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The Glory part 2’s brutal ending takes no prisoners

The glory ended its epic 16-episode revenge story on Friday as Netflix dropped the second half of the Korean drama. The story follows Moon Dong-eun (Song Hye-kyo) as she sets into motion an elaborate plan to get revenge on the five classmates who severely bullied her as a teenager. It’s a simple plot elevated by devastating performances, masterful writing, stunning direction and epic music. And it’s anchored by a central, driving question: Will Dong-eun succeed in getting his revenge – and should she? The latest episodes definitely provide a clear answer to those questions, while bringing some unexpected twists to the process (and even teasing a possible season 2).

(Ed. remark: As you might expect, this article contains major spoilers for the gruesome ending of The glory.)

What happened to Park Yeon-jin and the rest of the bullies?

Photo: Graphyoda/Netflix

In the middle of The glory is the dynamic between Dong-eun and Park Yeon-jin (Lim Ji-yeon). Yeon-jin has always been Dong-eun’s main target as she was the ringleader in brutally bullying Dong-eun and others in high school. The voiceovers we hear in the series are both Dong-eun’s inner monologue And like letters to Park Yeon-jin. These aren’t messages Dong-eun ever intends to send to Yeon-jin – that would give Yeon-jin power over Dong-eun in a way Dong-eun never intends to allow again. Rather, the letters to Yeon-jin are a manifestation of Dong-eun’s hyperfocus on bringing Yeon-jin to justice, to the exclusion of everything else in her life.

In the end, Dong-eun uses Yeon-jin’s own crimes and brutality to bring about her abuser’s demise. Dong-eun gets Yeon-jin tied to two deaths in which she played a major role. First, the death of Yoon So-hee (played by Singles Inferno contestant Lee So-yi), one of Yeon-jin’s other targets of high school bullying. The night of So-hee’s death, Yeon-jin was with her on the roof of an abandoned building; she set fire to So-hee’s sweater, and when the girl asked for help, Yeon-jin pushed her away. So-hee fell over the edge of the roof to her death.

Yeon-jin also played a role in Myeong-o’s (Kim Gun-woo) murder. When Myeong-o tried to blackmail Yeon-jin about So-hee’s death, she grabbed an expensive bottle of Jae-jun’s liquor and delivered two hard blows to Myeong-o’s head. It wasn’t until the final episode that we learn that it was actually silent shop assistant Kim Gyeong-ran (Ahn So-yo) who delivered the killing blow. However, Dong-eun makes it clear to Gyeong-ran that Yeon-jin must be Myeong-o’s killer. In other words, for Dong-eun to be held accountable for the pain and suffering she’s caused over the years, she’ll have to go to jail for a crime she technically didn’t commit.

Dong-eun’s revenge on Yeon-jin is made more complete by making sure Yeon-jin has no one by her side as she faces justice and imprisonment. Yeon-jin’s husband, Do-yeong, discovers Yeon-jin’s infidelity and history of bullying and divorces her, moving to the UK with their daughter, Ye-sol. Dong-eun also manipulates Yeon-jin’s mother, Hong Yeong-ae (Yoon Da-kyung), into killing Kang Hyun-nam’s (Yeom Hye-ran) abusive husband and then betraying Yeon-jin in an attempt to put herself out to save the prison. It is clear from Hye-ran’s behavior, both past and present, that Yeon-jin learned her cruelty from her mother. When Yeon-jin pushed So-hee from the roof to her death, she immediately told her mother. Instead of comforting her daughter or supporting her in holding herself accountable for her actions, Yeong-ae begins to scold her daughter and make sure that Yeon-jin’s part in the tragedy is covered up. If Yeon-jin has a redeeming quality as a character, it’s that she doesn’t pass this behavior on to Ye-sol.

Of course, Yeon-jin isn’t the only one to face dire consequences for their ruthless brutality. Myeong-o is killed, of course. Jae-jun is pushed off a building by Ha Do-yeong to his death, after being blinded by Choi Hye-jeong (Cha Joo-young). With the murder, Do-yeong ensures that Jae-jun will never go after Ye-sol, his biological daughter. On a broader thematic level, it is taken as punishment for Jae-jun who raped So-hee when they were in high school.

Elsewhere, Lee Sa-ra (Kim Hi-eora) is sent to prison for stabbing Hye-jeong in the neck, while her reverend father faces the consequences for his financial crimes. Hye-jeong may never speak again, but plays a part in Jae-jun’s punishment, who rejected her. Yeon-jin’s mother goes to jail and Dong-eun’s mother goes to rehab for her alcohol abuse (which is problematically portrayed in this series as a punishment for a moral failing rather than a treatment for a chronic illness. Sa-ra’s substance use disorder is similarly framed, with an emphasis on the cultural differences in how drug use is viewed in Korea versus the US).

What happens to Dong-eun at the end of The Glory?

Lee Do-hyun as Joo Yeo-jeong and Song Hye-kyo as Moon Dong-eun on the other side of a fence

Photo: Graphyoda/Netflix

Once Dong-eun completes her revenge against Yeon-jin and the others, she is lost.

Do-yeong had previously asked her, “Will you find happiness when this revenge is over?” Dong-eun replied, “I hope so. I want to be so happy that I can die. I want to be happy, just because of that.” She plans to commit suicide after her abusers are punished, so she goes to the roof where So-hee died. In her head, she writes one last letter to Yeon-jin: “Dear Yeon-jin, whom I have dreamed to kill: Goodbye. This is my last letter to you. I also say goodbye to everyone else.”

But at the last second, Dong-eun changes his mind. She learns from Joo Yeo-jeong’s (Lee Do-hyun) mother that the man who killed Yeo-jeong’s father harassed him with letters from jail. And so Dong-eun decides to step off the ledge. She has a new revenge to live for: Yeo-jeong’s. Six months later, she comes back into his life with a plan. She arranges for their target to be transferred to another prison, where Yeo-jeong gets a job as a doctor and Dong-eun as a teacher.

The series ends with the two walking into prison for a day’s work and the beginning of their implied revenge plan. We’re not quite sure what it will look like (that’s for a possible season 2), but we know they’re together and in love. It’s kind of a happy ending for Dong-eun, who can still do what she’s trained to do all her life – take revenge – but also has someone by her side. She even contacts loyal henchman Kang Hyun-nam, who feels lost and alone with her daughter at school in the US.

Some may find the way everything falls into place unrealistic for Dong-eun, but this show never promised realism. Rather, it promised catharsis, because of the pain Dong-eun endured as a child and because of the anger that came when no one held her abusers responsible for it. It promised never life for Dong-eun after revenge, but we got just that – as a bonus. “Thank you so much for saving me,” Dong-eun writes to the landlord she once rescued as a teenager who saved her in return. “I didn’t grow up to be a good person, but one spring I will fully bloom.” It’s the promise of healing, in the midst of more vengeance.

Usually, in revenge dramas centered on women, the story allows the protagonist to choose: in one path there is some form of justice. On the other hand, there is healing. But they can’t have both. The glory don’t let Dong-eun choose, and there’s something delicious in that.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, ask for help the suicide and crisis lifeline by calling or texting 988.