While You Were Sleeping: Episodes 31-32 (Final)
There’s heartache and anguish ahead for many of our characters in the final hour, but in keeping with this show’s feel-good, hopeful nature, we send them off with complete arcs and promises of the future. Dreams, past, and future come full circle, and it’s time to find out where the choices that they’ve made every step of the way will lead them.
EPISODE 31: “Goodbye My Friend”
Just before the hearing resumes, Chief Choi tells the prosecutors that they need to put Yoo-bum on the no-fly list, because he saw a suitcase in the backseat of Yoo-bum’s car this morning. He’s worried that Yoo-bum will flee the country after today’s hearing, so they rush to get that process started.
Woo-tak gets sworn in as a witness, and testifies that he came to the roof that night and found Yoo-bum carrying Hong-joo, and two open umbrellas on the ground. Jae-chan says that the witness will prove that the two umbrellas found on the first floor with Yoo-bum’s fingerprints are the same ones he saw that night, and asks Woo-tak to describe them.
But when Jae-chan asks what color they are, Woo-tak hesitates. His partner shakes his head and Hong-joo braces herself, knowing that Woo-tak won’t lie under oath. He balls up his fist and finally says, “I can’t distinguish between colors very well.”
He adds that it’s grounds for dismissal from the police force, and he says that he plans to resign as soon as he’s given his testimony. Jae-chan drops his papers in shock, and from the audience, Bong sunbae marvels at Woo-tak’s willingness to quit his job just to testify in this case.
Jae-chan is so shaken that it’s visible to Yoo-bum and his lawyer, who’ve already begun to gloat at this fortunate turn. The defense tries to dismiss Woo-tak’s testimony altogether, but Woo-tak argues that he only sees colors differently, and that his vision is better than most.
Woo-tak begins to describe the umbrellas in more detail—their handles, the shapes, the exact patterns—and then compares the green umbrella to Yoo-bum’s necktie, which is also green, and the red umbrella as being close to Jae-chan’s prosecutor robes, which is reddish. It’s accurate enough to make his testimony credible, and the defense starts to sweat.
Woo-tak smiles sadly to himself and then looks up at Jae-chan, who looks back at him with a devastated expression. From the audience, Hong-joo cries.
Jae-chan’s hand is still shaking badly as the hearing ends, and Woo-tak sends him a text using his words from the night before: “Let’s not be awkward. I’m okay, so let’s keep being friends.”
Yoo-bum’s defense attorney advises him to consider a plea bargain to reduce his sentence, and tells him curtly that another lawyer from their firm will be representing him for the rest of the trial. Yoo-bum calls after him and gets left all alone in the courtroom, right in front of the prosecutors.
Hong-joo runs through the courthouse looking for Woo-tak and finds him getting yelled at by his partner, who shouts that he should’ve kept his mouth shut and said that he didn’t remember anything.
He asks what Woo-tak’s strict parents will say when they find out that he threw away his police university education, but Woo-tak finally tells him the truth—that his parents divorced and each remarried long ago, and couldn’t care less about him.
Woo-tak’s lip begins to quiver and he barely holds back his tears as he touches his police badge and says, “It never felt like it was mine, so it always felt heavy and difficult.” But he adds that he wanted to carry the burden and was happy when working with his partner.
He says that that’s enough for him, and then puts on his hat to salute him one last time. His partner salutes back and hugs him tearfully, and down the hallway, Hong-joo watches with tears of her own.
Yoo-bum furiously washes his hands in the bathroom and tells himself that it’ll be okay, because it’s not over yet. As Chief Choi had predicted, Yoo-bum is carrying his passport and a plane ticket for that day.
Prosecutor Sohn frantically calls to put Yoo-bum on the no-fly list, and Hee-min submits the paperwork. Prosecutor Lee gets a text from his mystery girlfriend that it was approved, and Jae-chan and Chief Choi watch curiously as he kisses his phone and refers to her as “jagi.”
Chief Choi promises to attend the next hearing and warmly takes Jae-chan’s hands in his before he goes, and Jae-chan watches him walk away for a long beat.
Outside, Yoo-bum confronts Chief Choi angrily about his testimony, and argues that he wasn’t looking for an award for the IV serial killer case—he really believed that Dr. Myung was the killer and did everything he could to put him away. Chief Choi says he knows.
Yoo-bum asks why everyone is being so cruel to him, and Chief Choi just recites Yoo-bum’s birthdate. Yoo-bum says that even his parents don’t remember his birthday but Chief Choi always did, thinking it even crueler now to be betrayed by him.
But Chief Choi says he has the same birthday as his little brother, down to the day and year, which is why Yoo-bum was always special to him. He takes Yoo-bum by the shoulders and urges him to stop running away, and tells him that it’ll be no use to go to the airport because he’s already been flagged as a flight risk. Yoo-bum just shakes him off, furious.
Chief Choi looks heartbroken as Yoo-bum steps away from him, and then we cut to his perspective: It’s his little brother he’s looking at, and then he transforms into his younger self too, as he tearfully tells his brother not to run away and not to hurt other people. He begs for his brother to come with him.
Jae-chan can’t shake this uneasy feeling and dumps his case files and robes on top of Prosecutor Lee and goes running after Chief Choi. He sees Yoo-bum pushing him away and stalking off in anger, and Chief Choi’s slumped shoulders from behind.
In that moment, Chief Choi looks up at the sky and sees a single autumn leaf floating down at him, and he muses that it’s early for fall, and wonders where he’s seen this before.
The falling leaf takes us back to his hospital bed 13 years ago, when he’d dreamt of this moment. In the present, he picks up the leaf and narrates that it’s now, and he’d mistaken the time for autumn because of this leaf.
He looks up to see Jae-chan walking toward him in slow motion and thinks, “I thought I had more time…” Oh no.
Time seems to pause for a moment, and then suddenly everything happens in a split-second: Yoo-bum’s car comes careening around the corner, straight at Chief Choi. Jae-chan sees it happening and starts to run, but there isn’t enough time.
The car hits Chief Choi at full speed, and he goes flying over the top of the car. Jae-chan runs as fast as his legs will take him, and the autumn leaf floats up from the impact.
Chief Choi lands on the concrete with a frightening thud, and he calls out to Jae-chan weakly as blood pools around his head. NOoooooooooo!
When he opens his eyes again, Jae-chan is covered in blood and holding him in his arms. Yoo-bum gets pulled away from his car by security guards, and he looks back at Chief Choi with a distraught expression.
Chief Choi says that he saw this moment in a dream 13 years ago, and that in his dream, Jae-chan said something to him. Jae-chan says frantically that if he’s seeing this moment in his dream, then he needs to avoid meeting him again so that he can live.
He cries as he pleads with Chief Choi not to look for him and not to find him, but Chief Choi says that’s not it. He asks for Jae-chan to say the words, and Jae-chan breaks down in sobs.
At Chief Choi’s urging, Jae-chan finally starts to tell him that when they meet again, he won’t recognize Chief Choi and will be a bumbling jerk who always makes him work overtime and doesn’t listen to what he says. He says that Chief Choi will suffer a lot and he’ll ruin his new shoes, thinking of the night they spent digging through the landfill for the robot vacuum.
“But if you’re okay with all of that, then come find me. I’ll work hard and ask you questions and learn from you, and respect you very, very much,” he cries.
Chief Choi smiles and nods, saying that this is what he said in his dream, and that because of this, he quit his job on the police force and came to look for him. He says that he came to Jae-chan knowing that all of this would happen, and reaches up to touch Jae-chan’s cheek.
“It was my choice, so don’t feel guilty. Feel guilty for a short time, but remember for a long, long time,” he says, and Jae-chan wails, calling him Ajusshi.
“You remember, right?” Chief Choi asks, and Jae-chan nods his head at the familiar advice. “That’s our captain’s son,” Chief Choi says proudly, and then his body goes limp and he dies in Jae-chan’s arms.
In the past, Junior Cop woke up in his hospital bed after dreaming of this moment, and said that this wasn’t his end, because he had someone he needed to meet in the distant future.
Everyone from the prosecutor’s office gathers at Chief Choi’s funeral, and Hyang-mi is especially heartbroken and breaks down in tears. Hong-joo watches with concern as Jae-chan wearily walks into the hallway, and as she follows after him, we cut to Jae-chan doing the same to her 13 years ago.
Just as Little Jae-chan had followed Little Hong-joo to an empty room, Hong-joo follows Jae-chan and finds him crouched on the floor by himself, crying alone just as she had been.
She does exactly what he’d done for her back then: She sits down next to him without a word, puts an arm around him, and holds him as he sobs.
She cries with him, and we see that in the past, Little Jae-chan had cried with her just the same way.
Hong-joo wakes up in the morning looking peaceful, and her window is conspicuously void of any dream post-its.
A montage of morning news reports fills us in on Yoo-bum, who has confessed to all of his crimes and faces prosecution. And little by little, Hong-joo starts filling her window with post-its again.
At breakfast, Jae-chan’s hand is noticeably still shaking, and Woo-tak is missing from the table. Hong-joo says he hasn’t been answering her calls, and Mom wonders if she should send him food.
A close-up to one of Hong-joo’s post-its says, “Don’t be afraid, I’ll be by your side! Every day for the rest of our lives…”
As they head to work that morning, Hong-joo asks if Jae-chan’s hand is still shaking, and she says that hers did too in the past, and that it’ll take some time. She interlocks their fingers and says that she’ll stay by his side every day for the rest of their lives, and Jae-chan is taken aback.
He says that it probably should be him saying those things to her, but Hong-joo says that they’re his words—he says them to her at some point in the future, in maybe a year or so, though she’s not sure.
He realizes that she saw it in a dream, and she adds that Future Jae-chan had something to say to Present Jae-chan.
In the interrogation room, Yoo-bum is as arrogant as ever, even after having confessed to all his crimes. He tells the prosecutors that his today could be their tomorrow, and asks if they can say honestly that of the hundreds and thousands of cases they’ve signed off on to determine the course of other people’s lives, that they’ve never made a mistake in judgment.
Yoo-bum says that they’re just lucky not to have been caught for their mistakes, but he’s in this position because he just happened to be unlucky.
But Jae-chan counters that he’s not unlucky—he’s just bad. He calls Yoo-bum out on deciding that his suspect was guilty and falsifying the evidence to match, and says that every time he got angry with them, it was because he was really angry at himself.
Yoo-bum denies it vehemently, but Jae-chan gets under his skin, saying that he must’ve tried to wash himself clean and hide the truth, but he knew deep down. Jae-chan says he’s not here because he made one wrong call, but because he insisted that the wrong answer was the right one, and killed people to hide the truth.
“It’s not your luck that’s bad. It’s you that’s bad,” Jae-chan says. Yoo-bum’s eyes fill with tears, though he tries to cover up his reaction with a laugh.
In court, Jae-chan says that as prosecutors, they have a responsibility to those who have been wronged or lost their lives because of their actions, and looks out at Dae-gu in the audience. He asks for life imprisonment for Yoo-bum, and Prosecutor Lee notes the empty seat where Chief Choi would’ve sat, and murmurs that he should’ve been here to see this.
Jae-chan wakes up one morning spooked to hear Hong-joo’s voice in his bedroom, while he’s in bed with no clothes on. She somehow miraculously seems to either not notice or not look, and busily starts packing Jae-chan’s law books into a suitcase.
She says she’s going to take them to Woo-tak, because he’s going to law school. Aw, yay! Jae-chan says he never mentioned law school, but Hong-joo says she saw it in a dream, and since he has to be in school for the next few years without making any money, she wants to help reduce his book expenses.
She asks for another suitcase, and laughs when Jae-chan hops away in his blanket burrito.
Woo-tak reads comic books in his dark apartment, sporting a telltale beard of depression. (I kind of like scruffy Batman.) He’s surprised to see Hong-joo and Jae-chan on his intercom, and runs around trying to clean up the mess before letting them in.
Hong-joo lets in some sunlight and sighs that he’s a lot like Jae-chan when he’s not working, which he mistakes for a compliment. Jae-chan makes sure to tell him it’s not, heh.
Hong-joo says that in a year from now, Woo-tak will be in law school, and he’s shocked that he’d do that at this age. Jae-chan says he’s jealous that Woo-tak will be in school with all those younger women, which earns him a painful pinch from Hong-joo.
Woo-tak seems unsure of himself, but Jae-chan reminds him that he seemed to know the law better than he did when he was defending his friend Hak-young, and Woo-tak says proudly that he was at the top of his class in police university.
Hong-joo shows him the side dishes that her mom sent along as well, saying that Mom promised to keep him fed while he’s in law school. Awwww.
Jae-chan yells at him to clean his room and shave his beard if he’s grateful, and snaps that Robin’s probably starving. He hops over to Robin while cooing at him in baby talk, which is embarrassing for everyone but Jae-chan.
Woo-tak wonders how they brought over so much stuff without a car, and Hong-joo says they have a car now.
Cut to: Prosecutor Lee crammed on the crowded bus, telling his mystery girlfriend that he’s on his way to meet her.
As Hong-joo and Jae-chan head out to the car, Hong-joo’s second post-it is revealed, and it reads, “As expected, it was Woo-tak.”
Jae-chan is surprised when his hand has stopped shaking all of a sudden, and Hong-joo smiles and says it was Woo-tak as she’d expected.
Jae-chan wonders what she means, but she simply says she fixed his shaking hand just now, like she promised she would. Aw, was it his guilt towards Woo-tak that was weighing on him all this time?
In his bright, sunny apartment, Woo-tak sits down at his desk and cracks open his first law book with a big smile.
The third and final post-it on Hong-joo’s window reads, “Tell your hyung I’m thankful.”
Seung-won runs into the convenience store to tell Dae-gu the good news: Yoo-bum was sentenced to life in prison. Dae-gu collapses to the floor in tears and asks Seung-won to thank his hyung for him.
Seung-won answers a call from his girlfriend and whispers that he’ll call her back, and when Dae-gu asks who it was, Seung-won sheepishly tells him that So-yoon is his girlfriend.
Hilariously, Dae-gu doesn’t believe him, insisting that the couple picture on his phone must’ve been photoshopped. Lol.
One year later. Hong-joo’s window is clear of all post-its, and her hair is long again. As they set the breakfast table, Jae-chan asks Mom about how to divide a wedding gift if he’s coworkers with both bride and groom, and Hong-joo says he shouldn’t have to give a gift if he’s presiding over the wedding.
While he looks for something in a drawer, Jae-chan discovers Mom’s notebook, in which she’d tallied points for him and Woo-tak. Woo-tak is winning by far, HA.
Jae-chan holds it up and asks Mom what this is, and Mom gets flustered, insisting that she stopped tallying those points long ago. Jae-chan’s lip quivers and he chases after her in a boyish tantrum, demanding to know what the points mean.
Mom runs away to Woo-tak’s place, where she fills his fridge with more food and teaches him how to cook another dish, pleased with his progress in the kitchen.
She asks if he’s decided whether to be a lawyer, a prosecutor, or a judge, and Woo-tak thinks it over and says he’ll be a lawyer, because it suits his disposition to save people rather than judge them.
As Mom runs more errands throughout the neighborhood, Dae-gu pulls her out of the way of an oncoming scooter, and the various people Jae-chan and Hong-joo have helped continue to cross paths and help each other through small, kind acts that pay it forward.
Everyone gathers at the wedding that afternoon, and Dae-gu struggles with his tie and asks Seung-won why he’s even here. Seung-won says he has someone to show him, and on cue, Dae-gu drops his tie and So-yoon appears.
She recreates Hong-joo’s bend-and-snap with a hair-flip for extra sass, and Seung-won beams while Dae-gu’s jaw drops to the floor. She links her arm in Seung-won’s and asks if he missed her a lot, and he pouts pitifully that he did. They’re so cuuuuuute. Can they have another drama together, please?
Dae-gu can’t believe they’re really dating, and So-yoon flashes her phone at him to ask if their picture still looks photoshopped to him. Dae-gu stammers that it looks real now.
Jae-chan can’t believe So-yoon really flew all the way here at his request to play the piano for the wedding, while Hong-joo and So-yoon pick up right where they left off like a pair of bickering sisters.
Hong-joo asks about the state of her dorm bathrooms since she needs super-powered plumbing, and So-yoon snaps that it’s already been proven that that toilet-clogging poop wasn’t hers.
It devolves into a shouting match, and Jae-chan and Seung-won walk away from them, embarrassed.
Seung-won asks how the bride and groom got caught if they dated in secret, and Jae-chan says it was in the most ridiculous way.
Flashback to the interrogation room: Prosecutor Lee got fired up as he questioned a suspect, and paused to reapply lip balm before going in for the kill…
Except he’d accidentally put his girlfriend’s red lipstick on instead, frightening everybody who was watching.
It was the exact same color Prosecutor Sohn was wearing, and she’d gasped and pulled the lip balm out of her pocket, realizing that they must’ve been swapped. I was hoping it was her!
By the time she’d realized her slip, everyone was gaping at her.
The wedding begins and Prosecutor Sohn walks down the aisle with her son Brainy Smurf ahead of her as the flower boy, and Jae-chan and Hong-joo only learn then that he’s her son.
The crowd chants for a real kiss, so Prosecutor Lee obliges happily. Once it’s time for pictures, Hee-min prepares to receive the bouquet, but when Prosecutor Sohn throws it, it’s Jae-chan who catches it instead. People boo at him, so she tosses it again, and this time Hong-joo catches it, much to Hee-min’s ire.
The picture of them at that wedding sits on Hong-joo’s nightstand as she stirs awake from another dream, and Jae-chan wakes up next to her to ask if it was a nightmare. Their wedding photo hangs on the wall in their bedroom.
He tells her reassuringly that it’s all over, and not to be afraid because he’s by her side, “Every day, for the rest of our lives.” He remembers her saying this to him a year ago, and that he was pretty lost at the time because of how guilty he felt about Chief Choi and Woo-tak.
Hong-joo asks if he has anything he wants to say to himself at that time, and he says, “Yes, that it all passes. That even if it seems like something big now, when it passes it won’t be. That you might not believe it, but there will come a day when you can joke about it. So don’t worry too much. You’ll continue to face difficult choices and grow weary, but in a year, a morning like today will come, so trust in that and endure.”
Hong-joo finished telling Jae-chan this a year ago in the past, adding that he said there would come a day when he believed he’d made all the right choices. She asked if he felt any better after hearing that, and he’d smiled and kissed her in response.
That kiss brings us back to the present as they share more kisses in bed, and Hong-joo asks if he was right about not regretting any of his choices. He says yes and she asks which one he regrets the least, and he says, “The bus stop.”
Rewind to that first morning at the bus stop the day after Jae-chan had moved in across the street. He was about to get into a cab when he’d spotted Hong-joo sitting at the bus stop, wearing that familiar baseball cap she’d been wearing 13 years ago.
He told himself it was just a coincidence because that kid was a boy, but he decided to take the bus anyway, and sat down next to her.
The rest, as we know, is history.
As a finale, it was a strong episode for the show, especially with Chief Choi’s death and the reveal that he’d seen his own death in his dreams all those years ago, and still chose to quit his job and go find Jae-chan. It was probably the most effective use of the dream visions on a character level in the show. Up until now, the dreams were mostly a means to change the future and save people, but for Chief Choi, this dream gave him purpose to keep on living at a time when he’d wanted to die, knowing that he could repay Jae-chan someday by being a mentor and staying by his side. I liked that this wasn’t about preventing his death, but about honoring how he’d chosen to live his life. It was a nice touch to use the dreams very differently in the final hour, as message portals from present to past so that people could stay connected or encourage each other, or themselves.
On the whole, the dreams left a lot to be desired as a fantasy element that was supposed to drive the story, because they ended up being very linear in scope and therefore predictable. They were just tools to let our characters be heroes and save each other, but as the show went on, they lost the feeling of grandeur that was promised in the opening episodes, and just became rather convenient devices. There was no consequence to messing with Fate so often, no price to pay for living when they should’ve died repeatedly, and no answers concerning how Hong-joo got the ability in the first place. And why did the dreams start tapering off? Were they driven by her guilt, which was starting to heal? Were the dreams just a very complicated way for the universe to bring them together? It’s my biggest disappointment with the show, which was otherwise very pleasant and emotionally satisfying. I just wanted a lot more from the fantasy—a hell of a lot more, with bigger twists and heavier consequences.
Because the fantasy element became an afterthought, the show mostly ended up being a legal procedural, and on the one hand, that ended up being fine in terms of execution, since the characters were good and kept me engaged in the cases week to week. On the other hand, the show was only about half as exciting as a result, compared to the start when it seemed like it would be about colliding fates and alternate timelines. That untapped potential makes me sad, because I can’t help but think of what could have been, especially because the drama was directed well, and the visuals really backed the dreamy fantasy feel.
This writer’s strength is in creating an ensemble of likable characters that makes the world feel full and lived in, and that’s probably the thing I liked most about While You Were Sleeping. It was nice to watch a drama where the leads were likable from the start and full of such funny, quirky flaws that were a constant source of humor. This writer has a particular gift for creating lovable heroines who are outspoken and sassy and a little weird, and Hong-joo was no exception. Suzy has her limitations as an actress, and they’re usually front and center in her other dramas; but when she works with this writer, it’s like her limitations magically blend into the background because the character plays up her charm. She should really consider gifting the writer a car. Or a small island.
This drama showed that you could have a cast full of nice characters and still have interesting conflicts, though I would argue that Yoo-bum’s characterization should have been more layered, as the only villain among a sea of goodhearted folk. I would’ve loved to see more backstory and complexity for his character, or even more affection between him and Jae-chan, to make their battles in court a little more nuanced or emotionally conflicted rather than so black and white.
To that end, I would’ve loved to see Jae-chan and Woo-tak at odds a little more. My favorite parts were always when Jae-chan was challenged by the people around him, like when Seung-won was embarrassed of him, or when Woo-tak was defending his friend against Jae-chan. I think because the romance was so un-dramatic—which I really liked, by the way—the most satisfying arc over the course of the series was Jae-chan’s character growth, because we actually saw him change and learn something in every episode based on the advice or intervention of someone in his life. Hong-joo and Woo-tak had their share of growth as well, though they were secondary; I was just grateful that Woo-tak made it to the end of the series alive, with a bright new future ahead of him, friends by his side, and a mom to fill his fridge. (And it cracks me up that Mom seems to like Woo-tak more than Jae-chan.)
And I like what this drama had to say about choice—that ultimately our lives are a series of choices that we make, whether or not we have the extra helping hand of knowing the future in dreams. The whole drama was really about the effect that people have on other people, and recognizing that no matter how small a decision seems to you, it could alter someone else’s life irrevocably. The dreams were just a metaphor for the way that one act could change the very course of someone’s future, whether you’re on trial for murder or just crossing the street one night. In an ideal world, we would all weigh our decisions with such care for how our actions affect other people. If only.
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