Legend: Episode 3
Just FYI, I’m not necessarily committing to full episode summaries for Legend. I’m not enough into the series to make that kind of commitment, and the recaps are starting to feel a lot like work. So for now, I’m just commenting on the episodes.
Episode 3 was far more interesting because the palace intrigues become more sinister and Crazy Lady Yeon is one awesome actor. I call her crazy in all facetiousness — she’s more power-crazed, not really insane — but she acts with a very intense, barely controlled underlying rage, and it’s really cool.
(Random) SONG OF THE DAY
Lee Soo Young – “Twenty Nine.” From her latest album, her eighth. [ zShare download ]
Acting by young Sujini continues to be solid. I’ll hold off on the superlatives because as winning and lovable as Sujini is, her appeal is largely charisma-driven, not skill-driven. What I mean by that is, the young actor’s doing a wonderful job being spunky and adorable, but so far she hasn’t had to do anything challenging. In contrast, the girl playing young Kiha isn’t quite as winning, but she’s given more range to cover (in this episode, at least).
The chemistry between Sujini and Hyun Go brings about a few comical moments, which are always appreciated in the midst of otherwise serious and weighty issues. Here, Sujini reports back about Lady Yeon’s suspicious poison transaction with Saryang (the Hwacheon man who’s also Kiha’s vassal/guard). When Hyun Go expresses disappointment that she didn’t deliver a more detailed report, Sujini retorts that she was the one sent into danger while the two older men got to sit back and relax. She also befriends an older woman, who’s the blacksmith from the village of the White Tiger (who was one of the blacksmiths running from the Hwacheon invaders on the night the Jushin star appeared).
Lady Yeon’s a tough role to tackle, because she has to seem both desperate and powerful; fearsome but also fearful. Otherwise, she’s just a caricature of an evil witch or some mystical malevolent force, which diminishes her desperation. Her Lady Macbethian ambition drives her to all her dangerous — reckless? — actions, but we have to at least understand her motivation.
Like Lady Macbeth, she feels the crown within her grasp — minus a few obstructing bodies, of course, but that’s nothing a good assassination won’t take care of — and it drives her to extremes. Both Ladies also display a rapacious greed that exceeds that of their men. Because the men are weaker, both allow themselves to be swayed by their ladies’ actions, not necessarily objecting while at the same time being unable to act themselves.
When Hogae distinguishes himself in battle — a charge he shyly dismisses as exaggerated to his cousin Damdeok — the king (Damdeok’s father) sends along a chest of gold coins and other prizes in congratulations. Although it’s a simple gesture, it can be seen as an assertion of power — a KING bestowing a gift upon a SUBJECT, no matter how noble — and Lady Yeon doesn’t take to the implication happily.
She tells Hogae in private that he must become the Jushin King, that he was born to the position, and looks both alarmed and defiant when she turns around to see that Damdeok has overheard. She goads him, daring him to accuse her of treason, boldly and antagonistically as though she wants to be challenged. But Damdeok merely replies, with good-natured calmness, that he’s heard others say the same thing many times before.
The King’s health grows gradually weaker, and although Damdeok has his suspicions, he doesn’t trust anyone enough to broach the subject with them. Instead, he reads up on medicine and tries to find the cause for his father’s illness. He asks Hogae what he knows about poison, casually mentioning it as a recent topic of study, perhaps testing for his reaction. But Hogae merely tells him that defeating an enemy with poison is cowardly, and advises Damdeok not to get too wrapped up in his studies.
So, he approaches Kiha as she picks herbs on the shrine grounds. Upon hearing that Kiha has been studying herbs and medicines for many years, Damdeok asks for her help. He doesn’t know whom to trust in the palace, but he wants to trust her.
He brings her to see the sick King — and after inspection, she tells them that his symptoms are very similar to a powerful, rare poison made by dark sorcerers. Taken in small, frequent doses, it can kill its victim in a month.
Kiha presents a demure, obedient picture to everyone in the palace, but her dual nature arises when she’s in the company of the Hwacheons — who refer to her in honorific terms, and with whom Kiha speaks in clipped commands. She’s smart, she’s sly, and she’s working on a dual agenda.
(She’s also aware that the poison used against the king originated from their Hwacheon tribe, and asks what their intentions are.)
And yet, her growing attachment to Damdeok seems genuine — she sneaks out at night to watch him training with Captain Go, one of few people who knows Damdeok’s true character. Damdeok admits that he’s putting on the act to seem dumb and weak as a necessity, to survive. But he fears that he’s truly going to become weak, and cowardly — even though he knows who is poisoning his father, he can’t do anything about it. He has no leverage, no power, and is too afraid to act.
Kiha has some wisdom to impart: “Hunting a tiger by attacking with an axe isn’t courage. That’s just being too ignorant to have fear. Having fear means you have wisdom. The wise man doesn’t capture the tiger by wielding an axe, he uses a trap. Acting despite fear, using one’s wisdom — that’s courage.”
Damdeok’s response?: “Kiha. Always be by my side. So that whenever I turn around, I can see you.”
Unfortunately, cousin Hogae has also fallen for Kiha. Uh-oh! Something tells me this will not end well.
And as for Damdeok’s trap… He lays a pretty good one, that’s for sure. He calls Lady Yeon and shows her the vial of poison, describing its fatal properties. Immediately on high alert, Lady Yeon is prepared to defend herself — but Damdeok doesn’t give her the opportunity, because he shows her a signed confession written by the court physician, admitting that he was paid and instructed to poison the King’s food every day. Damdeok presents her with the physician’s form of payment — the same gold coin that the King had awarded to Hogae. Furthermore, the physician says he was instructed to act by Hogae.
Lady Yeon immediately bursts out in outrage, demanding to confront the physician face to face. Damdeok calmly informs her that soldiers are detaining Hogae on the training grounds, ready to exact punishment — and Captain Go shows her the physician’s head — severed from its body. So basically, all they’ve got is his signed confession pinning the blame on Hogae. Wily Damdeok.
Lady Yeon finds herself backed into a corner, wild with anger and panic, and Damdeok calmly tells her he’d prefer not to punish Hogae, either. If only there were a way to find the “true” culprit… then they could absolve Hogae of guilt. He’s cleverly showing her he’s in control, while at the same time giving the appearance of backing down.
In a pretty great acting display, Lady Yeon bursts into teary, giddy, stunned, relieved, indignant laughter — she doesn’t know what to make of Damdeok’s power play. He isn’t going for the jugular in demanding immediate punishment, but she knows he’s got her. She grabs her poison, then stumbles out of the hall —
— to the courtyard, where Hogae has been held, surprised and distressed. He sees his mother stagger out of the palace and rushes to her as she collapses, clutching the now-empty poison bottle.
She gasps to Hogae that he must become the King of Jushin, and as a final warning, tells him not to trust his “false prince” of a cousin with his sly, snakelike cleverness. Hogae doesn’t understand what’s going on as his mother dies in his arms.
I’m only sad that this means we get no more awesome acting by Lady Yeon — it’ll be a huge loss that we never had Lady Yeon and adult Kiha (Moon Sori) acting in a scene together. Now that would’ve been intense. Do you think they’d have engaged in a fierce display of acting one-upmanship, trying to outdo the other in an “act-off” replete with bursts of intensity, angrily furrowed brows, and furious glaring? That would’ve been fit for a separate category of awesome, to go with Zoolandery walk-offs and impromptu post-breakup dance-offs of Britney and Justin-eque proportions. (Sigh. Remember when that was the juicy Britney gossip of the day? How those kids grow. And skank up.)
Anyway, that sets us up for the future adult conflicts between the now-rivals, as Hogae doesn’t understand any of this and immediately leaps to accuse Damdeok of some sort of foul play. Damdeok arrives at the Yeon residence to tell Hogae’s father that Lady Yeon was responsible for poisoning the king — but he had no idea she would take the poison herself. Hogae immediately attempts to fight Damdeok, but his father holds him back — probably because he knows the truth of the accusation. Hogae may be innocent of any crime as a child, but this is likely to change as he’s driven by his need to avenge his mother’s death, which he blames on Damdeok, per her dying words.