finally got to win in a fair fight with Tak-soo and take back his dignity. I always appreciated that Dong-man’s wish to fight Tak-soo again was never about clearing his name or making Tak-soo admit he was wrong. It was only ever about Dong-man needing to prove that he could win in a fair fight against Tak-soo, and to redeem himself in his own heart and for his family, and he did that admirably. He worked hard, fought honorably, and now he can move on with his head held high—for himself.
I love these characters so much, and I’ll really miss them now that the show is over. I have to mention how wonderful I think Kim Ji-won was as a leading lady—she did so well, I have a hard time remembering how she ever played villains. And Park Seo-joon may very well have just turned in his best performance yet, which only makes me look forward to his future career that much more. Dong-man and Ae-ra have definitely become one of my top drama couples, just for sheer honesty and openness with each other.
And so we send our Fantastic Four into their futures with the knowledge that sometimes, having the guts to live life your own way is all the growing up you need to do.
- Fight My Way: Episode 1
- Premiere Watch: Circle, Fight My Way, Lookout
- Life is rosy for the youths of Fight My Way
- Oh Snap! A friend to lean on when things go sideways
- Suffocating best friends in Fight My Way’s new teaser
- The cute and the petty in Fight My Way’s second teaser
- KBS schedules drama shorts, delays Fight My Way’s premiere
- Finger hearts in new stills for Fight My Way
- Bickering besties Park Seo-joon and Kim Ji-won for Fight My Way
- Kimbap and charged looks on the set of Third-Rate My Way