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DDee: So it’s over! It’s time to say good bye to the baby bears! I’m left scratching my head at many things, but I think I’m satisfied. Mostly. I think. I mean, it was a happy ending! And nobody died, which is a good thing. Right?
First, can we talk about Myung Hee for a sec? I was struck by how after knowing everything that Moon Ho has done—dishonouring their friends, tearing her family apart, murder–she thanks him for his care for her and for taking her in when she had nowhere to go. She honoured that relationship, and then she completely burns him by unmasking his lies and telling him his love for her was ultimately twisted and could never be reciprocated. It was a stunning moment. I mean, Jesus what a woman. Just her strength and the finality of her walking away like she summoned up some long-buried something from somewhere, and that look on her face and the fire in her eyes when she says “I don’t trust you”. GUHD. This actress, Do Ji Won, just completely blew me away. This scene had everything I dig in a dramatic reckoning—pathos, power, and the villain’s balls shrinking before my eyes. The one thing that was just shy of reaching perfection here was the actor playing Moon Shit. I mean, for an ensemble cast that’s been tops across the board, he’s been the weakest link. Pity.
Vanessa: YES. This was arguably one of the strongest scenes of the final two episodes for me. I was expecting a speech full of bitterness and rage, but what we got was Myung-hee staying true to herself; that core of dignity and strength that she has. It was actually really touching? I mean somewhere deep in Moon-shit’s twisted black little heart, he genuinely does care about this woman, and she both understands and acknowledges that. She knows he loves her, but in all the wrong ways. He has done so many terrible things in the name of that love. And while she can be grateful and gracious for the things he has provided for her, she’s not going to stay with him out of any sense of obligation or guilt. It was fantastically done.
Also agreed on Moon-shit’s actor – it was strange for me, because while I could understand on some level that the character was a lot more complex than your average kdrama villain (especially when you look at it in the context of him also starting off as a victim of a much larger system of corruption which nudged him along the road of bad choices) but the acting didn’t always seem to deliver.
Sarah: Which is sad really, because I feel like the actor playing young Moon Shik could have brought the fire. Like when he goes from tortured false confession to living and breathing the bullshit in the space of one scene? AMAZING. And yet the actor playing older Moon Shik fell flat. Although I have noticed some drama actors who have been around awhile are stuck in old school soap opera mode, so subtlety isn’t in their wheelhouse. It’s camp or bust (as it were). Maybe that’s this guy’s problem. As for Myung Hee, she rocked that scene OUT. I think they gave her the short end of the stick in later scenes, but this one was on point. I did think that Moon Shik showed a little bit more depth in this scene then he has in pretty much the entire rest of the show. Just the fact that she was telling him that she knew everything, that the jig was up, and he was so deep in his own lies that he didn’t even know how to say what the truth is anymore. I actually felt (a little) bad for him (sorta).
DDee: So even though I wanted to see Moon Shit burn literally and I wanted her to light his funeral pyre, what she did was true to who she was as a person–Myung Hee is just so goddamn full of grace it kills me. Like mother like daughter, right? (And I’m choosing to believe Moon Shit drank himself to death in the Moon mansion, suffocating in his own vomit, which sent lizard face Sec Oh into cardiac arrest because he couldn’t cope with the mess. And he falls face down in Shit’s puke and dies.)
Sarah: That’s pretty dark, sir. I like it. I did wonder if maybe he hasn’t just been doing this since Myung Hee left him. Secretary Oh said he gets that way when he drinks in the evenings. What if he had been drinking every evening (and getting like that) and we just didn’t know? Maybe that’s how he self-medicates when he can’t deal with who he’s become.
Vanessa: That is dark, my friends. And that in his drunken guilt sessions, he refers to himself as Gil-han, and Moon-shik is someone else sitting on the couch across from him. So guilty that he would much rather disassociate (if that’s the word?) because the alternative is to be alone with himself and his thoughts and memories. Moon-shit is going to metaphorically burn in that house, surrounded by all his wealth and trapped in a madness of his own making. That’s punishment enough, I’d say.
DDee: And then, the show gives Myung Hee a hero’s welcome at Someday News! And everyone honours her and the legacy of her work with her comrades all those years ago! That completely just…I mean, I was so proud, and it’s so awesome that Young Shin/Ji Ahn continues her work and follows in her footsteps.
Vanessa: I was swelling with pride when Myung-hee arrived at Someday News! And I was so glad that ragtag little team of people had the chance to meet a flesh-and-blood role model for the kind of work they’re doing now with Moon-ho. I have such a soft spot for them – they were just celebrity news reporters! Barely a step above paparazzi! Just trying to make a living and keep their wives’ chicken restaurants from shutting down (I love that detail so much I don’t know why). They had no higher ideals, they weren’t carrying deep dark family secrets or ancestral legacies of free speech and democracy. They were just doing what they were told to do, initially. But imagine doing those live broadcasts, and every day they get new information and the realization that this work is far, far darker and more dangerous than stalking celebrities on dates. And they stick with it, and they bust ass and make things happen I’m just so proud of them gosh.
Sarah: Also nowhere near as deep and important, but I got all cuted out because Young Shin was gushing to her mom about boys!
DDee: This brings me to the baffling choice the show made not to show Young Shin’s reunion with her mother. So much of the narrative hinged on healing the wounds of the past and bringing families together and it feels like a huge gaping hole that we didn’t see mother and daughter finally being reunited. It’s the moment I was waiting the entire show for. And it’s not just any mother and daughter, it’s THIS mother and daughter!
And I just don’t get it. We had a beautiful scene of Appa showing Myung Hee Young Shin’s baby pictures and it’s implied that Myung Hee knows, but that is not nearly enough by a long shot! And it’s not a matter of the live-shoot system taking its toll in this instance. I mean, they put Jung Hoo’s on-camera interview in there which was sweet and cute but throwaway in the grand scheme of things. So what gives?
And there’s the whole Moon Ho coping to what he did to Noona which happens off screen as well. The show really let Moon Ho get away with a lot of crap. And I know folks will probably say that he’s suffered enough already, but really, who suffered the most here? Where was his mea culpa to the person most deserving of it?
Vanessa: I’m so glad you brought this up because seriously. At first when Myung-hee rolls into the coffee shop, all tears, I was like YES REUNION TIME. And then nobody said anything? I mean there was some crying but then…? The scene with Appa and Myung-hee could have been transcendentally beautiful, you guys. I was ready to start bawling the minute he walked into the room but then it was like oh wait- these people aren’t on the same page yet. Can you imagine if he had just known? Known that he was talking to the birth mother of his daughter?. And he decides to share all these years of Young-shin’s life that Myung-hee never got to live with her? God.
I actually almost wish there had been an extra episode to sort through all the relationships, because there was so much that needed to be shown. You’re so right here because the past, and broken families finding each other and healing, and revealing truths are all such fundamental elements of your narrative and themes. Honestly I would be totally okay with cutting down on some OTP screentime if it meant we could see Young-shin and Myung-hee finally reuniting as mother and daughter. And Moon-ho unburdening himself of 20 years’ worth of guilt. I mean I’m glad he’s not dead and all, but his “atonement” is a pretty huge deal in the grand scheme of things. It’s what essentially kicks off the plot of the show. And it’s a major part of his character arc. Moon-ho coming clean to Myung-hee was one of the scenes I was most eager to see in these two episodes and then… no. It happened offscreen. And as a result his arc feels incomplete to me, and his happy ending almost unearned.
Sarah: Ok so, I’m gonna go ahead and say here that I think the show was tied up a little too neatly. And it’s because of what you both point out. No one we love died (What. When does that happen.), the boy and girl lived happily ever after, and everyone got their just desserts. Except for the one person I really wanted to see get told off. But no. All we get is Moon Ho going off with a “I’ve got something I need to tell you. But not now, ok?” Which is basically the whole problem with his life so far. And then he shows up all smiley pushing Myung Hee’s wheelchair likes he’s Santa Claus bringing Young Shin a present. And no scene AT ALL between him and Myung Hee with any sort of revelation. At this point I really think I could have taken just a scene where she forgave him and that was ir. But nothing? Also has anyone else noticed that Moon Ho is always randomly standing around when Young Shin and whoever else need to have a MINUTE?! I’m like, “Moon Ho get out of the room so they can TALK.” He’s like emotional birth control.
Vanessa: EMOTIONAL BIRTH CONTROL omg. But you’re right, it did feel a little too neat, despite the fact that we didn’t get much closure with regards to many of the important relationship dynamics. I’m okay with nobody dying, I think? But overall the stakes never felt urgent enough, and the Elder & co. takedown was brushed over so quickly that I don’t think I was really able to take them seriously as Big Scary Villains (but perhaps that wasn’t the point? Grandpa himself might just be another cog in the big machine). But it’s going to take a while before I get over the fact that Moon-ho and Myung-hee’s conversation happened off camera.
DDee: I’d say that the show was too neat in all the ways that weren’t important to me. I’d rather the show spent time resolving all the crucial relationships and arcs than launching into a last ditch Evil Elder takedown because he is, as V said, a cog in the machine and as Moon Ho himself indicated as well. I wouldn’t have minded if the show allowed Evil to live another day, and because Omega Holdings is like Hydra–another Evil will take his place–it would’ve made sense. Without the important follow throughs for those characters I care about and spent 20 hours with, the show lacked punch at the final stretch for me.
And speaking of gaping holes, how did Ji Ahn go missing? And why did Shit lie about her death? And that incident and Myung Hee’s accident are not related right? Gees, for once we get no flashbacks when I really could’ve used one! And I could go on about that nonsense with the biological weapon, deadly bacteria, Chinese (Korean? Or was it Russian?) researcher and the Evil Elder take-down (intrigue was never this show’s strength).
Vanessa: Dude don’t even start. This show was going pretty strong on the 1980s timeline until we started seeing more and more of the Elder and his shady goons. I’ve been trying to parse through all this, and the only thing I’m sure of are that Myung-hee’s accident was accidental (after she hid Ji-ahn away and started running to distract the bad guys?). What else? Ji-ahn goes missing after young Moon-shit picks her up from the police station, then stops at a convenience store to buy her a drink. Ji-ahn sees a woman who looks like her mother and chases after her. Moon-shit returns to see no kid, and then simply decides not to look for her. But was this an order from the Elder or just Moon-shit being shitty and relishing in his newfound talent for making shitty decisions? Also I’m curious to know where Young-shin’s memories of being abused fit into all this – was she adopted at least once before Appa found her?
Some flashbacks would have helped a loooot – I was glad to see Young-shin’s Tragic Hot Dad again but sadly he was only a drunken hallucination and not a memory.
Sarah: Okay I think that the bad guys that Young Shin was hiding from found Myung Hee (they were Elder’s goons) and beat her up, as a threat to Moon Shik. And then when she was in the hospital Elder told him that if he said that JH’s dad killed YS’s dad (to cover up the paint thing) they would not only not kill her, but would pay all expenses to get her healed from her “accident”. And YS was adopted before (I think they said she had been several times before Appa.)
Vanessa: Also the stuff about the biological weapon (it was a Chinese-Korean scientist working for a Russian research team, I understood that much at least) felt kind of shoe-horned in, or maybe it was because I was seriously having trouble keeping up with the intrigue/conspiracy elements on this show. There was a point when I had to rewind to make sure I heard it right (deadly bacteria? we’re doing biological warfare now?) because I suddenly thought I had been watching a different show.
The airport shenanigans were tense and nicely planned, but I was put off by the fact that 1) airport security was virtually non-existent, 2) the Double S/Elder goons were just running around in their black leather and crowding up the damn place and nobody finds this suspicious? and 3) that Moon-ho just pulls away some poor random lady to be the scientist woman’s decoy; like dude these people are out to KILL and you’re dragging a clueless civilian into the middle of things when you can’t guarantee her safety what are you thinking. So yeah, the logistics of that could have been handled better.
Sarah: But are we REALLY surprised that Moon Ho pulled in a random bystander to serve his own ends? Also it bugged me that Young Shin was trying to hold the interview in a room that has no door.
Vanessa: On a plus note I was actually really glad to see Yo-yo again! That bit where he silently refuses to eat Ahjumma’s half-consumed kimbap roll will stay in my heart forever.
Sarah: Yo Yo! Oh my Lord and when JH ducked and he got slapped y’all. Those old-school slapstick feels.
Vanessa: In a lot of ways it’s a testament to the strength of this show’s characters that the plot holes don’t hugely affect my ability to enjoy the viewing experience, because I would have been very annoyed with all this happening on any other show. It just feels patchy, a little rushed, and there was the sense that some choices were made that ended up being detrimental to other elements of the show (namely the relationships).
DDee: But let’s get back to talking about people I care about—Ahjumma! Ahjumma finally met Jung Hoo! Yaaaay!
But they didn’t eat together. Pooooh! And it was amusing to see everyone’s reaction to seeing her made flesh like a god descended from the heavens to play with mere mortals LOL. It’s like they couldn’t believe their eyes. You know, I almost wish she didn’t reveal herself to everyone and just kept on being the all-seeing, all-knowing Ahjumma because she lost a little of her mystique. But she needed to meet Jung Hoo, though I don’t think the show did nearly as much as it could’ve with that moment.
Sarah: GAH I DIED. I wanted…well let’s face it. I wanted for JH to go in for an awkward hug and for Ahjumma to dodge it. It would have been just the right amount of something.
Vanessa: They did have a drink together, if that counts? And Ji Chang-wook and Kim Mi-kyung have such terrific chemistry when they’re together in the same space, I really wish there had been more face-to-face interaction between them (what would I give to see Jung-hoo being clingy and affectionate and cutesy at Ahjumma and she just gets progressively more pissed off). The more I think about it the more I wish there had just been more time to get to all the Team Healer shenanigans and do justice to all these relationships.
DDee: Again I quibble but she’s Jung Hoo’s mother and I LUFF HER SO MUCH and she’s such a huge presence in the show that I wanted everything for her. That bit when we see her knitting shrine, I mean, people, she made toys! TOYS! My heart!
Sarah: Her little FACE when she looked at the toys! I had a little heartbreak moment.
Vanessa: And she packed her kimbap roller before going on the run, too, did you see? Priorities!
DDee: And where does she go from here? Now that the anonymity has been compromised, does she continue with Healer 2.0 with Dae Yong? There’s so much more I want to know, which goes to show how strong a character she is, strong enough to merit a show of her own! I’m so ready for The Life and Times of Ahjumma! In fact, any of the women on this show could anchor a drama all their own. But if not I’ll settle for Season 2 with all the women, and Jung Hoo and Young Shin’s Appa i.e. the only two men I like.
Vanessa: Hear hear! And it was both lovely and hilarious that Ahjumma also found the time to gang up with Detective Yoon and boss him around like the old days. I would have liked to see him take more of an active role earlier in the show too, but it was nice to see him still so loyal and admiring of Min-ja after so many years.
Sarah: I’ve been kind of wishy-washy about the detective during the rest of the series, mostly since he doesn’t really get much screen time. But I loved his blind, almost kinky devotion to Ahjumma here at the end. I wish, like with so many other characters, that we got to see him play a more integral part throughout, but I feel like he gave us an opportunity to see a different side of Ahjumma, and he was definitely more gleeful to see her in person than JH seemed to be. Plus, he served as a pretty convenient plot device to get rid of all the crimes of which Jung Hoo is actually guilty. For a little bit I wondered if JH’s little “interview” was something he left for Young Shin to hold onto while he served time, but hey, who complains about OTP cuteness?
Vanessa: And speaking of Dae-young, how great was she this week?? Kicking ass, taking names and snarking back all over the place.
It would have been nice to see a little bonding or moment of acknowledgement-as-equals between Jung-hoo and his (presumed?) successor, but I was just happy to see the girl getting shit done. Did you see her awesome takedown of the blackmailing photographer? And Moon-ho’s expression of dazed, admiring delight? Perfect.
I too wish the show had touched a little bit on the aftermath of the Elder-takedown for characters like Ahjumma and her team. Does she re-establish Healer HQ somewhere else? Does she rope in Detective Yoon as part of her intelligence team and then work with him on actual police cases for his department too? I don’t see her going back to law enforcement or generally having any sort of conventional career at all – she’s far too eccentric and anti-establishment for that.
And cheers to the writer for doing such great work with individual characters on Healer,. After 20 episodes, I can say that I would gladly watch a prequel/sequel/supplementary series about pretty much anybody on the cast; Ahjumma’s adventures, Moon-ho’s twenty years of silence, the rise and fall of Moon-shit, original Team Healer 1980 hijinks, Young-shin’s childhood with Appa and convict ahjusshis, a day in the life of Yo-yo and his Boyband at the Double S offices, how Secretary Oh became the devious lizard-faced bastard he is today, you name it.
DDee: So though it was a patchy ending as a whole, I’m the kind of person who is very forgiving of plot wonkiness if the show’s themes and characters resonate with me, and Healer falls squarely into this category. I really enjoyed the show and at its height, the feels were so off the charts in a way I didn’t even know was possible. And it all started with this OTP. I mean, they were magic. Jung Hoo and Young Shin had a story, a romance that that grew and flourished as they each did as people, just like how actual human relationships function in real life. It’s sad that I suspect a big reason why this OTP and the show caught on (among us international fans at least) is that we rarely get to see a healthy, loving couple in a genre show like this. Starring a decent guy, for once. Maybe that’s it, a nice male lead, and everyone goes ga-ga. And then the swoony skinship–all of that ridiculous almost-chaste hand-holding and petting, and the sickening eye-sexing–the way he looked at her! And their gorgeousness and blinding beauty, just the glamour and the seduction of everything about them. I mean, those two were like my teenage dream come to life.
I think that entire paragraph was me saying I love this pair to bits, but there was just too much filler OTP scenes in the final two eps, time which the show could’ve put to better use elsewhere. Like oh you know, a proper mother-daughter reunion perhaps?
Vanessa: Yeah, this really wasn’t the strongest ending of any drama I’ve watched, but the characters and themes truly made up for it, as you say. When the people who populate your story are this well-defined and lovingly fleshed out, there’s very little that plot wonkiness can do to make them act in ways that would be false to who they fundamentally are as people. At the end of episode 20 I was more frustrated with what didn’t make the final cut, rather than what we actually did get. A killer bacteria subplot? Sure I can live with that. But where is my mom-daughter reunion scene? Where is Moon-ho’s moment of redemption? Where is the payoff and the follow-through for all these wonderful emotional arcs you have been setting up since the pilot? I feel really shortchanged about this in particular, I can’t lie. I’ve read some reviews by people who didn’t mind not seeing those scenes on camera (e.g Moon-ho’s confession) because the excess emotional angst would have just cheapened things so late in the show’s run. But I have to disagree so much – not only do I feel that those scenes were necessary for narrative, thematic and emotional closure, but this show has carried emotional scenes in smart, subtle and truthful ways without ever overdoing stuff or coming across as contrived.
I probably sound a little bitter right now so let me cap off with all the things I did love about Healer as a whole – and I really, truly loved the experience of watching this show, even though I only jumped on the bandwagon after episode 10.
You’re right, Ddee, the OTP is seriously such a huge reason why I got invested in the show. Healer gave us a flawed but sensitive and respectful hero. It gave us a female lead who (to paraphrase myself) came across as a fully-realized human being with strengths and fears and weaknesses, and not just a person-shaped collection of quirks. Their relationship was sweet and healthy and full of trust and openness once they really got going. Skinship was abundant and natural. (and so hot). We got multiple supporting female characters who all had a role to play in the story beyond being love interests or being fridged to fuel Manpain. And all of them lived! We get tragic dead dads instead of tragic dead moms. We got a second male lead who was too busy being flawed and tortured and complex to play a one-dimensional, standard romantic rival to the hero. We got wonderful parents and parental figures and mentors and friends, all with rich inner lives and depth. We got some terrifically-executed common tropes (birth secrets and hidden identities), the subversion of some harmful tropes (reverse wrist-grabbing!) and absolutely none of the more overdone or annoying ones (sudden terminal illness, surprise! Amnesia).
Sarah: I agree on all counts. I feel that the show did miss out on some real opportunities for closure in the final two episodes. And I’m not going to lie and say that this girl isn’t more than a little emotionally frustrated. But on the scale of bad endings, this one doesn’t even come close to…well, bad. Especially in terms of other endings that left something to be desired in this genre (City Hunter, anyone? 14 Days?). The strengths of the drama were in character over plot from the very beginning. I guess because recently the plot had finally started to come together I got complacent, but in the end our characters never ceased to be who they are. And I think as you have both said, Healer has broken a lot of ground in portraying healthy relationships between partners and families, even as the plot occasionally jumped the shark. And for no other reason than that Minion finally got her ass-kicking moment, Healer wins my overall support. Will I watch it again? Probably not (once was enough to nearly kill me) but the bar has been raised pretty high for any dramas to come.
All the Team Feelers would like to give a special thank you to everyone who read, liked, commented and shared these past few weeks. We hope you had as much fun as we did. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be back again soon…in the meantime, be well and stay tuned!