‘The Red Sleeve’ Episode 17 Finale: Explaining the Emotional and Tear-Jerking End to Yi San and Deok-Im’s Love Story

The Red Sleeve became one of 2021’s unexpected hit Korean dramas. K-drama Fans were enchanted by the riveting love story between Yi San (Lee Junho) and Deok-im (Lee Se-young). A crown prince turned king falls in love with his court lady, who is determined to protect the life she made. The Red Sleeve Episode 17 marked the end of their story.

The finale caused fans to reach for the tissue box as their shared love met a tragic end. But the K-drama’s ending storyline raises the question of how the events unfold.

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for The Red Sleeve Episode 17.]

Yi San and Deok-im in 'The Red Sleeve' Episode 17 finale kissing
Yi San and Deok-im in ‘The Red Sleeve’ Episode 17 finale | via MBC

Deok-im agrees to become Yi San’s concubine in ‘The Red Sleeve’

The historical K-drama‘s storyline drastically changed in episode 16 when Deok-im agrees to become the king’s concubine and stay by his side. Despite knowing Yi San is deeply in love with her, Deok-im keeps her true feelings to herself. While Yi San and Deok-im live a happy life together, she laments having to let go of the freedom she tried so hard to protect.

The Red Sleeve Episode 17 took a shocking turn in the storyline, leaving fans with a broken heart. A few years pass after Deok-im becomes pregnant. An outbreak of measles takes the life of the young crown prince. His death causes Deok-im to spiral into depression, and Yi San is forced to make her realize a harsh reality.

Deok-im musters the courage to continue for the sake of her unborn child and the people. She also realizes Yi San lost a child. After some time, Yi San catches a cold but realizes Deok-im is also sick. Between her sickness, losing a son, and being pregnant, Deok-im’s life starts to slip away.

Yi San looses his first love in ‘The Red Sleeve’ Episode 17

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Deok-im is gravely ill and knows she will die. As Yi San attends to matters at the palace, Deok-im sends Court Lady Seo (Jang Hye-jin) to bring her friends to say goodbye. But Court Lady Seo realizes it is not the right thing to do and informs Yi San.

Yi San realizes she will die and blames himself. Fans wept as Deok-im told Yi San not to acknowledge her in their next lives because she wishes to live a free life. Yi San asks her if she ever truly loved him. Deok-im finally admits she would never have become his concubine if she did not love him.

In the end, Deok-im dies. Yi San and the other characters grieve her death, but for Yi San, he becomes lost without her. He refuses to find a new concubine and starts to reminisce his happy memories with her.

The K-drama’s finale has Yi San return to his happy place

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The Red Sleeve Episode 17 becomes more emotional years after Deok-im’s death. Yi San is still heartbroken. When her remaining friend gives him Deok-im’s belongings, he is forced to face his grief and loss. Yi San visits his and Deok-im’s hideaway.

He soon becomes sick and is bedridden. Next to him is the first book Deok-im read to him, and he remembers his nights in bed with her. Yi San falls asleep but wakes up in a previous scenario from episode 16. He wakes up in Deok-im’s lap. Fans might be led to believe he had a nightmare about her death and the events never happened, but this is not the case.

Deok-im tells him he must return to the palace where many people are waiting for him. Before he opens the doors, Yi San gets flashbacks of all the pain he will suffer if he leaves. Instead, he shows Deok-im the blooming flowers and asks her to love him and he stays.

The Red Sleeve Episode 17 leads to Yi San’s death. His sickness causes him to dream of Deok-im in a limbo scenario before death. Instead of waking up into reality, Yi San decides to follow Deok-im into the afterlife.

The Red Sleeve is available to stream on Viki.