13 April 2015


Shine or Go Crazy - Episode 24 FINAL (A SqueeCap)

Posted by Kakashi Sensei on April 13, 2015
We're at the end of a (too) long road and I am still laughing at how much RAGE this episode created. Way to go, MBC! Piss everybody off! Hey, but I can't even say that this episode was the worst of them all (I guess it helps if you don't root all that much for the OTP)! I can't even say I hated it. I do understand though that for everybody in denial and/or Hyuk-fever it took this episode to make clear what was clearly visible before: this drama derailed somewhere in the middle and never got back on track. And yet, I will fondly remember. How could I not. Seriously ... Jang Hyuk is glorious.
He was magnificent. I don't have rage over the ending. I have quibbles. I have snark. I don't have rage. I described it as An After School Special Edition of SoGC. 
S@ki6: It's over, it's over, I take it now it's over! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOlBheJB3ww

Episode 24 - The Last, The End, Goodbye. 

Shin-yool falls unconscious (I can't take my eyes off the little bird in the picture, did you see it!? (No, but nothing will get me back there to look.) It's on top of the waterfall!) and Wang So starts calling her name, again and again. First, "Gaebon-aaaaah", then, "Yool-ah". I'm glad you did get to call her that after all. He kisses her ... nothing. Hm. He continues saying that he loves her and then, finally, she does open her eyes.
Urgh. Why didn't she just die already?
I wanted her to die as well, but not in the last episode, and not for the same reasons you want her to die, Saki.
The treatment worked, her health is improving. Thanks to the extreme cold cure, her blood is now flowing more freely. Gotta remember that for next time I feel my blood isn't flowing as it should.
Actually, this is a thing. Cold bathing gets circulation moving, improves general health and stimulates collagen. Chincha.
Except for the times it practically kills you and causes you to faint every time you feel a breeze thereafter, apparently.
Time for a bit of pillow-talk about past hardships of Balhae Princesses, about why she didn't want him to know about it. The gist of this (and important for their whole relationship: she always wanted him to just be happy and carefree with her, as So So Hyungnim. You know what that means? Their love might have been real, but they lived an illusion from the very beginning. Their relationship is escapism, but not made for the real world). 
Sorry, what?
Well duh. We knew they couldn't be together all along. I guess he was the only one who didn't know.
The two runaway slaves/conscripts both go to Chunghae Town, because they believe that Wang So has an army there. In fact, that seems to be the rumor of the day: even Kil-bok believes in it. Of course, Wang Toad is behind it all. In any case, this riot is really a slooooooooow starting riot, isn't it?
As far as riots go, this was a downer.
It's not a riot if you're just wandering in your yard crying for your princess.

Wang So is on his way back to the capital (faaaaaaaast). There, Wang Toad is slooooooowly getting ready to move. He has the slave-ledger - and those slaves = warriors that Shin-yool and Wang So prepared. Now that Shin-yool is dead, those soldiers = rioters. Yeah, we already know all this, drama ... Anyway, Wang explains this to his cronies, including the part with the private army and that he will crown himself King.
If he must...
I liked the side-eye there. They aren't too pleased with his plan.
Wang So has arrived at the Capital and orders Kil-bok to get Gyu-dal and Gang-Myeong, who are to convince the Chunghae Towners that Shin-yool isn't dead. He himself hurries on to the King: time is short, because Wang Toad's army will be here by nightfall. The King is shocked to hear about the rebellion - and even more shocked/sadly amused by the fact that he had no clue. He calls himself a puppet king and wants to be alone for a moment.
Guess Kingie needed to soothe his feels. 
He's doing a big thing, a good thing. He had dreams and he wasn't able to keep them going. I think he deserves a minute, poor guy.
Outside the chamber, a confused Wang So asks Ji-mong what's going on and receives the cryptic answer that the King is preparing himself mentally to make the final decision. And shortly after, King Jeongjong is indeed ready: Here, So ... have the throne. Resistance is futile.
Why So couldn't have been named king way back when the First King apparently wanted him to be it has been beyond me this whole time.  Really, why go through all this?
The King died right after Wang So arrived, which was sooner than expected (the dying was) - at that time Wang So would not have been accepted as King nor would he have had the support to take it. So this guy kind of filled in the gap.
By threatening their total extinction, Yeo-won is starting to sway Wang Toad's supporters. (She was so cool.)  The battle draws nearer ... and our Chunghae Family is going to Chunghae Town as told. Even Gyu-dal takes heart and comes along. The rioters start cheering immediately when they see Wang So - all thanks to the runaway conscripts, who calmed down the villagers. 
Everybody Roy Chung tonight!
The next day, Poong leads Wang Toad's army into the city (well, army is a bit too enthusiastic for a maximum of 50 soldiers) and positions them in front of Chunghae Village. The villagers are waiting and ready ... the Righteous Men among them and Wang So up front. Poong expresses doubts to his father (especially since the other nobles haven't come yet), but Wang Toad orders the attack. Swords are drawn - when Wang So shouts to stop.
And here begins the 'very special edition' portion of our show, where the boys and girls learn that they don't have to fight each other, and that they're far more similar than they are not.
The King's sword in hand, he steps out towards the "enemy" soldiers (who slowly recede) and calls out to them, reminding them who their true master is (the King of Goryeo). He promises to send them home to their families. No more shedding blood among the citizens of Goryeo. And to show he really means it, he throws away his sword. The whole village follows suit and discards their various weapons.
Good thing this isn't reality where they'd have been slaughtered immediately. 
But no, Roy Chang had that one conversation with that tall guy from his home town (he was Polar Bear or whatever in Choi and Prejudice - the one Choi thought was trying to murder him, but he was really just investigating his OWN brother's death.) Anyway, it's all good. They're buds.
Wang Toad has had enough now! He'll kill everyone that refuses to attack! Attack, you vermin! But his soldiers don't budge, not even his Red Assassins. Having a rage fit, he mows down one of his own soldiers who happens to stand next to him. Baaaaaaad idea, Wang Toad.
Sure because now everyone can compare his behavior to Wang So, and may I SAY that Jang Hyuk is looking pretty Kingly right now?
After that, everybody in Wang Toad's camp is like "why should we kill each other? Why should we be evil? Let's not!" and also drops their swords. Wang So just stands there, observing. Let's have another pic, shall we?
Sure, why not. They all look cool like that.
It looks like an album cover for some moody, cos-playing indie band. 
A few have swords left (including Poong and Wang Toad) and finally, some fighting occurs between the Righteous Men and the Red Assassins. Of course, it doesn't matter that the "good" ones are unarmed now, they have no problem fighting swordsmen. Why shouldn't they. See, Wang So even just catches Wang Sik-Ryeom's arm and orders him to put his sword down since everything is over. And because he is dead afraid of "the citizens" in form of Chunghae Town, he surrenders. It's over! Everybody can go home now! Goodbye!And you know what? Wang Toad was also doing it for Goryeo! We just all misunderstood him!!
Sure, he's not an evil, murderous beast at all. Riiight. I didn't buy his complete surrender after an entire life of scheming and murdering either. 
No? You didn't buy his sniveling, half-crazed outbursts? Poor, poor, misunderstood Uncle Fuckwit.
After walking away, Wang So reports to the King, who thinks he did well. Yeah, I guess he did. Wang So turns down the offer for a banquet - he has a place to be. That place is in the forest with Shin-yool and he reports with pride: all is well in Chunghae Town. (btw, am I overdoing it with Jang Hyuk pictures? No? Exactly: no.)
How could you ever? I did feel that this was rather insensitive of Wang So. He couldn't swing by the castle to take a minute or an hour and thank Yeo Won for her help? I mean they are ALLIES now and she risked her neck to help his beloved, multiple times.
Well, now that he has saved the Kingdom, he wants to have a little fun - and he carries Shin-yool into the hut, to do it properly this time. Wow, Baek-Myo even brought the wedding garb! Just because. She really should get a pay-raise! They reminisce a bit about the first time they got married, exchange rings, and then consummate. I think they ran out of money for proper lighting. Still, I screamed "Jang Hyuk, marry me! Marry me!" nonstop during this scene.
I thought they were going to bore me to death with the reminiscing.
You just wanted them to get right down to business. I get it.
And now, the WTFuckery truly starts. He tells her he is King and wants her to come with him, to live with him in the palace, with free access to Chunghae Trading Company. He is full of excitement about his new position (you don't say) and admits that he has been thinking about what he'd do as a King every day. She tells him to continue dreaming as he is now, to lead the nation into a great future.Well, there's a little something she isn't telling him in that moment.
I've got nothing because I tuned them out. 
Sure, just come move in, let's ignore the really awkward situation of how I adore you and only tolerate my official first wife, who is grieving for the loss of her great love, who died because of YOU, stupidly. Not your fault, Shin Yool, not at all... but still, it's got to rankle her.
She does tell her family some time later and it is this: she will not go to the palace. She wants to go travel the world. To learn about its people and, especially, about trade with these people. The Chunghae Familiy thinks it's a great idea.
Never have I ever felt so let down by a woman choosing her own path in a K-Drama. I feel terrible that I hate this, but hate it I do. She should have died! She should have inspired Hyuk and Wook and every one else by her death!
She tells Wang So that he has to hold hands with many citizens, but she's not going to be one of them. She has a dream of her own new world like he has his. There is not just one path for lovers to walk together. And because the memories of him are blooming like flowers in her heart, she isn't even all too sad to be leaving him.
Despite the fact that she couldn't stay away from him without tears and collapsing into death like sleeps, she's suddenly ok with all this. I agree she shouldn't be in the palace, really that's not it. But she's all excited and happy to be going off and living life without him, and that I don't buy.
Also leaving: Wang Wook. To where the wind blows him. He will learn how to live for himself (something that Yeo-won says she'll never be able to do).
Until he returns to marry his other brother's daughter, get exiled, and generally be annoying in a middle-aged Emo way. He'll go back to wearing purple, too. 
But right now he's in an ashram in India, learning to be a better Buddhist. He may start a little business exporting trinkets. He's been trying to get in touch with Shin Yool to see if she wants to partner up on that but you know, no email yet. It's hard.
And thus, Wang So finally becomes King. Before his coronation, he tells a dishevelled and outraged Wang Sik-ryeom that he is the past and that the past has to open the door for the future (= Wang So). And all the nobles better bow down to him, the new King, or else. And together with his wife (who says she is as alone as can be, since she has no family left and nobody that shares her thoughts), he gets ready for a loooooong war.
Yeowon's being Emo too since she has an alliance with her husband, a loyal maid, and an entire clan. At least she looked stunning. 
She's gorgeous. But Se Won is dead and her husband loves a woman who won't even stick around for him, so that's gotta burn.
Years later, Wang So has grown an ugly beard, wars a LOT of guyliner and still isn't over Shin-yool. 
I was so angry at his disrespectful behavior there.
In quiet moments, he goes into the room formerly known as Wang Toad's lair, in which he has displayed Shin-yool's wedding garb, takes out the butterfly necklace (which is whole) and stares at it. And then, we circle back to the very beginning, when the cheeky kids (his? Must be, because otherwise they could'nt just run around the throne room.) break into the secret room and touch the holy things, breaking the butterfly necklace. An ancient Ji-mong comes out of nowhere and tells them this is Wang So's secret leisure room. But the butterfly necklace was always broken in two and there's a looooooooong story to it. After he told them (what we just saw), he ends by saying that the one your are fated to meet will eventually come to meet you, even if you try not to. That is destiny.
And fuck you up for the rest of your life, I guess.
And as the yellow-flowered trees bloom, Shin-yool and Wang So meet again. He apologizes that it took him so long to get there. It's fine, hyungnim, she answers - and smiles. To see her again makes him happy. Oh yes ... it makes her happy, too. And they hug. Happily. 
So, they're dead now?
That's what I assume.


Hahahaaa, alright. Let me comment on this episode before I comment on the whole drama. So we got a lot of closure and at the same time none. What happened to Poong? Why was Wang Sik-Ryeom not killed in the most brutal way? What happened to Chunghae Trading Company after Shin-yool left with Kyeong? When did Wang So finally decide to sleep with his wife and make babies? What happened to King Jeongjong?
I'm guessing Poong and Wang Sik-Ryeom were horribly killed, the Chunghae Trading Company continued business somehow (maybe Gyu-Dal unleashed his hidden business acumen), Wang So & YeoWon made babies asap to secure the throne, and the former king was exiled to a distant palace since ex-kings are annoying.
I don't think they were killed - he wasn't imprisoned, after all.

In all seriousness, this is not the worst of final episodes that I have seen. (It might've been the worst I've ever seen.) But it definitely contains by far most anticlimactic battle that was ever shown on TV.
With you on that! Actually, the whole thing was completely anticlimactic. Even Shin-yool's decision. At that point, I was just "alright! good! You're leaving!". But in fact, the whole thing sense it makes not. I get the feeling that just like with Se-won, they did not really know what to do with her. I do get that she doesn't want to live as a second wife in the palace. I wouldn't want that either. But hey, what about the epic love? It does not make sense at all if you consider 24 episodes of the whoel fated "I love you more than life itself" stuff. If you love somebody that much, you stay. At Chunghae or where ever and have yourself a good time. You go travel a bit and then return, have sexy times, and enjoy each other's company. The big question is this: Why could they not let her die? Was there something in Oh Yeon-Seo's contract about it? Having her die would have been by far the more honest and satsifactory end to Shin-yool next to Gwangjong of Goryeo.
At one point earlier, I thought Yeowon would die and Shin-yool would take her name and place. Crazy, but at least not boring. Anyway, I think ShinYool couldn't die because On Yeon-Seo's fanclub would've torched the MBC offices. Or, the writer was such a romantic, he or she couldn't bear for ShinYool to die. At any rate, her being sick, about to die, didn't die, now off to study abroad because somehow she's no longer necessary to her own business, sorry, but what?
I wanted her to die earlier in the series, so that we could have had the last few episodes BE the epic battle that was due us, as well as satisfying bromance amongst former enemies.

So she condemned him to a "long" life (he lived to about 50) of heartbreak? Great. And nice. That last scene does not really make up for that. Nope, it does not. The comment that it took him "a long time" seems to indicate that we are in the afterlife, in which Wang So looks good again. A different interpretation could be that its in the past during one of her many booty calls. That's for all of you who wanted a happy OTP.
I think they were together in death, and really, that's why we suffered 24 episodes of this prolonged and extremely tedious romance? Come on.
Never fear, children! If you can't be with them in life, you can be with them in death!

Final Comments

Let's honor the good first!

Jang Hyuk: Yes, Jang Hyuk was glorious throughout the entire drama (and looked better and better as time went on). He carried this show and he showed superb acting (most of the time), even though the tiredness clearly got to him in the end. Ever single one of his scenes with Ryu Seung-Soo were pure acting-delight and I do hope to see these two together again in a drama or movie. 
Actually, Jang Hyuk is not my type. I thought he was and I really thought I'd love him in this, but I don't think I ever want to see him again in anything ever. Except maybe that "Please Teach Me English" movie. Caveat: Jang Hyuk seems like he's made for the theatre. So, perhaps if I knew Hangul better, I'd try to see him on stage.  Just not in a drama.  Ever. I like him best in sageuk. I saw him in Chuno (yes!) and then IRISII where I thought he was a drooling idiot. And then of course FTLY. Gun. Sigh.

Lee Honey: The biggest surprise for me. Not that I have followed her career closely, but she really gave her character so much depth, I loved it. 
Ever since Modern Farmer, I've been smitten. She's just so charming. And for anyone else fangirling over her, here's her fusion Korean-hiphop music performance with Epik High: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMPoq_QYxkw . That's her playing the harp in hanbok because she's a genius like that. 
It's what she went to school for - her mother was declared a national treasure. I liked her very much here - she really gave everything for it.

The side-characters: I liked almost all of them, even though I found Se-won the most boring. Yeah, sorry S@ki. (It's true, he was boring.  But I have hopes for the actor's next drama!)  The award for the best side-character goes to Gyu-dal though (or rather, Heo Jeong-Min), who was hilarious when there was enough time for him (which there often was not).
Right, I'll look up Heo Jeong-Min because he was awesome. I hope he does more Goryeo-era stuff because he looked fabulous.
I find him irritating in all but small doses. Se Won didn't get to do much, but I want to see that actor again in something more active for himself.

The OST: I love sageuk OSTs and often listen to them when I work. 
I liked this one, yes.

And now for the bad...

The length of the drama: If I look back, I realize that the show started to go downhill sometime around episode 15 or 16. Clearly, there simply wasn't enough story for more than 16 episodes (maximum) and the crossdressing shenanigans, the whole poisoning/antidote plot, and that stupid riot/not-riot at the end were desperate attempts to stretch very little to over 24 hours.
The crossdressing was the worst! Oh Yeon-Seo should never, ever do that again. She looked like a plucked chicken. It was awful. And this drama could've been cut down to 8 episodes. Maybe even a mini-series of 3. Or a movie. Or, a short. 
I think that's an exaggeration but certainly somewhere between 16 and 20 would have been better. 16 if it was THIS story, 18-20 if it was a better version of this story. 

The writing: See above. There were a few good and some very good episodes, but overall, the writing is lacking. Most obvious in how Se-won died and that Shin-yool didn't die. Also, for a drama about a prophecy, that prophecy played a really minor role overall. Were both of these women necessary for him to become King or just one? In my opinion, he needed both. Shin-yool transformed him into a man willing to change his own fate. But Yeo-won made it possible for him to become king.
Honestly, I would not have had two women: one could've combined both functions of transformation and making it possible. Or, the willingness to become a man who would change his fate could've come from his experiences as Righteous Man and from court politics while the one woman made it possible for him to become king.
Can't actually argue with that. A lot of Shin Yool's ideas inspired Wang So, but he could have been inspired by observing citizens while working as a Rightous Man. 

Shin-yool: I did not hate her character like so many others, but I did grow more and more indifferent to her fate over time. I liked that she was an independent woman with a great ability to do trade, but I hated her weird passiveness coupled with her "I'm going to die"-depression towards the end. The whole thing with her illness was just so stupid. When it was convenient to the story, she fell ill, when other stuff was going on, she was fine without a trace of illness. And why did we even need to bother with it if she gets cured at the end? I don't know whether part of my indifference is Oh Yeon-Seo's portrayal of this character or whether it simply was the script, but if she had been written (and acted) differently, the drama could have been several notches better.
The writing for the character was weak as you described, so on the one hand, I don't blame On Yeon-Seo, but on the other hand, I don't think I like her much as an actress. I don't think I'll be going, "Oh Yeon-seo's in that new drama, I must watch it!" anytime soon. As for Shin-Yool the character, I nearly always wanted her to go away.
Agreed that her illness was very contrived and pointless. She's okay as an actress it's just that sometimes she just looks vacant. And vacuous. I saw her first in Jang Bori and it's funny you say you wouldn't watch something just for her because I do feel that way about the OTHER actress in Jang Bori - I did hate the character back then but always loved the portrayal, and I can't say the same for Oh Yeon So.

Alright, see you next time, chingus! 

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