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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.

 
COMMENTS

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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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

Thousands of men in multiple secret camps seems (1) hard to keep secret (2) hard to feed and (3) expensive. I doubt any out-of office remnant of a failed faction could pull it off. Rebel camps like this seem to be a kdrama staple, but I think historical rebellions were more likely to be either (1) coups by senior officials who had official soldiers and bases of the non-secret variety, or (2) spontaneous peasant revolts brought on by flood/drought/famine/disaster, etc.

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He orders the suspicious wells closed and clean drinking water provided for the people in those areas.

Missed opportunity for some bottled water PPL.

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LOL @lordcobol. I can see it all now.

"Potable water brought to you by Seondal's River Associates, Inc."
[SEONDAL: THE MAN WHO SELLS THE RIVER]

"Dae Mok's Direct-To-Your Door Water Delivery Service. Why lug it yourself when our thugs will do it for you... or else?"
[RULER: MASTER OF THE MASK]

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I know history told us about Moon-soo becoming the king's most trusted private investigator, but it was still surprising and darn satisfying to watch him did his spying work smoothly this eps. Thanks to his competency and Dal-moon's quick thinking, the palace can avoid the worst outcome from this rebellion.

I'm also happy to know that our king has finally win Min Jin-heon and Jo Tae-koo to his side by simply being his usual sharp-minded, humble, and efficient self. One of the most memorable thing for me was Yi Geum's impatience for empty formalities and inefficient bureucracy. His ministers' dumbfounded expression when he told them to just get into the matter was priceless. Watching this real historical figure who lived decades ago had tried to confront a very common issue in modern day government was personally gratifying but also shamed me because apparently, we haven't make a fast enough progress on that front.

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+1000000000% agreed! I can't help but wish we had this kind of leadership in our world now. This show makes me wish our president was a lot like Yi Guem...

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Part 1 of 3

Thank you for continuing to recap HAECHI, @lollypip! I know it’s not your only show. We’re getting into the homestretch, and even as the impending crises build to a crescendo, I feel somewhat detached. It may be that the density of the dialogue is hogging all my mental bandwidth. Like you, I’m glad the pseudo-romance between Yi-geum and Yeo-ji has pretty much fizzled, although Moon-soo still exhibits residual symptoms of Second Lead Syndrome. I would much rather see Yeo-ji as a badass undercover Court Lady Choi, with a tip of the hat to Kim Mi-kyung in FAITH. [Aside: I’m currently watching the cracktastic Gojoseon/Goguryeo epic THE STORY OF THE FIRST KING’S FOUR GODS, in which KMK plays a feisty blacksmith.]

I have to pay close attention, especially when it comes to characters who are not shown in the AsianWiki mugshots – and even some who are. Unless Jo Tae-koo is wearing another hat, he is still the Chief Justice (as far as I know). Methinks Chief Inspector would have been a demotion. ;-)
Thank you, @lollypip, for using different transliterations for the various characters surnamed Lee. It helps. Alas, there is no help for the two Jos at this late date. Dang, one of them could have been Cho. ;-)
http://asianwiki.com/Haechi

Lim Ho = Lee Gwang-jwa: ex-Vice Minister of Taxation, ex-Chief Inspector of Haseonbu; newly appointed Minister of War

Son Byung-ho = Hagok [pen name] Jo Tae-koo: Chief Justice, head of Soron; not listed

??? as Jo Hyun-myung: ex-Minister of Justice [often called “Junior Second Rank”]; newly-appointed Commander-in-Chief; not listed

I’ve come to think of Yi Geum’s Soron buddies Lee Gwang-jwa and Jo Hyun-myung as Lee & Jo, and his arch-frenemies as Min & Jo.

Anonymous propaganda posters claim that the plague is caused by Yi Geum’s having committed patricide/regicide, and that the yellow-bellied usurper has left the palace for a secret hideout far away from the public health disaster his subjects cannot escape. This scenario really gets my goat. I have to hand it to rebel Lee In-jwa: He knows exactly how to manipulate public sentiment as he stirs the pot with gusto. Rumors of wolfsbane in the medicine administered at the Hwalinseo [public health clinic] in the capital has the relatives of patients up in arms and on the verge of rioting – and me, too.

- Continued -

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Part 2 of 3

The King’s mandated gathering of patient information reveals the water sources used by the plague victims. In addition to quarantining the sick at Hwalinseo clinics across the kingdom, Yi Geum orders the closing of wells implicated in the outbreaks. Yes! And finally, he orders the clinics to administer four medicines that proved useful against the earlier plague outbreak at the military base. I feel as if I’m watching “CSI: JOSEON.” Step-by-step, Yi Geum is calming public sentiment by his very presence, and ordering concrete actions to curtail the epidemic and treat its patients. Splendid, Your Majesty!

Chief Justice Jo, putative head of the Sorons, discovers he has a mutiny on his hands. The karmic payback is delicious. Now he’s getting a taste of being backstabbed himself. The two traitorous ministers are adamant in refusing to support him or the King, and Jo never saw it coming. In your face, Your Honor. You’re long-overdue for this wake-up call.

I was moved by the scene in which Minister Min lets his poker face slip to Chief Justice Jo. I noted when Min did not interrupt Yi Geum, as has been his arrogant custom since we first met him. Seeing him speechless was a treat. It sounds to me as if fearful and jealous factionalism is beginning to gradually give way to the Loyal Opposition, a development that makes me happy as a clam.

I’m trying not to be a cock-eyed optimist, but I’m truly heartened by this sea change in the attitudes of the two biggest thorns in Yi Geum’s side.

In response to the discoveries by Saheonbu’s Yoon Hyuk and his erstwhile subordinate, Park Moon-soo, the King sneaks over to Dal-Moon’s Information Central to meet with former Saheonbu chief Lee Gwang-jwa and former Minister of Justice [aka Junior Second Rank] Jo Hyun-myung. Desperate times call for desperate measures: the band is getting back together. It’s not just a matter of two death-row prisoners escaping from their places of exile. The timing of the plague outbreak prior to the escapes leads Yi Geum to the inescapable conclusion that at least one other party is involved, and is probably planning a rebellion.

- Continued -

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Thanks @pakalanapikake for the great points in all 3 parts. A couple of remarks here.
1. We now see why King Sukjong desired Prince Yeoning to succeed him. In contrast to his brother King Gyeongjong (who was a nervous wreck) Yi Geum is a natural leader;
2. It is wonderful to see Ministers Min and Jo supporting the young King Yeongjo (Yi Geum).
Here I am going o/t a bit.
I loved this:

Chief Justice Jo, putative head of the Sorons, discovers he has a mutiny on his hands. The karmic payback is delicious. Now he’s getting a taste of being backstabbed himself. The two traitorous ministers are adamant in refusing to support him or the King, and Jo never saw it coming. In your face, Your Honor. You’re long-overdue for this wake-up call.

When Minister Jo came on the scene (I forget why he was away from Court) he quickly got on my nerves. My thoughts were along the lines "I didn't like this guy in GRAND PRINCE and I don't like him here." (All due respect to So Byong-ho.);
3. A little late for this comment but one of my favorite Minister Min (the wonderful Lee Geung-young) scenes was when he stepped out and single handily stopped the King's interrogation of Yi Geum. It was awesome. It was as if he said
to the King, "With all due respect Your Majesty, No! This is not going to happen" and it didn't. For me that was the pivot for his character. He was different after that; and
4. I am looking forward to the conclusion of HAECHI. Thanks for all your comments and speculations!

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You're most welcome, @marcusnyc20 bong-soo! Thanks for your kind thoughts. ;-)

#2. Son Byung-ho is great when it comes to playing scheming courtiers in sageuks. He really makes me want to smack them. Imagine my confusion when he popped up as Yoon Kyun-sang's mother's smitten CEO boyfriend in CLEAN WITH PASSION FOR NOW. It was so discombobulating to see him playing golf with nary a gat in sight! LOL!

#3. That is indeed a great scene that shows just how much chutzpah -- and power -- Minister "Preemptive Strike" Min has when he interrupts King Kyungjong before he can begin his interrogation of Yi Geum. It also shows how cowed and uncertain of himself Kyungjong is. The poor guy is a scared rabbit, and doesn't stand a chance against ruthless politicians.

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Part 3 of 3

At the secret base, Yi Tan, who in effect has been sidelined under house arrest, rains all over General Lee In-jwa’s parade when he returns from the rebel gathering. He has overheard some of the conspirators talking about the bad news from the capital: the plague is being rapidly stopped. You can see how much he wants to be part of the action. He’s itching to go full-peacock crazypants to get his butt on the throne, and these dolts won’t let him play in their sandbox. The unmitigated nerve!

Just then, Yi Tan’s paranoia detects an aberration in The Force. Cut to Moon-soo karate-chopping a rebel sentry in the neck and swiping his uniform. But he doesn’t kill the man, who didn’t see him sneak up from behind.

Yi Tan’s suspicions aroused, he walks the perimeter fence, and finds the trussed-up sentry sans uniform and boots. He raises the alarm after he finds a nobleman’s hanbok and gat nearby. [Note to Moon-soo: You really have to be a bit more creative when it comes to hiding your civvies – and disarmed opponents.] Bursting into Lee’s office, Mil-poong throws the clothing on his desk and in high dudgeon chews him out for lax security.

Amazingly, General Lee holds his peace and orders the guard to get cracking and find the spy. Wi Byung-joo shares a significant look with Lee. Aha. They’ll now be forced to launch prematurely and under less-than-optimal field conditions: the public hysteria they were counting on has abated. When a thorough search fails to reveal the interloper, Wi starts to say what’s on his mind, but Lee cuts him off and says that he’s the one who does the thinking around here. Not Invented Here may just come back to bite him. He tells the guard to send word to commence their Hanyang operation tonight.

Carrying over from the earlier conversation between Min & Jo, in the aftermath of the crushed assassination attempt, Min consoles his Soron counterpart over having to turn on two of his juniors. I thought it was very classy of Chief Justice Jo to say that pruning a couple of twigs off his faction is less important than saving the whole tree that is the kingdom of Joseon. I think it was positively inspired of Yi Geum to ask Jo to police his own Soron ranks, rather than fuel another round of strife by doing it himself or having the Norons do it.

I have to admit that, as the finale draws nigh, I’ve got the willies over the survival of our good guys. We know that the historical personage Park Moon-soo went on to serve as King Yeongjo’s secret inspector. Our fictional Saheonbu officers and Dal-moon & Co. will also be involved in putting down the rebellion, and they’re the ones I’m concerned about. It wouldn’t be a sageuk without tragedy and heartbreak. Even so, I’m not looking forward to the showdown.

-30-

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It is a bit of a shame that the lack of Yeo-Ji makes the show better, even if it is true. I am a sucker for saegeuk romance and I mainly watch shows for the female leads rather than bromance. But the problem With this show is a bit that, Yeo-Ji and her romance is not important enough for the plot the way the plot is made, but they still force it in there, which makes her more obnoxious than she probably should be. It isn't like the romance couldn't still happen, anyway; I would have had them maybe become aware of their feelings when they reunite in the Palace; he realizes he really, REALLY appreciates her there and is like "whoah, what was that rush of feelings..." and she also feels happy that she can be With him again, and they fall in love like that. Or, they could have worked more to give Yeo-Ji and the romance space in the story so that they are equally important.

For some reason, I feel people have way more ease writing a female-lead story with a male romantic lead who is just as/more important with their own, independent story (that overtakes the female lead's), than the other way around.

I don't know, I just feel it could have been done a bit better.

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I hear you, @pensola. I feel as if I've seen quite a few shows in which the female lead / male lead's love interest is basically a plot device, and not much of a sentient being in her own right. (I'm looking at you, KINGDOM OF THE WINDS.) DAMO is noteworthy for having a kickass "tea servant" played to perfection by Ha Ji-won, and I was hoping that HAECHI would shamelessly recycle some of those vibes. -- I think a lot of it has to do with the target demographics (women), who want to fangirl over the male hero. Just my jaded $0.02. ;-)

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That is probably true, and I am biased in my own interests when I say I watch for the female leads. I became quite jaded after a while in K-dramaland and I noticed how many dramas which started with a female lead or with equal screentime, eventually evolved to be about the male lead. Especially that drama where they dreamed about the future, and where the female lead was "patient zero" who infected her prophetic dreams to others, yet in the end she goes into a coma to give her male co-lead pain and motivation to conclude his own story, with no conclusion or answers to her own dreams' origins. Or even in Seven Days Queen, while Chae-Kyung is the lead in 90% of the drama, the last episode hammers a lot of the audience's reaction on the male lead, while CK becomes this wise person who makes decisions the male lead, and us through him, must try to understand. And other dramas where the second half seem to be mainly about the male leads (I am STILL looking at "Beautiful Gong-Shim", in which the female lead, the TITLE character, had NOTHING to do with the climax of the conflict in which both male leads had a stake.

But thank you for recommending DAMO, I will take a look when I have time. ^_^

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@pensola,
Just a heads-up to keep tissues handy while watching DAMO (2003) because of the body count and the patented sageuk ending.

It was such an addictive phenomenon its besotted viewers referred to themselves as DAMO "pyein" for being walking wounded from all the online commenting they did on the show's online forum -- enough to crash the broadcaster's servers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damo_(TV_series)#Reception

Ha Ji-won also played damo Nam-soon in the film DUELIST (2005), which was based on the same manhwa as DAMO. The two female characters are quite different, however.

I recently stumbled across Mr. X's in-depth review of DUELIST and his brief interview with the lead actress. Very worthwhile. I've posted links on my fan wall:
http://www.dramabeans.com/members/pakalanapikake/activity/781836/

DUELIST is one of the most visually gorgeous productions I've ever watched. The use of color and motion is enthralling -- as are the tangos with swords performed by Ha Ji-won and the enigmatic Sad Eyes (Gang Dong-won). The show's use of music is memorable.

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Go Ara's unexpected injury might have been a great factor. In the beginning, she was very feisty and independent and was an even better fighter than Moon Su. But they probably had to water down her character considerably since the actress can't do all those scenes that involve so much activity anymore. If she were healthy, I think even with her being a court lady, we would have seen Yeo Ji doing a lot more than just stand or sit and frown in worry and frustration and be the object of Yeongjo's protection.

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I had hoped to see Yeo-ji turn into a kickass Joseon Court Lady Choi, like Choi Young's auntie in FAITH. Kim Mi-kyung was memorable in the role. It's really unfortunate that Go Ara was injured so badly. After she recuperates, I hope she lands another action role as I think she was good at it.

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I'm one of those who see the romance angle of Yeongjo and Yeo Ji as something good but could have been better. It's treated subtly anyway and doesn't detract from the main story arc. To me, this gives another dimension to the personality and character of Yeongjo as a man. The problem I have with it though is the lack of proper development especially on the part of Yeo Ji's character. She and Yeongjo met early on in the drama but there were very few scenes of them interacting on a more personal level. And the writer and director made her too oblivious to Yeongjo's feelings as well as her own. They should have included such scenes in the first half that would have shown Yeo Ji's gradual realization, no matter how short. If they had done so, then Yeo Ji's decision to stay by Yeongjo's side and their recent interactions would have had more context and a more solid foundation. That is, despite the sudden injury of Go Ara. I think that also contributed to the lack of development.

Yeo Ji was an interesting character because she was an independent female in an era when women were not given too many opportunities. It would have been good if we had seen her as representative of the kind of female that Yeongjo wanted his reign to be known for: equal opportunities for all.

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@ sumomo0476,

For me, a romance between Yeo-ji and Moon-soo would have been more credible. We know that he likes her, but she is oblivious to him. He's got to be from at least minor nobility in order to wear silk, so Yeo-ji is again faced with the same class divide that exists between her and Yi Geum. In some ways, the gulf may actually be wider because Moon-soo lacks the royal prerogative of sleeping with whomever he wants to. Add to that the fact that Moon-soo got off on the wrong foot with Yeo-ji by being a meddlesome pest. It could have been a lot of fun to have a Joseon THIN MAN with Nick and Nora Charles both working in Saheonbu for truth and justice.

The class impediment to happiness between Moon-soo and Yeo-ji is something that the King could remedy by decree, I bet. Yeo-ji could be manumitted and rewarded with a class promotion to match Moon-soo's standing, or something like that. And then they could work happily ever after as Yi Geum's secret inspectors, with her providing cover that they're just a married couple traveling around.

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