Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Heartless City (Cruel City) Final Episode 20 Review

Nam Gyu Ri as Han Soo Min and Jung Kyung Ho as Jung Shi Hyun
I'm going to call this as the best Korean drama of 2013 so far. I was getting a bit worried because there were no dramas that were jumping out at me as REALLY great this year. Some were good, some were OK, and others were lame. Heartless City (Cruel City) changed the scene. It had a dirty side to it that is missing from many melodramatic Korean dramas. Sometimes when they try to be dark, it just comes off as boring or, worse yet, cheesy. Watch Heartless City free and subtitles on DramaFever

Doctor's Son
Heartless City  captures the bleak landscape of crime and police in South Korea, and many other countries, were the line between cop and criminal is blurred or nonexistent. Drugs, money, and power are the fuel and the people are the fire, the crowd involved just continues to grow. This drama, like many crime-themed shows doesn't have a clear set of good and bad guys, instead there are the ones that you root for and the ones that you want to see shot through the head.

If I had to choose the hero, I would say it is Doctor's Son. Ji Hyun Min is the closest character to a traditional "good guy" because he was righteous until the end. However, his emotional story wasn't drawn out enough for the audience to connect with him on the same level as Doctor's Son. Also known as Jung Shi Hyun, he was born into the underbelly of the big city as a prostitute's son, and he came to hate drug dealers because his mother died alone after an overdose. Once again we watch a smart, capable man fall victim to "revenge." He lived his life isolated, suspicious, and under constant deception. On one hand, I find revenge dramas entertaining, but on the other, I am frustrated to watch lives wasted in vain.

Me while watching the final episode
 ********************************SPOILERS BELOW***************************

Now, the final episode of Heartless City (Cruel City) was not really a resolution to the story, and it made me feel more hopeless. Yes, Shi Hyun killed Busan, the big drug king, and Ji Hyun shot Director Min, who ended up to be somewhat of the puppet master behind Shi Hyun's involvement, at least, but those people dying isn't going to end what Shi Hyun had set out to stop. Drugs will still be dealt to those who live only for the high, and cops will still sell their authority.

The only hope I found in the last episode of this drama was Han Soo Min. She was once an immature troublemaker who was forced the to grow after her sister was killed in duty. And, while the romance was rare during Heartless City, she shared an intimate connection with Shi Hyun that drew me, and I'm sure many other fans, to this drama. He was an incredibly lonely man who lied most of his life to the people that he considered family, and Soo Min saw the truth in his heart and chose to love him anyway. Their sweet moments were framed by moments of violence, fear, and lies, and yet, their affection seemed sincere. The part of this drama I loved the most were the deep, soulful characters who were portrayed impeccably by these gorgeous actors.

What the final episode did, though, was almost shortchange the amazing characters. After Shi Hyun was unceremoniously shot and killed, I was devastated at how this drama decided to resolve his life spent in despair and isolation. He was only given small glimpses of happiness and never knew what it meant to have a family. How am I supposed to feel when a hero is built up for 20 episodes and then killed in a matter of minutes? It's not the ending that I would have gone with, that's for sure.

Having said what I needed to about Shi Hyun's death, I didn't think the last episode was all bad. Soo Min was still alive in the end, and she ended up staying in the police force. She smiled brightly and waved to her departed sister and lover as their childhood selves as she looked brightly into the future. One can only hope that she will remain a cop who values justice and humanity over power and greed.

Update: I saw this originally when watching the finale, but I didn't think anything of it until I saw someone's comment later. At the very end of the credits in the final episode there is a shot of Shi Hyun's back standing on the street. We don't see his face and there is no explanation of this shot. Even if it is a hint that he is still alive but living with a different identity or if it is a hint at some sort of sequel, I think it's cheating. If you're going to let him die, don't try to soften the blow with an ambiguous ending. Such a good drama just had to be plagued with finale controversy, didn't it? Sigh, that's the life of a Kdrama fan.

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