This is a slightly-edited version of a unpublished piece I wrote for Dramabeans on the topic of Epilogues
Last year I watched Circle while I was on holidays. I came back from my morning swim, had breakfast and then decided to start the first episode of Circle. It was about 10am so I made myself a cup of tea and began.
Tea became coffee then lunch then gin then dinner and – though I forced myself to take a break or two between episodes and even stopped to cook myself something nice for my evening meal – I could not stop watching.
Show finally finished at 2am and I was so bleary-eyed I thought those bloodshot orbs would fall out of my head.
In between episodes, I logged on to a new site I had discovered that had recaps – Dramabeans – and wrote garbled, crazy posts about what I thought was happening. Thankfully nobody was in those recaps anymore and so nobody read my deranged posts. Or if they did, they were thankfully silent.
Because I thought Circle was amazing. But I also thought Circle was about something else.
I usually try to avoid reading up on a show before I watch it. Does it have good reviews? Does it have actors I like? Writers I enjoy? Producers I respect? That I’ll find out. But the trailers, spoilers, teasers? I avoid them like the plague. And that’s probably why I was so completely wrong about Circle. For almost the entirety of its run, I thought this show was about time travel.
Was Byul an alien? Clearly not! She had human DNA and human brainwaves. Yes, she didn’t seem to age and that was something that needed to be explained. But that didn’t mean she was an alien.
Near the end of the show they finally introduced the perfect explanation for Byul’s idiosyncrasies – cloning!
So, it was now clear (to me). A future clone of Han Jung-yeon with the memory technology went back in time and became Byul. And that completed the circle – a time loop whereby Byul’s travel into the past handed us the memory technology we then used to create Smart Earth, which was then used to create her.
At some point, the “real” Han Jung-yeon would be born. But in keeping with the show’s non-linear narrative, I’d be just as happy if the original Han Jung-yeon never appeared at all. After all, the time loop could still exist even if the birth of the original didn’t happen for 100 years – or even more.
It was all so clear!
And wrong, completely wrong.
You can imagine my reactions through the final episode. I’d already jettisoned many of my wilder theories made possibly by ignorance, gin and memory technology – Joon Hyun was actually Woo-jin who just believed he was Bum-gyun because memory altering blah blah. But I was still convinced that Han Jung-yeon was a future clone.
After 11 episodes of pure genius, episode 12 was a classic kdrama finale – meandering and a touch unfocused. There was lots of running around and the avoidance of any real conclusion. And then…
I mean… what was that?
Whenever there is talk about kdramas getting a second season, Circle is always top of the list for a reason. There is a lot in this show that could be unpacked in another 12 episodes. But the problem with second seasons is that they often fail to recapture the magic of the original. And in this case – where part of what made the original so amazing was the ambiguity created by the timelines – that would be hard to replicate. A second season would be just as likely to be a disappointing mess as anything else. But it’s okay because I’m here to propose a perfect compromise.
Just a scene tucked in after the credits to make you go hmmm… because if any show would be allowed to throw in something random at the end to make you go hmmm, it’s Circle.
What would this scene look like?
I envisage something in the future – but not too far. They have all of the elements to make my theory work in the show already. There’s a temptation here to go big, to go sci-fi, or to explain away the ambiguity of the show. But Circle’s ambiguity is why people like me keep writing about it and why we keep bothering Dramabeans with endless Theme of the Month posts on it when they’re clearly never getting published.
The epilogue should be just as mysterious, just as thought-provoking and just as equivocal as the show’s ending itself. In fact, I envisage nothing more than a quick pan through a Smart Earth research facility to a room labelled Temporal Engineering.
Not only does it throw a question mark on everything we saw during the show’s run, it also provides a compelling teaser for the season 2 this show definitely needs.
At the very least, it’ll help our imaginations finally Complete the Circle.