Backstreet Rookie: Episodes 15-16 Open Thread (Final)
Our confession is out in the open, but there’s one final hurdle for our couple until everything can be set to rights. The final episodes of Backstreet Rookie give us a feel-good message about people holding their own, being themselves, and finding their own version of a happy ending.
EPISODES 15-16 WEECAP
Our drama could have ended last week with Dae-hyun’s rooftop confession to Saet-byul, but we haven’t reached the end of our tale just yet. Rather than a quick acceptance sealed with a kiss, Saet-byul asks for a little time before she answers him, saying that she wants to wait to pass her GED first.
The presumption is that Saet-byul isn’t good enough for him, and it’s that logic that gives our drama its plot for the final week. Dae-hyun tells her on the roof, “You’re already enough. You’re awesome,” but the assurance of his feelings towards her isn’t enough for our pair to get their happy ending.
Yeon-joo has wormed her way into the heart of Dae-hyun’s mother, who’s disgusted by her husband’s behavior regarding his first love, the obsession with China (where she lives), et al. I didn’t find this plot line particularly compelling, but it worked well to bring Dae-hyun’s mom to a point where she was blinded by Yeon-joo. As expected, she presses her son to get back with her, and her insistence on Yeon-joo being a great match for him is enough to basically crush Saet-byul.
She was riding high after Dae-hyun’s confession (I mean, it’s the perfect confession after all — to be told you are awesome, enough as you are, and loved), and both of them are giddy and adorable. Their short-lived “some” relationship doesn’t last long, though (or long enough!). Saet-byul takes off for the hills, convinced she’s not good enough for Dae-hyun, after his mother’s words confirm her worst feelings towards herself. She leaves in noble idiocy, sneaking out in the middle of the night as one does in these situations.
Frankly, I was a tad disappointed that we had to go the route of noble idiocy. This drama has done a nice job of changing the pace of our usual plot arcs, so I wish they had kept it up and not dragged us along on this final journey. On the other hand, what does this brief time apart do for our characters? It cements their feelings for each other, it acts as time for Dae-hyun to do his side of the waiting, and it gives Saet-byul time to process what’s happened to her. It’s a bit understated, but I do like that the drama gives time to Saet-byul’s qualms after receiving the confession she’s been dreaming of for years. “Why am I scared?” she asks herself.
Our crazy-in-love couple of Dal-shik and Geum-bi earn their keep this week. They go to meet Dal-shik’s father and discover Saet-byul working in the gardens. Dal-shik boasts that as a writer he knows it would be better for Dae-hyun to approach her instead of them, so they alert him. It’s here that we learn an important fact: Dae-hyun also remembers Saet-byul way back when at the dojo, and he tells her that was a turning point in his life, and when he realized how much he wanted to help people. That, I think, acts as the final assurance for Saet-byul. Suddenly, any unevenness or disparity between them is disregarded: they are equals.
Our drama’s conclusion balances humor, heart, and some funny self-reference that I wasn’t expecting (but probably should have). Dae-hyun and his family have a good wrap-up, when his mother realizes that Yeon-joo isn’t remotely good enough (or good-hearted enough, IMHO) for Dae-hyun. She tells off Yeon-joo’s mother once and for all, and it’s quite satisfying. But we also have a moment of thoughtfulness within Dae-hyun’s family, when he tells them that he wants the very same simple life that they have, and that their bickering and financial struggles aren’t enough to counter the truth: that they love and depend on each other.
Then, our drama comes full circle. Saet-byul earns her GED, again learns how much Dae-hyun’s family values her, and she marches back to the convenience store where it all started. Dae-hyun is back to his true self as the store owner, and is as haggard as when we first met him. There’s a “Part-timer wanted” sign in the window, — except Dae-hyun’s added in fine print that the worker must be “Jung Saet-byul.” We get a cute reenactment of our opening scenes when she first applied for the job… and what do you know, Dal-shik and Geum-bi are spying on them, infinitely inspired.
Dal-shik’s next webtoon will be called “Backstreet Rookie” (or more literally, “Convenience Store Saet-byul”), and it will tell the story of their romance — A.K.A., the drama we just watched. I love some drama self-reference, so this was a fun meta poke at our story/storyteller, and also a decent ending for the character that’s been the biggest issue throughout.
Speaking of self-reference, our drama (and leading couple) suddenly becomes very aware of us as an audience. Just when we reach our final scene, when the happy hugs end and the romance and chemistry kick in, Dae-hyun is leaning in to kiss Saet-byul when they both look shyly at the camera, and reach out to cover it up. It’s the perfect cheeky moment on which to close, and though the drama its flaws, the sweet giddiness of its ending is pretty infectious.