Joseon Gunman: Episode 2
More good stuff! I don’t know what appeals to me more, the action, the romance, the humor, the political intrigue, or the revenge looming on the horizon—but as far as I’m concerned that’s a good thing since it means Joseon Gunman is doing an effective job juggling all of its elements.
Episode 2 had a lot of cute, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’d advise you to drink up now while we can, though, ’cause I’m pretty sure the conflict is gonna heat up in no time.
SONG OF THE DAY
One More Chance – “노래 불러” (Sing a song) [ Download ]
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Soo-in warns Yoon-kang not to tangle with her, gripping her pistol with shaking hands. He isn’t daunted in the least, and raises his sword to strike.
A gunshot sounds, but we hop over to the other scene unfolding with scholar Oh Kyung. A split second before the sniper aiming at him fires, Park Jin-han flies at him and knocks him out of harm’s way.
The gunman reloads while Park Jin-han leaps up to the rooftop and charges him. He gets a piece of the assassin with his sword and knocks him down to ground level, where the two continue the fight.
Back to Yoon-kang, who looks incredulously at the sword that has been broken clean in half by the bullet. Only now does it sink in for him, the frightening power of the gun, and he trembles in shock.
Soo-in bursts out, “That’s why I said not to do anything! You could have died! I could have killed you!” She starts sobbing in earnest, and Yoon-kang starts to believe that she’s not associated with the villains. She barks that if she were the infamous gunman, she wouldn’t have hesitated or let him get this close.
Yoon-kang realizes that he’s treated her badly and apologizes for the misunderstanding. Soo-in advises him to accept that he can’t fight guns with swords: “You’ve seen it yourself. It can’t be done.”
The pursuit continues. Park Jin-han leaps from rooftop to rooftop, then jumps leaps down just as the sniper on horseback rides by. His sword inflicts an injury and the gunman tumbles to the ground, cornered.
Soo-in arrives at the rendezvous point but finds nothing there but an empty shell.
Yoon-kang broods over his broken sword at the police station, where his friend Jung-hoon tells him he was lucky to have escaped intact. He wants to investigate the scholar’s movements, but Yoon-kang no longer thinks Soo-in isn’t in cahoots with the villains.
Yoon-kang thinks about the encounter all the way home, and a thought strikes him. He asks Soo-in’s maid about that scholar who he could have sworn came from their house. Perhaps the guy was a secret guest in the night? The nervous maid laughs it off, saying that he was probably just passing by. Yoon-kang doesn’t seem to buy that explanation, but asks to see Soo-in.
Soo-in hears this request and freaks out, worrying how to handle his suspicions. Her maid points out that she’s ruined if people find out that she’s been dressing as a man and sneaking out, and she’ll disgrace her parents as well. There’s nothing to be done but to feign complete ignorance.
So she heads out with her haughty demeanor in place, trying not to betray her nervousness. Yoon-kang asks for a favor, then removes his hat to request she put it on for a second. Omo, he knows already? I’d thought it might take him a few more clues, but he seems to have worked the whole thing out and plops the thing onto her head.
Soo-in protests and shoves the hat aside, but he’s seen enough. He doesn’t accuse her outright, but enjoys the roundabout journey, saying meaningfully that he’s not a fool and that he was bound to recognize her after their multiple run-ins. “Once wearing a hat, another time wearing a braid—but the faces are so similar.”
She tells him he must be confusing her with someone, but she stops in her tracks when he mentions talking to the police, who asked about the scholar’s whereabouts. “I was going to reveal the truth, but stopped myself,” he says.
Soo-in says with false bravado that he can tell the truth if he wants. Calling her on the bluff, he asks if she means it, because that might bring officers poking around on a search—what would happen if they found a dangerous item? How would that get explained?
Soo-in snaps at him to do what he likes, but the moment she’s out of his sightline she frantically scrambles to hide her gun. In the yard? In the grass? No, maybe by the urn, under some tiles. Just as she stows the pistol, Yoon-kang’s voice calls out, “Do you think that’s a safe spot?” He is just having too much fun playing the imp. I love it.
He advises her to find another hiding spot, then says he’ll do as she advised and head over to the police station. Now finding herself in a bind, she asks him not to go. He really makes her work for that plea, and when she’s appealed to him in every which way, he agrees easily with a saucy smile.
Park Jin-han attempts to interrogate the assassin, who has been captured and brought in. The gunman refuses to speak, but Park Jin-han takes a different approach than the man is expecting. Rather than torturing him and threatening him with death, Park tosses the whip away and gives him a generous offer: Tell him who he’s working for and he’ll go free. If he has a family to return to, Park will protect him in and help him reunite with them. Is his assassin boss really worth dying for?
He gives the gunman till tonight to decide, then orders the man fed and treated for his wounds. Park’s words make an impression on the assassin, who looks potentially swayed.
At another meeting of Sugu (conservative) politicos, more bickering erupts among the attendees as they hear of the gunman’s capture. It’s that Park Jin-han, thwarting them again. Once again it’s Sugu honcho Kim Jwa-young who stops the squabbling, assuring them that their worries are needles. He must have something up his sleeve.
Park Jin-han is hopeful that their prisoner will comply, but suddenly the captive is taken ill. Park finds him quickly fading, and the assassin gasps out that it must be the doing of “that gunman”—not his partner from the recent sniping, but their boss, whose marksmanship is far superior. He sputters only a few more words before he slumps over, dead.
The man he refers to is merchant Choi Won-shin, who receives the report that the prisoner was poisoned. Furthermore, the servant girl who was used to sneak the poison is then killed.
Choi Won-shin receives congratulations from Kim Jwa-young for the successful job. They’ve arrived at the same conclusion: that a better assassin is needed. Choi Won-shin offers himself to handle the assassination of Oh Kyung and retrieve the book Hyun Am left behind. As long as the book exists, it will be like Hyun Am is still alive, Kim Jwa-young warns. It contains dangerous, revolutionary ideas.
Jung-hoon fills Yoon-kang in on the latest developments, and is a good enough friend that he can tell Yoon-kang is worried about his father despite avoiding mentioning him. He assures him that his father is safe before heading back to work on the investigation—there’s a reward attached, and he wants to win it.
So Jung-hoon skulks around Choi Won-shin’s house and pretends to be wandering when Hye-won arrives home. She’s too sharp to let him go without closer questioning, not buying his excuses. Furthermore, this area is the jurisdiction of the other station, not his.
One signal from Hye-won and Jung-hoon finds himself on the bad end of a dozen pointy weapons. He musters up the courage and draws his sword, though he’s clearly not up for a fight and is highly relieved when but Hye-won calls her men off. She says plainly what he’s angling after: “We do not distribute things like guns. Do not suspect us every time you come across a dangerous item.”
Yoon-kang arrives home to find Soo-in waiting to see him, and tonight she’s putting on a much more polite face (albeit with some difficulty—she must want something). He enjoys goading her, using her own words against her, pointing out how she was so adamant about not wanting to see his terrible face.
She plies him with flattery (begrudgingly) and says that he’s not terrible looking; she’s sure the ladies steal glances to look at him. He prods, “And my lady? Do you also feel that way?” Soo-in goes with it, and he pushes it even further, asking, “Enough to make you tremble?” Soo-in makes faces and gestures threateningly behind his back.
She collects herself, though, since she wants his promise not to speak of their encounter earlier in the day. He readily promises, but with a condition—she has to explain what she was up to, dressing as a man and carrying a gun.
Soo-in sighs, but decides that she’ll have to comply. To her surprise, Yoon-kang stops her right there and says they can discuss it later. Maybe tomorrow, he suggests, when she brings tea to his room. Ha, are you going to use this to extort favors from her?
Soo-in grumbles mightily at his high-handedness, but her maid points out that given the magnitude of her secret, she’d better do everything he asks. She can hardly sleep for all her pent-up frustration, while Yoon-kang settles back contentedly, feeling rather smug with himself.
The next morning, a grumpy Soo-in drops off the tea tray and tries to leave as quickly as possible. Yoon-kang has other plans in mind and requests a different type of tea. But when she returns with it, he’s on his way out and asks for a raincheck. She bites back her complaints, remembering what’s at stake.
A boy arrives at the gate to deliver a message to the young lady of the household, handing it over to Yoon-kang. He points out that he’s not a lady, but the boy says, “I was just told to give it to the lady, and not be surprised if she came out dressed like a scholar.” Well, it wouldn’t be the first time Lee Jun-ki passed for a woman.
Soo-in reads the note, which informs her that Oh Kyung is planning to leave Joseon temporarily. He asks her to bring the book to the port where he’ll be leaving this afternoon, and as Yoon-kang also reads the note, she explains to him the full story.
She intends to walk to the port, but Yoon-kang informs her that she won’t be able to make it back home before the gates close. She doesn’t know how to ride a horse, so there’s only one answer: “We’ll have to go together.”
She protests immediately, but he adds that it’s dangerous for her to go alone. He assures her that he only wants to return the favor her family has done for him, and she agrees despite her misgivings.
Yoon-kang borrows a horse from Jung-hoon, who teases him about going on a date with a gisaeng. Yoon-kang points to Soo-in dressed as a male scholar, and Jung-hoon concludes that they’re going to see gisaengs together. One-track mind, this guy.
Yoon-kang gives his friend a tip for the case, mentioning the tidbit he heard about Oh Kyung leaving this afternoon by boat. Jung-hoon hops to it, his eye on the prize.
Yoon-kang helps Soo-in on the horse, then swings up behind her. She’s immediately tense at the contact, while I’m pretty sure he’s milking this for all it’s worth.
Jung-hoon reports his tip about Oh Kyung to Park Jin-han, but unfortunately for them, this gets overheard by a mole. It’s the henchman who’s also working for Choi Won-shin, and he takes this information straight to him. Choi who wastes no time preparing for the hit, taking out his gun.
Yoon-kang and Soo-in ride for a while before pausing to take a break in a field of flowers. Soo-in rejects his offer of help, though as she struggles to dismount the horse, he ends up lifting her off anyway.
He flips through Hyun Am’s book but doesn’t treat it with the same reverence that Soo-in does, saying that it could get a person labeled a traitor. She puffs up in indignation and snatches the book away, telling him he has no right to read it.
Eager to get going, she informs him that she has learned enough about horseback riding to do without him now, and dismisses him to go back home. She manages to climb back into the saddle, but tumbles right back off at the horse’s first step. Good thing he’s there to catch her, which he does with pleasure and to her mortification.
Park Jin-han and his men arrive at the port first, where they plant guards in plain clothes and stash weapons in preparation for possible attack. He and his second-in-command aren’t so sure this information was accurate, noting that nothing seems amiss here. No signs of either Oh Kyung or an assassin.
Soon they’re down to the last departing boat of the day, and Soo-in waits anxiously for sign of Oh Kyung. Finally, she spots him walking down the pier and hurries to greets him. She hands over the book (titled Tenets of Joseon Enlightenment), which he promises to keep safe until he returns to Joseon.
Just then, Yoon-kang catches sight of his father and whirls for cover, not wanting to be seen. And that’s when the assassin spots his opening—Choi Won-shin has disguised himself as a fisherman at the end of a nearby pier, and now he flings off his cover and grabs his gun.
Yoon-kang is the only one to notice him, and he shouts a warning: “It’s a gun!” But Choi Won-shin is too fast, and he fires off a quick, efficient shot. Oh Kyung goes down with a bullet to the chest.
The undercover guards quickly mobilize, grabbing their weapons and sending a barrage of arrows and musket fire toward the assassin. Choi takes cover, reloads, and starts picking off the officers with his marksmanship.
Yoon-kang pulls Soo-in away to run for cover, leaving Oh Kyung’s body lying dead on the pier. Choi lines them up in his sights next, and his next bullet barely misses them, getting their horse instead. On the upside, they’re alive. On the downside, now they’re stranded.
Choi Won-shin manages to weather the rain of firepower, but he’s essentially stuck with no safe way back to land. So he dives into the water, disappearing beneath the surface. The guards lose all trace of him.
Yoon-kang and Soo-in run for a bit before catching their breaths. She’s stuck on Oh Kyung’s death, but Yoon-kyung points out that they’ve become targets, too, and it’s likely because of that book. Choi Won-shin isn’t far behind them, either, and emerges from the water nearby.
Night falls, and they struggle to hike through a heavily wooded area. They stop to shed their bulky outer layers and try to think of what to do. Yoon-kang asks for her gun and gapes when she says she didn’t bring it—she was afraid of firing it. He points out the obvious, that that’s what it’s meant to do, but Soo-in isn’t equipped to deal with taking a life. She retorts that he didn’t bring his sword, either, and he reminds her that she broke it.
Choi Won-shin tracks them through the forest, still not that far behind them. Soo-in hits the exhaustion wall first, but Yoon-kang hears the rustling in the distance and urges her onward. With difficulty, she continues on.
Yoon-kang and Soo-in arrive at an abandoned house, which seems a safe enough spot to rest. She pulls out a compass, and he marvels at the needle that always points north. The mood lightening a bit, she apologizes for the trouble. He assures her not to worry and suggests they stay here until the sun rises, at which point they can return to the city.
Soo-in stammers at the whole “spend the night together” part, but he says that they don’t know if the gunman is still on the prowl, and they’re at a disadvantage in the nighttime.
The guards follow the trail and are in generally the right direction, coming across the discarded clothing in the woods. But then the trail goes cold and they’re forced to call off the search, which is too bad because Choi Won-shin happens to be hiding not far away.
In the house, Yoon-kang falls asleep while the anxiety keeps Soo-in up. That’s a lucky thing, because she spots Choi heading toward the house, and shakes Yoon-kang awake with mere moments to spare.
Choi Won-shin hears a creak from the house and searches it, though he finds nobody inside the room where they had just been. As he pauses to take stock, the camera zooms through the floorboards to show us the pair hiding in the crawlspace below. Yoon-kang is plenty afraid himself, but he sees Soo-in struggling with her terror and holds her in a reassuring gesture.
Then along comes a mouse, and Soo-in starts to gasp in surprise. He muffles her mouth, but she lets out a tiny gasp, which the gunman hears. He shoots through the floorboards, but that just sends several more mice scampering out, and Choi decides that was all he heard. He leaves.
The Jung household is in an uproar that evening, as Soo-in’s parents become aware of her absence. (Yoon-kang’s is less of an issue, as he has the liberty to come and go as he pleases. Don’t blame me, blame the patriarchy.)
Yoon-kang picks a spot nearby to hole up for the night, saying that they can’t stay at the house because of the mice. She’s still in shock from the assassination, and confesses that she’d never seen a life taken before. Feeling for her, he says that it’s enough to make him blame Teacher Hyun Am, but as usual she speaks up in defense of her teacher. Only today it also reminds her of his death, and she starts to sob.
Yoon-kang starts to lay a comforting hand on her shoulder, but pulls back before making contact. So he just sits with her as she cries, and the night passes.
They fall asleep like that, and in the morning they’re all but cuddled up together, her head resting on his arm. She wakes first, but then he stirs so she hastily pretends to be asleep. He’s just as shocked as she is to see how they’ve ended up, and gently extricates himself before waking her.
They wash up at a stream, and he stops to look at her and comments that she’s pretty. Of course he adds a joking spin to it, saying, “You almost look like a lady.” But when she pouts over his teasing, he says that he means it seriously, which makes her speechless for a moment.
A glance downstream sobers them up, though—the assassin has come to the water to wash up as well. Yoon-kang sends Soo-in off, but isn’t able to duck aside in time—Choi Won-shin glances up just then, and the men meet eyes. Choi grabs his gun and takes off after them.
Yoon-kang and Soo-in race down the mountainside, but soon find themselves at a jagged cliffside. Chio Won-shin corners them there and demands the book.
Yoon-kang urges her to hand it over, because he’ll kill them to get the book anyway. Soo-in is much more conflicted and holds the bag close, and Choi levels his gun at them. Reluctantly, she gives up the bag, and Yoon-kang tosses it at Choi’s feet, adding that the book has nothing to do with them, and that they were only tasked with delivering it.
Choi Won-shin tucks the book away, but raises the gun anyway. Instinctively, Yoon-kang throws himself in front of Soo-in, while Choi’s finger tightens on the trigger…
I’m surprised at how sweet and funny this show is, even though I’m fully aware that this tone isn’t going to last once the rest of the setup is complete. We’re not quite there yet with the central plotline yet, though to the show’s credit, it doesn’t make me wonder, “When is the story going to start?” I hate when a show gives you a premise and then dithers around before getting to the point, because then it does feel like it’s spinning its wheels. Here, though, I’m enjoying all of the relationship-building and taking it in while I can, because they’re just too adorable.
Despite being the go-to expression of romantic foreplay in dramaland, bickering does require some thoughtful balance to hit the right notes, because if you go too far you’re just left wondering why these two people hate each other so much. I think this couple hits it just right, because it makes sense with the story and keeps both characters on their toes—yesterday it was Yoon-kang bewildered at her open frostiness, while today he gets to turn the tables and poke back at her. I just love how ineffectual her outrage is, and how blind she seems to his obvious interest when he’s just doing the little boy thing of tugging on her pigtails or calling her “Carrots.”
It’s nice to see them warming up to each other openly, and what better way to bond than to be stuck in a life-and-death situation together? She starts to see the side of him beneath the joking facade, and his actions during their flight from the killer really won me over (…which wasn’t hard, as I was already won over). But when you consider that they’re barely acquainted and his knee-jerk reaction is to jump in front of her to block her from a bullet, I figure that’s a pretty solid mark of character.
The baddies do have that typical sageuk villain tinge, which isn’t an outright detractor but a little one-note for my tastes. (I’m already bored of those Sugu secret meetings, and don’t envy the director the task of finding interesting ways to shoot twenty episodes of that.) Especially when you recall how wonderfully complex a villain Suyang was in The Princess’ Man. I hold out hopes that while the Sugu faction may not be thrilling, we’ll get a dose of conflicted antagonists in our second leads, particularly Hye-won (we have yet to meet another one, played by Han Joo-wan). And I’d be thrilled if they went in that direction with Choi Won-shin as well, who seems interesting in his scenes with the Sugu leader—he’s working for the baddies, but he comes off has having his own code of honor. I wonder how he’ll shake out.
As for the drama’s portrayal of the Sugu-Kaehwa tensions: I don’t think they’re arguing that Sugu is pure evil and Kaehwa is pure nobility (…though I wouldn’t mind a bit more nuance), when it’s really the abuse of power that is always at the crux of sageuk court conflicts. Episode 2 opens with the standard disclaimer that the drama takes creative liberties with history, which is probably not a necessary reminder in this era of the fusion sageuk. But it’s probably not a bad thing to keep in mind not to, you know, take this drama as your history textbook. Entertainment purposes only! Thankfully, I think there’ll be plenty of entertainment to keep us occupied.
- Joseon Gunman: Episode 1
- Kolorful Palette: Gunnin’ for Gunman [Joseon Gunman]
- Oh Snap! Joseon finger guns
- Meet the cast (posters) for Joseon Gunman
- Lee Jun-ki goes gunslinging for Joseon Gunman
- “And now… the age of the sword has ended”
- Oh Snap! Oh my god, finally
- Nam Sang-mi’s first stills for Joseon Gunman
- More second lead stills from Joseon Gunman
- Oh Snap! Joseon Gunman’s first still and second lead
- Cast gathers for table reads for Joseon Gunman
- Supporting roles filled for Joseon Gunman
- Nam Sang-mi confirms Joseon Gunman
- Lee Jun-ki and Nam Sang-mi for Joseon Gunman