The Straits Times
Saturday, Apr 16, 2016
In the end, popular Korean drama Descendants Of The Sun had a happily-ever-after ending that is so happy that a character even says so to the audience, in case fans were in doubt that the crowd-pleasing finale was written expressly for them.
Captain Yoo Si Jin (Song Joong Ki) does not die as fans had feared he would; his beloved Dr Kang Mo Yeon (Song Hye Kyo) does not break up with him even though she hates the thought that he could die during his next mission; and all other supporting characters also get their happy endings.
In the last scene, one of the supporting characters breaks down the fourth wall to address the fans directly: "Don't you love an ending like this?"
The answer from the show's fans in Singapore is a resounding yes.
A group of them organised a viewing session yesterday morning, hours after the English subtitled version was uploaded on Korean- entertainment streaming site Viu at 6am.
Over breakfast at a cafe, four fans - who met through a Korean language self-study online site - gushed, cooed and laughed throughout the 16th and final episode, whose romantic comedy shenanigans were a stark contrast to the weepy melodrama of the episode just before that.
In Episode 15, fans grieved along with Dr Kang at the thought that Captain Yoo had died during an international mission, only to see the light at the end of the tunnel/episode when he swaggers back into her life in a desert.
Cafe service staff Calista Ng, 17, says: "We were hoping for a happy ending. The scriptwriter gave audiences the ending that we wanted. The couple have been through lots of obstacles. They deserve a good ending.
"The writer inserted twists and turns in the drama. It was like a roller-coaster ride - the second- last episode was full of down moments and the ride went up again in the finale. That's what keeps viewers hooked. A lot of emotions were vested in this drama."
Descendants' final episode drew a viewership of 38.8 per cent in South Korea, according to Yonhap News Agency.
The rating was just 1.2 percentage points off the 40 per cent mark achieved by the fantasy period drama Moon Embracing The Sun in 2012, which was one of the highest in recent years.
It seems writer Kim Eun Sook - who beefed up the romance in Kim Won Suk's original script - has learnt her lesson after receiving a ton of backlash for her bizarre ending in the 2004 drama Lovers In Paris (see story on Page D9).
So much so that her pen spared even the supporting cast from a cruel fate.
According to The Korea Herald, the show's second-rung female character, military doctor Yoon Myeong Ju (Kim Ji Won), was killed in the script's initial draft.
"I was initially told that I was supposed to die," Kim told media off-the-record while the drama was being aired.
"But I was content with the final scenario, which makes everyone happy."
As marketing executive Lorraine Lee, 32, says: "Having the couples reunite and promised eternal love is such a joy to watch. This drama really depicted one of the sweetest love stories."
Ms Mabel Ng, 41, is objective enough to realise the drama is too much of a fantasy, but she enjoyed the finale nonetheless.
"The loose ends are tied up too neatly. Everyone lives happily ever after. But viewers are there for the escapism, so a happy ending is great for us.
"No one wants to see Captain Yoo dead. They tried killing him many times but he was 'resurrected' time and again," says Ms Ng, a company director of a watch retail business and a tuition centre.
Ms Wenny Peng, 27, who works in the tourism industry, says: "The second-last episode was totally heart-wrenching. Of all the episodes, I cried the most watching that one.
"Then the finale was light- hearted and had a happy ending. All the couples got together. I guess it made up for all the the crying I did in the previous episode."
Fans The Straits Times spoke to were all tickled by the same few scenes in the finale.
One scene featured Dr Kang making a video call to her medical colleagues, who were spooked out as they spotted a presumed dead Captain Yoo eating away in the background.
To wrap up the series, writers also revisited the cheesy romantic comedy lines from earlier episodes as well as a key filming site in scenic Greece.
Ms Shireen Toh, 41, an executive assistant in the gas industry, says: "One of my favourite moments was when the couple went back to the beach which had a shipwreck.
"They started making their memories together at that place and returned there to make more happy memories."
While the romance thriller has drawn to a close, its ripple effects are still felt.
At Korean make-up brand Laneige's counters in Singapore, there has been a "double digit growth" in sales of the Two Tone Lip Bar, in particular, the colours that were worn by Song Hye Kyo's Dr Kang.
The drama's distributor is in search of Chinese production companies to do a Chinese remake.
Reactions to the possible adaptation are mixed. Operations manager Eileen Lim, 39, says she will not be watching the Chinese version because "the chemistry between Song Hye Kyo and Song Joong Ki is what makes the show entertaining".
But Ms Celestine Wong, 22, is willing to give the Chinese remake a shot.
Ms Wong, a management support officer, says: "I am a huge fan of the drama, so I'm keen to see how the Chinese production will turn out. But of course the Song-Song couple are definitely lovable and irreplaceable.
"I will miss this show and I intend to watch the whole series again. If only there were more episodes."
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