The finale of this show centres around a fist fight between Master Kim and President Do, which leads to important moments for all our protagonists. There are plenty of feel-good, happy moments to go around, some of which I felt could have gone deeper.
The character whom I feel displays the most growth in this episode is In Beom. His dad tells him to return to Geodae Hospital and also apply all that he has learnt in Doldam. In Beom turns down his dad’s offer, which comes to a surprise to his dad given In Beom’s repeated requests earlier to return. In Beom shares that in Geodae, he had lived under his dad’s shadow as his dad’s name held power. However, going to Doldam, he realised that his dad’s name no longer wielded the same power and he had to learn to rely on his own abilities. He thus decides to stay on in Doldam, so that he can allow his true self to emerge. I was truly proud of In Beom for taking that painful, bold step to walk out of his father’s shadows. It’s yet another blow to President Do, who had earlier already lost Seo Jung and now his son to Master Kim. It did make me wish that the show had more consistently humanised President Do throughout by exploring his motivations, his struggles and even highlighting positive moments – which his relationship with Seo Jung had potential to do – nonetheless, he was largely painted as a villain whose spent almost all his time scheming against Master Kim without a very convincing agenda or trajectory of his own.
Master Kim incurs a wrist injury when a ice sculpture falls on his wrist during the fight. Though we never get to really know how serious his wrist injury is, his wrist injury provides a moment of connection between him and Seo Jung and we finally get to find out what happened when Seo Jung first arrives at Doldam. It’s very overdue, given that I’d be keen to know this ever since episode 3 of the show; nonetheless, it’s a neat way of bringing things full circle and we see so much similarities between her first days at Doldam and Hyun Joo’s bubbly enthusiasm. There isn’t anything significantly new that we learn about Seo Jung, but it’s an affirmation of the growth we’ve seen and Master Kim’s nurturing support throughout.
The return to Geodae also leads to Seo Jung meeting the nurse whom her finance/ex-boyfriend slept with and we learn that she’s now taking care of a 5 year old son. I sense that the scene was supposed to provide closure to that chapter of her life, but since she does not know that her ex-boyfriend had the affair, it doesn’t quite fulfill its purpose. It might also have tied in more nicely if the show had explored more consistently Seo Jung’s efforts to come to terms with her guilt arising from the accident, but it has largely been dropped for more feel-good moments between her and Master Kim.
Master Kim’s injury also leads to a key moment for Dong Joo as he decides to let Dong Joo handle a whipple procedure to treat a patient who is suffering from pancreatic cancer. This is known to be a complex procedure, requiring great surgical skills as the area around the pancreas is tricky to navigate and surgeons often encounter patients with varying arrangement of ducts and arteries around the pancreas. A brief Google search reveals that Steve Job went through this surgery. While he is recognised as being someone two years junior when in Geodae, back in Doldam, he’s entrusted with surgeries of such complexity, after proving himself repeatedly. Master Kim even promises to be there to guide him along. Doldam is indeed the place where he belongs and while he initially hated being there, it’s undeniable that his growth as a doctor has been exponential because of his time there.
I was genuinely hoping though for more sweet moments between Dong Joo and Seo Jung, even a meet up between the two of them and his mum. However, it was cute and funny to see them respond to both In Beom and Yeon Hwa’s confessions and ultimately realising that it didn’t change anything between them.
Finally, of course, we have Master Kim, who as always, takes down President Do with such class and style. His appearance at the press conference completely agitates him and he completely steals the limelight. He brings to light the documents he received from Reporter Oh, regarding the ghost surgery, which unhinges President Do further. Following the scuffle, he even comes to Doldam to kneel and apologise to Chairman Shin, who initially knows nothing, but becomes curious.
This leads to a final conversation between President Do and Master Kim, where Master Kim gets to share with President Do his romantic, idealistic worldview where his aim is not to change the world or to earn money, but just to save lives. He believes that many young doctors are willing to do so, and deals yet another blow to President Do by saying that In Beom is one of them.
As the episode comes to a close, we also learn through comic format, which is a brilliant idea, about Chairman Shin’s first encounter with Master Kim, which also helps us realise why he was so bent on getting Master Kim to operate on him. While Master Kim’s surgical skills are top notch, it is his desperation to fight for his patients’ lives that draws patients to him and makes him truly legendary.
This brings to close one of the most enjoyable medical dramas I’ve watched. I still feel that the show could have afforded to be more focused in its focus on medical cases to allow its characters to shine more, and also to develop Master Kim’s character more fully, especially in terms of his backstory. Nonetheless, the series was often thought-provoking, bringing to light interesting medical and ethical issues, while also making surgery such an alluring and engaging process.
The cast was consistently good, especially Han Suk Kyu and Seo Hyun Jin, and the characters were all well-written, with very realistic journeys of growth where they encountered numerous failures and their successes were not over-played. It was also great to see the dynamics at Doldam gradually evolve to become the dream team as each character experienced their own individual journey of growth. While most shows have a falling in love story and OTP as its main drawing factor, I appreciated that this show was different. While I enjoyed the romance between Dong Joo and Seo Jung, it was really the mentoring relationship between Master Kim and all the other characters that first drew me to the show and continued to be the show’s strong suit.
The show certainly knows how to treat its fans well with a prequel episode today that guarantees to tell us about Master Kim’s first love, rather than just another ‘special episode’ which is essentially a cobbling together of previous clips. This seems to be somewhat in service of fans who I had read were earlier disappointed that ‘romantic’ in the title referred to his idealism, rather than romantic love. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to it because I’ve always been interested to know more about Master Kim’s backstory.