Start-Up: Episodes 15-16 Open Thread (Final)
Our finale episodes are here! While our wonderful characters deal with some final hurdles, what these episodes are really about is wrap-up, closure, and bringing each storyline full circle. And my, they do a fine job.
EPISODES 15-16 WEECAP
There’s so much to unpack and sum up in Start-Up’s final week that I thought I’d take a different approach and go character by character to make sure everyone and his/her plot arc get the mention they deserve.
But for my own take on the ending, it strikes me that the plot points and final little plot arcs weren’t really all that important. For instance, I admittedly don’t care very much about the AI car and its success. Rather, what I care about is our characters, and where they land. So, in that respect, I’m happy that the drama was more about the characters in its final episodes. While I found some elements wrapped up really nicely (to the point of causing
a few stray tears gobs of tears), some felt a little skated over. However, overall, I left this drama feeling as happy and satisfied as our leads during their hero walk in the final epilogue.
Though much of Dal-mi’s corporate success was off-screen, I’m willing to believe she’s as competent as the story tells us — we know for sure that she puts in the hard work, and is driven by passion and a real desire to do good. In a way, the outcome of the more tangential battles towards the end of this drama (Tarzan’s success, the identity of the ransomware hackers, and the decision whether or not to bid on the Smart City project) are not that important. What’s more important is Dal-mi growing up, and growing into her dreams for herself.
In addition to her entrepreneurial and do-good dreams, she also flourishes the most when she is in a partnership, and we see this every time she and Do-san are working together. The ending of the drama, then, with the two successfully leading this huge company together was the best possible ending for these two. They get to work and dream together, and they have each other’s backs.
This brings us next to Do-san, who had the farthest to come from his scrappy rooftop office days, to becoming a C-suite exec with confidence and conviction. It’s not until the very end of the drama that he finds his way there, and often he needs a little push to help him, but he makes it. Do-san’s arc wrapped up thanks to Ji-pyeong and two insightful, important moments.
First, after the hilarious drink-a-thon, Ji-pyeong offers a moment of honest clarity (like he always does when asked) and gives Do-san some real wisdom: “Get your self-confidence back. With your hands alone you were able to beat our memories.” What does this do for Do-san? It gives him that exact confidence he needs to approach Dal-mi again. He asks her the same question he asked her so many years/episodes ago — why she likes him — and finally gets the response he needs to seal the deal. Dal-mi’s response (“Because you’re you”) is the best and most authentic response he could ask for, and they seal the deal (for keeps this time) with a smooch.
Dal-mi’s love for Do-san, and his most Do-saniest self, literally gives him wings. From that swoony hint he wanted to propose, to the image of partnership and success we end on, I’d say this kid found his confidence and self-worth in the end.
The other moment that completes Do-san’s journey is also courtesy of Ji-pyeong, and that’s when they talk about Ji-pyeong and his company becoming Cheongmyeong’s first investor. This scene brings full circle the stance of both players: Do-san gets the recognition his talents deserve, and Ji-pyeong is man enough to change his mind.
I struggled a bit with this love triangle throughout the drama, not only because of the strength of the childhood connection we started on, but because the story — interestingly — decided not to give Ji-pyeong even a fighting chance with Dal-mi. Their relationship was important, and they both grew from it, but Dal-mi never considered him a suitor. That means, in a way, that this unrequited love was a part of the story solely for Ji-pyeong and his growth.
The lonely and prickly investor we meet towards the beginning of the story is definitely a better man by the end of the drama. For Ji-pyeong’s storyline, becoming strong and better wasn’t about overcoming weakness (like we could argue of Do-san’s). Instead, Ji-pyeong had to become softer. And his love for Dal-mi, and later being able to let her go, was an important part of that growth.
Though Ji-pyeong tells himself that since he has the plant and the letters, and that’s enough for him (agh, my heart!), I think we learn at the very end of the drama that it’s not exactly true. Yes, the plant and letters represent cherished memories, and they make it possible for him to move on, but I think what we see of Ji-pyeong last is that he realizes he needs people. In the end, he stays close to our crew as their investor, and seems firmly fixed as a mentor. I can only hope he continued to stay close with Dal-mi’s family as well, since so much of Ji-pyeong’s heart was yearning for family.
That brings us to the other important person in Ji-pyeong’s life and growth: Halmoni. Halmoni has had a life-changing impact on Ji-pyeong, and he knows it more than anyone. That final scene between them where she comes to visit him and tells him not to be so used to being alone was a real tear-jerker moment. I may or may not have been crying as hard as Ji-pyeong here. This beautiful scene really brought their relationship fill circle.
It’s important that we see Ji-pyeong change, and one way this is illustrated is by his willingness to do something out of goodwill (instead of just for profit). And Start-Up, clever little show that it is, showed us this in the most fabulous way possible.
Ji-pyeong is looking for a cause to do good and follow Halmoni’s wishes, and who turns up but a passionate young CEO with a business to benefit young orphans? As Ji-pyeong walked into the meeting room I was verbally begging the show for a great cameo — but I did not expect it to be Yeo Jin-gu! What an awesome surprise, and a wonderful meta moment. Yeo Jin-gu, of course, voiced Yeong-shil throughout the drama, so to see Ji-pyeong moved by his business proposition (and his voice, lol) was golden. Sweet, moving, and hilarious. This might have been my favorite scene in the entire finale week.
We can’t wrap up Start-Up without Halmoni — she’s the one that grounded the entire drama, and was the person with the most loving and kind heart that changed everyone she came in contact with. Goals! She took on life’s challenges and heartbreaks with grace and faith, and was the true character everyone in the drama looked up to. Halmoni’s moment of recollection and gratitude when she imagines her family all reunited was one of the most affecting scenes in the drama for me. *tears*
Won Seo In-jae
I would have loved more In-jae in this drama, but I suppose I can’t complain too much — her growth in the final two episodes was quite nice. We see her confidence in Dal-mi grow, we see her confront her step-father once and for all, and above all, we see In-jae stepping back into her true identity when she takes back her father’s name.
This idea of the girls choosing a path when they were young (mother/money, father/love) was the crux of the whole drama, so I wish we had spent a little more time on the family element here. But, we do circle back to the sisters’ earlier moments, with the $10 bet, with the music box that finally finds its rightful owner, and with In-jae finally able to truly smile and be loved.
Lee Chul-san and Jung Sa-ha
The nerd/gorgeous model paradigm might be age-old, but I found these two to be adorable. Soooo adorable. Can they get their own drama?
We saw most of Yong-san’s character growth last week, but his arc ended with him growing in greatness, like all three of the Samsan boys did. They worked hard, were rewarded, but always remained grounded. It’s interesting, too, that Start-Up has a lot to say about success and humility, and we see a beautiful example of that when the Samsan boys have a real moment of gratitude for how far they’ve come. The visit back to their old office, the reminiscing, and the kindness towards the newbies taking their place was so great. This was definitely another of my favorite moments from the finale.
And I just have to throw this out into the wind: I kinda liked that exchange between Yong-san and In-jae. They look good together. *hint hint*
No drama is perfect, and some are rife with fan conflict, but in the end, I think it’s worth looking a step past that and at the message of the story. Having a strong moral is often what makes K-dramas stand out from other TV shows, generally speaking, and while some might call it cheesy, it’s something that I’ve grown to love about the genre.
Start-Up definitely had a lot of good lessons to share with us, and while I’m sure there’s a different message there for everyone, the ones that stood out the most to me were about perseverance, the importance of family and friendships — and, of course, a reminder to dream big.
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