Possessed: Episode 16 (Final)
Every time I think things can’t possibly get worse for our detective and his lady, they somehow do, and it’s exhausting. I never expected a happy ending for them – not when the world is ending all around them – but Pil-sung finds himself in circumstances that would break even the strongest man. He has one last plan to defeat evil and save the world, one so crazy that it shouldn’t even work, but it’s literally all he has left.
After killing both Do-ryung and Detective Choi, Dae-doo learns where Seo-jung has been staying. He travels to the island and kidnaps her and Yeong-mi, then lures Pil-sung back to the island, where he finds them both bound in a warehouse. Dae-doo gives Pil-sung a gun with one bullet, and tells him that he has five minutes to kill either Seo-jung or Yeong-mi, promising that he can take the other and go free.
Seo-jung pleads with Pil-sung to kill her, saying that she’s accepted her death and that if Pil-sung kills Yeong-mi, he’ll also be killing the last hope of the world. But Pil-sung says it’s already too late for that, and calmly points the gun at the little girl.
He hesitated, and Seo-jung says that she knows he’s not cruel enough to do this. He lowers the gun, and Seo-jung tells him to listen carefully. From where he’s watching them on a monitor, Dae-doo grows suspicious when nothing happens, and we cut back to Seo-jung as she asks if Pil-sung understands what she just said.
She tells him he has two minutes left, and Pil-sung drops to his knees, sobbing that he can’t do it. Seo-jung says that they’ll meet again, and asks him to promise not to do anything stupid like take his own life, no matter how much he hurts. She asks him to remember everything about her, even her nasty temper, so they’ll know each other immediately in the next life.
Pil-sung falls on Seo-jung, hugging her and wailing loudly, and she whispers, “I love you.” Then he suddenly jerks back, a shot rings out, and Seo-jung slumps to the floor. Oh my god, he really did it. He looks down at Seo-jung’s body and gasps, “I trust you. I’ll see you soon.” He notices her bloody feet in only torn socks, so he takes off his own shoes and socks and slides them onto her feet.
Suddenly, Dae-doo is standing over him. He tells Pil-sung that he doesn’t have to live a miserable life, but he doubts he’ll choose to kill himself because then he’ll never see Seo-jung again. He offers to make the decision easier, but as he speaks, Seo-jung’s spirit starts to rise from her body and catches his attention.
Dae-doo absorbs her soul into himself and tells Pil-sung with fake regret that now he’ll never reunite with her. Pil-sung gets to his feet and, ignoring Dae-doo, picks up Yeong-mi and turns to carry her outside. Dae-doo notices Pil-sung’s bare feet and sees his shoes on Seo-jung’s feet, but he doesn’t seem to read the message there. He drops Detective Choi’s phone beside the discarded gun.
Pil-sung takes Yeong-mi to the emergency room, then sits to wait, his feet filthy and bleeding and his face completely blank. A kind nurse brings him a spare pair of shoes and tells him that Yeong-mi came in just in time, and that he saved her life. He’s sitting beside her bed and holding her hand when she wakes, and she asks about Seo-jung.
Pil-sung says she’s at another hospital, but that she’s all better now. Yeong-mi asks if he gave the bad man a talking-to, and when he says yes, she calls him a bad liar. She asks him to promise to tell the bad man off, and not let him hurt her or Seo-jung, and Pil-sung pinky-swears.
Seo-jung’s body, still wearing Pil-sung’s shoes, is found along with the gun and Detective Choi’s car and phone. Pil-sung is identified as a suspect, and the kind nurse sees his photo on one of the televisions in the hospital lobby.
While pulling the shades in Yeong-mi’s room, Pil-sung spots the cops arriving at the hospital. He hesitates, reluctant to leave Yeong-mi behind, but he goes anyway. He nearly makes it, but the nurse sees him and alerts the police, so Pil-sung just runs. One of the cops takes a shot at him, hitting him in the left arm.
As he runs, one of the cops shoots Pil-sung in the arm, and Pil-sung ducks into the back of a delivery truck just as it’s driving away. He gets out when the driver takes a break and makes his way to a nearby bus stop, where he sees that the bus passes by a church.
He takes the bus and stumbles towards the church, growing weaker by the second from blood loss. He’s literally dragging himself across the ground by the time he reaches the church, and he thinks to himself, “I can’t die like this…” just before passing out.
There’s a nationwide manhunt for Pil-sung, who’s now believed to be a serial killer. Dae-doo is infuriated when he sees the news reports, snarling, “This isn’t the happy ending I wanted.”
Some time later, Pil-sung wakes up in a strange room with his arm bandaged. He’s at the church, where an older nun fusses at a younger nun for running to tell her that their “guest” is awake. The older nun hurries to Pil-sung’s room and asks if he’s hungry, and when he calls her “mother,” she relaxes and says she’d have been disappointed if he’d called her “sister.”
Awww, she’s the nun who took care of Pil-sung when he was a child. Pil-sung starts to explain, but she says that a child needs no reason to come home to his mother. She gently chides him for not visiting for twenty years, then offers to feed him and clean his wound.
Sister Stephanie, the younger nun, notices that Pil-sung doesn’t pray before the meal, and she tattles to Mother. Mother asks how she knows when she was supposed to be praying herself, hee. Sister Stephanie complains that Mother constantly nags her, and Mother laments fondly that Sister Stephanie isn’t a very good nun (Mother: “Who do you most admire?” Sister Stephanie: “BTS!” LOL).
That evening, Mother sees the news reports accusing Pil-sung of murder. She finds him in the chapel and half-jokes that not much has changed since he first came to the church and had trouble getting along with the other kids and following directions. Pil-sung says he’s leaving tomorrow because he has something important to do and asks her to pray for him to do it properly.
Mother reminds Pil-sung that she used to tell him, “Anger cannot beat desperation, and evil can never beat virtue.” She says that as long as he remembers that, he’ll be fine.
Pil-sung stands on a cliff overlooking the ocean, thinking of Seo-jung. He remembers the time that she told him that missing someone and remembering them are similar, because you can’t miss someone you don’t share memories with. He thinks about all the times they spent together having fun and falling in love, then the harder times when they believed they couldn’t be together.
That night, as Mother and Sister Stephanie are praying in the chapel, they hear someone whistling “Silent Night” and turn to see Dae-doo approaching. He makes them kneel to him, and looks thoughtfully up at the crucifix. He tells them that he used to pray nightly at the church near his house, but his prayers were never answered.
He says that they claim God is full of love, but he calls it a load of crap, because that God let a small boy get brutally beaten every night by his own father. He remembers one night when his father beat his mother until he could see her skull, and he could hear the choir singing in the church.
He says that’s when he stopped waiting for God to do something and took matters into his own hands. Just the memory of setting his house on fire and killing his father seems to send Dae-doo into a kind of ecstasy. He says that his pain turned into pleasure, and even then, God remained a coward.
Dae-doo picks up his gun and says that it’s time for him to judge their God. He asks Mother to say something, and she and Sister Stephanie repeat the words she said to Pil-sung: “Anger cannot beat desperation, and evil can never beat virtue.”
As he’s walking back to the church, Pil-sung hears two shots. He runs back, screaming, to find the nuns lying dead on the floor of the chapel, and it’s amazing that he has any tears left to cry.
He’s sitting in the pews when Dae-doo joins him. Dae-doo says that he looked at Pil-sung’s life and could easily guess where he would go when he had nowhere left to go. Pil-sung says that Dae-doo broke his promise to stop killing, but Dae-doo counters that he didn’t kill anyone — he just judged God in the name of Hwang Dae-doo.
Pil-sung asks why Dae-doo is so obsessed with him even after he got what he wanted and destroyed Pil-sung’s entire world. Dae-doo says they started off the same, but went in different directions, so he thought Pil-sung might understand him. He seems genuinely upset when he says that he hoped Pil-sung would ask him, just once, how difficult it must have been.
It hits Pil-sung hard, that everyone he loved died and the world is ending just because he never asked Dae-doo that one question. Dae-doo says that’s how desperate he was to hear it, as he lets a tear fall. Then he collects himself and tells Pil-sung that he’s going to make planes crash, derail trains, and start a war — now that he’s judged God, he plans to judge the world next.
He sets his gun on the pew and says that Pil-sung has two choices — be caught by the cops, or use the gun to kill himself. He tells Pil-sung that as soon as Seo-jung entered his soul, she hid like a mouse, but he still knows where she is. Pil-sung chokes, and Dae-doo says he’s comforted by the thought that Pil-sung will end up just like him.
Dae-doo leaves, and eventually Pil-sung stands and picks up the gun. He recites, “Anger cannot beat desperation, and evil can never beat virtue.” Just when it seems like he might break his promise to Seo-jung, he hears something, and he runs just as the cops swarm into the chapel.
They chase him into the woods, and he ends up on a cliff over the ocean and slides down until he’s hanging on by a fingernail. The cops call to him to give up, but he musters up the last of his strength, and jumps. He washes up on the beach after dark, half-conscious, and the last thing Seo-jung said to him echoes in his mind:
Detective Kang, listen to me carefully. This might be our only chance to save this world. Hwang Dae-doo will eat my soul, and I’ll hide as soon as he does. I don’t think I can hold out for long, but I’ll save up enough power to be used only once. Get it together and listen to me carefully.
While we were hiding on the island, I couldn’t feel Dae-doo’s energy at all. It was mainly because I was trying to avoid reality, but there was another reason. Salt and spirits have an antipathy. Seonbong Island is a few kilometers away from the mainland, with the ocean between. If we isolate Dae-doo’s soul in the middle of the sea, it will dissipate before it reaches the mainland. Lure him to the sea, as far away from the mainland as possible.
Pil-sung rouses and crawls away from the freezing-cold water. When he looks up, there are several suicide spirits looking down at him curiously, including the grandfather who used to haunt Pil-sung’s apartment. The spirits nod to each other, then one by one, they gently sink into Pil-sung’s body.
Pil-sung hears a voice singing a song about a pigeon, and he sees Chief Yoo’s spirit approaching him. Chief Yoo sits with him and smiles, then he, too, joins with Pil-sung.
Pil-sung makes his way back to civilization, and he hears Seo-jung’s voice calling his name, telling him to stay focused. She shows him an image of the airport, so he steals a car and hurries there.
Dae-doo is thwarted from killing an airport mechanic by an emergency meeting. He gets back in his car, and Pil-sung cuts him off on the road. As soon as Dae-doo sees him, he can tell that Pil-sung has absorbed several spirits, and he asks if they make Pil-sung feel like Superman.
He says that the suicide spirits are all dissipating and can’t help Pil-sung, and he uses his power to knock Pil-sung to the ground. He says he’s going to go back on his word not to kill Pil-sung himself, then he aims his gun at Pil-sung.
But he suddenly finds himself unable to move, and Pil-sung hears Seo-jung’s voice again, pleading with him to hurry because she can’t hold Dae-doo for long. Pil-sung hasn’t got much strength, but suddenly, many pairs of ghostly hands lift him to his feet. Once he’s up, they dissipate for good, their job done.
Pil-sung picks up his gun and points it at Dae-doo, who’s still being held in place by Seo-jung. But his hand is shaking too badly to shoot, so the one spirit left, Chief Yoo, holds Pil-sung’s hand steady for him. He steps into Pil-sung’s body to shoot Dae-doo in the arms and legs, incapacitating him but leaving him alive, then he steps out again.
Pil-sung cries as Chief Yoo’s soul dissipates for the last time. He pulls himself together and puts Dae-doo into the trunk of his car, then drives him to the ocean. He steals a boat and steers into open water, going out as far as possible, as Seo-jung told him to do.
It’s almost dawn by the time Dae-doo regains consciousness and Pil-sung stops the boat. Guessing his plan, Dae-doo growls that Pil-sung is using his head for once, but Pil-sung just offers to end Dae-doo’s pain. Dae-doo chuckles that Pil-sung is becoming him, but when Pil-sung doesn’t respond, Dae-doo realizes what Pil-sung plans to do — kill him, then himself, so that Dae-doo can’t use his body.
Dae-doo begs him not to do it, saying that he’ll never see Seo-jung again. Pil-sung replies calmly that someday, if they’re ever born again, he’ll gladly be Dae-doo’s friend. He points his gun at Dae-doo’s head and shoots, and Chun-seob’s body slumps lifelessly to the deck.
Pil-sung aims the gun at his own head, but when he pulls the trigger, the gun only clicks. He tries again, and again, but the gun refuses to work. Dae-doo’s spirit rises from Chun-seob’s body and slams into Pil-sung, and a moment later he sits up, chuckling that that was close.
He can feel Pil-sung still inside, fighting him, and we can see the two spirits struggling for dominance. Then Pil-sung says in his own voice, “Anger cannot beat desperation, and evil can never beat virtue.” With his last reserve of strength, Pil-sung throws himself into the ocean as Dae-doo screams, “Kang Pil-sung, you bastard!!”
As Pil-sung dies, Dae-doo’s spirit is forced from his body. Dae-doo manifests as himself and tries to swim to the surface, but he’s weakened by the salt water all around him. The spirits he’s captured are all released, and in only a few moments, Dae-doo dissipates for good.
One year later.
Soon-kyung visits Pil-sung’s old apartment where Do-ryung died, and it’s obvious that nobody has been there in a very long time. She sifts through the mail and finds the letter that Seo-jung wrote to Pil-sung a year ago. After setting up an alter with food for spirits, Soon-kyung reads Seo-jung’s letter.
In it, Seo-jung had wondered whether they would be happy in a year, since their situation seemed too painful to hope for happiness. She’d thought it was more likely they would be missing each other and hurting a lot, but she’d been positive they would be together eternally, in this world or the next.
We go back to the night that it had snowed, and Pil-sung had watched Seo-jung playing under the snowfall. He’d grumbled that the snow would melt soon, but Seo-jung had told him that just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s gone.
Some time later, a little girl sits in a classroom looking nervous. A boy sits beside her, and she says he looks familiar. He thinks she’s familiar too, but they can’t quite place where they’ve seen each other before.
I am so conflicted right now, and I have so many things to say, good and bad. First things first — all the death. By the end, Possessed started feeling like nothing more than gratuitous killings just to shock the audience, but they didn’t have the impact I think the show was going for because I’m still numb from all the other deaths in last week’s episodes. Every murder Dae-doo committed since wiping out Chief Yoo and his family felt like it undermined the impact of horror of their deaths, until I was no longer shocked or upset, just resigned. When you kill off everyone the audience cares about, the audience stops caring. We still had Pil-sung and Seo-jung, of course, but everyone they cared about was gone. “Save the world” is a lofty goal, but when there’s nobody left to live in that world that you’re saving, it just feels empty.
I just don’t understand what the point was of letting Dae-doo kill absolutely everyone who mattered to Pil-sung and Seo-jung. How would it have proved Dae-doo’s point that humans are all monsters to give Pil-sung a “kill one, save the other” choice? He’s killing either way, but not because of a moral failing in himself. I felt that the only situation Dae-doo set up that proved his point was when he gave the father of the bullied student the choice to kill or save the bully who killed his son. After that, he was just bullying Pil-sung into killing the woman he loves. It’s only valid if the choice is murder versus mercy, but Pil-sung didn’t have mercy as an option — either way he chose, he was being forced to murder someone. And anyway, it’s not “proof” of humanity’s sins if one of the people Pil-sung is told to kill is begging him to do it. All that accomplished was to make Seo-jung a martyr (though I did love the imagery of Pil-sung giving his shoes to Seo-jung as a final “You’ll never take my compassion and humanity” middle finger to Dae-doo).
But up until the last few episodes, I was so impressed with Possessed, and by the end it had earned back some of my respect. The plot and world-building were solid, though I was hoping for more explanation behind certain things. But I appreciate how so many things came full-circle, such as the spirits of suicides deciding to help Pil-sung and giving us a chance to see Chief Yoo one more time. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried when Chief Yoo helped Pil-sung hold steady — in life, Chief Yoo was always the rock stabilizing the people around him, and he found his purpose one final time in death. And I hoped, but never expected a happy ending for Pil-sung and Seo-jung, so I’m actually pretty okay that neither of them survived. Both of their deaths were necessary in order to destroy Dae-doo forever, so I don’t feel as though they died in vain.
I’m conflicted, because taken as a whole, I did love Possessed and felt that, despite some frustrations in the last third, it’s still one of the better dramas I’ve seen in quite a while. I loved the characters and felt that the actors all turned in wonderful performances, and that Dae-doo was an effectively menacing and terrifying villain (especially as played by Yeon Jung-hoon). There weren’t a lot of loose ends left untied — though to be fair, everyone is dead so how could there be? — and the action moved consistently forward and never lagged. And hopefully, Pil-sung and Seo-jung have their whole new lives to be together this time around.