The Guest: Episode 16 (Final)
The nerve-wracking finale means a face-off with Park Il-do, who seeks to complete what he started twenty years ago. There’s no escaping now — it’s man versus demon, with no guarantee that either will survive. It’s not the first time our trio’s lives have been in peril, but we can hope and pray that — one way or another — it will finally be the last.
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
As the possessed villagers attempt to attack their loved ones, Kil-young and Hwa-pyung continue to desperately search through the empty nursing home for Priest Yang. But the priest is on the rooftop with Yoon, who gathers all his inner strength to begin the exorcism prayer. If Yoon must die, at least he’ll take Park Il-do down with him.
Hwa-pyung and Kil-young find them on the roof, and Hwa-pyung yells at Yoon to stop — he reassures Yoon that there’s another way so Yoon won’t have to die.
Hwa-pyung want to know if Park Il-do brought them there just to kill them. He offers himself as a sacrifice, telling Park Il-do to possess him instead and let Priest Yang go. Yoon and Kil-young protest, not wanting their friend to be possessed, but Hwa-pyung reassures them that it will be okay.
Priest Yang muses that, despite the trio surviving that night twenty years ago, their fate is still the same. Bringing them here was all a part of his plan, and even if they kill him, nothing will change — they can’t escape this trap.
They demand to know what he means, and Priest Yang screams that out of the three of them, two will die tonight. Then he pauses, deciding that he’s changed his plan — only one will die.
Lifting his arms up as in a blessing, Priest Yang purposefully leans back and falls off the rooftop, crashing to the ground below. The effects of Priest Yang’s swan dive are immediate, as the possessed villagers suddenly become un-possessed, realizing in horror that they were trying to kill their friends and family.
The trio race downstairs, but it’s too late. Priest Yang lies spread-eagle on the ground, and as Yoon crouches by the man’s body, the older priest’s last words are, “Now I am free.”
They don’t know what that means, but Kil-young realizes they need to check on Grandpa and the villagers. As Yoon performs the last rites for Priest Yang, Hwa-pyung finds his grandfather safe in the nursing home.
In the morning light, the trio stare out at the sea, wondering if it’s all really over. Hwa-pyung confirms that if the person possessed by a spirit kills themselves, then the spirit will return from whence it came. In Park Il-do’s case, they assume the spirit has returned to the sea.
Knowing that Park Il-do comes from the sea every twenty years, they worry that he’ll eventually return. Yoon also wonders why Park Il-do ended things so neatly by allowing Priest Yang to kill himself.
Now that they don’t have an evil spirit to chase after, there’s no reason for the trio to stay together. Kil-young and Yoon head back to the city while Hwa-pyung stays behind to be near his grandfather. As he sits by his grandfather’s bedside, Hwa-pyung has a dream of Priest Choi from twenty years ago telling him that “he” is with him.
Hwa-pyung doesn’t understand the dream, but there’s no time to dwell on it since Grandpa wakes up from his coma. But due to lack of oxygen to the brain, Grandpa has essentially suffered a stroke, so his abilities are limited. Even so, he manages to gasp out a plaintive call for his wife and son.
After the incidents in the village, Yoon’s claim that Priest Yang was possessed doesn’t seem so far-fetched, but he’s still on priest probation until the disciplinary committee looks further into the matter. Another priest gives him some Sharing Hand documents that Priest Yang left behind.
Meanwhile, Kil-young goes through the box of her mother’s belongings, her voice trembling as she tells her mother that Park Il-do is gone. Kil-young starts to cry as she blames herself for not being able to do anything to stop him until the moment Priest Yang took his life.
She meets up with Yoon, marveling that he’s learned how to drink soju. His new drinking habit is understandable, considering all he’s gone through — especially since whenever he tries to sleep, he can see and hear all those who were killed or possessed by Park Il-do.
Kil-young points out that a little PTSD isn’t surprising considering all they’ve been through. She muses that at least they have each other, since the three of them can understand what they’ve gone through when no one else can.
She hesitates, fighting back tears as she admits that it’s hard for her to meet with Yoon since when she sees him, she thinks of her mother who died saving him. She tries to lighten the mood by saying Yoon must live a blessed life, since Hwa-pyung ordered her to save Yoon no matter what.
Grandpa’s stroke means he’s barely able to take care of himself, or even knows who Hwa-pyung is. Hwa-pyung still carefully tends to his grandfather, getting him settled at home and tucking him into bed. Hwa-pyung’s planning to stay with Grandpa for awhile, and asks Kil-young to pack up his belongings and send them along.
Yoon returns to the village to check on the previously possessed people. He starts with Officer Oh, who says that he doesn’t remember anything, but at least he isn’t thirsty and doesn’t hear strange noises. As part of the general procedure, Yoon pulls out a crucifix and holds it near Officer Oh, asking how he feels.
The police officer hesitates, then admits that he feels a little sick, asking Yoon to put the crucifix away. When Yoon doesn’t immediately comply, Officer Oh angrily knocks it out of Yoon’s hand. Stunned, Yoon realizes that the villagers are still possessed.
Yoon calls Kil-young, who’s busy packing up Hwa-pyung’s belongings. He tells her that it’s not over — the demons Park Il-do controlled are still inside the villagers. Park Il-do is not gone. Kil-young’s so shocked that she accidentally drops the jar of homemade food Grandpa had brought Hwa-pyung on his last visit.
She stares at the mess on the floor in horror. Hidden in the jar is a crow’s head, which — besides being highly unhygienic — is definitely not a good sign. She and Yoon realize that they need to get to Hwa-pyung immediately.
Once Grandpa is asleep, Hwa-pyung goes down to the pier to pour out a bottle of soju in the ocean. He calls out to Yook Kwang, telling him he brought the soju and sashimi that the shaman always wanted, promising that he’ll do whatever it takes to find his friend’s body.
Hwa-pyung returns to his grandfather’s home, remembering that Yook Kwang died because he had been searching for something on Grandpa’s property. Hwa-pyung has a vision of where Yook Kwang dug at the ground, so he starts digging, too.
He recoils when he discovers a mummified body buried in the ground. Remembering all the warnings that Park Il-do was still in the house and that Grandpa is Park Il-do, Hwa-pyung stares at a photo that was buried with the body — a photo of him as a young boy with his grandfather.
As Yoon hurries to Hwa-pyung, he flips through the photos from Sharing Hand. They’re all photos of Priest Yang standing with volunteers and the people that Sharing Hand helped — and in one of those photos is Grandpa.
Hwa-pyung returns to the front of the house, shocked to see Grandpa sitting out front, eating on his own — something he shouldn’t be able to do without assistance due to his stroke. Hwa-pyung despairingly assumes that Park Il-do possessed Grandpa twenty years ago when Park Il-do moved from young Hwa-pyung.
But Grandpa says Hwa-pyung was never possessed. The reason Hwa-pyung couldn’t see through his eye as a child was due to his psychic abilities. The truth is, Park Il-do entered Grandpa right after the first possessed shaman killed himself.
Grandpa had tried to resist, but as Park Il-do’s demon energy started to cover the walls in black ooze and threaten to consume Hwa-pyung, Grandpa offered up himself as a sacrifice to save his grandson.
Under Park Il-do’s command, Grandpa found Park Il-do’s original body that had been buried in the field. That was the night Hwa-pyung’s mother had gone out looking for Hwa-pyung, the night that Hwa-pyung believed he — while presumably possessed — pushed his mother off the cliff. But it wasn’t Hwa-pyung who killed his mother — it was Grandpa.
Then Grandpa killed his wife, making it look like suicide, after she found him re-burying Park Il-do’s body closer to the house.
During the exorcism twenty years ago, when the shaman declared that “he should be killed” because that’s the only way to get rid of Park Il-do, they all thought she was referring to Hwa-pyung because that’s who she seemed to be staring at. But she was actually staring at Grandpa who was holding Hwa-pyung at the time.
As Grandpa reveals all of this to Hwa-pyung, the younger man staggers in pain when his eye starts hurting again. He doesn’t understand how he was never possessed if he reacts to Park Il-do, but the now-very-obviously-possessed Grandpa explains that because Hwa-pyung is a special and powerful psychic, he experiences sympathetic supernatural pains.
After the exorcism attempt suppressed Hwa-pyung’s psychic abilities, he no longer had those pains or could see Grandpa for what he truly was. That’s how Park Il-do was able to live so close to Hwa-pyung all these years.
As for Priest Yang, Park Il-do never possessed him. Instead, Park Il-do simply tracked him down, knowing he was Lee Chul-yong’s son. Priest Yang actually tried to fight back by exorcising him. But Park Il-do was too strong, and that was the moment when Priest Yang gave up on his faith and became Park Il-do’s servant.
So it was Grandpa who was doing the possessing — or at least ordering the other lesser demons to possess the zombie villagers and all the others that had been in contact with Sharing Hand over the years.
Grandpa also chuckles in glee as he — that is, Park Il-do — explains that he’s helped Hong-joo in anticipation of the disaster she’ll bring to the world as she gains more political power. Hwa-pyung demands to know why Park Il-do has been doing all this for the past twenty years, and the spirit explains that it’s fun — besides, he’s only feeding on all of humanity’s innate despair, anger, and desire to harm. He simply pushed people over the edge until their metaphorical demons became literal demons.
Hwa-pyung asks why Park Il-do killed Geun-ho, and Grandpa laughs that he killed all of Hwa-pyung’s family in order to make Hwa-pyung sad and frustrated in order to destroy his inner strength, making it possible for Park Il-do to possess him.
Park Il-do has carefully stayed near Hwa-pyung the past twenty years due to Hwa-pyung’s special shaman-inherited psychic abilities, which make him one of the few people who can withstand being possessed by such a powerful spirit.
Worried, Hwa-pyung asks if his grandfather is still alive. Park Il-do almost seems affronted when he says that he is Hwa-pyung’s grandfather. Park Il-do was the one who cared for Hwa-pyung, cooked for him, laughed with him. Park Il-do was the one Hwa-pyung slept next to when he visited home.
Furious, Hwa-pyung starts to move towards Grandpa, but the evil spirit blocks Hwa-pyung from stepping closer. Hwa-pyung drops to his knees, spitting up blood, as Park Il-do says that it’s all Hwa-pyung’s fault that Kil-young’s and Yoon’s families were killed, too.
If young Hwa-pyung hadn’t told Priest Choi that Park Il-do was still in the house, then Park Il-do wouldn’t have had to possess Priest Choi. If Hwa-pyung hadn’t been standing in front of Yoon’s house that night, then Kil-young’s mother wouldn’t have stopped to investigate.
Frustrated, Park Il-do adds that the night he led the trio to the nursing home, he was going to kill Yoon and Kil-young in front of Hwa-pyung. But instead Priest Yang killed himself, thwarting Park Il-do’s plans. He’s not worried, though, since he knows that Yoon and Kil-young are currently on their way to Grandpa’s house.
Realizing his friends are in danger, Hwa-pyung begs Park Il-do to possess him right now and leave his grandfather alone. That’s exactly what Park Il-do has been waiting to hear for the past twenty years.
By the time Yoon arrives at Grandpa’s home, the possession has already taken place — but Hwa-pyung has also taken a knife and carved shamanistic phrases into his body. He recites a shaman prayer in order to confine Park Il-do.
Concerned for his friend, Yoon rushes forward to help, but Hwa-pyung yells at him to stay away. He tells Yoon it’s pointless to try and perform an exorcism — not just because he knows Yoon will die, but because Hwa-pyung has locked Park Il-do in his body and plans to get rid of the evil spirit by killing himself.
Horrified, Yoon screams at him to stop as Hwa-pyung grabs a knife and tries to cut his own his throat. But Park Il-do seems to be fighting back, preventing Hwa-pyung from making the final move. Despite reeling from the pain of his curse, Yoon staggers forward, determined to exorcise his friend.
Park Il-do grabs Yoon by the throat, growling that he should have killed Yoon earlier. When Hwa-pyung realizes what the spirit is forcing him to do, he struggles to release Park Il-do’s grip on Yoon. Once Yoon is freed, Hwa-pyung runs away.
Kil-young arrives just in time to see Hwa-pyung run towards the sea, and she follows after him. Hwa-pyung stands in the water and tries to slice his wrists, but Park Il-do won’t let him die so easily, so he tries to drown himself. Kil-young jumps into the water to save him, dragging Hwa-pyung back to the shallow water.
Park Il-do is beginning to take over, though, as Hwa-pyung’s right eye becomes black. The demon laughs in triumph, delighting in his new body.
The possessed Hwa-pyung grabs Kil-young and tries to stab her, but Yoon arrives and pulls him away. The two men fight. Hwa-pyung soon has the upper hand as he uses his supernatural strength to hold Yoon and Kil-young under water, trying to drown them. But Yoon reaches for his rosary, pressing the crucifix against Hwa-pyung’s flesh.
That causes Hwa-pyung to recoil in pain, letting go of Kil-young and Yoon. Kil-young tries to restrain Hwa-pyung as Yoon begins the exorcism. Yoon yells out a prayer, begging for assistance to defeat an enemy that is too strong for him — but he’ll go down fighting for his friend’s life, even if it costs him his own.
Hwa-pyung momentarily writhes in pain, but Park Il-do ultimately mocks Yoon, telling him that Yoon will die from the curse before he can exorcise Hwa-pyung. Yoon wobbles in pain, spitting up blood as his body decays — but he still persists in his exorcism attempt until Hwa-pyung suddenly screams, “Park Il-do!”
But then Hwa-pyung starts to laugh, as the demon inside reveals that Park Il-do isn’t his real name — it’s just the one he’s used most recently. Actually, “Park Il-do” is a demon who has existed since the beginning of time. Yoon commands the spirit to reveal his real name, since an exorcism can only be properly conducted with the demon’s true name.
Park Il-do grabs Yoon by the throat: “Yoon Hwa-pyung. That’s my name now.”
Kil-young tries to intervene, but the possessed Hwa-pyung easily pushes her aside as he continues to strangle Yoon. He tries to stab Yoon, but Kil-young grabs his arm, pleading with Hwa-pyung to remember why they wanted to catch Park Il-do — to think of his family and that he begged her to do anything she could to save Yoon’s life.
Hwa-pyung’s right eye returns to normal as he gains momentary control of his body. He drops Yoon into the water, and then stabs himself in the chest. As his friends watch in horror, Hwa-pyung thanks him for their help, but says he’ll take care of everything now. Then he stabs out his right eye.
Hwa-pyung staggers into the sea, disappearing under the water.
Yoon swims after him, grabbing his sinking friend’s hand and wrapping his rosary around both of their wrists as he internally continues the exorcism. As he finishes the prayer and blesses Hwa-pyung, Yoon loses consciousness due to the curse.
Hwa-pyung unwraps the rosary from Yoon’s wrist and slips deeper into the water, begging Park Il-do to stay in his body.
Kil-young dives into the sea, desperately searching for the two men. She drags Yoon back to shore, and he sputters up sea water as he comes back to his senses. Because the exorcism failed, he’s still alive! His first question is to ask where Hwa-pyung is, but Kil-young sobs as she admits she couldn’t find him.
Running back into the water, Yoon and Kil-young desperately call out Hwa-pyung’s name. But he’s gone.
In the morning, Kil-young gets a call from the Coast Guard letting her know they’ve found some of Hwa-pyung’s belongings — his shoes, which were left near Yook Kwang’s body. Hwa-pyung found his old friend after all, but there’s no sign of Hwa-pyung’s body.
One year later, Kil-young is still a detective and partnered with Detective Go! Yay! She’s momentarily distracted when another detective questions a taxi driver, since it reminds her of Hwa-pyung.
Hong-joo has been elected to be the congressional floor leader, which gives her even more power. Ugh, I guess evil does continue to exist in this world. She gets a call that her father died, but instead of grieving, she laughs gleefully. It’s no wonder why Park Il-do chose this family for his 20th century incarnation.
Yoon and Kil-young meet up to honor Hwa-pyung’s memorial day — aw, both of them brought meat as their food offerings, since that’s what he always used to bug them to buy for him. They set up his memorial table in Grandpa’s house, honoring their friend who they presume to have drowned.
Meanwhile, Grandpa is back to his normal (and not possessed) self, which unfortunately means he’s still not fully functional and requires his neighbor to look after him. Grandpa believes that Hwa-pyung and Geun-ho should be returning home soon, and spends his days watching for them.
The neighbor tells Yoon and Kil-young to stop sending Grandpa money — he doesn’t need it now, since a charity keeps sending money and supplies.
Kil-young and Yoon track down the source of the packages, and it leads them to another seaside village. The person who sent the packages is a fisherman, who said he did it as a favor for a man he saved from drowning last year. That man eventually settled down in their village.
As Yoon and Kil-young approach the man’s house, they see a familiar figure — it’s Hwa-pyung. His hair has grown long and covers up his missing eye, he has scars on his body from the shaman phrases, and he wears Yoon’s rosary around his neck. Yoon and Kil-young stare in delight, realizing that their old friend is still alive.
In a voice-over, Hwa-pyung tells us that Park Il-do was sent back to the sea, but he’s worried the demon will eventually return: “When the world is in chaos and humans become corrupt, Sohn will return. Sohn comes from the East Sea.”
What an amazing show. I’m still trying to unpack everything that happened in this final episode, but at the moment I’m just pleased that it ended in a satisfying way — namely, that everyone lived. I can excuse any quibbles with plot-holes and loose-ends, provided that my beloved trio have the opportunity to live happily-ever-after. I want to question how Hwa-pyung managed to get rid of Park Il-do and still survive, but I’m too happy he’s still alive to really care exactly what happened in the sea that night. Maybe there’s even a little bit of Park Il-do still left in him, or maybe it just happened to be Park Il-do’s time to slink off into the sea to foment a new source of terror for the next generation. This is an old demon who has lived in the sea forever, and I doubt even the strongest psychic shaman, or most faithful priest, or most kick-ass detective will ever be able to fully defeat him.
But they’ve won the victory for now, and that’s all that matters. There’s still evil in the world (hellooooo, Hong-joo!), but that’s evil that comes from people, not demons who just want some entertainment for their own ancient amusement. The final farewell “thank you” message from the production team explained that the reason they created this show was to look at societal problems from a different perspective:
All bad things eventually start from the hearts of people, which is what we wanted to depict. They say humans are the most terrifying beings, but just like viewers called Yoon Hwa-pyung “Yoon Peace” [the literal translation of his name], we hope all the viewers find hope and peace of mind. Again, thank you for watching.
It might be strange to think that a horror-filled show could be a source of hope and peace — but in a way, it was. It showed that people who come together for a common goal to eradicate some aspect of evil, despite all being from very different backgrounds and experiences, might actually be triumphant. Yes, there could (will?) be some losses and injuries along the way. But by working together, by trusting one another, by willing to sacrifice for one another, this unlikely trio were able to prevent evil from destroying more people’s lives, including their own. It’s a dark show, but there strangely is still a lot of light to it.
Speaking of darkness and light, I’d like to give all my love to the lighting director. The use of light and shadow throughout the show was utterly delightful, not just in highlighting key moments (and Kim Jae-wook’s cheekbones!), but also the way that it allowed the mind to play tricks and make me wonder “is this really happening?” It’s definitely terrifying not being sure of what you can see, and knowing that there’s something so gruesome that it can only hide in shadows. I also loved the way camera angles were used, particularly the unsettling way the camera would tilt on its axis in a 90-degree pan, giving me that flip-flop feeling in my stomach as the horizon swayed and figures that were sideways become upright.
As a horror neophyte, I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment on the way the show played with standard tropes (or even attempted to create new ones). But, despite my initial wariness as a scaredy-cat, I fell in love with exploring a new genre that isn’t very common in dramaland. Considering this is OCN’s first foray into the Wed-Thurs line-up, I think it could be considered a success. Not only did it manage to bring something new and intriguing to the table, but it had consistently decent ratings (for a cable show, at least) and generated a lot of buzz. Everyone involved with this production should be proud of what they created. Sometimes a drama is saved solely by the strength of its cast, or its script, or its cinematography. This is one of the rare dramas that reaches — if not exceeds — the mark on all three counts. It’s not a perfect drama, but it was compelling from beginning to end, and I will not be forgetting the trio of demon hunters any time soon.