For the majority of Season 2, the overarching plot goals were rescuing Baam from FUG and reuniting him with his friends from Season 1. It’s arguable whether or not those plot points were wrapped up thoroughly, but the story is shifting its focus to both familiar and new territory: Baam’s original journey to seek out Lahel, and Koon’s decision to exact revenge on her.
To move forward
It’s clear that Baam recognizes, to some degree, that Lahel is his enemy. His character growth since the end of Season 1 has centered on coming to terms with her betrayal—loneliness, sacrifice, real friendship, and and what it means to become strong enough to chase after someone.
What isn’t so clear, however, is how Baam will react once he inevitably does find Lahel. He knows in his mind that everything she has done makes her his enemy, but that doesn’t make it any easier for him to accept her betrayal. Despite the years he spent under FUG, the very organization that has propelled Lahel this far, Baam hasn’t received any kind of explanation about Lahel’s actions on 2F; he is likely feeling just as confused as he was when Lahel first pushed him to the bottom of the Wine Glass.
Since the beginning of the story, Baam has progressed in so many ways. By training under FUG, he is no longer the naive, weak boy he started out as on 2F. By meeting Wangnan, Horyang, and Beta, he knows more about the Tower and its darker corners, and the way people can change as they chase their goals. And in the Hell Train arc, he is starting to realize the lengths he is willing to go to, and the people he might be willing to sacrifice, to finally reach Lahel.
But in spite of all this growth, in some ways Baam has remained at an impasse. As a character, he cannot seem to move forward from that moment in time in which Lahel, the person for whom he would trade the world, became someone he could no longer trust. If Baam is ever to move forward and seek out his own purpose in the world, he needs to meet Lahel, because what her betrayal ultimately boils down to is the fact that he never truly knew her.
I’m pretty sure SIU meant for Koon’s revenge to be divisive. It isn’t a black or white issue. There are reasons he should carry through with it, and reasons he shouldn’t, and that’s what makes it a fascinating part of his character development.
On one hand, the obvious argument to make is that Koon ought to respect his best friend’s wishes. Baam’s driving force, ever since he entered the tower some 8-9 years ago, has been to find Lahel and speak to her. Killing Lahel directly conflicts with everything Baam is working towards. It’s a valid argument: as his best friend, Koon ought to value and respect Baam’s wishes.
On the other hand, Koon is his own person. And to understand why certain elements like “ego” and “power” carry such weight for him, you have to look back at his history and personality. He has always been shown to be an ambitious, prideful character—those are some of his defining traits. His ambition and desire to prove himself tie into his family politics: Everyone in the Koon Family is out to prove themselves because if they can’t, they face rejection from the rest of the family, as Koon’s family learned firsthand.
Why else is Koon’s overarching goal, beyond helping Baam, to overtake Koon Eduan? It all traces back to that initial rejection. He doesn’t want to experience that reality again, of being shunned and ridiculed and rejected, so he needs power. And I think that being played by Lahel and FUG only served to reinforce that belief: if he doesn’t want to be stepped on, defeated, and miserable, he needs the power to take things into his own hands.
As to whether he is being a bad friend right now, that’s not very black or white, either. I don’t think it should be approached only from Koon’s side. We shouldn’t only be wondering “Is Koon being a good friend to Baam and considering his wishes?” Baam is the other important side of this equation. It might seem like an unfair reversal, but is Baam considering Koon’s wishes?
Baam is the protagonist so it’s natural that we tend to side with him or more easily empathize with him. However, it’s worth stopping to think about this story from Koon’s perspective:
- His family is shunned when his sister fails to become a Zahard princess
- He doesn’t have the guts to ask Maria to climb the tower with him, and he’s full of regret
- His family has always taught him not to trust anyone, but he unexpectedly finds friends he can trust
- Suddenly, he loses that friend in an inexplicable accident
- Still reeling from the shock of that friend’s death, he forms a new team just to carry out his friend’s last wish
- He finds out that carrying out his friend’s last wish involves protecting the very person that murdered him
- He decides to avenge his friend’s death and turns against Lahel
- He is nearly murdered by FUG
- He returns to find that his entire team is either murdered, maimed, or kidnapped by FUG
- And in the aftermath of almost being killed and losing his entire team (yet again), when Hwa Ryun tells him there’s a chance to save Baam, he still takes her up on the offer.
There’s a pattern here: Almost everything that Koon has done since Season 1 traces back to his friendship with Baam. It’ll be a shame to see Koon and Baam clash, especially because Baam doesn’t seem to realize what Koon went through these past 8 years. They never talked about Lahel or why she isn’t climbing with anyone from 2F anymore. They never brought up the fact that Koon’s team was messed with by FUG, or broached the possibility that Koon would have a grudge on Lahel for reasons other than her betrayal of Baam.
Baam’s relationship with Koon is fundamentally very different than his relationship with Lahel. Even if you call them both “friends,” no two people truly occupy the same space or position in your life. Lahel is the one who taught a Baam who was confined to a dark, lonely hole how to speak, what the world is like, and how to live. Even if she isn’t a romantic interest for Baam, and even if she never valued Baam to begin with, she isn’t just a friend. Her betrayal left Baam in tears and with a resolution to change himself, grow stronger, anything so that he “wouldn’t have to say goodbye” to his important people anymore.
For someone like Baam, who practically worshipped her at one point in his life, I doubt any betrayal from another person will ever hurt as much as Lahel’s did. Yes, Koon’s betrayal will definitely shock and probably anger Baam. But Koon has been an exceptional friend to him, and because of that it is easy to forget: before he is Baam’s friend, Koon is a human being. Feelings of revenge, hurt, and anguish that develop over the course of 8 years will not magically dissipate, even if it is more noble for us to let them go. Being a good friend could mean respecting your friend’s wishes, but just how far should you bend over backwards to respect those wishes if they ultimately conflict with yours?
The underlying problem
Beneath all of these conflicting wishes and feelings, there’s an underlying problem that needs to be addressed here, and that’s the lack of communication between Baam and Koon (and Rak) as a team and as friends.
When a figure so strongly impacts your life as Lahel did for each of them, there will always be different choices and feelings involved: hatred, confusion, longing. Is any one approach to dealing with Lahel more or less legitimate, more or less hurtful than others? Who’s to decide if Koon’s decision to kill “the Lahel who was Baam’s most precious friend” is more or less hurtful than Baam’s desire to see “the Lahel who made Koon’s life miserable for 8 years”?
Ultimately, there is no right, obvious answer. Until Baam, Koon, and Rak sit down and communicate as a team, as they often did on 2F, the matter of Lahel will never be properly resolved without anyone getting hurt.