What an intense finale to match the intense run of this show. I don’t know what can of worms I expected Da-hee to lead us to, but the shock of my life wasn’t it. We’ve spent a good part of the second half of the show wondering why Da-hee was lying, oscillating between pinning the blame of her assault on Sun-ho and Joon-seok. It, therefore, should not be as shocking as it is that the perpetrator is revealed to be Oh Jin-pyo. After all, who could terrify a girl into silence and lies if not a powerful adult? It wasn’t difficult to guess, but I had goosebumps when Da-hee tells Joon-seok that she’d gone over to his house that day and met… HIS DAD.
Overall, with this final plot twists, the show makes choices that are equally good and bad. In its treatment of an assault victim who is also a teenager, the show wins several brownie points. While much of the show has focused on how cruel people can be, In-ha’s kindness to Da-hee stands out because she tells Da-hee exactly the words that kid needs to hear to open up again. “It’s not your fault. I believe you,” she tells the girl, which is probably the first words we should be saying to any survivor of trauma/assault. The symbolic sigh of relief Da-hee lets out after spending time with In-ha and realizing that she could set the weight of guilt down was a brilliant narrative choice.
The show also explores how abusers gaslight their victims into believing that their assault is their victims’ fault. Oh Jin-pyo not only threatens Da-hee with death if she reveals anything but also has evidence at hand to blackmail her should she open her mouth. No wonder the girl was so terrified of Joon-seok. I also appreciate that instead of stopping at the reveal, we are shown how a victim and their family can be encouraged to report cases instead of hiding away. We even have a scene set inside a women’s cell to see how gently survivors can make complaints and give testimonies. This was a brilliant move because for how often we show rape and assault on TV, there are not enough examples of young women reporting their cases with the support of their family.
So this explains Joon-seok’s outburst. His character has been so manipulative that it’s easy to forget that he’s just a child, but in light of learning that your father assaulted your classmate, I sympathize with his frame of mind. The boy just wanted everything to end by taking the blame for it, despite Sun-ho’s testimony that Joon-seok didn’t push him. When he disappeared, I was scared that he was going to end up on the school’s rooftop and I was right.
Suicide scenes are always tense to watch but for this one, the music and Park Hee-soon’s acting added another layer to it. I wasn’t even breathing when Moo-jin stood in front of Joon-seok on the ledge, asking him not to jump. The way he grabs Joon-seok quickly to bring him down and then comforts him… phew. Park Hee-soon has added a special warmth to every single time he’s comforted a kid in this show and I wish I had a teacher/adult like him in my life.
In their dealings with Da-hee and Joon-seok, In-ha and Moo-jin pretty much embodied the ideal—which Sun-ho set for himself after reading Catcher In The Rye—of bringing troubled kids back from the brink of collapse.
One of my favorite moments of watching a drama is how, in the final episode, all the arcs and loose ends tie up. Of course, rushed or illogical resolutions are frustrating but when it’s well done, it leaves you with a satisfied feeling in your stomach. With this finale, I felt a bit of both feelings. Watching Sun-ho’s family get their smiles back after 15 episodes of suffering was the high point of the episode, but the way the writers chose to wrap up the arcs of Joon-seok’s family’s was incredibly confusing.
We’ve all spent a lot of time hating both Joon-seok and Eun-joo. As the mother and son reunite after Joon-seok’s suicide attempt, I couldn’t help but be glad that they’re both okay. For her part, Eun-joo even helped the police get the evidence needed to put her husband behind bars. But when they just packed up and moved to another country, I couldn’t help but feel how unfair it was that Eun-joo didn’t have to pay for literally manipulating the scene of Sun-ho’s fall and leaving him to die and Joon-seok didn’t have to answer for his bullying. Despite the mental torment both have gone through, I feel like it was crucial that they get punished for their crimes in some way, since the whole point of the show was to deal with school violence.
The Gi Deuk-cheol arc seemed last-minute and rushed. I found it absurd that a criminal the police were searching for would help them nab Oh Jin-pyo in Shin’s case, especially since he had no prior enmity with Jin-pyo. Meanwhile, a couple of new friendships that the show dropped on us in the last few minutes—like Joon-seok and Dong-soo, Dong-hee, Su-ho and Da-hee, and Joon-seok and Moo-jin—left me wanting more. I liked that in the end, Dong-soo and Dong-hee basically became a part of Sun-ho’s big family. As far as happy endings go, this was a nice one, though I did feel that the show became a bit too happy immediately and did not offer consequences for Eun-joo and the boys who bullied Sun-ho.
Final thoughts: All in all, this show’s strength were it’s actors. Park Hee-soon and Choo Ja-hyun gave wonderfully emotional performances as Moo-jin and In-ha, respectively. Kim Hwan-hee’s brazen but wise Su-ho had less scenes than I expected but honestly, I’d probably have that complaint about everything Hwan-hee is in because she’s just that good on screen—you only want more of her. Nam Da-reum, as always, gave a beautifully restrained performance for his age. And Cho Yeo-jong’s Eun-joo, despite being one of the show’s least likeable characters, was arresting in her constant torment.
My expectation from Beautiful Worlds was a realistic portrayal of bullying and school violence, but the show veered towards the dramatic in order to take advantage of the mystery factor, which I’m not complaining about. But I do wish that as far as resolutions go, we could have done without a total happy ending for even Eun-joo and Joon-seok. Sometimes, like the journalist in the drama said, perpetrators need to repent for their deeds.
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