Is Sungkyunkwan Scandal the best k-drama I’ve ever watched, objectively? To be honest, it probably doesn’t even come close.
But at the end of the day, that doesn’t matter—because Sungkyunkwan Scandal is the sort of drama that I feel compelled to watch again and again, each time finding more reasons to fall in love with the story and characters.
Equal parts youthful idealism, warm friendship, and smoldering bromance, it’s the sort of drama that fills me with the most wonderful feeling of joy—a feeling akin to eating the first ice cream cone of the summer, or playing with a litter of fluffy kittens.
And it’s the sort of drama that no matter how long it’s been since my last re-watch, it’s always waiting for me, like an old friend, ready to pick back up like we never left off.
To put it quite simply, Sungkyunkwan Scandal completes me—flaws and all.
To me, the best thing about last episodes in Korean dramas is all the behind the scenes stills that roll during the final credits. Nothing is as fun as seeing the noble king we’ve just watched for twenty hours now sitting on his throne flashing the V sign, or our resident Red Messenger wearing a ginormous parka over his ninja get-up.
There aren’t so many of these during the final credits of SKKS, but I also love it when dramas include shots of the crew in action. It’s always a nice reminder of how much effort goes into making a drama outside of the main cast.
One thing that I do love about the ending is Sun Joon using Yong Ha’s smutty novels as a how-to manual for his sexy times with Yoon Hee. Only Sun Joon would get down to business, book in hand.
There’s fanservice…and then there’s fanservice that entirely undermines narrative flow. I’m sad to say that in this case, it’s the latter.
Yoon Hee is now a professor at Sungkyunkwan, which could mean one of two things: either women are now accepted as professors or the university still doesn’t know she’s a woman. Considering that she’s now married to Sun Joon, and that everyone seems to be fully aware of that, it seems reasonable to assume that women are now accepted as professors. To which I say: when did that happen, and why is she then still dressing as a man?! I know it’s supposed to be a cute ending, but in reality, it just leaves me scratching my head in confusion.
Then we have Yong Ha. He’s the son of a merchant who bought his family a noble title in order to overcome their social barriers. So what do we see Yong Ha doing in his final scene? Selling clothes. LIKE A MERCHANT. (Okay, so technically he’s actually designing the clothes, but still).
The only ending I’m vaguely satisfied with is Jae Shin’s. Becoming a police officer seems to fit with his character, and apprehending the female Blue Messenger amid a storm of hiccups was pretty darn cute.
My dissatisfaction with the ending in no way diminishes my love for the show as a whole, but I still can’t help but wonder, what if?
Seeing Yoon Hee get all dolled up to meet Sun Joon reminds me of one of my biggest gripes about the final episode: we never get to see Yoon Hee dressed as a woman while with the Jalgeum Quartet. Heck, other than Sun Joon, none of the characters even have the chance to openly acknowledge to Yoon Hee that they know she’s a woman. I don’t know why that frustrates me so much, but it does.
Gu Yong Ha: “I don’t need a dream anymore. Because I have you three, who don’t hate me despite who I am. That’s all I need.”
All together now: AWWWWW
I just remembered that the guy who plays the Confucius-loving know-it-all is going to be the Korean version of Masumi in Cantabile Tomorrow. He doesn’t really do much in SKKS, but I’m hoping he’ll be able to do justice to Masumi’s character—assuming that the Korean version has the same flair as the Japanese original. And at least we know he already can pull off the Jimi Hendrix glasses!
It’s clear from the very beginning that Yong Ha is well aware Yoon Hee isn’t a man. He definitely relishes knowing her secret, gleefully making veiled references to her being a girl, and in the beginning, even purposefully putting her in difficult situations in the hopes that she’ll be discovered. Yet, as time goes on, he never actually outs her. I can never figure out what he really wants—does he actually want to expose Yoon Hee, or does he want to help her?
Once Yong Ha’s background is fully revealed, I think it’s safe to say that Yong Ha identifies with Yoon Hee’s secret. Yoon Hee is a woman masquerading as a man in order to attend a prestigious university. Yong Ha is the son of a merchant, masquerading as a Yangban, for much the same reason. Both want an education and the chance to overcome their social barriers. Like the class clown who tells jokes to cover for his own insecurities, Yong Ha’s devil-may-care persona is largely an act, designed to hide his conflicted feelings about his background.
I’m curious—what does Yong Ha (presumably) identifying with Yoon Hee mean in terms of how he treats her? Does he never actually reveal her secret because he wants to protect her like he wants his own secret to be protected? Or are his initial attempts to get Yoon Hee discovered a projection of his own unconscious desire to stop hiding?
Or am I just reading too much into all this?
All these scenes with Yong Ha worrying about Jae Shin’s safety and then tending to him when he’s wounded really make me wish that the two could star in a Return of Iljimae remake, wherein Jae Shin is Iljimae and Yong Ha is Wol Hee. Who do I see to make it happen?