For quite some time now, there has been a disclaimer at the beginning of every episode of "Man Who Dies to Live" apologizing for racist content that appeared in the first episode, assuring viewers that it has been retroactively effaced from MBC's video on demand services. I only recently realized that this disclaimer was also predictive. The rambling nature of the final episodes of "Man Who Dies to Live" leads me to believe that whatever the original final act was, it had to be scrapped.
It's not that what we get instead is all that bad. It's just more of Count Said Faid Ali doing his best to integrate into Ji-yeong's life, with the usual comedy of his character's generally absurd behavior in the context of normal South Korean culture. And a lot of the drama's previous implications are left unexplored. We knew that Abdullah Mohammad Waliwala had some sort of subversive relationship with Yang-yang, yet here, he accepts Count Said Faid Ali's eccentric radical change of life planning rather easily.
The best explanation I can think of for why "Man Who Dies to Live" is choosing to keep the last of the action local is because they don't want to risk more criticism of being inadvertently racist. The major final actions do make logical thematic sense with regards to Count Said Faid Ali's character. Still while that would have been a satisfying final ending, seeing Count Said Faid Ali constantly reacting and needing explanations undermines that.
There's also the muddled message of having Count Said Faid Ali make a sacrifice for Ji-yeong's sake, yet Ji-yeong still benefits from his largesse. We could also just as well get into what goes on with the other Ji-yeong, who started the drama out as a fairly explicitly selfish person and appears to have gained redemption without having to do much to earn it. Then again lots of characters get a happy ending without having to exert much in the way of effort.
These criticisms are, admittedly, a bit much considering that "Man Who Dies to Live" was from the very beginning a very silly drama. Then again I feel more comfortable making them, considering the disturbingly violent exposition dump that closes out episode twenty-three, and contrasting that with the goofy plane incident that closes out the final episode. "Man Who Dies to Live" was pretty good overall- I just would have liked the final revelations to feel more logically earned.
Review by: William Schwartz
"Man Who Dies to Live" is directed by Ko Dong-seon, written by Kim Seon-hee and features Choi Min-soo, Kang Ye-won, Shin Sung-rok, Lee So-yeon, Cho Tae-kwan, Kim Byung-ok, Hwang Seung-eon and Bae Hae-sun.
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 23-24 Final"
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