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Twenty Five Twenty One: Episodes 15-16 (Final)

Well, we’ve reached the end of the road. Our characters have all grown, some together, some apart, and it’s time for us to say goodbye. It’s been quite the journey, and there are still a few tear-stained twists and turns to navigate before it’s all over, but if there’s one thing Twenty Five Twenty One has taught us, it’s that nothing stays the same forever – and maybe that’s okay.

 
EPISODES 15-16 WEECAP

To wrap up last week’s conflict, we’re given two important conversations. First, we see that Yoo-rim was indeed the one who asked Yi-jin to frame the news of her going to Russia in terms of chasing money instead of her father’s accident.

Far from blaming him, Yoo-rim had likened it to winning fencing tournaments – sure, she may feel sorry for defeating her opponents, but she’d never apologize for it, because it’s part of the job.

Hee-do understands this, too, and when she sees Yi-jin weeping at the tunnel, she cradles his face and wipes his tears Together, they scrub the graffiti away, and Hee-do asks Yi-jin to share everything with her – happiness, misery, fear – instead of trying to shoulder it all on his own.

Time starts moving faster, finally carrying us into 2001, where he’s 25 and she’s 21. Through chipper emails to Yoo-rim, Hee-do catches us up on everyone. Ji-woong starts up a fashion inspiration website, which years later he turns into a successful fashion business. Seung-wan goes to college and is almost immediately elected class representative. And Yoo-rim’s also making new friends in Russia.

But then the upbeat tone fades into silence as Yoo-rim slowly stops reading Hee-do’s emails.

The two are poised to face each other at a huge competition in Madrid, and face tremendous pressure to win over each other: Yoo-rim to show up everyone who spoke against her, and Hee-do to fulfill a sort of patriotic duty. To make matters worse, the media twists their words into insults against each other.

Scared her resolve to win will waver, Hee-do refuses to speak to Yoo-rim once they both arrive in Madrid. That brings us to the tense, emotional match we saw a glimpse of last week. The girls are neck-and-neck throughout, and at one point Hee-do even challenges the ref’s call, just as Yoo-rim did years ago.

Ultimately, though, Hee-do wins the final point. Unlike other matches, she doesn’t celebrate, and when she finally takes off her mask, she’s crying. And so is Yoo-rim. And so are their friends and family watching from home. And so am I.

Hee-do opens her arms, and that’s all it takes. They cry in each other’s arms again, their friendship fully restored, both understanding why the other was avoiding contact.

And I’m so happy to report that the friendship lasts throughout the rest of their careers and beyond. Yoo-rim is the first to retire, and opens up a fencing club back in Korea, training the next generation of fencing stars.

Hee-do continues fencing for a bit longer, but ultimately decides to retire, too. And when Hee-do gives her last press conference, Yoo-rim is there with flowers, arriving just in time to hear Hee-do say the most honorable moment of her career was being Yoo-rim’s rival.

But back to 2001. Yi-jin gets permission to transfer departments, and aww – he gets to work with his mentor sunbae again! And double aww – Sunbae knows exactly why Yi-jin transferred, and is super supportive, even calling Hee-do to join them for drinks so she can cheer Yi-jin up after a particularly hard evening.

Yi-jin’s new department keeps him far busier than sports did, and he and Hee-do have to get a little creative and sacrifice a lot of sleep to spend any time together. He carefully sets aside the days surrounding their anniversary so they can go on a trip together, but it’s not to be… because it falls on 9/11.

Yi-jin is put on the next plane to the US so he can report live from New York as rescue workers try to locate survivors of the attacks. Once there, he’s overwhelmed by the devastation. But then he helps a woman spread the word about a missing colleague, and realizes there is something he can do.

The ordeal takes a huge toll on him, plaguing him with nightmares and beating him down day after day. Still, he clings to the hope that his work can accomplish something good for the world, and that hope keeps him in New York much longer than he’d intended.

Days turn into weeks and then months, and Hee-do can do nothing but watch from the other side of the world as the emotional distance between them grows. She sees the end of their relationship coming a mile away, even as she wants desperately to stop it from happening. But when Yi-jin applies and is accepted to be stationed in New York as a foreign correspondent, she knows it’s time.

What it really boils down to is that they can’t be what each other needs anymore. Yi-jin can’t bring himself to burden Hee-do with the trauma he’s experiencing, so she gets shut out and can’t give him any comfort – or receive any from him when she’s down.

But as she tries to explain this, they both get so worked up and defensive that they end up saying horrible things they don’t quite mean, with enough painful truth mixed in to devastate them both.

Deep down, they both know they had to break up, but also that it should never have happened in the way it did. So on the day of Yi-jin’s flight back to New York, they race to find each other and say a proper farewell. At first, it seems they might miss each other in passing, but they finally meet at a bus stop, where they say their tearful goodbyes and officially let each other go.

We get closure on everyone else’s next steps, too. Seung-wan becomes a variety show PD, and potentially gets together with Yi-jin’s brother. Hee-do’s mom recommends Yi-jin to replace her as anchor when she retires, and he’s able to reunite his family under one roof. Ji-woong enlists the help of Yoo-rim’s students to help him propose, and the two live happily ever after.

Hee-do gets married… to someone. Presumably with the surname Kim. And if the present-day storyline hadn’t existed in the first place, I’d probably be completely satisfied.

But it did, and I felt like it undermined its own message just a little. After the heartbreaking but, in my opinion, satisfying closure that was the bus stop farewell, Hee-do apparently carries so much regret and dissatisfaction that she has to have a similar moment again years later – and only after Min-chae gives her the missing diary wherein she had written what she really wanted to say to Yi-jin and he had done the same. It felt redundant and one-sided. And if her conclusion was that the one thing they got to keep forever was “that summer,” then why make it a point to say a few weeks ago that she didn’t remember that summer?

Still, on the whole, I loved Twenty Five Twenty One a lot, so I’m going to ignore the present-day segments and focus on the good memories that I’ll carry away from it. Which, in a way, was an important point the story of Hee-do and Yi-jin made: life has both beauty and ugliness, joy and sorrow, satisfaction and unresolved longing for what could have been and yet can never be.

Sometimes, what we need in one season of life isn’t what we’ll need, or have, forever. But having what we need when we need it – like Hee-do and Yi-jin helped each other get through the lowest points of their lives and learn to soar on their own – gives us the strength and hope to face whatever life may throw at us next.

And sometimes, despite our best efforts, life beats us down and shatters our dreams for no reason at all. When that happens, all we can do is try to pick up the pieces and make something new. And while that new thing won’t be what the old could have been, it can be beautiful and meaningful in its own right, even if it’s not quite what we wanted.

 
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Just a stunning show, and I felt it really nailed the ending.

I agree the one line a few weeks back about not remembering the beach trip is weird (though even at the time I thought she was lying about it from the delivery).

Overall though, I think the last few episodes heightened my appreciation for the framing device. It gives us our entry, if frames for us early on that this is going to be about just a period (the reading from a diary trope) and it set people up to know going in that the main couple wasn't going to last (now from twitter it seems that despite the writer making it clear up front and many times throughout the run that they weren't together, some people still thought there would be some crazy soap opera twist). But also the framing lets them spell out the lessons through the parallels between mother and daughter, between the current crisis and the one of the past, AND the differences... the way that Hee-do's relationship with her daughter is different, and how that effects her daughter.
I even love the idea that the story (drama) ends because it's time for her daughter to stop reading about her mother's adventures and living her own.

I adore this writer, I can't wait for her next project, she's now 2 for 2 in really great character studies of women and their relationships not just with male love interests, but with friends, mentors, and their careers, something too rare in the K-drama world.

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Its funny to me, and I hope to you, that I just wrote about why I found the ending dissatisfying, which I blamed on the framing! (Just showing how two good faith interpretations of the same, well-executed production can be diametrically opposed.)
But, I get why the framing and ending just nailed it if the key point of the show was the mother daughter relationship. And your interpretation really fits what I noticed about the show--the trope of the dying Dad, disappearing Dad, damaging Dad, and divorcing Dad (Hee-do's husband?) is taken to such an extreme in this show that I, as a Dad, I began to get a little defensive, and started glancing around nervously at my wife and daughter! So I see where you are coming from with the mother--daughter interpretation.

But here would be my objection to this interpretation--if the mother-daughter relationship is the central theme, why spend so much time on the male love interest? (and I am NOT arguing that the show should have ended differently with Yijin--that their relationship failed was the very premise of the show!) What does that relationship mean for the mother-daughter theme? Is the point of the failed relationship to show Hee-do's daughter that romantic relations are always transitory? That male relationships should not mean as much as self-trust? That the most important relationships were those with friends and her mother and not romantic relationships? (I have a feeling its the last two, but I don't know.) I just wasn't sure what the revelation that Hee-do hadn't really forgotten about the summer but she was lying to her daughter (or to herself?) meant, but that's because I'm not satisfied with the depiction of the adult Hee-do, and think the framing device was not fleshed out enough. I think maybe if either the framing OR the ending was handled better, I would agree more with your assessment about those two things.

Overall, I think the show had enough really memorable scenes and excellent acting to make it thoroughly worthwhile--but I still like Search: WWW better. Of course, its ending is much more upbeat, and therefore more feel good, whereas this one is much more mixed. Based on the plot trajectory of 25-21, you know for sure, for example, that in the fictional future Hee-dos daughter will make a triumphant ballet debut and then immediately break her foot. Or the daughter's rival will get the principal role in Swan Lake and then break her foot, thrusting Hee-do's daughter into the role while other dancers say mean things about favoritism. Or Hee-do will go bankrupt just as her daughter is ready to launch her ballet career--while all throughout Hee-do and her daughter are very successfully managing without a husband and Dad!

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I can see that. To me I wouldn't say it's all about the Mother/Daughter relationship, it's just using the framing and drawing parallels to the modern daughter's life.

At it's core it's a story about the exciting slice of life when you're transitioning from child to adult, when every emotion feels super-sized and everything is possible. We are experiencing that through the daughter's reading of the diary, with Hee-do maybe filling some gaps and explaining a bit to her daughter.

The framing isn't perfect, but I think it's important, because I guess imagine this show without any framing and I don't think it works as well. One of the hard parts about slice of life stuff is getting a way to start and end it without going through everything that came before or after. A classic way, like this is to have someone in the present, telling it to someone else.
An hugely successful example of this is the movie Titanic. The stuff with the old lady in the "present" is nobody's favorite part of the movie, but we need it to frame the story, give us enough past and future so that we can focus on the short period of time and the emotions therein without all the clutter of "how did we get here, what happened next, etc."

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Completely agree that the framing was the weak point, and the fact that they spent so much time on the Hee-do/Yi-jin romance made that frame all the weaker. The central theme seemed to be how the experiences of youth are exciting, emotional, and help shape the type of adults we will be. All well and good, but there is a huge disconnect between the teenage Hee-do: forceful, charismatic, romantic, funny, and the adult Hee-do: quiet, isolated, either divorced or divorcing or in a stale relationship. If, as the saying goes, the boy is father to the man, how did the amazing teenage Heedo shrink into the pale shadow that is the adult version? Did her experience with Yi-jin leave her cautious, and avoid love and all it's dangers for a "safe" relationship? She used to love being around people, now we only see her in a car or in a wood shop - what happened to all of her friends? I feel like the story was a Picasso, and the frame was from Wal-Mart.

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She left Yijin because she knew she wanted someone who can be there, but in the future, it seemed like she married someone who was never there.

And also the daughter being only 14 reading the experiences of a 19-21 year old also weakens the frame for me. I was thinking about the framing in The Classic and how the daughter found letters written by her mother when she was her daughter's age.

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" I feel like the story was a Picasso, and the frame was from Wal-Mart."

Wow... this is an apt description. It's degrading and hurtful to say but yeah, sadly that's what the show made me feel.

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She was alone with her daughter and mother because there is pandemic.They did an amazing job about that.

I like that our point of view was Min Chae. The romance had to take that much space as we were reading (watching) HeeDo diary.

And I like to think that if we don't get much information in 2022, that's because Min Chae knows about them. She doesn't need more information. That's why I am quite positive with the future. HeeDo is only 40, she can meet Yijin or someone else (if she is divorced) again.

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Well said. Once again a Kdrama ending that makes me feel angry for spending my time watchin because I feel duped or tricked into believing the drama ends up being something other than what is portrays for episodes and hours. The framing was WAY MORE annoying than Reply 1988 and ruined my experience. The romance story was VERY engaging and so well done, however, the breakup story was NOT done well at all. When so many--the majority--kdrama fans are up in arms about a show, it is not a good sign. It is a clear sign that something was wrong. Would love to have seen how Na Hee-Do overcame the heartbreak of someone who wasn't fully there for her (not a moment in the tunnel years later), and how Back Yijin realized how NOT to treat someone you love.

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Totally get what you said about flashing back to the dark clouds over the ending of Reply 1988. It's the first thing I thought of, remembering how I felt that same loss of hope after Duk Seon passed over Jung-hwan for Taek. If the ending for ’25 & 21’ had shown us glimmerings that there were other, deeper experiences in love ahead in life for Na Hee-do, then fine. However for me, her modern day self showed us some half-smiles being with her daughter, but she also seemed a bit disengaged with everything we saw of her, except her furniture-making. Even leaving her diaries for her daughter to discover seemed a bit distant, as if they couldn't really 'talk' to each other. The young Na Hee-do was good at facing things and talking them out, but we are left to deal with modern day Na Hee-do's actions only: no interaction with an absent husband and her daughter seems to have a better relationship with Na-Dee-ho's mother too, which is interesting. All a bit sad unless making furniture all the time is enough to fill her. No Covid-friendly Face-Times with her old fencing friends even? The ending left me wondering how her past experiences had changed her personality so much. Yes she was an adult and a Mom, but was it her relationship with Baek Hi-jin that did made her so quiet, or her marriage? I couldn't connect her with the girl we watched grow up at all. I would have liked more in the frame about the 'now' to balance the loss of the beautiful love they shared in the past. Otherwise I just got an empty feeling of "is that all there is....?

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@mistyisles This was a vary gracious recap. Thank you for that.
This was a beautiful show and I'm not sorry I watched it.

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Everything about this show did what it was supposed to do. I cared deeply about all the characters. From the music to the setting, the timeline, all of it. What affected me the most was not the ending, but the way they portrayed 9-11. I lived that moment. I was in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend (now, husband) then. Something like that either draws two people together or splits them apart. I knew it was the beginning of the end by that point. Baek Ye-Jin is all out depressed with PTSD in NYC. It’s super sad. And Hee-do was ascending to the pinnacle of her career. Not one person can take a back seat. Both are selfish, but need to be. I get why Hee-do couldn’t stay with him at that point. I hope they get together again in the future now that she is divorced.

This show did a lot of things to me. As a college and graduate-aged student of the timeline described during this show, I’m exactly their age now. It reminded me of those feelings that were long forgotten since. People I cared for so deeply and when I reconnected with them a few years ago, I just was reminded how deeply. But it was long forgotten. I understand that. And now I love someone else even more deeply of that makes any sense. But the winner of the most heart-rending breakup ever in a kdrama has to be these two. And kudos to NJH and KTR for making me bawl into my husband’s chest afterwards. I was not okay. But I’m getting there now. Bravo!!!

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This is a drama that will stay with me for a long ttime

I’m exhausted by the debate about Yi-jin and Hee-do’s break up, so I will just say I found it realistic and leave it at that for now.

As far as Hee-do telling Min-chae that she didn’t remember the trip, I always assumed she was lying because she didn’t want to talk about it. The fact that she referenced that summer at the end after getting her closure just reinforced that for me.

Even though we knew the outcome of the Madrid match, I thought that whole sequence was extremely compelling. Hee-do and Yoo-rim’s tearful embrace was one of the best moments in this drama. I also loved Yoo-rim and Hee-do’s scene at Hee-do’s retirement press conference.

I really liked Yi-jin and Seung-wan’s scene at her father’s funeral. I wish we’d gotten more of them throughout the series because it felt like they had a lot in common. I hope Seung-wan had a lot of fun with his brother.

I was a little disappointed Seung-wan became a PD on a variety program since she seemed destined to become an activist. After I thought about it, I decided it made sense. She was always looking for something fun, and I can see how a job on a variety program probably sounded like fun. The reality, on the other hand …

I always felt sad that Yi-jin ended up with a career he really didn’t like, but despite the hard time he had in New York covering 9/11, he seemed to have finally found his purpose. I really liked the scene in the café with the firefighter. The actor was actually good! I hope Yi-jin took Hee-do’s advice and went to therapy instead of using alcohol and cigarettes to cope. He seemed like he was in a good place in 2009. Jae-kyung recommending him for the anchor position was nice, and I’m happy for Yi-jin that be finally succeeded in reuniting his family.

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I probably am the only one who isn't bothered by adult Hee Do revisiting that tunnel. Having a one that got away hardly means you are doomed with an eternity of unhappiness. Yi Jin will always have a spot in her heart as her first love, her first heartbreak and first regret. Despite that, it is possible to find love, be happily married or happily married for a while than divorced, still be at peace, have a child. Na Hee Do didn't get what she needed from Baek Yi Jin when she was 21 emotionally and Baek Yi Jin too needed something different at 25 than what Hee Do could offer. So, they drifted apart despite love, shared connections. I have moved far away from home in my mid twenties, I understood both. I have lost love, friendships while chasing my dreams, I have regrets....yet I am not unhappy. I guess for me, the way I am reacting to the ending is because I relate to this. I know we want neat, with a bow on top ending....but life isn't about neat endings....you win some, you loose some, you curve out a life, with some luck a happy one. The moments of youth is a comfort to some, a burden to some....its a mixed bag. Look at Yoo Rim, her entire teen years was being in a pressure cooker but she did find stability later on and her love endured. With Na Hee Do and Baek Yi Jin, it was different. Both stories can exist and both felt real to me. I will conclude by saying, this is still a great drama. I loved every second of watching these teens, young adults grow. A round of applause for the team, cast, crew for delivering a good drama.

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Thanks for the final 25-21 weecap, @mistyisles! I love this most beautiful write-up ever!

I totally loved this show and even the final two episodes as well! Nam Joo-hyuk and Kim Tae-ri still fell in love for me! And in terms of ratings, it became not only one of the best Kdramas of 2022 but sometimes, all time. After the laughs, the tears and even some memorable OST, this Kdrama deserved to be the best one. Thank you, show! I love the OST included With by the main five cast of this Kdrama and this song sounded great and totally amazing when I enjoyed listening.

I knew and I found out that Hanbyeok Tunnel was the real-life 25-21 tunnel. (https://www.dramabeans.com/activity/p/1308740)

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I love the whole OST and Your Existence by Wonstein is my favourite.

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I have no issue with the end and the choice of separating our leads. I'm surprised by the ton they chose. The title is inspired by the song of Jaurim 25,21 that adressed a break-up. The plot was kinda misleading because it said that the heroes met a first time, then met later... So I assumed it was when they were 21 and 25 years old. My bad. So they chose a title that is a very sad (but beautiful song) :

Twenty-five, Twenty-one
In the season where flowers wither in the wisping wind
I can still feel the touch of your hand
At that time, I couldn't deeply understand
Even then, the flowers were still beautiful
Oh~ your fragrance carried in the wind
Oh~ I thought it would last forever, twenty-five, twenty-one

The sea on that day, calm and gentle
I can still feel your hand grabbing mine
In the shattering warmth of the sun, you and me
To cool my chest, I dreamed
Oh~ the song that day, carried in the wind
Oh~ I thought it would last forever, that passing day, just you and me

Your voice, your eyes
The warmth of your body
The more I recollect, the farther it escapes
Scattering, I can't cling on

In the season where flowers wither in the wisping wind
I can still feel the touch of your hand
At that time, I couldn't deeply understand
Even then, the flowers were still beautiful

Oh~ your fragrance carried in the wind
Oh~ I thought it would last forever, twenty-five, twenty-one
Oh~ the song that day, carried in the wind
Oh~ I thought it would last forever, that passing day, just you and me

Oh~
Oh~
Oh~ I thought it would last forever, twenty-five, twenty-one.
Twenty-five, twenty-one

My issue is this choice after all they're only 21 and 25 years old. First love is beautiful but it's not the end, just a new beginning. The last 2 episodes were heavy but Hee-Do was right, it wasn't the fault of anybody, it was just life. I think the present parts failed to show us the new start that Hee-Do did in her life. They showed us how adulthood is bitter instead to show us how it could be, especially knowing Hee-Do's pure personality.

Overall, it was beautiful drama, I loved the direction of the show. The actors were great, especially Kim Tae-Ri. She was incredible in this role. For once, I liked NJH in a role. They had a good chemistry, it's kinda sad we didn't get more lovely moments between them. The rest of the squad was good and the friendship between the girls was really one of my favourite part!

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This song has been haunting me all day. Crushing my heart everytime.

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I've been listening to Kim Se Jeong's version of it. Such a delight to discover this from having watched her in A Business Proposal. The song really does pierce the heart.

https://youtu.be/BR_NXCqy8qc

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Thanks for sharing this! It puts the title into much better perspective.

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You're welcome 😊

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OMG!! Totally agree with "the plot was misleading" I kept waiting for the time jump between when they met at 18 and 21 and then they meeting again and falling in love at 21 and 25.

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I'm happy to see that I wasn't the only one who misinterpreted the plot and the title.

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OMG BUT THE EPILOGUE WHERE WE SEE (not his face tho) ADULT YI JIN! I was still hoping they'd do a last minute reveal of Hee do's husband. Or that they're actually still together 😭😭

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This is actually a postcredit! Oh, the present-day (still presumably alive) Yi-jin attempting to reset his password on fictional website Barro.

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This was such a beautiful story, and despite the tears, I'm not at all disappointed in the ending. I really admire the writer for sticking to the path she laid out from the start. I love that there was a bigger story for everyone outside of their romance, and those relationships between friends, patents, and mentors also got to shine. I love the characters and how sympathetic they all were. Even when things hurt, you could understand why someone acted the way they did. And we got to share in their happiness ❤️ The cast was incredible, especially Kim Tae-ri and Nam Joo-hyuk who totally nailed those roles

I could write a novel of a comment but in short this drama just hit all the right notes for me, even if some of them were sad. An extra bonus was that it made me remember my own friendships that faded, and take some time to truly wish the best for those people in whatever they're doing now

I just wanna give a shout-out to the actor who played the fireman again too haha, his performance was so natural and you don't really see that often in k-dramas 😄

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Oh man. I need time and then some to fully digest this entire show. I'm going to be mulling over the ending for a while, but for now I'll write down my more cohesive thoughts.

2521 was bitter(sweet). I’m having trouble deciding if it’s bitter or bittersweet. The writer had a POV from the start (which all good writers and stories must have), and I am very happy she stuck to it even though it would bring audience outcry. Writer should not be held hostage to audience whim. The non-endgame was strongly hinted at from the beginning, but viewers wanted a happy ending so bad they were deep in denial until the final minutes.

I strongly believe that the reaction to the ending basically breaks down by age group . I see a lot of comments questioning how it’s possible that two people who were so in love, who could be soulmates, couldn’t make it work. But that’s actually the tale of most(?) love stories. In real life, love doesn’t conquer all and sometimes love is not enough. People don’t end up with their soulmates (or even find their soulmates). People break up over trivial things, especially when they’re in their 20s.

NHD and BYJ were in love, but it wasn’t enough. They were at different stages in life, wanted different things in life, could not communicate properly with each other, didn’t want to fight for their love, didn’t know how to fight for their love. They wouldn’t have lasted even if BYJ didn’t go to NYC.

There are complaints that adult NHD seems unhappy and lost all her youthful spark, but I also found that painfully real. People do not retain their youthful exuberance through the years. The grind of day-to-day living beats exuberance out of you. As an adult, one of the hardest pills to swallow is how mundane, almost dreary, life turns out to be compared to the colorful, rosy fantasies of your youth. That depressing contrast between expectations and reality is enough to send people spiraling into midlife crises and running to the nearest therapist office. It's something something my friends and I really struggled to reconcile with in our 20s. I don’t think NHD is necessarily unhappy, I just think she’s now an adult. Again, it's painfully real.

Ultimately, 2521 was an ode to the halcyon days of youth and the impermanence of things. It beautifully depicted the INTENSITY of youthful emotions and experiences, and the eventual passing of that time period, memories, and relationships (romantic and platonic). You feel things so intensely when you're young, but that intensity fades with time (which is why I found it believable that NHD forgot the beach trip). I commend the writer for pulling this off and going against kdrama expectations.

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I felt that adult Hee do did'nt look unhappy or happy but just content. The spark in her which motivated her to achieve more is gone along with her retirement I think.

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I agree. Adult Hee-do didn't have the younger's spark, but she didn't seem unhappy to me. She was just in a different stage of life.

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I never thought adult Na Hee Do was unhappy or bitter. She was a mom worried about her daughter and of course she was different to Hee Do at 21. She is a mom, she is in her late 30s or early 40s. Truth is youth has a spark that one can hardly retain at later part of their lives and the contrast is uncomfortable to look at but its real. She allowed Min Chae to read about her late teen and early twenties because she was worried Min Chae is too caught up in pressure of living up to her when she was hardly perfect in Min Chae's age. But she still was able to shine and Na Hee Do wanted Min Chae to allow herself that opportunity. I never once found her to be not at peace, she just wasn't the same as before.

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I'm definitely on the "bitter" side of things, which like you I think is totally the show and the writer's prerogative, and does not devalue the show in the slightest.
My one complaint, as someone in his 60s, is that it didn't handle the issues of memories very well at all! This is where the breakdown in age comes for me, because we elderly folk know that how you recall events becomes central to their meaning for the larger narrative of our lives.
Now, it strikes me that the reason the show didn't deal much with the memories is that because it was either supposed to be Hee-do's daughter experiencing the events for the first time through the diary, OR the diary itself "retelling" the events without the filter of memory. So that's fine. But shouldn't the adult Hee-do have been given more time or more indication on how she reflected on those events?
Maybe I'm being influenced by the idea that because its personal events in the past, a theme should be the memories we have of those events. And maybe that really wasn't the theme of the show. But then why are the events of youth halcyon?

So that's the essence of my reaction to the ending, as an old geezer!

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You put it beautifully. We change a lot, life is often mundane, we lose spark, get tired and subdued. Yet, I think the essence of the person does not change. That's why it bothers me that older Hee-Do is shown as a generic person, her energy is unrecognizable and all traces of her spirit seem lost. I find that unrealistic, being a grown-up (for decades now).

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I think the "essence" of a person can shift drastically depending on what life throws at him/her. I feel like a wide swath of my generation have become very disillusioned and "low-energy" from adjusting to adulthood and current times, which is why the difference between young and older NHD hits painfully close to home for me.

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I agree with this. If the teenage me met the present me today, she wouldn’t have recognized her. What life has thrown at a person can drastically change the person’s souls .. and I could see that having happened to HD. Even if she seems fine, it didn’t mean she was inside. Looking at how she fainted from only practicing fencing because of the mental distress after she broke up with YJ. She seemed all fine and laughing before that.

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As another 60-year-old, I was also frustrated with the massive differences between teenage Hee-do and adult Hee-do. In my experience, if someone has a strong sense of self and a sturdy spirit (and cmon, to be a gold medalist you have to have that) that may get somewhat muted by experience but it's not going to be eradicated unless a series of major tragedies befalls - and it obviously hasn't, she's had a great life by anyone's accounting so why is she now so glum and isolated? What is the point of these golden memories of youth, if they just make you tired and unenthusiastic as an adult? The only one who seems to have actually learned anything is the daughter.

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Totally agree… in ep 4 fenching scene, Yijin rightly pointed out that Heedo has mental fortitude after she declares she is not afraid of failure or disappointment. She is a fighter through and through. So I do not understand the current passivity, not when she let Yijin go or the adult she is now..

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Same. I'm about 4-5 years younger than Na Hee-do and I'm still friends with my high school friends. Some of them are moms now. Except for being more responsible, rolling our eyes at what young people find fashionable nowadays, and wanting to be asleep by 11pm, they're still themselves? One of them - her interests have changed a lot (no more video games or violent movies and also foregoing profanity), but she still has her personality?

To be fair, the modern-day scenes are sparse and we're seeing things from Min-chae's POV. Maybe after she finishes her woodworking project, mom-Heedo will be texting Yoorim, Ji-woong, and Seung-wan on how she misses drinking ginseng wine with them and hope the covid cases drop so they can hang out.

I think some of the disconnect is also in the choice of actress. She just wasn't a good fit for the role.

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When I look at people around me, with changed interests and quieter lives, no freedom and no time that comes with responsibilities of adult life, I can still see a clear path that connects the younger person to who they are today. I can recognise them. The changes from year to year are beautifully shown in Hee-Do, played by Kim Tae-Ri. The continuity is there even with the time jump to 2009. However, I cannot see the path connecting older Hee-Do to her youth. She looks different, her voice is different, and not enough of her personality is shown to convince me. Having the same actress would have helped.

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I honestly did not think that she was unhappy. She was not as energetic, true, but she seemed content. I agree, it would have helped remove that impression if they had shown some scenes with her keeping touch with YuRim even, or even in a call with husband. The actress to be fair, was clearly overshadowed by Kim Tae Ri's brilliance.

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Definetely shot up to my top 5. One thing I want to put it out there regarding their breakup. I think both Yi jin and Hee do are idealists. Many were saying that they could've tried harder to stay in the relationship. But I feel that both know that the relationship is coming to an end and even if they again get back they may breakup again leading to much more ugly fights. Maybe they wanted to keep their relationship as the pure love they were sharing which is supporting each other from afar. I wish my first love remained as ideal as that.
And I think Hee do definetely lied to Min chae about that summer. And she maybe is in touch with the gang just that Min chae does'nt know. My parents lost touch with their college friends and only when I was a teenager did I came to know that they had friends in their youth when they looked up for everyone when facebook first started. And it was like they were back to their youth joking and laughing.
Having a hard time to come out of this drama. Kudos to the entire cast and crew and special wishes to Nam Joo Hyuk for making a strong comeback after Start up.
Special shout out to beanies who make every kdrama experience infinitely better.

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Quite glad that there was a hot take before this post. I could understand the other pov. Though, I still am satisfied by the ending, I understand people who think the execution was poor or the actors brought the characters to life in such a spectacular way that they became more than 2 people who had to break up from the get go on paper. With all that, we shouldn't forget how amazing the drama has been in its entire run. It was a rainbow, really. Dramas like these come by rarely where each episode leaves you with warmth. Maybe I would've been more satisfied or the drama would've been more memorable had the two stayed together but nonetheless, it was an ending I was expecting all the way, so atleast I wasn't hurt.

25 21 is a gem overall. There are very few shows that portray women so well and also ignite ambition. I mean we're technically watching charcters fencing but whenever they played, it hyped me up so much that I wanted to do sth challenging too. Well, I did not proceed with that but at least, as the characters lived their life to the fullest, you want to do the same.

Lastly, every actor and every character was brilliant. I don't remember the last time a drama had a fleshed out character for each secondary or tertiary lead. I can tell you how Baek Yihyun is, his parents are, SW's mom is, even JW's mom is because even through dialogue we know well enough about them.

That said, for some reason I don't feel whole. It's not the hole left by the show but of what could've been or maybe just because it hits too close to home, how youth leaves and reality plus adulthood enters.

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Show, you are amazing from start to finish. Though you broke my heart to pieces with how it ended. I do hope a day will come that I can rewatch these episodes without feeling the pain I felt in those break up scenes. Nevertheless, KTR and NJH were both amazing as Hee-do and Yi-jin. And I'll remember this OTP for what it is, youthful and pure love.

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'm with @mistyisles here. I'm going to ignore the present day segments because it's confusion and disconnect. And in that sense, I'm glad present-day hee do was not Kim Tae Ri! lol

This drama is definitely high up on my favourites list despite the bittersweet ending. It's not the kdrama ending I wanted but I had accepted it because it's real life. And if there's one thing Twenty Five Twenty One was consistent with, it was delivering doses of real life so poignantly.

What got me so invested in this show is the bond that Hee Do and Yi Jin shared. Their friendship was built on something so pure and so rare. These are two people who respected, supported and wished only nothing for each other but the very best. It was only natural to try out being more, being lovers. And to me, though they might've lost the romantic aspect of love, I think the deep friendship aspect of love stood the test of time. Saved by that goodbye at the bus stop, and as seen through that news interview! I'm so thankful for that.

I also just have to say, Nam Joo Hyuk and Kim Tae Ri owned Baek Yi Jin and Na Hee Do. What a perfect casting. I hope this is not the last project I see them together in. These two on screen created magic. ♥️💙

I love you, I'll remember you, TWENTY FIVE TWENTY ONE!

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That supportive and sincere friendship was the catnip of this show for me. Somehow the OTP relationship wasn't nearly as nuanced and multilayered as the enemies to friends arc of our favorite fencers.
Honestly, the ending was, for me, the best part of this drama. Both M/F leads were simply not mature enough or secure enough to tend to each other's needs. They had a messy breakup (who hasn't?) but were able to salvage a little warmth and forgiveness. At least they did NOT get married and have children before they figured that out.
Writer-nim you are brave and bold. Let the hue and cry roll off your back. By the time you have another drama in production those critics will be a little older and perhaps wiser.

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It may be that Hee-Do lied to Min-Chae about forgetting about that summer.

She may have done exactly what her own mother did in order to deal with losing Hee-Do’s dad.

This could explain why her marriage to Min-Chae’s dad seems to have become distant at best, as all clues point to separation or divorce.

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What a lovely drama. Also what a choice to not show the anyone in the future except the 3 generations of women. It was a show about nostalgia and how we remember things. The diary being returned to her at the end was a nice touch as well. Brava to the director, writers, actors, and crew. 👏🏿👏🏿👏🏿👏🏿👏🏿

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As I thought about this series, I was reminded of Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol. Both were great up until episode 14 and then both went off the rails for me. DDSSLLS would struggle on for six more episodes, throwing every damn trope out there before a very weird and ambiguous ending, and 2521 followed its lead. Someone made the point, which was very perceptive, that the ML and FL's acting and chemistry didn't match the fate given them. I agree.

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I’m with u on this! 😢

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ditto! well said! agree! I resented the shows for misleading me. I felt tricked and deceived. I can live with the story of a couple breaking up IF that is presented as well as the buildup of the romance story.

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Overall I really loved this show. There were so many sweet and touching moments and the cast was just spectacular! Especially Kim Tae-Ri – what a performance!
I did not - however - enjoy these last two episodes. And not because I was disappointed that the relationship ended (I was one of the people who was kind of hoping for a more realistic ending) but because of the many parts in these episodes that didn't work for me.
Episode 15 started out strong and by the time 9/11 happened (lol I am sorry but I had joked to my friend before that that's what was going to break up the lead couple…who'd have thought) I was starting to check out from the back and forth. I think realism is nice but the audience doesn't need two hours of suffering and will-they-won't-they shenanigans. Many of the strong parts in this series were left without any resolution in favor of showing us Hee-Do and Yi-jin crying, staring into the void and remembering their good times together. The strength of this show was not constantly showing us past scenes that we'd already seen but always moving forward. What a pity that so much precious time was wasted with these recollections in the end.
I would have loved to see more interactions between Hee-Do and her mother and Hee-Do and her daughter in the end. The daughter in particular unfortunately just stayed a framing device.
Maybe I am just mad that this show has ended and I wanted to see more of everyone! Still one of the best K-Dramas I have seen in quite a while. I might check out Search:WWW by this writer and see if it can fill the 2521 shaped hole!

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I really wanted to watch this drama, but couldn’t find time. I started watching mid last week and I was hooked. I caught up before the finale. Up to second half of episode 14, when foreshadowing finally struck me, I loved everything about it. Wonderful leads and side characters, time period, production, OST. Kim Tae-ri and Nam-Joo-Hyuk are so good in these roles and their characters so lovable. The intensity of emotions… I acutely felt every bump in their path and every happy moment. It was one of the best written stories I’ve seen.
But the ending! What just happened? So, the writer is trying to give us a realistic ending? Hee-Do and Yi-Jin’s love is set up as pure and eternal. They respect and care for each other. They are both decent people with strong will. Isn’t it out of character that they don’t want to fight for their love? Yes, it could happen under pressure of circumstances. The toll the NY assignment is taking on Yi-Jin is so real and well shown. But I don’t watch kdramas for reality, but for hope that good people get good things. K-drama shouldn’t be about people who don’t make it, but about the ones who win against the odds. If it ends like this, it should have been a story of how Mr Kim and Na Hee-Do ended up together, despite her being hang up on some ex boyfriend, even after their wedding, and even with Mr Kim being absent and abroad for who knows how long.
Beautiful drama, that is going to be very hard for me to re-watch.

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Actually, I'm really content with how it ended. We knew from the start that Yi-jin was someone who felt deeply, strove to alleviate others' suffering and so on, and therefore his reaction to 9/11 made complete sense to me. He would not be able to walk away from that, and although he loved Hee-do to pieces and desperately tried to keep making it work, he couldn't abandon his cause. I particularly liked the way Hee-do didn't become angry and incriminating with him, but slowly, slowly realised that the relationship was on a trajectory to unhappiness and bitterness (as she's experienced with her mother) and that it was time to stop. It was *so refreshing* to see a beautiful first love that ended and all parties moved on rather than having to return to each other.

Personally, I would have removed all the current day parts. We didn't need Min-chae as a narrator, and mother/grandmother additions did very little to endear us to them or help us understand. I loved the idea that Yi-jin found her diary, read her perspective on the break up, wrote a response - how much he valued and appreciated what they had - and then sent it back to her. I would have left it with Yi-jin's voiceover on what he had written and possibly the shop owner eventually finding the diary and dropping it round to the house much later, but no more. For me, the main point was that the first love was beautiful and meaningful and triumphant while it lasted, but wasn't destined to be permanent. We didn't need the present day reactions to grasp and appreciate that.

KTR was unbelievably good - she simply did not put a foot wrong. The way NJH beamed at her conveyed so much - this was a great performance from him. Loved the drama, "Your Existence" will be living in my head for months (so beautiful, so *exactly* right), and loved the beanie chat - thanks all!

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I think the present day scenes detracted from the drama, and it felt like it was tacked on to build some "omg. Her last name is kim. So who's the father? do Heedo and Yijin get together?" furor.

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Totally agree with what you said about Yijin. I think given his sensitive and emotional nature, it would have been hard for him to turn his back on the people in New York who needed him. And he found a cause for himself.

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I know i'm gonna get a lot of heat for this but i'm saying it anyway. I'm having a really hard time "connecting" to the ending. Especially the way they write YJ's character. YJ knows HD's painful relationship with her mother and yet he didn't learn from them at all. He just makes the same mistakes again. When the distance between them grow apart, he did nothing. That's why i wholly agree with HD's frustration during the tunnel fight, and the way YJ just asked HD to be more understanding to him felt selfish and inconsiderate. Even then after YJ read HD's diary and realizes how understanding HD is and how much pain he put her through. In their last moment together, no "i'm sorry" was said by YJ. I was screaming at my screen for him to at least say i'm sorry, but it never happened. Not even in YJ's diary entries. The way he didn't try to communicate to HD when he was applying for the NY correspondent also troubled me. That's why i agree when HD asked if he ever loved her, it's harsh i know, but with everything that he did, i'm starting to ask the same question.

Also is it just me? the more i think about it, the more i realized that there was no growth in YJ's character? the decision to move away using his brother as an excuse at the beginning highlights that he is a bit selfish, although at that point it's understandable. He wants to run away. But at the end of it, during the 9/11 plot he was just spiraling downwards. Becoming more selfish and inconsiderate towards HD. I thought his family condition would be the base of his growth across the series like that of HD's relationship with her mother and YR. But no, we just skip right to the end when they get back together.

I know i'm in the minority here, but YJ's character writing really soured my experience in the end. Overall the drama is really really good, but i don't think i'm gonna rewatch this drama in the future. Feel free to disagree with me! (I didn't even get to how a reporter from the local news department was sent to cover a story in NY when there is already a correspondent there, but i don't know how media works so maybe it can happened, we just didn't get an explanation)

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My husband had a similar response; he also found YJ incredibly selfish and unlikeable. He was hoping from mid-point on that Hee-do would find someone more worthy of her. Unfortunately, show did not give us that, either.

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I agree that it's so hard to connect on the path the writer chose to pursue in the finale. There's no doubt that the majority felt so disappointed with how things wrapped up. Not because they were hellbent on making them end up together, but because it didn't feel like it was meaningful enough to justify the break-up. In Yi-jin's character, I think the way he was portrayed is someone who would come up as misunderstood and selfish, though, in reality, his actions were because of their circumstances when their family's business went under, and they have to live separate homes. Imagine a 360-degree change in your bubble, and how in an instant he had to grow up so fast so his family can depend on him. He's still so young and albeit still not accustomed to the harsh realities of life, and he's all on his own without no one to guide him. And it's not easy because he grew up in a sheltered life. To be fair I understand how people see him as selfish and inconsiderate of Hee-do. I also was disappointed when he applied for the position in NYC without asking her, but the thing is both of their characters had bigger issues that were not addressed in the series. Mental health issues are such a big catalyst in the story, and both were experiencing them. Hee-do knows Yi-jin is a reporter, and in the same field as her mom. She knows so well that they were bound to have problems and that there will be times when he will disappoint her. On the other hand, Yi-jin knows how Hee-do's mom had let her down so many times. So what's the missing puzzle in their conflict? Both of them didn't make an effort to make each other feel UNDERSTOOD.

This sequence happened three times in this drama. Chan-mi and Jae-Kyung. Hee-do and Jae-Kyung. Hee-do and Yi-jin. All of which were not resolved. There's no effort to communicate or to navigate their situation.

The persistence to resolve the fall-out happened only when Yi-jin confronted Hee-do for avoiding him. He didn't let her off the hook without knowing why she avoided him. This was such a big miss on episodes 15-16. Both were already beaten down that they didn't even fight for each other. No one really wanted to truly listen to what each other had to say. And for me, it's so painful given how far they've come from strangers to friends, and from friends to eventually being lovers. It was so hard to watch how the foundation of their relationship shattered like that. Without any meaningful closure and even apologies to one another before parting amicably.

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I would understand your point about YJ having to grow up fast because of the circumstances around him leading him to have that ounce of selfishness in him if not for YJ's action during the asian games for HD. We see him go the extra miles for HD. on the bridge he said that being with HD led him to the right things. We also got an explanation on why he was the first one to report about YR. At least for me, he wasn't the selfish person he used to be at that point. But when it comes to the 9/11 plot, he suddenly go right back to his old self without any discernable reason. If they put YJ's family subplot back at that point (forcing YJ to choose between his ambition for his family or his love for HD) i would not even be mad. We just weren't given a reason for things to happened that way.

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You make a good point, to be honest the 9/11 plot was poorly written. I think it's because they had not really executed it in a way that people will truly relate to what Yi-jin was going through. When he went downhill it's not because he chose it by default or that he intentionally want to hurt Hee-do. PTSD is no joke and for people experiencing this it's only normal that they shut people out, and try to deal with their problems on their own. Yi-jin experiencing this boils down to him not wanting to burden Hee-do with his own mess. He cared too much about her that he feels that letting her in might also result into her suffering the same as he did. People with mental health issues were the hardest to love and understand. And in this we were showed how he was having hard time coping up and navigating his own emotions. He's basically in chaos.

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Last week I kept asking myself if it was just fans being collectively delusional to believe that all the hints were there to mislead them, or it was the writer being too ambiguous...still no clue tbh! ahaha!

Just shortly before ep 15 and 16 finally aired, the situation was getting quite ridiculous: between the "congratulation for your wedding" scene, and the production releasing various statements and previews trying to heavily hint to (..or more like directly spoil lol) the upcoming breakup, reading of all the crazy theories was quite the experience! xD

As for me, that frenzy definitely led me to think a "happy ending" might still be possible, though I could not buy any theory tbh. So I was actually expecting a breakup.
But honestly when I saw how they used 9/11 events as a catalyst for their separation I was disappointed...after that it was pretty much downhill for me.
I can understand why Heedo and Yijin behaved like they did afterwards (btw, great scenes and great acting there!), but I did not like the circumstances that brought them there, it felt too contrived to me. It seems like I'm the only one feeling like this, though ahah!

I was never truly in love with the show, more a casual watcher, though I did genuinely enjoy some parts. Overall I had fun, it was a nice watch, just not truly satisfying.
I do wish some things were different, but it was not my story to tell, after all, I can only accept what it is. ^^

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Also another thing, speaking of contrived...isn't it just too perfect how Yijin was not allowed to change department in the beginning (so we could have the Yurim conflict plot-line) but suddenly it became much easier when it was needed to create another conflict, but within his relationship with Heedo, this time? I was not fond of that part :/

Overall to me it felt like the last two episodes were charged with conflicts just because the ending point had to be the breakup, based on the initial (present day) setup.
I wish it all happened more naturally, I guess..

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Agree re this, as well. The whole “big bad demanding” newsroom setting just felt too unreal by the end, that it was used as a plot device which ‘ruined’ HD’s life twice (first her mom, then YJ)

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I agree with you. Like after the first half of the 15th episode, for me it felt like they just stopped trying to save their relationship. Especially on YJ's part. Their conflicts and misunderstanding is repairable and avoidable but they just did nothing.

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I also agree with this. I think it's out of character for Yi-Jin to apply for a new, international position without telling anyone. I didn't like how Hee-Do had to hear this from her mom instead of him, especially when he ended up saying it himself a couple of scenes later.

I definitely saw New York being the final straw breaking the relationship, but not in the way the writers chose.

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I was torn between "why didn't ask Heedo's mom in the first place for the position change?" and "wow, isn't it wrong for you to use your connections like that? Would the guy who denied you the change be angry?"

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U are not the only one who felt that 9/11 as a plot device was too contrived!

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To be honest I feel that majority of the disappointment stemmed not because viewers can't handle that they don't end up with each other. I think it's mostly because of the foundation both Yi-jin and Hee-do built only to just end up like that. One of the main things I really hate is that Hee-do's issue with her mom was not addressed and given full closure. Her issues were dragged even on their confrontation which felt so unfair to Yi-jin. I get that Hee-do wanted to put herself first and to prevent her from continuously getting herself hurt the way she did with her mom, but the thing is it's not that Yi-jin was not explaining or apologizing it's about the two of them not being persistent anymore to navigate their situation as they did when they were still friends. They weren't collectively trying to confront their problems, but just resorted to giving excuses/reasons which ended both of them hurting each other. The tunnel scene felt like a forced confrontation, and I feel like for two people who shared such a profound relationship it shouldn't end just like that. Of all the characters I least expected that no one from the two would want an honest and calm conversation to end things amicably. Even the bus stop scene didn't feel they were really letting go of each other. There were moments where I felt that the writer has thrown a lot of plotlines that ended up being useless, and that also soured the whole experience up until the finale. When Hee-do and Yi-jin's relationship starts to crumble I feel like their personalities deviated from what they truly are from the start leading up to episodes 15-16. The chaos they were thrown off to, and how they reacted both feels out of character which contributed to the dismay. I figure that if we're gonna stick to the premise of them breaking up the least we can do is justify it by giving us a more acceptable trope rather than trying to put everything on the final episode.
Don't get me wrong I love 2521, I have enjoyed watching it, but as much as I love it I feel like the writer failed to convince the viewers in terms of the break-up plotline. There's so much more better way to end this than what happened.

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we spent so much of the drama at age 19. 20 and 21 happened in breakneck pace and so did the dating and breakup. They spent 12 episodes promoting a love that was more akin to platonic soulmates only for them to have it ruined by them going into a romantic relationship that ended up destroying both the romance and the friendship. Makes me think of all those friends-to-lovers dramas/novels - with this drama, I totally get why characters would be hesitant. Maybe a future friends-to-lovers kdrama will cite 2521 - "we can't date. remember what happened to Na Heedo and Baek Yijin? :( "

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Yes to all u wrote!!

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It's just so painful to see a drama that was so good would end up getting this sour that fans would opt to not even watch it again. That's how the majority thought of it.

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Yeah. It wasn't about the sad ending, but the "bad" ending. Their breakup was a writer decision rather than letting the story play out naturally. 2521 will be my number 1 drama that i tried so hard to love but couldn't

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HATED the wedding remark teaser--that was RIDICULOUS!

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I loved it. It was a very realistic breakup portrayal. HD and YR made me cry tears of happiness every time I saw them together. SW stayed cool and finally got with YJ’s brother. And YR and JW made it through (they’re the counterfactual to YJ and HD).

Why we needed the Covid storyline is still not cemented for me. And the 9/11 stuff really bothered me. But I guess it was all to show that life is one disaster after another (IMF crisis, 9/11 (with the mention of Sampoong before it), Covid pandemic). We just have to keep moving through it.

I ended up disliking YJ over the course of the last two episodes. And it has to do with the setup of his motivations. HD was more emotionally mature than he was. And he was not being totally honest with her (or himself) about his time in NY covering 9/11. He said he was depressed and didn’t want to burden her with it and that is why he didn’t contact her. But the other thing is that it gave him something by being there—it sparked his ambition. He applied for a position in NY because (as he told his sunbae) he felt like he could be a real reporter there.
Last week I was writing about the setup of motives as having to choose between love and money but that is not what this is about. Not for YJ anyway. He saw something bigger and wanted something bigger.

Anyway, truly lovely writeup MistyIsles! Especially that last paragraph 💙

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2 months ago, I first wrote that I had no idea what I was getting into, and even after episode 1, still wasn’t sure where we were headed, but that I was charmed enough by that first ep to want to stick on for the ride.

2 months [and many shrieks, yells, LOLs n a whole rollercoaster of insane thoughts n emotions!] later - still knocked out by KTR & NJH absolutely amazing performances, they were both just so radiant and standout for me! KTR and her 100% [almost un]believable transformation into an 18yo, and such a lovely gem of a character in NHD. NJH’s solid restrained acting, puppy eyes n awfully hilarious slapstick comedy (never knew he had it in him!!?). And the casting n performance of the other 3 - just so, so beautiful n sensitive, too.

But… all of the philosophizing aside that I’ve read on the weekly DB reviews, can I just say I’m just utterly, super duperly, immensely bummed out by the ending! I feel so unjustly robbed, n just not convinced at all that it was absolutely necessary. Why, writer-nim and PD-nim, why!! Why would u rob our Heedo and Yijin tooooo… sigh, I wish I was as mature as some of the Beanies here 😂, but nooooope, I just simply hated it! Not sure what is going to cure my brokenheart, any suggestions..? 😭😂 (besides trying to find a lil solace from reading Beanies’ remarks and imaginarily hi5-ing some of u!!) #bruised #sore #burnt #gottooinvested🥺

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I feel the same I literally felt so down after watching the finale. I did watch it on the air night during the Livestream, and when it was out on Netflix. I've signed myself twice the heartbreak that I was expecting. I remember a few months back when it was announced that Tae-ri and Joo-hyuk would lead this drama I was not too excited, and frankly, I don't see the chemistry at all at the onset. Since I haven't watched a movie or drama from Tae-ri I wasn't too sure if I would like it, but I also expected that Joo-hyuk will deliver and exceed my expectations from him as an actor. When the trailer came out I remember telling myself that maybe, just maybe I will give it a try to see for myself. I didn't watch the premiere so I was behind 4 episodes, and was even contemplating if I would watch it since I normally watch on the premiere to get a feel of the drama so I can decide whether to drop it or not. But oh boy did I fall in love with Hee-do and Yi-jin. And that rarely happens that I get so invested in the characters so much. I guess it is because of that nostalgic feeling 2521 made me feel. Being a 90s kid I have experienced the era of beepers, floppy disks, cassette tapes, and cd players. It was such a nice trip down memory lane, and that got me hooked.

I agreed when Tae-ri said that Hee-do and Yi-jin were both lovely characters. I was also consoled when she said that their love story was just too good that it saddened her that they will not end up together. I was even rewatching this series now because I wanted to know if I did miss something. To be honest, I think at one point I almost believed that breaking up was just the tip of the iceberg, and they will try to at some point and figure out how to fall back together after falling apart. And I think the reason I was feeling this way was that while I can understand their need to break up, I also didn't feel that it was enough for them to end like that. They were still in the first stages of their relationship, and I refuse to believe that knowing how persistent their personalities are that they would not fight for each other at all. That's it's so heartbreaking for me to accept that the breakup was not justifiable.

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Poor Minchae, reading the most gorgeous and compelling live story ever and deeply rooting for her mom to end up with… um, someone other than her dad. That’s sad.

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I absolutely loved it. One of the most beautiful rendition of first love I’ve seen on screen. On the contrary, I don’t think it was realistic? How many of us have been blessed with such first love? I wish my first love was like that!

I thought it was brilliant how they portrayed the break-up. I could clearly see why they couldn’t be together and didn’t stay in touch. They also didn’t waste time showing irrelevant stuff like who Min Chae’s father was. I also like that they left a bit of ambiguity on whether Yi Jin found someone else or was married in the present time. I would like to think he did 😊

Nevertheless I’m still reeling from the heartbreak and been feeling very melancholic ever since. Been a long time since a drama/movie has affected me as such. Tried watching some fluffy and lighthearted stuff but to no avail 😥

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I agree completely with your point that nothing about the drama was particularly realistic. I guess that's why I don't buy the explanation that the ending is satisfying or perfect because realistically people grow apart in life. Sure they do, but everything in this story, including the love story between the leads, had true-to-life moments we could all relate to, but was still very much a fictional creation with heightened moments at every turn. *None* of it was realistic except in a general sense.

And besides, it was even less realistic that these two would broke up the way they did and have nothing to do with each other considering how incredibly connected they were and how they communicated with one another all along. The writer just wanted to tell a story that ended with the characters all leading separate lives. They had a theme, goal, and purpose in mind and they wrote to fulfill it. That's it.

Thinking that way has made me feel better about the whole thing as this truly was an amazing drama and the writer should be lauded for their work. I just would have preferred an ending that was unrealistic in the way I wanted it to be, rather than in the way we got.

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Well! I haven’t been on DB for the longest time and I’m so glad that it’s still having the best discussions on dramas.

I love this drama till the end. There isn’t much to add to all the discussion on the ending. I agree with the ones who found the breakup true to life.

I would even say that ending in that manner kept their love at its most beautiful.

Kudos to the writer and director and actors for capturing the joy, the pain of youth and first loves. It’s a memorable drama. And a memorable ending. The only other ending I might love or remember as well would be que sera sera.

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Being a kdrama watcher I adjusted my expectation when present day storyline showed leadinglady’s daughter named Kim Min Chae and leading guy’s name was Baek Yijin. Only by doing that was able to fully enjoy the drama as a watcher seeing youths having such passionate first love story and living life to its full youthful experience by having lovely group of friends.

As we know once most reach full adulthood/working life our younger day friends brcome ppl we may at most see few times a year at most as circle of friends constantly change as we grow older.

But the who reason we watch kdramas is that it gives us hope that our OTP survives all trial and tribulation whatever struggles thrown at them.Looking at those chaebol and candy heroines stories which leave us in fantasy world of expectation.

But 25 21 is rooted firmly in slice of drama,youthful day and first love passionate story.

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This morning I was trying to copy some notes for work, and as soon as I grabbed my notebook I remembered Heedo's diary and the tears just freaking came. Not many dramas give me that kind of aftermath, lol.

I'm in the minority (?) who found the whole thing satisfying and solidly written from start to end. I even liked the inclusion of a present-day narrative. It answers the question "So what? What's the point of these backstories (other than give us pain after pain)?" and gave Minchae a renewed spark to try ballet again and find adventures of her own. (I also thought it was funny that adult Heedo was played by someone else when Kim Taeri is literally closer to her age irl lol, but I digress)

What tugged my heartstrings though was Yijin's finding genuine purpose in a profession that he took as just a means to earn a living. It takes a lot of grit and drive to stay in journalism and these days I feel like society often takes it for granted. It was disheartening to see a lot of comments not understanding why Yijin took that foreign correspondent job, one of the very few decisions he's made for himself. Of course there's a price to pay, but then again we can't have everything.

PS. Ji Seungwan, my gurl~ so pretty~ (though I'm trying not to think too much of her possible thing with little bro)

PPS. That firefighter's probably the best foreign extra I've seen!

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I forgot to add — Even if they weren't the right fit for each other in a permanent way, their time together has changed them for the better and they were both successful. I think that's still very much a happy ending.

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I am with you here, am also one of those who actually applaud the writer, especially for staying true to what she wanted to tell. I also get why Yijin took that foreign correspondent job. I think I wrote somewhere here in DB , that he did find his calling through that experience. The conversation with the firefighter nailed that. He finally found his purpose and he stopped running away. He is finally content - it was also shown briefly when he came back to Korea. In fact that scene in the funeral, everybody had seemed content and happy and living the life they chose to live. Also, even though 2nd OTP did end up together, it was not the reason why they seemed happy and content. Yu-rim finally got to be able to overcome her financial problems, she has a thriving business. Ji-woong is not aimless anymore, he has a well-paying business which is completely aligned with his passion. Even Seung-wan, found something that will keep boredom away. So yes, this is a coming-of-age story done well.

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I agree with both of your takes on BYJ taking that job but also understand those who are upset about it. I'll chalk it up to the execution. The show has been really good with show don't tell throughout but somehow didn't live up to that in the last two episodes where everything was rushed. This is primarily Hee Do's story but in the beginning there was enough emphasis on BYJ as a human and his struggles. Once he became a reporter, everything became about Hee Do, we forgot he had a family to reunite, debts to pay and a dream unfulfilled. There were only chunks of BYJ's story here and there. That is why I totally assumed BYJ found his calling in NY and wanted to support his family through that position, the show didn't tell me that. Even when he fought with HD he only talked about the upsetting things coming from his time in NY not the inspirational ones that could've made that his calling. While I was satisfied with the ending, I do think people are justified when they say the execution and delivery was off for their split. A lot was left to us to think this is the best for them, even if all along they have shown us what was best for them which is why people couldn't accept that this is the trajectory they went to when they have acted differently before.

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"Sometimes, what we need in one season of life isn’t what we’ll need, or have, forever. But having what we need when we need it – like Hee-do and Yi-jin helped each other get through the lowest points of their lives and learn to soar on their own – gives us the strength and hope to face whatever life may throw at us next." -mistyisles

mistyisles. This right here is poetry. Thank you! One of the reasons why I like dramabeans is that you and others see then express the stories, themes, and characters in a way that I could not pinpoint or even see. It makes me appreciate the craft and art that is storytelling and Korean dramas. Thank you for encapsulating this imperfect but hauntingly beautiful story. It has been an unforgettable journey.

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Having invested in the drama for 2 months honestly the moment I finished the drama I was left with a sting in my heart because it was not the way I wanted to have it ended. So many questions were unanswered and it felt rushed. I was bawling my eyes out on the final goodbye of our leads HeeDo and Yi Jin and till the end I hoped they atleast reunited in the very end. The ending was so disappointing at that moment.

However after sometime later it all dawned to me that , the ending even though bitter , it was realistic and it did justice to each character , their growth and emotions. Both of them did not want to hurt each other further hence they put their love first and said the goodbyes. How many of us have had such a pure first love in the 20's and that much understanding and trust topped with utmost respect to each other? Any time any one mentions on the first love, i will definitely remember our beautiful couple Hee Do and Yi Jin.

Such loves will be remembered for lifetime and treasured despite the regrets at that time. In our life we dont get what we want, who we want, but life doesnt stop then. What may seem the most saddest moment now , in future 10 -20 years later it wont matter that much and you will look back happy that it has happened. Hee Do getting married to another doesnt mean that she forgot Yi jin. Yi Jin will be her first love always and she treasures the memories even now and is content where she in her current phase. That makes this drama worthwhile at the end.

The tunnel served the best and the most saddest moments in the life of HeeDo and Yi Jin. The emotions both had in the tunnel, bitter and sweet, it will be memorable place indeed.

I will miss this show dearly. It will be one of my Top 5 korean drama of all time. The show had everything. The writing and cinematography was topnotch. All the actors specially Nam Joo Hyuk and Kim Taeri delivered their characters beautifully ,their acting sheer brilliance, and they deserve to win the best acting and couple award.

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I’d nominate this as a nominee for the best show in TV series for this year’s Baeksang. It deserves it and I somehow think it might win it in reality. The timing is also great; the show ended just now and the Baeksang will be held sometime next month.

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It should definitely be nominated, and I hope it wins. I hope the furor over the ending doesn't hurt its chances.

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That Madrid competition scenes were just beautiful and I cried with them when they took off their masks with tears running down their faces. Yoorim and Heedo's relationship was beautiful. Please let them be texting regularly off-screen in 2022!!

Loved the drama, though I wish there could have been some changes. The modern-day framing detracted from the story and was a bit of a bummer by framing friendship and boldness as themes that only belong to our youth.

And it just bums me out that Heedo went on to marry some guy who isn't all that present. I'm not sure what to take of her comment that breaking an engagement was better than getting a divorce. Without the present day scenes, I would have thought she was just giving practical advice, but with the present day scenes, I wonder if there is another layer, like "yikes, i got married on impulse. what's done is done. he's nice enough."

Yijin and Heedo falling out of touch was also heartbreaking considering how their love started out as this rainbow, indeliable, ineffable thing before they dated. Wish the drama never had them date in the first place.

At least by 2022, Baek Yi-jin didn't die of lung cancer from stress-smoking.

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I feel like she got married just because she wanted to "try marriage," similar to how she wanted to try dating and breaking up with just whomever was interested in her versus someone she actually liked/loved. So the funeral scene was probably her realizing that it's a lot harder to divorce your husband than breaking up with a boyfriend.

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Like many, I went through a rollercoaster of emotions while the drama comes to an end.
I would have love their happy ending, was outraged n threw my cushion onto the floor…

But after a few days, I’ve come to terms that how this drama made me feel and how I have to let it go is exactly what the show has shown me…

The passion, the joy, the uplifting of emotions that I received as i watch the characters embodying the same emotions in their youth, navigating life together, fostering friendship and love….

And the same way as how HD and YJ walked till the end, the anger, the disappointment and also that struggle of adoring for each other and coming to terms with all these emotions is exactly how I feel about walking all the way till the end with the drama and coming to terms with it and letting it go.

When I see it in this manner, I realised this drama has literally mirrored my emotions with the characters.

And I think I can live with it knowing it’s a special experience for me. 2521 will always have a special place in my heart, jus like how the characters look back at their summer.

P/s: I feel sorry watching their ratings dropped from 9.7 to 8.1 due to the ending

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Maybe that was the writer's intention all along because we clearly felt their love and sincerity so she wanted us to feel their heartache fully too. Thanks for pointing this out, it was a revelation.

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Perfect in almost every way. I'm so glad I watched this one.

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Me too. Its actually my favorite Kdrama show right now together with FoS1. Brilliant.

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How could such an intensely close and loving relationship just finish in such a sad way? I'm left wondering what it was in the first place - we were in awe of the breadth and depth of the relationship and the emphasis was always on the mental connection and yet it was abandoned and never resumed. And whoever Heedo married it obviously wasn't up to much since her husband doesn't feature in the story at all. Sorry, it was an absolutely amazing show and the acting was stupendously good at every level. But somebody got it wrong - such a relationship would have survived any amount of trauma it was unique. They might not have married but they would always have remained close friends. So Boo Hiss to the writer.

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Yes!!

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I think it's reasonable that HD and YJ didn't stay in touch. One of the primary rules of getting over a breakup is to go no-contact. The more "intense" a relationship is, the more important it is to make a clean cut.

If HD and YJ remained in contact, it just would've become a toxic loop of them getting back together and breaking up, and them taking much longer to move on.

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Are you me? I was about to comment the same thing. I’ve been in no contact with my first and only bf for almost 10 years now, and only this could possibly allow me to move on. Might not be difficult for him as I was his third gf, I think; but for me, he was my first. It took me that much time and courage to move on from that first love which I thought was the love of my life. I so understand HD in that respect.

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Not your doppelganger (haha), but I imagine people who have had one (or more) experiences with heartbreak will have learned similar coping mechanisms.

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Also in retrospect, I found it a bit strange that the drama was called 25/21 when that was the most traumatic time of their life (and we didn’t see much of it). If the theme is nostalgia, maybe That Summer would have been better? Especially for her shop?!

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It's not just the name of her shop but she had RAINBOW colored chairs displayed on the wall. What was Heedo implying by putting that for all to see? I won't mention the red car that she drives lest I'm over analyzing her color choices. Lol.

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Yes re the car, hahaha it struck me too 🤣

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Yes!! The shop name especially 🤦🏻‍♀️

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I think 2521 is 1) a nod to the Jaurim song that inspired this show and 2) marks the start of adulthood and end of youth for the OTP.

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My heart still aches from how this beautiful story ended. How am I going to get over this heartbreak? Don't get me wrong, I love this drama and think the ending is a realistic one. I totally enjoyed KTR's portrayal of Hee Do's character. So childlike when she was a teen. It was so great to see her progression into adulthood. Even though the ending broke my heart, the whole casts brought us a stunning, beautiful and yet bittersweet portrayal of friendships that struggles to stand the test of times. I just wish our leads tried harder, fought harder to be together. Please excuse me now while I crawl into some hole to nurse my broken heart.

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I wonder if Hee Do will change her mind and go after Yijin if she got her diary back from the comic shop owner earlier. It might be a different ending.

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I totally feel you 😭😭😭

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Hands down, one of the most beautiful k-dramas I’ve ever watched. I loved it from the start to the end, every moment of it affected me so deeply.

The only thing that upset me was that the dramabeans ratings for the show dropped drastically after the ending! :( what!!

I thought the ending was heartbreaking but entirely satisfying and realistic. Both HD and YJ found different paths in life and.. that’s just it. You don’t always end up with the person you love and that’s reality. No doubt they tried their best but they were just in different life stages and had different ideas of their future. I don’t think any of them is to be blamed for the breakup. Some things cannot be overcome with love or better communication. But it doesn’t make any of the moments spent any less beautiful really.

If you look at YJ’s and HD’s actions without the context of their upbringing and life experiences, it seems like a selfish and silly decision to breakup. But if you truly understand the process of breaking and growth that YJ went through, it makes sense why he chose to stay in NEw York and why he let HD go. And if you truly comprehend HD’s trauma and struggles lichen with a mom-anchor, it also make sense why she couldn’t imagine a future with him. And so their breakup makes sense to me.

At the end of the day, does the ending necessarily mean that the time invested watching the 15 earlier episodes was a waste? We laughed and cried and grew with the characters. And even though it was not the fairytale ending, I believe we walk away from the show.. affected and changed.

(Also the show made it clear it was never about minchae’s father so I stopped wondering.) Yes we could be left hanging re the identity of the father - but in the same way, how many of us get all the answers we want in our imperfect world? That’s why life is full of regrets.. what ifs and why’s and if onlys.. and that’s the melancholic and realistic tone that cuts through the show.. beautifully.

Thanks for the beautiful show, writer-nim! And the wonderful cast for the perfect performance!

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struggles living* with mom-anchor

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I get what the writers wanted to portray...

I was not a fan of the way the drama's ending played out but I would still give it a solid A for the great job it did in those 7 weeks and for all the emotions it gave me.

Thanks for the weecaps

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2521… an ode to our passionate youthful days

I think there have been much discussion on a lot of messages the show conveyed.. but here are some of the themes I think I haven’t seen anyone discussed them yet.

Theme 1: To bend or not to bend

We even have seen this theme explicitly mentioned a few times throughout the show: YJ’s sunbae advising him to go apologize to the senior who lied to YJ and exploited the athletes; SW’s mother asking SW if it all was worth it; HD’s voice over that during the time (that HD and JW were about to take the CSAT) the crack began to open because they chose to break instead of to bend… Tbh, I don’t really know the message the show wants to convey to us regarding this matter; but to me, I think that it meant to show the consequences of each decision each character made. Everyone wanted to break, but they had to prepare to weather the consequences of their decision as well. The profound scene regarding this matter is the breakup between the leads. Every relationship needs certain degree of bending from one or both of the parties. The leads broke up because at that point in their lives, no one wanted to bend because of their different baggage and priorities. It was bittersweet because both loved one another deeply but one couldn’t bend because she couldn’t see herself being in the kind of relationship where she would be left alone most of the time again and one couldn’t bend because he had finally found his calling which work would also help his family financially. It’s also funny because I just realize after writing this that this is what the term “to break up” really means.

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Theme 2: Everyday is a practice.

What I think the show means is that when we look back at our past, everyday was indeed a practice so we shouldn’t blame ourselves too much when things don’t go according to our plan. YJ told a new trainee at the UBS TV station this when the latter was crying over the same thing that YJ also cried when he was a trainee at the station (couldn’t find a landline phone to report the news), and HD said this in the voiceover when she finally let go of YJ mentally. It doesn’t in any way mean that we shouldn’t do the best we can each day, but I think the show wants to pat we all in the back and say that we’ve done well enough. We did our best at that moment in time, and we should be proud of ourselves; so should the leads. YJ didn’t know how to be a good reporter when he was a trainee there for the first time and he made mistakes. The same was true for HD as she also hadn’t known how to love someone romantically until she met YJ and broke up with him.

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Theme 3: Everyday is a practice and finally HD got her closure.

YJ was HD’s first love. In this respect, we can see that YJ was more experienced on the romance front as HD wasn’t his first gf. I believe as YJ was HD’s first love and the love that she said in the voiceover that she loved with all her heart, she might have blamed herself also for the breakup because she seemed not to want to talk about YJ and even said to Min-chae that some memories should better be forgotten. However, upon receiving the diary back and saw what YJ had written, she got her closure; she knew now that he got all her messages that she wasn’t able to tell him when they broke up in person (again, it was her first time breaking up with someone). The show made sure to show us that in her imagination, she walked towards YJ who was still red-eye crying and waiting for her all this time but this time, she let him go first. I believe now she can look back at those memories they shared when they were 25 and 21 again fondly and with a grateful heart.

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Prob spot on about the guilt of the breakup that HD had been carrying all these years; hence her not wanting to talk abt YJ was not cos he was no longer important but because she probably felt guilty all this while. Great reflection!

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I love how the guilt was highlighted. In my opinion, though I think it's not just about the guilt, it's about the sadness, and regret of how both of them ended their relationship. The entries in Hee-do's diary were of importance, but the way I see it it's not enough of closure as it is. On that bus stop scene, there could have been more than just hugging but also apologies so they can truly and sincerely say that they don't want themselves to break up without saying all things they failed to say to each other. And that's closure for that you both make peace with the decision to break up with no words or feeling left unsaid. But in the drama, it looked like Hee-do never really got over Yi-jin and the same for the latter. If it's something you want to forget you wouldn't even name your workshop 2521, which was what will remind you of painful memories. They're each other's, first love, and the fact that they weren't even seen meeting in person at the finale signifies that it wasn't a clean break up for them not to be in touch at some point with the exception of the news.

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Theme 4: Impoverished data

In a way, we are much more lucky than drama characters in that we always see at least glimpses of what has been going on in many drama characters’s lives, the privilege each character -or any one of us- doesn’t have. In life, everyone can never have complete relevant data when making any decision, but we make do with what we have and bear with the consequences. We always try to make the best decisions for ourselves, the same way each character in this drama does. Without that chat room on an internet platform, both HD and YR might never become friends. In this sense, I think it makes sense why HD broke up and why YJ did what he did. If we think about their dialogues to one another together with the data that each of them had at the time, it was logical why they did what they did. HD saw that YJ became more and more absent without knowing what happened to him, and she finally accepted that this was something that she wouldn’t want in a partner. YJ faced much mental distress but had to force himself to do it and made the decision to apply for a position there because, perhaps, he also thought it was what HD would have expected him to do (he said this when they argued and YJ always said HD always led him to the right path). Taken all this into account with the limited experience they had with their ages, I completely understood both characters’ decision to end their romantic relationship despite feelings they had for each other.

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I expected a curve ball a la reply/hospital playbook since this was a romance drama after all. not mad at the ending though bcs this relationship was never the selling point from this drama to me.

the one thing I didnt like in the last ep was all the info dump about where the secondary characters. also the fact that we already knew the result of the madrid match took away all the emotional charge when the drama showed the whole sequence of that final to me. i dont think it was a good script decision.

anyway the ending felt in the middle for me just like the drama itself. there were things I liked (loved the rivalry/friendship and the side characters) and things I ff'ed lol (the romance and honestly the whole 911/NY thing)

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My fave coming of age drama of all times. It's beautifully written, acted and directed. There's already so many great comments here that outline why this is such a special drama. So I just want to say thank you to those that has given us this drama. Writer-nim, you have a new fan in me.

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This show is - for me - a masterpiece. The acting was terrific, and the story was without too many flaws. The writers did a fantastic job with the characters and their relationships. They bring us joy, sadness, laughter, and many different feelings. The cast was great, especially Kim Tae Ri. She managed to show the same person with some slight differences that show us that she is becoming an adult. That was impressive. But to be honest, the entire cast was terrific. The only thing I might criticize is: that they should not have cast an older version of Hee Do. It breaks the link between 2000 and 2021.

The ending was perfect for me because our point of view was Min Chae's. So we got the story from the diaries she was reading and the story behind the articles she found. So this entire arc has a closure with the last scene when we watched HeeDo saying goodbye to Yijin from 2002.

And I like the open ending given by the modern days. We don't know anything about anybody, but we can guess some stuff. HeeDo might be divorced, and her mother is still in touch with Yijin. And the reason why we did not get any information about Heedo's friends is Min Chae did not ask about them. Maybe she knows them, so she doesn't need to ask. The same remark goes for her father. People tend to forget that our point of view was Min Chae.

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I actively hated the present-day storyline, and the more I saw adult Hee-do, the less I cared for Hee-do's character knowing she would grow up to become a shell of herself. As we were primed from day one that they would not end up together, I had no expectations for a happily ever after, but the writer's "first loves don't last" message doesn't land when it was contradicted by Ji-woong proposing to Yu-rim.

I wish Twenty-Five Twenty-One were Twenty-Three Nineteen because Hee-do and Yi-jin were so much better before becoming a couple. After the offensive 9/11 plot, they became depressed versions of themselves that was painful to watch. I couldn't get invested in their romance, which had whirled by 600 days in half an episode, so when he confronted her in the tunnel, I just wanted him to let it go. It was over. Even in 2009, I couldn't recognize them, despite being played by Kim Tae-ri and Nam Joo-hyuk. I didn't need to meet Hee-do's mystery husband or adult Yi-jin. He did not deserve to die, but he deserved to be happy, and he wasn't.

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For me, I think it was more heartbreaking that it seemed like Yi-jin seemed (well the 35 seconds we saw of him, that was odd) depressed. We know he had signs of depression during his 9/11/NYC stay (which is a valid reason why couples break up), but I felt a bit disheartened that they both still loved each other. I know its realistic which it is, but given this is a drama I did feel like I wish we got to see more present day Yi-jin. I think they could've given a bit more context to what he was doing after breaking up, and how he managed. B/c it seems like he hasn't dated anyone since, and Hee-do seems to miss Yi-jin still.

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This show was really good, and I do like the ending where they didn't force the two leads to be together, or show a Reply-esque reveal that Hee Do's husband was actually Bek Yi Jin (I feared they will go that route when it seemed like they were foreshadowing how her mother kept their relationship secret to be a "successful reporter"). This is not a bog plot point, but it is driving me crazy trying to figure out who mailed the diary to BYJ? I honestly cannot remember this character! And also the last episode's funeral was really weird...not until then did we even think about Seung-wan's father! I totally assumed he was already dead. So, to have that funeral and her reaction at the funeral was all very bizzare. It's almost as if they had a different writer write all the modern parts of the show (or things after the break-up). The show shined brilliantly when it focused on the "original" story, and could have totally been a stand-alone story in that time period, with the ending being the two leads saying goodbye. And then we see only how they changed through pictures or news clippings.

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I agreed with a comment on perhaps the Hot Take thread that because there was YJ's ID card that HD attached to one of the diary pages, some passerby got the diary, saw the card, and mailed the diary to YJ.

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The ending wasn't that shocking to me tbh. The show did leave crumbs for red herrings throughout. I think what made me go hmm is they kept it quite ambiguous with the status of both leads. I felt like they just dangled a few "Could they or couldn't they?" and it felt a bit cheap to me.

It felt like they could've been clearer with Hee-do moving on, and seeming content with her decision. But it seems like both Hee-do and In-jin have lingering feelings still. It was like 'How I Met Your Mother' lite but this time it did feel like it did downgrade the show a tad bit. I also think many wanted a happy ending b/c of the rom-com conventions esp. in K-dramas that were used to breaking here. So I did enjoy the realistic side, but I also understand given we gave it 16+ hours of our time.

Overall, I think the show was more than first love but about family, un-expected journey of our life, career vs. love or family, and nostalgia for our youth. Also, NJH isn't my fav but I do admit he does mold well to his FL's and in romance genre that's important. I saw improvement and looking forward to seeing him grow even more acting wise.

Also fun fact: The woman who plays the fencing coach is the cousin of Min Jin Lee (The author of Pachinko!). I thought it was cute that the author was proud of her cousin :D.

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That is an awesome fun fact!!!

2521 also reminded me a bit of HIMYM, though HIMYM's ending was a betrayal after 9 years of watching but I sort of see a minor similarity. For HIMYM, I could have accepted what happened to the mother even though I loved her, but all the other stuff felt out-of-sync with the character development in the last few years of the series, particularly the final season. In 2521, I could accept the breakup, but the future they led after that felt out-of-sync with who they were?

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Yeah, the author seemed proud of her cousin! It was really cute and awesome lol. The sheer talent is insane!

I'm glad to see another HIMYM comment haha! Right, 9 yrs vs 2 months is very different :D. I think there were similar shades like the "Whose the parent?" thing being drawn out to their child(s). But also an ending that was heavily divided. I'll say that with 2521 that I don't mind them breaking up esp. at that age (esp. for Hee-do and her mom also not being there growing up).

I guess, them breaking up isn't my issue b/c its realistic lol. I do wish it could've done a bit better with showing both leads moving on and/or how they dealt with the aftermath of their breakup. Maybe 1 extra episode? True, I think that In-jin was clearly depressed and should get clinical treatment for that (as mentioned by Hee-do). But for Hee-do adult self, it was a bit jarring to see her so defeated. Now thinking of it, this was Hee-do's story (she was the main pov/it was her monologues) than In-jin tbh. If it was from his pov/his monologues, that might incur a diff. view lol.

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Took me a week to come back to this thread. I enjoyed a lot of our different views about the ending, and can't help but just comment back. I've seen this on Twitter, and Reddit, and I've also said it I think that majority of the disappointment didn't really stem from them not ending up together. I know that was never the case and a lot already expected that they will break up since that was already established in the synopsis. What really affected me the most about this is how this was executed poorly. And it felt like their characters were two different people from the ones we've watched in episodes 1-15. That was just one of the many issues I've had about the ending. To add salt to the wound why would they all squeeze that breaking up, confrontation, and bus stop scenes all in one episode. I feel that was just a big let down and disrespect to the viewers who actually thought that this was a well-written drama. In any drama I think it's the writer's duty to fully convince and justify the reason why you chose that path for the story. Regardless of whether it's a happy or sad ending the least thing that you can do is do it full circle with no loose ends, and no questions unanswered. And here are the things I feel that made the whole drama feel "meh" after episode 16:

STORYLINES I WISH WASN'T WASTED

Yang Chan Mi and Shin Jae-kyung story line - This was such a good opportunity wasted. Their characters were such important figures to Hee-do's growth as a fencer and a woman. I get it that there are relationships that can't be mended, but I think at some point there should be a closure. After all Chan Mi took in Hee-do regardless of her issues with her mom. It would a have been better if it was shown that both women at some point had an opportunity to settle the dust and make peace with it. It's also an opportunity for the writer to actually redeem Jae-kyung's character which was a miss.

Hee-do and Jae-kyung - The mother-daughter duo didn't have that moment wherein they did "actually" talk all about their issues. And Hee-do never found out that her mom actually talked to the coach to take her in. As well as Chan Mi and Jae-kyung's history. That would have been a way to actually push character development on Hee-do.

Seung-wan's ending - Come on that was not a good one huh! She's smart and full of vigor, but clearly depressed. Why would you give her a job as a variety show assistant director who's lacking sleep? She said it before she feels like life is no fun. I would have been convinced if she became a Radio DJ having fun talking to people on air.

THROWN AND UNEXPLAINED

"You were my consolation for the past 10 years..." - For what exact reason?

Hee-do's photo that Yi-jin signed up for - She didn't like it herself, how did that ended up on her album?

Yi-jin's things that were in Hee-do's room - Is this poor production skills? Why would you put it there huh?

I have a long list but I'll...

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Ooh that's cool. The coach was one of my favourite characters.

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Ending was meh.

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Sad/happy ending, nostalgic/melodramatic, something was amiss in the execution of the final episodes of this show that left me disappointed and angry. The plot line of the romance buildup was great, but the plot line of the breakup left a lot to be desired. There just wasn't enough on-screen evidence about how/why the breakup was the best choice...bookends included. The conclusion of the relationship of the main characters was extremely lacking....maybe its K-culture since this is an issue in way too MANY kdramas. In other breakup shows (A Star is Born, The Way We Were, etc.) the progression was steady and obvious. In this show, the wedding congratulations broadcast scene was jarring. In a way, it reminded my Reply 1988, where the present time scenes teased about the ending, yet viewers were up-in-arms dissatisfied because of the "gotcha" ending. Overall this drama is SO WELL DONE--the characters, the settings, etc., yet it is hard to overlook the poorly executed ending.... feel like I was handed a bouquet of roses only to have the thorns rip me apart.

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Totally with u! 😒

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