Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 16
Wow, oh wow. We’re treated to a whole buffet of revelations today as the pieces come slamming together in a collision of buried secrets and rediscovered memories. I love that we’re still making discoveries, especially in a show where we’ve had a good long while to think we had everything figured out. With the truth coming out, we see a bit more into the mind of the big bad—and our hearts break just a little more for Joo-wal. Okay, I won’t speak for yours, but mine sure did.
SONG OF THE DAY
Nine9 – “노래들” (Songs), from the singer of rock band Dear Cloud. [ Download ]
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Just as Arang gives the benefit of the doubt to Joo-wal, she’s hit with a memory—of herself warning Eun-oh’s mother not to go with Joo-wal. Even eerier is the realization that she’s seeing the murder shack in the woods. Why would Joo-wal be there?
Eun-oh admits to himself that he’d been afraid to voice his suspicions that his mother was connected to Arang’s death. But now he decides it’s time to share what he knows with Arang. Thank you. Granted, she’s already made that connection, but it’s the thought that counts.
When she arrives at home, he says he’s got something to tell her. So does she.
He goes first, telling her of his mother being Mu-yeon’s host body and his intention to find a way to bring her back. He’s still half-incredulous over his teacher being the Jade Emperor.
Arang says these events are too much to be coincidence. The Jade Emperor taught Eun-oh to fight ghosts, sent Arang back as human, and supplied the hairpin that brought the two of them together. She ventures, “Me searching for the answers to my death, you searching for your mother—I think he planned it all. Why would he do that?”
She also requests that Eun-oh find who killed Seo-rim’s maid. He sends her to bed, assuring her that he will. And now it’s Arang’s turn to withhold a suspicion, because she decides she’ll wait to tell him about Joo-wal until she remembers more. Sigh. Just think of how much progress they could make if they pooled their brain trust!
Eun-oh commands his new patrolmen to search the woods for the maid’s dead body. I love how Dol-swe has taken on role of Eun-oh’s lieutenant; he was always his unofficial right-hand man, but now he’s taking on his responsibilities with gusto.
As usual, the Bang Trio moan and groan over the magistrate’s interference, desperately wishing he’d keep his nose out of everything. Or should I say, the Bang Duo; the two turn around to see Hyung-bang trotting off after the men to join in the search party. They shoot him a betrayed look, ha.
Since Hyung-bang was our murderous Bang, I’m not entirely certain whose team he’s on. But he oversees the search and breathes a sigh of satisfaction to watch men at work, remembering, “Ah right! This was originally my job!” Let’s hope this newfound sense of professional pride means he’s on the good guys’ team now.
Of course, this also means he’s balking at Dol-swe for performing his duties. He starts directing the men in earnest, but they ignore him. “Who are you?” one asks. Haha. Well that’s what happens when you shirk your job for years on end: People assume it’s not yours to begin with.
The men discover the body and call Eun-oh to the scene. It’s indeed the maid, and Arang follows him to take a look. He urges her not to see, reminding her of how he tried to block her from seeing her own dead body.
She walks past him anyway, brushing dirt from the old woman’s face and covering her up from the cold. “I’m sorry,” she tells the body.
Eun-oh reminds her to take the ID tag that the woman grabbed from her killer. She finds it. Eun-oh instructs Dol-swe to treat the body with care and bring it back to the magistrate’s office.
Dol-swe fumes with righteous anger as he arrives to arrest Lord Choi’s man. Villagers watch him being dragged off in criminal’s ropes, filled with newfound satisfaction over having an active magistrate in town. This leaves Lord Choi stewing at the loss of a minion, and he calls for Lee-bang.
The dead woman’s daughter tearfully thanks Eun-oh for finding her mother; at least now she can pay her the proper memorial rites. Arang remembers how the servant had been crying over Seo-rim’s corpse, and tells Eun-oh so.
Arang: “Back then, I didn’t see. My sadness was too great, I must not have been able to see hers. When I saw her body, I understood—there was someone who cried for me other than myself. If I’d known that earlier, I wouldn’t have wandered in the wrong places looking for Lee Seo-rim. Then I would have found out about Joo-wal easily too.”
It’s a bittersweet realization, one in a string of them showing Arang that she did matter to somebody. A lovely, sad moment.
Arang asks if Eun-oh’s going to give up his magistrate work now that he’s caught this culprit. He reminds her that the real villain is Lord Choi, so he’s not through yet. She’s relieved, saying she thought he’d be done with that business. Eun-oh: “I’m not that kind of magistrate.”
Eun-oh wonders why Lord Choi wanted to know about Arang, which leads to the question of whether Joo-wal knew all about her as well. Her internal monologue immediately denies it; he couldn’t have, because “Lee Seo-rim wouldn’t have loved someone like that.” Aw, sad. She tells herself there’s another explanation. She doesn’t sound convinced, but looks like she’ll cling to her hopes a bit longer.
Joo-wal, meanwhile, mulls over his last conversation with Arang—why is she suddenly interested in his reaction to Seo-rim’s death?
He heads to another cabin in the woods, where Mu-yeon has relocated now that her dungeon has been discovered. He asks if she remembers Seo-rim, since he doesn’t even recall her face. He looks like a heartbreakingly lost puppy as he asks, fearfully, “Did I kill her?”
Mu-yeon replies, “Yes. You did.” She describes the night it happened: Seo-rim followed him to the murder shack and saw everything, so she had to die.
Joo-wal looks devastated. Tears spill from his eyes, and she figures it’s because the girl was almost his wife. She chides him for digging up old memories: “Why do you think I always erase your memories of murdering?” Ahhh. Well, this explains A LOT about his character. And makes him a lot more tragic.
He asks why she did it. She acts like he’s the irrational one for asking: “Why did I do what? Erase your memories? Or leaving her to die?” Chin trembling, Joo-wal whispers, “Both.”
Mu-yeon calls him ungrateful, telling him she erased his memory because he wanted it, so that he could live.
This triggers a flashback. Joo-wal, dressed in black, carries Seo-rim’s corpse to the shack and lays her down. At home, he huddles in shock, lost in his misery. Mu-yeon asks if he’s still suffering, conceding that killing people is difficult business—but what use is he if he acts like this every single time? She says if she’d known how weak-hearted he’d be, she would never have taken him in.
Quivering in fear, Joo-wal begs, “Save me.” Mu-yeon offers to erase his memory again, as much as necessary. She performs the deed, and visibly his shuddering eases.
Now, Joo-wal asks why Seo-rim followed him that night. She retorts, “How should I know? If you meet her again, why don’t you ask?” After he leaves, she decides that it’s not yet time to reveal that Arang is Seo-rim—she’ll wait for “a more useful moment.” Oof. Just thinking about how that’ll break him makes me feel for that moment.
Over a game of heavenly badook, Hades prods Jade Emperor to admit that he’s been taken by surprise, and that he hadn’t expected Mu-yeon to weaken this much. Jade says that he didn’t realize Eun-oh’s mother (her original spirit) was this strong, so yes, it’s a curveball. Hm, interesting. So is there hope that Mom will come out of this alive after all?
Hades chuckles like a petty little schoolboy, crowing that there are things even the Jade Emperor doesn’t know, despite his know-it-all attitude. I enjoy his reaction, because really, this is the thing you’re fixating on? That your rival-brother isn’t as cool as he acts? ‘Cause there’s a whole heaven-earth devastation on the line…
Jade Emperor merely replies that this is why he has faith in humans: There’s an unpredictable power to the human heart that you can’t know.
Mu-young, still on probation, sighs heavily and wonders what he can do to save Mu-yeon. Uh, I think that ship has sailed, brotha. He wonders if she’s lost herself for good, and thinks back to their prior selves.
A flashback takes us to the time when they were new to heaven, he as a reaper and she as a fairy. Mu-yeon calls him oraboni, ignoring his chiding not to (as that’s a remnant of their human pasts), and asks incredulously if he truly likes it up here—”Where today is like tomorrow, and tomorrow just like today!”
He asks why she hates it. She bursts out, “They tell you not to have anything! What’s so wrong with desiring things? But here, they don’t let you have anything! Even if I’m stuck rolling in dog shit, I like it better in that world, where you’re permitted to have desires. I want to live there.”
Mu-young wonders whether her current twisted incarnation is the life she so desired. I’m going to speak for her for a moment and say no, since Mu-yeon is currently shaking like a leaf in her cabin, weak and uneasy.
Arang treks up to the creepy mountain, determined to visit the gravesite and jog more memories.
She’s not the only one with that idea; Joo-wal arrives at the filled-in grave, thinking of Arang’s words about Seo-rim’s love for him. And how he’d carried her dead body here.
And so, when Arang arrives she finds him already there. She asks why, telling him she’s been here once before, in a deserted shack. Does he know it?
Joo-wal stammers a denial and starts to leave. She stops him: “When Lee Seo-rim died… at that place… were you there?”
He doesn’t reply, but they both know the answer. Arang starts to cry as the realization settles in.
And then, a new figure arrives in town. It’s Lord Kim, Eun-oh’s father, commanding immediate respect.
He seems pretty warm toward Eun-oh, which is a relief; I’m pretty full up on negligent and abusive parents in this drama and don’t know if I could’ve endured another one. He seems like a stern but fair man, and he has come in response to Eun-oh’s letter inquiring about Lord Choi. Eun-oh explains his hunch that his mother came to Miryang looking for Lord Choi, and asks about the connection.
Lord Kim calls it a deep sorrow dating back a long while, and explains that Eun-soo’s maternal grandfather, Lord Seo, had been a powerful government minister. He’d tried to punish Lord Choi, also a minister, for his evil deeds—but Lord Choi retaliated by scheming up a plot that framed grandpa. Eun-oh’s mother was the only one who escaped death.
Lord Kim urges Eun-oh to understand his mother, whose grief was to blame for her neglect of him. That’s why she decided to bear the sorrow alone and leave him, for Eun-oh’s sake.
As he heads out to leave, Lord Kim casts an appraising eye around at the magistrate’s office his son has built up, with the men training busily in the courtyard. He tells him there’s one main principle in governing a nation and its people: “Be on their side. Listen to them. Don’t forget that.” He adds that Eun-oh ought to let him know if he encounters trouble, because Dad will exert some of his influence for him. Which, just, AW.
As he exits, Lord Kim wonders to himself whether Mom truly came here to kill Lord Choi. Eun-oh is wondering the same thing, remembering her vow to get her revenge.
Arang goes to Seo-rim’s room to look in the mirror she always uses to talk to Seo-rim. She says, “Finding the person who killed you… approaching that truth… I don’t know why it hurts my heart so. If I want to find out the truth, if I want to go to heaven, I have to find that person and punish them. But doing that… is that what you really hope for, Lee Seo-rim?”
Eun-oh finds her in the room and joins her in the dark. He sees that she’s been crying and asks what the matter is. At her nonresponse, he backs off and says, “I don’t know what it is, but until you go up to heaven, don’t forget that I’m here next to you.”
Eun-oh tracks down someone who was around three years ago when the traveling woman arrived in town. She did a bit of work in the kitchen after pleading for the job, but a few days in she was caught poisoning Lord Choi’s food. After that, there was no trace of her.
The man has a separate request to make of the magistrate, and alerts him to a problem. Apparently there have been people forcing citizens into forced labor, saying they’re rounding people up for the government despite not being of the usual department. He puts Dol-swe in charge of the investigation.
Dol-swe retorts that they’re obviously doing it for Lord Choi. Eun-oh’s all, Duh. That’s why I said to investigate.
He finds more people at his office, here to have their problems heard. They’ve heard Eun-oh is looking into Lord Choi’s misdeeds, and while most people are too scared to open their mouths, these people tell him of being beaten, starved, and being forced to sell off children because of him. They wail and beg for Eun-oh to do something.
Lee-bang is called to fill Lord Choi in on the magistrate’s doings, and there’s a lot to report: He’s training patrolmen, he punished the maidservant’s murderer, and worst of all, the public sentiment these days feels different. People keep going to talk to Eun-oh, but he doesn’t know what they’re saying.
Dol-swe finds Hyung-bang loitering around the magistrate’s rooms, shrewdly figuring that he’s up to some sort of troublemaking. Hyung-bang contradicts him, saying that he’s not here to interfere: “I’ve picked my route. I chose the magistrate. No matter how I think of it, the magistrate suits my tastes.”
Aw, I’m absurdly pleased with his show of allegiance. I’m sure he’s cowardly enough to jump ship if challenged, but I love that he’s starting to think for himself, apart from his buddies.
But even funnier is the way Dol-swe—oh, dim, one-track-mind Dol-swe—hears his words. Rather than relief or even suspicion, it’s territorial jealousy. Eyes bugging out, he exclaims, “Tastes? Don’t you dare come on to the young master! Are you giving your heart to him?” Hyung-bang’s just confused, but Dol-swe complains, “Just live like you were before!”
Lord Choi instructs Lee-bang to take a message to his fall guy in jail (for killing the maid). The question: “Will you live a thick, short life? Or a long, thin one?” Of course, neither messenger nor recipient has any idea what this means. Bang No. 2 interprets: “He means keep your mouth shut.”
Lord Choi fumes at the shifting tide of public opinion, and orders a servant to take a message to the governor.
Bang-wool sits at home stewing in frustration at the sight: Her ghostly ancestors sit at the table she’s prepared, eating heartily. But she can’t hear them, and she finds this a perverse trick of the fates.
At least we can hear them, and the ladies cackle over the delicious pork brought by that man courting Bang-wool. Mom says they spend all their time feeding each other and being lovey-dovey that she can hardly stand to see it.
Bang-wool, meanwhile, wonders at Mom’s demand for the pork. Now we see how she remembers the scene of shoving the food into Dol-swe’s mouth—not lovingly, but to shut him up. Ha. Oh, Moms. Forever misinterpreting the romancey stuff in our lives.
Bang-wool gasps, though. Does this mean they know “all about me and my guy”? She blushes in mortification.
Eun-oh fills Arang in on what he’s learned about his mother’s motives. She wonders if it’ll be possible to save Mom from her possessor, and he says determinedly, “I have to save her.”
Eun-oh deduces that Mu-yeon has been at that house a lot longer than Lord Choi, and that everyone who’s lived there has enjoyed power because of her. That means Lord Choi won’t give up his claim to power and wealth, and is hiding her away somewhere. But how?
Ha, and our ghost spies make their reappearance. Turns out they’d run away in fear of the tremendous evil power surrounding the house, and they blame each other for prompting them to run. (“I wasn’t going to run, but they all did so I did too.” “I wasn’t going to run either, but being on my own scared me.”)
They’re back now that they see the house is removed of its evil. Eun-oh grumps, “Thanks to ME!” Haha. They tell him that Eun-oh’s got quite the reputation among the ghost population, and have to be prodded to repeat it: “They say the magistrate is scarier than ghosts.”
Eun-oh reassigns the ghosts to patrol that house, and to report on the movements of any of its people. So when a minion makes his suspicious way along a road clutching a parcel, the ghosts are on his tail. Hilariously, they tiptoe and hide behind trees (which would be too skinny to cover them even if they weren’t invisible), which is just adorable.
The ghosts amble along until the minion arrives at a house—Mu-yeon’s temporary new digs—and immediately tremble at the bad juju. Spooked, they scramble off.
The ghosts accuse Eun-oh of tricking them, because that evil presence was supposed to be gone. Eun-oh realizes they’ve located Mu-yeon, and gets up to head there straightaway. Arang insists on going with him, overriding his protests by saying, “We don’t have many more days to be together anyway. Whatever happens, it’ll be better with both of us than either one alone.” Aw. Also, finally. I could’ve told ya that ages ago.
The ghosts lead them to the house. Inside, Mu-yeon can feel a change in the energy, and feels Arang near. She emerges and greets them both. I know Mu-yeon needs Arang’s permission to take over, but there’s no denying that her mere proximity makes me very, very nervous…
At her approach, Arang lands on another memory—this one of the night Seo-rim died.
Seo-rim watches from a distance as Joo-wal brings Eun-oh’s mother to that shack. Mu-yeon has a different body, but she’s recognizable by the clothes she wears. She starts to convulse like she’s suffering some kind of attack… and then a black energy bursts out of the body and shoots into Eun-oh’s mother. Mom calms as Mu-yeon’s spirit settles, and the former shell falls dead.
But moments later, Mom starts to convulse again. The body is rebelling, and she gasps, “This isn’t right. I thought wrong!” It’s Mom, briefly regaining control in her last-minute change of heart, and she grabs Joo-wal’s dagger and tries to thrust it into her chest. But Joo-wal grabs her wrist, stopping her.
Mom turns the knife against Joo-wal now, warning him away. Then Mu-yeon’s spirit surges again, momentarily claiming dominance. But Mom fights back again and raises the knife against Joo-wal. And in the moment that she thrusts it toward his chest, Seo-rim darts in front to save the man she loves, and gets stabbed.
Seo-rim falls gasping in pain, and Joo-wal just stares, dumbfounded. Mom looks horrified at what she’s done, but finally Mu-yeon reasserts herself for good.
Seo-rim looks up at Joo-wal and whispers, “Young master.” She closes her eyes, dead. Mu-yeon asks what this is all about, and he’s so stunned he stutters, “I-I don’t know.” He doesn’t even recognize her as his fiancée, or know why she’s here.
Mu-yeon declares that they’ll have to get rid of the girl who saw everything, and waves her hand over Seo-rim’s face. But she’s already dead… OH I SEE. She can’t leave any traces of her actions because the girl’s spirit can take that info up to heaven—which explains why Arang awoke in the reaper’s care with no memory whatsoever. It all makes sense now.
Joo-wal is left to take care of the body. He carries it out, and as he does, the hairpin drops out of Seo-rim’s grasp and falls to the floor.
All this flashes back to Arang as Mu-yeon nears, aligning the three of them in the same formation as the night Mom lost her body. Get away! Get away NOW!
Mu-yeon reaches to touch Arang’s face. Eun-oh’s hand darts in and stops her.
The story is finally complete, or very nearly so. And while some of the answers we got were the big ones, I’m just as gratified at the smaller mysteries that have been answered, things I’d either forgotten about in light of the big picture, or that I figured were just going to be left as is.
For instance, Arang’s memory. I’d almost forgotten to question her amnesia until we were given the reason for it. I don’t mean in a literal sense of not knowing she had memory loss since her quest to discover what happened to her is the driving force of the show. But I’d chalked it up to it being another of the mysteries of the universe. Perhaps it was merely a plot device to get the plot rolling, or maybe the Jade Emperor had done it as a step in positioning her as an agent of his master plan. Seeing how it fits in to the big mystery reinforces how carefully plotted this world is, and once again gives me reassurance that there is a real, sensical resolution awaiting us around the corner. I dearly hope that’s true; I’ve certainly had enough of dramas that string you along and then leave you hanging.
It was a nice touch to show how stifled Mu-yeon was by heaven, despite the general prevailing opinion about heaven being an awesome place to go. Being told you weren’t allowed to want things? That’s a pretty bleak way to live out eternity, no matter how pretty the surroundings (or your flirty overlord). It doesn’t acquit her subsequent actions, of course, but it definitely adds dimension to her character. (Aided by Im Joo-eun’s performance. Love her. Aside from being back in cameo form for the PD who directed her in Hon, PD Kim says he wanted Im because she has a face that can go both good and villainous. Which is certainly true.) It also makes her less of a paint-by-numbers Bundle of Evil than a terrible cautionary tale of what happens when you get too twisted up in your desire for… well, desire. And freedom. And accomplishing those things by any means necessary. The Jade Emperor’s fascination with the human heart becomes clear now, given the extremes to which it can drive a person.
And whether this is a part of his master scheme or just a nice bit of symbolic synchronicity, it makes sense now why defeating Mu-yeon is a job for a human. Rather than, say, the god-tyrant who doesn’t quite understand, who doesn’t feel that same conflict and desperation the way that someone who could never give up humanity feels. Ironically, it’s what also twisted her far past humanity into monstrosity.
Now that Arang’s getting snippets of her memory back, I wonder if that means the barrier between Arang and Seo-rim will gradually fade away. And what will that mean for her feelings for Joo-wal? I don’t fear for the loveline between Arang and Eun-oh because that’s such a strong connection at this point, but I do question how she’ll react to knowing the full truth of Joo-wal. He didn’t kill her after all, but he’s definitely not the man Seo-rim fell in love with.
Speaking of Joo-wal… I’ve struggled with my sympathy for him all drama long, in that I totally feel for him despite knowing in my head that he did terrible things and probably had everything coming to him. Maybe I just felt his fear and longing too keenly, or maybe it’s the actor’s fault (credit?) for giving Joo-wal such pathos, but I just couldn’t hate him. And now that I see that he’s been having his memory wiped, it just makes him that much more wretched. It explains his hot-cold dichotomy, and how he can be so indifferent to things (or people) he has no business being indifferent toward. To see how shattered he was by Mu-yeon’s hold over him, and powerless to do anything about it, though—that broke my heart.
He’s still got to be held accountable for his crimes, because no matter his remorse, the fact remains that he did go out there and kill. But now I can see him as a weak coward drowning in fear, and not the psychopathic murder with no remorse. He’s just so tragic!
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 15
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 14
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 13
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 12
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 11
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 10
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 9
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 8
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 7
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 6
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 5
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 4
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 3
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 2
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 1