Why Her?: Episodes 15-16 (Final)
The most anticipated finale of the year has finally arrived, and while most of us have been waiting to be put out of our misery, our leading lady’s angst has only grown exponentially each week. Will she eventually find peace and happiness with her young paramour, or will she set fire to TK Law Firm and go out in a blaze of vengeful glory?
EPISODES 15-16 WEECAP
After last week’s unnecessarily gruesome and tragic final moments, I found myself simultaneously eager to rip off this K-drama Band-Aid and fearful of what I might find underneath the metaphorical bandage. How would the story handle Soo-jae’s grief? Would it be glossed over, or would the writers give it the proper attention it deserved?
Well, I’d say it was more of the latter — assuming we’re measuring solely based on screen time. I sat through approximately thirty minutes of achingly slow — but well acted — scenes depicting Soo-jae’s emotions as she grappled with the tragedy of her daughter’s death. By the time she attends Jae-yi’s funeral, she’s practically a zombie, and she barely flinches when Joo-wan publicly screams at her and blames her for their daughter’s death.
I mean, yeah, the whole Truck of Doom incident could have been avoided if Soo-jae had been holding Jae-yi’s hand, but like all tragic accidents, there’s a lot of should’ve-could’ve-would’ves to be tossed around. As they say, hindsight — and makjang writers — are a b*tch.
Sung-beom and In-soo attend the funeral with their sons, and perhaps one of my favorite scenes of the finale week is when they all sit down with Tae-kook. Dang-oh and Shi-hyuk begin griping about their current scandals, and Tae-kook splashes them with soju, reminding them that they are at his granddaughter’s funeral. I really hate those sniveling twerps, and it was satisfying to see them cower and be put in their place, even if it is unlikely that they felt true remorse. Either way, Tae-kook has a intimidating “you disgust me” face.
While Soo-jae is out of commission, the Group 8 students plow ahead with their investigation and try to find additional evidence to identify Na-jung’s killer. A key piece of evidence that they’ve yet to locate is Na-jung’s vest, which Eun-seo was wearing when she was admitted to the hospital after being hit by the car. If they find the vest, they can tie the two incidents together and establish a motive for Na-jung’s murder. Luckily, Joon-hee is a pack rat and has held onto it for ten years.
Soo-jae’s pain and sorrow have consumed her, and she disappears without telling anyone where she’s headed. The longer she’s missing, the more Chan worries for her wellbeing. His instincts prove correct because Soo-jae has traveled to the beach where she and Chan once had their spontaneous date together, and she plans to end her life.
Even though she had a massive head start, Chan is able to find her and pull her from the ocean. She puts up a fight, but Chan coaxes her out of her pit of despair with a rousing speech about how she should take responsibility for her wrongdoings if she’s so ashamed of them. And, while she’s at it, she should bring down the people who trampled on her and Chan. She’s strong and cool, and she can do anything if she sets her mind to it.
Apparently, Chan’s words were exactly what Soo-jae needed to hear. When we see her next, she has her game face on as she meets with her rag-tag team of student investigators on the eve of her disciplinary trial, which is to be televised (at her request) the same day as Jin-ki’s confirmation hearing as the new Minister of Justice.
Jin-ki and Se-pil plan to use Jin-ki’s hearing to publicize the cover-up of Eun-seo’s rape and (hopefully) present DNA evidence that proves she was in Sung-beom’s house the night of the incident. Unfortunately, before the confirmation hearing, Il-goo identifies Eun-seo and discovers her relationship to Jin-ki and Se-pil.
As a result, Tae-kook has time to come up with a counter attack, and so he exposes Jin-ki’s bribery scandal, proactively discrediting all of Jin-ki’s accusations. Sung-beom’s house, which Se-pil purchased under his American name, is also burned to the ground, and the blood found on Eun-seo’s earring was too old to analyze for DNA.
Back at Soo-jae’s disciplinary hearing, things seem to be going just as poorly. Not only has Tae-kook filled many of the spots on the committee with his own people, but the trial starts with the committee presenting some fairly incriminating evidence that proves Soo-jae has defended her clients using slightly amoral and illegal means. Case in point: the illegally obtained DNA test she used to prove that the plaintiffs suing Hansu Biomedical were frauds — never mind the fact that they were abusing their adoptive son and Soo-jae has been sponsoring the boy ever since.
Soo-jae and her lawyer Mi-rim request an adjournment, and to all eyes watching the trial, it appears to be a last ditch effort to buy time. But we know better. When the trial resumes the next day, Tae-kook watches from the comfort of his office, not suspecting that Soo-jae and Mi-rim will finally go on the offensive and destroy his ass.
They wait for Joon-myung, the chairman of the committee, to mention So-young’s death, and that’s when they unveil their own evidence, starting with a very telling photo of Tae-kook with his arm around So-young. The photograph isn’t enough to prove Tae-kook murdered So-young, but with each new counter argument that the committee — and Joon-wan, who’s allowed to yell things from the audience for some reason — proposes, Soo-jae unveils a new piece of evidence more damning than the last.
It all builds until Soo-jae finally plays a literal video of Tae-kook pushing So-young off the roof… Uhm, why didn’t they just lead with that? Ah, right, gotta make it dramatic.
The video, along with a crap ton of additional audio and video files, were acquired from Il-goo. After his son’s recent death, he was no longer beholden to Tae-kook’s financial support, and he decided to repent and lead a more honorable life. Thank goodness for Il-goo’s change of heart because, even though they matched Tae-kook’s fingerprint to the unidentified one found on the murder weapon, it was Il-goo’s testimony that cinched the case — especially in regards to what happened ten years ago.
For ten years, Il-goo held onto a handkerchief covered in Na-jung’s blood. It’s also stamped with an image of Tae-kook’s ring — which he conveniently still wears to this day. But wait! There’s more!
The night Na-jung was murdered, Il-goo’s gut told him not to trust the shady, murderous lawyer who was bound to make him a fall guy at the first sign of trouble. And so, Il-goo wore a hidden camera when he showed up to help Tae-kook dispose of Na-jung’s body, and footage from that night is played for everyone to see. I think it’s safe to say that Tae-kook will not be able to weasel his way out of trouble this time.
The most surprising part of this reveal is Joon-wan’s response. Apparently, Joon-wan has spent the last ten years thinking he and his buddies were the ones who killed Na-jung, and he’s been kissing his father’s butt ever since as a sort of penance for screwing up so horribly. Because, you know, murder is just a little oopsie, but making his father clean up his mess is the real crime. Ugh, props to this drama for creating some truly despicable villains; it’s one of the few things it did well.
Soo-jae’s trial eventually comes to a close because — to put it simply — it was rigged from the start. Since the proceedings exposed the corrupt dealings of many of the committee members, the committee lost the right to punish Soo-jae.
And what of our main villain? Well, after watching his reputation and empire crumble via live television, Tae-kook swallowed a bottle of pills and chased it with french fries and soju. In his final moments, he calls Soo-jae to ponder how things would have turned out if he’d accepted her as his daughter-in-law, and his last words are to tell Soo-jae that she shouldn’t feel confident that she’s won. Who am I to question a dying man’s unfounded and delusional sense of grandeur, but, yeah — he’s wrong. He won a lot of battles, but he definitely lost the war.
Our other bad guys don’t get any jail time for their crimes, and instead they face a trial by public opinion. It’s a rather frustrating outcome because Jin-ki, on the other hand, does go to prison for his one criminal act.
Admittedly, Jin-ki did face the judge and ask him to issue a severe punishment in order to make an example of him. As a lawyer, Jin-ki believed he should be held to a higher standard, and he wanted his punishment to serve as a reminder to other legal professionals that they should abide by the laws they’re sworn to uphold.
Six months pass — oh, yay, a last minute time skip — and Soo-jae is noticeably happier. Se-pil offers to invest in her law firm and have her on retainer for his company — because Hansu Biomedical is still hounding him after he canceled the buyout — but she rejects his offer. She’s found peace running her own small firm where she has the freedom and autonomy to live for herself and in the moment.
She’s also still teaching, and our drama comes full circle as Soo-jae arrives late to her first class of the semester. Once again she writes “I will never send my client to jail” on the board and faces her students. All the members of Group 8 are seated in the front row, and we learn that Gang-ja was the one with the highest grades last semester. Of course, instead of an internship with TK Law Firm, she will be interning at Soo-jae’s smaller firm — not that she’s upset about it.
Class ends and Soo-jae finds herself without an umbrella in the middle of a downpour, but luckily she’s kept Chan around during the last six months. He shows up with an umbrella — a callback to an earlier episode — but instead of handing it off to her, he puts his arm around her and they walk ~together~ through the rain.
I’m actually pleased that the romance plot ended on a subtle, happy note. Anything more would have just emphasized how glaringly mismatched Soo-jae and Chan were as a couple, and anything less would have made me angry that they included the romance in the first place. I know a lot of people have criticized Hwang In-yub’s acting and placed the lack of chemistry entirely on him, but Seo Hyun-jin didn’t sell the romance either, which leads me to believe the fault lies with the writing.
There were a lot of elements working against these characters and their romantic relationship: the student-teacher power imbalance, age and lifestyle differences, Chan’s blind hero worship, and Soo-jae’s disproportionate maturity and jadedness. Perhaps the worst offense of all, though, was how intimacy was manufactured through the repetitive formula of having Chan comfort Soo-jae whenever an external conflict — and there were a lot of them — made Soo-jae vulnerable and emotional. Aside from (maybe) their date on the beach, I legitimately struggle to think of any scenes where Chan was not acting as either her student or her human handkerchief.
Honestly, this drama dropped the ball on a lot of things — not just the arguably unnecessary romance. The most obvious is Soo-jae’s stint as a law professor, which was inexplicably shoehorned into the plot, but I didn’t predict that Yoon-sang’s character would end up being so disappointing. His relationship with his father and brother was only addressed superficially, and the epic betrayal that I thought we were building up to turned out to be a massive flop. What was the point of having him break into his father’s man-cave if Il-goo was going to swoop in with better, more incriminating evidence?
And speaking of Il-goo, we never revisited the fact that he supposedly hit Chan with a Truck of Doom. I have so many questions about that one flashback scene, but the drama never references it again. It’s like it never happened, which is not only an extremely weird oversight but a missed opportunity. It would have been a great way for the writers to explain that Chan had reconstructive surgery, which resulted in a dramatically altered appearance — a very absurd detail that has bugged me from the very beginning of this story.
Overall, I’m unabashedly disappointed with the decline of Why Her? over the course of its run, but I do want to acknowledge Seo Hyun-jin and Heo Jun-ho’s superb acting. The two of them — and their well rounded characters — carried this drama, and it’s a pity that the script did not match their star power. Given the surprisingly consistent ratings for Why Her?, I can only hope that the drama gods took notice, and maybe one day they will bless us with a better drama starring this duo.