It’s been a fun and wild ride with our motley crew of supernatural characters, but we’ve finally arrived at the end of tvN’s “Hwayugi” — and if we thought we could finish this drama without heartbreak or tragedy, the finale proved us wrong. But along with some puzzling and heart-rending outcomes, the ending of “Hwayugi” also offered us notes of hope, so let’s review our thoughts on the finale!
Warning: this article contains spoilers for “Hwayugi” Episodes 19 and 20.
After 18 episodes of grappling with evil, dangers, and the throes of love, this week our characters finally demonstrated the immense growth they achieved through it all. Jin Sun Mi (Oh Yeon Seo) ultimately accepts her destiny, and shows new strength by carrying it out on her terms rather than allowing the heavens to force Son Oh Gong (Lee Seung Gi) to kill her.
As for Oh Gong, his love for Sun Mi has inspired him to become a better version of himself: a Great Sage who, when it counts, does what is right instead of simply what best suits him.
And while we’re proud of how far our OTP has come since the beginning of the drama, the big climactic battle that “Hwayugi” has been building up to was… well, rather anticlimactic. This is largely because the finale missed the mark with its treatment of Sun Mi: we hear for weeks that Sun Mi has an important world-saving job that only she, as Sam Jang, can carry out…
Only for Sun Mi to be stabbed by Kang Dae Sung before she is able to actually perform this role. And while this death fulfilled Sun Mi’s own wish to not be killed by Oh Gong, it felt like a waste, especially after all the hardships she experienced throughout her life for the sake of being Sam Jang.
There is some redemption in the fact that it is only through his love for Sun Mi that Oh Gong is ultimately able to defeat the dragon, but “Hwayugi” missed its potential by not giving its heroine a world-saving moment, instead sacrificing Sun Mi to give Oh Gong a battle scene — which, between the unconvincing CGI dragon and the fact that Oh Gong stood in one spot for its entirety, hardly felt like a fight upon which the future of the world was at stake.
That being said, our disappointments with the finale stem from the fact that “Hwayugi” was so successful in making us care so deeply about its characters in the first place. If we hadn’t ardently hoped that Oh Gong and Sun Mi would get the glorious moments they deserved, we wouldn’t have been let down when they did not. And if we hadn’t loved Bu Ja (Lee Se Young) so much, we wouldn’t be so outraged that “Hwayugi” spent weeks tricking us into believing there was a chance that the sweet zombie was still alive, only to unceremoniously inform us in the finale that she has been gone ever since Asanyeo took over her body.
Shouldn’t someone have mentioned this earlier?
Most importantly, it’s a sign of how invested we were in Sun Mi and Oh Gong’s relationship that we felt so empty after the final episode: it broke our hearts to watch these two go through so much together, only to see them essentially back at square one for the majority of Episode 20 because Oh Gong lost his memories. Despite our gripes with the amnesia trope, it at least served as an excuse to bring Sun Mi back so she could finally see that Oh Gong’s feelings were real without the Geumganggo.
We still wish he had shown her this while she was alive, but communication was never his strong suit.
But for the sake of closure, we would have liked for Oh Gong and Sun Mi to have more than a few short moments together at the end after the Great Sage regained his memories.
Because “Hwayugi” was never really about the battle to save the world, and after watching a drama that focused on developing characters through weekly story arcs and subplots rather than emphasizing the impending fight for humanity, it felt odd to have this reversed in the final episodes. That’s not to say that the finale was entirely disappointing, because while it missed the mark with the plot devices it used, it found its strength in the wonderfully poignant, if short, moments between characters. It’s not every show that can take viewers from such blissful tenderness…
To such devastating heartbreak, all in the span of a single episode.
In fact, some of the most emotionally impactful scenes of the finale were not with the main couple, but rather the supporting characters. Like P.K (Lee Hong Ki) and his sorrow over lost friends:
Or loyal Lee Han Joo (Kim Sung Oh) and his earnest sadness over Sun Mi’s death:
Because at the end of the day, the phenomenal cast of capable actors carried this drama, and we’ll remember “Hwayugi” most for its delightfully eccentric characters who we spent a lot of time laughing with, but who also had the power to make us feel all kinds of emotions. And for that, we can forgive the drama for ultimately delivering an underwhelming doomsday plot.
“Hwayugi” finishes in an admittedly unsatisfying way, with not a single on-screen happy ending to be found. And while not particularly gratifying, these open endings are fitting for a drama full of immortal characters: life is a journey of constant growth and learning, and for them, that journey doesn’t have an endpoint. Ma Wang (Cha Seung Won) and Oh Gong do not emerge from “Hwayugi” having arrived at a destination. But they have gained a new sense of purpose going forward and, perhaps most touchingly, a newfound appreciation for each other and the hardships that both have endured.
But that’s not to say that the finale didn’t give us some form of closure: we know that everything will be resolved in time. Ma Wang will become a deity so that he can safely reveal himself to his son, parenting from very close by in the meantime.
And Oh Gong will find Sun Mi so that they can be together.
Because while the heavens have been unrelenting and cruel throughout “Hwayugi,” these characters have shown that they are not entirely beholden to heaven’s plan. With a little cleverness and determination, they can shape their own futures in spite of what fate has ordained for them. And it’s in this that we find our happy ending — because if there’s one thing we can be certain of, it’s that Oh Gong is going to raise hell in the Underworld until he gets Sun Mi back!
Give ’em hell, nut job!
Hey Soompiers, what did you think of the “Hwayugi” finale? Let us know in the comments!
hgordon stays up way too late on weeknights marathoning K-dramas and trying to keep up with the latest K-pop releases.