TL;DR: It is immensely satisfying when a show wraps up nicely. Good job, everyone.
It is a wonderful thing when a show does not betray your trust. Just Between Lovers always remembered that Moon-soo, Kang-doo, and their happiness were the most important elements of the drama, and this final episode showcased them at their best. The drama was a lovely exploration of grief, healing, forgiveness, and love—and how, sometimes, the best thing to do is to move on.
I won’t lie, I was a little worried about how much of this episode seemed to be setting up a tragic ending for Kang-doo and Moon-soo. It was so painful, watching the two of them try to cope with Kang-doo’s suddenly fragile mortality. While it was heartbreaking to see how unfair Moon-soo thought Kang-doo’s predicament was, what really got to me was Kang-doo crying on the floor next to Jae-young, worried that he was going to leave her entirely alone. Kang-doo didn’t want to die, but throughout the episode we saw just how worried he was about what would happen to everyone else if he did.
I loved Moon-soo’s tearful promise in the hospital. Her guilt over leaving Kang-doo (unintentionally) behind in the collapse has plagued her for a long time, so of course she promised to stay with him until the end. I was glad she did, because then even if Kang-doo ended up dying, maybe she would be able to forgive herself for the things that had been out of her control. And I was delighted that she was clear about wanting to sleep with him. Too often women aren’t allowed to display those kinds of thoughts, but it was clear in this episode that she had been looking forward to it and wanted him. Maybe the looming specter of his death wasn’t the happiest of circumstances to prompt her honesty, but Moon-soo loved Kang-doo and wanted to be with him physically. I loved that he took her to a fancy hotel for it, because maybe he couldn’t buy them more time together with the money he had, but he could buy her luxurious surroundings so they could fully enjoy it instead of renting a love motel room by the hour.
Just Between Lovers has been consistent about the messiness of life and how tragedy and grief can linger throughout a person’s life. This show isn’t a sleek, glossy world—it’s filled with broken families, poverty, disasters, ruined relationships, corruption, sickness, and death. But it’s also not a hopeless one—it’s a bittersweet, and ultimately hopeful, world, where genuinely good things can come out of other people’s misfortune. Case in point: the car accident death that resulted in a liver match for Kang-doo, just in time.
But this theme had popped up before, like the businessman who was able to go to a good college thanks to the settlement money from his father’s death. More notably, Sook-hee’s death caused so much pain, but it also allowed Kang-doo to free himself from his crushing debt. It also allowed Kang-doo, Jae-young, and Sang-man to continue her work seeing to the needs of society’s most neglected people—a legacy of good that has and will continue to outlast her. I’m so glad that we got to see the clinic up and running and had proof that she hadn’t been forgotten by Kang-doo or the community.
Perhaps most powerfully, this final episode of Just Between Lovers also showed that “bad” endings can also be for the best. I was relieved for Moon-soo’s parents when they finally divorced. Their relationship had been dead for years, and there was no chance in reviving it. Moon-soo’s father left the restaurant and his rage behind to go back to his love of being on the road, and Moon-soo’s mother realized she had to get treatment for her alcoholism. Yoo-jin was finally able to make a clean break of her romantic feelings, and she and Joo-won look like they’ll be able to work together professionally and even function as step-siblings. Ma-ri looked right at Yoo-taek and scoffed at him for demanding she take responsibility for his feelings and divorce.
There were other, sweeter moments, like Wan-jin and Jin-yeong’s romance (and webtoon success), Kang-doo studying for school while working on the construction site, Moon-soo’s father enjoying his life on the road, and Joo-won downsizing to work on more personal projects since he no longer had something to prove re: his father. It was nice to see how life continued on for these people. I particularly enjoyed seeing some of the survivors’ family members that Moon-soo and Kang-doo had talked to receiving invitations to the memorial park unveiling. I’m glad that they and their grief weren’t forgotten, either (though I’m sad we didn’t actually get to see the memorial park in the end).
The moment that made me cheer, though, was Yoo-taek getting demoted and Yoo-jin taking over. Where Yoo-taek was so busy trying to be successful and deflecting any and all blame, by the end of the show, I actually believe that Yoo-jin will own up to any of Cheongyu’s wrongdoings and attempt to right them. Moon-soo and Joo-won both entrusted her with important, inconvenient things, and she made sure that their trust in her wasn’t misplaced. I was so happy that Kang-doo’s father’s name was cleared and that they finally received compensation for his death, and I’m thrilled that she fought for the memorial park to fulfill Moon-soo’s vision. Instead of allowing Cheongyu to escape condemnation, Yoo-jin made sure the memorial park would be a place of painful honesty and reflection—one that would also allow healing and ensure that Cheongyu and others wouldn’t let a tragedy like that to occur again.
This final episode was a fitting ending to the show. It stayed true to its premise and delivered on its promises to have two grieving, damaged survivors find love and hope and healing in one another.
By the Numbers
- Times I cried: 5
- Tearful embraces: 4
- Meaningful envelopes: 2
- Scenes mentioning Sook-hee: 2
- Bechdel Test: 15 episodes passed