Yet Another Fan Theory of the BTS Trilogy: I Need U / Prologue / Run


There is no doubt that Bangtan Boys, also known as BTS, are one of my favorite Kpop groups to emerge from the industry in recent years. The talent of the seven-member boy group has been recognized both at home in South Korea, with awards such as the MelOn and Golden Disk “New Artist of the Year” awards, and abroad, with their third EP, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Part 1, appearing on Fuse's english-dominated “Best Albums of 2015 (So Far)” alongside musical heavyweights Kendrick Lamar, Ciara, Drake, and Calvin Harris.

With the release of the group's newest MV, “Run” and accompanying album, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Part 2, fan theories have been circulating as to the hidden meaning behind the BTS “Trilogy,” composed of “I Need U,” the prologue from their solo concert, and “Run.” The theories are lush and range from one member being dead, to all the members being dead, to hallucinations and the Butterfly Effect, to an Inception-type dreamscape, to an illustration of the stages of depression and mental illness, to suicide and simple bullying between friends.

My own theory around the BTS Trilogy is rather simple, but symbolically dense: this is a complicated metaphor for growing up.


When BTS released The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt 1, leader and rapper Kim Namjoon described it as an album about adolescence, which is the most joyful part of life, but also wrought with “anxiety and insecurity.” Since the members of BTS range in age from approximately 18-23, they are in the stage between youth and adulthood where things get awkward and confusing. To me, the BTS Trilogy is about the death of helpless childhood innocence and the inevitable transition to adulthood.


In a lot of ways, the BTS Trilogy of videos reminds me of the 1986 film, Stand By Me, wherein a group of 4 childhood friends set out to discover the body of a dead boy from their town with the hopes of becoming local heroes. However, in the process, the boys confide in each other and shed their childhood and innocence. By the end of the film, the boys are separated and are no longer friends, but still hold onto their memories of that time.

All three videos are rich with symbolism, and although the lyrics of the music play an important part, they aren't absolutely essential to understanding the story. There is quite a lot of shifting timelines and perspectives between characters, which means that this story belongs to all the characters in their own ways. Unpacking this story is easier if we follow the same non-linear timeline.


“I Need U” represents a helpless descent as the chorus repeats “fall, fall.” The characters are seemingly not in control of their own behaviors and feelings, reacting to what happens around them in youthful innocence and ignorance. In this MV, we see the characters reacting to their environments and situations. The focus shifts from scenes of the group together, acting jovial and friendly, to scenes of each member alone, where they turn to despair and sadness in its many forms. When together, the seven characters are carefree and wild. For example, Hoseok, who is seen taking handfuls of medication, dumps the entire bottle into the fire when joined by his friends, preferring to feel emotions with his friends, rather than the numbness of loneliness.


But each character is ultimately a product of the world around them, unable to control their decisions, as they are “children.” The climax of the MV occurs when Taeyhun, driven to anger, witnesses his father hitting his mother and stabs him to death. Each character also “dies” when alone: Hoseok collapses onto a busy road after overdosing on the same prescription medication, Jungkook is hit by a car after being beaten by thugs, Yoongi and Namjoon are presumed to self-immolate and Jimin drowns. Jin doesn’t necessarily and explicitly die, but he does appear in an empty room, isolated and restless and obviously in pain.


The Prologue continues this sense of losing control as it opens with Taehyun, bloodied and visibly shaken after stabbing his father. But it soon shifts to a bright open space where he is calm and clean. He holds a photo of his father and crumples it in his hands. This is more symbolic than literal: in “killing” his father, Taehyun has severed ties with an important figure in his life, no longer needing his presence. Here we also see Jin recording everything from an outsider’s perspective, showing us viewers only the beauty of youth, maybe even making us long for it. When looking back on youth, it is often remembered as the most beautiful moment in life, but with it comes fear, anxiety, loneliness and all manner of mixed emotions


Namjoon is also seen writing “you need to survive” in Korean onto a foggy window before joining his friends fireside. While this may seem literal, it feels more like a pep talk, encouraging his friends (and the viewer) that survival is most important and that living in childish ignorance will result in the brain-dead, lifeless state that we see Namjoon in, working at the gas station. We can tie this back to “I Need U” where it’s revealed that Namjoon’s lollipop is actually a cigarette and by dropping it onto the money thrown at him from a car, he is giving up his childish state, knowing that it is time to move forward instead of being stagnant.


In the second half of the video, the group is together at the beach, and Taehyun climbs up scaffolding while the others look on and beg him to come down. Jin is again, recording this through his video camera and does not pressure Taehyun to climb down. After “killing” his father, Taehyun has to take a leap from being a child to becoming an adult, leaving the responsibility of his life in his own hands, rather than anyone from the outside. Taehyun offers his friends a smile and then confidently jumps off the scaffolding while the music in the background swells and repeats “butterfly”. Now Taehyun is literally flying instead of falling, emerging from his cocoon and is free to make his own decisions.


In the third MV, “Run”, there is a marked difference in the actions of the characters.



They no longer appear to be passive, but rather acting based on the world around them. They are literally more “alive” than they were in “I Need U,” running throughout most of the video, acting out without regrets. Jin, our observer, builds a house of cards which is destroyed as Yoongi breaks a mirror after playfighting with Jungkook becomes violent. The camera then pans towards Jungook sitting on the ground where we can see the rest of the group around him, but when the camera pans out it’s obvious he is alone. Now we know that the party is over. The way Jungkook sees himself, as a fragile house of cards is now over. He glances back to the mirror for a split second, as though he is seeing the reality of himself for the first time. And as Namjoon wrote earlier, he must also “survive.”


There is also heavy use of the symbolism of water and fire throughout the MVs. We see Taehyun falling backwards into water at the start of “Run” and struggling to swim throughout, but at the end he emerges from the water unharmed. Jimin also drowns in a bathtub, and is also seen being pushed into a bathtub and playfully being forced under. On the other hand, we also have Yoongi (and Namjoon) “die” by fire in “I Need U.”


Although these are opposite elements, it's interesting to note that fire can represent not only death, but also represents enlightenment and resurrection. Water, likewise, can symbolically refer to the cycle of life and rebirth, as well as higher or philosophical reasoning.Taehyun and Jin die and reawake in water, Yoongi and Namjoon, who are first seen as passive, are engulfed by fire and symbolically reborn. Hoseok casts aside his medication and embraces his emotions instead of running from them. Jungkook, who was helplessly beaten by thugs is able to see himself clearly and Jin is no longer on the outside looking in. In this way, each character reaches the end of their journey and emerges into adulthood.

Despite the chorus of “I Need U” ringing out for a girl, there is no instance of the members of BTS fighting over the affections of a woman, or lamenting about a lost crush. Nor are they parading their ego and confidence to draw the attention to themselves. This trilogy is purely about friendship, growth, and ultimately, the loss of innocence. Of course, this is only one theory of many, and there are symbols and metaphors that I have not accounted for. This chronicle stretches across two albums, photobooks, several music videos, and even a concert. As such, this theory is by no means exhaustive, nor even complete. Writing an entire analysis of every scene and symbol in this trilogy would ruin its appeal and story. One thing is absolutely certain, however: this is a mature and grown-up attempt at using music as storytelling.

Pinning down one explanation would take away the mystery and ultimately, the fun of unravelling this tale. By utilizing visual storytelling, strong metaphors and music cues, BTS has taken every available tool at their disposal to weave a complicated and lengthy concept without having to rely on the tired Kpop cliches of dancing in a box, or flashing their bodies. But isn’t that what we look for when we embrace a “concept”? Depth, relevance and relation to our own lives. BTS has checked off every box and made sure to not hold our hands throughout it. Here is an entire world, like our own but minutely different, and open to any and all interpretations. If this isn’t proof of a group growing up, I’m not sure what is.

'L' lives in Ontario, Canada. She is a pop culture and media junkie and has helped organize kpop parties and events across Ontario. Her biases are BTS, Block B, M.I.B and Infinite.



21 comments:

  1. I love your analysis of BTS Trilogy. That is exactly what I think. I have watched the music video of I Need U and love that song. I have watched Run MV, too. However, I did not know there was a prologue. When I watched the Prologue, it actually made me cry. I thought of friendship, hardships in life, and loneliness while I was watching it. It made me think of teenage years and what I am going through right now as I am in high school, especially Run. Even though I don't know the lyrics, I can feel what BTS is trying to deliver to us viewers. For example, sometimes I want to leave everything behind and run. I want to run from my life, from everything. That's why I like BTS, even though they're not my favorite band, because they are able to make viewers relate to them, and they relate to us.

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  3. I know that people have said its a trilogy but the Epilogue: Young Forever has scenes and metaphors that continue on from Run and the others.

    In the Beginning you see the maze that the members are trapped in. This is in my opinion the final stage of their evolution, while Run take from their innocence by rebelling against their world and in a sense "running" from their past, Epilogue tries to bring them in to Reasoning and acceptance by once again facing their mistakes. Then once they have forgiven themselves they can finally find their way out of the chaos of their past and be free.

    With each member you see their story.
    Namjoon: The ties to his friends are the only reason he keeps going
    Jin: His lonliness and yearning for comfort
    Yoongi: Dealing with the heat of his emotions
    JungKook: His weakness and inability to stand up for himself
    J-Hope: His pills and desire to end it all instead of feeling
    Jimin: He still feels wet with the water he wanted to drown in.

    Then they reflect on their times together and realise that while being sad and depressed was not right neither was being uncaring and wild. At the end you can see them looking around like its a new world, they are happy and smiling for the first time.

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  4. This theory is very good,although I believe the theory of Jin being dead explains everything better. For example, at the end of the prologue Jimin is seen holding a picture of all the members, then Jin disappears from the picture. How would you explain this with your theory?

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    1. At the end of the Run MV I think they meant...

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    2. Well, that just meant that Jin's transformation into adulthood is complete, whereas the other members are still evolving

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    3. Well, that just meant that Jin's transformation into adulthood is complete, whereas the other members are still evolving

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  5. Hello there! I know I am late regarding this theory thing surrounding what really is the story behind the music videos of I need you, Run, BTS Prologue and Forever Young but as a fellow army I am proud to say that even though it took time for me to unravel stuff, reading your article was somewhat a confirmation to some of the key points of my theory and the release of the music video Forever Young. I totally agree with what you said that this BTS Trilogy is rather simple, but symbolically dense: this is a complicated metaphor for growing up and that the trilogy is purely about friendship, growth, and ultimately, the loss of innocence. I also agree with my fellow armies here who posted their comments and stated their opinions but one thing is for sure growing up is a complex thing from being a youth maturing to be an adult. For me the story resonates to the current situation every teenager or youngsters experiencing in their day to day lives like what is stated in the article saying "The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt 1, leader and rapper Kim Namjoon described it as an album about adolescence, which is the most joyful part of life, but also wrought with “anxiety and insecurity.” These two (anxiety and security) drives us to the extremes and sometimes we do things we ended up regretting. The key points to my theory is: a. the individual story behind each members presents or explains the reality which are at some point needed to be addressed like addiction, suicide, depression, bullying, losing sense of purpose/path, sense of helplessness, insecurities due to society's standards and families being torn apart. b. the I need u music video for me was a cry for help. The members shown their dark sides, the corruption they had, their battle against it and the society that judges the youth with their actions and decision when they are just celebrating life being young. c. the Run music video was a decision made to be truly free from all the chains that drags them from transforming to be truly themselves or be totally drowned and lose their sense of purpose and be consumed with corruption which is true in today's generation. d. Butterfly song/symbol, for me it symbolizes change like a butterfly undertaking a metamorphosis, the Prologue was the highlight of everything, from their struggles, hopes and dreams, losing their innocence in the process of growing up and learning from the way of life. e.the lilies being burned/shown, it symbolizes purity and as it burns they looses it like innocence. f. The Forever Young was a resolution to all the metaphors in the whole trilogy, it was acceptance and moving forward from their past and dark transition. The lines or lyrics of the song has deep roots that for me is truly marvelous saying that being young does not equate with age it is how we see the perspective of everything like in the eyes of the young ones, we lose creativity, we lose the sense of priority, we lose ourselves in the process and we ended up hurting ourselves for the change we thought is what we need. (1/3)

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  6. I did come up with this theory because I can totally relate to Jin, for me he was lonely, didn't have any other problems compared to the other members but from my stand point he was vulnerable because of loneliness and isolation, that is why he is always taking pictures or recording stuff just like me, we both treasure these memories and the part where he asked to boys to go to the beach was touching because like me I always try to initiate outdoor activities for the whole group and always took the responsibility in the team. Next is V, coming from a torn family I can really say we had developed complexes towards our fathers that is really hard to resolve, we try to hide and keep the emotions of pain in the contrast that the family should be the strong hold of our foundation as a person. Jimin, for me is the depression of ending it up because for him there was no other way out, the sense of helplessness. J-hope, thinking that taking pills will make him numb and hard as a rock so that whatever life throws at him, he will be able to manage or surpass but that is not the truth after all. Suga, has the self destructive type of behavior a response that this kind of behavior will be the answer or finding satisfaction in destructive behavior which needs to be aligned back to his real sense of purpose. Rapmon, being stagnant in his current situation and losing his path or career that he really wants in the process. Jungkook, the one who couldn't fight back and defend himself, the sense of surrendering even if the battle wasn't even starting. The transition was hard and compelling but there is one thing in common whenever they are together they were able find solace, comfort and strength to keep going and completely let it go. That for me is is the real essence of camaraderie, friendship, companionship a feeling of assurance that you are understood and that is what we found in the midst of our friends. We may lose our innocence, we may regret what we did in the past, we may be broken, but we learned and took the pieces back together stronger than ever before. (2/3)

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  7. Just a side note regarding Jin being dead because of the photo Jimin is holding and burning at the end of Run music video, likewise at the end of the BTS prologue a photo took by Rapmon with Jin and Suga supposed to be in the photo ended up Jin alone, I can totally read between the lines, as what I said Jin is vulnerable due to his loneliness and isolation and that is why symbolically those images where Jin is supposed to be with his other members signifies that even if you are with friends you can still feel lonely and isolated, for me loneliness cannot be just resolved in spending more time with other people it is maybe a temporary solution, as a personal experience you need to try to resolve it with yourself alone, you can be in a crowd and drown with loneliness and isolation but being alone doesn't mean your lonely it is where we truly connect with our inner selves and it is also a state of being that can be change into a positive one. I am not saying that the death theory is incorrect we are all just speculating and interpreting from what we've seen and known from all resources we can take. But the metaphors, the symbolism, the reality and the emotions these videos delivered were a success because it touched our lives that lead us into this discussions. I hope that ibighit and the creative department handled these videos will pursue more and produce meaningful ones for BTS in the near future and sick songs that will surely give color to the lives of armies all over the world and in the music industry. Fighting!!!(3/3)

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  8. Regarding the absence of Jin in those pictures - though it might be more compelling a story if it's about his death, I think it just signifies how he's no longer in his "youth", so this whole trilogy he was transitioning out of this phase in life and into his adult years. Perhaps even leaving the others behind. Instead of reminiscing his life, Jin was reminiscing his youth. Jungkook, on the other hand, had only just entered the phase.

    Other than that, I pretty much agree with this theory and a lot of the other comments written about overcoming the hardships and anxieties of youth. While keeping a positive attitude, we have to survive and keep charging forward.

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    1. Exactly (and it makes more sense than him or the others being dead).

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    2. Also in INU, Jin holds six white lily petals that might not just represent the other members: in some ways, each member seems to represent an emotion or a specific stage of childhood, which Jin decides to let go off.

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  9. Finally! The concept was clearly stated as being about youth to begin with, I don't get why people want Jin or the others to be dead and find another, overly complicated meaning to all this (actually, Jin or the others being physically dead does not make much sense overall, while the growing-up theme perfectly does).

    Also, Jin is the eldest and is therefore the first one to go through adulthood (and this is the reason why he is represented on his own or missing at times, because he is now different from the others and alone in his new state), while V is forced to because of what he did, but still like Jin struggles to let go (hence why he goes back and forth between childhood and adulthood, with the symbolism of water and drowning).

    Young Forever AND Fire are also very obviously part of this series, with them eventually finding their way and the fire/passion of their youth being stronger than anything else.

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  10. At the end of the credits, you can see that there was a car with all seven members in, and around it. I payed specific attention to jin, because I had watched this video more than once. I in fact watched it 8 different times to better analyze each "character". So the last time I watched it I payed attention to jin and saw that when a Polaroid picture was taken of that moment, Jin disappeared. To follow up that, I realized this earlier during the time that I watched it for the 3rd time. Not only did I realize it, but in the commentary video that BTS did for their comeback release, J-Hope specifically says, " What does this mean?" As he says this you can see that Jimin is in the tub burning the Polaroid while looking as if he had regrets for the moment in the picture. This hints that Jin passed away rather than him being the only rational on of the group.

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  11. At the end of the credits, you can see that there was a car with all seven members in, and around it. I payed specific attention to jin, because I had watched this video more than once. I in fact watched it 8 different times to better analyze each "character". So the last time I watched it I payed attention to jin and saw that when a Polaroid picture was taken of that moment, Jin disappeared. To follow up that, I realized this earlier during the time that I watched it for the 3rd time. Not only did I realize it, but in the commentary video that BTS did for their comeback release, J-Hope specifically says, " What does this mean?" As he says this you can see that Jimin is in the tub burning the Polaroid while looking as if he had regrets for the moment in the picture. This hints that Jin passed away rather than him being the only rational on of the group.

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  12. I believe I’ve come up with a somewhat long but sensible interpretation to what happens to the boys throughout the HYYH Trilogy, if you care to read: https://thebangtantheory.wordpress.com/ (don't know if it takes away all the fun of unraveling the mystery, but it bugged so hard I just HAD to find answers!)

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  13. Wow, I am so impressed this is still generating a lot of discussion! Thank you for your ideas, everyone!

    The beauty of using a medium like a music video trilogy is that everyone who watches it can get a sense of feeling, story or purpose from it that means something to them. There's a valid case for the theory of the boys having died, as well. But to me and based on my experience, the growing up metaphor makes more sense because of my life, age, trials and tribulations, etc.

    I don't think there's a right or wrong way to analyze and think about this, but it's fun to see what other people consider metaphors and symbols for what. Thank you everyone!

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  14. Thank you for sharing your theory and thanks to everyone else commenting on this article too.
    It really captures many of my thoughts concerning BTS' "HYYH" (and also Wings now).

    I would just like to add something about Jin, as it seems to be a big issue (whether he is/was dead or not etc.)

    Throught the whole story I actually felt that although Jin is the oldest, he is the one who is reluctant to the process of maturing and "breaking the egg" of his familiar childhood world. It seemed to me that V was the first one to start the transition, while other group members have followed - through the symbolic dying and ressurecton. Everyone is facing this by himself, but they are also deeply connected with each other and go through the same experiences. But Jin is hesitating, and that may be the reason why he seems to be an observer separated from the others. He doesn't yet want to accept the forbidden fruit - the apple - which will banish him from the ideal heaven of innocence.

    I even thought that V is probably the only one, who has truly matured so far. And that's why he knows more and appears to be the fallen angel in Blood, Sweat and Tears, ultimately leading Jin to his rebirth (which is foreshadowed in the Awake short film as he is burning the lilies and seen walking away to finally face himself and the inevitable).

    Or who knows!

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  15. Thank you so much for sharing your theory! So many people have said either one, most or all the members died in the videos but it didn't explain the "youth" fence/part that's shown in the music video of "Fire". I really loved how you connected the three videos together. Also, I didn't even think about this kind of theory until now. It's really great to see another perspective on this theory.

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