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Tale of Nokdu: Episodes 31-32 (Final)

As we reach the final chapter of our hero’s tale, he finds himself in mortal danger once more at the hands of a bloodthirsty king, blinded by anger and greed. All Nokdu has ever wanted was to find out who he was and protect the ones he loves. Now the time has come for them to return the favor. As the king and Yul-moo hunt him down, his fate lies in the hands of the people who love him to keep him safe… and hopefully they’ll live to see a better tomorrow.

 
EPISODE 19: “Dong-joo’s Decision”

In the aftermath of King Gwanghae’s return, he stews in the throne room with Yul-moo. Oblivious to the way Yul-moo’s eyes linger on his seat, King Gwanghae pushes past, declaring he’ll catch Nokdu himself. Yul-moo follows, pausing only to glance once more at the throne.

Nokdu, supported by Hwang-tae and Dong-joo, meets Master Hwang who breathlessly explains he’s late because he took Yoon-jo safely outside. Nokdu asks him to take Hwang-tae and Dong-joo outside as well, but Dong-joo refuses to leave him. While the others escape, Dong-joo helps Nokdu find the queen and fill her in on King Gwanghae’s return. She orders her servant to lead the couple outside, but looks sadly at Nokdu when he asks her to come with them.

A guard reports to King Gwanghae that the queen’s quarters are empty but he calmly says he knows where to look. Meanwhile, the queen insists that she can’t leave the king alone, even though it breaks her heart to be separated from Nokdu again. She reasons that as the queen, no matter how awful her husband is, he is the king and she can’t leave him to be ruined by Yul-moo and co.

They embrace and she tells him to remember he’s her precious son and should live freely. She promises they’ll meet again and tells Nokdu to survive until then. The servant ushers Nokdu and Dong-joo away as the queen sobs to herself.By the time King Gwanghae arrives, they’re gone. He asks where Nokdu is and she demands to know how long he intends to behave like an animal, earning an angry outburst from King Gwanghae.

In a flash, the queen snatches a guard’s sword and holds it to her throat. The blade draws blood from her hand as she orders them still. “Kill me first,” she dares as King Gwanghae’s fury builds, “before you go on your way to kill your son.” Elsewhere, the servant stops at a door in the wall and explains the queen stayed back in order to guarantee Nokdu survived. Dong-joo takes Nokdu’s hand and gives him a reassuring nod before helping him outside.

Master Hwang and Hwang-tae wait at the dock, where Yoon-jo is already loaded into a boat. They’re soon joined by Yeon-geun, the widow’s trio, and Aeng-du.Master Hwang Hwang-tae to take Aeng-du and board the boat but Hwang-tae points out Nokdu isn’t there yet. Master Hwang says he’d told Nokdu to hide and will fetch him himself so the others should escape now. To his surprise, the women refuse to separate and climb aboard, while Yeon-geun sniffles, looking conflicted.

In a storage room somewhere, Dong-joo desperately bandages Nokdu’s wounds. He assures her he’s fine and she chides him for always saying that. Nokdu confesses he’s not fine and Dong-joo hugs him. He weakly jokes that she should’ve hugged him sooner and she orders him not to fall asleep. He promises to stay awake and talk to her, asking how long she’s liked him.

He guesses she’s liked him since they lived together at the widow’s village and Dong-joo sniffs, “Why would I like a man dressed as a woman?” Nokdu wonders if they went back to that time, if she’d stop liking him. Nearby, Yul-moo and the guards find a trail of blood and Dong-joo tells Nokdu that if they went back, she’d run away with him. Nokdu goes limp and she cradles him, sobbing, just as Master Hwang finds them.

The three of them escape, but Master Hwang freezes at the sight of Yul-moo’s posse. He ducks back behind a rock and tells Dong-joo there’s a boat waiting on the river for her and Nokdu. Master Hwang promises to buy them time and sensing something is wrong, Dong-joo peers over the rock to see Yul-moo and the guards combing the forest. She eyes the single arrow in her quiver as Master Hwang grabs his sword.

He starts to tell her to pass a message to Aeng-du but Dong-joo cuts him off, saying she can’t possibly get Nokdu down the river alone. She says his plan will only get all three killed and that she intends to survive. She implores Master Hwang to keep Nokdu alive and taking Nokdu’s bloody jacket, goes out to meet Yul-moo. He’s unconvinced, wondering if Nokdu put her up to this to buy time. Dong-joo coldly replies he should just say Nokdu died by his sword, promising to stay with him if he does.

Yul-moo warns her that he’ll never let her go, keeping her hidden forever. Dong-joo doesn’t care and after a tense moment, Yul-moo orders everyone to return because Nokdu is dead. A few days later, Yul-moo and King Gwanghae stand over a covered corpse. Yul-moo explains Nokdu got swept down the river after he stabbed him and they just found his body by the riverbank. An approving smile spreads across King Gwanghae’s face.

Officer Baek starts to pull back the cover but King Gwanghae waves him off, saying the body would be unrecognizable now and that Yul-moo wouldn’t try to deceive him. (Oh, really?) Afterwards, Yul-moo returns home while someone watches nearby. Inside, Dong-joo ignores him as he presents her with a dessert. She take a bite and her face remains impassive as she declares it delicious.

Yul-moo caresses her cheek and reminds her that she promised to do everything. Dong-joo confirms she did, and Yul-moo says, “I will wait. So give me your sincerity.” Dong-joo continues to stare back blankly and he promises to wait as long as it takes for her to give him her heart. “I can lie and promise you I’ll do that,” Dong-joo replies, “but you and I both know that one’s sincerity and affection for someone… are not something one can work on.”

That evening, a trio of guards haul out “Nokdu’s” body and are stopped by the queen. She pulls the cover back to inspect the face and then sends the guards on, hiding a small smile of relief. Yul-moo calls to Dong-joo in her room and she rolls away. He enters and pulls the cover up, blowing out her candle and leaving. She sits up with a jolt and thinks back to the night Nokdu had lit the lamps for her and dissolves into sobs. Yul-moo hears and turns back… but thinks better of it.

Dong-joo struggles to sleep, shivering in the dark. Someone enters the room and she sits up as Nokdu lights the lamp, grinning at her. Dong-joo blurts out he’s alive and Nokdu reminds her he promised he’d be back. She throws her arms around him and Nokdu holds her tight, apologizing for coming late. Yul-moo returns to Dong-joo’s room to find all the guards outside on the ground.

He bursts inside, but the room is empty and Dong-joo’s words that feelings can’t be forced echo in his mind. His guards walk up behind, warning that they’ll lose them if they don’t leave soon… but Yul-moo says there’s no need. As he finally resigns himself to the truth that Dong-joo will never love him, Dong-joo and Nokdu run happily through the fields to freedom.

EPISODE 20: “Wedding Ceremony”

A young woman races frantically through the woods, but falters and collapses on the ground. Her pursuers encircle her as a noble man steps forth and blames his son’s death on her lack of support. He steps forward to hit her and she yelps, her flailing arm leaving him with a bloody nose. Enraged, he yanks her jacket down to reveal… Nokdu!!

He’s wearing the Muweol Corps uniform and smiles sweetly, silently extending a beckoning hand. The nobleman practically blushes and rests the jacket on Nokdu’s arm, taking his hand and asking who he is. Nokdu drops his smile and promptly knocks the man out. Afterwards, he and the Muweol ladies escort the real widow and he assures her she’s safe now.

The Muweol women laugh that Nokdu really loves disguising himself and knocking out the fathers-in-law. Ssook agrees that he’s more useful than 10 of their troop members. Nokdu walks back to them and says the widow has no place to go and should live at the village. He starts to take his leave, saying he’ll see the ladies at the wedding tomorrow. Can it be???

They suggest he stay the night and take the boat with them tomorrow, but Nokdu barks out a refusal. Taken aback, they ask why not and he pouts as we flash over to Dong-joo, forlornly sighing that she misses Nokdu. Behind her, two of the widow’s village trio are eating and tsk at Dong-joo for being dramatic. They remind her he’s only been gone four days but Dong-joo whines that he was supposed to be home yesterday.

She suddenly perks up when a boat arrives and they sigh as she runs to the shore. She passes some men and they chuckle that Nokdu must be back. Dong-joo calls out to him when she reaches the beach and he tells her to be careful not to trip. She runs to him and he lifts her up, spinning around joyfully before leaning in for a kiss or three…

Behind him, Jeong-sook has to hold Yeon-boon back from attacking Nokdu in annoyance while Ssook just sighs that this is her karma. Back at the house, Dong-joo smacks Nokdu upon discovering he’d bought them a pair of expensive jade rings. He pouts that he wanted to wear them for the wedding and it was supposed to be a surprise.

Dong-joo chides him for wasting money on a grand wedding as well and Nokdu asks why she can’t be more romantic. Hee. He argues that he makes money to spend it and Dong-joo slams down a silk box filled with fine fabric, snapping that he’s bought her so many. Nokdu mumbles that they all look good on her and then slides the box away, excitedly suggesting they do “it” instead. Dong-joo stares at him wide-eyed, asking what he means.

“You know,” he say with a coy smile, “The thing we were going to do…” He lunges forward but Dong-joo knocks him back with a simple, “No, thanks.”Nokdu asks why and Dong-joo explains everyone is working hard on their wedding and he should help, kicking him out so she can clean the room. He grabs their rings with a huff and sashays out of the room as Dong-joo shakes her head.

Outside, Nokdu sits with Yeon-geun to cook. Yeon-geun cries that he’d told Bok-nyeo they should break up on impulse and she actually packed her bags and left. Nokdu agrees that Dong-joo isn’t romantic at all. “”How could a woman not understand a man?” Yeon-geun continues, declaring he’d only come here because of her.

He’s startled when she pipes up in front of him, but quickly hides his glee and sniffs that he’d thought she left him. She tells him to stop being difficult and come home, but Yeon-geun is determined to be petty and huffs. She tells him she’ll give him three seconds and Yeon-geun immediately leaps up. She smiles and lifts him in her arms princess-style to go home.

Nokdu cringes at the display and Hwang-tae appears, snorting he’s the most romantic person here. He guesses Nokdu got scolded and laughs at Nokdu’s denial. Nokdu asks what’s funny and Hwang-tae admits he’s just happy they’re living together again. Nokdu agrees but adds that he’s thankful and sorry towards Hwang-tae. Hwang-tae jokingly suggests Nokdu annul his marriage and live with him and Yoon-jo, then.

Instead, Nokdu suggests Hwang-tae get married too. He points to widow’s village trio member Mal-nyeon and Hwang-tae laughs awkwardly and shakes his head in alarm. Nokdu suggests Ssook instead and Hwang-tae looks over at her. He smiles, but shakes his head and quickly excuses himself, but Nokdu chases after, teasing that he must like Ssook.

That night, Dong-joo lays out her bed with two pillows before blowing out the light and tucking herself in. When Nokdu comes in he smiles at her sleeping comfortably in their bed despite the dark. He gently tucks himself in next to her, giving her a quick kiss. Dong-joo sleepily curls into him and Nokdu strokes her hair as they fall asleep.

The next morning Aeng-du watches Dong-joo getting her makeup done and grumbles that Dong-joo had told her to give up on Nokdu so she must’ve been scheming to take him from the start. Dong-joo denies it and Aeng-du breaks into a smile, taking her hand and asking her to take care of Nokdu. “He may be immature,” she says, “but he’s a good guy, so be happy together.” Dong-joo beams back at her and agrees.

Outside, Nokdu waits anxiously at the altar. Yeon-geun carries a tray of rice cakes to the table, but trips before he reaches it, spilling the food on the grass. Nokdu winces and then a wind picks up and knocks the candles over on the table. Luckily, Dong-joo’s arrival is announced then and Nokdu stares in awe at his bride as Aeng-du showers her with flower petals.

Master Hwang starts officiating the ceremony as the couple stares lovingly at each other. Unfortunately, a gust of wind carries Master Hwang’s speech away. He chases after it, crying that he’d stayed up all night writing it as Nokdu sighs in annoyance. Their friends laugh awkwardly and Ssook suggests Yoon-jo step forward and offer his blessings.

The wind picks up again as Yoon-jo launches into a speech about marriage. Finally, the partition behind the alter falls over, knocking Yoon-jo into the table and everything onto the ground. Aeng-du rushes forward and starts eating the treats, inciting a peal of laughter from everyone as Master Hwang returns, speech in hand.

Dong-joo comforts a disheartened Nokdu, saying she doesn’t mind things didn’t go according to plan. “I wanted to give you everything,” Nokdu explains. He wanted to do everything they hadn’t been able to or had to give up and fill her life with good memories so that she could forget the bad ones. “I wanted to give you the ring and solemnly swear… that we’d be together for the rest of our lives,” he concludes.

Grinning, Dong-joo suggests they do it now. She walks over and picks some daisies, twisting them into two rings. Taking Nokdu’s hand, she tells him, “I don’t think the time we spend together will only be filled with happy things. Just like today, we might have to face an unexpected windy day.” Dong-joo says there will be times they feel like crying or giving up. “But…” she continues, sliding a ring on his finger, “as long as we’re together, I will gladly endure all those difficult days… regardless of what it may be.”

Sliding the other ring on Dong-joo’s finger, Nokdu promises to do the same. She smiles that she loves flower rings and kisses his hand. Nokdu says there’s something he wanted to do on their wedding day and pulls Dong-joo close. She smiles up at him and they kiss.

Dong-joo wakes up the next morning to find Nokdu writing at his desk. She curls up to him and he tells her he’s writing his mother to announce their marriage. By evening, the queen lifts the lid on her teapot to find Nokdu’s letter. She smiles and then puts it safely in the fire.

9 Years Later

Yul-moo leads his revolt at the palace, calmly weaving his way through screaming masses to the place where his men have the king at sword-point. King Gwanghae sips his tea as Yul-moo approaches, seemingly unsurprised. He even offers a small smile of approval as he lifts his chin to meet Yul-moo’s eyes. Yul-moo’s men clear out, leaving the two to talk. King Gwanghae muses that Yul-moo isn’t as smart as he’d thought since he willingly walked into the fiery pit.

Yul-moo asks why King Gwanghae let him live. “If I had not let you live, I would have become a father… who killed my innocent son twice.” Yul-moo finally reveals that his birthday is also November 19th — the day the fortune teller had prophesied a royal child would be born and take over the throne. Yul-moo’s father had overheard and lied to save his son. Tearfully, King Gwanghae asks Yul-moo grant him a favor. He promises to accept his fate and live his life facing the impact of his fear.

“But…” he continues, “I will be the only one bearing them.” He asks that the queen be allowed to leave quietly and Yul-moo agrees. As he turns to go, King Gwanghae calls out to Yul-moo, “You will be lonely. You will be lonely… and continue to be lonely.” The next morning, Yul-moo walks into the palace and takes his place on the throne a grin spreading across his face, even as King Gwanghae’s last words echo.

Yoon-jo delivers the news of the revolt and that the queen will join them to Nokdu. Nokdu admits he’s unsure how to feel. “I want to cry,” he mutters, “but at the same time, I don’t.” Yoon-jo pulls him into a hug and says he can cry or not, but that they’ll both follow their hearts. Afterwards, Nokdu waits with Dong-joo on the beach and she tells him she’s nervous whether his mother will like her.

“How could she hate you?” Nokdu laughs. Dong-joo agrees that she’s too pretty to hate and Nokdu smiles that she’s the one that saved him. She dismisses it, but Nokdu says “You said you wanted to live a happy life with me… and you would wait. That day, what you said saved me several times.” Dong-joo says she feels the same and will continue to live happily with him for the rest of their lives.

“So when you’re having a hard time, come to me and cry,” Dong-joo says, “When there are happy occasions, we can smile together just like now.” Nokdu holds out his pinky and Dong-joo links hers with his. In the distance, they spot a boat and the queen stands, smiling towards the shore as the couple walk out to meet her. The end message tells us: “Just like that, they lived happily ever after.”

 
COMMENTS

Now, that is what I call a happy ending. It’s a rare thing to find such a satisfying finale as this and I am so thrilled that Tale of Nokdu managed to stay consistently good throughout it’s entire run. Did we lose some of the comedy along the way? Yes, but to make way for the darker plot that thankfully had a solid resolution. I think @teriyaki pegged it in an earlier recap that Yul-moo might have shared Nokdu’s birthday and I tip my hat to you. I thought it would be too easy, but that reveal actually packed a punch. Because it really drove home how futile King Gwanghae’s attempt to defy fate had been… and how heartbreaking his foolish choice to kill his son to keep a crown he’d always been destined to lose.

It was nice to hear that in the time skip, King Gwanghae had come to terms with the fact that Nokdu had never wronged him, and he was the one that had always been the aggressor. It was a small consolation after all he’d put our beloved hero through, but I’m sad Nokdu never got to hear it. To know that in the end, his father realized his mistake. It wasn’t quite redemption, but growth nonetheless. The thing I liked most about this drama is that every character felt lived in. The heroes weren’t perfect, nor were the villains wholly evil… they were human, each flawed in their own way that added depth to them as an individual as well as the story on a whole. Everyone got what the deserved in the end. King Gwanghae was finally dethroned, after realizing it was an empty position in the first place and everyone who ever cared for him was gone. Yul-moo ascended the throne, but it will be an empty rule, as he’s also now alone.

The time skip allowed us to see a glimpse of everyone at peace. The Muweol Corps are back to saving widows, now without the muddied orders from Minister Heo, and it sounds like they’ve rebuilt a widow’s village. Yeon-geun has finally moved on from Nokdu and is in a blissful relationship of his own. Yoon-jo recovered and Hwang-tae finally let go of his jealousy and anger and has resumed his close relationship with Nokdu. I love that even after all this time, they continue to live together in their little found family community. And Nokdu and Dong-joo have built a happy life out of their pain, surrounded by the people they love. Their wedding ceremony may have been a bit chaotic, but as Dong-joo pointed out, it was a perfect example of life. Things don’t always go as planned, but you make the most of it with those you love. Nothing is more satisfying than giving characters an ending befitting their journey and for all the pain and suffering, Dong-joo and Nokdu deserved nothing short of happily ever after.

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oh meh gosh!!!!!!

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I really love these characters and I loved how this ended and I loved, maybe, eight episodes of this show. But as the back half unfolded - and especially this episode - I was left with the impression that the whole thing... did not make a lot of sense.

The tonal shift in the last half hour was jarring and it only reminded me of just how far the show had strayed from where it had been. It's a damn shame because the first half of this show had to be some of the most enjoyable television I've ever seen come out of Korea. The back half got lost in sageuk nonsense. It's a common problem and is the reason why I've only finished about three sageuks in total. I can only hope that writers are learning something along the way and the next time they attempt something this original, engaging and fun, they commit to it for its whole run.

Also, did I mention that this plotine overall made no sense?

Still, I love Nokdu and Dong Joo. I genuinely wanted to finish this show so I could see them happy together and they are and that's good. I just wish the writers had been able to maintain the sheer... glee.. of the first half through the back half.

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This is based off a webtoon and the original webtoon follows a similar route. It was even darker than the drama actually. The writers lightened it as much as possible but in the end the original source material itself was dark and twisted.

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I'm not an expert, but I do enjoy watching sageuk, and I also felt that there was a slump midshow. For me, it was mostly around eps 13-15 (can't remember exactly now and can't be bothered to look up, but you know what I mean, the politicky part)... In my opinion, it isn't the genre's fault, it's just that the writer took away all the charming and entertaining secondaries (the widows, the assassins, even Yeon-geon and Aeng-doo disappeared for a couple of eps), and left the boring one-note ones take up too much time, I mean the King and Yul-moo. Anyway, the show overall felt satisfying, I'm sure the sugary finale helped in making it a nice, if not totally convincing, ride! And Lady Kim's and Dong-joo's shenanigans will always put a smile on my face! 😍

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I wrote a similar post on my fan wall... I did finish the drama but I had to convince myself to keep watching the last 4 episodes where I lost nearly all interest. I had the same issues with Moonlight Drawn by Clouds (it’s from the same writer) where I enjoyed the cute, otherwise nothing made much sense to me.

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“ I just wish the writers had been able to maintain the sheer... glee.. of the first half through the back half.”

Perfectly said.

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I had to stop this show at episode 8, so does that mean I shouldn't continue? I did think that after the Yeol Moo reveal, the show will get very politicized and basically lose the gender bender charms.

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Yes it did loose that. Though lady Kim does make the occasional appearances. But it has badass females being badass. The girl saving the guy (thrice) instead of the other way round that generally happens. Almost all female characters are good which includes the Queen. That was the thing that redeemed this drama for me but it's okay if you liked the light and fluffy. I would have preferred that too.

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Do watch! The finale is worth withstanding the slump, and there are enough sweet scenes scattered throughout the show to bear you through it

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My experience of the politics half of Nokdu was the opposite to yours - I liked that it took a different approach to the whole Nokdu vs the king part by keeping it character-focused rather than plot. Most sageuks don't do that.

I may be biased since I'm judging this against Im Ye-jin's previous dramas, but I do think the writing is a lot stronger here than it was on School 2015 or Moonlight Drawn by Clouds (which was itself a huge improvement on School 2015).

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I see what you mean and I think you're right! I agree that Nokdu and Dong joo have a nice arc in their development and relationship, but I would have liked it better if the King and other characters also showed more development... Anyway, it is a lovely show! I'm realising I get hypercritical about the shows I enjoy the most, I guess I get greedy 😋

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Sometimes shows remind me of people.

You know you have that person who's a really good person and the other one who's not a good person. And because you have expectations of the good one they constantly disappoint you. But since you have no expectations of the bad one they constantly surprise you. So you end up feeling more positively about the bad one than the good one because the bad one nearly always exceeds your expectations but the good one does never does.

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lol that could certainly be a factor! Though my expectations of this drama rose skywards after week 2, and it never failed to live up to them.

I haven't exactly disliked the writer's previous dramas (mostly co-written with others) but they did have a tendency to be full of crater-sized plot holes, leave loose threads dangling, etc. Except for If We Were A Season, which I LOVE (and which also had a - this time deliberate - open ending). I'm glad Nokdu had no such issues, and at least stayed consistent with its time and setting.

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On second thought, it's also likely that sageuk makes a better canvas for the kind of stories the writer likes to tell, than a modern setting. I certainly got that feeling with Moonlight, and it's stronger with Nokdu. If We Were A Season is delightful but it's a one-off and had a purposely open ending.

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*dreamy sigh*

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A satisfying ending that we audience well deserve as we have followed the drama though the thicks and thins. Other writers please watch and learn!

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Yes a good and proper ending.

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I'm happy that the couple was happy at the end and Nokdu could be with his mom. The couple was great! KSH and JDY had a great chemistry. Aeng was a cute addition to the story. JDY really did well as a woman and fighter!

But all the plot? It made no sense... The King and Yulmo were badly written. DJ who grew up in giseang house just became an expert in archery like that? I mean I'm happy she's a badass but they could have described the processus, even Nokdu went to an island to learn to fight. Nokdu was really well written, it would have been nice they did it with the other characters.

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She trained for years in her cave and practiced in the forest the whole time. They showed that since the beginning. Her character has the most growth in the whole drama actually. She was smart and independent.

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We barely saw it. It's sad because it's a big part of her character. They just showed her in her cave. The plan she created was great. But how did she become interested in archery? How and where did she learn to make it?

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she's a lady and in the memoirs of yul mo, she likes to eat rocks and is cutting wood ... she's good at making, archery is the most approachable way and she disguises her bow and arrow Very skillful. do you watch movie really...???

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...she obviously set up the cave on her own+has been practising archery for years before she even met Nokdu, given that it's the first thing we see her do. Plus she cross-dresses to buy arrowheads and other weaponry/equipment at the weapons shop in Hanyang, I think these details add up quite well to showing she's an archer.

As for how she became interested in archery, do we really need to see the beginning of that? It's not like we see Nokdu's first martial arts sessions with Master Hwang either. And I find it easy to believe Dong-joo took up archery precisely because she didn't need to have a partner or anyone to practice with, all she needs to hone her skills is practice with a target. A very logical choice for a young woman who needs to keep secrets! Also it's a long-range weapon so ideal for an assassination attempt.

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She was born as a lady and grew up in giseang house, so I don't think it's most logical path for a young girl. I don't think you can become an expert without some training of someone neither. (to build the weapon)
For Nokdu, he's a man, he wants to be a general, he found a master in martial art. It's clear.

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She was shown to be good with her hands even as a young noble girl (Yul-moo's flashback of spying on her) and had a family that clearly encouraged her to do what she liked without thinking of what others would say. I'd suggest paying attention to the details given in the drama, she didn't conform to the lady/gisaeng stereotypes even as a child and clearly had some knowledge of weapons, tools etc to build on.

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I think you didn't understand what I meant. I have no problem with the fact she liked archery, build things, etc. I like this side of her character. I wanted them to show us why she did choose this solution and how she became so good. Not just some flashbacks, but her character evolution.

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I was trying to say those flashbacks are a clear indication that she's got a natural affinity for working with wood and metal, and for making things. The bow and arrow are also weapons that are easy to practice with for her alone, she had a target set up in her cave too. She's had many years to practice, had a death grudge against the king, and the ability to work with her hands - it's easy to deduce how she got that good, the drama gives us indirect hints without going into tedious details.

I really don't think it needs more explanation than that, we as viewers are trusted to be able to draw conclusions about Dong-joo from what we see of her life as Yoo Eun-seo.

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Basically: natural talent for working with iron/wood+death grudge+years of opportunity to practice archery (a weapon suitable for a single person) in her cave imagining that her target is the king+regular visits to the weapons maker (who knew her in her cross-dresser guise) to learn about and get new weapons = Dong-joo getting really good at archery.

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English is not my first language, so I guess I can't express myself clearly.

DJ is the FL and this part of his character is important, so I think I would have been better to show this part of her life by real scenes, more than some bits here and there.

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I think that may be a difference in our points of view, I personally thought the 'bits' were a good way to explain Dong-joo's background and her skill with the bow without having to be obvious about it and resort to exposition.

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In Hunger Games they didn't show how the heroine got trained with archery either and it was brilliant show. My teacher of karate learned everything from books and he is very very good at it. Otherwise she was living with all those trained assassins and as a protégée of the head of the assassin's group she could have been trained by them.

I don't think we do need everything explained, let your imagination work and it was The Tale of Nokdu not the tale of Dong Joo.

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It's not about archery only. It's about how she decided she will get revenge for the death of her family. It's not a detail in the development of her character.

Otherwise she was living with all those trained assassins and as a protégée of the head of the assassin's group she could have been trained by them. Did she know about this?

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@kurama

I think it was shown. She'd decided for her revenge from the very moment her family was assaulted and she'd survived. Ask war people or those who've lost someone by someone's else hands. Actually we call for revenge even for more petty stuff although there is not blood involved. And it was nicely done that we could see that DJ was driven to stay alive just to get her justice to be done. Plans changed when Nokdu started to doubt her decision but still determined until those last 2 episodes to fulfill her life mission but it's good she remembered those wise words from her mother.

It was shown that the lady started her assassin's group before she'd established the ginsaeng's house as a protection to the widow's village. She wasn't too aged when she died so we can assume that DJ grow as almost as her child so she was surrounded by those assassins and could learn as a child by watching and trying by herself. That's how everybody was learning in the past. There was rarely a teacher for it nor a school, just nobel people had that privilege, but even prehistoric people were great in archery. You try and try and try.

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@kerouregan it doesn't make any sense... DJ never showed she knew for the assassins and if she knew? She had the perfect way to learn to fight.

But I don't nee you agree with me. I just gave my opinion. I would have like to see clearly the processus of her revenge. It's all.

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Why does growing up in a gisaeng house limit her being good at archery? There is no need for that and plainly you're being sexist. She grew up in a noble household where she was given the equal freedom as the men in her house I'm sure learning archery would have been easy for her. She must practiced for years before the story even started to become that good.

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Sh wanted revenge since the day she saw her family butchered and they showed it. You weren't paying attention to the plot line if you didn't notice it.

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@Globe you didn't understand my comments at all. I have no issue with her talent and archery skills. I wanted to see it it's all. No big deal...

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Why does it matter how she became interested? She wanted revenge since her family was assassinated and for her the bow and arrow might have been the easiest weapon for her to use. There is no character background on why ND prefers martial arts either. They are character choices that don't need to be explained if you ask me.

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What a ride this drama has been!

I am happy with the ending, but have to admit it feels jarring and underwhelming, despite the sweetness. I’ve been anticipating a full throttle action of palace revolt; perhaps this is some sort of stereotype that the last episode is usually the one most thrilling and ripe with action. That being said, the conclusion is so satisfying to watch, plus I laughed so hard at how the wedding unfolded.

A few questions: I thought the King noticed thE way Yulmoo was eyeing his throne? And despite the conversations in this and earlier episodes with Hwangtae, I wish we could’ve gotten more closure with him.

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Endings usually disappoint.

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Not this one, though!

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I'll say it was well-thought of. Each scenario crafted to fully complete the carnival ride. What would have happened if Yul Moo was just as insistent to keep Dong Joo with him. Something has to give. 😀

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you are right im disappointed the show ended

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Aww what a lovely end to a gem of a drama! I have loved following the TTON these past few months and it's definitely made it on my list of rewatchable dramas.

I think it has some of the best character writing I've seen from a kdrama in recent years. Nokdu and Dongjoo felt like real people with strong and consistent characterisations. Yet at the same time they were allowed room to grow and it's so satisfying as a viewer to reach the end and see how far they have come on their journey.

Though the TTON had its fill of momentous, impactful scenes, a lot of my appreciation for this drama comes from the thoughtfulness with which it treated its smaller moments. Things like showing us Dongjoo sleeping without a lighted candle and Yun Jeo shedding his own tears while holding Nokdu in his arms. Or the beautiful mirroring of Nokdu and Dongjoo's actions- she kisses his hand after putting the flower ring on him echoing what he did for her previously. So much shown to us instead of merely told, which is what good storytelling should be!

Was the plot perfect? No, but I think it was reasonably logical and coherant and the writers clearly had a idea of where they were going. I'm willing to overlook the the flaws for the good bits, including the wonderful acting from a strong cast. Jang Dong Yoon and Kim So Hyun were worthy leads and really had phenomenal chemisty. I will remember Widow Kim for a long time I think!

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Widow Kim is without a doubt the loveliest creature that walked across my screen this year.

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I was legitimately goggle-eyed at first sight of Widow Kim lol.

I mean, Nokdu is no slouch in the looks department, but Jang Dong-yoon makes an absolutely gorgeous pretend woman!

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I'll miss JDY as Lady Kim and his/her 'omo aya!' and 'dal'.

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The 'omo! ' accompanied with a smack to the face is one of my favourite things about Widow Kim lol.

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I love your comment on the little details - the writers clearly paid a lot of attention to their character writing, and it worked beautifully. Like the lighted candle part - Yul-moo blowing out Dong-joo's candle was a nice way to sum up that there is so much that he'll never understand about her (and also why he'll never be the one for her) despite their shared history and his awareness of her identity. He's just not paying attention to who she actually is, only to what he wants her to be, and he's blind to so much as a consequence.

The plot might not have been perfect, but I do appreciate that the writers kept the ending somewhat consistent with history and plausible for the time. I've watched three previous dramas that I'm Ye-jin was a writer on, and while I found all of them engaging to various degrees, I do think there's clear progress between School 2017, Moonlight Drawn By Clouds, and now The Tale of Nokdu (co-written with Baek So-yeon) is far and away the best of the lot (School 2015 had so many dangling plot threads, it was ridiculous. Moonlight was better but lost steam in a big way some way through. If We Were A Season is my favourite of her previous works, and also stars Jang Dong-yoon but is just one hour).

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"Yul-moo blowing out Dong-joo's candle was a nice way to sum up that there is so much that he'll never understand about her (and also why he'll never be the one for her) despite their shared history and his awareness of her identity."

Yes, I loved this scene. Such a brief moment but it told us so much about the difference between Yulmoo and Nokdu.

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Exactly! Yul-moo certainly cares about Dong-joo in his twisted way, but not enough to put aside his own ideas about what she should want, or respect her free will, instead he constantly imposes his on her. And Dong-joo knows that difference.

I'm not one bit sorry (except for

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I couldn't finish the drama and stopped watching when Yul-moo started Yul-mooing a lot, but I'm glad the leads got a happy ending and built another widows' village.

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"Yul-mooing a lot" 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

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hahaha... I don't like YM either, but he turns out to be an acceptable villain imo, he is better as the bad guy than pretending to be the good guy. But he is not the main lead, why don't you continue for Nokdu's sake? Widow Kim is perfect. I am just sad that Nokdu did not take off his shirt on the final episode.

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I like that Yul-moo is the villain, the whole soppy nice boy "nice second lead" thing was the only thing I found a bit cliché and boring about the first few episodes (yes, he makes moony eyes at Dong-joo, but it gets old really fast). But when he came through that door in episode 6 while Minister Heo was plotting...... that made me sit up! Kang Tae-oh did a fine job in both modes but I found the character of Yul-moo much more interesting (and also hateable) once his identity was revealed.

As for no shirtless Nokdu....let's have some mercy on poor Jang Dong-yoon, it's almost December and the earlier episodes of the drama did get him shirtless or soaked a lot 😂

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I was satisfied. Nice ending, not spectacular, but nice.

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I'm very satisfied with this finale even though the tonal shift in the second half of this episode did feel a bit jarring. Still, I loved that the show brought back the comedy after so long with the hilarious wedding scene. Poor Nokdu almost burst into tears because of the chaos! I'm glad that the second half was full of sweet and happy moments between our OTP and their family and friends.
I also love that Nokdu is officially a member of the muweol corps and dresses as Lady Kim to rescue the widows and punish the wrong-doers.
Overall this was a great show and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were some plotholes, but the good bits outweighed them. The characters were definitely the heart of the show, they made me laugh and cry with them. It's been a long time since I enjoyed a show so much, making me eagerly anticipate the next episodes and being giddy at the thought of seeing my favourite characters again (The last time I felt this way was when I watched Weightlifting Fairy back in 2016).
The cinematography, directing and the pace of the show, the OSTs and bgms, everything was wonderful.
The cast were amazing, props to each and every actor for the brilliant performance.
Jang Dong Yoon and Kim So Hyun's on-screen and off-screen chemistry was very natural and shows how comfortable they were with each other. Their portrayal of their respective characters is what made me fall in love with the show. They were perfect as Nokdu/Lady Kim and Dong Joo.
I also have to mention Kang Tae Oh whose portrayal of Yul moo was incredible.
Nokdu and Dong joo's journey as grudging roomates and companions, their growing friendship (the cute bickering moments) and their eventual romance, while also dealing with and supporting each other through hardships, was a treat to watch!
There are very few dramas that are close to my heart and this show is definitely one of them.
Thank you @Sunny and @teriyaki for the recaps!

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Honestly though, when Dong Joo asked Yul moo indirectly to stop the search for Nokdu, I thought he would be like "Well you are here, so I'll take you away anyway with or without your consent. Guards, go catch that jerk before he escapes!"
When Nokdu and Dong Joo were running happily through the fields, I was wondering whether they were not at all worried about Yul moo's men chasing after them (even though Yul moo stopped his men from doing so).
Anyways, what matters is that Nokdu and Dong joo finally got to be at the beach, and that too for the rest of their lives! It's funny how the villagers on the island (I guess) know all about the couple's relationship because of their public display of affection!!

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@samroy yes, I also had some of those same questions and more. It seemed out of character for Yul moo to actually go ahead and let Nokdu escape even with the promise of Dong Joo coming by his side. It also seemed like they didn't give Nokdu enough time to heal from his wounds before he was back to rescue Dong Joo. He would definitely have needed more time with the loss of blood alone. And I have questions about the king not identifying the body of the corpse brought to him. After 20 years of not knowing if the baby had actually died and been buried, seeing the adult body dead would have probably been something he would have insisted upon. I was also surprised that after 9 years of marriage that Nokdu and Dong joo didn't have any children that were visible in our preview of their life.

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"It also seemed like they didn't give Nokdu enough time to heal from his wounds before he was back to rescue Dong Joo. He would definitely have needed more time with the loss of blood alone."
My guess is Nokdu came to Dong Joo's rescue after a month or two maybe. That's why he said that he was sorry for being late. Knowing him, he probably wouldn't have waited even for a month to recover when Dong joo was held captive at Yul moo's place.
As for our couple not having children even after years of marriage, maybe they left their kids at home. Still I was hoping to see atleast one kid to make the family complete.

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It would have been really funny if a couple little kids had also been with Nokdu and DongJoo on the beach wrestling around and bickering with each other waiting for the Queen to arrive. Preferably a little boy and a little girl or maybe two girls. Ha!

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@zzthorn Haha the kids having the same personality traits as their parents. That would be hilarious! Now I want to see that version of the ending scene..

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@samroy @zzthorn I actually like that it's just the two of them on that beach at the end, like....with or without kids, they're still our beans!

I signed up to watch this drama for them so I'm ok with imagining they left the kids at home, or don't yet have any and just want to enjoy each other's company (or maybe they'll start a family now that the queen is here and can watch her grandchildren grow up like she couldn't do for Nokdu).

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Speaking of recovering from wounds, that's something I actually like about the way this drama handled fight scenes - Nokdu's really good, but as we're repeatedly shown, not some invincible warrior. He can fight off multiple warriors at a time, but not endless crowds of them, he actually gets injured and needs time to heal, or can't keep fighting.

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I think Nokdu did not fully recover from his wound yet when he came back to fetch Dong Ju. He probably go right away after he felt strong enough to travel. Consistent with his travel to Hanyang before.

I can imagine after rescuing Dong Ju, and arrived savely in the island, his wound probably bleeds again. So Dongju would have to nurse him back to health for a while. That's explain why they haven't consummate their relationship before marriage. That's why their first night after the wedding were so special to them. (Implied in bts).

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@bumialit - yeah, the way the timeline is compressed makes it look like Nokdu came back for her within a day or two, if not the same night (speaking of injuries, was worried for Master Hwang fir a bit there too). Hacking his way through all Yul-moo's guards probably did strain the wound, but it doesn't look as serious as what he got at the widow village massacre - which took him months to recover from, and repeatedly bled.

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Yeah, Yul-moo listening to Dong Joo and then not even forcing a marriage until Nokdu could recover nicely and steal her away didn't jive with the Yul-moo we've known for the last half of the drama and it's not like he had much character development.

I was also also worried about Nokdu and Dong Joo running through those fields. And worried about them on the island too until the 9 years flashforward.

I guess in the end, Yul-moo's true love was the throne and he was confident that the prophecy pointed to his inevitable future as the king and not to Nokdu.

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Honestly, I don't think Yul-moo could marry Dong-joo just then, no matter how much he clearly wanted to - she's still the daughter of a traitor and anyone harbouring her could be charged with treason, and as for a prince? No way. (This was also a major reason why I had issues with the idea of Nokdu becoming officially a royal). There's also the fact that by the time Yul-moo takes her, she's an attempted assassin in her own right and Gwanghae is still the king.

My theory is that Yul-moo intended to keep Dong-joo as a companion, and eventually marry her or keep her as an official concubine (ewww) after he took the throne - which he hasn't yet succeeded in doing, and also marrying Dong-joo would create an official record linking them.....and paper trails are dangerous. He's been shown to be very keen on marrying her even before his villainous turn, but also somewhat respectful of her boundaries (even if that respect has eroded after she chose Nokdu, I think there are still limits to how much he can bring himself to use force on her) and stymied by her status as assumed-dead/descendant of traitors.

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That is a very good point about how marrying Dong-Joo would have endangered his position. He still had to survive many years until the right moment to strike and steal Gwanghae's throne. I did think that he would have been more possessive this time around since this wasn't the first time she had been like "I'll go with you" and then left him for Nokdu. After the Yul-moo reveal mid-series, I couldn't help but feel like he just wanted to possess Dong-Joo (even when he was asking for her heart), but I guess he was enough in love with her.

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You're spot on @pogo. Yulmo himself said to Dong Joo when she was surrendering herself that he would have to hid her forever (her status as traitor granchild, and her attemped assasination to King Gwanghae has already happen). If Dong Ju had a status as Gisaeng (her past wasn't revealed), her chance of becoming a prince concubine still posible. I think this was one of Yulmu regret, he was Eun So fiancee... All fall apart after Gwang Hee order Eun Soo family assasination. If her family assasination did not happen, they'll be happily married.

For the same reason it was imposibble for Nokdu to live happily with Dongju if he wanted to be crown prince/king. Prince cannot be assosiated with traitor family. The queen/crown princess position was alwasy selected from a strong reputable noble family, who had enough political connection to support the king. The highest posible status for commoner only to become king's concubine.

When Yulmu found DJ gone, he realised that ND picked DJ over power and throne, something that he cannot do himself. So he decided to let them go for now. He still needs to resume his coup attempt.

If you gals think that YM was to generous (out of character). We can always go back to history. It was told that after King Injo became king, he forbids all Jeju island resident to go to the mainland for 200 years! This was the cause of three rebellion from Jeju's people afterward.

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@asianromance - yeah, there was the better part of a decade left before Injo came to power in the timeline of Nokdu, there was no other way he could have kept Dong-joo. And that's without even the fact that by the end, Gwanghae had wised up to his schemes and knew he was coming for the throne.

He definitely does grow more possessive and jealous of Dong-joo as he realises her heart lies elsewhere, but I also think, like you said, that he was enough in love with her to want to make her happy, at least a little - he definitely wants to possess her, and that attitude grows stronger throughout the story, but that possessiveness includes wanting her attention and (to the extent possible) her love. He seems to have spent the years after Dong-joo's family was wiped out believing that she was refusing him out of propriety and because of the change in her status, but Nokdu's arrival and Dong-joo falling for him punches a hole in that theory with an added layer of "never gonna happen".

I liked that Dong-joo tells him flat-out that she hates and fears him, and makes it clear that she'd never be his, even with no Nokdu in the picture. It does make sense in a way for Yul-moo to give up on her after that, especially if Nokdu had a head start on them.

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@bumialit - yeah, if Dong-joo's family hadn't been wiped out, they'd likely be married by now and quite happy with it (though it's worth noting that little Eun-seo isn't shown to have any feelings about her fiance at all, it's all coming from him).

It's also the reason why Nokdu refused when faced with the actual prospect of the throne - he wants Dong-joo, and it would be impossible for them to be married if he remained in the palace (a loose thread that bugged me about the ending of Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, but thankfully solved here).

Also - I did not know that about Injo and Jejudo! Talk about in-character pettiness, ha. (I presume Jejudo was where Nokdu and fam went, also wasn't the crossing known to be somewhat dangerous back in the day?).

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One king's traitor is another king's blessing. or so I claim. I'm thinking that Dong Joo and her family could have been "forgiven" by In Jo after Gwanghae was ousted from power. Afterall, it was Gwanghae who was really the "traitor" if you think about it, since he hid and destroyed the command of the former king. So Dong Joo could have been forgiven and maybe even returned to her former high status in the society. Her plans to assassinate Gwanghae could have been swept under the rug.

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@zzthorn - hmm, I've never seen a sageuk where anyone branded a traitor was actually forgiven AND restored to their previous position. But assuming it's possible, that'd still leave the question of what Yul-moo could do with Dong-joo while Gwanghae was still on the throne - certainly nothing that'd leave any official traces of her, that's for sure (eg a marriage or even registering her as part of his household). She'd have been stuck as a prisoner in that house for ages, or until Nokdu was in any shape to come and get her.

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@pogo If no one can ever be pardoned, then how was Nokdu's brother going to receive his former status? Although, I doubt that any official proclamation of "traitor" had ever been given to the father, so that could make a difference. But, in My Country which is currently just ended, that nasty Nam Jeon was convicted of a treasonous act and I hoped we were through with him but then the king pardoned him. I'm not sure he was restored to the same position though, but close enough. I personally don't generally care too much for sageuks though, so I don't have a lot of them to think back on for reference to see if anything like that every happened before. (like a person who was considered a traitor could be pardoned by a new king who had ousted the old king)

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@zzthorn - I haven't been watching My Country so I don't know, but your point is valid re: Hwang-tae being a possibility for such a 'pardon', and Dong-joo too, even if the former's dad was never formally declared a traitor. Then Yul-moo could really have had his cake and eaten it too - come to think of it, he probably planned for such an outcome given that he even made sure Dong-joo's family home didn't fall into other hands and was maintained during the time she was gone.

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The music! I love all the background scores so much, they were perfect for the freshness and romance of this drama.

I could also wax rhapsodic about the costumes for a while (I still can't get over Dong-joo's appliquéd hair ribbons, or Nokdu, Yul-moo and the king's hat strings with different types of beading....talk about detail!)

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The politics part is so unsatisfying to me. I actually enjoy about the family politics conflict. Esecially between son and father / King. The motivation might be abit force for me. But the conflict really compelling, and the writers seems throw it under the buss in final episode and give the otp moment, which is such a shame. With that confrontation between Nokdu and Father I expect something more. But I guess, it's all about the couple. I love the otp intimate scene and their moment, they are more enjoyable to watch in the third act than their unnecesary push and pull in 2nd act.

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I enjoyed watching the BTS of the drama more than the drama itself. There's no denying that the two young leads are indeed very cute but I just find it hard to reconcile the first half of the drama with the second half.

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I actually thought the first half did well at giving hints that things could get dark really fast - attempted baby murder? Attempted royal assassination? Dong-joo turning out to have PTSD from seeing her whole family wiped out before her eyes and being buried alive among corpses herself? That's all stuff that turns up in the first half.

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I meant more in the way of: Widow Kim to action man Nokdu. I was too used to seeing Nokdu as Widow Kim, the sexual tension with him and Dong Joo, that when he reverted back to being a man, their relationship seemed to have lost that spark as it just turned into a cliched star-crossed romance. The vibe was decidedly different as I struggled to find that initial spark. It was as if I was watching 2 different actors and one had more chemistry with Dong Joo than the other, and unfortunately it was Widow Kim. Jang Dong Yoon did such a wonderful job in this drama that made me finally take notice of him though.

The highlight was still Widow Kim kissing Yul Mul! That is not something you see everyday and will forever remain one of the best scenes in a sageuk.

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I honestly didn't see any difference character-wise, so I'm having a hard time understanding what you mean.

Widow Kim was a role that Nokdu was playing.....and given that Dong-joo busted that act in episode 2, he certainly wasn't playing it anymore around her after that, in their scenes together he was just Nokdu in female clothing and they were both written and portrayed as being very aware of that. One of the most electric early scenes between them is the one where Nokdu appears before her in male clothing for the first time after buying out her contract - he's definitely not Widow Kim there, and that's only episode 3 or 4! Plus he took every opportunity he could to dress in his regular male clothes even when he was Widow Kim, and didn't really undergo any behaviour/personality shifts, I think the drama and JDY were pretty consistent at keeping him the same throughout.

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I had problems with this in the middle but I enjoyed the episodes before the twist and especially the last three episodes. The was as expected in a way. Considering that Yul Mu was supposed to be the future King Injo, it was actually the most likely resolution that made sure the leads had a happy ending. I adored the light and fluffy show that this was before. Lady Kim will be missed. I loved the ending mostly for the badass female characters. I am totally satisfied with the ending even despite Yul Mu's smirk remaining intact (he can keep that). I wanted Nokdu and Dong Joo to have a happy ending and I got it.

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A star-making role for Jang Dong Yoon. And probably for Kang Tae Oh as well. The show has been so dark in the second half that the last half hour was so jarring. Glad that Nokdu and Dong Joo got their happy ending. The windy wedding was funny. And the queen lived and got to be reunited with her son.

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I hope Jang Dong-yoon gets good projects after this, I knew he was talented but he exceeded even my (already high) expectations here!

As for Kang Tae-oh..... I can't believe this is the same guy who played Hoon in My First First Love! This role was really a total 180 (and also sageuk garb makes a good disguise?) , I didn't recognise him at first until someone mentioned MFFL.

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Yes for more opportunity for Jang Dong Yoon and Kang Tae Oh.
Jang Dong Yoon prove himself as a talented actor. His crying scenes in this drama were very good. I also like that he challenge himself with physical acting in many of his work. After this I think he need to stop playing high school student and seek more mature roles.
It's Kang Tae Oh time to shine as one of 5uprise (the spotlight always on Seo Kang Joon). He really did well as a bad guys here.

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I've been rooting for Jang Dong-yoon ever since Solomon's Perjury, he was so good there and that was as a rookie who'd just debuted that year! I think he's been lovely in his high school roles, he really added something special to If We Were A Season and Dance Sports Girls (and they weren't run-of-the-mill high school dramas either, he picked well with the shorter formats) but yes, like you said, it's now time to move on and take roles where he plays an adult.

And I didn't even realise at first that Kang Tae-oh was Hoon from My First First Love, talk about a 180 in roles! Did not know he was in some kind of idol group either, though the members seem to be actors and not really release music.

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Just for once, I think, a couple more episodes might have helped. The change of tone in the last episode was quite jarring.

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Also, this interview with the cast is worth watching.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-MlkYY--sU

Two highlights:
1. Jang Dong Yoon acting out Widow Kim and telling everyone he wants them to watch him because he likes attention. Spoken like an actor.
2. Kang Tae Oh having to do aegyo and getting really mad about it.

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Dead @KTO looking like he's in actual physical pain for the aegyo 😂

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I loved the whole drama of the Tale of Nokdu. I would not have liked it if it had remained cute and funny the whole time. I liked that I was able to be surprised and shocked from time to time and that this drama was able to bring out tears as well as laughter. I liked that it brought out the motherly instinct where I was intent that the hero and heroine (and all the other characters I had come to love) be brought to safety. And the fire at the widow's village was horrific. Sure there may have been a few scenes where it seemed overkill and made no sense, but just pick up a newspaper or television news for lots more that doesn't make sense. That's life.
For me it is a lot easier to accept the vision that the "dramamakers" (to include everyone involved and not just the pd and writers) came up with as the final version of the drama and then, from there decide if I liked it or not. There is absolutely nothing I could have done to have changed the drama and made it better (or worse) and I wasn't on the team that got to make those decisions anyway. All that I know is that I could hardly wait for Monday's each week to see the new episodes and this drama was probably my favorite all year. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am sad that some of the beanies here seem to express that it wasn't all that good. I loved watching it. And just as with real life, it doesn't always go the way I had hoped it might. But I still loved it and can't find anything else that compares to it at all.

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You're not alone @zzthorn, I wouldn't change a single thing about the drama either! The political stuff seems to be the source of some complaints but I actually really liked it - it was well paced and involved characters we were engaged with instead of just old ministers in hats. The massacre at the widow village and the assassination of Lady Chun were turning points in the drama, tone-wise, along with the reveal of Yul-moo as future Injo, but I thought the balance of fun to seriousness remained great even after that.

I agree that stuff like Nokdu suddenly becoming a candidate for the throne seems implausible, but honestly, after the royal birth secret, it didn't really bother me.

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And yes, my Mondays are also not the same now we have no more episodes T_T

But this is a very strong candidate for rewatch, that's for sure!

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What a lovely ending to the little sageuk that could! I could go on forever about all the things I love about this drama as they come to mind, but here's the bits and pieces I have right now:

1. Jang Dong-yoon and Kim So-hyun's incredible chemistry as our OTP. I've said it time and again, but they are absolutely wonderful together and it's clear the writers and directors treated that as a selling point of the show and ensured they had plenty of screen time together.

2. I love the gender-flip, not only in the cross-dressing but also in the usual dynamic between kdrama leads - Nokdu is the adorable softie little bean with a heart of gold who wears his heart on his sleeve (I've lost count of how many times he was outed by characters in-drama for having cried over Dong-joo), while Dong-joo is the tsundere trying to hide her emotions (but not a mean one) that a kdrama male lead would usually be. Kim So-hyun is a huge part of the reason why that works, she has a seriousness to her that makes it believable.

3. The total, and I mean TOTAL, lack of the following tropes in this drama: childhood meetings (they meet as young adults, that's good enough), amnesia (Dong-joo is clearly traumatised by being able to remember being, well, buried alive), nasty female second leads (we got horrible second male lead Yul-moo instead, and Ssook and Aeng-du, who are the female cast members with the most screen time other than Dong-joo, are awesome).

[TBC before I cross the character limit]

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I'm rather surprised the politics plotline seems to divide opinions, imo it's actually one of the better-done politicking plots I've seen in a sageuk because it stays character-driven throughout - it's not about politics for the sake of having a political plot. Especially in the parts involving the king and his attempts to kill Nokdu (more on that anon).

I loved the light and cute tone at the start, but I've actually enjoyed the turn to the dark side too, it gives the drama an emotional heft and intensity it wouldn't otherwise have, and it did a pretty good job with the balance and carried off both types of scenes. I normally get bored with the inevitable "men plotting in hats and robes" trope of sageuk, but this time around, I actually thought episode 14, which was all about the attempted coup and hunt for Nokdu, was one of the strongest episodes this half, because it let Nokdu and Dong-joo properly in on the action.

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Also I gasped when we found out Yul-moo was the prince born on the 19th of November who would go on to fulfil the prophecy. The writer clearly thought this out, it turns out that the seaweed soup Dong-joo was given for breakfast in episode 4 or 5 when Nokdu tells her it's his birthday, was of course in honour of Yul-moo's birthday! That's some careful planning and a nice planting of that seemingly throwaway detail.

Which brings me back to the prophecy, the king totally did a Voldemort and made it self-fulfilling (can't help noticing the similar detail of the two boys born almost/actually on the same day and the prophecy turning out to refer to only one, and of course he had to make it so both of them tried to take him out. All through his own pride and obstinacy) .

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I mean... a King freaking out because of a prophecy that (he thinks) says his own son will succeed him? It really doesn't make any sense. Who did he want to succeed him? Did he think he would attain immortality?

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I cannot pretend I understand Joseon superstition but I think the wording implied that the child would remove him from the throne by force, which was seemingly quite common in that era. @kiara would be better at explaining the nature of a shaman and how seriously they were taken back in the day, but this is my understanding of it anyway.

The king drives me up the wall, why so stubborn? But I do like that he has enough humanising touches and a clear capacity for kindness and caring when he's not being angry and defensive, it makes it extra infuriating when he goes back to the dark side. His asking for the queen to be allowed to leave and to bear the consequences of the coup alone, was the one decent thing he did for her, and it makes me sad to see what he could have been, had he chosen to be better.

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I agree..Gwanghae was still a crown prince when he met the shaman for the prophecy. Since the previous King just gave him the position because of the Japanese invasion and was already planning to remove him from it after the war, he became insecure and desperate because he wanted his chance to work for the people as their King. I think he felt that even his unborn son would be preferred as the next King, but not him.

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@samroy yeah, I think this might make more sense to people who are familiar with Korean history and Gwanghae in particular.

I do think he genuinely cared about the wellbeing of his people as a whole (eg his refusal to send tribute soldiers to Ming) but his pride and paranoia weren't just exercised against his son, he was fine with executing individual dissenters among the common public.

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@pogo1

Based on translated articles from the Annals of Joseon it was a common thing in Joseon's history for a king to freak out at every natural disasters because they believe that it's a sign from heaven that they are unworthy.
That's how much they believe in superstition.
If anyone needs justification for a coup, the best time to do it is after a natural disaster lol.

Anyway, since this is Joseon we have Confucian mandate of heaven and shamanism divination in form of a prophesy working the same way when it comes to king Gwanghae in this drama.

Those in power were hell-bent on interpreting prophesies to their own advantage or become paranoid over it if it's to their disadvantage.

Historically, Gwanghae was competent as a ruler but he was paranoid because his position wasn't stable. He was not the oldest or the legitimate heir to the throne.

I don't know what the prophesy was really about but it sounds confusing when it comes to Nokdu's place on the throne.

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@kiara thank you so much for the explanation! I'm only familiar with shamanism from a handful of dramas, primarily Moon/Sun, but it does make sense that this was taken seriously because the shaman was basically supposed to be an Oracle. Also natural disasters breeding chaos and opportunism makes sense, it happens even now albeit there are no more kings to overthrow.

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Also, it's worth noting this version of Gwanghae is paranoid about everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, whether it's a stone-throwing commoner or his best friends and right hand men. Unfortunately, Yul-moo knows how to exploit that weakness and tell him what he wants to hear.

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I gotta admit... I was a little (okay, a lot) uncomfortable with the sudden change of tone between the 2 episodes. I found myself agitated, wondering: What's going on in the palace? How are they safe right now? I'm not used to this amount of contentment. Why am I waiting for Gwanghae to interrupt their happiness? Why are we spending 20 minutes on a wedding disaster? WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE PALACE?
Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that our main leads FINALLY got to settle down and be happy (however, I demanded a child and did not get one), but I felt that the resolve for the whole palace drama should be better dealt with. But whatever, I'm a hard person to please when it comes to Kdrama finales.

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As for how they're safe, I thought it was because they found another hideout and Yul-moo actually held up his end of the bargain to Dong-joo by telling the king Nokdu was dead and even producing a body. King believed he was dead (though secret communications to the queen continued for years) and left them alone.

The wedding disaster scene was a bit goofy but I liked it, those kids earned a break there. Also liked that they are away from the palace and the king and no longer affected by the heavy political stuff. That said, I liked seeing the palace coup nine years later too. That was a good way to wrap up that plotline, even without Nokdu (and with the knowledge that Injo will be a puppet king).

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this show was such a gem i loved binge watching the last couple of episodes and that ending felt so bittersweet and beautiful. this is probably my favourite chemistry of kim so hyun since yook sungjae and i wholeheartedly enjoyed all their sweet moments. the osts were another thing that uplifted the scenes that im still listening to it. im truly gonna miss dong joo and nokdu ❤️

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My favorite KSH drama as well. The whole drama was perfect in many ways.

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Mine too, none of her previous dramas as lead have really lived up to her promise as a actress.... until this one (yes, some were cute and some bits were good but Nokdu is the best of the lot, by far).

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Sorry guys, can someone please explain Dongjoo’s relationship with the King? Like why her family was killed and why Nokdu was so shocked about Dongjoo’s identity? I know I asked this last time but some people weren’t sure either. Thank you in advance!

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Dong-joo's grandfather (the old noble in pink robes you see telling her to do whatever she likes) had a letter written by the previous king asking for his son Gwanghae (the king Nokdu and Dong-joo know) not to be made the king, and to put his youngest son Prince Yeongchang (the little boy the king exiled from the palace) on the throne instead. Gwanghae, once he became king, found out about that letter/that Dong-joo's family were against him, so had them charged as traitors and killed (he sent Minister Heo - who was then in the military - to retrieve and destroy the letter in addition to killing the family).

Joseon punishment for treason involved wiping out the entire family for, if I remember correctly, at least three generations (the term they use was samjok) which is why Dong-joo's parents were also targeted and so was she. She's the only survivor of the massacre that the king ordered, which is why she's out to kill him and has been working at it for several years before she meets Nokdu.

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tl;dr version - the king saw the Yoo family as a threat because they had a letter from his father saying he shouldn't be king, so had them killed because he thought they were a threat. Dong-joo wants the king's blood for having her family killed.

And Nokdu is shocked on learning of her identity because he didn't realise she had been planning a royal assassination all along, and puts two and two together about her indirect references to it.

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I'm glad the drama made the very last episode light and a throwback to the early episodes. I love the windy wedding (though a little disappointed for Nokdu since he obviously had an idea of exactly how he wanted the wedding to go). I was a little annoyed that none of the characters seemed worried about Yul-moo. It really felt like Yul-moo had let Dong-joo too easily, so I was uneasy.

I did love the flashforward where Yul-moo threw it into Gwanghae's face that he also had the same birthdate (Eff you, Gwanghae!! You could have had a great relationship with a wonderful son!) . And the reunion with the Queen!

I really appreciate it when a drama allows its actors to really show off and open the door for more opportunities. Kim So Hyun and Jang Dong Yoon were always great, but this drama gave them a more adult vibe that missing from them before. And Kang Tae Oh got to show another side of his acting.

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I enjoyed the final half hour being mostly fluff, too - they earned that break! Windy wedding and all 😂

Also agreed on the flash forward and the reveal that Yul-moo was the one the prophecy referred to. The king deserved a face full of regret for everything he did to Nokdu, like you said they could have had a wonderful relationship if he'd just chosen differently but now he has to live with the fact that he threw his own child away to side with that snake. And the "this job sucks, you're a fool to take it" to Yul-moo, was well done.

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Also I'll just finish up by saying a big THANK YOU to our recappers, and to the Nokdu commenting crew - @zzthorn, @Globe, @samroy, @Linda Palapala, @Dropinggu aka Dame Judi, @amy1009, @Fly Colours, @purpleconfetti, @bumialit , @candycane, and everyone else (apologies because I know I've forgotten some names for sure). And special thanks to Kiara for providing valuable historical context and explanations!

It's been a great time, hope to see you all in the recaps of another drama someday!

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(few more I remembered) @ar @snarkyjellyfish @Helena @michykdrama @Kim Sun @Ms Rabbit @palaa @ninjabolt @cozybooks @sgpgirl @firefly @minchan ..... and everyone else, thank you!

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I am truely satisfied with the twisted ending ..
Indeed this drama highlighted the main point of life that is to live humble and be happy .. I am glad all the people with pure and innocent hearts where able to live peacefully and happy without guilt ,grieve, regret or warth...
( including the queen )
Yul mu and king deserved to live in agony and loneliness...overall everyone eventually got what they deserve.🙏
I Never expected such ending infact I was looking forward to revenge and nok du taking the throne ( usually thats what happen in historical drama) but the ending left me in awe and changed my perspective towards life
Appreciate all the actors, crew memeber production crew, director and all the people involved 🙏
Thank you for such a wonderful story❤

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i loved the drama all along but the ending i just hoped he and his father would finally bond and he'd make a just king..sucks to see the villain get the throne 😭😭😭

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I heart nokdu and dong joo and I am happy they got their happy ending. I think both of them realized nothing is more important to them than each other. I enjoyed the widow village episodes way too much.

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