Vagabond: Episode 16 (Final)
Things looks pretty bad for our hero, but yet again he manages to run a terrible situation into an opportunity. Unfortunately, it means finding new allies and letting go of the old ones, and starting from scratch with a brand-new plan. Meanwhile, the friends he left behind find their own motivation in their grief, and the cycle of revenge begins all over again.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Having been impeached, President Jung holds a televised press conference where he presents himself as a selfless man who thinks only of his country, then voluntarily steps down.
Meanwhile, the site of the warehouse fire set by Edward Park is investigated for evidence, and one examiner finds the necklace that Dal-geon made of the bullet Hae-ri gave him. Hae-ri is worried, since she hasn’t been able to reach Dal-geon for days, and she asks HS to find out where his phone was used last.
She goes to his apartment and finds the place being searched by the police. She’s asked how she knows Dal-geon, and informed that his fingerprints were found in the ward Kim Woo-gi was abducted from. In flashback, we see again the shifty cop who’d insisted on getting Dal-geon’s fingerprint, then had called someone right after Dal-geon left the station.
Just then, Hae-ri gets a call that Woo-gi has been found and is at the morgue, his badly-burned body having been identified through DNA. Hae-ri asks about the second body found at the site, and Tae-woong says his DNA wasn’t in the system, but his blood type is O — the same as Dal-geon.
Hae-ri doesn’t believe the police’s theory that Dal-geon kidnapped Woo-gi, but Tae-woong tells her that the destroyed warehouse is the last place Dal-geon’s phone was used. Hae-ri yells that call histories can be faked, but Tae-woong has one more piece of evidence… Dal-geon’s bullet necklace. Hae-ri is forced to accept that Dal-geon died in the explosion, and she succumbs to tears.
The news broadcasts the official story that Dal-geon kidnapped Woo-gi, then in his grief over the loss of his nephew, set fire to the warehouse in a murder/suicide. Hae-ri visits the site where Dal-geon’s ashed were interred, and she sobs uncontrollably.
Nearby, Dal-geon watches her and cries himself, unable to go to her and reveal that he is very much alive. We go back to the night when Edward left Dal-geon and Woo-gi hanging from the warehouse ceiling and set a fire intending to kill them both. While the fire had raged, Dal-geon had flipped himself upside-down and unhooked himself from his chains.
He’d tried to run, but a small explosion had knocked him to the ground, which is when he lost his necklace. Thankfully, mercenaries Lily, Do-su, and a minion had been following Edward (on Jessica’s request to watch Edward/Samael).
Lily had seen Dal-geon trying to escape the building and had decided to rescue Woo-gi and Dal-geon. She’d driven their SUV into the building, directed her minion to save Woo-gi, and had Do-su carry Dal-geon outside. Unfortunately, another explosion had killed Woo-gi and Lily’s minion, who was then erroneously identified as Dal-geon.
Prime Minister Hong also holds a press conference as acting president, in which he promises to investigate former President Jung’s corruption scandal. Afterward he receives a request from “Samael” to meet, and the twin expressions of shock and surprise on his and Lawyer Hong’s faces when they realize that Edward Park is Samael are priceless.
Edward gives Prime Minister Hong a list of government ministries and financial institutions that he wants Prime Minister Hong to do something with — honestly, I have no idea what he’s asking, but Prime Minister Hong says it can only be done by the president then belatedly realizes that Edward intends to make him president.
Edward says that this is being done to amass power, because the person who holds the debts owed by other countries runs the world. He makes it clear that Prime Minister Hong can be replaced if he can’t handle the job, and he gives Prime Minister Hong a flash drive with information on trade negotiations with other countries to study.
Prime Minister Hong says he’s not certain he’ll be elected the next president because his approval ratings are low, but Edward just smiles smugly. He tells Hong to get the oil drilling project in the Kingdom of Kiria, bring money into the country, and it will increase his approval rating. He also instructs Hong to wrap up all ongoing plane crash investigations.
Hae-ri bursts into Chief Kang’s office insisting that Dal-geon was murdered, and wouldn’t have killed himself and Woo-gi after risking his life to get Woo-gi to trial. But Tae-woong interrupts, informing her that the task force team has been officially disbanded and investigations into the B357 crash are being wrapped up. He and Chief Kang know this is Prime Minister Hong’s doing, but it doesn’t make them feel any better.
Elsewhere, Dal-geon continues to follow the clues, which all lead to Black Sun, the organization Jerome and Micky belong to and that’s most likely run by Edward Park. He’s staying with Lily and Do-su, which is somehow adorable, especially seeing the way Lily has gone from trying to kill Dal-geon to defending his right to sponge off them after almost getting murdered.
She asks Dal-geon why he’s not contacting Hae-ri when they seemed so close, but Dal-geon doesn’t tell her about Edward’s threat to kill Hae-ri. He says that he plans to infiltrate Black Sun, and he asks for Lily’s help. She reminds him she doesn’t work for free, so he asks what her services cost.
Former president Jung at first assumes that Dal-geon’s call is a prank, since he’s supposed to be dead. But Dal-geon is at his door, and he reminds Jung that he still owes him a favor. He asks for money, explaining that he needs it to “enter the tiger’s den to hunt the tiger.”
Jung tells him how to get ahold of his secret slush fund, and says he considers this a good investment because Dal-geon seems to be immortal. Dal-geon just growls that he can’t die until he makes “them” pay.
Jessica calls Lily, who says she’s going back to America soon, thanks to her new “client” (Dal-geon). Jessica asks her for one more favor — for Lily to meet with her American boss and request he recall her to the States. Lily agrees, then takes great delight in informing Jessica that Samael is none other than Edward Park.
The news puts Jessica on the alert, so she notices when one of the prison guards looks exactly like the terrorist from Hoon’s airplane video. She hurries away from Jerome and back to her cell, and starts formulating a plan. She sends a note to Hae-ri by way of Chief Kang, saying that Samael is watching her and asking for protection in exchange for his identity.
Hae-ri asks to be sent to prison, willing to continue pursuing the issue unofficially if it means catching Samael. Chief Kang warns her that her life will be in danger, but Tae-woong approves it, saying that Hae-ri has completed more dangerous missions than this (aww, he finally trusts her!).
So Chief Kang arranges for Hae-ri to be jailed for accepting bribes from a Moroccan drug cartel (funnily enough, the very thing she was in Morocco to investigate in the first place). When Micky reports this to Edward, they suspect she’s working undercover with Jessica, but Edward decides to sit back and see how much Hae-ri knows.
Tae-woong had briefed Hae-ri that Samael has his men on staff at the prison and is probably watching her on the CCTV cameras, so she can’t ever let her guard down. At first, she and Jessica ignore each other, but they find a moment to speak privately in the laundry room. Jerome spots them and sends in a female guard, so they pretend to be fighting about Dal-geon’s death.
Jessica knocks out the guard for a moment, and she quickly tells Hae-ri that Edward Park is Samael, and that Jerome is a guard here. Hae-ri says incredulously that Dal-geon was killed by Edward, then they resume their fight when the guard regains consciousness. It gets them both sent to solitary confinement, where Hae-ri spends her time angrily cursing out Edward.
Eventually Hae-ri gets a visitor, and she’s surprised to see it’s Edward. He pretends to be worried about her, but she guesses his real reason for coming, so she says she came here voluntarily because she thinks Jessica killed Dal-geon. She tells him that all the clues they got from Oh Sang-mi about Black Sun and the tattoo were fake, and that Jessica murdered Dal-geon when he found out, so she’s here to make Jessica pay for Dal-geon’s death even if it can’t be done legally.
Edward meets with Jerome and watches Hae-ri and Jessica on CCTV as they’re being treated for their injuries. Edward thinks their insults are all for show, but Micky catches it when Hae-ri surreptitiously grabs a scalpel. She attacks Jessica and stabs her in the stomach, getting tossed into solitary again.
Later, Jessica calls Edward from the infirmary and asks him to visit her. When he does, she gives him the password to her email account, saying that it contains proof of all her illegal activities on behalf of John & Mark. She tells him to expose the crimes, bankrupt John & Mark, and take over, since the company refuses to recall her and has abandoned her.
She gets up to leave, and Edward asks why she’s not begging him to help her recall go through. Shaking with fury, Jessica snarls, “I hate you. Even if it costs my life, I’ll never ask you for help.” After she’s gone, Edward makes a call to have her recalled anyway… and in the hall, Jessica wipes away her tears with a triumphant smile, thinking, “Go burn in Hell, Edward.”
Eventually Hae-ri is released, and Jessica is there to pick her up. She explains that she bailed herself out as soon as she got to America, and she asks Hae-ri what she thinks of her proposal to come to America and train to become a lobbyist. After that, she says they’ll go to the Kingdom of Kiria, where Prime Minister Hong is working with Edward Park on a drilling project, and snatch it away from them. Hae-ri thinks about it for about three seconds, then agrees.
Meanwhile, Dal-geon has successfully infiltrated Black Sun, and is currently on a covert mission in North Africa to steal a biochemical weapon. The weapon is successfully retrieved, and the team relaxes as they wait for an appointed person to come take possession of the canisters.
Dal-geon is secretly in contact with Lily and Do-su, and Lily says that the person he’s waiting for is Jerome. She tells him to make an excuse and get out of there before Jerome recognizes him, but Dal-geon has other plans. He shoots the rest of his team then hides, so when Jerome arrives, all he finds is a room full of bodies and the biochemical weapon sitting on the table.
Jerome takes one of the canisters out of the safe to verify it, and that’s when Dal-geon pops up and shoots him in the knee. He tells Jerome who he is, without taking off his gas mask, then he activates a device he planted on the canister that causes it to explode in Jerome’s face, infecting him with the biochemical weapon.
As Jerome writhes in agony, his skin bubbling with angry pustules, Dal-geon growls, “Your fear, your pain… they’re nothing compared to what my nephew suffered in the crash.” Jerome begs Dal-geon to kill him, but instead, Dal-geon holds up the antidote and says that Jerome has two minutes to save himself.
He asks who Jerome is working for, and Jerome gasps, “Axis.” Dal-geon remembers that Jerome had said Wheels turn on their axis when they first fought in Morocco. He asks what Axis is, and Jerome says it’s a secret organization engaged in global finance.
Dal-geon asks why Edward wants a biochemical weapon, and Jerome yells, “Kiria!” Dal-geon drops the antidote and crushes it under his boot, and he tells Jerome, “When you’re in Hell, remember my nephew’s name. It’s Hoon. Cha Hoon.” He walks away, tossing a grenade over his shoulder just to make sure Jerome is dead.
Prime Minister Hong and Edward discuss the oil drilling venture in Kiria, which is crucial to Prime Minister Hong’s presidential bid. He’s concerned because the other candidate has sent a lobbyist to Kiria to make an offer, but Edward tells him to let him handle it. Edward meets up with Secretary Yoon and Chief Min, and along with Micky, the four head to Kiria.
The lobbyist sent by Prime Minister Hong’s opposition turns out to be Hae-ri, who startles her escorts by calling them out on their sexist comments in their own language. Dal-geon is also in Kiria on a mission for Black Sun (on Edward’s orders, naturally), and he and his racist-as-hell Russian partner set up for a sniper attack on the lobbyist.
They shoot out a tire on the limo, and Dal-geon zeroes in on his target. But he freezes when he sees that it’s Hae-ri, and after a moment of indecision, he turns and kills his partner instead. Hae-ri’s escort hurries her into the second vehicle and takes off, leaving Dal-geon fighting back tears.
AND THAT’S IT. SHOW’S OVER. I… are they serious right now? A cliffhanger ending with no promise of a second season? Again?? Okay, I know that these Netflix collaborations mean that we’ll probably get more of this in the future, and I don’t mind multiple seasons if the shows are good. My issue is that they aren’t transparent about it, and they let people watch the whole show all the way to the final scene before realizing that oh, we aren’t going to get the end of the story like we’re used to with Korean dramas. For a lot of us, one of the reasons we love k-dramas is the closure — we get a complete story, it ends, and the actors move on to other projects. But Netflix getting involved seems to be leading to series that hint at a second season, but without lining up the actors, writers, crew, or even budget for it. So instead of delivering a full story like we expect, we’re left with no ending and no promise of one in the future. I’ve been a loyal Netflix customer since back when they only mailed out DVDs, so I say this with all the love in my heart, but maybe Netflix needs to leave Korean dramas alone?
Okay, rant over. Well, rant about that topic over, anyway — now I’m going to rant about Vagabond itself. I think I was spot-on earlier when I labeled the show “bananapants.” It was nuts, though nuts in a fun way… I guess I just wish it had known it was nuts and taken itself a bit less seriously. The show somehow managed to be entertaining despite the lack of logic, comprehensive storytelling, or proper utilization of its fantastic cast. It was a mess almost from the beginning, and while the action scenes were exciting and well choreographed, everything else was mostly confusing to the point that, for the first time in my almost six years of recapping (holy crap), I had to watch each episode 2-3 times to understand what was going on. The show had a solid premise, but they tried to cram too many political misdirections into the plot, so instead of being a straightforward, exciting show about a man trying to get revenge, most of the time I had zero idea what was going on. They literally could have cut out everything regarding President Jung and Secretary Yoon/Shadow, for example, and the story would have been much more streamlined.
Having gotten all that off my chest, I don’t want to end this on a sour note, and there was a lot I liked about Vagabond. The production value was quite high, the acting top-notch, and I did enjoy the story even when it went completely off the rails. Mostly I loved the characters, who never acted predictably and surprised me in a lot of ways. Good guys turned out to be bad, bad guys ended up on the side of good, and even now I still don’t know what side some characters will land on, if we’re allowed to conclude the story. Tae-woong was a lot of fun, seeming evil at first but turning out to just have a giant stick up his… spine. I was touched by the way Tae-woong’s attitude towards Hae-ri turned around so completely that he barely let her buy groceries in Morocco, but by the end, he was sending her alone on life-threatening missions, fully confident in her capability.
I especially love Lily and Do-su, who were the actual worse mercenaries ever and couldn’t hit an elephant with a basketball from five feet away, but who somehow became crucial to getting Dal-geon as far as he’s gotten. They’re just so lovable, I couldn’t help but like them, especially Lily who was quirky and endearing even when she was trying to kill Dal-geon. Jessica also turned out to be surprisingly useful several times over, helping Dal-geon and eventually bringing Hae-ri in on her plans to take down Edward. Most of the NIS team were great as well, Chief Kang in particular, who turned out to be much more competent than he wanted anyone to know.
Mostly, I love Dal-geon and Hae-ri, who make a great bicker-ey team. I didn’t even hate the romantic interest they showed in each other, which wasn’t necessary to the story but was mostly light-handed and didn’t take over the plot, and seemed to know when to come forward and give us a break from the seriousness and when to fade into the background. I also appreciate how the situation made them both go a little dark, which was interesting in the type of drama where usually protagonists tend to keep an iron grip on their moral values. I hope we get a second season, because I want to see more of Dal-geon and Hae-ri working on the wrong side of the law. I also want a second season because so much is still unexplained, like how Edward Park became Samael, who was running Black Sun and was already feared worldwide before he ever planned the plane crash, so clearly he’s been orchestrating things like this for a long time. I want to know what Axis is and how it enters into the events of the plane crash. I don’t hold out a lot of hope, but if we do get a conclusion, I’d be tuning in at least long enough to get some answers.
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