A Bright Future
It’s been quite the turbulent ride up until this point. Hot Stove League has been a consistently entertaining baseball drama over the weeks and it maintains this with the final episode, that sees the future of the team decided as Seung-Soo’s long journey in turning this team around comes to an end. While it’s a little disappointing not to see what actually happens to Dreams and whether they win the title, to be fair Hot Stove League has always been about the journey and for that reason, this drama does a really good job in remaining consistent throughout.
Seung-Soo begins the episode by speaking to the Chairman, telling him he knows they doesn’t want the team and pleads his case to let him try and sell the club. With this idea left open on the table, he visits the Junior Managing Director in a run-down bar and tells him what he intends to do – he has a week to try and sell Dreams.
With disbandment hanging heavily over the team, the coaches and players gather where they’re told not to do anything rash and to continue going about their business, after all Dreams may still continue if they can find an investor. The same can be said for the Operations Team too, who struggle to deliver their team talk without being bombarded with calls from other teams trying to poach their players.
Seung-Soo potentially finds a buyer for Dreams in the PF group. With no previous knowledge in running sports teams before, Se-Young and Seung-Soo sit down with the owner and speak to him about the job, trying to suss out whether he’s a good fit or not for them. During the talks, the man suggests moving the team to Seoul and admits that the actual board are unsure whether they’ll agree to taking the team on or not.
He suggests Seung-Soo deliver a presentation the next time he sees them with reasons why they should take Dreams on and allow them to sign with PF. As he heads back to the office, he speaks to Mr Kwon about why he’s chosen PF and it’s enough for Seung-Soo to head back and deliver his presentation with flair and confidence, bringing up the PF group’s current industry (entertainment) and the potential to grow by taking on Dreams.
The real kicker? Seung-Soo brings up the Playground Friends, something that runs deeper than the company itself with personal ties to this man, who tries to convince Seung-Soo he’s doing fine without his friends. He suggests disbanding and re-establishing the team again but Seung-Soo is wise to this idea too, having prepared slides to quell any concept of doing this and just why it’s a bad idea. The man is certainly impressed, and he agrees to the current terms of the club, location and price remaining to Seung-Soo’s liking, but for a catch. With the room cleared, he tells Seung-Soo in private that he will have to resign as General Manager.
Meanwhile, Mr Kwon and Seung-Soo come to a mutual understanding, as they finally respect one another and share a drink in his office. After their earlier confrontation about work being all-encompassing and demanding, it’s a satisfying moment and one that sees Kwon empowered enough to return to the board and slam down the envelope full of money, refusing to be part of this any longer.
After a successful inauguration meal, Se-Young learns the truth about Seung-Soo’s forced resignation. They say goodbye and Seung-Soo looks on at the stadium one last time before leaving.
We then cut forward and see the team united, ready to tackle the new season while Se-Young leads the team. Seung-Soo listens to the match on the radio, hearing the team succeed and knowing his job is now done. After talking to Mr Kwon on the phone, Seung-Soo heads in for his next challenge.
With a relatively satisfying ending, Hot Stove League ends its 16 episode run with the future bright for Dreams and the team on the same page for the first time. Seeing all of them walking together in unity along the corridor at the end is a really powerful moment, especially given the time we’ve spent with these individual players across the weeks. This is really the best part of the drama and learning more about the different players, whether it be Robert Kill or Dong-Gyu, has really helped add some depth to this drama.
Could there be a second season? There’s certainly scope to think so, especially with the open-ended nature of this one. Netflix take note – THIS is how you end a show satisfyingly without the need for a big cliffhanger or too many unresolved questions. Even if there’s not a follow-up, Stove League has been an entertaining and enthralling watch nonetheless, and one of the few shows these past few months that has remained consistently high quality across its entire run-time. It’s fair to say Stove League has hit a home run with its episodes, making for a really solid baseball drama.
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