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K-Drama Round-Up: ‘Start Up’ Comes To An End

It’s time for us to say goodbye to Seo Dal Mi, Nam Do San, and Han Ji Pyeong, as Start-Up airs its finale tonight

And just like that, it’s already time to say goodbye to Start-Up. We absolutely loved spending the past few weeks with the characters in Sandbox: Seo Dal-mi, Nam Do-san, and Han Ji-pyeong! In the most recent episode of Metro K-Drama Round-Up, the Metro editors, with guest Leah Puyat, talked about their predictions for the finale as well as everything they learned from Start-Up


On the panel for this discussion:


Geolette Esguerra, Metro.Style Editor-in-Chief

Anna Rosete, Metro.Style Living Editor

Leah Puyat, veteran K-Drama fan


How do you feel about these last two episodes?


Geolette: I think that these have the best cliffhangers so far. 


Leah: Well, as Team Nam Do San, I’m actually feeling so much sympathy for Han Ji Pyeong. I’m not switching teams. But again, you can see he clearly hasn’t declared his love, because of that whole gifting thing. She really put him in that friendzone. And then when you see Nam Do San, and then that whole, he’s doing everything in his power to forget her, he goes on the bike ride, he cut completely all contact. 


The last thing he did was add the medicine recognition app. Remember when they were on the plane already to Silicon Valley, and that was his last app for her. And you’re feeling, I think he's growing deeper as a character because you’re feeling his internal struggle, and all that. 


But I think what I’m realizing about these shows is that you’re really getting good updates from where the characters are going. They’re either very natural arcs; it’s not like they’re forcing them to evolve or anything. But even if it’s a time jump, you get you get the feel of their struggle, of like, how she had to learn to work with her sister, and then how the three engineers had to adjust to American life and all that, so I like the last two episodes and where they're bringing the characters. 


Anna: For me, as Team Nam Do San, I liked how they built it up so that they had established their lives in America. And then also showed where Dal-mi and Ji-pyeong are in Korea. And then as I was saying, a little while back that he’s been to all their family gatherings and other occasions, but on the other hand, like he hasn’t really established himself as anything in her life, but a brother and a friend. Nam Do-san, he came back in a big way. She was in trouble again, and then he’s her savior again. The kilig was just too much. He didn’t only solve the hacker problem, he also carried her. On the first big chance they have together he carries her. 


Leah: Ji-Pyeong wanted to prolong the lie because he was protecting himself and the whole deception that was going on. Nam Do-san was really the one more eager to come clean and say, “Let’s come clean. Let’s just start from scratch. Let’s tell her everything. We’ve taken this too far.”

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Anna: For some reason, I feel like when he showed up for her at the networking party, I really think that he already liked her.


Leah: Her words drew him in and how accessible she was to her emotions and how open she was. 


Anna: I think he cleaned up because of that. I mean, he showed showed up with this, you know, the messy hair and the flannels. But he did. I mean, he did it because also of Ji-Pyeong’s urging but why would he make the effort? 


Geolette: It was also because she messaged him. Now that he understood the whole context, he’s like, “Okay, I want to do this for this girl I’ve never met. She seems sweet. She has these wonderful letters. And, you know, turns out he’s the one who got really affected by her letters. And this was really because I don’ t think the letters stayed with Han Ji-Pyeong. They stayed with grandma. 


Geolette: When he gave the letters to Nam Do-San, he might not have re-read them again. When you’re pretending to be someone when you’re young, you would’ve forgotten what they wrote already. The words didn’t mean so much to him. But to Nam Do-San it was like the Bible.  


Leah: When I was reading all those “Reasons to Love Han Ji-Pyeong” articles, one of the top reasons was that he was the original writer of the letters. This made me realize that we are a world and a culture and a society starved for romantic gestures. The truth is those love letters are not sincere. The very act of being the author of those letters struck a nerve with people and then I was thinking, “Why?” I think because we have such a hunger for the big romantic gestures. That’s why that idea of the love letters resonated with people so much. Also, he’s the classic knight in shining armor.  


Leah: Nam Do-San is a more modern relationship. They’re more on equal footing. They’re both exploring. There’s that part where both Nam Do-San and Dal-Mi were drifting and they sort of had to find each other at the right time to consolidate their dreams and get to that journey together. Which is, I think, a more modern way to fall in love. The fact that people are so rabid for the Ji-Pyeong angle shows me that there’s this hunger for an old-fashioned kind of narrative.  


Anna: I was on Team Ji-Pyeong first. Just to clarify, I don’t hate him or anything. On episode one, he was blaming lola. He was accusing her of taking his money. Nam Do San, when he realized she’s losing her eyesight, what does he do? He makes an app for her kaagad. He felt like family immediately to the lola.  


Leah: I love the tweets where they say, “I can’t imagine any of these characters end up broken-hearted.” You can see the level of emotional investment. There’s a deep commitment to the characters.


Geolette: Everyone on Team Han Ji-Pyeong just really wants him to have a happy ending.  Leah: He’s a classic Victorian hero. He’s an orphan, a rags-to-riches story. There’s something so 19th century about it. He’s the orphan who does well in the world. It’s like Wuthering Heights, Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expections. He wins against the odds. 


Geolette: I have a comment from Team Ji-Pyeong. This is from Grace (Libero-Cruz, Metro.Style’s People Editor). “Han Ji-Pyeong is such a good boy from start to finish. Some are saying he’s pagong because his relationship with Dal-Mi didn’t progress in three years. But it looks as if he was just respecting her and giving her the space she needs to move on. He didn’t take advantage of the time Do San was a way to make a move on Dal Mi because maybe he was really being considerate about her and her feelings. He’s so thoughtful in general. Like, for example, the elevator scene where he stopped Do San from seeing Dal Mi. He did that because Dal Mi didn't want Do San to see her looking miserable.” 


Geolette: I do agree. I think he was giving her space and I actually think that they got closer over time, because before this, three years ago, she just treated him like a mentor. It was very professional. Now he’s part of her family. They can joke around. It's a little awkward because she's a little shy, because turns out this was the guy, the fake guy who was her fake pen pal. So maybe that's awkwardness. And of course, he also confessed to her over noodles. But then she hasn't gotten over Nam Do San, definitely. And anyone can tell. Right? So he was giving her space. And that's very respectful of him. To not force her into being in a relationship, or, you know, to not go out on dates with him when clearly she's still not over this other guy. But in the elevator scene, I feel that this was the same idea behind that. That scrunchie scene when Han Ji-Pyeong deliberately tried to make Nam Do San jealous. That scene was played up as a funny scene. The one upmanship. In this scene, I do feel that it’s not so much about protecting Dal Mi, but more that he just couldn’t help himself. It’s instinctive for him because he couldn’t express himself. 


Geolette: In Episode 14, it’s all about elevator speech. It's about all these moments that can turn a situation around or can change someone's mind or can sell something super, super quickly. And all of them actually had these little elevator moments.


Leah: The episode is full of choices. It’s full of, Do we stay in California? Or do we move back to Seoul? Do I eat my pride and beg Nam Do San or do I lose my job? 


Geolette: There’s a lot of symbolism in Start-Up.


Leah: The writer likes a lot of layers.


Anna: It’s very layered. 


Geolette: That’s really why we love K-Dramas, because the writers, the directors, the actors, the actresses, the scoring director—they really took their time into creating this thing that they really built. They really build the layers, and they add the foundation. They keep you on your toes.


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Lead photos and screenshots from IMdB