Alice: Episode 16 (Final)
Everything comes to an end in the final hour. With Teacher’s identity finally out in the open, we head back to the past to settle things once and for all. Our lieutenant never loses sight of his goal and remains unwavering in his love for his mother, but sacrifices may be necessary to restore the balance of the timeline.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
“Love is patient. It always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.” – The Bible
The elderly Teacher tells present-day Jin-gyum that he’s giving him a chance to control time. Jin-gyum has zero interest in that and vows to undo and put an end to everything Teacher started. He plans to kill Teacher after saving everyone that died because of him.
Teacher takes out his gun but before he can shoot, Jin-gyum travels back to 2010. It’s the morning of Sun-young’s birthday and she serves seaweed soup for breakfast. Something’s clearly bothering her as she observes teen Jin-gyum eating. He doesn’t seem evil in this dimension, at least.
The young Do-yeon waits outside the house to walk to school with Jin-gyum. She reprimands him for being ill-prepared for Sun-young’s birthday, then makes plans to meet after school to pick out a cake and present together. At Jin-gyum’s silence, Do-yeon figures he must be stunned to see her pretty face. She gets ignored, of course. Hee.
Sun-young misses a call from adult Jin-gyum and when she sees the unknown number, heads out to meet Oh-won. She regrets pulling him into this world and urges him to forget everything he has learned about time travel. She’d created time travel as a way for people to be happy, as they’d be able to heal from the past and fix regretful moments.
However, she realizes that pain is necessary for a person’s growth. What was meant to bring joy resulted in obsession and greed instead. Oh-won assures Sun-young that she had good intentions and isn’t at fault. He vows to help her achieve her goal, but she makes it clear that she must deal with the fallout herself.
Adult Jin-gyum isn’t able to find Sun-young at home, so he visits the only person he can think of for help – Captain Go. It doesn’t take long for him to understand that Jin-gyum is here from the future.
They enter an interrogation room to chat and the captain naturally assumes that he’s here because of Sun-young, promising that he’ll never kill her. Jin-gyum knows this, but this is as much about Mom as it is about all the other people that were murdered.
Looking to put an end to the violence, Jin-gyum asks for information about Teacher but Captain Go doesn’t know any details. After the captain answers a call from In-sook, Jin-gyum decides that he shouldn’t have come here to complicate the simple life Captain Go desires.
Captain Go offers to help Jin-gyum run away with Sun-young, but the lieutenant declines. He says Mom can’t find out about his plans since she doesn’t want things to change, so the captain realizes that it isn’t Jin-gyum’s first time traveling here. Jin-gyum continues that if he runs away, he won’t be able to revert the deaths that have happened.
He lies that the captain and In-sook will be safe and won’t die. Aw, he learned when to not be brutally honest! However, Jin-gyum asks for one final hug and sheds a tear as he admits, “I’ve missed you.” His sincere feelings can be felt by the captain, who asks if they become close.
Jin-gyum reveals that things were really difficult for him after Mom passed away. It was because he had the captain by his side that he survived. Now, it’s time for him to be by his mother and protect her along with everyone else he loves.
He finds Sun-young at the market and keeps a close eye on her. Thankfully, Jin-gyum hasn’t noticed any rashes yet this time around. Meanwhile, his teenaged counterpart thanks Do-yeon for helping him prepare for Mom’s birthday. She says he needs to tell Sun-young that he has a reaaally pretty friend name Do-yeon who bought the cake.
On a more serious note, Do-yeon wants Sun-young to know that she’s sorry for falsely accusing Jin-gyum for the incident at school. He’s sure that Mom understands without it being said and confirms that he isn’t angry at Do-yeon either. Skeptical, Do-yeon asks him to prove that he isn’t mad by smiling. He complies…but it’s so awkward that she decides that it’s better that he doesn’t smile after all. Pfft.
Adult Jin-gyum follows Sun-young all the way home and watches as the all-too-familiar birthday dinner routine plays out. When the moon turns blood red, Jin-gyum prepares to protect his mother. Sun-young doesn’t notice him following her all the way to the store.
She makes a run for it once she spots the Alice drone and Jin-gyum chases her through the neighborhood, trying not to get caught. He runs straight into Oh-won’s arms and the director claims that Sun-young wanted him to prevent Jin-gyum from saving her since the future can’t be changed.
Our lieutenant picks up on the fact that Oh-won knows about the other deaths from the future. Ah, this is the time traveler Oh-won who killed Captain Go at the lake. Having been found out, Oh-won drops his act and sticks the barrel of his gun to Jin-gyum’s temple.
Sun-young dodges the drone’s laser beam and gets home unharmed. She frantically calls out for Jin-gyum, but he stepped out earlier to look for her. A wave of calmness washes over her once she realizes that she has a sudden visitor…Teacher. She turns to greet him as if she’d been expecting him all along.
She had hoped the Book of Prophecy would be wrong, but her son ended up chasing after her until he became an old man. Teacher hasn’t thought of her as his mother in quite a while, it seems.
Meanwhile, Oh-won admits that it was short sighted of him to trust that Captain Go would finish Jin-gyum off. He didn’t think he’d give up on a life with In-sook to save the lieutenant. The captain from this dimension emerges from behind and demands an explanation.
The captain takes the upper hand with his gun aimed at Oh-won, freeing Jin-gyum to go save Sun-young. Jin-gyum finds Mom’s scarf on the ground and pockets it. He rushes home once again, hoping that he isn’t too late.
Over the years, Teacher grew to resent Sun-young for opening the doors of time, forcing him to kill so many. She’s willing to accept any punishment for it but requests that he leaves Jin-gyum alone, not wanting him to turn out like Teacher. Teacher claims that she’s the one who made him become a monster.
When Jin-gyum makes it into the house and aims his gun at Teacher, Sun-young jumps between them and begs him not to shoot. If he kills Teacher, then Jin-gyum will die. Teacher tells Jin-gyum that he used to try saving Sun-young too, but says that he doesn’t know her true self.
Teacher tells the story of why Sun-young stayed in 1992 (from his perspective). After reading the Book of Prophecy, Sun-young understood that the death of her child would result in the end of time travel. She had the child to keep the doors of time open.
Proving that he once thought the same way Jin-gyum did, they say in unison, “My mother would never do such a thing.” Teacher reveals that Jin-gyum will roam different dimensions for many years trying to save her. “Why did I become a monster? Why will you become a monster?” he challenges.
It’ll take many years for Jin-gyum to realize that the only way to save Sun-young is to go back to 1992 and stop himself from being born. Before Sun-young left the hotel room back then, Teacher had appeared before her.
At the time, Teacher was still fixated on saving Mom. He warned her to return to her time and get rid of the child so that she can live. He merely introduced himself as someone who shouldn’t exist so of course, Sun-young didn’t take the stranger’s advice. Instead, she aimed her weapon at him to protect her child.
She didn’t believe him even when he explained that he wanted to save her from dying at her child’s hands. Even if it were the truth, Sun-young was still the child’s mom and would raise him well. When Teacher pulled out his sword insisting that the monster needed to die, Sun-young shot him and coldly stated, “Who needs to die is you.”
Listening to the story, adult Jin-gyum takes Mom’s side – she didn’t know who Teacher was. However, back then, he had groaned after being shot and cried, “Mom…” Sun-young was in denial that he was her son and left him there.
The elderly man believes that Sun-young only pretended to love them. He lived a life he didn’t want to live and became a monster because she decided to give birth. Teacher’s goal is to help Jin-gyum escape from the pain he experienced and to do that, Sun-young must die. Mom agrees and tries to convince Jin-gyum, but the lieutenant would rather die and save her.
She disarms Jin-gyum and Teacher warily asks if she’s trying to kill him again now that she has a gun. He taunts her to shoot him in the head. Sun-young tearfully admits that she has felt guilty since that day but if she had closed the doors of time, Jin-gyum would disappear.
Teacher believes that the worlds she created through time travel is more precious to her, but she sobs, “To a mother, a child is the same as her entire world. Even if I don’t exist in that world, you just need to be safe.” She knows that it’ll be hard for Jin-gyum to forgive her for what she’s about to do. With a final look at Teacher, Sun-young pulls the trigger on herself.
This actually takes Teacher by surprise. He’s quite confused, frozen in place as Jin-gyum once again, holds his dying mother in his arms. Sun-young caresses his face and apologizes that he was born as her son. He assures her that he was happy, and would be born as her child again in their next lives. It never gets any easier watching Sun-young die.
Now in denial, Teacher mutters that this wasn’t supposed to happen. She tried to kill him, so why is she dying instead of him? Jin-gyum answers that it was her sacrifice as their mother. Setting her down gently, Jin-gyum grabs his weapon and aims for Teacher.
Jin-gyum tells the man to go to hell and be tormented by her selfless sacrifice forever. He places a bullet through his head and Teacher falls to his knees. Teacher reaches out for Sun-young as he disintegrates into thin air. The doors of time close and Alice gets sucked into a wormhole, leaving 2020 as if it never existed in the first place.
Everything that our Jin-gyum has experienced rewinds back to the moment when he witnessed his classmate falling from the roof. We catch up with them on Sun-young’s birthday again and as usual, she spots the cake from Jin-gyum. Adult Jin-gyum watches from outside and cries as he sings along, secretly wishing Mom a happy birthday.
Things have changed because teen Jin-gyum sings the entire song with a smile on his face. He even agrees to drink with her and they link arms as they go out to buy alcohol together. Sun-young senses Jin-gyum’s presence and sends the high schooler back inside to grab her wallet.
When Sun-young turns around, she sees her grown-up son lost in thought, staring at his childhood home. He leaves his mother a silent message that she doesn’t get to hear, but definitely seems to understand:
I’m sorry it took so long. Still, I kept the promise I made to protect you. Now, you’ll come to my high school graduation. When I get accepted into college and become a police officer, you’ll be the happiest for me. When I get hurt during an investigation, you’ll worry about me more than anyone else. When I earn my first paycheck, I’ll give you an allowance, and on your birthday, I’ll sing you the Happy Birthday song. It won’t be me, but it’ll happen that way so you don’t need to worry. Live happily. That’s all I need.
Oof. Who’s cutting onions? Jin-gyum takes her scarf out from his pocket and allows it to fly with the wind as he, too, disappears. Sun-young wraps the scarf around her neck and when teen Jin-gyum returns, she pulls him into a big hug and thanks him, but for more than just grabbing her wallet. There’s no longer a blood red moon.
2020. Tae-yi wakes up in her own bed and finds that things have changed. She apparently came back from a seminar abroad, and Jin-gyum seems to have been erased from everyone’s minds. Someone new lives at their safehouse, and nobody from the precinct knows him. Dong-ho and Captain Go are alive (yay!) but they only know Tae-yi because they’re regulars at Crime Squad.
When Tae-yi returns to her office, she finds her sunbae Seo-jin (from the Schrödinger case) waiting for her. Tears well up in Tae-yi’s eyes as she realizes that everything has been returned to normal…except for Jin-gyum. She’s completely out of it for the rest of the day, thinking about all the times they’ve shared.
That night, Tae-yeon asks if she’s okay, noting that she seems different after returning from her seminar. Tae-yi admits that it feels like she’s returning home after a very long journey. “In that place, I lived a different life, as a different person. Now, I’ve returned as myself but it doesn’t feel right.” It’s because of Jin-gyum, whom she’ll never get to meet again.
Tae-yi puts on the necklace as she thinks, “Thanks to you, we’re all living well. However, nobody can remember you. Maybe one day, I’ll become like them. However, I can promise you one thing. I’ll try my best to live a happy life, since this is a day you’ve protected for me with your life.”
After class one day, she learns that Do-yeon is requesting a consultation with her to do some research on scientific concepts being used in a movie. Tae-yi seems happy to meet up with her although Do-yeon doesn’t know Tae-yi in this new reality.
Naturally, the movie is about time travel. Do-yeon doesn’t personally believe that it’s realistic, but Tae-yi says it’s possible. However, she doesn’t believe it should be made possible because memories from the past are meant to be cherished. Turning back time is just a result of human greed.
Do-yeon is reminded of an architect that she interviewed recently. He went into his field to cherish the memories of the past. Although emotions and memories fade as time passes, he believes that spaces help to stop the passage of time. This is exactly what Tae-yi had told Jin-gyum while they were locked in the storage room.
The architect really is Jin-gyum – he works with a client to remodel an old home and is clearly passionate about retaining the memories attached to the house. “To someone, a space can be life itself,” he tells the client.
She looks around the office and spots some sketches, including one of Tae-yi standing in front of the safehouse. These images just come to Jin-gyum like déjà vu, and hold no special meaning to him.
When Tae-yi visits his office to check if the architect is Jin-gyum, she’s told that he’s out at a construction site. She makes a run for it and manages to catch him just as he leaves his client’s house. However, he passes by without a flicker of recognition.
Tae-yi calls out to him, “It’s me, Yoon Tae-yi,” but he replies, “Who are you?” She apologizes and says she has the wrong person. Although it’s a sad moment, she decides not to be disappointed. The fact that he can’t recognize her means that he’s living a good, normal life. “Please live happily, as you are now,” she thinks as she watches him walk away.
Jin-gyum ends up looking back at her in curiosity. When he returns to his office, he opens his sketchbook. There has been a face he’s been trying to draw, but wasn’t able to get the features right. Seeing Tae-yi today has allowed him to complete the sketch. He takes a look at his drawing of the safehouse and things seem to click.
The next day, Tae-yi waits by the house, thinking about how she’d told Jin-gyum not to sell it so that she can visit in the future. “I’ll be waiting until you come,” he’d promised. Tae-yi turns to leave but Jin-gyum catches her just in time. “Sorry I made you wait so long,” he tells her. They smile at one another, happy to be reunited.
At the very core of it, Alice had a nice, solid message. Treasure your present without lingering on your past. We are reminded that when there are many important people rooting for our happiness, it’s a waste to spend every waking moment being tormented by a past that cannot be changed (it certainly ruined Teacher’s life). By no means is the show saying, “just get over it,” but it seemed more like they wanted to showcase that it’s important to cherish those around you before it’s too late. It’s a nice, sweet message.
What I can’t really get behind is the whole concept of the Book of Prophecy and the “monster” that had to kill its mother. It was never explained clearly why either Jin-gyum or Sun-young/Tae-yi had to die in order to restore the balance of the timeline. It was Teacher who went on a rampage killing all the different versions of his mother because he was hurt by that one incident back in 1992. I don’t really blame Sun-young for shooting the mysterious person who was on a mission to kill her baby. However, Teacher became hurt by it and decided that his life’s mission changed from saving Mom to killing her.
To me, that’s something that was super low stake and could have been resolved with a conversation…but Teacher needed her to physically sacrifice herself in order to understand the power of his mother’s love. But… he already knew how much she loved him before that confrontation! It hurts my brain to wrap my head around this very lackluster reasoning behind the prophecy, so I’ve decided to just move on from it. It doesn’t make her death any easier to watch though, and I really feel for Jin-gyum every single time.
Ultimately, I think that this whole reset is probably one of the best outcomes that could’ve happened. Everyone is alive (even though sadly, we never got closure with Min-hyuk to see how he’s doing) and thriving. Do-yeon’s no longer involved in a decade-long crush, Captain Go is presumably happily living out his days with his wife, Dong-ho’s alive, and Jin-gyum no longer spent a decade being traumatized by his mother’s death. Instead, he chose a profession that he was more passionate about, and I can live with that. (Judging by the birthday scene, he also doesn’t have alexithymia anymore, which makes no sense, but we’ll just go along with it.)
The biggest problem I have with the ending is – how did Jin-gyum not recognize Tae-yi? Even if he didn’t remember her as the professor, he should’ve done a double take because she’s the splitting image of his own mother. Similar to @LollyPip, I actually enjoyed Alice as a viewer – it’s really just the lack of continuity that gets me frustrated. It’s one of those, “Don’t think too hard about it if you want to enjoy it” types of shows. So with that, I’ll focus on how the amazing cast made me feel rather than the tiny questions that creep up at the end of every episode. Thanks for joining us on this adventure, Beanies!