The Devil Judge: Episode 16 (Final)
Things are looking dire for our judge duo as they fall prey to the chairwoman’s elaborate scheme. Determined to deal the SRF a major blow, our young judge embarks on a dangerous mission in an attempt to set things right. The finale is action-packed and overall satisfying. There’s destruction to be sure, but it ends on a more hopeful note than expected. So strap in for the final trial as our avenging judges go head-to-head one last time with the corrupt elite.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
After Yo-han is arrested, Ga-on goes upstairs to the distraught Elijah whose first thought is that Yo-han is being taken away because he might’ve truly caused the church fire. Ga-on assures her he didn’t and
straightforwardly admits that he was tricked into reporting Yo-han for killing Soo-hyun.
He promises to bring Yo-han back, even if it costs him his life. Elijah bursts into tears, asking why Ga-on did it. Ga-on can only hang his head and apologize while listening to her cries.
Ga-on asks the housekeeper to stay by Elijah’s side and heads to the police station to sort things out. The detective clearly doesn’t believe his story and says they can do nothing without evidence. Even Ga-on’s attempt to have himself arrested for falsely accusing Yo-han is brushed off.
Desperate, Ga-on threatens to report the police’s inaction to the media, arguing the detective must be following orders. The detective is unconcerned because there’s no way the Blue House will let any media outlet report on this. As Yo-han is taken to his cell, Jukchang sees him pass and yells that he’ll kill him.
While Jin-joo watches the news report on Yo-han’s arrest in shock, Justice Min tells Chief Justice Ji he’d better take responsibility for making Yo-han the presiding judge (although it wasn’t even his idea). Ga-on is waiting in Justice Min’s office when he returns.
Ga-on wonders what happened to the whole resigning thing. When Justice Min says he has to clean up the mess, Ga-on calls him shameless. Did he really have Soo-hyun killed just to entrap Yo-han?! Justice Min insists he didn’t know Sun-ah would kill Soo-hyun.
We flash back to when Sun-ah told Justice Min of her plan to put him on the Supreme Court. It wasn’t hard to convince him given his hatred for political figures like President Heo and Yo-han, as well as his fears regarding the upcoming The People’s Live Court. Sun-ah told him the first step is to place someone beside Yo-han who can monitor him.
Now, Justice Min justifies his actions by saying he only wanted to stop Yo-han from destroying the world. His determination grew after the attack on him and his family, which he attributed to Yo-han, and he vowed to do whatever it took to bring Yo-han down.
Even though Justice Min was horrified by Soo-hyun’s death, Sun-ah enticed him to stay the course with her talk of him becoming the chief justice who will go down in history for stemming the chaos. Justice Min tells Ga-on he chose to become a monster to stop Yo-han. History will judge his choice.
Livid, Ga-on calls him a disgusting hypocrite and grabs him by the lapels. Justice Min calls in security right before Ga-on pushes him into the chair and begins screaming at him for killing Soo-hyun. Ga-on is pulled off Justice Min and tossed out of his office.
He runs into Jin-joo in the hall who asks if it’s true Yo-han committed murder. Ga-on tells her it’s a trap by the SRF, so Jin-joo offers to help save Yo-han however she can.
At the prison, Yo-han runs into the warden he threatened into going public over the Young-choon incident, and the man is thrilled to have the chance to pay Yo-han back for his misery. Elsewhere, the chairmen are in awe of Sun-ah’s skills in even turning Justice Min to their side.
President Heo is subdued for once and nervously praises Sun-ah for turning Ga-on into Judas to catch Yo-han. President Heo, unsurprisingly, thinks they should just kill Yo-han in prison rather than deal with a trial. Sun-ah chides him for thinking too much, and he immediately backs down.
Sun-ah finds President’s Heo’s acquiescence suspicious and has noticed the chairmen being careful around him. Wondering if she’s underestimated him, Sun-ah has Jae-hee look into his activities involving the Dream Village project.
President Heo’s wife thanks the chairmen’s wives for convincing their husbands to support President Heo’s latest venture, the “weekend farm.” She promises to set up a time for them to visit their investment.
Meanwhile, Ga-on tries to convince Attorney Go to help him save Yo-han. Attorney Go is reluctant to trust him again, but Ga-on argues they need to act before the SRF tries to hurt Yo-han. Ga-on’s plan is to ferret out what the SRF is hiding at their Dream Village by infiltrating the Medical Center.
Attorney Go points out they have military guards and it’ll be hard for Ga-on to escape once he’s inside.
Even if Ga-on managed to get footage for an exposé, what media outlet would air it? The government has even shut social media down. Ga-on has an idea but needs Attorney Go’s help.
When Elijah wakes, she sees a tray of food and a note from Ga-on on her bedside table. He writes that he spoke to someone who worked at the church and learned the fire was the result of faulty wiring – a simple accident. Yo-han intentionally made her suspect him, hoping her hate would fuel her to live.
Ga-on emphasizes that nothing is her fault since her hating him was what Yo-han wanted. From now on, she should treat Yo-han well. Ga-on encourages her to eat and stay healthy so as not to worry Yo-han once he returns.
In the prison yard, Yo-han fights off Jukchang and his cronies. Yo-han subdues them without breaking a sweat, proving he’s undoubtably the bigger badass.
Meanwhile, Ga-on initiates his plan to take down the SRF by stowing away in a shipping box and sneaking into the Dream Village Medical Center. He dons some scrubs and a mask and makes his way into the clinical trials area.
He surreptitiously films the poor test subjects – including children – as they writhe in pain on their beds. One of those test subjects is So-yoon who looks unwell but not too damaged. She’s relieved to see Ga-on who promises to come back for her in a minute.
President Heo arrives at the facility, so Ga-on slips out to listen while the center gives him a report. 182 of the over 3,000 test subjects have died due to side effects of the vaccine. President Heo is happy with that “low” number and instructs them to expand the “farm” for their new clients which include Russia and Japan.
The chairman and their wives laugh that they might need to expand their operation beyond Seoul. President Heo says people are the most important resource; just look how much money they’re worth! They can even harvest their organs when they die. Ga-on seethes as he watches them laugh and treat human lives like commodities.
President Heo and the chairmen discuss whether to bring Sun-ah into this operation. They’re a little nervous to leave her out, but they’re greedy enough to take the risk. They harp on “aggressive” women like Sun-ah and Minister Cha and diss Sun-ah for being a former maid. The men decide it’s the right time to cut Sun-ah off and get rid of Yo-han.
Ga-on makes it into the elevator with So-yoon, but he’s stopped by another doctor. She recognizes Ga-on but luckily is on their side. She’s not the only medical personnel who’s been waiting for help to arrive. She and a few others help sneak Ga-on and So-yoon out, hoping he’ll expose the situation to the world.
Once they’re out, Ga-on calls to update Attorney Go who is worried about their next step. He reluctantly agrees to proceed when Ga-on says there’s no other option.
Sun-ah makes a trip to the Medical Center and is horrified to see the teenage girl she took a liking to is one of the test subjects. She recalls the girl’s smiling face during her lecture and shakily strokes the girl’s hair. Sun-ah falls to the floor and cries, “What have I done?” She holds the girl’s hand and sobs that she’s sorry.
While Ga-on brings Jin-joo into his plans involving Justice Min’s inauguration, the warden passively watches as an inmate rushes Yo-han with a knife. At the courthouse, Ga-on and Jin-joo are stunned to see the news report that Yo-han was killed in prison. (There’s no way he went out that easily.)
Sun-ah, fighting tears, tells herself it’s fine since she was going to kill Yo-han anyway. The SRF men, on the other hand, are relieved to finally be rid of Yo-han. Chairman Min, looking a little shifty, suggests holding an event in Yo-han’s courtroom to celebrate their victory.
President Heo naturally likes that idea and says Sun-ah needs be there. He thinks it’d be a fitting ending for her too, so Chairman Park calls up Sun-ah to invite her. Sun-ah is many things, but stupid isn’t one of them. When she hangs up, she tells Jae-hee to get her a pistol. “I think I might be the next president,” she muses. It’s time for her to protect herself.
Newly minted Chief Justice Min gives a press conference in lieu of an official inaugural event, vowing to bring justice back. Jin-joo catches up with him afterward and tells him Sun-ah is waiting to meet him in his old office.
Jin-joo reports to Ga-on that Chief Justice Min is on his way. She’s surprised when Ga-on tells her to leave the building. He promises to explain later. This can’t be good.
In Yo-han’s courtroom, the SRF gang holds their own little soirée. The women fawn over Sun-ah while Chairman Min is strangely quiet.
When Chief Justice Min enters his office, Ga-on ambushes him. After binding his hands and gagging him, Ga-on says, “Let’s go together.” He unzips his jacket to reveal a bomb strapped to his chest. Well, that escalated.
Media outlets won’t miss the chance to report how the new chief justice blew himself and his student up on inauguration day. When the bomb explodes, an email about the Dream Village project will be sent to all major media outlets. “Think of this as atonement for Soo-hyun if you have a conscience left,” Ga-on remarks.
Ga-on squeezes his eyes shut with 10 seconds on the timer. He waits … and with less than five seconds to go, Yo-han swoops in to shut it off. He apologizes for being late, saying it took a while to get here from hell.
Ga-on stares in shock at the very alive Yo-han and pushes him in frustration before grabbing him in a bear hug. When Ga-on asks what happened, Yo-han gives him a “c’mon, don’t you know me?” kind of smile.
We flash back to the warden thinking he’s the big man on campus only to have Yo-han reveal that he knows about his illegal funds in an account in the Bahamas. Yo-han promises to return the money if he switches him out for another prisoner for 24 hours, which he already knows he’s good at.
After Yo-han killed the man who attempted to murder him, he instructed the warden to use that dead body as his replacement. Ga-on can’t believe Yo-han managed this all on his own. Attorney Go arrives and apologizes for not telling Ga-on about the plan; he wasn’t sure he could trust him.
While the warden is cursing Yo-han for “returning” his money by donating it to various charities, Yo-han leaves Ga-on to handle Justice Min. In the courtroom, the SRF crew gets one hell of a surprise when Yo-han starts live streaming to the room. They might have blocked all media outlets, but they forgot about the DIKE voting app.
With the help of our trusty PD, Yo-han begins the final trial. The “cast” of the trial is not only our main SRF gang but also the wives. Yo-han admits he’s a criminal, but so are all of them. He plays the video Ga-on took at the Dream Village Medical Center, which is not a good look.
Yo-han tells the public that a fake virus is being used as an excuse to kidnap people and sell them as test subjects. President Heo desperately yells that this video is faked, but his protestations are undercut by the portion of the video where President Heo stands among the test subject and callously discusses their monetary worth.
Next, Yo-han puts up photos of his lackey and Soo-hyun, identifying them as victims of Sun-ah’s. Ga-on holds the phone so Justice Min can see while Yo-han tells the world how Justice Min worked with Sun-ah who killed Soo-hyun in cold blood.
Ga-on frees Justice Min and tells him to go live the rest of his life in hell. “Your name will go down in history just like you wanted.” Through his tears, Justice Min takes one final look at Ga-on before trudging out.
In the trial, 99% of the public vote guilty, so Yo-han announces the punishment. He shows photos of live bombs planted in the building. If any of the convicted attempt to flee the room, the bombs will go off. The SRF crew panics when Chairman Park finds a bomb in the room.
Yo-han declares that when 10 million people – the same number of votes President Heo received – press the button, the bombs will explode. As the number reaches 5 million, Yo-han leaves the broadcasting room and heads to the stage.
In the courtroom, Chairman Min sneaks over to a specific door and curses Yo-han when it doesn’t open. Looks like we’ve got a double agent. Yo-han waltzes into the room with a detonator, continuing his broadcast trial from the courtroom.
Yo-han announces that Ga-on risked his life to take that video exposing the Dream Village and promises Ga-on will later reveal the whole truth. When Yo-han says he’ll go with these villains to hell, Ga-on goes flying out the door toward the courtroom.
Chairman Min begs Yo-han to let him live – he gathered the SRF crew just like he asked. We see that Yo-han had blackmailed him into it by threatening to expose how he embezzled SRF funds. Now, Yo-han offers to give him a chance.
Yo-han opens one of the doors. “Doesn’t this remind you of something?” Just like in the church that day, they’ll have to make a break for it. The first person out the door lives.
Only Yo-han and Sun-ah remain in place. Watching the melee, Yo-han flashes back to the church fire where these same people clawed their way out. He thinks of his last moments with his brother and smiles as he says, “Hyung.”
Sun-ah quietly walks out from behind the judge’s seat and pulls the pistol out of her purse. The others are too busy fighting to notice. President Heo yells for silence and tries to convince Yo-han to cut a deal with him.
President Heo’s obnoxious screams that he’s the king are silenced for good when Sun-ah puts a bullet through his head. She next levels her gun at Yo-han while the others yell for her to shoot.
Yo-han raises the detonator. “Let’s go together, Sun-ah.” Sun-ah smiles with tears in her eyes. “Goodbye, Young Master.” She turns the gun on herself and pulls the trigger.
In her final moments, Sun-ah thinks back to one day when she’d broken a decorative plate in the mansion and Yo-han had told her it was okay with a smile.
“Do you know? I truly liked you,” she thinks to Yo-han who watches her take her last breath. He lets out a long sigh.
The moment Ga-on arrives, everyone starts begging him to save them. Ga-on ignores them and pleads with Yo-han to reconsider. Is he going to leave Elijah alone and die with this trash? Yo-han says it has to be this way. “The actor has to leave once the performance is over.”
“I’ll go with you,” Ga-on offers. Yo-han stares at him for a long moment. “You be the hero,” he says. “I’m enough as the devil.”
Yo-han grabs Ga-on and tosses him out into the hall, slamming the door shut behind him. He stares at the door sorrowfully as Ga-on screams for him on the other side, fighting against the bomb squad trying to drag him to safety.
The number reaches 10 million. With a smirk, Yo-han presses the detonator, and the room explodes. Ga-on and the team are thrown back from the blast. Ga-on stares in horror and screams Yo-han’s name.
That night, Ga-on goes to the mansion to see Elijah. Her chair is in her room, but she’s not. He checks Yo-han’s room where he notices a tower of cards on the table and a set of courtroom blueprints in the chair.
Yo-han made notes on a secret emergency exit and how the magician should disappear from the scene. The final note reads, “My part is done. Now you have work to do.”
The housekeeper enters the room and tells Ga-on that Yo-han already came and went. So he faked his death twice in 24 hours? Earlier, he’d shocked her by running in and telling her she’s fired. She should live her life now since no one will be in this house anymore.
Yo-han grabbed her in a hug and then went to fetch Elijah. He’d promised things were okay now and told her they’d be going to a rehab in Switzerland that will try to help her walk again. They’d held each other and cried.
Ga-on is delighted to hear Yo-han is alive and well. The housekeeper isn’t sure how to take Yo-han’s “severance” pay: a health food shopping mall where she can sell all the “healthy and tasteless” things she wants. Heh.
A month later, Ga-on says goodbye to Jin-joo who is headed back to her hometown to work with youth. He then heads to the hearing on the “Kang Yo-han incident.” Ga-on is lauded as a national hero and an assemblyman asks his opinion on how to avoid another such disgraceful incident.
It’s clear they only invited Ga-on as a publicity stunt because no one truly listens when he remarks that Yo-han wasn’t the real problem; people were already angry. Public officials should be focusing on getting justice for the citizens who are hurting. “If we don’t do our jobs, someone will suffer. That suffering is what creates a monster.”
The assemblyman praises Ga-on’s sentiment but ignores it entirely, preferring surface “solutions” that court public favor. Ga-on listens to their chatter in disappointment, noting to himself nothing has changed. He contemplates how to go about creating a world that doesn’t need Yo-han.
A hand rests on the back of Ga-on’s chair and Yo-han’s voice says, “Do well or I’ll come back.” Ga-on looks up and glimpses Yo-han walking out the door. He runs to the lobby and spots Yo-han on a walkway the floor above. Yo-han salutes him and walks off.
Ga-on chases after him, calling his name. Yo-han stops and turns to face him. They stare across the space at each other with tears in their eyes but neither steps closer. They share a smile, and then Ga-on watches Yo-han walk away.
That’s a wrap, folks. I’m not sure how I feel about the death fake-out. While I’m glad that Yo-han survived and is finally free, the happy ending felt a little dissonant with the tone of the drama. Honestly, I expected at least one of our leads to die. After the explosion, I thought we were going full circle but this time Ga-on (the Isaac stand-in) would have to survive alone. I did think it was kind of mean that Yo-han traumatized Ga-on like that, even if it was temporary. Of course, if he’d told him the plan ahead of time, it wouldn’t have been nearly as dramatic. Although it was a happy ending overall – the bad guys were vanquished and the good guys lived to fight another day – it was also bittersweet. Our little family was separated with Ga-on and Yo-han going their own ways. In my mind, the three of them are reunited in the future under much better circumstances. Maybe they holiday together on occasion or something.
I actually liked that Yo-han was out of commission for a while this episode because it gave Ga-on a chance to be more than a sidekick. Although I was annoyed with him last episode, he redeemed himself for me by taking full responsibility and doing whatever he could to correct his mistake. He took initiative and got things done. The whole incident led to greater character growth which was nice to see. Whereas he was previously naïve and indecisive to a sometimes problematic degree, he came into his own with a newfound surety of who he is and what he believes by the end of this journey. Despite sometimes being irritated with him, I didn’t dislike Ga-on’s character. I largely credit that to Jinyoung’s strong performance. He did a great job with Ga-on’s emotionality which could have easily strayed into overacting territory. Instead, he gave a nuanced performance that made Ga-on more interesting than he might’ve been on paper. Also, he had great chemistry with Ji Sung, which was essential for making this drama effective.
Unsurprisingly, Ji Sung gave a wonderful performance as Yo-han who could’ve come off very differently in the hands of a less skilled actor. Yo-han wasn’t cartoonish in his scheming or overly stoic in demeanor. Ji Sung made Yo-han a sympathetic antihero who felt human despite his uniqueness. His loneliness and pain were always present under the surface of the charismatic outer appearance he cultivated. Aside from Ji Sung’s portrayal, Yo-han’s relationship with Elijah helped to humanize him as well. I really enjoyed watching them figure out how to connect with each other and grow into a real family with Ga-on’s encouragement.
Then, we have Sun-ah. I personally loved the over-the-top way Kim Min-jung played her. Sun-ah’s exaggerated persona embodied the extravagance of the world she sought to own and fit well with the drama’s theme of corruption beneath a veneer of opulence. She was a truly tragic character who could never escape her traumatic childhood. Her loneliness and greed consumed her, bringing destruction wherever she went. Her rare moments of empathy and vulnerability, like when she sobbed by that teenage girl’s bedside, made her pitiable if not sympathetic. Sun-ah choosing to end her own life felt in line with her character. She knew there was no way out at that point and that she’d never have what she craved. Sun-ah always refused to live on others’ terms, so it’s not surprising she’d also refuse to die on them.
Although Sun-ah was arguably the main villain, I liked that this fight wasn’t against a single person but a system. Yes, the SRF and all the people in power needed to go, but they weren’t even the main problem. Until strictures are put in place to curb the power of money over the system, similar corrupt leaders will replace those ousted. Yo-han knew he needed to blow up (heh) the current system but that wouldn’t be enough. Lasting change would require someone who cares to take the reins and rebuild from the rubble. Was it always Yo-han’s plan to pass the torch to Ga-on? If so, it makes sense why he wanted to recruit Ga-on so badly. He needed someone who had intimate knowledge of the problem and a personal stake in fixing it. Someone who wouldn’t give up on an exhausting fight or become corrupted themselves in the process. It’s a tall order, but Ga-on has matured enough to give it a go. There’s no guarantee he’ll be able to successfully implement change, but there’s hope that things can improve so long as people are willing to fight for it.
Despite the dystopian nature of it all, The Devil Judge was a fun watch. I do wish we’d gone a little deeper into the dystopian future element; it was more of a backdrop than the focus. I was interested in learning what brought everything to that point in more detail and seeing what other aspects of life were affected, but alas. At its core, this was a revenge/underdog drama about the dangers of consolidating power into the hands of the wealthy elite. Our leads’ backstories and the development of their bond provided an emotional center, and I appreciated the character development for both of them. I’ve already talked about Ga-on, but Yo-han grew a lot as well. By the end, Yo-han had started letting people in and expressing himself to those he cared about more openly. He, Ga-on, and Elijah finally let go of their anger and together began healing from their trauma. The future may be uncertain, but I’m confident these three will truly live, no longer hiding in the dark.
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