The finale of Mr. Sunshine tied up all of the characters’ stories, providing moments of tragedy and reflection.
Mr. Sunshine episode 24 was the calm after many aggressive storms, tying up all of the characters’ journeys after an exhausting timeline of distress in Joseon. The finale leaves you to feel heartbroken but reflective at the same time – not all stories have happy endings.
Before I digress and discuss the key moments, it has to be noted that Mr. Sunshine has been directed to a phenomenal level. Since episode one, the cinematography, camera work, costumes, settings and the rich writing has shined through, even in the episodes that did not deliver as much as we’d like. Credit has to go to Eung-bok Lee and the crew for articulating fictional events in an important time in Joseon history.
And you could feel the significance of the history in the finale. Episode 24 opens up with all the traitors standing by proudly waiting for their photo to be taken by Hui-seong, who pretends that the camera flash is a gun trigger, knowing full well their faces in history will forever be remembered for backstabbing their own country.
The early phases of the finale show the resilience of the Joseon people when facing death. As Lady Ae-sin kneels in tears to hold the woman that has looked after her since childhood, soaking in blood, the Japanese army runs around the corner to be blocked by masses of people in the street. Considering the brutality the Japanese army have shown in the later episodes, I was shocked yet relieved that the bravery paid off, as the army decided to turn around.
Mr. Sunshine episode 24 was mostly about The Righteous Army trying to secure a safe location, travelling deep in the mountains to ensure the safety of the women and children. Despite the direction of the episode, it always felt hopeless from the start, as the true weight of Japanese dominance looked too heavy to overcome.
Before the heartbreaking moments, Mr. Sunshine episode 24 provided a rare enjoyable interlude; Eugene, Hui-seong and Gu Dong-mae are sat at a bar drinking away in jest. In a number of episodes, the three men have met each other at the bar for bitter conversations and empty, nonsensical death threats. This scene was highly significant and paramount to the rest of the episode; how common goals have turned enemies into friends, in the face of a looming danger. It signified how the finale was going to end; three men who all love the same woman, who have all dedicated their time to protect her and Joseon, which ultimately leads to their deadly fate. Gu Dong-mae was first.
His time had come. To be fair, Gu Dong-mae has slaughtered hundreds of men from The Musin Society with ease, and he nearly killed a whole other group whilst clearly injured. His death was a noble one, knowing full well he had done all he could to protect Lady Ae-sin and Joseon. As he lays on the road, he has an odd smile across his face. Gu Dong-mae was always going to die but it was always about how and when. Mr. Sunshine episode 24 made sure he died taking down as many men as possible. He couldn’t die any other way.
Hui-seong was next to fall. After spending a few episodes creating his own nameless newspaper company, the Japanese army had become disgruntled by the content of the material due to giving their organisation a terrible name. The army was tasked with finding out who was printing the paper, and it did not take them long to find out who it was. The Joseon man is bludgeoned over and over again, forced to confess the whereabouts of Lady Ae-sin. I felt a little bit subdued during his interrogation because in the earlier episodes I discredited Hui-seong as a non-character, however, from then on he grew into the story. Hui-seong was the second major character to die, and also with grace, as he revealed nothing to the Japanese.
The rest of the finale put together a situation where The Righteous Army had to secure 12 of their members on a train out of Joseon, tasking Eugene to purchase the tickets. It was a tense ending, as the Japanese army scoured the train looking for Lady Ae-sin, and also set off a series of events that spurred the most heart-wrenching moment. Since the start of Mr. Sunshine, Eugene has shown the utmost loyalty and love to Lady Ae-sin at a level that is sometimes difficult to comprehend. In his final moments, he sacrificed himself to save Lady Ae-sin, detaching his train carriage, leaving him with the Japanese army. The pain and anguish shown on Lady Ae-sin’s face were difficult to take in – there was no happy ending. They were never destined to be together, not in the flesh anyway.
The end of Mr. Sunshine episode 24 did give a brief respite, showing how the Joseon people tried to rebuild. Lady Ae-sin continued to develop The Righteous Army in the mountains but by this point, you are reflecting on Eugene’s heroic, romantic sacrifice to stamp an ending on the show.
The ex-Joseon man was a victim of the horrifying slave culture in the country he was born in. At the start of the series, he did not care so much for Joseon, even declaring that he would not mind if the country was destroyed. But his love for Lady Ae-sin developed his character in such a way that he became the shining light of Joseon, protecting them from violence and doing all he can to delay the Japanese takeover. Mr. Sunshine was a tale of love and sacrifice by giving up a piece of yourself for the greater good. The finale had no other choice but to end the way it did, sealing off a sublime piece of television.
Eugene Choi was the man Joseon needed but not the one they deserved.