Episode 15 Review: Mr. Back (2014)
It’s been a wonderful ride so far with Mr. Back. Fifteen episodes that had their own purpose in the scenario’s pace and the fifteenth episode is only the prelude to the swansong of Mr. Back. And such episodes deserve a powerful place in a drama, they have to offer the last hints of the storyline before the final episode breaks in and leads the drama to an end, a wonderful one if possible. And that’s what the fifteenth episode does, it reaches the final point before the mountain’s top, all the side-stories are being pushed to their edge before reaching completion with everyone doing an exceptional work, behind and in front of the cameras following the scriptwriter’s pen, OK, or keyboard. You have to admit that Mr. Back paced really well with the Xmas spirit of the days and it was right on time for Xmas Eve and Xmas, enriching its character with the overall ambiance of the days.
The penultimate 15th episode of Mr. Back begins at the crucial moment when the 14th one left us with the impression that the truth behind Shin Hyung’s real identity would be revealed to Ha Soo. The truth’s one phrase away from coming to the surface, but every time Go Bong tries to utter his real name the afterlife police in white suits that were craving for his soul at the first episode appears again. Ha Soo tries to relate the fact that she was at the sinkhole accident alongside the late chairman Choi Go Bong to the fact that she’s always been helpful towards Shin Hyung’s health when a cardiac arrest was bringing Shin Hyung on the verge of dying. At the same time someone’s taking photographs of them at the sight of the accident, someone working for the detestable director Yi Gun. Go Bong is thankful towards Ha Soo, for everything she’s done for him and especially for holding his hand when the accident occurred, he tries once again to reveal his identity but the afterlife police makes its omnipotent presence once again and he tries to escape along with Ha Soo who thinks that he’s hallucinating. His fear is immense whereas Ha Soo’s worries arise. It’s almost time for Go Bong to return the payment, but why does the afterlife police appear again? Could it be that he’s at the sight of the accident or because he shouldn’t reveal his identity to Ha Soo? Could it be that he’s running out of time? Questions, questions. The answer could be a combination of the aforementioned assumptions.
After leaving the sinkhole accident sight Go Bong and Ha Soo find themselves at the same park where the artificial paper crane cherry blossoms took place. It’s a familiar place both for the koong koong da couple and the audience since that specific scene on the 14th episode was powerful and moving. Go Bong feels way better now that the afterlife police has vanished once again. He finds comfort at that familiar spot, especially when Ha Soo’s around. She doesn’t intend to leave behind the hallucinating incident, it’s a hint that Go Bong’s health worsens even more and she can’t stand still when she worries way too much to remain silent. Go Bong refers to a four-word phrase, “the unknown is panacea”, but the unknown is what hurts Ha Soo more than anything else, the fear of the unknown and what might happen to Go Bong. She’s got a four-word phrase as well, “try walking in my shoes” (Depeche Mode pun intended). Setting aside Go Bong’s critical condition, if only he could put himself in Ha Soo’s position even for a little while he’d lose himself in a torrent of distress and agony, fear and an ongoing emotional trial. His deepest concern is if he leaves, would he be able not to leave no scars on the souls of his most loved people? It’s never easy to leave this way without hurting anyone and he knows it. Both of them are going through an internal struggle through different prisms that reflect to each other. He promises her that he’ll do the surgery, we all know that he won’t proceed this way, but he wants to ease her tension, even if it lasts for a little while. Soon the tears of agony turn into tears of laughter, although the truth behind her tears lie somewhere in the middle, on the thin red line of hoping and collapsing and Go Bong’s stare at the end of the scene is quite representative.
Conspiracies, plans and counter-plans. All the camps are steadily preparing themselves for the final battle of who will take control over Choi Go Bong’s company. The detestable prosecutor has found out that Shin Hyung’s fingerprints match 100% the late chairman’s fingerprints, but that’s impossible since all fingerprints are something like a person’s unique identity on this planet, is it? Go Bong’s having an unpredictable meeting, the offer cannot be easily ignored and everything starts going according to plan. Dae Han and Ji Yoon are watching the videos from the area where the sinkhole accident took place, they must find solid evidence that Yi Gun framed the late chairman by placing the money at the back of his vehicle. They find something odd while watching the video, the prosecutor was at the area before the accident took place. The accident could not be predicted since it was a natural disaster, so, what was he doing there that night? Of course he was informed about the money and he was waiting for Choi Go Bong’s car to pass by. Steadily the pieces reveal themselves. Yi Gun wants the prosecutor to interrogate Shin Hyung, but it can’t be done that easily, apart from the identical fingerprints he doesn’t have any solid proof that something’s wrong with him. At the same time, Go Bong’s plan processes, he meets with prosecutor Gu that seems to had been close to the late chairman. Another investigation is about to begin, from the opposing side this time, it’s about time to clean Choi Go Bong’s name and the evidence must be be given to the prosecutor. This task was assigned to Dae Han, a phone call though puts the overall plan in the ice for a while. A meeting is being arranged with the woman Go Bong was having a discussion a bit earlier. She’s the girl from the picture scandal who tried to frame Dae Han and Go Bong took responsibility of the overall situation. Yi Gun never paid her because the plan didn’t work out and she was displeased with him, she would never reject Go Bong’s offer. She hands all the information she has over to Dae Han and he’s more than happy to get his hands on this precious stick, from this point and on it won’t be easy for Yi Gun and prosecutor Yang, what goes around comes around!
Yi Gun by the time he enters his office an unpleasant surprise awaits him. Of course i’m referring to Mi Hye who’s not satisfied after she read Yi Gun’s interview in which he announces his engagement with Ji Yoon. This turn of events makes Mi Hye’s world crumble since she’s exposed to all the dangers of being used by Yi Gun and being called to get interrogated by prosecutor Yang. She’s of no use to Yi Gun anymore and the air she breathes is threatening. Ji Yoon wasn’t aware of Yi Gun’s announcement either and breaks into his office to ask for explanations. Whether his feelings towards Ji Yoon are true or not, i don’t really care anymore, he’s got more than two faces and the fact that he can’t keep any of his promises doesn’t help either. Ji Yoon has known him for a long time and she’s the only person willing to speak the truth in front of his face, even though he’s not the kindest person to begin with, she recognizes his good side and how hard he worked, but if the current truth hurts he must prepare for pain. It’s all about his inferiority complex that keeps burning deep inside, he has forgotten his ambitions which were shining brightly when he was helping the company become even greater with his skills. Shortly after Yi Gun plays squash to calm down, until Dae Han appears and a word n’ squash power play begins! Sometimes words are more powerful than the force you put on the squash racket! Yi Gun’s words are imposing, but they stand on flimsy foundations, Dae Han’s thoughts always appear more spot on and they hurt more due to their tranquil accuracy. Lee Joon’s facial expressions are always pacing perfectly every time he appears on a scene, “bitch please” stare incoming!
Ha Soo and Go Bong pace with the spirit of the days and they’re taking a walk among the Xmas decorations. A couple asks Go Bong to take a picture of them, he has become a cellphone master by now and he’s more than happy to fulfill their wish! The overall ambiance is playful and joyous, just like it should and the selfie stick has its own profound position! Although i have to admit that this huge snowman was kind of scary, for some weird reason it reminded me of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the Ghostbusters! During the Xmas period there are always people and/or organizations that gather money for the less fortunate of this world and Ha Soo wants to contribute. Go Bong takes the upper hand of the situation, literally, he grabs the hand of the man with the bell and turns the overall scene into a passionate call to arms by moving it upside down. Passers by respond to the philanthropist call!
Go Bong wanted to take his son somewhere special, the bathhouse! Dae Han can’t understand what’s so special about this place, although Go Bong has his own theory and he’s definitely enjoying himself while singing! Judging from our experience so far with Mr. Back when we find both of them together they always start fighting in their own playful way! Water fighting is essential and that’s what they’re doing and not only that, Go Bong insists that he should scratch Dae Han’s back to make him feel cleaner than ever! His reactions while scratching his back are priceless along with the whole noodle bar story going on around the dirt factor! Dae Han’s suffering due to the intense scratching and it’s about time they switch positions! Scratching Go Bong’s back feels as if Dae Han discovered a new planet and he’s definitely enjoying it going rougher and rougher! It’s Go Bong’s turn to suffer! Payback time for all the scratch suffering! And we’re simply swimming in a sea of entertaining facial expressions for one more time! They’re definitely father and son, every single move they make while drying and fixing their hair is perfectly synchronized! Shortly after they’re relaxing while eating their snacks and Dae Han agrees that it was a great experience and that they should do that again, Go Bong’s stare proves once again how the forthcoming unknown future prevents him from organizing plans with his loved ones, even though he’d love to fill his daily program for a hundred years’ time ahead. That pink ass-heart though!
Their bromance won’t end there, Go Bong still owes his son a paternal Christmas memory. It’s about time they decorate an Xmas tree together and… what an Xmas tree it is! Around four meters tall or even more! It’s one of these trees you’ll probably never see inside a house since it’s a square potential decoration tree, but the Gold House isn’t a common house and its wealth capacity is insuperable. It’s a beauteous tree, decorated graciously and adorned with memories since pictures are a part of it as well. Dae Han places the star upon the tree as high as he reaches and closes his eyes for a heartfelt wish. He starts wishing about how much he’d like his father to be around the next year and for many years ahead in order to decorate the Xmas tree together, soon he sees things differently and makes his wish more Go Bong oriented. Dae Han hands over to Go Bong the meteor keepsake his mother had given him and wishes for a miracle when it comes to his father. It might seem generic as a wish, but it’s sincere and let’s not forget that a miracle is always positive and it’s one of these times one would pray for a miracle to happen.Handing him over something so precious and personal makes his wish’s symbolism more powerful.
Go Bong spends some time alone at his room writing letters or Xmas cards and later on he goes once again at the living room and recalls doctor Kim’s words about the weird elixir he found in Africa. Gyung Bae comes to see him. It’s not a discussion between a chairman and his right hand, it’s a discussion between friends. Go Bong’s willing to let him go to his wife and children and make things right, he’s grateful towards him for the thirty years they’ve spent together, for all the help he has offered to him and for having to bear all the assignments he had given him. If we witnessed a few months of Go Bong and Gyung Bae’s relationship during Mr. Back, imagine what he’s been through in thirty years’ time under Go Bong’s instructions, personally, i wouldn’t like to even think about it! But it wasn’t all that bad, it wasn’t at all, the mutual trust and sincerity they forged throughout the years and the middle-aged bromance they share is something beautiful and declares a true friendship. Gyung Bae doesn’t intend to leave Go Bong’s side, especially not this time since the following days will be crucial. He tries to convince him to have the surgery and eventually he bursts into tears and embraces Go Bong. Dae Han’s witnessing the heartrending moment between the two men and suffers in silence on his own. Dae Han and Gyung Bae meet each other to find a solution for Go Bong’s situation, they are both worried and if they have to, they will force him to have the surgery as a last attempt to save his life.
Ki Chan and Nan Hee are having one of these honey-dropping moments with Ki Chan steadily falling in her love-trap while Nan Hee’s melting at his very presence! The honey stops falling once Woo Young and Ha Soo appear and refer to the rumors they heard. Ki Chan says that the rumors about the employees are true if the resort gets sold to foreigners. They just can’t stand still and wait for the ominous future to become present, a petition is a bout to begin for their rights and the resort! Young Dal gets a call from the prosecutor, Mi Hye arrives at his office and says that she received a call as well. She reveals to him everything In Ja was doing behind his back all this time by transferring funds to her family in Germany. Dae Han appears as a heaven sent savior and asks them to cooperate with him if they want to survive! The wolves would do anything in order to survive, especially since Dae Han is part of the family and since family’s willing to help them in exchange for their cooperation… of course they’d proceed! Dae Han and Ji Yoon pay a visit to prosecutor Gu bringing with them all the evidence they have against Yi Gun in order to clean the late chairman’s name. Dae Han wouldn’t have gone so far without Ji Yoon’s precious help and unconditional love, it’s something he recognizes and he’s more than thankful towards her face who’s shining as she receives at least 1% of the feelings she has for Dae Han who’s definitely trying to move on with his own feelings when it comes to Ji Yoon.
The next morning a pleasant surprise wakes up Go Bong, it’s a message from Ha Soo wishing him Merry Xmas! He’s glad for the message and replies back with his own wishes! The smile fades away from his face as soon as he realizes that it’s one day before Xmas Eve and he has only one day in front of him before the unknown spreads its wings above him. At the company Dae Han wants Ha Soo to work on an appreciation plaque for the late chairman, a plaque that Shin Hyung will receive on behalf of… himself. He worked really hard and he didn’t deserve the blackmail he received during the last days of his life and it’s a humble payback time for Choi Go Bong. Young Dal, Mi Hye and In Ja are in a difficult situation, the prosecutor’s investigation wasn’t the most pleasant experience in their lives. Go Bong’s willing to help them, if they help him back alongside Dae Han. Of course, coming back to their senses and behaving properly from now on is one of the terms if they want Go Bong to help them. Prosecutor Yang meets with Yi Gun and informs him that nothing’s going well. Everyone brought evidence in order to prove their innocence, although Yi Gun doesn’t intend to stop even now that prosecutor Gu’s after him with proper evidence. Stepping back now would prove him guilty immediately. The employees’ petition is going well, the support is immense. Go Bong’s passing by and witnesses the petition, he’s glad to see that the employees support his son and want him to remain as the resort’s chairman. Go Bong offers his own signature as well and asks Ha Soo if she’s free in the evening, the nighttime belongs to them! In the meantime, Yi Gun’s office feels like a volcano ready to erupt and… it erupts. His empire starts to crumble and he’s standing on its frail remains.
Dae Han and Ji Yoon are on their way to meet with the main foreign investor of the resort. Yi Gun starts following them, but Gyung Bae’s ever-watching stare notices it. Yi Gun’s about to follow them with his car, but another car blocks his way. It’s about time for a face to face battle with Go Bong himself. It appears that it was Go Bong on the phone when he started following Ji Yoon and Dae Han in the first place by telling him that he can’t meet him. He starts talking to Yi Gun in first person about the past, how he took care of him and how much he trusted and supported him along the way with his studies and his work at the company making Yi Gun wonder who he really is. Had he known he’d turn out this way he’d treat him differently. Instead of creating a successful businessman, Yi Gun turned into Go Bong’s most menacing shadow and he finally speaks the truth. Yi Gun utters that in the end he wasn’t even Go Bong’s son and his inferiority complex comes to the surface, the one Ji Yoon had diagnosed earlier. Yi Gun, you could never be Dae Han, deal with it. Yi Joon and Dae Han’s meeting with the investor seems to be flowing well, he’s being informed of the overall situation and the future seems bright, the company must remain in Dae Han’s hands. In the meantime, Woo Youg has taken Ha Soo at a cosmetics store. Ha Soo’s birthday is a day for presents and that’s what Woo Young intends to do!
Festivals end as festivals should and this night belongs to Ha Soo 100%. It incorporates everything, from celestial beauty to utter devastation, there are no mediocre pathways for such a special couple to walk upon, only the edges of the arrows that point towards every direction, everything must be felt to the core, everything but hate, it never found its way between them, between heaven and the mouth of the abyss. It’s a night that belongs to the Koong Koong Da couple and the 20 minutes of the scene do exceptional justice to their beauteous relationship. It’s an ode to the Milky Way, Eun Ha Soo, a tribute flowing from every part of Go Bong’s very soul and the scene must be cherished as such.
By the time Ha Soo walks into the living room she can’t believe her eyes, the sight is elegant and beautiful, the Xmas tree attracts her attention. Soon Go Bong appears with her birthday cake and she blows out the candles. The most powerful part is about to begin. Go Bong has composed his own hand puppet operetta to tell a story. He had to find a way to tell his story in a unique way for Ha Soo’s precious eyes and so it unfolds. About how he “lived” in the past and what he was missing, how he found himself at the verge of dying and how the angel held his hand and brought him back to life. Ha Soo’s facial expressions to every part of the story are heartfelt, the more the story processes the more she dives emotionally into it and the crucial part is when the name of the angel is being revealed, it’s Eun Ha Soo who’s celebrating her birthday. The hand puppet show was the most creative way he could think of in order to say farewell to Ha Soo directly in an indirect way, through the dialogue of the puppets. The Go Bong puppet tells everything he wishes as a farewell to the angel puppet and the angel repeats his words. He wants her to take care of herself by not skipping meals, he wants her to always be the winner when she eats ddukbokki. All these small things that make the difference to one’s eyes. Whenever she doesn’t feel well, she should never forget the phrase she taught him, “koong koong da”, she should always make people happy and create beautiful memories for them. She wants her to live happily and always remember that someone like him was thankful that she was born. Ha Soo’s final wish flows straight from the heart, they will never be apart, it’s the most sincere promise she can make. And that straight forward face to face “i love you” among tears was so alive, kissing never felt so blissful and mourning at the same time.
The last seconds of the 24th of December, 2014, are leaving their final breath on time’s merciless highway. Go Bong’s final day begins and Merry Xmas is not the most appropriate phrase for the occasion. The final message arrives and Go Bong’s distress is breathing in the room’s heavy air. It’s time for Mr. Back’s final episode to start unfolding its tale, the hourglass of life starts drifting among the sands of time.