I wonder if the production team cares at all about the rhythm of the episodes being thrown off due to last week’s postponement — today’s episode was supposed to be the big week cliffhanger, but instead we get episode 23 following immediately. No matter; in just a week it’ll all be over!
So we’ve had our big Enok episode, and one can argue that practically every episode otherwise has been a Gil Dong episode. Now we head into our (final?) arc — Chang Whe. And poor guy, he’s the one whose happy ending is least certain (I mean, we all know Gil Dong and Enok are still alive and well, per Episode 1’s look into the future; it’s Chang Whe who remains a mystery).
SONG OF THE DAY
3rd Coast – “My Soul” [ Download ]
EPISODE 22 RECAP
Enok shouts out to Gil Dong as she’s being dragged away, and he registers the familiar voice, although he doesn’t see her. He goes off searching for her, and Enok fights her captors off and manages to slip away.
She’s hiding among the oil-drenched buildings when Gil Dong finds her. She hurriedly tells him the king has figured out the rebels’ plan and has prepared some kind of counterattack. Gil Dong takes in the oil dripping from the walls and realizes the crazy king is intending to burn the palace down. He and Enok split up — he to intercept the king, and she to warn the rebels not to ignite the explosives they’re preparing to use.
The rest of Hwal Bin Dang, unaware of the development, are carrying on with their plan. The king slips away from the revelry to escape the palace, as do his loyalists. Outside, In Hyung waits for Kwang Whe to emerge safely so he can give the order to set the palace on fire.
Gil Dong races to prevent the king from leaving, but finds Kwang Whe already on his way out; he intercepts him just as he’s in sight of the palace gate. The two glare at each other in a standoff that must last so long the scene goes from bright daytime right into nightfall. (Seriously, one moment: bright sunshine. Next moment: completely dark.)
Gil Dong tells the king it’s all over:
Gil Dong: “Go ahead and flee outside your palace. That world is no longer yours.”
Infuriated, Kwang Whe shouts the order to set the fire and kill Gil Dong…
…but it’s too late, because the rebels have arrived. Chang Whe leads his soldiers, the peasants join in, and Grandfather Ryu’s noblemen supporters gather. They all converge on the king and surround him.
The king’s soldiers and ministers are also captured and taken under arrest.
Finally, Chang Whe makes his appearance and walks to the now-empty throne; Hwal Bin Dang watches with satisfaction. Standing in the king’s place, Grandfather Ryu reads the inscription on the sword, then hands it to Chang Whe. At that, everyone present kneels before him, calling him “Highness.”
All but Gil Dong, who good-naturedly promises Chang Whe later, when they’re alone, to kneel his allegiance when Chang Whe has proven himself a wise and good king. Chang Whe vehemently swears he will do just that.
Unlike Lady Noh, who doesn’t want to discuss Enok’s cooperation in today’s coup, Chang Whe is thankful and proud of Enok’s actions. She tells him she’d forgotten how good it felt to be useful:
Enok: “When I fight with Gil Dong, I can even catch tigers with my luck and ability. I’d forgotten that. Now, no matter what happens, I won’t forget.”
Chang Whe: “Do you think being with me would make you forget that? If I keep you with me, I’d thought I’d have good luck and become a great person, but does that only make you forget?”
Enok: “To be truthful, when I do these things that don’t suit dumb me, I become scared that I’ll become an unlucky and useless person.”
Almost immediately, Chang Whe encounters a bit of friction with his new supporters. Chang Whe is determined to create a new world of meritocracy, an idea that clashes with the old guard, which is led by Ryu. (While Chang Whe really does believe in the ideals of the coup, many of the noblemen who supported the cause are more interested in the politics, ousting the crazy king and installing a new one who grants them power.)
Chang Whe tells Ryu that he’ll only be bringing in people who are competent for the positions. Ryu isn’t pleased.
To that end, Chang Whe once again asks if Gil Dong really isn’t interested in a government position (he wants to give Gil Dong his father’s position). After all, Gil Dong being given a government post would be proof that the world has truly changed. Gil Dong answers: “The world doesn’t only change once. No matter how it changes, at the bottom there will always be weak and wronged people.” Gil Dong will continue fighting alongside them.
Chang Whe also guesses that Gil Dong won’t be around to see his coronation — Gil Dong explains that his presence might create tension with Chang Whe’s new followers, although both know that’s an excuse; the real reason is because Enok will be at Chang Whe’s side as his chosen queen.
Chang Whe asks if Gil Dong has any more advice or favors to ask him. Gil Dong does have one request — spare his brother. Chang Whe agrees that since In Hyung isn’t so dangerous that he must be executed, he’ll just have him exiled. He asks if Gil Dong’s going to ask about someone else, meaning Enok, but Gil Dong answers:
“That person isn’t someone for whom I can ask a favor from you. As the most respectable, strongest person to me, I will trust that [she] will always be safe.”
In the aftermath of all their victory, Su Geun and Mal Nyeo finally consummate their flirtation (he’d suggested it just before the palace fight erupted; she’d replied that she would think about it; now he’s anxious to find out if she meant it or not). Amusingly, the Casanova-esque Su Geun is reduced to a nervous babbling idiot, and it’s Mal Nyeo who takes the initiative. And in the morning, everyone knows and teases Half Geun about it.
Gom suggests that Gil Dong take Enok away to China and live with her happily, which the others agree is a fine idea. Perhaps after they’ve had three kids, they can come back to Korea. Gil Dong warms to the idea, seriously considers it for a split second, but ultimately rejects it as impossible.
Ryu seems to be intent on stirring up trouble, irritated at Chang Whe’s newfound sense of egalitarianism. Chang Whe wants his coronation open to the public, because he is the people’s king now, despite protests from his high-born ministers. Ryu warns Chang Whe that if he opens the palace to all his subjects, they will come to see Hong Gil Dong, not him — they will see Chang Whe as a mere “puppet” they’ve installed on the throne. Ryu’s insolence at daring such words angers Chang Whe — perhaps he feels the pinch of truth in them.
In Hyung is surprised to get a visit from Eun Hye while he’s in the palace jail. She has heard that he rushed to save her father, and he tells her it was for her. With tears in her eyes, Eun Hye thanks In Hyung and apologizes — he foolishly did all that for her even though his affections went unreturned.
Perhaps her empathy for In Hyung’s unrequited love is reinforced by the fact that she’s felt the same rejection — she then goes to confirm, once and for all, her status with Gil Dong. She holds out her hand and asks him one last time to take hold of her. She’s never been unsuccessful in getting what she wants; before she does something stupid in response to rejection, she wants him to hold onto her.
Gil Dong asks, “Remember what I said when we first met? That I felt sorry for you?” (The sentiment is more specifically like a “Sorry, sucks to be you” feeling.) He doesn’t take her hand, and says as he leaves, “I feel worse for you now.” As we might have predicted, Eun Hye does not take rejection well. At all. In fact, she swings from one extreme to another, going from “I love you!” to “If I can’t have him, no one can!” She tells her father grimly to ensure that Gil Dong is killed. (You know what they say about women spurned…)
Her father, meanwhile, is doing his best to regain his foothold in the political landscape, groping for purchase in tricky territory. Chang Whe’s already caught on to his quickly changing loyalties (as in, he knows Seo isn’t loyal to anyone but himself) and Seo goes supplicating to Kwang Whe, who’s now imprisoned in the palace.
Kwang Whe tells Minister Seo of his trump card, which he’s been keeping on the downlow for the right moment. The card? His blacksmith witness who made the forged Sa Yin sword.
Kwang Whe requests a meeting with Chang Whe to drop the bomb, and tells his dear little brother the truth. With a mixture of amusement and pathos, Kwang Whe explains that they’d both placed too much weight on the belief that their father had engraved his decree on the sword.
Kwang Whe: “I’ve come to talk about your mother, who would do everything to secure the crown for her son. The biggest cause of your mother’s death is that sword — the fake that the Queen had made.”
Chang Whe: “What are you saying?”
Kwang Whe: “The real sword that Father had made had no orders written on it. Everything was fixed — and based on the queen’s lies, I’ve ruined myself like this, and you lived your entire life believing Father had designated you for the throne. The one who spent his life believing in a false promise of power wasn’t me — it was you.”
Chang Whe: “Do you think I’d believe that?!”
Kwang Whe: “Who was the first to tell you of the decree? It wasn’t Father, was it? I bet it was after he’d died. After that fake was made!”
Chang Whe flashes back to his youth, thinking of incidents that confirm Kwang Whe’s claim — how he was presented with the sword after his father died, how his power-crazed mother was insistent, even in her last moments, that he remember his “legitimate” claim to the throne.
Kwang Whe laughs to see Chang Whe’s devastated reaction:
Chang Whe: “No! There’s no way my mother would do that!”
Kwang Whe: “She was a queen who would do anything to make her son king.”
Chang Whe: “For… me?”
Kwang Whe: “Chang Whe, you were just a plaything in a fight for power. The queen who made the false decree insisted that it was the king’s order. To do that, she would have had to have done away with Father. For your sake, the queen killed Father.”
Chang Whe: “My mother… for me… Father…”
Kwang Whe: “She killed him!”
Chang Whe goes to Ryu with the false sword to confirm the story, and sees the real sword. Ryu reminds Chang Whe that this was all done for him, and that his mother and Ryu himself both risked their lives on his behalf.
Chang Whe’s reaction is blank shock — his world has just come crashing down around him.
Not realizing that Chang Whe already knows the truth, Gil Dong and Lady Noh discuss what’s to be done with the swords. Do they destroy them? Hide them? Whatever happens, they must keep it from Chang Whe, whose confidence in assuming the throne would surely be rocked if he found out the truth. Well, they’re right about that. Gil Dong believes in this course of action because “He is the king we chose. I will protect him.”
On his way out, he runs into Enok again. She tells him she’s going to try hard at her new life, “Because I have to stay here. Because I’m Ryu Enok.”
Enok: “But if… if I try to hold back and it doesn’t work… then, can I go to you?”
Gil Dong: “No. Keep holding back.”
Gil Dong: “If you come to me, I won’t be able to send you back. So until you feel like you’ll die from holding back, you can’t come to me. If you can stand it, like now… As long as you can stand it, you can’t do that.”
Bereft of energy, Chang Whe staggers back to Yongmun, just in time to witness Enok and Gil Dong talking to each other. He watches for a moment, then just turns around and bleakly walks away.
Gil Dong walks away from Enok, thinking to himself, “I can stand it.”
Enok stays behind, thinking to herself, “I can stand it. So now is not the time.”
Of course, it’ll never be the right time for Eun Hye, who furiously tries to think of the best way to get Gil Dong killed. Man, she ain’t kidding around.
“I have to think carefully. I have to figure out the best way to get the prince to kill Gil Dong. If he finishes it for me, I’ll feel better, won’t I?”
Oh, Eun Hye. And you had such potential.
In a trademark bit of the Hong Sisters’ Hit-You-Over-the-Head-With-the-Obvious Scene Juxtaposition, Gil Dong gives a rousing speech to his followers imparting optimism and hope for their newly appointed leader, while Chang Whe looks into the doom and gloom with pessimism.
Gil Dong: “With our newly chosen king, we’re no longer rebels! … We’re in this together with the king!”
Chang Whe envisions his brother sitting next to him, laughing maniacally and telling him (and beckoning him to madness??), “Brother. I welcome you to this place.” At the same time:
Gil Dong: “I welcome you all to our new world!”
Meanwhile, now it’s Chang Whe’s turn to be alone on his lofty throne:
Chang Whe: “Is this my end?”
Gil Dong: “This isn’t the end. This is the beginning. The king we made will start it all.”
Two things: First, I think the writers misused Eun Hye’s character horribly. It’s like they forgot all about her for the middle stretch, then brought her back and crammed her full of jealousy and craziness. What happened to mature Eun Hye? I actually wished they’d given her this new Fatal Attraction-esque descent into jealous frenzy much earlier, and then ended with some kind of earning of bittersweet maturity. But right now she feels kind of schizo — one moment she’s showing In Hyung a quiet, honest side of gratitude and compassion, and the next she’s spewing murderous intent.
Secondly: Wow, sucks to be Chang Whe, eh? Although it looks like his character is headed for some dire times, in terms of the plot, I really welcome this turn. About time something SERIOUS happened to threaten our main characters.
Two more episodes!
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 21
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 20
- 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