Joseon Gunman: Episode 3
Joseon Gunman continues to deliver just what I want. That’s an interesting thing because you would think that getting exactly what you wish for could be something of a letdown when you know what’s going to happen—we’re still establishing conflicts and heading toward revenge motivation. But in the way that a good romantic comedy can still be wholly satisfying despite the fact that you know the ending from the start (you know, the part where the couple ends up together), this drama hits all the right notes for me.
Plus, the arrival of a charismatic second lead adds a nice dose of cute (for us) and angst (for our hero), just as the romance really gets sparking for our main couple.
SONG OF THE DAY
Bubble Sisters – “달픈” from the Joseon Gunman OST. There’s no perfect translation of the title, but it’s something like “sadly yearning,” evoking a feeling of heartache. [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
We resume at cliff’s edge, where Yoon-kang and Soo-in are cornered by the gun-toting assassin, aka Merchant Choi Won-shin. They hand over the book to save their lives, and Yoon-kang insists that they have nothing to do with its contents; their only role was to play courier. Choi Won-shin pockets it, but aims his gun at them anyway—no need to keep them alive.
Perhaps it’s naive to think handing it over would spare them, but realistically they have no choice. It would be just as stupid to hold out on principle and get shot, with the book stolen in the end either way.
Yoon-kang leaps in front of Soo-in, just as an arrow flies into a nearby tree. Phew! Dad has arrived, and Choi Won-shin turns to find a small army at his back. Yoon-kang lights up to see his father, who orders Choi to put down his weapon.
Choi Won-shin assesses the situation and eyes the steep drop-off to the water below. Pretending to comply, he slowly lowers his gun, and then makes a break for the ledge.
Park Jin-han gives the order to fire, but their arrows whizz by as Choi Won-shin jumps into the water. Park thinks fast and leaps off the cliff in pursuit.
Both men survive the fall and swim to shore, where they continue the chase on foot. Choi Won-shin has enough of a head start to take a clear shot at Park, but his opportunity is ruined by a waterlogged shell, thank god, and finally Park Jin-han catches up to him in the woods. They freeze as they come face to face, then slooooowly reach for their weapons, old-fashioned-duel style.
They act simultaneously: Park Jin-han grabs his sword, while Choi Won-shin reloads quick as a flash and fires. The bullet hits Park in the arm, but he’s able to fling his sword to get Choi in his arm. But Choi flees while he has the opening.
As Park Jin-han is being treated, he hears the story from Yoon-kang and Soo-in. He doesn’t question Yoon-kang’s explanation that (s)he’s a drinking buddy of his, which earns him a glare from her but seems the least suspicious way to answer that question.
As soon as Yoon-kang’s out of earshot, however, Park addresses her as Soo-in and chuckles that she’s bolder than she looks. He advises her to change into lady’s clothing before going home, where her parents will be worried, and also provides her with an excuse to account for her overnight absence: She was at the bureau being questioned about Teacher Hyun Am.
She’s mortified at being caught in such a blatant lie, but Yoon-kang tells her not to worry about it. He does remark that it’s unlike his father to be so considerate, but Soo-in chides him about not recognizing his father’s character.
As expected, the household is in an uproar and her mother is ready to deliver a thunderous punishment. Soo-in insists on the story Park Jin-han provided her, promising that he’ll vouch for her, and eventually her mother accepts the explanation.
King Gojong receives the bad news that his last Kaehwa scholar has been eliminated. Park Jin-han vows to capture the gunman, which is of paramount concern because until he’s caught, the enlightenment faction will be silenced by fear. Exactly what the conservatives of Sugu faction want.
Choi Won-shin delivers Hyun Am’s book to Sugu leader Lord Kim Jwa-young (who, by the way, isn’t to be confused with Minister Kim Byung-je, who is one of the top state councillors in Gojong’s court). Lord Kim cackles as he skims through it, noting the revolutionary ideas that Hyun Am dared argue.
Minister Kim arrives to see Lord Kim, and Choi Won-shin greets him with immediate respect—these are people far, far above his status. He’s earned quite a bit of credit with Lord Kim for having successfully carried out the mission, although Minister Kim is less than pleased—Choi’s success highlights his own failure.
Minister Kim reports that Gojong seems unlikely to give up; in fact, he has given Park Jin-han more soldiers to command. Gojong is putting all his hope into Park to get to the bottom of these murders, which makes him the big thorn in their side. Lord Kim gives Choi Won-shin the order to kill Park next, then throws the book into the fire.
Park and his second-in-command discuss how the assassin knew where to assassinate the scholar, and deduce that they have a mole within their ranks. Phew, at least they’re aware.
Two young scholars meet in a quiet pavilion, but there’s little for them to do. This used to be the meeting grounds for dozens of them before the recent terror, but now everyone has been scared into holing up at home. As the two scholars decide to leave, one more arrives, saying, “Then that will be the end of Joseon.”
This is KIM HO-KYUNG (Han Joo-wan), who is greeted warmly by his friends. He has been living in Japan, but heard of Hyun Am’s assassination and hurried back home. Ho-kyung is undaunted by the threat and declares that they’ll have to keep meeting, and tells his friends to spread the word that he’s back—”and if they won’t come out, threaten that I’ll drink on an open tab in their name!” Ha.
Ho-kyung’s arrival (and his aura of confidence and command) breathes new life into his friends, who agree to make the rounds and pass along the message.
Soo-in loses herself in thought, recalling all those moments of consideration Yoon-kang showed her over their two-day adventure. She finds him loitering outside her quarters, and he sheepishly admits that he wanted to check that she was fine, given that they lost the book. She answers that it’s upsetting, but her teacher will understand that their lives are more important.
Soo-in is much warmer toward him today, and even playful as she teases him for using an excuse to lurk around her quarters again. Immediately, Yoon-kang apologizes and turns to leave so quickly that she calls him back. She invites him to look around at the curios, like the globe and telescope parked in the yard.
Soo-in thanks Yoon-kang for his help, which puts an adorable smile on his face. He assures her she doesn’t have to repay him, but then adds that there might be a way, if she insists…
But that suggestion is cut short by the maid’s excitement at a guest’s arrival—and in walks Ho-kyung, who greets her familiarly and has Soo-in brightening up with a happy “Oraboni!”
Suddenly Yoon-kang finds himself the frowning third wheel, trailing behind as the two friends catch up. Her parents have invited Ho-kyung to live here, as he once used to. With Yoon-kang using his old room, Soo-in suggests that he use the teacher’s old room. Ho-kyung was his best pupil, after all.
Ho-kyung extends a friendly hand to Yoon-kang, who shakes it with a forced smile. Oh, this should be fun.
Soo-in leads Ho-kyung into his new room, and as the door shuts behind them, Yoon-kang gets antsy. He huffs to himself at the impropriety, and especially chafes at her liberal use of the word “oraboni.”
That evening, Park Jin-han muses to his second-in-command (fine, let’s give him a name, Officer Moon) that they’re approaching the end of the sword’s usefulness, with the advancement in firepower sure to take over. “Either we abandon the sword,” he says, “or we die with the sword.”
Over at the Choi household, Hye-won asks her father not to go about too late at night, fearing for his safety with the gunman running loose. Choi Won-shin feigns ignorance as she explains the latest news and calls the military forces incompetent for letting the shooter slip through their fingers.
In the morning, Ho-kyung heads out early and asks Yoon-kang to pass along the word to Soo-in. Yoon-kang agrees, but mutters jealously over the guy’s free use of her name. So when Soo-in’s maid comes running up asking for “young master,” Yoon-kang snaps that he just left. The maid clarifies that Soo-in wants to see him, and he breaks into a smile. So cute.
Soo-in has come up with an idea to repay him, and looks mighty pleased with herself as she tells him of the solar eclipse tonight. “I’ll show you something truly wonderful then,” she promises. Why do I have the feeling they’re thinking two different things?
Then she clarifies that the night sky will be completely dark and her fireworks display will be amazing, and his face falls a little. Haha. She invites his sister Yeon-ha along, but he invents an ailment to keep her out of it, looking forward to the outing being just between the two of them.
Of course, when it’s time to set out, he finds grumpy Yeon-ha glaring at him for trying to leave her out. Off they go on their excursion—Soo-in cheerful, Yeon-ha cranky, and Yoon-kang trying to smooth over ruffled feathers.
As they leave the house, Choi Won-shin’s assassin watches intently. Ruh-roh.
The drawing of the dead assassin (who was murdered while in prison) brings in a man who recognizes him as a traveling peddler named Jong-tae. Ah, well the peddling would explain his link to Merchant Choi. However, the informer knows Jong-tae to have died five years ago, after being punished for brawling. Park sends Officer Moon to confirm the story.
The fireworks excursion hikes up to their destination, and Yoon-kang offers Soo-in a hand up the incline. I’m pretty sure it’s accidental that she ends up in his lap, though I’m not sure he wouldn’t have planned it if he’d thought to.
They make it to a temple and offer up prayers, then sit by a creek to look over the view of the city from afar. Yoon-kang marvels at how small the city appears, and Soo-in adds that Joseon in its entirety is small as well. Not that she’s traveled throughout the country, but she’s seen the globe and understands that the world is much bigger. She was shocked when her teacher first showed her the globe, and that’s when she thought up the wish she prayed on at the temple: to travel all the way to the end of the sea.
Yoon-kang listens rapt as she explains that Joseon ladies can hardly even venture outside of the city. She says, “Rather than that kind of world, but one where a person can do anything—living in a world like that is my dream.”
Then she asks what his dream is, and he doesn’t really have an answer, having never thought about it. She encourages him to think of one now, and he takes a moment to think… and then looks at her with a bashful smile. But his answer gets cut short by his sister, who engages him in a water fight.
The siblings splash each other for a bit, before Yoon-kang persuades Yeon-ha to make this a family affair, and they turn on Soo-in.
And off to the side watches the shooter. His gaze settles on Yeon-ha.
Park Jin-han drops in on Choi Won-shin to ask about the peddler Jong-tae. Choi pretends to search his memory for the name, and says he heard the man died. Park Jin-han suggests that the man could have been saved, but Choi points out that interfering with a criminal’s punishment would endanger that savior. Nobody would dare do it.
Park presses that if someone were to have saved Jong-tae, well, that would have earned him Jong-tae’s undying loyalty, wouldn’t it?
Night falls, and Soo-in gathers her supplies to start the fireworks. She motions Yoon-kang close to watch her strike a match, which is such a startling sight that he falls back in alarm. The ladies laugh, then he watches as she lights the wick… which then fizzles out. In disappointment, Soo-in fusses over the fireworks while the eclipse nears its end, disappointed that it’s not working.
Yeon-ah has noticed the couple’s budding interest in each other, and decides to step aside to let her brother have some alone time, which is adorable. She fakes a cough and heads back to the temple with the maid. Yoon-kang can see that she’s acting for his benefit and smiles at her.
Yoon-kang suggests that perhaps the gunpowder got wet, and they scoop out the damp parts to give it another try. This time the wick ignites the powder, sending up sparks into the air.
They sit side by side watching the display, and he catches her stealing a glance at him. So when she looks away in embarrassment, he leans in drop a sudden kiss on her cheek. They look at each other, her surprised and him in anticipation of her response…
But then the maid comes running up to say that Yeon-ha has disappeared. She was faster than the maid in heading down to the temple, but never made it there.
They tear through the woods frantically searching for Yeon-ha, and that’s when Yoon-kang finds a necklace caught in some leaves. It’s that owl he’d carved for her, and he urges Soo-in to return home while he searches. She insists on staying, but her maid says they’ll slow him down, and she reluctantly relents.
Yeon-ha is still alive, kidnapped by the gunman and delivered to the assassins’ den in that cavern deep in the mountains. Choi Won-shin orders her kept alive until Park Jin-han is captured—she’ll be the bait.
Soo-in appeals to Hye-won for help, asking her to send a search party into the woods. Practical Hye-won says that they must wait until daylight and sends her home, assuring her that all will be well.
Yoon-kang desperately searches all through the night, to no avail. He finally returns home in the morning, exhausted and devastated, and Soo-in urges him to tell his father—she doesn’t think it’s a simple matter of Yeon-ha getting lost.
But Park Jin-han already knows, having received the kidnapper’s message. He’s given one order: Come out alone tonight, or his daughter dies.
He hides the note when Yoon-kang comes to see him, but slaps him across the face in anger, asking what the hell he’d been doing while his sister disappeared. Yoon-kang hangs his head, wracked with guilt, as his father says that this is why he’d hidden his children away, for fear that they’d come to harm.
Realizing that this is the work of men after his father taps into that long-held current of bitterness in Yoon-kang, who asks, “Are you going to do that again this time? Are you going to act as you did with Mother?” Ooh. So that’s the unspoken strife between them.
Yoon-kang insists on knowing where the meeting place is, determined to go himself instead of letting his father: “I’ll save her!”
Instead, Park Jin-han orders his son locked up until tomorrow, and Yoon-kang is dragged off screaming that he can’t let Yeon-ha turn out like his mother. Soo-in can only watch helplessly, her path blocked by a soldier.
A flashback to thirteen years ago fills in the blanks for us. A village is pillaged by invaders, and Yoon-kang’s mother hides him away in the crawlspace under the house, warning him to keep baby Yeon-ha quiet. She stands up to the bandits when they breach the house gate and gets dragged off while Yoon-kang watches in horror.
Word of his wife’s kidnapping reaches Park Jin-han while he’s out preparing for battle. The message is clear: Stop advancing his troops to spare his wife’s life. Young Yoon-kang begs him to comply—but to Park Jin-han, duty comes first.
Yoon-kang’s pleas now overlap with those of his childhood self, begging his father to stop what he’s planning, to think of his family first.
But Park Jin-han continues with his strategizing, determined to capture the gunman once and for all. Yoon-kang sits in his prison cell, lost in memories, thinking to the day his mother’s body was sent back and he’d accused his father of killing her. For what it’s worth, his father is devastated by the loss—but even so, I believe that he believes he did the right thing. Hence the family rift.
Yoon-kang hears Officer Moon nearby and begs him to let him go, demanding, “Do you wish to see that happen again?” Officer Moon pauses in his tracks and Yoon-kang entreats, “Please, don’t make me hate my father anymore. I hate it. I cannot stand any more of it!”
Officer Moon isn’t immune. He lets him out and apprises him of the situation: Yoon-kang’s father left alone for fear of Yeon-ha’s safety, and gave orders for his officers not to surround and charge the mountain until later. That’s why Officer Moon let Yoon-kang free, and he urges him to hurry and keep his father safe until they can arrive to back him up.
Soo-in is waiting at the gate and asks worriedly what’s going on. Yoon-kang tells her that he and his father are going to save Yeon-ha, and she grabs for his sleeve, not sure what to say but worried for his safety. He promises to come back with his family.
Park Jin-han makes the trek up the mountainside, where a passing traveler has a message for him: The meeting place has been changed. Ack! So that’s the trap.
Yoon-kang catches up to his father on his way back down the mountain, and refuses to be dismissed. Park orders him repeatedly to go, and finally draws his sword against him.
Uncowed, Yoon-kang challenges him to strike:
Yoon-kang: “If I must remain hidden this time as well, I will strike myself down! I watched Mother being taken away, hidden under the floorboards. In fear, all I did was watch, afraid of being caught! I cried without making a sound. That once was agonizing enough. If I must go through it again, I do not think I can bear it. I will go! That is the sword I was handed to protect Yeon-ha—have you forgotten?”
Park Jin-han lowers the sword. “Fine,” he relents. “Let’s go.”
At the new meeting spot, the gunman tells a gagged and bound Yeon-ha to observe how her father will die—charging him, only to be shot by a different gunman. That’ll be up to Choi Won-shin, who perches in a tree at a distance, awaiting his shot.
Meanwhile, father and son charge up the mountain, heading straight into the trap.
Ahh, good stuff. I enjoyed just about everything in this episode, from the new arrival to the backstory to the growing understanding developing between father and son. Maybe the understanding is mostly on the son’s side, because he doesn’t quite see his father’s caring underneath the stern, principled exterior. It’s easy enough for us to see it—and for Soo-in—but Yoon-kang’s painful memories are understandably powerful enough to overshadow those signs of fatherly love.
I had expected something emotional in their past to explain why Yoon-kang seems to both respect and resent his father, and why he lives so frivolously, but even so I hadn’t expected it to be quite that much of a doozy. Letting your wife die for the sake of your cause is perhaps the kind of mentality that makes him a great military leader, and thus the king’s most trusted officer, but yeesh. It’s one thing to be a victim of a terrible injustice, but to know that there was a choice involved must be a crushing thing for a young boy powerless to fight or protect anybody.
I suspect that’s why he leads such an empty life, drinking and flirting and never once thinking of the world at large or things like dreams. Sure, there’s the part where he’s a handsome young man who enjoys fun, but I’d bet there’s a healthy (er, unhealthy) dose of stick-it-to-him mentality provoking his actions, like disappointing his father is his method of rebellion.
So I love seeing Yoon-kang concede that his father can be rather thoughtful, only to have his budding respect challenged once more by this kidnapping business. And this time he’s not a scared little boy too young to do anything about it—he’ll go out and be the man his father won’t be.
Which is why this is perhaps Park Jin-han’s time to reclaim that old wrong too. I do think he made that decision with full knowledge of what he was doing, and perhaps justified it as being necessary for the greater good. Don’t negotiate with terrorists, don’t give in to extortion, fight the good fight, yada yada. But maybe this time there’s room for him to be a father as well as a commander, and off he goes to make the noble sacrifice.
I’m so onboard this romance (they are so winning together, and despite the string of criticism in the comments, I love Nam Sang-mi in this character) that it’s almost too bad that Mr. Second Lead makes a rather late appearance. It’s not too early that his presence doesn’t shake things up for Yoon-kang (which I love), who has to bristle at being outshined by the oraboni. It’s basically, Whaddaya mean, I’m not the prettiest anymore? Okay, maybe Han Joo-wan isn’t prettier than Lee Jun-ki, but given his charm, intelligence, and familiarity with Soo-in—not to mention sharing that streak of idealism and teacher worship—it’s certainly enough to put our hero on edge. But Ho-kyung doesn’t really have a shot with Soo-in anymore, so off he is, doomed to Second Lead Pining. There there. Let me comfort you.
- Joseon Gunman: Episode 2
- 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