[Alternate Endings] If I could send Tunnel back through the tunnel
by Guest Beanie
Oh, YES, I thought when I saw this month’s theme. Because let’s be honest. We always get a little tense as a drama nears its end, and not just because we’re reluctant to say goodbye to a beloved story. We’ve invested hours of attention in long, drawn-out conflicts that feel difficult to resolve. We’ve developed strong feelings about the characters, ranging from deep affection for our heroes to intense revulsion for our villains. If the drama’s done its job right, a world has been created that feels real and full. Now, how to tie all that up in a way that feels true to the narrative, satisfying for the characters, and sends us off with pleasant memories?
The answer is: not easily. We all know the ones that crashed and burned on the dismount: God’s Gift–14 Days, Nine: Nine Times Time Travel, The Good Wife, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (although debatably that one just crashed and burned the entire way through, keeping us mesmerized with its fiery hellscape until it was too late to get out). And I’m so excited to hopefully read rewrites of those miserable endings.
But for me, there’s one drama ending that left me with a particularly empty spot in my heart. Who here has been personally victimized by Tunnel? Raise your hand.
Spoilers ahoy, guys!
So by the end of the drama, our time-traveling cop Park Kwang-ho gets himself back home to his beloved pregnant wife, having successfully identified the serial killer, and is now set to resume his life in 1987. In theory, the 2017 timeline he was living in with all its catastrophes and triumphs is averted… but the show never shows us that.
Oh my God, guys, come on. You had the perfect opportunity for the most bittersweet ending in the history of K-dramas and you just waved it off with a “Here’s a brief look at what his life looks like in 1987, isn’t it nice?” You just rewrote history, but you’re not even going to give us a glimpse? That’s just cruel.
Why aren’t we watching Kwang-ho catch one serial killer, then carefully observe the other, despite the good-natured ribbing of his peers? Where is his triumph when the second man attempts his first murder and Kwang-ho’s there on hand to prevent it? Where’s a happy Yeon-ho growing up with two doting parents, and one extremely ratty teddy bear that’s much too full of memories (and nothing else) to ever throw away? Where are her date nights with childhood friend and doctor Kim Sun-jae, who can never quite figure out why her father looks at him that way (a little sad, a little affectionate, before Kwang-ho catches him looking and gets all gruff and ahjusshi-ish), even though he’s known and admired the man who caught his mother’s killer his whole life?
Where’s my aged, cranky Park Kwang-ho, now a retired police chief, sneaking into the office to annoy his successor, his friend and hoobae Sung-shik? Why isn’t he the gruff but proud mentor of his namesake, the rookie cop? Where’s he and his wife spending her birthday on their ferry ride, like they do every year, and being ridiculously adorable together even after all these years? Why isn’t he walking down the street, only to stiffen and turn to watch a former victim of a serial killer walk past him, healthy and whole and happy, and then smile himself, and walk on?
They had a chance to really show us how some loves are meant to be, how we have to let go of some things to make room for others, and how much difference one man can make on the fabric of so many lives. But they didn’t.
And I will forever hold a grudge. I am nothing if not petty about my drama endings.
- [Theme of the Month] Write an alternate ending to a drama whose ending sucked
- [Theme of the Month] Escapism vs. Realism
- [Theme of the Month] Our relationship to music and dramas
- [Theme of the Month] Challenge! Revisit an old drama
- [Theme of the Month] How have your K-drama tastes changed over time?
- What’s your dramaland catnip? Tell us your stories!