Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 15
This was an episode with a lot of maneuvering for future conflicts. That means that there are a lot of things going on, and we see lots of hints at what’s to come — but as an individual episode, it wasn’t as fun as I’ve come to expect of Chil Woo. It was necessary, yes, but not as goofy.
I enjoy the more complex conflicts that we’re starting to unravel, but I hope the happy-go-lucky fun spirit also returns, because I found myself missing the sight of Eric’s long, flowy glam-rock hair and silly mask and horseback antics.
SONG OF THE DAY
Seo Taiji – “T’ikT’ak.” I’ve mentioned Seo Taiji before; this track comes from his most recent single album. The title track is the song “Moai,” but I prefer this one — it’s more intricately layered and I find it more interesting than the other songs on the single, which strike me as a bit sanguine for what I expect from Seo Taiji. [ Download ]
EPISODE 15 RECAP
At the abandoned settlement, called Muryundang, Chil Woo runs into the blind man, whose sharp reflexes have not waned in the years; he strikes out at Chil Woo, who evades the attack. The man draws his sword, but by this time Chil Woo has recognized his former teacher.
Their reunion is somewhat tense, as Chil Woo kneels in respect and bears the brunt of the man’s disappointment in his actions years ago — Heuk San’s father (name: Jin Mu Yang) couldn’t believe he would throw everything away for a girl. Chil Woo had trained for so long to avenge his father’s death, to carry on his father’s last wishes, only to abandon them in one day. He asks, “What did you gain, then? Did you win that woman?” Chil Woo answers honestly, “No. She betrayed me and left.”
Chil Woo also asks for permission to let So Yoon stay here until a safer place is found.
In another part of Muryundang, Heuk San is startled to see signs of life — a dying fire, foodstuffs — in front of the house he’d lived in as a youngster. Seized by curiosity (and a niggling suspicion), Heuk San enters the hut and looks around, his suspicions further supported when he sees a tablet (akin to a headstone or death placard, I believe) bearing his own name. He realizes this is where his father has been living, and has believed all these years that he was dead.
As he leaves his former home, Heuk San runs into his adopted father (who’s starting to feel suspicious about Heuk San’s interest in his bio-dad). Heuk San may not understand what’s going on, but he’s sharp enough to keep his recent discoveries to himself; he explains his presence here in Muryundang as a coincidence resulting because of his injury, nothing more.
Heuk San also covers up So Yoon’s involvement, saying that he was alone all this while and had tended to his own wounds. She’d escaped while he was unconscious, after which he’d gone on to Muryundang.
On their way out of Muryundang, Prime Minister Kim answers Heuk San’s previously asked question about his bio-dad, explaining that he died soon after betraying Chil Woo’s father, and that the truth had been held back because Heuk San was so young. But Heuk San now understands that this is a lie, and this puts him further on his guard.
While Heuk San and Prime Minister Kim travel from Muryundang back home, Min’s party (including Jaja and the two noblemen who’d formerly served Prince So Hyun) is taking the opposite path, heading toward Muryundang. Both parties take rest at an inn between the two destinations, and although they don’t come face to face, Min catches a glimpse of Kim in his room.
Min’s alarmed reaction to seeing Kim indicates this is a big deal, although it’s not clear (to me) why. He tells his group to hurry and get out of there quickly, but in doing so catches the attention of one of Kim’s men.
Chil Woo’s mother and grandma have no idea where Chil Woo has disappeared, believing that he’s run off with So Yoon. The others feign ignorance while Chil Woo’s dad tries to convince them that Chil Woo isn’t in trouble and will be back in ten days.
However, one of the police officers senses something odd, and because he’s not aware of the full story, he takes Chil Woo’s dad aside to ask him questions. He mentions the historical document that Chil Woo had shown him and wonders if his disappearance has to do with that.
Yeon Doo, ever the curious bystander, eavesdrops on their conversation and connects the dots, remembering how she’d come upon Chil Woo when he was burying something in the ground.
She then goes to the site and finds a box buried there containing the document.
While Heuk San is recovering from his injuries, PM Kim’s man reports having seen Min on the premises, in the company of some odd people. It’s unusual enough that Kim instructs his man to head to Muryundang, in case the group is headed there.
Which they are.
Chil Woo is surprised to see Min and Jaja there with two strangers, since he hadn’t told them of Muryundang. The others are likewise surprised to see Chil Woo, since he hadn’t told them where he was taking So Yoon. And capping off the coincidence is the fact that the two noblemen, named Choi Won Shik and Jo Sung Doo, led them there and are already acquainted with Heuk San’s father.
So Yoon takes the two noblemen to see Chul Seok, but tells them that he doesn’t know his royal identity yet.
Chil Woo talks things over with Jaja and Min and comes to the realization that their assassin nemesis is the prime minister’s son. That suggests that the government is involved, including the king himself. Min and Chil Woo explain the state of things to a confused (but infuriated) Jaja, which leads to more disagreement on how they see the situation.
Min’s solution is that they must make sure to establish an upright and moral man as king, and vows, “I will oust the king.” But Chil Woo doesn’t see things in such simplistic terms, asking, “Are you only going to change the king?” Min insists that he will observe the last wishes of Prince So Hyun — for Joseon to be changed — but Chil Woo counters that he is also determined to observe the prince’s (other) last wish — for his son to be protected.
Again, Min takes the black-and-white, idealistic view (to change society). In contrast, Chil Woo’s is less grand in scope but more personal (to save a person’s life).
Back at PM Kim’s household, now father and son are at odds. Both are mistrustful of the other, but both remain quiet and bide their time to see what the other does. To this end, Heuk San questions his men to determine where their loyalties lie — with him, or his father. He’s satisfied that they will ultimately be loyal to him, and gives them his instructions.
The men are then ordered by the prime minister to keep a close eye on Heuk San and to report everything he does — and to keep the surveillance a secret. The guards agree, but as their loyalties are now Heuk San’s, they report this to him. (Such double-agenting!) Heuk San tells the men to go along with his father’s orders for the time being.
PM Kim also finds out that So Yoon is staying at Muryundang.
More suspicions arise when one of the government ministers encounters Heuk San looking through the records of the police department. Although Heuk San acts casual, the minister reports the occurrence to the prime minister. The records he had been looking through are mighty odd — accounts of the Muryundang massacre.
Dissent reigns at Muryundang, as Min wants to depose the king and Chil Woo is opposed. Min reminds him of all the people he’s helped so far as an assassin — isn’t he someone who believes in helping the wronged? Chil Woo answers that he did so purely for selfish reasons, because he couldn’t just watch — if he stood by idly, he felt as though he’d kill himself: “That was all done for my survival.” He disavows any noble motivation, and this actually reminds me of how he was in the beginning of the series, pragmatic in contrast to Woo Young’s idealism.
If Min is looking for support in So Yoon, she doesn’t give it to him, either. So Yoon tells him that her actions in saving Chul Seok were merely her keeping her promise and doing what she could do. However, she’s never thought to do anything beyond that (meaning that she doesn’t want to become embroiled in royal coups and conspiracies). Min reminds her that she’s no longer alone, which gives her pause, but she remains unconvinced of his argument.
The prime minister wastes no time pulling his puppetmaster strings and getting Heuk San a government position — the better to keep an eye on him with? — in Chil Woo’s very own police unit. Kim is clever enough to strike pre-emptively, tying his son’s hands effectively before Heuk San is able to find out more information or mobilize into action.
But Heuk San is clever enough to play along without complaint; he may not understand his father’s plans, but he stays on his guard without resisting, avoiding drawing suspicion to himself.
Prime Minister Kim and the other minister confer amongst themselves and decide they have to take care of Muryundang before more of its old secrets are discovered. Chil Woo’s father, listening in via the trusty (literal) hole in the wall, realizes this spells danger for the rest of his associates currently staying there.
Although he’s unaware of this development, Chil Woo senses impending danger and tells So Yoon she must leave Muryundang tonight. She’s not exactly resistant, but confused and unconvinced that this is the smartest move. But he tells her, with some bitterness in his voice, that this is where he lost his parents — he doesn’t want to experience history repeating itself here. She agrees to go.
But Chil Woo’s intention to slip away unnoticed is thwarted by Min and the two noblemen. They tell him that if he must go, he can go on alone, but not with So Yoon or Chul Seok.
All the while, the king’s men make their way for a surprise visit to Muryundang. Heuk San is among the group, but is kept unapprised of their location, most likely on his father’s orders to keep him in the dark.
The discussion heats up between Min and Chil Woo as Min tries to sway Chil Woo to his point of view. Min is adamant in his belief that deposing the king will change everything for the better, but cynical Chil Woo remarks that this is what the current king probably thought too: “Do you think that if Chul Seok is made king, the world will change?” Min is stubbornly convinced: “It will change!”
Chil Woo counters: “Can you rid the world of the nobility and the poor classes? Can you stop women from being sent to China as tribute brides? If you do this, what the hell do you think is going to change?” Sneering, he indicates the two noblemen, “What, you’ll change the men who hold power at court to include these two?” (Suggesting that the men are power-hungry and their addition to court would change nothing.)
Chil Woo draws a comparison between the dead prince’s twofold dying charge — to change the world and protect his son — and the dying wishes of his own father, who’d also told Chil Woo to change the world and protect his sister. He challenges Min, “Can you do both?” Chil Woo obviously doesn’t believe it’s possible, and tells them to stay out his business. He instructs So Yoon and Chul Seok that it’s time to go.
Chil Woo’s departure is halted by the blind man, who speaks up and tells him not to leave. He starts revealing truths, telling Chil Woo that his father’s enemy is Prime Minister Kim, that he’s the man behind everything: “The man who stuck a sword in your father…”
But Chil Woo doesn’t want to hear it. It’s quite possible he already knows what is about to be said, but he tells the man to shut up — if he says another word, he’ll kill him.
But the man continues talking, saying, “The one who stabbed your father… The traitor of Muryundang was…”
Barely controlling his fury, Chil Woo yells, “Stop!” He draws his sword and raises it to the man’s throat…
We all know that Heuk San’s father is the traitor, but it wasn’t clear to me until this last scene that Chil Woo was ever aware. (At least, that’s my suspicion. If he’s not aware, I’m mighty curious to know what would otherwise get him so worked up.)
But while Heuk San’s father was the one who physically murdered Chil Woo’s father, it’s becoming apparent that he wasn’t operating on pure selfish ambition, but was probably acting on the orders of Prime Minister Kim. Murder is still murder, so it’s not to say that he’s innocent of betrayal or treason, but does would his crime be mitigated if he had a bigger reason for doing so? Does intent count, and would his crime — against the law and against Chil Woo — be graver had he done so for personal gain rather than as someone carrying out a superior’s orders? Is he sorry? Why has he trained Chil Woo to avenge his father’s murder — unless perhaps he wants to turn on Prime Minister Kim…? So many questions, so many possibilities.
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 14
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 13
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 12
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 11
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 10
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 9
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 8
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 7
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 6
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 5
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 4
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 3
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episodes 1 & 2