Hi Bye, Mama! : Episode 16 (Final)
Are you ready for the extra-long sob fest finale? The show has prepared us for this ending, but it’s still an overwhelming mix of emotions as everyone struggles through grief and happiness and guilt on their way to catharsis. Yuri has made her decision, and it’s time for everyone to move forward without guilt. Some are more prepared for this day than others, but their shared grief also helps them move forward together.
EPISODE 16: “Petals Fall, but the Flower Endures”
“I won’t take my place back,” Yuri firmly tells Kang-hwa as they linger outside his car. She tells him that Seo-woo is the first life she’s valued more than her own, and she refuses to take her spot back if it means that Seo-woo will be haunted by ghosts for the rest of her life.
Kang-hwa desperately clings to the hope that there’s a way for Yuri to stay and for them to banish the ghosts from Seo-woo as well. But he recalls when Yuri first told him about the ghosts that plagued Seo-woo and an unsettling drawing Seo-woo made of the ghost who used to haunt their apartment. And Yuri knows there’s no perfect option, only a choice between the two.
Kang-hwa still clings to his desire to keep Yuri alive, no matter what. But Yuri tells him that, just like five years ago, this decision is hers to make and hers alone, and she’ll choose Seo-woo every time. She tells him that he did everything that he could, both times, and that she’s sorry that he’s in a position to feel guilty again.
At the bar, Hyun-jung wonders if telling Kang-hwa everything was the right thing to do. Geun-sang reassures her, saying that it’s better for him to know and get a chance to try this time than to have this be a surprise again. But Hyun-jung thinks back to her last conversation with Yuri, and she realizes that Yuri never agreed to take her place as Kang-hwa’s wife back.
Meanwhile, Midongdaek has finally discovered the reason for Yuri’s return: a wish made by Yuri’s mom at the temple asking to see her daughter just one more time. That night, Mom holds Yuri in her arms as they sleep and sings softly to her, her wish a reality.
At the columbarium, Guk-bong has clearly been busy. The only ghosts who remain are our lady trio. Gwi-soon and Hye-jin look up to ask Mi-ja about her son, who has been visiting her urn frequently lately since his business failed again. They indicate that he always seems to turn up with these issues, and the ghosts sigh that life is just tough.
The next morning, Yuri’s mom is surprised to find Yuri boxing up all of her old things in her room. Mom does not seem happy, even though Yuri says everything is old and unused. Mom lowers herself to the bed and sighs that she kept everything because Yuri was in the room still. She could come in to see photos that reminded her of her grade schooler who went to school with a backpack bigger than her, her teenage daughter who would giggle at leaves on the street, and her high schooler who cried so hard when she failed the college entrance exam.
She tells Yuri that if she’d gotten rid of everything in the room, it would have felt as though Yuri had never existed at all. Yuri leans in and tells her mother that even if nothing of her is left in the world, she still lives in her heart always.
But the melancholy follows Mom out of the room, and Dad asks what’s wrong. Mom brushes his concerns off, but her mouth sets in a thin line when he asks if she had the dream again, and she says yes. And then she turns to the kitchen cupboards and takes out the seaweed her neighbor had gifted her.
Kang-hwa finds Yuri for round two of trying to convince her to live. He says that they should just focus on her staying alive right now, and they can work on solving Seo-woo’s ghost problem afterwards. Yuri reminds him of the freezer incident at the daycare, and that this is a more deadly problem than just seeing friendly ghosts all the time.
Yuri tells him that after having been dead, it’s living that feels strange to her now. The frustration gets to Kang-hwa, and he growls at her, “Since you already died once should I say, ‘Okay. Bye. You’re dead already anyway?'” Yuri has nothing to say to calm him, and can only walk away.
She makes her way to Midongdaek, who shares the discovery of her mother’s wish. Midongdaek says that she always assumed that Yuri’s mother was at the temple every day praying for her daughter’s peace, but she had instead been praying for this one wish. Yuri says that she failed to see this because she’d only been concerned about her own daughter, and Midongdaek says that everyone is like that. She says that she lives alone like she does to take care of her own child and his family, while her son is only concerned with his child.
And with this revelation, Yuri realizes that these 49 days haven’t been a punishment or test at all; just a gift. And in montage, we see moments that Yuri had yearned for but thought she’d never experience: hugging Seo-woo for the first time, seeing her mom again, bringing Seo-woo to play with her entire family, Seo-woo comforting her sweetly, and the fresh air from Hyun-jung’s car as they drove. Yuri nods and commits to using her remaining time to enjoy it while she’s there. Midongdaek tells Yuri that she’s grown stronger, into a real mom now.
Yuri visits Hyun-jung first to relay her decision. Hyun-jung tries to fight for her friend at first, saying that everyone is cruel to her, but she stops when Yuri asks her to help leave with a smile in the end. Hyun-jung breaks down into sobs as the reality settles in, and Yuri holds her tightly as Geun-sang stands by.
Kang-hwa finds himself at the columbarium in front of Yuri’s urn, as he sinks in front of it in despair. Midongdaek finds him there, and suggests that while she understands his feelings, he might regret wasting time later if he doesn’t try to enjoy time with Yuri now. That desperate look returns to Kang-hwa’s eyes as he begs Midongdaek for some new information that would allow Yuri to live and keep Seo-woo safe. Kang-hwa offers himself up, for whatever the universe wants from him. He’ll see ghosts, he’ll die and move on, just as long as Yuri can stay. But Midongdaek tells him gently that nothing can be done, and suggests that sending someone on properly to their resting place can be a way of showing their respects.
At their home, Min-jung lingers at their wedding portrait. Her bags are packed and waiting on the bed. Meanwhile at the bar, Hyun-jung shows Yuri the friendship bracelets Min-jung left in her care, after drinking her beer and crying. Yuri asks if Min-jung said anything, and Hyun-jung shares Min-jung’s intention to divorce Kang-hwa. Yuri is immediately upset and wants to fix things, while Hyun-jung tells her friend that this is something between Kang-hwa and Min-jung, not something that Yuri can take care of.
Min-jung walks Seo-woo to school and tells her daughter how pretty she is. Seo-woo senses the melancholy, and presses a bandaid on Min-jung’s hand. Min-jung asks if she seems sick, and then wraps Seo-woo in a tearful hug.
Yuri is upset to see that Min-jung managed to smuggle Seo-woo into the daycare without her seeing, but her focus shifts when Seo-woo throws up in the playroom. Yuri loads Seo-woo on her back and she and the daycare manager run to the nearby hospital. It’s just a little enteritis, thankfully, though the daycare staff have already contacted Min-jung.
Min-jung rushes in, worry and fear in her eyes, but her expression falls away when she sees Yuri already at Seo-woo’s side. Min-jung pivots back around to the doors, but Yuri manages to catch up just outside. Min-jung asks Yuri what she’s supposed to do, since Seo-woo’s real mother is at her daughter’s side now, but Yuri asks her not to leave and tells Min-jung that both Kang-hwa and Seo-woo need her.
Back at the temple, Yuri’s mother spots Kang-hwa just outside the columbarium. They sit together at the nearby tables and Mom asks what’s bothering Kang-hwa. Without telling the whole situation, Kang-hwa confesses that he’s scared that Yuri will disappear again.
Mom turns to Kang-hwa and tells him about the dream that she’s been having every night since Yuri returned. In the dream, Yuri says goodbye to her and leaves. Mom says that she feels relief each morning that she wakes up and finds Yuri still there, but that she also can’t help but wonder if Yuri came back to life to say goodbye, and that the dream is Yuri trying to prepare her for her real departure. Given this, Mom has committed to saying goodbye to Yuri with a smile. Retreating to his car, Kang-hwa hears Yuri again and again, telling him that she’s sorry and that none of this is his fault.
At the hospital, Yuri gives Min-jung the whole story, including her impending death. Min-jung is immediately worried for Kang-hwa, and Yuri tries to reassure Min-jung that whatever he said to her to want to divorce, he didn’t mean it. Min-jung asks Yuri why she doesn’t hate her, and Yuri tells her that she’s only grateful towards her. Yuri says that her death turned sweet Kang-hwa into a thorny cactus, and she appreciate that Min-jung keeps holding on to him even though he’s so changed.
And, Yuri can’t forget, Min-jung is Seo-woo’s favorite person in the world, and that gave her so much relief. Min-jung asks if there is any way that Yuri could stay, and Yuri says no.
Driving back, Kang-hwa finally gets the message of Seo-woo’s hospitalization, and when he arrives it’s Min-jung at Seo-woo’s bedside. Is that relief in his eyes? It’s hard to tell, because once they’re outside he immediately casts his eyes down again. Min-jung offers him an opening, saying that when they were living together he would thank her for small things, like combing Seo-woo’s hair or tucking her in at night, as if she were a stranger. Kang-hwa finally offers something other than, “I’m sorry,” and says that he didn’t ever want to regret anything again, like he had with Yuri.
Min-jung acknowledges that Kang-hwa has finally made an effort to open up, but she still walks away. Over her shoulder, she tells Kang-hwa to give Yuri a good send-off, and says that they’ll discuss the status of their divorce once Yuri has left.
Yuri has her mom’s wish on her mind, so she throws herself into spending good time with Mom at home. But after her conversation with Kang-hwa, Mom has a different sense of what this time means now, and she tells Yuri she has something for her.
Mom finally cooks seaweed soup with the seaweed she’s had hidden away. Mom tells Yuri that she wanted to make a big pot for her after she gave birth, and tells Yuri about that big pot that went to waste on the stove after her death.
It’s a story that Yuri already knows, and Mom now asks if Yuri was always at her side these last five years. Yuri hesitates, but Mom knows the truth. She says that she understands now that Yuri hid Seo-woo’s baby things away not for herself, but for Mom. And of course as we know, Yuri was there for the moments when Mom snuck away to Yuri’s room to cry over the baby clothes or to try to distract herself with games on her phone.
Mom begins to cry and Yuri holds her tightly. Mom says that she wished really hard that she could see Yuri again, because she wanted just one chance to tell her that she was sorry. Yuri asks why Mom would be sorry, and Mom says that she knew how much pain Yuri felt even when she just cut her finger, so she couldn’t stand to think about the pain Yuri must have felt, all by herself on the pavement. Mom’s guilt is because she was sorry that she wasn’t at Yuri’s side when she died.
Yuri reassures her mother that she was strong the whole time, because she hadn’t been alone. Seo-woo had been with her through it all, and that’s what made her strong. The two hold each other tight as they cry.
At the columbarium, Gwi-soon and Hye-jin watch as Mi-ja sits with her son, who has come to cry at his mother’s urn. The camera slowly pans up to show that Mi-ja’s son is an old man himself, much older than Mi-ja was when she died. The ghosts sigh that it’s at that age especially that you miss your mother, and they all agree that they miss their own.
Kang-hwa and Yuri meet for one final round, and Kang-hwa asks one last time if there’s no way for Yuri to stay. He seems resigned though to her answer now, and Kang-hwa wishes that he’d known how things would end so that he could make sure that Yuri saw Seo-woo more. He says that he’s been a fool, but Yuri tells him that all of these moments have been really precious to her. She was able to hug Seo-woo, and she was also able to hold Kang-hwa when he panicked.
“How can I let you go again?” he asks her, and Yuri apologizes for her decision, now and five years ago. Kang-hwa apologizes now, and Yuri tells him no, that she’s grateful that he loved her while they were together.
That night Kang-hwa hovers over Seo-woo as she sleeps. He whispers to her that the pretty aunt is actually her birth mother. “Your mom must love you, no, she does you a lot.” He kisses Seo-woo’s tiny fingers, and asks her to forgive him.
Now that everyone is on the same page, Yuri writes out a to-do list of things she wants to experience before she leaves. Number one: keep my promises to friends.
It’s her ghostly friends she’s thinking of, and she takes the remaining ladies out for bbq, which she turns into ghostly offerings for all of them. The waitress lifts her eyebrows as Yuri chatters away at an empty table, but Yuri’s unconcerned. The food is the ghosts’ idea, since they’ve decided that they have no favors to ask. They see no reason to scare their families with knowledge that they’re still lingering as ghosts, and have decided it’s time to move on. Instead, they’re just grateful that they were able to keep one another company during their time as ghosts, and agree to meet again in a new life.
Second on Yuri’s list is to return favors, and there’s a big one she owes to the ghost family. So she brings a very confused Pil-seung around to her parents’ house for a home cooked meal. Pil-seung is surprised to hear Yuri call herself a friend of the family, but she smiles at him that she’s indeed good friends with his parents. Pil-seung doesn’t let the surprise ruin his appetite though, as he digs in.
Next up, Yuri wants to enjoy everyday mom life, so she and Hyun-jung take the kids out to a cafe. The tasks become bigger and more important, as next up, Yuri wants to say goodbye to her family. But they’re able to keep it happy, and have a fun picnic with Seo-woo and hang out all day into the evening.
The last task on Yuri’s list is to say goodbye to those closest to her, and so she and Hyun-jung set off for a camping trip with the kids. The guys ride separately in Kang-hwa’s car, and while Kang-hwa is there, he’s still not able to crack a smile or relax. Geun-sang asks him to pull up alongside Hyun-jung’s car, and he begs the girls to let him ride with them instead, haha. He even promises that he remembered to bring the meat this time, but the ladies just zoom ahead.
At the campsite, Geun-sang and Kang-hwa play soccer with the kids while Hyun-jung and Yuri watch. Hyun-jung takes the moment to give Yuri a letter from Min-jung. Hyun-jung says that Min-jung asked her to give Yuri a good send-off with Kang-hwa. Yuri asks if Min-jung is still divorcing Kang-hwa, and Hyun-jung reminds her that there were problems between the two even before Yuri returned. Hyun-jung tells Yuri to worry about her own problems, and to smile.
Yuri finds a spot alone to read Min-jung’s letter. Min-jung moves through all of the names she’s known Yuri by, until finally ending at “Seo-woo’s mom.” Min-jung says that she’s mad not just because Kang-hwa and Yuri lied to her, but now also because she’s so sad to lose a friend. She says that she’s glad to have met Yuri, and ends with a P.S. that promises that she will protect Seo-woo with all of her heart. Kang-hwa watches Yuri quietly in this moment.
And then everyone is together, singing and clapping around the campfire. Hyun-jung’s smile begins to falter, but Yuri reminds her and the corners of her lips lift again.
Kang-hwa and Yuri find a spot alone to talk. Kang-hwa asks Yuri if she’s happy, and she says that she is, now that she can leave laughing and smiling along with everyone, instead of alone without anyone knowing. Kang-hwa asks if she has any regrets, and she tells him that the person she could count on the most in life was her mother. Her one regret is that she wasn’t able to be that kind of mother for Seo-woo. But she looks Kang-hwa in the eyes and tells him that since she can’t, it’s up to him to be that kind of dad for Seo-woo, and he promises to.
She asks him what he missed the most after she died, and he says that he was most sad that he wouldn’t be able to grow old with her. He’d always imagined them seeing Seo-woo go to college, get married, and have her own children, all with Yuri at his side. Yuri says that she also wanted that life, and Kang-hwa says that he’s grateful that Yuri gave him Seo-woo. Yuri asks Kang-hwa to live his life to the fullest for Seo-woo from now on, and he promises that he will. He even manages a smile, and the ghost of his old self is in it. They lean in for a hug, and hold each other for a long while on the bench.
And then, Yuri’s final day arrives. Mom steps outside and looks at the flowers on the trees, in full bloom. Yuri gives her final goodbyes to Seo-woo. She tells her daughter to always smile and asks her to come to her in the next life as well.
As Yuri hugs her, Seo-woo gently says, “Bye, Mom.” Tears spring to Yuri’s eyes as she hears her daughter call her “mom” at last.
In the end, Midongdaek is there with Yuri. Yuri earnestly thanks her friend for helping her all this time, and they exchange a few teasing words as well. Midongdaek says that Yuri has one more goodbye to give, and holds out a mirror. Yuri looks in the mirror and says goodbye to this life, and she does.
Yuri walks forward on her own, down a path surrounded by blossoming trees.
“Kang-hwa, Seo-woo,” she says in voiceover. “When you go to heaven, god will ask you two questions. If you answer yes to both questions you can be reborn as a human in your next life. First, were you happy with your life? And the other question is, Were other people happy because of you? Let’s be reborn as humans and meet again in the next life.”
And now it’s time for a time jump. On the table, Seo-woo’s baby photos lead to new photos as she grows bigger and bigger, and soon she is a young lady. That young lady sits on a park bench with a book open on her lap and Yuri’s friendship bracelet from Min-jung on her wrist.
In between the book pages is the polaroid photo taken of Yuri, Kang-hwa, and Seo-woo at the amusement park. Written on the photo in Yuri’s hand, it reads, “My baby, will you remember that I was with you?”
Seo-woo folds over the cover of her book on the photo, and the title reads, “Petals Fall, but the Flower Endures,” a book about the philosophy of death and shared grief (and the title of this episode). At Seo-woo’s side, there’s a textbook for film studies, and a notebook titled “script” with Seo-woo’s name on the cover.
Seo-woo looks up when her parents call out to her and runs over to them. Though their backs are to us, Kang-hwa and Min-jung’s distinct voices ring out as they laugh and talk together.
If I told you that it was easy to recap this final episode, it would be a lie. I certainly cried through the entire hour and a half, and then through about 40% of my attempt to write about my feelings as well. From the start, this show was able to dig in and tap into those heavy, messy emotions, and it managed to maintain that through to the end. I think that we can agree that there were some misses here and there along the way, especially when it came to some plot decisions, but in the end, the emotional arcs made it to the end they were meant to reach.
I really enjoyed this drama, but I would say that it suffered in two areas: the first is that it didn’t trust the viewers when it came to the magic system and its rules.
What made the writer’s previous efforts with Go Back Spouses so good was that there weren’t too many rules getting in the way of the emotions. The magic of that show was never really explained, and stayed out of focus for the majority of the run. Hi Bye, Mama!, on the other hand, created Midongdaek entirely to serve as the source of information, and then failed to justify the need for the information she gave.
We didn’t need Guk-bong waiting eagerly to collect Seo-woo for shaman duty to be fearful for Seo-woo and her ghost vision. And though 49 days makes sense in a traditional mythological and theological sense, there was no need for a ticking clock either to propel our characters forward. The revelation of Mom’s wish in the temple was so perfect at the end; it was seriously all we needed without all the mess in the middle. I believe that Yuri would have tried to fix Seo-woo’s ghost vision no matter what reason she did or didn’t have for her return, and she didn’t need rules or tips from Midongdaek to figure out that it was her presence at her daughter’s side that was going to ensure that the ghosts never faded.
Without Midongdaek supposedly supplying answers to Yuri, Yuri still would have made the decision not to get in between Kang-hwa and Min-jung. Yuri’s growing concern about whether she was experiencing a gift or a punishment could have been all the more palpable with no answers at all. The show does character and emotion so well, I would have preferred that they didn’t try to explain the unexplainable to us. I would much rather accept the magic and get to the meat of the story.
The other letdown in the end was the way that the side character ghosts were handled. The idea that Yuri was going to help everyone resolve their problems being introduced so late in the show… we knew it wasn’t going to be achievable. And honestly, I even think that conclusion is okay. Some ghosts were able to fix some things and move on, and for others, it was okay to come to the realization that too often both life and the afterlife are filled with regret if they aren’t careful. It all weaves nicely into the show’s over-arching themes… but the ghosts weren’t given enough screen time at the very end for this to feel fully integrated.
The emotional beats were there, but they weren’t held long enough, and so it just misses its mark in execution. It’s all so close, but not quite there.
Even with these small let downs though, it’s hard to feel anything but grateful for a show that just makes me feel so much, even days after I’ve watched the last episode. I love a story with no villains. It can make a sustained plot difficult, as I think we see here, but I am perfectly fine with imperfect story when I’m left at the end with so many warm fuzzy feelings for every single character (I guess the exception is Guk-bong, but he barely got enough screen time to count).
I was so worried about Min-jung at first, unsure whether the show would villainize her. And now at the end, as everyone has always said, Min-jung is too nice. She stepped back to let everyone heal the way they needed to. She didn’t jump in and demand that others take care of her feelings (even though she totally deserves to have that). She’s patient, but she’s learned that there’s a difference between kindness and being trampled. She doesn’t hang back completely anymore. And with Yuri’s brief return, she finally understands that she is Seo-woo’s real mother. She has the approval and gratitude of Seo-woo’s birth mother, and now she can finally understand how silly it is to feel like an imposter when she’s serving a very important role in Yuri’s daughter’s life.
I loved how even though it was Yuri’s mother’s wish that brought Yuri back, Mom was ultimately the one most prepared to let her daughter go again. Some of Yuri’s final words to Kang-hwa are about her mother and how she always had her back, and that showed here as well. Mom understood everything that Yuri felt from the very start of this, and she never resisted or fought her daughter’s decisions. Where even Kang-hwa and Hyun-jung couldn’t understand her, Mom saw immediately how Yuri would feel about her daughter and what her choice would be.
And Kang-hwa. Sigh. While Mom was ready, Kang-hwa never could be. Kang-hwa struggled so hard to see beyond his own pain, and couldn’t do it until the very end, and even that peek beyond was begrudgingly. It doesn’t make him bad. Nothing Kang-hwa did was cruel or wrong. He wasn’t alone in his grief and guilt all these years. But he loved Yuri so entirely, and that love just lodged itself in such a way that he couldn’t do anything but hurt. I don’t want to say that I was glad to see him hurting, but I appreciated that not everyone had to come around and feel perfectly at peace with Yuri’s decision. People are different, and I think it was a really honest look at the way loved ones may each find their own path to letting go. By the time jump, Kang-hwa has found his new balance. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have that pain still sitting with him deep down, but he seems to understand now that Yuri is with him, in Seo-woo. Those habits that remind him of Yuri, like the nose-wriggling at night, have likely only grown more pronounced as Seo-woo has aged. Even without Yuri there to guide her along the way, there are pieces of Yuri that linger.
In the end, the reminder here is that life is a gift, and that we should try to enjoy it while we can. That is true for when Yuri was alive, and when she returned. It’s a show that warns about getting stuck, especially because we feel guilty or regret things. Both the ghosts and the living struggle with these things, but it takes a moment of communication between the realms for everyone to realize that kind of life isn’t what they want for the other.
And by the end, there are two ways to live on. As she passes on, Yuri looks forward to a future life when she can find Kang-hwa and Seo-woo again. Perhaps that time, they can make it to when they’re old and grey, the lives they were looking forward to. And in the meantime, Yuri lives on in Seo-woo. Seo-woo carries everyone’s memories of Yuri for them, even as she finds her own joy in life.