Final Call: “Healer”

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When a beloved drama ends, the hope is always that the final episode will live up to and even elevate the material that came before. Pulling off a good ending is always difficult, but it’s also important—after all, this is the last impression the viewers will ever have, the final taste of the story.

In other news, “Healer” came to an end this week, and though its ending certainly left a pleasant taste in my mouth, it was perhaps a bit blander than I would have liked.

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But let’s start with the good—and there was a lot of that. By the end, “Healer” had primarily become a romance, the love story of Seo Jung Hoo and Chae Young Shin, who had played together as children, experienced unimaginable traumas, and still managed to find and love each other again as adults. As a romance, “Healer” succeeded on every level. Ji Chang Wook and Park Min Young both delivered stellar performances, and they were at their best with each other. From their first, violent encounter all the way through to their sweet, tender ending.

Park Min Young was especially excellent after Young Shin discovered that “Bong Soo” was really Healer. Young Shin’s anger that this man she trusted had lied to her, and her fear that he would disappear if she revealed what she knew, were perfectly conveyed, as was her eventual decision to forgive him. What I loved about Park Min Young’s performance was how well she showed both sides of Young Shin—the silly, over-confident, bold reporter and the emotionally scarred, vulnerable young woman. Young Shin felt very much like a real person who found herself in incredible circumstances, and so much of that is due to a wonderful, grounded performance.

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By the final episodes, though, “Healer” really was Ji Chang Wook’s show, and he more than rose to the challenge. His passionate portrayal of a young man who wants nothing more than to love in peace was delightful, and he was wonderfully helped out by great character details. Jung Hoo’s constant need for skinship is a perfect example—humorous at first glance, it broke my heart once I realized that he couldn’t stop touching Young Shin because before her he had been almost entirely starved of affection.

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In other words, the central couple of “Healer” was as good as it gets. Where the final episodes stumbled, in my opinion, was in the treatment of Kim Moon Ho (Yoo Ji Tae) and the overarching fight against the Elder (Choi Jong Won). This was such a great conflict with its life-and-death stakes and the tangled web of relationships between all the main combatants; I was ready for a heartbreaking gut-punch of a final episode. I was ready for sacrifices to be made and for lives to be lost. I was prepared for victory at a price, because too many people had died for “Healer” to be tied up with a simple happy ending. I was especially wondering if perhaps Moon Ho would pay the ultimate price, giving his own life so that Jung Hoo and Young Shin could expose Moon Shik (Park Sang Won) and the Elder.

None of that happened. We had a quick encounter at the airport involving an extremely convenient whistleblower and an obviously faked death, and then all of our heroes got their happy endings.

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Of course, I am happy that these characters I love got the chance to live ordinary, loving lives. But this resolution was far too easy and quick for my taste. I’m not saying that I wanted everyone to die. But if the Elder could be taken down in the space of one afternoon without any of the good guys suffering so much as a paper cut, then I’m forced to wonder if he was ever a competent villain to begin with. And what about Kim Moon Shik, who basically dropped out of the story after Myung Hee (Do Ji Won) left him? And why was Moon Ho’s only role in the denouement to say a few words into the camera and then pretend to cry over Jung Hoo’s body?

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There are some stories with endings so bad that they make the audience angry and regretful that they ever cared. “Healer” does not have one of those endings. “Healer” was an enormously enjoyable drama with clever writing, tight plotting, and a fascinating cast of characters brought to life by talented actors (Yoo Ji Tae was especially a joy to watch, and part of the reason why I regret that Moon Ho didn’t have a larger role towards the end is that as a result Yoo Ji Tae didn’t have as much to do). I loved watching “Healer,” and I’m glad that I did. But I can’t deny that it ended with a whimper. A sweet, heartwarming, romantic whimper, but a whimper nonetheless.

What did you think about “Healer?” Did you find its ending more satisfying than I did? Let us know in the comments below!