The Glory concluded its epic, 16-episode tale of revenge on Friday when 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 enact revenge against 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 her revenge — and should she? The final episodes definitely give a clear answer to those questions, while throwing in some unexpected twists in the process (and even teasing a possible season 2).
[Ed. note: 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?
At the heart 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 voice-overs we hear throughout the series are framed both as Dong-eun’s inner monologue and as letters to Park Yeon-jin. These are not missives that 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 all else in her life.
In the end, Dong-eun uses Yeon-jin’s own crimes and cruelty to cause her abuser’s downfall. Dong-eun ensures that Yeon-jin is tied to two deaths in which she played a major role. First, the death of Yoon So-hee (played by Single’s Inferno contestant Lee So-yi), one of Yeon-jin’s other bullying targets in high school. 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 reached out for help, Yeon-jin shoved her away. So-hee fell over the roof’s edge to her death.
Yeon-jin also played a role in the murder of Myeong-o (Kim Gun-woo). When Myeong-o tried to blackmail Yeon-jin over So-hee’s death, she picked up an expensive bottle of Jae-jun’s liquor and delivered two hard blows to Myeong-o’s head. It’s only in the final episode that we learn it was actually quiet store attendant Kim Gyeong-ran (Ahn So-yo) who actually delivered the killing blow. However, Dong-eun makes it clear to Gyeong-ran that Yeon-jin must be Myeong-o’s murderer. In other words, for Dong-eun to face accountability for the pain and suffering she has caused over the years, she needs to go to jail for a crime she didn’t technically commit.
Dong-eun’s revenge on Yeon-jin is made more complete by ensuring that, when she faces justice and imprisonment, Yeon-jin has no one by her side. Yeon-jin’s husband, Do-yeong, discovers Yeon-jin’s infidelity and history of bullying and divorces her, moving with their daughter, Ye-sol, to the U.K. 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 save herself from jail. It’s clear from Hye-ran’s behavior, both in past and present, that Yeon-jin learned her cruelty from her mother. When Yeon-jin pushed So-hee off the roof to her death, she told her mother immediately. Rather than comforting her daughter or supporting her in facing accountability for her actions, Yeong-ae sets about scolding her daughter and making sure Yeon-jin’s part in the tragedy is covered up. If Yeon-jin has any redeeming quality as a character, it is that she doesn’t pass these behaviors onto Ye-sol.
Of course, Yeon-jin isn’t the only one facing grave consequences for their remorseless cruelty. Myeong-o, of course, is murdered. Jae-jun is pushed off of a building to his death by Ha Do-yeong, after having been blinded by Choi Hye-jeong (Cha Joo-young). With the murder, Do-yeong ensures that Jae-jun will never come after Ye-sol, his biological daughter. On a broader thematic level, it is framed as punishment for Jae-jun raping 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 pastor father faces consequences for his financial crimes. Hye-jeong may never speak again, but plays a role in the punishment of Jae-jun, who spurned her. Yeon-jin’s mother goes to jail, and Dong-eun’s mother goes to rehab for her alcohol abuse (which is problematically framed as a punishment for a moral failing in this series rather than treatment for a chronic disease. Sa-ra’s substance use disorder is similarly framed, highlighting the cultural differences in how drug use is viewed in Korea versus the U.S.).
What happens to Dong-eun at the end of The Glory?
Once Dong-eun accomplishes her revenge against Yeon-jin and the others, she is lost.
Do-yeong had previously asked her: “Once this revenge is over, will you find happiness?” Dong-eun replied: “I hope so. I wish to be happy enough that I could die. I want to be happy, just by that much.” She plans to die by suicide after her abusers face punishment, and so she goes to the roof where So-hee died. She writes one last letter to Yeon-jin in her head: “Dear Yeon-jin, who I’ve dreamed of killing: Goodbye. This is my last letter to you. I bid everyone else farewell as well.”
But at the last second, Dong-eun changes her mind. She learns from Joo Yeo-jeong’s (Lee Do-hyun) mother that the man who killed Yeo-jeong’s father has been tormenting him from prison with letters. And so, Dong-eun decides to step off of 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 ensures their target is transferred to a different prison, where Yeo-jeong gets a job as a doctor and Dong-eun works as a teacher.
The series ends with the two walking into prison for a day of work and the start of their implied revenge plot. We don’t know exactly what it will look like (that’s for a possible season 2), but we know they are together and in love. It’s a kind of happy ending for Dong-eun, who still gets to do what she has spent her life training herself to do — take revenge — but also has someone by her side. She even reaches out to faithful accomplice Kang Hyun-nam, who is feeling lost and alone with her daughter at school in the U.S.
Some may find the way everything falls into place for Dong-eun unrealistic, but this show never promised realism. Rather, it promised catharsis, for the pain Dong-eun endured as a child and for the anger that came when no one held her abusers accountable for it. It never did promise life for Dong-eun after revenge, but we got that too — as a bonus. “Thank you so much for saving me,” writes Dong-eun to the landlord she once saved as a teenager, and 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 revenge.
Usually, in revenge dramas centered around women, the story makes the protagonist choose: On one path, there is some form of justice. On the other, there is healing. But they can’t have both. The Glory doesn’t make Dong-eun choose, and there’s something kind of glorious in that.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, get help from the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988.
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