Joseon Gunman: Episode 4
We’re here! With the requisite backdrop set and the conflict established, we now get to the meat of the present-day story, and I’m just about hopping in anticipation to see where we go from here. I suppose we can think of the first four episodes as the “childhood portion” of many a sageuk drama, only we got lucky in not having to say goodbye to the characters who engaged our emotions and drew us into the story in the first place.
SONG OF THE DAY
The Solutions – “Sailor’s Song” [ Download ]
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Yoon-kang and his father make their way to the rendezvous point on the next mountaintop over. There, Merchant Choi Won-shin perches in a tree while his henchman stands by with Yeon-ha. Park Jin-han is aware that they have two gunmen at large, and Yoon-kang says with determination that the numbers are even, and they have the ability to take them.
Dad goes first, with Yoon-kang to act as his backup. Back in the city, Officer Moon gives his troops the order to move out. The question is whether they’ll be of any use with their delayed start.
As the appointed time arrives, Park Jin-han advances slowly and has to tamp down his impulse to rush in to save his daughter. The second gunman gets antsy and shouts at him to show himself, and Park shouts back, “What are you so afraid of?”
He remains hidden as both gunmen scan the horizon, and Choi Won-shin fires at what turns out to be a rabbit. Park Jin-han makes his rush at the second gunman, who runs and leads Park right into Choi Won-shin’s sights. Choi steadies his aim…
But an arrow flies at him and lands in his arm. Go go hero goooooo! Yoon-kang has spotted the sniper and shoots from afar, and now Choi Won-shin joins his henchman in running away. Yoon-kang steadies his aim and takes a careful shot at their retreating backs. His arrow finds its mark, landing in the henchman’s arm. He briefly goes down, but the two gunmen manage to keep running.
Yeon-ha is freed and the family is reunited, but the danger is far from over. As Park leads them back down the mountain, a shot fires at them: Choi Won-shin has doubled back and is intent on seeing his task through. Park Jin-han tells his children to go first while he takes him on, ignoring their protests.
Lord Kim presides over another meeting of Sugu politicians and aristocrats, reminding them that Park Jin-han’s assassination is not their ultimate objective—that would be to bring the king to his knees. Tasks are assigned amongst the members: Minister Kim is told to handle the wrap-up of this case, another nobleman is to manage the royal investigative bureau, and yet another is put to the task of quieting officials. They’re cooking up something big, aren’t they?
Minister Kim comes home to news that his son has arrived. Given the reference to this being the child of the other lady of the house, we can deduce that this isn’t a legitimate son, and Minister Kim is far from pleased to receive him. In fact, he barely even spares him a glance, curtly saying that he doesn’t care to see him or hear his useless greetings.
The son is Ho-kyung, who makes a few sincere attempts at conversation, but gets shut down each time. You can see his heart sinking at every instance.
Minister Kim sneers at his son’s lofty ideas of changing the world: “Go and see whether the world will change according to your wishes.” He reminds Ho-kyung of his (half-)low origins and calls him not a revolutionary but merely a child who’s jealous of the things that his betters have.
In a flashback, we see Ho-kyung speaking with Teacher Hyun Am, who advised him to keep his family ties quiet. Even if he’s an illegitimate child, it would be an obstacle were it known that the son of a powerful minister of the old guard is leading the forefront of the Kaehwa movement. Ho-kyung hadn’t liked the idea, but Hyun Am had advised it as a temporary measure, until Ho-kyung was accepted on his own terms.
Ho-kyung heads back home (well, to Soo-in’s home, which is more his home than his father’s) and finds Soo-in pacing in front of the front gate, anxious for news. She apprises him of the situation and pleads with him to accompany her to the mountain—just to the general area, which will be safe because the officers will be there. She can’t stand to remain at home doing nothing.
In the forest, a shot rings out and Park Jin-han tumbles, taking a bullet to the leg. He forces himself back up and continues, while Yoon-kang, having sent his sister to safety on horseback, now prowls the woods with his bow at the ready. Just as he uses his last arrow, he spots his father in the distance, motioning him over, and they take cover in a cave.
Yoon-kang asks what the men are after, and Park Jin-han says that he doesn’t know yet. He’s digging into connection with a local merchant organization (of which Choi Won-shin is a leader), but hasn’t yet figured out their motive. He informs him that one of the gunmen will have a scar on his left arm from their skirmish.
Ho-kyung and Soo-in ride to the base of the mountain, where they find the officers still searching for our good guys. She worries that this is taking longer than it should, just as Yeon-ha comes riding down on her horse and tells Soo-in frantically that her brother and father are still fighting, and that they have to call in the troops. Ho-kyung offers to head up the mountainside to deliver word, but Soo-in worries that there’s no time. Thinking fast, she pulls the pistol out of her sleeve and fires into the air.
In the cave, Yoon-kang urges his father to hang on until backup arrives. He’s taken aback when his father apologizes for putting his family through so much suffering, accepting blame for killing his wife. He admits that he did try to save her, but failed when plans went awry.
A flashback to thirteen years ago shows us that Park Jin-han had initially complied with the ransom order, holding off the advance of his troops. That got him into hot water with higher-ups and he had been ordered to advance anyway, and thus he had given the order. But he hadn’t given up his wife, vowing instead to save her independently.
With a small contingent of men, he had breached the enemy campground and swooped in to save her, only to find a dummy set up as distraction while the enemy swarmed around them. Park Jin-han had leapt into battle anyway, cutting down dozens of men, and in a rage the enemy leader had killed her.
He admits now to Yoon-kang that that was the first time he’d regretted becoming a soldier. Yoon-kang sheds angry tears hearing this story, asking why his father never told him this before. “Why did you let me hate you?” he asks. Park Jin-han just sighs that he couldn’t save his wife, and felt he deserved that punishment. “Forgive your father,” he requests.
Yoon-kang struggles to collect himself, but one look outside the cave brings a welcome sight: The soldiers are making their way up the hillside.
But the troops are unaware that the two gunman have spotted their advance. Our heroes are out of arrows and Park Jin-han takes stock of his badly injured leg, making the decision to go out alone—to near-certain death. Park insists that there’s no reason for both of them to die, and that he feels safe to leave now, seeing that Yoon-kang has become so strong.
Yoon-kang is having none of this, so Park does the only thing he can do to win this argument and knocks Yoon-kang unconscious. He apologizes to his son and then walks out to face the gunmen, his sword at the ready.
Limping heavily, he leads the gunmen away from the cave as quickly as he can, and the pursuers track his trail of blood. Park ambushes one gunman and strikes him down, just as a gun fires behind him. The bullet strikes him in the side, and Choi fires a second one right into his chest. Park Jin-han falls.
As the life ebbs out of him, his assailant reveals his face. Choi confirms, “Yes, it’s me. Your hunch was right—that’s why you are dying.”
Choi helps his injured henchman hobble away, and Park Jin-han dies.
Yoon-kang awakens in the empty cave and realizes his father has gone ahead without him. He races through the woods to find him, but it’s too late; he comes upon his body by the stream. Rushing to his side, Yoon-kang begs his father to wake up and cries, “I still have things to tell you. I have things I haven’t said yet!”
He sobs clutching his father’s body, and that’s how the officers find him.
King Gojong is incredulous when he receives the report—Park Jin-han was killed for being a traitor. This is outrageous, but the Sugu faction has been busy covering their tracks: A full confession was given to the royal investigative bureau by one of Park’s own men, incriminating him completely.
That informant—the mole, working for Choi Won-shin—had confirmed that Park Jin-han orchestrated the snipings, and was planning to kill Heungseon Daewongun next—Gojong’s own father.
Under the Sugu mastermind’s orders, the informant feeds the authorities the story: Park Jin-han saw Daewongun (who’d ruled as regent when Gojong was a minor) as an obstacle to the king’s future and decided to eliminate him.
Gojong refuses to believe it, but the evidence is lining up neatly. Minister Kim pours on the pressure for him to act quickly, and even the queen urges Gojong to comply, warning of the consequences that resistance would elicit. She reminds him of how powerful the opposition is, and how they have ruled Joseon for so many years. At least by going along, Gojong can stay alive.
The household falls into mourning as Park’s funeral is prepared. Yeon-ha and Yoon-kang are stricken with grief, while Soo-in is wracked with guilt, blaming herself for taking the group on the outing in the first place. Ho-kyung tries to lend a helping hand and tells Soo-in that it isn’t her fault, but she’s not consoled.
She offers to handle preparations for Yoon-kang, but he declines, wanting to do it himself. “I’ve done nothing for him,” he says brokenly. “I will at least make the final arrangements myself.”
Just after he leaves, officers storm the house and read the king’s order: As punishment for traitor Park Jin-han’s crimes, his son is to be executed and his daughter to be made a slave. Yeon-ha is dragged out and Park’s body claimed, while officers are sent out to apprehend Yoon-kang.
Unaware of the uproar, Yoon-kang visits Choi Won-shin, who initially puts on a sympathetic face and extends his condolences over his father’s death. The air turns tense when Yoon-kang states that he’s here to find the gunman; he informs Choi of his father’s suspicions of the merchant group.
Choi Won-shin isn’t going to give up anything easily, and points out how many merchants there are in the association. Yoon-kang offers up the challenge: “If you’re innocent, cooperate with me.” He asks for the chance to search the organization from within, and adds that he has a clue: The gunman has a scar on his left arm.
Yoon-kang gives Choi some time to consider the offer, but warns that if he rejects it, he’ll consider Choi his first suspect and make sure to check his arm. His doggedness is enough to warn Choi Won-shin that he can’t leave Yoon-kang to poke around on his own, and he decides that he’ll have to tie up this loose end.
With the house being guarded by officers ready to arrest Yoon-kang at first sight, Soo-in and Ho-kyung step aside to plan how to circumvent them. Ho-kyung offers to secure Yoon-kang berth on a boat abroad and instructs Soo-in to bring Yoon-kang to a particular dock. They don’t have much time if Yoon-kang wants to flee the country.
Still oblivious to these developments, Yoon-kang makes his rounds in the marketplace to finalize his father’s funeral arrangements. He doesn’t notice Choi Won-shin following him through the city, awaiting the right time to strike.
Thankfully Soo-in finds him moments before the officers do and quickly informs him of the situation, urging him to make his escape quickly. Not bloody likely with Yeon-ha imprisoned, and Yoon-kang bursts out, “Father died while trying to save Yeon-ha. How could I leave her and run away on my own?!”
Soo-in persists in insisting he save his life, because although Yeon-ha is facing a dire fate, at least it isn’t death—not like him. And who will ensure Yeon-ha’s safety if he dies? She begs him to stay alive, which means running.
Just then, they’re spotted by an officer, who sounds the cry and alerts the others. Yoon-kang and Soo-in run for cover and lose their tail, but find their exit blocked by an inspection point at the city walls. Yoon-kang instructs Soo-in to go through first, saying that he’ll force his way if necessary, and tries to avoid being seen.
That doesn’t last long, and an officer peers at his face and recognizes him in no time. Yoon-kang acts swiftly and takes him down. Then the next, and the next.
There are many of them and only one of him, but Yoon-kang is a trained fighter and resourceful to boot. He fends off his attackers with a seriously impressive array of maneuvers, breaking through the line and dashing through the gates safely, where he grabs Soo-in and continues their flight.
They duck for cover in the woods as the guards pass them by, and he notices how she shakes with fear as he holds her. So once the coast is clear and they have a moment to catch their breaths, Yoon-kang apologizes for involving her in everything.
He asks where the boat will take him, and registers that it’ll take him to a foreign land far away. He asks ruefully, “Then when would we be able to see each other again?”
The answer is clear to both of them. He admits, “I wanted to spend every day with you. I wanted to talk with you every night. That was the first dream I’d ever thought to have. But now, it will have to remain just a dream.”
But first things first: He’s got to flee, and they head to the location Ho-kyung indicated. There isn’t much time, and they have to make their goodbyes here, with little fanfare and great reluctance.
Soo-in promises to protect Yeon-ha and hands him the compass she’d once shown him, to guide his way. The moment weighs heavy on Yoon-kang, who can’t quite bring himself to say goodbye or turn away.
She urges him to live, promising, “We will meet again. And if we meet again, we will not separate. Like your dream, we will spend all our days together. But you must promise that you’ll stay alive.”
He promises. “I will live, and I will return.”
He finally makes his way to the boat, turning back for one last look. That’s when Soo-in races toward him, and he holds her close as she cries. He kisses her, and tells her to be well.
Then it’s time to leave, and the boat sets sail. Their eyes remain locked on each other for long moments, until Ho-kyung’s voice cuts through the air shouting her name. He’s galloping toward them, just barely ahead of dozens of officers. Arrows fly at the boat, and Soo-in leaves with Ho-kyung on horseback.
Yoon-kang watches their retreat intently, hardly registering the arrows barely missing him. Out in the field, a lone sniper crouches and aims at him—it’s Choi Won-shin, here to finish the job. He fires—the bullet lands—Yoon-kang is shot. Right in the heart.
Soo-in screams as he falls backward into the water. The officers rush to the waterside and Choi rises, satisfied. Yoon-kang sinks underwater.
Soo-in tries to go to him, but Ho-kyung holds her back—it would only get her arrested too.
Ho-kyung informs Soo-in’s parents of the day’s events, and how the officers eventually gave up looking for the body. But there’s no way he could have survived, and everyone assumes that he’s died.
Soo-in, meanwhile, is locked in her grief.
But as we all suspect (given that he’s our hero!), all is not lost. In the morning, a group of men aboard a boat wonder what to do with the almost-dead person they’ve discovered. Their leader, identified as Kim Ok-kyun, states that they’ll have to keep him with them till he wakes up. He’s dripping wet, and must have been the one to fish out our hero—the one lying unconscious with a shattered compass, having taken the brunt of the bullet’s force.
The group is headed toward Japan, and Kim Ok-kyun finds this whole situation amusing. For now, he claims responsibility for the man whose life he saved.
And then, we’re three years later.
Choi Won-shin and Hye-won walk through the bustling port to meet a man who will be instrumental in a deal they hope to strike with an influential man named Yamamoto. It’s Yamamoto’s trusted representative they are welcoming today, a man named Hanjo. “So our fate depends on this man,” Hye-won muses.
Soo-in has made the trip to the harbor as well, intent on buying something as soon as it arrives in port. She calls it valuable, something she must have. So when Ho-kyung reports that it is confirmed for arrival today, she breathes in relief.
A fight breaks out on the pier amongst a group of sailors, and it looks like it’s set to turn into a pretty violent melee. But then a shot rings out and one of the fighters goes down with a bullet to the arm, and everyone’s attention turns to the source of the gunfire.
On an arriving boat stands a man holding a pistol, dressed in a modern suit, and looking mighty familiar. Eeeee!
He raises his gun and fires a second shot.
Yessssss. I knew this was coming, I was expecting it, and I’m still pumped full of excitement.
That’s something the show does well—taking something expected and still managing to stir my excitement. That’s a tough gig, because there are certain steps this story (or any story) must go through to fulfill the premise we already know, which makes it predictable to a certain extent. But you can’t just take shortcuts because emotional connections and character development take some time to build up properly; when you don’t do the work of establishing your premise, then you run the risk of speeding so quickly along that we don’t connect or care. And I’d rather care.
Now we’re in full-on Count of Monte Cristo territory, which is one of those narratives, like Cinderella stories, that can be done over and over again and never feels old to me. I will watch them all and I will be suckered in every time (granted it’s done well, of course!). Who doesn’t love a great revenge story, driven by a badass hero with a reinvented identity and an old love? This is also where we’ll probably deviate more significantly from The Princess’s Man, which is great because while I loved that drama and found it pretty gripping, I’m all for this one being its own new thing. Even if that new thing is really an old thing dressed up in new duds. New turn-of-the-century duds with spectacles and a fancy pistol. All good things. (SO EXCITED.)
Part of my enjoyment is probably very specific to Lee Jun-ki, but can you blame anyone for finding him electric? He just gets better and better, doesn’t he? He has a way of immersing himself in the moment, full of pathos and immediacy, and it just sucks you right into his emotional maelstrom. Great acting on its own isn’t enough to buoy a sinking ship, but he has a way of picking good projects that allow him to shine, so really I see this show as a win-win on the Lee Jun-ki front. But here’s a case where even with a lesser actor, I’d probably find the character appealing, because he’s got such a rich range of development ahead of him, going from the innocent, privileged young man to someone more worldly, intense, driven, and tinged with darkness. What’s not to like?
Truthfully I have to admit that I’m rather surprised at the volume of negativity in the comments, since I’m so all about this drama. Which isn’t to say you’re not all entitled to your opinions—if you’re disappointed, you’re disappointed, and don’t let me tell you how to feel. But no matter—I’m loving this show, and ultimately nothing outside of the show itself is going to dim my enthusiasm for it. Who wants to join me over here in the lovefest corner where we can bask in our enjoyment?
- Joseon Gunman: Episode 3
- Joseon Gunman: Episode 2
- Joseon Gunman: Episode 1
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- 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