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Sometimes, A Happy Ending is All a Show Needs

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Riverside chapter.

I recently finished One Day, a British Limited Series that has taken the Internet by storm. Based on the book of the same name, the show follows the relationship between Emma Morely and Dexter Mayhew on every July 15th since they first met in 1988 until 2007. Throughout the series, we see Emma and Dexter’s lives unfold both as a pair and individually. We see the two get entangled in testing circumstances, make mistakes, and self-sabotage themselves in the most painful ways. By the end of the series, the two finally make things work for each other relationship-wise, and the viewers, after being put through hell and back because of their deep attachment to this self-destructive pair (ok, maybe this is just me…) we finally get the cute fairytale moments that they deserve.

AND THEN (SPOILER ALERT), in the most anticlimactic death scene ever, Emma gets hit by  a careless driver while riding a bike to her apartment and dies. The rest of the show then showcases all of the July 15ths during which Dexter suffered because of Emma’s death, with a sort of closure ending in July 15th, 2007, where Dexter visits the place that he and Emma first met. 

It would be wrong for me to say that One Day is a bad show; it’s far from that, actually. The acting from both leads is absolutely amazing, the narrative structure of the show is honestly quite creative, and the writing makes sense for the most part, until the end. Though most people will call it a tear-jerking ending, I believe that it was a slap in the face to everything that happened in previous episodes. 

Throughout the show, one thing Emma always said was that she never wanted to be a footnote in Dexter’s life, and that if she was going to be his friend, she didn’t just want to be someone that he fell back on when times were hard and left to dry when his life was good. However, when the show-writers made the choice to kill her off, and then used her death to help Dexter learn how to properly cope with grief. It was hard to stomach Emma’s death as a viewer,  considering how the show spent more time with Dexter than Emma. But, in the last couple of episodes where they finally got together, the show-writers gave us hope that we’ll finally learn more about her. Unfortunately, this hope was immediately ripped away for a shock-factor ending that simply encourages watchers to cherish their youth and understand that life doesn’t always work the way you should expect it to. 

That’s why occasionally, shows should have happier endings as sometimes, sad endings just end up “killing the vibes.” 

One show that I felt like had the same goal as One Day– the idea that youth and the people you meet then are things that need to be cherished because life can take you in so many different directions– but has a happy ending is the K-drama Twinkling Watermelon. The story focuses on Ha Eun Gyeol, who is a CODA child (child of deaf adults). He is the main bridge between his family and the rest of the hearing world, and is also his parents’ pride. However, he has dreams of becoming a guitarist in a band, something that his family is extremely against. After getting into a major fight with his dad, Eun Gyeol is transported back to 1995, his parent’s senior year in high school. Eun Gyeol then discovers that his dad was not born deaf; rather, he ended up in an accident that made him lose his hearing in the year 1995. So, Eun Gyeol made it his goal to reverse his dad’s accident to the best of his ability. This drama was fun, not only because of the mishaps that Eun Gyeol got himself into trying to pretend to be a student in 1995 but because of the way this show tackled very serious issues such as family abuse and ableism, but it also had many moments showing the fun of youth and the lessons that come along with it. And, the happy ending in which Eun Gyeol was finally able to understand his family’s fears and use that to better his relationship with his family once he came back into the present day was just so powerful, considering the stressful events that happened in 1995. Now, it wasn’t that this show couldn’t end sadly either; there were so many moments in which I could have seen this story take such a darker turn. However, Twinkling Watermelon’s ending is the reason why I believe that shows sometimes need to have happy endings. Narratively, with everything going on, the happy ending is able to showcase the overall message much stronger than a sad ending ever could, and it’s satisfying to viewers after seeing all of the difficulties that Eun Gyeol goes through throughout the show to get his happy ending. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I think that all dramas need to have happy endings. A show that I think really captured the message of treasuring your youth because adulthood doesn’t always work the way you would expect it to is the K-drama (if you couldn’t tell, I am quite the K-drama fanatic), Twenty-Five, Twenty-One. Twenty Five-Twenty One is a coming of age story about the fencer Na Heedo and the boy next door Baek Yijin. The story focuses a lot on the two characters individually, and we spend a lot of time learning about the challenges that Heedo had to overcome in order to become a top fencer in Korea and the difficulties that Yijin faced in order to help his family after they lost all their money due to the IMF Crisis in the 90s. The show also spends a lot of time on their relationship, and it specifically emphasizes how the two quite literally grew up, suffered, and learned so many things together. When they finally get together, it just feels like a natural progression based on everything else that happened in the previous episodes. However, the ultimate choice to break them up also made sense; the writers showcased the breaking down of the relationship throughout many episodes and emphasized throughout that life conditions were the reason why. So when we actually saw the two in a final, parting-ways scene, while it was heartbreakingly sad, it is also an ending that makes one feel content. 

In essence, I don’t need a happy ending every time I watch a show. But, sometimes for the sake of getting a message across, a happy ending can be so much more powerful than a sad one.

Brinda Kalita

UC Riverside '24

4th year history major with opinions on anything and everything