OH THIS DRAMA. You crack me up. And frustrate me. I can’t say this final episode was anything stellar, but one thing is for sure: it beats the endings of the two previous series by sheer outrageousness. (You can take that in a good or bad way.) Clearly they really went all out on the effects, and confirmed to everyone that Jung Yoo-gun is the hero Korea needs right now, even if he’s not the one they deserve.
At least there’s a Kim So Yeon cameo! And she makes me happy it’s the end.
So where were we? Oh right – Baek San and Mr. Black die in a fiery blast. Yoo-gun runs towards his father’s remains, mourning, and Joong-won thinks this would be a fine time to shoot him dead. Thankfully Yun-hwa steps in – if Joong-won is going to kill Yoo-gun, he’ll have to kill her first. Tae-hee tries to slash Yun-hwa, but Joong-won stops her. Even if the woman will be the end of him, he doesn’t want her to die. Instead, he sends Yun-hwa off; they’ve chosen different paths but he doesn’t want her to die because of him.
Joong-won has his team move the nuclear device, and confirms that Tae-hee’s created the detonating device in two different methods. He finds the tracker as they load the truck and destroys it.
As Yun-hwa drives them away, Yoo-gun sees the signal disappear from his tracker and notifies Soo-yeon. She in turn notifies Chul-hwan, stressing that wherever Joong-won takes the bomb, he plans to detonate it in Seoul. The team begins to track the trucks through traffic cameras, and eventually locate them at a highway just outside Seoul.
Soo-yeon takes a team out to intercept them, and Yoo-gun meets them there. Meanwhile Joong-won begins an operation of his own – just as they reach the Seoul Interchange, one van and one truck go in opposite directions each.
When the NSS team meets the truck that comes out of a tunnel, they intercept the car with Hyuk-soo in it. A fiery gun fight ensues, and Hyuk-soo is badly injured. Yoo-gun manages to sneak from behind and shoot down the IRIS agents. When they open the truck – the bomb’s not there.
Back to square one. Where’s the bomb?
Hyun-kyu also has some updates for Chul-hwan and Soo-yeon; after inspecting the explosion at Mr. Black’s safe house, he confirmed two dead bodies belonging to Mr. Black/Anthony Choi and Baek San. Well – they’re out of the way now.
They don’t know where Joong-won is, but through Soo-yeon’s deduction she figures it must be near Yongsan; a bomb exploding there would cause the greatest amount of casualties. She’s put in charge with locating the bomb, and she informs her team that Byung-jin will be released from confinement, and Yoo-gun will officially join the team again.
Joong-won’s team heads into the city, and Tae-hee poses as a tourist walking on one of the bridges. She takes pictures of the Floating Island in Seoul, which I’m pretty sure was used as the supposed exterior location of NTS in ATHENA. Figuring out the building’s weak spots, his soldiers quickly take over the security room and have the doors opened for Joong-won and Tae-hee.
At this point, Joong-won is dressed in his North Korean military uniforms. He thinks back to when he killed Chul-yong in the name of North Korea. He took Chul-yong’s pin, and we find out that the woman we saw who found Chul-yong’s dead body in the warehouse afterwards belonged to none other than Sun-hwa (Kim So Yeon). (I thought it was Yun-hwa before, as that was the most logical guess. I guess not!)
Yoo-gun returns to the situation room in NSS and is quickly briefed on where they’re searching. He suggests the politically symbolic locations, such as Blue House and the U.S. Embassy as possible targets.
Back at Floating Island: a North Korean official calls up Joong-won, wanting to cancel their plans because Mr. Black is dead, and without IRIS’ backing they might not be able to succeed in unification. But Joong-won is intent on bombing Seoul for his personal vendetta, and asks that he become the “patriotic symbol” for unification. So the official says, “Fine, if you’re confident then try it.”
Try it!? Once you bomb, you can’t go back!!
Joong-won addresses his soldiers, and tells anyone who wants to back out to leave now, and he won’t begrudge them. The soldiers swear loyalty – except for one, who stands quiet but in attention. I bet he’s a double spy, because suddenly Chul-hwan is informed of Joong-won’s location and tells the team to head there. (Otherwise how would he know so suddenly?!)
(Trivia: One of the soldiers for IRIS actually is the son of a newly elected parliamentary lawmaker. Hah. Haha.)
The NSS team sets up a perimeter around the Floating Island; Yun-hwa joins Yoo-gun because she wants to stop Joong-won too. The rogue duo sneaks into the building themselves first, taking out guards in the basement as they head up to the main floor. Soo-yeon wants in on the action, and solely makes her way to the security room.
Tae-hee is there, and she senses a presence outside. She knocks off Soo-yeon’s gun and slashes her through the bulletproof vest, even stabbing her in the shoulder. But Soo-yeon’s not afraid – first she throws off her jacket so she can kick butt, and once the vest isn’t doing it’s job, she throws it off too. Tae-hee keeps slashing on through but finally Soo-yeon makes her stab herself. With Tae-hee down, she then shoots her several times in the chest for good measure (since of course, Tae-hee wasn’t really dead with a knife in the gut).
Joong-won sets up a video feed to stream to NSS, and talks to the person in charge. He’s surprised to hear that Chul-hwan is still alive, and tells him his only demand is to create country that won’t be controlled by other countries. Since no one can really satisfy that, he’s going to set off the bomb. He’s about to press the detonator when his wrist gets shot.
It’s Yoo-gun, who’s standing right there because none of Joong-won’s soldiers were
doing their job paying attention to him approaching. Joong-won laughs – he’s wearing a heart-sensor detonator under his uniform; if his heart stops, the bomb’s timer will set off.
NSS fills into the room, outnumbering Joong-won and his team. Yoo-gun tries to get him to stop, since setting off the bomb is not going to lead to unification. That doesn’t work, so Yun-hwa steps in, pleading him to stop. She will only leave with him.
It’s starting to work, since Joong-won is weak to Yun-hwa’s tears. But just when you think he might change his mind, he’s suddenly shot in the head – by Shi-hyuk, who’s totally cool about starting the war.
Gun shots ring, and Joong-won’s men are shot dead. The hostages are taken out, and Soo-yeon kills Shi-hyuk dead completely. You always need several extra bullets for these baddies. Yun-hwa cradles Joong-won as he slowly dies, and he hands her a slip of paper – there’s someone she needs to meet. How did he get this… when… what?!
He then hands her the jade ring his mother sent him, and puts it on her finger. Now they’re “married.” And then, he dies.
But they have a bigger problem: now that his heart stopped, the nuclear bomb’s timer has begun its countdown. They have no way to cut off the timer from the bomb, so there’s only one thing they can do – send it out into the ocean.
An NSS helicopter comes in to transport the bomb, and Yoo-gun volunteers to go himself to dump the bomb in the ocean with the pilot. Soo-yeon doesn’t want him to go, since the operations team can take care of it. But he promises that he’ll be back and to think of what she wants for dinner. But when he gets in, he tells the pilot to get off at gunpoint. The helicopter flies off, and Soo-yeon freaks out when she realizes that Yoo-gun flew out on his own.
We all know where this is going, and everyone has this sense of foreboding. (Section Chief Hwang is annoying though – he has this one expression of “I don’t know what’s happening” all the time.)
With four minutes left on the timer, Yoo-gun calls Soo-yeon, and tells her that he was always happy to have loved her. Cue flashback of their happy times, and he tells her he loves her. He hangs up, and then greets his father: “Father, I’m almost there. Just wait a little longer with mother.”
He passes out, the bullet fragment in his brain finally killing him. He lets go of the helicopter controls, and then the bomb goes off in the distance.
The Dark Knight Rises much?
Some time passes, and we see Yun-hwa waiting in the park for that person Joong-won told her about. She waits a while, falling asleep, and someone comes behind her. The person puts headphones on her, and using her hella new Samsung Galaxy S4, she plays a song. Yun-hwa opens her eyes and sees her sister, Sun-hwa, before her.
Yahoo! I’m glad we see more of Kim So Yeon!
The two of them embrace, having looked for each other for a long time. But Sun-hwa sees a sniper in the distance, and she brings her sister down. The two of them shoot at killers from opposing sides, and then kill their attackers in perfect synchrony. Sun-hwa proves once again why she kicks ass, killing everyone with cool efficiency: two kill shots per person, all without flinching. Even the sniper in the distance doesn’t get to live.
The two of them eliminate everyone, and run off across the bridge together. So stylistic, so perfect for a potential spin-off.
But it doesn’t end there!!!! (Grr – that was the perfect ending!)
We see Hyun-woo drinking in a cafe – still single. We see Soo-yeon riding a bike, and visiting the crematorium, where Baek San and Yoo-gun’s ashes are with the mother’s.
And then, we see Baek San’s bomb in the warehouse, several stories below in the ground. And the timer turns on.
Comments and review:
WHAT THE HELL!? This is the perfect ending for IRIS 1, not IRIS 2! This drama better not have another season because (1) it doesn’t deserve to, and (2) it doesn’t deserve to. (Sorry – I really don’t have a better reason.) But it really looks like they want to, despite the sequel’s low ratings.
A trilogy is likely, since Mr. Black’s death does not mean the end of IRIS. He makes several references to “IRIS headquarters,” so there’s definitely more baddies out there. I will flip a lid, though, if one more person is the twin of a character who already died. (Worst. Casting. Decision. Ever. To have Kim Gab Soo play Mr. X and Mr. Black, and they happen to be brothers. Or maybe because the producers couldn’t get any other actor, since they’ve wised up and knew not to be part of this franchise.) I wish that the next series would focus on Kim So Yeon (and I guess her sister, played by Im Soo Hyang), because Kim is the best actress to play a spy, and it can be two sisters against IRIS, and saving the world.
Who says a girl can’t do a man’s job?
I have two emotions regarding the ending of the drama. I’m satisfied that in the end Yoo-gun died, because I could not see it ending any other way. But at least instead of an ending meant to shock, I was prepared for it. It wasn’t necessary, but it sure made the moment feel like it wasn’t a cop-out. To have a nuclear bomb go off and not have any major sacrifices along the way would have been too unbelievable, and too “Hollywood-esque”. However, I don’t like the fact that it pretty much ripped off the ending of The Dark Knight Rises, and it got to a point where I was expecting him to be alive, watching Soo-yeon from a distance or something. It felt unoriginal and less poignant for me. I knew exactly what was going to happen.
It is interesting also that the drama decided to portray a nuclear explosion. (The previous franchises never showed what happened if a bomb or nuclear explosion went off.) It’s not a realistic portrayal of what would happen in a nuclear war, because the ending was too serene, but considering current events it’s a very high possibility. The problem is, there’s no real-life Yoo-gun who will sacrifice himself to fly a helicopter with the bomb and explode it in the middle of the sea. Also, nuclear weapons are in missiles with programmed targets, not stationary bombs. It’s trying to show that this could happen, but it will never happen for several factors.
In fact, it seems news outlets were more surprised at the possibility of a season 3 than the nuclear bomb going off.
After that “shock ending”, the way the rest of the stories were cobbled together felt odd. Sun-hwa and Yun-hwa running off into the distance in slo-mo should have been the ending, with a cut to the bomb activating. We didn’t need to know about Hyun-woo staying single; in fact, it would have been nice if his relationship status was left up in the air for us to imagine. And I could do without Soo-yeon’s little montage because it only confirmed what we knew. They were unnecessary cuts to fill air time, just like how each episode had moments of unnecessary product placement shots or cameos that added five seconds here, a minute there. Short and sweet! Cut to the chase!
As for the entire series, there were plenty of flaws. One thing that drove me crazy was how everyone had a vendetta of some sort and it was all about revenge. Forget politics – everyone was putting millions of lives at stake because they just had some mommy issues. Sheesh! But despite the repetitive vendetta plot line all the way through, this drama at least answered a lot of the questions we had been wondering since IRIS and raised the stakes with the nuclear weapons. They exist! It’s not like they were going to shoot missiles at nuclear plants or something!
I had a few quibbles with the acting, which is far less than the quibbles I had in ATHENA. I wasn’t happy with how dead Jang Hyuk portrayed Yoo-gun after he got shot in the head too. He always had this hunched posture and an “I’m too sleepy to care” look as Ken, and when he cried I felt more emotionally detached than in his previous works (i.e. Thank You and Tree with Deep Roots). There’s a strangled cry that he does when he cries, and it’s really weird to see on a grown man like him. I wish the writers gave him more to work with, because it seemed as if he had been checking out emotionally while filming. As for Lee Beom Soo, comedy suits him much better. I liked Joong-won in the beginning, but when he became too vengeful and emotional, he got on my nerves. What happened to the cool and controlled military agent? All that training went out the window, and I felt he lost common sense. They were my greatest disappointments, meaning everyone else lived up to my non-existent expectations for them.
I think I like this drama better than ATHENA, but just barely. It just reinforces that doing something once is enough, and there’s no need to have done it two more times. If they kept the same cast from the original IRIS, it might have been more enjoyable; I think season 2’s of other dramas work (like Vampire Prosecutor or Ten 2) because they get to develop the characters more and even with its formulaic procedural plot, it still gives you something new. This IRIS franchise gives you the formulaic plot with only new faces. So not only have my affections for the original cast gone to waste, but I am watching the same exact thing again with nothing new being offered. (They even chose the same foreign location – Hungary – as IRIS in this sequel!) While I may not necessarily have liked the actors in the original IRIS, at least I already have a basic understanding of who they are.
Verdict: Fun-filled action with a plot full of revenge, but third time is not the charm. Not something I’d highly recommend to IRIS fans – unless they just want answers and don’t care about the characters. 6/10 – funny how that’s the rating I gave every single drama in this franchise.
(*side note: If you got my Dark Knight quote reference in the beginning, you’ll know I mixed it up. I did it on purpose. So don’t need to correct in the comments!)
sources include: Joongang Daily