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Tale of Nokdu: Episodes 23-24

More secrets are exposed as everyone’s personal agendas start to clash. Our hero has discovered his true identity, but there’s still a lot of questions surrounding why it’s been kept from him for so long and what it means going forward. King Gwanghae will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo, but one way or another, everything is about to be flipped on its head and we can only hope that Nokdu comes out on top.

 
EPISODE 23: “Torturing Jung Yoon-jo”

The king and his posse return from arresting Yoon-jo to discover Dong-joo lurking near the palace gate. She collapses in fear as a guard holds a sword to her throat and King Gwanghae approaches her. No longer the gentle official she’d met on the streets, King Gwanghae glares down at Dong-joo as the realization brings tears to her eyes. The moment is broken when the queen throws herself at King Gwanghae’s feet, begging him to tell her the truth.

King Gwanghae dismisses her pleas and orders Yoon-jo be locked up and the queen returned to her quarters. Nokdu arrives just as Yoon-jo is escorted away and rushes to Dong-joo’s side, declaring himself present as per the king’s request. King Gwanghae finally releases Dong-joo but before Nokdu can take her away, the guard sees Dong-joo’s box and demands to know what’s in it.

Shaken from the events, Dong-joo is unable to answer and the king orders it opened… but only Dong-joo’s sewing supplies are found inside. He dismisses the couple and Dong-joo’s legs give out as soon as the king is gone. As she sits with Nokdu, Dong-joo can’t believe that their friend was actually the king. Nokdu apologizes for not telling her sooner, explaining the king asked him to keep it secret.

Dong-joo asks what kind of person the king is and Nokdu thinks back to King Gwanghae ordering Yoon-jo’s death and then wishing for Nokdu to never discover who he truly is. “He gets afraid,” Nokdu admits, “I’m curious about him. I also pity him.” Nokdu says he sees a lot since he works for the king but assures Dong-joo that King Gwanghae cherishes her. As she leans into him, Nokdu wonders if anything happened. Dong-joo assures him she’s fine.

King Gwanghae interrogates Yoon-jo in the dungeons to no avail. He admits it won’t be easy making Yoon-jo talk. Yoon-jo wonders whether making him talk or overcoming his own fears is the difficult task. “You even believed a ridiculous story that Yun tried to dethrone you by putting my son on your seat,” Yoon-jo continues, “What are you so afraid of?”

The king growls he’ll show Yoon-jo what to fear and grabs a poker, but when he turns back, Minister Heo is staring blankly back at him. He drops the poker and stumbles back, but it’s only Yoon-jo before him. Yoon-jo vows to die a hundred times if it’ll free the king from his delusions and King Gwanghae accuses Yoon-jo of belittling him. Grabbing a guard’s sword , he once more Minister Heo staring back at him and King Gwanghae finally collapses from the shock.

Nokdu visits the king as he was summoned, but is told by the head eunuch that King Gwanghae collapsed and is too ill for visitors. He’s unable to tell Nokdu what happened so Nokdu excuses himself. In her room, Dong-joo looks down at her sewing box and then pulls on the end to reveal a crossbow. She wavers for a moment, recalling Nokdu’s assurances the king cares for her, but shakes it off and levels the crossbow. Meanwhile, Nokdu is rejected from seeing the queen as well and looks down at the two halves of her pendant.

The next day, Yul-moo catches up with Dong-joo to chide her for almost getting killed last night. “How could I dare to survive when I plan to kill someone?” Dong-joo retorts. Yul-moo demands to know if Nokdu is aware of her plans, but Dong-joo spits that it’s none of his business. He orders her to lie low for a month and is annoyed when Dong-joo asks if he’s planning to hurt Nokdu. Yul-moo wonders if she’ll still love him when she discovers Nokdu’s identity.

Nokdu watches Yul-moo enter a building where he meets with Ssook. She reports last night’s events and he gathers that the queen must’ve already spoken with Yoon-jo before he was apprehended. Yul-moo wonders who helped him, but focuses on discovering how much the queen knows. Ssook questions whether Muweol Corps will have a place in the world Yul-moo is creating and asks for proof of his word.

A flashback reveals Nokdu had suggested he and Ssook work together and told her it was likely Yul-moo kept a merit list of all the people involved in his revolt as a way to keep them under his control. Nokdu had said if they find it, it could be used as proof of Yul-moo’s conspiracy. In the present, Yul-moo agrees to Ssook’s terms and dismisses her.

Afterwards, Ssook meets Nokdu and tells him he was right about the list and she’d found a safe hidden in a storage room. It requires a key and Ssook is certain Yul-moo carries it with him. Nokdu is confident he can retrieve it and Ssook tells him to meet her that evening, preferably with a plan. Across town, the elderly servant couple watch Dong-joo leave the palace to confirm she’s their lady and worry over her safety.

Nokdu surprises Dong-joo in the market and takes her to their swing where they stare lovingly at each other as she swings. Nokdu teases that she’s a country girl for playing on the swing and she retorts that he’s an island boy who dived for fun. Nokdu tuts that diving is lame and said he surfed waves the size of houses. Dong-joo is incredulous and suggests they go to the beach so he can show her.

She’s disappointed when he’s taken aback and pouts that he’s either lying about surfing or his affection for her has waned. Nokdu dismisses both, saying he’s just busy. Dong-joo sighs that it’s more important than her and when Nokdu assures her that isn’t the case, she tells him she’s only teasing. He suggests she come and eat with the family now and promises to take her to the beach next time.

At Dong-joo’s smile, Nokdu tosses her over his shoulder but almost immediately is forced to put her down when the queen’s pendant falls out of his pocket. Dong-joo asks what is and where’s the other half. Nokdu brushes it off and Dong-joo assumes it’s a gift from a lover and takes Nokdu’s flustered response as confirmation as she walks away shaking her head.

Nokdu shows the pendant halves to Master Hwang and tells him everything. Master Hwang reels from the revelation of Nokdu’s lineage but promises to help his pupil. Meanwhile, Dong-joo feeds her chickens and watches in horror as Aeng-du takes the lone egg from the nest and slurps it down, raw. Aeng-du quips that Nokdu will surely fry another egg to hide under Dong-joo’s rice and refuses to be fooled a second time.

As Nokdu offers to take Dong-joo back, they’re drawn to the courtyard by Yeon-geun’s cries. Everyone runs out to find Yeon-geun holding a fermented soybean lump up to an unabashed Aeng-du. He pouts that Bok-nyeo worked hard on it (despite the other women pointing out they all made it) and Aeng-du snuck into his room and ate it. Everyone else is more curious what Yeon-geun and Bok-nyeo were doing in there alone and the pair look abashed.

Yeon-geun shushes Aeng-du before she can fully reveal what she’d seen and Nokdu tsks at them for being inappropriate in front of a child. Aeng-do retorts that he and Dong-joo are worse and it’s Nokdu’s turn to shush Aeng-du. Dong-joo scampers off, embarrassed as the other women tease Yeon-geun and Bok-neyo. As he goes to hang up the soybean lump, Nokdu looks at the impression of Aeng-du’s hand.

He catches up with Dong-joo and takes her hand. She asks if he’s had any run-ins with Yul-moo since their last altercation. Dong-joo worries he’ll get hurt because of her, but Nokdu cuts her off, correcting that she’s not responsible for Yul-moo’s actions. Furthermore, Nokdu assures her he’ll make the first move. Nokdu says she might as well kiss him if she’s gonna keep staring and Dong-joo walks off in a huff.

EPISODE 24: “Find the Merit List”

At the palace, Dong-joo witnesses the queen creating a scene as she tries to leave her room to search for her missing pendant. The queen’s eyes fall on Dong-joo and a servant explains that she’d called Dong-joo to fetch some things since they couldn’t leave. This gives the queen an idea and she asks Dong-joo to search for her pendant.

Dong-joo starts looking and is approached by Nokdu. She eagerly asks if he’d picked up his pendant on the palace grounds. Nokdu quickly denies it, saying it belongs to his mother. He adds that he’d been looking for Dong-joo to ask her to meet him that evening at the swing. He wants to take her to see the ocean and urges her to come, before taking his leave.

Yul-moo tells his co-conspirators about Nokdu’s existence and they’re appalled to hear King Gwanghae attempted to murder his son in order to ensure his throne. Yul-moo says the king is searching for his son and still intends to kill him. They agree that this is enough to decimate the king’s reputation and discuss how to go about it while Yul-moo smiles wickedly.

Nokdu meets Ssook and confirms that he has a plan, handing her a small box containing fermented soybean. A flashback shows Nokdu presenting the same box to the blacksmith, who promised to help him. In the present, Nokdu says he intends to carry out his plan now, but wonders if Ssook is okay. She says she never continued to work with Yul-moo after discovering the truth and assures Nokdu that she and her team can handle themselves.

Back in the meeting, Yul-moo declares he’ll bring Nokdu before the king tomorrow and sneers as he imagines the scenario of the king realizing Nokdu is his son and then cutting him down. “Blinded by his heinous greed, the king will kill his son twice,” Yul-moo concludes, “No will will be able to side with him.” The men question how Yul-moo will catch Nokdu and he grins that everyone has a weakness.

As he leaves, Yul-moo orders Dan-ho to fetch Master Hwang and Aeng-du but they’re interrupted by a servant reporting that Yul-moo’s horse ran off. Yul-moo waits while Dan-ho runs off to retrieve it and Ssook nods at another patron sitting nearby, who starts a loud argument with another man. He shoves the man into Yul-moo and then “mistakenly” tosses a bowl of soup in Yul-moo’s face.

Ssook rushes over and guides Yul-moo to a changing room, his eyes squeezed tight. The fetches him a bowl of water to wash them out and he suddenly snatches her wrist. Eyes darting around the room, he asks if anyone else has been in there. Ssook calmly replies that it’s only been the two of them as her skirts cover a clump of fermented soybean on the floor. Yul-moo eyes her suspiciously, but leaves without a fuss.

Meanwhile, Nokdu runs along an alley and tosses the women’s clothes he’d worn as a disguise over a stone wall. A short flashback shows him entering the changing room behind Ssook and as Yul-moo rinsed the soup from his eyes, Nokdu, dressed as a woman, had slipped the key from his pocket and made an imprint by pressing it into the box of fermented soybean.

Yul-moo wonders at how his calm horse could’ve ran off as they ride over to Yeon-geun’s house. They’re shocked to find it empty, while across town Yeon-geung and Master Hwang bang on Yul-moo’s gate. Master Hwang drunkenly slurs at the guards to bring out the pretty young man inside the house. The guards draw their swords and the ruckus brings Hwang-tae out to investigate.

Yeon-geun grabs him, accusing Hwang-tae of breaking his ring under his horse’s hooves when he left the palace a few days ago. Unfortunately, Yeon-geun trips over his own story and refers to it as a hat string and Hwang-tae points out the inconsistency. In desperation, Yeon-geun knocks himself to the ground and then drags Hwang-tae down with him.

Master Hwang and the guards fight as Yeon-geun punches himself in the face. Once his nose bleeds, Yeon-geun screams for someone to call the police while Hwang-tae stares in bafflement. Meanwhile, Yul-moo’s men find no one in the house, so he and Dan-ho decide to return home. Nokdu arrives first, however, leading a group of police into Yul-moo’s courtyard.

Nokdu says they’d received a report on the commotion, his eyes locking with Hwang-tae’s. Yeon-geun whines that Hwang-tae broke his belongings and then beat him up. Yul-moo’s guards block Hwang-tae, declaring this is the house of Grand Prince Neungyang and Hwang-tae is his friend. Nokdu feigns shock and then smirks, noting that being Grand Prince Neungyang’s friend doesn’t absolve him of punishment.

Nokdu orders Hwang-tae arrested and gives a quick nod of gratitude to his friends before following his men out. Hwang-tae is locked up and he reiterates that Nokdu is too late to change his mind. Nokdu ignores him and says he’ll be safe here and released soon. “Tonight,” Nokdu says, “Grand Prince Neungyang will be finished.” He bids his brother farewell and leaves as Yul-moo returns home to discover what happened.

King Gwanghae has regained consciousness and the head eunuch reports that the queen has been quiet, but Nokdu visited many times while he was ill. Dong-joo waits at the swing for Nokdu and decides she’ll surprise him by meeting him at the palace instead. King Gwanghae is pleased to hear Nokdu was worried for him and has him summoned. He then asks about Yoon-jo and upon hearing he’s refused food and water, growls that he’s trying to die and heads over to see him.

Nokdu returns to Ssook and receives the key she must’ve retrieved from the blacksmith. They head inside and Nokdu inserts the key… and unlocks the safe. Inside, he finds the merit list and rips out Ssook’s page before leaving her to put everything back. Dong-joo arrives at the palace at the same times as Yul-moo and he pulls her aside to say Nokdu’s found family has vanished.

Yul-moo asks if she knows anything and she denies it, questioning why Yul-moo was looking for them. He says it’s none of her business and she demands what he’s up to. Yul-moo guesses she’s worried and Dong-joo agrees that his temper tantrums are cause for concern. Her words hurt him and she begs him to butt out between her and Nokdu. He asks what Nokdu is to her and says he’ll tell her.

Nokdu arrives at the palace with the merit list as the king meets Yoon-jo in the dungeon. He comments that Yoon-jo is as brave as ever and recalls fleeing the palace during the invasion. Yoon-jo says King Gwanghae had been bright and brave then. King Gwanghae agrees he had to be. He continues that he’d ascended the throne afterwards, but was at constant risk of losing it and admits he was scared.

He says the fear kept him sane, wondering what would have happened if he hadn’t become king. Yoon-jo points out he’s already king and questions what’s left to fear, but King Gwanghae cuts him off, saying he’s still standing in that bloody battlefield. The former king had desperately resisted passing the throne to him, the courtiers can’t wait to be rid of him, the people scream that their lives are hard, and Yoon-jo and Minister Heo abandoned him. “Will I be able to die as the king?” he asks.

Nokdu arrives outside the dungeon and tells the head eunuch he’d received his summons and needs to speak with the king immediately. Inside, King Gwanghae holds a sword to Yoon-jo’s throat and Nokdu walks in just in time to hear him tearfully say, “That is why… I must kill… that boy.” Yoon-jo shouts that he is the king’s son, but King Gwanghae bellows that he shouldn’t have lived and he doesn’t have the luxury to have a son as that’s that price of the throne.

The king orders Yoon-jo to tell him where his son is before he dies and tears fall from Nokdu’s face as looks down at the merit list and then walks away. Outside the palace, Dong-joo also fights tears as Yul-moo reveals to her Nokdu is the son of the king that order her family’s murder. She realizes the pendant he held was the queen’s and he’d been honest when he said it belonged to his mother. “Are you still worried about him? Do you still love him?” Yul-moo demands as Dong-joo turns and runs.

Yul-moo returns home and Dan-ho reports that he’d ordered their men to hide and that he’ll remain here to escort Hwang-tae when he’s released from prison. Yul-moo wonders why Nokdu would lock his brother up knowing he’ll be released the following day… and then runs to the store room and flings the safe open to find the merit list missing.

Dong-jo returns to the swing in a daze, thinking back on all the moments she’d shared with Nokdu as tears fall from her eyes. She sees Nokdu waiting for her and runs to him, throwing her arms around him. He’s also crying as he reaches up to hold her hands around his waist.

 
COMMENTS

Alright y’all, is it just me, or did this show get really sad really fast? Any soft feelings I had for the king died in one fell swoop when he insisted that his son had to die for him to keep the throne. I’m glad to finally understand Minister Heo, who had genuinely loved King Gwanghae only to be disappointed when his friend turned into a real jerkface when given a taste of power. I didn’t understand why the fortune-teller’s prediction was so bad until this episode when King Gwanghae asked Yoon-jo if he could die as king and realized that being king wasn’t enough, he wanted to spend his entire life as the king. Although nothing can justify trying to murder your child, I had hoped that there was more to the story, a small detail that would at least justify his fear of his child… but no, he just wants to be king and didn’t think 20 years on the throne was enough.

It’s all the more heartbreaking because Nokdu had those same hopes and had to witness with his own eyes his father not only threatening to kill the man who raised him, but insisting that his son should’ve never survived the first murder attempt, let alone continue to live now. I mean, trying to kill his son the first time was bad enough, but to still think that was the right choice, even now? And over a throne? A position he’s not doing a good job at anyway? The king isn’t even happy being the king! There’s nothing for him to even show that it was worth it. So now I’m almost rooting for Yul-moo to take the throne. Nokdu would be an ideal king, but we’ve already been informed that the show isn’t going to deviate that far from historical facts. Besides, I honestly don’t think he’d want it. Especially after seeing how it corrupts people.

So that’s where we’re at with the gritty part of the show, but I live for the sweet moments and despite the dark cloud now looming over our hero, he still manages to find sunshine here and there. There wasn’t as much Nokdu/Dong-joo cuteness as I would’ve liked, but we’re at the point in the show where the deeper plot points are reaching their head, so it’s to be expected. The thing I love, however, is the small ways this show manages to throw old tropes out the window. Yeah, Nokdu is the son of the man that murdered Dong-joo’s family… but that’s hardly Nokdu’s fault. He’s no more responsible for his father’s actions than she is for Yul-moo’s. So for once, the heroine didn’t waste our time running from the hero to sort through her conflicted feelings. Dong-joo knows Nokdu and loves him for who he is, regardless of his lineage. Which is good, because he’s hurting just as much right now and they’ll need to lean on each other to get through the oncoming storm.

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Agreed with the last part. I never actually expected her to run away (she's been doing too much of that in the past). She loved Nokdu for him, not for his identity.
All my complicated feelings for the king has been reduced by a lot and now it's just "URGH" Mah poor boy Nokdu!!

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Same, I understand her having mixed feelings about the fact that her boyfriend is the son of the man who killed her family (it's very "my only love sprung from my only hate" ex. Romeo & Juliet).... but she's also clear-headed enough to know or realise that this is new information to Nokdu too.

There wasn't much room for cute in this episode given where we are in the plot but thank goodness Jang Dong-yoon and Kim So-hyun have the kind of chemistry that can carry both kinds of scenes.

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I kinda expected that she wouldn't and she didn't. She immediately went to him without much thought. I liked that scene.

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I love that, it absolutely gutted her but her first instinct is still to go to him to feel better.

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Makes me appreciate their relationship is based on more than love. They understand and trust each other. Its a very mature relationship for a youth sageuk.

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Also an unusual move because Dong-joo is the tsundere out of the two of them (usually the guy is the tsundere trying to conceal his feelings in a kdrama), but she's not doing the noble idiocy push-away-without-warning thing.

(She tried it once before when she set off for Hanyang before Nokdu woke up from his injuries sustained defending the widow village, glad to see the writer doesn't do repetitive)

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I want to see nokdu and his mother to reunite already. I want to see feisty mama bear protecting her club lol

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Nokdu has many strong women in his life. Precious bean.

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I never really felt sympathy for the King even as I tried to understand him. I felt sad for Nokdu when he realized the Kings true nature. I can't wait for the Queen find out about her son. I already love her from the few scenes we had of her.

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Same, I love the small handful of scenes we've had from her and especially the few we've had between her and Nokdu. My favourite so far, though, has to be his first time meeting her after she found his hat- it's fitting that his mother first sees him after she found a thing he tried to hide, it's so ..... as expected of a mother lol.

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My favorite was when she told Yul Mu she would not tolerate him disrespecting anyone.

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I loved that, she used her authority to put him in his place and protect Dong-joo without needing to use more than words.

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I love the Queen! The king is off the rails. I think if there is one person who can somewhat punish him for his sins, it's her.

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The King and Yul-moo are as bad as each other, frankly. I have no idea if Nokdu will now throw his support behind Yul-moo but this is the equivalent of switching to McDonalds because you don't like KFC.

For the first time in this show, I felt manipulated since Nokdu already knew his father wanted him dead and the idea he could just casually stroll into the prison - just in time to see the King torturing his Dad! - was convenient to the point of eye-rolling.

Regardless of Nokdu's feelings on the matter, both the King and Yul-moo are served by his death so short of taking the throne himself I don't see a way out for him, since he tried living in obscurity once already. His best bet in fact is to convince his father he's not after the throne. Even if Yul-moo didn't hate him for personal reasons, he still can't risk Nokdu's continued existence. If the show tries to tell me otherwise I'll cry foul.

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Do you think the writer will stay with the historical framework? The king abdicating/forcibly dethroned and exiled, while Yul-moo/Prince Injo becomes king? Not a lot of space in that line for Nokdu and Dongju to find a happy ending. As you said, the logic of kingship is pretty clear - Yul-moo can not leave the legitimate son of the ousted king alive.

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I don't know about your version, but when Yul-moo's identity was revealed, my subs blared NEXT KING OF JOSEON or something similar leaving me in no doubt that he will succeed the current King.

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The subs (and the Korean screen caption when Yul-moo's real identity was revealed) said outright he would be King Injo, so that's the trail we're on right now, drama-history-wise.

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I suppose that Nokdu somehow has to have a card that forces Yul-mu to leave them alone. Wouldn't it be interesting if he went into exile with the king and queen. He could spend time with his mother, while tormenting his father with his kindness.

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I dont know about the king but I wouldn't mind if the queen disappeared into history .......and to an island with a certain group of people and some chickens.

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another widow village on an island

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Well... if they do stick to historical framework, it's more sinister than king's son and the son's wife just being killed by Yul-moo. and in my opinion, it's out of character for Nokdu, should the writers be placing Nokdu as the real king and queen's only son. And real history doesn't fair too well for the Queen either. The one getting to live a long life (though I hope filled with night terrors) is the king. But every day we watch the Tale of Nokdu, it reminds us in big thick letters that this is NOT historically accurate. So anything can happen. And for all we know now, it could end with a big dinner party with all of our favorite characters laughing and dining together and Nokdu and Dong Jo living on their own little island with little tiny Nokdus and dong jos running through the sand on the beach.

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I think the writers of this drama know what they're doing - it's an adaptation, they needn't have tied it to any real-life kings (and the reveal that Yul-moo was future Injo didn't even come till episode 6, so that's got to be a considered decision). And I do agree that those big fat disclaimers at the start of every episode are for more than just the characters of Nokdu and Dong-joo.

I just want our kids to be happy, and Nokdu to get some maternal love from the Queen (who, let's not forget, would also be dethroned and exiled if the king goes, though at this point I think she'd be happy to just see her son, never mind being a royal or not).

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I was thinking that Yul-moo would strip Nokdu of his royal heritage in exchange for the throne. Also Yul-moo's plan was for the king to kill Nokdu and then be ousted because it's a huge sin. Like maybe he will work with Nokdu to fake his death.

But you're right that Yul-moo wouldn't be the type to leave the legitimate son of an ousted king alive.

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This so called prophesy against Nokdu would make more sense if it was supposed to be for Yul-moo instead and someone messed it up.

Who came up with this crap anyway? He should be flogged 100 times.

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I can't help thinking all of this could have been avoided if the shaman had just....NOT told the king about the prophecy (self-fulfilling as it is). And also if, you know, the king wasn't freaked out by the idea of his own son succeeding him (which is how royal succession works, did he think he was going to live forever?)

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The prophecy was that the child born would be the next king i.e. that succession would skip him and go straight to his son. Under that prophecy he would never be king, which is why he killed him. I have no idea why he'd try to kill him now since the prophecy has already been averted. You'd think he'd want his throne to go to his own son next rather than to somebody else.

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@Dropingu - yeah, and Yun-jo has already pointed that out to him in-story - he's already the king. Now he's digging his own grave by going after Nokdu.

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@leetennant

But the prophesy is wrong right? He became the king but it'll skip his son.

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@pogo1

I'm jumping in late without watching the earlier episodes.

Joseon kings have been known to freak out at every natural disasters, bad omens, prophesy rumors etc.
It's all about heaven's mandate and that's why they listened to those stupid shamans.

The ministers would interpret the prophesy to put the blame on the king. That heavens is no longer with their king and that he needs to step down.
It's really ridiculous but they took it seriously.

I'm still a bit confused with this prophesy and how it's relate to the king being dethroned and exiled in history.

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At this point, I think the King still hurt and can't admit with fact bad opinion surrounding him, and feeling offend with what opinion of him. He still want to prove his worth, and He is so scared His Son will take the throne before it's happened.

He is so stupid though telling like almost everyone he trust to kill his own son. Even Yeon So (Nokdu), the new officer of him.

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@kiara - I hadn't thought of that! They do invoke it in a lot of sageuks "this is a sign the heavens are angry" etc, often by ministers who had an agenda.

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@kiara shamans are not stupid, especially if they are real shamans the prophecy is told in their trans state so they're not able to control it. History is filled with fake shamans, in reality they are very humble and wise people who don't care about fame and money.

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@kerouregan

You are right. That was an insensitive comment.

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"I felt manipulated since Nokdu already knew his father wanted him dead"
Did he know though? I thought he only knew that he was the King's son but was never told that he was nearly killed by his father. I don't think he would have been as eager as he was to meet the King if he knew the whole truth.

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Yeah, he was told he was the king's son but not given any further information about the king actually trying to kill him (the assassins on the island were sent by Minister Heo, and Nokdu found that out). His dad and Minister Heo don't tell him about the king trying to kill him either. He could well have been under the impression that his father was being tortured for hiding him, not that the fact of keeping him alive at all was a crime.

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The really sad thing about the king, for me, is that he isn't just some crazy villain - he has the capacity to be a loving friend, husband and father but he's chosen his pride and quest for power over that. And keeps choosing it even now. I felt so bad for the queen when she found out her husband is the sole reason she lost her child (she's usually so gentle and composed, but the starting scene upends that completely).

Also, Dong-joo is quite ingenious for concealing her crossbow and arrows in the construction of her sewing-box like that!

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The sense of betrayal the Queen must have felt - unimaginable.

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And on top of it, she can't even dare to state outright what he did in front of their staff.

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Dong-joo's box is so cool! I was fangirling so hard when she pulled it apart to make her crossbow.

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ikr? Clever girl! I thought she was done for, going around with what I thought was an obvious weapons box, but of course she's smarter than that ❤

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I expected to get caught but should have known the writer would never make her female lead dumb. The female characters in the drama are nicely written and strong in a realistic way.

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Side note: the hanboks in this drama are really pretty (as they are in all sageuks but I love the colour palette they've chosen for Nokdu and the warmth of it). And the extra volume in the skirts, which I don't remember being such a prominent feature in most sageuks I've seen - maybe someone who's seen more recent sageuks can tell whether this is a newish style?

And the details are gorgeous - on rewatch, I caught the floral embroidery on Dong-joo's sleeve as she hugs Nokdu in the last scene and oof❤

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I have been admiring the hanboks and their intricate designs that the village widows and gisaengs wore. They are very beautifully made. I am seeing the vest worn over the dress and the transparent sleeves for the first time, don't know if they have been used before in other sageuks.
*SPOILER*
The purple and black uniform that Nokdu wears in the next episode is the best among all the military uniforms we've seen till now in this drama.
Also how do the men get 10x more attractive in sageuk clothing? Jang Dong Yoon and Kang Tae Oh are rocking the sageuk outfits and so do the other men. Same goes for all the women in the pretty hanboks.

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I started watching this because I thought it was a rom-com but it's so angsty and dark...not as heavy as "Queen of Seven Days" but it's getting up there.

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I feel like the dark stuff was there from the beginning, but not as strongly emphasised as it is now that we're into the plottier part of the story. I mean, Dong-joo's assassination plan was apparent from the first time we even saw her, same with the king being paranoid and ready to kill anyone. Ditto with the whole 'attempted baby murder' and the exile of Prince Yeongchang (though Yul-moo got there first with the actual child murder). And Minister Heo Yun plotting to overthrow the king before Yul-moo got to him.

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Aww Nokdu! I want to reach through my screen and pull that sweet boy into a hug. How heartbreaking must it have been to realize your father wanted you dead (and is trying to kill your adoptive father).

Also poor queen. She has remained supportive and trying to connect to her husband all those years despite her own grief. When she learns that her pain has been brought upon by that same husband. Ooof! That betrayal will hurt.

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That's the really awful part - Nokdu's bio dad is trying to kill his real dad, literally the only family member he's ever had who's loved and accepted him for what he is (because heaven knows his hyung and adoptive mother resented him and made it really clear). And he's still out to kill him too :/ And we haven't even come to the part about Dong-joo, both these kids are in for a world of hurt.

And oooof, poor queen indeed. Imagine her living with that grief and blaming herself all those years, only to find her husband was the one responsible for it. I hope she does find out exactly who Nokdu is, the king might not deserve a son like him but she does.

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I don't know why the King thinks he doesn't have the luxury to have kids. It's not like he is immortal and going to reign forever, so he definitely needs an heir. He has become mentally deranged so I guess nothing he does would make sense. I had somewhat sympathised with him before since he was aware of his incapability as King but now he is just being selfish, especially in contrast with Nokdu's adoptive father who is ready to sacrifice his life for his son.

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Same, I thought when we found out Nokdu's his son, that he was maybe his son by a concubine and the king had another kid whose claim to the throne he wanted to keep safe. But no, Nokdu is the legitimate son of the king and queen, and the only reason for the almost-murder and all the coverups, is the king being selfish and delusional (even as he knows he's being that way).

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There is little in-drama logic to the king's behavior. He's that way because the writer needed to create drama and couldn't come up with anything more logical.

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I feel like the king's behaviour is pretty consistent through the drama or at least fits within a pattern, yeah he's irrational but that's acknowledged by people around him too.

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I know they is history of fathers, brothers and sons in royal families killing one another to secure the throne. So I understand the fear of being ousted and murdered by one's own son, especially when that son rightfully holds a grudge against him. But his fear is not so much for his life as it is for not being able to die as a King. His trauma and insecurities are still haunting him, and he is going to self-destruct if he is unable to overcome them soon.

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*there is history

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I cheered when Dong Joo ran towards Nokdu instead of running away like she always did. That's a great character development and shows that she truly loves Nokdu no matter what, since she knows what kind of a person he is.
It was heartbreaking to see Nokdu break down in tears after hearing with his own ears that his father wants him dead, and the fact that he was working hard to find evidence of Yul moo's treachery, all for nothing.
Brilliant acting performances by each one of them.
Also Aeng du has no filter!! It was funny to see Yeon geun and Nokdu having to shove food in her mouth in order to shut her up😂

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Same, I love how this drama is handling Nokdu and Dong-joo, and so much of it just would not work if they were played by anyone else. Her going straight to their place (the swing) and to him when she saw him there, is such a refreshing change from the usual SOP around big secrets, though that's not the end of it and I'm sure she's going to try and leave again (though this time not without saying a word, she's tried that before and failed).

I also like how the lighter moments can tie into bigger things, like the soybean lump Aeng-du was eating, giving Nokdu the idea to make an impression of the keys.

It's a shame all his effort was for nothing, though, the king might be more sympathetic than we were given to believe at first but it's still a fact that his troubles are very often self-inflicted.

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You know, i glad i discover this drama 😭 i really really love it!!!

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Same! I love it so much, I'm rewatching all the previous episodes while waiting for new ones.. only 3 more left though 😭.

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I've seen a lot of people on twitter saying the same. It's a pity only 3 left.

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I feel like that's my gold standard for whether I truly love a drama lol.

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Nok Du looks so much like his mother! Great casting, show!

How heartbreaking for Nok Du to find that his father still wanted to kill him after this time. I'm a bit fearful now that Yul Moo knows the failed plot. What will he do next? Dong Joo was right; he's dangerous.
I loved how mature Dong Joo is, despite knowing Nok Du's true identity, she still chose him for him. Aww! Happy ending please!

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He looks like his "father" too. It's great casting.

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He does. JJH himself said that JDY looks like him when he was young. Additionally KSH and JDY look almost exactly like the webtoon characters. Great casting.

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Oh and the webtoon author herself says KSH and JDY look exactly like her characters as drawn!

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it was likely Yul-moo kept a merit list of all the people involved in his revolt as a way to keep them under his control. Nokdu had said if they find it, it could be used as proof of Yul-moo’s conspiracy.

Sigh. Joseon USB with crucial evidence. Inna safe. Some things never change.

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Its completely logical seeing how conniving he is but also narcassitic.

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The writing has continued to consistently good. The agony of the leads was felt this week. The ending was a reversal of most noble idiocy tropes.

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Something I love about the way Nokdu and Dong-joo have operated around their respective Big Secrets is that they openly admit that they have secrets and that there are things they can't say to each other, but they refuse to lie and pretend there's nothing there. Which is a big part of noble idiocy, but is a very different story when the leads attempt at least some form of honesty with each other.

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The King should have read The Iliad, prophecies are meant to be :D but it doesn't have to be in the blood...

It doesn't bother me that the story became darker, a rom-com during 16 episodes can be boring at the end, but the villains are not compelling...

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I find the king a pretty compelling villain/antagonist precisely because he's got the capacity to be a loving husband, friend and father/uncle figure..... but lets his own insecurities rule him and endanger those who care about him.

I personally love a conflicted villain with a grievance (real or imaginary), remember Thor's Loki?

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Oh I love conflicted villain but in this case I don't. First, he was really a cruel King, suddenly he became nice and now he's crazy...

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I feel like those sides coexist, if that makes sense? Like he's a good man who's been corrupted by power and chosen to do bad things (genuinely wanting his citizens to have better lives but also being a tyrant to them, and turning against his most loyal friend).

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So happy I decided to watch tton! Fave drama of the year!

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