Drama Recaps
Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 24 (Final)
by | December 24, 2011 | 104 Comments

All told, a pretty epic finale. Okay, really epic. Was it wholly satisfying? No, not completely. Was it filled with operatic flair, covered in blood, grandiose in scale, and riveting from the first charged moment until the very last? Of course. This is Tree With Deep Roots we’re talking about.

At times tragic, at times hopeful, this finale wrapped up our stories with some nicely added twists along the way. And some tears. Okay, lots of tears.


The jig is up, and Jung Ki-joon knows that the Haerye lies within So-yi’s mind. He orders for her immediate murder, but the moment before his minion looks poised to strike, Chae-yoon arrives on the scene, using Jung Ki-joon’s life as a bargaining tool (again) in order to free someone he cares about. Since Jung Ki-joon has already wagered that he’ll be dying for his cause soon, he has nothing to lose and orders his minion to carry through the order.

Thankfully, So-yi’s would-be assassin chickens out. When Jung Ki-joon then orders the nearby Gae Pa-yi to kill her, the gentle(?) giant remains motionless. Chae-yoon orders So-yi to run away, and she does.

In a literal frenzy at seeing So-yi escaping, Jung Ki-joon screams for his minion to shoot her. Chae-yoon dares them to shoot those arrows if they want their precious leader dead… and when it seems like they’re going to follow orders, Chae-yoon prepares the killing blow for Jung Ki-joon.

At last, however, Gae Pa-yi steps in to fend him off – but not before Chae-yoon slices Jung Ki-joon for good measure. Nice! The two men fight, but Chae-yoon is assured that Gae Pa-yi will have to stay to tend Jung Ki-joon’s possibly-mortal wound. He can’t risk his leader dying, right? It’s this good faith that sets Chae-yoon in retreat mode, following So-yi.

But Jung Ki-joon won’t be having it, despite suffering the deep wound that Chae-yoon inflicted. Gae Pa-yi has a moment of hesitation before he takes up the bow and arrow, and aims at the fleeing Chae-yoon and So-yi. He shoots.

The arrow comes so close to Chae-yoon as to cut the binds to his topknot, but it whizzes right past him and into So-yi’s arm. Oh no!! She falters, and this falter sends her off a cliff and into the night. She better be fine.

Her fate is uncertain as Chae-yoon goes to the edge, wildly calling out her name. Though these times are dark, could it be… is that… a Mane of Glory? (Or was he out partying with Ke$ha again? It’s too dark to tell.)

Dawn breaks, and Chae-yoon is combing the forest for any signs of our girl. We find her some ways away, alive (thank goodness), but something is amiss when she sits up. The arrow just hit her arm, but the moment she rolls up her sleeve she sees a black and bloodied mess. Oh no. It’s the poison Jung Ki-joon talked about before, isn’t it?

So-yi confirms her suspicions by bravely tasting the end of the arrow, and whatever it is can’t be good. She spits it out, a look crossing her face that already puts my heart in my throat. She knows it’s poison. We know it’s poison. Oh no.

She crawls into a nearby cave, using a bit of her hanbok as a tourniquet for her arm, which is looking worse by the second. Outside, Chae-yoon seems to be so affected that he can barely walk properly, but he’s unrelenting in his search for her. Pieces of her skirt are torn up to lay down around her, and it’s a striking visual.

So-yi is progressively looking sicker and sicker as she writes the Haerye down on the pieces of her torn skirt. Her arm wound is looking worse too, relentlessly bleeding and growing blacker. No no no no no. Noooo. No no no no. If what I think is happening is happening… it better not be.

Chae-yoon continues his frantic and desperate search, falling whenever the wind grows too strong out of grief. Good god man, save your grief for later and use your speed now. Where’s that leaping martial arts method when we all need it? At least one of his falls lands him near the cave So-yi is in. All may not be lost.

Alas, Jung Ki-joon has survived Chae-yoon’s wounding and gets patched up by Pyung. Their camp is gone, all of their soldiers have either been captured or killed. Han Ga makes it inside, but he’s soon followed by a barely conscious Leader brought in by piggyback. She’s been wounded in the battle and is on her way out of this world.

After all this time, I still don’t know anything about her. She calls Jung Ki-joon “young master”, though, which leads me to believe she may have once been a slave of his once-prominent household. She soon passes, with Jung Ki-joon saying that he will follow her soon.

The Haerye is splattered with blood, but seemingly complete. As So-yi rests her back against the cave wall she takes in short, terrible breaths, as though she can’t get enough oxygen. From a ways away she hears Chae-yoon calling for her, but can’t even work up the strength to say “orabeoni”.

He makes it to the mouth of the cave and sees the harrowing sight of her surrounded by white while wearing white (bad, bad, bad). Her face is as pale as her clothing, and he desperately runs to her side. Oh goodness. This is really happening, isn’t it?

Cut to: Hidden Root (I know!). They’re having to make some changes to the plan due to the loss of all their armed forces. If he wanted to just assassinate the King, Jung Ki-joon says, he could have just used the secret passage. This isn’t about just killing Sejong, it’s about bringing his downfall in front of thousands of onlookers during the promulgation ceremony.

Gae Pa-yi receives a written order as his final mission and Jung Ki-joon’s last command. He wonders if he’s strong enough for the task. Jung Ki-joon retorts, “Aren’t you the best swordsman on the continent?”

So-yi smiles to see Chae-yoon, though she can barely breathe. He sees her technicolor arm, and knows immediately that it’s poison and that they have no time. Desperately, he tries to get her on his back so he can carry her away but she pushes him away. He’s losing it, and she’s trying to get him to stay focused.

She charges him with taking the explanation for the letters that she’s painstakingly written down in her last moments. She also alerts him that Jung Ki-joon has something terrible planned for the Promulgation Ceremony, and Chae-yoon has to stop it.

He throws the Haerye to the ground, caring nothing for it when she’s dying. Once again he tries to pick her up, and once again he’s forced away. “I won’t make it,” she says. “Are you going to dither around? With the excuse of saving me, with the excuse of tending my corpse, are you going to waver?”

So-yi is handling her impending death like the champion she is (I’m handling it like Chae-yoon), as she comforts him about her impending death. Probably because he’s taking this a lot worse than she is, but it’s also a testament to her how her personality has always been warm and almost motherly to him. She tells him not to be afraid, but he pleads with her. Don’t. Don’t go.

So-yi: “Don’t cry. And look at me. Back then… when I was reunited with you, as I was going back to the palace by myself, do you know what was hardest on me? Sleep. After meeting you, after twenty-some years, for the first time I slept sweet as honey. ‘If I leave together with Orabeoni, I could probably continue to sleep like that, right?’ Just thinking about it, made me so happy already. Again… for allowing me to dream happily again… thank you so much, Orabeoni.”

Tears slip from her eyes as she smiles:

“The image of our letters getting promulgated successfully. The citizens, those letters, the image of them reading them. Through your eyes, Orabeoni, I will see it for sure. Orabeoni… you must see it.”

Wah. That’s the line that broke me. Strong to the end, she tells him to hurry and go. Because he has to see the promulgation so she can see it through his eyes… oh goodness. That’s so horrible.

She draws her last, strained breath… and dies.

The moment she passes, Chae-yoon holds her close and lets out this heartbreaking sigh, as if her leaving this world has just hit him. He can’t even speak as he holds her to him and lets out these horrible sounds that aren’t even cries but ones that break my heart, until he lets out the real cry of anguish. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

The sounds of Chae-yoon’s grief can be heard through the forest. Cho-tak and Park-po, who have been aiding Chae-yoon in his search for So-yi, follow the sounds into the cave to see her dead body covered, and beside her are the two wooden wedding ducks Chae-yoon bought. Oof. Kill some baby seals while you’re at it and really bring this home, Tree.

Chae-yoon, however, is looking mighty dead inside even as he shoves the Haerye into his clothes. Perhaps knowing that now her corpse will be taken care of, he runs off without a word to fulfill her dying wish.

Shim Jong-soo has survived his fall off a cliff, and comes to crash Lee Shin-juk’s good time. Quick to recover, Lee Shin-juk assures his good friend that whatever he’s thinking is probably a misunderstanding, and that he was sooooo worried…

But instead of being angry, Shim Jong-soo merely hands over the Hidden Root Scroll and the roster of names. He says that Jung Ki-joon is dead, but this smells more like Shim Jong-soo’s wish to keep Hidden Root a secret.

Once he’s alone, Lee Shin-juk has a nice moment where he laughs, cries, and burns the Hidden Root Scroll. After all these years of work, he’s free at last.

With the approval of the three state councilors (thanks probably in large part to Lee Shin-juk), the day of the promulgation ceremony finally arrives. Though most of the commoners don’t know why they’re being called, they arrive by the hundreds anyway to fill the grounds. Officials and common people alike all bow grandly before King Sejong, who sits on his throne at the front of the assembly. Next to him, Jung In-ji begins to read proudly from a scroll.

It’s a basic explanation of what we’ve seen happening over the course of the series, explaining that the Hunminjeongeum (the previous name for Hangul) consists of twenty-eight letters, and that offices are in place to ensure that it’s dispersed widely for use by the people.

All looks as if it’s going well, until we see Jung Ki-joon disguised like all his neighbors in a sea of pastel colors. Through this crowd a figure dressed in black moves among them like an angel of death, headed straight for the throne.

It’s Gae Pa-yi, who sheds his cloak once he’s near the throne to reveal his new haircut and a new uniform. Also a very large spear. In front of all the onlookers, including the King, he becomes a one-man army against a literal army. He’s a giant among men, a complete force of nature, and though he’s surrounded he’s able to take down dozens of palace guards without sustaining one hit. Mu-hyul looks on with something akin to resignation.

Mustering a war cry that just sounds like it might be his last, Mu-hyul jumps down from the platform to try to defeat that which is undefeatable.

Mu-hyul manages to get a hit in, but it’s not long before his sword is broken in half. He’s met in the stomach with the business end of Gae Pa-yi’s spear, but bravely grabs onto it to keep the giant in one place so soldiers can come from behind to cut him down. They’re like mosquitos to Gae Pa-yi, who’s able to use only one hand to beat them away.

Because he’s the best, Mu-hyul breaks the spear in half so he can rip it out of his body and stab Gae Pa-yi. Good. Gracious. He’s a hero until the end, as even though he’s stabbed the giant in the chest, Gae Pa-yi uses the other half of the spear to again slice through our favorite swordsman.

This is the blow that breaks him, but even as Mu-hyul is brought to his knees he makes a last-ditch, desperate attempt to keep Gae Pa-yi from reaching the throne by grabbing hold of his clothing. It’s useless of course, as Gae Pa-yi continues his rampage toward the King’s platform. Why isn’t Sejong protected by a human shield made of loyal bodies again? Where did everyone’s loyalty go?

Unprotected, Sejong can only look at his would-be assassin. Gae Pa-yi makes a leap, but is derailed in mid-air by Chae-yoon, who’s made it at last!

…Except he looks like he couldn’t be more dead inside. At least he faces off with Gae Pa-yi in an epic battle, both of them exchanging blows and sustaining serious injuries. Chae-yoon looks like he’s only half-trying to win the fight.

He does, however, hold his own against the inhumanly strong Gae Pa-yi, who was already wounded before our hero arrived on the scene. Brought to his knees, blood spills from Gae Pa-yi’s mouth as he levels a look at Chae-yoon… and dies in front of the eyes of everyone present, as well as the little Yeon-doo. Wait, that was it? Huh. Guess he wasn’t so invincible after all.

Sejong wonders aloud what we’re all wondering – why is no one even trying to treat Mu-hyul? His sentiments echo that of Jung Ki-joon when he too wondered why no one was treating the Leader as she died. Maybe it’s all over once they’re breathing blood.

To the end, Mu-hyul is worried only for Sejong’s well being. He tells him not to stop with the promulgation, and to return to his seat. Aww. When leaving his friend of countless years doesn’t seem like it’s the first thing on Sejong’s mind, Mu-hyul manages to crack a joke in keeping with their married couple rapport. “Your Majesty, please listen to the Royal Guard Commander a little.” Awwwwww. This is the best death non-speech of the episode, because it has a little humor.

He’s not dead yet, at least, and Sejong sees him carried off on a stretcher before he once again ascends the platform. All the bodies, including Gae Pa-yi’s, have been removed from the grounds. But someone else emerges from the crowd…

It’s Jung Ki-joon, and he’s got a knife. He looks about ready to try the assassination himself, but is stopped when he hears a rush of voices around him. When Chae-yoon was stabbed by Gae Pa-yi in the beginning of the fight, the Haerye So-yi had written down before her death had gone flying into the crowd. Many people have now picked these pieces up, and to Jung Ki-joon’s utter amazement he realizes that they’re… reading. They all know the alphabet!

No one is explicitly having this flashback, as it’s meant only for us as the viewers to understand how it came to be that everyone knows how to read. Back when Chae-yoon and So-yi were first working through the circulation mission, she had asked her orabeoni if he had a better idea than teaching a singing troupe the Hangul Song. I forgot that he did, and now we get to hear it – he mentions a legend from Japan about a book that would kill those who didn’t show it to others. He wants to use that sort of manipulative method to spread the letters, basically making them into a Joseon chain letter. Ha!

The idea sticks, though, and we flash forward (while we’re still in the flashback) to the favor we never heard So-yi ask of Yeon-doo. It turns out to be a huge lie, but one where the ends justify the means – So-yi tells Yeon-doo that knowing the letters will cause abscesses to grow aaall over her body, and if she doesn’t want that to happen, she must teach the letters to three other people. Relieved, Yeon-doo admits that she doesn’t need to worry – she’s already taught her mom, the Sound Man, and her friends. So-yi then replies that she must tell all those people the same thing about the abscesses, so that they can teach three other people, and so on.

Ha, I like it. It was a bit manipulative (okay, very manipulative) but sometimes you just can’t argue with results. It’s a beautiful, cathartic moment as Sejong looks upon all his subjects, all of them reading the alphabet that he created just for them.

Chae-yoon takes it all in, doing it so that So-yi can see her life’s work to completion through his eyes. In voiceover he speaks to her spirit, “Dam… are you watching? The people are reading the letters, Dam.”

He’s barely keeping himself propped up with his spear, but without a proper hold the blade is digging through his hand. When Sejong finally approaches him to ask about So-yi, Chae-yoon replies, “In here. Isn’t she in here?” He means himself, but also the Haerye. Echoing Mu-hyul’s sentiments earlier, Chae-yoon urges Sejong not to waver, and to complete the promulgation. He must, because So-yi is watching. With one foot already in the next world, Chae-yoon is intent on allowing So-yi to see everything through him.

Blood still stains the ground as the pieces of the Haerye are collected from the people and given to the King. He returns to the throne, unfurling his foreword to address the crowd.

The foreword, or what he has written of it, is taken word-for-word from the true historical foreword of the Hunminjeonggeum that King Sejong penned. In it, he explains his motivation for creating the letters, that because their spoken language is different from that of China’s, and so the written words do not match. When he reaches the end of what he’s written, he addresses the crowd from the heart.

While he uses the Haerye to begin the detailed explanation of how each of the letters came to be, we get our requisite load of flashbacks to show how far we’ve come (answer: very far). Jung Ki-joon, defeated, seems to give up. Within the crowd, Jo Mal-saeng seems to finally notice him just as he’s making his exit. Soon the crowd offers a unified cheer, officials and common people alike. Even Lee Shin-juk gets swept up in the rush, and cheers along.

Chae-yoon watches it all, saying in voiceover, “Dam, you’re watching, right? Ddol-bok is watching clearly. You can see too, right, Dam?” But his grip is slipping, maybe because he doesn’t have enough flesh left on his hand to hold that spear with. Blood pools at his feet as he finally collapses, falling to his knees as blood drips from his mouth. Et tu, Chae-yoon?!

Sejong, finally taking notice, descends from the platform to hold Chae-yoon up by his shoulders. Every breath seems like a chore to our hero, as he stands firm to So-yi’s dying wish. “Your Majesty,” he ekes out, “We should watch. With out Dam’s life, with Dam’s eyes, we should watch. See, what did I tell you? The people have always bore their responsibilities through pain. Please smile. Dam… Like Ddol-bok…” He breathes out one line of a song, about what a great day it is, before his body goes lax and he falls into Sejong’s arms.

I’m going to call this one and say it’s a vision Chae-yoon has in his final moments, before he completely shuffles the mortal coil. In it, he lives his ideal life of a humble house with his true love, So-yi, and their children. He teaches them Hangul. Everyone is smiles and laughter. Taking this as the last thing Chae-yoon thinks of before he dies makes it heartbreakingly sad. Or maybe it does. I’m out of tears with which to measure.

With So-yi’s body having been brought by Cho-tak and Park-po, Sejong lovingly lays Chae-yoon down next to her. He places Chae-yoon’s hand together with hers, and looks over their corpses with nothing but sadness.

Jo Mal-saeng has sent his troops after Jung Ki-joon, who’s busy fleeing with Pyung. Jung Ki-joon is bleeding from a wound on his arm, while Pyung is mostly covered in blood that isn’t his. Coming one last time to protect the First Root, Pyung sizes up the number of soldiers and knows that this will be his last battle. A warrior’s thrill enters his eyes as he sets to keeping the soldiers distracted in order for Jung Ki-joon to escape.

One of the soldiers is wise to the plan, and shoots an arrow that lands straight into Jung Ki-joon’s back. I think it’s fitting that it’s his retreating back that was shot while he runs away like a coward.

With Pyung distracted, the nearby soldiers set to cutting him down. He fights on till the end, bloodied and gruesome. He doesn’t make it out alive, but it was a fitting sendoff. Without a redemption (he was too far gone), he still manages to leave a favorable impression.

It’s only later that Sejong hears word that Mu-hyul has died. It breaks him to think of all those who have died, and in a bout of misplaced anger and sorrow he decries them for being so disloyal that they would all dare to die at their own whims. Poor Sejong. He’s literally the last man standing.

Meanwhile, Jo Mal-saeng is made aware that the royal guards have lost Jung Ki-joon. But the exact place where he was lost is one that Jo Mal-saeng remembers as housing a secret passage that leads into the palace. Flabbergasted, Jung In-ji doesn’t understand how Jung Ki-joon would know about a secret kept only within the royal family. But the how, as Jo Mal-saeng explains, is because Jung Ki-joon’s revered uncle and the founder of Hidden Root, Jung Do-jun, designed the freaking palace. (Historically, this is accurate. Jung Do-jun is credited with the design of the freaking palace.)

Unaware of this, Sejong steps into the throne room alone…

…And sees Jung Ki-joon Sitting. On. The. Throne.

Ooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhh!! This visual, executed with aplomb, is perfect in so many ways I can’t even describe. It’s the moment of the episode for me.

Upon seeing his nemesis wheezing and bleeding, Sejong can’t help but laugh as he says, “Look at your shabby state, Jung Ki-joon. Thank you. Because of you, I came to love the citizenry.”

I couldn’t imagine a more perfect reaction, and it is funny to see Jung Ki-joon watch as the King reacts that way to his serious and grave manner. After all, he came all this way to sit on that throne. Yet, like all his other ploys, Sejong remains unaffected.

“Yes,” Jung Ki-joon says. “You would do that. However, what about other politicians?” He claims that though he sometimes thought it’d be nice for his dog at home to understand his words, politicians will inevitably regard the people in that same manner. Knowing the letters will only open the people up to more use and abuse by politicians, like the dog that understands human words.

King Sejong: “That is perhaps possible. However they will, in the end, find their paths through their wisdom. And time after time, they will fight and fight again. At times they will win, and at times they will be tricked. And at other times, they may lose as well. Even if they lose yet again, it’s alright. Numerous royal families and hierarchies have suffered annihilation. However, the citizenry, upon this ground they have lived through tens of thousands of years. Since they can just fight again.”

Jung Ki-joon considers him for a moment before he replies, with his last breath, “Now, I can only hope that the King’s words… will come true.”

With that, Jung Ki-joon dies. Sejong approaches his body, saying, “Once in the past, you said this to me. That I don’t love the people. Fine. At the time, I thought maybe that was really true. However, now I know. That is precisely love. That is precisely love! This place…” He indicates his heart. “…hurts so much like this. How can that not be love? Thank you, Jung Ki-joon. Thank you.”

When Sejong leaves the Hangul Room to an engulfing white light, we cut to Shim Jong-soo as he fosters the new recruits of Hidden Root bent on subverting the use of the letters by deeming them lowly. We even get some nice historical tie-ins, as it’s hinted at that Hidden Root played a hand in influencing King Sejong’s second son, Grand Prince Suyang (known later as King Sejo, a king more like his grandfather than his father). As an added twist, we finally hear what Han Ga’s name really is – it’s Han Myeong-hoe (who later became one of King Sejo’s most trusted advisors). On his way out, he bumps into our two scholars Sung Sam-moon and Park Paeng-nyeon, with Sung Sam-moon getting a weird chill down his spine at the contact. (It’s a premonition, as both of them are later executed under Han Myeong-hoe’s advice during Sejo’s reign.)

Later in his life, Sejong reflects on a palace absent of Mu-hyul, Chae-yoon, and So-yi. Now that the proper system for the letters has been created and the seeds have been spread, he no longer gives them the attention he once did. “And now,” he says, “the letters, they belong to the world and they belong to them [the people]. What kind of a world these letters might create, that’s their responsibility.” And so he does what he has to do – continue to work. A scene with him cursing at the fact that ministers are complaining about an upcoming forum harkens back to our first introduction of him. Aww.

As a bookend, we return to the vision where Chae-yoon is teaching his children letters, and where he’s being adorable with So-yi. One of his children is named Suk-sam, after Chae-yoon’s father.


Toward the end of this extended-length finale, I began to feel a little like Count von Count from Sesame Street. For those who were counting along: “That’s seven! Seven dead characters! Ah ah ah ah!”

But really, there was a part of me that knew there existed a chance for such a sageuk-like ending. However, I felt as though we weren’t being set up for the deaths of Chae-yoon and So-yi throughout the series. Truthfully, I was more resigned than upset about their dual deaths until the last bookmark of the episode – this dreamy, cloud-like vision of the perfect life Chae-yoon had imagined with So-yi. I would have felt better had our last images of them been when they were dead, or in flashbacks. But a vision of something that could have very well happened narratively, but for whatever reason did not happen? Thank you for the offer, Tree, but I’ll have to respectfully decline.

I’m left to wonder why they couldn’t have just actually lived, and why that final scene we were shown truly couldn’t have come to pass. Did their deaths really change anything? Were those deaths necessary to propel the story? Not really. The fact that the show gave us fanservice in the form of a dream once the characters were dead and gone seems to negate whatever effect the deaths of So-yi and Chae-yoon were meant to accomplish. Chae-yoon’s transformation through the series was something to behold and admire, so to see him give up on living was heartbreaking, and it effectively lessened the emotional punch of his death because he made it inevitable. My only concern is that our hero and heroine might have been killed just for tragedy’s sake, and if that’s the case, it’s an unfortunate waste. Seeing that final scene with the two of them together only drove home how poignant, cyclical, and meaningful their being alive could have been – if only it had been real.

After all, this drama set up Hangul, the process of making it, and the process of promulgating it as a message of hope. A hope not without its risks, of course, but hope all the same.

Thematically, though there was oodles of violence, the violence-free final debate between Jung Ki-joon and Sejong was a treat to watch. Though Jung Ki-joon was already at death’s door, Sejong’s words seemed to actually wound him, harkening back to Sejong’s principles of words being mightier than swords. Here we saw it in a tangible way. However, for a second there I really believed that Jung Ki-joon was feigning his death in order to draw Sejong closer so he could at least attempt to stab the King with that dagger we saw him carrying before. As long as Sejong stayed safe, that would have been a fun twist.

More so than the epilogue, this scene between two enemies eloquently laid out the pros and cons of the theme of the series – empowering the individual. Sejong won that debate, and I was glad to see Jung Ki-joon acknowledge that in his final moments.

Despite the slightly bitter taste in my mouth over the ending, it doesn’t tarnish how much I loved the drama as a whole. For me, Tree With Deep Roots has become the one to beat, and it was as much a tour de force for the mind and senses as it was for the heart. The story moved along at a breakneck pace, balancing all the words the characters spoke with an emotional undercurrent that grabbed hold of me and never let go. It’s a hero story, a love story, a creation story, and an underdog story all wrapped into one beautifully shot, edited, and well-directed package. The team behind this drama and its actors have truly achieved something wonderful, with some of the greatest performances in recent memory helping to create a truly unforgettable viewing experience.


104 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. cv

    Finally! ^^

    • 1.1 cv

      Yay! first too!

      Anyhow, aaaaaaah! Dang it! I love this drama but I so did not like the finale where all the good guys died! Why or why!???? It killed me to continue watching after Soyi died in chae yoon’s arm. I almost stopped watching but decided to watch it to the end since I’ve come so far! LOL

      First of all, this sageuk drama was awsome except the ending. Why couldn’t they let soyi and chaeyoon live happily ever after like the dream parting at the end–since that’s all both of them wanted? (sigh) That really ticked me off….since I was hoping this would be my one best drama of 2011..but it fell short because of that.

      Another interpretatiion—I want this to be real! ๐Ÿ˜›

      On the other hand, was that last part really a dream from chaeyoon when he was dying? or…….. did they really survived? Was it another conspiracy from the king and soyi and chaeyoon knowing that if they had lived–in the palace, milbon wouldn’t have left them alone since soyi was haeyre and there are so many milbon members still in hiding ?
      Is that why the king didn’t go see their graves–when he was going on about his work? IF…and I mean if that’s the case, hot dang, great ending but so not clear at all….I rather it be a straight forward ending.

      Then again, this sageuk was basically about the king and how he made the letters happened even if those he loved will died in the process of helping him succeed.

      But who knows…….I didn’t get my happy ending but it was satifying to see everything wrapped up.


      I guess Tree with deep roots will be my second favorite dramas of 2011. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • 1.1.1 Kgrl

        A happy ending probably wouldn’t have given this drama the final “ummph” TWDP needed.

        SY, CY, MH’s death sealed the story for me – I’ll forever remember this drama b/c of these characters’ sacrifices. All along, this drama has been about balance. There are two sides to everything, and despite an inspiring story about faith and hope, it is also in death and sadness that faith and hope is the most poignantly felt.

        I loved this finale. It is the most uplifting and yet tragic, most closed and yet open ending I’ve seen in a long time – lovingly balanced. Definitely the best 2011 Kdrama. No pun-heavy rom-com, slick action thriller, or sentimental melo can dish out the enlightening, entertaining, and inspirational value of watching this drama. Of the dozens of Kdramas I’ve seen this year, TWDP tops them all – too bad it isn’t as hyped as some of the rom-coms out there.

        • cv

          I still think a happier ending would have worked even better considering so many good people died already. Muhyul didn’t have to die… he could have survived and serve the king since the milbon society was still active and in hiding. Or chaeyoon could have survived and taken over muhyul’s place.
          They didn’t have to kill off most of the secondary characters.

          • Niz

            Yes, I agree. I believe MuHyul’s death was the least necessary. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

        • melonhead

          MTE. K-dramas are often too concerned about giving everyone a happy ending, especially the main couple, that it kinda puts me off. Sure, it’s a drama, so we’re allowed to fantasise for a happily ever after, but keeping with the realism of the dangerous times of that historical period makes it such a superior watch for me.

          The ending isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s definitely mine.

        • violet

          I didn’t like their deaths NOT because it was sad but because it was not necessary.to me the ‘sacrifice’ didn’t serve any purpose, as if it happened ONLY to make the drama memorable or something(as many other dramas do)which is something this show DIDN’T need at all.don’t get me wrong,i loved the whole show and if not for the finale it would be PERFECT.still it was an amazing ride and i learned a lot while enjoying every second of it;)

          • Chandler

            At first I was upset that they went so far as to kill Chae-yoon, and Mu-hyul was my favorite! However, after the year time skip, the king has this scene where he looks around, and recognizes that it’s a world without SY, CY, and MH and it reminded me of the scene after his father died when he recognizes that its a world without his father. Then we find him in the same place years later with a whole new world of characters. The king has always been the connecting piece and the finale just goes to show how strong a king has to be in order to outlive those who sacrifice their lives for him so that he can uphold their ideals and succeed in the endeavors they died for. So while I don’t really like it, I’m glad it at least starkly portrayed how strong King Sejong’s will is, even after losing so much.

      • 1.1.2 Vivien

        I absolutlely agree with you….I do not know how the film producers could have sinked so deep without fantasy? and why the excellent actors did not protest against the blooding mouth, at least?

        what would be your number 1 of 2011? I will watch it..:)

  2. Linda165

    Refreshing does pay off ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Carrie

    Thanks for all the reviews ๐Ÿ™‚

    As for the final episode, I agree with you; I didn’t see a point in killing off So-Yi and Chae-yoon. It wasn’t necessary to kill off every other main supporting characters either. I feel like the writers just went on a joy ride trying to kill as many characters off as possible to make it exciting.

    “.My only concern is that our hero and heroine might have been killed just for tragedyโ€™s sake, and if thatโ€™s the case, itโ€™s an unfortunate waste. Seeing that final scene with the two of them together only drove home how poignant, cyclical, and meaningful their being alive could have been โ€“ if only it had been real.
    …Iโ€™m left to wonder why they couldnโ€™t have just actually lived, and why that final scene we were shown truly couldnโ€™t have come to pass. Did their deaths really change anything? Were those deaths necessary to propel the story? Not really.”

    ^ THIS

    Sigh, what could have been…

  4. Haydn

    i bawled my eyes out when MuHyul died. not when SoYi or ChaeYoon died… but when MuHyul died ๐Ÿ™

    this was such an epic ending. one where i watched with dread and anticipation.

    definitely the best SAGEUK EVARRRRRR!
    T___T awwww but no more jang hyuk or han sukyu ๐Ÿ™

    • 4.1 Marni

      I was sooooo sad to see Muhyul die, he died with so much dignity, just killed me!

  5. moana

    this drama has kept me on the edge of my seat! i still have a few eps to get to the finale but i had to read your recaps so i can get on with christmas already!

    i too think this series was a tour de force with excellent characterizations, violence only when necessary (rather than guy ritchie’s gratuitous violence because it looks good) and a plot that was both intellectually stimulating and emotionally satisfying.

    my favorite scene thus far has been when so-yin and chae-yoon cried as they ate together for the first time after reuniting. such a rich scene with no words. i hope there are at least a few of those in the last couple of epis i have to watch.

    great recaps! i can now prep for christmas lol.

  6. YBisTOP

    ugh! I hate the ending so much! I cried with a blanket over my head so that my parents and sisters wont see. *lol. So-yi is sooooo beautiful! I just thought that the ending was a scene where both So-Yi and Chae y. got married and had kids in heaven. ๐Ÿ™‚ This drama is such a good drama! I loveeeee it!

  7. MJKandathi

    Thank you!!!!!!

  8. Tha

    I thought it finale was PERFECT. I loved every moment of this drama. Thank you very much.

  9. anais

    Thank you, HeadsNo2, for doing a lovely job recapping Tree. It was truly a pleasure to read your recaps.

    As for leaving Sejong the only man standing. I think that was the point. Given the philosophical debate waged over the ideal form of government, specifically over monarchy versus its alternatives, explicitly parliamentary monarchy but implicitly republicanism and democracy, Tree’s decision to leave Sejong the only man standing seemed true to life’s brutal reality.

    The bittersweet ending reminded me that the fight that Sejong, So-yi, Chae-yoon, Mu-hyul, and even Jeong Ki Jun fought is one that will go on until the end of human history, one requiring our vigil to ensure that government works for the people rather than works the people. That power works for rather than exploits people.

    Additionally, the final scene of Sejong forging on whilst struggling with his loneliness reemphasized for me the idea that power is an immense responsibility entailing a loneliness that few human beings could bear. It left me with a more nuanced, richer appreciation for the greatness of great rulers, be they kings, presidents, prime ministers, etc. While I’ve never been someone who’s coveted power much, Tree’s ending seemed a cautionary one that discourages people from regarding power (and those who wield it) too facilely/reductively and coveting it too easily.

    And, stepping away from the existential aims and toward the more mundane, the ending seemed to want to put to rest any questions as to who headlines Tree’s marquee: Han Seok Kyu/Sejong.

    The imagined happy life for So-yi and Chae-Yoon too, though, works at both existential and superficial levels. At the superficial level, it was fan service for Jang Hyuk and So-Yi/Chae-Yoon shippers. On a more existential level though, leaving their happiness as an unrealized one, as a dream, is fitting historically and philosophically. That, for some people(s), realizing even the most basic happiness requires/required them to put their lives on the line. That whatever happiness we experience is precarious and ought not be taken for granted.

    I suspect Tree’s ending will be among those Kdrama endings that will continue to resonate for me, although I didn’t think it would when I first saw the ending. I thought I’d sort of wipe it from my memory, just as I have of the endings from numerous kdramas, e.g., Sungkyunkwan Scandal. And I sort of have, in terms of the actual final scene of the imagined good life for So-yi and Chae-yoon. Instead, the final scene for me is the one of the older Sejong, and this scene grows richer the more I think of it. It asks to me to reflect more, the way the ending of Sandglass did (though that one disturbed me thoroughly from the get-go).

    Geez, I’m crying just from thinking through the ideas that resulted from just contemplating this ending. (I also just read NYT’s article on the emerging protest in Russia against Putin.)

    All in all, Tree with Deep Roots is now my favorite sageuk by far. By far. It ranks up there with Sandglass as my two favorite historical Kdramas. I can’t thank TWDR’s makers enough for the phenomenal experience they’ve afforded their viewers.

    • 9.1 Rachel

      Wow what an insightful comment! Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. 10 Sojuboy

    Tough ending. Thanx for all the recaps!

    That Shin Se-Kyung is quite a babe. I going to have to start following her career.

  11. 11 Noemi

    Thanks so much for the recap! I was really looking forward to reading what you thought about the ending, because I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it yet. On one hand, I agree with your point that So Yi and Chae Yoon’s deaths weren’t really necessary, plot-wise. And the last vision at the end of what could have been is just heartbreaking. But on the other hand, in a way I think the reason they died is sort of poetic…at the beginning of the drama, their families died in effect because of the king’s doing (or actually, inaction). But this time, So Yi and Chae Yoon didn’t die BECAUSE of the king, they died FOR king. Their deaths had meaning…not for what came after, but for what came before. Something about that makes me feel more comfortable with their otherwise seemingly unnecessary deaths. I don’t even know if that makes sense…I need to develop my thoughts further. However, I still think TWDR was hands-down the best drama of 2011, and it is now a personal favorite! Definitely unforgettable.

  12. 12 Birdie

    Thank you, HeadsNo2 for the great recaps. I hope you will continue to do recaps for us. TWDR team did everything so well and so thoughtfully. For me, it is my favourite and best drama of 2011.

    All those deaths are just symbols of sacrifices fora greater cause. That indeed all through history, things get better because of sacrifices made and after darkness, there is light…….

    ” A truly unforgettable viewing experience” for me as well….

  13. 13 babis

    First, thank you HeadsNo2 for the recaps of this series, I’ve enjoyed reading it after each and every episode very much.

    I usually don’t watch shows when they are still airing usually since I’d like to know in advance that the ending is good, but somehow after watching just the first 15 minutes of the first episode I’ve became hooked with this show, and although I didn’t have any guarantee that this will end well, I decided to trust two things: the people behind this drama that from what I’ve read here in this site are also responsible for “jewel in the Palace” which ended very well (I know that they were behind other shows mentioned here as well, but Jewel in the Palace was the only one I’ve seen) and the fact that this series is based on a novel. So I was telling my self there is not much damage they can do to what I admire in the first episodes given their proven talent so far unless of course the book they are following sucks too, and I can’t imagine that book sucks since why make a series of such a book.

    Around the 16 episode, I remember telling my sister that at that moment I loved everything about this series so much that I don’t care if they are going to kill everybody in the last episode. I didn’t really mean it though.
    I really wanted Chea yoon and so yi to live happily ever after which brings me to my current question, has anyone here read the book? do you know if these characters end their life there too? because if that is the case then I guess it would be easier for me to accept the ending of the series as something that had to be, and not just for the sake of the tragedy.
    Although I must admit that I think that comparing to the whole series and the fact that there was somewhat of an ongoing fight between swords and words and what is more powerful in this series, I felt like the ending was too much about the swords, it had too many people being killed at the same time, and too many scenes of blood to my taste. And in a way it just proved to me that words for me are indeed more powerful as all these fighting left me very unimpressed. especially when I compare it to the scene in the beginning of episode 19 when the King and Garion/Gund ki gun were arguing while all lives are threaten but nothing harmful happens. or the scene at the third episode where Ddol book run away just to find himself in the middle of the two groups (the former kind soldiers and the banchon’s people).
    Those two scenes were so wow. while when the fighting finally happens it really a let down for me.
    Also all those people who have escaped so much through all of the former episodes, it just seemed a bit unreal for them all to die this episode, I especially felt it with Pyung who kind of knew he was going to die seeing 10 soldiers or so in front of him, where I haven’t seen any reason why this group would be more of a threat to him than all the other groups he fought in the past and survived.
    (Not that I mind that he died it just seemed like not true to the former episodes)
    I also didn’t like the fact Ga Pa ye didn’t know till the end that the person he worked for didn’t hesitate to send the child he cared for to her death. I really wondered what he would have thought about that.

    What I did like about the last episode a bit was the fact that it’s ironic when comparing it to the first episode, when there Chea yoon imagine himself trying to do what Ga Pa yea was doing here, only now Chae yoon was the one who saved the king and not the other way around.

    All around it was a very good series, but I’m disappointed with the last episode, all the more when I think about how perfect this show could be with another ending.
    I think that all the talk mentioned here in this site about second season to this show seem really unrealistic now…

    • 13.1 Vivien

      It is my opinion, also…GePai should not go there becuse of the little girl and should kill GoRion. Or at leasz he should have been killed by the arrows during the attack, paralelly with the first episode. The killing scenes are not exciting but making to laugh the viewers and producers killed themselves and their excellent series…it is a very pitty for the whole work and the actors’ fine performance

  14. 14 Revy

    Thank you for another great review. This drama was just awesome in every way you look at it. But i was so annoyed that they killed off so many people at the end. It was not really necessary. Just to leave the king alone was just so heartbreaking to watch and also i did not like the dream sequence at the end. It did nothing for me.

    • 14.1 innuendo

      i know what you feel,but writers wanted this drama to be a part of history, so Factions left Facts….Any actors created by them and helping the theme lead through episodes need to disappear finally…At last scene, se jong goes again with same talks that were shown at first apperances of epi.1, which means history repeat itself…And the writers said they want to show the loneliness of the king or the leader.

      • 14.1.1 Vivien

        Unfortunately it showed to me that Kang Che had right when he suspected the king in the beginning..the power is just like this.

  15. 15 mskololia

    Thanks HeadsNo2.

    I was not put off by the tragic vision of their (CY and SY) happily-ever-after. It was a continuation of CY’s dream that SY eventually agreed to during the fb and promise to herself. Their painful youthful existence, and sacrifices for a larger cause beyond themselves was brilliantly played out. Through their shared pain (and ours), we come to share this vision with CY of what their life could have been like if they’d survived.

    This theme is part and parcel of what the drama communicates to us all along….We all share in the past and present visions of those around us. It’s what makes us who we are as a people.

    “The team behind this drama and its actors have truly achieved something wonderful, with some of the greatest performances in recent memory helping to create a truly unforgettable viewing experience.”


  16. 16 Ani

    Nooooooooooooooooooooooo. I had to sit through this bullshit in Chuno (granted I didn’t watch that show as faithfully as this) but NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Why can’t they have a happy ending?

    • 16.1 DP

      because that’s not what realistically happened. If people here knew Korean history and what really went on, they would have known that So-yi, Gang Chae-Yoon, and Garion/Jung Gi-Joon, Mu-hyool were fictional characters made by the author. The author wanted to emphasize the king’s loneliness, and this is how he achieved it, by giving Korean viewers a taste of reality at the end of how it could have really went on with Sejong in his background story of publishing Hangeul

      • 16.1.1 babis

        I can see your point, but I don’t agree with it. being lonely from the start and achieving something on your own, is not the same IMO as showing achieving something with other people and because of those other people and then losing them. It is a different kind of loneliness.

        creating fictional character only to kill them in the end because they were never real seems like “what’s the point” for me, if someone is creating fiction, then he should trust the viewers to know that just as those characters were not real through all of the series they were not real at the end. Otherwise to play with reality through the process and stick with reality at the end kind of ruins the value of the fiction for me.

        I don’t know yet if that is the reason behind killing all of the fictional characters, so I’m not quick to blame the writers for yet again (it happened in other kdramas I have seeb) in ruining the fiction by deciding to stick with reality at a random point.
        At least I can say for the writers’s defense, that they stayed loyal to their characters spirits and didn’t ruin them.
        And also that the fiction they have created was so good, that it would take more than an end I didn’t really like to ruin it.

        But what I am still curious about, and will help me better form my opinion on the end of the series, although no one seemed to know the answer to that, is how those characters stories ended in the novel that this series is based upon. If they all have died there too, then I would be able to understand the ending here better.

  17. 17 Phyllis

    The tree is

    This is what the ending tells me: The tree is Korea. The people set up to symbolize the deep roots are all buried under ground. The flower survives.

    It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I think the king should die in the end. He leaves a legacy, so it would be perfect. This ending makes it seem like some of the ideas that Milbon holds onto are, indeed, correct. The king could not have done this task alone. His success needs to be shared with the people. The words of Chae-yoon are the most honest and the drama simply illustrates this: “The people have always born their responsibilities through pain.”


    • 17.1 melonhead

      The king couldn’t have died at the end ‘cos that would just destroy the historical credibility the drama was going for. And keeping with the historical nature of the drama, the king is ultimately the figurehead that represents Joseon. Also, Milbon’s ideas weren’t all bad, such as their wish to spread the power, so it makes sense that some of their ideas were promoted.

  18. 18 Stephanie

    Thank you. I loved your recaps and thought the last episode completed story well. CY lived the early part of his life consumed about how he was going to kill the king. In the end he died saving the same king.

    The last scene for me represented some nameless poor couple that were about to realize there dream bec of CY and SY’s sacrifices. It was at least better done than the ending to Lost.

    • 18.1 Jomo

      Love your last paragraph!
      We came to know and love Soyi and Chae Yon, but they are not the only couple who deserved to have better lives through the King’s genius. All of present day Korean are Soyi and Chae Yon’s children.

  19. 19 9to5

    I don’t why but I love lee soo hyuk, so I couldn’t hate his murderous character.

    This is my fav sageuk but I really wish they didn’t kill off our main couple!

  20. 20 Lemon


    what a wonderful christmas present. -.-

    Anyway, thank you Headsno2 for all your recaps on TWDR, I really appreciate it. And Merry Christmas!

  21. 21 bd

    Going into this last ep, I was already pretty resigned to So-yi passing.

    I, too, thought that Chae-yoon would likely die (he wouldn’t want to stay in this world w/o So-yi), so maybe that’s why I was crushed even more so by Mu-hyul, being the nagging “wife” until the end (which brought a smile to my lips even as I was being crushed).

    As for all these deaths being necessary towards the end, I’d say yes and no.

    The writers could have written a diff. ending where “Team Sejong” (or at least 2) survives, but thematically, I think there is something to Sejong standing victorious, but alone (also plays into Milbon getting its mini-revenge thru Sejong’s son an heir, Grand Prince Suyang) and of So-yi living thru Hangul.

    Also, it was a pretty much given that either Chae-yoon or Mu-hyul would die at the hands of the “undefeatable”
    Gae Pa-yi, once GPY started on the path of destruction.

    I kept yelling for Chae-yoon to tell GPY (either when he was rescuing So-yi or at the final battle) that JKJ had ordered Yeon-doo to be killed b/c I think that is one thing that would’ve gotten GPY to stop listening to JKJ.

    Still very curious about what the deal is GPY (both strength-wise) and how he came to serve Milbon.

    But while there was a lot of death at the end like for most sageuks, the deaths here fit with the plotline; in too many sageuks, there is too many deaths under a “blaze of glory” that really has no reason behind, aside from stubborness.

    All in all, the highlight of TWDR was when Sejong found out that Garion was JKJ (to me, that was climatic high point) and Sejong finding out about the death of his son and his moment of madness and then grieving.

    While Jang Hyuk did a good job portraying Chae-yoon’s grief over So-yi dying, it didn’t have that raw visceral power that just slammed me in the chest that Han Seok-kyu did w/ Sejong over his son’s death.

    HSK should win EVERY acting award for his performance; this was as good as Jeon Do-yeon’s best work.

    Some other final thoughts about the actors/characters.

    Thought that Shin Se kyung did a pretty good job overall, but I think an older actress would have been served better (she just looked so young compared to Jang Hyuk and HSK).

    I wished that Jo Mal-saeng had a larger role; his character was so interesting and just love the actor who plays him (does the whole perturbed look really well).

    The actor who plays Han Ga, like the one who plays Lee Shin-juk, are in like every sageuk, but have to say, my dislike for the actor playing Han Ga would probably remain to this day but for his role in “Joseon X-Files.”

    He usually plays unlikable characters but his character in Joseon X-Files was so great.

    For the actor playing Lee Shin-juk, I’ve always seen him in sageuks playing characters w/ overexaggerated expressions, etc. – I guess this is what PDs of many sageuks think what HUMOR is (the humor in TWDR, like Mu-hyul’s wifely nagging of Sejong was much more understated and effective), so it was nice to finally see his acting chops.

    Did not like Kim Ki-bum, the other actor was so much better as the other young scholar.

    The actor who played Pyung did a good job w/ his role, but still as weird looking as ever.

    My favorite characters were definitely Sejong and My-hyul (also my favorite “couple”).

    All in all, I’m a bit sad this journey is over, but it’s been one heck of a ride.

    TWDR is not only the best sageuk of the year, but also the best K-drama of the year and at least for me, at the very TOP of my list of K-dramas.

    TWDR had everything – a hugely interesting storyline (amazing how it revolved around as mundane as an alphabet), great acting, beautiful scenery and riveting dialogue.

    There is talk that the 2 writers for TWDR are interested in doing a 2nd season if they can get HSK back as Sejong.

    I don’t know about that; this story was about as perfect as it could be, but there may be potential if a 2nd season is about something diff.

    And lastly, thanks to Headno2 for excellent recaps. – intelligent, on point and w/ a bit of humor.

    Job very well done.

    • 21.1 ed

      I love your comparison of the Gwanpyeong scene to Jeon Do-yeon’s best. It has flashed across many people’s minds, it seems! Both are inspired in rather different ways. Jeon took a genre and style that’s typically shunned by the “art film”, to its logical extremes, that’s seldom explored within confines of TV/commercial movies’ limits. Milyang proved that makjang too can be inclusive of “art”. The repercussions of the international prestige bestowed on her can be seen across many K actress’ performances later, in creating something like an emotional “heat index” of their own show-stoppers. Han had the advantage of actually being IRL doting father when he did his scene, unlike Jeon (still years before having her first child) who had to imagine the motherhood experience gone wrong. Still, he took a chance on his specialty of getting the most out of bare essentials – as banal and simple as touch – to access a world of parental gaze (and all its ramifications when met with life’s twists and turns: mentoring a son he’s proud of, struggles of defining himself when obligations are cruelly snatched away.) It’s a case of actor’s temperament and particular set of tools fitting demands of a character (“confucian humanism”?) perfectly.
      Though apparently according to Mr. X, this is still a fanciful imagination of Sejong:P

  22. 22 melonhead

    I personally thought the ending was perfect for me. Maybe it’s because I like bittersweet endings, or could at least anticipate there would be some deaths (Soyi’s was a given for me), because realistically in historical stories like this, people die easily and commonly. I mean, compared to Chinese historical dramas, this was postively uplifting.

    I really don’t think Chaeyoon would have been able to live on without Soyi. Call him weak or whatever, but his Hangul dream really started with her, and the hope of their future after that was what continued to motivate him, so once she died, he would prefer to die and be with her once he carried out her final wish. Though it did hurt to see Park Po and Cho Tak crying for him. Gargh.

    The imagined ending for Soyi and Chaeyoon struck me more as a metaphorical ending for those two characters, as though they didn’t actually live happily ever after, they were finally united in death in their goal and decision to complete the project, while their kids learning Hangul were a sort of symbol of the fruit of their labour. (no pun intended)

    Tree is officially my newest favourite drama ever. Thanks HeadsNo2 for your hard work recapping this drama for all of us!

  23. 23 Ruthie

    first of all, I wanna thank you for doing such a great job on recapping this drama and putting some light on those confusing parts… so far, this is gonna be the Best segeuk drama ive ever watch… its so solid..i mean there are some minor flaws but i could always let that go. i wasnt actually happy when they killed Mu Hyul but this drama would be forgettable if they have a kept soyi and chaeyoon, mu hyul. i started crying during the convo bet chaeyoon and soyi and i started bawling when they killed Mu HYul (u could hear me in our house yelling…NOT MU HYUL!!!!!) he just proves that he’s a great character..even he’s on the verge of dying…he was able to crack some joke. This drama definitely and will always have a place in my heart.

  24. 24 merah

    I watch the final ep this christmas eve…and i cried like hell…this drama is so epic…

  25. 25 Yukie

    Thx HeadsNo2!! I Hv been waiting for e recap since I finish watching yesterday ๐Ÿ˜

    I love the ending very much!!
    Despite losing Soyi n Chaeyon, I feel it does brings home e fact tat Gaepayi is really v strong, it took 2 joseon best swordsman to take him down with casualties all around. If not I find the china army’s fear will be too over the top ๐Ÿ˜ž

    I also love the dreamy sequence of Soyi n Chaeyon live together as it cemented my belief that they sacrificed their lives for greater benefit of the ppl, thus the beautiful life is either in heaven or sejong imagination.

    Also I admire how king sejong continues his reign as the last man standing… How gut wrenching is the loss but extremely poignant. I feel he really takes e responsibility to heart n not shedding a single tears… Just like Chaeyon told him …

    All in all extremely satisfied. Im tearing as I read e recap n replay e scenes in my eyes. Loving king sejong, muhyul, Soyi n Chaeyon n this is my No 1 drama of all time!!

    Ps: Chaeyon chain letter was genius ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

  26. 26 lenrasoon

    I thought that Twdr would mellow down a little in the ending but nope, still intense.

    i’m glad we didn’t see Mu-hyul passing, i was a crying mess already.

    The scene when the King look at his people reading hangul was one of the most beautiful moments of this drama.

    And i agree that the “what ifs” of Cy and Sy were unnecessary it really felt like fanservice, but overall i loved the ending.

    thanks HeadsNo2 for your wonderful recaps and i hope we all can read you again around here.

  27. 27 Aye

    Haven’t watched this drama but have read your recaps. You’re such an awesome writer! I hope to see you recap another drama soon.

  28. 28 dramabliss

    In spite of the deaths of most of my favorite characters, and the mound of tissues I sniffed and sobbed into in the final episode. I am still okay with the ending.

    And I still hold TwDR as the best drama of 2011 if not ever. It excellently shows the trifecta that JB talks about what makes a drama not just good but great.

    Kudos to the writer. PD, and production team. Applause to the excellent acting all around, and most especially by Han Su-Kyu.

    And thumbs up, HeadsNo2 for your awesome recaps.

    What a great way to end 2011 in kdramaland.

    Merry Christmas, everyone!

  29. 29 bd

    A while back ago, I noted how Lee Bang-ji looked like an Asian Yoda and fit the role perfectly, as master and teacher of the “special martial arts” or as they say in the Star Wars universe, “the force.”

    Not a real big Star Wars fan (“Empire” was the only good film of the lot due to Lucas having the least to do w/ that film), but I wondered if the other characters in TWDR would correlate.

    The good guys:

    Chae-yoon – Luke Skywalker (apprentice to “Yoda” and both full of internal turmoil)

    So-yi – Princess Leia (woman in charge)

    Mu-hyul – Obi Wan (except Mu-hyul looked to be in considerably better shape in his older years)

    Cho-tak – Han Solo (OK he’s chubbier and not as good-looking, but Cho-tak has his charms, er, way with women)

    Park-po (“piggy”) – Chewbacca (always ready for a meal break)

    Jo Mal-saeng – Admiral Ackbar (for no other reason than both are too cool)

    The baddies:

    Jung Ki-joon/Ga Ri-on – Darth Sidious/Palpatine
    (Pretty easy one as both had dual identities and always trying to get others to join the “dark side”.)

    Shim Jong-soo – Lord Vader (not exactly a perfect fit, but heir apparent to the Emperor/Darth Sidious who later turns on him)

    Han Ga – Grand Moff Tarkin (full of arrogance – thinks he’s so smart and really driven to the cause – “to crush the rebellion!”)

    Leader – ? Maybe Count Dooku, but there’s got to be something more befitting.

    Pyung – General Grievous (has the same pale, androgynous face)

    Gae Pa-yi – Darth Maul (the baddest assassin/killer of them all)

    Lee Shin-juk – Jabba the Hutt (always looking out for his own interests)

    Jeok-hee (Ming assassin) – Boba Fett (hired hand)

    The only problem is – can’t think of an appropriate corollary for Lee Do/Sejong, but that’s just as well, since no character in the Stars Wars universe can touch the awesomeness that is Sejong.

    • 29.1 ed

      Haha this is brilliant. JKJ as Darth – totally. That leaves only George Luca for correlating with Sejong – or maybe Kurosawa, Spaghetti Westerns & whatever else went into conceiving the SW empire. After all Sejong took his cues from multiple sources too – great visions don’t just fall out of the sky!

  30. 30 dany

    Thank you so much for your recaps and comments. Merry Christmas!

  31. 31 Arhazivory

    *sniffles* At the end of ep 23, I realized So Yi would die and then expected that Ddolbok would die too. But…I didn’t expect them to kill Myu-Hyul. Couldn’t Sejong have been left with at least someone to share his pain with. ๐Ÿ™

    The final episode was powerful though. I was moved to tears when the citizens were reading aloud and also during Sejong’s narrative at the end. Through blood, sweat and tears…the mission was accomplished. This drama is the IT of 2011 for me. I’ll miss these characters and I’m looking forward to the specials.

  32. 32 aur

    first, thanks to headsno2 for providing all the recap and commentary. seriously, all of it was much appreciated.

    next, i’m wondering if anyone could point me to any meta (AKA analysis) that’s been written on TWDR. i’ve been DYING to read and/or talk with someone about TWDR in a specifically fandom-based sense. like TWDR in comparison to other korean historical dramas. certain themes in TWDR e.g. how memory is used, how class privilege (and privilege in general) is addressed, how the drama serves as an adaptation, how annoyingly incompetent all the palace guards were at pursuing or fighting or basically anything that was required of them with the sole exception of administrating torture–and even that was done by different people, ahem. or even talking about TWDR in a cinematic/cinematographic framework. (short aside: it was great to see a drama constantly develop its plot and jump from one point to the next, but it felt like the characters had latent psychic powers, at times, in their abilities to forestall their opponents’ underhanded tactics. it was like scattering the seeds for a scheme and thinking, “oh! interesting! this shit is going to be good!” but the show moving on TEN SECONDS after those ideas have just been planted. there is thickening your plot and bloating it with too many red herring-like developments. i thought about this more as i watched the last two eps., which, pacing-wise, seemed to drag a bit by TWDR’s standards.)

    i’m hoping to write up my own thoughts–once i gather ’em! and perhaps after a second viewing when i’m not so hard-pressed on keeping up with what’s going on.

    but again, wondering if anyone here’s happened upon anything relevant. anything in either korean or english is fine. tyia

    • 32.1 anais

      If you find some such forum, I’d love to know.

  33. 33 fan

    One line Summary of the final ep:
    died, died, died, died again. died too? died bunch. the promulgation, died, and died.

    • 33.1 fan

      So disappointed.. Felt that it was forced, and rushing.
      too many unnessary death…

      But should we say it is ok because HanGeul made it in the end?
      Also, the prediction of despair (Shim JongSu and
      Han MyungWhae) might be suggesting some possibility of season 2?

      What I wanted to see in this ep.-
      Gae Pa-yi turns to good side.
      Pung saves So-Yi.
      So-yi (even if she has to lose an arm) and Cha Yeon live happily.
      MuHyul and Sejong’s happy street stroll- like
      king is happily listening to people studying HanGul and MuHyul looks at him with big smile.

      Sigh again… Final killed awesomeness of this drama…

      BTY, Thanks so much for the recap!

  34. 34 kiongna

    No matter who say what or what say who – I hate that they made Soyi and Chae Yoon die in the drama!

    Heck this is a STORYYYYYYYYYY if fictional charactersssss for god sake – I so want to throw something at the writer/PD… but still cannot… because it was one of the best Saguek dramas I’ve seen (Although I do agree with Javabeans on the heart part/being moved on the drama, I felt so much more for The Princess Man on this level, being swept up by feelings for the characters – and now I can truthfully say The Princess Man is firmly lodged in my heart whereas TWDR mainly spurred my adrenaline and left me gasping throughout with the storyline, great acting…).

    Argghhhhhhh I’m like left hanging and so dissatisfied! darn it ! I guess I will now head off to the Ramyun Shop and get my noodles worth! aisahhhhh…

  35. 35 kiongna

    Mienne *bows* forgot to thank HeadsNo2 for the great recaps, thoughts and insights – KAMSAHAMIDAHHHHHHH i look forward to your future recaps of other dramas!

    • 35.1 ed

      Ditto. Thank you HeadNo2 for such a fabulous recap marathon of Tree. It is one of the best, most entertaining and creative recaps I’ve read. Sometimes I even plopped down for your reactions instead of watching the drama (as quality – and draining – as it is!)

  36. 36 lingergem

    One of the best drama for the year2011
    heroes died but they successes on their important mission.

    thank you so much for the whole recaps….more power!

    and happy new year!

  37. 37 Geraldine

    HeadsNo2, thanks.

    Oh No !!, I was watching CHUNO !! all over again.

    Oh director ! don’t you have another version to your death drama ?. with that disheveld long haired, bloody mouth and your woman not by your side ! ,

    we are watching the last episode from CHUNO !! same tragedy is THAT’s ALL FOLKS ?

    Mr Samsooki where are you ?, please comment ?.

  38. 38 supah

    You can knock this finale for a variety of reasons but PD Jang Tae-yoo was freakin’ phenomenal! In that you never once felt the fatigue that seems to come as a standard with all finales these days, in fact, it was even more energetic than ever i.e. Gae Pa-yi’s showdown at the promulgation.
    Although… maybe Jang Hyuk felt some fatigue because I never thought the day would come when Shin Se-kyung would out-act Jang Hyuk, and she did, marvellously.

    But this was never really about them, this was all about Han Seok-kyu. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! Not even those Daesangs with his name across them will be able to do his performance sufficient justice.

    Similary, story-wise, it was ultimately all about Sejong. I don’t hate that Chae-yoon and So-yi had to die (ok, I do, but in a narrative sense…) if they were to depict Sejong’s loss as well as his victory. Especially his loneliness as ‘the last man standing’.
    The sole thing that threw me about the finale was the final scene in Chae-yoon’s fantasy, it was completely unnecessary. Otherwise, a fitting wrap-up for this insanely thrilling, heartpumpingly intense show.

    And thank you, HeadsNo2 for your superb, AMAZING, insightful recaps. I second everyone else, hopefully you’ll be back with moar recaps. Moar!!

    • 38.1 HeadsNo2

      I have to actually say, this is something that occurred to me while watching So-yi’s marvelous death scene. As an eternal Jang Hyuk fan (seriously, I will watch anything that man is in, even his dubbed T-drama), this was the first time I watched him in a scene and thought he could have done better (I know, blasphemy!).

      That being said, that scene wasn’t about him, and Shin Se-kyung really did knock it out of the park. I couldn’t have loved her more in this series, and can’t wait to see more of her in the future. She’s one actress whose career I will gladly follow from here on out. She’s proven herself. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • 38.1.1 supah

        Ohh… I’m fascinated by Jang Hyuk, too, he’s still a stalwart in the acting field, but I guess this entire show was never really his vehicle, he was great overall but he was still never able to claim it from Han Seok-kyu.

        I’ve sorta known Shin Se-kyung possesses a certain ‘spark’ since her smaller role in Queen Seon-deok, I felt she was trying too hard in Blue Salt but she was just awesome here! Will be looking out for her future projects, too.

  39. 39 Suzi Q

    Too much blood and gore in the last episode where every one dies! Not again! Hate the ending! Jang Hyuk must be sick of dying in sageuks. Hated the stupid dream sequence too.
    Cried my eyes out.
    Han Seok hyu performance was fabulous! He should get the best actor award. This is his breakout performance. Hope to see him in more kdramas in the future.

  40. 40 Laica

    Firstly, thank you, HeadsNo2, for your amazing recaps of this series. You’re an amazing writer and I’ll be looking forward to reading more from you on Dramabeans.

    As for the finale… WHY did they all die?! Ugh. I kind of knew So-yi was a goner when she and Chae-yoon had that super-sweet, slow-motion goodbye in episode 22, but a part of me hoped against hope… but for Chae-yoon and Moo-hyul to die as well? Totally unnecessary. I can see the poetic meaning of our OTP sacrificing their lives for work they had basically “staked their lives on,” as they said earlier, but like you said, HN2, the message of this drama was one of hope. I suppose that you could say great achievements come at great costs. I don’t disagree. But I suppose this is one ending my head gets but my heart doesn’t.

    Totally agree with you about the last scene. What the heck was that? The imagined happy scene by Chae-yoon in his last moments, fine, but the last one just adds insult to injury. As well as undermining the impact of the two characters’ sacrifices (and making us question why they had to happen at all).

    The last two episodes were my least favourite of the whole series, but I still loved this drama as a whole. My favourite moment in the finale was when JKJ had his knife out to kill the king and a murmur of voices rises up… and he lifts his head to see that the citizens are reading. That was pretty epic.

  41. 41 Jomo

    First of all, thanks to JB for inviting HeadsNo2 aboard to recap this show.

    HeadsNo2, thanks for putting your heart and soul into these gorgeous and thrilling and funny recaps.
    I do not have a very good record of finishing sagueks because I no smart enough. Reading your take on what I just saw made it easier to follow and loads more enjoyable.

    Thanks to all the commenters for sharing what they think, what they guess, how they feel and what they know. I had a LOT more fun than I could have dreamed learning about Joseon Literacy.

    The end of this drama: The King stands alone was perfect.
    It brings home, in a sad sad way what his father said way at the beginning when he solved the magic square.
    One was the answer to ruling, to getting your way, to being remembered in history.
    As important to history all the surrounding folks were in Sejong’s time, when the winds of time blow everything around and away, what is left on the history page is the King. His idea. His alphabet. No matter how much help he had in creating Hangul, that is how it is remembered.

    BUT, BUT, BUT history is not the only thing that matters. Even if we don’t know their names or their faces, this story reminds us that people, their children, their loves and their deaths matter more than history. I cried (and cried and cried) for SY blue arm, and her pretty white petticoat, for CY’s cut hand, and MH’s last joke. I loved them as if I were the King. I understood why this guy 500 years ago worked as hard as he did.

    The letters, and the maelstrom they caused, did not die down until 1946!
    500 YEARS it was around.
    500 years from creation to final official acceptance.
    It amazes me how far ahead of his time Sejong was, too.

    I like that what Jung Ki-joon said, that the letters were NOT going to make things better for the people, that the letters basically were going to be a pain in everyone’s a$$ for a long time came true. He may have been a jerk, but he was a realist.

    In my mind, all the deaths underscored just how LARGE a sacrifice had to be made in order for the country to accept the alphabet.

    LOVE THIS SHOW. 10/10 best sageuk ever!

  42. 42 gohahjung

    Why must jang hyuk die? he died in Slavehunter already!!!!!!Not watching this, recap is fine by me coz he diesssssssssssss.Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!

  43. 43 shin mi rae

    i joined you in the opinion that so-yi and chae-yoon should not have dies. i was hoping that when mhu-yul died, chae yoon will succeed him as head of the guards. more so, i was hoping for a great life for so-yi and chae-yoon. that was promised the whole series.

    actually, when i was watching that heart wrenching scene with so-yi and chae-yoon side by side with sejong crying, i realized that this scene is more fitting and epic for princess man (rather than crap-out ending – oh no, you will all kill me right???). how epic for princess man, with sooyung crying and putting their hands together… with sooyung promising he will be a good king because his kingdom was purchased by the life of his most beloved daughter and most loyal son of his enemy.

    having said that, despite that not so good ending, i still say that tree is an epic drama. who would’ve thought that inventing the alphabet can be this exciting and riveting?

  44. 44 Sarah

    First of, can we not have Chuno spoilers, people? there may be some people (including me) who have not yet watched the drama.

    *slight? spoiler*
    secondly, this is the second series this week I’ve seen shin se kyung die–i’m almost wondering if this is a trend that she’s going to follow for more of her future dramas. i read somewhere that she had envisioned her character’s death for the other drama and, if she did so for this drama as well, then for a 90-er, she really is kinda twisted. However, hats off to her for her acting, especially in the death scene. Her death was so POWERFUL (to say the least). although i do feel the speech was a tad bit longer that somewhat diluted the impact on me…just my two cents though

    anyway, the death’s didn’t shock me but moo-hyul’s death definitely was the most emotional. i also feel bad for Gaepari (sp) because I was convinced he wouldve turned rogue if he had found out Yeon De was to be killed on Jeong Gi Joon’s orders. also, i was really impressed with the way the vampire-looking-Milbon-killer died. he had been a ruthless warrior and he died doing his duty.

    i hope to see JavaBeans’ final thoughts on the entire drama and how it juxtaposes to what really happened in history. The Han Ga? guy who later becomes PM (according to the subs I watched) really had me interested. I don’t have any command on Korean history butif I did, that would have been an eyebrow-raising/jaw-dropping moment for me–at least that’s how I see it being projected by the drama gods.

    all in all, HeadsNo2 summed it correctly. this drama was EPIC. the music, the stunning scenery, the acting…granted, there were a few flaws however all in all I feel the finale did a good job to wrap up the awe-some story that was unfolded throughout the series.


  45. 45 Jomo

    Oh! I know this whole alphabet thing was important to Sejong, but he did a lot of other things, too.

    They could have a second season with all new surrounding characters starting with our lovely King, then move on to his son’s reign. Especially since the Sejo son was not as nice as dad, so there is lots of conflict, maybe, with his father’s ghost.

    • 45.1 ed

      A “prequel” following the young Sejong through the years long before he turned toward the Hangul project, could work for 2nd season too. SJK gets a quality vehicle to flex his muscles, the fans get more SJK on TV, win-win.

  46. 46 MsB

    Emotionally upsetting watching so many of the characters you love die! And you tell two people and so on and so on. What an ending!! As always, we depend on great recapping at Dramabeans!! My main source for information. Thank you very much! Now back to crying…. ๐Ÿ™

  47. 47 ajbny

    at the end of the episode sejong thinks something like- it’s like chae yoon, soyi, and muhyul never existed and I took that to mean the writers are just going for historical accuracy because they did do a lot of character reduction. I bawled when muhyul died all I could think was he’s all alone.

  48. 48 arina

    this year best sageuk drama…han seok Gyu is awesome.watching him as sejong feels that im watching king sejong himself in action…best performance i’ve seen so far

  49. 49 Vivien

    thank you very much for the recaps, it is amusing to read the comments, also. I hope you follow the pilots next year, too!:)

    This drama was fantastic alltogether, however I am much weaker in learning hangul than GePaYi…

    only the end ..if I could forget it…and not for that they died but how they died…I forgot to feel any pitty for them , unfortunately, maybe this was the purpose of film-makers? –the whole kiling scene was so …buffoon…it was out of the style of the whole process …so far it was a fine mix of reals and unreals and mainly the fine thoughts ruled the brain, spiced with magic scenes…but the end was out of these rules.

  50. 50 antonia

    i really love the drama… but the end not so. how many times do you need to wound someone to actually kill him? how bloody this episode has to be? i can try to understand why they kill so-yi and when she died chae-yon must die too… but why kill mu-hyul? why sejong stand like a fool on his throne when they’re going to kill him? why his guards didn’t force him to leave? nonsense…
    so-yi was the best of the episode… the king dissapoint me a little (i expect more of him and more of chae-yon)… but overall and amazing drama… one of the bests of the year

    • 50.1 DP

      In case everyone was wondering, all the characters who died were fake characters made by the author. The drama ended with reality. Sejong left with a couple of his supporters and it emphasized his loneliness. It also follows the historical plot by showing a future character that will soon support Sooyang Prince to lead another bloodbath in Joseon.

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