Tomorrow: Episodes 15-16 (Final)
It wasn’t enough that we took a journey into the past last week and learned about our reapers and their connection. In our final week, that past comes full circle to the present, and it’s a finale full of connections, closure, and some more tears for good measure.
EPISODES 15-16 WEECAP
Perhaps it’s because we have met so many characters along the way, and cried with them and over them, that this drama seems so much longer than its actual run. If you told me we’d just made it through a 24-episoder, I would believe you.
After the tragic Joseon romance between Ryeon and Joong-gil that we learned about last week, we’re left with the same question as Jun-woong, who luckily asks it for us: but does Joong-gil remember?! The answer is no. His memories of Ryeon were sealed up, and though it usually only takes one reincarnation for a soul to get over past pain, Joong-gil’s burden is so great that we’re told he brought his pain with him (a theme we’ve heard a lot of, and that fits beautifully here).
But all that tragic backstory doesn’t signify much unless it comes full circle, and indeed, it all does, and it’s a busy finale week. First, we meet our Risk Management team as they embark on their final (for us anyway) case, and we take a dive into idol hell with them.
Our singer-actress is RYU CHOI-HUI (Kim Shi-eun, long time no Love Alarm!), and we see her struggles to put on a happy face and fight for her success while the netizens and press brutally attack her at every turn. She’s known for speaking the truth and not playing along with the fakery — so satisfying when we see her doing this — but while it’s right, it makes her life a living hell. Eventually, all the pressure from the outside world to kill herself for wrongs she didn’t do starts to get to her.
Hilariously, Jun-woong knows this idol well — since she “got him through” his military service lol — but really, it’s Ryeon that’s having the major menboong. This idol is a person deeply beloved from her past: the faithful friend and servant that died protecting her during that horrible stoning scene.
Ryeon, at this point, has reached the place we’ve seen both Jun-woong and Ryong-koo get to: where all rules and regulations go out the window, because they’re determined to save the person who was so precious to them in the past.
It’s here that Ryeon butts heads with Joong-gil, whose rancor against these suicidal humans reaches an all-time high: he’s found out that Ryeon also committed suicide in her past life, but no more than that — yet — because the Jade Emperor warns him she promised someone she would never tell him about his past. Who is that person? His past self. Chills!
Remember the reaper guarantee that Ryeon signed so many episodes ago? Joong-gil puts it to use while Ryeon is trying to save Choi-hui, and the girl winds up getting hit by a car while Ryeon was in the very act of saving her. Joong-gil is at peak anger/cruelty here, but he’s about to get his own menboong moment later on.
Ryeon is furious over not being able to stop Choi-hui’s suicide attempt, and though she survives, Ryeon goes rogue — and her rogue actions make Ryong-koo’s seem tame. Though it’s somewhat gratifying to watch her punish terrible people, it gets dangerous quite quickly, and soon all of Jumadeung knows about Ryeon going off the wall, and there’s an order for her arrest.
A sudden villain appears from hell — DIRECTOR HA (whoa I didn’t even recognize Park Hoon for a second) — a Mephistopheles-type character that feels like he flew out of Faust with his glamor and trickery. He’s determined to bring Ryeon back to hell. The drama kicks into full gear here, with the soundtrack and the speed of the plot kicking up, and the tension at an all-time high.
The Jade Emperor is (seemingly) furious over Ryeon’s behavior, and transfers Ryong-koo back to Sales, and Jun-woong back to the dreaded Editing team. Will they take this sitting down, behind a desk? Nope. The boys act like they’re going along with it, but there’s a plan in place to saved Ryeon.
Here, Jun-woong’s knowledge of Ryeon and Joong-gil’s past is what brings everything full circle, and to the climax of our entire drama. He confronts Joong-gil, saying he’s the only one who can help Ryeon, and challenges him with The Question that changes everything: do you even know why you hate those who commit suicide so much?
That question sends our very smart Joong-gil back into his own past, for he knows there’s a lot buried there, and he has to uncover it. So he goes rogue on his own, and uses the Sales Team’s dream device to visit his own past (which, since repressed, comes out via dreams and nightmares — or at least that’s how it made sense to me). Regardless, poor Joong-gil gets the 10-second replay of the story we just witnessed in Episode 14, and just like that, he knows everything worth knowing. *Sob*
There’s a bunch of action next, as both the Ryeon and Choi-hui storylines escalate. Joong-gil steps (or is that snaps) in to buy time for Ryeon as Director Ha approaches her to take her back to hell. Joong-gil takes all the punches like the hero that he is (squeeeeee), while Ryeon is able to have her moment with her beloved friend.
Much like all the other healing moments we’ve seen in the drama thus far, Ryeon is able to give Choi-hui hope, and, more importantly, is able to protect her with her own life — thus repaying what Choi-hui did for her a lifetime ago.
While our reaper team cheers on Choi-hui (and Ryeon continues to intuit a future love connection between Choi-hui and Jun-woong, which is cute but a bit rando), her mess is dealt with, everyone is taught a lesson that needs one, and our adorable idol enters the green zone.
Later, Ryeon muses if Choi-hui was the person she was destined to save. But of course it becomes clear to her — and to us — that the person that needed saving was Ryeon herself. And, much like the wider message of the drama, we see Ryeon had to come to peace with her own past, pains, and choices, like all of the survivors we have learned about thus far.
One of the peak sequences of the finale episode is the strange Jumadeung power struggle that quickly plays out. The Jade Emperor — sniffing out a takeover — is able to outsmart the treachery of Director Ha by using all these little pieces of the puzzle, and having them come together perfectly. It takes a deity indeed to have all that prescience.
The way the plot played out here was quite fun (and I secretly wish, again, that we spent more time in Jumadeung and less with the case of the week), but the end result is that Joong-gil takes on the “punishment” that was intended for Ryeon. The Jade Emperor skews it so that it looked like he was trying to destroy the RM Team, but really, we all know that evil is currently being outsmarted, and in its place we have redemption for Ryeon and Joong-gil.
Joong-gil is imprisoned and demoted for a month, and during that time, Ryeon goes to see him. Sure the thread of fate between them is long broken — and they both know it now — but there’s still a connection between them.
Joong-gil now understands not only Ryeon’s actions in the past, but understands why the RM team is so important, and why it’s Ryeon’s heart to save people from her very own fate. No one can argue with that, especially Joong-gil, who’s experienced the agony first hand, for lifetimes. When he called her “Ryeon-ah” my heart almost burst. This scene between them is so sad and wonderful. No words.
Thankfully, we close on a slightly lighter note. The RM team is saved, as is the Jade Emperor’s dominion in Jumadeung, and Ryeon has some requests: make their team permanent, upgrade their office, make Ryong-koo a manager, and give her more team members. Because she’s losing one…
Everyone recognizes the extraordinary effort Jun-woong has put in, so the Jade Emperor releases him back to the Land of the Living — all without any pomp and circumstance.
Jun-woong wakes from his coma, returns to his life, gets the corporate job he once dreamed of, and we even have hints that his fate just might be connected to Choi-hui after all (he keeps winning tickets to her concerts).
Jun-woong doesn’t remember a thing, which is a little sad, but certainly as it ought to be. However, old habits die hard — and Jun-woong’s loving heart is ever the same. As the drama ends, we see him reaching out to a miserable and lonely coworker, befriending him, and essentially saving his life. Ryeon, Ryong-koo — and Joong-gil! — look on proudly. Jun-woong might have no clue who they are, but they’re looking forward to working with him again in 50 years after he’s lived out his natural life.
And that’s it, folks! I found it a satisfying ending that hit all the points I wanted, based on what the drama was willing to give us. Of course, if I had my druthers, I would have switched up the drama to maybe only 40% cases and the rest all the potential in the Jumadeung and past storylines, but viewers can’t be writers, and instead I’ll happily take the heartfelt moments of this drama and smile back on it fondly.