Posted in Commentary, Drama Series

Remember–War of the Son: on episode 17~20, final thoughts

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So the long battle filled to the brim with tears and anguish has finally come to an end. I looked forward to the finale tho wasn’t eager to check the last two episodes out the moment they were available, because the last mystery is whether or not the denouement is satisfying. I could see why the finale broke 20% ratings — those who might have stopped watching halfway must have tuned in to see what kind of punishment is awarded to the bad guys and if it ends happily for the good guys — though couldn’t say if it’s deserved because everything that needs to be said has already been said and every due credit has already been given.

Acting has been the show’s highlight from the start. That’s what kept me going and it held up quite well till the end. Performances dulled in the middle third but intensified tremendously in the last two episodes. Writing isn’t a mess though i can’t say i wasn’t frustrated with the plot. I however stopped questioning the drama logic around midpoint so even though many things didn’t make sense, the plot holes didn’t bother me as much in the last stretch. As a result of taking things at face value, i didn’t think much about the developments even if i didn’t fully get it to the point i couldn’t recall what the episodes were all about the next day. Directing is less than interesting i struggled to pick good moments to capture because we’d get the same set of shots and expressions regardless of which number it is.

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This drama as a whole is pretty predictable (i could even countdown to the moment Gyu-man would flip his lid) that there’s hardly any surprises or twists i could recall. To its defense, it remains consistent… the pacing and characterization, for the most part.

No character changes drastically, the one i couldn’t wrap my head around was Joo-il. His motive to turn to the dark side was initially to spare Dong-ho that i never expected him to sell his soul and side with the Nams completely… or so it seems, it was murky. I was ready to pass him off as the show’s worst ‘dad’; Jae-hyuk took the fall to protect Jin-woo and Nam Il-ho cleaned up after Gyu-man to protect the company, but Joo-il dragged Dong-ho into the mess for his own selfish gain and called the latter out for wanting to return to the less despicable path. But he too was taken down for disobeying the hit order, and i didn’t even know anymore.

The pacing is so steady that the finale didn’t feel rushed at all. I still wished it were tighter, but i think it’s nicely plotted. Defeating the bad guys don’t happen overnight; it takes time, effort, and careful planning and we could see the gradual progress and a build-up leading up to complete destruction of the Nams and ultimate victory for Team Jin-woo. Even after those happen, Show takes time to tie up loose ends. It ain’t the typical time-jump+crammed epilogue kind, although the time-jump is still used.

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[right pic: flying Gyu-man~ LOL]

For a 20-episode legal drama, Remember doesn’t tackle cases that aren’t related to Ilho Group that i never felt it lost focus even though the length could still be shorter so we don’t have to sit through a lot of episodes watching them deal with or convert the nemesis’ minions one by one. Everything has a characteristic of Dad’s frame-up case, making it impossible for Jin-woo not to take it up even if the defendant needing vindication is someone who keeps giving bad memories like Dong-ho. Penultimate week is thus focused on acquitting Dong-ho and proceeding with the sexual assault case, while the final week is on reaping every planted seed.

It was a blast watching the good guys outmaneuvering the bad guys’ every move and while Gyu-man’s sentence is way severer than anticipated, i was with Jin-woo (and Secretary Ahn): thought i’d rejoice but was calm instead. Because, above all, jail time or even death sentence doesn’t make Gyu-man self-reflect. He finally comes to his senses when dad delivers the biggest blow by disowning him and writing him off as another tool that has outlived its usefulness. It is true to character though i never expected Il-ho to be such cold of a father. Being abandoned by the only person he’s trying to please and impress all this time gives life no meaning, yet i don’t think that warrants a suicide. That’s too easy a way out, and i wanted to see him suffer a bit longer. Show hardly spends time on Il-ho’s punishment, and he’s supposedly the worse monster, having screwed a lot more lives, including Dong-ho’s dad — what happened to that, by the way?

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What kept me on the fence is the ultimate ending. It has all signs pointing to a happy ending for Jin-woo (and In-ah) i was bewildered that it wasn’t the case. No, it’s definitely not an open ending; it’s clearly Jin-woo living by himself despite his memory loss and In-ah choosing to stand by and watch over him (from behind). I was never onboard with the romance, but what’s the point of that grand declaration of “Let’s go through this together. I’ll be your memory.” sealed with a kiss if he’s going to leave everything and everyone behind? How come they don’t (can’t?) find him for a year when he’s so near? I appreciate that they honor his request to not be found (and keep the law firm alive), yet how can they leave a young man in his early 20s suffering from Alzheimer’s alone? Hopefully he rakes in enough money to feed him for the rest of his life…

The exceptional memory may be regarded as both a blessing and a curse, but to me it’s nothing but a plot device. I don’t recall many instances where it’s beneficial to the story’s development or case solving. Toward the end, i theorized the memory loss is actually a blessing in disguise since he’ll be able to hold onto good memories and forget the bad ones, but no, it’s introduced for dramatic effects only. I wasn’t expecting Show to pull a miracle cure, though i wish they came up with a feasible way for Jin-woo to live with it, slow the progression, and be happy. Cuz in the end, he lost his family members, let go of his job, stepped away from those who care for him, and still lost his memory. His character has such a tragic fate, but at least he’s alive, and well, and at peace…?

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Seok-gyu and Yeo-kyung are unexpectedly merely plot devices too — the former hardly oversees important cases and serves as the mailman for the murder weapon because Secretary Ahn didn’t think of handing it over to Jin-woo, the latter barely has any scenes or role in anything besides eavesdropping Gyu-man’s escape plan and ratting that out to In-ah.

The time Dong-ho spent serving the Nams was pretty much useless too as he didn’t gain anything from it. Alas, because i once looked forward to the bromance between him and Jin-woo and completely forgot about it if not for their revisited conversation about the 50,000-won deal. Speaking of which, i wonder how Jin-woo brought that up when he didn’t recall signing the bill which gave his illness away in the first place. Another thing i am curious about is whether Jin-woo pretended not to recognize Dong-ho in the columbarium (because he still introduced himself as an attorney despite having declared to quit the job a few scenes earlier and only shown to burn the book of “memories to forget” afterward) or the editing team messed up the logical sequence.

A few weeks prior to the finale, my last wish for the show was for the denouement to make me go:

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And while the bittersweet closing scene did choke me up, all in all i was all:

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So, if i were to put Remember into either “memories to cherish” or “memories to forget”, it would be the latter.

Oh well, i may still remember Nam Gyu-man though. Not as the haughtiest baddie but as the most enthralling sociopath. I started out loathing him to bits and ended up amused by his antics. Who knew the villain would be more screencap-able than the hero?

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Rating: 3/5
Director: Lee Chang-min
Production: SBS, 2015~6
Cast: Yoo Seung-ho, Park Min-young, Nam Goong-min, Park Sung-woong, Jeon Kwang-ryul, Lee Shi-un, Kim Jin-woo, Jung Hye-sung
Genre: Legal melodrama, K-drama (20 Episodes)

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