Noir K-dramas Cruel City and Shark Both Wrap Up with Much Talked About Endings

It’s a triplicate of K-drama finales this week what with Cruel City (Heartless City), Shark (Don’t Look Back), and I Hear Your Voice all ending. IHYV fans will have to wait two more days to see how their beloved drama wraps up after getting a 2-episode extension, but CC and Shark aired their 20th and last episode today and the reaction from fans was interesting indeed. I’ll keep everything that happened until after the jump to be a good spoiler-free Koala. In a nice symmetry, both dramas were intended to be dark and gritty, though only CC really captured the mood and stayed with it the entire way. CC also benefitted from a mesmerizing performance by Jung Kyung Ho that helped smooth over the leaps in logic whereas Shark never had that kind of performance from its leading man Kim Nam Gil. I always think romance should be well-integrated but remain ancillary to the narrative in dramas like these, where there is a greater objective to be reached for the main character whether its revenge or redemption. The viewer is in for the journey and the ending needs to feel organic to the road traveled even if it’s not a happy one or even one that feels particularly gratifying. As the storyteller, the drama owes the audience to say “this is what happens after all is said and done” even if it doesn’t necessary have catharsis. This is the backbone of noir, the very framework requires that the storyteller never let the dictates of the audience influence the ending. CC always reminded me of the critically acclaimed movie Infernal Affairs and that movie famously had two endings – the international one what remained true to its vision and one for Mainland China at the request of its censors. I appreciate storytelling that has integrity and confidence, and I think both CC and Shark bore the hallmarks of its creator’s vision from beginning to end. Whether as the viewer we are particularly pleased with that vision, that remains for each viewer to ascertain.

So what happened in the last episode of CC. Soo died but he went out in full bromance mode, with poor Shi Hyun sobbing like his guts had been ripped out. Jin Sook learned that everyone around her really were undercovers but she was fine with it because the woman is made out of resilient adamantium. Busan is killed but Shi Hyun has to deal with the big bad Commissioner Min. With guns pointing at each other, and Hyun Min and Soo Min rushing to the scene, with a bang Commissioner Min takes out Shi Hyun, and then Hyun Min takes out Commissioner Min. In the end the city is cruel indeed, there is no justice because crime and the chase to stop it continues regardless of who is sacrificed along the way. Soo Min finally becomes a cop but she’s lost two people she genuinely loved.

Apparently this is the ending floating around DC that was cut from the script. Shi Hyun doesn’t die and Hyun Min gets him a new identity. The Doctor’s Son is dead after taking the blame for killing Commissioner Min. Shi Hyun goes abroad while Soo Min follows the same script trajectory and becomes a cop. She believes that Shi Hyun is dead. CC isn’t a rom-com and the romance was never the selling point, nor was it the end point of the journey we took with Shi Hyun. I’m glad he got to experience passion and affection with Soo Min, but I didn’t need to see them get a happily ever after that would have felt jarring with the particularly nihilistic tone of this drama.

But a what-if possibility could still be the ending – after the voiceover and montage of Shi Hyun’s journey in this drama, the final scene is of a man in a beige suit standing in the crowd talking on the phone. It’s clearly Shi Hyun from the back, and the drama gives us nothing to confirm or deny what this scene means. Shi Hyun isn’t dead? It’s yet another fantasy sequence? It’s not Shi Hyun? I’m content not to over think things, whether he lives or dies is not the point of the story. The question is whether he lived his life with purpose and he definitely did. Jung Kyung Ho was absolutely flawless as Jung Shi Hyun.

So Shark also ended today. It was the third drama in the so-called Revenge trilogy, where the first one Resurrection (Rebirth) is one of my top-10 best dramas ever and Mawang (The Devil) was even better technically and great on its own but didn’t quite own my soul like Resurrection did. Shark, on the other hand, I just felt so apathetic towards. Nothing about it worked from me. In the end, Kim Nam Gil’s Yi Soo died (again, and this time for real). It also marks the fourth time Kim Nam Gil has died in his dramas. The man keeps on dying on TV, let this be a lesson for his fans not to expect happily ever endings. He died in Be Strong Geum Soon, then all bloody and dramatic in Queen Seon Deok, and finally in the most WTF way in Bad Guy. His character totally had to die here since he did all sorts of law breaking things in the name of revenge so it was either die or go to prison for a very long time. I’m not sure if Shark fans were actually expecting a happy ending but that was bloody unlikely.


Noir K-dramas Cruel City and Shark Both Wrap Up with Much Talked About Endings — 36 Comments

  1. No I wasn’t expecting a happy ending. But what I expected was a better executed ending scene. I am left hanging and I’ve NO closure. That’s going to bug me and bug me some more like forever!!!

  2. I love CC and I completely agreed with analysis and overall perception of the drama. Although not perfectly executed, the ending was what I expected from a noir. I agree, the lustful, passionate relationship that ShiHyun had with SooMin was not and should not be a central plot to the story, but how well he lived his life. I’m sad to see this show end, it was so wonderful in many ways. Thanks for the positive review Koala!!! 🙂

  3. Omgahhhhh. I always knew Jung Kyung Ho remind me of someone else, and I think I’ve finally pinpointed it. Yoga Lin!

  4. I loved CC, I want to think that Shi HYun is alive, hiding somewhere!
    As for the romance, JKH and NGR had so much chemistry, I felt sad for their characters to not have each other at the end!
    SooMin was flawed but I have to confess I really liked her and the trust sha gave to both auntie and ShiHyun, when she loves someone she gives it all (she just believe Parksa when he told her he did not kill Kyung Mi), a lot of people said she was useless but I don’t think so! I liked her character until the end, even Jin Sook could not hate her properly! I’m glad these two SM/JS ended up together 🙂

  5. I have nothing against the death of the main characters in the drama. Since it is well done. And no matter how I do not look like anything’s End Cruel City. I really enjoyed this drama Unfold first episode and have not had even one episode I did not like, so I thought that the ending should have been better worked. A drama that pontencial deserved a final height. The end did the rest of the drama Jus however still remains one of the best dramas I’ve ever seen.

  6. well, if he was alive it would be too alike to TBDW… soo, I think the end fits. I would like it to be IDK, more tragic, like Soo shooting him or something like this kkkkkkkkkkk because if is to end like this, why not go all the way? lol

    • Exactly. TBDAW was a mainstream drama and the ending was perfect there. I’ve written paragraphs about that ending. How it was fitting that Min Ki was Soo Hyun’s handler, how only he knew where he was. How Paris was where Soo Hyun and Ji Woo were headed. How we knew they were going to meet up and that was good enough.

      Here CC is much much darker. Still very thematic with TBDAW in the idea of revenge being a double-edged sword, and those who seem like the villains are less black and white and those who claim to represent justice are warped heartless creatures.

      I’m pretty sure CC filmed the script scene with Shi Hyun getting new identity papers from Hyun Min but the drama chose to cut it. I like it that way, so much more fitting for this story. Plus unlike Soo Hyun-Ji Woo, I don’t see a way for Shi Hyun-Soo Min to be together. No way, he needs to leave that world behind and that includes her.

      • Those snippets were taken from the 초고 those posters found on the staff site, the initial raw script that Yoo wrote.

        Then of course every script of every single Korean drama goes through an editing process — mostly because of logistics, so anything that affects the shooting of that scene (schedules, injuries, changes mandated from above and/or because of ratings/audience feedback/whatever — so the writer eventually posted the 수정고, namely the last edited script the writer gave to the staff.

        Even this is not really the “final” script. It’s basically what the cast and crew work on. There can be changes. Dialogue emphasized or cut out (Kim Yong-Soo is cutting a shitload of dialogue out of BaP, not to mention what Ahn Pan-Seok did with the script of The End of the World), scenes moved out of sequence and the like.

        You won’t find people in K-drama shooting scenes that don’t end up in the final product for a simple reason — they don’t have time (수정고 for E20 was given out on the 26th IIRC, so you’re looking at 27, 28 and partially 29 to shoot all that), so everything they shoot is functional to a fault.

        Basically what Lee Jung-Hyo did, instead of explicitly saying “he’s alive, and this is what happened”, was reinforcing the tenets of noir with that final shot. Which is…

        …what I’ll talk about in the final review. ㅋㅋㅋ

        But I like the way you approach this angle. Non-judgmental vis-a-vis the is-he-alive-or-dead conundrum.

      • Awesome to know all the delicious details going on behind the scenes! CC was definitely a work of dramatic art, storytelling on the small screen with both integrity and value the way it was intended to be. The blips were acceptable and the flaws made it more authentic.

  7. Hey, CC gave us an ambiguous WTFery ending, but we’ll always have the steamy kiss and sex scene in ep 10 to replay over and over again! Thank you CC!

    I hope they make CC 2 since the ending was open.

    Hopefully the sequel starts off with Soo-min being a proper/badass undercover cop and runs into Shi Hyung with a new secret identity. That’d be awesome!

  8. cc is one of my fav. shows it was seriously so good but I think the main reason for my love was doc son and jkh acting wowww was it was perfect. I even watched the last eps raw when I only understood about half of what was said because I just had to see it. and I loved that they showed him still alive (at least in my eyes i took it that way) …

    but as far as shark, good god what did they do to this drama the last few weeks i thought that it was starting to get good but that ending just killed it for me. i mean that ending gave us no answers!! i loved the first 2 series (the devil is prob one of the best stories ive seen) and i really thought this would be better =///

  9. I was fine with the ending of CC, was actually expecting it. But if they kill off anybody in I hear your voice…that’s going to be a different story!

  10. No…. I felt technically ressurection is more masterpiece…. the writer give a proper room exploring side character compare to mawang. But it’s mawang that gives an emotional impact the most because the story is more heartbreaking for me… The 2 male lead story give me emotional feeling the most compare to rebirth.
    As for shark… Here what I felt about shark and the ending.
    I felt dissapointed with the final not due to YS’s death…. Compare to the ending in mawang (in which had a great line, acting, and awsome face off… Which create an awsome performance between two male lead) this final is pale as compare to mawang or rebirth final…. The execution when facing a revelation and conclusion very underwhelmed and unsatisfied…. For example…. Yisoo-granpa jo face off felt underwhelmed, YJ’s conflict didn’t give a great weight to the main conflict, HW’s char become flat after YS’s discovered identity despite we know she is the one who felt the consequences the most. The logic is they have to explore her char conflict more, for ex… she would cared about what she lost if she continue (just felt abit flat for me)… Felt anger for both YS and granpa jo for what they have done . But no…. It just like that?… Her feeling to yi soo and her husband bring a great conflict to her char more than facing the truth. They are too focus and give too much care to wrap up the loose end while ignoring potential dramatic/heartfelt scene… And when the char have to face the truth and has to make a decision/real conclusion, it feel flat. Several good actor / character who has potential bring a great conflict has been waste…. Maybe it will be different story if they have given a proper room to explore.
    Overall this drama is good with very well contstructed story, good acting and directing. You will hard to find kdrama with well constructed story and consistent character till the credit end rolling (this is kim ji woo…! she is excel at take a great care to the tiniest detail). They resolve the problem sooo easy.. Makes u wonder… I felt cheated, considering they give too much time to build up the plot. Shark has potential become a better drama. But unfortunately…they failed using their own weapon considering the potential conflict they have been built up throughout the series. :^o

    One positive about this drama for me is so many likeable char I can relate to…. I care so much about them and give an emotional impact to me. Especially the relationship with the character felt so sweet and heartbreaking.

  11. The panning to the guy in the beige suit at the end probably was the writer’s way of telling us that there are plenty of undercovers out there living like Shi Hyun, surrounded by crowds of unknowing, uncaring people going about their daily lives, unaware of the dark gritty underworld that lurks beneath the clean streets and the bright sunshine. The beige man stands alone and unmoving in the centre of the still,as people stream past him back and forth in an endless flow. He is on his phone, that portent symbol of connection to the other world that is shrouded in darkness and shadow. The beige suit is to indicate to us that this is not Shi Hyun; Shi Hyun wears black, Shi Hyun is dead and gone, but life goes on and the undercovers live to fight another day, keeping the blissfully ignorant masses safe.

  12. We do like the mystery action drama SHARK, the story was truly very good and we’re thrilled of the end results, surprisingly, after all the pains of YI SOO’s family experienced, JUSTICE was never serve! We’re not contended with what the END of the story entails. Anyway, CONGRATS!

  13. CC! I wished for an open ending like in Gaksital with a badass mood, but it’s ok the way it is. It’s a little confusing, but doesn’t spoil the whole thing to me.

  14. CC was epic!i loved it. ending included. happy ending is too overrated thus thus the narrative ending CC worked for me.
    KYUNH HO was awesometasktic and the bestest EVER!
    I love kim Namgil. But KYUNG HO IS JUST EPIC!!!

  15. I saw the picture with shi hyun holding the document, but after reading the alternate script translation, i actually prefer the current cut. As soon as I saw the beige jacket in my mind paksa is death and shi hyun is alive. And I’m free to make up my own story going ahead.
    For OTP that literaly only have two minutes or less each episodes, i’m quite amazed how shi hyun – soo min pulled me in. JKH & NGY have a great chemistry and their story is believable, its unfortunate that they resided in heartless city and lovey dovey ending would be quite jarring.
    But ultimately this is one of the best kdrama I’ve watched. No doubt its Jung Kyung Ho that shines above the rest. His heartfelt and flawless performance is the heart and soul of this drama for me. I have a soft spot for Nam Gyu Ri since 49days and what a smart move in picking this drama.

    Lastly, I wish for a speedy recovery for JKH, and I’ll keep my eyes open for any future project from HC cast.

  16. Eventhough I don’t dislike CC’s ending, like everybody said it fits with the genre, but somehow I’m not surprise with the ending. It’s like I’ve seen this kind of ending elsewhere. I feel a little bit dissapointed, but it was a nice (?) journey overall. Thanks for the journey.

    • right? thats how i felt about the ending. i saw internal affairs and the departed, it wasn’t a surprise. CC was literally the departed right down to the short but passionate romance that never came up again and the hero dying in the end.

  17. Thanks for writing this and thanks for putting spoilers after the jump. 🙂

    I am way too sad that Baksa and Soo died. My brain has no idea they aren’t real. My heart thinks they are.

    I agree with your analysis up there. CC grabbed me, pulled me into its arms and held on, while Shark interested me in a “Hey look over there – there’s a thing that if it would let me get closer I may actually feel something about it.”

    KNG did not have enough to do. He has the ability to impress – his scenes with SYJ made me breathless. I wonder why the writer chose to have him sit and stare at fish 50% of the time.
    I am glad SYJ/KNG are acting together in a film – maybe it’ll be steamy.

    JKH? He has become my most favorite character of all time. Funny you mention TBDaW, because Baksa has unseated Kay. I want to see him again badly, but I worry about his pain. So, JKH, heal first, then I will beg to see you in anything.

    • Kay? Kay-who? LOL! I just saw TBDW and it was mediocre in production/direction compared to how dramas are done now, like in CC.

      Baksa is the ultimate bad ass hero EVAR! His character is the one of the most memorable of all time! Such a tragic figure.

      JKH’s portrayal of Baksa has catapulted him into a new level as an actor! I hope now he can have his pick of projects.

      I’m on the JKH train!

  18. Soo’s death hit me the hardest. I was expecting Baksa to die and I think this was a fitting ending for him.

    I didn’t feel much for Soo min though, it was Jin sook that I felt would suffer more.

    I’m really glad I watched this drama. No regrets.

    • I think they did a credible job of showing that these guys involved in the drug world are always one step away from a violent death.

      We thought that it was unbelievable that they could sustain what seemed to be life threatening injuries and live. Well, it was.
      I am just happy we had time to get to Soo better before he, sob sob sob, died.

      Why do I feel flashes of Una sadness again?

  19. Never a fan of korean drama till Jung Kyung Ho in CC! Expected ending but not happy, Jung Shi Hyun life is so sad. JKH crying scene breaks my heart, could really feel his pain. Can’t wait to see him in new project and praying for him that he will have a speedy recovery !!!

  20. The most touching scene was when his noona showed him the understanding that he did not expect, and he broke down. CC was worth following to the end despite the many logical flaws.

  21. I FF many action scenes in Cruel City because of blood and unbelievable injuries. Two most interesting characters were Doc’s son and Jin Sook, my new favorite who keeps her cool and elegance even when her heart is being ripped apart. Overall, Cruel City with its music and fleshed-out characters wins a special place on my list of dramas.

    Shark was such a big disappointment. Of course, KNG excelled in warmth and love with sister and tangible passion with HW (reminded me the elevator kiss in Bad Guy, silent but mind-blowing) but the rest of the story was predictable and very, very, very SLOW-paced. I really liked the elderly killer and his stoicism and an alien-looking Friend.

  22. the unforgiving part with shark is… they spent too much time with character we don’t care about to wrap up the msytery instead of paid off the plot who has been build up throughout the series in epi 17-20
    epi 17-20 really let me down

  23. i don’t know why…but i think jung kyung ho and park ki woong got almost similar vibe and acting….it not bad either…they are both amazing…and i also a bit suprised with JKH acting here…so i hope song joong ki should be more manlier after army like them..

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