Six Flying Dragons: Episode 2
What began as a promising start becomes something much more this episode, as we delve into the world surrounding the two dragons we’ve been officially introduced to—and there’s no mistaking that it is one densely populated world on the verge of great change. That feeling of being on the cusp of something huge but just out of reach adds a certain sort of tension to the proceedings, and on top of the already top-notch performances (as if we expected anything else), all the ingredients make for an intensely assured second outing. We couldn’t be in much better hands than this team’s when it comes to sageuk, and it shows.
SONG OF THE DAY
BoA – “우리 (We)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Bang-won watches in horror as his father begs his enemy, Lee In-gyeom, to let the matter of his past betrayal slide this once. The minister agrees, but at a price—Lee Seong-gye is now like a dog on his leash, and must prove his loyalty to him and to Goryeo.
And when Lee In-gyeom says to prove it, he means it, forcing Lee Seong-gye to bow low to him in submission. The only thing he wants to know is how the minister learned the truth, to which Lee In-gyeom replies that he knows everything. He can even see through to Lee Seong-gye’s very soul.
While his father has no idea how Lee In-gyeom could have known what really happened in the past, little Bang-won takes it upon himself to confront the minister, calling him an evil man. Lee In-gyeom finds his antics amusing and asks the young master whether his father is a good man.
With conviction, Bang-won declares that yes, his father is a good man. Lee In-gyeom doesn’t refute it, but he takes the meaning of “good” to be subservient. He encourages Bang-won to be more like his father in this regard, reminding him of his father’s past betrayal while adding philosophically, “What is evil, and what is good? Is a human being born good, or evil?”
His words and creepy closeness leave Bang-won deeply unsettled, so that when he goes home he erupts in anger at his father: “Why didn’t you save my helpless friends?” His father has no idea that his son saw the exchange, so he doesn’t quite know what to do with the outburst.
Speaking of Bang-won’s friends, we find Boon-yi and oppa Ddang-sae still accidentally locked inside one of Lee In-gyeom’s storage rooms. While Ddang-sae focuses on the tune their mother would use to sing them to sleep at night, Boon-yi keeps her head in the game and devises an escape plan when the doors are opened.
Elsewhere in the manor, Lee In-gyeom frets over the secret letter that was delivered to him, since its arrival seemed planned—though he didn’t plan it. That’s why his victory over Lee Seong-gye feels empty, because it’s like someone else is pulling the strings… and it’s not too unlike another fateful night.
A flashback to 1374 reveals that on the night King Gongmin was assassinated, a letter with the same ominous red seal was delivered to Lee In-gyeom to alert him. He, in turn, sent the heavily guyliner’d Gil Tae-mi to take on Gongmin’s assassin, on the basis that the assassin would be allowed to walk away should he win the fight.
Despite Gil Tae-mi’s current confidence in his skill as a swordsman, by the time Lee In-gyeom had arrived to see the assassin dead, his killer seemed shocked that he’d accomplished such a feat. Once the palace was secured, Lee In-gyeom had asked about the eunuch that delivered the secret message to him, only to find out that no eunuch by that name ever existed.
In the present, the minister wonders just who it is that’s helping him. Cut to Jung Do-jeon, who thinks to himself that he can’t just put all his eggs in Lee Seong-gye’s basket if he wants to prevent war. He also plans to lead a contingent of protesting scholars tomorrow in a specific chant outside the main gates, though what it is has yet to be revealed.
Because of Lee Seong-gye’s deal with Lee In-gyeom, news reaches Minister HONG IN-BANG as well as famed statesman JUNG MONG-JOO that the general has rejected the offer to take a political position after all. Needless to say, they were really hoping he’d take the position, despite Jung Do-jeon’s warning that the general wasn’t to be trusted.
The rest of the high-ranking scholars/nobility, or sadaebu, are just as worried when they hear the news, since it means they’ll need representation for an upcoming meeting with Yuan envoys (now that they can’t depend on Lee Seong-gye to prevent it from happening).
While Minister Hong waits for an audience with Jung Do-jeon, two of the sadaebu immediately defect to Lee In-gyeom’s side, thinking that they’ll be attaching themselves to the winning side. They think that he doesn’t have a representative yet, but the minister assures them that he does.
And with great fanfare, he reveals that it’ll be Jung Do-jeon.
Boon-yi and Ddang-sae end up being carried along in the acting troupe’s convoy toward the Yuan meeting place, since they escaped into one of the enclosed carriages. But everyone abandons the caravan when masked swordsmen approach—and one of them is Jung Do-jeon.
This leaves the two youngsters in a prime position to overhear Jung Do-jeon’s conversation with Minister Hong, who finally tracks him down to ask what’s going on. If Jung Do-jeon is so adamant about preventing war, how does he plan to do so if he’s going to meet with the Yuan envoys as a representative?
Even though Minister Hong doesn’t know what Jung Do-jeon’s greater plan is, he swears to help him, especially since he was right about Lee Seong-gye being an untrustworthy ally. But Jung Do-jeon doesn’t want his help—not yet, anyway. Depending on whether he lives or dies tomorrow, he wants Hong’s help in enacting his greater plan.
Aside from the disturbance he plans to cause during the scholars’ protest tomorrow, Jung Do-jeon plans to dismantle Lee In-gyeom’s trinity of power from within by killing Baek Yoon, one of his closest allies. His death would sew discord and distrust between Lee In-gyeom and the remaining member of the trinity over who had him killed, which would eventually break their alliance and bring an end to the corruption in Goryeo.
Ddang-sae overhears all this while his sister sleeps, and follows Jung Do-jeon to his secret cave before returning for his sister. But he forgot that Jung didn’t come alone, and gets captured and tied up by a man identified as LEE EUN-CHANG.
Sobbing uncontrollably, Ddang-sae tells the man he was just looking for his mother with his sister, and at least Eun-chang promises to free him in the morning. No one in Jung Do-jeon’s party is aware that Boon-yi even exists, much less that she slipped through their fingers.
Early the next morning, Jung Do-jeon gathers the sadaebu on his side and holds a toast for the future of Goryeo, a future that will be changed by their actions today.
Speaking of, Minister Hong has to talk Jung Mong-joo off a ledge now that he’s heard that Jung Do-jeon will act as a representative to Yuan, which he sees as a great betrayal. Minister Hong doesn’t, and reassures him that Jung has a plan—he’s going to kill the envoys.
But Jung Mong-joo calls him shortsighted for thinking this is all part of Jung Do-jeon’s master plan, when he hasn’t even considered why Lee In-gyeom would’ve picked him in the first place. It must be a trap, he argues.
He’s right, since Lee In-gyeom and Gil Tae-mi are currently plotting Jung Do-jeon’s downfall gleefully. He’s made the whole envoy visit up, and plans to use actors to pretend to be from Yuan in order to catch Jung Do-jeon and his scholarly cohorts red-handed. He’ll be getting some help from the two scholars who defected to his side by using them as spies.
Meanwhile, Bang-won has decided to leave his household and become a beggar, despite the leader of the guild constantly trying to shoo the well-dressed and despondent boy away.
That’s when Boon-yi comes running to ask for help freeing her brother, only for the leader to point her over to Bang-won—he’s the one who wouldn’t stop bragging about how powerful his father is. Unfortunately for her, his father is the last thing Bang-won wants to talk about, causing her to call him a liar. He’d told them his father could solve any problem, but now he’s silent?
Boon-yi even reminds him that she helped him get into Lee In-gyeom’s manor, but Bang-won doesn’t have the spirit to argue the point. She does, and continues to pester him about his father: “It was all a lie, right? Admit it! Your father is not a great man, he’s pathetic! He is too weak to even rescue a child!”
It’s when she adds that he’s a coward that Bang-won finally turns around, and angrily shoves her to the ground. She immediately pops back up and screams that he’s the same as his father, resulting in a down and dirty brawl between the two of them.
After rolling around trying to choke each other, Bang-won eventually ends up straddling Boon-yi, who’s too out of breath to mount a counteroffensive. Instead she still claims he’s full of lies about his father, to which a tearful Bang-won admits, “He has no power.”
He thought his father was unparalleled in strength before, but now believes just the opposite, which is more of an admission to himself than anyone. He tries to leave it at that, only for Boon-yi to scream after him, “Then what do I do? I need your father’s power!”
She cries that Bang-won’s the only person she knows and can rely on, and if his father can’t help, then her brother’s doomed. She’s justifiably scared to death of the thought of losing him on top of her mother, and both her and Bang-won cry for their shared misery.
Bang-won finds a way to get an adult’s help without asking his father…by enlisting his bodyguard, Young-kyu. Young-kyu balks when Boon-yi says there are about ten men guarding her brother, but Bang-won urges him on by being all, If you can’t even rescue a little kid, what good are you? Once he reluctantly agrees, Bang-won takes Boon-yi by the hand and reassures her that everything’s going to be okay.
Lee In-gyeom’s scholar spies do their work and kidnap Jung Do-jeon before he can join the others, inadvertently throwing him into the same shed that Ddang-sae’s tied up in. While Jung Do-jeon knows instantly that he’s acting on Lee In-gyeom’s orders, the scholar seems almost angry at him for not having a more foolproof plan—did he really think he’d pull off his rebellion without Lee In-gyeom finding out about it?
It’s a trap, the scholar claims, and one Lee In-gyeom crafted to push the sadaebu like him out of the picture. He leaves after having his cronies beat Jung Do-jeon, but the real betrayal comes when his old friend Jung Mong-joo is brought to him, only to stand there and not untie him.
Quick on his feet (or on his butt this time), Jung Do-jeon tries to reason with Jung Mong-joo, knowing that his mind has been poisoned by Lee In-gyeom’s side. He knows his old friend doesn’t have faith in him, but swears that he has a plan, one that’ll accomplish their shared goal of preventing war.
But Jung Mong-joo claims this is about more than just him—the fate of the sadaebu is at stake. Jung Do-jeon thinks they’re all snakes who’d sell their mother to Lee In-gyeom if it meant a government post and doesn’t want to court their favor, while Jung Mong-joo frets that there’s no way around it, since Jung Do-jeon can’t make all of them his enemies and still succeed.
It’s clear that the two men care for each other despite their ideological stalemate, both of them equally passionate about how they believe they can bring about peace. And Jung Mong-joo thinks he’s acting in his friend’s best interest by worrying about keeping him alive in the short term, while Jung Do-jeon doesn’t see how that matters when they’ll all die should they go to war with Yuan.
Once it’s just the captives inside, Bang-won’s bodyguard takes down the guards and breaks down the door… only for Bang-won and Boon-yi to come face to face with Jung Do-jeon and his partner. It’s kind of funny how dead serious Jung Do-jeon is about preventing war, while Boon-yi couldn’t care less—her oppa points her in the direction of the man who tied her up, so she grabs Jung by his robes and shakes him as punishment.
“Not that man!” Ddang-sae yelps from his spot on the floor, causing Boon-yi to switch over to shaking Jung Do-jeon’s partner instead. All of Jung’s lofty talk about needing to be freed to stop a war is lost on Boon-yi and her brother, but not Bang-won, who takes it very seriously: “Can you really defeat Lee In-gyeom and prevent war?”
Jung Do-jeon looks him in the eye and says with all confidence, “Yes, I can. Let me go.” Bang-won thinks to himself that his father couldn’t do what the tied-up man claims he can, and asks him to promise that he can do what he claims. Jung Do-jeon nods, “I promise.”
The scholars who stage a protest against diplomacy with Yuan are herded away from the gates as Gil Tae-mi rides in disguised as a Yuan beekeeper. No sooner do they all learn that Jung Do-jeon has escaped do they see him march into the assembly.
Bang-won watches him from the crowd and reminds himself, and an unhearing Jung Do-jeon, that he better keep his promise. All that faith leaves him the second Jung Do-jeon pulls out a knife to stage a weak attack on the disguised envoy, only to be thrown to the ground.
Gil Tae-mi removes his beekeeping hat and reveals himself to the crowd, in order to tell them that they foiled Jung Do-jeon’s plan to kill the Yuan envoy by making sure he didn’t actually meet a real Yuan envoy.
That’s when Jung Do-jeon starts laughing from his spot at Gil Tae-mi’s feet, and the swordsman looks down to see that it’s not even a knife he’s holding in his hand, but taffy. Ruh roh.
Jung Do-jeon laughs like a madman as he displays his taffy stick to the gathered officials, having caught them in their own trap. Suddenly the musicians spring from their posts and surround Jung Do-jeon in a protective circle—they’re the sadaebu he gathered beforehand.
He tells everyone gathered, especially Lee In-gyeom, that he put his life in danger with this stunt to prove a point that he and the sadaebu around him firmly believe: Entering into a diplomatic relationship with Yuan would mean a costly war against Ming, which people like Lee In-gyeom and his cohorts are all too willing to do if it benefits them.
Imitating the pleas of the protesting scholars, Jung Do-jeon tears into the sadaebu elders who organized such a weak display. This isn’t a time for negotiation, since the ones who die in war aren’t the wealthy, but the poor. Pointing specifically to Lee In-gyeom, his passionate speech crescendos as he adds that the old like him don’t die in war, but the young do.
Jung Do-jeon: “War is not to be decided by the wealthy! As the only casualties in war are the poor. War must not be decided by the old! As the only ones who die are the young. Is it right for a child to hold a funeral for his father or is it right for a father to hold a funeral for his child? We have already held countless funerals for our children by the hands of our fathers.”
Minister Hong, remembering that Jung Do-jeon told him to ask him how he’d stop a relationship with Yuan in front of everyone, now shouts the question for all to hear. Jung Do-jeon has the crowd hanging on his every word as he advocates showing aggression and determination toward the envoy—if they believe they’ll be killed and run away, then they can prevent allying with Yuan and getting caught up in their war.
And because of Jung Do-jeon’s forethought in sending a letter to one of the envoy leaders requesting his presence, he’s already seen Jung Do-jeon’s aggressive display and will undoubtedly take it back to the Yuan camp. Which is exactly what Lee In-gyeom doesn’t want.
In front of everyone, Jung Do-jeon proclaims that as long as he still breathes, he’ll take the head of any and every Yuan envoy who passes through Jangpyeong Gate (basically the northern gate close to the border with Yuan). He hadn’t told the sadaebu what he wanted them to repeat after him, only that he’d say something that would need repeating—and from the crowd, scholar after scholar shouts his name and his impassioned promise to die before allowing a Yuan envoy through.
Soon enough, even ministers join in on the pledge to kill any envoy from Yuan, and the tide of the crowd turns into one of overwhelming support for Jung Do-jeon’s ideas. Bang-won watches in awe, and so does Jung Mong-joo, but for much different reasons.
The Yuan envoys that are present worry for their lives should the rowdy mob discover that they’re there as Lee In-gyeom’s men do perform some really belated crowd control, but the go-between tells the minister that he’ll take everything that was said back to Yuan.
But Jung Do-jeon also has to witness the fight he’s started, as the innocent crowd is submitted to beatings by the guards as well as the scholars. He roars loud enough to drown the noise for a moment, before slipping into a quieter, rueful lament of a song punctuated by the sound of people getting bludgeoned.
A tear snakes down his cheek as he sings, and soon enough, those who are able join the song in unison as they face off against the guards. It’s a powerful moment, and their voices only rise as the guards resume their assault.
But Ddang-sae turns at the sound, recognizing the tune as the one he’s been trying and failing to replicate—it’s the lullaby their mother would sing to them.
And Bang-won, with tears welling up in eyes he can’t manage to tear away from Jung Do-jeon, says: “That man is the strongest!”
“The Second Dragon: Jung Do-jeon, Joseon’s architect.”
As much as I wish Six Flying Dragons was just a bit more polished in the directing department, that was one hell of a scene. (I still have goosebumps!) That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the directing as it is—it’s more than serviceable, which may sound like a small thing to be grateful for, but we’ve all seen the alternatives. Better to be more grounded than too flashy and at war with the script, though there is a fine line to be found there that these producers have actually walked amazingly well before in Tree With Deep Roots.
But only one of the two PD’s who worked on that show is on this team, though I should be counting my blessings that we have one and not none. Really, I’m not sure why I’m griping at all in the face of such an accomplishment—maybe it’s simply that most of these scenes, which are already quite good, could only stand to benefit with tighter directing. Then again, Kim Myung-min is in fine form when it comes to bringing raw power and intensity to his scenes, so maybe piling on even more intense directing on top of all that would just serve as sensory overload. The writing and acting are all there, so as long as the PD just points the camera in the right direction, we should be good.
Normally I go into shows as blind as possible and try not to get into trouble just because I’ve loved a team’s work before, and while I’ve mostly kept to that this year, this was a show I definitely anticipated because of my admiration for past works like the aforementioned Tree, Dae Jang Geum, Queen Seon-deok, and so on. But with those dramas being such huge hits and now household names, I would have had to have lived in a sageuk-hating vacuum to not have seen this team’s work and to come to expect a certain amount of quality from them, which really just means that while I’m nervous about taking on such a long show, I’m hoping against hope that it’ll turn out to be worth it. And so far, Dragons has given no indication that it won’t be. (But any and all prayer circles are welcome and, as always, gladly accepted.)
In a show with such a sprawling and frankly daunting cast of characters, keeping the focus on a select few is no small task, but one this show seems more than equipped to handle. The cuts we’d get between all our key players, including our miniature ones, worked because of how interconnected the stories are—and what’s more is the depth of the connection, and how it spans across political and ideological boundaries. So while I usually view childhood backstories as part and parcel in sageuk dramas and an (un)necessary evil, I’m really liking how their stories are being interwoven into the greater backdrop, and how they represent that universal truth of being a child: that they’re at the mercy of adults who will always be bigger and stronger than they are.
The fun is in seeing them fly in the face of that notion, giving us tiny humans in Boon-yi, Ddang-sae, and Bang-won, who are all struggling in the absence of a guiding parental figure. In Boon-yi and Ddang-sae’s case, their mother was forcibly taken from them, but Bang-won’s suffering isn’t so dissimilar. His father was infallible to him, and all of a sudden everything he thought he knew about him was turned upside down. Boon-yi’s request for his father’s help only brought that terrible truth crashing down on him, and that they both cried together, even though they were mostly crying for themselves, was nicely poetic.
Plus, I love that Bang-won used what resources he did have to help her for no other reason than that he wanted to and could. All the kids in this show have been forced to grow up too fast, and while Bang-won is in many ways still just a child looking for a strong father figure, he’s also just like any adult looking for something to believe in. Besides, who wouldn’t want Jung Do-jeon to be their dad after seeing a speech like that? I would if I wasn’t already harboring an active crush on Kim Myung-min… is something I definitely wouldn’t say because that’d be weird. Right then. Onto the next forty-eight episodes.
- Six Flying Dragons: Episode 1
- The swords come out for Six Flying Dragons’ posters
- The dragons take flight
- Character teaser roll call for all Six Flying Dragons
- Four Flying Dragons down, two left to go
- Yoo Ah-in takes up the sword in Six Flying Dragons
- Shin Se-kyung reunites with Yoo Ah-in in Six Flying Dragons
- Baek Jin-hee drops Six Flying Dragons
- Six Flying Dragons confirms leads, adds Yoon Kyun-sang