Sunday, September 07, 2014

Triangle: Episode 26 (Final)

Here lies what was once a promising show, though it may be hard to remember the good times when Triangle spent the last few weeks with one foot already in the grave. As far as finales go, it’s by and large not the worst you’ll ever see, and I imagine there might even be a few who’ll be able to mine some gratification from it. There’s at least something to be said for a show that made it through an extension without lobotomizing anyone or losing its collective mind, but how I dream of the day when we’ll watch a finale that blows us away and leaves us feeling glad for the time we put in. That day may not be today, but one day. One day.
As for ratings, Triangle finished its run in first place at 10.5%, while Temptation dropped slightly to 8.9%. Trot Lovers saw a tiny bump, even if they still brought up the rear with 8.2%.
Jiyeon and Shorry J – “키스 앤 크라이 (Kiss and Cry)” from the OST [ Download ]


While the bankrupt and penniless Chairman Go has somehow amassed a small army to kill Yang-ha, Young-dal and Dong-soo run to the casino to try and stop their littlest brother from getting hurt.
And even though Boss Min sends her small army to combat Chairman Go’s outside Daejung, Yang-ha remains completely unaware as he walks to work…
…Only to find Chairman Go’s army waiting for him inside. Seriously? There are no people, security personnel, or CCTV cameras? Really?

Young-dal and Dong-soo make it just in time to see Yang-ha being carted away by the thugs, and decide to face the army all on their own. They’re severely outnumbered, but that doesn’t stop Young-dal from fighting like hell to get to Yang-ha, who the thugs are trying to beat to death.
Since we’re in an alternate reality anyway, Manbong leads Boss Min’s army into the empty casino lobby to do battle. Young-dal cries out for Yang-ha when he’s unable to stop the thug that brutally stabs him in the stomach, and can only watch before he beats the man down to catch his brother before he falls.

“I’m sorry, Hyung,” Yang-ha murmurs. “I… should’ve called you ‘hyung’ sooner.” Young-dal can’t control his tears as he tells his brother to stop talking and stay still. You know it’s a finale when everyone suffers from Opera Syndrome—y’know, when someone’s bleeding out and everyone would rather just cry about it instead of doing something rational like applying pressure.
After Manbong’s men chase Chairman Go’s away to the break room, it’s just our three brothers left. Dong-soo sinks to his knees by Yang-ha’s side to cry. Okay, just to be clear, both of you men are wearing coats—freaking take them off and put them on his wound. Or call an ambulance. Do SOMETHING.

“Hyung… why did you abandon me?” Yang-ha asks weakly. “I’ve been so alone…” After Dong-soo cries that he’s sorry, Yang-ha has only one request: that he stop his fight with Chairman Yoon, the man who raised him as his own. “I don’t want to lose another father. Hyung… please stop.”
Then, Yang-ha’s eyes slowly close as he passes. Dong-soo and Young-dal sob over his body.

We find Dong-soo and Young-dal spreading Yang-ha’s ashes on the same cliff where Dong-soo once spread their father’s ashes. Jung-hee stands somberly with them in mourning.
In flashback, it’s revealed that Dong-soo and Young-dal were given Yang-ha’s ashes by Chairman Yoon only after Dong-soo showed him the video evidence of Director Hyun ordering his adopted son’s death.
Chairman Yoon doesn’t seem all that heartbroken about the whole dead son issue when he calls Director Hyun in to ask him why he did what he did. When Director Hyun denies it, Chairman Yoon slaps him across the face and shows him the damning video evidence.

But even then, it means little: Director Hyun drops to his knees to beg for forgiveness, which Chairman Yoon doesn’t even care about. It’s only because it was Dong-soo that gave him the video that gives him cause for concern, since he knows that they’ll turn on Director Hyun for revenge.
His advice? That Director Hyun turn himself into the police before the brothers can get to him, but that he also safeguard his shares by giving them to Chairman Yoon first in order to get them back later. So not only does Chairman Yoon not care that this is the man who ordered his son’s death, he’s actively trying to help him. Wow.
Soo-chang attempts to get through a police checkpoint erected to catch him and Chairman Go. Even though the policeman has a picture of Soo-chang in his hand, Soo-chang’s glasses-and-hat disguise are enough to fool him. Yes, really.

When he reaches Chairman Go (in hiding) to deliver their getaway money, Chairman Go insists—to no one’s surprise—that they have to kill Young-dal and Dong-soo before he flees the country.
Meanwhile, Boss Min reassures Young-dal that she’s got men covering all Chairman Go’s possible escape routes, and promises that she will catch him.
Jun-ho tells Young-dal and his buddies about Director Hyun turning his shares back over to Daejung before turning himself into the police, which has them suspicious that Director Hyun is up to no good. Again.

Grandma shares her sympathies over Yang-ha’s death with Jung-hee, and shakes her head over the bad luck the brothers have faced in general—what with the recent death of their mother and now this.
Afterward, Jung-hee takes a moment to herself to look up at the sky and say her final goodbye to Yang-ha as a tear rolls down her cheek.
With Yang-ha’s final words ringing in his head, Dong-soo confronts Chairman Yoon about forgiving him for everything—their father’s murder and Yang-ha’s even more senseless one—as long as he repents for what he’s done.

But in the long tradition of unrepentant old coots in dramas, Chairman Yoon claims he doesn’t need their forgiveness. In fact, he even blames Dong-soo for Yang-ha’s death, which he claims wouldn’t have happened if he and Young-dal hadn’t have gotten in his way.
His attitude infuriates Dong-soo since Yang-ha used his dying breath to ask for leniency for his good-for-nothing father who, even after everything, can’t see past his own greed. Chairman Yoon isn’t fazed when Dong-soo says he’ll never forgive him, and simply returns that if Dong-soo wants to end their cursed fate, he and Young-dal need to back down and disappear.

Young-dal isn’t surprised when Dong-soo tells him how the meeting went, since he knows the only way to make Chairman Yoon see things from their end is to take everything he has. And even then, he still might not repent.
But that doesn’t mean Young-dal isn’t going to try, since he plans to take control of Daejung Casino away from Chairman Yoon. Dong-soo agrees to leave him to it while he focuses his efforts on catching Chairman Go, though he warns his brother to be careful since Go still has it out for him.
After Young-dal’s buddies try to get Manager Bae to defect back to Team Young-dal, we find Young-dal out with Yoo-jin as she laments the senselessness of Yang-ha’s death. (Preaching to the choir.)

It comes as news to her that Young-dal and Yang-ha were biological brothers as he tells her he wants to put a stop to the deal they’ve been working on in order to do right by Yang-ha. After all, Yang-ha’s suffering was related to Young-dal meddling in his business, which Young-dal knows all too well now.
He sighs that he doesn’t even have the right to call himself Yang-ha’s hyung with the way they fought even after both of them knew the truth of their blood ties, but still tells Yoo-jin that he hopes Yang-ha will remain a pleasant memory for her. Tears roll down her cheeks after Young-dal leaves.

When a man tries to stab Young-dal in the parking garage, Young-dal quickly turns and disarms him after being lucky enough to spot his reflection in the car window. After he’s got his attacker pinned to the ground, he demands to know where Chairman Go is.
Boss Min orders Young-dal to keep hold of his attacker while she sends Manbong to help him out. She’s enraged that Chairman Go would make another pass on Young-dal’s life, and hopes that questioning the captured attacker will yield Chairman Go’s location.

Speaking of, Soo-chang delivers food and bad news to Chairman Go in hiding: all their possible exits are blocked, so they’ll have to wait until things calm down before they can attempt to flee.
This is not the news Chairman Go wants to hear, and he takes out his frustration on his loyal minion by beating the crap out of him. If Soo-chang wasn’t thinking of turning against him before, he sure as hell is now.

Boss Min and Manbong question Young-dal’s attacker in The Only Gangster Approved Basement in Seoul, but the captive yields nothing. Manbong decides to flex a little muscle to get him into a more talkative mood.
Jun-ho hands Young-dal a USB he found in Yang-ha’s desk containing some damning information, which Jailbreak thinks was Yang-ha’s last gift to his hyung. We don’t get to see what’s on it.
Detective Tak makes the mistake of telling Dong-soo that they were able to track down Chairman Go’s whereabouts before he tells his superiors, prompting Dong-soo to ask him to hand Go over to him. Since Chairman Go killed his father and brother, Detective Tak allows it.

Chairman Go wakes up in his hovel alone to find a breakup letter from Soo-chang, and his getaway money gone. In the letter, Soo-chang explains that he took it as compensation for the thankless years he spent under Chairman Go’s heel.
Just then, Dong-soo arrives, and all but knocks the doors down. He finds Chairman Go waiting inside, unsurprised that Dong-soo finally(?) found him. But even though he claims he has no fight left in him, he promises not to go down easy when Dong-soo grabs him by the lapels.

“I dreamt of this moment every time you escaped my grasp,” Dong-soo growls. Chairman Go snidely returns that his dream was always to chew Dong-soo up and spit him out: “Let’s see if your dream comes true today, or mine.”
What ensues isn’t so much a long-awaited fight as much as it is a total smackdown, which ends with Dong-soo having to be hauled off of Chairman Go by Manbong. He begs Dong-soo to think of Young-dal and calm down as Chairman Go is dragged out by his men.
“Did you hear about Go Bok-tae?” Boss Min asks Young-dal later, and of course we know the answer is always no. It’s no different this time, so Boss Min elatedly gives Young-dal the news that Dong-soo delivered Chairman Go to the police.

Since she also tells him that Manbong barely stopped Dong-soo from killing their enemy, Young-dal tells her to thank him on his behalf. But he’s not as happy about this news as she or Jang-soo expected him to be, which Jang-soo explains as being due to the damning evidence he found on Yang-ha’s USB which would be enough to put Chairman Yoon behind bars for good.
Boss Min doesn’t see what there is to worry about when Young-dal could end everything for good by using the intel, and neither does Jang-soo. But we know Young-dal’s hesitation comes from Yang-ha’s final wish—then again, Yang-ha was the one who left the USB in the first place.
Team Young-dal is surprised when Young-dal orders that Yang-ha’s USB be destroyed, because even though Yang-ha left it for HIM, Young-dal has decided that bringing Chairman Yoon down with this info isn’t what Yang-ha would’ve wanted. Which is fine, except it doesn’t make any sense.

So since we’ve always got to take the long way ‘round, Young-dal says that he’ll wait for Chairman Go and Director Hyun to bring Chairman Yoon down. Because somehow that vindicates Yang-ha more than using the evidence he left behind to get this exact same task accomplished.
While Young-dal asks Director Hyun’s fling to relay a message to him, Dong-soo gives Detective Tak a hint in properly interrogating Chairman Go: He won’t be able to get him solely on Yang-ha’s murder (because script), so he should instead focus on getting him to spill all he has on Chairman Yoon’s crimes.
Before the shit really hits the fan, Young-dal and Dong-soo talk about Yang-ha’s final words. They know he didn’t want to lose another father, but they can’t just sit back either. Young-dal: “Do you think he’ll understand us?” Dong-soo: “I know he will.”

Whatever message Young-dal sent to Director Hyun was enough to get him to hand over damning slush fund files on Chairman Yoon to the police. And when Chairman Yoon calls Director Hyun for some answers, Director Hyun makes it clear that he’s washed his hands of the chairman and wishes him good luck in getting out of what’s in store.
Chairman Go also shares his audio file of Chairman Yoon ordering him to kill Dong-soo during his investigation—but in return, he asks to call Chairman Yoon himself.
That’s when he tells the hateful chairman that he’s told the police everything about their sordid past in order to ensure that he won’t go down alone while Chairman Yoon lives fine and free. “I’ll see you in prison soon, Chairman Yoon.”

But not soon enough, since he has enough time for a sit-down meeting with Young-dal where he’s told everything he already knows about his people turning against him and his empire crumbling beneath him.
“Was what you were trying so desperately to protect more important than a person’s life?” Young-dal asks. “If you can’t answer me, then answer to Dong-woo. That’s the only way for Dong-woo to rest in peace.”

Shortly after he leaves, Kim Jin-soo delivers the news that the police have arrived with a warrant for Chairman Yoon’s arrest. He tries to help his longtime employer think of escape strategies, but Chairman Yoon just sends him away instead.
After a moment of consideration, Chairman Yoon opens his secret wall safe and pulls out a gun. He sinks down into his trademark chair with shaky hands as he hesitates over his decision…

…But as Young-dal walks away from his office, he hears the unmistakable BANG! of a gunshot. He knows, without needing to see it, that Chairman Yoon has ended his own life.
Following Chairman Yoon’s death, Young-dal is inaugurated as Daejung’s newest CEO. After making a speech about how he plans to run things (short version: very well), he talks to Boss Min about making her a Daejung Casino shareholder.
Boss Min couldn’t be happier, but Young-dal merely replies that it’s the least he can do for all the help she’s given him—he’ll have to use the rest of his life to truly repay her for everything. (Aw.) As for Manbong, he gives him an envelope with unknown contents, but whatever it is is repayment for the debt he owes him.

Young-dal and Jung-hee go to the airport to see Dong-soo off for his trip to the States, and forces him to grudgingly accept a corporate black card. It’s cute how Dong-soo calls Jung-hee “sister-in-law” and how Young-dal promises that he and Jung-hee will visit him next year.
“Please take good care of our Dong-chul,” Dong-soo tells Jung-hee. His sister-in-law smiles as she tells him not to worry—she’s got this. Dong-soo then pulls Young-dal into a farewell embrace as he tells him, “I’m so grateful to have you as my brother.”

While driving home, Jung-hee giggles as she tells Young-dal that she just remembered how they first met, with him running through the streets of Sabuk in his skivvies. Remembering that and looking at him now still shocks her, she says, because it goes to prove just how much a person can change.
Young-dal mentions a movie about a professional gambler who used a diamond to signify the last gamble he’d ever take, and how he thought he’d do the same one day. But now he doesn’t see why he’d have to.
When Jung-hee asks why that changed, Young-dal replies, “Because I have you in my heart, which is all I’ll ever need.”

After an unspecified amount of time, we see Young-dal walking through the casino he now owns. He stops at a certain table where a certain someone is dealing, and flashes her a wide smile. Jung-hee returns it, with a little wink.
Young-dal: “A casino is the end for one’s desire. There was a point in my life where I was like a moth to that flame of desire. But I realize it now, that the end to any desire… is death.
My father was a coal miner. They cal the end of a tunnel where miners are sent to mine in ‘the pitch.’ Because of the stifling coal dust and the burning heat, I heard that working in a mine is an insufferable hell. There was a time my life also looked like a dark tunnel without a ray of sunlight. At the end of that tunnel, someone miraculously appeared before me. As I loved her, I started to dream, and now I’m standing under a blinding sun. If you want to escape from ‘the pitch’ in your life, try loving someone. You never know when you might find a lucky someone and hit the jackpot.”

…That’s it? Huh. Well bravo, Triangle, you actually managed to surprise me. I thought I’d seen it all when it came to unsatisfying finales, from the weird and nonsensical to the just plain insulting and everywhere in-between—and I mean everywhere, because there’s actually such a thing as not having a finale. And that thing is called Basketball—which, if you’ve never heard the name and have just been spoiled, good. I’ve just saved you from an eighteen-hour spiral into madness.
That being said, it just goes to show that no one can ever be truly prepared, since I definitely wasn’t ready for whatever this was. I don’t want to hang the show out to dry because it could’ve been a lot worse, but it also wasn’t much of anything else, either. I was disappointed that the same kind of lag we’ve been experiencing since the show hit its twenties carried over even into finale week, where conflict is usually amped up a bit as we head toward the promise of resolution. And while things did happen, the pace with which the show went about presenting them was so lackadaisical that the payoff ended up hitting like a dull thud. They cared just enough to tie up some of the major stories, but not how, and certainly not with any sense of urgency. Or efficiency.
Setting aside the fact that Young-dal’s monologue at the end sounded like it came from a morality play I didn’t know we were watching, let’s talk about the one big upset from the episode: Yang-ha’s death. Even if I were going to take the show’s side and say that it was somehow necessary (it wasn’t), or that it somehow made sense (it didn’t), I can’t figure out why the powers that be felt it necessary to blow their only climactic scene at the beginning of the hour. It’s not like we were asking for a thrill-a-minute kind of show, but for one with a recurring inability to get it up, was it too much to ask for it to have lasted for more than ten minutes?

I’m sure that we’d be complaining even if Yang-ha had been a more fully realized character, but it’s actually more upsetting that he was so underdeveloped and underutilized before he died so unceremoniously. It’s no fun when a show makes it so painfully obvious that one character’s number is up and there’s nothing anybody can do to stop it, and even more so when nobody does anything to stop it. It can’t be that hard to add in fictional trying when it comes to a fictional death, can it? But in lieu of any of that all I ended up feeling was cheated, not because he died but because we barely got to know him first. Even with twenty-six episodes to do so.
Unfortunately, timing was never Triangle’s strong point, even if it managed pretty well for a while. And while I’d love to blame the extension for the endless retread of familiar plot points and conversations, it seemed clear from the beginning that the original twenty-four episode count was already way more than this show required, so adding two more hours was nothing short of a death sentence. Still, it wasn’t without its moments, even if it got way too caught up in the casino/business politics instead of focusing on the goldmine it had with three brothers finding each other after so many years apart.
And while everyone did their part (I’m going to give Lee Beom-soo a tentative pass because that poor guy never had anything to do), it was really wonderful to see Jaejoong step up to the plate, not only as an actor, but as a leading man capable of carrying a show. If nothing else, watching Young-dal’s early journey was the true heart of this story, and why the monologue he used to wrap it all up with didn’t quite work the way it was intended to. Because while Young-dal did find love, what he really found was himself. Against all odds, he went from a troubled youth who’d never even picked up a book to the CEO of a major conglomerate. His is a story of success based on his immense personal strength, courage, and willpower—but if Triangle wants to do itself a disservice by adding a soliloquy about love, let it. It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve ignored what really matters for everything that shouldn’t, but it is the last.

And so Triangle ends. As much as I’m happy to see Young-dal get his own happy ending (and hopefully settle down with) Jung-hee, I can’t help but feel let down by an eight-minute finale followed by a fifty-minute epilogue. Because everything after Yang-ha’s death feels like the afterword that gave us one last reminder how Chairman Yoon was a terrible wishy-washy character who maybe cared about his adoptive heir (not son, because he made that clear on numerous occasions) and that Chairman Go was a mostly ineffectual villain with awful hair.
Seeing this show struggle week in and week out ever since the extension announcement hasn’t been easy on anyone, and while the live-shoot system typically takes its toll on everyone involved in a production, it’s been especially brutal for Triangle, from its exhausted-looking actors, to the thinly-stretched plot in the latter third of its run, to its viewers who wanted to see the show out of its misery. Speaking of which, I was shocked to see Yang-ha get the short end of the stick, and then felt cheated in waiting twenty-five hours for a genuine brotherly reunion that lasted all of one minute. To that end, I wish that the show continued to play to its strengths (e.g., building family relationships) than its weaknesses (e.g., boring boardroom conversations about revenge and death threats), because I loved the moments whenever two or more Jang brothers were on-screen discussing their past, present, and future with one another.
So it’s a pity that Triangle spun its narrative wheels on business relations hardly anybody cared about (see: Hanchang-Anderson investment deal, Daejung stocks, Chairman Go’s bankruptcy), introduced (and quickly dropped) a plethora of minor characters nobody cared about (see: numerous assassins, unimportant businessmen), and abandoned the characters whose futures everyone was left confused about (see: Elder Ahn, Lady Kim, Police Chief Hwang). It would be easy for the writing to fall back on long-winded discussions, which is something I don’t mind as long as it’s engaging, but Triangle became one of those cases where it recycled the same conflicts for so long that even talking about it became its own joke. Perhaps that’s why I was so surprised that there was an actual follow-through to the endless “I’ll get you, my pretty!” speeches, and honestly sad that Yang-ha was the ultimate victim. What a miserable end to a pitiful existence.
That isn’t to say that Triangle wasn’t without its highlights, because we got to see some fantastic performances among our core group of brothers. The greatest gem by far was being witness to Jaejoong’s acting performance and his progression from start to finish—at the halfway point in the series, you could tell that he tapped into his character and became Young-dal. Furthermore, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Young-dal and Jung-hee’s romance develop in an everyday kind of way (what do you mean kidnapping?) that we don’t often get to see in dramaland—just two people who naturally developed genuine feelings for each other and fostered a relationship built upon honest communication.
So while we didn’t get as much of the brotherly moments in this show that I hoped we would, at least I know that there were plenty of those whenever the cameras weren’t rolling:

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