A big episode. Phew! I’m pleased with there this episode takes us, because I’m ready to introduce new threads to this plot. Not that we didn’t have plenty to keep us busy already, but injecting an extra dose of energy into the proceedings is never unwelcome. We’ve got to part ways with a few characters as we move past their roles in the story, but the show presents a fitting farewell, I think.
SONG OF THE DAY
Herz Analog with Epitone Project – “그땐 왜 몰랐었는지” (Why did I not know then?) [ Download ]
EPISODE 14 RECAP
Won presents the evildoers with proof of their crime, and then we jump back to finish the scene from last night that explains how we got here:
Won charges in to save Da-in from being cut down by Gon-oh, asking why Da-in has to be killed. Gon-oh says he’s just following orders, which prompts the question of how far back the chain of command goes—the queen?
Gon-oh tsks-tsks and says that it’s because they know all this that they must die. At least her path to the afterlife won’t be lonely, he says, since Merchant Jang will join her in the morning.
He charges, and Won sadly only manages a few parries before the sword is knocked out of his hand. I have to say, I kinda dig how much of a weakling he is in battle, purely for the novelty of having a hero who isn’t awesome at everything all the time. Of course this does present a problem for the characters, who are sprawled on the ground defenseless as Gon-oh goes in for the kill.
Only to be knocked aside by Do-moon, who takes over the fight. Aieeeee, I totally squealed out loud. So great.
Do-moon may be an equal match for Jung-hwan, but he’s way too awesome for Gon-oh to stand a chance. He has Gon-oh on his knees in no time and demands to know who ordered Merchant Jang and Da-in killed. I love this—he’s not strong enough to challenge his father figure for an inchoate principle like moral justice, but he will tear you from limb to limb to protect his family.
Gon-oh says he’s just acting on the queen’s orders, and Do-moon raises his sword in a rage. Won stops him—not out of mercy, I think, but for a better plan.
Now Won levels with the two: The queen ordered this hit, which means she has already abandoned Merchant Jang. Thus this family and household is headed for certain ruin, regardless of whether they have that confession. Do-moon believes that Merchant Jang has a way out of this (because Merchant Jang assured him of just that, to spare him), but Da-in confesses that the queen threatened to kill Jang if she didn’t kill the prince.
Won argues that to keep this family safe, Do-moon should hand over the confession and beg the prince’s forgiveness. Do-moon stubbornly refuses, intent on protecting his master by heading to prison straightaway, as though he could spare him from execution. Da-in urges him to listen, though, pointing out how cruel and ruthless the queen’s court is, and that they wouldn’t have any issue with forsaking Merchant Jang. The only way to save his life is to give that confession to the prince.
Since Do-moon’s hesitation stems from his fear that handing over the confession will directly harm Jang, Won makes this offer: He will get the prince to promise lenience.
The prince seethes to hear that Jung-hwan had seen Do-moon at the prison but failed to catch him or get that confession. Thankfully, just then Da-in and Won arrive to make the proposal, while Do-moon eavesdrops nearby.
Lee Ho writes out his promise to pardon Merchant Jang and spare his life, stamping the document with his official seal. And that’s how Do-moon hands over the confession, albeit with incredible reluctance. I’m both really relieved and worried at what might happen if Jang dies after all this. Do-moon just might self-destruct.
Won asks for Do-moon’s help in one more matter, and together they march Gon-oh to the house of the forger who’d perjured himself to the prince. The forger cowers in fear and says he was told to lie about the documents and says he doesn’t even know who Min Do-saeng is.
Now we’re all up to speed, and we pick up the scene in the morning. Even in the face of that document, Vice Premier Kim maintains his innocence, saying that it could easily have been forged like that other document. Jung-hwan brings forth his two witnesses, and both the forger and Gon-oh are presented to the police officials.
The forger spills all, saying he was threatened into it, while Gon-oh spews hatred at Jung-hwan and accuses him of plotting this up with that criminal Choi Won as his partner. After all, he just let him go earlier! Jung-hwan says he didn’t let him go—it’s just that Won was so unnaturally quick that even he wasn’t fast enough to stop him. HA.
Won hides out in the library, where Woo-young slips in to meet him. They have a tearful reunion where he worries over her condition and tells her that Rang is much improved. Woo-young assures him that she’s okay—especially now that Jung-hwan has made sure nobody bothers her and is “acting” the part of her “man.” It’s curious wording that Won puzzles over, and she hurriedly brushes it aside and tells him to put his faith in Jung-hwan. Adorable.
Then she recalls that she has one more job she’s supposed to do.
Meanwhile, Jung-hwan presents the case to his superiors, arguing for Won’s acquittal. One of the officials is in league with the baddies and protests, while Jung-hwan frames this as a grave miscarriage of justice for which they must be held responsible. Just then, loud voices pipe up outside the door and Woo-young insists on speaking with Jung-hwan on a matter of her brother’s innocence. The lines sound suspiciously rehearsed—this must be her “job.”
She and Stepmom are allowed in, dragging along a protesting Mak-bong. He’s here to admit that he perjured himself as well, and at Jung-hwan’s promise to not flog him if he speaks the truth now, he spills. Jung-hwan confiscates the money bag that Mak-bong had been given to lie… and then very shrewdly offers to give it right back if Mak-bong tells the truth. Immediately, Mak-bong points to Gon-oh: “He told me to do it.”
The queen hears this news and smashes a mirror in rage. Heh. Vice Premier Kim fumes in his prison cell, wondering how the hell Won got his hands on that document.
Merchant Jang swears up and down to Minister Yoon that he didn’t give it, but the immediate concern is whether the queen will accept that response. (Imma give you a hint: hell no.) Minister Yoon orders him to put Do-moon on the job to get that back—otherwise he dies and so does Da-in. Sigh. We’re back to this, are we?
Da-in visits Merchant Jang next to inform him of the deal. He’s greatly displeased and calls it a foolish mistake, mostly because he has zero faith that the prince would keep that promise. Da-in says that he will, but he’s convinced that without that confession in his hands, he’s as good as dead.
Merchant Jang sinks into despair, bitterly accusing Da-in of abandoning him because she was blinded by love for Won. After all, she’s not officially in his family registry so she’ll escape ramifications even if he’s executed as a traitor.
She tells him not to say things he doesn’t mean, but his words cut.
Won finds her after her visit and asks worriedly whether Merchant Jang was angry at her. She says no, but he can tell the truth from her expression. He hadn’t wanted to sour Da-in’s family relationship over that letter and offers to talk to Merchant Jang, but she says that this is for her to handle. The best thing he can do is clear his name.
He brushes a tear from her face, and they do another round of “It’s not your fault” and “It’s not yours, either.” She puts on a brave face, to which he says she doesn’t have to act strong in front of him.
While Da-in delivers Lee Ho’s daily medicine, the queen drops by for a visit. Well this should be awkward. Guy I Tried To Kill, meet Girl I Ordered To Kill You. Wait, you’re friends? Lee Ho even says pointedly that Da-in is the physician the queen has specially assigned out of concern for his health. Heh. Take that!
Lee Ho assures the queen that the physician she chose for him was excellent—she even risked her own life to save his when the queen ordered her to poison his medicine. Ooh. He literally just said that to her face. I love ballsy prince.
The queen states that she can’t sit by and watch the prince being tricked by traitors, her voice dripping in faux sympathy that he may be setting himself up for betrayal. She sneers at his advice to stop now and confess, whereupon he will spare her life. He wipes that look off her face when he says he’ll take his evidence to the king—perhaps she’ll find that she isn’t invincible after all.
Da-in sits glumly in the hospital ward, where Jang-geum finds her to offer a drink. Da-in wonders how the queen can be so malicious toward the prince, who, while not her blood son, is still a member of the same family. It’s a stark contrast to the man who raised her as though she were his own.
Bandit Grandma gives reading lessons to So-baek, who is abysmal at it even with Rang whispering clues in her ear. So-baek almost quits out of frustration, but sits her butt back down when Rang offers, “The pretty doctor unni can write really well.” Ha.
Grandma asks Won to do something about Geo-chil, who has been drowning his feelings in liquor. It’s mostly anger and frustration after being forced to let Vice Premier Kim go, because he would have dearly loved to kill him. Won asks him about the years-old grievance, and Geo-chil says no—that he’d been afraid that So-baek would find out the horrible story and has therefore bottled it all up inside.
But he’s drunk and emotional and starts spilling bits of the story to Won now—about how he’d been sentenced to a beating and his poor wife had gone to Vice Premier Kim to beg mercy for him. Instead, she’d gotten raped and hanged.
At that, Keok-jung—who has overheard from the doorway—pushes his way to his boss and asks why he’d never told him this. Because as it turns out, he has a grievance with the same man, who’d ruined Keok-jung’s family. Geo-chil pleads with him to keep this a secret from So-baek, but Keok-jung just growls, “Kim Chi-yong will die by MY hand.”
He storms out, and when So-baek wonders what the fuss is about he just glares her way. Hilariously, she screws her eyes shut, not wanting to “meet eyes” with him. Which, aw. Poor guy.
Won chases after him to stop Keok-jung from charging into the prison and committing murder right then and there. He argues that Kim will be put to death soon enough, and that if Keok-jung insists on getting his personal justice, he’d become a murderer. Furthermore, if Kim dies prematurely, Won’s acquittal may not come, and then he’d have to stay at Banditville—and Keok-jung doesn’t want that, because as long as he’s around, So-baek will remain hung up on her crush.
The first thing Merchant Jang does upon his prison release is to slap Do-moon and call him a fool. Do-moon looks wretched as he says that handing over the confession was what got the prince to free Merchant Jang, but Jang barks that without it, they’re both dead.
Jung-hwan finds Woo-young hanging up laundry and chides her for her subpar washing. She counters that she’s just leaving him a “goodbye present” and mimes kissing the cloth—there are lip marks on it. Saucy.
She tells him to think of her every time he sees those lip marks—not in a pervy way, but rather as a reminder of someone who suffered unjustly, whose fate should not be repeated. Uh, yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s gonna think the first thing.
He compliments her for wringing that confession out of the slimy Mak-bong, and hands her a cloth-wrapped bundle. She opens it to find a jar of cosmetics, which is adorably sweet of him. But of course, this is rather like giving a wine aficionado the first bottle you saw at the supermarket and she comments that it’s not really her color or taste, and he makes a grab for it.
Woo-young grabs it back and says she’ll accept it since it’s a gift… but can he swap the color? No, better yet, she’ll go with him to make the exchange since his blind eye will just pick out something else dissatisfactory. LOL.
It makes him pissy, so she pats some on to prove to him how bad it looks. She does have a point.
He stops her mid-application and stares transfixed. Stepping closer, he wonders, “Why have you been hiding such a pretty forehead?” HA, and then he takes advantage of her shock to grab the jar and runs off smiling. He’s gonna swap it, isn’t he?
Time for a complication in the case: Queen Munjeong calls one of her assassins into action. She treats him with great fondness, saying that she didn’t want to call him in so early. Alas, he’s needed.
Jung-hwan is ambushed in the police courtyard by Do-moon and his pack, who are here to recover that confession. As they clash swords, the queen’s new minion watches from a rooftop, biding his time and enjoying this too much to be not-a-psycho killer. I mean, just look at him, all pretty face and happy to see bloodshed. Totally a psycho, right?
Do-moon’s first slash only cuts loose that cosmetics case, which falls to the ground. But then—ack—he slices Jung-hwan’s arm, just as Mystery Pretty Boy Killer sends a dagger flying at them. Jung-hwan knocks it aside with his sword, which is pretty cool, only that gives Do-moon the chance to stick his own sword in his side, which is really not cool.
And then, another slash across the back sends him to his knees. Ackkkkk! Don’t hurt Jung-hwan! I don’t think my enjoyment of this show could survive his death, frankly, given the rage that would take over.
Do-moon grabs the confession, then dodges another dagger that Pretty Boy sends at him. Hm, I guess they’re both equally killable to him. (It’s ZE:A idol Kim Dong-joon, the Han Ga-in lookalike, playing a character listed merely as “No Name.”)
Do-moon goes running and Pretty Boy smiles to himself, saying, “I like it.” You would. (Like I said, psycho…)
Jung-hwan staggers back to the laundry area bleeding profusely, and collapses at Woo-young’s feet. And in this very grave moment I have to burst out into laughter, because Woo-young has rearranged her hair to show off her forehead, HA.
Frantic, she screams for help. But Jung-hwan smiles up at her and tells her not to create a stir: “I have you, don’t I?” She cries, “What good is having only me? You could die!” She tells him to wait while she calls a doctor, but he grabs her arm and holds her back. He grits out that he won’t die so easily—and even if he does die, it won’t be until after he releases her from servitude.
He asks her to send word to Won, and as he falls unconscious he remarks, “See? It’s better this way… your hair.”
When Lee Ho hears of the attack, his immediate assumption is that the queen ordered it to get that confession. He’s surprised that Merchant Jang’s men were behind it, but orders surveillance to watch the house.
Won tells Rang that their ordeal is almost over, because he can’t know there are six episodes left. She asks if “the scary man” knows too, calling him the investigator who gets all snarly whenever he sees Aunt Woo-young, which is one way to describe it. She’s happy to hear that Jung-hwan helped her father, and says with satisfaction that it was good that she worked to win him over with all that shoe-polishing and clothes-washing. Those words bring a pang to Won’s heart.
This means they’ll have to leave soon, a prospect Rang doesn’t like since she’s grown attached to everyone here. She asks why the people here are so nice but do bad things like thieving and fighting, which is a tricky question for him to field. Thankfully (?) he doesn’t have to, since Jung-hwan’s message arrives and sends Won bolting to make his way to the city.
Geo-chil and Keok-jung figure that the plan went awry and insist on accompanying him—and this time they’ll make sure Vice Premier Kim gets justice. And just to make sure, they tie So-baek to a beam to keep her behind.
Merchant Jang instructs his entire household to pack up; they’ll flee abroad. Da-in balks, urging him to go back to the original plan of trusting the prince, but he points out that they’re destined to become political scapegoats in the battle between prince and queen.
Da-in withdraws her hand from his with an apology; she can’t run to save her neck and turn a blind eye to Won’s wrongful accusations, especially since Jang is partly responsible for them. It’s not his preference, but Merchant Jang isn’t going to just give up and he has her forcibly dragged along.
Won makes contact with his sister and gets the update on Jung-hwan’s condition. She’s worried about him, but he must be reasonably safe if he was ready to back on the job anyway. It’s hilarious how Geo-chil and Keok-jung can only gape when So-baek pops up to join them, having worked her way free after all. What can ya do? The girl is persistent.
Then on they go to Merchant Jang’s estate, only they’re too late because the household is in disarray from everyone’s hasty departure. The entourage travels along a mountain road, with Da-in locked in a sedan chair, and picks up an amused observer: Pretty Boy Assassin.
He flings more daggers into their midst, striking down servants and then leaping forward to begin this fight. Do-moon is the last man standing (while Da-in and Merchant Jang make their getaway), and even he looks up in shock when Pretty Boy evades one of his signature moves. He’s got some nifty moves of his own, drawing Do-moon’s blood not once but twice.
The escapees turn back and gasp to see Do-moon felled. Pretty Boy feels around for the document, but Do-moon smiles ’cause he doesn’t have it. So Pretty Boy turns and goes after Merchant Jang, giving Do-moon the chance to muster up his strength and go for his back.
Unfortunately for him, he’s disarmed again, and Pretty Boy drives his sword into his shoulder. Ack. Do-moon yells at them to go on, and they watch in horror as the sword is wrenched free and sends him toppling over. Dead?
Pretty Boy heads over to finish the job, but now Team Hero makes its appearance and swiftly engages. I’d fear for them against this master, but it’s three (and a half?) versus one as Geo-chil, Keok-jung, and So-baek fly at him (Won hangs back).
Do-moon isn’t dead yet, and his family rushes to his side. They cry over him, even as he begs them to go. Won joins them and urges them to escape, leaving Do-moon on the ground to die alone. He ekes out, “Fa…ther…” and dies.
Even outnumbered, Pretty Boy is in control of the fight and he gets a good slice of Keok-jung’s arm. The fight doesn’t go well for the bandits, who do their best but sustain more painful-looking injuries. Still they continue to engage him to slow him down, but he continues his Terminator-like hunt and flings daggers after the runaways.
He lands one knife in Merchant Jang’s arm, but Won picks him up on his back and they continue their escape. At a safe distance, they pause and begin to treat the wound. The dagger tip has been poisoned, but he refuses to allow Da-in to suck the poison out. Won takes over, thinking to himself that for Da-in’s sake, he can’t let the man die like this.
They all know Merchant Jang is not long for the world, himself included, and he calls Da-in “agasshi” (Lady, as he would have called her when he served her) and asks if she remembers when she was a child. She’d saved his life and gotten ill in the process, and her father had set him free saying that his daughter’s life was precious, so he ought to make sure he lived a good life.
She tells him that he saved her from slavery when her father was punished for conspiracy, so he saved her as well. He asks for her to call him father just once before he dies, and in tears she says she can’t, because calling him father would be saying goodbye.
Jang hands the the confession letter to Won, asking him to clear his name with it and to take care of Da-in. This is the last he can do for her.
Then, in the throes of death his words get a bit jumbled as he mentions Won’s father and being sorry. He tells Da-in he was happy to have her for a daughter, and dies. Da-in breaks down over his body, sobbing as Won comforts her.
Poor Do-moon, who lived a life of longing and loyalty and perhaps little else—it was too bad he had to go the way he did. Or is it so bad after all? Maybe he went in the best way possible. Considering that much of the character’s draw comes from the actor’s portrayal—silent, brooding, tragically sad—and that we know very little of his life except for what we can read between some very tiny lines, he was given a noble death, ultimately standing up for something. It wasn’t what our heroes stand for, but it shows that he did have that courage after all. Just not for anything so meaningless as politics or royal power grabs.
I was starting to find the back-and-forth of Merchant Jang and Da-in growing wearying, so if we had to say goodbye to Da-in’s family, it’s good timing for it. Frankly I don’t care for him much at all, though I appreciate that he was a much more complexly drawn character than Evils 1 and 2. He showed conflict and human weakness and more than mere power-hunger. He was driven by love and loyalty, so in the end he’s a sad figure. I’ll admit that I care more about his place in the story than I do for him as a person, though; he is a useful emotional tool in that he drives Da-in. And in that regard, I’m a bit relieved that Da-in will no longer be manipulated by her love of her family—I respect her stance, but boy does it make the plot boring. We get it, you’re noble. You’re deeply conflicted. It’s so tragic.
With six episodes left I’m sure we were all bracing for yet more complications to gum up the works, so I find the new chapter a breath of fresh air. We close the book on one side of the character tree and turn to new ones, like the mysterious assassin. I do hope he has more relevance to the story than merely being an uber-killing machine, because been there, done that. I’m not scared of him—I get that the dissonance between his skills and his pretty face is purposeful, but it also means I’m thinking more about how perfect his skin is than how scared I am that he’s going to kill our favorite characters.
We do get a bit of that nervous tension from having a new badass in town, especially if he was able to take down Do-moon relatively easily, and I don’t want our heroes in too much pain. But this is a far cry from that terrifying mofo samurai who scared the bejeebus out of me in Gaksital, who was so ominous I totally believed that our hero might die even when we had four weeks left to go.
But the queen is a sly one and I’m sure she’s got tricks up her sleeves. Time to let ‘em out. Just as long as we continue spending plenty of time with our side characters, that is—new plot is good, but only if it works its way around the bloomin’ romances and bromances. Like the grudging friendship between Won and Keok-jung, or the increasingly smitten Jung-hwan, who is openly buying Woo-young gifts. Who doesn’t swoon at that?
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 13
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 12
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 11
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 10
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 9
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 8
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 7
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 6
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 5
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 4
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 3
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 2
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 1