This hour is the bookend to Episodes 1 and 2, and even though it’s been a while since Wol-ryung and Seo-hwa have been at the center of this story, it turns out they can still wring our hearts, just like they did the first time. I’m not crying, I swear. I just have something in my eye.
SONG OF THE DAY
Yisabel – “My Eden” from the OST [ Download ]
EPISODE 21 RECAP
Wol-ryung and Seo-hwa finally meet for the first time in twenty years. Seo-hwa’s voice shakes as she calls his name, and this time we hear Wol-ryung’s thoughts as he looks back at her curiously: “Who is she, that woman? How does it hurt just to look at her?”
A glimpse of her in the past flickers by, and then when she calls his name the same way, he’s taken aback. “Who are you? Do you know me?” And as they approach each other, a group of archers races through the woods.
But before they can exchange any more words, Kang-chi shows up and steps in between them. He tells Wol-ryung that he can’t kill any more people, and that he’s going to put a stop to it all. He runs at Wol-ryung and attacks.
Wol-ryung fights back and slams Kang-chi up against a tree by his throat. Kang-chi: “Stop! I know you’re in agony. I know that’s not your real face. And I also know that the only person who can stop it is me. I’ll stop it. I’ll stop you.”
Seo-hwa sheds a tear as she watches father and son come to blows. They fight, but it only takes a few seconds for Wol-ryung to gain the upper hand. He gets ready to strike, when Seo-hwa screams, “No, Wol-ryung!”
His hand freezes in mid-air, and he’s more surprised than anyone. Seo-hwa cries for him to stop: “He’s your son! Our son.” He looks back and forth between them, hesitating. Kang-chi uses that chance to fight back, but they just end up in another deadlock grip.
Suddenly the group of archers arrives behind Wol-ryung. They aim, but Kang-chi sees them first and swings around to protect him.
We cut straight to Jo Gwan-woong testing out his new rifle with an evil glint in his evil eye, and then when we get back to the gumiho family reunion, Wol-ryung is frozen in shock at Kang-chi, who’s got a back riddled with arrows from jumping into the way.
The archers get ready to attack a second time, and this time Wol-ryung zooms over there to suck the life right out of them. Seo-hwa rushes to Kang-chi’s side, and when they turn around to look for Wol-ryung, he’s gone.
Yeo-wool, Gon, and Tae-seo decide to make a run for it and find Kang-chi looking like a pincushion. Yeo-wool rushes to hug him, and then she holds him close as Gon yaaaanks out the arrows one by one. Yeesh, it’s worse coming out than going in.
But he gets through the pain, and then the blue lights come to work their magic, thank goodness. From a distance, Wol-ryung watches them and his gaze lingers on Seo-hwa. She can feel him nearby and looks up, but there’s no one there.
The group returns to the school, and Kang-chi brings his mother with him. Jo Gwan-woong gets a string of bad news: Wol-ryung has killed their men, they failed to kill Seo-hwa, and Kang-chi ran off with her.
He fumes, knowing that it means she’ll get taken straight to Lee Soon-shin. Sure enough, the admiral arrives at the school to meet her, and Seo-hwa sends Kang-chi out so the adults can talk.
Yeo-wool’s stomach growls from the day of running around and kicking ass, so she and the boys run to Teacher Gong, who makes them a chicken. Gon and Tae-seo watch as Kang-chi and Yeo-wool fight over giving each other the best piece, and finally Tae-seo just breaks it up by grabbing it for himself. Ha.
Gon grabs the other leg, leaving the lovebirds to fight over the rest. If you can’t get the girl, you might as well get the best chicken parts.
Seo-hwa tells Lee Soon-shin that war is inevitable, and he agrees—but his worry isn’t foreign enemies, but those who are working to derail this country from the inside, like Jo Gwan-woong.
She tells him that Jo Gwan-woong’s network of foreign backing is far wider than he knows, and offers to give him the full list. Ah, to cut off his money stream. She asks for a favor in exchange, which we don’t hear.
Tae-seo gets ready to head back to the Hundred Year Inn, and finds Kang-chi lost in thought over his tree homework. Kang-chi worries that maybe it’s too dangerous for Tae-seo to go back, and promises to come running if he needs help.
He shares his homework puzzle—to figure out what kind of house is made by cutting this tree—and Tae-seo says in order to make a house you have to cut the tree at its base first. With that he takes out his sword and slices the paper right at the trunk of the hanja, turning it into the character for “foundation,” that comes from “root.”
Tae-seo says that a person who doesn’t know his roots can’t say he knows himself, and suggests that maybe figuring out that answer is the point of his assignment. I like all the riddles he gets, but I wish they’d let him figure them out on his own.
Kang-chi makes a bed for his mother, and she takes his hand. She thanks him for growing up so well when she fell so short as a mother, and he just beams at the praise, so relieved that she thinks he’s a decent person.
She confesses now that she ran back to him twenty years ago. When she came to her senses she ran back to the Moonlight Garden where she had left him and searched endlessly for her way back, but the mountain wouldn’t reopen the way there. “There wasn’t one day you weren’t in my thoughts.”
They stand there holding each other’s hands lovingly, as he calls her mother one more time. Yeo-wool listens from the other side of the door with a smile. She sits outside with Gon and muses that it must be nice to have a mother, even if parents do kind of make your life miserable sometimes. Gon asks if Master Dam does that to her, and she says every time he’s mean to Kang-chi it makes her sad.
Gon understands how Master Dam feels though—if he knows that Yeo-wool or Kang-chi could die if they don’t avoid each other, it’d be weirder for him not to be overprotective. But Yeo-wool doesn’t care much about a future she doesn’t know yet: “If you change the present to match the future, living now has no meaning.” Wise words, my friend. Gon can’t help but smile at that.
Lee Soon-shin gets reports of multiple massacres all over the area, and so does Jo Gwan-woong. If they’re both surprised, then it can only be one culprit…
Wol-ryung sucks the life out of a man and throws him on the ground, and when we pan out, he’s surrounded by a sea of corpses. Whoa.
Both sides guess from his course that he’s headed straight for the Hundred Year Inn. Lee Soon-shin sends his men to clear out the area, and then as Wol-ryung kills his way through the village, we hear his inner thoughts pleading: “Someone stop me. My thirst won’t be quenched. I want to kill them all. Please, somebody stop me!”
Kang-chi sleeps in his mother’s lap, and she adoringly caresses his hair and pats him to sleep like a baby. Once he’s asleep, she takes out that dagger she kept all these years and the smile fades from her face.
Yeo-wool and Gon get some late-night practice in, and she takes issue with him going easy on her. He reminds her that she likes to win which is why he’s letting her, which just annoys her more.
So he stops holding back and they train for real. He still wins, of course, but she just takes it in stride and decides she’ll have to practice twice as much starting tomorrow. There’s a charged moment when he realizes he’s holding her hand, and awkwardly pulls away.
They stop when they see Seo-hwa, who’s come outside to watch them. She goes to see Master Dam next, and they exchange knowing nods. Oh, are you doing what I think you’re doing?
Yeo-wool comes in to check on sleeping Kang-chi, and then we see her conversation with Seo-hwa in flashback. She asks Yeo-wool to take care of Kang-chi, because she has to go stop Wol-ryung.
Mom says she can’t burden her son with a fate so cruel, and that this is the best that she can do for him. She says that seeing Yeo-wool with him gave her the courage, knowing that he’d be happy with her.
She takes Yeo-wool’s hand: “I hope that you can protect the love that I could not, because I was too foolish.”
Yeo-wool thinks it over, and then wakes Kang-chi. She decides to tell him the truth—that his mother went down to the village to stop Wol-ryung, and she thought he needed to know.
Meanwhile, the town is on high alert with people evacuating left and right. The officials urge Jo Gwan-woong to run away, but he refuses to be chased out, demon or not. He says that even Wol-ryung wouldn’t survive losing his head, which I’m sure is true, but how are you going to do that, exactly? Ah, he’s armed with his rifle—is he going to try shooting it off?
Seo-hwa’s old associates decide that this is a great diversion and make plans to steal back their precious map while everyone’s busy dealing with the demon. Tae-seo is spying on them, but gets found out before he can tell anyone.
Kang-chi runs out to ask Gon what’s really going on, and finally hears about Wol-ryung’s massacre spree, and his mother’s decision to try and stop him. Yeo-wool figures out that the inn is next, and Kang-chi gets ready to head out.
She asks him to wait for her to get her sword so they can go together. When she runs inside, Kang-chi asks Gon to look after her, intending to go without her.
She runs inside to grab her weapons, and Gon comes in to block her exit. He says that Kang-chi asked him to give her a message: “I’ll be back.” He reminds her that Kang-chi always keeps his word, and that this isn’t a fight for humans to get mixed up in.
She worries that he’ll need her if he loses his bracelet and hulks out, but Gon tells her that Kang-chi has learned how to control himself without her. She’s stunned: “Without me?” Gon says that Kang-chi might be much stronger than they know.
As Kang-chi races out of the school, he takes his bracelet off and takes a giant leap, flying down the hillside. Wut. Suddenly he’s taking flying leaps? Where was the episode when he learned how to do that? Show skips all the good stuff, grumble grumble.
Jo Gwan-woong is ready with a barricade, and Wol-ryung approaches through a thick fog, growling ominously. Jo Gwan-woong raises his rifle, and Minion lights the fuse…
Wol-ryung keeps coming closer and closer, when suddenly Seo-hwa steps out in front of him. She calls out his name and asks him to stop, but he just reaches out and chokes her with one hand.
She cries as she struggles to hold on, and when her tears drop onto his hand, it awakens something in him. Does he remember her?
But while this has been going on, Jo Gwan-woong has been aiming his gun at them, and the fuse has been lit this whole time. Wol-ryung looks up and sees the barrel aimed at Seo-hwa’s back.
He fires, and at the same time, Wol-ryung swings around to shield her, taking the shot in the back.
Kang-chi runs toward the inn, but finds Lee Soon-shin standing in the street, waiting for him.
Wol-ryung collapses into Seo-hwa’s arms, and she screams his name when she sees blood pouring out of his shoulder. She clamps her hands over the wound, crying his name… and it changes his eyes.
The red disappears, the black veins recede, and he looks into her eyes. Augh, the pain written all over his face—he remembers. A tear trickles down his cheek as he struggles to say it aloud: “S…Seo-hwa?”
Seo-hwa: “Do you remember me?” Wol-ryung: “I missed you.” Awwww. They embrace in a wash of tears, and then she thinks, “Let’s return now, to the Moonlight Garden.” A gust of wind blows through, and they linger there, holding onto each other for a little longer.
And then when the wind is gone, so are they.
Kang-chi tells Lee Soon-shin that he can’t let them go like this, but he’s told that this was his mother’s final choice, for his sake. And in flashback we see what her request was.
She kneels before Lee Soon-shin and asks him to help Kang-chi live whatever life he chooses, and begs him not to let Kang-chi see her go.
Kang-chi cries that it can’t be: “I just found her. I just got to look at her face as much I wanted. I just barely got to call her mother. I can’t let her go!” He breaks down in tears, and Lee Soon-shin hugs him while he cries, shedding a tear of his own. Aw, what a nice moment. I just really like it when these two share a scene.
In the morning, Jo Gwan-woong walks around listlessly, looking like he’s had his soul sucked out (er, not that he had one to begin with). He thinks back to the last day that Seo-hwa was here.
He had offered to take her back if she would come to him. She scoffs at him, and says that right there is his punishment—he has power and riches, and could have the whole world, but still not be satisfied.
She tells him that he’ll never satisfy that hollow thirst. “And in the end, you’ll never truly have anything. That is your punishment.” He roars in fury now, calling her name. It’s just so delightfully karmic that the one thing he really wanted was Seo-hwa’s heart, which he could never have.
Seo-hwa wakes up in the Moonlight Garden and smiles at the familiar cave. She heads outside and we see her wander around the same way she did twenty years ago.
Wol-ryung asks if she’s finally awake, and when she turns around, she sees him as he was before—the smiling, happy Wol-ryung. Aw, we’ve missed you! We see that it’s just her illusion because he’s still dressed in black and bleeding, and she asks if he’s okay.
He tells he can barely remember her name and her face—that’s the only thing he can hold onto right now. He urges her to go back before he loses that memory again. He turns to walk away from her.
She cries out to him: “I’m sorry, Wol-ryung! I was too young then, and my heart wasn’t big enough to accept your love. I’m sorry for the scars I gave you. I’m sorry I caused you pain.” His face twists in pain to hear her words.
And then she takes out the dagger, saying that she kept it all these years, hoping that if she could just see him again, she’d put everything back the way it was. “In your eternal life, I may have been just one shred of wind that blew past you, but remember this—you were everything to me.”
He realizes what she’s about to do and cries, “NO!” but she stabs herself in the heart before he can get to her, and falls into his arms. As he cries and pleads with her not to die, she becomes Young Seo-hwa in his eyes.
She says through tears, “I love you, Wol-ryung. And I’m sorry… that my love only amounts to this.” She reaches out to touch his cheek as they both cry, and then she smiles up at him so sweetly before closing her eyes.
He wails and wails for her not to go, clutching her close. The blue lights return to the garden and swirl around him as he cries holding her, and then we hear his thoughts in voiceover: “I didn’t hate you. I only missed you. I didn’t resent you. I only loved you with all my heart. I love you. I love you.”
As he cries and begs for her to open her eyes, she turns back into present-day Seo-hwa. The heavens open up and cry too, as if feeling his pain.
Soo-ryun receives Kang-chi’s answer to her homework assignment. She opens up the paper and written is just one character, for “mother.”
He trudges home in the rain and finds Yeo-wool waiting outside for him with an umbrella. Aw.
She gets up when she sees him, and she notes his bare wrist. Flashback to earlier in the evening, when Dad had told her that it was time now to let Kang-chi go. He said it was time that Kang-chi left in search of the Gu Family Book.
She walks over to him now to share her umbrella, and he tells her wearily that he’s back. She asks after Mom, and he just hugs her, and then says through tears that she’s gone. Yeo-wool pats his back and lets him cry on her shoulder.
She sheds tears too as Dad’s words ring in her ears: “Let Kang-chi go. You have to let him go so that he can leave comfortably.”
Dad, are you seriously urging her to be a noble idiot? I was okay with Seo-hwa’s sacrifice, but if Yeo-wool pushes Kang-chi away “for his own good,” I’ll pitch a fit. So I guess the book quest was always going to be Kang-chi’s study abroad, to force the couple to separate in the eleventh hour. I can’t help but roll my eyes, not that that’s even the worst trope on the planet (really, there are worse) but because for this universe and this story, it feels like falling back on a rom-com drama crutch that you just don’t need. Is there no such thing as telling your girlfriend you’ll be right back after your hundred-day fast in the mountains, or whatever? It’s not like she won’t wait for you.
I liked the closing of Wol-ryung and Seo-hwa’s arc, even if it felt too short given how invested we were in their story from the beginning. it was nice to have Lee Yeon-hee back, because it really drove home Wol-ryung’s pain and his loss. The weaving back and forth between her seeing him as he was twenty years ago and him seeing her that way too—it played into the visceral connection we have in seeing those two characters together the way we remember them.
And even though she came around as a mother to Kang-chi late in the game, it’s really her relationship with Wol-ryung that was her emotional hook. So I appreciated having Lee Yeon-hee back, and also for letting them say their goodbye in the garden without Kang-chi. That felt right, that the focus wasn’t on him.
There were certainly some bumps in the road (like a lack of development for Demon Wol-ryung or that stretch of story time where they just remained frustratingly cryptic), but the big emotional beats for this couple were always done well. Between the first two episodes and this one, Wol-ryung and Seo-hwa’s story has that epic love and loss, and bittersweet tragedy, that makes it linger in your thoughts. I think what always struck a chord with me was the way they made such human mistakes, lived and suffered as a result of them, and then owned up to the choices they had made.
In that way Seo-hwa’s death didn’t feel like she was just being noble to save others, but that she was really paying the price for the mistakes she had made, and was doing everything in her power to right her wrongs, in a cosmic sense—and why the dagger in the heart of the one you love is that metaphor-turned-literal-weapon in the first place. They each took turns dying a different death in place of the other, and so this time when she saves him, she really does put everything back in its rightful place.
- Gu Family Book: Episode 20
- Gu Family Book: Episode 19
- Gu Family Book: Episode 18
- Gu Family Book: Episode 17
- Gu Family Book: Episode 16
- Gu Family Book: Episode 15
- Gu Family Book: Episode 14
- Gu Family Book: Episode 13
- Gu Family Book: Episode 12
- Gu Family Book: Episode 11
- Gu Family Book: Episode 10
- Gu Family Book: Episode 9
- Gu Family Book: Episode 8
- Gu Family Book: Episode 7
- Gu Family Book: Episode 6
- Gu Family Book: Episode 5
- Gu Family Book: Episode 4
- Gu Family Book: Episode 3
- Gu Family Book: Episode 2
- Gu Family Book: Episode 1