Hong Gil Dong: Episode 20
Episode 20 was so much better (in my opinion) than Episode 19. Maybe it’s because I’d heard (er, read) whisperings of the Big Event in the last episode, and that sucked out all the surprise for me. I’m the kind of person who loses interest in something if I’m involuntarily spoiled, so that might’ve contributed. Or it could be that Ep. 19, while chock-full of dramatic moments and acting, was kind of inevitable. Episode 20, on the other hand, kept me on my toes.
SONG OF THE DAY
Sprinkler – “연인이 친구가 되던 날” (The day lovers became friends). I love how the title of this song seems pleasant enough, until you realize it’s a euphemism for a breakup. The chorus plaintively goes, “Goodbye, goodbye… I’ll call you friend,” as though she knows it’s just something she’s saying to make herself feel better. [ zShare download ]
EPISODE 20 RECAP
After Gil Dong steps in front of his father and is stabbed, Enok comes out of her haze of fury, realizing what she’s done. Gil Dong tells her, “Enok… it’s okay.” But she’s horrified, and disagrees, backing away: “No, it’s not okay.”
Chang Whe arrives in time to see Enok falling into a faint. He catches her, and takes her back to Yongmun headquarters. Chisu interprets the events to mean that Gil Dong won’t be able to kill his father in the end.
Gil Dong stays behind and tends to his injured father, who’s been slashed just above the eyes. For all the excitement he’s just undergone, Minister Hong sure is calm and implacable. Man, if I were the one half-blinded by a furious enemy sworn to wreak vengeance, I’d be a lot more agitated than Hong — let’s just say, there would be lots of blasphemy and punishment of inanimate objects involved.
His father tells Gil Dong he shouldn’t have stopped him, because he’ll have to go after Enok again. Gil Dong questions his father’s allegiance to the tyrannical king, and calls his father a coward for sticking with him. As Chang Whe eavesdrops, Gil Dong clarifies his actions — this doesn’t mean he supports his father. He intends to establish a king who is for the people: “What I did today in stopping Enok’s sword was merely protect you as your son. But I will tear down your world, you who killed that kind Dummy’s father.”
Chang Whe, who’s determined to protect Enok from here on out, accompanies her to Grandpa Heo’s grave, and tells her she has another grandfather (what considerate timing!) who wants to meet her. With her world all askew, Enok needs time to get used to the idea of being Ryu Enok.
Enok: “I’m going to think it over carefully, slowly, so that I don’t let my feelings turn me into an evil spirit.”
She won’t return to Yongmun until she’s figured things out. Chang Whe tells her, “You can’t go to him now.” Enok: “I know.”
With Enok gone, Gil Dong sinks into quiet gloom.
The king becomes more determined to kill Gil Dong, and orders the bandits smoked out of hiding. Specifically, since Hwal Bin Dang’s mountain base is hidden deep in the woods (therefore dangerous and futile for the king’s guards to seek them out), he orders all the roads blocked to the entire mountain, trapping the villagers living there as well.
Kwang Whe: “If they don’t want to die of starvation or cold, tell them to catch Hong Gil Dong themselves and turn him in!”
Chang Whe advises Gil Dong to move out of the mountains and to Yongmun’s area, but Gil Dong refuses to roll over and submit to the king’s dictates. Chang Whe warns that fighting this battle might not be worth it — it’ll make things difficult for those by his side. Thinking of Enok, Gil Dong bitterly repeats:
“Make things difficult for someone next to me? Sounds like someone I know.”
As a result, the citizenry turns on Hwal Bin Dang, as they can’t survive if things continue thusly. They harass the rebels and even hold Hae Myung ransom, to be exchanged for Gil Dong himself.
Gil Dong shows up to confront them, all awash in frustration and bitterness. (Poor Gil Dong and his broken heart!) The villagers don’t want to turn on him, but they’ve been backed into a corner and have no recourse. He’s all cavalier and cynical, sporting a “Dude, it’s not like I have anything to lose anymore” attitude, and blows up at them, shouting,
Gil Dong: “Fine, catch me then! … I’ve brought you torment, have I? Well I’ve brought myself torment too! Come and get me!”
And he actually lets them beat him down, kicking him and striking him with sharp tools, not fighting back.
Hae Myung interferes and stops the villagers, but Gil Dong’s enraged and screams at the priest not to stop them. He continues to yell for the men to come and get him, until finally Hae Myung knocks him out and drags him away.
Aside from a general sense of anger over losing Enok, he’s also pissed off at the hypocrisy of the people who turned on him so easily. Normally he would see their actions through a lens of understanding, but he’s in the self-defeatist stage of heartbreak, and instead spews a bitter tirade. Hae Myung asks where his pride went, and Gil Dong retorts, “It got hit with a pickaxe and collapsed.”
Hae Myung further ticks him off by saying they turned on him because he was “small” (i.e., insignificant), clarifying:
“Because a fellow insignificant man like you mustered his strength, if you ask them to fight with you, they think they can, and do. Isn’t that so?”
Hearing reports that the villagers let Gil Dong slip out of their grasp, Kwang Whe ramps up his frenzied attempts to outwit Gil Dong (ah, there’s a losing battle if there ever was one), and orders the entire village burned down both as punishment for failure and as a threat to succeed the next time.
But Hwal Bin Dang isn’t so easily manipulated, and they retaliate by intercepting every single delivery headed into the capital city. They confiscate the goods — food, supplies — and distribute it among the villagers. Thus the people rally around their hero and swear allegiance to fight the king with him. (In the village, Su Geun looks up while handing out the goods and catches a glimpse of Enok, watching from the outskirts, but she’s gone in the next instant.)
Driven even more insane with anger, Kwang Whe ups the ante and then orders the entire mountain to be set aflame. He’s the worst kind of warrior, letting his emotions steer him into wildly reckless behavior, kind of like a gambling addict losing his sense of logic when on a losing streak.
This order causes his advisors, including In Hyung, to balk, but the king commands them to obey. And so, they troop into the forest and begin setting fires, while the king watches the building smoke with satisfaction.
Before long, however, Hwal Bin Dang appears to confront the king’s men. The king believes he’s won, and that Hwal Bin Dang have come to give themselves up. Gil Dong quickly sets him straight.
Gil Dong he has no intention of giving himself up, and neither do his fellow rebels — nor do the villagers, who appear behind the army. Everyone carries lit torches.
If the king does not immediately extinguish the fires he set and leave, THEY will set fire themselves — and trap the king with them. Gil Dong will personally ensure that the king dies with him. The king has picked a particularly vulnerable location, one that’ll quickly blaze up and offer no hope of escape. It’s up to Kwang Whe — leave, or die.
The king, unprepared for such a defiant stance, finds himself at a loss. The two men face off, with Gil Dong refusing to back down even an inch. Into this situation, Minister Hong arrives with his men, intent on stopping the king. He manages to open his eyes, blurrily making out the image of Gil Dong and Kwang Whe’s standoff. And then, his world goes black as he loses his sight entirely.
Kwang Whe assesses the situation, and even he realizes that it’s a losing battle. He gives the order. His men put out the fire.
The villagers celebrate their victory and hail Gil Dong as a hero. Some even go so far as to speculate that the “king of the people” he’s so keen on establishing might be Gil Dong himself. Wouldn’t he be a great king?
In the distance, Enok observes the revelry. Turning away, she runs into Chang Whe, who’s also arrived to witness the scene.
Chang Whe, who hasn’t seen her since the day at the grave, asks, “Were you staying here to see him?” Enok nods. Chang Whe: “Do you intend to go to him?” She shakes her head no.
Meanwhile, Su Geun mentions to Gil Dong that he’d seen Enok a few days ago, and wonders if she’s been staying in this village to watch over him. Gil Dong takes off, scouring the area for a sign of her, but he’s unable to find her.
Enok returns to Yongmun with Chang Whe, having had some time to think things over:
Enok: “Gil Dong stopped me from turning into an evil spirit when I let the rage fill me from head to toe. I’m going to live as a human again. I won’t turn into a ghost and die like those soup-ladies did. Before I live as Ryu Enok, I went to watch Gil Dong from a distance. I saw everything, so now I’m fine.”
Chang Whe explains that living as Ryu Enok will be difficult; he wants to spare her that pain.
Enok: “When I saw Gil Dong stop the king from setting that fire, I felt it once again. The feeling that I wanted to go with Gil Dong. But I can’t be with him as Heo Enok, so I’ll go with him from a distance as Ryu Enok. If I stay and travel alongside you, we’re working with Gil Dong.”
Enok agrees to meet with her grandfather, who thanks Lady Noh for restoring her to him. She doesn’t understand her purpose yet, but Lady Noh assures her that her past isn’t the important part — rather, her very existence is important.
And so, she takes her place as Ryu Enok, dressed as a noble lady, and is presented to the group of noblemen assembled by her grandfather as his long-lost granddaughter. She issues an appeal for them to join together in overthrowing the king, and to gather more support.
Gil Dong reaffirms that Chang Whe has his support as the “most realistic choice” for this country. Chang Whe (who’s been battling all episode long with his noble side and his growing uneasiness regarding Gil Dong, both on a personal level and a political one) notes sardonically that to Gil Dong, he’s a “choice” — not, say, the rightful king according to blood or birthright. But Gil Dong concedes that point, saying that even so, “You’re a pretty decent guy.”
At that point, they have an unexpected visitor: Minister Hong.
Chang Whe watches suspiciously as father and son face each other (albeit blindly on the father’s end). Gil Dong once again asserts his intention to bring down his father’s world, while Minister Hong once again rejects Gil Dong as his son, saying the world he protects now doesn’t allow him to recognize him. But the message is somewhat mixed (it seems to me): “When that world comes into being, then you can find me at my grave. But before that world arrives, don’t show yourself to me.” (Read: I’d like to recognize you as my son but I don’t believe we can have the world you want, so you cannot call me Father. But then again, perhaps that world will arrive, and then you can recognize me. But it probably won’t happen soon, so tough cookies.)
He leaves his son with one last, somewhat cryptic message, referring to Chang Whe standing beside him:
Minister Hong: “Gil Dong, protect your king through the end.”
Gil Dong: “I will. Definitely.”
Minister Hong’s last words become clear soon enough, when he prepares to make his grand sacrifice. As he dresses for court, In Hyung asks if he’s truly become blind, and he answers, “At the last, my eyes saw the truth I had to see.” The image he refers to is that of Gil Dong staring down the king in the forest in challenge.
Then, he sets the ball rolling by confessing in front of the king and all the other officials to all his crimes. He takes complete responsibility for killing Minister Ryu, for setting the palace fire that killed the queen and was believed to kill Chang Whe, for stealing the sword to hide the decree written thereupon. In so doing, he completely absolves his king — and his fellow ministers — of any wrongdoing, or any association to the wrongdoing. The officials aren’t fooled, either, and know that Minister Hong’s sacrifice was made to protect the king.
The king’s hand thus forced, he orders Hong to be executed by poison. Kwang Whe cries as he issues the order — and although the exaggerated Crazy King shtick has occasionally worn thin, he’s really good in this scene, when he’s conveying simple grief. For what it’s worth, Minister Hong was perhaps the only person who cared for him as a person and as king, the only one who remained loyal. (And vice versa. Seriously, this drama is all about daddy issues — how much less messed up would all the characters be if they’d had proper father figures? Gil Dong, In Hyung, Chang Whe, Kwang Whe…)
The king flashes back to his early days, when he was an idealistic young ruler with every intention of being a benevolent king. Hong had assured him back then that he would stick with him through the very end.
These words ring in Hong’s ears as well, and just before he drinks the poison, he says, “I’m sorry I couldn’t keep that promise to guide you through the end.” (Which explains his advice to Gil Dong — make not the mistakes of thy father!)
Minister Hong takes his punishment, and sputters in pain; his last thought is that Gil Dong must be present, watching him, and he turns toward his son despite not being able to see him.
Gil Dong is indeed watching his father, and man is Kang Ji Hwan wonderful here. No words — not even a sob — and yet his expression of grief is deep, and spot-on. It’s his eyes — the man tells stories in one intense look. In the crowd, Chang Whe watches intently… and then both men become aware of a third presence. Enok.
Now all alone, the king grieves in his empty palace. Not unlike Enok in the last episode, his mourning soon turns to anger, and he becomes more determined than ever to defeat Gil Dong.
Gil Dong and Enok step away from the crowd, Gil Dong silent and wracked with repressed tears, Enok quietly sorrowful:
Enok: “I can’t tell you I’m sorry. I can’t tell you not to cry, either. Because I’m Ryu Enok now… I can’t console you from your side, but I’ll always wonder how you’re doing. You have to stay safe.”
(Note that her last words echo Gil Dong’s from Episode 11, when he met her as the noble moonlight stranger. I always think dialogue that’s said back to its original speaker like this is doubly poignant upon its return.)
Enok steps away to leave, but Gil Dong grabs her in a silent hug. They stay like that, silently crying for a few moments — and then when Enok looks up, he’s gone.
Lady Noh, meanwhile, cautions Chang Whe about Gil Dong once again. She’s not going off on another evil plot to destroy him, but she warns him that the country isn’t one that can be ruled through popular sentiment. The underlying message is: If that happens, the people may rally behind Gil Dong instead and clamor for him to become king.
That night, Chang Whe looks in on a sleeping Enok, pained to hear her whisper Gil Dong’s name in her sleep. He asks her, “Even if he causes you pain, will you still choose him in the end?”
As though to drive the nail in deeper, Enok mumbles Gil Dong’s name again. Chang Whe feels the blow and says (and it’s so plaintive and sad), “Please… just once… look at me.”
And because Chang Whe is a glutton for punishment, he leans over and kisses Enok. He must not be her Prince Charming because she doesn’t stir from her sleep.
Back at Hwal Bin Dang, Gil Dong stares at the embroidered pouch, contemplating in silence.
And then he drops it on the fire.
Regarding the shifting dynamics and Lady Noh’s advice to Chang Whe — I think this sets up an interesting predicament for Chang Whe, and adds a great new element of tension to his relationship with Gil Dong. While both men have previously earned the respect of the other, and grown in strength together toward a common goal, now one of them has started to outgrow the other. Or if not outgrow, at least to gain more momentum. Complicating matters is the fact that the one whose mystique is growing is the one in the subordinate position — so naturally, Chang Whe must be feeling threatened, even though Gil Dong himself is not interested in challenging him for the throne. Some things take on a life of their own, and Gil Dong’s legend threatens to do just that.
And yet, Chang Whe respects Gil Dong and envies his integrity and ability to earn the love of his people. Like Hae Myung said, despite it sounding like an insult on the surface, Gil Dong is of the people, just an ordinary man of low birth. It’s the very nature of his insignificance that inspires great hope because of how much he’s accomplished despite it. (Chang Whe, on the other hand, doesn’t evoke the same sentiment because he was born into his power.)
It explains Chang Whe’s growing unease throughout this episode — there were moments that he looked particularly disturbed, shooting dire looks when he ought to have been feeling more optimistic about his future. He seems to be flirting with the idea of aligning himself fully with the nobles as well, in which case he’d part ways with Gil Dong — and it’s unclear whether Chang Whe would greet that event reluctantly or willingly.
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 19
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 18
- 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