It’s the birth of a new drama power couple! So for everyone who wondered what our hero would be like if he used his powers for evil, you get your wish this episode. Choong sells his soul to get a taste of what it must be like to be his all-powerful dad after he gets a breakdown-inducing feel for what it’s like to be unable to protect the girl he loves, while the girl he loves joins her father’s band of misfits to bring down his all-powerful dad. See where that’s going to cause problems?
Ratings-wise: They’ve been bad and are actually getting worse—Episode 10 clocked in at a measly 5.0%. It doesn’t beat the series low of 4.5%, but it cuts it pretty darn close.
EPISODE 10 RECAP
As Mu-young aims her arrow at Choong, she thinks, “Did you come all the way here to kill me?” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If only she knew!
She lets the arrow fly, but it misses its target and zooms past him. I thought it was because she had a change of heart, but it’s just because she’s a bad shot. By the time she’s ready to try again, she’s lost him.
The Geumhwadan gang spreads out to look for the princess now that they know she’s in the city. Apparently, umbrellas are the biggest thing to hit since everyone is talking about them, and when Choong overhears someone mention that they must have been come from the capital, he remembers catching a glimpse of that girl in the market…
He’d dismissed it at first, but now he suspects that it could have been Mu-young and heads off to find the umbrella maker.
Shi-woo and Boo-chi find the caretaker’s daughter, and Shi-woo proves to the girl that he’s one of the good guys when he reveals a tattoo of the bamboo flower on his chest—the same symbol that Mu-young painted on her umbrellas.
While Boo-chi goes off to alert the others, Shi-woo spots Choong headed for the merchant and hides around the corner while Choong asks for the address of the umbrella maker. Didn’t he see Choong jump off the cliff after Mu-young? He can’t think he’s all bad, right?
Even though Choong knew he was being followed, he does nothing to stop his father’s minion from retracing his steps to find out what he asked about. I guess this is as good a time as any to introduce the minion by his official name, HO-TAE (Goo Won).
Choong also picks up on the fact that Shi-woo is following him, but when Shi-woo temporarily loses him in the crowd, he spots Mu-young running through the streets with her bow and arrow and decides to grab her before Choong sees.
He has to restrain her from going back out to find and kill Choong, even if only for logistical reasons—she can’t shoot a bow and arrow in a crowd.
Mu-young is taken to the Geumhwadan hideout, where the gang bows deeply to offer their apologies for being unable to protect her family. She’s angry that she let Choong go, but her anger soon gives way to sorrow:
“I saw my father and brother’s bodies burn. The people spat at my father, the king of Goguryeo, and mocked him. For the past twenty-four years, the people lived in peace under my father’s rule… Yet they called my father, the king of Goguryeo, a traitor who tried to sell off his country.”
She wipes away her tears and strengthens her resolve, declaring that she’ll never forgive Jang, General Yeon, or Choong. “Before I kill them with my own hands, I’ll never be able to close my eyes, even if I die.”
Choong follows directions to the hideout (even though he’s only looking for the umbrella maker), which means minion Ho-tae isn’t far behind. The gang gets alerted to their presence, but Leader So has to convince Mu-young that now isn’t the time to fight—they can’t kill either of the men and let General Yeon know where they are.
The gang is gone by the time Ho-tae gets there, and he holds a sword to his daughter’s neck as he unfurls a portrait of the princess to ask about her whereabouts. The man lies and says that she’s dead.
To test him, Ho-tae holds a sword to his neck and threatens his daughter that he’ll kill her father if she doesn’t tell the truth. She’s surprisingly brave even as she chokes out, “Unni… Unni died.”
Choong bursts onto the scene to tackle Ho-tae off of the father/daughter duo, but the minion is unfazed as he asks what was done with the princess’ remains. Choong’s eyes go wide with shock. Oh no.
After Ho-tae leaves to verify the remains, Choong shakily unfurls the same portrait and asks softly, desperately, “Please take a good look. Was it really her?” The look on his face, hope mixed with a terrible sinking fear, is just breaking my heart.
The man tells Choong that he found her on the river bank, but she never recovered. Then he spots the man’s daughter wearing Mu-young’s hairpin—the one she’d first given to him before he returned it to her.
She hands it over to him, and Choong completely breaks down, choking out sobs and screams and… Gah. It’s actually hard to watch.
And in flashback, we see Mu-young handing the girl her hairpin with the knowledge that it would fool Choong into thinking she was dead. Then we see Boo-chi and Shi-woo digging up someone else’s remains (while paying their ultimate respects) to substitute for the princess’, burying the clothes she wore to the ceremony with them.
Choong wanders numbly through the streets with the hairpin as Ho-tae comes across the princess’ grave. Choong comes up behind him and tackles him in a rage: “Did my father tell you to do this?!” Punch. “He ordered you to use me to kill the princess?!” Choke. “Is that why he let me go?! Is it?!” Punch.
Ho-tae throws Choong off and just says, “The princess is dead.” Then he’s gone.
Choong holds Mu-young’s clothes and lets out scream after scream of gut-wrenching grief. Poor Choong.
After he collects himself and covers Mu-young’s grave he thinks, “It’s all my fault. I couldn’t protect you. It’s all my fault for being powerless.”
The Geumhwadan gang confirms that they’ve successfully pulled off the ruse concerning the princess’ death.
Mu-young: “Princess So-hee is dead. From now on, I no longer exist in this world, not in the day or at night. I won’t even have a shadow. From now on, I am Mu-young.”
(So I’ve been calling her by a name that existed in the character description, but not in the show’s timeline until just this moment—So-hee was her given name, which is why we’d hear her father calling her by it, since he’d be the only person who could do so. Now that she’s adopted a new identity, she uses the word muyoung, meaning “shadowless,” as her name.)
She gives the sweet little girl who’s been calling her unni a farewell hug, and bows to the umbrella maker who took her in before she leaves with the Geumhwadan gang.
Ho-tae reports the princess’ death to General Yeon, though they’re interrupted when Choong shows up. He and his father share a long, silent stare before we immediately cut to Choong kneeling outside the house. (Which means that his father kicked him out. He did renounce their family ties, after all.)
Choong stays still as a statue all through the night, but his act of contrition(?) doesn’t escape his father’s notice. Why is he trying to get back into his good graces anyway?
Jang’s first council meeting doesn’t turn out to be a walk in the park when he finds himself at odds with General Yeon and his supporters over whether to tax the citizens to support the fortification of The Wall.
Jang would rather dip into their war reserves than make the citizens hate him with extra taxes, but Yeon’s stance is that he’ll earn the people’s loyalty by bringing them peace—and peace lies in fortifying the wall.
In a surprising move, Yeon proves his dedication to the wall cause by volunteering to oversee the fortifications there, which is the exact job the king planned to use to punish him. Only now he gets to choose whether he wants to go and use it as ammunition in his power play with Jang.
General Yeon finds Jang practicing his swordsmanship later, and Jang makes a curious observation: “You didn’t make a sound when you came in.” I love Yeon’s sly little smile at this, like he’s just reveling in how disconcerting he is.
He tells Jang that the princess is dead, which causes the new king to have a facial tic of remorse. Jang is decidedly unhappy to learn that General Yeon knows every move he makes and when he makes it, and more because there’s nothing he can do about it.
Yeon leaves him to think on that. “Your Majesty must protect your throne and I must protect the borders in order to protect the Goguryeo that you and I dream of.”
General Yeon’s supporters scoff over Jang daring to think that he’s the one in charge, though they do wonder why Yeon would volunteer to go to the wall until he explains that he’s going to squash the rumblings of rebellion happening in the rural areas.
He returns home that night to find Choong still kneeling in the same spot where he left him. After a long bit of silence, he asks his son, “Why did you come back?”
Choong’s first word is “father,” but General Yeon forbids him from using that word since he renounced his family ties. Choong continues by saying that he’ll walk his father’s path, even though he had previously called his father’s actions shameful.
“I realized that being powerless is even more shameful,” Choong admits. “I will stand with those who have power, and I will become a man with power.” Oh no. He’s going to the dark side.
General Yeon then asks Choong if he’ll join his cause. After a pause, Choong asks whether having a purpose holds any importance. Whether it’s treason or deception, “I will not hold anything back in order to gain power. In order to protect what is mine, I will throw away duty and all else that remains.” OH NO. That’s the exact quality he hated in his father before—that idea that he could do anything, even terrible things, to protect what’s important to him.
He even adds that he’ll use his father as a stepping stone to gain more power if he has to, which seems to be the perfect thing to say to your power-addicted dad. General Yeon then tells his son that he’ll accept him if he acts as his bodyguard when he goes to the wall. Protecting his father will be Choong’s only job.
Choong prepares for his journey by donning new black digs and an exact replica of his father’s hairdo. (Sorry, I’m going to need a minute to mourn the loss of his wavy mane of glory. *breathes*) The only difference is that he wears Mu-young’s hairpin.
Now he really looks like a son of General Yeon, dead eyes and all. His friend Jin-gu sees him off in a grand procession to the wall and worries over how much Choong has changed. Gee, you think?
YEON JUNG-MO, the brother of the murdered chief minister, demands for General Yang’s help in taking revenge on General Yeon—but the old councilman refuses on the basis that revenge will only bring about more bloodshed. And that’s not what Goguryeo needs right now.
This exchange gets reported to Geumhwadan, where Mu-young wonders if it would be better to court Yeon Jung-mo or General Yang to their cause. The consensus is that Yang is too dangerous of a choice, since General Yeon let him live only to prevent a rebellion but has him under watch 24/7.
So they decide on Yeon Jung-mo, and sneak into his house to deliver a very pointed message. He thinks it’s a threat from General Yeon, which incenses him enough to start planning a stand against him and his five hundred soldiers when he comes to their town (since he’ll be traveling through en route to the wall). And to do so, he’ll need assassins. Cue Geumhwadan.
General Yeon and his entourage make it to General Yang’s house, and ask for his support and protection on their journey. But Yeon proves he’s been keeping an eye on Yang when he asks if he’s seen Yeon Jung-mo.
I do love General Yang, though. When Yeon asks if he might harbor the same murderous thought as Yeon Jung-mo, Yang just sighs, “Not every thought can be put into action.” There’s definitely no friendship between these two.
Choong takes action by ordering a detail to put Yeon Jung-mo under constant surveillance. Leader So spots him in the market the next day doing who-knows-what and notes his hairpin, which he remembers Mu-young giving to the little girl. (That’s awesome, so does he maybe remember that the only reason he’s alive is because of Choong’s intervention?)
Mu-young practices her swordsmanship as she thinks of vengeance for her father and brother. Then she remembers Choong showing up at all the wrong moments, and sheds a few tears over his betrayal.
Geumhwadan’s plan to incite Yeon Jung-mo to rebel in order for him to hire them as assassins has worked, since he made contact with them. But when the guys worry that he could recognize Mu-young’s face, she proposes an idea.
It seems like Choong might be onto Yeon Jung-mo’s rebellion plan, only we don’t hear what he says to his father about it. I do like the little touch of him brushing past minion Ho-tae, because it must chafe Ho-tae that he’s no longer the favorite.
The Geumhwadan gang shows up to Yeon Jung-mo’s house in masks, and are instantly attacked by his men as a test of their ability. It’s over soon enough, and he invites them inside to ask about their services, while he remains a little unconvinced about the two girls in the group.
Leader So vouches for them, and things seem to be going well until Yeon Jung-mo calls in his men to surround the gang. “Who sent you here? General Yeon?” He then draws his sword, but only against Mu-young as he demands to know who she is. (This would be a good time for that plan of hers.)
Chances are that her face seems familiar, and Mu-young doesn’t dance around it when she asks if he ever saw her at the palace. “I was…”
General Yeon and his men come knocking at Yeon Jung-mo’s door, likely because of Choong’s tip that there was a meeting going down.
Inside, Mu-young finishes telling Yeon Jung-mo that she is/was the princess. Huh. I wasn’t expecting her to go with the truth, but she’s able to prove herself when Yeon Jung-mo asks her things she’d only know as the princess.
Once she’s passed the test, she tells him that she came to join forces with him in order to take revenge on General Yeon. I get that he might have an army, but what is she bringing to the table besides a group of misfits? (Speaking of, where’s Shi-woo?)
Their meeting is interrupted by Ho-tae pounding at the gate, and Yeon Jung-mo forced to let General Yeon in before he gets suspicious. (Too bad that Yeon is already way ahead of him.) They only know of the ten soldiers Yeon is bringing inside, but they have no idea of the countless others gathering outside the gate.
So Mu-young’s plan to take on General Yeon seems extra foolhardy, but points for trying.
The gang hides before General Yeon’s meeting with Yeon Jung-mo, with Boo-chi picking a rooftop spot in preparation for an ambush. Right behind a large screen in the meeting room, the rest of the gang (plus a contingent of men) wait for the right time to strike.
General Yeon gets straight to the point after offering not-condolences for the death of the chief minister: “I heard you want to kill me.”
Outside, another contingent of soldiers wait to ambush Ho-tae and the men General Yeon has outside. Boo-chi is all ready to jump from the roof to start the attack, but something in the distance causes him to hesitate. Did he spot Yeon’s extra soldiers?
General Yeon continues to subtly taunt Yeon Jung-mo by saying that he better be sure he can kill him, otherwise he’ll have to die trying. I love that he pulls the name card, all, We’ve got the same last name, so I’ll even let you be chief minister.
That’s quite an offer, considering that that’s the position Mu-young promised him if they succeeded in overthrowing General Yeon. So now he’s got a chance at having that seat, even though it’s only open because his brother was murdered by the man offering it to him.
But then, surprisingly, Yeon Jung-mo agrees to the offer, only it seems less like a betrayal and more like a calculated plan since Mu-young and the gang ready their swords from behind the screen.
A servant comes in to hesitatingly ask about dinner plans for their guests, and it becomes immediately clear to Choong (and us) that this is code for something else. He has a feeling it’s a trap, and tells his father that they shouldn’t stay, while Leader So puts a hand on Mu-young’s shoulder for support when she hears Choong’s voice.
As General Yeon turns to leave, everyone readies their swords. Choong looks especially on edge before we cut to Mu-young and hear her thoughts: “Father. Today, at last, the traitors will be punished.”
Well, we pretty much know that Mu-young’s plan is doomed to fail. I’m a little surprised that they went with such an immediate revenge plot in the first place, even if tensions are still running high from the coup. Still, if Mu-young can’t be trusted to rein in her emotions—and I don’t blame her—shouldn’t that kind of be Geumhwadan’s job? If Leader So can tell that Mu-young’s swordsmanship still needs work, why is he letting her lead an attack against a power-hungry warlord when she couldn’t even defeat his minion?
Choong’s turn to the dark side makes a lot more sense than I’d like it to, and opens up some interesting dramatic possibilities in the future. He wasn’t a total saint before, but if he does his father’s bidding for long enough I feel like he’ll lose that part of himself with the capability to do good and love deeply. When his father made the speech that Choong parroted back to him this episode about doing whatever he needed to in order to protect what was his, I assumed he was talking about Goguryeo. He’s not in this business for any other reason other than love of country, even though he has a pretty terrifying way of showing it.
But when Choong made that same speech to his dad, it all seemed so hollow—not just because he became an empty shell of his former self, but because I have no idea what Choong holds precious or dear to him now that Mu-young is gone. So his turning over a new leaf means one of two things: (1) He’s trying to gain power now to make up for his past weakness even though it won’t bring Mu-young back, which means he’s still living for her memory. (2) He’s trying to gain power so that what happened with Mu-young will never happen again, meaning that he’s resolved to move on and become a different man.
The hairpin is a nice touch to remind us that Choong hasn’t completely lost who he was or who he’s doing this for, but things are going to get ugly if he really does lose his soul before he finds out Mu-young is alive. His grieving scene was so powerful, so raw, that it was like he left who he was with her in that grave. It’s an interesting evolution for his character to go from aimless wanderer to lovelorn puppy to soulless son, but it won’t be interesting if he stays as shut-off as his dad for the rest of the series. General Yeon wasn’t tons of fun to begin with, so imagine having two of him.
Speaking of, I really am starting to find General Yeon fascinating as a character—he’s shaping up into the right kind of drama cipher, where you’re left guessing and wanting to know more instead of just getting frustrated with how emotionally unavailable they are. I wouldn’t have said this of him in the first few episodes, but it’s his growing relationship with Choong that’s beginning to reveal (what could be) a softer side. If he didn’t feel some measure of love toward his son, why else would he keep giving him chance after chance?
We’ve seen how unforgiving and downright cruel he can be in any given situation, but we’ve also seen the portrait of Choong’s mother he’s kept all these years, and how he can’t bring himself to harm his son no matter the big game he talks. Maybe I’m just projecting emotion onto General Yeon at this point, but when Choong came home, it’s almost as if he was… happy. Like that’s all he wanted, but short of threatening his son with death, he couldn’t ask for it. It’s roundabout and messed up and horrifyingly dysfunctional to the nth degree, but that’s family sometimes.
- Sword and Flower: Episode 9
- Sword and Flower: Episode 8
- Sword and Flower: Episode 7
- Sword and Flower: Episode 6
- Sword and Flower: Episode 5
- Sword and Flower: Episode 4
- Sword and Flower: Episode 3
- Sword and Flower: Episode 2
- Sword and Flower: Episode 1