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[Fix That Ending] Twenty Five Twenty One and a page from my diary


By @ally-le

Well, dang it.

I didn’t think I had any shows to fix because I typically stop watching dramas before the end if I hear or think it’ll turn out poorly for my OTP. But then this show came and I didn’t care if it crashed and burned by the end. I would accept it, because I loved these characters.

A show is good in my mind if I sit and think about it after it’s over. I did it with Gong Yoo and Goblin, IU and My Ahjusshi, Yeo Jin-gu and Circle, and now, Kim Tae-ri and Twenty Five Twenty One. Did the character development make sense? Did the ending justify the joy and pain that I went through watching it?

We knew Yi-jin and Hee-do wouldn’t end up together. Everything in the present timeline told us so. So why did it burn so badly when the writer did exactly what she intended to do? (And why are there so many conspiracies on how they did end up together?)

I think it’s because it was too close to how things turn out for many of us in real life, including me.

The story of Twenty Five Twenty One was always about Hee-do’s daughter experiencing her mother’s vitality through her diaries, seeing her love for fencing, and thereby renewing her own love for dancing. The story was never meant to be about getting together with your first love… it was just packaged that way. So, how could this story have been more palatable for the majority of us, and still be true to the writer’s intention?

Enter my diary.

I don’t have a literal diary. I’ve always found the exercise cringeworthy knowing that in five or ten years I would read it and be entirely embarrassed at my naiveté, judgmental behaviors, or immaturity. It’s best not to relive that. But I still have my memory, which gets rekindled now and then with the help of K-dramas like Twenty Five Twenty One.

Here’s some insight from my own experiences to help us understand the Twenty Five Twenty One conclusion.


 
Dear Diary, how could I date a would-be journalist?

We were well-suited for each other with similar beliefs, musical backgrounds (having jam sessions with his family was the highlight), and a similar work ethic. We looked really good together too! He was the first boy to really be attracted to me and I to him. My friends and his friends got along well and hung out together. Oh yeah, he was half Korean. Seriously, how perfect were we?

I remember driving in flooded streets to see him at the news station after visiting my parents three hours away. It was sometime before the 10PM news (tell me you’re from the mid-west without telling me you’re from the mid-west). He had just finished putting together his piece for the night. I gave him dinner and spent all of five minutes with him. The rain was torrential and I could have died driving. Later, I drove another two hours to see him when he was doing an internship in another state. That was that last thing I remember doing for him.

We were not willing to give up anything for each other. He was at arguably the best journalism school in the nation. I was in medical school, going into the military. Our lives were on diverging courses, and neither of us had the time, patience, or love strong enough to wait for our courses to come back together. We were so exhausted trying to become what we were going to become that putting time into a relationship was not our priority. It would have been at least six years long distance for us to stay together. So, we broke up. This was one year before 9/11. (See how my timeline is basically the same as Twenty Five Twenty One and why it affected me so? But don’t worry, I actually met the love of my life after this, and that’s the point I’m getting at.)


 
Dear Diary, am I the selfish one?

As much as I liked my real-life reporter boyfriend, we were too selfish and self-centered to be together. And this is where I think Twenty Five Twenty One should have had more development.

Hee-do needed someone to put her first, because no one in her life had done that. When things got busy at the station, both her mother and her boyfriend left her for something more important: their careers and themselves. Hee-do scraped and suffered all on her own. It makes sense in theory that she needed someone else… but who is he? I’d like to think it was the “oppa” fencer that got Yi-jin so jealous he was about to fly away with the table umbrella. My point is that if we had seen Hee-do’s husband even with just two seconds of storyline, we may have made peace with the ending.


 
Dear Diary, does fate exist?

What if we actually saw an even more perfect person for Hee-do? Someone like who I ended up marrying? Because that two-hour drive I took seeing Mr. Future International Reporter at his internship was about one hour from Mr. Future Husband, whom I had met during military training a couple months before. He met me for coffee to talk about our next steps in medical training and in the military. He knew I was there to visit my boyfriend. That was the beginning of the end for Mr. Reporter, and the beginning of the beginning for Mr. Ally.

Where Mr. Reporter just took my support and hardly gave anything back, Mr. Ally always supported (and supports) me. The line from Twenty Five Twenty One that resonates with me the most is when Hee-do told Yi-jin that their relationship was a fair-weather one that became too burdensome when either of them needed support. That sentiment is carved into my heart. That’s when I realized I had that kind of relationship once and it was exhausting, and ultimately, empty.

In contrast, the story about how my husband and I met, how close we grew up geographically, and all the missed encounters we had (even how he had a crush on my best friend in high school without even knowing who I was), is even more fated than a K-drama.

Why didn’t the drama bother to show us the man Hee-do chose to marry, for closure? In my version of the drama, a montage of the oppa fencer could have revealed him to us throughout the drama, lingering in the background of the scenes we are all so familiar with.

He could have been on the plane where the other fencer made googly eyes at her (he was seated just a couple rows down — introverted, but observant). We could have seen him at the training gym where Hee-do struggled, being chastised by the coach while Yu-rim was placed on a pedestal. We could have seen him just outside the press conference during the gold medal scandal, picking up Hee-do’s medal after she ran out. We could have seen him cheering for Hee-do during her competition, missing his male teammate’s match just to see hers. The drama could have even shown oppa fencer supporting Hee-do when she lost her best friend to Russia, or buying her a snack after she stayed up to talk to Yi-jin in New York.

All of these instances could have been shown to us, illustrating what a caring and unselfish person he was. Because that’s what Hee-do needed. And then, after that montage that ties it all together and identifies him, the show could have concluded with him coming back to see his daughter’s comeback dance performance with Hee-do.

We could have had the satisfaction that Hee-do made the right decision in choosing her husband while simultaneously reminiscing on her first love.

I could have cheered that. In fact, I would have loved that.

 
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Thank you @db-staff for featuring my last minute musings! And for editing this so well! And for @astrojoy for alerting me.🥹

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Love this Ally!

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Ooh I love this! Since 2521 ended I hadn't been able to quite put my finger on what could have made it hurt less. This is perfect and I literally imagined every scene you described with fencer oppa.

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It’s settled. This version is now cannon in your imagination, isn’t it?

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Yes! No one can convince me otherwise now. 😁

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“We were not willing to give up anything for each other.“ I’ve given this some thought in RL and in K-dramas and i think its because a compromise doesn’t seem good enough, so it’s tossed out as a possibility. Then it’s back to all or nothing and no one chooses nothing. Perhaps timing is a bigger key to whether or not couples end up staying together; there isn’t anything more fateful than being in the right place at the right time with the right person.

Nice review and altered (better) ending Ally!

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Thank you! Timing is EVERYTHING in a relationship. Then comes compromise. But timing still comes out on top. It’s the easier choice to make. And when faced with working harder or taking the easier way, most of us choose the easier way. Life is too short otherwise. We all have to use the time we have as well as we can. When it becomes a waste of time, that’s where relationships hit a point of no return. That’s what I found. I was wasting my time. I would have failed med school if I continued doing what I was doing. And thank goodness someone else was there at the right time for me.

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I enjoyed your diary session.

Had Hee-do's love for Yi-jin pushed them through the disturbing times because it could have, she'd be the only one in the relationship. Yi-jin would have an unsigned addendum with her that she'd always be there waiting for him even if he breezes off to Antarctica for the next journalism job. It's selfish. And little by little it might lead to hate. Even though we know that two people might not love each other with the same force, love doesn't cover if the effort isn't reciprocated enough.

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I didn't care to see Hee-do's husband, but I just wanted to understand the timeline. Adult Hee-do is 41 years old, so present day is 2021. Min-chae is 15 years old, so she was born in 2008? 2007? Just how late was Yi-jin in congratulating Hee-do on her wedding in 2009?

This oppa fencer version would have been a supporting character, while Olympic gold medalist fencer Kim Jun-ho was a cameo. Kim Jun-ho is handsome, but if they had cast equally handsome Olympic gold medalist fencer Oh Sang-uk, then at least it would have nixed the fan theory that oppa was Kim Min-chae's father.

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Is Min-Chae 15 Korean age though? Does that make her 13-14, depending on the New Year? So she could have been born in 2008. He could have been up to a year late, I guess. That’s when my daughter was born and she turns 14 this year.

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Lovely write up Ally and I think this is what must of happened for Hee-do too! I didn't get the impression that she settled after her break up with Yi-jin. She moved on and met someone who could build a life with her!
I would have liked to see Yi-jin with his own family, looking back on his first love.
Sometimes it's those past relationships that help you to finally understand what you truly want in life.

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Dang this is so beautifully structured and written - it came from the heart and spoke right into mine! Firstly thanks for sharing a page out of your 'diary' with us - its actually crazy the similarities between what happened in your life and the show to some extent, and the way you met your current husband sounds so damn cute (and straight out of a drama indeed).

I've been wrestling with the ending of this show (like everyone else) for a while now and went through all the stages of grief in the process hahaha. I think you perfectly summed up exactly what I felt at the end when all my feelings finally settled. Whilst yes I was super attached to the leads being endgame, I can totally understand the notion that people come and go in your life and that doesn't invalidate the love or time shared. But what made me so upset was the fact that it presented us with this beautiful relationship and then blew it up in the end to finish on a note of wistfulness and unfulfillment - it seemed almost that NHD and BYJ just ended up being somewhat broken post-relationship and settling in life. So rather than this nostalgic feel that the writers were aiming for, all I was getting was just bitter vibes - with many questions around the fact that if they broke up because they struggled to support each other and be there when things got tough (which I totally understand) then why does NHD's current husband seem MIA and why does she look like the spark died out of her eyes? So yes I absolutely agree with your take and think we would've greatly benefitted had they shown us who NHD ended up with and why, even if it was just a tiny bit, and (being greedy here) and an ending where NHD and BYJ, either together or separately, can express the fact that yes they were in love and it was a great time but just because one good thing ends doesn't mean other good things won't ever happen again. And while the show was primarily meant to be about NHD's daughter reliving the youthful days of her mother and finding her own motivation again, I just think it would've greatly emphasised that message to show us that NHD and BYJ had their own happily ever afters too in one way or another.

Although the show never really gave me the closure I wanted, weirdly I've found my peace here reading about your story and how you ended up with your own happy ending - so thank you again! ❤️

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You’re welcome! Are you new to kdramas or just to commenting here? You are watching everything, it seems! But then again, I feel like I am too. And thank you for your kind words. I think I made peace with this show much faster than others because it basically happened to me. But I think why the show was so good and we believed in this couple was because it was KIM Tae-ri being larger than life and such a wonderful actress. The adult version of Hee-do couldn’t capture that effervescence and spark. I’m blaming everything you said on the actress and had she been played by someone else, I think we would have seen that spark in her eyes. But I agree, Ye-Jin needed a happy ending too. He really needed a happy homemaker to bring him dinner and snacks at the station late at night, even if it was for just 5 minutes before he went on camera! He could have had that. Thanks again for your comment. I means a lot to me!

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Long time lover of and lurker on this website, just recently decided to actually put my thoughts into words and contribute to the discussions though hehehe

You've raised a very good point about the adult NHD actress being the reason behind those sentiments too & Kim Taeri giving such a stellar performance was a blessing but also a curse in it's own way. I'd also even say that by having everything go side ways towards the very end of ep 16 meant that a lot of those feelings of shock and sadness bled into how I viewed the end of the 2020 storyline that we got in the final few minutes too! Maybe if they'd shown us that relationship ending a little earlier and then spent more time going over what happened after, it would've been different.

Ultimately lots of if's in the end, but all my love goes to the beanies who post their takes on the show and ideal endings like you <3 And yes, I am literally watching everything on air right now hahaha can't help it bc we're absolutely spoilt for choice with all the on air dramas atm!!

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Oh I like it! There are quite a few endings which I could accept - just not the one we were given! Do you have any thoughts on the friendship group, @ally-le?
The thing that kind of confuses me is that Yi jin began by being supportive, no? Then his character totally derailed… Maybe he should have been selfish from the start.

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The friend group is there, but how many of us talk to our high school friends even on a semi regular basis? They’re all super successful, and I could see Yurim and her husband galavanting around the world with her connections in Europe and his online clothing business. Miss class president probably is the closest to Ye-Jin and probably marries his brother. They’re all there, just not as close as they were.

Ye-jin wants to be supportive, and it was easier for him to be when he wasn’t as busy. And maybe he could have made the transition, matured, but Hee-do was through. She didn’t even want to try because she knew how it would turn out, or thought she did.

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Where I come from, our high school and university hold homecoming events every year. Usually around December to coincide with the holidays when most people would return to their hometowns to visit families. From some of the K dramas I've seen, this seems also a common thing in South Korea. So it's not unusual for people to keep in touch. Even if life gets in the way for the rest of the year, there's always time for some chit chat, especially on special occasions such as Christmas holidays or birthdays and then eventually when friends get married, have children. So there are weddings, baptismals, children's birthdays and so on. Ties and bonds are a big deal where I come from so what happened here to her friends was strange to me.

In Heedo's case, it didn't look like they kept in touch even on rare occasions considering Minchae doesn't recognize Yijin or any of the friends in the photos. It didn't even seem like Heedo talked about them at all. Or pretends not to remember.

@Jance
Yijin's character development is contrary with what he did towards the end. It's strange when that behavior comes from the same boyfriend who panics at the sight of his girlfriend straining an ankle or one who plans a getaway for an anniversary in advance.

Maybe I'm in the minority who got the impression that both Heedo and Yijin were mature for the kind of relationship that they had. They got through a separation by just listening to each other's voice messages. Yijin gave a lot to do what was right for Heedo even sometimes putting his career on the line (ie. the referee interview). I just don't buy that this guy who wanted to switch news departments would fail to inform or talk to his girlfriend of a decision that would affect both of them.

Maybe you're right. Maybe if he had shown some selfish behavior earlier then I would have understood what happened.

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Yeah the writing for his character was strange in my opinion! 9/11 made it all feel so dark for his storyline.

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I might be able to accept fencer Oppa if I am able to forget that heroine is one of those folks who is decisive about breaking up but then made it a point to hang a commemorative plaque in her shop to remind her of her ex boyfriend like her medals and trophies on the wall. She opened her shop after her retirement which means she does this many, many YEARS after her breakup.

I also need to forget this heroine made silly comments about divorce to her two friends who were about to get married. And also that time she took to prettify herself then made lingering looks when she faced her ex boyfriend aka the Anchorman when he interviewed her on national TV. All these actions are not exactly proper for a married woman. It's really offensive and disrespectful.

The fact that this article exists is a testament to how unsatisfactory the drama ultimately was for many. This is what, the third one on this site alone. This drama is a mess. LOL

Love the K drama-esque story of you and your husband, by the way.

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