Haechi: Episodes 39-40
Our poor king can’t hardly catch a breath as a new enemy rears its head and once again threatens his right to rule the country. This one is much more organized, and capable of doing a lot more damage, than anything he’s faced before, and this time simply out-thinking the enemy won’t be enough. This one calls for real action, so Yi Geum will need all the help he can get – and even that may not be enough.
EPISODE 39-40: “A Black Chaos 2”
To calm the rumors that he’s abandoned his people to save himself, Yi Geum visits the Hwalinseo, the infirmary where many of the city’s sick residents are being treated and where a riot is on the verge of breaking out. He tells the people that he knows of the rumors and that he knows they’re scared, but he vows never to abandon them.
Further, he tells them that their illness is not a heavenly punishment, and that he’ll help them all get better if they give him a little time. The people are moved to tears that he came to see them personally, and they fall to their knees, feeling guilty to have wrongfully judged him.
Moon-soo is busy with the fact that Byung-joo is still alive when he should have been executed by now. He sends Minister Jo and Minister Lee (I’m just calling him that from now on, since he changes titles every few episodes) to the capital to warn Yi Geum, while he stays behind to look for Byung-joo. He follows one man who leaves the government office where he saw Byung-joo.
The man turns out to be the Cheongju armory gatekeeper. Moon-soo keeps watching him, wondering why Byung-joo would need to talk to someone in charge of an armory.
The ministers are all waiting for Yi Geum when he returns to the palace. Minister Min says that the visit to Hwalinseo was probably necessary, but that senior officials should have been sent instead of the king putting himself in danger.
Yi Geum says that he knows what he did was irresponsible, but that he had to go himself to stop the potential riot. Chief Inspector Jo just listens to Yi Geum quietly, seeming to put a lot of thought into the new king’s words.
Yi Geum hands over a list of patients from Hwalinseo, and the wells they recently drank from. He orders the suspicious wells closed and clean drinking water provided for the people in those areas.
He tells Chief Inspector Jo that he thinks this is the same illness that cropped up in Cheongju, and that the same cure should be used that stopped the illness there. Chief Inspector Jo has the Royal Infirmary write up the prescription, and it’s send out to all the clinics in the affected areas. The medicine is made and administered to the sick citizens.
Some of the Soron ministers object to Yi Geum’s theories and solutions, saying that he knows nothing of medicine and that he’s trying to kill the people now after poisoning the late king. They yell at Chief Inspector Jo for going along with his plans, but Chief Inspector Jo snaps that all they do is complain instead of coming up with alternate solutions.
He says that at least Yi Geum is doing something, unlike them, and even endangered himself by visiting the infirmary to stop a riot. The loudest minister actually says that the king has no right to personally look after the people and pulls out one of In-jwa’s statements as proof that the people believe Yi Geum killed King Kyungjong.
Several of the ministers swear that they will never follow Yi Geum, and Minister Min sees them filing out of the room angrily. He goes to see Chief Inspector Jo and says that what makes their jobs so difficult is the ability to understand their enemies’ positions, making it hard to fight against them.
He says that today was the first time he found himself unable to speak in front of Yi Geum, and that even though he’s an old man, he learned a lesson from the young king. He can tell that Chief Inspector Jo is unsettled for the same reason — Yi Geum is his enemy, but he understands him and thinks that he needs to accept him. Chief Inspector Jo admits that the strangest thing about this whole situation is that Minister Min, his enemy, understands him more than anyone.
Yi Geum goes to visit Queen Inwon, who is still very sick and being tended by Yeo-ji. Yi Geum asks if Yeo-ji is okay, and she says she’s fine and assures him that Queen Inwon will get well soon. He holds Queen Inwon’s hand while she sleeps, worry written all over his face.
At Hwalinseo, the patients slowly begin to recover, and the same is true at the other infirmaries as well. Yi Geum is hugely relieved, especially when Queen Inwon also responds to the medicine. She says that she heard he’s the one who made everyone better, but he says humbly that he didn’t do much. She gives Yeo-ji credit for taking care of her, and Yi Geum sends Yeo-ji a grateful look.
On his way out, Yeo-ji stops him to ask if there are any other problems in the palace, having noticed the strange movements of the soldiers and how Yi Geum himself looks unwell. He tells her that the plague is probably just the beginning, and that he doesn’t know what may happen next. But he assures her that he won’t be shaken no matter what happens, because she’s beside him.
Outside the city gates, In-jwa listens to the people talking about how the king visited the sick and stopped the plague. He says thoughtfully that the king seems quite clever, and that they mustn’t underestimate him.
With the crisis managed, Yi Geum summons Hyuk to the palace in secret. The only way he can think that Byung-joo and Yi Tan were able to escape is if they had help from a third person, and if they had help, then that person must have freed them because he’s planning a rebellion. He wonders who that person is and how far things have gotten.
The Soron ministers who refused to support Yi Geum go to King Sukjong’s grave late at night, where they meet with In-jwa. In-jwa says that the tomb of a dead king is the perfect place to plan revenge, and at the sight of their fear, he sneers that they won’t accomplish anything great if this little meeting scares them so much.
Yi Geum visits Dal-moon, who sent him a message that Minister Lee and Minister Jo are there to talk to him. They tell him that Moon-soo saw Byung-joo at the Cheongju government office, and Dal-moon adds that Yoon-young, Yi Tan’s accomplice, was seen not too far from there. Knowing that the plague also started in Cheongju, Yi Geum figures out that the rebellion must have started there.
The Soron ministers are shocked to see In-jwa joined by other influential people, like Chief Nam from the police bureau, well-known soldiers, and Ministry of War officials. In-jwa says that what they all have in common is having been oppressed by the Norons and kicked out of the palace.
He says that Yi Geum has put the Norons in power again, and that Yi Geum himself is a murderer born from a peasant, so they refuse to bow to him as their king. He declares that they will overturn this filthy world and build a new nation regardless of the sacrifice.
Moon-soo is still following the man from the Cheongju armory and witnesses him meeting up with Byung-joo. He hands Byung-joo a key to the armory, and Byung-joo promises him a government position if the plan succeeds. Byung-joo hears something and he sneaks to the corner where Moon-soo is hiding — but Moon-soo is gone. Whew.
Yi Tan gloats in from of In-jwa that the king eradicated his plague. He tells In-jwa to better control his men, because they’re gossiping and worried that their plan will fail.
Yi Tan seems to hear something, as at the same time, Moon-soo knocks one of In-jwa’s guards out outside the base. Moon-soo gets a good look at what In-jwa is planning and goes pale, then he steals the guard’s clothes and sneaks into the base.
Byung-joo brings In-jwa the armory key, but he says that he heard things aren’t going so well in the capital. In-jwa tells him to leave now if he’s not confident in their plans, certain that it will succeed after they’ve been planning for so long. Moon-soo has positioned himself outside and he hears them discussing the areas where they plan to strike next, and how In-jwa even has accomplices in the palace.
Yi Tan finds the unconscious guard, and Moon-soo’s clothes hidden nearby. He barges into In-jwa’s room to sneer that he’s doing a great job, unaware that there’s a spy poking around. In-jwa sends his captain to find the spy, but luckily Moon-soo has already left the base and is on his way to the capital. After thinking for a moment, In-jwa says that he’s moving up the rebellion plans.
Moon-soo arrives at Dal-moon’s hideout and tells him about the base and the spies in the palace, including Chief Nam.
Yi Geum receives a warning from Dal-moon about In-jwa’s plans. He tells Minister Min and Chief Inspector Jo that Lee In-jwa is planning a rebellion, and that he also freed Yi Tan and Byung-joo. The letter also mentions the spies, and he tasks Chief Inspector Jo and Minister Min with discovering who they are.
The council are surprised when Yi Geum calls a meeting, and comes in flanked by Minister Lee and Minister Jo. Yi Geum announces that Minister Lee is now the Minister of War, and Minister Jo is the new Commander in Chief. After the meeting, the Sorons ask Chief Inspector Jo if the talk of treason is true, and he replies that that’s what the king believes.
The traitorous Sorons ask if there are any other signs of treason besides the plague, but Chief Inspector Jo just says vaguely that that’s all his knows. He says this is why Yi Geum brought back Minister Lee and Minister Jo, because they are people he trusts, and he notices how oddly the traitors are behaving.
One of the Ministry of War officials tells Chief Nam that the king is dangerously close to figuring out the truth of the plague and is suspicious about the possibility of treason. He learns that there are new orders from the base to move up the schedule, just as Minister Min wanders over and tells them to stay vigilant — but he’s not fooled.
Suspicious, Chief Inspector Jo tells one of his men to put a tail on the Vice Minister of Work and the Vice Minister of War (the two primary Soron traitors) just in case. Minister Min sends a message to Minister Lee about the little meeting he just saw between Chief Nam and the Ministry of War official.
Hyuk mobilizes the Saheonbu inspectors, ignoring Young-han, who predictably has no clue what’s going on. Moon-soo takes out his old Saheonbu uniform, and after only a short pause, he suits up.
The palace guards are split up for extra security, and Chief Nam offers to take his soldiers to guard the east side of the palace. But the plan is to let In-jwa’s soldiers over the palace walls tonight to kill Yi Geum, so he orders the other soldiers to the entrance gates and puts himself in charge of the king’s safety. When a few guards protest, Chief Nam kills them.
Luckily, Yi Geum had Moon-soo’s warning, so Minister Lee leads his elite soldiers to confront the palace guards and orders Chief Nam and the Ministry of War official arrested. Elsewhere, Moon-soo intercepts rebel guards that are on their way to the rebellion headquarters.
Hyuk warns them not to fight back, and that the elite soldiers are already guarding the gates, but they attack. They’re outmatched, and Moon-soo, Hyuk, and the other Saheonbu inspectors quickly dispatch them.
Chief Nam sneaks into the king’s rooms, preparing to kill Yi Geum according to the plans. But Yeo-ji noticed the strange behavior of the guards earlier and is waiting for him. She surprises him by fighting back and disarming him, but they end up in a standoff, their hands wrapped around each other’s throats.
Yi Geum hears the noise and puts his sword to Chief Nam’s throat, ordering him to release Yeo-ji. The loyal guards show up and take Chief Nam into custody, leaving Yi Geum free to make sure Yeo-ji is okay.
When it’s all over, Minister Lee, Hyuk, and Moon-soo report to Yi Geum that they’ve arrested the traitors and quelled tonight’s rebellion. Yi Geum sends Moon-soo in particular a small nod, his eyes filled with tears of gratitude for his loyal friend.
Minister Min tells Chief Inspector Jo that the Vice Minister of Work and the Vice Minister of War were arrested. He’s surprised that Chief Inspector Jo was willing to give up two Soron ministers, but Chief Inspector Jo says that he has something more important to protect than two individuals — Joseon itself.
When Yi Geum and Moon-soo get a chance to talk privately, Moon-soo tells Yi Geum that it looks like In-jwa has been training thousands of soldiers at his base. He says that there are more rebels in three other provinces, and they’re all planning to attack at the same time.
Yi Geum says that he sent Minister Jo to Cheongjo with some elite soldiers, so the rebels will probably notice something soon. Sooner than they expect — by the time Minister Jo arrived in Cheongjo, the rebels had already taken over the palace there. They signal the other bases to begin the rebellion, as a bloody In-jwa celebrates his victory at the gates of the Cheongju palace.
It was beautiful to see both Minister Min and Chief Inspector Jo humbled and inspired by Yi Geum’s actions in this episode. They are not bad men, just stubborn ones who believed that their way is the only right way. But Yi Geum’s gift is the ability to change people’s hearts without even trying, and to have changed the hearts of the two men who were his strongest detractors is no small thing. He was smart to give them a common enemy (Lee In-jwa) and a common goal to root out the spies, because now they’ll all feel like they’re working together instead of against each other. But mostly Yi Geum is influential just because of who he is, and the example he sets of being a decent human being.
A show that follows actual history this closely is great, and I love how faithful Haechi is staying to the real historical events. Other than altering some timelines (for example, Lee In-jwa’s rebellion actually happened four years into King Yeongjo’s reign) and a few minor events, the show is doing a very faithful job of portraying this time in history. I love this sort of show because I learn a lot, and it’s pretty cool to see historical events play out as they might have happened.
That said, knowing ahead of time how things will turn out does take a bit of the tension out of the viewing, because the outcome is a done deal. Generally dramas that center around politics are a bit on the dry side for me, but this show manages to stay juicy and enthralling. Haechi adds tension in other areas, such as having Byung-joo and Yi Tan broken out of prison and loose to wreak havoc again. I’m also loving how Minister Min and Chief Inspector Jo worked together to trip up the spies, and seeing Moon-soo and Dal-moon do what they can from outside the palace. If we have to know already how the rebellion turns out, at least the how it happens is still shown in a way that creates extra suspense and interest.
In fact, I think the show has greatly improved with the romantic angle pared way down, because it always felt kind of shoehorned-in to me. Lovesick Yi Geum seemed very out of character for the prince and king we’ve gotten to know – he’s an emotional guy, but every time he was around Yeo-ji, it was like he forgot about everything else. That’s not a comment on Go Ara’s performance – she was doing a decent job in this role before she got hurt, and I do miss the absence of the badass female fighter (and I hope she recovers soon!). But I wasn’t sorry to see the romance mostly phased out, and I hope it stays that way. Haechi is a show that pulls no punches, and every time there was a Yi Geum/Yeo-ji scene where they just stood around and made moony eyes at each other — they only ever had one real conversation! — it undermined the tension the show was trying to create. Now, without those scenes, the suspense just increases with nothing to stop it, and emotionally I’m much more invested in Yi Geum’s rise as king now that the focus stays on him.
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