Black: Episode 18 (Final)
The end is finally here, and it’s time to see how our characters deal with the consequences of their actions from twenty years ago. Will all the details come together to make sense of everything that has happened so far, or will we end up banging our heads against the wall, as confused as we were when this adventure first began?
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Ha-ram’s father followed Scarface during his investigation of the arson case and he saw Joon’s yellow smoke flare, realizing Joon was in danger. Ha-ram’s father found Joon in the glass factory, but before Joon could tell Ha-ram’s father what was wrong, Joon was shot.
Ha-ram’s father was shocked to realize that it was Ha-ram who shot Joon, and as he checked on his daughter who knocked herself out from the recoil, Joon staggered out of the factory.
Black struggles with the realization that it was Ha-ram who shot him, wondering if this is why his head hurt so much when he first met Ha-ram. As Black broods on the cliffside, Hip-hop worries that Black wasn’t able to find the tape and that the Death Squad will be coming for Black any minute now.
Hip-hop urges Black to take Leo’s laptop to the police and show them Leo’s confession that Moo-gang’s mother actually killed Joon, so then the police can find Joon’s body and Black can return to his true form. But Black doesn’t want Ha-ram to find out the truth—that she shot Joon, thinking he was her father’s Shadow.
Ha-ram visits Black at his home, worried about him since last she saw him he was dealing with an agonizing headache. Remembering Ha-ram’s confession that she likes him just because it’s him, as well as her mother’s warning for him to stay far away from her, Black orders Ha-ram to get lost. Grumbling about her ability to see Shadows, he kicks her out of his house, much to her bewilderment.
Ha-ram’s mother finds her sitting dazed and depressed at home. Ha-ram blankly says that Mom should have just killed her back then, since she’s such a monster. Realizing that Black must have said something to her, Mom tries to comfort Ha-ram.
Ha-ram’s mother confronts Black, fiercely standing up for her suffering daughter. Black points out that he had to be cruel to Ha-ram so she would leave him alone. Besides, Black plans to disappear just as Ha-ram’s mother wishes, so Mom should be happy.
But her accusations ring in his ears as he drives away to give the police Leo’s laptop. He determinedly tells himself that he doesn’t care, then sighs as he suddenly turns the car around.
Ha-ram wakes up to finds some food left out for her by her concerned mother. Ha-ram can’t stop thinking about the way Black kicked her out, calling her eyes obnoxious. She cries to herself as she says that he’s the obnoxious one, but she slowly reaches for a chopstick and aims it at her eye.
Black bursts into her place, preventing her from stabbing out her eyes. Ha-ram pleads with him to let her go, but he patiently holds onto her as she weeps, gently forcing her to let go of the chopstick.
Ha-ram’s mother overhears all this and suddenly apologizes to Black as he leaves Ha-ram’s place. Mom realizes that Ha-ram is struggling but that Black is only person who can help her. Mom pleads with Black to stay by Ha-ram’s side, protecting her for the rest of her life.
Hip-hop worries that if Black doesn’t submit the laptop as evidence soon, the police won’t be able to find Joon’s body before the Death Squad arrive to drag Black away, which will result in Black’s memories as Joon being erased.
Black wants the truth of what happened to Joon to be revealed, though. He painfully realizes that if Joon hadn’t died like that, Black could still be living a happy, human life.
Black ultimately decides to destroy the laptop, determined to stay in Moo-gang’s body and live as a human, declaring that it’s his second chance at life. That way Ha-ram also won’t find out the truth about Joon’s death and her role in it. But Joseon points out that Black being stuck in Moo-gang’s body isn’t for another chance at life, but a chance to reveal how he died.
Black brings Ha-ram to see a doctor who tells her that the bullet in Black’s brain may cause him to act irrationally at times due to the nerves it’s pressing against, but it doesn’t mean Black can’t have a long and normal life.
Black uses the “bullet pressing against nerves” to explain that he doesn’t remember how he treated her last night and only heard about it from her mother (which, as we know, is a lie). He apologizes for his actions, and reassures Ha-ram that he treasures her eyes.
He plans to get surgery from a world-renowned brain surgeon in America. Ha-ram says she’ll go with him, and Black quickly says that he’ll be going his his mother (well, Moo-gang’s mother), and that he’ll be leaving soon. Then he hugs Ha-ram close.
Black meets up with Soo-wan, remembering the first time that Joon saw Seon-young and the way his young adolescent heart fluttered. Black now realizes that the reason Moo-gang’s heart always felt strange when he was with Soo-wan was because it was Joon’s heart, fluttering for his first love.
Soo-wan has changed her mind about moving to America. Instead, she plans to have an interview with the press. She’ll tell them what happened with Congressman Kim back then, which will force the prosecution to investigate the case again.
Black urges Soo-wan to stick with her plan to move to America, promising that he’ll take care of Congressman Kim. But first he has a favor to ask of her.
Black takes Soo-wan to Joon’s mother, and both women cry tears of joy to be reunited since they were like mother and daughter. Joon’s mother apologizes for sending Soo-wan to live with Clara, blaming herself for what happened back then. Soo-wan says if Joon’s mother is truly sorry, then she can make it up to her by moving to America with Soo-wan.
Black goes to the columbarium and pours the ashes from Joon’s urn into the nearly empty urn of Seung-chul (since when there’s only a hand to bury, there aren’t many ashes). As he sets Seung-chul’s urn next to the urns of Seung-chul’s parents, Black apologizes that it’s taken so long for Seung-chul to finally be returned to his proper place.
Leo panics when he sees that his laptop is missing, but is more shocked when he turns around to find Black pointing a gun at him. Black insists that Loser is in Leo’s body, and if Loser doesn’t come out on the count of three, Black will shoot Leo and drag Loser out anyway.
At first Leo looks confused, but then suddenly he collapses as Loser leaps out of Leo’s body. Loser profusely apologizes and begs forgiveness, wondering how Black figured it out. Black says that it was from the laptop’s recording—Leo clearly died from an overdose, but when the shower stall door opened on its own and then Leo suddenly got up again, it was obvious a Reaper possessed him.
Black is annoyed that Loser has been messing with him all this time, but Loser argues that it’s all Black’s fault for sending him on an assignment by himself in the first place. He knew Black wanted him to mess up so Black could get a new partner.
But when Loser realized that Leo the soul he was going to reap, he decided to get his revenge for all the ills Leo caused him by borrowing Leo’s glamorous life for a while, even it meant being sent to the fiery pits once the Death Squad caught him.
Right after Loser possessed Leo’s body, he heard voices elsewhere in the hotel suite and hid himself. He saw Creepy Doc and Moo-gang’s mother arguing about stopping Moo-gang from investigating Joon’s death. Creepy Doc got so agitated that his Reaper tattoo glowed.
That’s when Loser discovered Creepy Doc was possessed by a Reaper, and since then they worked together. Black points out that Creepy Doc was possessed by the old woman who’s never been caught by the Death Squad, and that she actually tried to kill Leo so that Loser’s memory would be wiped.
Loser demands to speak to the old woman, but Black says that he’s already taken care of her.
Moo-gang’s mother hurries to Creepy Doc’s home, desperate to warn him that Black has found out the truth of Joon’s death. But Creepy Doc is dead.
Loser is shocked that Black killed Creepy Doc so that the old woman would be returned to the Death Squad, going back on his promise of helping her after she told him where to find Leo’s laptop.
Loser pleads with Black to let him stay in Leo’s body just a little longer, at least until Leo’s drama is finished filming, since Loser has always wanted to be an actor. Black says that Loser can live as a human for however long he wants—under one condition.
Man-soo inherits the entirety of Royal Group—the coerced contract Man-ho forced him to sign now considered null and void. Man-soo’s first act as the CEO of Royal Group is to halt all construction of the new mall, dedicating that space for a memorial to the people who died in the Mujin mall collapse. He then plans to break up the Royal Group conglomerate, relinquishing his role of CEO.
Joseon doesn’t trust Black to be able to live as a human without seeking vengeance on the people who ruined Joon’s life. But Black is determined to forget everything and stay by Ha-ram’s side, protecting her from any more harm.
Congressman Kim’s approval rating tanks and he’s ordered to resign from his position. He calls Leo, asking to meet at their old house in Mujin. Leo tries calling Black, but doesn’t get an answer.
Ha-ram hurries to the airport to say goodbye to Black before he leaves for America. Black hugs her tightly as she asks him to call her once he lands, and then they go their separate ways.
But instead of heading to a flight, Black watches as Ha-ram leaves the airport. Man-soo arrives just then, wanting also to say goodbye to Black, but Ha-ram says he’s too late. Man-soo happily hands her a life insurance contract, reminding her she promised to be his first client.
He also tells her about his plans for the Mujin memorial, and Ha-ram realizes that the time capsule is on the site. She hurries to Mujin to dig it up before the construction crew finds it.
Black waits at the airport for Soo-wan and Joon’s mother to arrive, since they’re the ones actually going to America. Soo-wan promises to take care of joon’s mother like she was her own, and then hopes Black will live happily-ever-after with Ha-ram. Now that Soo-wan and his mother are taken care of, Black focuses on his final mission.
Soo-wan and Joon’s mother make their way to airport security as Missing-finger watches. Oh, hey, I forgot about him! He reports to someone, letting them know that Seon-young is leaving the country, so it’s all taken care of.
Except when Soo-wan puts Joon’s mother’s purse into her suitcase, she sees a SIM card stuck in Moo-gang’s sweatshirt that Soo-wan was taking with her to America. Soo-wan realizes that this must be important, and sends Joon’s mother home while Soo-wan tries to reach Black.
Missing-finger is surprised and annoyed to see Soo-wan leave the airport. Soo-wan sticks the SIM card in her phone—it has Byung-tae’s burner phone number. Byung-tae answers, relieved that Moo-gang must have regained his memory.
But Soo-wan tells him that she needs to meet with him so they can figure out how to prosecute Congressman Kim.
Congressman Kim meets with Leo at their old Mujin house. He attributes Leo’s awkwardness to the way Congressman Kim beat up his son twenty years ago when he demanded to know where the tape went (but Leo’s awkwardness is actually attributed to Loser not being sure of what’s going on).
Soo-wan visits Byung-tae, desperate to know where the tape is so she can give it to the police and tell them everything. But Byung-tae says that he doesn’t have it—Ha-ram does. That information shocks Soo-wan—but not as much as suddenly getting a knife pressed against her neck, courtesy of Missing-finger.
Ha-ram digs up the time capsule and opens it, surprised to find a video tape inside. But then she remembers the day she discovered Joon leaving a video message for Seon-young. When he wasn’t looking, Ha-ram snuck inside and stole the tape from his backpack, her jealousy wanting her to prevent Seon-young from ever seeing it.
Ha-ram decides that at least she’ll be able to see Joon’s face again, so she starts to watch the video—only it’s the tape of Seon-young being raped by Congressman Kim. Horrified, Ha-ram quickly switches off the TV. She realizes that there are actually two tapes in the capsule. She grabs the other tape and puts it in the VCR.
Black goes to Congressman Kim’s office. Black doesn’t care if it means he’ll perish as a Reaper, he’s prepared to kill the congressman. But he’s too late—Congressman Kim has already hanged himself. Black doesn’t believe it’s suicide, and speculates that Man-ho was the one who ordered the hit.
Leo finds Black and tells him about meeting Congressman Kim that morning, who told him about the tape that Leo had apparently given away twenty years ago.
Black’s fractured memories start to return and he recalls young Leo accidentally running into him with his bike, causing Joon to be mildly injured. Leo took him to his house to get some first aid.
Joon saw a video camera and asked to borrow it so he could make sure his birthday tape for Seon-young recorded properly—only to discover the tape was missing from his bag (courtesy of Ha-ram).
Leo offered to let him use one of his father’s tapes to record a new birthday message, but when Joon tested the video to make sure it was blank, he saw it was the recording of Seon-young being raped.
When Joon was running from Scarface, he realized he was near where he and Ha-ram buried their time capsule. So he quickly hid the tape in there. Black goes to the spot where the time capsule was buried, shocked to see that the capsule has already been dug up.
Black deduces that Ha-ram was the one who took it, then worries that this must be why Ha-ram will die.
Ha-ram calls Chief Bong to let them know she has the tape, but as she leaves to bring the tape to them, Missing-finger and his men are ready to grab her. She tries to run and hide, but she’s no match for Missing-finger. Chief Bong and the detectives arrive to save her, but Missing-finger’s men overpower them.
Black speeds back to Seoul and finds Man-soo at his new insurance company. Black asks Man-soo to use his hacking skills to track down someone named Choi Geun-ho.
Choi Geun-ho, now a high-ranking government official, was originally the mayor of Mujin. Congressman Kim, back when he was a PD, blackmailed Choi Geun-ho for catching him having sex with Seon-young at a mountain cabin at the time the Mujin mall collapsed. In order to protect his political career, Choi Geun-ho was forced to support Congressman Kim.
Choi Geun-ho is also the person Missing-finger works for, so it’s on his behalf that Missing-finger sets Ha-ram up in an empty pool, her hands and feet bound to a metal chair. Chief Bong and the other detectives are also tied up and Missing-finger threatens to beat them to death if Ha-ram doesn’t tell him where she hid the video tape.
Ha-ram’s furious that Choi Geun-ho and Congressman Kim have covered up their crimes in such a brutal manner over the past twenty years, and refuses to tell them where she hid the tape. That is until she sees the Shadows next to the detectives as Missing-finger’s men beat them up. The detectives are dragged away, and Chief Bong shouts that they’d rather die than hide the truth, so Ha-ram shouldn’t tell Missing-finger anything.
Realizing that Ha-ram won’t tell him about the htape, Missing-finger starts to fill the swimming pool with water and then shows her two live wires. Since she’s in a metal chair, she’ll be immediately electrocuted once he drops the wire the water. Ha-ram still refuses to tell him where the tape is.
Missing-finger tosses the wire into the pool, but before the wire reaches the water, Black shuts off the power. Black drags Ha-ram out of the water from where she nearly drowned, then fights off all of Missing-finger’s men.
He and Missing-finger fight each other, but Black manages to stab Missing-finger, knocking him into the pool. Missing-finger demands to know who Black is. Black: “I’m 444—which you’ll find out soon enough.”
Black tosses the live wires into the pool, electrocuting Missing-finger. Black’s next mission is Choi Geun-ho, who he shoots point-blank in the head. Black: “May you rot in hell.”
Later, Black swan dives off the cliff, hoping that Ha-ram will be happy once her memories of him are erased.
Ha-ram’s recovering at the hospital—as are the other detectives, who were saved by Black, although they don’t know how that could be possible since they’re convinced he’s in America. Hahaha, the detectives are all impressed that Ha-ram is healing so much faster than they are.
Ha-ram’s mother brings her a letter from Black postmarked from America. Black writes that his brain surgery went well to remove the bullet, and once he recovers, he plans to travel the world. Ha-ram’s happy that he’s doing well and studies the photo of post-operation Black with his doctor.
Moo-gang’s mother is so guilt-stricken about what she did to Joon that she leaves a suicide note explaining everything. Then she overdoses on sleeping pills.
It turns out that Moo-gang’s mother actually didn’t need to use Joon’s heart to save Moo-gang. Just as she had finished removing Joon’s heart, she got a call that a girl who’d been in an accident and was brain dead was a perfect match for Moo-gang, and thus the heart transplant could happen right away.
Thanks to her suicide note, the detectives now know the truth about what happened to Joon, and they retrieve the body from the sea. The autopsy reveals that Joon was shot, and Ha-ram overhears them talking about it.
She realizes in a daze that she had to have been the one who shot Joon. Leo watches her in concern, remembering that Black said Loser could live in Leo’s body for as long as he wanted, provided he protected Ha-ram from finding out the truth of how Joon died. Leo worries about what he should do, since she’ll also find out that Black didn’t go to America.
Ha-ram demands the detectives check Black’s flight records, and they confirm that Black never left the country and never got surgery to remove the bullet from his brain. They did find footage of someone jumping off the cliff where they found Joon’s body, and they realize that it must be Black.
Everyone is shocked, but none more so than Ha-ram.
In the Underworld, Black stands trial before the Death Squad. Since Black killed a human (well, more than one human), his punishment is to perish. But when Black was on his way to his trial, Joseon informed him Ha-ram found out the truth of Joon’s death. Black asked Joseon to do him a favor.
Meanwhile, Ha-ram stands at the edge of the cliff. She asks to be reborn as a simple, ordinary person.
At his trial, Black asks the Death Squad to give him the maximum punishment, which isn’t for him to perish. Thanks to the old woman Reaper, Black knows the maximum sentence is actually that he ceases to exist. By removing himself from the world, Black can make sure Ha-ram has a happy life since she’ll have never met—or shot—Joon.
Thanks to Joseon’s overwrought testimony about Black’s misdeeds, the Death Squad agrees to the maximum sentence, declaring him to have never existed. As Black receives his punishment, Ha-ram jumps off the cliff.
Thanks to Black ceasing to exist, he was able to prevent Ha-ram’s parent’s car accident, which means she was born a normal child and not half-human, half-Reaper. She then grew up to have a normal life, becoming a fire fighter and saving many people’s lives—including the lives of the victims we already know, such as Seung-chul’s parents, Tiffany and Hyo-jin, and the little boy with the sugar sensitivity.
Many years later, an elderly Leo reads a bed-time story about a Reaper who fell in love with a human. He reads it to Ha-ram’s grandchildren (which are not his grandchildren—Leo just remained Ha-ram’s friend all her life), and Ha-ram says that it’s a sad ending because the Reaper erased all the memories of the woman he loved.
But Leo says it’s actually a happy ending, since the Reaper erased memories of him so that the woman he loved could have a happy life. Leo gives her what he calls a Halloween present, and Ha-ram opens it up to reveal the red string bracelet she had once made for Joon.
Memories seem to return as Ha-ram stares at the bracelet. In the morning, she peacefully passes away. Ha-ram’s soul leaves her body and finds Black waiting for her. Ha-ram apologizes for forgetting him, but Black is just happy to know that she had a long and happy life. She puts the red string bracelet on him and together they walk hand-in-hand to the afterlife.
Sigh. I was onboard with everything up until the last ten minutes. It’s not just the laughably terrible high school drama makeup they did to make twentysomethings Go Ara and Kim Jae-young look older. It’s the infuriating fact that causing Joon to suddenly cease to exist somehow makes it feel like all these hours we’ve spent invested in his life (or at least his missing Reaper soul) are now somehow invalidated. Hitting the big “reset” button makes sense up to a point—I can’t blame him for sacrificing himself to give Ha-ram a happier life, and consider that a noble act. But it’s cruel to realize that so much of the horrible things that happened were solved by removing the existence of an innocent child. What an awful burden to place on Joon’s shoulders when he had already gone through so much.
The logistics of Joon’s disappearance also make no sense to me. For example, I don’t understand how Joon’s disappearance means Ha-ram’s parents never got into an accident and therefore her father was never possessed by a Reaper. I could try to excuse it as the mysteries of the Underworld, but when we’ve been given so many intricate details over the past couple of months, it’s disappointing to suddenly make leaps of faith that seemingly go against everything we’ve learned so far. Joon no longer exists, but apparently Black does, but why does he get to use Moo-gang’s face—because I assume Moo-gang is still real—when Reapers aren’t allowed to use actual human faces that are not their own? Oh, wait, I know—because it would be weird for him to show up at the end looking like the thirteen-year-old Joon after Ha-ram realizes that he was the one she loved. It also explains why her spirit is the young Ha-ram and not the old Ha-ram. Not that I’m complaining about this Titanic-like ending where the old lady, who’s lived a long and happy life, is reunited with her true love after death. I can sense the romance in that, but trying to understand how it actually works is driving me almost as crazy as attempting to figure out what the hell kind of Halloween-Christmas holiday old Leo and old Ha-ram were celebrating.
Also, if Leo/Loser can clearly remember that Joon/Black existed because he’s faithfully stayed by Ha-ram’s side all this time, it means that Black didn’t cease to exist for other Reapers (which can explain why he could be Ha-ram’s Reaper, I guess, although you’d think the maximum punishment would also mean being sent to the fiery pits, but whatever, show). Yet, if Joon ceased to exist for all humans, does that mean there’s no Mujin hellmouth? Did Joon’s butterfly affect also stop the mall from collapsing? Prevent Clara from using teen girls in a prostitution ring? Prevent Seon-young’s parents from dying in their car crash so she never became an orphan determined to become a doctor? Is Kwang-kyun still alive and having his own happily-ever-after with Clara? Were Chairman Oh, Congressman Kim, and Byung-shik prevented from entering their unholy trinity and killing so many people? Did Moo-gang become an accountant in America when there was no need for his mother to send him away in the first place? Is Moo-gang’s mother still alive because she wouldn’t have had a reason to commit suicide? Did Royal Group ever come to be? Was Man-soo forced to live with Chairman Oh’s family or did his birth mother keep him? Most importantly, is Sip-gyeong still alive?
These questions may seem like I’m quibbling about finer details, but when we’ve spent hours with a show that’s taken such great pains to prove to us that details are incredibly important, I can’t just suddenly accept a sloppy “happily ever after, the end” finale. I’m not sure if there is even a way to end this show that would be truly satisfying, though. At the very least, I wish it felt like the writer had figured out an ending that felt connected to everything else. I had given this writer the benefit of the doubt, happy to believe the disappointing ending to God’s Gift—14 Days was a fluke. But now when I watch Choi Ran’s future dramas, I’ll probably stop watching before the last ten minutes for fear my enjoyment would be ruined by whatever nonsense comes next.
Overall, though, I’ve genuinely loved this drama. It’s been a thrilling adventure that’s invited me to partake in it as more than just a viewer—piecing together all the hints and clues made me feel like I was also somehow a part of the show, solving the mysteries alongside Black and Ha-ram. If it weren’t for those last ten minutes, I’d be filling this space with a gushing, glowing review. It wasn’t a perfect drama, but it was compelling in a way that felt fresh and different. Untangling all the threads of the first episode has been such a rewarding experience, and dissecting theories and analyzing the clues with everyone has definitely elevated this show from mere TV to a community event. Perhaps I should just forget how Black ended, and instead focus the journey.
According to the production team’s final message:
Black was a story about how human desires and greed influence those around us. We hope it was a chance to reflect on people around us. Black was based on events that won’t be forgotten. We hope that it gave strength to the victims of those events and their families. Thank you again for watching.
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