City Hunter:Thoughts and Ending Speculationson Mon, Jul 18, 2011
If you're not watching City Hunter yet, you should be. It's fantastic in all elements, from its tight plotting and fantastic music, its quick pacing and flashes of utter brilliance, its superb use of camera, and perhaps most of all its protagonist, the wonderfully nuanced Yoon Sung. I've never understood what all the fuss about Lee Min Ho was about - until this drama. If he doesn't win an acting award at the end-of-the-year awards, there's something wrong with the universe.
If you haven't seen this drama yet, however, you should stop reading now, because spoilers will follow.
With only four episodes of City Hunter to go, we're all starting to wonder about the ending. I think it's obvious that at least one of the four main characters (Jin Pyo, Bae Man Deok, henceforth known as "Ajusshi", Yoon Sung, and Nana) is going to die before the drama ends.The past few episodes have definitely upped the ante as far as misery. Even without that, however, the drama's been dark enough from the very beginning that there was so way this was ever going to end with bubbles and rainbows. It set up a certain world, a certain kind of story, from the very beginning, and it is and must follow through on that.
One of the things I appreciate the most about this drama is that it pulls no punches about the consequences of individual actions. There's been a clear sense from the very beginning that, while Yoon Sung has every reason to take revenge, there is a price that he must pay for that revenge. Jin Pyo, who is becoming an increasingly fascinating character, has been daily paying a small part of his own personal cost for years - not just the loss of his leg, but the constant torment he lives in, unable to sleep or love or live in any normal way, so absolutely consumed is he by revenge. Yoon Sung will not be able to escape some measure of the same cost. It's interesting, because while Yoon Sung has never wavered from the path of revenge, he seems more aware than anyone of the dark nature of this path. He is intent on bringing down rather than killing the Five because he's vividly, painfully afraid of making this revenge spiral further, of his enemies' sons becoming like him and embarking on vengeance.
Trained from the moment he was born for vengeance, Yoon Sung accepts it because he does want justice against his father's killers. But I think his true motivation is revealed when he utters twice, once when he first learns the truth of his background in Thailand, and once to his father later, "It is my fate." A figure halfway between dark and light, he walks the line between vengeance and justice, between the law and murder, between the revenge his father wants and his own desperate version of that revenge. Yoon Sung grew up surrounded by brutality and violence - yet despite this, perhaps in part because of the influence of his mother figure, but more I think as a result of his own nature, he possesses a steely sense of justice and an innate kindness. Shadowed by his childhood and his father, he's nonetheless oddly untouched, uncorrupted by it all. To me, that scene in Thailand in the first episode, when the camera pans across the elephant to show his grown-up self, young and reckless and grinning as he casually grips all the elephant's power between his knees, is meant to symbolically show that he retained some element of youthful innocence despite his upbringing. In the next scenes, he saves Bae Man Deok, which shows his innate kindness.
When he returns to Korea seven years later, the youthful innocence is largely gone, but the kindness remains, and is shown throughout the drama. And despite everything that he's done and experienced, flashes of that playful boy remain, particularly when he's around Nana - he splashes with her in the bubbles in episode 12 with no thought of anything else. Water reoccurs several times in the drama as a symbol of normality - he walks beside the fountains smiling in episode one, tasting Korea for the first time, and, in a scene that is oddly heartbreaking, dances in the fountains in a later episode, arms upraised to the water and face lit with an utter, childlike delight, as Nana and the children watch. This is Yoon Sung as he could have been, Yoon Sung letting himself, for a single afternoon, dream of and live in a different life, one of innocence and simplicity.
Yet that scene, and others where he reverts to playful boyhood, have a bittersweet feel to them, because in this story he's destined, doomed if you will, to carry out the full path of vengeance. And I believe that Yoon Sung knows, or at least believes, deep down in his heart that it's wrong, because his face twists as he asks his father repeatedly "do you want to create others like me?" After Nana discovers his identity, he tries to push her away by snarling, "this is who I really am," radiating menace, but also a deep self-loathing, as if he sees himself as a monster. No, Yoon Sung will not get off lightly in this drama - I can't see he and Nana riding off into the sunset at the end, not without a heavy price beforehand anyway.
Which is why I would speculate that his father will kill Ajusshi, thus driving the final nail into the separation between he and Yoon Sung, and providing at least one of the costs of Yoon Sung's revenge. Yet the attack on Ajusshi and the fact that he survived makes his ultimate death slightly less likely.
My biggest fear is that Nana will die, as the ultimate price Yoon Sung pays. Yet characters with living parents seldom die - she certainly won't die while her father still lies in a coma in the hospital. If her father dies, however, I would rate her chances of expiration as much higher.
And then there's Yoon Sung. The obvious choice. Yet I would say there's no certainty that he will die, partly because the drama clearly shows that he's not irreversibly warped by all of this, and partly because he's been able to build functional relationships with Ajusshi and with Nana. For him to die would seem to be just too cruel of a punishment, and oddly enough, I don't really think the drama's heading in that direction, even though revenge stories usually end with the protaganist's death. But if he doesn't, I'd say it's a certainty that either Ajusshi or Nana will die, and possibly both.
And finally, there's Jin Pyo. I'd say offhand that he has the largest chance of death, whether by suicide or some other way. He has absolutely nothing to live for but revenge - once he attains it, he has no purpose - he's just an empty shell of a man.
And then there's the question of, even if both Nana and Yoon Sung survive, whether they'll be together. For them to be together, in my opinion, her father will have to die. Because there's no way that the entire world is not going to ultimately find out about Yoon Sung's identify as the City Hunter, and when they do, he'll be one of the most hunted men in Korea. He will have to leave Korea, and unless Nana's father has passed away, she won't leave with him - she's bound there.
As for that photograph they've been tossing around in the past two episodes, it's pretty much a death knell. Couples who have a happy ending, at least right away, never have a photo together. I once wrote a post on the "5 Signs that Drama Angst is about to Hit", and this fits squarely under #3, a Love Token Gone Awry. That photo is for one of them (probably Yoon Sung at this point - unless he dies) to stare at longingly while missing the other.
So, in summary, Jin Pyo and Ajusshi have the highest chance of dying. Closely followed by Nana, and then Yoon Sung.
There are three possible endings for the Nana/Yoong Sung story.
1)One of them dies
2)There's a time leap and Nana stays in Korea while Yoon Sung lives abroad. They eventually reuinite
3)They're parted forever as Nana stays in Korea with her father and her job and Yoon Sung lives abroad, probably with his mother. They remember each other with bittersweet joy.
What do you think? Do you think Nana and Yoon Sung will get their happy ending? Who do you think will die?