Start-Up episode 16 recap – a finale that brings a natural, mature ending

December 6, 2020
Daniel Hart 4
K-Drama, Netflix, TV Recaps


Regardless of whether the fans like it or not, Start-Up episode 16 shows a mature, natural ending that involves success and closure, and brings an aspect of realism to a show that bases itself on entrepreneurial flair and relationships.

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Regardless of whether the fans like it or not, Start-Up episode 16 shows a mature, natural ending that involves success and closure, and brings an aspect of realism to a show that bases itself on entrepreneurial flair and relationships.

This recap of Netflix K-drama series Start-Up episode 16 – the finale explained – contains significant spoilers.

We will be recapping this weekly — check out the archive.

Before we begin…

The day has finally arrived — the finale of Start-Up. I’m very aware of the backlash this has received on social media, which I’ve found surprising. In my opinion, this series is the most mature k-drama story I’ve watched in a while, coupled with brilliant performances. The main grievance seems to be against the story of Dal-mi, Han Ji-pyeong and Do-san.

Fans question the character of Do-san and seem to want Dal-mi and Han Ji-pyeong. But this goes back to the question of creative control and how stories should not be led by fans, but by the objectives of the writer. Stories do not have to support the fans’ view, and that’s the beauty of series; it can go in any direction. I’ve seen some fans wanting a “happier” ending for Han Ji-pyeong. Sometimes stories are meant to be tragic and unfair. Life is unfair. But Start-Up hasn’t just been about love and heartbreaks; it’s been about entrepreneurial flair, family, friends and unity — it’s encompassed it well.

Whether you agree with my view, I think Start-Up is a gentle reminder that not all stories go our way sometimes.

The opening

Anyway, to Start-Up episode 16.

The finale opens up with the interview with the reporter Sang-su. Han Ji-pyeong is alerted about this reporter and flees to the interview. Meanwhile, Yong-san is trying to figure out the anagram of the ransomware attack. They believe it could be the twins who are developers of the ransomware attack; the same twins that joined their competitor Morning AI. During the interview, the reporter Sang-su delves into potential future attacks and then tries to leave but Dal-mi stops him, stating she wants to carry on the interview and move to the important part.

The real story

And then the predictable twist comes…

In-jae tells Han Ji-pyeong that Dal-mi and co. are handling the interview well. Dal-mi has figured out what the interviewer is doing and they reveal the people who were behind the attack — Morning AI; they had already figured it out before the interview, and the police arrested the twins. Sang-su is shocked, and he laughs it off. Episode 16 shows growth amongst the characters — they assess risks rather than throwing themselves at opportunities naively.

Ms Choi is grateful

Do-san meets Ms Choi with Dal-mi. He recognises that her eyesight has gotten worse. Ms Choi thanks him for NoonGil as it has been helpful. She finds herself feeling extremely lucky for having Do-san in her life. Ms Choi visits Han Ji-pyeong — he’s still looking a defeated man in the finale.

Ms Choi wants to always be there for Han Ji-pyeong

Han Ji-pyeong asks Ms Choi about her new shop and wonders if it has stairs. He also wants to get her an apartment — he still feels like he owes her a lot, but she brushes it off. Ms Choi then senses that Han Ji-pyeong wants to move somewhere but she grabs his hand and tells him not to do that — she wants him to still come to her regardless if he’s doing well or not. Han Ji-pyeong cries, the emotions overwhelming him. He’s been on a painful journey — despite his success, he hasn’t found pure happiness, and I don’t think this scene will go down well with some fans. But on the flipside, Start-Up episode 16 has shown that this chapter is really Ms Choi’s finale — her life has gone full circle.

How far will Tarzan go?

While prepping for the Tarzan bid, Do-san asks Dal-mi how far she reckons Tarzan will go. Dal-mi goes sci-fi and talks about flying cars. But then she gets serious and hopes it helps people, like her late father and her blind grandma. The pair then nearly kiss but then Chul-san pops up out of nowhere.

A charitable offer

Mr Hong, a CEO of a company that helps orphans visits Han Ji-pyeong. The man is nervous about a possible investment. He presents his portfolio, and Han Ji-pyeong remembers Ms Choi asking him to help people worse off than her. Han Ji-pyeong decides to invest personally into Mr Hong’s company and have zero shares; he wants Mr Hong to help children. Once again, Han Ji-pyeong is showing his kindness. He’s showing growth as an investor — it’s not just about making money.

Passing the second screening

Despite the police investigation against Morning AI, they are still bidding against Cheongmyeong. Do-san and Dal-mi approach them before walking off hand in hand. In a moment of elation, Cheongmyeong Company passes the second screening in the bidding process and it’s celebrations all round.

Going public and celebrations

Jung Sa-ha surprisingly introduces Chul-san as her boyfriend to her sister. Chul-san is so overwhelmed and happy that his partner is starting to make them public. The Cheongmyeong gang go out and celebrate their success in the bidding process. They all eat cake. Dal-mi asks the team if they believe it is time to scale-up so they can move at pace. This scene represents her experience shining through. She raises it with In-jae, who disagrees as the company needs to make revenue first. But Dal-mi disagrees, believing it will be too late by then.

A clean break

Han Ji-pyeong catches Dal-mi in the elevator, and there’s an awkwardness between them. She wants to thank him, but he tells her she owes him nothing. Han Ji-pyeong explains how he had no friends when younger and that the letters provided great comfort. He also tells her that he isn’t the Nam Do-san from the letters — he feels the actual Nam Do-san did something about those letters 15 years later. The pair leave it on a clean break. From my perspective, this shows how Han Ji-pyeong is willing to move on. And while some fans will not accept Han Ji-pyeong’s view on the letters, at least his happiness will be derived from moving on. That’s called realism.

I’m no longer your daughter

In-jae tells Chairman Won that she’s no longer his daughter anymore in a moment that gets personal in a briefing at Sand Box. It was an emotional but needed moment when it was meant to be professional. Afterwards, Yong-san apologises to In-jae for believing her success was because of her rich ex-father Chairman Won. In-jae accepts her apology, but states his accusation made her stronger.

Having a look one last time

In a nostalgic moment, new business enthusiasts are renting the original office of Samsan Tech. Nam Do-san, Chul-san and Yong-san give them advice and have a look at their old office one last time. The trio reminisces, and it gets emotional; they’ve come a long way since the beginning. Nam Do-san tries apologising for not being a competent CEO as they’d have been able to leave this office sooner. He feels ashamed. Chul-san brushes his apology as bullsh*t and explains it was never about the money and that he loved the scorching hot summers together. The trio hug in a circle.

Returning to the family

In-jae finally plucks up the courage and meets Ms Choi. This is a breakthrough moment as Ms Choi cannot believe it’s her granddaughter. In-jae apologises for taking so long as Ms Choi moves towards her to hug. Both women sob into each other’s arms. In-jae heads inside and shows the family the paperwork that confirms she’s now part of the family for the first time since she was a child — she is Seo In-jae again. She admits she wanted to return earlier, but she felt ashamed by her association with Won. Compare this to episode 1, and earlier moments, this is a beautiful scene. A broken marriage split a family, and now it’s back together again. Ms Choi is happy for it to be back to where it was meant to be. Again, if anything, Start-Up episode 16 is almost Ms Choi’s episode.

The sisters obtain an investor that makes sense

In-jae remembers the bet with Dal-mi over 10,000 won that Dal-mi will overtake her success. In-jae then tells her she should upscale and she no longer wants her to be obedient. In-jae then meets Yoon Seon-hak about the upscaling of Cheongmyeong. Yoon Seon-hak tells her she is interested in investing after following Samsan Tech and the sisters for a long time. Yoon Seon-hak wants Han Ji-pyeong to take the lead, but due to his emotions, he wants Dong-cheon to take the reigns instead. But Yoon Seon-hak wants Han Ji-pyeong to take the lead, no-one else.

Han Ji-pyeong offers a real investment after discussion with Yoon Seon-hak.

Start-Up finally offers a moment between Do-san and Han Ji-pyeong — they finally find peace in their friendship that has been up and down since the series began.

Han Ji-pyeong meets Do-san in private and asks for a favour — he tells him that Yoon Seon-hak wants to invest in Cheongmyeong and asks if he wants to accept it. Do-san asks Han Ji-pyeong to put his emotions aside and asks for a professional opinion. Han Ji-pyeong explains that this is an investment that he doesn’t want to miss. Do-san tells him they should speak to Dal-mi and accepts the investment. The men shake hands — this is significant.

The ending

Dal-mi presents the company’s technology at the bidding presentation and remembers her early days at Sand Box; the good moments and bad. The finale then naturally ends.

The epilogue then moves to 2020; there are plaques that confirms that Do-san is the CTO and Dal-mi is the CEO of Cheongmyeong. Photos of memories are splashed on the wall. The company has clearly upscaled and its the shareholders’ annual meeting — we can assume that they won the bidding process. Dal-mi and Do-san walk out of the elevator together; Han Ji-pyeong and In-jae join their walk and there’s harmony amongst them. They’ve found the success that feels like a legacy.

Regardless of whether the fans like it or not, Start-Up episode 16 shows a mature, natural ending that involves success and closure, and brings an aspect of realism to a show that bases itself on entrepreneurial flair and relationships.

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4 thoughts on “Start-Up episode 16 recap – a finale that brings a natural, mature ending

  • December 6, 2020 at 11:07 pm

    I love your point in the intro – My sentiments, actually. I also believe it’s a mature k-drama showing the reality of life. Naturally, people would root for JP because he’s the one who wrote the letter and he was the first love and all – but in life, not everyone gets to end up with their first love. What matters is the person who’s with you and the one you love at present.
    Besides, it’s not always how about how long you’ve known a person or how much memories you’ve shared with them – that’s reality.


    • December 7, 2020 at 2:18 am

      Loved Do San. Very happy ending! I think the majority of us the right leads ended up together. Loved this series. They tied it up so beautifully. If the JP fans watch the final and see how he moved on I think they can see it was the logical conclusion.

  • December 7, 2020 at 3:27 am

    Was pretty sure they won. In one of the photos plastered on the wall in the ending scenes, Chulsan was wearing a bonnet to shield his bald head, a promise he made should they win the bidding.

  • December 7, 2020 at 10:52 pm

    I loved this series! I put each day a mew episode came out in my calendar!! Is there going to be a second series?? I can only hope!

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