In which I mourn the end of City Hunter

Caveats:

1. This post is not going to make much sense.
2. This post is going to be all over the place.
3. This post contains ending spoilers.
4. The weather outlook (for this post) is teary with a chance of snot.

I put it off as long as I could hold out and then I couldn’t stand it anymore. So I did something that I’ve never done for a drama. I stole a peek at the ending of City Hunter. Before watching Episodes 19-20.

What caused me to be an embarrassment to all card-carrying spoilerphobes was an abject fear…

…that my beloved City Hunter was going to die.

Maybe it started in Episode 18, I don’t know. But the week before the last two episodes, I found myself growing more and more afraid for Yoon-sung. Should he die in the finale, I don’t know how I’m ever going to recover. That fear gnawed at me to the point I wanted to bail out of the drama. Better to remember him alive than to watch him die in the end. Yet I couldn’t just go away without knowing; I loved him too much to do that. So I cheated, randomly picking a scene close to the end. Which happened to be this one:

All fears put to rest, I happily started Episode 19. By the end of the sixty-five minutes my eyes were so puffy I could barely see.

What killed me was remembering one particular scene before Young-joo’s death, where he and Sae-hee were so flushed with joy and hope at the promise of a new beginning for their relationship. Because they had never stopped loving each other, she wanted to be his wife again, to iron his clothes for him, and to see him go off to work from a house filled with each other’s presence and their shared memories. They had a date to keep; he was supposed to return to her side so that they could talk about their future.

I hadn’t noticed Sae-hee’s beauty before, but in that last scene with Young-joo, she was glowing so much she was practically luminous. Despite the bruises on her face, she had never looked more beautiful.

As Yoon-sung cradled the dying Young-joo, all I could think of was Sae-hee waiting for him. How very unfair that our prosecutor, he so passionate about pursuing justice, should have his life snuffed out so senselessly and prematurely. And just as he and Yoon-sung were on the cusp of a new understanding that they weren’t foes but kindred spirits fighting for the same cause!

I love you, Show, but must you be so cruel?

No, that’s not the Young-joo I want to remember.

I want to remember him as he gazed at his Sae-hee, his eyes so gentle and full of love.

Young-joo’s unexpected death brought all my Yoon-sung fears to the fore again. I remembered how frightened I felt watching Lee Jin-pyo being whacked in Episode 17.

No matter how revenge-crazed his character and how seemingly evil he was in setting up the ultimate showdown between Yoon-sung and his biological father, somehow I couldn’t hate him. If someone else played Lee Jin-pyo, maybe. But hate a Kim Sang-joong character? Never.

I watched Episode 20, heart in my mouth, trying to psyche myself (Yoon-sung will be fine! Yoon-sung can’t die!) with little success. I kept wondering if the president would sacrifice his son for his own agenda—a son he never knew he had until now.

Thank you, Show, for denying me the tearful reunion between Yoon-sung and his birth father. What you gave me was tacit acknowledgement, which was enough. Selfishly I didn’t want Yoon-sung calling the president “Dad” or enveloping him in a hug. Because his only dad was the one who raised him for twenty-eight years. Even if Lee Jin-pyo’s sins were unforgivable (depriving Yoon-sung of a mother’s love for so long, among other things), I still wanted Yoon-sung to reconcile with him. Because somehow, over twenty episodes, their relationship had become more central to me than anything else in the drama.

But oh, did the reconciliation have to come at this price?

I didn’t think it was possible to cry more than I had already cried, watching Young-joo breathe his last. Obviously I didn’t know myself. For Pete’s sake, thundie, you picked up City Hunter in the first place because of Kim Sang-joong.

It was clear that Lee Jin-pyo would not survive the gunshots. And having him die would kill me make moral sense, because no matter how supposedly justified his cause, he was blood-thirsty and he would have to pay.

But no, do not take Yoon-sung with you!!

If you ask me what has been my most memorable k-experience this year, I’ll tell you that it’s discovering Lee Min-ho. I still pinch myself that he’s so much more than all my preconceived notions of him. His acting doesn’t blow me away, not yet, but he is far better than I expected and for that I am delighted and humbled. Not once do I see Lee Min-ho in Lee Yoon-sung. He doesn’t look anything like his Boys Over Flowers or Personal Taste roles; neither does he resemble the same face on billboards and standees. Instead his Lee Yoon-sung is somehow older, taller, and more mature. He doesn’t come across as just a pretty face anymore; he looks like a man who has earned the right to be called an actor.

Granted City Hunter the drama does almost everything right in the acting, directing and writing departments. But without Lee Min-ho as THE City Hunter, I’m certain I will not love it as much.

So when the bullet hit him squarely in the chest and he fell, all I could think of in those terrifying seconds was this: “No, no, no. Not Lee Yoon-sung. No!!”

Yet deep down, in a quieter place where logic resides, it feels right should the drama end at that point, with Yoon-sung and Lee Jin-pyo grasping each other’s hand. This is where Yoon-sung belongs, by the side of the father who loved him the longest. Yes, it would shatter my heart should Yoon-sung die, but after everything that had transpired, I could learn to accept that ending. In the ensuing weeks and months, I could even learn to love that ending because it would immortalize the man called City Hunter. In grieving for him I would certainly grow to love the drama even more fiercely.

Because somehow everything felt finished in the scene above.

In Episode 17 when Yoon-sung carried Na-na in his arms and walked that long road to her home, the camera panning away as they disappeared into the distance, it all seemed so final already. He looked so sad, as if that would be the last time they would be physically close. Although he would go on to save her in Episode 18 from a near-drowning, there was very little of our OTP in the last two episodes. Surprisingly I didn’t pine for them as much as I thought I would, perhaps because a part of me was prepared that they could never be together. The ring that his mother gave to him to give to her. Did the writer simply forget about the ring or was it always intended that it would remain forever with him?

In the end the line that resonated the most with me in the entire drama had nothing to do with our OTP. Instead it was what Yoon-sung said to his mom after revealing to her that he knew President Choi was his biological dad. As she wept and apologized, he hugged her and said:

Your being alive… is my greatest joy.

I love the tender way Yoon-sung loves his mom. I love how cute (and cherubic) he looks in a disposable scrub cap.

I love (not!) how easily I find excuses to post more of my Lee Yoon-sung screencaps digress. Sorry!

As I was saying, if the drama had ended in that scene where Yoon-sung and his father were lying all bloodied (and almost certainly dead) on the ground, it would have shattered me but I would have accepted that as the drama’s heartrending but definitive (and also courageous) ending.

So the next scene was nothing short of weird, akin to attending a wake where people were supposed to be sorrowful but instead were smiling too brightly and laughing too loudly, as if to mask their pain.

Na-na’s dad had just passed on but you wouldn’t know it looking at her blissful expression. Ajusshi and Yoon-sung’s mom were going to the States where they would open a restaurant, but he was too chirpy and she was too downcast for me to make sense of the situation.

How much time had passed between the shooting and the current scenes? Did Yoon-sung’s mom, dressed like one in mourning, just return from the wake for Na-na’s dad? Or was she just back from sending away (to the netherworld) someone who had messed up her life and also shot her son? But if it was for Lee Jin-pyo, then the timing was all wrong because how could she go abroad when her son was so badly injured? Or maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he staggered to Sae-hee and she removed the bullet like she had done previously. In just a few days he was good as new.

Oh, I don’t know. I wish the transitions and the ending didn’t feel so choppy and hurriedly cobbled together. They certainly marred what was otherwise a glorious final episode, full of heartbreak and suspense.

Thus, instead of a “9” for overall quality, I would rate the drama “8.999” (a huge difference!). It is still a “10” for how much I love (and miss) it.

In the past few days, as I grapple with the hole in my heart because there’s no more City Hunter to look forward to on my Wednesdays and Thursdays, I’ve been thinking of another drama and subconsciously comparing the two. Hence this debate inside my head:

thundie1: City Hunter is the better drama because I liked it from the start whereas it took about seven episodes before I fell in love with Time between Dog and Wolf.

thundie2: Yes, but City Hunter does not have Kim Gab-soo. Try beating that, ha!

thundie1: Ouch, you got me there. But despite loving more of the cast in Time than in City Hunter, I didn’t feel this giddy. Becoming a new fan of Lee Min-ho is so surreal. No matter how I feel about him months from now, this whole experience is unforgettable. I want to savor every minute of it.

thundie2: Lee Min-ho didn’t overact like Lee Jun-ki did in places, but then again his Yoon-sung wasn’t as anguished or broken a character. You’ve also got to admit that Time was the more gripping drama, with more heart-stopping twists and turns. Those cliff-hangers could kill!

thundie1: I agree the writing and directing in Time were superb. The acting as well. Stylistically and emotionally, the ending was more satisfactory, too. Still, I don’t remember missing anyone there like I’m missing Lee Yoon-sung now.

thundie2: So that’s the whole purpose of this incoherent blog post that you’re writing? To tell everyone that you miss your City Hunter?

thundie1: Yes. You have a problem with that?

Related posts:

City Hunter

In which I surreptitiously suss out Lee Min-ho

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77 thoughts on “In which I mourn the end of City Hunter

  1. I have just bought the DVD for City Hunter and have rewatched the drama twice. Just to see Lee Min Ho again and again. To satisfy my LMH withdrawal syndrome after City Hunter ended. Buying the DVD is cheaper than lying on the shrink’s couch and explaining why the pain left by the ending of City Hunter, refused to go away.

    This is the first time I have ever swallowed my bias against a pretty face and changed my mind about LMH. City Hunter did it for me. I even went to buy the DVD for Boys Over Flowers and am now at Episode 10. I wondered why I was so impatient with Jun Pyo’s cauliflower hair in the past and could not finish the drama. Now I am lapping every line spoken by LMH and loving every of his scene.

    I am beginning to realise that my newfound love for LMH is not a fleeting weakness of the moment.

    I

  2. First and foremost – what does OTP stand for?

    I’m agreeing that Lee Minho has really expressive eyes – particularly in the scene after Lee Yoon-Sung sees a black car with the same license plate as one of the politicians (whose name escapes me, I’m sorry) hit Ahjussi, and he’s punched the mirror is staring quite vengefully into the cracked mirror. That man is one natural actor! ^_^

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