FINALLY! This is what we’ve all been waiting for. And holy moly! Ratings scored a hefty 29.3% for this episode — every episode thus far has been a new high, so we’ll see how long this steady climb can continue. (Apparently in the minute-by-minute ratings, the episode topped out at a 31.56% at Jung Il-woo’s first appearance. Ha. Why am I not surprised?)
SONG OF THE DAY
The Moon That Embraces the Sun OST – “시간을 거슬러” (Going against time) by Lyn.
[ Download ]
EPISODE 6 RECAP
Yeon-woo dies, leaving Hwon and her family grief-stricken. Yang-myung tears back into town just in time to see her coffin being buried, and he falls to the ground in tears.
Minister Yoon tells Bo-kyung to prepare to move to the palace, since she’ll be the prince’s bride now. Bo-kyung is unsettled as she asks her father, “Is she dead?” while thinking to herself the addendum, “Did you kill her?” Nice to know that at least she isn’t entirely sanguine about killing someone to get her way, even if the dark force is strong with this one.
But as she retires to her room, she recalls her father’s words of warning — that if she’s not ready to go this far, she shouldn’t harbor the ambitions in the first place. Basically: This is the big leagues, and we play hardball here. Get used to it or get out of the game.
Bo-kyung takes out the friendship bracelet Yeon-woo had made for Hwon but dropped at the ceremonial rites. Recalling how it felt to see the two lovebirds together, Dad’s words ring in her ear: “Remember the anger you feel when something has been stolen from you.”
Yang-myung comes to see Hwon, but it’s not comfort he offers. Instead, he asks what right Hwon has to ask after the burial, and her family. What did he do for Yeon-woo? “When she was cast out of the palace like a criminal, what did you do? When she was hovering between life and death, what did you do? When she was buried in the cold ground, what did you do?!”
Oof, this hurts, even though I understand his anger — his hurt at being without power and unable to do anything, watching someone with power not doing anything either.
Hwon yells at him to stop, but Yang-myung yells back that Hwon is the prince who has everything, like the king’s affection and the loyalty of his best friend. He asks brokenly, “Just one thing — could I not have just one thing?”
Hwon is shocked, never having realized Yang-myung’s feelings for Yeon-woo. Yang-myung continues that if it had been him, he would have done everything he could — he would have put everything on the line to protect her: “You could not protect her.”
Yang-myung walks away vowing to himself to claim and protect her in the next lifetime.
The queen dowager practically cackles her satisfaction to Nok-young. Can somebody get this lady a mustache, so she can twirl it? She’s in such great spirits that she readily agrees to hear a request, happy to bestow her favors on Seongsucheong. But she balks when Nok-young asks to leave for a spell, not wanting to let go of her most skilled shaman. Nok-young assures her that she will return, and that she needs time to recover her powers because causing a death takes its toll on one’s spiritual energies. Yeah, it’s called having a soul.
And then… Yeon-woo opens her eyes. In her grave. Yeesh, I knew we were probably going to get a Romeo & Juliet-style death-fakeout, but I didn’t think they’d actually bury her alive. Aboveground, Nok-young stands guard as a gravedigger shovels through the dirt.
Yeon-woo realizes where she is and starts to panic, burning through her oxygen supply quickly. Nok-young urges the man to dig faster, and just as Yeon-woo’s about to pass out, an unexpected visitor shows up. It’s a girl with bare, bloodied feet, clutching wildflowers: Seol. Aww. That brings a surprise tear to my eye, that Seol clearly went through hell to run away and pay her last respects.
Inside the coffin, Yeon-woo starts to fade out, crying out for her parents and the prince as her life flashes before her eyes like scratchy scenes on a broken television… barely registering that she’s made it out to fresh air.
When she awakens again, she’s in a room being watched by a precocious little girl — the girl Yang-myung previously saved in the marketplace. Her name is Jan-shil, and she calls for her mistress.
Seol rushes to greet her excitedly, but Yeon-woo looks at her blankly, wondering who she and Nok-young are. Where is she? “And who… am I?”
Nok-young is shocked — this wasn’t an intended side effect — but I suppose this presents the perfect opportunity to reinvent their story. She tells Yeon-woo she’s a shaman, having collapsed after a shamanic rite that sapped her energy and must have also taken her memory.
Yeon-woo asks after her family, and Nok-young tells her she doesn’t know — that she took her in after she saw her wandering the streets, sensing spiritual energy within her. Yeon-woo doesn’t remember anybody but the thought hurts nonetheless; she tears up, asking if she was abandoned by her family after they realized she had powers. Nok-young urges her to forget her past and focus on her life now.
In the palace, Hwon crosses paths with Minister Yoon, who offers up some insincere words about having been worried about him. Two can play this game, and Hwon laughs it off, acting as though he’s taken the philosophical route regarding life and death. But his tone of warning leaves neither in any doubt that they stand as political opposites, each a danger to the other.
With the opposition twisting Yeon-woo’s illness into a political tool, they are able to get Minister Heo exiled, as punishment for allegedly trying to sneak a sick daughter into being princess. He leaves Yeom with words of warning to not hold this against the king, and to patiently await the day he may be called to serve Hwon. At least it’s fortunate that the trumped-up accusation won’t be held against Yeom, though I’m sure he’ll wear the tarnish for a while.
They’re alerted to news that Mom is at it again and find her lovingly feeding a stray girl she must have picked up off the streets, calling her Yeon-woo. Apparently this is not the first time, and Yeom ushers the girl away while Minister Heo reminds her that Yeon-woo is dead. Mom comes back to her senses and breaks down in sobs.
With the help of an ally (who knows of their situation), Nok-young ushers her girls — Yeon-woo, Seol, Jan-shil — away in secret. Yeon-woo hangs back, sensing that her family may still be here and that leaving will make reunion impossible.
As the man sends them off, he thinks, “With the moon hidden away, this country’s darkness will grow deeper. But if it waxes, it will wane, and when it wanes, it will wax again. That is the moon.” He wishes them safe until that day comes.
Nok-young recalls her dream-vision and asks Ahri if this is the solution she’d indicated — if this is the two-birds-with-one-stone answer to saving both the girl and Seongsucheong. Whether she returns to the palace or continues on as a shaman is now up to Yeon-woo and her fate.
Bo-kyung prepares to take her place as the new princess bride, and her mother gives her some last reminders about how this was her place from the start, that she is not a replacement but the original owner retrieving what was hers. Bo-kyung assures her that she will not let anyone take anything from her, and that she will be on her guard.
Princess Min-hwa, meanwhile, huddles in her bed, weighed down by guilt and fear over her part in Yeon-woo’s death. True, she didn’t do anything, but the queen dowager has skillfully manipulated her into thinking her girlish wishes were responsible. It’s a clever way to tie the princess to her side, by making her think she’s played a bigger role than she has.
Hwon dutifully makes his bows to the bride’s family, but as he waits for her to emerge, he looks up at the sky and holds out a hand to the drizzle. He doesn’t even notice Bo-kyung, lost in thought over the memory of Yeon-woo describing her name as meaning light rain, or foggy mist.
It’s a mist not unlike the haze of clouds currently covering the sun, for a moment of symbolism. (All this simplistic symbology is starting to wear thin, but moments like this are a nice touch.)
Bo-kyung registers his inattention with disappointment. Elsewhere, Yang-myung also holds his hand out to feel the droplets, remembering Yeon-woo.
And then…some time later, another hand reaches out for the mist, this time wearing king’s robes.
Hyung-sun attends on King Hwon (Kim Soo-hyun!!), who wryly reminds him of his habit of talking too much. Some things never change. He declares that he’s in the mood for a game of golf, and all the court officials are rounded up to fawn over his prowess with the club.
But as Hwon lines up a ball, he frowns in pain and momentarily touches hand to heart. He brushes it aside, though, and compliments his opponent on a good game. It’s amusing to watch the looks of nervousness and horror that cross the other ministers’ faces at the winner for claiming victory.
The winning minister says modestly that he just won because this hole was a teeny bit larger than the others, and Hwon lets out a jolly laugh… which then turns stern as he asks pointedly if the minister knows where the biggest hole in the palace is. Laughter turns uneasy — does he have another meaning? Hwon says he’ll show them what he means, then heads into a building filled with records.
Hwon finds what he’s looking for and takes out a chest containing appeals to the king. He starts reading.
He summarizes their contents in a deeply sarcastic voice: citizens unfairly punished, people given unfair loans that get their land taken from them, officials bribing their way into government. He demands to know why these appeals were kept from him.
They attempt lame excuses about reviewing the reports first, saying they were trivial enough to handle without him. Hwon challenges, “Who can call these matters trivial? Who told you to stand judgment over the citizens’ suffering?” This interference of communication between the king and his people, he angrily declares, is the palace’s biggest hole.
The ministers retire to rant among themselves. Minister Yoon has been silent throughout all these events, perhaps viewing Hwon as the threat he is, while the others are more dismissive, saying he has finally grown up.
One minister derides the king’s newfound passion, saying he ought to save that for the bedroom. Apparently Hwon has refused to share a bed with the queen all these years, and the ministers speculate that he’s faking his infirmity as an excuse to keep up the separation. One minister argues that he isn’t faking, because he can’t hide his pained expressions when his heart acts up.
They mull over the problem of what to do with the king, wondering if they can send him away on the pretext of recovering his health. Minister Yoon finally speaks to express approval, saying that it’s better to occasionally loosen your tight grasp on a dog’s neck rather than keeping it in a stranglehold, in order to get the dog under your control.
Minister Yoon presents a proposal to the dowager queen, saying that many are suggesting that the king take a royal concubine, perhaps somebody he cares for who can bear a future prince. The dowager queen balks — the prince must be born from the queen. Minister Yoon points out that the king refuses to consummate the marriage with the queen, meaning that without a concubine they may have no direct successor. And if that’s the case, there’s always the threat of Prince Yang-myung, who is quietly amassing supporters…
That’s enough to rattle the dowager queen. Minister Yoon proposes that she help him take over some of the king’s authority, since she’s the only one with the ability to check the king.
Minister Yoon does this by proposing that the king temporarily move palaces, but Hwon cuts right to the heart of the matter: If the king vacates the main palace, during his absence it is the king’s father-in-law who becomes responsible for court matters. He says this in that deceptively playful way that sounds pleasant but is really his way of informing Minister Yoon that he’s on to his power-grab attempt. In fact, when he’s informed that Grandma wants a chat, he guesses she’s about to push the same point with him, knowing they’re conspiring together.
On his way to see the dowager queen, Hwon crosses paths with Queen Bo-kyung (Kim Min-seo). She greets him warmly, but his face grows cold and he passes silently.
They are brought before Queen Mother and Queen Granny, who urge Hwon to go away for a while, for his health’s sake.. Grandma brings up the lack of royal heirs, to which Bo-young tearily apologizes. Queen Mother assures her it’s not her fault because the king is ill, while Hwon sits there stone-faced.
He firmly declines the suggestion, so Grandma argues that neglecting his health is neglecting his royal duty. Hwon makes the barbed comment that it would also be negligent of the king to leave state matters in the hands of his extended family, which Grandma understands to be aimed at her favoritism regarding her own kinfolk.
She’s offended (or rather, acts offended as though his charge is unjust) and declares that there’s only one way to respond: hunger strike. Taking on the tone of a righteous martyr, she announces that if the king will insist upon misunderstanding her motives, she will cease eating and count down the days to her death.
Hwon is cornered, all right. I’m sure he doubts very much that the old bat will die, but politically, he’s been maneuvered between rock and hard place. Then to add to the matter, Bo-kyung prostrates herself in front of his doors, crying piteously for him to let go of his anger, laying all the blame on herself. She refuses to rise until his tiff with Grandma is resolved, and he tells her she can stop because he’s already decided to reconcile.
Bo-kyung rises and stumbles, conveniently right into Hwon’s arms. There’s been no indication that she’s being deceitful, but I think we know enough of her to suspect she’s in actress mode, and Hwon knows it too. He comments how fortunate she must be to have the queen dowager backing her inside the palace, and her father outside it.
Bo-kyung stiffens to realize he’s sharper than he seems, and she tries to move away. He tightens his hold on her and reminds her of words he’d said before, leaning in close like a lover. His tone is sweet, but his words contemptuous — that she and her family may set out to gain everything, but don’t bother trying to win his heart, “Because you can never have it.” He says that last with a cynic’s laugh.
Bo-kyung looks stricken in front of witnesses but when she’s alone, her face twists into a sneer. She trembles angrily and reminds herself that Yeon-woo is dead, and that she belongs here.
Bo-kyung is visited by Princess Min-hwa (Nam Bora), who’s as bright and cheery as ever. Bo-kyung plasters a smile on her face and when Min-hwa asks about her appeal to the king, Bo-kyung says demurely that her insufficient virtue has prevented them from conceiving an heir. Min-hwa says it’s not virtue that’s needed but affection, and that the reason her brother doesn’t visit Bo-kyung’s bed is probably ’cause he doesn’t love her. Ha, so I see she hasn’t learned tact in all these years.
Min-hwa has happy news to share, and says that a date has been decided for when she and her husband can share quarters. Essentially she’s been married for a while (I presume while she was still very young), but they haven’t consummated the union. Bo-kyung deflates at this, jealous of the princess.
Min-hwa arrives outside her husband’s quarters, but pauses to write something on a piece of paper. It’s the aforementioned auspicious dates, and she adds to the list. HA. You’ve gotta love a girl who’s eager for some loving.
She enters his room and finds him asleep. Shyly, she tells him her news, that today’s one of the dates… only said husband is actually outside, having just arrived at his own door. Sleeping Dude gets up, interrupting her, and she whines in annoyance, “Yang-myung oraboni!” Hahaha. (Also: Jung Il-woo!!)
Yang-myung can immediately tell she’s messed with the dates, and she’s so miffed at his brotherly teasing that she storms out, not even stopping to chat with her beloved husband. (It’s Yeom!) In a huff, she tosses Yang-myung’s shoes onto the roof. Ha, so petty.
Yeom wonders why Yang-myung’s always picking on his sister, and he says it’s just cause she annoys him. Heh. But there’s added sadness here, and the mood briefly dims as Yang-myung sighs over his friend being stripped of his wings when he was destined for greater things; it makes him blame Min-hwa and Hwon.
Yeom has a brighter perspective on it, saying that the princess is his family’s savior, and it was through her influence that his family was allowed to live. If ever there was an apt situation to use the phrase “giving the illness, then the cure,” this is it.
When the friends emerge from the room, Yang-myung finds his shoes gone, but hilariously produces a spare pair from his bag. It’s because he’s a frequent traveler, but I love the idea that the princess’s petty revenge is so easily thwarted.
Mention of the king brings a wistful look to Yang-myung’s face, and he asks Yeom if he wonders what Yeon-woo would look like now, if she’d lived. They’re all aging, but in his mind she’s still 13.
So on his slow walk home, he imagines the 13-year-old Yeon-woo at his side. She tells him — as she once did before — that the king waits for him at the palace.
He asks, “Will he really be waiting for me when I’ve given him such pain?” She tells him, “He’s waiting.” She asks him to protect the king.
Yang-myung finds a crowd of men waiting for him at his front door, and they recognize him immediately. He turns and runs, managing to evade being spotted by the crowd.
As he emerges from hiding, he thinks to himself, addressing his words to Yeon-woo, “Are you happy now? This is my way of protecting the king.” Ah, I suspect these are the supporters Minister Yoon alluded to, who are eager to back Yang-myung’s claim to the throne. He, however, wants none of it.
That night, Hwon sleeps fitfully. He hears Yeon-woo’s dying words about how none of this is his fault, which conflict with the dowager queen’s insistence that it is. Then there are Yang-myung’s angry accusations that he did nothing to protect Yeon-woo. He wakes, and those words ring in his years.
This is a recurring dream, as Woon — keeping silent guard in his chamber — deduces. They head outdoors for some air, and Hwon explains the meaning behind this building’s name (Silver/Hidden Moon). When his father had it built, the moon above the pond was so beautiful he wanted to treasure that image, so that on nights when the moon is hidden, he could come here and look upon it.
Hwon adds that once there was a moon he hid here, and that while the sun and moon can’t share the same sky, they can be seen together in the same pond. And in the water’s reflection, we see the moon hovering over Hwon’s shoulder.
In the woods, Nok-young is in the middle of a rite when the candles are snuffed out by some unseen force. She senses something in the air, something unsettling and powerful. Jan-shil delivers a letter from a man who warns her that the spiritual energy of the heavens is shifting, and that they will meet soon. It’s time.
Several days later, Nok-young heads to meet him, with the same three girls trailing in her wake. There’s Seol, all grown up now (Yoon Seung-ah), with Yeon-woo (now named Wol, or Moon) keeping her face hidden.
Arriving at the dock, she finally comes out from under the covering, revealing adult Yeon-woo (Han Ga-in).
Did you know that there are two suns and two moons? And that the sun and the moon can’t be in the same sky together? And that the sun loves the moon, and the moon loves the sun, and that the moonmoonsunsunOkayWeGetIt.
I’m enjoying this drama a whole damn lot, and it makes me giddy and sad and intrigued — but oy with the super-obvious metaphor. It’s not a bad one; it’s just getting really, really old. It’s a simple concept in the first place, so we’d have to be dumb not to grasp the poetry of the sun-moon divide, but it’s being handled with all the subtlety of a Hong Sisters metaphor. Circa 2006. This drama has such a lovely, stirring feel to it and terribly engaging actors, that I wish the delicacy of its artistic sensibility translated into delicacy of storytelling. Instead it’s sort of like bashing something in with a sledgehammer and then coloring it with dainty brushstrokes.
That said, I’m thrilled that we’re starting to see some great meaty stuff now that we’re finally into the present-day story. I adored the teenage moments and think it’s one of the better sageuk childhoods in recent years, but from a story point of view, this is where it really starts. This is where we start going interesting places, so it’s a welcome advancement, and not a moment too soon.
I wasn’t anticipating this rift between the brothers to happen so soon, but damn if it wasn’t moving. Their shared love of the same girl was bound to eventually lead to conflict, but I didn’t expect it to come at her death. It makes sense, though, that while Yang-myung’s love of his brother was so strong that jealousy and hurt wasn’t enough to bring him to the breaking point, death — that final, irreversible point (excepting shamanic interventions, that is) — finally pushes him there.
And yet, adult Yang-myung still loves his brother, and just as with their early-adolescent rift, both sides suppose the other wants no more to do with them while actually longing for that connection.
I’m again amazed at how spot-on the casting matches up from childhood to adulthood, and find I can easily believe the transition, even though not that many years have passed. (Heck, Jung Il-woo is just one year older than teenage Yeom, aka Im Shi-wan.) For instance, I see teenage Hwon in Kim Soo-hyun’s mannerisms, which aren’t exactly the same but make it believable that one grew into the other.
Speaking of whom, Kim Soo-hyun is doing a marvelous job — he’s got a wonderful way of adding a bitter, caustic edge to Hwon while also being able to show us that lighter, smiling side. (Even if most of his joking is satirical or mocking.) There’s a delicious undercurrent of steely nerve in Hwon’s way of speaking — he can turn from jovial to sharply incisive in a flash. We saw it in his adolescence, but it has sharpened over time and it keeps his court on its toes. It also gives me hope that this is not a young king about to get jerked around by others; he’s in control of his power. Lesson painfully learned.
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 5
- Interviews with Moon/Sun’s child actors
- Jung Il-woo and the adults of Moon/Sun to appear this week
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 4
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 3
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 2
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 1
- Hanboks galore at press conference for Moon That Embraces the Sun