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[Fix That Ending] Hit rewind, please

Oh, Twenty Five Twenty One. You just had to come in here, make me fall in love with you, and then make me regret it. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write this Theme of the Month review, as my thoughts on this drama are still an ugly mess. It’s been about two weeks since I cried over the final two episodes, and I’m still carrying a mix of confusion, disbelief, anger, and reluctant acceptance.

Twenty Five Twenty One burst onto our screens as something special. It portrayed human relationships and emotions in a beautiful and eerily realistic way. So when we got what I would call an equally realistic ending, with OTP Hee-do and Yi-jin not ending up together as adults, my brain tried to convince itself that all of that made sense. The couple being torn apart by 9/11 — felt right. Having communication issues — sure. Hee-do refusing to date Yi-jin when he was doing what her mother had done to her all her life — ugh… okay, yes, understandable.

But the longer I think about the drama as a whole, about the characters and their growth and my own personal feelings about them, my reluctant acceptance turns into total denial. I cannot and will not accept this ending.

Here are my reasons why.

The editing in the final episodes did not work for me. They ran through a lot of time very quickly and it made it hard to keep up with where the couple was in their relationship and why it was going downhill. You can’t show us 14 episodes of them being the most perfect pair ever and then have it crash and burn in two episodes. On top of that, there wasn’t enough room to see if Hee-do and Yoo-rim were still besties, or to see any of the other characters as adults.

I don’t believe that Hee-do would’ve given up on Yi-jin that easily. Great writing that she would struggle with Yi-jin’s demanding work life just as she struggled with her mom’s, and I do think that, as we saw in the show, she would eventually break. But Hee-do was a strong woman. And she proved time and time again with her mom and Yi-jin that she could stand by their side. They could’ve worked something out!

How could they not keep in contact? Hee-do and Yi-jin officially break up in the early 2000s and supposedly have ZERO contact until their TV interview in 2009? And then continue to have ZERO contact afterwards? This is probably what hurt me the most, because their relationship was so achingly strong beforehand. The romance part of it was great and everything, but at its core, their relationship was a rare bond that was all too precious. To not keep that bond going, even after a difficult breakup, killed me.

The present timeline felt fake and forced. Any time we started with or cut to adult Hee-do, it was like watching a different drama. There was no connection there — the actress’ performance wasn’t connecting with Kim Tae-ri’s, and the present-day story wasn’t connecting with the past. Like, how could adult Hee-do forget about their beach trip??? I have a terrible memory and I could never forget something like that! I know that the real Hee-do, the Hee-do we came to know in the ‘90s, could never forget.

The weird thing is, Twenty Five Twenty One could’ve ended a number of different ways, and I’m pretty sure I could’ve accepted all of them, happy or sad. You’d just have to go back and make a few tweaks in the story. Rewind to Episode 15 when Yi-jin first left for New York, to Episode 14 when Hee-do found Yi-jin crying in the tunnel, or hell, all the way back to Episode 10 when the whole gang went on that beach trip.

It was hard to come up with one ending that would completely satisfy me, because with a story like this, it would always end with a tinge of pain. But I decided on three endings that, despite the emotional pain, would still give me the right amount of closure.

Ending #1: Yi-jin dies in New York. This is the only way I could accept the present timeline. Then, it would make sense that Hee-do married someone else. Then, it would make sense that adult Hee-do seemed so distant whenever her mother or daughter brought up the past. Here, I see Hee-do and Yi-jin promising to make a long-distance relationship work, and I see them actually following through. Yi-jin has a tough time, but he confides in Hee-do, and she’s able to console him and vice versa.

But then Yi-jin goes silent and Hee-do hears from his co-worker days later that he’s been killed in an accident. Hee-do is distraught, and she lives with it until present day. Later, all grown up, she discovers her diary with a note from Yi-jin (a different note from the real ending). And through that note, she revisits the tunnel and gets closure. What I like about this is that it would keep the spirit of the real ending, with young Hee-do and Yi-jin reuniting in the tunnel, which was a lovely visual.

Ending #2: Hee-do and Yi-jin fight but make up. With this ending and the next, let’s pretend the present timeline we got doesn’t exist. Hee-do and Yi-jin break up, ending it on a bad note as we saw. Then, comes the time when Yi-jin has to leave for New York again. They find each other at the bus stop and say their goodbyes. Yi-jin kneels down to tie her shoe and they both cry. They hug and — here comes the edit — admit that they don’t actually want to break up. As hard as it is, they choose to continue a long-distance relationship.

Hee-do keeps struggling with having to be alone, but she still has her mom and her friends. Yi-jin struggles too, but this time, he feels more trust in his relationship with Hee-do and tries his best to communicate and keep the romance afloat. Eventually, Yi-jin returns to Korea in 2009 to take on the UBS anchor position. The couple finally reunite, marry, and settle down. This is more of a typical K-drama ending, but hey, I definitely wouldn’t complain.

Ending #3: They break up but stay friends. Similarly to #2, we go to the bus stop hug. Here, they break up but choose to stay in contact as friends. Once apart, they don’t talk as much as they used to, especially with their busy schedules. But they still make the effort. Years later, Hee-do does, in fact, marry someone else and have her daughter Min-chae, while Yi-jin stays single and focused on his career.

Hee-do finds Yi-jin’s note in her diary and meets with him in person. They’re now 44 and 40, and they haven’t seen each other in a while. They’re still friendly and happy to catch up. This continues. They meet up when they’re 46 and 42, then 50 and 46, and so on. Years go by, and they’re now 65 and 61. Hee-do is divorced and Yi-jin is still single. For once, time is on their side, and Yi-jin ventures out to the high school and finds Hee-do doing exactly what he’d planned to do — turn the water fountain faucets upside down. We get an open ending that they’re likely to start a romantic relationship again.

Out of all these options, #3 is the one I want to hold on to, and what I will take as canon. Because it’s still possible with the actual ending we got. The Twenty Five Twenty One couple was strong from the get-go and only got stronger. The only thing that was in their way was bad timing. The IMF crisis, the 9/11 attacks. But I want to believe that, in the end, the stars would align and they could finally be together in peace.

For the most part, I accept endings whether they’re satisfying or not. But with cases like this, where you develop such a tight bond with the characters, the writer’s canon doesn’t have to be your canon. Writers have their stories in their heads and their hearts, but once that story is out in the world, the viewer can take it and interpret it however they want. So… yeah. Sorry, Writer-nim, but I had to rewind this tape and record my own Happily Ever After over it. That’s how imma cope.

 
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I will take ending #2! Many viewers have mentioned that it is realistic for a relationship not work out. I just can't accept that THIS relationship ended like that, with no possibility for make-up. Our Beloved Summer had much better ending.

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Yes it wasn't just the realistic breakup but how it was executed, how it quickly fell apart in 2 episodes while building it up for 14 episodes and how it does not align with Hee Do's character all along. She is a strong willed fighter but gave up rather easily in Yi Jin's case. The more I read about the finale of 2521, the more my opinions changed. I was initially okay with the ending but I realized I wasn't actually wholly satisfied. Only after reading other's comments I could gather why that's happening. It isn't about the realism but the show and the characters not looking like the one we saw all along. That said, one thing remains constant, I would never take Yijin dying. Yes this show is primarily about HD but YJ suffered way too much to die at the end. I was glad that he could bring his family back at least. So in that case, I too think number 3 would've been better. HD already being divorced at maybe not 61 but 41 i.e. the present timeline and giving their love a second chance. Yeah kdramaesque but maybe more inline with the characters than them taking a sudden u turn.

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Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk. 😭💔

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As much as I want to change the ending, #1 won't make the cut. YJ dying would be to painful.

I totally agree how the last two episodes felt rushed and all that build up on our OTP was for nothing. I'm all for realistic ending but honestly, no contact after all those years with THAT bond? It breaks my heart. With that, I'll go with either #2 or #3.

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Of these possibilities, I guess I would take #2. I hate the idea of Yi-jin dying and I also hate the idea of him still being single at 65. I wouldn't mind #3 if the open ending was when they were 40 and 44. I really was satisfied with the ending as is though.

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I agree with your reasons why the 2521 ending didn't work. Also, as I think about it more, I'm really frustrated with the writer that the mother got a free pass. She was a terrible mother to Hee-do and a terrible friend to the coach (I loved the coach!). Even if she wanted to break that story about the coach, she could have asked the coach her side of the story to make sure what she was reporting was accurate, or at least, fully informed. And as a friend, she could have warned her, as BYJ warned KYR. And even when she's asking Hee-do about whether she can take BYJ not showing up, she's asking in the context of herself - how come you can't understand me? Aargh. I definitely didn't want BYJ to die, but I feel that would have given the writer the nostalgic "but at least we had that summer" memory feeling and it's good that time makes you forget pain etc. that she seemed to be going for. Otherwise, I think that the writer created Hee-do as too vibrant and forceful a character to be living with regrets and keeping the memory of 2521 as the name of her store and not doing something about it. And as others have written, I think that the writer was aiming for a first love, but she created a forever love.

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" I think that the writer was aiming for a first love, but she created a forever love."

Yes, this was exactly what happened. She created a forever love. The tone of her characters reflected that. That's why the "first love doesn't last, we need a clean break" theme doesn't make sense.

And I agree about Yijin dying. As morbid as that sounds, that would have kept in line with the 2521 signage she put up as a reminder of Yijin. I'm not sure how her husband would feel about it but at least the person behind the memento doesn't exist anymore. Personally, I would still feel icky either way.

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I agree. I felt like first love would have worked if their relationship was more fleeting - just one summer maybe…

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“The writer created Hee-do as too vibrant and forceful a character to be living with regrets”
Agreed. I probably sound like a broken record, but Hee do would have moved on with style and 110% energy instead of heaving sighs about the past.

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"I think that the writer was aiming for a first love, but she created a forever love."

Yes, absolutely this! If they just liked each other based on looks (a common element of "first love"), if it was just a summer, it would be believable for them to drift apart. Instead, it was years and years of being there for each other, until they were each other's person.

It's reasonable and realistic to say that most first loves don't last. But it's completely unreasonable and flies directly in the face of these characters as created to have them suddenly just walk away from each other. Hee Do does not give up. It's not in her nature. And Yi Jin does not walk away. It's not in his loyal nature, either. If these people were real, they actually would have made a solution. Plus there was zero connection between present day Hee Do and her teenage self. It was like two unrelated characters.

It's not that viewers are stupid and only have candy for brains. We understand that not every story has a happy ending. But this...was not logical. That's why people can't accept it.

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Woah. Every word you wrote echoed my thoughts, to the dot. Lol.

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Unfortunately, there's a long list of dramas with spoiled endings. This is one of the top. Such a great and loving couple, last 2 eps made zero sense. Why do they do this?

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Agree! It's like there is a new team of writers who are unfamiliar with the characters and plot and just fill in a script for the final few episodes. Too bad this happens over and over in kdramas...if only they could do endings as well as they build dramas.

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How can I like this article a million times??,you literally put into words how I felt,how I am still feeling, I am a big crier for dramas,my friends have a running joke about it, for 2521, I was prepared to cry,I was ready to accept them not ending together,what I can and will never accept is an ending that made me hate a drama I loved with just one episode, it's been weeks and I still can't accept that ending, thank you for this,it dosent take away the bitter taste of the ending but at least I feel I have someone who understands exactly how I felt about 2521.

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personally would have loved to see some gays. heedo/yurim otp!!

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I was already traumatized by 41-year-old Hee-do that I don't think I could stand 46- and 61-year-old Hee-do's. I was grateful that we never met adult Yi-jin, so Baek Yi-jin can forever be Nam Joo-hyuk in my memory. For me, Twenty Five Twenty One ended in Episode 10 with our friends on the beach because that moment did last forever.

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That actually would have been a great ending….. optimistic but also sad because as the audience we’d know it wouldn’t last forever.

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I'd take ending #3 please! I'm not sure if they would have worked out as a married couple but how could they not be friends?! How could they not keep in contact even just a little given the strong bond of their friendship before they got together romantically where they barely even dated enough to get serious? And their breakup was amicable. They don't have to hang out all the time, but a happy birthday or happy new year text would be nice! An invitation to Heedo's wedding too (I'm 99.9% sure he was not on her wedding guestlist in the show) It hurts to think they were practically strangers to each other after the breakup.

I'm not sure if I want them to get together romantically in their twilight years. I wouldn't mind if Yi-jin marries someone else too and then their kids can be friends or their kids can get married. I just want them to be in each other's lives.

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Well, as someone who is in their "twilight years" (that term gets more and more annoying the older you get, BTW), I would like for them to resume their romance. They had such a great connection, mentally and physically, that it would be nice to see that taken up again if life gives them the chance. After all, it's not as if you suddenly aren't interested in physical intimacy once you hit 60 - cringe if you will but shoot me now if I ever get that "old."

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Ending #3 gives me 'Same Time Next Year' vibes!
I'm curious about how everyone turned out though....maybe more so than Hee-do and Yi-jin.

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You and I are on the same page, @sailorjumun. If you see my comments under @kathystrobos ending, I asked the same questions. Hee-do was such a fighter! Why would she give up so easily on one of the most important relationships in her life? Yi-jin was her friend before he was her boyfriend. They lived through a separation before, when he and his brother moved. That was before cell phones and, I’m trying to remember what we had in 2001, was it skype? So why couldn’t they have endured a separation now????
Yeah, no way Hee-do would have forgotten the beach trip. Especially because that wasn’t just about her and Yi-jin, but her other friends too.
And if the ending was the right one, why was her husband working abroad? She broke up with Yi-jin to avoid long separations but married a man who’s job took him away from his family? How does that make sense?
And finally, if breaking up had been the right thing to do, present day Hee-do would have been happy. Memories of Yi-jin might be bittersweet, but not painful. When I think back on my first love, it’s with fondness, not regret. Regret is one of the worst emotions of all.

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“if breaking up had been the right thing to do, present day Hee-do would have been happy“
So true!

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I'm actually still in therapy. 😅 I'm actually expecting that they wouldn't end up together from the time that I discovered that Minchae's last name was different. I was already bracing myself for that. But like most, I felt that the last 2 episodes were rushed and badly executed. I get that absence does not make the heart grow fonder, that people change. LDR in real life is much harder. I would have preferred ending 3, but more bittersweet. I want something similar to On Your Wedding Day, then put that re-imagined scene of them in the tunnel as re-told in the diary. I think the only character that came out well with the writing in the ending was Ko Yurim. This I commend the writer as normally the ones that get this type of storylines are second male leads.

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THANK U FOR WRITING THIS - and allowing other 💔 disgruntled unhappy fans to continue to commiserate n mourn tog!! It’s the healing we all need 😭

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*hugs* ❤❤❤

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This perfectly summarises how I felt. I even picked ending #1 during the hot take post as soon as the drama aired because I was pissed at how rushed everything had been.

Endings #2 and #3 are definitely more in line with the characters we grew to love during 14 episodes

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Thank you @sailorjumun ❤️
Ending #2 or #3 for me, please 😊

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I agree that the writer didn't manage the graph of her drama very well. It's kinda like Park Hae Soo's courb of life in Prison Playbook. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxP4QrJrIO0&ab_channel=Beyza)

But I don't think the break-up wasn't out of characters. Hee-Do was the kind of people to take a decision and won't wave ever. It wasn't easy to break up for her, but she decided it and nothing could change her mind. We could see neither of them were totally happy in this relationship anymore. Keeping contact was very difficult as a couple, so it made sense they didn't even try as friends. First, it would have been awkward. Secondly, it's why they broke-up, it was too energy-guzzling. Maybe when BYJ came back, but it looks like they didn't need each other after years like they did in the past. BYJ had his family back with him and Hee-Do formed hers.

I think the end made sense but the drama had some misleanding issues with the title, the plot and didn't manage very well the balance of the story.

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Yes, despite the breakup being super messy (no less because it was her first breakup and first love, and perhaps his first, too), they were forced to moved on despite some loose end on HD’s part. They were broken emotionally, but as the love was so intense, the super clean, no-contact breakup was needed. It was pretty easy to not keep in tough those days also as one was actually abroad and the communication between far away places wasn’t as easy as what we have today.

They tried their best, just like at other things and failed and they learnt. It was part of the practice and who they’ve today become.

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What struck me was the message that no relationship, especially the romantic one, can survive and prosper by one person’s effort alone. BYJ, for whatever reason, failed to communicate effectively and broke his promise with HD many times without good explanation. She tried her best to tell him what she wanted in the relationship, but he always left her in the cold. I can’t imagine any more realistic and logical solution to this problem on per hart besides calling it a quit. The relationship wasn’t reciprocal at that point it was bound to be broken.

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It isn't really about the realism but the execution that people are frustrated. What they only had to do was to show the cracks all along or at least earlier. The way they went with the fencing reporter and fencer conflict. It was being foreshadowed all along so we knew it will happen at some time. And surprisingly they also resolved that beautifully showing their bond is stronger than many conflicts. I believe that had there been no present day timeline with adult Hee Do, it would've been really hard to be satisfied with the ending as that is the ONLY foreshadowing of these two not ending up together. The rest of the romance built up for 14.5 episodes and fell apart in 1.5 episodes between characters that were rather strong willed. I get how it is realistic that Hee do felt they have grown apart. But as many pointed out here, she didn't even try, that is unlike Hee do, rather she left the suitcase there not wanting to solve their relationship issues. BYJ was in the wrong but at least he wanted to talk things out. This was their first time meeting in months so that was rather unrealistic how they didn't even have a proper conversation before ending things.

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I think my comments might be better suited elsewhere (it's about the alternate endings here), but I'll just comment about my thoughts on the subject you discussed " BYJ was in the wrong but at least he wanted to talk things out. This was their first time meeting in months so that was rather unrealistic how they didn't even have a proper conversation before ending things."

I didn't view this as unrealistic as I went through quite the same thing acting exactly like HD did and suffered the after-breakup longing and unresolved feelings alone until I got my closure.

I agree things were rushed as if it was planned (and yes it was planned) in the last two eps. Though I do agree with this, I think there is an explanation for it. From what I understood, the reason why they spent the whole 14 eps on romance between the leads was because it was actually about how HD felt it. It was her first love story in her diary, so it's no doubt it would be about the intensity of her (at the time) unresolved first love. I don't deny that there should also be other reasons in dragging this first, intense love story as the show might be aiming to also gain higher ratings, but I personally don't have problems with it or how things were rushed and unfolded in the last two eps. It could have been better directed, with easier-to-follow and smoother sequences of incidents, but overall I think the show nailed it. It delivered and is consistent and realistic story-wise imo.

If we look closely at the characters in the show without judging them by our standards, we can see that everyone comes with their own experience and baggage. For SW, because JY brightened up her life so she was willing to quit school for him. Was it a wise decision? The reason is no one can judge it but herself, and I believed she did what was the best for her and her mother knew that. For JW, it was about his lack of the father figure and his academic competence. And that was why he aimed for creating this own business right away and perhaps didn’t care to have a college degree. For YR, it was about her and her family’s financial status. She changed her nationality despite everything for her most precious thing: family. For HD, she had the abandonment issue and that led to the swift breakup. For YJ, it was his family and the will to live, and that was why he took the position in NYC knowing this could break the relationship.

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I get your points and thanks for your insight. I guess, I wrote in haste what i really wanted to say was how them not conversing was not in line with their characters. I think we're still discussing two very different things. It's not about realism or not but what applies to the characters in the show and how they've behaved all along. I get how adult NHD can turn different than younger NHD but all of that is merely our assumption based on sth we think might have happened off screen. This isn't what the writer showed us or even intended to. So yeah that just brings me to my original comment on how the delivery was off and only showing a few cracks here and there but not dropping the bomb could've benefited the drama. I was team breakup all along, thanks to the present timeline, I always kept my hopes muted for them ending together. So yes I do think it could be realistic, first love not lasting and all, her being scarred from what her mother put her etc but the show didn't do a good job in showing us that considering how the characters have been rather consistent throughout the show and changed in the last few episodes. Lol anyways I'll stop here, sorry for intruding in your comment Kurama, you may be loaded with notifications right now.

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And if we look at them as individuals with specific baggage, we can see why some could survive individually, as a couple, or individually but not as a couple. For SW, she suffered the consequences by having to work one extra year before she could go to college. For JW and YR, the couple could be together because each complemented one another and each did not view the other’s baggage as a big deal. JW got YR who was famous and beautiful and adored him. He loved to be the center of attention, loved beautiful things, and felt inferior to others because he didn’t have a father and did poorly in school. YR and her family didn’t mind that at all. He got what he wanted with YR so he was willing to work for the relationship. YR was also over the moon because JW adored her when nobody outside her family really loved her that much and that evident. He also didn’t mind her family financial situation as he worked and could gain a lot since a very young age. She got what she wanted from him so she was also willing to be in the relationship. HD and JY were different. Both were passionate about each other but ended up didn’t complement one another the way JW and YR could. Their own baggage came into play. YJ’s resolves for bringing his family together rested on him being successful in his job as a foreign correspondent of that news channel. What he wanted was anything that could ease his mind. If HD could do that, he wouldn’t have the need for cigarettes nor sleeping pills. HD wanted a partner who was open with her, the way her mother wasn’t. She even voiced this out a couple of times when they were together, but she didn’t get what she wanted from YJ, again, for whatever reason. HD and YJ’s relationship ended not mainly because anyone, both people, or lack of proper conversation; instead, I view lack of proper conversation was simply the result of them not fitting in each other’s life anymore. That’s why, for me, and for some other people, don’t see how the show can have the traditional happy ending. They no longer fit as a couple.

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And for the present timeline HD, I also don’t find this unrealistically her because time changes and people change. While it might be true that YJ was the love of her life, she made the decision to marry Min-chae’s father. I should think he could give “something” that she wanted to her, probably honest communication and loyalty. That’s why I’d like to think that after she got the diary back reading what YJ had written and knew that he is now in a better place, she would regain her peace of mind and can move on emotionally from him. And if someone asks “But she doesn’t seem like a happily married person?” my answer is nobody knows the consequences of their decisions until after the decision is made. I think everyone knows this for as a mortal soul, we tend to second-guess what would have happened had we done something differently. As much as I agree that HD might not be passionate about her husband as much as YJ, I don’t think she feels that she’s made the wrong decision. The reason for that lingering feeling in 2009 was because she was young and about to get married and still had unfinished feeling for YJ. Now that she’s grown old and more experienced, she learns to appreciate what she has. That’s why she has a better bond with her mother: she has learnt to adapt and adjust her expectations. Everything is not ideal, but we can still make the best out of what we have. Such is life.

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The rationalization of your comments is eye-opening. Based on what you wrote, the writer gave rose-coloured endings for Yurim and Jiwoong, she even gave a fairytale-like story for Sungwan and Yihyun. But she reserved all the angst and idiocy trope for Yijin and Heedo because, you know, they need to split no matter what. Your comments just confirm how the writer destroyed Yijin and Heedo's characters for the sake of a swift break up. The characters are not behaving as they should, rather they behaved "for whatever reason". And not from how we have been shown them behave in the previous 14 episodes. All these comments just validate our collective thoughts on the terrible conclusion of this drama.

And no, the writer did not "nail it" when, as you say, "things were rushed and unfolded in the last two eps" and "it could have been better directed, with easier-to-follow and smoother sequences of incidents". The thing is, the actual break up argument itself was realistic. BUT, the lead up to it and the actions the characters made wasn't justifiable and therefore ended up not satisfying. That is not a definition of a good story when it has such flaws, inconsistencies and contradictions.

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"While it might be true that YJ was the love of her life, she made the decision to marry Min-chae’s father. I should think he could give “something” that she wanted to her, probably honest communication and loyalty"

Err... no, they did not have such honest communication that he still sent his daughter a ballet dress not even knowing that she had quit at that time. He was not so loyal that he had to be in a career which requires him to stay abroad or wherever, thus absent from his family for who knows how long. One would think her husband should be the opposite of Yijin since she was so dissatisfied with what she had with Yijin. But looks like he isn't.

"The reason for that lingering feeling in 2009 was because she was young and about to get married and still had unfinished feeling for YJ. Now that she’s grown old and more experienced, she learns to appreciate what she has."

Now that she's grown old, she still acts like that person from 2009. No, I take that back, actually she got worse in the present. She made a plaque of her first love so she can put it up in her shop and be reminded of him often. She hasn't learned to appreciate her life at all as she's stuck in the past, she's even emotionally cheating on her husband for so many years.

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The only thing the writer was consistent on was in giving Yijin and Heedo a break up as she intended. But the details and reasons surrounding it and the execution fails at being consistent with what she wrote of her characters.

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@anonymous

Thank you for your insight. As many things in life, my "nailed it" might not be the same as you or your collective thought. I think that's ok and I'll have to disagree with you. What I wrote above is how I viewed the story and it made sense to me though I do agree only that the execution of the last two eps could have been better.

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Clearly, we are not following the same logic. Because the last two episodes didn't make sense not just for me but for a lot of viewers. And you have confirmed that the last 2 episodes needed more clarity and could've been better. The finale showed inconsistent delivery. And the characters behaved differently than what they used to. Your statements are contradictory and confusing. I don't see other definition of "nail it" you have when a drama with such flaws and inconsistencies can be awesome for you. So yes, I would have to say that I disagree with you on that claim.

Apologies to Kurama for the disturbance.

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"...but the drama had some misleanding issues with the title, the plot and didn't manage very well the balance of the story."

This sums it up very well. This is what really soured the entire drama for me.

I understand Heedo can be decisive and she needed a clean break. Okay fine, I get that.
But then she names her shop 2521 and hang the rainbow chairs on her wall. The shop where she most likely goes to everyday. Where she will be reminded of Yijin and all their shared memories every time she goes there. Where her husband would also visit her and see the signage and chairs. Even if he doesn't know the meaning behind them, she might as well have a tattoo on her forehead that says, "I miss Yijin".

Even if it only means she regretted the way they broke up. Or she felt guilty how it ended. I can accept her feelings on that. But not her actions. C'mon, that rainbow scene was a special moment she shared with Yijin. That's not what someone who acts like she wants to forget and move on. If you want a no contact, clean break, you don't put signages and mementos on display to remind you and for everyone to see.

Most importantly, it's not respectful towards her husband. Nor a good example for her daughter to see. No wonder her husband was absent during her retirement press conference. And Minchae roots for her mom and Yijin while reading the diary!

There are other things I'm sure I'm forgetting now, but overall the writing was just not consistent and failed towards the end. The reality is, couples break up, take some breather, learn their lessons and reunite all the time. People can rationalize all they like about the breakup. The truth is, it just doesn't make sense. The ending doesn't make sense. The actions their characters say and do doesn't make sense. Because a lot of the writing doesn't add up. The writer wanted to write about why first love didn't last, I'm sorry to say this is not how it's done.

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I agree. I'm sorry for everyone who tried to explain and make sense of the ending but i have to disagree with you all. The ending doesn't makes sense period. Yes communication in a long distance relationship is hard. Yes the struggles BYJ and HD went through during their time apart is realistic. But in this case, they just stop trying. That's what ruin the whole character and relationship growth that've been shown in the first 14 episodes. All those memories they had means nothing, which means that the meaningful relationship they had also means nothing.

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Oooh I like the multiple endings angle! Similarly, I kind of accepted the ending at first, then got more and more frustrated that it didn’t feel right. The 14 episode build up/ 2 episode crash and burn (over 2 time-skip years) felt really unbalanced.
I’d probably choose #3 as I feel it’s the most in line with the themes of timing / eras / choices / dreams. Thanks for scratching the itch @sailorjumun !

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Really liking the ideas that fans can submit fixes for drama disasters and hoping that writers actually look at our ideas!

Ending #1 is a logical way to explain the disconnect in this drama's plot. It takes away the bitter while leaving the sweet. Bitter: With the actual plot, I hate YiJin's hollow treatment of HeeDo and their relationship. He really dropped her like a hot potato when he went to NYC. I especially disliked that tag scene with YiJin at the computer to show that he remembered HeeDo was stupid since it was known he had lots of girlfriends in high school. Sweet: the times when he seemed sincerely in love with HeeDo--as a woman.

Ending #2 feels like it fits with the plot, characters and tone established in the drama. The romance plot that was established appears to be like KathyKat observed--presented as "a forever love rather than a first love."

Ending #3 doesn't seem to fit their characters.

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Thank you for these endings @SailorJumun. It is possible and realistic that what feels like fated love at 25-21 leads to a break-up, loss of contact and ends up as a footnote in a person’s life. The problem with this drama is that we get 14 episodes of a fated soulmate love, and then when it ends, instead having years to get over it, as we would in RL, and as it presumably happened for HD and YJ, we get slapped in the face with a husband, a daughter and a pretty lifeless 2022 Hee-Do in the next hour or so. The effect is devastating. So inconsistency is this drama’s great flaw. Any of your endings would be better, but I vote for the rosiest one, #2. I feel HD and YJ sticking together is the most logical ending for these characters as they were sold to us through the most of the show.

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#1 is more painful BUT it's more align with the story. it will make Hee-do forgetting that she ever went to the beach with her friends felt more realistic. Because it was so painful for her to remember anything with Yi-jin in it. Forgetting became a trauma response for her. Adult Hee-do's personality will also align with ending #1. Like coming to terms with Yi-jin's passing took a toll on her personality as well. Drama-wise, ending #1 only needs to cut the wedding remark scene (Hee-do's mom saying that he met Yi-jin last month could also mean visiting his grave). Everything else can stay the same (i think). Ending #2 is the good ending we all hope for and #3 i think is unrealistic seeing how meaningful they are to each other. I don't think they can settle with just being friends.

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I agree that ending didn’t work. Adult Hee Do seemed lost and defeated. My suggestion would to be scrap the present timeline. Rather than trying to tie up all the loose ends, instead end with 2009 interview as cliffhanger. Let the audience decide how it panned out.

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I like this -- any open ending would be better than confirmation that it didn't and wouldn't work out 😮‍💨

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For Hee-Doo to fight so hard for her goals in fencing but to give up so easily and not bother to fight for what she wanted seemed so out of character? Both suffered terribly while apart before but now suddenly they are fine with it? YJ turning to smoking and sleeping pills from stress rather then turn to Hee-Doo after everything he lived through man him seem weak. He'd destroy himself first on a job rather then pursue his own happiness for once? Hee-Doo was retiring from fencing the distance / traveling thing would no longer be a issue with him then being in a set position at work and even in the 90's we're suppose to believe he's the only news anchor at the station. I thought with 9/11 it would have a change in him for the better to wake up and go after what he really wanted. His only real life happiness and joy was with Hee-Doo, the one person who kept him chasing dreams was Hee-Doo. All I can hope is China, Japan, and all the countries in between make their own version, because by the time a drama hits Thailand they fix the endings. Sadly it won't be this cast and they deserved better. We deserved better for them...

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I could not agree more regarding the unique quality of the relationship. It wasn't based on fantastic chemistry, although that was there, it had a far broader, deeper scope for both of them. It is inconceivable that they would have hugged goodbye over a suitcase and parted forever. Either the writer fooled us about the measure of the relationship or was too lazy to put in a proper ending. And I also agree that there was absolutely no connection between Hee Do and her allegedly grown-up self: they might have been different nationalities for all the connection. And I too was completely sucked into this magnificently acted, fascinating drama, and the ending made me feel quite sick. It cheapened the whole relationship.

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Tooo sooooooooon. Maybe in ten years I'll chime in with more depth. 😭

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I think Ending #1 with YJ ending is even worse than the ending. I would have been really mad if they killed him.

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2 weeks… and I am still haunted by the ending, to the extent I sincerely believe I have no life, so it is with great comfort that I find others who feel the same.
I am with sailorjumun here. I gaped and cried at the ending, how could a ‘forever love’ be dismantled, crash and burn in less than an episode? I then tried the route of reluctant acceptance, in the name of realism, but personally gave up. The Baekdo I know would not have given it up without fighting tooth and nail. But IF we really have to keep in line with the writer’s vision of separation…..
But yet at the same time to ameliorate the hurt, fanfic ending #1,
Toss out Kim Minchae. Heedo’s mum finds her diary when she is renovating her house. She reads it. We arrive at Yijin and Heedo in tears at the bus stop and they do indeed separate. Years later, they run into each other at the same bus stop/tunnel/square (where she tells Yijin she has to have him) and reconnect. It is a Heedo who is more mature, less brash and impulsive, perhaps divorced or never married and who is retired. It is also a Yijin who is less compelled to be wedded to his job after reunifying his family and attaining professional success. Flashback to present day, doorbell rings and Heedo and Yijin walks in hand in hand. Yijin asks, “eomeoni, can I help you with the boxes?’ And we don’t need no new set of actors. KTR and NJH are perfectly capable of portraying Heedo and Yijin in their early 40s.

Fanfic #2,
If it is really not meant to be, I need to know Yijin is happy. Years later, Heedo and Yijin run into each other in the park. They talk, enquire about each other, perhaps reminisce a little about their past. They introduce their respective child to each other who are playing at the playground. After, the kid asks NJH, ‘appa, who is she? NJH replies, ‘ a dear friend from the past who has helped appa a lot when he was having a difficult time, let’s go back now, eomma is waiting for us to have dinner’. Similar lines for KTR. At least, this will be bittersweet, to see they have still found happiness respectively even if they did not end up together.
Right now, it is just so BITTER. Urghhhhh!!!!!

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Ooh, great endings! Would gladly accept either one haha

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Ending number 2 all the way! A happy ending would have made this prime rewatch material but alas.....now it's just a painful reminder of the ephemeral.

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I was totally planning on rewatching this in the future, but I definitely can't now. I can barely look at images of the characters anymore... 🥺😢😭

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The trauma is real 😭

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Thank u for fixing the ending. I honestly couldn't get myself to watch the last two episodes and see them break up! Ending number 3 is definitely the most organic ending for this couple. How could they be everything to each other and then suddenly mean nothing.
Side note: adult hee Doo kinda sucks

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Not "kinda." Kim Tae-ri was perfect, so it sucks that Kim So-hyun ruined Na Hee-do's character.

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Ending #2 please!!

I had finally plucked up the courage a few days ago to watch the finale episode, with an inkling that it would not be the ending I was hoping for, that I would cry and be sad. But I never expected to feel like I was hit by the truck of doom! I cried through most of the episode...only the cute proposal by Ji Woong made me smile. And I woke up the next morning with a sad ache in my heart.

Why did the writer have to break our hearts so ruthlessly? To console myself, I think in reality their relationship should not have worked, as Hee Do said. It always felt that Hee Do was fighting for their relationship while BYJ was the passive one. In contrast, Ji Woong and Yu Rim both were honest about their long distance relationship and BOTH parties fought for it.

Nevertheless, 2521 has a special place in my heart and ranks as one of my favourite dramas and Na Hee Do, one of the coolest female leads ever!

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I'm on the same boat trying to accept the ending but failing miserably because to me it really didn't made sense at all. It's been two weeks and I still have the same thoughts. It gives me so much comfort knowing that I'm not the only one who thinks that the writer didn't really do justice to our OTP Yi-jin and Hee-do. I watched it twice the same night livestream and Netflix, and I'm so floored how the hell it ended that way.

And I love how some of us took time writing about how they would have wanted the drama to end. To be honest I won't want #1 as an alternate ending as I've had such a soft spot for Yi-jin, the poor guy had been through so much, and he deserves to be happy after all the sh*t he had to go through. So I guess I would either have to go for #2 and #3, though I have another ending in mind if we were to go the breaking up path with the writer's perspective. Though in my mind it could be a much more justifiable break-up.

A few things I would like to insert if we're to choose #2 and #3 ending

Hee-do and Jae-kyung - This needs closure I didn't think their relationship as mother and daughter had that full circle closure after visiting the grave of Hee-do's dad. I do believe Hee-do needs to know her mother's side of the story to better understand how she coped up losing her husband, raising her daughter, and juggling her career. This is such an important part of the story since this was one of the reasons why Hee-do has issues about not being prioritized. I feel that unless this gets resolved there's no way that we could go full circle with the happy ending we all wished for. Jae-kyung was a terrible mom from the get-go I wanted for her to atleast redeem herself. She will also pave way for Hee-do to fully understand Yi-jin's side given they're both on the same field.

Tunnel Scene - What I think the change should be is that instead of Hee-do walking out is that they actually be more vulnerable even there could be ugly tears. The Tunnel was such a special place for the two and I think it's so cliche to use that place for them to break-up. I would want instead for them to actually talk to each other given that both had been hurting. They're both brutally honest with each other so I figure that there should be a chance for them to fully explain these feelings. This is where they actually make an effort to understand each other.

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Break-up : To be realistic I can say that they can break up, but not because they don't love each other but because both were broken. To grow and be the best version of themselves they need both confront their own issues, but with the promise that once the time is righh they will find a way to be back in each other's life.

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When I first heard Jaurim’s song in the fountain scene at the end of ep 2, I had a foreboding that BYJ may die at the end of the drama. I am so glad that the writer did not choose that ending: that would have been so tragic for both BYJ and NHD: imagine NHD’s father dying when she is 13 and her lover dying when she is 21. How terrible is that! Besides, I really liked the way the writer developed BYJ’s character in the last 2 episodes, and wouldn’t want to be deprived of that.

I was one of those people who were heartbroken by the break up: I randomly burst into tears for a couple of days and my sleep was disturbed for much longer. I wish that the leads stayed together, but I also think the break up and the aftermath were portrayed in a way that is consistent with the characters.

For NHD, there is BYJ’s job as a reporter that perpetuated her childhood loneliness from having a busy mother. Another factor is that, NHD lost her father to an illness as a child, and it seems that he did not have the heart to tell his young daughter that he was dying (HD expected him to recover). One can imagine that NHD was unprepared for his death when it came, and why it is so important to her that BYJ share his hardship and grief as well as happiness, and why it is so difficult for her to tolerate his absence and silence. While they were still friends in ep 5, BYJ’s sudden disappearance and lack of communication did not affect her so strongly, but once they are romantically involved, the feelings associated with her most traumatic event are reactivated. A child’s psyche cannot distinguish between a parent’s death and being abandoned, and the fear it evokes is of her own annihilation. People respond differently to fear of abandonment: some cling on more desperately; NHD deals with the intolerable pain by leaving BYJ.

BYJ, on the other hand, does not share his hardship in order to spare NHD pain when there is no solution to his problem. During their fight BYJ says that “I didn’t want to complain”; the Korean word used is closer to ‘whine’ or ‘cry like a baby’, and that reminded me of his mother crying and complaining and the sense of helplessness BYJ must have felt in his inability to change the situation for her. To be fair, BYJ does share how he is doing in NY: on a particularly difficult night, he says to NHD that the city is like hell, he has nightmares, there are no survivors, only dead bodies, and the senior reporter with 20 yrs under his belt says there is no hope, that the world is only getting worse. In response NHD says think of it as growth. I winced when she said that because, although she meant well, such platitude is not helpful in situations like this and only makes the person feel not understood and reluctant to share further. Also, NHD ended each phone call with the word of encouragement “Be strong” (Netflix translated it as “hang in there”). That is the same phrase from BYJ’s high school broadcast where he said, “Sometimes,...

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[continued] words like ‘Be strong, You can do it’ can be more discouraging.” At the tunnel fight BYJ says her words were burdensome because he could not muster up strength, another reason he withdrew from her.

I was surprised and frustrated with NHD’s response to BYJ at the tunnel fight: he is telling her how difficult it was for him in NY, what she has been insisting that he does and he is finally doing that, and her response was so unempathetic: “that’s why we are breaking up, because we are a burden to each other in the hard times.” But then NHD mentions her mother missing the father’s funeral and it occurred to me that NHD is responding as a 13 year-old. When Jae-kyung said “I thought you’d understand once you grew up… But you don’t care to understand me. You are always ready to be disappointed,” NHD responded, “I’m still stuck at 13… You are right; I don’t care at all to understand. A 13 year-old can’t understand these things.” There is the beginning of a reconciliation between mother and daughter when NHD catches a glimpse of her mother’s grief and longing for her husband, but such a deep wound doesn’t heal easily.

Many viewers pointed out that NHD seems to have landed in a situation that she tried to avoid with BYJ: she marries a man who is absent due to work. What’s happening seems to be repetition compulsion, our tendency to reenact childhood traumatic circumstances especially in romantic relationships in an attempt to master the past and bring about a different outcome. This happens at an unconscious level and we usually find ourselves in the dreaded position in spite of our best efforts to avoid it. Repetition compulsion is a complex phenomenon and I don’t pretend to understand the concept, and how one escapes the cycle of repetition is a unique and individual journey. In the context of this drama, the last tunnel scene where NHD asks BYJ to leave first in her imagination seems to provide a sort of resolution: to me the scene signifies that NHD is able to tolerate being left, that she is able to survive on her own. And so, she is able to tolerate temporary separation from her husband in the way she could not when she was 21.

I think the drama suggests that BYJ never stopped loving NHD and that for him it is forever love. In the post credit scene, he is not wearing a wedding band. As some people have pointed out, Koreans don’t necessarily wear wedding ring, but the way the camera focuses on his left hand twice seems intentional, and in ep 1 NHD was upset when she thought her mother sold the wedding bands. And there is BYJ’s confession: “This has nothing to do with what you think of me. No matter what you do or what you look like (what your condition is), I love you for who you are. I couldn’t ask for anything more than to make you happier by telling you how I feel about you.” “Nothing more to ask for? How is that possible? Is that what love is?” “Towards you, it is.” BYJ’s love acts as a counterpoint...

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[continued] to NHD’s refrain, “Nothing lasts forever.”

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Still gutted by the ending… I totally feel for BYJ…to turn tragedy into comedy, this series should be called ‘the girl who never calls me oppa’

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Thank you for so eloquently stating the weaknesses with Twenty-five Twenty-one's ending and so creatively fixing them. You've clearly given this conundrum plenty of thought and honored Hee-do's strength of character so much more faithfully than the actual writers did. I personally vote for #3, and for 44-41, which could take place write after Min-Jae finds the journal in the current timeline. You rock, SailorJumun!

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Just finished watching this drama and I have never felt so heartbroken by two characters breaking up. 😭 Here my alternate endings:

1. NHD and BHJ break up in 2001 but get back together 7 years later after they meet at Seugwan's dad funeral. They get back in contact and realise they still have that spark. Circumstances have changed for both of them so the timing is right this time and they have both matured so they are able to maintain the relationship better. This is still in-line with the themes of maturing and a coming-of-age story.

2. NHD and BHJ break up for good but the audience is shown NHD falling for her current husband as a sort of contrast to her first love. The new love story is shown as less intense but more mature and steady. NHD and BHJ remain friends that encourage each other from far like texting each other congratulations and happy birthday. This ending still has the theme of the story of a first love but with a much softer landing for the audience.

I think what was missing from the real ending is some kind of reassurance for the audience that NHD and BHJ are happy in the end. 😭 I GET that it is realistic to have such an intense first love bond end with a break-up and it is realistic to grow apart from friends. But the problem is such an ending doesn't fit with the tone of the drama? It has this 'healing drama' tone all throughout but kinda just drops it at the end in favour for a dose of harsh reality. One drama that reminds me of this one but with a better execution was Reply 1988. Yes, it has a controversial ending in terms of who the female lead ends up with but a) it carried a very important lesson and b) it was still the same warm and comforting drama in the end. If I could talk to the writer, I would tell him/her that just because an ending is realistic, it does not make it better. Life is already harsh as it is, dramas are meant to be an escape and a fantasy. I think it was a mistake deviating from the original warm and 'healing' tone of the drama and a realistic but satisfactory ending could've easily been achieved here.

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