We’re at the end, and, with Soo-hyun (Sung Joon, Lie to Me) safely tucked away in prison, all of the focus is on that nagging question: how do you solve a problem like Seo-jin? For many people, the solution is simple. Robin, although friendly, is not a person. Even Dr. Kang (Shin Eun-Jung, Misaeng) likens him to a “beautiful tumor” that needs to be removed. Ouch. It’s the question that we’ve spent week after week trying to answer, and it’s in these final episodes that we finally reach some sort of solution.
With so many people waiting for him to leave, it’s no wonder that Robin (Hyun Bin, Secret Garden) is at first determined to stay alive. Once self-assured and confident, Robin is now so uneasy that he looks at himself in the mirror and says, “I am Robin. I exist.” He works very hard to create a separate identity from Seo-jin, even though he can only do superficial things, such as decorating “his” studio or getting couple’s clothing. He is so desperate to be seen as a person now that he refuses to give Seo-jin’s information at the police station.
One thing that pushes Robin is Ha-na’s growing relationship with Seo-jin. It’s a constant reminder that he cannot offer what Seo-jin can. He can’t get an ID or driver’s license or even buy things off the internet (South Koreans need to use their registration numbers to create online accounts). He only exists in the memories of others. How can he even dream of other things like marrying Ha-na or having children? Ha-na’s declaration to the press that Seo-jin is leading a double life cuts him deeply. Although she was trying to save them both, she ends up erasing Robin’s claim that he is not Seo-jin. As his confidence in his humanity decreases, his attempts to leave a record of his life behind grow more desperate.
Ha-na (Han Ji-min, Rooftop Prince) is understandably confused and torn about the whole situation. On the one hand, she thinks of Robin as a person. And yet, she also cares for Seo-jin, even if it’s not in a romantic way. By feeding her relationship with Robin, people rightfully blame her for Seo-jin’s continued illness. But she’s in the same position as the audience: she wants to save both, but she can’t. No matter what choice she makes, she is going to hurt one of them.
Ironically, the only person who doesn’t seem to care about all this is Seo-jin himself. He’s free to heal himself and finally live his life. He focuses on reclaiming his life by watching movies, (awkwardly) socializing with his employees and reading Robin’s comic books. He’s even perfectly willing to maintain the odd love triangle with Ha-na and Robin. But because he is now willing to sacrifice part of his life for Robin, he sets in motion the series of events that leads to Robin’s end. And just like the audience, the characters are eager to try to maintain the status quo.
The series tricks us into thinking that the solution lies in Robin and Seo-jin becoming closer. It’s an exciting possibility, one that keeps you hoping for the impossible. It was a little expected since oftentimes dramas really stretch out the ending with pointless plot lines (I’m looking at you, amnesia patient Gu Jun Pyo). But in this series it didn’t seem contrived. Robin goes to a webtoon awards ceremony, coming out for the first time as himself. Seo-jin seems happy reclaiming his childhood and doing what he wants. It seems to work. But then we are dragged kicking and screaming back to reality when the swapping happens more frequently and without warning. There is no turning back now and no avoiding the end.
In many ways, Robin’s situation is like a patient with a terminal illness. Yes, he can stay, but he will lose his self-awareness over time until he no longer recognizes anyone. His greatest fear is not disappearing; it’s slowly fading away until he is not Robin anymore. He is terrified knowing that he is losing his memories and that he may end up not knowing he has lost anything. For him, it becomes a quality of life issue, and he decides to accept the inevitable. After a long fight to be his own person, his final act of independence is to spend his last days on his own terms. The most heartbreaking scenes of the series are at the end when Robin begins to fade fast, losing his memories and abilities.
Robin’s slow death also makes Ha-na and the audience confront their true feelings about him. Both have to question how real this whole relationship has been. Robin takes Ha-na to his childhood home and tells her about his family. He can recall in detail many things about his childhood. In his mind, they are as real as the ground he’s standing on. But there is no record of them, and there are no people to confirm his memories. So, to everyone else, it never happened. But even if no evidence exists, does that mean Robin is still just an illusion? Seo-jin and Soo-hyun both had false memories, but the audience doesn’t question their humanity.
The last episodes illustrate how important perspective is. What seems real to one person might be the exact opposite for another. Even though, medically speaking, Robin is a symptom, to many people, including himself, he is a person. Ha-na and Robin’s marriage isn’t legal, but does that make it any less real for everyone involved? No. And after Robin passes on, the grief for everyone is completely genuine. No matter what the doctors say, Robin has become something much more than an alternate personality. And for the audience, too, Robin’s fate is tremendously tragic which shows just how real he has become. His passing is all the more heart wrenching because they cannot go through the normal rituals to commemorate a loved one. There is no grave to visit, no ashes to spread and no funeral ceremony to attend. They don’t even have the comfort of thinking that they will meet Robin again in the afterlife.
The series tries to help us through by saying surprise! Robin and Seo-jin have merged! Robin lives! There are changes to prove that Seo-jin and Robin are one person; Seo-jin gets Robin’s memories, his feelings and his artistic talents. He even adopts a new hairstyle, one that’s slightly messy yet slightly slicked down, a visual indicator of his newly merged self. But even though Ha-na and Seo-jin are having fun taking selfies with vegetables, there are still doubts. After all, Robin takes the memory of his marriage to Ha-na with him, a hint that the true Robin is gone.
Overall, I liked the series because it avoided some of my drama pet peeves. It did not live up to my standards when it came to action; the warehouse gas scene and hostage scenes were corny even by Korean drama standards.
But the human component made up for it. Seo-jin was not your typical rich guy and I could sympathize with him. And who didn’t tear up when Robin has his most precious memory torn away from him? It was a little disappointing that they didn’t mention Seo-jin’s third personality, Terry, ever again (I guess we’re just supposed to forget that ever happened?!?). Also, Seo-jin’s mom must have dropped off of the face of the earth, because we never saw her again either.
But, for the most part, there weren’t as many loose ends as a lot of Korean dramas seem to have. Hyun Bin’s acting in this was really good and truly carried the series. He was able to create two separate and believable characters, each with his own personality quirks. From the way they were dressed, down to how they talked, Robin and Seo-jin were really brought to life by Hyun Bin. The success of the scenes where they had to pretend to be each other is a testament to Hyun Bin’s skill.
So what did you think, readers? Was it a happy ending for you? Or do you think the real Robin is lost?