The gavel falls for the last time, and Solomon’s Perjury finally gives up all its secrets as we find out what really, really happened on the rooftop that night, and who did it. But even though we are in the final hour, those answers don’t come easily—not for us, and not for our team. Ji-hoon and Seo-yeon go head-to-head to find out once and for all: Did So-woo fall or was he pushed? And perhaps more importantly, why?
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Seo-yeon takes the stationery shop grandpa to the auditorium, where he points Ji-hoon out as the crying boy. Upon seeing them, Ji-hoon leaves.
He goes to see his dad at work. “Dad… can’t you tell the truth to me, at least once?” he asks, acknowledging that there were too many people watching at the trial for him to admit it there. “But right now, it’s just me,” he says.
“I spoke truthfully,” Kyung-moon answers, telling Ji-hoon to believe him. Increasingly upset, Ji-hoon calls Dad a good person, recalling how he saved him when he didn’t need to. He tells Dad that he plans to take the stand as the defendant tomorrow: “What happened that night… I’m going to tell them everything.” Kyung-moon stares in shock.
Ji-hoon returns the spot where So-woo’s body was found, and takes a quiet moment to gaze upwards. He messages Seo-yeon that he’s finished his preparation for the last hearing.
Elsewhere, Kyung-moon drinks at a bar where he’s joined by Seo-yeon’s dad, Detective Go. Surprisingly, there’s a genuinely respectful air between them, and Detective Go laughs a little at the irony of the parents of the defense and prosecution meeting like this. Kyung-moon praises Seo-yeon, and asks the detective for a favor.
Meanwhile, Seo-yeon meets Ji-hoon in the darkened school auditorium, with an apology for being late. He replies that he was even later.
The next day, Joon-young’s dad (wearing omg the awesomest cat-apron ever) sees him off to school, and asks if he should come watch the trial to see how cool his son is. Aw. Smiling, Joon-young tells him to come early to get a seat, since they’re so popular.
Min-seok opens the last hearing, and explains that after the final testimonies have been given, the jury will deliberate and a verdict will be delivered, after which the trial proceedings will be dissolved. But before he can call for Seo-yeon’s witness, she announces that she’s bringing a new defendant instead.
She explains to the audience that her defendant has gathered up all his courage to reveal everything, and asks them to hold their peace until the cross-examination is complete. To everyone’s shock, she calls Ji-hoon to the seat. Is that a sigh of release as he takes it?
Seo-yeon asks Ji-hoon where he was on the night of So-woo’s death. He replies that he was with So-woo on the school rooftop, flashing back to the moment in his mind. In answer to what his charge is, Ji-hoon replies: “The murder of Lee So-woo.”
He reveals that he made the five pay phone calls to So-woo, each from a location personally meaningful to him, which he says was part of keeping a promise to him. He tells the story of a woman murdered eleven years ago by her alcoholic husband. The sole witness, their seven-year-old son, testified against his father who then committed suicide while in custody.
“That child was me,” he says, adding that he needs to explain his past in order for them to understand the present. His story shocks them all, including the teachers and Reporter Park. Ji-hoon goes on to tell them about being adopted by the prosecutor on his case, but despite the love and care he received, he couldn’t forget the events of that night.
As he got older, things got worse and he suffered from sleep problems, auditory hallucinations and suicidal thoughts. Joon-young looks at him in anguish. Ji-hoon says that during middle school, he was at last admitted to a psychiatric hospital—where he met So-woo.
Seo-yeon asks him to explain the significance of the locations. Ji-hoon tells her that the first location was where he lives now, the second was the police station where he reported his mother’s death; the third was where his mother’s funeral was held, and the fourth was the columbarium where her ashes now rest.
The reason Ji-hoon made the promise was because So-woo had asked him, over the first call, to find him a reason why he must live. Seo-yeon asks if the plea had surprised him, but Ji-hoon says no, explaining that as So-woo’s closest friend, he felt that So-woo had been going through a particularly hard time lately.
“I wanted to show So-woo that though I had gone through such a [terrible] thing, I am okay now,” he tells her, but says that seeing his mother’s photo at her urn made him feel broken inside again, and he found he couldn’t tell So-woo that it would be okay.
He relates to Seo-yeon how he couldn’t bring himself to return to the place of his mother’s death, so headed home instead. But on the way, he stopped at a payphone and called So-woo again, “And I told him truthfully, ‘I can’t go on because it’s too hard.’”
So-woo had told him then to come to the school rooftop. “This is the last [one] now. I’ll wait for you,” he’d said. After the call, Ji-hoon had curled up in the booth. His face contorts in grief as he confirms to Seo-yeon that he had gone to meet So-woo that night, fearing that he might kill himself.
Min-seok tells Ji-hoon he can take a break, although Ji-hoon says he’ll continue. But Seo-yeon calls for a recess, and the team reconvene to the clubroom, although without Ji-hoon and Joon-young. Seo-yeon tells them that Ji-hoon asked her to put him in the defendant’s seat, and also discloses to them that he’s the current Sentinel.
She tells them how Ji-hoon engineered the whole trial to reach this finale, where he had planned to reveal everything. She admits she was angry and betrayed at first, but not anymore, since her intention was always to find out the truth of the matter. “But… my heart aches a little,” she says, “because it seems like he had a really hard time.”
Joon-young takes a spot next to Ji-hoon outside. Ji-hoon apologizes for not being able to tell him first, but Joon-young says he already suspected. He tells Ji-hoon that he saw him the morning he found the body, and knew it was him when he saw the same distinctive keyring on the bag in his wardrobe. Ji-hoon tells him it was a present from So-woo that he couldn’t throw away.
“Wasn’t it because you wanted me to find you out?” Joon-young asks, pointing out that it would have been easy to hide it. Ji-hoon says that perhaps he subconsciously wanted someone on his side. “To believe in you and fight for you?” asks Joon-young. Ji-hoon nods.
“Then I’ll be your defense counsel,” Joon-young replies, although he adds that he might not be so good at it. “Still, you’re a good friend,” Ji-hoon replies. “That much is enough. Someone who, knowing all about me, still likes me,” he finishes, turning to Joon-young with a true smile. Aww.
The trial resumes. Seo-yeon cites Joo-ri’s account of the runaway boy, and the blackbox footage that corroborates it. Ji-hoon acknowledges that that was him, and Seo-yeon asks him to relate what happened on the rooftop that night.
Flashback. On the rooftop, Ji-hoon had found So-woo perched precariously on the edge, and yelled at him to come down. He asked So-woo what was going on when everything had been going fine.
“I hate it all. Living,” So-woo replied. Ji-hoon pleaded with him to tell him about it, but So-woo didn’t think he could handle it. “Your dad is a crooked and cowardly person. He’s trash,” So-woo said. Shocked and affronted, Ji-hoon argued with him.
“I don’t know what I’m meant to do either! I hate your dad, I hate you, I hate myself,” So-woo cried out. He asked how Ji-hoon had managed to live like a normal person after witnessing his mother’s murder. “What is my reason is for living? Tell me,” he pleaded.
But fed up now, Ji-hoon turned away, telling him to come down himself. Wiping his eyes, So-woo had leapt up instead, saying he’d jump if Ji-hoon left. Angry and upset, Ji-hoon yelled, “Then do what you want! If you want to die like that, then die!”
Back in the present, he tells Seo-yeon that he ran blindly away after that, only returning the next morning. But the snow had fallen thickly in the night, and he couldn’t see anything, but he says that he felt in his gut that So-woo lay beneath it. Seo-yeon: “Then why didn’t you confirm it directly yourself?”
“I was afraid,” Ji-hoon answers, “that I would again have to see the image of death in someone I treasured.” Compassion ripples through the audience. Seo-yeon asks Ji-hoon to confirm that So-woo had jumped of his own volition, and that he had not been present at that moment, which he does.
She asks then why he put himself in the defendant’s seat when he knew So-woo had committed suicide. Kyung-moon slips into the room as Ji-hoon answers with a heavy sigh that it was because he couldn’t be sure.
He reveals that he had three goals in conducting the trial. The first was to reveal Choi Woo-hyuk’s innocence, since he’d felt responsible about him being accused, and the second was to understand what drove So-woo to finally take his own life.
Ji-hoon says that although So-woo suffered from depression, he had great enthusiasm for his role as the Sentinel, and still had the will to live. For all his words to the contrary, he had affection for people, and a hope that he could make things better. “Then it wasn’t that he disliked living, but he disliked living like that,” Joon-young offers.
Seo-yeon asks Ji-hoon if he thinks something crushed So-woo’s optimism. He cites a cryptic post So-woo had made as the Sentinel about school as a necessary evil, followed by the lab fight, after which he hadn’t returned. Ji-hoon had figured that something had gone down with the school, but he’d failed to discover what.
That leads him to his final inquiry: “Whether I killed So-woo.” Unseen by Ji-hoon, his father looks at him in horror. Ji-hoon continues that it was too frightening a question to address by himself: “Because I couldn’t control my emotions, I told So-woo to die. Before he died, I left him alone and ran away. I turned my back on him.”
Crying, he says that he could have prevented So-woo’s death. He concludes, therefore, that he killed So-woo through willful negligence. It’s a conclusion that distresses them all, particularly Kyung-moon. Ji-hoon ends his story there, and says that he’ll await their verdict.
Upset, Joon-young bolts to his feet and tells the court how he saw Ji-hoon grief-stricken the morning after So-woo’s death. He argues that Ji-hoon must have wished more than anyone that So-woo hadn’t died, and so denies all the charges against him.
Seo-yeon calls a last witness to the stand: Kyung-moon. The room buzzes as Kyung-moon takes his place, and Ji-hoon looks uncertainly from him to Seo-yeon. She quietly tells him that Kyung-moon contacted her last night, wanting to appear at the trial one more time.
Beginning her examination, she asks Kyung-moon why he took the stand. He says it’s to tell the real story of what happened to So-woo, and how Ji-hoon bears no responsibility for his death. “That responsibility…is mine,” he says.
Seo-yeon asks about his previous testimony denying everything, and after a pregnant pause, Kyung-moon says, “I committed perjury. I was afraid the truth would come out.” She asks him why he’s responsible for So-woo’s death, and he admits now that the testimonies regarding illicit admissions at the previous hearing were true. The VIP list students also enjoyed further benefits, he adds, such as falsified extra-curricular activities, being given test answers in advance, and having infractions overlooked.
Kyung-moon says So-woo discovered that list, and he subsequently met with him to make him take the Sentinel post down and transfer schools. They met again after the lab fight, when Kyung-moon promised to erase the infraction from his record if he left. Since So-woo refused, Kyung-moon ordered the vice principal to make So-woo into the assailant and expel him. He confirms that that’s why So-woo stopped coming to school.
Seo-yeon asks if that was the last time he saw So-woo, but Kyung-moon says he met him once more, the night before his death, and that he had spoken cruelly to him, intending to crush him completely. Ji-hoon’s face twists in distress at these words.
Seo-yeon asks Kyung-moon why he was so angry with So-woo. He replies that So-woo disrupted the social order of the school by refusing to adapt to it. From the judge’s podium, Min-seok points out that what they wanted was obedience, not adaptation. Kyung-moon acknowledges that, and says that he had despised So-woo as impudently self-righteous.
In her final question, Seo-yeon asks why he thinks So-woo died. Kyung-moon says that the school and foundation had tried to conceal their corruption, “But more than anything, it was because I did not acknowledge my wrongdoing. I’m ashamed,” he says, lowering his head.
Seo-yeon thanks him for his testimony, and Min-seok adjourns the hearing. Trembling, Kyung-moon and Ji-hoon look at each other for a long moment.
Kyung-moon is met at the school gates by Detective Go, whom he thanks for waiting. He allows himself to be escorted into the police van, looking like a burden has been lifted from him. Police arrest the newly reinstated principal at school, while elsewhere, the foundation chairman is also taken into custody.
The students gather for the court’s verdict. Min-seok asks each member of the jury to deliver their verdicts one by one, on whether Ji-hoon is guilty of So-woo’s murder. The jury unanimously rules him innocent, bringing Ji-hoon to the verge of tears.
Min-seok further declares that the school victimized So-woo through their corrupt practices and subsequent cover-ups, and thus, they find the school and foundation guilty of instigating his suicide. And with that, Min-seok brings the trial to a close. The audience gives them a standing ovation, with Teachers Kim and Park being the first to get to their feet.
As the students disperse, the success of the trial is all everyone can talk about, and the Sentinel message boards echo with the judgement on the school: “Guilty.” Peace settles on the now-empty clubroom.
Three weeks later. Seo-yeon—now a senior—studies over breakfast to catch up on all her missed work. Mom says that she heard the school trial would look good on her college application, but Seo-yeon laughingly points out pulling down the administration is hardly likely to make her look good, and Dad agrees.
Joon-young picks her up for school, and tells her about a film he wants to see. He rambles awkwardly for a bit, until Seo-yeon asks why he’s so longwinded about asking her on a date. But his face falls when she says she’ll ask the others, too. Grinning at his dismay, she tells him she’s kidding and runs off. Aww, you two! A sequel called Solomon’s Romance right now, please!
At school, Min-seok runs for class president, pointing out his excellent leadership in conducting the trial. But he’s hapless as ever, and Seung-hyun makes fun of him after class for only getting two votes, one of them his vote for himself. I’m pretty sure the second was from Seo-yeon.
The decision about the VIP students comes out, and a notice is posted of their expulsion. The girls are saddened to see Yoo-jin’s name among them.
Reporter Park has called Detective Oh out for tea, and he struts in excitedly. They end up discussing the VIP expulsions, and Reporter Park unsubtly pries for insider information on a different story. Detective Oh scowls, and Park pokes fun at her, saying she must have expected something different. Oh you sillies, just date already!
After school, Joon-young’s dad meets him… with his mom in tow. They attend a family therapy session together, where the therapist recommends less aggressive ways for Mom to express herself. She advises her not to take out her feelings on her son, but to listen to him, too.
Yoo-jin meets up with the girls after school, somewhat the worse for wear—she’s studying for her high school equivalency and complains there’s not a single good-looking guy at the library. Soo-hee warns her that her boyfriend Min-seok won’t be happy about her saying that. Ohhh really? Yoo-jin announces that they broke up (again) and complains that he keeps nagging her to study so she can get into a good university for them to get married. Hahaha.
Ji-hoon makes a pilgrimage to the rooftop overlooking Jeongguk High, where he’d met with So-woo in the past. “So-woo-ya…” he says. The specter of his friend appears beside him, a face of infinite sadness. Turning to him, Ji-hoon tells him that he thought endlessly about how to answer his question, and whether he could have saved him.
“And now, I can give you an answer. I don’t know my reason for living yet, I think nobody can know that.” We cut away to a scene of Woo-hyuk working in a convenience store, no longer burning with anger, while in voiceover, Ji-hoon continues that life is rife with possibilities, full of endless reversals and countless joys and sorrows.
Elsewhere, Cho-rong gets out of hospital and is met by Joo-ri, who starts to cry when she sees her. Cho-rong wraps her friend into a hug. “I’m sorry,” sobs Joo-ri.
Carrying on, Ji-hoon says that while they might want to remain solitary islands, their insecure hearts still want to hear the crashing of the waves:
“You were wrong. You left the world with the wrong answer. You turned off a beautiful piece of music after only listening to the prelude. You passed by a lovely flowering tree in the midst of rain. Your life, which you always thought was full of darkness, was a room where the lights had not yet been turned on. It could have changed. It could have been better. So you were wrong. I really wanted to tell you this.”
In custody, Kyung-moon receives a letter from his son, which makes him smile. Ji-hoon ghosts through his father’s study at home, gaze resting on photos of them together. Later, the whole club—his friends—meet up at his place in a joyful reunion. The scene melts back to the rooftop, where Ji-hoon tells So-woo:
“Now… spring is coming. I lost my mother in winter. I lost my father in winter. I lost you in winter. Still, spring is coming in my life. The snow is melting, and new shoots are coming up. The day is bright and clear, and the breeze is fine. So I don’t mean to get tired of it, even if life is only like this.”
He smiles at So-woo, who at last smiles back. Side by side, the two boys look out towards the horizon.
I don’t know about you guys, but I teared up a little at the end there. It was not at all what I had expected, which shouldn’t surprise me with this show, because it never was anything I expected. I came into it knowing what I wanted but I left with something very different, and it kept me rapt from the start. At times intensely cerebral, at times brimful of pain and youthful uncertainty, this show really knew how to play its best hand, delivering both on suspense and emotion. And now, as we find out that So-woo chose death, we’re left with the message: I choose to live. Ji-hoon’s closing words are such an affirmation of life and hope that just writing this is making me tear up again. Seriously guys. My heart is so full right now.
We asked at the beginning whether the school trial was really an exercise in futility when it had no real-world legal standing. In one sense, that proves true in that they (rightly) don’t overturn the official verdict on So-woo’s death. But I really like how, in according the teens the respect they deserved, the show didn’t feel the need to compound it by serving a narrative of incompetent adults. While their guilty verdict for the school is largely symbolic (and perhaps localized to their community), several lasting consequences do arise out of it. Letting the law take its course after they rooted out the systemic corruption within the school and its managing body is something of an encompassing victory, and indeed, Ji-hoon’s true target.
It’s fascinating and perhaps a little Machiavellian that Ji-hoon really did orchestrate every meaningful move in the trial process. But it wouldn’t have been convincing without the tight plotting and careful foreshadowing that laid down the character moments so well that when that reveal came, it all made painful sense. Ji-hoon’s character could easily have been overburdened and turned into a convenient plot device, but he remained the anchor of the show. However, I wasn’t so sure about his moment of absolution as the court declared him innocent: Was it really their vindication he sought? Or did his true release come from his father’s admission? Did he calculate the whole trial, in fact, to culminate in Kyung-moon’s confession? After all, it’s clear Ji-hoon knew he was his father’s Achilles’ heel… did he just use that? I still can’t figure this kid out.
I was of two minds at first about receiving all the answers in-trial in such a straight-up spoken narrative. Was it too facile? Was it lazy exposition? But the more I thought about it, the more appropriate to the show it feels. Another way would have rendered the trial moot for a start, but also, although this show has masqueraded as an investigative pseudo-legal thriller of sorts, now that we’ve reached the end, we can retrospectively see that its nature was quite different. The driving force of this show was Ji-hoon’s guilt. “How did So-woo die?” was always the central question the show presented, but as ever, it was a feint. We come to realize that the more important question was, “Why did So-woo die?” Seo-yeon and her team sought the answer to the former, but already knowing that, Ji-hoon spent the show seeking the latter. Thus, his absolution didn’t come so much from his vindication in the trial as it did from finally being able to forgive himself and convincingly answer So-woo’s question: “Why must I live?”
Someone noted a few weeks ago that the title of the show is most likely a reference to the story of King Solomon and the baby—and so perhaps a proxy for parental love? The moment I realized Kyung-moon put himself on the chopping block out of love for his son, I felt like I finally understood the title. Like the mother who gave up her baby rather than see it come to harm, Kyung-moon finally gives up his self-interest too, in a complicated mess of guilt and pain that ultimately takes him to a single end: a pure and altruistic love for Ji-hoon which comes to outweigh everything else.
Would all of this have happened if So-woo hadn’t died? I don’t know. All I know is that I have an ache in my heart that So-woo never got to fulfill all the things he started, never seeing the sun rise on his dark night. That tiny moment last episode, where he messaged Seo-yeon (as the Sentinel) about that film recommendation nearly killed me. You should have been friends properly.
As Solomon’s Perjury delivered its just deserts, I found myself thinking, So-woo would’ve liked to have seen this. And that led me to wonder: Was his death necessary? Exposing Jeongguk’s corruption ultimately came about due to Kyung-moon’s testimony, and his testimony came about because of Ji-hoon, not because of the investigation. It’s strange yet characteristic of the show that its protagonists’ far-reaching endeavors were fueled by such private, personal motives. That’s also reflected in what really drove So-woo to suicide: It wasn’t the systemic corruption perpetrated by the school that led to his despair, but the deep personal betrayal he experienced from Kyung-moon, an adult he would have trusted and looked up to, especially as his best friend’s father and savior. The agony of his disillusion really comes through in his and Ji-hoon’s last conversation on the rooftop.
But enough agony. One of the things I grew to like most about Solomon was the engaging imperfection of its cast, and it saddens me that we probably won’t see these young actors together again. Twelve episodes was a perfect length for the show, but I could easily watch these kids for another twelve. A little less polished, they brought a bright immediacy to their performances that really emphasized their emotions. It’s a shame that ultimately, the boys overshadowed the girls in the narrative, but I’m glad that these last two episodes, Seo-yeon took back her half of the show so effectively, and it was refreshing to see the return of her naturally playful personality at the end. (Also, my ship sailed, so I don’t care about anything else!)
And there couldn’t have been a better denouement than Ji-hoon’s closing soliloquy (which, strictly speaking, we really need to call his So-woo-loquy), which provides such a sweet and powerful closing note that it’s washed away the hard-edged pain from my emotional palate. We’re left not just with the hope that a better day will come, but a conviction that it must. Winter is coming? Nah. Move over winter, spring is coming.