“The Red Sleeve” wrapped up its run today, it aired episode 16 and 17 back to back, here is a recap of “The Red Sleeve” finale and its ending explained.
How many of Deok Im and Yi San’s children pass away?
“The Red Sleeve” final episode begins with the announcement of the death of their son due to measles. Deok Im isn’t allowed to see him because she’s never had it and is pregnant. He passed away at a very young age. Deok Im and San take the news especially hard, Deok Im even refuses to eat despite San’s pleading with her to do so. Eventually, she eats again because she’s pregnant with another child and must look after the child too.
However, that child also dies inside Deok Im. [see why below]
Why did Young Hee die?
Yes, she had a miscarriage and an affair. Deok Im goes to see Young Hee one last time before her execution, Young Hee says no one forced her to do this and she did as she wished because she wanted to be a woman of the one she loved. San tells Deok Im there is nothing he can do to help her since she’s committed crimes and must be punished accordingly.
Does Deok Im die?
Yes, Deok Im passes away in the final episode of “The Red Sleeve.” She falls ill while pregnant with her child, and while initially, San is the one who caught an eye infection while visiting a free clinic to check up on his people, Deok Im collapses while nurturing him.
Deok Im condition becomes worse and eventually passes away. She asks for her friends while on her death bed, she must see them before she goes, she’s all they have. San is by her side as she passes away.
In her final moments, she asks San that if in their next lives they were to be reborn and he sees her, he should act like he doesn’t know her. In her next life, she wishes to be reborn and live life the way she wants. She tells him she doesn’t hate or resent him
San takes it especially hard and refuses all his subordinates attempts to set him up with other concubines. They eventually choose a new royal concubine named Su but he never opens up to her. He then vows to forget Deok Im as the country’s king.
What happens to the king San? Does he pass away too?
Following the death of Deok Im, San retreats for a while but eventually decides to rise up again and rule his nation. He feels like an empty shell of his former self without Deok Im by his side.
He still misses her deeply and remembers her whenever he walks by a place they had an interaction in. He pretends to have forgotten about her.
He’s still sad about what she said to him prior to her passing and cries for her.
A bit of time passes after Deok Im’s death, San has grown a beard and is still ruling the nation well. He calls for a woman who remembers Deok Im during his final days. Kyung Hee shows up. She tells him Bok Yeon passed away a year before due to illness and she’s the only one who remembers Deok Im.
He asks her to bring her keepsake, and cries looking at the stuff she’s had.
However, he collapses one day and it looks like he’s dying too. He asks his people to leave him be while on his death bed, and when he closes his eyes he’s greeted by Deok Im when he wakes up.
Did San and Deok Im reunite at the end or was it just a dream?
It was a dream, not reality. When it seems that San is on his death bed, he opens his eyes and is greeted by Deok Im who wipes his face, it appears that almost everything that happened until now has been merely a bad dream.
After a conversation, she tells him he needs to go back, his people need him. He hesitates but walks to the front gate, he’s under the impression that this is reality which is likely a hallucination he’s experiencing due to his illness.
It becomes more clear after San recalls Deok Im’s death as he’s about to open the door to go back, he hesitates again and realizes this isn’t reality. He turns back to look at her standing behind him. He cries looking at her and then takes her hands to see the blooming flowers, she keeps telling him he needs to go back.
He holds her hands and tells her to love him, he says he won’t let go of this moment with her and will hope that this moment never changes.
Eventually, they kiss and hug, he doesn’t leave her side.
“The Red Sleeve” ending explained- Did San pass away?
It could be hinted that San chose to remain with Deok Im instead of going back, which means he passed away as well.
In voiceover, Deok Im says, ‘so this moment has become forever,’ which means he’s dead.
He misses her so much and while she tries to urge him to get back to his people which could be interpreted as she’s urging him to open his eyes and overcome his sickness, he chooses her. He’s so sad and empty without her and wanted to remain with her, this could be said to be the afterlife where they reunite and stay together in their lovely home happy in the presence of each other.
It was all a dream in San’s mind as he’s about to die. He dies and his new reality is staying beside Deok Im forever.
“The Red Sleeve” ending- review
so… recapping this was very difficult because I was busy crying. It took me longer to get through it but I did. I was honestly not expecting them to go hard like that, and by that, I mean following the real-life events.
I read it a couple of weeks ago and was worried because of that, on the other hand, it makes sense they followed the original story because that’s what happened. Realistically speaking, it makes sense they’d follow the original storyline but some had assumed they wouldn’t because the drama got so popular and viewers prefer happy endings. I don’t mind sad endings and this ending was fit for the drama, I think they did well with their choice. The way the ending scene was crafted was done so well too, they left us with lingering happy thoughts so its not all sad and death, that was a nice gesture.
“The Red Sleeve” ending was one of the most heartbreaking endings I’ve seen in a historical kdrama, and it hurts more knowing its based on real events.
The highlight of the episode was everyone’s performance, Junho just… there are no words for this man’s performance, Se Young did so well too, honestly, everyone has done a marvelous job. I especially loved the scene where Junho’s character cries over his son’s death, which was done so well. Seriously Junho is one of my top 3 fav idols turned actors.
There are some complaints about Lee Se Young’s character and her ending scene before she passes away but I personally loved it. With the constraints in mind for the period this drama was based on, they didn’t do the worst job with her character as some are saying. She loved him but at the same time longed to live an independent life as a free woman but her occupation wouldn’t have ever allowed for that. I think people need to understand that the period the drama was based was very different from what we have right now. Women didn’t have much of a say over their future and this drama did a good job demonstrating that.
Deok Im’s longing for her friends on her death bed was a nice touch and the fact that she told him to ignore her in the next life could be because she wanted to be free, it doesn’t mean she hated him but I think she hated the system more. Of course, she wouldn’t have known in the future that us women would be able to live our lives freely in many parts of the world.
“The Red Sleeve” has won many awards two days ago at the 2021 MBC Drama awards, congrats to everyone.
What did you think of the ending? Did you like it or not? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!