“Strangers From Hell” has wrapped up its run on October 6, however, its ending left many fans wondering what just happened, so we’re here to explain “Strangers From Hell” ending.
NOTE: the below is a spoiler recap and discussion of “Strangers From Hell” episode 12.
“Strangers From Hell” – a quick summary
“Strangers From Hell” ending was shocking but the buildup sort of gave it away. There remain some fans who have not fully understood the ending and today I am going to explain what exactly happened and my thoughts on it.
“Strangers From Hell” is one of those dramas that can be seen as a cultural study, the way I understood it at least. Our protagonist, Jong Woo, comes from a humble background, his brother is sick as the drama implies and his mother relies on him. In previous episodes, she calls him to ask for money for his brother’s hospital bills. There is no father figure to take care of the family as implied in previous episodes as well. This all plays to shape Jong Woo’s character and be the reason for his eventual meltdown.
In Korean society, superiority is a huge part of the culture; however, it also gets bent if you’re from a wealthy family or from a prestigious background. Otherwise, you’re considered a punching bag at entry-level and you must suffer until you build your way up. Jong Woo struggled with that and seems to harbor hatred towards society and to certain people that he deems below him. His sunbae who finds him a job is only interested in connecting with his girlfriend; he mistreats him and steps on him whenever he gets the chance.
He is also left feeling isolated, misunderstood by his peers, and neglected by his girlfriend who refuses to take him seriously or even listen to him. He has no figure to rely on because of his family’s difficult circumstances, he’s left to deal with it all alone and it broke him.
It is hinted throughout the show that Jong Woo has mental issues that he seems to brush off or be entirely unaware of. In certain scenes of the drama, you see him imagining beating someone to death before snapping back to reality. This shows a glimpse of his troubled mind.
There is the incident that happened during military service that deeply affected him and shaped his character, while on the exterior he can be considered quiet and timid, when he’s pushed to a corner, he snaps. Instead of expressing his anger or frustration as each situation comes along, he suppresses it. He suppresses his true emotions as a form of respect for elders/those in power or because snapping would cost him dearly. Due to that, he’s considered the type of character that doesn’t often get angry but when he does, he wreaks havoc.
If you’re asking how all of this plays into the fiasco that is the ending, it’s because it’s a combination of things that led to the ultimate showdown, it is what explains why Jong Woo snapped all of a sudden and killed four people when he’s never killed before.
“Strangers From Hell” ending explained
The environment, the pre-existing mental issues, and the drugs that the ahjumma gave him all led to this moment, he was a ticking time bomb. Moon Jo found out he’s on the verge of snapping and groomed him to basically snap.
To answer the first burning question, yes, Jong Woo killed the four of them, and yes, the doctor, Moon Jo (played by Lee Dong Wook) was real and he’s now dead.
Moon Jo was a cannibal dentist that enjoyed killing people with cold blood and he did it with the help of people at that dorm. He’s a psychopath who can spot one in the making and take advantage of them, he saw himself in Jong-Woo.
Moon Jo had been planting ideas in Jong Woo’s head this whole time knowing how hard he was trying to suppress everything inside him, you can say that he basically groomed him to become a killer before getting killed by his ‘creation.’
I truly believe that deep down Moon Jo thought he could groom him to become his sidekick and that they’d go on killing sprees together. You can also see that he deeply understands his character and his struggles because he’s always watching from afar.
Jong Woo’s hidden persona killed Eom Bok Soon, Yoo Ki Hyeok, and Byeon Deuk Jong, when he snapped out of it, he can’t recall what he’s done. It could be a form of dealing with the trauma of knowing he snapped and killed all those people. He pictured himself as if he just broke free from the chair and held on to a knife to kill Moon Jo with in self-defense. You can say he also dissociated himself from his crimes because he can’t fathom having ever done them.
His facial expressions while killing the three others differ from his expressions as he’s fighting Moon Jo, I assume his other self is the killer that Moon Jo helped groom, while the humane part of him has always been the timid Jong Woo who only killed in self-defense.
After he kills him, he starts hallucinating again thinking that he’s talking to the dead person he had just killed which helps his humane side cope with what he’s just done. That’s when his girlfriend hears him mumbling to himself.
From now on, I would assume Jong Woo’s alter ego which is personified by Moon Jo, will make casual appearances to go on a killing spree, he has become Moon Jo. Moon Jo might be dead but he lives on inside Jong Woo’s mind.
For the last scene where Jung Hwa sees Moon Jo it’s only part of her own imagination, she could be suffering from PTSD due to the traumatic experience she’s been through. She previously noticed that Moon Jo was stalking her as well and to find out who he truly was would terrify her even more.
Some people seem to believe that the detective reaction to this doesn’t make any sense, while I will not try to justify their stupid actions, in retrospect, it’s not like every day you’d stumble on a dorm filled with people who’d slaughter others, this type of goishwan attracts the struggling members of society that many really don’t care deeply about, hence, if they’d gone missing, not many people would care.
I personally believe the detectives concluded that Moon Jo killed his men before having a showdown with Jong Woo because it wouldn’t make sense to think someone like Jong Woo would snap and kill all of those people.
When fighting for your life, you’re not thinking about not harming the person in front of you, your survival instincts kick in and all you want to do is survive. This is why detectives will likely rule Jong Woo actions against Moon Jo as self-defense.
While we, the viewers, knew what happened and how Jong Woo mentality deteriorated throughout the drama’s run time, it’s not easy for the average human being who has no insight into this whatsoever to conclude that Jong Woo killed them all.
There are many ways to go about explaining the ending of “Strangers From Hell,” these are my personal thoughts and conclusions. If you have you other theories to share, please let me know in the comment section below.
“Strangers From Hell” is a drama that’s filled with metaphors; everyone will interpret it according to their own understanding of the plot. Regardless, I think it’s an interesting take on human nature and how circumstances can break or make a human being.
If Jong Woo didn’t have those tendencies, to begin with, or if he had been in better circumstances that allowed him to leave without having to sacrifice his pride, he wouldn’t have ended up the way he did.
What did you personally think of “Strangers From Hell” ending?