Finis Origine Pendet

The End Depends on the Beginning –

Except in K-dramaland, where sometimes the end is a truly confounding or bizarre event that has viewers scratching their heads or fuming years later.

I was reminded of this recently when I happened to link back to an epic series of posts on dramabeans about My Love Patzzi, which revolved in part about whether Jang Nara ended up with Kim Rae Won or no one. Years and several hundred comments later, the camps are still divided on that question. (For the record, Kim Rae Won FTW!).

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So, here are some of the more confounding and infuriating endings that have graced the annals of K-dramaland history. Be warned – spoilers ahoy!

I enter into evidence – Sang Doo, Let’s go to School. After much travail, Rain gets out of jail and is met by his love, Gong Hyo Jin, who crosses the street to meet him. And then they are both hit by a truck.

Seriously.

I kid you not. And to top that, there’s a time leap to a narration of their little girl Bori (ok, who isn’t theirs, but roll with me here) talking about her new life with her new family and she can’t see her Daddy anymore.

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But then, we then see Rain and Gong Hyo Jin as a guard and teacher at a school, then with them and a baby strolling through the golden countryside. As Bori’s voice over says goodbye, we switch to a scroll over the screen of a message thanking everyone who supported their love (normal for a show thanking their viewers) and then it ends, “from Eun Hwan and Sang Doo in a world without despair.” Yeah.

This ending has caused hair pulling all over the globe. First you get the WHAT! and randomness of both of them getting hit by a truck just as things might be looking up, and you escalate it to the WTH? of the ending bit. Much has been written as to exactly what was going on in that last episode. Personally I gave up trying to figure it out when they got hit by the truck.

Lovers in Paris – where we follow the Cinderella story of Kim Jung Eun as she meets not one, but two gentlemen in Paris: Park Shin Yang – a rich car executive whose maid she becomes and then through a series of weird events his faux-ish girlfriend; and Lee Dong Gun – a musician and nephew of the first gentleman.

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All goes according to K-drama requirements until episode 20, where, at the very end, a curious thing happens. We reset back to Paris, and our characters meet up after the required time leap and comment that no matter when or where, they seemed fated to meet. And then suddenly we skip to Kim Jung Eun arriving in Paris, and some near misses meeting him, and we see her typing all of this as a story into the computer on his desk and realize she’s still the maid at his place as she breaks his glasses as she did near the beginning.

Oh really? It was a story she was writing? But then she sees an announcement in the paper for the Cinderella marriage of the first iteration of the story, complete with the photos of him and her. As she leaves, he arrives, and reads the same article. The almost but not quite identical scenes from the beginning, with her tossing a coin in asking to find a love like in her screenplay, whereas in the beginning she asked to find a rich man.

Okay then! So, on the one hand, it’s a screenplay, but on the other, the newspaper shows an article about them. Fantasy? Reality? The circular nature of fate? Oh for heavens sake, pick one! This isn’t Rough Cut, which played with the notion for an entire film. It’s an ending twist that went nowhere.

High Kick Through the Roof – a series that was recent enough that mere mention of it can make otherwise normal people foam at the mouth. After 125 episodes of a sitcom and the usual confusion and angst, in episode 126 the family moves abroad amid tearful partings, Daniel Choi is driving Shin Se Kyung to the airport in the rain. Then, we hear a traffic report of a crash near the airport. Then, a time leap of 3 years. Jung Eum and Ju Hyuk mention they wonder about the “what ifs.” Then we skip back to see that what happened that rainy day – as they were driving to the airport Se Kyung told Daniel Choi that she weighed the reasons for going vs staying, and she thought of staying because of him. That she liked him a lot. Much tearful confession in the car, and she says at least she got the chance to tell him, yada yada.

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As she mutters that it would be nice if time stopped for a moment, he looks over at her – and the show freeze frames on that. Poof. Ends. We are left to deduce that they died in the pileup. OMG! If you could have bottled the outrage that ending caused, you could fuel a power plant. 125 episodes of sitcom-ish-ness, and 1 of parting and the expected time leap twist of perhaps the OTP finally returning or whatever and NO!!! Holy freaking cow.

Sungkyunkwan Scandal – don’t brickbat me here, people. I loved 15 1/2 episodes of that show, but then the time leap at the very end added even more WTH onto the pile. Now, why the writers changed the perfectly decent ending from the book to one that made very little sense is anyone’s guess. The final time leap adds insult to injury. The book (if anyone cares) ends with all four of them going to work in the King’s library, Sun Joon and Yoon Hee married, with her identity known to the boys but unmentioned, and no one else the wiser.

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The last episode of the show, after the not so secret delivery of the document, and discovery of her identity (double head-desk), gives us a time leap that has our lovely Horsie in the guards (rocking the hat, I must say), Yong Ha in the marketplace advising on fashion (WTF!) amid lovely fabrics, and Yoon Hee and Sun Joon as married professors at Sungkyunkwan with her identity known. What? Eh? Where did that come from? The ending was not only out of place but didn’t make it ANY sense to have a female teacher, and essentially made a mockery of the rest of the show. The very last scene was a win for fan service, and that was about it.

I Need Romance – not this badly you don’t. This little cable show was about Sun Woo In Young, who dumps her boyfriend when he cheats. She finds a handsome, younger, rich boyfriend who she then dumps when it becomes apparent that she just doesn’t fit into his world. Ok fine? Then, in a move that stuns with stupidity, given that she’s just announced that she values herself too much to change for rich new boyfriend, she TAKES HER RAT BASTARD EX BACK. Yes, I’m yelling.

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Think about this for a second. She spent 15 episodes getting rid of the guy, and then takes him back? She takes him back? What happened to the 15 episodes of preaching that you value yourself more than this? To add to the glaze of WHAT! on this show, the other couples that end up together are screwed up as well.

Bad Guy – those who know me know that I try very, very hard not to think about this show. It was so screwed up that it broke my brain. However, when I asked around, it rose to the top of the list of screwed up endings. To be honest, it could almost be eliminated from this list on the grounds that the entire second half of the show just completely fell off the cliff, and that the ending was just icing on the WTF cake – but no. So, here goes.

At the end of Bad Guy, Kim Nam Gil is shot by his own younger sister, who goes on her merry way through life. He crawls off and dies by the river, and his body goes unidentified. His girlfriend waits for him to return, his step-mother gets out of jail after serving 5 seconds, and his not-brother moves away to restart his life.

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Are you with me here?

On the whole, that second half of the ending almost makes some sense, except for the fact no one seems to be looking for a missing man at the morgue. It’s the getting shot by his younger sister and her going on her merry way that makes no sense. First of all that little sister is supposed to be on another continent. Secondly, she somehow went from doting on her family and brother to wanting to shoot him. That only makes sense if she’s the only one who is uninformed that he’s her real brother. Except that at that point everyone else knew. And the going on her merry way also only works if she didn’t know, plus it’s out of character with her personality.

Now, since the whole show pretty much didn’t make any sense from the moment Kim Nam Gil’s draft notice hit them, expecting the ending to make any sense is futile, but in context it’s just more WHAT? that added to the disaster that was that poor show.

Ok, that description almost makes sense. But trust me when I say that, in context, especially given that they were using a bad body double for Kim Nam Gil, it’s just a big bowl of nonsense topped with the whipped cream of bizarre.

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After polling various people, other nominations for endings that made people go SAY WHAT? include: IRIS, wherein Lee Byung Hun is shot to death by a sniper within sight of the lighthouse where Kim Tae Hee is waiting for him to propose to her; Autumn in My Heart, which is a case of massive piling on to the pile of grief at the end; Sweet Spy, when the girl police officer gets a phone call using her nickname from the supposedly dead Dennis Oh (who I have a severe allergy to, otherwise I’d probably have included a longer description of the sheer EH?-ness of this ending); Marry Me, Mary, where the plot for the entire show went south to the point where the cast rewrote the last episode to make it somewhat coherent; Warrior Baek Dong Soo, where you go almost immediately from the tragic death of one of the main characters, to happiness and sunshine at Samo’s for a wedding; and finally Assorted Gems, where in many of the main characters apparently had personality transplants 2/3 of the way through the show and ended in the finale with a time leap to one of the spunkier girls visiting her Mom’s grave, pregnant and married to someone we all hated for most of the show.

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Feel free to add your own favorite puzzlers to this list, or vent, or otherwise enjoy – because this trip down memory lane has sent me to rewatch Damo, a drama that is beautifully crafted from beginning to end, and will hopefully act as brain bleach for some of these doozies.

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132 thoughts on “Finis Origine Pendet

  1. Well I had the fortunate (read UNFORTUNATE) luck of choosing Bad Guy as my first k-drama. I went from KNG is so sexy so cool to WTF?????!!!! Seriously?…….Why?… I may have dropped k-dramas if it had not been the fact I had been through wackyville while watching PASSIONS (who remembers the Vincent he/she/it storyline? No one? *crickets* Ok). I decided to try QSD and have been hooked ever since.

    SKKS: I thought I was the only one who thought the ending did not flow with the story. I was disappointed. They should have handled it better. What was the ending in the book?

    Damo: I know am in the distinct tiny minority (made of only me) but I hate this drama with a passion! I don’t think I have watched another drama where my love for it turned to hate and I felt so used and abused.

    EotS: I can understand the male lead’s demise but all of them? Really? They had to go there?..[.WTFville]^2

    • Thundie – avert your eyes if you are still watching EotS!!!

      Damo and EotS have deeply tragic endings, as opposed to WTF ones. Damo actually starts at the end, so you know more or less what is coming. EotS holds a special place in my heart as my very first k-drama, and it addicted me to sageuk. (and yes, everyone shipped the pirate. Poor Yum Moon.)

      EotS also taught me that with sageuk, it’s best to think of it like Hamlet – it’s gonna be a tragedy, and it’s probably gonna end with just one Horatio standing there declaring that he’ll tell this story and history will remember them.

      • I know sagueks are tragic just thought they overdid EotS with all only 2 people surviving out of those thousands.

        The reason I hate Damo is the writing as it had a lot of plotholes in my opinion and I didn’t but the ending as no brother would tell his sis that at that time. So I thought the whole thing was unnessesary plus the hour it took for Naauri to tell him the truth. Wasn’t happy with the fauxcest cave either where she almost dies then saved, then its his turn yadayadayada, etc. So Damo was WTF to me.

    • I’m not in the hate club of Damo, but I do not like it. And I seriously warn anyone before watching it. It hurt so much there have been other dramas I avoided completely.

  2. EotS is one of my all time sentimental favorites. I was actually rooting for JBG to die. I never got over the whole branding thing. Really, having to listen to JBG go on about how he was a slave and had been branded for like 38 episodes. And what does he do when he captures his enemy? Why he brands him and makes him a slave. I’d have had more respect for JBG if he had just killed Moon outright. I probably wouldn’t have liked him any better though since I thought he became sanctimonious prig in the later part of the story. It didn’t help that I was shipping Moon, the pirate/ninja/assassin like crazy. 🙂

    It did teach me to start a Saguek with the assumption that all my favorite caracters will probably not make it out alive. So anytime they they don’t die it’s a WIN! 🙂

  3. After reading your recaps on Warrior BDS, I really missed your writing. I have to say I haven’t seen all the series mentioned in your post but some I have.
    First of all, the most recent one with a bad ending- our lovely WBDS. No comment there, except “Fuck you, Cho Rip!!!”. Bad guy was indeed terrible at the end and “Let’s go to school, Sang Doo” was a complete mess. I mean, were they dead or not?
    I’ve recently seen “Birdie Buddy” and that has a stupid ending, too. The male lead chooses the female second lead instead of the protagonist and I was like “what? I didn’t even know he loved her”.

  4. I agree with the Bad Guy ending. My head hurt just trying to figure out what had happened and trying to make sense of the ending. Lovers in Paris I saw an episode but it did not interest me that much.

  5. It occurs to me now that there is a dissertation waiting to be written for some media arts major on the history and psychological use and abuse of the time leap in k-dramas. I remember talking to someone years ago about Coffee Prince, who opined that the 2 year time leap is a philosophical stand-in for military service. I’m not buying that really, although it’s an interesting argument. But there is also the other, related, trope of coming back after X years of no contact and expecting to pick right up where they left off.

    • Oh my god that drives me crazy, because it’s an example of kdrama logic that would never fly in real life. In what universe can you break up with someone and/or disappear for 2, 3, even 5 years (Lovers in Prague, I’m looking at you) and still have an expectation of getting back together, or even having a chance with that person? I don’t care what kind of noble (read: stupid) reason you had for your actions. If you wanted to make that decision, you should have accepted that the relationship would be collateral damage.

      Just like the 2-year time skip is a lazy way of resolving conflict, the ex who reappears after years is a lazy way of introducing conflict to a relationship. Usually because the writer can’t think of a problem organic to the characters’ relationship and there are too many episodes to fill before the Happily Ever After. Which is why extensions are so detrimental.

      • Exes reappearing annoys me so much. They’re such an overused and easy plot device and so unrealistic. In real life, you break up and find someone new and the ex has no claim on you anymore.
        I really wish shows would actually use extensions to the stories benefit. In theory, they seem great because you get more of your favorite show but usually what you get is not worth it.

  6. Pingback: Hitting all the right notes – thundie's prattle

  7. Warrior Baek Dong Soo – I just simply erased the last episode. Completely. Fortunately I had been warned before I started to even consider watching most of the above mentioned dramas.

    • WBDS is seriously the worst ending of all kdramas for me. I feel so much for YW the moment he first helped them after going to the “dark side” and then as he did more and more, no one ever seems to know! Then forget abt that but they just had to kill him off in that manner!!! I cried so bad for YSH’s acting was absolutely brilliant, but I was so angry, I felt so much injustice for him that I felt suffocated!! That happy scene after that? I totally just switched the tv off!

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