Mandate of Heaven: Episode 12
A fun episode that has both sides increasing their efforts to win this political tug-of-war. There are some significant steps taken forward, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty of time for cute little exchanges to brighten up the process. That sense of humor is one of the things I find most compelling about the show, because on a straight plot level, let’s be honest—this is nothing new. This story’s been around the block and then some, so I’m enjoying the drama’s unexpected doses of laughs, cuteness, and developing relationships. And no, I haven’t gotten sick of the gorgeous camera yet either. That thing rocks.
SONG OF THE DAYtoo bad
안녕 바다 (Bye Bye Sea) – “City Complex” [ Download ]
EPISODE 12 RECAP
In a rage, Won holds Merchant Jang at knifepoint (having first wrestled it out of Jang’s grasp). Da-in begs him not to do this to her father figure, and he’s torn between his fury and her pleas. In disgust he shoves the man back, tossing the knife down and stalking to the door—just as Merchant Jang picks up the knife and charges.
It’s Da-in who interferes again—hey, at least she’s equal opportunity—by grabbing his legs and holding him back. Jang screams that Won must die for him to live, but Da-in holds tight and says that Won is as precious to her as her father.
That sends him over the edge, and Merchant Jang clutches at his head. Did she literally blow his mind?
Outside, the hand-to-hand combat continues between Do-moon and our two bandits. I almost feel bad for Do-moon, who gets taken down by the double-teaming, but he’s got the private army to back him up so the sympathy only goes so far. Won rejoins his teammates at the same time that those reinforcements arrive, and he takes down a few of them before jumping the wall with Keok-jung. A team of armed men follow.
So-baek gets separated from the boys and finds herself in a pickle when her exit route is blocked by Gon-oh and company, out on patrol. Da-in assesses the situation and pulls her aside.
So-baek is safe for the moment in Da-in’s room, but the grounds are crawling with men and there’s no easy way out. While So-baek oohs over Da-in’s pretty clothing (and then insists she has no interest in them, heh), Da-in is still emotional from the earlier encounter and grabs her hand to thank her for protecting Won.
Rat Fink Fraud (okay fine, his name is Mak-bong) leaves Merchant Jang’s residence still in possession of the documents. So either Jang did turn him down, or he’s struck a deal. Ah, there’s a door number 3: Jang sent him away intending to kill him.
Thus Mak-bong picks up a tail, and ducks out of sight to evade first Merchant Jang’s man, and then the royal officers, only to get knocked out from behind. He’s carried off by his mystery attacker.
Nearby, Won and Keok-jung pace their rendezvous point, worrying about So-baek’s continued absence. She comes running up (with pretty fabric tied around her like a sling, ha) to join them and has a valuable gift to pass along to Won: that banned medical text. I do enjoy how people are reduced to the simplest names in So-baek’s head, as she’s been calling Won “Horse Thief” all along while Da-in is “Pretty Lady.” I think even Rang might be more mature than she is.
Won asks if Da-in had said anything, and So-baek grabs Keok-jung’s hands to re-enact the scene of Da-in’s heartfelt relief. It has an unsettling effect on Keok-jung, who gulps and pulls his hands away.
Jung-hwan lurks outside the gaming den all night waiting for Mak-bong to show up, but it’s only Won who finds him there. He comments that he’s heard rumors of Jung-hwan haunting the gambling halls, and Jung-hwan actually stutters defensively that it’s to catch the criminal. Heh.
Won informs him that he spotted Mak-bong entering Merchant Jang’s home, which suggests that he read Jang’s name on the documents and headed there to cash in. Jung-hwan tells him to leave the rest to him—he’ll get those papers back. Won takes on the job of finding Mak-bong. Aw, did you two just split duties like a proper buddy cop duo?
Hilariously, So-baek pops her head into the conversation every now and then to speak up for Won (every time she feels Jung-hwan isn’t being properly respectful), and says that Mr. Horse Thief-nim is way cooler than Jung-hwan, who notes dryly the contrast of “horse thief” with “nim.” So-baek doesn’t even register that as weird and says that yup, he’s a nim now and not a nom (bastard)—which is a title now transferred to our investigator-nom.
Jung-hwan makes an empty threat to shut her up in prison, and Keok-jung steps up (aw) to say that he doesn’t have the authority, being dismissed and all. I love this ragtag team so much.
Won decides he’ll have to go back home to treat Rang first, and So-baek is right onboard with that plan. That finally sends Keok-jung over the edge and he bursts out that she thinks of nobody but Won, and storms off. Won sighs, “Do you really not know Keok-jung’s feelings?” and she’s all, His feelings what?
Do-moon’s patrol is still making the rounds and sends Won and So-baek ducking for cover. They huddle together until the patrollers leave, and the inadvertent embrace puts them in close quarters and stars in So-baek’s eyes.
Meanwhile, Geo-chil sits at a table set with an extra place, probably for his deceased wife (utensil sticking straight out of rice = offering to the spirits) and thinks to a flashback:
It’s years ago and he’s on the rampage, fighting off a half-dozen royal guards to make his way to Vice Premier Kim. Geo-chil rages at him, “Save my wife!” He raises the iron hammer that gives him his nickname and prepares to strike, only to be stopped by his sobbing daughter, then a child.
So-baek comes in and eagerly grabs at the food, but Geo-chil slaps her hand away and scolds her—did she forget tonight was her mother’s memorial? He turns away in a huff.
Won tucks Rang into bed and opens the medical book to find a letter folded inside. It’s from Da-in, written just before sending So-baek off with it, and she writes that this book was a gift from Lee Ho to cure Rang, assuring him that the day will come with the prince recovers his faith in him. She adds that she won’t be able to repay her debt to him any further, with a teardrop marking the words on the page. “Don’t forgive me, or my family,” the letter ends.
Jung-hwan calls on the Jang household the next day, where he expresses surprise at being attended to by Da-in. She asks to know what he came her to see her father about, but Merchant Jang arrives and gruffly tells her it’s none of her business.
Jung-hwan starts with a joke that gets a chuckle out of Merchant Jang about wishing he’d taken some of his bribes when he was offered them, if he was going to end up fired anyway. Then he wipes that smile off Jang’s face with mention of Mak-bong’s visit. Jung-hwan states that he has no authority to investigate Jang, but he references the letter’s contents specifically and asks how much Mak-bong asked for.
Then as he heads out, Minister Evil and Minister Eviller step inside the gates on their way in. Hard looks all around as the ministers pass.
Jung-hwan stops Do-moon, though, and says that the abdomen slash he gave him still hurts. Bam! He punches Do-moon in the gut.
Merchant Jang informs his partners in crime of Mak-bong’s blackmail request, which he had agreed to honor if he returned with all the documents. However, Mak-bong hasn’t come back and now they worry that the deal may go sideways.
Woo-young comes rushing up to see Jung-hwan walking by her laundry spot and demands to know if he got the papers. One look is enough to deduce that he hasn’t, and she starts beating her laundry with a stick frustratedly and basically scoffs in his face, What kind of badass are you? He let an innocent man be accused of a crime, lost crucial evidence…
Jung-hwan retorts, I’ll get it back! Haha. It’s not a funny scene but their dynamics amuse me so.
Woo-young sinks to the ground in tears, saying that the evidence was her one chance to put her family together again and get back their old lives. Jung-hwan crouches next to her, and without knowing how to offer any comfort, he starts silently beating her laundry instead. Awww. Yeah, it’s partly to work out his own frustration but it’s sweet all the same.
He guesses that Gon-oh is making her life miserable and asks how she’s holding up. She says she doesn’t need his concern and orders him to get that evidence instead. Jung-hwan pats her on the head and says he will. He is so terrible at it, it’s adorable. It’s like a bear petting a kitten. Thump, thump.
Jung-hwan is sought out by the prince’s man and brought to the palace to speak with Lee Ho. He fills him in on the latest developments, including the incriminating documents left by Do-saeng and the fact that Won entrusted those in his care (message: You can trust Won).
Rang’s condition isn’t improving, and Won realizes that it wasn’t because her treatment had gone awry. The problem is that she’s become too weak and fatigued, and with that diagnosis he begins a new bout of treatment with different medicines.
Poor Keok-jung, who watches from a distance as So-baek sticks close to Won’s side and gets his close attention. I trust him not to turn evil over it, but it does drive a wedge into the budding friendship; he tells Won that he’ll find Mak-bong for certain, but adds that once Won has cleared his name he ought to leave this place, and So-baek’s heart.
Lee Ho receives the report that his father’s health continues to ail. On top of the concerns about the succession, the continuing drought has the nation suffering. Lee Ho decides that he will make a ceremonial visit among the people to pray for rain, relieving the sick king of the burden; it’s the most he can do to assuage the minds of the populace and aid his father.
Jang-geum warns that if rain continues to evade them, the move could backfire on him. The prince says caustically that the worst that could happen is his death, “But I will not die that easily, because I have decided to live.”
Queen Munjeong sneers at the prince’s plans, deriding them as a ploy to curry favor with the people, while innocent young Prince Gyeongwon thinks his brother is loyal and wise. The queen sharply reprimands Gyeongwon and instructs him that no matter what happens during the rites, he is to do as his mother orders. Uh-oh.
Gyeongwon thus tries to persuade his brother not to go out of the palace. He fumbles for a reason to explain his worry, saying that the people are upset because of the drought and his welfare may be at risk. Lee Ho just interprets this as fear of getting a rock thrown at him or something. Yeah, I’m going with or something.
Gyeongwon adds that he’s too afraid of his mother to say this to her, but he has no greed for Lee Ho’s place (in the succession). “Therefore, I will go with you. I will take that stone’s hit instead of you, hyungnim.” Sweet kid.
Chun-bong and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcouncil cackle in glee to hear the latest news. Wait, I thought you were good guys. Don’t cackle! The reason is that the prince has finally stepped it up and shown potential to be a good king to brave public opinion and step outside his fortified walls. It’s what they’ve been biding their time for, hoping he’d be the right chess piece to throw their support to, and now they feel validated.
Chun-bong says that the prince has the opportunity to shift the public sentiment into his favor, which is what he meant by turning a dangerous situation into an opportunity. One of the men points out that the other faction won’t just stand by during the event, to which Chun-bong replies that neither will they: “During this procession and rain prayer, we must protect the crown prince. We must, at all costs.”
He goes to Geo-chil to enlist his might, and growls at him to join in if he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life—and his daughter’s—holed up here and stealing for a living.
The other side is equally busy marshaling troops, but at least we’ve got Jung-hwan keeping close tabs on Gon-oh’s actions. Both sides are still scrambling to locate Mak-bong, which means the letters are still in limbo. Lee Ho reconfirms that the letters were truly passed along by Won, not quite believing it since he believes Won sold his soul to the bad guys and killed Deok-pal.
Jung-hwan advises Lee Ho to consider that he may have misunderstood the situation, which makes the prince bristle, Not you too? Still, Jung-hwan is more convincing than the others who’ve said the same thing, because he states that he can understand because he’s seen firsthand the dangers of misunderstanding, and of assuming Won to be a criminal that he isn’t.
Lee Ho concedes a tiny bit and says that he’ll give Won a chance to speak his piece, if Won shows up to his procession.
With baleful eyes, Won checks Rang’s vitals and sighs. She worries that she’s still sick, only to have him fake her out and cheer that she HAS improved. Ack! Don’t joke with a thing like that! Rang has the same reaction and glowers mightily, calling him Bad Daddy for joking about her health and saying she won’t let him stick her with any more needles. Won apologizes hastily, only to have Rang fake him out right back. Oh you two.
So-baek cheers to hear Rang is improved, but Rang turns to the perennially stone-faced Keok-jung to demand, “Well, aren’t you happy for me?” He stammers, “I-I’m glad…” Haha.
They deliver a message from Jung-hwan, which informs him of the prince’s instructions to meet him. Won worries that in order to speak with the prince, the prince must first be kept safe, and thus he joins the bandits in providing guard over the event.
Rang argues with her father not to go, crying, “I don’t want to split up from Dad anymore.” Geo-chil tells So-baek to stay behind and watch Rang, despite her protests that she wants to go.
Queen Munjeong isn’t thrilled that Prince Gyeongwon is going along on the procession, but the king has assented and she can’t block him. Vice Premier Kim offers that “seeing it” isn’t necessarily a bad thing (and that sounds ominous), while the queen agrees: “Our prince must become stronger now.” Please don’t tell me your vision of strength involves murdering his brother in front of his eyes.
The queen passes along one more flower-marked message and tells her ministers to make sure the revolt succeeds and returns Lee Ho to the palace as a corpse, while leaving Gyeongwon unscathed. A tall order.
Day of procession. Lee Ho makes his way to the sedan chair that awaits him while the evil guys trade evil looks in preparation for their evil scheme. Ack, and there’s Do-moon, disguised as one of the chair-bearers.
Da-in recognizes him and furrows her brow, though for now she doesn’t do anything. She’s part of the entourage following the two princes, which Won notes as he lies in wait with the bandits waiting at the ready to swoop in when needed.
There are other familiar faces in the crowd, and Geo-chil stiffens to recognize Vice Premier Kim. His knee-jerk reaction is to charge in there, but he’s held back by his teammates and tamps down his rage.
Chun-bong gives a signal, and one contingent of flag-bearing courtiers breaks off from the rear and is replaced… by Won, Geo-chil, and bandits in disguise. I reaaaally don’t like Geo-chil’s temper simmering at the sight of Vice Premier Kim; we can’t afford any rogue missions.
Back at the hideaway, Rang pesters So-baek to go join the procession party (and take her with her). So-baek says no, wondering why it is that she doesn’t feel a great need to obey her own father, but somehow really wants to obey Rang’s. Her EQ is a full step lower than Rang, who immediately cottons on to the meaning of that comment and comes back with a wheedle: “If you take me, I think I’ll start liking you a little bit more than the Pretty Doctor Lady… My father likes whoever I like.” Oh, you little shyster. I laughed out loud.
Therefore in no time So-baek is sneaking out of the hideaway with a disguised Rang in tow, who has changed into her Bad Idea Pants. Eek!
The prince’s procession stops for a break, and Da-in wipes sweat from her brow. A handkerchief is offered her, and she looks up to see Won standing there in his disguise. He worries to himself about her health and tells her, “Don’t be ill.” With that he heads off, and she holds back her tears.
Geo-chil notices the two ministers having a private conversation and gets up to follow them. Won passes by just as Geo-chil takes out his dagger and sizes up the situation, and is thus able to hold Geo-chil back.
Geo-chil is furious, naturally, but calms down when Won tells him that this is the man responsible for all his misery—his father’s death, his false charge, everything. And if Geo-chil were to kill him now, he’d get killed for sure, leaving So-baek to fend for herself.
His words make sense, and Geo-chil has to concede to it. Won creeps closer to hear the ministers telling Do-moon that this is their chance to kill Lee Ho. They warn him to make a clean go of it, holding Merchant Jang’s life over his head.
But they’ve had one more eavesdropper, and Won looks over to see Prince Gyeongwon falling to his knees, devastated. Won approaches Gyeongwon, who asks if he’s working with the ministers and begs him to stop them. Then he wipes his tears away and decides he’d better go and protect his hyungnim, aw.
Won gets his attention by offering a way to keep Lee Ho safe.
As the entourage regroups to resume the procession, Vice Premier Kim gives Do-moon the nod to go. As Do-moon rises from his crouch, a team of archers get into position from afar to cover him as he approaches with dagger in hand, ready to literally backstab the prince.
Except suddenly a eunuch runs up in a panic: Prince Gyeongwon has disappeared. Aha! Clever, clever.
This throws everybody into a panic, both good and evil, and Do-moon is instructed to stand down. Not now. Chun-bong looks impressed and gives Won credit where it’s due.
Won leads Prince Gyeongwon through the woods, only to come face to face with Rang and So-baek. Rang recognizes him as “Bad Young Master” from “the scary man’s house” and then proceeds to chastise Gyeongwon for his rude behavior. Won doesn’t have time for all the explanations required and asks So-baek to take Gyeongwon back home while he returns to the procession, and So-baek gapes: “You want me to take Bad Master back with us?” Lol, the name has stuck.
As they walk back, So-baek tells the glaring kiddos to stop shooting eye-lasers at each other, then decides that they should just fight it out: “Babies grow by fighting!” Gyeongwon speaks in his elevated palace honorifics (meaning: speaking down to everyone who’s non-royal), and while that’s appropriate language from a prince, it sure sounds insulting to those who don’t know you’re a prince.
Gyeongwon is adorably confused, legitimately not getting why his style of address is offensive, and gets rapped on the head for it. Rang sticks out her tongue at him. He’s left literally huffing in disbelief.
Lee Ho returns to the palace and stews with frustration, and his inability to protect his brother has him lashing out at his courtiers. The stress has him faltering, but he rejects Da-in’s attempt to check on him.
The ministers fidget in worry—what if something happened to Gyeongwon? If he were to die, then there’s no point to killing Lee Ho (they’re backing the successor to increase their own power once Gyeongwon is king, which becomes moot in that scenario). Vice Premier Kim sees an answer in Da-in, and delivers her the queen’s missive, along with a dose of poisonous powder. Guess she’s Plan B.
Da-in protests. She can’t kill. Kim counters, Then can you kill your father? Those are her options.
Da-in falls to her knees begging. Vice Premier Kim has no use for her pleas and orders her eliminated, then.
Jung-hwan prowls the city for signs of Mak-bong. Won has shared his suspicions that Mak-bong didn’t run away of his own will, but is being held against it. So Jung-hwan is on the lookout for clues, and gets one—a shifty character opens a storeroom door, and he gets a glimpse of Mak-bong tied up inside. Bingo.
Out in the woods, Won spies Gon-oh dragging Da-in along to her impending death. Won charges and knocks Gon-oh down, freeing Da-in and leading her away.
Elsewhere in the woods, Jung-hwan flies into the midst of the traders who have taken Mak-bong prisoner, knocking them aside and recovering the rat.
Won and Da-in race through the forest, though she stops to tell him one important discovery: The flower drawing Rang carried around was from the queen’s secret messages. Too bad their brief pause gives the baddies a chance to catch up, and they find themselves surrounded. This is what happens when you stop mid-escape!
They’re tied up and taken prisoner to an isolated shack in the woods. The henchmen wait until Vice Premier Kim joins them to give the go-ahead, and then Gon-oh takes out his sword to finish the job.
But at the last moment, a voice calls for them to stop. They’re joined by new arrivals: Merchant Jang and Do-moon. Ooh, is this the turning of the tide? Have they switched sides after all?
Merchant Jang stands up to Vice Premier Kim and orders him to stop. Do-moon pulls out papers and holds them up—they have the documents. Won realizes that Merchant Jang had them all along, and Merchant Jang cops to it. He states that he has no intention of defying the queen—he was holding onto them as collateral for Da-in’s life. Oh, that’s sweet. See, Soon-shin, this is how you do adoptive parenting.
So Merchant Jang offers up his deal: the papers for her life.
Da-in is released, though there’s no such provision for Won. Kim sees that the confession is missing from the stack, and Merchant Jang adds that he’s hanging on to that—he’ll trade that for the promise to stop using Da-in as one of their minions.
Da-in begs for Won’s life too, but goes ignored. Jang’s party exits and Gon-oh is ordered to kill Won. Gon-oh raises his sword, and starts to strike…
Tune in next week!
Granted, there’s a lot of running and capturing and escaping and running again in this drama. I suppose one reaction to that is to get annoyed; I choose to find it amusing. Plus, it’s fun to see how many times they can change up the dynamic so that we’re never quite in the same situation as before. That’s all you can ask for, really; there are no new stories under the sun, after all, just revised takes on the same old themes.
So I’m pretty excited to have Prince Gyeongwon taken hostage/refugee by the bandits, just because it’s such a great way to fuck with the bad guys. They frankly have zero relevance in a world where Gyeongwon doesn’t exist, so not only are they putting their lives on the line to depose Lee Ho, they’re now in danger of doing it to no end. Bye bye, necks.
It’s also rewarding to give Gyeongwon a dose of the happies, if only for a short while. His heart is in the right place, so it’s fitting to let him live amongst those with whom he agrees ideologically. While he does have everybody scheming to protect and support him, it’s being done in a toxic atmosphere that can’t be pleasant to his peace of mind. I want to see him romping around and being a young little boy even for a short while; Lee Ho was isolated too, but at least he has memories of having best friends in Won and Do-saeng, replete with secret hiding places. Gyeongwon just has a mother who scares the bejeezus out of him and a brother he isn’t allowed to love.
I’ve noticed that the show does a pretty thorough job of setting every plot point up well in advance, and it’s nice to be fed this constant stream of proof that the show’s writing is thought out and planned carefully. Admittedly the seeding of future narrative threads isn’t always done smoothly—I recall being confused at Gyeongwon and Rang’s initial meeting, which was very cute but also very abrupt. So it’s not without its flaws. But I’ll take clumsy and planned to slapdash and last-minute any day. If anything, it assures me that this is a story that knows where it’s going.
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 11
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 10
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 9
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 8
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 7
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 6
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 5
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 4
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 3
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 2
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 1