Hong Gil Dong: Episode 18
Ooh. Who else was afraid for a second that our hero had crossed over to the dark side? A great moment, wasn’t it?
SONG OF THE DAY
Heritage – “Mama Song” [ zShare download ]
EPISODE 18 RECAP
Gil Dong tamps down his fear, surrounded by five ghost women who draw swords and prepare to kill him. He steels himself to fight — until one ghost peers closer and says, “Uh, it’s not him.”
Their leader swoops in and tosses out a quick apology: “Sorry, we thought you were someone else.” With that, the ghost-women glide away.
Oops. Because, you see, they were really after THIS guy:
We knew the minute he beat that gisaeng in the club that he was destined for a world of hurt, and he gets it. The ghosts attack; in the morning, he’s found stabbed, dead.
In Hyung leads the investigation, and although Hwal Bin Dang is not a suspect, In Hyung decides this is the perfect chance to pin the blame on them anyway. He instructs his men to circulate the news that Hwal Bin Dang is wanted for the recent murders.
Gil Dong and Chang Whe meet to discuss the situation, because the false rumors are bad for them both. Gil Dong figures if he catches the women and turns them in, that will solve the problem.
Chang Whe takes a moment to make a dig at Gil Dong for being scared, and asks, “Are you sure you can catch them? You had them right there and you lost them.” Gil Dong defends himself: “I lost them because I was caught off-guard. They were dressed really frighteningly. You didn’t see, so you don’t know.”
Gil Dong’s only clue is a piece of cloth dropped by one ghost — he doesn’t believe they’re actual ghosts, although they’re mighty speedy and move like them — and he detects an unusual smell, perhaps some obscure Chinese product.
As he leaves to investigate, Mal Nyeo and Su Geun can’t help teasing him, knowing Enok has said she intends to only respect Gil Dong as a leader (meaning she’ll only respect him, nothing more). Gil Dong soon develops a hearty dislike for the word “respect,” because as long as she insists she respects him, she’s not admitting she’s like omigod so totally in love with him.
Gil Dong stomps off to rectify that and invites Enok along on his errand. She’s busy moving firewood, so Gil Dong steps in and helps, earning him her gratitude:
“Gil Dong, you’re a really smart leader! I respect you.”
That’s NOT what he wants to hear, so he throws a mini-tantrum. Naturally. Because certain aspects of humanity have not evolved in thousands of years and the best that an immature male idea of romance can manage is to pull a girl’s hair and call her silly names. Or, in Gil Dong’s case, throw firewood on the ground, yelling, “Respect? Do you still respect me now? Huh?!”
Annoyed and bewildered, Enok rescinds her praise, and he tells her, “That’s right, and don’t respect me in the future, either.” He leaves with perverse satisfaction, actually pleased at having lost her respect.
On to the issue of the ghost-cloth. Merchant Wang identifies the smell as a Chinese pepper, and one of the stains as kimchee. Walking through the village, Gil Dong recognizes the trim on the cloth: It belongs to a local soup shop operated by several ajummas.
They recognize him from the night before, and I suppose they must recognize that he’s not a threat, because they resignedly admit to being the ghosts and invite him in for some food.
Gil Dong tries to understand why the women are killing noblemen and tells them of his intent to stop them. The leader apologizes for putting Hwal Bin Dang in a tough situation, but if he tries to stop them, they’ll fight him too: “We’ll never quit.”
They remain close-lipped about their plans, so Gil Dong follows as they go on their daily training session:
They’ve been practicing their fighting skills for the past five years, day in and day out. Gil Dong tries to put the story together:
“Did you become ghosts because you have an enemy to fight? Have you been preparing five years for some kind of revenge?”
Grandpa Heo is still deliberating over what to do about Enok’s real identity. He tests her reaction, asking whether she’d like to live grandly and dressed prettily like that Eun Hye lady. She thinks for a moment, but decides against it: “Then I couldn’t be with Gil Dong.” Grandpa Heo: “You like him that much?” Enok nods: “Yeah, I do. I’m happiest right now!”
Meanwhile, Su Geun and Mal Nyeo continue to have fun with The Couple That Refuses to Admit the Inevitable, dropping the hint to Enok that Gil Dong is off to meet several women. Frustrated Enok: “Why does he only go off meeting women?!”
Mal Nyeo asks innocently, “What’s the problem? You said he’s a leader you merely respect.” They don’t enlighten Enok on the details — such as the fact that the women are all old enough to be Gil Dong’s mother.
The ghost-ajumma leader tells Gil Dong a “scary ghost story,” and it soon becomes clear that she’s talking about real-life events. Once upon a time in a village, there was a newly appointed magistrate. One night, he was visited by two women ghosts, dressed in white mourning clothes, who asked him to bring justice to light. Raped and murdered, the women identified their killers as lower-class butchers. The next day, the butchers were all killed in punishment.
Chang Whe, hearing the same story from Chisu, deduces there must have been a “real reason” the men were killed. Apparently, the true perpetrator of the crime was a powerful nobleman’s son — but because the new magistrate was visited by the (alleged) spirits of the victims, he killed villagers instead and the nobleman went free. Furthermore, the men who killed the villagers in the name of “justice” were the noblemen who were recently killed by the ajumma-ghosts.
The ghost-ajumma continues:
“But isn’t it quite strange? A ghost appeared and said a butcher was guilty, and nobody asked, ‘Did a ghost really say that? There are no such things as ghosts.’ I wanted to know so badly, I wanted to meet that ghost and ask her, ‘Did my son truly kill you?’ I went to a shaman, a mystic, did everything I could think of, but she didn’t appear to me. … I felt so angry and wronged that we all decided to become ghosts ourselves.”
Lady Noh visits an old nobleman, maneuvering to gain his support. This is Enok’s blood grandfather, the father of the murdered Minister Ryu, who has petitioned for the Queen and Chang Whe’s murders to be reinvestigated. He’s powerful and many follow his lead, and therefore is a strong potential ally.
Chang Whe believes Ryu can be won over to their cause once he knows the details of his son’s murder (which was covered up). Once he finds out his son died for his opposition of Kwang Whe’s assumption of the crown, he should be on Chang Whe’s side. (Ryu is also hopeful that his lost granddaughter can be found despite hearing that the possibility is slim to none.) As hoped, Ryu gives Lady Noh his promise to gather support among his ranks.
Now that the secret of Enok’s identity is out, it sure is spreading quickly. Eun Hye starts her own manipulating, although her end goal isn’t yet clear. First, she buys medicine from Grandpa Heo, using the transaction as an excuse to talk about Enok and drop the hint that she reminds her of a long-dead childhood friend. Eun Hye drops just enough clues for Grandpa Heo to realize she’s talking of Enok’s true identity, and he visits the Ryu household to scope out the life Enok would have had.
For all his vacillating, Grandpa Heo’s heart is in the right place, because his main concern is for Enok’s welfare. He’s unsure whether she’d benefit from knowing Gil Dong’s father killed her family, and worries that she’s grown into a free-spirited woman who’d be stifled if she were shut up in grandeur as a lady.
Because they’re dense, both Chang Whe and Lady Noh note the name similarity of the two Enoks but Lady Noh merely sighs, “How great it would’ve been to our cause if we could’ve found Ryu’s granddaughter!” Gee, wouldn’t it though?
Chang Whe recalls the one time he’d met Ryu Enok as a child, and wonders if it’s a fateful coincidence, or something more.
The next time Gil Dong leaves to visit his women acquaintances, Enok jumps to accompany him. When he asks why, she sputters, for lack of a better (thought-out) excuse: “I-it’s definitely not because you’re going to meet women!” Gil Dong takes her along to act as a distraction while he gathers facts, and Enok does her job admirably, because there’s nothing ajummas love more than forcing food upon young people.
Enok entertains the four subordinate women, while Gil Dong and the leader observe from a distance. She asks Gil Dong, “Is she your girl?” and comments that it’ll be a trial keeping Enok fed and safe — “But still, you chose a good one.” He watches the woman mending clothes — her funeral clothes from her son’s burial — and she tells him, resignedly, that this existence is all she and her fellow women know. This revenge is what’s kept them going, but still, she warns him away from her way of life.
And then everyone prepares for the big night out:
In Hyung discovers the connection between the ghosts’ targets, and tracks down the last surviving nobleman. He guesses correctly that the last nobleman will be the next target, and hopes to catch the women and Gil Dong.
The ghost ajummas, meanwhile, have heard that their target is leaving the following day; if they are to have their revenge, it must be tonight.
The ajummas sneak onto the man’s property and move to strike — but because everyone has pretty much figured out everything, they’re interrupted by In Hyung and his soldiers. The soldiers catch the women by surprise and interrupt their attack. The women are killed.
Gil Dong races to the scene of the crime. His initial goal of turning them in has changed after hearing their story — filled with pity, he won’t capture them, but wants to stop them from committing further murders. But he arrives too late; he gets there as the women’s bodies are laid outside.
Sadness turns to anger as he overhears soldiers sneering at the women and their silly revenge scheme. Gil Dong sees the dead bodies and recalls their leader’s words from before: “You’re in Hwal Bin Dang. Do you want to save us? I’m sorry, there’s nothing to save.”
Gil Dong forces his way to the nobleman, drawing his sword in a fury. Everyone around them freezes as he brings the nobleman to his knees. Gil Dong is poised to strike; the man begs for mercy.
With a war cry, Gil Dong raises his sword and swings, while everyone watches in shock —
— and what he does proves even more shocking than killing the man. Gil Dong angrily slices off the man’s hat and topknot, essentially decrying the man’s symbols of power and prestige.
Gil Dong: “I’ll take not your life, but your world. That’s my revenge.”
Chang Whe watches from a distance, stunned: “That man… is strong.” In fact, Gil Dong’s strength is something of a wake-up call for Chang Whe:
Chang Whe: “If he’d killed that man, I would have thought him weaker than myself. But I realized he’s much stronger than I’d thought.”
Enok tries to comprehend the women, the killing, everything. She can’t get her mind around things like revenge and enemies. Mal Nyeo tells her she’s better off not understanding — the world needs people like her in it.
Gil Dong buries the women. At the graveyard, Hae Myung tells him that his father had once spent an entire day at his mother’s grave.
Hae Myung: “Thinking of a world that kills one he loves, and knowing that such a world is one he builds and guards, he could only stare blankly. The world has made these people into criminals too. They are to be pitied.”
Confirming Enok’s identity gives Minister Hong great cause for concern. They’ve lost the sword, and now Enok is alive. That does not bode well for them. Kwang Whe, likewise, is infuriated to hear of Gil Dong’s involvement — always thwarting him at every turn!
Therefore, Hong proposes one way to catch Gil Dong for good. He tells Kwang Whe, “You must kill me. In order to catch him, I must die.” He kneels in loyalty, ready to offer his life to protect his king.
Talk about misplaced loyalties.
Gil Dong: “When you’re king, make the world a place where people are not unjustly wronged for being low-born. Having no inferiors means there must also be no superiors. If you harbor the upper classes, you cannot save the lower.”
Chang Whe: “I can’t favor either side. All of them make up this country.”
Gil Dong: “I know. Reality can’t be ignored. Starting with becoming king, change things. Don’t be foolish by ignoring reality, but don’t become cruel and let go of ideals, either. I’ll understand and trust you when you have to compromise with them, as much as I dislike it. So understand and trust me when I fight against them, as much as you dislike it. Then, we’ll be able to work together till the end. You said you wanted to be a king the people wanted. Then you’ll become a king made by the people. We’ll go together. Become king. We’ll make the king who changes the world. To do that, I will become stronger.”
Chang Whe tells Chisu (so really, he’s talking to himself):
Chang Whe: “I’d thought using him would make me into king who’d protect his world. Because that’s the way of things. But he’s using me to change his world. He and I were different from the start, because he started from the bottom, and I the top. If we don’t meet in the middle somewhere, we’ll clash, won’t we? Then could I part ways with him?”
Chang Whe is introduced to Ryu and his supporters. Ryu reads the decree on the sword, and the noblemen all avow their undying support for Chang Whe as the country’s “true king.”
While Chang Whe’s inside Ryu’s house, his men keep guard outside — and so one of them recognizes Grandpa Heo outside. (After repeated trips to observe the Ryu home, Grandpa’s decided to leave well enough alone and that Enok is happier off as she is.)
Grandpa Heo’s presence — and the questions he’s been asking about Enok — finally convince Chang Whe and Lady Noh that that Ryu Enok and Heo Enok are the same person. Seriously, took ’em long enough to put two and two together.
Enok, who’s taken the latest developments pretty hard, is at a loss for how to provide comfort for Gil Dong.
Gil Dong answers, “Just look at me. You agreed that’s what you’d do. That’s all you have to do for me.” Remembering her old promise, Enok says, “Okay, I’ll just watch you from far away.”
Gil Dong: “Not far away, close by. Keep watching from my side.”
Enok: “By your side, like this?”
Gil Dong: “Yeah, like this.”
Enok: “All I have to do is stay like this to comfort you?”
Gil Dong: “Dummy.”
For me (and I suspect many), the best moment of the episode was Gil Dong slashing that man’s hat off his head. For a moment, we’re led to believe that Gil Dong actually killed the man — that he was so overcome with fury at the unjustness of the world, at the sad plight of the women whose sons had been unfairly condemned, that he decided to exact some vigilante justice and kill the nobleman on their behalf. I’m pretty sure that would’ve been crossing a point of no return, though; too dark a turn for this kind of character or drama.
But it’s significant that he held back, and not just for the reasons Chang Whe explains, but because the five ghost ajummas serve as a sort of cautionary tale for Gil Dong. They’ve lost all purpose in life but to avenge their sons, and it’s an empty existence — which is why their deaths, while sad, are kind of inevitable. The leader had spoken in a tone of resignation when she told Gil Dong not to become like her, because she knew her life had already been lost; like she said, “There’s nothing to save.” Gil Dong still has too much purpose in life, too much to fight for, to lose himself to that kind of mentality, and so his actions show great restraint — and therefore, great power.
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 17
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 16
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 15
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 14
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 13
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 12
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 11
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 10
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 9
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 8
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 7
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 6
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 5
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 4
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 3
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 2
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 1