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My Country: The New Age: Episode 11

The tension in the country continues to rise, as factions split and leaders make their plans to overthrow the king and gain power for themselves. Our heroes also take sides, depending on who they think can best help them get revenge on their greatest enemy. History will be decided on one small decision from the king, and once he makes it, the future of the country is set in stone.

 
EPISODE 11 RECAP

Lord Nam shows up at the bamboo grove to learn who’s been stealing his golden vases, and he’s shocked to see Hwi, alive after six years. Hwi offers to make a deal with Lord Nam — his golden vases returned, in exchange for control over a marketplace in front of the new palace in Hanyang.

Chuckling, Lord Nam says that that district is practically worthless, and besides, it’s owned by the king. He claims it’s impossible, but Hwi tells him to make it possible.

Lord Nam asks how Hwi’s feeling with the viper venom still poisoning his system, and Hwi just says he’s used to it by now. Lord Nam mentions Yeon and asks Hwi if he wants more people to die because of him, and Hwi carefully composes his expression before calmly asking for Lord Nam’s answer by tomorrow.

Hwi dismisses his men, then suddenly clutches his chest in pain. He continues on, limping heavily now, but after only a few steps he drops to one knee. He sees someone approaching, but before he figures out who it is, he passes out. Sun-ho stands over Hwi, wondering what he’s trying to do when he’s in such bad health.

Lord Nam does a background check on Hwi and learns that he’s been working as a smuggler, and he assumes that Hwi is in Hanyang to make connections in the new capital. The king’s health is deteriorating, and Lord Nam desperately needs those gold vases for a ceremony in which he and his followers will swear fealty by blood to Bang-seok, the crown prince.

He approaches King Taejo about building a marketplace just outside the palace, framing it as an opportunity to help the new capital prosper. King Taejo remarks that Lord Nam is growing greedy for money and will soon covet the throne, but he grants Lord Nam’s request.

Hwi wakes up in a physician’s office, and the doctor warns him that the medicine he’s using to suppress the symptoms from the venom are too hard on his body. He tells Hwi that he was brought there by a man with empty eyes.

Even though Sun-ho burned the sketch of Hwi from the witness, Sung-rok correctly guesses who it was. He warns Sun-ho not to make the same mistake again by protecting Hwi, but Sun-ho drawls, “The biggest mistake I’ve made was not doing anything because of my fear of making mistakes.” Sun-ho says that Hwi’s return changes nothing… his father took away what was most dear to him, so he’s going to return the favor. But first he needs to let Lord Nam have what he wants most — the country.

The next day, Hwi and Lord Nam meet again, and Lord Nam agrees to Hwi’s terms. He hands over a document giving Hwi the rights to the new marketplace, and Hwi returns the golden vases. After he’s gone, Lord Nam orders his men to get Hwi alone and kill him, but when they try, Hwi’s men jump out of hiding to dispatch the assassins.

With blood still on his face, Hwi heads to Ihwaru to join a meeting between Bang-won and his followers. They’re planning to attack the palace with Hee-jae’s help, and Bang-won says that all they need now is ammunition powerful enough to turn a revolt into a revolution.

Hwi says that Lord Nam will provide that ammunition with the blood ceremony he’s planning. He tells Bang-won that he’s got control of the marketplace, so they can hide their soldiers and weapons in anticipation of an ambush at Sajeong Gate.

We flash back to years ago, shortly after Yeon’s funeral. Hwi had limped into Bang-won’s home and told Bang-won that since he saved him he had to take responsibility, then he’d passed out on Bang-won’s shoulder. The prince had seen Hwi nursed back to health as much as possible, and he’d tried to convince Hwi not to push himself too hard. Hwi had said that Lord Nam isn’t afraid of death, so killing him isn’t enough – he plans to stomp all over the world that Lord Nam built.

In the present, Bang-won tells Hwi that Lord Nam wants a puppet king he can control, but that that’s exactly why Goryeo collapsed, so he’ll do whatever needs to be done to stop it from happening again. “History will write my name in blood,” he says with resignation. “But who cares?”

Hwi replies that he’s not interested in a nation or a great cause… all he wants is to destroy Lord Nam. Bang-won guesses that Hwi is planning to leave (in other words, die) once he accomplishes his goal, and he asks Hwi, on that day, to drink with him first.

While still on Ihwaru grounds, the venom overcomes Hwi and he stumbles. Hee-jae takes him to a room to re-bandage his wound, and she says that she knows nothing she can say will change his plans, but she hopes that he’s not hurt too much. She gently lays a hand on his shoulder, and he lets himself cover her hand with his.

Now that he has the golden vases, Lord Nam orders the royal family members summoned for the blood ceremony. Afterward, he plans to ask the king to step down and kill all the princes. He feels safe, because anyone wanting retribution will have to kill all the royal relatives first.

His henchman reminds him that they still haven’t won over the king’s step-nephew, Wanwon Buwongun. Lord Nam says that he’ll meet with him in person, but before he can get a meeting, Wanwon Buwongun is woken in the middle of the night by a bloody Sun-ho, standing over him menacingly.

Sun-ho tells Wanwon Buwongun to attend the blood ceremony and pledge his loyalty to Bang-seok with the rest of the royal family. He goes straight from there to a gibang to get roaring drunk, and when a gisaeng touches Yeon’s embroidery on his sword hilt, he cheerfully threatens to kill her.

Lord Nam interrupts Sun-ho’s little pity party to yell at Sun-ho for threatening a member of the royal family. He also informs Sun-ho that Hwi is back and he’s ordered his men to kill him, because he never leaves his enemies alive. He warns Sun-ho that he’s about to become his next enemy, but Sun-ho snarls that Lord Nam is already his enemy.

Later, Sun-ho waits for Hwi, and says that he’s surprised that he’s back yet his father is still alive. Hwi admits that he hates that he can only kill Lord Nam once, so he plans to ensure that he dies in the most painful way possible.

Sun-ho gives Hwi a light whack to the torso, and Hwi is so weakened by the venom that he falls to his knees. Sounding like he’s choking back tears, Sun-ho says that Hwi won’t succeed in this state, but Hwi growls that this is his only reason for living. Sun-ho says that he wants his father to be remembered as such a horrible traitor that he was killed by his own son.

Struggling to his feet, Hwi screams that he doesn’t care about that. He says that he will die on the day Sun-ho’s father dies, and he asks Sun-ho not to stop him.

Soon, the market outside the palace gates is up and running. Dressed as peddlers, Chi-do, Jang Beom, and Moon-bok arrive with a cart full of heavy crates, and Chi-do tells Hwi that the shipments are arriving right on time. Hwi has Moon-bok give him more medicine for his venom symptoms, though Moon-bok also warns him that the medicine is much too dangerous and says that this is the last time he’s providing it.

In a storage shed, the guys inspect the crates, which turn out to be full of weapons for Bang-won’s revolt. Hwi again vows to destroy the world Lord Nam has built, and Chi-do asks if he plans to die once he has his revenge. He gently reminds Hwi that there are people who consider him precious, in the same way that he considered Yeon precious.

At the training grounds where he teaches prospective soldiers, Chi-do finds a peasant boy who he’s previously turned down for being too young. The boy says that he’s going to stick to Chi-do until he lets him join the army (his family needs the rice allotment), so Chi-do decides to give him a little slash with a real sword to show him what he’s in for, and hopefully scare him off.

The boy stands firm, saying that it’s all the same, starving to death or being slashed to death. Chi-do is just about to cut him when two men show up, both of whom wear the snack tattoo on their hands, so he leaves with them.

Moon-bok keeps a safe full of money and valuables at Ihwaru, which he visits occasionally. Hwa-wol pouts that he doesn’t even say hello to her before checking his safe, and her upset flies completely over his head.

Cheonga has been working as a double agent, reporting back to Bang-gan about Bang-won’s business, including the fact that he temporarily had custody of the golden vases Hwi was stealing. He tells Bang-gan that Bang-won will be out tonight, and Bang-gan insists on doing his own spying.

He’s pretty terrible, making all kinds of noise as he “sneaks” into Bang-won’s home. He finds the document giving Seo Hwi the rights to the new marketplace, then Bang-won catches him. Bang-won uses his fan as a weapon (which is incredibly sexy), and Bang-gan pretends that he thought Bang-won was a thief, HA.

The brothers discuss the fact that Lord Nam will try to kill them as soon as he completes the blood ceremony. Bang-won wants Bang-gan to attend the blood ceremony on behalf of the older princes, to incite Lord Nam to attack first and provide them justification to kill him.

Bang-gan correctly guesses that Bang-won also intends to kill Bang-seok, though Bang-won denies it. Bang-gan sneers that their father claimed not to have designs on the throne either, until he did. He agrees to do as Bang-won says, but only with a written promise from Bang-won not to kill him.

Just as Hwi is storing his final shipment of weapons, Bang-gan approaches him like a long-lost friend, though Hwi has no idea who he is, ha. Bang-gan introduces himself and invites Hwi to call him “Hyung,” and he says he admires Hwi’s swordsmanship. Hwi tells him he’s go the wrong person, and Bang-gan suddenly gets very serious.

He attacks, and Hwi defends himself with only his scabbard. He draws his sword only to slice halfway through Bang-gan’s sash, and Bang-gan says that this is why he wants to make Hwi his man. He notes broadly that a marketplace is a great spot to hide things, especially so close to the palace, and as he leaves, he thinks that Hwi’s swordsmanship feels familiar…

The new Minister of Military Affairs (the husband of the woman Hee-jae was planning with earlier) goes back on his promise to give Hee-jae control over the signal fires, so Hee-jae personally confronts him. She warns that she can take him down as fast as she had him appointed, and she demands that he place her people in the positions she wants or else.

Lord Nam’s blood ceremony takes place as planned, with the royal family members all swearing blood fealty to the crown prince (including Bang-gan, who makes the teeniest cut possible on his pinky finger, ha). At the same time, Sun-ho reports to King Taejo about the ceremony, and that Lord Nam plans to ask the king to step down. King Taejo knows that this will leave Lord Nam free to control Bang-seok, and that Bang-won will try to kill him.

Sun-ho suggests that King Taejo set up a battlefield for Lord Nam and Bang-won to kill each other, first. King Taejo sighs that no father would kill his own son, but Sun-ho counters that there are sons who kill their fathers. King Taejo decides to see if Sun-ho is right before making a decision.

Together with his closest supporters, Lord Nam goes to speak with the king. However, before they make their demands, King Taejo confronts Lord Nam about his blood ceremony. Lord Nam is ready with a plausible explanation — that the ceremony was simply to ask the heavens to watch over the king, and vowing loyalty to the crown prince is a good thing.

The king doesn’t believe him, and when Lord Nam implies that he should step down, King Taejo asks Bang-won what he thinks. Bang-won answers with silence, and the king collapses. Bang-won is the first one at his side, and he shoots Lord Nam a death glare before leading his father out.

As everyone holds vigil outside the king’s bedroom, Bang-won accuses Lord Nam of causing the king’s sickness. Lord Nam claims to be grief-stricken (Bang-gan’s eyeroll, hee), and Bang-won says that they’ve gone from comrades to mortal enemies. Lord Nam clarifies that they’ve never been comrades, they only shared a common enemy.

Bang-won says that he thought of Lord Nam as the king’s dog and lower than even Sambong, but now he thinks he was wrong. Lord Nam asks how Bang-won sees him now, but Bang-won just stares at him darkly.

The king sits up late, remembering Queen Sindeok on her deathbed. She’d accused him of prioritizing Bang-won and Lord Nam over her and her sons, and had said that she could clearly see her sons’ deaths. King Taejo had promised that wouldn’t happen, but when Queen Sindeok demanded he eliminate Bang-won and Lord Nam, King Taejo had refused to make that promise.

Queen Sindeok had died screaming that King Taejo’s protection of Bang-won and Lord Nam would mean the deaths of her sons, and that when they died, so would he. Now, he orders Bang-seok and Sun-ho brought to him, and he warns Bang-seok that if he becomes king, either Bang-won will kill him, or he’ll be forced to submit to Lord Nam.

Bang-seok begs his father to save him, and King Taejo decides that Sun-ho was right about setting up a situation where Bang-won and Lord Nam can destroy each other. But he doesn’t want to watch the confrontation, so Sun-ho says to leave everything to him.

Lord Nam moves up his plan to strike at the princes while he has the power. Gyeol stops his messenger on the road and brings the summons for assassins to Hee-jae, who in turn gives it to Hwi. Hwi knows that without assassins, Lord Nam will have to use palace guards instead, which is justification for Bang-won to attack Lord Nam.

Hwi goes straight to Lord Nam and tells him that his assassins won’t be arriving. He says that the only way for Lord Nam to survive what’s coming is to pledge loyalty to him and run around like a dog like he did. But Lord Nam vows that he’ll never serve Hwi, so Hwi tells him to watch and see how he destroys his world.

Sun-ho tells King Taejo that Lord Nam has made the first move. True to his word not to watch what’s coming, King Taejo leaves the capital to hole up in a nearby temple. Hwi warns Bang-won that Lord Nam is coming for them, but Bang-won knows that his father leaving is a signal to him and Lord Nam to settle this between them.

He still believes that no father would set up his son to die, so he wants to ask King Taejo personally. While he and Tae-ryong head to the temple, Hwi stays behind to dispatch the men Lord Nam has watching them. He runs into Sung-rok, who was watching the watchers.

Sung-rok wonders what’s so great about their friendship that Sun-ho hasn’t killed Hwi yet. He tries it himself, and just as Hwi is weakened by the venom in his system, Jang Beom, Moon-bok, and Chi-do pop out of the shadows to prevent Sung-rok from damaging Hwi’s pretty face, ha. Realizing that he’s outnumbered, Sung-rok leaves, grumbling that he’ll see Hwi again before dawn.

Bang-won arrives at the temple, and King Taejo tells him that he’s worried about Lord Nam’s recent actions. Bang-won asks who he is to King Taejo, a subject or a son. King Taejo says that as a king, Bang-won was a knife and a shield, but as a father, he’s merely the fifth of eight sons.

He assures Bang-won that he’ll be proud of what he does to Lord Nam, and says that maybe it will even make him a crown prince. Looking terribly sad, Bang-won asks how long King Taejo will keep using him. The king claims he’s never given Bang-won an order, but Bang-won knows how King Taejo makes vague statements about his enemies to avoid taking the blame, and he says he desperately regrets the decisions he’s made.

He performs a deep bow, then tells his father, “All the blood and tears that will be shed from now on will start from you, so do not regret or resent it.”

Bang-won exits the temple to find Hwi waiting with his men. Hwi sees the look on Bang-won’s face and says simply, “You did well.” Bang-won thinks about all the times he just wanted to hear those words from his father but never did, and he barks this heartbroken laugh.

Then his expression grows hard, and he gives the order to destroy the bridge, trapping his father in the temple and severing their connection forever.

 
COMMENTS

It’s in the small moments that history is made, and whether or not a final conversation between Bang-won and King Taejo happened at all, I love how the show gives us these beats that really illustrate how the people who really lived through these times must have been feeling. We do know that in real life, Bang-won felt used by his father and slighted by not being made crown prince as a reward for everything he did to help King Taejo establish his new country. I like seeing My Country‘s version of Bang-won give his father one more chance to admit that he used him, because although we know how history turned out, it still feels like King Taejo could have prevented everything with a simple, “You did well, son.” But he clung to his protested innocence, and altered the future of the country forever.

One thing this show does very well (among many) is how nearly every episode ends with the feeling that something huge and world-changing is looming just over the horizon. The stakes continue to rise, and even though historically we know what’s going to happen, the show manages to instill a sense of dread because we don’t know how these versions are going to enact the sequence of events, or react to them afterward. Also, it was smart for the show to insert fictional characters so deeply among the historical ones, because while we know what Bang-won is planning and how things will work out for him, we don’t know how Hwi and Sun-ho will impact the situation, or how the events will change them. It allows for some unpredictability in the storytelling, so that we’re not just watching the same historical events we’ve seen in other dramas and movies play out with different actors.

That said, I have two complaints about My Country that also have to do with the storytelling style. The first is that the characters have a habit of discussing upcoming events without explaining what they are or why they’re important. And it happens that way with nearly every major plot point — the characters discuss something for an episode or so before the audience is told why we should care. It’s very hard to write about this critical blood ceremony, for example, when I have no idea what it is or how it will impact events for an entire episode and a half. And the second complaint is that the show often breaks the “show, don’t tell” rule of storytelling. It manages to hide this pretty well behind all the exciting and well-choreographed fight scenes, but for the most part, all of the most interesting political maneuvering has happened offscreen and we’re told about it later. The worst offense is Hee-jae — almost her entire story has happened offscreen, and all we’ve gotten to see her do is pine over Hwi. I was so excited to have a smart, capable, strong female character… and yet, we don’t get to see any of that.

There is something that confuses me, and it’s not a complaint really, just an observation. I completely understand that both Sun-ho and Hwi want Lord Nam dead, and for much the same reasons — for Yeon’s death, and in Sun-ho’s case, for his mother. I even understand why they feel that simply killing him isn’t enough, and that they want to make him suffer the loss of the thing he wants most before he dies, like he made them suffer. What I don’t understand is why they’re not willing to work together on this. Yes, they have a terribly painful history, and I think that they’re too damaged to etruly repair their friendship. But they’ve worked together before, and before Yeon’s death, they were on their way back to trusting each other, so why can’t they team up now? Or, well, maybe they do team up… maybe their rapidly approaching confrontation on the night of Bang-won’s coup will turn out to be something they set up together as a distraction tactic. Or maybe not, maybe Hwi will be ready to kill Lord Nam that night, and Sun-ho tries to stop him because his plans aren’t complete. I just know that Lord Nam needs to die, and I’d hate to see their revenge fail because they couldn’t agree on what it should look like or who gets to strike the final blow.

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Thank you for recap, @lollypip. I think Hwi and Sun Ho can't work together because Hwi is working for Bang Won. Sun Ho and Bang Won hates each other. Bang Won will never accept Sun Ho as his subject. Plus, if they do work together, we won't be getting half the suspence and it won't be as tragic.

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I'm waiting for them to kill each other already. Getting tired of "next time we meet I'll kill you crap." On with it.

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Hahaha. They learned from Hee Jae. All empty threats!

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I would add, if you hate your father that much, you don't want anyone else to step in the middle of it and steal your vengeance, it's too personal. Plus, maybe deep down Seon Ho knew that he wouldn't be able to do it...Nam Jeon was still his father and he grew up trying to get his approval and affection, the situation is too complex and his feelings must have been conflicted.

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The second half of what you said is exactly what I thought since the first episode when I wondered about why he stopped Hwi for killing Lord Nam due to the flashforward scene at the start and his reason for doing that, but then when Sun Ho gave his reason to Hwi for not allowing him to kill his father plus whan he said to Bang Won that he's different from him cause he does want to kill his father unlike Bang Won, I just ignored that line of thinking.

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*in the flashback

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I'm with you on the storytelling flaws. Another thing I've really disliked is how My Country doesn't explain any of the historical events referenced by the characters (e.g., significance of the killing of Poeun) and just leaves it to the audience to work it out. As someone who knows no Korean history this has been quite frustrating.

It's a shame as the cast is so strong and I've especially enjoyed watching the two young male leads and Jang Hyuk in their respective roles.

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This is a well known part of their history so they probably didn't think to add commentaries for us non Koreans. Wikipedia does help but not with the small details.

Instead of covering just a small enough portion of the history to fit the 20 episodes planned, they tried to cover way more than they could handle. To make it worse, they had to work with only 16 episode now.

It's still very much an engaging show to me but it could've been so much better. I love how the historical characters are seen from a different perspective and that the actors are pretty convincing and more.

When power is involves no one is innocent. No one is naive enough to think that their moral compass is not going to be compromised.

One of the reasons why Poeun's name is being revered is because Bang-won wrote the history and he hated Sambong. Poeun is written to be a saint and Sambong was forgotten in history despite been the brain behind the establishment of Joseon.

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“ It's still very much an engaging show to me but it could've been so much better.”

So true.

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Totally agree.

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I have spent a LOT of time on Wikipedia for this one...

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Thank you for going the extra mile, @lollypip. ;-)

Some sageuks (and subtitlers) simply do a better job of identifying characters and their significance. NOKDU FLOWER was meticulous in that respect, with informative chyrons. A situation such as this makes me miss Mr. X and WITH S2 like the dickens. That said, it's odd that a drama that was being aired by Netflix didn't give more of a nod to international viewers.

One thing I haven't been able to dig up is information on the danged gold vases and Ye Olde Joseon Blood Oath Of Fealty & Vassalage To Seja. All I can think is that it was a Neo-Confucian ritual that is mentioned in school books. Or maybe it's fictional.

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That's exactly why Jung Hyun-min is one of my favorite writer. Jung Ha-yeon is another. Their work is a feast for history nerds lol.

I think this blood ceremony is made up by the writer. There is nothing Confucianism about it. It's more like a Goryeo old school Shamanism ritual.

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@kiara, @msrabbit,
Thanks for the reality check on the ritual and the golden bribeware. ;-)

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I am curious about the gold vases too. I tend to think of it like chaebol's bribery/slush fund. You know... something to bribe people with or to buy support.

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@purpleconfetti

I know it's frustrating that they don't go into details with the history but this is actually not a conventional sageuk.
It's based loosely on historical events and the historical figures are partly fictional. They are presented with the writer's own interpretation with room for the viewers to make their own.
I think that's why this drama is labelled as fiction just to be safe but so far it's probably 50/50 facts and fiction.

I'd recommend JEONG DO-JEON (2014) for historical accuracy. It's written by a former political aide who knows the politics and history inside out.

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Oh thanks for the recommendation!

It's not actually knowing the historical facts that's important to me, it's having the context to understand why particular events are significant and are impacting the characters the way they are. E.g., if the killing of Poeun was actually fictional it wouldn't bother me one bit, but I would like to know who he is and why killing him was so necessary and yet Bang Won was reviled for it. This is especially as it keeps coming up as a point of conflict between Bang Won and Yi Seong Gye.

I guess I just wish for more exposition on the drama's part on why I should care about particular events instead of having to guess or do my own research haha

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I understand and yes I do agree.
I think they should have shown more context instead of all the actions.

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Same sentiment as @purpleconfetti
I think a sentence or two would suffice regarding Poeun’s death as source of conflict.

There are so many political details in the background I need reminding who’s on whose side and what they stand for. It would be helpful for international viewers to know why Poeun seems to have more weight with Bangwon especially since I’m getting the impression he seems more remorseful about killing him than he is with Sambong.

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If they didn't cover such a long period of the history we wouldn't have so much untold politics in the background.
There should have been a commentary also to explain every time skips.

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Second that @kiara. I remember some other shows had a special episode to sort of explain the historical background or some of the direction in the drama that they didn't show on screen. We can use some of those here.

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in this world of violence and trahison, we need sweetness !

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqpmgATzVXs

They're so cute! YSJ is so innocent and shy!

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Treason*

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They are adorable, specially YSJ and SH. I'm even tempted to ship them together, haha!

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Is it just me, or Bang gan is super sassy? Telling Hwi "Handsome and with a voice a sweet as honey, you have no idea how badly I desire you", LOL, me too, Prince, me too...

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Bang Gan is kinda cute! But alas, we know his fate.... 🙁

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I'm glad we are getting to know him a little before the final battle.
Bang-won has other older brothers too and they all helped their father.
It's too bad that there is only one seat on the throne and birth order doesn't determined the owner so they all have to fight for it.

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Yea. And it's also because the one who's not on the throne will eventually harbor the ambition to be on the throne. That's why the road to the throne is so bloody! And it doesn't help that ancient kings have so many wives and sons.

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Right and rewarding all those who helped them is another challenge. Some will be happy and some will not be satisfied.

Historically, Taejo did reward his sons with land, servants etc but that's not what they wanted. Their names were not added to the list of founders of Joseon even though they contributed a lot.

I don't think Bang-won would have been satisfied with any of his brothers on the throne.
He has been fighting on his behalf this whole time. To him he deserves it more and by merits he does.

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@flyingcolours,
I've been confused by Bang-gan's snarkiness pretty much since he first turned up. I haven't been able to get a handle on him and looked up the historical record, which explains a lot (beware of DIY spoiler).

The revelation that Cheonga is Bang-gan's double agent in Bang-won's household forces came as a surprise. But is Bang-won truly in the dark, as he had apparently been with Lord Nam's spy at the time Hwi faked killing #5? Or does Bang-won know that Cheonga is his hyung's spy, and he has refrained from outing him to lure Bang-gan into a sense of false security? I don't know what to think. I'm certainly getting more than a hint of MOON LOVERS's fraternal infighting.

As for accosting the merchant in the street, it struck me that Bang-gan was sounding out Hwi's swordsmanship, but I can't figure out why. Cheonga could have vouched for his prowess, having come up short against Hwi repeatedly in the past. His fighting style is of great interest to Bang-gan, and I think I know why. When Bang-won attacked trespassing Bang-gan in his study armed only with his fan, the elder brother later commented that he had had 10 bouts with Seo Geom while Bang-won barely had 8. I've been pretty certain that Bang-won knows the relationship between Hwi and the late General Seo, but it seems to have just occurred to Bang-gan -- who tests out his thesis in the marketplace, and seems pretty certain he's identified Hwi. But how is that ancient history relevant to the story at hand?

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@pakalanapikake, to me, his sass feels like an act to make people underestimate him. I got the same impression from his fight with Hwi, that he was testing him to make sure he is Seo Junior. Besides, Bang Gan knows better than to trust his brother - he even asks for a signed and stamped promise that he won't kill him (ah!, as if that would work), making it clear that he knows what Bangwon is capable of...

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@flyingcolours,
It does indeed seem as if Bang-gan has been putting on a frivolous act so he's not taken as a serious rival for the throne or anything else. I agree with you about Bang-gan's demand for a signed, sealed promise not to kill him. He must think Bang-won has a thing for contract law. -- Well, he is a stickler for justification. As if a suit for breach of contract would be any kind of deterrent to Bang-won's wrath.

But why is it that Bang-gan suddenly has a bee in his bonnet about Seo Geom's son? Is it because Hwi's parrying style learned from Dad was a blast from the past? Is he trying to determine who's Joseon's greatest swordsman? Was it Seo Geom's loyalty to Yi Seong-gye that got him killed by Lord Nam? Maybe we'll find out in the last 5 minutes of the show, but I'm not betting the ranch on it.

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I like this!
Bang-gan is smart. Why not take a chance with insurance? He has as much right to fight for the throne as Bang-won.

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Cheonga is so dead... Nobody with that hair finishes a sageuk alive

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@flyingcolours,
Double-crossing a boss like Bang-won is a sure-fire way to commit death by yangban. I used to think that Cheonga could be a Jurchen, which might explain his hair. But I don't think Bang-won would have any truck with them, unlike his father.

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I think he mentioned earlier that he comes from a family of butchers? (Thanks @wishfultoki.)
Baekjeong class which is the lowest in Joseon.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baekjeong

He sure doesn't act like he comes from a humble background and overreacts when he is told to stand down. He thinks that everyone is looking down on him.

I thought he was an ex-pirate lol. He's rather wild and unruly. Plus the hair and weapon he is using is not very butcherist or is it?

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@kiara, @wishfultoki,

Thank you for the background on Cheonga. I must have missed the memo when he mentioned his baekjeong background, which is the same as ronin Goo Dong-mae in MR. SUNSHINE, but with terminal frizzie hair (like mine, but coarser). I agree that he acts more like a pirate than a down-trodden butcher -- plus he reminds me a bit of an executioner. (Also from baekjeong class?) All the butchers I can recall seeing used big honking blades, some with sawteeth. He's got the weaponized version of reaping hooks, which wouldn't last long with wooden handles.

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@pakalanapikake

"All the butchers I can recall seeing used big honking blades, some with saw teeth."

That's what I would expect from a butcher also.

A farmer would most likely wield a scythe because they were poor and I guess a butcher would too.

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Gosh ... his hair !

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I think Bang-won might have known already that Cheonga is shady. The fake weapons should have confirmed it.
Bang-won doesn't consider Bang-gan as his rival (yet) so that's probably why.

Seo Geom probably taught all of Taejo's oldest sons how to fight since they all grew up at the border where he served with their father as a general or they must have been familiar with his swordsmanship style.

"But how is that ancient history relevant to the story at hand?"
Ikd except that the son of the best swordsman in Goryeo is just as good as his father?

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I assumed that Seo Geom would have taught all of Taejo's first batch of sons -- and Chi-do -- how to fight. And from all that sparring Hwi and Sun-ho did as youngsters, the latter would have learned Seo Geom's style, too.

Perhaps the reason why Bang-gan thought to test Hwi was because he saw that Lord Nam had granted control of the land outside the palace gate to him. Presumably Bang-gan would have known of the fate of his old swordmaster who had been a friend of Nam's, and suspected Hwi to be his son. Does that mean that he's trying to lure Hwi to Team Bang-gan? Or is he just being his random self?

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Bang-gan is probably trying to recruit him but he is also aware that Hwi is his brother's man.

I don't think he has a plan yet. He's just laying low and waiting for an opportunity.

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Sassy and sly. He is the other heir to the throne and he is unpredictable.

When he made a deal earlier with Bang-won to promise not to take his life means that he is up to something.

I think he has been a good addition to the show. He neither on Bang-won or his father's side unless it benefits him.
It makes sense for Bang-gan to want a piece of the throne too after all he is older (#4) than Bang-won(#5) and Bang-seok(#8).
He is also another forgotten merit subjects. His private soldiers would have been fighting along his father's.

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As soon as Bang-gan told Bang-won to put the no-kill promise in writing, I knew he'd be up to no good.

You make a good point about the other sons having been contributors. Bang-won is just more vocal about being slighted. Perhaps the others held back after they saw how Dad reacted, and let Bang-won take the brunt of his ire.

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This Bang Gan is slyly hilarious.

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I've just realized that we get the same conflict on both airing sageuks (My Country and Nokdu): the leads want to take revenge on the same individual, but are too individualistic and can't manage to communicate effectively in order to collaborate... Humm

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Also Bang Won (and the King) saying that no father will set up his son to be killed ('are you sure?'), I couldn't help but think about Nokdu either.

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Empty eyes. I could have said the same about Hwi but he still shows some emotions. But Sun Ho is scary. Except when he came face to face with Hwi where it was still obvious he cared about him. (Sung Rok: 'What's so grand about this friendship anyway?'). Also finally someone said to Hwi that his friends care about him. Atleast he will give it some thought.
When I saw Bang Won use his fan to fight I was like 'finally', heh. Also Ban Gan is quite funny.
I don't like their storytelling style either. I wish we were shown more on Hae Jee too and I wondered about the Queen's death too but atleast we were shown a flashback.

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The scene of Bang-won with his father was so heartbreaking. When he gave the order to cut the bridge, it cut the father-son relationship between them as well.

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@prettysup,
The father-son relationship was on the rocks long before Bang-won ordered the demolition of the bridge. Up until the bitter end, he was still hoping against hope for his father to throw him even a verbal bone. Sadly, even that was too much to ask.

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At the same time I don't understand why it's such a deal breaker in this drama. Parents aren't perfect either. Some are more vocal with praising their children to their friends but not to their own children.

I'm trying to give Taejo the benefits of the doubt because kings were mostly ruthless in order to keep their throne and their minions at bay.

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I think Taejo here is insecure and actually wants to hang on to his throne as long as possible. He sees Bang Won more as a threat than a son. It almost felt like he knew Bang Won is looking for that praise and was purposely withheld it from him. Is he trying to provoke Bang Won into revolting so he could legitimately get rid of him?

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Insecure and perhaps fear too?

I think anyone with the guts to kill a loyal servant of Goryeo like Poeun and go down in history as the great evil would install fear in everyone including his father.

So what if Taejo did what Bang-won wants? Praise him and tell him that he did well.
Would that be enough for Bang-won to back off and accept Bang-seok as the next king?
I just don't think that's what Bang-won really wants. It feels like that they are playing each other.

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@msrabbit, @kiara, @bbstl, @hebang, @prettysup,
Back during the gwageo exam arc, there was a conversation between Taejo and Lord Nam about fathers being proud of their sons' achievements, but also feeling a bit jealous. I thought that cast a telling sidelight on the king's relationship with Bang-won, the first full-fledged scholar in the Yi family -- at 15-16 years. (I think that the fact that LBW was groomed for scholarship instead of a military career also deprived him of the direct experience of military command and all the political stuff at court that goes with it -- which may account for his anger and impatience at not being acknowledged as a contributor, etc.)

Thanks for a good discussion of the tortured relationship between Taejo and #5. @kiara, I don't recall there being an outright statement that Po-eun and YSG had been close friends for many years (it could have gone right over my head), but now I can see why LBW alluded to it when he prevented Hwi from killing Lord Nam. It made me go "Huh?" when he said it because I didn't know about the friendship. But now I understand LBW's regret, because Po-eun would have been a frequent guest at their home. Seen in this light, it strikes me that Taejo in effect covertly ordered a hit on his old friend whose loyalties lay with Goryeo -- and later regretted it when the Po-eun refused to back down. The fact that Po-eun remained loyal to Goryeo underscored that YSG was a traitor overthrowing a legitimate ruler. LBW knew that if the coup failed, his whole family would be wiped out, and acted to prevent that. He was filial to the max under impossible circumstances. If he hadn't struck down Po-eun first, would Po-eun have allowed the rebels to live? I don't think so.

@kiara, your point in #9 below that Taejo and Bang-won are similar is another very good observation. Like two magnets, they repel each other because they are so much alike in many ways. They are both alphas, but Taejo has more life experience and is aware of things that Bang-won has yet to encounter.

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@pakalanapikake

Thank you for filling the gaps :).

Historically it was Taejo himself who wanted Bang-won to be a scholar so he is a proud dad when Bang-won passed the civil exam. Also a bit jealous right?
Taejo didn't get a chance since he was raised on the battle field.
Bang-won was also a Goryeo citizen by birth. Half of the boys were born at the Yuan territory before Taejo and his father defected to Goryeo.

In reality I don't think Bang-won would act in this disorderly behavior towards his father but that's tv lol.
Filial piety was a big deal back then and it didn't matter if you worshiped Buddha or a Confucian scholar or practice Taoism.

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Isn't part of the problem between Taejo and Bang Won that Bang Won killed Poeun? Which I know is super hypocritical of Taejo but add in a little of Bang Won's greed and arrogance and presto! Maybe that's why he distrusts him most. He's the most deserving of the sons (he was the first in the family to become a scholar) and appears to be the most qualified. This Taejo is a waffler, too.

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My take is that Bang-won killed Poeun because his father needed him dead and made it obliquely clear to his son. A sore point between father and son is that the son clearly heard his father and did what needed to be done, and his father is refusing to acknowledge that relationship so that his hands keep looking clean.

If I look at it with a big enough squint and skew, it could be viewed as a cold blooded training program for someone to be a great king.

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Yes, a big part of it was Poeun.

I'm not sure if it was mentioned in this drama or not but Poeun and Taejo were close friends for a long time so he took it personal and resented Bang-won for not only killing a loyal subject of Goryeo but his friend.
IIRC Poeun had something to do with Taejo's involvement in politics where his power grew and he eventually became the most powerful man in Goryeo.

If we go by merits Bang-won was the most deserving but the crown prince selection would have gone to the oldest.
Taejo himself broke the tradition by installing Bang-seok as crown prince.

This also opened a way for Bang-won to fight for the throne since the birth order didn't matter to their father.

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@hebang

Great point!

This is cold blooded training for a great king or maybe he is afraid that Bang-won would be a better king.

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Re: @hebang FlyingTool November 19, 2019 at 5:59 PM
cc: @bbstl, @kiara, @msrabbit, @prettysup, @wishfultoki

Holy cow! It just hit me that Yi Seong-gye's MO of using innuendo to make his wishes known (as in ordering the hit on Po-eun) may actually be at the bottom of what happened to Seo Geom. It's just a hypothesis, but: what if Lord Nam were acting under orders to get rid of General Seo? What if YSG became jealous of Seo and the Northern Punitive Force's Black Snakes? Perhaps they were too successful, had higher esprit de corps, achieved their objectives more quickly and efficiently than other units, etc., and that pissed off YSG? So he used Seo's friend Lord Nam to get rid of him.

Suddenly that scene of Bang-won telling YSG that Seo Geom should have been there beside him takes on a whole different meaning. He's reminding his father of how he ruthlessly uses people, and turns friends and kin against each other to achieve his objectives -- which could include wreaking vengeance on the targets of his jealousy.

Oof!

It gets worse. The reason why there is no recourse for Hwi, either to get ahead by sitting for the gwageo or to clear his father's name, is because the king himself has blackballed Dad and his family. Lord Nam has only been the minion carrying out the orders, which have never been put in writing -- perhaps because General Seo's only crime was being too good a soldier. Or perhaps he was a Goryeo loyalist? He somehow ended up on YSG's wrong side. And that's why Lord Nam refused to help bury Dad. He may have been ordered not to.

That casts an entirely different light on the genesis of the rift between Nam and Seo -- and their families.

I can see this as being yet another bone of contention between Bang-won and his father. I've suspected since early in the show that Seo was the swordmaster to YSG's sons, and that was indeed the case. Bang-won lost a beloved teacher and mentor because of his father's jealousy -- not just Po-eun, an honorable family friend and scholar.

It also occurs to me that there may be incriminating evidence of YSG's sins in the archives at Ihwaru. I'll bet there's a smoking gun on Seo Geom's case.

Holy cow #2! Taejo gave Lord Nam a pass over his role in the alleged conspiracy against him. I bet that he was trying to shove it back under the rug as quickly as possible because Taejo himself had had Lord Nam instigate it to entrap YSG's opponents. I had gotten the impression that Taejo was trying to make the case go away quickly so no one could see that there was more to it than met the eye.

Such a scenario would draw together some of the main threads, and would make Ihwaru more integral to the plot. It would also give us the answers to nagging questions.

And suddenly, Lord Nam would not be quite so monstrous. He seemed like a megalomaniac earlier, but this scenario would explain why he was so gung-ho on implementing his own version of a Neo-Confucian nation...

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@pakalanapikake

Your take on Seo Geom and Nam and Yi Seong-gye is so good I’m just going to say it is canon.

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@hebang,
Thank you so much. Your post of November 19, 2019 at 5:59 PM helped crystallize the theories.

Here's another item to consider: The gwageo exam bribery scandal and Sun-ho's subsequent fall from grace may also have been Taejo's doing. Even thought Lord Nam bribed an official, I suspect that there could be more to that than meets the eye. For one thing, YSG cruelly used Sun-ho to execute a crooked official. This is basically the same thing that happened to Baek Yi-hyun in NOKDU FLOWER.

Now that I think of it some more, all those official records that were supposed to show that Seo Geom had honorably committed suicide to spare his children -- but which instead recorded him as having been executed for treason -- I may be seeing YSG's fingerprints all over them.

I think we have to be open to the possibility that everything that has been revealed to us may warrant a skeptical reevaluation.

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@pakalanapikake

Love the twists but I also don't like how this show is trying to cross the line and paint Taejo as a villain just to make a hero out of Bang-won.
He may not have made the best decision with the crown prince but his life was dedicated to protecting the people. He never lost a battle in his whole military career.
The Northern border was Goryeo's war zone and if he had fail to protect it Goryeo would have easily fallen.
He was respected by Goryeo's enemies and that's why Yi Ji-ran left his people to serve him.
The Jurdens and Yuan refugees who occupied the other side of the Northern peninsula were in friendly terms with Taejo. They will only answer to him and no one else.

Bang-won was able to get a formal education because of his father's reputation and encouragement.

Although the Yi family were originally from Goryeo, Taejo's father was a low rank officer in Yuan. He betrayed Yuan and defected to his homeland and was rewarded by King Gongmin as the General of Northern Punitive Force. (The role that this show gave Seo Geom).

We had a conversation earlier about the prejudges against the children from the Northern frontier and how they were not allowed to take the state exam.
Well, Bang-won wouldn't have been accepted as a country bumpkin from Hamju without Taejo's reputation. Poeun probably helped too.

Anyway, I don't mind when the history is changed, I just don't like it when it goes overboard.

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@pakalanapikake

Poeun.

Since the show doesn't go into details with the friendship between Taejo and Poeun then it would probably make sense that he had something to do with his death which I can't even stomach as we speak as a fan of the history and JEONG DO-JEON.

Since they are trying to paint Taejo out as a power hungry person (like everyone else in this drama beside Hwi) then it would make sense if he had something to do with Poeun's death.

In reality Taejo had much respect for Poeun like the rest of Goryeo .
In JDJ Taejo almost chop off Bang-won's head for killing him.
He would have rather retire to the border then fight with his friend. That was the choice Poeun gave him as a friend.
Sambong was ready to accept his fate as a traitor to Goryeo, but Bang-won saved him when he killed Poeun.
That's the reason why they resented him because Poeun was right. They were traitors to Goryeo and they deserved to be executed.

SO maybe we should give credit to Bang-won as the founder of Joseon.

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@kiara,
Sometimes my fevered logic circuits run away with me. I addressed all the bases that I could see as open to alternate interpretation. That doesn't necessarily mean that all of them are going to receive a revisionist treatment. Lord Nam really may have done all the evil stuff that has been ascribed to him -- but there could also be sub rosa actions that were ordered by the king.

I still haven't seen JEONG DO-JEON, so hearing that Taejo nearly beheaded Bang-won really drives home how angry the king was over his friend's assassination. It has been frustrating to have so many developments mentioned in passing instead of being shown. I understand why it is being handled that way (i.e., 16 eps. are insufficient to depict all the significant events) -- but it leaves me feeling detached from the emotional impact of events.

Maybe the show is not "trying to cross the line and paint Taejo as a villain just to make a hero out of Bang-won" so much as attempting to show that they were both extremely ruthless. The Second Strife of Princes will reveal how close all the apples fell to the tree, and that Bang-won wasn't the only one with a fratricidal streak. I don't believe for one second that Bang-won became utterly ruthless without good reason. He doesn't strike me as a paranoiac. He had a ringside seat from which to watch his father duking it out with other founders and opponents at court. I peg him for a no-holds-barred pragmatist.

I've read references to the uproar over THE UME TREE IN THE SNOW, the segment of 500 YEARS OF JOSEON DYNASTY that dealt favorably with Suyang Daegun's coup and accession as King Sejo. Perhaps MY COUNTRY is doing something analogous? In 2019 we've already seen how the fictitious CROWNED CLOWN put a twist on the movie version, MASQUERADE. In the process, to me it went off the rails, but still had some dandy performances.

Anyway, my theories are only that, and collectively are a worst-case scenario. Here's hoping that Writer-nim devises a happy medium that leads to a satisfactory finale. I need one that makes sense, isn’t too emotionally devastating, and ties up most of the loose ends – which at the moment look like Cheonga’s terminal frizzies. ;-)

PS – Thank you for the additional insight into the friendship between Yi Seong-gye and Po-eun. <3

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@pakalanapikake

I'm done ranting so I deleted it.

"Maybe the show is not "trying to cross the line and paint Taejo as a villain just to make a hero out of Bang-won" so much as attempting to show that they were both extremely ruthless."

Don't mind me, I'm the oversensitive one here lol.

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@kiara,
Methinks we're all in danger of going batty trying to figure out these characters. ;-)

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@pakalanapikake

I'm already going batty from trying to figure out what make sense with the next turn of events.

The heck with the dads. Why wait forever for them to say well done? Pave your own dang path or be a miserable broken man child for the rest of your life.

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How Bang Won plead with his father... not the King. You can feel how it broke his heart to hear what he dreaded to hear. In a way, Bang Won and Seon Ho have something in common.... they both have selfish fathers.

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Dramaland seems to be plagued with horrible fathers this season. We get two in this series alone.

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A lot more bad parenting in When Camellia Blooms.

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Thank you for your recap, @lollypip.

Seo Geom seems to have been one of jealous Lord Nam’s early victims in his long-term plan to get his hooks into the throne. There was only one passing reference – uttered by Bang-won – quite a few episodes ago that Seo Geom should have been beside Taejo when he became king. Perhaps Yi Seong-gye looked the other way back then because a merit subject was the perpetrator and would have had immunity? Or maybe he acted the same way he did with Queen Sindeok and her sons – and stuck his head in the sand – except that now he can no longer pretend that Bang-seok Seja will be spared becoming Nam’s puppet, assuming Bang-won doesn’t kill his half-brother first. One thing’s for certain: Yi Seong-gye is a complicated individual, and every bit as stubborn as his reviled son, Bang-won.

After the scene of Bang-won’s meeting with his father at the temple, I have a better appreciation for why Jang Hyuk chose this role. Bang-won may come across as ruthless towards individuals, but he is passionately committed to preserving the new dynasty from the predations of subjects such as Lord Nam, who are anything but loyal to the nation. The personal sacrifices that Bang-won has made at the coded behest of his father – who continues to operate under a cloak of plausible deniability – are never-ending. Taejo comes across as a coldly heartless manipulator to the very last. In that regard, he’s not much different from Lord Nam. Hwi’s “Well done” stands in stark contrast to Taejo’s unwillingness and/or inability to acknowledge Bang-won’s contributions. The bridge demolition perfectly conveys the rupture between #5 and his father.

I suddenly realized a while back that Hwi increasingly reminds me of Mei Chang Su in NIRVANA IN FIRE, another man on a mission who faces a literal deadline. The main difference I see between the two is that Mei Chang Su is laser-focused on clearing the names of his father and his entire army who were framed as traitors, whereas Hwi is out to wreak personal vengeance on Lord Nam’s cherished dream world. Maybe he has concluded that the system is so rotten that he could never clear his father’s name. He also seems to have written off sticking around to enjoy the camaraderie of the Liaodong Survivors, which is a testament to how much he has suffered since Lord Nam’s vicious trick. It seems like so long ago that he said, “I just want to live one day in peace.”

We’ve gotten the bad news from Moon-bok and the physician to whom Sun-ho brought Hwi that the medicine he’s taking to combat the snake venom is slowly killing him. It sounds as if he might be using the dangerous “overcome poison with a stronger poison” approach that was used in KINGDOM OF THE WIND and FAITH. Meanwhile, Sun-ho mopes in opium dens and gibangs. (Tip of the hat to doomed ronin Goo Dong-mae in MR. SUNSHINE.) The two of them look like dead men walking.

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Mei Chang Su is also a lot more snarky. ;)

On a more serious note, Hwi's focus/goal was never to change the system or anything to better the country. His focus after his dad died has always been Yeon. Now that Yeon is dead, he sees no reason to live. His Liaodong brothers + Hee Jae could barely persuade him to reconsider.

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I think Bang-won is not that much different from his own father. When he sits on the throne and rule only then he'll understand what it's like to be king.

We know what kind of king he was from history and he didn't just abandoned his subjects, he killed them.

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*some of his subjects*

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@kiara,
I agree. Taejo and LBW are like two peas in a pod in some respects -- and Joseon isn't big enough for the two of them. ;-)

Although Bang-won hasn't yet sat on the throne himself, he has by now (1398) been a court official for 16 years -- half his life. He's seen what goes on at court and has observed the effects of factional strife. He's been aware of Lord Nam's machinations, and hates Sambong's vision of Joseon as a nation ruled by subjects -- many of whom are only interested in lining their own privileged pockets. He has seen what endemic corruption did to Goryeo, and doesn't want Joseon to turn into Goryeo 2.0 -- and he doesn't care how he is viewed by history as long as he succeeds at protecting the new nation. He strikes me in some ways as being made of sterner stuff than his father, but that may be because he is still young.

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@pakalanapikake

I wonder when the rules was changed for the brothers of the crown prince to be banned from politics?
Bang-won and his brothers were still involved which was pretty dangerous for Bang-seok.

I was thinking about that while watching TALE OF NOKDU too because there is no way Yul-moo would be involved in politics or run around freely inside the palace. He would be hiding somewhere far away and hope that he doesn't get killed by the Northerners.
(One reason why I can't watch the two shows together.)

Anyway, I agree with all that Bang-won have learnt during his years in the court.
It must have made him furious to watch Sambong wield the real power in the court while his father sat there and nod his head.
I don't blame him one bit for going against Sambong, not only for his father's sake but eventually for the people.

Bang-won's way was no less ruthless than his father's. They both killed many people.
He learnt from his father's mistakes and became a better king.

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@kiara,
That's a good question re: prohibition of grand princes (and the consorts of princesses) from engaging in politics. It wouldn't surprise me if it were in the aftermath of Taejong's slaughter of Sejong's in-laws. The carnage must have been frightful. By barring all the indirect relatives to the throne from participation in govenment, it may have cut down on the scheming against the occupant of the throne. Or maybe that's wishful thinking. Unfortunately, it also prevented qualified, able civil servants from working for the nation.

Like you, I have a hard time dealing with inaccuracies in behavior at court, although I can suspend my disbelief up to a point. FLOWER CREW wasn't too bad on that score. But I gave TALE OF NOKDU a pass because it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I guess I'm just cranky. Also, I'm fully engaged with MY COUNTRY and WHEN THE CAMELLIA BLOOMS, and just don't have the energy to watch another Joseon sageuk at the same time. It would be asking for a head crash. ;-)

Launching a new dynasty required vanquishing the opposition, and that called for ruthlessness in many cases. Exile outside the country for political dissenters wasn't really an option because they could just sneak back in. The idea of a Loyal Opposition hadn't evolved so that people could hold differing political beliefs without having to kill each other. Yi Seong-gye and Yi Bang-won -- and a whole lot of other folks -- did the heavy lifting to establish Joseon. There was a steep learning curve. Some of the premises upon which the new dynasty rested turned out to be as problematical as the decadence and corruption afflicting Goryeo, which it came to resemble more and more in its waning generations. I wonder how the founders would have felt if they could have foreseen how Joseon ended up. Would they have been so gung-ho to establish a Neo-Confucian nation run by yangban subjects who constantly fought among themselves and fiddled while foreigners invaded? It makes me wonder.

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@pakalanapikake Good choice for skipping Tale of Nokdu. That version of Gwanghae is driving me nuts!

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@pakalanapikake and @msrabbit

I wanted to watch it for Kim So-hyun but this Gwanghae in not even remotely compelling and I don't think I'll survive another ridiculous prophesy.
PAINTER of the WIND is still my favorite cross-dressing sageuk.
Even though it was a fusion sageuk, it felt authentic and Moon Geun Young certainly deserves her daesang award.

MY COUNTRY is my last sageuk for the year. I'm going to marathon some Chinese historical dramas starting with THE UNTAMED.

Anyway, I think you are right @pakalanapikake. It must have started by Bang-won himself after all he successfully took the throne from his brothers.
I wasn't sure because his successor, King Sejong was his 3rd son but you know the whole story behind it.

Sun-ho would have been happier during Sejong's reign. If only he was born a couple of decades later.

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@kiara, @msrabbit,
Gee, I didn't know TALE OF NOKDU had Gwanghaegun in it. He's one of my faves, so it's a good thing I passed on an aggravating version of the historical figure. I enjoyed Cha Seung-won's interpretation in HWAJUNG, even if the political aspects of the show kind of went over my head because it wasn't recapped. I enjoyed it -- especially the gunpowder R&D and sulfur mining in Japan. And Kim Jae-won did a nice job as Prince Neungyang / King Injo, too. THE KING'S FACE was my introduction to Gwanghaegun.

Ah, PAINTER OF THE WIND. One of my faves. I just tuned into a couple of OSTs from it. "Line of Sight" -- how beautiful. A truly gorgeous drama. And for my money, neck and neck among cross-dressing sageuks with THE KING AND THE CLOWN.

I'll probably finish watching some older sageuks that I started (CRUEL PALACE - WAR OF FLOWERS), and check out @kiara's recommendations of Jung Ha-yeon's sageuks, including QUEEN INSU.

I've been meaning to ask if the series 500 YEARS OF JOSEON DYNASTY was completely subtitled. I found the first episode of the first part, KING OF CHUDONG PALACE from 1983 with subtitles, and it was very good. (It was also in the original aspect ratio, which was great. I hate it when older productions and vintage movies are mangled to look like widescreen. It screws up the camera angles and cinematography something fierce, especially with the letterboxing. Leave them the way they were filmed and don't mess with the director's artistic integrity, dang it! End of rant.) I was easily able to follow the action, and it felt almost like a good documentary. I'd love to be able to watch the whole shebang for the overview that it gives of the significant reigns. It seems it would be a great sageuk education.

Today I started PSYCHOPATH DIARY with Yoon Si-yoon, and it looks like it's off to a good start. I really need an upbeat chaser after his terrific-but-depressing turn in NOKDU FLOWER. I'm looking forward to CRASH LANDING ON YOU, too.

Back to MY COUNTRY. We're on the same wavelength. I, too, have been thinking that Sun-ho would have been happier during Sejong's reign. I haven't seen ep. 14 subtitles yet, but with the Jurchen angle, he might have had a career as a diplomat / negotiator with them -- if only he'd been born a couple of decades later. As it is, the Ming fanboys will end up pissing off the Jurchen descendants (the Manchu), and the Qing Dynasty will subjugate Joseon. Taejo and Taejong were probably spinning at high RPM in the graves because of that.

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Jang Hyuk is doing a magnificent job of acting. In an action drama, he has very little “action.” Most of his acting is via face, especially the eyes, and voice. It’s amazing what intensity he can convey.

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Magnificent is the word. It is truly a delight to see Jang Hyuk express not only intensity, but the full spectrum of emotion. -- And then there's his fan. ;-)

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Ah, yes the fan. What he can express with a flip of the fan!

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Charisma overload! Jang Hyuk is hands down my favorite Bang-won.

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@kiara,
Jang Hyuk doesn't have to be hacking and slashing to be the bee's knees, although that was my cherished introduction to him in CHUNO. He truly shines in quieter moments of introspection, and when facing off against his opponents. That little interlude with his tiny daughter showed a whole 'nother side of LBW's character.

His eye acting is out of this world. I would love to see him and Cha Seung-won in a good sageuk. CSW is another of my fave eye actors.

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Thank you Paka! I don't have enough good words to describe how I appreciate every small details that he is able to convey.
I especially enjoy it when he is sharing the screen with Kin Yeong-cheol.

I hope he'd get to work with writer Jung of NOKDU FLOWER in his Goryeo project.

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Aw, shucks, @kiara. Thanks. ;-)

I especially enjoy it when he is sharing the screen with Kin Yeong-cheol.

I hope he'd get to work with writer Jung of NOKDU FLOWER in his Goryeo project.

JH's chemistry with "dad" Kim Yeong-cheol is right on the money. Filial piety overlaid with betrayal, disappointment, longing for a good word from father (which makes him very similar to Sun-ho), devotion to mother who has seemingly been forgotten by father. All that and more is in the air between them.

*pricks up ears*

Wait! What is this about a Goryeo drama by Writer Jung Hyun-min of NOKDU FLOWER?! This is the first I'm hearing of it.

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Jung was working on a Goryeo sageuk based on the Sambyeolcho Rebellion.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambyeolcho_Rebellion

More rebellion sageuks. He doesn't seems to like the current politics lol.

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Thank you, @kiara, for the scoop on Writer Jung's Sambyeolcho Rebellion drama. More manes of glory and beautiful hanbok. Gat-free! I can't wait. ;-)

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@pakalanapikake

Fingers crossed.

Lately, sageuks have not been bringing in the ratings like they used to.
CROWNED CLOWN is the one sageuk this year with double digits on cable. NOKDU FLOWER managed to hit double digits on public channels but kept decreasing after.

Everything else seems to be struggling to hit double digits. Maybe TALE of NOKDU will make it to 10% on it's final episodes.

I want this genre to do well so we'll get more sageuks in the future.

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@kiara,
As things stand now, I rate NOKDU FLOWER #1, HAECHI #2, and a toss-up between MY COUNTRY and CROWNED CLOWN for #3, followed by FLOWER CREW, with ARTHDAL CHRONICLES bringing up the rear. Those are the sageuks I watched this year. Oops, there's KINGDOM, too. But it was so long ago, my memory is fuzzy. I'll have to give it a rewatch before season 2 airs in March. I mostly recall it as being very dark (lighting-wise). Hmm. I'll have to reconsider my ratings. ;-)

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@pakalanapikake

That's my rating for the sageuks this year too.
DIFFERENT DREAMS would be up there too but I haven't finish watching it.

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It looks like I need to start Nokdu Flower post haste!

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@ally-le,
The first 7 episodes or so of NOKDU FLOWER were recapped, so you might want to take a gander. It focuses on a much shorter time span than did MR. SUNSHINE, but you'll recognize certain events, historical personages, etc., after having watched the former. It feels very much like REBEL in the sense that it's a large ensemble cast of accomplished actors, with numerous minor but memorable characters. Choi Moo-sung is magnificent as Nokdu General Jeon Bong-joon.

The plotting is tight and sure-footed, with no tail-chasing, wasted time, or unnecessary angst.

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@ally-le I just finished binged watch it. Totally agree with @pakalanapikake's assessment.

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@msrabbit and @ally-le and @pakalanapikake, @wishfultoki

NOKDU FLOWER is not only my best sageuk but also my best drama of the year.

@msrabbit
I love reading your posts even months later NOKDU FLOWER, the people's voice still speaks from the dust down to the last line from drama.
"The Mung bean flowers. We exist thanks to them."

Big thanks to @wishfultoki for completing the recaps.

I'm joining Pakalana, Ms. Rabbit and Toki in recommending NOKDU FLOWER.

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So it's time to rate our 2019 sageuks? *rubs hands*

Actually, it's pretty clear than NOKDU FLOWER wins by a landslide. I wish I could say I watched all the historical dramas this year so I could rate them aswell, but I haven't (I still have HAECHI and DIFFERENT DREAMS on my list. NOKDU FLOWER just outclassed everything else this year.

Alas @kiara, I was only able to continue the recaps until ep. 10 (19-20), which is not even halfway through!

For what it's worth, my pseudo-recaps are all posted in the comments section of the last recap here on DB, Ep. 11: http://www.dramabeans.com/2019/05/nokdu-flower-episodes-11-12/#comment-3494210 I'm still bummed DB stopped recapping it just when I caught up.

I hope you give it a try @ally-le!

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@wishfultoki,
Thank you for the pointer to your pseudo-recaps. ;-)

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I'm willing to overlook this drama's weaknesses because I find the actors and story compelling in spite of the flaws. I do wish Netflix would adopt more accurate subtitles and throw in a few historical notes for the English speaking audience.

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I totally agree, @ndlessjoie. The performances, and the characterizations, have salvaged it for me. I agree with you about the need for better subtitles.

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Seon-ho and Hwi can't work together because Hwi works for Bangwon, who said, in episode 5, that illegitimate children of nobles will have no rights in his kingdom. As the illegitimate child of a noble, Seon-ho is not exactly happy about this blatant discrimination against him and others like him because of circumstances beyond their control.

How have people completely forgotten or ignored this information? Seon-ho has spent his entire life being reminded wherever he goes and whatever he does, even by his own father, that he is nothing more than Nam Jeon's bastard son. He resents it. And he's fighting against putting the person who will strip what little he and others like him have on the throne.

And that is why Hwi and Seon-ho cannot fight together, even though they have a common goal. Hwi's only motivation is revenge against Nam Jeon. Seon-ho's motivation is revenge against his horrible father and making the kingdom better for people like him or at least not making it worse.

Seon-ho working for Bangwon would be working against his own interests.

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@kiara is there a “definitive” tale of how how Bang-won came to the decision to kill Poeun - irl, not this drama?

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There is no English translation of King Taejong's annals where it might be mentioned there but I doubt it.

King Taejo's annals doesn't mentioned the reason why Bang-won kill Poeun either.

I think it's clear enough what Bang-won wanted and why he did it from the famous historic poems exchanged between Yi Bang-won and Poeun.

Bang-won: Wikipedia's translation.

What shall it be: this or that?
The walls behind the temple of the city's deity* has fallen - shall it be this?
Or if we survive together nonetheless - shall it be that?

(* Yi Bang-won is declaring the death of the era - the Goryeo Dynasty.)

Poeun's reply:

Though I may die, die a hundred times
Though my bones become dust and my spirit is gone
How could my everlasting loyalty to the lord be swayed?

Bang-won was not able to change Poeun's mind so he had him killed.

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I have very little to add to this thread. Mainly, Hwi's repeated threats of "I will destroy the world that you built" is getting tiring, and Sun-ho's logic of "I will let him have what he wants first, and then destroy it" baffles me.

Secondly, Jang Hyuk rocks, but that's nothing new. I could see the sadness in Bang Won's eyes when Hwi said that he doesn't care about a nation or the people, he just wants his revenge. Bang Won would like his loyalty and love, but can't ask for more than having Hwi drink with him before he leaves (or dies).

And yes, finally! Chi-do reminded Hwi that he's precious to others too! It was high time somebody said that.

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