Closure At A Bittersweet Cost: ‘Nobody Knows’ Final Episode Review

Nobody Knows is the best drama I’ve seen in a long time — and its final episode does not disappoint. It maintains pace and character consistency while wrapping things up satisfactorily — all of which can be a challenge to nail down in any finale.

Keep reading to find out which moments stand out above the rest…and which unanswered questions I was left pondering at the end.

Spoiler warning: Since this post is discussing the final episode of Nobody Knows, there are major spoilers ahead.

This moment between Sang Ho and Hee Dong

In a heated moment between Baek Sang Ho (Park Hoon) and Go Hee Dong (Tae Won Seok), the latter reminds Sang Ho of a frightening childhood memory: a day when the other kids at the orphanage locked young Hee Dong in a storage shed with a vicious dog. He recalls freezing in fear as the animal charged towards him, but the young Sang Ho came to his rescue by shoving his arm between the dog’s jaws. Hee Dong says that he believes his heart and mind never fully thawed after freezing like that, and admits he can’t exist without Sang Ho. One of the most poignant things about the scene is watching a tearful Hee Dong gently stroke Sang Ho’s arm, which is still forcing him up against the wall.

The reason this scene sticks out to me is because in a simple yet meaningful exchange, it completely explains Hee Dong’s blind devotion to Sang Ho. I mean, this is the guy who burned his hands willingly because Sang Ho told him to. We know they grew up together in the church’s orphanage — and since we know how Sang Ho was treated, we can assume that Hee Dong was abused as well. In an environment rife with distrust and uncertainty, a heroic act like the dog incident would understandably have massive impact on a young mind. It’s now clearer why Hee Dong follows Sang Ho without question, despite how often the latter hurts him.

Rather than hurriedly finishing off the villains in order to move on to its “good” characters, Nobody Knows takes the care its antagonists deserve as it wraps up everyone’s stories. So even though giving us a snippet more into Hee Dong’s and Sang Ho’s past wasn’t expected at this point in the story, it’s a refreshing move — and I’m thankful the drama let us in on such a private moment between the two.

Sun Woo’s redemption

When a furious Sang Ho barges into Eun Ho’s hospital room, Lee Sun Woo (Ryu Deok Hwan) doesn’t hesitate to put himself between the two. When Sang Ho begins beating him ruthlessly, Sun Woo bravely stands his ground and does his utmost to protect Eun Ho…even up to his last moment of consciousness.

Just like the character of Sun Woo, the scene seems quietly unassuming at first glance. It isn’t a dramatic showdown nor a grand finale, yet it’s one of the coolest scenes in the last episode — and one of my favorite moments of Sun Woo’s in the entire drama.

It holds an incredible amount of depth for several reasons. First of all, Eun Ho gets to see a male authority figure fight tooth-and-nail for him — something he likely hasn’t seen before. Secondly, whether it’s consciously or not, Sun Woo is proving to himself that he is not the same man he used to be — that he won’t sit back and watch injustice ensue around him. And lastly, Sun Woo is going up against Sang Ho, whom he’s known since childhood and once respected as a brother-figure. Sun Woo’s gesture is a big deal in every sense and the fact that his opponent is stronger than he is only makes his actions (despite inevitable fear) all the greater.

Sun Woo is later shown laying in a hospital bed, bruised and bandaged. He grins as he admits ruefully to Young Jin how much it all hurts. But, for the first time in the drama, he seems to be proud of himself — and rightfully so. Even if we liked him already (How could you not?), Sun Woo had to forgive himself and we get to see that in this last episode.

“What if you had saved me?”

During Young Jin’s and Sang Ho’s showdown on the rooftop, there is a brief moment suspended in time when Sang Ho glances at Eun Ho and wonders quietly — to himself more than anyone else — how he would have ended up if his own figurative Young Jin, rather than Seo Sang Won, had saved him when he was young.

This scene isn’t an attempt to victimize Sang Ho. Only moments before this one, Young Jin herself says that he chose to become a monster, something he doesn’t deny. Instead, the moment leaves viewers with a thought-provoking image of what could have been when we see Young Jin opening the door of the room Sang Ho was abandoned in as she extends her hand to his younger self.

What if someone like her had saved him instead of Seo Sang Won? It’s something to think about.

Sang Ho’s final scene

After his trial, Sang Ho is led to his single prison cell where we quickly glimpse his panic as the door clangs shut and is locked from the outside. He crouches down and pulls the provided blanket around him, mentally transporting himself back to the little room his abusive mother locked him in when he was a boy. And with a chilling smile and tearful eyes, he looks up to the camera and sardonically muses that — once again — he’s back in that room.

This drama is chock-full of powerful imagery, and this scene is no exception. Viewers may be reminded of an earlier scene in the drama when Sang Ho is about to kill Lim Hee Jung: tied up and wounded, she hisses that one day the police will catch Sang Ho and he’ll be locked up with no escape, just like when he was younger. A lesser drama may have felt the need to flash back to this earlier foreshadowing, but Nobody Knows gives us the courtesy of drawing the connection for ourselves.

As my favorite character, Sang Ho’s final moment was one I was on the lookout for and I salute the drama for giving such an iconic villain a truly proper goodbye.

(By the way, I wrote an entire post about Sang Ho and his villainous squad, which you can read here if you so desire.)

Ki Ho’s and Eun Ho’s meeting

One of the final scenes in the drama is between Ko Eun Ho (Ahn Ji Ho) and Jang Ki Ho (Kwon Hae Hyo). At one point in the conversation, Eun Ho shares that he used to feel anxious every single night as he tried to gauge his mom’s mood. But his anxiety ceased when Young Jin moved in upstairs. Ki Ho regretfully states that he wishes he had been that kind of adult, but figures it’s too late now. Eun Ho’s response is golden truth:

This scene is special because it’s a conversation between two characters who were so vital in (unintentionally) setting everything into motion, yet haven’t been able to speak to each other since the very beginning of the drama.

It’s also a reminder of this universal truth: you’re never too old to change.

Young Jin’s closure

Near the end of the drama, Cha Young Jin (Kim Seo Hyung) is sent a package. Inside is the camcorder in which young Sang Ho recorded himself killing Soo Jung. After much inner struggle, Young Jin makes up her mind to watch it as she sits alone in her apartment.

Picking one beautiful scene out of an entirely beautiful drama is a challenge — but if I had to, this one would definitely be in the running. Interestingly, it’s the lack of fanfare that makes this scene all the more striking. We aren’t shown the camcorder’s contents; instead, we are briefly shown Young Jin’s face, then the back of her bent head as she watches the utterly tragic moment that has plagued her entire life.

Young Jin gets her closure, yes, but it’s not necessarily how she imagined or perhaps hoped for. In the rooftop showdown, she is finally able to face her demons — the man who murdered her best friend and, consequently, her own desire to kill him. She also gets the (bitter) satisfaction of cuffing him herself and arresting him for his crimes.

But I think the moment that Young Jin truly frees herself from guilt is the one mentioned above, which brings me to my next point: how the drama handles the camcorder is brilliantly executed and I can’t praise the writers enough for how they chose to incorporate it.

I love that the camcorder isn’t used as a showy piece of evidence whipped out at the last second to convict Sang Ho. In fact, he’s already locked away in prison by the time this shot happens. I was half-expecting a semi-forced court scene with a melodramatic reveal, but I should have known better because this drama is too good for something so potentially kitschy. Instead, the camcorder is a quiet addition — almost an afterthought — to an already nearly-resolved ending. It’s sent from Ki Ho directly to Young Jin, who sits at her kitchen table alone as she presses play.

The bittersweet irony of the camcorder is not to be lost on viewers: a vital piece of evidence that holds such agony is not used for more damage, but for beauty in the freedom that comes with letting go.

Concluding thoughts:

As a whole, I think this final episode — and the entire drama, for that matter — is simply stellar. That said, it left me with a few open-ended questions. Now, don’t get me wrong; these aren’t plot holes by any means. They’re issues the drama purposefully left as they are, welcoming viewers to fill in the gaps. However, I still want to throw them out there for the sake of discussion:

  1. Did Jang Ki Ho lead Young Jin to the wrong place on purpose?
    • It would seem so, because he later goes out to find the evidence (which we learn is the camcorder) and sends it to her. Did he suddenly figure out what the numbers were actually for? Or — more likely — did he know what they meant the entire time and was waiting to make up his mind about Young Jin?
  2. Speaking of the numbers…what did they mean? How did Ki Ho crack the code of the ‘New Life Gospel’? And where was the camcorder hidden?
  3. What was Sang Ho’s and Sun Ah’s relationship? How did he save her? And what did he say to her at the end before killing her?
    • I have to read the English subtitles, so I wonder if the answer to this last question is inferred in their dialogue but perhaps lost in translation. (Thank you to any translators and subtitle-writers, by the way; the work you guys do is much appreciated!)

Again, these aren’t pivotal to the drama’s plot, and they certainly weren’t left out by accident. The creators of this drama are too excellent at what they do to leave us with any plot holes. Instead, I think the writers’ exclusion of these details are meant to provoke thought…which is clearly exactly what they did.

Bravo to the entire cast, crew, and everyone else involved in creating this spectacular work of art.

On to the next drama!

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