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Tale of Nokdu: Episodes 27-28

All the secrets our lovers have kept from each other are now in the open and our hero has never felt more alone. In his despair, he joins hands with the enemy in order to take revenge on a common foe. This unholy union has a price, however, and there are plots to end not only the king’s reign, but Nokdu’s life. Luckily, there are also those who love Nokdu and as each side races against the clock, it’s anyone’s guess who’ll be victorious.

 
EPISODE 27: “Plan of Revolt”

Reeling from the revelation that not only has Dong-joo been plotting the king’s death, but knows that he is secretly the king’s son, tears stream down Nokdu’s face as he urges Dong-joo to escape before the other guards arrive. She runs, looking back through her own tears before disappearing into the night. The guards find Nokdu and he tells them he was also searching for Dong-joo, but she must’ve run the opposite way.

Officer Baek is incredulous, but follows Nokdu’s orders. As soon as they’re gone, he dissolves once more into sobs. Later, Baek reports to the king that their search was fruitless but assures him they’ll continue looking. The king then orders a background check on Nokdu before dismissing him. The following day, Dong-joo thinks of Nokdu as she sits at her family’s grave while he wanders the fields listlessly.

King Gwanghae leaves the palace and as Nokdu rides in the procession, he looks blankly at the people bowing, unaware Dong-joo is among them, disguised as a man. The queen is praying at the temple and runs to the dungeon as soon as the king is gone to order Yoon-jo’s release. Outside, he tells her that Nokdu knows everything and is serving as the royal guard.

She recalls being told the royal guard had found her pendant and then flashes back to the night she’d met Nokdu on the palace grounds and returned his hat. The queen realizes in horror what it means for Nokdu to be with the king now and Yoon-jo urges her to hide herself while he goes to stop Nokdu. Before he leaves, the queen begs Yoon-jo to protect Nokdu.

The royal party reaches their rest house, ignorant they’ve been followed. As Yoon-joo runs around the outer gate, he meets Dong-joo and they both try to act inconspicuous as they pass. Inside, King Gwanghae drinks and while a guard worries for him, the minister in Yul-moo’s pocket dismisses him by regaling the king’s past travels. Another minister agrees that King Gwanghae did a lot for his people.

“How could I abandon my people who were like my own children?” King Gwanghae says somberly, “I just did what I should have done.” His words sting as Nokdu recalls the way he’d spat at Yoon-jo that his actual child must die. Unable to listen to the king’s lies, Nokdu stands abruptly and asks to be excused to check on their security. King Gwanghae chuckles that Nokdu probably finds their glory days boring and allows him to leave.

Nokdu steps outside and forlornly plucks a daisy, thinking of Dong-joo. She watches from a few feet away and unconsciously starts to call him before slapping a hand to her mouth and darting out of sight. He hears, but before Nokdu can investigate, Yul-moo’s minister follows him out to complain about his behavior. Nokdu coldly dismisses his concerns and urges the man inside before he can discover Dong-joo. When he returns, she’s gone but so is the daisy he’d left behind.

The following morning, Officer Baek reports to King Gwanghae that Yoon-jo has disappeared along with the queen. Dong-joo hides in the trees and takes aim at the king but he suddenly collapses from shock and Nokdu unwittingly blocks her shot, forcing her to stand down. “They’re trying to get rid of me… so they could give him the throne,” King Gwanghae growls, “My throne…”

King Gwanghae orders palace security strengthened and for the queen and Yoon-jo to be found immediately. He announces they’ll abandon the trip to the shrines and return to Hanyang. Nokdu casts a worried glance at an ominous sky and helps the king inside. Dong-joo runs around to follow, but is caught by a guard. A sword at her throat, the guard orders she drop her crossbow, but Yoon-jo appears and knocks him back.

The guard slices Yoon-jo’s arm but Dong-joo shoots him dead before he can attack again. She bandages Yoon-jo’s arm and he guesses she’s up to no good. Dong-joo quips that he appears to be in a similar boat. Yoon-jo urges her to rethink her path, clarifying that he’s here to protect someone, not inflict harm. Dong-joo wonders if he means the king and Yoon-jo points out he wouldn’t have attacked the guard if that were the case.

Yoon-jo warns that even if she succeeds, she’ll be killed but Dong-joo replies that she’d promised her mother she’d take revenge for their family. Yoon-jo argues no parent would ask such a thing of their child and his own greatest fear is that his son will do just that and ruin his life. He continues that Dong-joo’s parents surely wanted her to live happily rather than waste her time on hate.

His words trigger a flashback and Dong-joo remembers her mother cradling her in their mass grave. “Do not be sorry. Be sad… only briefly. And forget about all the awful things,” Mom had told her, “Forget everything. And make sure… Make sure you live, my baby.” In the present, tears flood Dong-joo’s eyes and she demands how she could forget and be happy after seeing her whole family slaughtered.

Yoon-jo apologizes for dredging up her pain, but implores her to reconsider her choice. Dong-joo rushes off and Yoon-jo looks up as the sky grows darker. Soon, rain is pouring and the head eunuch informs the king the bridge has broken. He urges the king to leave tomorrow as it will soon be nightfall, but the king insists on returning now.

The minister praises Nokdu’s thinking with the bridge and Nokdu retorts that it was only possible thanks to the guards the minister had secretly brought to watch Nokdu. The minister says they need to eliminate the king before the rest of his guards arrive, but Nokdu orders him to stop meddling and stick to the plan.

That evening, Dong-joo shakes off Yoon-jo’s pleas and readies herself to assassinate the king. Meanwhile, Yul-moo prepares to occupy the castle. Hwang-tae stops him to demand why security was heightened at the palace. Yul-moo senses fear and assures him everything will go smoothly as he stalks through the streets, leading a parade of armed men. Inside, the guards rush to the gate only for another group of guards to block them.

The leader of the second group declares the revolt and orders the gate opened. He warns the others that they’ll have to fight him if they wish to protect the king. “Does the king deserve such loyalty from you?” he sneers and this time his order is obeyed. The gates open and Yul-moo leads his party inside the palace.

EPISODE 28: “Dog-joo Stands Before the King”

King Gwanghae drinks and recalls the night his son was born. The queen had gleefully placed the child in his arms and he’d looked down tearfully as he’d thought, “Why did you have to be born on the 19th of November?” His reverie is broken by the arrival of Nokdu, complying with the king’s summons. The king pours him a drink and when Nokdu declines, the king assumes he’s just being honorable.

The king asks if Nokdu has written to his family, which Nokdo confesses he hasn’t. King Gwanghae note that Nokdu’s father must be set in his ways for Nokdu to still be hesitant. Nokdu nods that his father is also benevolent and warmhearted. “When I have failed as a son, he still…” the words get caught in Nokdu’s throat and King Gwanghae envies the bond between father and son.

He admits he’d walked on thin ice around his own father and had thought it was because he feared being abandoned or banished. “But in retrospect,” he sighs, “I just… wanted to be loved by him at least once.” King Gwanghae ponders choosing to live as a father that adored his own son, instead. Nokdu asks if he regrets his choice, but the king says it doesn’t matter anymore. He lies down and Nokdu looks down at his sword with a pained expression.

Outside, the minister tells Nokdu the king’s guards will arrive soon and questions whether Nokdu is having second thoughts. Grabbing the minister by the throat, Nokdu growls that he wants to kill the king now, but is hanging on by a thread. He warns the minister to shut up if he wants to live and the minister spits that the king must return alive for the revolt to be successful. Nokdu reminds him to shut up and then catches sight of Dong-joo and bolts after her, leaving the minister to stew on his own.

Prince Yeongchang’s mother is retrieved from her confinement by Yul–moo’s men as he enters the throne room. Yul-moo grins that as long as Nokdu does his part, he’ll soon be king. Hwang-tae asks if he’ll keep his word and Yul-moo quips that also depends on Nokdu. He adds that if the revolt is successful, he’ll kill Nokdu, wondering if that bothers Hwang-tae. Swallowing, Hwang-tae says he only cares that Yul-moo keeps his word. Dan-ho and Hwang-tae leave and Yul-moo seats himself at the throne.

Officer Baek reports to King Gwanghae, but it’s not about Yoon-jo or the queen… he has word on the royal guard. Meanwhile, Nokdu races through the woods, searching for Dong-joo. Officer Baek explains that Yeon Soo (the alias Nokdu has been using) is dead and has been for some time now. King Gwanghae demands to know who his guard is, then. Officer Baek says he’d heard the name “Nokdu” and the king, realizing his son had been under his nose the entire time, orders Nokdu brought to him.

Tears roll down his cheeks as he thinks of the young man he’d befriended… before his expression hardens. “I had trusted you… completely,” King Gwanghae seethes, “So how dare you? How dare you>” He bursts out of the room, fully enraged at the betrayal. Snatching a guard’s sword, he storms off to find Nokdu himself. Dong-joo sees him leave and follows after.

The corrupt minister orders his little troop that they can kill Nokdu and anyone that gets in their way. The king and minister cross paths in the woods and the king demands why he has armed men with him. The minister chuckles that they need to escort him back to the palace tonight. The king’s and minister’s guards rush each other and the king escapes with the minister in pursuit.

King Gwanghae draws up short when he reaches a cliff and glances up to see a figure approaching from the forest — it’s Dong-joo! Confused, he asks why she’s there and dressed as a man. Dong-joo asks him to throw his sword over the cliff. He doesn’t move, so she raises her crossbow and King Gwanghae realizes he’s backed against the cliff, with no escape.

The head eunuch returns with the king’s guards to find him missing while King Gwanghae complies with Dong-joo’s request and throws his sword. Dong-joo reveals her true identity and King Gwanghae’s eyes widen. He sympathizes that it must’ve been rough becoming an orphan at such a young age but then his face twists. King Gwanghae chuckles cruelly that she’d approached him just like Nokdu and demands whether they’d planned his assassination together.

Dong-joo is taken aback and King Gwanghae continues that he’d killed her family because her grandfather had been plotting to kill him. He bellows that even now, his own son is coveting his throne. King Gwanghae screeches that he’ll kill him first and Dong-joo can’t hold back her tears as she asks in disbelief if he’s really going to kill his son and if Nokdu knows how his father feels about him.

“I’m sure he does,” King Gwanghae sneers, “He disguised himself, stayed by my side, heard, and saw everything.” Nokdu finally catches up and his eyes widen at the scene. He rushes forward just as Yul-moo’s minister runs up behind him. Dong-joo declares the king crazy and he laughs heartily that one needs to be in order to endure the throne. She admits she’d dreamt of killing him and thought she’d feel relieved when the day finally came…

“I cannot believe I wasted all those years… only to kill a beast like you,” she realizes, “I can’t believe I hurt him for a man like you.” Dong-joo says that King Gwanghae is already dead inside — he trusts no one, nor does anyone trust him. She says he’s just an empty shell and raises the crossbow as King Gwanghae’s face reveals his terror. The arrow flies… and passes King Gwanghae to embed itself in the chest of the minister just as he’d raised his sword to cut down Nokdu.

“You aren’t even worth killing,” Dong-joo concludes. Rage quickly consumes his fear and King Gwanghae turns to charge Nokdu, but his foot slips. Dong-joo instinctively rushes forward to grab his hand. Nokdu runs for them as Dong-joo teeters forward. But her hand slips and the king crashes into the waters below as Nokdu pulls her back. Nokdu returns to the house and is immediately questioned about the king and he says he has something to tell them.

The next morning, the queen paces in the courtyard. Yoon-jo races toward her and announces there’s a problem. Over at the palace, Yul-moo and his men await the arrival of the king. The gate opens and Nokdu leads a procession. A flashback reveals he’d told the king’s guard everything the night before and decided to turn the tables back on Yul-moo.

In the present, Yul-moo assumes all has gone to plan and cockily approaches Nokdu to congratulate him on a job well done… only for Nokdu to draw his sword and swing, narrowly missing Yul-moo’s throat as Dan-ho intervenes. Yul-moo glowers and Nokdu declares that he’s hear to clear up the traitors and is joined by the rest of the king’s guard as both sides face off.

 
COMMENTS

We been knew since Day 1 that King Gwanghae was a coward, but this episode he hit an all time low, and I don’t know about y’all, but I wanted blood. He doesn’t even deserve a redemption arc — not that I think it’s even possible at this point, likely death aside, the man is too far gone… Dong-joo’s reaction perfectly mimicked my own as she looked at the king with disgust and pity as he feverishly bellowed that the throne is more important than everything else. Long gone is the kindly man that spoke wistfully of his regrets and shortcomings. Instead, standing before her was a deranged lunatic, hellbent on keeping a throne that was never meant to be his in the first place.

The thing I love most is it wasn’t any of the players that brought about King Gwanghae’s downfall, either. The funny thing with prophesies is they always seem to be self-fulfilling. As King Gwanghae had suggested, I can’t help but imagine how things would’ve been had he not tried to circumvent his fate by murdering his newborn child. Had he either accepted or dismissed the fortune teller’s words and raised Nokdu with love, would he be in this position now? Well, if he had the capacity to let go of his greed, then I doubt it. Alas, that greed is the very reason he slipped and fell to his — probable? — death. Even after a brush with death, he could only think of the throne and how Nokdu was standing in his way. Except… Nokdu never wanted the throne. Heartbreakingly, he shared King Gwanghae’s wish to just be loved.

Thankfully, Nokdu is loved. In his initial grief, he seemed to forget that but it was the love of the people that matter that saved him. His mother disobeying the king to release the man that raised him, Yoon-jo reminding Dong-joo that her mother loved her and wouldn’t want her to be blinded by hatred, and Dong-joo, finally realizing that truth which allowed her to protect Nokdu instead. Had she let her hatred win, Dong-joo would’ve already killed the king before Nokdu arrived and he would’ve fallen at the minister’s sword.

It was the best possible way to wrap up that 20 year tragedy. I was starting to grow weary of the political chaos, but I admit the resolution was nicely done and am willing to let it slide. Going forward, I imagine the king is dead because we know Yul-moo is going to get the throne. Regardless, King Gwanghae deserves time out, and not the return of his throne. I’m not exactly sure how that’s gonna shake down, but we only have 2 episodes left and I’m really hoping a fair chunk of the finale is spent on all the cuteness we’ve been robbed off the last few weeks, so let’s all cross our fingers that it gets resolved quickly. I will not stand for an unhappy ending after all the crap our leads have gone through.

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Tooooo bad I really hopED there would be a redemption arc for the king as we were shown how soft and compassionate he could have been when Nokdu and Dong Joo first encountered him. It would be rather interesting if the drama follows that direction, and make the king willingly forgo the throne to save Nokdu or something. However all hope was dashed and the king really turned a monster by his insecurity and selfish desire.
I hope the writing keeps its consistency and tight plot and gives us the Happy ending our leads and we viewers deserve, having always rooted for them until now.

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I think that's why we're all so invested in the king - he wouldn't be this interesting a character if it wasn't for the fact that he is absolutely capable of being a better human being, but chooses the dark side out of his own misguided fears and insecurities. Think Darth Vader, but without the Force-choke powers.

I'd hoped he would let his experience of who Nokdu is as a person, see him as more than just a living threat - but he chose to see it as further proof of betrayal instead.

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This episode belonged to DJ and KSH delivered the complexity of her internal strife. Looking at the body count she's starting to pile up I'm this episode and the next.

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I'll agree this episode Dongju shined and it was cool seeing her being strategic and bad-ass. I think she might be one of my
favorite female leads.

(Too many grammatical errors. I wish there was an edit button.)

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Yes!! She slay!!

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YES! She's so good, she doesn't need more than the flicker of a facial expression to tell us what Dong-joo's feeling, and I really saw that in her conversation with Nokdu's dad. That and the scene with the daisies.

Her confrontation with Gwanghae was my favourite part of the episode, though - girl was absolutely terrifying when she came put of the mist, and it didn't need the crossbow or the man's costume to tell you she was fully intent on murder.

She's truly a gifted actress, and one of the greatest of her generation at barely 20 years old.

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I fully agree.

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I am with you on no redemption arc for the crazy King and also keeping my fingers cross! Oh, AND praying for all the cuteness to be back. Soon.

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I've been on the no redemption arc from the start. A parent trying to kill his own child for any reason is a no.

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I think redemption has become a far gone option for him now. I did root for him briefly but now I just want him to get his comeuppance. I'm glad that in history he gets deposed and loses the one thing he wants to hold on to.

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Exactly proper justice needs to be served to him. His madness can't be rectified.

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@firefly also, in history, the King loses the other thing that matters to him, the Queen, as she dies about 6 months into being deposed. In this drama the queen was important to him, although who knows what she meant to him in "real life?"

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Oh no I don't want the Queen to die. I want her to leave him so he can die in misery alone. The Queen deserves to be reunited with her son and live out many happy and peaceful days with him. I hope they don't stick too closely with history.

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Yes, and we don't know at what point the Tale of Nok-du will end, either. There are points where it could end that would be historically accurate and allow us to believe they rode off into the sunset. But if the writers have created something good for us as we cheer on our duo, then that will be cool and save us some heartache.

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Agree he needs to suffer others don't.

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This was my favorite episode post twist. How awesome was Dong Joo when she confronted the King. She has proved that she is no Damsel in Distress. And the Queen is awesome too. I hate the King. He's selfish and I could see that from day one cause he tried to kill his own Son. He might have felt that something could have been different but he did nothing that could change anything cause he still wouldn't change his mind about wanting to kill his son. Knowing who his son was did nothing either. He wasn't fooling me with showing his softer side. I did feel sympathy for him during those episodes but not afterwards. Did I wish he could be redeemed? Yes, but I don't care anymore after this episode.

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This was my favorite episode thus far. I loved the confrontation between Dongju and Gwanghee. I've said this before but even as a Kim So-hyun fan I still get amazed at her acting at times. I think one of the reasons I'm enjoying this drama has to do with the solid cast and acting. I wouldn't replace any of the roles for another person which is a mark of a good cast. Even though things still look quite bleak for our characters I'm holding hope for a happy ending for everyone.

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I screamed when he fell off the cliff. I did NOT want it to end like that. I wanted Nokdu to confront him, AS HIS SON and maybe... just a small sliver of hope... maybe he can talk some sense into the crazy king. I don't care if he's executed or redeemed. I want him to know, REALLY know, what it's like for Nokdu and that his actions are too much.

2 incredibly engaging conversations this episode starring Dong Joo. Nokdu's adoptive father reminding her of what the true purpose of her life should be. Her convo with the king. Whoo, so good.

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Falling off the cliff to his death is not something I would want for the King since it would be too easy. I want a face-to-face confrontation between him and Nokdu, fully knowing their true identities.
Then again, if he did die from the fall that would be a pathetic ending for a pathetic King.

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I was about to write the same thing. Gwanghee has done a lot of damage to many people and death by falling of the cliff would be too easy for him. He should die alone without his throne or family feeling remorse but I don't know if he is capable of feeling remorse anymore.

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*pathetic end

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I thought the dialogues for Dongju in this episode were very well written. The way it was worded was impactful. I'm so glad she finally gave up on her suicide mission and managed to save Nokdu as a bonus.

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Yes, I was glad her arrow saved Nok-du. During this episode and the one that follows, I was a bit surprised several times when Nok-du seemed somewhat vulnerable. It is like the knowledge that the king has always wanted him dead has put a crack in the shield that he seemed to have around him in the past. With a feeling that Dong jo is now protecting Nok-du.

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I have been feeling it too. Nokdu has become visibily weaker emotionally recently. The revealtions have taken a toll on him I assume. I like the balance of power Nokdu and Dongju share in their relationship. One of the many things I love about this couple.

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**revelations

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Nokdu has always been an emotional person underneath the tough exterior and he also wears his heart on his sleeves. So with all the terrible things happening to him, I'm not surprised that he has become so vulnerable.

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@samroy - you're right, Nokdu has been a giant softie from the beginning.

It's interesting that the usual kdrama gender dynamics around personalities are reversed here - Dong-joo is the stoic reluctant to give in to her emotions (and has constructed a virtual wall in her head to try and carry out this plan), while Nokdu is the one who, as you said, has worn his heart on his sleeve from the beginning and everyone points it out in-drama too, from Aeng-du to the king in incognito mode.

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This was a great episode! I love how badass Dong Joo is. Her confrontation with the King and realising how horrible he is for abandoning his son allowed her to finally let go of her years-long grudge. When she shot the arrow, I thought Nokdu would dive in-between to save the King or something, but I'm glad that it turned out to be her shooting at the Minister who was trying to attack Nokdu. By doing so, she not only saved her man but also proved her point that the King is not even worth killing. I also loved her conversation with Nokdu's adoptive father, that was a much-needed advice for Dong Joo. KSH has delivered a strong performance here and this episode really belongs to her!
The ending scene was awesome! When Nokdu swiftly drew out his sword to swing at Yul moo who avoided it and fell right in the arms of his one true love (Dan ho), I admit I repeated the scene many times since it was very well done. I also liked the scene where Yul moo and his entourage marched towards the palace gates, first it showed the three of them, but then the next shot of several booted legs walking gave me goosebumps!

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The matrix scene with Yulmu was hilarious. He would not last one day without Danho.

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True, I wonder if Yul moo can even fight..I've never seen him in a combat before.

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HAHAHA I've been wondering the same!!

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Another character whose justice is being served.

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HAHAHA!!

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I think we don't realise initially how much of the stuff we've known from the beginning is actually brand new information to Nokdu and Dong-joo. Like sure, Nokdu and Dong-joo find out he's the king's biological son......but it isn't until they each hear firsthand from him that he tried to kill Nokdu as a baby and wants him dead even now, that they make up their minds about him.

That clifftop scene was really well done, as was the whole episode - rare among sageuk episodes devoted to palace plotting. Kim So-hyun carried this one, this is what her character has been working up to since literally the first time we saw her and I like that the scene functions both as a catharsis for the girl she is now, and a way of finally letting go of what happened to her and her family in her life as Yoo Eun-seo. Her turning her bow on the corrupt minister about to kill Nokdu was the perfect finishing touch on that.

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Dong Dong Joo is girl crush goals! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

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Best episode!! So good everything!! Dongjeon kickass and awesome!!

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I discover Kang Tae Oh through this drama. I know he looks promising the moment I saw him in Short. He embodies Yul Mu with great screen presence, flair,and machismo. So fierce. He fits Sageuk . Wish he pick another sageuk project. He deserve the main lead imo.

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This show just gets better and better. I'm not at all tired of the political intrigue (and it's basically the entire plot of the show!), and I loved these episodes.

I look forward to the conclusion, but also dread it, for several reasons. One is that I don't want this wonderful, charming, fascinating drama to end. Another is that I always dread the last few episodes of K and C dramas, as I have learned how often - how VERY often - the writers/PD decide to FUBAR the ending, and ruin what was, up to the last episode, or sometimes the last 10 minutes, an otherwise fabulous drama. (Just as a very recent example, Vagabond went from one of my favorite dramas of 2019 to falling out of the top 5, and probably the top 10, by not even bothering to have an "open ending," but just flat-out stopping the story in the middle of a scene, with no second season in progress, written, contracted for, greenlighted, or - apparently - even under discussion, after a multi-continent-location drama that took eleven months just to film. WTF??)

Here's hoping that this lovely Tale of NokDu ends in a manner that makes us happy for this adorable couple.

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I'm not happy about this multiseasoning of kdramas via Netflix, it's mind-boggling to think of all these huge, expensive dramas just being left to hang. Like..... you could just film all your episodes instead of blowing all the money on half of them and waiting for the ok on a second season IF the drama makes its investment back? Korea is used to long dramas! (I'm still furious at the non-ending of Arthdal Chronicles, can you tell)

Kdramas do tend to have issues with sticking the landing, but I trust the team behind Nokdu to actually do it right. They haven't let me down so far, and I really appreciate that.

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Lovely episode. Great drama. 😊

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Hmm... unless the King comes back from the dead then that's a bit of a copout, like watching an old episode of Smallville (let's watch Clark's enemies die without Clark actually killing them).

Don't get me wrong, I loved everything about Dong Joo in this and her decision to use her arrow to save Nokdu than kill the King (live over death, protection over revenge). But for the King to just conveniently die anyway was... convenient.

The reason I've always liked Kim So-hyun's acting is because she gives all her characters a kind of quiet strength, almost a stoicism, that's traditionally associated with male actors. It's utterly perfect for this part and I hope she gets a dozen more like it. She deserves it (and so do we!).

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well, you know what they say - don't believe they're dead until you see a body! He did fall from a cliff, but into water, so there's a chance he could have lived if he went a bit limp before hitting it+can swim (falls from that height into water often result in broken bones). And to be fair, Dong-joo did back him up against a cliff so she did intend to stick him between the devil and the deep blue sea, in a sense.

I think you hit the nail on the head about Kim So-hyun's acting, she has a gravitas that's not easy to come by in actors of her age and it makes her a great fit for sageuk dramas. It worked especially well with her role as Dong-joo because, for lack of a better way to put it, it grounds Dong-joo's natural playfulness as a young girl and makes her entire storyline abd character believable in a way that a less multifaceted actress wouldn't have been able to pull off.

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I'm SO late to this recap omg but I have to say, this was a fantastic episode.

One of this drama's greatest strengths lies in the way it keeps the politics human - what could have felt like just another 'birth secret+ministers plotting' sageuk storyline, actually feels urgent and resonant because the antagonists of our story are emotionally attached to the two leads, and that makes it personal - whether it's the king or Yul-moo. Mainly the king, really. He wouldn't be as engaging a character if he was just pure lunatic villain through and through, it's the glimpses of the kind, caring person he can be that makes it even sadder and more horrifying when he casts his better self aside, wallows in perceived betrayal, and repeatedly doubles down on his quest to kill Nokdu.

Also, I'd forgotten how intimidating Kim So-hyun is capable of looking. When she emerged out of the mist.... I got actual chills for a bit there.

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