On average, I watch about 7 hours of TV every day. When I’m not watching TV I’m researching new shows. During that time I’ve watched a lot of different programs, some that fall into the realm of mediocrity and others that do well but falter at the last hurdle. Vagabond, unfortuantely, is a show that falls into the latter. Not only is the finale the worst episode of the series, it’s also one that undoes a lot of the character work achieved up until this point, ending things on a disappointing note and failing to establish itself as a compelling k-drama worth returning to, even if it is renewed for a second season.
We begin with the President stepping down from office following the big scandal that’s gripped the country. Cha meanwhile is nowhere to be found but the police have apparently found his fingerprints at the scene of the burnt warehouse. Unfortunately this, combined with his blood type being O, puts Cha in the firing line as the one who kidnapped Kim. Hae-Ri refuses to believe this is true but when she finds their lucky charm among the rubble, she finally realizes it’s true.
Back home, the President waters his plants before seeing on TV that Cha has been labeled a terrorist. Dropping the vase to the floor, he turns and looks, shocked, while Hae-Ri breaks down crying outside. In the distance however, we see Cha still alive and well but he intentionally keeps his distance. As we jump back in time, we see what really happened that night; Lily intended to save Kim but as fate would have it, she saved Cha instead, leaving the building just as it erupts into a fiery inferno.
Meanwhile Hong takes the office on an interim basis before Samael requests a meeting. As it happens, Samael is actually Park. As they sit down together and discuss the future of the country, it turns out Park’s the one pulling the strings in the country. Hae-Ri continues to doubt Cha as the one responsible for Kim’s death but unfortunately Hong has closed the file to this case, leaving her scrambling for answers. At the same time, Cha tries to piece everything together too, eventually turning to Lily and hiring her, with the help of the former President whom owes him a favour.
With the money secure, Lily phones Jessica in prison and tells her that Edward Park is Samael. At the same time, Hae-Ri infiltrates the prison, determined to get answers. Once inside, she immediately asks Jessica for answers around who Samael is and after some delay, she finally reveals it’s Edward Park. As it turns out, Jerome is actually a guard at that very prison too.
After finding out the truth she plays Park when he arrives at the prison and tells him she suspects Jessica killed Cha, going on to explain Black Sun and everything else was an elaborate ploy and not wholly accurate to what’s going on. Sensing she’s being watched, she snatches up a scalpel some time later and stabs Jessica before being thrown into solitary confinement.
After serving her time, Hae-Ri is released from prison while in North Africa the task squad, with Cha in the ranks and Lily listening in, prepare for Jerome to arrive and pick up the package. Having made it into Black Sun, she tells him not to do anything rash but he turns the radio off and instead, turns on the other officers and shoots them all. In the ensuing chaos, Jerome arrives alone to pick up the package. However, Cha ambushes him, shooting the man in the knee-cap before torturing him using the bio-weapon. Eventually Jerome reveals the name – Axis – which ironically brings us back to the opening episode where he asked Cha the same thing in Morocco. It turns out Axis are a global finance company and the bio-weapon they have was going to be used by Park. Blowing up the evidence, Park walks away.
In Kirika, Hae-Ri and Cha both prepare for the final conflict which brings us right back to the opening scene of the first episode, with Cha poised and ready to shoot a sniper rifle from afar until he realizes it’s actually Hae-Ri. With context, this scene makes more sense and as he shoots the rival sniper, the episode and series ends. Just like that. No resolution, open character arcs and no definitive answers.
It’s hard to know where to start with Vagabond. I’ve quite enjoyed this action thriller over the weeks and the over-the-top action and tense situations have always flirted that line of unbelievability but it’s always had the foresight to act with integrity while doing so. Cha has always been a man that values honesty and compassion and seeing this character development thrown down the drain here as he tortures Jerome feels very uncharacteristic for him. Unfortunately this happens to be a running theme throughout the episode too. Hae-Ri stabbing Jessica, regardless of how staged this was, and then being released from prison feels odd and her entire crusade this episode to find Cha ultimately gets her nowhere.
The future of the country is still in doubt too, with teasing glimpses of the upcoming election, while Park’s plans and diabolical schemes ultimately go unheeded, as we leave with all of this unresolved. Ordinarily, I’d be a little lenient on a show ending on a big cliffhanger like this, given the likelihood of a second season, but when it comes to Korean dramas these things are few and far between. The whole idea of a 16 hour drama is to give enough breathing room to grow our characters and story whilst allowing some time for us to get invested in the story. To see of this squandered in this way is a difficult pill to swallow.
The week breaks haven’t helped Vagabond of course but this ending is one of the worst I’ve witnessed in my tenure covering Korean dramas. I hope this one is quickly announced for a renewal but even then, I’m not sure fans will forgive the rushed, lackadaisical way this one has been wrapped up. Unfortunately Vagabond surpasses Memories Of The Alhambra’s finale as one of the biggest disappointments of the year which is a shame because for 15 episodes, I’ve really enjoyed this one.