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Tale of Nokdu: Episodes 15-16

As our villain makes a devastating move, our hero is forced into a tight position. With all the agendas flying around it’s hard to know who can be trusted… which is only complicated by the fact that no one seems willing to give Nokdu a straight answer.

 
EPISODE 15: “Without Saying Goodbye”

The bandits hired by Yul-moo tear through the widows’ village, massacring everyone in sight. Nokdu arrives at the village just in time to see one of the bandits suspending Dong-joo in the air by her throat. At the same time Yul-moo spots her and bellows for the bandits to cease but Nokdu is quicker and cuts down the bandit, catching an unconscious Dong-joo.

Setting her down gently, Nokdu turns and faces off against a wave of bandits. He takes on several injuries as he uses his own body to shield Dong-joo. The attacks stop when Yul-moo approaches and demands Nokdu hand Dong-joo over. Nokdu sneers that the bandits seem to know Yul-moo, but he simply argues that’s all the more reason for Nokdu to stand aside if he wants Dong-joo to live. Reluctantly, Nokdu complies.

The attack continues to rage over at the gibang and Yeon-geun rushes out with a team of gisaeng to confront the bandits. With a battle cry, Yeon-geun charges forward only to belatedly realize the women aren’t with him. Heh. All bravado lost, Yeon-geun weakly orders the men to leave. The bandits aren’t intimidated and he kneels in defeat as one lifts his sword… only to be saved by one of the Virtuous Womens’ Corps members, Bok-nyeo.

The gisaengs flee while she fights off most of the bandits, but one gives chase and manages to catch two women. Dong-joo’s bestie Hwa-su runs back to rescue them and while the other two escape, the bandit throws her to the ground. Before he can attack, however, a dagger is embedded in his arm and they turn to see Lady Cheon with the Muweol Corps in tow. The bandit saunters towards the women, but Hwa-su leaps up and thrusts his sword into his back.

Yul-moo lays an unconscious Dong-joo on a bed and gently covers her up before running off to fetch a doctor. Back at the gibang, Yeon-geun helps an injured Bok-nyeo run from the bandits. They trip and the bandits descend only for a drunken Master Hwang to appear. He entrusts Aeng-du to the pair and then makes quick work of the attackers. Meanwhile, Dong-joo wakes up and runs out.

On the other side of the village, the Muweol Corps are overwhelmed and the remaining widows are herded into the center of their burning village. The bandit leader taunts someone to volunteer to die first and Ssook stands. Another voice calls out and Nokdu steps between them. Ssook sees the blood streaming down Nokdu’s arm, but he leaps into battle and quickly wipes out the first wave of bandits.

More attack and Ssook joins the fray but before long the bandits retreat. Master Hwang and Lady Cheon arrive and the women eye Nokdu curiously, finding his face familiar. Aeng-du wakes up and runs over to Nokdu, accidentally outing him as she asks if he’s been caught for masquerading as a woman. Aeng-du cries that Ssook is cruel for beating Nokdu up and Master Hwang quickly ushers her away.

The women now realize Nokdu is Lady Kim and poor Yeon-geun passes out from shock. They also recognize him as the intruder. Ssook demands to know why he did it and Nokdu explains that he was searching for answers as to who attacked his family and why. “I am truly sorry about everything,” Nokdu winces as he bows.

Before anyone can reply, Dong-joo bursts through the crowd, calling Nokdu’s name. He apologizes to Dong-joo and she cries that she thought he was dead. Nokdu tries to insist he’s fine, but he coughs blood and collapses in Dong-joo’s arms.

The next morning, Dan-ho informs Yul-moo that the fire destroyed the village and the surviving widows have departed, leaving nothing for King Gwanghae to find. Yul-moo is more concerned that Dong-joo left while he was fetching her a doctor and says he can no longer allow Nokdu to live. Dan-ho accepts his order to kill Nokdu but Yul-moo says they have one thing to do first.

Lady Cheon leads the survivors through the woods and directs them towards the pier, warning them to split up when they get there. The women beg to stay and start anew but Lady Cheon can only apologize for failing to create a world where they didn’t have to hide. They tearfully pray to meet again and the women head towards the pier. Ssook joins Lady Cheon and informs her she brought the gisaeng safely to the government office.

She tentatively asks where Nokdu is and Lady Cheon says his condition is very bad. Ssook admits that it was wrong of him to deceive them, but Nokdu had risked his life to save the village. Lady Cheon muses that Ssook must be fond of Nokdu to speak up for him and assures her she has no power to harm anyone anymore. Lady Cheon plans to return to Minister Heo and Ssook vows to stay with her. She leaves to fetch them a horse but looks back in horror to see the king’s men approaching Lady Cheon.

Meanwhile, Chil-seong returns from the failed — rescue? kidnap? — mission and informs Minister Heo of the attack on the widows’ village and what happened the night before. Minister Heo starts to storm out but Chil-seong points out the king will be all over the village. Minister Heo thinks back to his visit from a masked Nokdu and thinks aloud, “He might be… our way out of this.”

Ssook watches the king’s men lead Lady Cheon away. She reaches for her sword but freezes when Lady Cheon shakes her head. Lady Cheon smiles and Ssook flashes back to when she’d escaped her in-laws only to be cornered on a cliff. One of the men had held her at swordpoint and ordered her to jump in order to protect her integrity. She’d turned towards the cliff but upon hearing a sound, turned back to find all the men felled by arrows and a group of archers standing above her.

The leader was Lady Cheon and she’d smiled, “What you need to protect is your life, not your integrity.” In the present, Ssook watches in horror as an arrow flies from the woods and pierces Lady Cheon’s heart. The king’s men rush into the trees to find the assassin and Ssook looks up to see a masked Dan-ho. She’s too injured to give chase and she looks back and sobs as Lady Cheon dies.

That night Dong-joo meets Ssook in the woods next to a pile of stones which serves as Lady Cheon’s grave. Dong-joo sobs and Ssook says she’d called Dong-joo despite her condition so Lady Cheon’s journey to the afterlife wouldn’t be lonely. Dong-joo demands to know who did this and Ssook vows that she’ll find the culprit and kill them.

Dong-joo returns and cares for Nokdu. He wakes up and takes her hand, weakly telling her he’d dreamt she’d left him. Dong-joo promises that she’s not going anywhere and urges him to sleep. Nokdu tries to fight it, but he loses consciousness again, her hand still clasped in his. When he reawakens, Nokdu shouts to find Yeon-geun staring down at him instead.

Fighting back tears, Yeon-geun warns him not to move around. Nokdu asks where Dong-joo is and when Yeon-geun doesn’t answer, he forces himself up and outside. Dong-joo is gone and Master Hwang finds Nokdu in the field, tutting that Nokdu has been out there for days. Nokdu lies that he isn’t waiting for her, but Master Hwang points out the tears in his eyes.

Nokdu grumbles that she left without a word and Master Hwang informs him of Lady Cheon’s death. Nokdu announces that he’s returning to Hanyang, saying “There’s a conversation I haven’t finished yet.” Watching Nokdu limp off, Master Hwang flashes back to Dong-joo telling him she planned to leave. Master Hwang had been confused since Dong-joo hadn’t left Nokdu’s side, but she’d told him that it was because she would leave that she’d stuck close.

Master Hwang again questioned her leaving Nokdu and Dong-joo admitted she didn’t think she’d be able to go after Nokdu awoke. She begged Master Hwang not to tell Nokdu she’d been clingy and to say she’d left without worries. In the present, Master Hwang wonders whether Nokdu would be more heartbroken if he knew or not. With a sigh, Master Hwang follows Nokdu while at the same time, Dong-joo is back at the capital and stares up at the palace gates.

EPISODE 16: “Reunion Between Father & Son”

King Gwanghae fumes at his guard for failing to find the widows, bring Lady Cheon for questioning, or even identify her killer. Drawing the guard’s sword, the king demands what the man can do for him. The guard sputters that Lady Cheon had visited Minister Heo on the day of the raid. Yul-moo is also receiving bad news as Dan-ho admits he’s yet to find Dong-joo. Yul-moo orders he bring her whether she’s willing or not, and to kill Nokdu on the spot if they’re together.

Dong-joo paints face masks on palace servants and sells them her wares cheaply. The women wonder how she can survive selling for so little and Dong-joo smiles that she’ll be fine if they could get her a job at the palace. Meanwhile, Nokdu, Aeng-du, and Master Hwang strut down the streets of Hanyang only to be startled by Yeon-geun.

Nokdu asks how long Yeon-geun plans to follow him and Master Hwang agrees that they should part ways now. Yeon-geun asks if they have a place to stay but they say they’ll figure it out and walk on. Master Hwang tuts that Yeon-geun keeps looking sadly after Nokdu, who balks, “He definitely saw that I’m a man.”

Yeon-geun rushes after them and treats them to a meal. While the other two stuff their faces, Nokdu eyes Yeon-geun incredulously. “So you want to help us start a life in Hanyang?” Nokdu asks and Yeon-geun quickly denies doing it for Nokdu. He says he’s worried about Master Hwang and Aeng-du since they’ve bonded but frowns as Master Hwang agrees that they’re family and Aeng-du resolves to call Yeon-geun “brother.”

Nokdu is unconvinced and points out Yeon-geun could be punished because of the raid on the village. Yeon-guen laughs loudly that he’s prepared for it and reiterates that he’s worried how they’ll survive. He pointedly adds that he’s not too worried and says he’ll charge Nokdu for the expenses plus interest later.

Yeon-geun takes them to get new clothes, waiting impatiently for Nokdu to come out of the dressing room. “Goodness, you’re still beautiful,” Yeon-geun mutters when Nokdu emerges in his new attire, although he quickly claims he was referring to the clothing. Master Hwang worries about the expense but Yeon-geun assures them he’s quite wealthy. He tells Nokdu that he’ll assume the role of Yeon-geun’s cousin, Yeon Soo, who left for the countryside years ago for poor health and hasn’t been heard from.

Passing the swing, Nokdu sighs at the memory of Dong-joo. He starts to walk away when a man sits on it. It’s King Gwanghae and oblivious, Nokdu asks how long he plans to use it. The king’s guards move forward, but he waves them off before Nokdu can see and asks Nokdu to repeat himself. Nokdu says he’s waiting to ride the swing and the king stands… only to sit back down and cheekily reply he hasn’t been on it long. Nokdu plops down next to him and says he’ll wait.

King Gwanghae guesses Nokdu has a problem and asks about it. “I’m afraid I’ll find out about something I don’t want to know about… although I should,” Nokdu admits. The king muses that they’re similar and asks if Nokdu will run away. Nokdu stands up and declares he’ll grab the bull by the horns. He starts to leave, but the king stops him to ask if they’ve met before. Nokdu isn’t sure and King Gwanghae says they’ll meet again. “If fate allows,” Nokdu replies.

That night, Nokdu visits Minister Heo again and demands he answer his question this time. Minister Heo takes him to Yoon-jo and after seeing Dad leap up and hug Nokdu, leaves them. Nokdu asks why Yoon-jo is locked in but Yoon-jo says Minister Heo is a friend and everything is fine. Nokdu demands why Dad’s “friend” tried to kill them but is letting them live now. He starts to ask, “Is it because… I am…”

Yoon-jo orders him not to ask. Nokdu cries that he’d hated Mom for always loving Hwang-tae more, only for her to die after living in exile. He asks who he is and then, grabbing the bull by the horns, demands if he’s the king’s son. Yoon-jo firmly denies it, saying Nokdu is his son. Realizing neither Dad nor Minister Heo is going to tell him anything, Nokdu says he’ll be back. Yoon-jo asks where he’s going.

“I’m going to right the wrong,” Nokdu answers, “And I’m going to make sure you and Hwang-tae live honorable lives.” Yoon-jo tries to hold him back, but Nokdu pushes Dad away and leaves the room. Chil-seong blocks his path and orders him to follow. Nokdu refuses and he reaches for his sword as Nokdu reaches into his shirt. A sound at the door distracts them long enough for Nokdu to slip away. The king bangs on the door and when no response comes, his men kick it open.

Yoon-jo demands how much Nokdu knows and Minister Heo asks how much Yoon-jo knows. “Why do you think His Majesty… wanted to get rid of his own son 20 years ago?” Minister Heo asks. Before either can say more, the door flings open and the king glares at the two men. He starts quaking with fear at the sight of Yoon-jo and reaches for his sword, but can’t bring himself to draw it. Yoon-jo drops to the floor in a bow and King Gwanghae turns his fury to Minister Heo.

Master Hwang wakes up in the middle of the night to find Nokdu sitting up, deep in thought. He tells Master Hwang he needs to get into the palace and find the answers himself. Meanwhile, the king demands whether Yoon-jo was the only one that survived that day. Yoon-jo assures him he was and the king warns that he’ll kill him himself if he discovers Yoon-jo lied. He leaves and orders his men to keep the other two locked up.

Nokdu checks on Dong-joo’s chicks and pouts, “She’s a mean brat who has no sense of responsibility.” Meanwhile, Dong-joo is still trying to bribe the palace women into getting her a job. One of them calls her on it and brusquely pays her for the goods and stalks out. After they’re gone, Dong-joo grumbles that it would be easier to scale the palace wall.

Nokdu visits the blacksmith shop he’d gone to with Dong-joo before and asks for a bow and arrows for the military service exam. He asks the blacksmith if he’s seen Dong-joo and while the man hasn’t, he says she’s a regular and will likely turn up soon. Nokdu decides to come back every day for a part of his order.

The palace ladies pass by the swing and decide to take a turn. However they find a line of children waiting for Nokdu to stop moping on it. One of the ladies snaps at him and Nokdu quickly apologizes. Her friend awes at Nokdu’s pretty face and fakes a faint so that he’ll catch her. He does and then goes on his way as she moons after him.

Next, Nokdu hits the bookstore for his military service studies and meets the king again. King Gwanghae admits he has a lot on his mind, but suspected Nokdu would be at the swing. He asks about the exam and perks up when Nokdu says he has to enter the palace to meet the king. King Gwanghae asks why and Nokdu’s serious demeanour dissipates as he laughs that he needs to win the king’s favor to become successful.

King Gwanghae asks Nokdu’s name and he gives the name of Yeon-geun’s cousin. The king notes he’s from the same family as the former chief royal secretary and says he’ll give Nokdu a gift to root for his success, suggesting they meet in 5 days. Across town, Dong-joo thinks of Nokdu as she puts on her shoes. She briefly imagines him there but then chides herself for crying.

The palace lady from yesterday approaches her and agrees to get Dong-joo a job as her servant if she can find the man from the swing. Following the lady’s description of pink clothes and amethyst beads, Dong-joo hits the streets. Her drawing his useless, but she happens to look up just in time to see Nokdu pass (although she doesn’t see his face) and chases after the man that fits the description. The man she catches, however, is not Nokdu.

It’s King Gwanghae, but he also fits the description and confirms he’d been at the swing. Dong-joo excitedly tells him to come to the swing that evening and the king chuckles as she skips away. He then meets Nokdu and the men laugh at their similar attire. The king hands Nokdu a box of taffy (which symbolizes an encouragement to “stick” or pass the exam). He tells Nokdu to repay him by passing the exam and not to be a stranger if he does.

Nokdu departs and one of the king’s guards reports that Minister Heo has been quiet and that they looked into Yeon Soo (the name Nokdu had given) and discovered that he’d gone to the countryside for his health… and hasn’t been heard from since. Back home, Nokdu practices for the exam. Master Hwang chides him for exerting himself too much and then pulls out the bellflowers Nokdu requested. He reminisces that Yoon-jo often ate them to counteract his cough

Sure enough, Nokdu sneaks into Minister Heo’s estate to leave the bundle outside Yoon-jo’s room. He’s caught by guards, but Yoon-jo hears the noise and opens the door. He calls Nokdu’s name and the distraction allows Nokdu to get enough of an upper hand to get away.

Dong-joo waits with the palace lady at the swing. The king arrives and the lady is horrified to see the wrong man approaching and runs away. Dong-joo isn’t so quick and explains to the king she must’ve made a mistake. She apologizes and runs off as well, leaving the king confused. His guard appears to report the intruder at Minister Heo’s, adding that they’d cut his sleeve and heard Yoon-jo address him as Nokdu.

On her way home, Dong-joo sees Nokdu hiding and the guards just up the street. She calls for the guards and points them in the opposite direction. When she turns back, Nokdu is gone and she runs down the street searching for him. She’s pulled into a building just as the guards turn the corner and finds herself face-to-face with Nokdu.

Dong-joo tries to escape, promising to draw the guards away, but Nokdu refuses. “I will not let you leave again,” he says firmly, “Never.” Dong-joo continues to try and get away and in the struggle, a bowl clatters loudly to the floor. They freeze as the door opens… and in walks the king!

 
COMMENTS

Dun dun dunnnnnn! Man, this show loves cliffhangers. So King Gwanghae knows Nokdu likely isn’t who he’s claiming to be and judging from the report he got from the guards, the intruder is probably his son that he tried to murder way back when. It wouldn’t be hard to put everything together and yet, we’re only halfway? Surely the cat isn’t entirely out of the bag just yet! At the very least, there’s bound to be more twists involved. Like Minister Heo’s cryptic emphasis on why the king wanted his son dead… and was willing to kill Yoon-jo to ensure the secret stayed so.

Everything is getting super complicated and I’m left wondering what happened to the sweet fluffy romcom we started with. The episode kicked off with our leads finally facing each other with honest emotions and then it was right back to subterfuge. I do understand Dong-joo’s desire to shield Nok-du. Especially after seeing that wicked glint in Yul-moo’s eye the last time they’d spoken. Whether she’s aware of just how dark her childhood friend is or not, Nokdu faces real danger from Yul-moo because of his relationship with Dong-joo. But as Yul-moo is hellbent on killing him either way, there isn’t much point staying apart for that reason alone.

Dong-joo is still determined to exact her revenge on the king and for all the shady things the king has done, he was darn likable this episode. His interactions with both Dong-joo and Nokdu were so cute that it throws his character into question all over again. I’ve always been on the fence with the king because he’s so conflicted in his own decisions and we still have gaping holes surrounding the events of the past. He seems… human. Someone who reacts from fear and possibly regrets some of those choices, but feels unable or unwilling to withdraw from the path he’s chosen.

I do love the duality of most of the characters. Their motivations aren’t clear and their actions could be interpreted multiple ways. Is Minister Heo concerned about the good of the country and betraying King Gwanghae because he’s a bad king? Or is he just a power-hungry jerkface like the rest? Is Hwang-tae playing along with Yul-moo in order to protect Nokdu, or is he really that bitter over living in exile their whole lives? The only characters with clear alignments are our leads and Yul-moo and that’s not a bad thing. It leaves a lot of room for compromise and collaboration for common goals.

This drama has a lot of moving parts and as interesting as the whole birth-secret/political chaos lines are, it’s the lighter moments that really shine. Like poor Yeon-geun, still very much in love with Nokdu regardless of his gender. Aeng-du and Master Hwang are always a wacky treat. And as previously mentioned, even the king offered a lot of buoyancy to this episode. His moments with the leads were so sweet it makes me wish for a way that they could be a family, even though they all want to kill each other. Is it so wrong to want everyone to be happy? (Except maybe Yul-moo, I love him as a character but he’s a horrible person and doesn’t deserve a nice ending).

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It's really hard not to like the king in these eps. and to root for his friendship with Nokdu.

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I didnt pay a lot of attention to the King in the earlier eps because I didn't care. How that changed. Now I need to know why he wanted to kill his son.

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He is not all evil so I root for him!! Maybe he was weak and made few mistakes!! Let everyone be happy!!

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The budding relationship between the 3 has me highly conflicted. I don't know how I'm supposed to react when things go bad.

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The king was pretty likable here, though I did think it was weird of him to copy Nokdu's outfit. Maybe it's because I'm a woman and notice outfits. Like I would have noticed him wearing that pink outfit every time we hang out and would go out of the way to not wear it.

I guess a likable king here makes sense because it's King Gwanghae and he is considered a wise king and is often the protagonist in kdramas.

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I guess the matching outfits were a plot device to make Dong-ju's mistaken identity adventure possible.

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/sob

Tell me about it ๐Ÿ˜ญ

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I have so many positive comments for this ep.
1. The fight scenes for the 1st 10 or so minutes was AMAZING. I loved every second. The female fighters (Bok-nyeo, Ssook) teaming up with Nokdu as a man. ARGH.
2. The budding relationship between Nokdu and the King, so friendly and full of innocent banter. Softens my heart so much (makes me afraid for the future, tho).
3. I don't have to look at Yul-moo a lot.
4. Nokdu revealing his gender to the widows and not one of them was toxically bitter about it.
5. Yeon-geon not over his crush on Nokdu even after knowing he's a man, comedy golden, and heck, even sweet.
6. That silent, emotional exchange between Ssook and Lady Cheon before she died.
7. Dong-joo's hilariously adorable excitement at finding the Mystery Man and her awkwardness when realizing he's not.
8. Yes, I agree with you on the duality of most of the characters. It's thoroughly entertaining how they're not what they seem at first. Except Yul-moo, that jerkface.

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P.S. for 6., it was the 2nd time in this drama I truly felt sad and wanted to cry. The brief flashback of Lady Cheon saving Ssook. I needed that dose of nostalgia from a "lesser" character I eventually grow to care about. Her acting was great, btw.

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I was really choked up during the Ssook and Lady Cheon scenes. Cho Soo Hyang was amazing!

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The female fighters plus the corps lady were so badass. I cheered during their scenes. The scene with lady Cheon and Ssook was so sad. Also yes not much of Yul Mu thank god. I straight up despise him, ugh.

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I keep thinking about when Yul-moo made the ice dish and his swordsman showed up. How Nokdu seemed deflated that he was only seeing a master at ice cutting and not a master swordsman and now.......

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The Ssook flashback and Lady Cheon death hit me really hard, they work so hard to give a hope to women who society would prefer to be dead and all that was waste because of few guys power play.

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I felt a little better after last week's episodes after watching this episode though still disturbed by the massacre. I liked seeing everyone fight off the bandits. I don't know why this show is trying to make us feel sympathetic to the King. He went from unlikable to a little likeable while Yul Mu became despicable. I know others find this complex but I just felt disconnected from the show a little cause to me there was nothing that indicated that such a change would happen, but it felt too drastic. It did have its funny moments that I liked but I will mourn the light show that I thought I was watching. I mean I did expect the show to become serious because kdramas but it felt just too jarring. I am still not sure if Nokdu really the king's son cause Yoon Jo insisted he wasn't. I mean I expect him to be but still...

Okay on to my favorite funny moments:
1. When drunken master entered the fight (where's Nok...Soo? Lol)
2. Yeon-geun finding out the truth and his reaction to it. (Though I did feel a little bad for him).
3. YG buying Nokdu clothes and it being similar to the ones the King wore.
4. The confusion caused by Nokdu and the King due to the clothes (the drawing was just too funny).

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Number 4, for me.

Dongju and her drawing, combined with her mistaking the King for Nokdu...that was wonderfully light, and points out one more time that NokDu is the son of the king.

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Nokdu getting up from the swing and sitting back down just like the King did also shows how similar they are to each other.

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Drunk Master Hwang was a hoot, it seems this island where Nokdu grew up is a home to some ninja tribe :D

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Yeon-geun! His was probably the most tragic of all ๐Ÿ˜‚ after seeing his crush kiss another man to finding out he IS a man. Hahaha!!! Canโ€™t blame him for liking Nok Du still because that man is fiiiinee.

Dong Joo mistaking the King for Nok Du was so telling because they really do have a lot of similarities. How she still drew him though was too funny! She should have just written down the description ๐Ÿ˜‚

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YG reminds me of the rich old man who wanted Jack Lemmonโ€™s female persona in Some Like it Hot. Upon the big reveal, โ€œI am a man!โ€, His response was, โ€œwell, no oneโ€™s perfect.โ€ Iirc.

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I am just hoping that Nok du makes it out alive and with his Dong-joo. I am wondering about how much actual historical references will be made as we all know In Jo (Yul moo) is next in line for the throne. But, history also says that Gwanghae's son with the Queen dies at the age of 25. Since it doesn't look like there are any other sons, that might put Nok du in even more danger, depending on how close history is followed. The thought of such a lovely and silly character dying at 25 is very sad indeed. The next episodes will bring more twists and turns. I can hardly wait. :-)

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Hmm. Unless he "dies" to ride off to his island with his Dong joo and family.

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Itโ€™s time to ride off into alternate history.

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ah great. you're reminding me of Moonlight Drawn by Clouds. This might sound a bit harsh but I was kinda disappointed how they changed THAT history.

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I want these two to be happy. Their whole group really.
So, are these supposed to be the real historical figures or just based on their story?

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I think of this drama as a fantasy, not a saeguk.

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@beverly Since it is called the "Tale of Nok Du" then it certainly does not need to stick to any real history. Real history is rather somber for Gwanghae's son and the wife of the son.

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In a fantasy world, I suppose it's possible, but if Yul-mu is true to his character, he would hunt them down and destroy them.

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Don't kill anyone!! Happy ending please!!

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The fact that the King felt so incredibly human in this episode made me feel infinitely sadder about the possibility of things not ending well for him. Most of the time in sageuks, the side character King is a character that I almost never like/sympathise with, either because he's corrupt/cowardly/just plain bad. It's rare (at least in my experience) that we have a side character King who is so nuanced/multi-dimensional as a character, and I'm really loving the writing + Jung Joonho's portrayal of Gwanghae. Him and poor Yeongeun were absolute scene stealers for me this episode!

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To me this is one drama where the writers have more or less done justice to most characters. They're more Mutli dimensional than I'm used to seeing in kdramas.

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agreed! the only character I'm not really vibing with is yulmoo, but then again, I don't think we're even supposed to like him, anyway ๐Ÿ˜‚

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I support king, nokdu and donjoo friendship!!

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me too, I really hope things don't end badly :(

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We all know the history but seeing the King being calm and approachable in this episode, seeing his interaction with nokdu, man... the coming episodes will be brutal for them both (and us).

YG still making moony eyes at Nokdu is cute~

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In this week I was able to connect with the King as a real character. Like the recapper said he felt human and that was a good thing. It makes it difficult for me to decide whether to root for his happiness or his demise. I see this as a good complexity to have and most of the character except the main leads make me feel this way. The mix of characters between clear goals and unsure agendas adds more depth to the events that are happening.

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Lady Chun's murder got me shookth and I was sadder than i thought I would be....

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I cried when the widow village was burned and I was absolutely bawling when they killed her. It makes me worry for all the other characters.

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I'm not sure what to think about writers changing characters traits completely midway, it feels like cheating. But not gonna lie I like the new king it was much needed breather from all that doom and gloom we just witnessed. I really miss the lightness of earlier episodes.

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I miss Nokdu disguised as Lady Kim :(
But I think the funny and lighter moments are still there, maybe not as much as the previous episodes but enough to keep the viewers entertained.

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That's true but in a way it makes the characters more realistic. People are never entirely what they seem. Everyone is multi dimensional. I'm conflicted about how I feel about the characters the more the writer reveals their personalities.

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Of course people are multidimensional but it can be shown from the start, to establish the character as more complex person but not doing it for the sake of twist is a trick I'm not really fond of.

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The King wasn't shown much in the beginning. Most of the characters were already hinted at being more than just what we've seen them be. I know a lot of us like the assasins but at the end of the day they are also cold blooded killers. Yet I sympathize with their story and lives. This is because we've been shown their lives since the beginning. The King I've only seen in flashes but it was hinted he had a close friendship at one point. Even when trying to kill his son he looked tortured. The character of the King , Minister and Nokdu's father were not expanded on till episode 7 when the story started to moved to Hanyang. To me the drama properly starts at episode 7 when all the characters arrive on the same stage.

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But he was shown as rather evil and selfish, so that's a big change from what seeing now.

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He was evil and selfish and I don't think he stopped being that. It depends on who he considers a threat and who he doesn't. I still think he has an ego and deep insecurities. To me he still isn't a good guy but he isn't all bad either.

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Is it just me or the fight scene in the first few minutes was more brutal? Heck, Nokdu cut off the guy's hand while trying to save Dong Joo from getting choked to death! I have been loving the fight scenes since the first episode, they are so fun to watch!
Loved watching Ssook and Nokdu fight off the bandits together..the 3 virtuous womens' corps members and Hwa-su fighting back was awesome!
The King striking up a friendship with Nokdu and later Dong Joo was heartwarming. Dong Joo is surely going to be conflicted about whether to assassinate the King or not after getting to know him better. The same goes for the King, wonder how he will react when he comes to know that the man he has become so fond of is his own son whom he had tried to kill years ago.
Yeon-geun, Master Hwang and Aeng-du are such fun characters! Love them!!
Nokdu moping on the swing while the kids waited hopelessly for their turn was so hilarious.

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It's good that they added that extra layer to Dongju's revenge plan. Her conflict to kill the King won't be just because of Nokdu but her own fondness for the King.

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I'll have to say I think the action scenes in this drama are better than Vagabond.

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On a trivial note: Has anyone else noticed that Yul-moo's assassin (don't remember the name) is rather gorgeous and kind of looks like a younger twin-version of Lee Joon Ki? When he first appeared for a moment I honestly thought that it was a cameo by LJK :D :D

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Indeed and it was enhanced by styling because his modern head shot doesn't make him look like LJK that much.

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The character name is Danoh. I don't know the name of the actor.

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Yes, I noticed he is, indeed, rather gorgeous!

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I want my hot romcom back~

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I found the characters pretty confusing and so the plot. The King was showed as a villain : the way his step-mother and half brother acted with him, the fact DJ wants to kill him, the fact Minister Heo (who saved Nokdu) wants to replace him, the fact he wanted to kill his son for superstition. Now, he's a King who is kind with strangers and seems to be interested in his people. The opposite for Yul Moo. In this drama, it's either black either white.

I found the destruction of the widow's village pretty sad. I like the characters of the assassin but in the same time they were mercenaries who were ready to kill everybody without asking...

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The whole point of the drama is that the characters aren't black or white. They are mostly grey. Some characters are a clear white or black but most are grey. Basically the point the recapper raises.

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I don't agree. The King and Yul Moo switched from being villain to be kind or the reverse. Minister Heo could be grey, I mean he was on the good side when the King was bad but now...

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I did say some characters are black. At the same time I will also say Yulmu is still kind to Dongju, Danoh and Hwang Tae. The truth could be has always been kind to people who serve his agenda. That same idea would apply to the King. He is cruel to those who threaten him and kind to those who don't. He is selfish and insecure but not completely without empathy. The characters are complex. That is exactly the point I'm trying to make. It only looks like a switch because we've been seeing from a particular point of view. Now the writer is showing us another point of view.

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Agree!!

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I think we won't agree. For me, it's bad writing when characters switched like that without any clues. The fact they show another side of their personality is not the issue, it's the way it's done.

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It is definitely not bad writing. It is complex writing but not bad for sure.

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@Globe Do you really think Yulmu is still being kind to Dongju? He has put out an order to have NokDu killed if he is found with Dongju. Killing Nokdu in front of Dongju is pretty far from being "kind" in my book. In the interaction on the day of the burning of the widows' village, I felt the conversation between Yulmu and Dongju was turning and that Yulmu was beginning to show his anger at Dongju when she asked for her money and he demanded to wait until he had her at a different location. But you are definitely right, Yulmu could be vicious right now with Dongju and he is not. He still cares about her. It just that his fangs are beginning to show toward her.

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I think he is still kind in the sense he still cares about her well being. He looked devastated when be thought she might die. It doesn't justify his cruelty but it means he has a side where he cares for people he loves. A different matter that he doesn't love many people.

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Plus that was that scene when DongJu wanted to kill the King, when there was someone pretending to be him (servant/official) who get stone thrown at him, and King ordered to kill the old man who did it, even after finding that he lost his son due to King's earlier orders (something with providing labor) so they tried hard to establish him as typical evil king without any subtlety or grey zone, hell even his relationship with Queen/wife is super strained due to his unamiable character.

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I think the king's relationship with his wife is strained because of the huge guilt the king has at believing he killed his son and the "death" of that baby was a huge trauma to the queen.

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Oh, and about female assassins, it was hinted several times that they were led to believe that their killings are righteous, they talked about being sent to kill corrupted official who ordered murder of his DIL etc.

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That's what they believe but they also knew they were being sent to kill an innocent person. When they were sent to kill Nokdu and his family. They do as they are told. They don't question their masters. That makes them negative characters.

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We don't know what they were told before, so no I don't believe that make them evil.

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Whatever they were told they knew his family was innocent. Yet they kept attacking his brother to try and assassinate him. It was actually Yulmu who saved them. For that reason I see they as grey characters as well.

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I'm not sure if it's a matter of black or white, but this drama does want to challenge our assumptions. We can only base what we know on what we see and we never really get to see the whole story.

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I think so as well. This drama makes us challenge our assumptions about the characters. We see the tip of the ice berg and base everything on that. I'm finding it difficult to decide who all to root for.

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Re challenging our assumptions about characters, that is, IMO, the sign of a well-written drama. And it's just the type of drama I love most.

Not that Nokdu's character is in question (and I adore his adorable, honorable self !), but my favorite male literary character of all time, Francis Crawford of Lymond, is the hero (or maybe anti-hero!) of Dorothy Dunnett's sublime Lymond Chronicles.

We are introduced to him, and get to know him, through the eyes of others. He is described, and seen, by various characters (including his brother) as a young man guilty of treason against Scotland, of committing a reckless act that resulted in the death of his younger sister, of being a mercenary army leader who will sell his soul for money, and in general a scoundrel and womanizer.

The reader also sees him, in short order, sneak into the basement of a home and eavesdrop on the occupants; set his mother's manor on fire; throw a knife at, thus causing a minor shoulder wound to, the wife of his next-estate-over neighbor; and terrify a 10-year-old girl when he breaks into her house, looking for her father, and temporarily holds the family hostage.

But reality isn't always what it seems, and by the end of the novel, if not immediately, as I was, almost every reader is totally smitten with Francis, with whom I've been madly in love since I first "met" him many years ago.

One of my favorite descriptions of my favorite BF is from an NPR segment on romantic reads for Valentine's Day -

"There is meticulous historical research and a graduate degree's worth of French, Latin and Greek poetry to thank for the fact that Scottish writer Dorothy Dunnett's heart-pounding, six-volume Lymond Chronicles is shelved with the literature and not with the bodice rippers.

But let's be honest: Dunnett's 16th-century mercenary hero Francis Crawford of Lymond is, for anyone reading with a pulse, Lust on Horseback. Built like a god with an intellect to match, Crawford moves across Europe, navigating intrigues with equal parts charm and swordsmanship, reciting poetry, rescuing maidens and outwitting the schemes of villains and queens. He also slays them with his lute playing. Next to this guy, James Bond is the 40-year-old virgin.

Even so, this is a romantic epic that can be read with intellectual pride intact, beginning with The Game of Kings, where we are introduced to Crawford, whom we will crawl after, panting and weak-kneed for the next 3,000 pages. Because it's history."

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This drama never disappoints!! So many different relationships and characters!! Everything the action, comedy and romance is all fun!!

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Well my birth secret red herring can officially be laid to rest. Still this drama handled it pretty well. I'm enjoying the shifts in character quite a bit. It makes me realise I might have over simplified some characters. Especially hyung was a not a character I thought would ever be disloyal to nokdu. I think he has some misplaced issues but he holds a very real resentment against nokdu for the life that he was forced to live.

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I would like to comment on that scene with Dongjoo crying on Lady Cheon's grave. For the most part, whenever Cha Soohyang has a scene with Kim Sohyun, Jang Dongyoon's mostly there. Now, it's a scene with just Soohyang and Sohyun. I like it as a reunion because these actresses had a lot of scenes back when Soohyang was Kang Soyoung and Sohyun was Go Eunbyeol/Lee Eunbi in "Who Are You: School 2015." Their interaction in the previous drama was a breath of fresh air whenever Sooyoung and Eunbyeol are in a bitch fight. Their scene in this "death of Lady Cheon" is kinda nostalgic for me.

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The way this drama is killing off characters has me worried for the safety of everyone. I hope there is a happy ending in there somewhere and nobody else has to die.

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I'm obsessed with this drama! Its crazy good!

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While everybody is talking about the king
*me*: so you are telling me that the incredibly skilled Dan Ho could.not find Dong Joo even though she wasn't trying to hide, yet the king and Nok Du can have multiple chance meetings!!?๐Ÿ˜‚

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Law of kdrama fate, my friend. When you are not fated to be, your timing won't work, your minions are worthless, nothing works. You can hire the best assassins men for the job, it will never get done.

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Hahahah soo true ๐Ÿ˜†

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Kdrama logic 101 never question fated meetings. Heh.

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