The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 14
Woohoo, things finally get good with some major, major developments up in this hizzy. I’d been slowly losing interest with every episode, resigning myself to the fact that maybe this would just be one of those dramas that lost steam as it went on. Thankfully, I think it just found its second wind.
I’m not going to cry about the loss of the child actors because that was always going to happen so there’s no use saying “I miss the kids” in every episode. What I missed wasn’t the kids, but the sense of a smoothly unfolding plot, and once Yeon-woo lost her memory and the two brothers basically turned into Mopey and Piney, it felt like the drama was just hanging on to one very simple plot element and dragging it out till kingdom come.
Now things take a huge turn, finally kicking the plot into motion again after spinning its wheels for ages. Better late than never.
SONG OF THE DAY
Wheesung – “눈물길” from the drama’s OST. [ Download ]
EPISODE 14 RECAP
Wol is spared the greater charge of plotting against the king, but because of her and Yang-myung’s confessions, she’s culpable for seducing a member of royalty (using her dark arts), she’s to be driven out of the capital to care for the sick. She’s given a leather patch to wear as a scarlet letter, marking her as a lewd woman.
Hwon sits with Queen Grandma, his game face on as he smiles pleasantly and compliments her tea selection. It’s a special kind with health benefits, and he replies that it’s also known for growing more potent with age: “It’s like you in that way.” Did you just call Granny old? She laughs, saying it’s not a bad thing.
She makes sure to remind Hwon that he now owes her one, and that she’ll come to collect on that later — he’ll have to grant her a favor in return. I’m pretty sure she’s going to demand your firstborn, so I’ll give you a big hint now: Rumplestiltskin.
The king’s council informs him of an upcoming solar eclipse, and the ceremony that the court will hold on that day. They advise the king to be particularly cautious, because an eclipse is a big heavenly deal. With the folks in this drama being so superstitious, it strikes them as a bad omen to have the sun (aka king) completely covered by another entity (aka the moon). As an aside, can we take that symbology a step further for some solar-lunar convergence/covering happytimes, please? I mean, if we’re going to be so literal with the whole sun-moon business…
Hwon agrees to their advice to be careful. The ministers then inform him that Wol is going to be sent away the day before the eclipse, which angers Hwon — she was declared innocent of their trumped-up accusations, so why the punishment? But now both Yang-myung and Wol have been endangered by their nobly stupid attempts to save each other, because their association opens them up to the whole plotting-to-overthrow-the-king storyline that we saw in the previous generation, with Prince Uiseong and Ahri.
Yang-myung discovers this firsthand when he finds his path blocked by officers, who inform him that his movements are being restricted on royal orders. More like royal council orders, but in this drama the council basically pulls the little puppet strings. Yang-myung fumes thinking it’s Hwon’s doing.
Wol receives an unexpected visitor at her cell that night: Hwon, who reminds her of the order not to leave until he found a way to calm his chaotic feelings. He says that she had been right: “I had not been seeing you, but seeing her through you.”
Wol’s face crumples at that, as Hwon continues, “Now you can leave.” He offers her the chance to say anything to him, even if the words are hateful. But she says no, there’s nothing to say.
Hwon staggers out of the prison and breaks down into sobs in front of Woon, saying that he could offer no soft words for the woman who’d given him such comforting words when he needed them. Woon tells him he has done what he can to protect her, in his own way, but Hwon sobs, “Can you call this protecting?” I know, right?
Minister Yoon mulls over the matter of Wol’s familiar face, unable to place where he’s seen it before. Yesterday I assumed this was a reference to Yeon-woo, but today Minister Yoon lands upon the eerie resemblance to Ahri, whom he’d similarly tortured. He recalls how she’d defied him and vowed that the heavens would punish him for his evil deeds.
That night, Bo-kyung hears the crying sound again coming from the dead princess’s Hidden Moon Building, and asks her court lady if she hears it. But it’s only Bo-kyung who does, and that fact is almost as alarming as the crying sound itself. And then when she glances in her mirror, instead of her own face she sees 13-year-old Yeon-woo’s.
Ah, but tonight Queen Grandma hears it too. Like Bo-kyung, she’s unnerved when her court lady can’t hear it, but she’s sure it’s coming from the Hidden Moon Building.
Nok-young looks up into the skies with fear, understanding that the heavens will insist on uniting the connection that human hands have tried to sever. She feels the gathering energy for the impending “blood wind that will rage,” which nobody will be able to escape.
Min-hwa is also a bundle of nerves, though hers is fed by the guilt and trauma over Yeon-woo’s death. She cries alone in bed, thinking of Grandma’s words that manipulated her child’s mind into thinking that Min-hwa was the reason Yeon-woo was killed.
She perks up to hear that her husband has returned early from his trip, and rushes to see him. She grabs Yeom in a backhug and tells him how she missed him, and he turns and hugs her face to face.
The queen dowager calls the head of the royal astrology department to ask about the rumored crying sound, and is a little mollified when he chalks it up to the disturbance of the coming eclipse. But she gets defensive when he asks if she heard it herself, and she dismisses it as a ghost story.
The astrology official suggests she call the head shaman of Seongsucheong to deal with it, but the queen refuses. After all, telling the powerful (and currently angry) shaman who threatened to reveal your murder plot that you’re hearing the victim’s voice just gives her more ammo to use against you. She orders him to deal with it alone, and secretly. He suggests a memorial service to console the spirit, but since this is a rite performed by Seongsucheong, the queen is reluctant. He has one alternative proposition…
Nok-young bribes the prison guards to visit Wol, and gasps in horror to see her bloodied condition. The first thing Wol does in her tortured, battered, and soon-to-be-exiled state is apologize for worrying everyone, which sort of makes me want to slap her. You’re good, we get it. We don’t need to see the little birds braiding your hair to get the point.
Nok-young tells Wol of once having a best friend, whom she last saw sitting in this very prison. And that friend’s last words were to beg her to protect Wol. Tearily, Wol asks if that woman was her mother. Nok-young shakes her head no, saying that in trying to protect Wol, she endangered her.
Wol counters, telling her that she raised her well. She reminds her of the time Wol had been so dead-set against becoming a shaman that she’d been about to end her own life, but Nok-young had told her that if God had chosen her, there was a reason for it: “That no matter the pain or the despair, he had given me the ability to bear it. From then on, I began to think that there is no such thing as meaningless pain. God must be giving me this pain I feel now be for a reason.”
Yeah, or maybe there are sadistic fuckers using you as a political pawn. Just sayin’.
At that, Nok-young removes her outer cloak, rises to her feet… and sinks into a deep, respectful bow. Oh, now that’s lovely.
At Seongsucheong, Seol and Jan-shil arrive in time to hear a group of young shamans gossiping over Wol’s fate, gleeful in their schadenfreude. The leader is the girl who’s always been jealous of Wol, and she’s all but cackling.
Seol screams and attacks, knocking down the leader with a satisfying kick and drawing her sword on the others. They run scared.
Nok-young tells Wol she will have tribulations to face in the future, but that she alone will know what to protect and what to leave behind: “But do not seek answers from outside, but from within yourself.”
Wol is confused at the cryptic words, and also at the sudden change of address, now that Nok-young speaks in jondae and calls her “agasshi,” the equivalent of Lady. She urges her to remember that she is strong, and that her wisdom will lead her to make the right choices. Well, thankfully somebody remembers Yeon-woo’s supposed to be wise, since she seems to have lost that with her memory.
Nok-young ends by telling her to believe in herself, adding silently to herself that Wol ought never to forgive her.
She returns to find Seol waiting for her, brimming over with fury. Is she just going to leave Wol to rot in prison? Seol says she’s done everything Nok-young ever told her to do, including lying about Wol’s past to her.
Nok-young says that even if everything is cast in darkness, nothing can block the brightness of a waxing moon — so they can do nothing but wait for the moon to wax. The truth will come out in time, and it’s all in Wol’s hands.
Hyung-sun regards the despondent Hwon with sympathy, and tells him he’ll go make a snowman — understood to be code for letting him see Wol — but that this is the last time: “When spring comes, the snow will melt.” It’s a lovely moment in one of the drama’s subtler, more poignant relationships. Hyung-sun is showing himself to be quite wise, restraining Hwon from giving in to all his emotional impulses, but it’s not at the expense of feeling.
So Hwon, disguised as a nobleman with Woon, watches as Wol is led away by officers, wearing her scarlet letter.
Bo-kyung is enraged to hear that last night, Hwon was seen heading toward the Euigeumbu prison, and berates herself for letting Wol live. But another passing glance at her mirror shows Yeon-woo’s face yet again, spooking her further. She screams and throws her vanity chest from her, cutting her hand on broken glass.
The physician is called, but Bo-kyung screams that nobody is to be let inside. She shakes uncontrollably, holding her bloody hand.
Hwon encounters the physician on his way in, however, and arrives in Bo-kyung’s chamber unannounced. He sees the damage and takes the dressing cloth to bind her hand. Bo-kyung tells him he’s not the only one with a longing heart, because hers feels the same — he was her first love. She asks how he, after so painfully losing his love, could be so cruel to her.
At that, he leans forward to hold her while she cries, thinking that they’re all so sad and hurting — himself, Bo-kyung, his brother, “and her.”
Wol’s very public procession through the city attracts the attention of the people, who see her mark and hurl both insults and objects at her. Her mother is walking nearby and hears the commotion, and upon glimpsing Wol, she starts with immediate recognition. She pushes her way through the crowd and yells Yeon-woo’s name, which might be more affecting had we not seen her mistaking every random street urchin for her dead daughter in the past.
Wol turns back briefly at the sound, but her mother falls in the crowd and goes unseen.
But then the royal officers hand off Wol to new hands, accompanied by a bribe. She’s alarmed at this change in plans — if she’s not going to her intended destination, then something shifty’s afoot. She challenges her new captor — is he really defying royal orders? The man drags her away, saying he answers to a more frightening power.
Yang-myung hears the news that Wol disappeared in transit and never arrived at her destination. Perhaps she was attacked by robbers en route. He heads out immediately, only to be confronted by Woon, who tells him to go back inside.
Yang-myung takes out his sword, remembering that Woon can’t draw his without royal order. So will he break his loyalty to that rule to defend himself, or not? Yang-myung starts to fight him, and Woon gives a final warning — that holding a sword out of anger or love is a dangerous thing — before drawing his sword.
They fight, but Woon readily disarms Yang-myung, sending his sword clattering away as he asks, “Who is your anger directed toward?” Yang-myung says, looking desolate, “If I knew that, I wouldn’t be acting like such a madman.”
Woon asks why Yang-myung can’t understand how the king feels; Yang-myung counters, “How can you not understand your friend’s feelings?”
Yang-myung asks if Woon will report that he raised a sword to him. Since Woon is acting on royal orders, it’s equivalent to defying the king, aka an act of rebellion. Woon replies that although he has not forgotten his duty, today he was acting as a friend. Awwww.
It’s nighttime by the time Wol is taken to her new destination, and she’s surprised to find that she recognizes where she is: the palace. The queen dowager’s astrologer is there to greet her, and now we’re clued in to the suggestion he’d proposed to the queen to rid the palace of the ghost. They can use Wol as a spiritual vessel, capturing the ghost’s spirit in her body during the eclipse.
He calls it a type of sacrifice, because this practice is dangerous for the vessel. In cases where the ghost is strong, the shaman can go mad or die, which is why shamans rarely perform the ritual. But hey, this shaman is an expendable presence, right? I do love that they’re unwittingly reuniting Wol with her “ghost,” thinking it’ll serve their purposes when I suspect we’ll be met with a surprise.
The royal astrologer shuts Wol up the Hidden Moon Building with a brief explanation that she’s to comfort a ghost. Wol looks for an exit but finds all the doors and windows barricaded, and marked with talismans.
Now she recalls the gossip about the dead princess crying and realizes with some shock, “The soul I am supposed to comfort is the king’s woman?” Aw, that’s got to hurt — even though we know she’s really just jealous of herself at this point.
The day of the eclipse arrives, and preparations are made for the ceremonial rites. One Euigeumbu investigator is curiously absent: Hong Kyu-tae, the king’s secret mole. His hyungnim goes looking for him and finds him, hilariously, embracing a dead half-naked dude.
The officer jumps back and gives him the shifty eye, but Hong Kyu-tae is immersed in his investigation and wonders if his hyungnim has ever seen a dead body that hadn’t gone cold. If a living person holds a dead person long enough, can that heat transfer? (Side note: Who else thinks the royal physicians must’ve bribed their way through royal medical school if they buried a body that was still warm?)
The hyungnim retorts that if that happens, the body ain’t dead yet. Thank you. Somebody give the man a medical license.
Hong Kyu-tae reports his findings to Hwon: The body expired from an unknown illness, and bore no marks of poisoning or murder. The body remained warm for hours, although the doctor had confirmed that her pulse had stopped.
In the morning, Wol wakes up to find she’s not alone in the room. Her 13-year-old self sits there with her back to Wol, who has expected something of the sort and addresses her sympathetically. She asks what happened to make the girl cry — is it because she misses the king? Is there something she wants to tell him? She asks to know what it is, so she can do what the ghost wishes.
Yeon-woo slowly turns to face Wol — and Wol’s eyes widen, as though in recognition.
And Wol awakens. She’s in the same room as before, but no Yeon-woo this time. Are we in a dream, or are we in a possession? Wol painfully crawls from her sleeping position, gasping for breath.
She drags herself toward the door, mirroring young Yeon-woo dragging herself out of bed the night she was attacked by dark magic in this room. Ah, so it looks like possession, allowing Wol to relive the story the ghost wants her to see.
Hwon takes his place at the rites, as the court awaits. The eclipse begins.
Nok-young narrates as the eclipse reaches its zenith, explaining the heavenly event that will reunite that severed connection, and how everything will be returned to its rightful place.
Hwon sits under the darkened sky, mulling over the details — an illness with no source. A murder leaving no trace. He thinks of his own mysterious illness, and connects the dots: spiritual attack.
Wol collapses at the door, flashing back to eight years ago when she heard Nok-young explaining to her father that Yeon-woo was suffering a spiritual ailment. She remembers the coffin she was trapped in, and being pulled out. Looking up at the face of Nok-young. Her father feeding her the medicine. Dying in his arms.
Are the dots finally connected? Wol cries, “Father. Mom. Mom!”
More flashes: seeing young Hwon for the first time, running through the palace with him, the puppet show they watched together. All her memories come flooding back, and Wol cries in great, anguished wails.
Nok-young comes to Ahri’s grave and thinks sorrowfully that Wol will have uncovered her own secrets, but now is headed for a different, new kind of pain. She prays for their protection.
As the eclipse ends and the sun reappears, Hwon comes to a conclusion: “Black arts.” He orders Hyung-sun to bring Seongsucheong’s head shaman to him, but secretly. He needs to ask her whether one can kill using such arts.
The queen’s astrologer comes to Hidden Moon Building, ready to have Wol’s dead body disposed of quietly if necessary. He finds her in the room, hunched over creepily, and sends his officer to check whether she’s dead.
Wol raises her head slowly, and he asks nervously if she was able to console the ghost. Wol answers, “Yes. That girl will cry no more.”
Finally! I think it took way too long to get here, but at this point I’m just relieved that we’re here at all. At first I worried that Wol’s memories would again be interpreted as shamanic visions, since she could have just believed that she was possessed by the ghost, and that the memories belonged to the girl. But coming face to face with the dead princess, and realizing that she looks just like herself at that age — that provides a jolt she hasn’t had before. (I suppose that’s the flaw in using flashbacks for memory sequences, since WE see what Yeon-woo looked like as a child, but Wol wouldn’t be seeing herself in her memories.)
So I’m relieved to find that the amnesia arc is indeed over — Nok-young’s comments are fairly decisive about Wol recovering her memory — and that we can proceed to the fallout. Because in stories that hinge great big dramatic devices like amnesia (or birth secrets, or identity swaps), the fallout is way more interesting than the setup anyway. Are we gonna get a taste of some revenge? Oh, I hope Wol gets all revengey on the queen’s ass. Pretty please?
Wol finally stepped it up as an interesting character in this episode, after being rather placid and frustratingly passive for a while. I understand why she was that way, given the whole shamans-are-not-people line of thinking that has been drummed into her head, but it doesn’t mean I liked her for it. But I love the ending of this episode, since an angry Wol — or should we call her Yeon-woo now? — is a much more compelling character. I want to see her go all-out and finally put her wits to good use in combating the old bat and her cronies, and giving Bo-kyung what-for.
Now that she knows what her rightful place is, and has an understanding of how things have been stolen from her, I anticipate a fiery clash. And while I thought her reunion with the king as an adult left something to be desired, now I’m on pins and needles to see how the reunion goes, now that she’s in possession of her full identity.
Nok-young foretold of things returning to their rightful places, and if we’re going to get a restoration of order and a downfall of our villains, we’re gonna have to get this train movin’. Lots of ground to cover in three weeks, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — maybe it’ll speed up the plodding pace and recapture some of that early excitement. And speaking of remaining episodes: Extension rumors are, as yet, simply rumors. The articles reporting an extension cite no sources, while the subsequent reports denying the story cite an actor’s agency and the production company. The current situation: Nothing has been decided. It may happen, but I wouldn’t count on it yet.
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 13
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 12
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 11
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 10
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 9
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 8
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 7
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 6
- 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