Memorials: Episode 16 (Final)
The time has come to say goodbye to this delightful gem and as much as it pains me to see the story end, the characters will stay with me. Our couple has come a long way from the start of their journey and as one chapter comes to a close, they find they’re able to reminisce about the past but look forward towards the future. The road may not have been easy, but the important things in life rarely are and the laughter and love along the way are what makes everything worthwhile.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Gong-myung, Dae-cheol, and Yong-kyu tut as they watch the Idiot Trio and Dong-chan bustling about in preparation for the upcoming election. At the same time, Mom pulls Se-ra aside to suggest running as well but Se-ra adamantly refuses, threatening to tell Dad if Mom doesn’t stop and escaping before Mom can argue.
At work, Se-ra makes calls for her juice side hustle. Hee-soo joins her and cheekily questions the ethicality of peddling juice in the office. Se-ra retorts Mawon hasn’t paid her an income for nearly a year and tells Hee-soo to get to the point of her visit. Hee-soo asks if Se-ra plans to run for chief and Se-ra bluntly replies no, she won’t get paid and the red tape will prevent her from getting anything done.
Hee-soo points out as chief, Se-ra could postpone Smart One City’s Area 6 construction but Se-ra argues it would be easier to win the lottery. Knowing she’s sided with Chairman Jo, Se-ra tells Hee-soo to report she has no interest in further elections. With a smile, Hee-soo struts off and Se-ra mutters how much she hates her. Hee.
Staring up at Chairman Jo’s campaign poster, Gong-myung grimaces Jo will have an even easier time getting what he wants as chief. Se-ra squeezes his hand reassuringly and continues to study his face when they return to the shop that evening. Ja-ryong proudly announces he’s finished “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” (comic version) and Woo-young asks who’s his favorite character.
Ja-ryong instantly replies Liu Bei and the others debate their own favorites with Se-ra choosing Kongming (because it’s similar to Gong-myung). Smiling, Gong-myung starts to say he likes her too, before sharing his character of choice. Ja-ryong argues when the weak asked for help, everyone else wanted to flee since the enemy was after them, but only Liu Bei stood his ground. He says that’s why Liu Bei is the main character and looking pointedly at Se-ra, declares the main character can’t just lie around.
At work, Se-ra thinks over all the complaints she’d handled during her time on the Mawon District Council. She writes in her notebook: “Someone who has the ability and the will to not turn his or her back on the people” and looking up, proclaims there is such a person. Later, she sits in a darkened stairwell, and looks up with a smile when Son Eun-sil walks up.
In her office, Eun-sil wishes Se-ra would’ve called but Se-ra says she wanted to sorth her thoughts while waiting. Eun-sil guesses she wants to oppose Chairman Jo in the election and promises to tell Se-ra anything she wants. Se-ra announces she wants Eun-sil to run for chief and when Eun-sil worries about her past failures reflecting poorly against the three-term Jo, Se-ra says life is about three attempts.
The next day, Se-ra tells Gong-myung Eun-sil asked for 12 hours to think over her proposal. She clarifies she didn’t approach Eun-sil in order to defeat Chairman Jo, rather she felt someone who has the ability and will not to turn their back on the people deserved the position. Smiling, Gong-myung nods in agreement and Se-ra’s phone buzzes with Eun-sil’s reply: “Thank you. Let’s make our own opportunity.”
Woo-young bristles upon learning the comic shop will once more become a campaign headquarters but Se-ra explains she’s not running – she’s returning Eun-sil’s favor when she’d stepped down for Se-ra’s election, and vows to become a kingmaker. Setting out a game plan, Eun-sil admits she wasn’t born nor raised here, but she liked Mawon for the names which she identifies as the values people consider highly.
Se-ra suggests they make “Protect Your Important Values” her campaign slogan and keeping with Se-ra’s theme of three, Eun-sil elects to choose three values to focus on. The women choose “safety” and “promise” and allow Ja-ryong to select “memory.” Over at Chairman Jo’s camp, the Idiot Trio worries they should do something about Se-ra and Eun-sil, but Chairman Jo insists the women will make fools of themselves without interference and orders them to focus on his campaign.
At the office, Dae-cheol muses the reps are all busy campaigning and Yong-kyu adds Chairman Jo is in charge of the political scene. He says Jo has placed Hee-soo in charge of most things as he deals with the election, including Smart One City. Gong-myung spots Se-ra’s cactus’ twin and Yong-kyu explains Hee-soo threw it out but the cleaning lady thought it a shame to trash it.
Dong-chan tells Chairman Jo that reporters are still hounding them for the environmental effect report and Hee-soo suggests he share it with them so they can better craft a response. She returns to her office with a copy of the report and her eyes fall on her cactus. She immediately calls to demand who was in her office and meets with Gong-myung. He admits Se-ra had received the same cactus from Assemblyman Bong.
Hee-soo says Bong intended for her and Se-ra to care for them – together and separately – but says he was wrong and she and Se-ra are too different. Gong-myung asks her to stand together one more time and Hee-soo asks what she gains from supporting Eun-sil over Chairman Jo. Gong-myung concedes she’ll gain zero profit… but she’ll have the opportunity to make a change. Chairman Jo will bring her material gains, but Eun-sil promotes change.
His reference to Assemblyman Bong’s assessment on the two desires of politicians is not lost on Hee-soo and she says his words mean nothing after Bong’s disgraceful resignation. Gong-myung argues if that were true, she wouldn’t have reacted. Hee-soo sighs she regrets telling Gong-myung about it at all.
While going over Eun-sil’s campaign schedule, Se-ra is agitated by Hee-soo loitering in the shop. She barks it’s suspicious to have someone from the opposition in their camp and Hee-soo says her allegiance depends on what’s in the envelope she shakes at Se-ra. Taking the envelope, Se-ra’s eyes widen at the environmental report. Hee-soo says she better win and sashays out of the shop as Se-ra calls after her, “Thank you, unnie!”
Outside the elementary school, Eun-sil reveals the results of the report which Chairman Jo had hidden and vows to keep the residents safe. The moms cheer her on and Se-ra smiles while across town Chairman Jo angrily calls Hee-soo to demand why she helped the enemy. Hee-soo quips she and Jo are from different parties and while they joined forces on the Smart One City project, that doesn’t mean they share the same destination.
She tells him not to order her around and hangs up before turning to Gong-myung. Hee-soo says he’ll still need something big to take Chairman Jo down and Gong-myung says there’s someone he plans to meet… and finds himself sitting across from Min-jae. Pouring Gong-myung a drink, Min-jae says Jo also came to him for help.
Min-jae guesses he’s here for help in winning the election… and that Se-ra doesn’t know he came since he’d given her the same file and she hadn’t told Gong-myung about it. He confesses he knew Se-ra wouldn’t use it because she cares about someone. Recalling Chairman Jo’s mantra, one must sell everything to gain what they want, Min-jae says Gong-myung already possesses what he needs. Handing over the file, he sighs the flash drive is meaningless.
That evening, Gong-myung plugs in the flash drive with Chairman Jo’s dirt but thinking over Chairman Jo and Min-ja’s words, realizes, “I must sell myself.” Chairman Jo is warned he has 30 percent of the votes, but Eun-sil has 20, with 40 percent undecided. Desperate, the next day Chairman Jo holds a press conference and discusses his sons.
At Eun-sil’s camp, Se-ra tears up reading the articles and Eun-sil urges her team not to be swayed by Jo’s shady tactics and simply do what they must and can. Gong-myung finally reaches a decision and publishes his own statement, admitting to being Chairman Jo’s son. He says rather than selling in order to gain as Chairman Jo had done, Gong-myung is choosing to sell himself to be with the people he values and protect their dreams.
We see Dae-cheol, Yong-kyu, Mom and Dad sobbing as Gong-myung continues he plans to expose Chairman Jo as a human being and father. His heartfelt words work and come election day, Eun-sil wins by a significant margin. During her acceptance speech, Se-ra sneaks off to look for Gong-myung but is unable to find him at her secret place or the bus stop and her calls go unanswered.
Walking home, Gong-myung looks up to find Chairman Jo waiting. Jo miserably admits he had nowhere to go and says he wanted to apologize. Gong-myung bitterly declares he won’t accept it and for the rest of their lives, they won’t reconcile. With a sad smile, Chairman Jo pats his shoulder and walks away.
The morning of Eun-sil’s inauguration, Dong-chan and the Idiot Trio arrive to find the front row occupied by children. He waves Gong-myung over to demand why there aren’t VIP seats reserved. Gong-myung coolly replies the new chief has nixed VIP seating in favor of a first-come-first-serve system. Dong-chan laughs but turns to find the Idiot Trio already seated in the second row, quietly waving him over.
Eun-sil takes the podium and Gong-myung smiles as Se-ra excitedly snaps photos. After her greeting, Eun-sil says that many conflicts arose regarding the controversy of Smart One City Area 6: “Although benefits may change, principles do not.” Vowing to create a safe home for everyone, she promises to remember the victims of the Sarang Resort fire, understand the difficulties of the construction workers, and consider the future families who will build hope in the homes being built: “Although it may take longer, let’s go together.”
A Mawon Elementary School class is asked to consider things to do for other people and one group makes a poster petitioning the Sarang Resort fire memorial be moved to the school with each vote in favor adding a heart sticker. The students quickly fill the paper and when Dad passes by that afternoon, he smiles cutely as he adds one too.
June 30, 2021 – Se-ra’s Last Day at Work Dad cooks breakfast and tells Mom about the poster, praising the kids. Se-ra bursts out of her room, strutting through the house to show off her last-day-at-work outfit. Mom and Dad stare back blankly and Mom sighs age isn’t everything. Dad barks Se-ra is 30 already and she quips she’s the youngest in the house.
At work, Se-ra drops by the Secretariat to say goodbye. She isn’t sure when she’d get the chance to see Dae-cheol and Yong-kyu again and says she needed to check something, smiling at a female employee (is that the other woman who was screwed over at Se-ra’s old design company???). Se-ra heads to the meeting room and reminisces over her journey from interrupting the meeting over the distribution center to acting as Chairman.
Tearful, Se-ra says bids her 20th workplace goodbye: “Although I wasn’t paid a cent, I still have one last hope.” Her phone buzzes with a text informing her that elected civil servants do not receive severance pay. Hee.
Walking out she removes her pin and looks up when Gong-myung calls out to Representative Gu Se-ra. Se-ra corrects she’s no longer a rep – she quit – and they walk out arm-in-arm. They toast beers at Sunset Land and Gong-myung congratulates her on a job well done. She echoes his praise and seriously says, “Now…” But before Gong-myung can get his hopes up, she pulls out her diary to start making future plans.
He cautiously asks if he’s included in those plans and smirking, Se-ra says it depends on his behavior. Gong-myung asks if she can promise something and Se-ra listens expectantly as Gong-myung slides closer and says, “For the rest of your life… Don’t do politics.” Swallowing her disappointment, Se-ra writes, “No politics, forever” in her book.
Pulling her close, Gong-myung tells her to promise and smiling, Se-ra kisses him. He asks her to seal it, and Se-ra kisses him again. Se-ra tells him to copy and he kisses her back. Giggling, they “sign” with another kiss.
Spring 2022 Han-bi signs for a delivery and wakes Se-ra up to hand her the letter. Se-ra doesn’t recognize the sender but upon opening it finds it’s from Idiot Trio member Si. He hopes she’s doing well and admits he was inspired by her and has decided to run for Seoul City Council. Later, they look over his campaign poster and Han-bi and Ja-ryong point out his motto “We Can Do It” was taken directly from Se-ra’s campaign.
Se-ra waves it off as public property and they start to walk on, but Woo-young continues staring at the posters and wonders if she can do it too. Her expression becomes determined and we cut to Woo-young bearing a campaign headband as she leads her friends to face off against Se-ra’s old opponent, Oh Byeong-min. Se-ra narrates Woo-young entered the by-election to take the seat Assemblyman Si had vacated.
Spring 2023 Woo-young struts into Mawon Office, pushing her toddler in a stroller. Yong-kyu says they’ve received complaints over her parking her stroller in the hallway and indicates the remaining Idiot Duo as the instigators. Se-ra narrates Assemblyman Si succeeded in joining the Seoul City Council as Woo-young glares at the remaining duo. Dong-chan runs in to show off Hee-soo’s campaign poster to the men.
The Duo tuts she likely won’t win and Dong-chan assumes they’re jealous she received a nomination. He declares she’s unmatched in ability and looks and the men concede that… but as we see Hee-soo campaigning on the street, we’re reminded Hee-soo is still unpopular. Even her team gossips she was only nominated to meet the female quota. She forces a smile but when a group of students pass, one promises to vote for her when he grows up and Hee-soo is reinvigorated.
Han-bi beams as she finally returns to judo as an instructor for kids. She happily retrieves Ja-ryong from school, passing Granny as she tends to the Sarang Resort fire memorial on the grounds. Meanwhile, Dae-cheol stops by the service center to brag Gong-myung promised to treat him to lunch for being named the kindest civil servant. He adds Gong-myung learned all about dealing with complaints from him.
They’re interrupted by the irate citizen with the umbrella from Gong-myung’s first stint in the service center and before Dae-cheol can address the man, Gong-myung sweeps in. Greeting the man, he holds out his hands and passes the umbrella to Dae-cheol as he politely suggests they discuss the complaint calmly. The man agrees to a 20 minute chat and Gong-myung sets a timer before they get into the man’s issue.
April 1st 2023 Se-ra and Gong-myung place a banana milk at the bus stop and see the sign has finally been fixed. Se-ra says there’s still one place where Sarang’s name remains and despite working at the Community Center, Gong-myung admits he doesn’t know of any place. She points above their heads to the bus stop plate reading “Former Sarang Resort.” Se-ra sighs even that will change with time but Gong-myung assures her they’ll still be around. He opens his arms wide for a hug and stepping into his embrace, Se-ra agrees.
A trio in fedoras and trench coats look at a plaque declaring the comic book shop Se-ra’s design lab and head inside. They announce they’re from “The Polar Bear Party,” focused on protecting the environment, and learned about her through Ja-ryon’gs webtoon, “Into the Ring.” The party of three begs Se-ra to join forces, but Se-ra says she retired from politics and shows them the page of her diary where she’d promised Gong-myung.
Her phone rings and she excuses herself to answer a call from the Labor Administration. According to the man on the line, Se-ra had reported a company for not paying an outsourcing fee but rather than addressing her complaint, the man wants Se-ra to stop posting. He says freelancers aren’t protected by the Labor Standards Act and advises her to take the company to civil court.
Se-ra argues she worked regular hours at the office despite signing a freelancing contract. The man sighs she should’ve signed a proper contract and to revise the law if she doesn’t like it. Se-ra retorts she didn’t know that was an option. Fuming, she snaps her notebook shut and asks if the party’s platform includes worker ants. The leader smiles they exist thanks to funding from worker ants and Se-ra shakes her hand, winking mischievously.
We see some panels from Ja-ryong’s webtoon, depicting Se-ra and Gong-myung’s story. We end on one of Gong-myung watching Se-ra’s initial campaign on the overpass and blushing, indicating this was the start of his feelings for her as we revisit that night and see him smiling as he watches her greeting passersby.
Y’all I literally do not think I can gush enough about this drama. From the story, to the characters, to the cast… everything deserves so much praise. Nana and Park Sung-hoon’s chemistry was off the charts and really sold this quirky, adorable, and endearing couple that stayed true to themselves and each other from start to finish. It was refreshing to see a couple love each other so naturally without over-the-top angst or separation. Honestly, if there were anything to complain about with this finale it would be not seeing more of them together.
The story was sweet, and the pacing was on point, but the beating heart of the show was the characters. I was thoroughly enamored with the entire cast, not just our leads, and that speaks volumes to the writing and acting. There was such a wonderful juxtaposition between the two dads as Se-ra’s is a slightly overbearing, tough-love, gruff teddybear who adores his daughter despite the headaches her antics cause while Gong-myung’s has a perfect genteel image only to be cold and ineffective as an actual parent. It was gratifying to see Gong-myung step out of that dark shadow, finally confront Chairman Jo openly about being an awful parent and person and have the strength to refuse forgiveness.
The notion that forgiveness is necessary in order to heal is inaccurate and can often do more harm than good. While it’s true that allowing trauma to rule your life and hatred to fester is unhealthy, not everyone deserves forgiveness and it’s unfair to put that burden on the victim. Chairman Jo’s apology after losing everything was so empty. He’d had countless opportunities to apologize and make amends in the years following Jong-dae’s death but so long as he had more to gain, he didn’t care how that hurt Gong-myung. Chairman Jo is a fantastically realistic villain whose core sin is being selfish in the worst way. He didn’t orchestrate Assemblyman Yang’s murder or conspire to cover up a nefarious plot that resulted in the Sarang Resort Fire, but he did use people however he saw fit and learned the hard way that it leaves you all alone, in the end.
Next to Gong-myung, the person most victimized by Chairman Jo was Min-jae. He had some agency and holds full responsibility for losing Se-ra, but his choices don’t justify Chairman Jo’s exploitation of him. Min-jae’s sacrifices were under the assumption he would be rewarded for his service and while that does not excuse the way he treated Se-ra, I can’t help but feel bad for him falling prey to Chairman Jo’s empty promises. It’s a shame to see all those years go to waste, but I’m glad he was able to get away from Chairman Jo before everything went to hell and hope he can rebuild his life.
Hee-soo was luckier as Gong-myung and Se-ra managed to appeal to her soft side before she signed her soul to the devil. I feel she’s too sassy to have met Min-jae’s fate, but although Chairman Jo wouldn’t be able to puppet her as easily, Hee-soo still had ambitions he could appeal to. I’m glad that despite his shameful departure, Assemblyman Bong’s words stuck with her. He made a human mistake that unfortunately cost someone their life, but just as Chairman Jo’s final apology doesn’t negate all the horrible things he’s done, Bong’s error in judgement shouldn’t erase that he was a good mentor. People, and life, aren’t black and white.
I’ve mentioned it before, but something that really appealed with this show was the way in which conflicts were resolved in unpredictable ways. I love that it didn’t make things easy for Se-ra – she didn’t win every time, and even when she did, it often came at a cost. Still, she made an impact on the people around her and managed to do a lot of good, even if she got shafted a lot along the way. Under her influence, Gong-myung went from being a loner who kept everyone at arm’s length and struggled to empathize to making friends and learning how to communicate effectively with others. Han-bi realized her mistake in giving up something she loved out of guilt and returned to judo. Woo-young finally stopped internalizing her frustrations and regained the confidence sexist work environments had beaten out of her. Eun-sil took one more shot at a career in politics and won and Assemblyman Si was so affected by Se-ra he broke out of the Trio to succeed where Chairman Jo’s scheming had failed. I appreciate the message that there’s value in not just accomplishing your own dreams and goals, but inspiring others to do the same. There was a strong sense of community throughout and I think that theme of togetherness resonates and is something needed now, more than ever.