I wanted a happily ever after for each character in Prison Playbook. I imagined a joyful reunion at the end where everyone, including Doctor Ko, would be waving from the stands as Je Hyeok pitched a perfect game. That would have been a storybook ending, but this show has proven again and again that providing perfect closure and resolution all around is not what it is designed to do. It just would not feel genuine. Read on to hear my last impressions and unfiltered thoughts…I am still reeling from the situation with Looney in the last episode. How can this show rip my heart out in this way? Looney was one of my favorite characters. He brought comic relief throughout the drama, but also made my heart ache for him. I mentioned in an earlier recap, I truly think his drug addiction is probably the most difficult sentence of them all.
Although I am referring back to a scene in episode 15, I think the way it captured his pain and self-disgust was one of the most brilliant of this entire drama. You could see him fight his addiction, put his hand on the door to leave, and then just be unable to walk away in the face of such temptation. We then see the self-satisfied smiles of the police officers, and Looney is sent back to jail, and likely not the same cell as before. That whole scene broke my heart, and reminded me again that this was not summer camp, and even though we came to love this motley crew of characters, we would have to say goodbye, and there just might not be the resolution and riding off into the sunset that I truly wanted. So, here are the highlights of this final episode, or at least my unfiltered thoughts…
Min Chul might have been a brilliant businessman.
Min Chul’s smiles make my heart melt. He is so happy to just listen to his daughter. He surprised her (and me) by listing off all of his certifications from mushroom growing to washing machine repair. He does confess to his cellmates that he didn’t actually earn those certifications, so he can’t really do any of those things. Trying to be helpful, Captain Yoo suggests that he could pursue one of his business ideas and Je-Hyeok agrees he would invest. Sadly, though, although Min Chul’s ideas are revolutionary, they have already been thought of by someone else.
I laughed a bit when he was excitedly describing a truck that could bring hot food to different locations and then Crony said, “You mean a food truck?” Min Chul loved the name, but his cellmates had to tell him it was already in existence. As Min Chul pitches idea after idea, poor Crony is the only one left to listen and break the bad news that 3-D movies have even been replaced with 4-D movies. While Min Chul has been spending the last two decades in prison, the world has moved forward. Although this scene provided a few laughs, it also outlined the stark reality of the many years that have passed since Min Chul entered prison and the vast changes that have taken place. I am so glad he will have his daughter to help him navigate this foreign world.
Oh! Don’t you Dare Go After Je-Hyeok’s People
I find it fascinating that although we all saw what Je-Hyeok did to land in prison; (it was self-defense), it still kind of feels like he is the one most capable of committing murder. He has a serious temper, so I just want to tell those thugs who are picking on Je-Hyeok’s crew, watch out! The episode shows how the big-bad thug is threatening all of the people around Je-Hyeok. He plants contraband among Min Chul’s belongings, sends death threats to the soldiers testifying on Captain Yoo’s behalf, and beats up Crony. It was both heartbreaking and endearing when Crony hid his wounds from Je-Hyeok and when scolded by Min Chul for not fighting back, he looked over st Je-Hyeok with big puppy eyes and said, “He told me not to hit anyone ever again.” Oh, Je-Hyeok, you are the best prison gang leader ever!
Meet me at midnight… Noooo!!!!!
Je-Hyeok meets with Chief Yeom and tells him he will pay him off. Chief Yeom brags that he is going to keep all of the money, but there is interest. Je-Hyeok will have to “pay with his body.” Yeah. I’m thinkin’ Je-Hyeok is not going to be down with that. I really really hope he has a plan! Je-Hyeok seems especially determined once he learns that the prison thug leader over Chief Yeom is also threatening his sister. Je-Hyeok is either going to throw away his chance to get out of jail by taking out the whole line-up of baddies or he is going to buckle. I see him more likely to lose his temper and destroy anyone who threatens his people.
Yay for Incinerator Grandpa! Yay for plans!
I cheered when Lifer (Incinerator Grandpa) emerged from the shadows and took Chief Yeom down! He kept whacking him over and over, and then he said it was the only thing he could do to help Je-Hyeok. He also finally thanked Je-Hyeok for saving his life. Yeom ended up in the infirmary and it is there we learn that Je-Hyeok really did have a plan! He faked the deposit into Yeom’s account and recorded the conversation that captured Yeom talking about double-crossing the big-bad thug leader. That is going to be a very nasty reckoning when big-bad thug finds out!
Jailbird’s tear made my heart hurt
I really felt my heart squeeze when Je-Hyeok went to Jailbird to say goodbye and to give him his number. There was just a single tear on Jailbird’s face, but it almost seemed like I knew exactly what he was saying without words. Nobody in his life had ever really given him a break or a chance except Je-Hyeok. His mom survived because of Je-Hyeok’s generosity and now it really seemed like Je-Hyeok might help him out in the future. This is just one scene among many that shows the brilliance of this writer, director, and cast.
Min Chul’s Goodbye
This gentle giant was such a calm and stable presence throughout. I am just giddy with happiness that he has a family waiting outside for him. His daughter is there, but also Jean Valjean. I must admit, I was surprised that Jean Valjean was there for him. It made me happy for Min Chul. Despite the whole watch incident, the young “son” he raised in prison turned out just fine, and the daughter he never had the chance to raise is doing well too. I think Min Chul will transition to the outside world with no problems as long as he has these two young people to help him.
Captain Yoo finally gets the news he has been waiting for! I think sending it by snail mail is just cruel, but at least we know he gets his retrial! So, although the cell is breaking up, Captain Yoo will have a chance to leave soon too. It was such a powerful moment when the mother of the young soldier he was accused of killing gave the settlement money to Yoo’s brother to help cover costs. I agree with her that her son would likely be very supportive of using the money to help the Captain who once helped him.
Thank you… Thank you… Hey, you forgot someone!
I laughed when Je-Hyeok was forced to endure one last round of public humiliation by filming public service announcement videos for the prison system. I also laughed when he thanked everyone up and down the the command chain, but never once mentioned his bestie!! Was it subtle revenge for the news that Joon-Ho and Je-Hee are dating? Joon-ho tried to use that to his advantage and chose that moment to tell Je-Hyeok he was dating Je-Hee, but we see in a flashback that Je-Hee beat him to it. Despite almost being bashed over the head with a fire extinguisher, I think it went well.
I am not sure why, but the one that touched me the most was Je-hyeok’s farewell to Crony. This is the dude that stabbed him, tried to burn him alive, and ruin his career, but somehow his transformation is one I really want to continue. Je-hyeok is the first person who ever treated Crony like a human. Man, I said it before, but Je-hyeok is like the best prison boss ever!
Happily Ever After?
So, I wanted the last scene to be all of the prison buddies waving from the stands. I wanted to see Looney in rehab watching the game. I wanted Dr. Ko to be holding his daughter’s hand and navigating the crowd while balancing a drink tray and popcorn. I wanted Min Chul and his daughter holding inflatables and cheering. I did not get my wish. However…we do get a lovely welcome back from prison kiss from Krystal, and maybe my favorite happily ever after of all: Jailbird is shown chauffeuring Je-Hyeok around. So, I didn’t get my Hollywood finish, but that is really the beauty of this drama. It felt real. You don’t always get beautiful goodbyes and happy reunions, so you have to enjoy each moment and treasure each connection.
It is hard to say goodbye, and we still have so much to say. Please join us for a group chat all about Prison Playbook on March 2, 2018.
Completing Final Rollcall,