Joseon X-Files: Episode 8
Finally, we get a deeper look into the mysterious motives of Yoon-yi — or at least one of them. And tied into that is a nice way of expressing the romantic angle through the plot without actually focusing heavily on romance.
Episode 7 and 8 are really two halves of a whole story (with story seeds being planted even before), so a lot of things are explained here that were left mysteriously vague in the previous episode. It’s impressive that even with that being the case, Episode 7 could stand on its own. (Granted, it left some head-scratchers, but those left me intrigued for future clarification, rather than frustrated.)
I suppose if I’d watched Episode 8 before recapping Episode 7, a few more things would have made sense. But on the other hand, where’s the fun in recapping one episode if I already know what happens next, right?
SONG OF THE DAY
No Reply – “No Dreamer” [ Download ]
EPISODE 8: “Immortal Prophet”
The episode opens in the thick of action: A butcher sharpens his blade. A man lies in a dark pit. Jang runs hard and bursts into Yoon-yi’s bookshop to declare, “Investigator Kim has disappeared!”
The Shinmuhwe team gathers to report the findings of their search to Ji Seung. Unfortunately, there are none (findings, that is), and Hyung-do has not been seen for two days. Without any trace of him found, Ji Seung orders the search to end — shocking both Jang and Yoon-yi, who protest.
Ji Seung takes a cool-headed approach, because their organization has other cases to work on and cannot expend all that time looking for a man who may never be found.
And where is Hyung-do?
Here’s where we get a hint of the intertwining nature of this episode and the one previous to it: He lies in the bottom of a well, as he did at the end of Episode 7. As we saw, he was eventually rescued, so the question of Episode 8 isn’t whether he will be saved, but what significance this all has in the bigger picture.
Hearing that “another one” was found near the butcher’s neighborhood of Banchon, Jang and Yoon-yi race over, only to find with disappointment that it’s not Hyung-do.
The current case feeds into the one in Episode 7: people are being found in dull, lifeless states (presumably after making a return trip from New Land). However, there’s one big complication: They’re dying.
The victims have been poisoned, and slowly deteriorate over the course of days. At each discovery site, a straw doll has been found, which Yoon-yi surmises means that the victims are being chosen by the perpetrator. No random crime this.
Assuming that Hyung-do is in a similar state means he is dying. The apothecary may be able to find an antidote if they find what the poison was — but they’ll have to move fast. Hyung-do must be found within three days.
Yoon-yi feels that ticking clock keenly, but Ji Seung doesn’t want to focus their efforts on Hyung-do; he argues that focusing on the larger search (for all the disappeared people) will lead them to him anyway.
Yoon-yi presses, but he counters that this case isn’t a simple matter of disappearance. They suspect there’s a traitor in their midst, but the problem is that they can’t know for sure. While they don’t know who their enemy is, their enemy knows them. And so, their priority is to locate that rat.
But Yoon-yi has her own set of priorities, and tells Ji Seung firmly, “I don’t think I can help you this time.” She will continue looking for Hyung-do on her own, and withdraws herself from the larger case.
Ji Seung understands her motivation and notes, “You’ve changed a little.” He’d been watching her for a long time, but this is the first time he’s seeing her like this. Seeing that she’s serious, he concedes. He acknowledges that she was vital in creating Shinmuhwe, so although they will be overextending themselves, for her sake he will continue both searches.
The next day, Ji Seung leads Yoon-yi up the mountainside to a remote location, arriving at a fortified stone tower at the top of the peak. Guards patrol the top, where they enter, and they head down into the tower’s depths.
They take a long, steep stone staircase that rivals something out of Hogwarts (minus the moving, of course) until they reach the dark cavern at the bottom. It’s… creepy.
Ji Seung explains that this structure houses one prisoner — a man so old and mysterious that he has no name or age. All he can tell her is that he has been kept in this prison for over 150 years.
Yoon-yi reacts with disapproval to hear that a guiltless person has been imprisoned for so long, but he is too valuable to be let loose. Supposedly, the man can see the future through the laws of nature.
Ji Seung cannot say whether the prophet will even help, but he has brought Yoon-yi because it’s worth a try.
He stays back while she steps forward into the dungeon and approaches the cell cautiously. Unsure what to expect, she calls out hesitantly, and catches a glimpse of the old prophet in the shadows — a wrinkled, white-haired, hunched old man. She explains the situation, saying that a man’s life hangs in the balance, and asks for his help finding him. She asks the man to name what he wants — she’ll try to oblige him.
The old man rambles on about the inevitability of death, chuckling and speaking in his vulgar way. But when Yoon-yi says that she heard he can see the future, the prophet suddenly straightens and gets snippy, guessing that she was sent by Ji Seung.
He steps forward toward her, his scraggly appearance emerging from the shadows by degrees — and when his full image is revealed, Yoon-yi steps back in alarm. He’s even more frightful than she’d expected, and one eye is sealed over with white, as with cataracts. The prophet, meanwhile, laughs at the irony of asking a blind man to see the future.
The scene is all rather Silence of the Lambs-esque as he rambles on about how one dog has lost his mind at a gibang, leaving a puppy on its own. He cackles salaciously and says that she smells like a female dog who’s looking for a male dog.
His crazy-creepy vibe unnerves Yoon-yi, who tells him nervously to stop joking. He agrees, and says that since he can’t see, he’ll have to confirm through touch. He reaches out a gnarled, filthy hand toward her.
At her hesitation, he insinuates that she must not be serious about her goal, so reluctantly she steps forward and holds the straw doll out to him.
But instead, he grabs her arm and drags her toward himself, clutching her in a close lock through the prison bars. Reminding her that she told him to name what he wants, he fumbles to pull her shirt open, saying it’s been a long while since he’s seen a woman’s body.
Frightened, Yoon-yi stabs him with a dart and staggers away as he calls her a bitch in heat. This is enough to scare her off entirely, and she runs out of the tower, panting hard in fear and horror.
Meanwhile, Jang canvasses the Banchon neighborhood, asking the locals if they’ve seen Hyung-do. The butcher he’s talking to notices a young boy sneaking a piece of raw meat from his store, and immediately goes after the thief. With no regard for the boy’s youth (I’d say he’s about 5), the butcher grabs his cleaver and readies to chop the boy’s hand off to teach him a lesson.
Shocked, Jang interferes and begs him to have mercy. He hurriedly throws him a coin to cover the cost of the meat, then carries the boy off.
Jang buys him some food and continues with his questioning, but when he starts to head off, the boy grabs Jang’s arm. With a plaintive look, he holds him back, as though asking him not to leave him all alone.
Yoon-yi walks back through the village, her mind filled with memories of Hyung-do, mostly those softer, friendly moments of bonding. Because she bailed on the prophet and couldn’t cooperate with his creepy demands, she’s given up on that line of aid, which weighs heavily.
Arriving at the bookshop, she sees that someone is inside and rushes inside with hope — only to deflate to find Jang there, working. He marks red dots on a map that indicate where the disappeared victims were found, but alas, he can’t find any pattern or clue within it.
To her irritation, she finds that there’s a guest sleeping in the back room — the boy, whom Jang couldn’t bring himself to abandon. He knows that he shouldn’t have just taken the child, but what else was he supposed to do? The boy hadn’t eaten in three days and was wandering alone.
Yoon-yi tells him to leave the boy with the police, but Jang scoffs that police will just treat him like a dog. When people are disappearing all over Hanyang, what will they care that one little puppy disappeared from Banchon?
That wording rings a bell — the prophet had talked about a lost dog, which she had dismissed as gibberish at the time. Upon turning their attention to the boy, they find that he IS connected to the case.
A flashback takes us back to the night that Hyung-do was abducted. A nobleman had tossed money at a butcher, the boy’s father. An unconscious Hyung-do was dragged off in the butcher’s cart, and the boy had seen it all.
Yoon-yi connects the dots to realize that something is happening in Banchon. (Although Hyung-do had made that connection in the previous episode, his teammates hadn’t been aware of it, because he hadn’t been able to tell them of it before he was taken.)
Yet even with this breakthrough, they are at an impasse. The boy didn’t get a good enough look at the nobleman to recognize him, and if these bodies have been transported out of the city, how will they be able to track them down?
Back to the prophet it is. Yoon-yi steels herself and returns to the dungeon, where it turns out he’s been expecting here. (Well, he IS a prophet…)
Yoon-yi admits that she couldn’t believe his words the last time, but asks for help again. The old man has no reason to oblige, so he sets a condition: She must answer his question honestly and tell him of the future she desires if Hyung-do returns alive.
Uncomfortable with the implications of that question (which is the entire point of him asking it), Yoon-yi deflects that they’re not in “that kind of relationship,” nor can they be. But that’s no answer, and the prophet refuses to continue unless she gives a proper response.
Yoon-yi just has one urgent question: Is he still alive?
To which the old man holds up a fist, which contains a bug — does she think it’s dead or alive? She answers, “It’s alive.”
The prophet mocks her for being dumber than he gave her credit for — there’s no bug in there at all. Then he gives her more clues, disguised in his vague language, telling of a place where the moon shines alone in a particular neighborhood. He gives her a last warning, that in following the moon, she will see blood. She might even die — so will she go anyway?
She will indeed. Once in the neighborhood, she finds that the “lone moon” is a round lantern hanging high. Following it brings her to a gate, marked with a sign prohibiting entry.
Pushing onward, Yoon-yi makes her way into the empty house, and finally finds what she’s looking for. A straw mat, the kind used to cover dead bodies, is draped over a lump. She braces herself, then lifts the mat to find a dead body.
The police are brought in to handle the case, and the dead man turns out to be the little boy’s father — the butcher paid to transport Hyung-do. Jang comforts the crying son while the body is carried away, and in the process a scroll falls from him.
Yoon-yi picks it up, and we see that it’s the painting that looks like her, which had been hanging in the artist’s studio in Banchon. I’m not sure she picks up on the resemblance, because she is busy looking for clues in the drawing, and dates the work back to the Silla era.
(That could be anywhere from 700 to 1,600 years prior to this current era, Joseon. Furthermore, I wonder if — or how, more likely — this relates to some of our earlier episodes, because we can recall that the cursed gold was also from the Silla period. And we all know by know that things do not happen by coincidence in this drama.)
Furthermore, the stamp on the scroll is familiar. She can’t quite place where it’s from, but more importantly, there’s one more clue to be gleaned from this scroll: The dead butcher likely took it from Hyung-do. And where would Hyung-do have gotten it? She works to connect the clues: the scroll, Hyung-do, glue… and artists who use glue to make paint.
Jang and Yoon-yi race to the Banchon artist’s studio, where they find an overturned teacup. Sniffing the residue, she holds onto the cup for evidence, then finds a staircase leading to a basement. There she finds another straw doll, which has not only been dressed to resemble its next victim, but bears a nametag (just making sure the Fates don’t get it wrong, I presume?): Jang Man.
Perhaps to avoid freaking him out, she doesn’t tell Jang about it when he joins her downstairs. But she doesn’t get much of a chance anyway, because suddenly his eyes widen at something directly behind her — he shouts a warning (and nearly gives me a heart attack) as the camera reveals a man standing menacingly behind her.
The man strikes out with a sword, slashing Yoon-yi’s shoulder and knocking her to the ground. Jang chases him outside into the rain and grapples with him — and recognizes his opponent’s face. He flashes back to the last time he’d seen him, in Episode 6 at the haunted house. He was the contact who briefed them on the ghost case, a subordinate for the home’s owner, Lord Lee.
The man stabs Jang in the gut with his dagger, then races off.
Ji Seung talks over the case with Yoon-yi, concerned over the direction this is heading. He would rather give up on Hyung-do than to risk losing Yoon-yi, but she tells him not to worry.
Jang has been badly injured in the stabbing, while Yoon-yi’s shoulder is fine. (Significantly, her shoulder injury gives us a clue into the timeline of Episode 7’s trip to New Land.)
Yoon-yi gives the apothecary the teacup, from which he extracts the mixture used to drug the victims. It’s a plant mixture containing enough narcotic to knock out the drinker, after which the abductor could continue administering doses to the incapacitated victims. That explains why they have been so lifeless upon discovery, and now that they know what the poison is, the apothecary can set out making an antidote.
But time is running out and they only have a day left in which to find Hyung-do, so Yoon-yi heads to the prison again to make one last plea for help. Now she’s desperate enough to cooperate with the prophet’s demands, and answers his question about the future she wants regarding Hyung-do: “I want him to come back safe. He’s very important to me.”
He chuckles, enjoying her honesty, then instructs her to prove her determination. By which he means that other demand. Yoon-yi understands; she unties her top, steps out of her skirts, and finally faces the prophet with her nakedness.
That satisfies him, and he declares that he is ready to “open his eyes.” This is both a literal and figurative declaration: He removes his eyepatch to reveal not merely one eye’s oddity, but both:
The second eye contains two irises, perhaps explaining his gift for the “second sight.” We expect him to leer at her lustfully now that she has disrobed per his orders, but instead, he gasps out, “Where— when did you—?” and clutches his head.
He starts to laugh over the perverseness of their fates, but when he looks up at Yoon-yi, his eyes change. Now they are normal, and with that transformation comes an attitude shift as well. No longer the leering eccentric, he speaks in the tone of a sage old man who instructs Yoon-yi to put her clothes back on, and that he will give her the future she desires.
The prophet advises her: “That is why your role is important. The road to come is a future that is decided through you.”
She asks what she must do, and he tosses something out at her — it’s a white insect, just like the kind that crawled out of Hyung-do’s tea in the previous episode. The prophet tells her the answer was already in her hand: “You just couldn’t recognize it.”
To illustrate, now the camera pulls back and reveals something that Yoon-yi had overlooked before:
The old wooden floorboards are marked with an insignia — a familiar pattern that she recognizes from the haunted house, since it was on the talisman they’d found there. It was also painted on that house’s wall, initially obscured by the painting of the many-armed god.
And, last of all, the secret of Jang’s map finally makes itself known.
With this last crucial clue, Team X-Files is able to narrow down Hyung-do’s whereabouts, and races to the well in the forest.
Hyung-do looks up from the pit where he lies in a dull, tired daze, barely registering the well covering being slid open (or maybe he can’t distinguish it from hallucination).
Note that the image produced by the uncovering mimics the appearance of a lunar eclipse, which must be significant; the eclipse is the event that forced the haunted house’s magnetic disturbance to die down in Episode 6.
Seeing Yoon-yi in the opening above him, Hyung-do murmurs, as he did to New Land Yoon-yi, “So it was you who called me.”
Ji Seung presents the dagger used to stab Jang to Lord Lee, owner of the haunted house, as the weapon has been traced back to him.
Lord Lee laughs it off, but Ji Seung says grimly, “You did something you should not have done.” He warns that Lee will be held responsible for his actions, and leaves.
His parting words rile Lord Lee’s temper (“What can we accomplish if we are afraid of rats?”), and the nobleman comes after Ji Seung with his sword. Only, he stops in his tracks as soon as he makes it outside, because he spies a fearful sight, left as warning: A man hangs from his house, dead. It’s his “rat,” the man who stabbed Jang.
And, finally: Yoon-yi sits in the infirmary, at the bedside of both Jang and Hyung-do, thinking of the prophet’s words of her role’s importance and how she will find Hyung-do in her future… perhaps contemplating what action that requires.
Which takes us back to Episode 7… (More on that below.)
I love how the stories are starting to come together, and how little details that were dropped earlier are being called back in a larger sense. Take the moon motif — whether in eclipse or as a full moon, we’ve seen it in several forms so far. In this episode, as I mentioned above, we had the eclipse imagery play into Hyung-do’s rescue, which isn’t even something I can take credit for noticing since the drama intercuts the image right into the scene.
The moon (in the form of the round white lantern) is also the symbol that leads Yoon-yi to the discovery of the dead body, per the prophet’s clues. And let’s not forget that there was also eclipse imagery in the previous episode when Hyung-do followed the nobleman’s daughter through Banchon.
Rain and water are even more noticeable motifs: Take the stormy weather erasing “traces” in the haunted house episode, which we might correlate to Hyung-do’s traces being erased in New Land in the rain. That ties into the rainy scenes in this episode as well, since much of Episode 7 was occurring concurrently with this one.
But we can jump back even further with the water symbology, to the mysterious forest pond that turned the young boy into a monster in Episode 4. Yoon-yi noticed that the pond caused her compass needle to go crazy — and what could do that? Among other things, a magnetic disturbance, similar to the one that caused all that madness at the haunted house. That’s the other place where we saw her compass needle flipping out — outside, by the feng shui pond. Granted, that pond was dry, but the coincidence cannot be overlooked, no? Also: both Yoon-yi and Hyung-do have fallen into (dry) wells.
As for timeline: So, what exactly happened in Episodes 7 and 8, and how do they tie in together?
Hyung-do disappeared after drinking the spiked tea given to him by the artist, who later welcomed him to New Land after admitting he’d “opened the door” for him. While the skeptical among us may say that the whole New Land scenario only occurred in Hyung-do’s mind while he was drugged in the well, the other explanation is that in the time he was trapped, the “open door” to New Land enabled him to enter that dimension (the episode was called “Village of the Fourth Dimension,” after all).
Think of it as astral projection — the body remains behind, and the “astral body” (your soul/spirit/mind/nonphysical self, what have you) can travel to a different plane. But Hyung-do is not in control of his travel, so New Land Yoon-yi helps him back to his world, warning him that he only has a limited chance to make it back before being locked into its eternal hellish loop for good. (I enjoy the fact that this explanation also works on the “skeptic’s” level as well, because that’s true — if he doesn’t cross over to his world soon, he’s quite literally dead.)
The prophet shows Yoon-yi a tool for “finding him” — that white winged insect, which she uses to bring Hyung-do out of the loop and back to the real world. Does that mean he would have died without it? I’m not sure, because the apothecary was, presumably, working on an antidote and they found him within the prescribed timeframe to save his life. But we know that she does give him the tea, and when that happens in Episode 7, that’s the moment he comes out of his stupor and realizes he’s been in a loop.
New Land Yoon-yi — the one with the scar — is also more aware of her feelings for Hyung-do than we’d previously seen. I’d thought it was curious that their romantic connection was heightened in Episode 7 when we hadn’t necessarily worked our way up to that point in the episodes prior — but the connection to this episode makes all of that make sense. I’m guessing that New Land Yoon-yi gave him her necklace because she knew she’d be seeing him soon. And when Hyung-do finally emerges out of his daze at the very end of Episode 7 — which chronologically comes after the end of this episode — she has her necklace back.
At least, that’s how I read it. Who knows, maybe the next episode(s) will blow my mind and turn everything on its head. (Again.)