It’s Okay to Not Be Okay: Episode 16 (Final)
Well, here we are… Our prince and princess have lived their dark fairy tale, enduring all the monsters and witches to reach that happy ending. And what we get is probably one of the most bittersweet happy endings I’ve seen in quite some time. I can tell you right now, this drama won’t be easy to let go.
EPISODE 16: “Finding the real, real face”
Where were we? Oh, yes, that almost-kiss. Kang-tae has Moon-young on top of the desk and is slowly leaning in… when a deer cries outside. They turn to the sound, and Kang-tae is so annoyed that he yells, “Shut up, you damn deer!” *pauses video to laugh way too hard*
They also laugh, but Kang-tae’s face immediately turns serious again. He tells her that he loves her, with such sweet intensity, and this time, it seems to hit her. A tear runs down her face, and then they’re kissing, over and over again. And whoa. *laughing turns into swooning*
Meanwhile, at the apartment, Sang-tae calls Jae-soo over to give him some news — he wants to quit working at the pizza place so he can focus on being an illustrator. And, of course, Jae-soo doesn’t take this very well, nearly bursting into tears. Later, as Sang-tae gets ready for bed, he reveals that he’s staying here to give his siblings time to make up. Touched, Jae-soo hugs him, wishing he could be his sibling too.
Back at the mansion, our couple is now lying together on the couch. Moon-young asks about the family portrait hanging on the brothers’ tree, and Kang-tae tells her that it was his way of introducing her to his mom. “As the best friend she always wanted for Sang-tae,” he says, “and as the woman I love.” She thinks that their mom wouldn’t have liked her, and he points that she’s not likeable in general. But that’s okay, since she has him. In response, she looks at him and says that she’s, er, sleepy.
The next morning, we see clothes strewn all over the floor and our couple cuddling in bed. Later on, a cheerful Moon-young finds Kang-tae in the kitchen and backhugs him. She’s not so cheerful, however, when he reveals that he quit his job and is thinking of attending college. She’d rather have him stay with her at all times.
In turn, he asks if she really plans to retire. He admits that he was looking forward to her next book, that he wanted to show it off to people. This in mind, she drags him to the study and pulls out Sang-tae’s drawing of what she calls the “real, real happy Moon Kang-tae.”
After seeing it, she says, she decided to make some changes to her story. (Yay, she’ll be publishing after all!) He smiles down at the drawing, and, curious, she asks if he likes her or Sang-tae more. Still looking down, he answers, “I like myself the most.” As he walks off, she curses and chases after him, asking again. Hee.
At OK, Director Oh gifts his buddy Pil-wong a new pair of shoes, telling him to go out into the world and find his door. Director Oh then heads downstairs and finds Cha-yong napping in the storage room. At first, he caresses his son’s face… and then we cut to him dragging him out by the ear. The other employees hear Cha-yong cry, “Dad, it hurts!” and they’re shocked to learn of their relation.
Sang-tae returns to the mansion in time for breakfast, and as everyone’s eating, he asks if Moon-young and Kang-tae kissed and made up. With a sly smile, Moon-young brags that they did a lot of kissing. “But that wasn’t enough,” she continues, “so we even–” Kang-tae goes into a coughing fit and kicks her under the table. To change the subject, he reveals that the new book is back on. (Also, have to highlight that Sang-tae helps Moon-young pick up her quail eggs, just like Kang-tae used to do.)
That afternoon, Moon-young meets up with Sang-in and surprises him with her mother’s long lost manuscript. But there’s a catch — she wants him to choose between publishing her mom’s final novel or publishing her final fairy tale. The novel would bring in more money, but even so, Sang-in tosses it aside.
Apparently, that was all for show, because when Sang-in sees Seung-jae at home, he asks her where the novel manuscript is. She has no idea what he’s talking about, so he takes out his phone, saying he texted her to pick it up. And, ha, he’s horrified to see that he accidentally sent that text to Moon-young.
Though Moon-young’s peeved about the text, that’s not her biggest worry at the moment. She’s currently at the county jail, ready to face her mother for the last time.
Even in jail, Hui-jae is still smug, telling Moon-young that the brothers will never stay with her. Hui-jae continues that she loves her, that she did everything she could to make her a strong woman — and Moon-young completely shuts her down.
“I almost turned into a demon like you,” Moon-young says. “And I’m so relieved I didn’t.” In fact, she pities her mom, because she’s never known warmth, never even tried to be interested in it. And that’s what makes them different.
Moon-young stands to leave and tells her mom to at least eat well; because from now on, she’s going to erase her mom from her memory. She turns to leave, angering Hui-jae and making her scream that she’ll never ever erase her.
Afterwards, Moon-young stops by the hospital to see how Sang-tae is doing on his mural. She notes that he erased Hui-jae’s butterfly, and he tells her that he didn’t erase it — he just covered it up so he could make his own.
Moon-young remembers her last moments with Hui-jae: After Hui-jae screamed, Moon-young turned to face her again. “Butterfly,” she said. “You told me that the word ‘psycho’ comes from the word ‘psyche.’ But to us, butterfly means ‘cure.’ A cure that heals our soul. You should remember that.”
Now, Moon-young smiles up at the mural and says that Sang-tae is right. They just have to cover up the bad with something better. With that, she encourages him to paint a beautiful butterfly and goes on her way.
Kang-tae visits Jae-soo at the pizza place, telling him that he’s going back to school. Kang-tae smiles when Jae-soo suggests he go too. He knows his buddy doesn’t actually want to study, so he suggests he stop following him and finally do what he wants. Poor Jae-soo pouts, thinking he’s no longer needed.
“Hyung,” Kang-tae says, making Jae-soo perk up. “Jae-soo Hyung.” Before, he didn’t want another older brother, but now, he figures the more the merrier. He sincerely thanks Jae-soo for being so supportive, and an emotional Jae-soo just orders him to call him hyung again. Aww, you guys.
By the time Kang-tae returns home, Moon-young and Sang-tae are busy working on their book. He tries to join in, but they immediately kick him out. He comes back later, after they’ve fallen asleep, to take a peek at the drawings (which use the same style from the premiere’s stop-motion animation).
Over at the dump, Sang-in and Seung-jae are searching for the novel manuscript. Sang-in chides Seung-jae for leaving it at the coffee shop, and having had enough, Seung-jae yells, “Hey, you punk!” She’s done taking orders from him, so she tells him to have a good life and then stalks off.
Joo-ri and Sang-in go out for drinks, and having seen Seung-jae at home in bed, she tells him not to be so hard on “that kid.” Sang-in laughs at that and reveals that Seung-jae is actually six years older than her. And this comes as a shock to her, since Seung-jae always called her “Unni.”
At the apartment, we see that Seung-jae is actually hiding the manuscript, which she found when Sang-in wasn’t looking. She giggles and figures she should withhold the manuscript for at least a month, as punishment.
We fast forward to the publication of Moon-young’s new book: Finding the Real, Real Face. Sang-tae takes one of the copies, and he’s overjoyed to see his name printed on the cover, next to Moon-young’s.
The first thing Sang-tae does, Kang-tae and Moon-young in tow, is visit the mom’s tree. Sang-tae shows his mom the book, even reading it aloud for her. And as Sang-tae gets emotional, Kang-tae does as well.
“My eyes are welling up with tears even though I’m happy!” Sang-tae cries to his siblings. Kang-tae comes over to give him an encouraging hug, while Moon-young stands back and watches with a smile.
To celebrate the release of the book, OK Hospital holds a special live reading. And what a special day it is — we get one big reunion, with the return of patients Ah-reum, Eun-ja, and Gi-do! They all seem to be recovering well, Eun-ja back to running her restaurant and Gi-do studying for the civil servant exam.
On top of that, we see that Sang-tae has finally finished his mural, butterflies and all. While Director Oh and Joo-ri’s mom are admiring it, Director Oh is proud to say that Sang-tae overcame his fears all on his own. Director Oh then grins at Mom and says they should hang out more often, like the old days.
As everyone piles into the classroom for the reading, they wonder where their favorite caregiver is. Heh, speaking of whom, Kang-tae is about ready to knock Moon-young and Sang-tae’s heads together, as they fight over who gets to read.
In the end, the trio decide to take turns and read together. Through their narration and the gorgeous illustrations, we’re introduced to the three characters: The emotionless princess, the masked boy, and the box ajusshi.
Having had their faces stolen by a witch, they got in a camping car and went on a journey to find them. On the way, the masked boy came across a crying mama fox who had lost her child in the snow (like Eun-ja). The boy was so heartbroken that he cried along with her, melting the snow and revealing the lost child.
Then, the emotionless princess came across a clown dancing naked in a field of thorns (like Gi-do). When she asked why he was doing this, when he was just getting hurt, he answered that it was the only way people would look at him. So the princess joined him and — Moon-young and Sang-tae suddenly read over each other.
Pffft, Moon-young and Sang-tae start arguing right in front of the audience, and poor Kang-tae tries and fails to break them up. Afterwards, Kang-tae and Joo-ri’s mom laugh about this, with Mom saying they still have a lot of growing up to do. Kang-tae then gifts mom with a copy of the book, a note from Sang-tae inside.
“To my fake, real mom,” the note says. “Thank you for all the delicious meals… I really like you.” Mom is moved to tears, and Kang-tae sweetly asks if he can hug her. Without hesitation, she brings him into a big hug and tells him to live well.
Outside, Joo-ri finds Sang-in looking pretty down (because video of Moon-young and Sang-tae’s outburst is already online). She reassures him that he can get through this, that he’s a strong person. She then asks when he’s returning to Seoul, and he reveals that he’s staying. The rent is cheaper here… And she’s here.
After an awkward beat and few shy smiles, Sang-in slowly moves his hand toward Joo-ri’s until they’re touching pinkies. They stay seated like that, holding pinkies, and it’s pretty darn cute.
As our trio is leaving, Director Oh calls them back to present them with a big surprise — a camping car. Kang-tae doesn’t feel right accepting it, but Director Oh insists, since he caused them so much trouble. Kang-tae slowly smiles, thinking a long road trip with his family will be so much fun.
Only, when they get home, Kang-tae realizes that no one else wants to go on a trip. Sang-tae doesn’t understand the difference between running away and traveling, and Moon-young doesn’t want to stay in a cramped car for that long. Kang-tae is devastated, having been so excited.
So that night, Kang-tae goes out drinking with Jae-soo and Sang-in. He slurs, “How could they do this to me? When they know I’ve been suppressing myself and enduring everything?” All he wanted was a carefree trip with no destination.
Jae-soo and Sang-in can barely contain their laughter as Kang-tae prattles on. And it doesn’t help that they keep pouring him drinks when he’s clearly had enough. By the time he comes home, he’s completely wasted.
Kang-tae’s taken aback to see Moon-young and Sang-tae waiting up for him, suitcases in hand. (Ha, they were only pretending they didn’t want to go to surprise him.) They hand him a matching family shirt, making him burst into happy tears and hug them.
Cut to: The next day, our trio on the road, with Kang-tae severely hungover.
Moon-young curses at Kang-tae for ruining the beginning of their trip, and Sang-tae chides her for using bad language, grabbing her ear and making her swerve on the road. Needless to say, Kang-tae gets sick and they have to pull over. They also use that time to take a break and eat lunch.
Moon-young glares at Kang-tae, wondering if this experience is giving him a reality check. Sang-tae asks what a reality check means, initiating a whole conversation about slang words. Needing some rest, Kang-tae lies down inside the car, though he smiles to hear the others’ chatter outside.
What follows is a sweet montage of our trio’s road trip, filled with singing and laughing and just plain ol’ family fun. The camping car makes it to many different places, over many different days, and the doll Mang-tae has the perfect view while hanging off the rearview mirror.
And this, right here, is where I break down crying.
One night, while they’re camped out, Moon-young joins Kang-tae outside by the fire. She cozies up next to him and apologizes for ever hurting him; she hopes it never happens again. She also thanks him for bringing her on this trip, and he smiles, wondering what’s gotten into her.
“I love you, Moon Kang-tae,” Moon-young says. “Not fake but real, real.” She concludes this with a soft kiss, which makes them both smile. They then snuggle up even closer, looking as warm as they’ve ever been.
The next day, they’re about ready to set off again, but Sang-tae tells Kang-tae that he wants to go home and get back to illustrating. Though Kang-tae is a bit disappointed, he is willing to end the trip here.
But Sang-tae clarifies that he wants Kang-tae and Moon-young to keep going, while he goes back and works. He reveals that another author reached out wanting to work with him, so he called Sang-in to come pick him up.
Just as Moon-young joins them, Sang-tae happily states that someone needs him now. Moon-young starts to say that she needs him too, but Kang-tae takes her hand to make her stop.
With tears in his eyes, Kang-tae asks, “Hyung, you’ll be okay without me? You won’t need me?” To that, Sang-tae says that Moon Kang-tae belongs to Moon Kang-tae, just as Kang-tae said when they were younger.
Now crying, Kang-tae says that he’s right — Kang-tae belongs to Kang-tae and Sang-tae belongs to Sang-tae. Sang-tae stands and wipes his brother’s tears away before bringing him into a hug.
I can’t even see the screen anymore, I’m crying so much. Sang-tae says thank you, and Kang-tae says the same: “Thank you for being my big brother.” Sang-tae grins, and we see him as his younger self.
Beside them, Moon-young is getting teary-eyed, too. Just then, Sang-in’s car pulls up, and Kang-tae sadly watches Sang-tae hurry towards it. Kang-tae laughs, though, when Sang-tae turns back and enthusiastically waves goodbye.
Finally, finally, Kang-tae seems to… let go. We see the camping car and Sang-in’s car go their separate ways, with Sang-tae calling out, “Go Moon-young, Moon Kang-tae, take care! And don’t fight! A kiss is better than a fight!”
We then hear the end to Finding the Real, Real Face.
“They began a new journey to find their stolen faces, and the evil shadow witch appeared in front of them once again. She kidnapped the masked boy, who shed tears on behalf of the mother fox, as well as the emotionless princess, who danced with the clown. ‘The two of you will never be able to find your happy faces.’ After putting such a curse on them, she locked them up in a deep, dark mole tunnel. The box ajusshi found the mole tunnel a few days later, but the entrance was so narrow that he couldn’t go in. ‘What do I do? I need to take this box off my head in order to go in.’ That moment, the masked boy’s voice reached him. ‘Ajusshi, don’t worry about us. Just run far away. The shadow witch will return soon.’ However, the box ajusshi mustered up the courage to take the box off his head. Then he went inside the tunnel and saved them. Upon getting out, the two of them saw the ajusshi’s face covered with dirt and grime instead of the box and burst out laughing. While laughing uncontrollably, the masked boy’s mask suddenly fell off. The can surrounding the emotionless princess’ torso also fell off and made a clanking noise. The ajusshi said this when he saw the two finding their true faces while laughing: ‘I’m happy.’ What the shadow witch had stolen from them was not their real, real faces but their courage to find happiness.’”
After the story ends, we rewind to Sang-tae waving goodbye. Sang-tae walked back to the camping car, saying they should have coffee before they go. And Kang-tae and Moon-young looked at each other and laughed. Typical Hyung.
And they all lived happily ever after. The end.
I couldn’t have asked for a better ending. Seriously, I’m stunned. The majority of the drama’s run, I was on a high, and the last three episodes brought me down, naturally scaring me. But wow, all the drama needed was an hour and twenty minutes to lift me back up. It didn’t feel at all fake, as if it was trying to make up for its mistakes by giving us fluff; it felt like every bit of happiness from our characters was genuine and earned. Right from the beginning, when our couple had a humorous moment followed by an intimate one, there was a release. Moon-young released herself from her mother’s spell, and she said Screw it, I’m gonna love this man. All thanks to that damn deer. After that, it was like everything fell into place.
Am I still upset about those last three episodes? Oh yeah. But I get what the writer was trying to do. I get it, and I almost believe it could’ve worked, had the execution been better. It reminds me of when I write my own stories and when I struggle to fit a plot point in. If I can’t figure it out, sometimes I just… throw it in. That’s what Do Hui-jae’s storyline felt like, like it was thrown in solely because it needed to be there. Our couple definitely had to face Do Hui-jae somehow, whether in person or in spirit. I’m glad that 1, Kang-tae chose to move on rather than forgive; 2, Moon-young made the difference between her and Hui-jae clear; and 3, we immediately got rid of Hui-jae (bye, Felicia) and focused on what was important. We didn’t get all the details on how Hui-jae survived, and I don’t care. It was all the other details I cared about — with the trio, the friendships, the family relationships — and the finale touched on every single one.
Now, I went into this drama wanting it to break new ground. I knew that it was going to center around mental health, and, as a mental health advocate, I hoped that it would be as real and respectful as possible. Unfortunately, I think the media, and k-dramas especially, often sacrifice realness for story. Can we blame them? Yes and no. Certain things are addressed poorly or not addressed at all, and that’s incredibly problematic, but I have to remind myself that mental health is still a taboo subject in South Korea. It’s sad and it sucks, but it’s true. It created some glaring errors of practice within OK Hospital, for sure. We had Director Oh pushing patients’ buttons, for humor. We had numerous employees stand back and watch while the Moon brothers had their meltdowns, for tension. And those are just a few of the many examples.
I will praise the drama for being real in other ways. Everything with the brothers and their mom was so well done, because it showed both the ugly and beautiful sides to that dynamic. They struggled so much, and what’s sad is that they struggled alone. They all had their individual pain and stress, not knowing how to communicate that with each other. Even when the mom was gone and the brothers had to stick together, they were leaning on each other without actually being present. So the brothers’ emotional journey was really something to behold. Moon-young’s journey as well. The framing of the appropriate fairy tales only strengthened what was already there. I haven’t seen many of these actors’ projects (only Kim Soo-hyun’s), but I have to believe that this is the best they’ve ever been. I never once saw Kim Soo-hyun, Seo Ye-ji, or Oh Jung-se. It was always their characters — their characters’ grief, their characters’ happiness.
A few weeks ago, I was ready for It’s Okay to be over. It was making me feel way too much, and I was ready for a break. But then this finale happened, and I was like Kang-tae not wanting to see his brother go. I think that just shows how attached I’ve gotten to this world and its characters. I fell in love with everyone, which I did not expect at all. I mean, I thought Joo-ri, Sang-in, and Jae-soo were going to be played for comedy, and then they went and stole my heart. Joo-ri and Jae-soo eventually cared for Moon-young, and Sang-in eventually cared for the brothers; together, they became a strong support system for our main trio. At the same time, the secondary characters still had their own lives (and love lives, of course). That being said… these characters almost felt too real to me, making them that much harder to say goodbye to.
So yeah, despite its obvious issues, I still love the drama. It’s nestled into a very special place in my heart, and it won’t be going away anytime soon. I will never forget Kang-tae and the way he learned self-worth. I will never forget Moon-young and the way she learned love. I will never forget the families that formed, whether in the mansion, in the apartment, or in the hospital. It’s hard to let them go, just as it was hard for Kang-tae to let Sang-tae go, but it’s also liberating. I’m happy knowing that they’re in a good place now and that they’re going to be okay. And that’s what makes this the perfect ending for me: It feels like the characters are going somewhere. It’s not leaving them 100% healed, which would be totally unrealistic, but it’s reassuring us that they’re healing. What better ending than the promise of another beginning, right?
To all of the beautiful broken souls in It’s Okay — jinjja neomu neomu saranghae!
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