The Sound of Magic bows out with a finale that raises some lingering issues, but also manages to wrap most things up in a nice, conclusive way.
This recap of The Sound of Magic season 1, episode 6, “The last performance”, contains spoilers, including a discussion of The Sound of Magic’s ending.
So, The Sound of Magic is brought to a conclusion with a finale as steeped in ambiguity as the rest of the episodes have been, and also one that brings to the fore some of the show’s issues with well-worn themes and logical inconsistencies, exacerbated by a not especially strong script. It’s still a neat little ending, and it does its job pretty well, but as someone who has been a little mixed on the whole thing since the beginning, “The last performance” seemed to validate my viewpoint rather than challenge it.
The Sound of Magic season 1, episode 6 recap
Mileage will, of course, vary. Anyway, we open with some news on Ha-yoon, whose body seems to have been discovered in a reservoir. With her personal items found near the theme park, Ri-eul is looking like the prime suspect, and Ha-na’s neck bruises only seem to verify the idea that he’s dangerous.
As the evidence mounts, Ah-yi’s faith diminishes. She manages to find the magician hiding out with a dying Bella in a hidden area under the stage, and while he swears he isn’t responsible for the mugging, Ah-yi isn’t so sure.
The pregnant lady, who I said would be important, turns out to be crucial. Once Ri-eul is arrested and his real identity of Ryu Min-hyuk is exposed, we learn he’s a 30-year-old high school dropout missing from a mental hospital who has also been a prime suspect in a previous case of a missing student. It seems like he’s just a maniac, but the pregnant woman, whose name is Jin-soo, was a fellow student when Min-hyuk was at school and remembers him being an academic high-flier whom the pressures of academic success pushed into a mental breakdown and a suicide attempt. During his breakdown, he saw the same butterflies and fields of yellow flowers that Il-deung has been experiencing.
Jin-soo doesn’t believe that Min-hyuk would be capable of violence. When he springs himself from police custody, he returns to the theme park, where things build to a stand-off, or one supposes the titular “last performance”. What we’re to infer from the musical moment, I think, is that Min-hyuk’s intention through his “magic” was to help people who were struggling to believe in themselves and the potential of something more than that restrictive paved road that we’ve heard Il-deung lament. It isn’t about magic, per se, but about knowing that you don’t have to conform to society’s expectations of you. You can believe in something more, something different from and perhaps better than the norm. This is why Min-hyuk invited Ah-yi and Il-deung to the theme park for magic lessons. He wasn’t preying on them because they were vulnerable; he was trying to save those he saw that past version of himself in.
The Sound of Magic ending
With Min-hyuk’s final disappearing act, what we’re seeing, really, is the student becoming the master; we’re seeing Ah-yi believe in magic – not in the traditional sense, but in the idea that she can move past her despair and trauma.
A worthwhile theme? Sure. And it ties in nicely with that relevant but regrettably overdone idea of overwhelming educational expectations in Korea. But it’s a very neat, edgeless ending, and I’m not sure I buy into the idea of a man who has escaped a mental hospital and a police investigation attempting to evade the authorities by dressing up in elaborate magician garb and hanging around a fairground. It’s a minor nitpick, and we’re to understand that he doesn’t exactly have all his faculties, but it took this long for someone to realize that the local eccentric might have a few secrets?
Anyway, since Min-hyuk didn’t kill Ha-yoon, that means someone else did. And it turns out to be Doo-sik, Ah-yi’s brief employer. This guy has been so cartoonishly evil in his few appearances that it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that he attempted to assault Ha-yoon, who used to work for him, after catching her stealing. Since she recorded the whole thing, he killed her. He also attacked Min-hyuk, forcing the magician to defend himself with a knife, which explains the footage that was a point of contention earlier. He subsequently tried to frame Min-hyuk for his own crimes.
But Min-hyuk’s magic lives on. Real or not – and there are some suggestions that it might have been – his uplifting ideas persist. We see it in Il-deung deciding to pursue his own goals and ambitions without hand-outs, even if it takes him away from Ah-yi, and we see it in Ah-yi herself, trying to keep the magic alive through letters posted through the “magic letterbox”, and through the children she performs for – she even asks if they believe in magic.
You can stream The Sound of Magic season 1, episode 6, “The last performance”, exclusively on Netflix. Do you have any thoughts on The Sound of Magic’s ending? Let us know in the comments.