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Tale of Nokdu: Episodes 25-26

The king’s paranoia worsens and results in a very public misstep, forcing our hero to consider all of his options to protect those that he loves. Desperate, he considers help from an unlikely source even though it would estrange him from the king for good. His one consolation makes a heartbreaking decision just when Nokdu needs her the most, leaving him to face his seemingly inescapable destiny all alone.

 
EPISODE 25: “Nokdu is the Boy”

When Nokdu asks Dong-joo if something happened, she thinks about Yul-moo’s revelation that Nokdu is the king’s son and lies that she’s just tired. Nokdu uses the same excuse when she asks how he’s doing.

Seeing Nokdu suddenly lost in thought, Dong-joo turns him to face her and he drops his head onto her shoulder. When Nokdu mentions the beach, Dong-joo promises that they’ll go another time.

After walking Dong-joo home, Nokdu finds Yul-moo and Dan-ho waiting for him.

When the three men sit down together, Yul-moo guesses why Nokdu visited the prison and left without seeing the king, “You must have found out who the prisoner is. It seems as if you found out something worse than that…he was still desperately trying to kill his own son.”

Yul-moo knows that’s why Nokdu didn’t show the king Yul-moo’s list. When Nokdu asks Yul-moo not to hurt Hwang-tae or the Muweol Corps, he proposes working together. That would give Nokdu the chance to protect them and get revenge on the father who abandoned him. As Nokdu walks out the door, Yul-moo gives him two days to consider his offer.

Nokdu goes to the royal prison but he’s turned away just as a guard carries out some hot coals.

Later, while assisting King Gwanghae at an evening archery practice, Nokdu is unusually quiet. The king dismisses everyone so that Nokdu can give his report but he claims it’s no longer relevant now that Yoon-jo has been arrested. When asked about the rumor, Nokdu tells the king, “I did not hear the past incident…I just heard a story about your loneliness.”

The king offers his bow for Nokdu to try and as he aims at the target, King Gwanghae remembers, “Yoon-jo was the same way. He noticed the hardships of my life and my loneliness. And he embraced me as a true friend.” King Gwanghae’s face hardens when he adds, “However, it was all a lie. I will not forgive him.”

Nokdu’s can’t hold back his tears when the king continues, “I will not be deceived anymore. I will get that boy and kill him.” Nokdu points his arrow at the back of the king’s head just as King Gwanghae informs him that he’s promoting him to royal guard.

After King Gwanghae asks, “Will you stay by my side and protect me for a very long time,” Nokdu aims at the target and hits the bullseye. Nokdu bows as he accepts his promotion, his tears hidden by the brim of his hat.

The next day at the palace, Dong-joo’s friend notices that Nokdu’s uniform is now purple, meaning that he’s one of the king’s personal guards. Dong-joo is unable to work after hearing the news and her friend assumes it’s because she finds the work too hard. Dong-joo isn’t talking about work when she tries to imagine her life after giving up something that she’s wanted for so long.

Nokdu escorts the now free Hwang-tae from prison and when he refuses to go anywhere to talk, Nokdu tells him that Yoon-jo is in the royal prison. Nokdu chases after his angry brother to promise that he’ll save Yoon-jo but Hwang-tae mocks him, “Will you beg your biological father?”

Nokdu plans to publicize the truth about the king’s 20 year-old crime to keep him away from the royal prison but Hwang-tae reasons, “It will be quicker for Grand Prince Neungyang to take the throne and help me. I will make that happen and save Father, so do not worry.” Without another word, Hwang-tae walks away.

That night, a masked Nodku hangs posters and by morning, Dan-ho overhears people everywhere talking about the claim that the king killed his own son.

At the palace, King Gwanghae bellows that the person responsible for the rumor is to be killed before his eyes. When Nokdu reports for duty, he advises King Gwanghae to let the rumor die down on its own and to stay away from the royal prison. The king agrees when Nokdu volunteers to monitor the prisoner on his behalf.

Nokdu wastes no time in visiting Yoon-jo, who orders, “Get out this instant.” Nokdu looks at the only father that he’s ever known and regrets all of the suffering that he’s caused, “Just like what the King said, I should have just died.”

Yoon-jo scolds, “How dare you say that in front of your father!” Yoon-jo finally tells Nokdu the story about that fateful night, “You seemed lifeless at first. Then suddenly, you started crying….You were telling me that you were not dead. What I did was neither impressive nor difficult. I just did what I had to do as a human being.”

Yoon-jo and Nokdu are both crying when his father confesses, “Even if I could go back in time, I would save you once again. So value your life.” When told to leave the palace, Nokdu confesses, “I will neither run away nor hide.” After promising to save him soon, Nokdu leaves behind a troubled Yoon-jo.

Nokdu waits for Dong-joo outside of the queen’s palace and when he sees her explains, “I came to see you. I will go now that I have.” As Nokdu walks away, Dong-joo suggests going to the beach.

After leaving the palace early, Nokdu and Dong-joo dangle their feet over the water at the beach. When Dong-joo complains that she didn’t know it was so far away, Nokdu takes her hand, “I have you beside me. That is enough to make me happy.” Dong-joo silences Nokdu with a rice ball that she made herself and when he insists that she shouldn’t have, she calls him fussy.

Nokdu holds Dong-joo’s hand as they bicker over which one of them is more challenging. When Dong-joo mentions his time posing as a widow, Nokdu finally explains that he went to the widows’ village to find the person who could tell him who he really was. After finally discovering the truth, Nokdu understands that he needs to protect his father and his confession stops Dong-joo in her tracks. Dong-joo pulls her hand away, announcing that it’s time to go but Nokdu runs after her to take her hand.

During a meeting, King Gwanghae’s ministers urge him to send troops to help the Ming with a conflict. He refuses, arguing that the people haven’t fully recovered from the Japanese Invasion. Reminded that the Ming helped them defeat the Japanese, the king insists all they did was exploit his people. One of the ministers angers King Gwanghae when he points out that the king’s disregard for their country’s duty is the reason there are ugly rumors about him.

While running palace errands in the marketplace, Dong-joo is pulled into a side street by her former servants. Once Dong-joo recognizes the couple, they share a tearful reunion.

Nokdu stands guard outside the king’s hall when King Gwanghae walks out and takes his sword.

Dong-joo and the old couple hike to a remote area where her family is buried. The old man apologizes for its condition, explaining that they had to keep it hidden. When Dong-joo expresses gratitude through her tears, the old woman praises her for growing up well.

The couple informs Dong-joo that they were just questioned by the king and warns that they’ll all be in danger if it’s discovered that she’s alive. Dong-joo takes that as a threat and ignores the old man’s warning to disappear, “I will not run away. It was so hard to get this far.”

Nokdu’s sword drips with blood after King Gwanghae kills the bold minister. Nokdu is just feet away from the king as he waves the sword wildly, “So apparently, my son is alive. Therefore, he is much more qualified to take the throne.” After the guards are asked to escort the king from the hall and remove the body, Nokdu leaves with King Gwanghae as the ministers exchange uneasy looks.

Dong-joo returns to the palace just as the minister’s body is placed on a cart and Nokdu walks by with the shaken king. Everyone stops when the dead minister’s grieving son arrives but when he runs towards the king, Nokdu points a sword at him. As he’s arrested, the young man demands, “Bring back my father!” When the king sways unsteadily, Nokdu runs to his side and sees Dong-joo

EPISODE 26: “Go, Now!”

Nokdu stands guard outside the prison while the enraged King Gwanghae visits Yoon-jo. Inside, King Gwanghae blames his prisoner for all of his problems but Yoon-jo denies responsibility, “Regardless of my actions, the heinous truth you tried to cover up will not change.”

King Gwanghae pulls a hot iron from the fire and Nokdu hears Yoon-joo’s anguished cries as his flesh sizzles. Nokdu runs in and takes the iron away from the king who orders, “Give it back to me. Even if it means that I must kill him tonight, I must hear from him that the boy is dead.”

Nokdu reminds the king that the rumor will spread unless he controls himself. When the king stumbles, Nokdu helps him from the cell while glancing back at Yoon-jo.

In her room at the palace, Dong-joo stares at the tiny flowers that made up the ring that Nokdu gave her. She remembers the old couple’s warning that if she’s discovered they’ll all be killed as she stares at the wooden box with her bow and arrows. She’s even more conflicted after seeing Nokdu with the king.

Yoon-jo wakes up when Nokdu applies a balm to his badly burned leg. Yoon-jo worries that he’ll be seen but a weeping Nokdu vows, “I will make him shed tears of blood. I will drag him down from the throne that he is desperately trying to hold onto.”

A horrified Yoon-jo warns that he’ll end up just like the king but it’s a risk that Nokdu is willing to take in order to make up for the damage that he’s caused. When Yoon-jo protests, “He is your father who gave birth to you,” Nokdu explains, “That is why I cannot forgive him.”

In the morning, the king notices that Nokdu doesn’t look well and assumes that he’s disappointed in him. When Nokdu assures him that will never happen, King Gwanghae confesses that he’s afraid of what he’s become. He’s visibly moved when Nokdu promises, “I will never leave your side.”

The king assures Nokdu that things will be better after he visits his ancestors’ graves in two days time. When Yul-moo joins them, the king orders him to assist Nokdu in the search for his son when they return. King Gwanghae explains to Nokdu, “You must find him. If you think you might lose him, you may kill him.”

As King Gwanghae turns to go, Nokdu asks, “Why are you doing this,” and he’s told, “He was destined to take the throne. If he were to live, I was told that he would overthrow me.” When Nokdu asks if that’s the only reason, the king coldly answers, “To me that is more than enough reason.”

Once they’re alone, Yul-moo explains to Nokdu that the king killed the shaman for her prediction about his son. When Yul-moo is about to leave, Nokdu stops him.

Nokdu drinks alone into the night at the inn that he and Dong-joo visited with the king. We see that not only did Nokdu accept Yul-moo’s offer he vowed, “I will make his nightmare come true,” asking, “Let me kill him myself.”

When Nokdu finally leaves the inn, he walks to Yeun-geun’s house and finds Dong-joo there. Dong-joo guesses the he’s been drinking and Nokdu explains it was so he’d have the courage to tell her to leave him.

Confused why Nokdu would look for her at Yeon-guen’s house, Nokdu explains that like her, he can’t lie when he’s drunk so he came home. Nokdu confesses what he really wants, “Do not leave me…No matter what I do.”

Nokdu touches his forehead to Dong-joo’s as he wishes, “Even if I become a terrible person who committed something heinous, I wish you could remain by my side.” Tears fall from Dong-joo’s eyes and when Nokdu kisses her, she stops him.

Dong-joo confesses that she’s the one who’s terrible because she allowed Nokdu to sway her and now it’s time to end things. Stunned, Nokdu asks for an explanation and Dong-joo tells him, “No matter what happens or what I do, it will have nothing to do with you.”

Dong-joo runs away but Nokdu catches up to her to ask “Why must I lose you as well?” Nokdu hugs Dong-joo tightly, begging her not to leave but she softly explains that he’ll get hurt if she stays by his side. When Dong-joo pleads, “…please let me go,” Nokdu releases her and watches sadly as she walks away.

The next morning, Nokdu waits outside of the queen’s palace for Dong-joo but her friend announces that she was given a few days off while the queen visits a temple. At the same time, Dong-joo hands her former servants a small bundle filled with coins as thanks for all that they’ve done.

The couple is alarmed by what feels like a final goodbye and the old man begs Dong-joo not to do anything dangerous. A determined Dong-joo answers, “It is something I must do,” before walking away.

Yul-moo meets with his supporters who are anxious to remove King Gwanghae from the throne as soon as possible. After Yul-moo announces that there’s been a change in plans, Nokdu enters the room in uniform.

Yul-moo introduces him, “He is the son that everyone is talking about.” Yul-moo calls it fitting that the son that King Gwanghae abandoned will be the one to take him into custody after the palace is theirs.

One of the ministers sits across from Nokdu as he adds his thumbprint to Yul-moo’s Merit List. Yul-moo reminds Nokdu that should he change his mind, Hwang-tae is in his custody. Once Nokdu leaves, Yul-moo orders the minister to keep an eye on him and learns that he’s already being followed.

Yul-moo stresses that their plan hinges on securing the royal seal so that King Gwanghae’s orders will be ignored. The minister happens to be in charge of the seal and assures the grand prince that there’s nothing to worry about.

Yul-moo watches Nokdu as he walks away from his house, telling Dan-ho that he’ll be useful after the king is dethroned. While Yul-moo can’t kill his uncle, Nokdu can, and he promises, “I will not let a scumbag who killed his own father live. When his time comes, you will get to kill him yourself.”

Nokdu meets with Officer Baek outside of the police bureau to confirm that he’s accompanying the queen to the temple. Nokdu hands over the queen’s norigae, explaining that he found it at the palace. When Nokdu asks him to take good care of the queen, Officer Baek looks confused but the arrival of the old servant distracts him.

The old man reports Dong-joo’s plot against the king and is accused of lying after claiming that she was dead. The old man explains that he didn’t know the young lady was alive and Nokdu looks uneasy when he mentions that she was living at a gisaeng house.

Officer Baek asks for the girl’s whereabouts and when the old man describes the inn, Nokdu offers to search for her so that Baek can report the plot to the king. After Nokdu follows the old man outside, he learns that the gisaeng house where the young lady stayed was in Mudam Valley and that she now works as a servant in the palace.

As Nokdu approaches the inn, he tells himself, “No. That cannot be,” but he starts to run as fast as he can. At the inn, Nokdu describes Dong-joo and it told that she stepped out. Unaware of the search for her whereabouts, Dong-joo stops by the swing and just misses Nokdu.

Dong-joo is in her room when the innkeeper asks why everyone is looking for the same young lady. Officer Baek reminds his officers, “Kill her as soon as you catch her. That was the King’s order.”

Officer Baek isn’t able to open Dong-joo’s door thanks to a wooden spoon shoved in the latch. By the time he gets inside, Dong-joo has escaped out a back window.

Dong-joo runs through the streets with the box that holds her bow and arrows while the police and Nokdu search for her. It’s Nokdu who catches up to her first and his fears are confirmed when Dong-joo spins around, pointing her crossbow at him.

Flustered, Dong-joo hides the bow behind her back as Nokdu slowly approaches, memories of her many hints coming back to him. When he reaches Dong-joo, Nodku asks haltingly, “Do you know who I am,” and her tears confirm that she does.

Nokdu weeps as the tragedy of their situation hits him but at the sound of the approaching officers, he urges Dong-joo, “Hurry. Go now.” Dong-joo turns back to look at Nokdu as she runs away, leaving him all alone.

 
COMMENTS

Nokdu shed so many tears this hour as those that he longed to be close to turned their backs on him. First it was King Gwanghae, his biological father and a man that he found himself naturally drawn to. Rather than welcoming the second chance that Nokdu’s survival offered him, the king chose the throne over his son yet again, ordering his new personal guard to kill the boy, unaware that they’re one and the same. It doesn’t get more real than that and the decision forces Nokdu in a direction that he never considered. But once he accepts the inevitability, Nokdu goes dark in the most heartbreaking way.

Dong-joo also turned away from Nokdu and I’m angry with her because if she succeeds with her plot, Nokdu would face an impossible dilemma. As one of the king’s personal guards, Nokdu’s role is to kill anyone who’s a threat, making that final scene as Dong-joo runs off with her crossbow and arrow so pitiable. Not only does he ignore his duty, Nokdu is forsaken by someone who he’d hoped would stay by his side.

Of course Nokdu had already decided to join forces with Yul-moo in a jaw-dropping development, asking to kill King Gwanghae himself. Accepting that his days are numbered, Nokdu intends to remove the one threat to Yoon-jo’s existence, the adoptive father who’s sacrificed all to save him and has never wavered in his support. Now he has the added impetus of killing the king before Dong-joo can get to him.

And of course Hwang-tae continues to push Nokdu away, becoming more hateful with each encounter. He’s determined to be the hero, saving Yoon-jo and restoring the family name. Hwang-tae’s abandonment, along with the king’s and Dong-joo’s, leaves Nokdu pathetically alone to deal with the question of his destiny.

What a sad revelation to absorb, that your father values the throne more than the life of his own son. The king’s willingness to kill an innocent infant because of a shaman’s prediction is bad enough, but his commitment to that decision 20 years later is chilling. Yoon-jo’s rescue of the king’s newborn son saved King Gwanghae from the guilt of such a heinous act but he doesn’t see it that way. All he sees is a conspiracy to take the throne away from him even though his reign is illegitimate. Prince Youngchang was meant to succeed his father, not Gwanghae, but he ordered the decree making Prince Youngchang the crown prince destroyed. Disobeying that order is what got Dong-joo’s family killed and later, Minister Heo. King Gwanghae ignores the wasteland of his personal life to cling to a throne that was never meant for him. Rather than appreciate that his line could continue with his son, he’s fixated on holding his position until he dies.

With King Gwanghae verging on the brink of insanity, Nokdu joins Yul-moo’s plot to save Yoon-jo and now Dong-joo. Even though his heart is broken, Nokdu has accepted his role in the inevitable downfall of King Gwanghae. As we anticipate the final few episodes, the question is now who will survive and who will be lost?

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Normally I would have dropped this drama by now, as I usually find the political plots boring. And while this one isn't really covering any new ground in terms of the way it's playing out, I find myself really invested in it nonetheless. I think a lot of it has to do with the character of Nokdu. The show has done an excellent job in making the viewer invested in his happiness. He is ultimately a good man, who wants a simple, quiet life but who steps up when he needed to. He's not impulsive or selfish (except when it comes to Dong-joo) and and he genuinely cares for people.

I love how the plot threads have now converged, pulling the many threads together to show the whole picture. We know from history how this turns out, but adding in the variables of Nokdu and Dong-joo here make the history more compelling in this iteration. It broke my heart so many times in this episode: when Nokdu realized that it was mere words from a shaman that caused his father to hate his existence. When his brother chose to abandon him for the one person who can't be trusted. When the only father he knew thought his loyalties should be with the one who gave him life. And when the silence between himself and Dong-joo finally reached its breaking point, and the separation we all knew was inevitable came.

Even if the way this will play out is predictable, I look forward to the final episodes because I think the drama has overall done an excellent job at pacing the plot and setting up the characters so that we care for their fates.

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It's not just the writing of his character, but the nuanced performance by such a wonderful actor that's making me care about his fate.

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This too. Jang Dong-yoon has always impressed me and is someone who I follow closely since he picks good projects and always puts in excellent performances. (Even when the writing fails him. No, I'm not still salty about A Poem a Day, why do you ask?). But but here he has manged to bring an extra level of nuance to Nokdu and elevated the story beyond what it could've been.

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Still a little salty here too.

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It's not even that I was on a ship (Island dweller here) but rather that they just decided that he wasn't the lead anymore so they committed character assassination and it was jarring in the final few episodes. I'm glad to see that he finally got to properly be a lead, and I'm so glad he's killing it here.

But yeah, totally not salty.

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@snarkyjellyfish I was totally on a ship. I've mostly learned my lesson.

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True, JDY has added a certain charm to the character that is really captivating. I have really liked his acting in two of his shows that I have watched. But his performance here has made him one of my favourite k-drama actors of all time.

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I have to give props to both him and Kim So-hyun - their characters are not easy to play, but they make it look so natural and effortless.

And this is the first time in over a decade I've seen a believable cross-dresser in a drama - the last one was Yoon Eun-hye in Coffee Prince (2007), we've finally got her male equivalent here with JDY as Widow Kim.

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Both Jang Dong Yoon and Kim So Hyun have added a little something extra to their characters. It alleviated the whole drama. Every character in the drama is meaningful to making the drama fun and interesting.

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The chemistry is best!! Love them!!

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Exactly..Jang Dong Yoon perfectly embodied the character and he has given a commendable performance so far. It's a combination of his acting and the writing of the character that made me love and care about Nokdu so much. Not to mention the strong chemistry he has with the other actors especially Kim So Hyun.

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Jang Dong Yoon is a revelation in this role.

Thinking about trying Dance Sports Girls some time, but his Nokdu role may be hard to top.

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Dance Sports Girls is awesome, but don’t go into it for Jang Dong-yoon. Go into it for Park Se-wan’s fantastic performance as the heroine.

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She's amazing too. Each character takes on a total life of its own in her hands.

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@mindy @ndlessjoie @snarkyjellyfish Thanks! I haven't seen Park Se Wan in anything, but I'm intrigued. :)

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what @mindy said. He does an excellent job in it too, and I sort of think of the drama a precursor to this one, especially in its treatment of female characters, but Park Se-wan just hits it out of the park in DSG. I recently rewatched it and it really holds up. It's one of the few shows that really treats a teenage girl's emotional pain as valid while also being incredibly nuanced about social issues revolving around economic differences.

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I started it and got halfway through before realising I needed to save it for Nokdu-less weeks but it's so good! I love how real the heroine feels, and the fact that all the characters feel like actual people and not tropes.

I can't believe I missed out a whole JDY project where he's actually the male lead (and Park Se-wan, who I really liked in School 2017 and I'm Not A Robot) but that's what you get for being in a drama slump at the time.

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I have to thank the friends who convinced me to watch Solomon's Perjury three years ago - I've had an eye on him ever since, and kept my fingers crossed that he'd get a full-length lead role in the near future, because he certainly showed the talent for it. If We Were A Season just fed that appetite even more - he has great chemistry with all his female leads, and I'm forever adamantly on the side of him+Chae Soo-bin being the OTP of that one act.

And now we've finally got him as the lead in a role where he isn't playing a high school kid, I have to say it - he's starting to remind me of a young Song Joong-ki. He has the boyish look, and the ability to handle a wide range of roles and even the technical skill of sageuk pronunciation (and to top it all off, looks equally beautiful with long hair).

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I adored If We Were a Season and I've actually watched it several times. It's also proof that a great story can be told in 60 minutes and still leave you feeling incredibly fulfilled. JDY really does pick projects with interesting female characters. I hope him and CSB work together on something again, as they were just great together in that.

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If We Were A Season is one of those dramas that lives and dies by OTP chemistry, and they had it in spades.

I'm so, so glad he's the male lead in this drama, not least because it's nice to finally see Kim So-hyun with a male lead who can match up to her talent and a role that lets her play with her full range of skills. And good writing for her character!

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So where can IF WE WERE A SEASON be watched?

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@zzthorn - it was subbed on KBS World's youtube channel with most of the other drama specials, two years ago. I hope it's still there!

(I'm personally holding off on finishing Dance Sports Girls, I'm going to need it over the next few weeks to stave off Nokdu withdrawal).

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@zzthorn it's on youtube with subs.

Here's the link: https://youtu.be/vZ7EMIH0oHw

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Thank you @pogo1 and @snarkyjellyfish

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I first discovered JDY in Solomon's Perjury when it aired years ago and was thoroughly impressed by his acting as a new comer. I loved JDY and CSB in If We Were A Season! To think that he was never actually planning on becoming an actor and the opportunity just came to him!!

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 To think that he was never actually planning on becoming an actor and the opportunity just came to him!!

The story itself sounds straight out of a kdrama lol.

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He's going to be really grateful that he got military service out of the way...

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@cloggie - I personally find it very interesting that he and Kim So-hyun are both on Kim Eun-sook's radar (Mr Sunshine/Goblin guest/supporting roles).

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I can't praise Jang Dong Yoon highly enough either. He's been a real stand-out for me watching this drama. The fact that he has been able to carry the comedic and light-hearted scenes of the earlier episodes equally as well as these darker, heartbreaking ones really says something about his range as an actor.

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The whole cast have flawlessly carried the nuances of the drama between comedy and angst.

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They really do! I love that nearly everyone gets the odd funny moment, even Dan-ho courtesy of Aeng-du. And the king when in Chief Administrative Officer guise.

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Same - when it comes to comedic and dramatic roles, there are plenty of actors who are good at one but not the other, or not as good anyway, but Jang Dong-yoon is fantastic at both and that's a huge part of why this drama has worked (plus the writing).

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He is nokdu!! Fully only him!!

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I'm the same, since this is usually where I get bored in a sageuk (and this whole thing is just not as interesting or fun as the first half). But these characters are great and I want them to eventually find happiness even after their floundering mistakes. And both leads do flounder and do make mistakes. From a character standpoint it's really a superior drama.

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Agreed. This is a drama that I am 100% in it for the characters, and i feel like that's ok. We know where the story is going because history, but the way it's told and the world it has created within this moment in history are just fantastic. It was a wholly satisfying drama start to finish, and is going down as a favorite to be revisited.

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This has become a total sob-fest, gone are the days of laughter.
The scene where Nokdu was hiding his tears behind his hat while pointing the arrow at the target was really well acted and the moment when he turned the arrow to point at the King, I got chills. Nokdu joining forces with Yul moo to get revenge on the King is not a good decision. He is consumed with anger, hatred and grief and therefore is not thinking rationally. He is even conflicted about it. The King has pushed away the only ally who could have saved him and I doubt the Queen will ever forgive the King when she comes to know about his heinous act, so he has no one beside him now.
I liked how in the previous episode Dong Joo put her head on Nokdu's shoulder for comfort and in this episode Nokdu does the same with Dong Joo.
The ending scene where Nokdu let her go realising the dire situation she is in and Dong Joo looking back at him while running away was beautifully done. It's sad to see Nokdu being left all alone especially when he is going through a difficult time.
Thanks for the recap TeriYaki!

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I got chills at the close-up of Nokdu's foot turning those crucial few degrees to shift his aim. And that (beautifully detailed, kudos to the production for paying attention to the little things!) arrow pointed right at the king as a result.

Ooof. Goosebumps even now.

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I got the chills too, and it was such a perfectly tempting moment. The king is out of his mind and killing him would save his dad. Sure Nokdu could be killed for the assassination, but he already has a target on his back.

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It's got to be a hard realisation, finding out that your benevolent ajusshi friend is not only your father, but wants you dead for existing at all. And after all this time he's trusted him and tried to protect him.

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How about this, Nokdu's brother turns out to be the paranoid King's son. Nokdu turns out to be Yoon Jo's son, takes his hands off the situation and runs away with his father and Dong Joo, leaving Yul Moo or whoever it is (I can't care less) to fight with the King for the throne.
I'm a bit annoyed with how dark the show has turned out to be, especially when Nokdu agrees to kill the King, who is supposed to be his biological father. I don't find it reasonable at all. He has more than enough wit and strength to get his adoptive father out of that dungeon. And judging on his character, it just doesn't make sense, unless there is a plot twist that Nokdu is trying to fool Yul Moo.

I know the angst and separation are inevitable in the usual 13-14th episode of Korean drama in general, but found the execution in this one underwhelming. Don't take me wrong. I love the actors and their performance. It's just that the plot doesn't seem convincing to me why DJ would get out of the palace at that particular time for no particular reason to stay at an inn. Maybe, just maybe because if she was to be in the palace at that point, she wouldn't be able to escape.

Show, please give me a reason to continue to care and root for you, not just for the sake of completion.

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I thought the in-story reason for Dong-joo being out of the palace was that she had a few days off while the court lady she worked for, was escorting the queen to the royal ancestral rites ceremony? (The king was planning to go too, and that was when Yul-moo intended to strike but DJ doesn't know that yet).

I do agree that it's convenient for her to not be within palace walls at the time, but that's nothing a spot of cross-dressing and a very worried boyfriend wouldn't help her with.

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I really adore our leads. They may be one of my favorite couples this year (depending on how the drama wraps up their story). So even with the downpour of tears this hour, I wasn’t frustrated with the angst. Thankfully, the bit of noble idiocy didn’t show up for too long and Nokdu figured out Dong Joo’s past quickly. Now that they know each other’s secrets, I’m hoping they’ll open up to each other more and stick together.

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I adore them too. They've got, hands down, the best chemistry I've seen in any drama in 2018-19, and the writing backs up the actors by leaning hard into it and actually letting the characters acknowledge a mutual attraction.

I liked that this wasn't an instance of noble idiocy - Dong-joo and Nokdu have always been frank about there being secrets they need to keep, and that they'd rather not tell each other things than lie about them. And this episode, they're actually on the same side!

That last scene absolutely gutted me, though. I love that she kept turning back to look at him until she couldn't any more, way to stab me in the heart with both their tears.

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Mine too I haven seen this kind of chemistry is a long while.

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Certainly not in the last couple of years, for sure. The last couple I can think of who had that kind of sparks was Yoo Seung-ho and Chae Soo-bin in I'm Not A Robot, which ended in early 2018.

(ironically, both are former costars of KSH and JDY from previous projects!)

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I really loved I Am Not a Robot. So many Kdramas (and even more Cdramas) fizzle out, and end up with the last half or third of the drama, or even the last episode, or last 30 minutes, ruining or downgrading the overall quality of what had been - up to that point - a really fantastic drama. But IANAR is one drama whose ending, by almost exactly mirroring the first episode, and thus showing how every single thing in Kim Min-kyu's life had changed since that first episode, was absolutely perfect. I've rarely been more satisfied with a drama's ending. And everything in-between was pretty delightful as well.

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I have no opinion on INAR

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INAR was delightful all the way through to the end - I could gush more, but I have to head out now!

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Ye Olde Self-Fulfilling Prophecy About Conflict Between Father & Son. Again.

If these are so common, and so dependably effective, can we start one about [insert name of really prominent person you don't like]?

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Darth Vader?

Though even he came around in the end...

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Oh my I wish Nokdu didn't have to work with Yul Mu. I think Yul Mu is worse in what he had done but the King tried to have his son killed and did other bad things. I am now curious how everything will play out. I miss the fun show we had when we started. It feels like a different show to me now. But normally any other Saguek would have turned serious by now anyway so I am totally fine with that now (as long as I can get a satisfactory ending that is).

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The tone is a 180 from the start but I appreciate that the groundwork for all this was seeded through the early episodes.. and in a weird way, I like the development of the darker side. It's a bit like the shift in tone between Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back (complete with a murderous bio dad and a birth secret).

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Funny thing is when others complain about change in tone or how a tone goes from funny to serious then funny again I don't see it that way infact I am used to it. There has been only one other time where I thought it was too sudden and it was SWDBS. I am mostly fine with them but it feels different here and more sudden and jarring then anything I've ever seen before. And that happened all in just two episodes I guess that's why. It feels like it has settled down now though so maybe that's why I don't mind as much now.

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I actually don't have that issue because for me, the darkness in this story has always been right around the corner for Nokdu and Dong-joo, like we knew before they did. So it makes sense that the chickens have come home to roost now.

What does feel abrupt and add to the dark feel is Nokdu doing a full 180 and plotting assassination himself. That was not what I expected him to do!

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I am the other way round cause I expected that, heh.

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Actually I don't think his plotting assassination is a complete 180. He has always been protective of the people around him especially his family. I don't think he's plotting to kill the king to stay alive he's doing it to keep his family safe.

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@Helena thinking about it, I'm not surprised that he's angry and trying to protect his real dad, only that he goes into a treason pact with Yul-moo when he knows full well he's not to be trusted and will stab them all in the back.

I would have been a lot less shocked had he, say, found out Dong-joo's plot first and joined her in that.

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So it's not really the assassination plot that shocks me so much (though it still surprises me!) as Nokdu putting himself in the hands of that snake.

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I’ll take the side of ... NokDu is planning to double cross Yul-moo. NokDu has had plenty of opportunities to kill the king if he wanted to.

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@FlyingTool - I would live for that double cross! But unfortunately for Nokdu, I think he really is heartbroken and disillusioned (more so since he was so fond of the king in his Chief Administrative Officer disguise, and he'd seemed like an actually decent person to Nokdu) and furious enough to be playing this straight.

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Think of it, it's been darker before - widow village massacre? Hyung's face-heel turn? Dong-joo literally being buried alive as a child?

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The dark and serious parts were always there, but the ratio of fluff-to-dark was like 90:10. I also miss ratio of having lots of fun/fluffy bits. I had expected it to get dark at some point (assassins+royal birth secret make it inevitable). The week with the widows village massacre was a difficult transition, but after that, the handling of the royal plot and fluffy parts is well-balanced.

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Exactly how I feel. It was just those two episodes that were the problem.

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We've now descended into darkness and so has our literal bean, Nokdu (I'm mad at him for giving his thumbprint to a snake like Yul-moo, even more than I am at Dong-joo - he's acting on impulse and out of justifiable hurt and anger, but Dong-joo's number was up once her former servant ratted her out - she's been trying to rehearse on an assassination attempt, but this time her hand was forced and she had to run once Nokdu and the palace guards worked out where she was.... so I'm not sure it's fair to blame her for leaving, when she's trying to execute a long-thought-out plan to do the exact same thing Nokdu now wants to. The irony of it all....)

It's also not lost on me that when Nokdu tells Dong-joo he has to protect his father, he doesn't say which one (as he can't). He obviously means Yoon-jo, but she interprets it to mean the king.

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I wish Dong-Joo had lied to the servants about why she was there. Like I want to live with a good job, lol, and meet handsome guards. I had suspected that the servants would be forced to give her up at some point. Didn't expect the old man to come forward wtih the info that quickly.

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I knew the old couple would cause some sort of trouble. They seemed a bit wishy washy with their actions.

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I knew the old man would - he was the one who very nearly blurted out to the king that Dong-joo was still alive before his wife cut him off and said she was dead.

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It's good all the secrets are out because and build up to the climax is getting more intense.

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@Globe I knew this drama was on a good run with the plot when I realised they weren't afraid to kill off significant supporting characters like Lady Chun of the gibang or Minister Heo, who set the entire story in motion. People don't outlive their usefulness to the story.

(I'm glad Ssook is still alive though, don't hurt her!)

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It's good and consistent writing.

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Also, amidst all the (well deserved!) love for Jang Dong-yoon, I want to say a word for my girl Kim So-hyun and the fact that this is the first ever full-length lead role she's had that's been both worthy of her talents and provided her with a co-lead whose acting skills or lack thereof, haven't had to be compensated for by her. (It's been lacking one or the other until now, Ruler and Radio Romance were both a waste of her).

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Yes, with this I completely agree.

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Agreed! I've always found her to be charming and talented in the roles she had portrayed before and she is definitely splendid here. Dong Joo is a complex character and KSH did justice to the character.
Kudos to all the actors for giving an amazing performance. There's not a single weak link in this drama.

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Ah but in Let's Fight Ghost/Bring it on Ghost, Kim So-hyun was an absolute delight. I couldn't get enough of her charismatic character. And most of all, I was amazed that her presence gave an actor like Ok Taecyeon credibility for the first time ever as an actor. Their chemistry was also special, even though quite different from her chemistry with Jang Dong-yoon.

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Honestly, Taecyeon as an actor.....there's a reason I mentioned having a costar who pulls his own weight in the acting department as JDY does.

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Yes, I know Taecyeon doesn't exactly stand up as a great actor (ahem) but, in that drama Kim So-hyun did bring out the best in him and for the first time ever, he did okay with his character. I believed him as a socially awkward, bright, caring ghost buster. If she, the little 17 year old, was carrying him (the 27 year old), then so be it. She did a great job. I was really entertained by that drama and I'm not one to "rewatch" too many dramas (except for ones I'm obsessing over) but I have watched that one 3 times since 2016. I did watch a later drama with Taecyeon in it (something about a cult, I think) and I felt his acting had continued to be better than what I remember of earlier work. And yes @pogo1 I did suspect you might have been thinking of Taecyeon when you said that. I just had to throw in my 2 cents because it's awfully quiet today and I must have been lonely. :-)

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2016? It's crazy to think that's the same year Jang Dong-yoon made his debut as an actor.

Some people are just never going to make for good actors, and others, well, they spark from day 1.

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That said, I'm glad Kim So-hyun gets the credit for the success of that drama. She more than deserves it!

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A word of appreciation is much needed for KSH. While DJ may not look it but she is actually a complex character whose back story is not properly revealed until much later in the story yet KSH gives her all the layers and nuances we need to sympathize with the character from the very beginning. Not to mention the fantastic chemistry she has built with JDY.

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Dong-joo in the hands of any other actress, could have been yet another forgettable Joseon Candy. That she isn't, is testament to Kim So-hyun's talent.

I really love seeing what she's capable of when she isn't encumbered by a stupid plot, bad character writing or a costar who can't keep up with her on the acting front.

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Sometimes I feel KSH doesn't get the proper credit for the depth she adds to every character even when they have none (coughrulercough). I often keep reminding myself she is only 20 and has yet a lot of different characters to challenge herself with further in the future.

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She's had the gravitas to carry entire dramas ever since she was a child who hadn't even reached full shoe size. She's a great fit for sageuks and melo because of that, but I like that this drama also allows her to be playful and charming as befits her age (coughunlikerulercough).

I'd love to see her in a broader comic role someday, with a costar who isn't visibly 10+ years older than her. Or anything, really, as long as it does her right.

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She does but not enough appreciation is given to it. Especially when the scripts are of very bad quality and she had to carry it on skills alone. It's delightful she has this role and is nailing every bit of it while also having fun with it.

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Yes she so good as dongju!! Acting and chemistry 100/100!!

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She's never not good in a role, but this is the first time I've seen her with chemistry at this level. Like ☇. And in a role that allows her to show her abilities to the full <3.

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What a treat this show has been.. wonderful pacing, great acting, good script and directing, not to mention the little details and soundtrack. I’m so glad I stumbled upon this show and decided to watch it.

I’m watching episode 14 today on Nokdu’s birthday - he would be 21 today!

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It really is such a gem of a show!

Aww the thought of Nokdu turning 21 as we watch his story unfold is pretty heartwarming.

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It's a mark of how much I love this character, that the thought of us watching his story as his birthday passes gives me a big, goofy smile.

Though he'd be closer to 421 by now 😂

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Haha very true!

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Same here, it's every good thing a fusion sageuk should be and a few more besides. Writing, directing, acting, production, music, not a single department slacks off.

And awww, Nokdu's birthday!

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This. Absolutely this. It is the mix of everything I want from a fusion sageuk. Especially episode 14 was exceptionally good. Can't talk about it here in detail but I was blown away with how good the episode was.

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Yeah, well I just watched ep 15 (29-30) and am not sure I'm looking forward to next Monday at all when the tale ends. If I just don't watch it does that mean the tale continues on indefinitely?

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NOOOOOO I don't want this show to end 😭

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Me, too. I don't want it to end, and I'm also hoping and wishing that they don't ruin what has been a total and complete delight with a bad ending.

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@vespertyne - I just hope for the ending to let Dong-joo and Nokdu be together AND sorta make sense (eg if Nokdu somehow gets involved with the crown or ends up in the line of succession then please, at least solve the issue of Dong-joo being the descendant of a family accused of treason, instead of just ignoring it)

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I'll see reruns and watch it forever!!

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Watched it and....oh, yes.

This is the stretch where dramas usually start flagging or feeling like 'get it over and cut to the ending already' but none of that for Nokdu, of course.

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Nope. I think right up until the last credit rolls, we're going to be sitting on the edges of our seats, wringing our hands together and crying out for mercy for our Nok-du and Dong-Joo, a box of tissues at the ready, just in case history raises it's ugly head.

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@zzthorn - damn pesky history! But I do want at least a historically plausible ending, if not a faithful one, that allows Nokdu and Dong-joo to be a couple officially (unlike the one in Moonlight).

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@pogo1 in real history apparently the king's son did have a wife and they did seem to love each other. I don't know what the writer's have come up with, but the real history of those two characters seems more and more likely as we get closer to the end. We'll know in a few days.

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@zzthorn - so this is closer to real life than we thought? O_0

Just a few more days T_T I want our kids to get their happy ending but I also don't want the show itself to end T_T

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@pogo1 unfortunately, by the looks of things, it is getting really close to the history book, especially now that Nokdu is wounded and they have made an escape. We all know that Injo intends to abduct Dong jo and she will never allow that. Well, I don't think she will anyway. But of course little drama fairies can carry the story anywhere they want. I wonder what season of the year it is supposed to be right now in the drama? By the way, the son of King Gwanghae and the Queen was named Yi Ji.

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Re: discussion on costumes, carried over from the last thread - thank you to whoever mentioned the purple military uniform (and sorry my internet is laggy so I can't get that page to load to find out which of you guys it was) , I may not have watched enough palace sageuks so it's genuinely new to me, but that was a fantastic look!

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Oh yes, the costumes for Nok du and also for the King have often been gorgeous. I'd love to see those costumes laid out to inspect close up. Some of the embroidery and brocade has just been so beautiful. And that purple color that Nok du wears is so royal. If they had a book showing all these beautiful costumes for Tale of Nok du, I surely buy it.

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The gat strings alone.....I love that they actually give us different kinds of beading , that's a level of detail that would've easily been overlooked but the Nokdu costume department is no slouch.

Same with the decorations on Dong-joo's pink hair ribbons, I've seen dozens of sageuks but never one like that. This team loves detail!

I would totally love a feature on the costumes , they really look like a labour of love.

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@pogo1 me, too, me, too, me, too

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Also I reckon purple didn't have the same connotations in Joseon Korea that it did in ancient Tyre, but Nokdu looks amazing in it. They've been so good at picking colour palettes for each of the actors and for the overall look of the drama.

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Royal purple nokdu!! Pure black yulmu!! Deep blue dongju!! So many beautiful colors and costumes!!

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Love this drama!! Even in angst so good!! Poor Dongjeon Couple!!

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Give them happy ending!!

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yes, @ninjabolt we wish for the best but prepare for the worst so we can handle it if it happens.

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Fingers crossed for our bean!

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