My Country: The New Age: Episode 12
We’ve finally caught up to that terrible, bloody night where we first met our players. Death, revenge, love, and even redemption are all tangled up in the events of one night, as endings are found for some, and beginnings are created for others. The true test will be what they do after the dust settles, and the lives they choose to lead now that they’ve gotten what they wanted.
EPISODE 12 RECAP
Bang-won gives his father one last chance, but King Taejo continues to refuse responsibility for Bang-won’s actions that benefited him, and says that he only sees Bang-won as one son of many. Bang-won respectfully deep-bows, then tells his father that everything that happens next is his fault.
He leaves the temple where King Taejo is hiding out, and Hwi says the words he’ll never hear from King Taejo: “You did well.” Bang-won barks an empty laugh then orders the bridge destroyed, symbolically cutting ties with his father forever.
Addressing his men, Bang-won says that they are all connected by the fact of having been abandoned. He gives an official order for them to survive, and Hwi asks Bang-won to survive, as well. Bang-won leads the march to the citadel at Sunhwabang, with Hwi right by his side.
King Taejo learns that Bang-won destroyed the bridge and left with hundreds of soldiers, and he realizes that Lord Nam isn’t Bang-won’s only target. He casts off his plan to let Bang-won and Lord Nam fight out their disagreement and decides to head back to the palace. He can hear spies whistling his progress to each other and orders his men to get him to the palace before dawn.
When Sun-ho arrives at the temple to see the king, the broken bridge alerts him that Bang-won isn’t just going after his father… he’s staging a revolt. He tells Sung-rok that unless Lord Nam and Bang-won kill each other, the winner will be too strong for the king to handle.
Lord Nam learns what’s happening, and his first thought is Hwi’s warning that he would soon crush him. His lackey offers to warn Sambong, but Lord Nam bellows that he’ll handle this himself. He tells his lackey to issue a royal order for the princes to come to the palace, feeling justified as the crown prince’s guardian while he’s acting as regent.
After receiving the summons, Bang-gan meets up with Bang-won, who tells him that tonight, he will kill Sambong and Lord Nam. Bang-gan asks jovially if the crown prince will also die, but Bang-won is in no mood and warns Bang-gan to be careful not to betray him or he might kill him. Bang-gan says seriously that he trusts, Bang-won, so Bang-won can trust him.
Hwi tells the impatient Bang-gan that they’re waiting for Lord Nam to make the first move and give them a reason to act. Bang-gan complains that Bang-won always wants justification instead of attacking first. Hwi tells Bang-won that he’ll guard the castle gate and meet Bang-won later at Sunhwabang, and Bang-won gives him a flag to prove that Hwi is working with him.
When Sun-ho hears that his father issued an unlawful royal summons to the princes, he confronts Lord Nam for giving Bang-won a reason to revolt. Lord Nam snaps that Sun-ho has already lost for having such a weak mind, and orders him to fight: “Go and fight my enemies, then slay me as well.”
Sun-ho points the tip of his sword at Lord Nam’s throat and tells him to do nothing, because he’s giving the orders from now on. After Sun-ho leaves, Lord Nam tells his lackey to have half of the palace guards escort Sambong to Chwiwoldang, and the other half assemble in front of the palace gate.
The princes arrive at the palace and immediately notice that there are no guards. Bang-won tells Bang-gan to go in first as the eldest, but Bang-gan retorts that the strongest should go first regardless of age, HA. He relents and enters the gates, where he’s met by a few guards who ask him to disarm. Bang-gan refuses, and proceeds to kill all four guards in seconds without ever dropping his Cheshire-cat grin.
The commotion attracts Sun-ho with his elite guards, and Bang-gan scurries away, breezing right past Bang-won and calling out cheerfully that he’ll see him in Sunhwabang (ok, that was hilarious). Sun-ho invites Bang-won into the palace, but Bang-won refuses. He asks Chi-do to confirm that some of Sun-ho’s men belong to the Black Snake Unit, and sure enough, he’s had two men planted in the elite guard.
On Chi-do’s order, they turn on Sun-ho’s guards. Sun-ho goes straight for Bang-won, who successfully fends him off with one hand literally held behind his back. Sun-ho growls that he shouldn’t be allowed to ascend the throne, but Bang-won just says that the people will suffer under a weak king.
His guards all dead, Sun-ho retreats with Sung-rok back through the palace gates. As the gates close, Bang-won calls out a message for him to relay: “Nam Jeon, Sambong, and the meritorious subjects issued a fake royal order and summoned the princes to the palace to assassinate them. I, Prince Jeongan, will kill all you wicked traitors to punish you for what you did!”
Sun-ho tells Sung-rok that since Bang-won obeyed the so-called royal order, he did his duty as a loyal subject, and because he went to see King Taejo despite the risk of assassination, he also did his filial duty. The result is that their side has been made into traitors, and they’ve handed Bang-won the justification he needs to seize the throne.
Meanwhile, Hee-jae’s spy informs her that the king is returning to the palace. She heads to the marketplace outside Sajeong Gate to alert Hwi herself, advising him to finish his part of the plan before the king arrives. Hwi asks her not to deliver dangerous letters anymore, and he promises that he’ll return to her.
Moon-bok also fusses at Hwa-wol for coming to such a dangerous place, and immediately feels bad when she looks hurt. He gives her a key to his safe in case he doesn’t return, saying that he left her a note inside, but Hwa-wol refuses to accept the idea that he might die. Instead, she returns his key and says that she’ll make him breakfast in the morning.
The night drags on, but Lord Nam still hasn’t shown up with his guards. Hwi tries to send Chi-do, Jae Beom, and Moon-bok ahead to Sunhwabang, but they protest that they’re here because of him, not Bang-won.
Cheonga grows impatient and says they should all leave for Sunhwabang instead of sitting around, waiting to be executed as traitors. He gets angry when nobody follows his order to leave, and behind him, Hwi roars, “My order is the prince’s order. If you disobey me, I will kill you first.”
Suddenly the palace gate opens, and Hwi sends his men back to their ambush positions. The guards file out of the palace, and Hwi confronts them alone. He signals his men by raising Bang-won’s banner into the air, and the guards find themselves completely surrounded.
Lord Nam watches, incredulous, as his guards are slaughtered, so he orders their archers brought in. Hwi works his way closer to the gate, and at one point Cheonga takes the opportunity to attack him, saying that he’s only been working for Bang-won to get the chance to kill Hwi.
Their personal conflict breaks up when Lord Nam’s archers begin raining arrows down on the fighters. Jae Beom is shot in the arm, and while he’s distracted, Moon-bok spots another archer taking aim. He throws himself into the path of the arrow, and he’s struck right in the chest. NOOO, not Moon-bok!
Hwi orders Jae Beom to take Moon-bok ahead to Sunhwabang. He fires at Lord Nam and misses him by inches, and by the time he readies a second arrow, Lord Nam has disappeared, having given up on the palace guards and decided to go to his villa at Chwiwoldang.
Jae Beom gets Moon-bok onto a horse and gallops to Sunhwabang, but on the way, Moon-bok slumps and nearly falls. Jae Beom props him up against a tree and begs him to hang in there until they can get him to a doctor. Moon-bok collapses, and Jae Beom screams at him not to die… then he realizes that Moon-bok is wearing thick leather armor under his clothes and just had the wind knocked out of him. Awww, Jae Beom is so happy that he bear-hugs Moon-bok and the tree.
Hee-jae receives an update that the king took a shortcut, and is almost back in the capital. He’s ordered the Consolidated Army Command to assemble all their troops and capture Bang-won, and Hee-jae determines that they have to stop it somehow.
When the king’s procession arrives at the entrance to the capital, it’s suspiciously deserted. Suddenly, flaming arrows (sent by Gyeol) strike the wooden gate and it goes up in flames. King Taejo decides that it’s faster to wait for the fire to burn itself out than take a detour, and he orders his men to find out who started the fire that probably just saved Bang-won’s life.
Sun-ho and Sung-rok find the marketplace outside the palace after it’s all over — Hwi and his men are already riding full-tilt for Sunhwabang. Sun-ho takes the few remaining guards and archers to guard Lord Nam and Sambong at Chwiwoldang, and he tells them that they only have to survive a few more hours until the king returns.
We’ve already seen what happens next… Bang-won waits with his soldiers at Sunhwabang, and Tae-ryong asks if he wants to go to the palace first, or Chwiwoldang. Bang-won refuses to go anywhere until Hwi rejoins them, and when Bang-gan warns Bang-won that they’re running out of time, but Bang-won insists that they can’t win without Hwi.
Finally Hwi arrives, and Bang-won gives him the order to attack Chwiwoldang, letting him know that Lord Nam is there. Bang-won leads his own soldiers to the capital and takes control of the Consolidated Army Command by force, then sends Tae-ryong to the Ministry of Rites to summon the country’s officials to him.
Hwi and his soldiers break into Chwiwoldang, quickly taking out the archers positioned on the rooftops. Inside, Lord Nam and Sambong sit listening to the sounds of the fighting, and Lord Nam calmly offers Sambong one last drink.
Sun-ho and his twenty soldiers are terrifically outnumbered, but they face Hwi and his men bravely. Sun-ho tells Hwi that this is the end of his path, but Hwi draws his sword and threatens to go through Sun-ho if he has to. Sun-ho says that his father mustn’t die by Hwi’s sword, as a loyal servant who was sacrificed in a revolt, “He must die while being resented and cursed upon.”
But Hwi says that his curse is enough, and that he intends to kill Lord Nam then end his own life. Sun-ho looks down at Yeon’s embroidery on his scabbard and asks why Hwi is so cruel as to ask him to spill his blood, on top of all his other sins. Hwi says that they’re finished, and signals the attack.
He and Sun-ho fight their way through the crowd, and they only pause a moment before rushing at each other. They’re still perfectly matched, and for a moment they almost seem to be enjoying the chance to spar again. They grow serious, and they slash at each other at the same time, drawing blood.
Elsewhere on the battlefield, Sung-rok and Chi-do square off, recognizing each other from years ago at Liaodong. Chi-do quickly gets the upper hand and leaves Sung-rok writhing in the dirt.
Hwi and Sun-ho continue to fight, and eventually Hwi deals Sun-ho a debilitating wound to the stomach. Sun-ho gasps, “Your sword still feels affectionate…” before collapsing. Seeing Sun-ho lying there, Hwi’s expression changes, and he starts to go to his friend.
But he sees Lord Nam standing nearby, having decided to meet death on his own terms. Lord Nam looks at his son, then says to Hwi, “Fine, I admit it. My world? You crushed it.” He picks up Sun-ho’s sword and continues, “But I am the beginning and the end of my world. So finish me. It won’t end until you do.”
Hwi says that he never expected an apology, but he’s surprised that Lord Nam is so proud of his actions. Lord Nam retorts that all he did was dream of a nation ruled by its subjects. Hwi lunges at him, and in just a few moves he has Lord Nam on his knees and his sword at his throat.
Bang-won arrives just then, but Hwi never takes his eyes from Lord Nam, who throws down his sword in resignation. Lord Nam taunts Hwi for hesitating, then tells him to get it over with. Hwi raises his sword… and Bang-won steps between them, striking Lord Nam down with one swing.
Bang-won tells Hwi that it’s better not to suffer the terrible guilt of having killed a friend’s father, like he suffered after killing Po-eun. He goes inside to finish off Sambong, leaving Hwi to watch Lord Nam reaching out to Sun-ho. Lord Nam says weakly, “You did well. You did more than enough,” and he finally dies.
Hwi drops his sword and helps Sun-ho sit up, but Sun-ho pushes his hand away. They stare at each other for a long time, no words needed between them, until Chi-do arrives with Jae Beom and Moon-bok.
Bang-won comes back outside after finishing his gruesome task, and he orders Hwi’s friends to stay with him while he and his men continue on to the palace. Moon-bok assures Hwi that Sun-ho won’t die of his wounds, and Hwi goes with them reluctantly, turning back one more time to look at Sun-ho sitting alone in the middle of so much death.
At the palace, crown prince Bang-seok learns that King Taejo has returned and has almost reached the palace gates. Relieved, he decides to go meet his father, sure that nobody would dare attack with the king so near. But as soon as the prince steps outside the gate, the two guards he thought were loyal draw their swords and slaughter him, leaving his body where he falls.
When the king arrives, there are corpses everywhere, but the only one he cares about is the body of his youngest son. He begs Bang-seok to wake up, not seeming to understand why he’s so still and cold. Pulling Bang-seok into his lap, King Taejo sobs over him until Bang-won approaches.
He asks if Bang-won did this, but Bang-won replies, “You killed him, not me. Because of your greed, because you tried to hard to protect your throne, you made your children fight each other and you enjoyed watching it. This is the result. You killed Bang-seok.” King Taejo calls Bang-won inhuman for killing his own brother, and he curses Bang-won to die a lonely death, hated by everyone.
Hwi and his friends arrive to see the king sobbing over the body of his youngest son, and Bang-won standing over them. Bang-won’s revolt has been successful, but at a terrible cost, and Hwi can see it in his eyes.
Well, I was right after all about Sun-ho’s reason for trying to stop Hwi from killing his father — not because he was trying to save Lord Nam’s life, but because he felt Lord Nam hadn’t been sufficiently humiliated yet. The way it all played out was still tragic, with Hwi being forced to severely injure Sun-ho to keep him from stopping his revenge, only to have Bang-won do the deed for him at the last second. I’m torn between regret on Hwi’s behalf that he wasn’t allowed to deal Lord Nam the final blow, satisfaction that at least he made Lord Nam suffer by seeing his world destroyed, and happiness that Hwi didn’t lose his last grip on humanity by killing Lord Nam himself.
And just when I thought I couldn’t hate Lord Nam any more than I already do, he had to go and tell Sun-ho that he was enough, just as he was dying. I’m sorry, but that fixes nothing, and in fact was the one thing he could have said to leave Sun-ho tortured for the rest of his life. Lord Nam purposely let Sun-ho think he was a disappointment for his entire life, forcing him to nurture hate and vengeance when there might not have been any need. He intentionally ruined Sun-ho’s relationships with the only two people who ever mattered to him, so that now he literally has nothing to live for — not revenge, and no friends like Hwi has to keep him grounded and from going off the deep end. It was particularly hard to watch Hwi walk away from Sun-ho, surrounded by his friends, while Sun-ho was left with nothing and nobody.
The hardest part about watching this drama, for me, is seeing how all of this killing and betrayal and being betrayed is affecting everyone involved. When this all started, everyone, especially Hwi, Sun-ho, and Bang-won, had fire in their eyes and so much willpower and strength, determined to get their revenge, right the wrongs perpetrated against the ones they loved, and make the world a better place. Now they’re finally realizing their goals, but it’s slowly killing them… all three of them looked sick throughout that terrible night. It’s fascinating that you can see in their eyes how broken they are, but in different ways — Bang-won is already changed by what he’s had to do but determined to see this through, Hwi is heartsick and weary after the losses of Sun-ho and Yeon, and Sun-ho is just consumed by anger and completely adrift. I commend the actors for such naked portrayal of the real fallout of war and how it marks its victims’ souls forever, but damn, it hurts to watch.
I’m very curious to see what happens next, now that everyone has gotten what they believed they wanted. I’m particularly interested in what Sun-ho will do next… I have a feeling that he’ll turn his anger and desire for revenge on Bang-won, for killing his father and making him a martyr when he wanted him to die a traitor. Sun-ho at least understood why Hwi wanted Lord Nam dead, but Bang-won just killed him without emotion or thought like any other political opponent, which I think Sun-ho will see as unforgivable. As for Hwi, since he didn’t immediately end his own life like he planned, my hope is that Bang-won really did save his life by killing Lord Nam and not letting him live with the guilt of killing his friend’s father. We already know that Bang-won will get what he wanted, but I think that it’s too much to hope for a happy ending for both Hwi and Sun-ho. Hwi at least has a chance with Hee-jae if he can put aside his past, but I’ve long since resigned myself that Sun-ho probably won’t live much longer. He’s too damaged to stop his self-destructive path until he gets himself killed… my best hope for Sun-ho is that he doesn’t make Hwi do it.
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