[Discuss Away!] Strangers Again Finale: Episodes 11-12

It’s been 2 months into the year and I’ve already finished a few dramas that have either aired or finished airing in 2023 so things are off to a good start. While there might have been some swings and misses, there were also a few that I liked. After finishing the finale to ‘Strangers Again’, I think I’m okay with putting it on my good side list.

‘Strangers Again’ wasn’t the most astounding and exciting drama to watch and it didn’t have a whole lot going on. But there were always a few scenes every few episodes that tugged at my heartstrings and reminded me as to why it was still such a solid show. And the last two episodes of the drama reminded me yet once again as to why I remained engaged and continued to watch until the very end. I was afraid that the ending was going to stall or fail upon completing episode 11. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the direction that either of our couples Ha-ra and Eun-beom or Si-wook and Bi-Cwhi was heading in and I didn’t feel all that confident about it honestly. But even with my worries and concerns, I was still certain that the drama wouldn’t fail me. It hadn’t done so in the previous 10 episodes and so it surely wouldn’t do that with the final episode. Thankfully, ‘Strangers Again’ held up just fine.

The drama ends with our main couple, Ha-ra and Eun-beom, ending their relationship on an open-ended note. They didn’t necessarily get back together and start dating again, but they also didn’t leave on bad terms and pretend to never know each other again. They left things up in the air and seemed opened to someday crossing paths again where ever and however and whenever that may be. One thing did remain for certain: it would be extremely difficult and challenging to just remain as strangers. They aren’t dating and they may not interact with each other as often anymore, but they have history with each other and nothing erases that. This shared history will always exist and it will always be there as a constant reminder that remaining strangers is impossible to do.

Some people could be dissatisfied with the way that things wrapped up for Eun-beom and Ha-ra’s relationship and story. I’ll be honest and admit that I had expected the two to somehow get back together after navigating a complex and confusing situation as ex-lovers to lovers. I thought they’d be able to learn from their past mistakes and understand each other much better upon giving their relationship a second try after the divorce. But as we saw, things weren’t that easy. Serious topics like children and starting a family once again proved just how different Ha-ra and Eun-beom were from each other. As much as they loved each other or enjoyed being together, that wasn’t enough. There’s more to relationships and partnerships than just love and all the lovey dovey, giddy feelings you may get when you’re with your partner. There’s also a part of planning for the future that is involved and, unfortunately, that was just something that Ha-ra and Eun-beom could not agree on.

I don’t blame either Ha-ra or Eun-beom for the way their relationship ended up and I don’t think it’s more one or the other person’s fault. Sometimes, you can love someone but also realize that you’re just not compatible. Maybe you have different wants in your lives. Maybe you’re still going through a phase where you’re not sure who you are yet and you still want to do some more exploring. I was afraid that Eun-beom and Ha-ra’s relationship would remain one-sided with Eun-beom doing the majority of the workload. Up until the final episode, I had waited and waited for Ha-ra to showcase some of her growth and character development through her actions. From her marriage with Eun-beom to the post-divorce transition to the present, how has she changed? If she has, has it been for the better? After discovering the truth about Eun-beom and his reasoning for wanting the divorce, we saw her perception of him change over time. She still liked him and she still adored him even after their divorce. Those feelings for him were still there. However, I wanted to see more from Ha-ra in terms of her affection and actions for Eun-beom. If she had grown and reflected on her past with Eun-beom and she really wanted to make things work with him in this new phase, what was she going to do to increase those chances? How was she going to prove her love to Eun-beom and that things could work this time compared to the first time around?

And so I waited and waited and even through episode 11, I felt like we didn’t get much. We got the reflecting and the advice-seeking part, but I wasn’t completely sold on Ha-ra’s affection towards Eun-beom through her actions. I got concerned and worried and doubted the drama for a second. But then the show came through and delivered in its final episode in a few ways: Ha-ra was there to support Eun-beom when his mother was hospitalized and she was the one to inform him at the office about his mom’s condition and 2) she transitioned to another job that offered better pay, opportunities, and a change of scenery so that Eun-beom could remain at the law firm. The actions and thoughtfulness that I had been waiting from Ha-ra appeared in the last episode; I felt as if I could breathe and accept the drama a little bit easier with this progression and development on Ha-ra’s part. I just wanted to see more and the drama gave us more in its final episode. Ha-ra bridged the traumatizing and painful gap between Eun-beom and his mom; she used their relationship as a reason to also bond with her own mother. We witnessed how much Eun-beom had done for Ha-ra dating back to their marriage days and how he accommodated her through the smallest things. The final episode showed us Ha-ra’s gratitude and appreciation towards Eun-beom by how she also committed a few acts of service for him. The two clearly appreciated and loved each other by being there for each other during their most difficult times and serving as a source of support in those moments.

Along with the kind acts of service towards Eun-beom, another scene in the final episode that exemplified and accurately represented the beauty about Ha-ra and the drama overall was Ha-ra’s honest and raw conversation about relationships with her mom. They gathered at a nice restaurant and ate some delicious food, but there was another reason for the special occasion. Whether with Eun-beom or her ex-boyfriend, Ha-ra had been doing some soul-searching in regards to relationships, marriage, romance, and the dating world. She didn’t find that in her ex-boyfriend and her mother disproved of her kindling her lost relationship with Eun-beom. This caused a great amount of pressure on Ha-ra who felt everything add up over time and she shared her concerns and issues with her mom. Ha-ra is not a perfect character and she’s flawed; she’s made mistakes and have said or done things without considering what the other person might have been feeling. But perhaps what I love and enjoy the most about Ha-ra is her ability to recognize what her shortcomings are or where her challenges lie. She has this level of self-awareness that is so admirable and courageous. She’s not afraid to be honest and vulnerable; she wears her heart and her emotions on her sleeves. She’s not afraid to be real and raw with what’s bothering her or what’s on her mind. And that’s what I absolutely admire about her.

In that heartfelt and touching restaurant scene with her mother, Ha-ra started off by admitting that she was still in the process of breaking up with Eun-beom. So yes, while they did break up, she was still going through the process and the motions of it all. She was not quite over him or their memories or the possibilities. And I found this so admirable and courageous of Ha-ra because she was well aware of how much her mom had disproved of the two getting back together, but that confession was her way of admitting that things are so much easier said than done. In the middle of it all, she cried,

It might be that I.. I just want to love, not marry or date. But I still can’t figure out what love is.

Although I might just wander around aimlessly and be confused about everything in life, end up unmarried without any children, and eventually die a lonely death alone, I can’t help it. I can’t do it anymore when I don’t know love. I’m sorry.

*cue all the tears in my eyes falling down my face* And then of course, as if that wasn’t emotional enough, Ha-ra’s Mom responded so rationally and positively to Ha-ra’s vulnerability. Mom understood where her daughter was coming from and what her daughter was going through; she encouraged her daughter to move at her own pace and that this search to find out what love was is nothing to be ashamed of. Ahhh, I just loved absolutely everything about this scene. Love and relationships and dating and romance is hard; it’s not always rainbows and butterflies where you meet someone by ~fate~ and the person sweeps you off your feet or it’s love at first sight. It’s bound to get confusing and heartbreaking and lonely and complicated sometimes and that’s completely okay. Ha-ra wants to love without having to worry about the future and the outcomes from it. What is love anyways? This specific scene of Ha-ra crying her heart out while sharing and listening to her mom reaffirmed my appreciation and warm fondness for the show. It also confirmed my approval of the drama’s finale. Definitely one of the biggest highlights from the entire show.

Then there was Eun-beom’s story and his character arc with the two final episodes. Out of all the characters in the drama, I definitely sympathized for him the most. He committed himself to a spouse and marriage that wasn’t fitting for him and came up with a lie just to get out of it. In the process, he hurt people who meant a lot to him and was important to him. Then he returned years later after the divorce and tried to make up for his past actions and make amends for the hurt and damage that he caused. He also reached out for support through therapy as a result of his relationship with Ha-ra as well as his relationship with his mom that stemmed from a traumatizing tragedy as a young kid. I think I sympathized for Eun-beom because I never perceived him to be a jerk or a a male lead who was undeserving of anything. And I don’t think the drama made him out to be that type of person either. Sure, he lied about having an affair so he could have a reason to divorce Ha-ra. But there’s nothing wrong with divorce. Just like how people get married for different reasons, marriages also end for different reasons. I don’t blame Eun-beom for initiating the divorce with Ha-ra because as we saw a few years later after their divorce, not much changed between them both. The two were still not on the same page in regards to topics like children and starting a family.

In the end, I perceived Eun-beom in a positive light. He was someone who was just a little shyer and quieter in the way he expressed his love and appreciation towards others, especially towards Ha-ra. I don’t think he was a bad person at all. Like many people, he made a few mistakes and made some decisions that he regretted not too long after. I never rooted against him and I felt for him throughout his journey. I appreciated how he approached Ha-ra after their divorce. He took on the criminal case while Ha-ra was dealing with her own parent’s divorce. He was there for her when she was experiencing suicidal thoughts and needed his support in that moment. Similar to Ha-ra, Eun-beom also wasn’t perfect but he was a good person. He had good intentions and he was genuine with his words and actions. I’m glad that he got the help that he needed in the final episode and that he went to seek support. There’s nothing wrong with getting help or counseling or therapy. He’s working to improve himself and his mental health everyday and that’s admirable.

I spoke about it a little in my last review for the drama so I’m not gonna go too much into it in this post, but I can’t say with full confidence that I was satisfied with Si-wook and Bi-Chwi’s ending. I do think their ending felt a little rushed and forced which made it less believable by the end of it all. I was never as invested in their relationship and storyline from the beginning so I didn’t care all that much with the progression, but their relationship did raise question marks for me once I finished the finale. It wasn’t the situation they were in that made me uncomfortable (the pregnancy before marriage part and being born out of wedlock). It was more so the path to the decision-making by Si-wook and Bi-Chwi that I couldn’t really get along with. Si-wook was a little too pushy, overbearing, stubborn, and adamant for my liking on keeping the baby and raising him. I perceived his determination and persistence to raise the baby as reactions that made Bi-Chwi feel guilty for wanting otherwise so I felt like she gave in as time went by due to that guilt. In the end, there was a happy ending for the couple and future parents, but I still felt a bit iffy about everything at the end of it all.

As I reflect on the ending to the drama and the last interaction we got between Eun-beom and Ha-ra, I ponder as to whether I liked the conclusion or not. Would I have preferred for the two to work through their struggles and communication issues and give their relationship another try (and maybe try some couples therapy?). Or was I okay with the two separating, remaining distant and professional with each other, and focusing on themselves instead? I like to believe that in an alternate world, Ha-ra and Eun-beom were able to work their issues out and remain together someway somehow. With Eun-beom slowly healing and his relationship with his mom slowly improving, maybe he would have been opened to the idea of having children with Ha-ra and consider starting a family together. Then from there, they would have lived happily ever after and everything would have been alright in the world.

But in the reality that the drama was set in, we instead got an open-ended conclusion where Eun-beom and Ha-ra weren’t together. They realized that they had different priorities in life and were at different phases in their lives. They had been so focused on each other and taking care of the other that they forgot to focus on themselves in the process. There were just some things that they could not agree on or that made them incompatible. I was often reminded of ‘Matrimonial Chaos’ while watching ‘Strangers Again’: both were magical and charming in their own ways but one of the major differences lied in the ending for the main couples, respectively. Whereas our main couple in ‘Matrimonial Chaos’ stayed together in the end, Ha-ra and Eun-beom broke up in this drama. A part of it was heartbreaking because I wanted the two to have a happy ending and to so desperately work things out and get back together. You could tell just how much they loved each other and how much they cared about each other. I thought they were going to get a happy ending.

But at the same time, I think their ending was fitting for where they both were individually in their lives. Ha-ra’s Mom disproved of Eun-beom and Ha-ra and Eun-beom couldn’t get on the same page regarding the topic of children. There were factors in the way that prohibited the two from being together. Therefore, it wasn’t reasonable to expect the two to just miraculously resolve or gloss over these concerns and maintain a relationship. They just weren’t ready yet for a relationship again; they thought they were and then they discovered they weren’t. And this time, the separation was mutual. It was still as hurtful and painful, but they both mutually agreed and decided to part ways. So even though Ha-ra and Eun-beom didn’t get back together in the end, it was the right ending for where they were at in their respective lives. It also didn’t rule out the possibility and potential to get back together in the future once they feel like they have a better understanding of themselves and what they want. The question that roamed in the back of their minds in the final scene basically confirmed that possibility: “can we really become strangers again?”.

Relationships aren’t easy, they require work, everything remains fluid, and things could change at any moment. Ha-ra and Eun-beom experienced this for themselves through their relationship and though the two did not stay together in the end, that doesn’t mean that their relationship was a complete massive failure. It was also not a reflection on Eun-beom or Ha-ra as individuals. Sometimes, you try and you try and it’s not enough and that’s okay. You can still love someone and miss the memories and feelings you had with them, but you can also be okay with looking forward to the next chapter in your life. It takes a good amount of courage and maturity to understand that heavy truth and then accept it. Eun-beom and Ha-ra didn’t get the typical happy ending that we usually get with the main couples of a drama, but maybe – just maybe – this was their version of that happy ending. Maybe this is their happy ending: an ending where they can still love each other for all that they’ve experienced together as a couple in the past while at the same time also learn to love themselves.

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