Life on Mars Episode 16 Final Recap

It’s the end and I’m not ready! I’ve invested a lot of hours into this drama, a drama that wasn’t even on my radar until Kmuse asked if I’d recap it with her. Since then, I’ve been literally on the edge of my seat watching every week while writing notes furiously. Will all our loose ends be tied up or will we be left with more questions than answers?

Dream or reality?

Tae Joo is trying to reconnect with what happened in 1988 and he can’t find any record of Team 3. Looking through old case files, he finds one that makes his heart and my heart stop, Team 3 died that night in the gangster fight. All of them died, Dong Cheol, Detective Lee, Rookie, and, sob, Officer Yoon. Crushed, Tae Joo keeps seeing them around every corner and he wonders if he’s still dreaming. He can’t find any mention of Chief Ahn Min Sik from 1988, but Ahn Min Sik the surgeon is very much alive. He tells Tae Joo that he’s having delusions and hallucinations from childhood trauma. He was researching the cases before he was in his accident so that’s why he is hallucinating, it’s all his subconscious. Nope, I’m not buying that, not at all. He keeps hearing Officer Yoon crying for him and remembering the gangster fight.

Sometimes you have to let go of the present

Tae Joo’s Mom knows something is off. She makes him a big meal and tells him all about how his aunt is living with her and how happy they are because they have each other. He tells mom that he can’t get the people he’s worried about off his mind and Mom says to listen to his heart. He smiles when she says that and she says he must be thinking about a girl. His smile is because he remembers Officer Yoon saying the same thing.  He’s now captain of Team 1 and Boring Seo Hyun is in the same building. She says he’s not the same person he was and that she wants him to be happy.  While listening to a call from one of the victims, all Tae Joo can hear is Officer Yoon crying out for him. He cuts his hand and realizes he doesn’t feel anything. As he stands on the rooftop we flash to the scene where Officer Yoon says they are real because they can feel, and she has him feel her heartbeat. Tae Joo puts his hand on his chest and he can’t feel his heartbeat. Maybe this isn’t his reality?

Rewriting the past

Tae Joo takes off running and jumps off the building, landing back in 1988 and the gangster fight. He runs into the fray, gun blazing. Dong Cheol sees him and says, “What took you so long”? After reinforcements arrive and haul the gangsters away, Rookie and Detective Lee support each other as Tae Joo helps Officer Yoon to her feet (Sail away, sail away, sail away sweet ship!) and Dong Cheol directs the arrests. Dong Cheol touches the back of his head and then sees blood on his hand and faints. In the hospital, the doctor is pulling the blanket up when in rushes Dong Cheol’s family, his mother-in-law, wife, and daughter. The mother-in-law says that now her daughter can marry a rich guy and Dong Cheol wakes up and scares them all. Especially his daughter who he accuses of wanting a new rich daddy. Before too long they are all beating him for scaring them.

The mystery of Chief Ahn

Who is Chief Ahn really? He’s on the wanted list since he’s the one who ordered the deaths of the former police chief and Dong Cheol’s mentor. They get a tip that he’s at the port trying to make an escape and the team races off. Ahn boards the ship and thinks he’s safe, but Dong Cheol is on the ship too. It was very satisfying to see Dong Cheol punch Ahn. They have all the evidence they need on Ahn from the tape recording that Dong Cheol’s mentor left behind. Ahn’s pleading the Fifth, but they found the book too, so his case is closed. As he is leaving with the prosecutor, Ahn asks Tae Joo if he knows the consequences of his actions and that a lot of people will be hurt. Then he drives in his final blow, Tae Joo can’t go home without his help. Tae Joo says he doesn’t care. Does Ahn belong in both worlds like Tae Joo? Do we even care? My answer is no, take him to jail and let him rot.

Sailing along happily

The team goes out for a team dinner. They get to the corner bar and Yang (the owner) tells them to go to Lee’s. He’s still miffed that they went there for their last team dinner. They flash an envelope full of money and he is all smiles and dinner is served. As they sit around the table and share food and drinks all I can think is, Team 3 forever! Detective Lee finally pours a drink for Tae Joo and Tae Joo accepts it. It’s not a team dinner without a little singing and everyone but Tae Joo gets up to sing and be happy while Tae Joo looks on contentedly.  When Dong Cheol, Detective Lee, and Rookie head off for Round 3, Tae Joo walks Officer Yoon home. She asks when he’s leaving and he tells her he isn’t. He says he’s grown fond of the place. Then he asks her to go see a movie since they never had their movie date. Of course, she says yes! She’s grinning, Tae Joo has a tiny smile, and I’m grinning and cheering and I may have watched that scene once or five times. Kmuse and I wanted this pairing from the get-go and it looks like our ship is sailing along happily.

Transfer to Seoul

Tae Joo shows up for work and there is a distinct flair about the team that wasn’t there before. Tae Joo is sporting a tee shirt under a jacket that is very much Miami Vice inspired and it seems like he and Detective Lee have new hairstyles. Dong Cheol is looking handsome in his write up in the newspaper and it seems like a promotion will come his way soon. Then a dark cloud descends in the form of transfer papers sending Tae Joo back to Seoul. Everyone is sad and Officer Yoon is obviously trying not to cry. That night Dong Cheol shows up with chicken and beer and tells Tae Joo that it’s his choice to stay or go. Tae Joo muses that it may be his last chance to go home.

The place you can live with a smile

Tae Joo goes down memory lane as he watches a group of kids running, it reminds him of when he was running on the railroad tracks as a child. Then all of his memories of being a part of Team 3 flood him and we realize that he belongs to Team 3.  There is a new case, a dead body has been found and it’s a member of the Seobu gang. Everyone has an assignment but Tae Joo. The television flickers and tv guy aka the doctor, is standing in front of him asking if he’s ok. He tells Tae Joo not to overthink it, “The place you can live with a smile…is your reality”.  Tae Joo goes out to the car and tears up his transfer papers, he’s staying with Team 3. Dong Cheol tells Officer Yoon to get into the car so she can start learning how to be a real cop. The radio crackles and we just know the other side is trying to reach out, but Tae Joo reaches over and turns it off. Dong Cheol turns it back on and a pop song is playing. Everyone starts head bobbing and singing, even Tae Joo! We end with our beloved Team 3 alive and well and off to save the day.


Tae Joo is alone in the station writing a report. The phone rings. Tae Joo answers and a voice from the past asks if he recognizes him. It’s Kim Hyun Seok! We realize that when Tae Joo went back to 1988, he changed history. Kim Hyun Seok is still on the loose and now we have an open ending that leads me to hope we will get a season 2.

My thoughts

This was a race to the finish that I wasn’t sure I wanted to see. I was positive that my beloved Team 3 was dead and it was all over. I had resigned myself to the idea that the writers were going to chalk this all up to hallucinations and Tae Joo was going to be with Boring Seo Hyun and that was it. When he jumped off the building, my heart leaped with him. I’m beyond happy that they didn’t go with it all being a coma dream. My ship is sailing, my bromances are tight, and the writers made me hope for a season 2. I’ve enjoyed recapping this drama and I hope all of you have enjoyed watching this drama with me! I love a good mystery, so hopefully, another good murder mystery will be out soon that I can recap.

‘Til the next murder,


Dramas With a Side of Kimchi

13 thoughts on “Life on Mars Episode 16 Final Recap

  1. Thank you for recapping Life on Mars. I had so much fun watching this and reading your insights. LoM set the bar high for my next drama watch. I hope there will be a drama that can challenge the awesomeness of LoM. I adore the cast, the storyline, the relationships, the editing, the camerawork, the effects, literaly everything haha.

    • I will miss this drama too. Hopefully we will have another drama of this caliber show up soon. Thanks for watching with us!

  2. This adaptation had different cases etc than the original but the story arc was the same, including the ending with it’s ambiguity. So no surprises for me – I’ve been examining the whole ‘is it a coma’ thing from the beginning.
    I think I like this adaptation better than the original, slightly. The ending is more fleshed out and definitely does the ‘did he REALLY even wake up?” thing much more emphatically. Note that Boring girl might even have DIED in the original reality (prior to his being hit by that car, obviously driven by evil brother, she’s NOT been rescued). In the prequel to the coma, we see nothing of him searching records nor do we see him in the coma world even acknowledging he knows any of this. There’s nothing to prove he really did research anything, or that Boring girl lived for that matter.
    In fact only the Epilogue shows that he was right about one thing in the Waking episode – the brother didn’t die.
    So yeah, it’s up to interpretation 😀

    • I think the accident only happened in TJ’s mind while in coma. Its weird if he suddenly walked after being shot at his head, besides, the road was supposed to be swarming with cops because everyone was looking for his seohyun.

    • It ties back to the woman who ran the salon room with Tae Joo’s Dad. Remember how Soon Ho’s sister died from working in a salon room? That’s my theory anyway.

  3. For me thats why he cant feel anything in the present is because he is really dead?and from that coma he keeps battling to survive while he is in 1988.if you think about it everytime he wants to wake up from a coma,he needs to be dead in the afterlife or in 1988.but he keeps failing .in order for him to wake up is he must be dead in the past but it never in the finale i think he now accepts the reality that even if he wake up in a coma its like he still dead coz he feels not happy or thats his realy his fate to be died in 2018.that scenarios having talking with his ex and his mother and aunti ..maybe its just apart of him saying goodbye and his family finally let him go bcoz thats what he wants im stick to it that he did not commit a suicide.because he cant feel anything anymore in the present.which means he already dead while being in a coma.remind me of city of angels of nicholas cage.he is dead from the start.

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