Haechi: Episodes 43-44
The rebels are marching on the capital city, and it’s up to the good guys to stop them. Our king has done everything he can do to strengthen and encourage his people, but he feels helpless as he waits to hear if his unusual tactics are successful. It’s up to Moon-soo and the rest of their friends to enact Yi Geum’s plans and save the country.
EPISODES 43-44: “Triumph”
The rebels’ spy tells In-jwa that the royal army expects them to march through Jiksan on their way to the capital city, so they change their plans last-minute and go to Anseong instead. The castle looks empty when they arrive, so Yi Tan says to seize the castle, then move on to the capital.
Moon-soo and the royal army wait for the rebels, and they grow nervous when nothing happens. Moon-soo tells them to wait, that he’s positive they’re coming this way, and in the palace, Yi Geum holds onto his conviction that his people have chosen the correct route.
The rebels charge towards the palace, completely unchallenged. Suddenly they stop, seeing a single horse trotting towards them without a rider. It’s a horse from their advance unit that was sent ahead of them, and suddenly they start to get a bad feeling.
A second horse approaches, this one with a dead rebel on its back. Before they can process what it means, a hail of arrows rains down on them, and they realize it’s am ambush. I knew it – Moon-soo set a trap!
After that one volley of arrows, Moon-soo himself steps into the road, all alone. He bellows, “Hey Lee In-jwa, leader of the rebellion. Today, all of you die.” He’s joined by Dal-moon, Jang-dal, Ah-bong, and his entire army, and on either side of the road, archers take aim at the rebels. Moon-soo orders the attack, and the two armies engage.
The fighting is furious but it doesn’t last long. In-jwa orders his men to retreat to reorganize, despite Yi Tan’s furious insistence that he has to get to the palace and kill Yi Geum. They run, but they don’t get very far before they run into Minister Lee and another army. In-jwa realizes that not only did the royal army trick them, but they even anticipated their escape route.
Minister Lee orders In-jwa and Yi Tan captured alive, and tells his troops to kill anyone who resists. In-jwa tells his men to scatter and meet later at the rendezvous point. He drags Yi Tan away as Yi Tan yells that people called him Your Majesty.
Moon-soo is relieved to see all of his friends alive after the battle. They celebrate loudly, energized by the thrill of victory.
The palace recieves a report that their troops were victorious, and the rebels have been eliminated. The happy ministers give Yi Geum all the credit, but he says that they won because everyone was united and worked hard. Only Minister Min doesn’t celebrate, and Yi Geum notices him leaving the room alone.
He follows, and Minister Min tells him that he achieved something great. He had come to Yi Geum earlier and asked him to gather the Namins in the city, ready to concede to Yi Geum’s plan to appoint the people with the most talent to the government, regardless of political affiliation.
The Namins had previously declined Yi Geum’s offer for positions in return for their support, knowing that Minister Min would block Yi Geum. When Minister Min himself promised to cooperate, Yi Geum expected the Namins to agree. But instead, they told him that they believe the rebellion’s spies are among their numbers.
Yi Geum had sent an emergency message to Moon-soo, so he’d come up with the plan to say they were going to Jiksan, let the rebel spy alert In-jwa, then ambush them in Anseong. When they’d arrived, the spy had shown himself, insisting that they go to Jiksan as planned. He’d been swiftly arrested and taken away to await trial later.
Now Yi Geum thanks Minister Min, saying that their success is because of his decision to back down. Minister Min shakes his head and says that Joseon has received Yi Geum’s favor, bringing tears to Yi Geum’s eyes.
Moon-soo and Minister Lee’s armies gather, and Minister Lee says they were completely victorious. Unfortunately, In-jwa and Yi Tan got away, but Dal-moon managed to catch Byung-joo, who probably knows where In-jwa and Yi Tan will go.
Minister Jo leads his troops in Gyeongsang Province, attempting to take back the palace from the rebels. After three days, his men are exhausted and injured, but Minister Jo is reluctant to call a retreat. Minister Jo sees more soldiers approaching, but there’s so much smoke that nobody can tell whose men they are, the king’s or In-jwa’s.
Then Moon-soo and his men can be seen through the smoke — they came, and they even have a battering ram. The rebels panic, having been expecting their own reinforcements, and they grow afraid that In-jwa hasn’t made it to the capital as planned.
Moon-soo apologizes for being late, and he tells Minister Jo that this is the last rebel base that hasn’t been conquered. The battering ram makes short work of the palace gates, and the royal troops swarm inside to fight the rebels.
Jang-dal stops Ah-bong before they run in and tells him, “Let us survive.” Ack, you’re scaring me again! It doesn’t take long before Minister Jo declares the Gyeongsang palace to be back in the hands of the king. But they’re not without losses, and Ah-bong frantically searches for Jang-dal, growing terrified when he can’t find him.
He sinks to his knees and wails for his friend, screaming, “You said to survive!” “I’m right here, Ah-bong. I’m here,” a weak voice calls out. Oh thank goodness, Jang-dal is injured but he’s alive! Ah-bong starts crying all over again and attack-hugs Jang-dal, relieved that his friend is okay. Geon-tae and Storyteller also survived the battle, and the four of them hug each other, grateful to be alive.
Nearby, Moon-soo calmly admits to Dal-moon that he’s not bad with a gun. They grin widely at each other, tired but happy that they were able to keep their promise to survive and end the rebellion.
Back at the palace, Queen Inwon chuckles indulgently at a pair of palace maids excitedly discussing the rebels’ defeat. One of her ladies asks after Yeo-ji, who she hasn’t seen in a while, and Queen Inwon says she sent her to someone who needs her.
Yi Geum is struck with a bad case of shyness when Yeo-ji is allowed into his rooms to finish dressing him in his armor, and Ja-dong and Jo-hong cheekily find other places to be. Yeo-ji does a thorough job, admitting that she learned how to dress Yi Geum in her training so she wouldn’t just stop in the middle, like he used to do when he was taking off her hat or applying medicine to her arm. HAHAHA, his face.
Minister Lee leads everyone back to the capital city and into the palace as the commoners cheer in the streets. At one point, Moon-soo steps aside to talk to Hyuk, who couldn’t look prouder of his friend. Jang-dal and Ah-bong try unsuccessfully to avoid Young-han, who sobs at their return while they look annoyed that he’s acting like they’re friends. Ugh, no kissing!
Yi Geum addresses the triumphant troops, but this time he steps off the dais and gets down on their level. He thanks Minister Lee for coming back alive, but Minister Lee says he was just obeying orders, awww. Yi Geum walks through the soldiers, noting the faces of those who came home alive, the expression on his own face proof that each and every one of them matters to him.
He tells them all that he knows they were scared to risk their lives protecting the country. He says he won’t forget the blood and sweat they all shed, or the lives that were lost on the battlefield. He says that this was a victory for Joseon, and asks them to have faith in him, because he will build a new Joseon alongside his loyal subjects.
In-jwa and Yi Tan set up camp with a few hundred stragglers, the only ones left after all their bases fell to the royal troops. In-jwa refuses to believe that it’s over, so he orders messages sent to the provinces calling rebels’ families and other supporters to gather at a pre-arranged location.
Yoon-young finds Yi Tan, who’s still obsessed with how close he was to finally killing Yi Geum. She screams at him that it’s over, sinking to her knees to sob that there’s nothing they can do now. Tearing up himself, Yi Tan sits beside her and says that that’s not true, because the people were begging him to be their king.
He believes that those people will rise up to protect him, their true and rightful king. Yoon-young laughs in his face, seeing how far gone he is in his delusion, but he just takes her laughter for happiness.
The senior officials gather at the palace, and Yi Geum tells them that he will only punish those who fought in the rebellion, but not their families as was done in the past. He also bans any searches or punishment for those who helped the rebellion.
Minister Min says that they should set a strict example, but Yi Geum counters that strict punishment isn’t always the answer. When the people hear that they aren’t in trouble for letting the rebellion pass through their villages, or for feeding or doing work for them, it goes a long way towards building goodwill for their new king.
Chief Justice Jo teases Minister Min for being surprised by Yi Geum once again. Minister Min admits that Yi Geum is right — refraining from punishing those who helped the rebellion will turn their loyalty towards their king and make them less likely to help the rebels again. Chief Justice Jo says that everything from hiring the Namins to forgiving anyone who aided the rebellion aren’t just political tactics for Yi Geum, and that sometimes, you have to lead with your heart and not your head.
Byung-joo is tortured for the location of In-jwa’s rendezvous point, but he refuses to reveal anything without Moon-soo’s promise that he won’t be executed. Moon-soo says that he once pitied Byung-joo, back when he was first arrested and said that he did the things he’s done because of the way he was treated for being a Namin.
Byung-joo asks for Moon-soo’s pity again, but Moon-soo says that the people worthy of pity and understanding are the people who don’t blame others, but genuinely repent, unlike Byung-joo who’s still blaming others to secure his own survival. He snarls that Byung-joo doesn’t even deserve the quick mercy of a beheading — a traitor like him will be torn limb from limb.
In-jwa’s messengers return after trying to recruit more people to their cause, but they don’t bring the reinforcements as hoped. They tell In-jwa that because Yi Geum pardoned anyone who helped them, nobody was willing to come fight.
Yi Tan looks for Yoon-young but can’t find her, and he’s called to see In-jwa. In-jwa asks Yi Tan to go to the towns and use his influence as “king” to convince the people to join the rebellion. He tells Yi Tan that they’re only staying away from fear of Yi Geum, but that his presence will inspire them to follow him.
Yoon-young is missing from the rebel camp because she’s gone to see Dal-moon, saying that she came to give him the chance to kill her. A short while later, Dal-moon asks to talk to Yi Geum and tells him that he has Yi Tan’s mistress. Yi Geum asks why he brought her to him instead of turning her over to the police, and Dal-moon says that she knows In-jwa and Yi Tan’s location.
He kneels in front of Yi Geum and says that Yoon-young has committed crimes worthy of death, but he begs Yi Geum to spare her life. He admits that he shouldn’t be asking, and that he knows what kind of person she is, but he says that he can’t watch her die. From the next room, Yoon-young hears Dal-moon begging for her life, and she sobs with regret.
Later, Yeo-ji checks on Yi Geum when she sees the lights in his room. She asks why he’s still dressed, but he just looks at her and says thoughtfully, “This must be how Dal-moon feels. Regardless of what happens, he only wishes to protect that one person. That’s how he must feel. Like how I feel towards you.”
Yi Geum grants Dal-moon’s request, and Dal-moon takes Yoon-young outside the city and gives her a pouch of money. Yoon-young says angrily that she didn’t ask him to save her life, but he tells her to think of it as a favor to him; “This is the only way I can erase you.” He walks away, and Yoon-young says softly, “You could have held onto me. If you were going to save my life, you could have forgiven me as well.”
In-jwa’s sending Yi Tan into the town turns out to be a setup. He arranges for information to be leaked once Yi Tan arrives, then In-jwa and the rest of the rebels will abandon him once he’s captured.
One of Dal-moon’s men escorts Yoon-young to the port, and he leaves her for a moment to see if there’s a boat. She spots Yi Tan entering the village in disguise and she hides. Her escort tells her that there are royal troops nearby, probably to capture Yi Tan, and she realizes that In-jwa is using Yi Tan as bait to facilitate his own getaway.
Yi Tan’s companion leaves him at the supposed meeting place, saying that he’s going to scout and make sure there’s no danger. Yi Tan grows nervous when nobody shows up, and Yoon-young watches him from her hiding place, frantically willing him to realize that it’s a trap and run.
Her escort says it’s time to go, but Yoon-young can’t stop thinking about Yi Tan and how she encouraged him to take the throne from Yi Geum. She calls him a pitiful fool and a clown, and watches as he sends his remaining men to see what’s wrong. Suddenly, Yoon-young calls out to Yi Tan, and he sees her standing not far away.
In-jwa times his escape to coincide with Yi Tan’s capture, but as he and his men are fleeing through the forest, they’re surrounded by Moon-soo’s royal troops. Moon-soo says that he’ll spare the rebels’ lives if they surrender, and In-jwa screams at them when they drop their swords. Moon-soo points his own sword at In-jwa’s throat and growls that it’s over, and In-jwa reluctantly drops his weapon.
Moon-soo leads him into the palace and makes him kneel in the courtyard. In-jwa looks his king in the eye for the first time as Yi Geum says, “I finally meet you, leader of the rebels, Lee In-jwa.”
Okay, Moon-soo has officially gone from dorky hanger-on to certified badass. He figured out how to trick the rebels into going exactly where he wanted them, then had the stones to face them alone first just to throw them off-balance. Then later he did the exact same thing to In-jwa. He’s now a hero, and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. His character arc really shows how he naturally ended up as King Yeongjo’s secret weapon in rooting out corruption in the government. He’s gone from someone with ambition but no power or direction, to a laser-focused warrior dedicated to fighting for justice and the king he respects so highly. He’ll probably end up as one of my favorite drama characters just for the way he changed so much, yet stayed true to himself, honing and sharpening his skills through sheer force of will until he’s finally become the man he always wanted to be.
Dal-moon has been in the background for a while now, quietly supporting Yi Geum and helping Moon-soo in his unique way, but in general keeping out of much of the action. But Yoon-young asking him to kill her brought him roaring back into my consciousness in a big way. I’ve never understood his feelings for Yoon-young — I get that they were all each other had in their childhood, but then they didn’t see each other for a very long time, and in that time Yoon-young became someone who signed away her morals, her body, and her friends for money. She’s committed horrible crimes in a greedy attempt to become queen, a position she has no claim to in any way.
She does seem to still have feelings for Dal-moon, but she’s also repeatedly used his feelings for her to get away with past crimes and commit new ones. I’m glad that Dal-moon finally realized that it was time to let her go for good. I get so mad at characters like Dal-moon for their unwavering devotion to a bad person — it’s a waste of his good, loyal heart. I didn’t even feel any compassion for Yoon-young when she heard him plead for her life, because she had years and plenty of chances to change and be with him if that’s what she wanted. But she wanted power, so she hurt a good man, and for that she deserves to feel terrible.
Yi Tan’s delusions of grandeur have always been disturbing, but ever since a few grubby rebels started calling him “Your Majesty,” he’s gotten a lot worse. He doesn’t realize that they’re only doing it either because their true leader, In-jwa, is telling them to, or out of fear. It’s become frighteningly easy for In-jwa to manipulate Yi Tan, who will do anything at the smallest ego-stroke, like calling them “his people” or saying they rely on him. None of it is true, but Yi Tan’s entire identity since childhood has hinged on him believing that he’s the “rightful” king. That part isn’t even his fault — his abusive father told him that his only worth and use as a person was to restore their family’s honor, so of course Yi Tan held onto that like a lifeline. To admit that he’s not the country’s true king would be (in his twisted mind) to admit that he has no value. But the way his eyes go vacant and hungry whenever someone calls him “Your Majesty” makes me afraid that when he does face Yi Geum, he’s going to go completely off the deep end.
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