Mirror of the Witch: Episode 3
Our Joseon Rapunzel dreams of getting a glimpse of the outside world she’s read so much about in her books. But as we all know, reality can be so different than what we imagine, especially if that reality includes deadly curses and dark magic. It’s hard not to root for her to grow up and take charge of her life, but can she handle the consequences that loom ahead?
EPISODE 3 RECAP
In her lair, our dark shaman Hong-joo thinks back to the queen’s fears of the mysterious girl appearing in Crown Prince Sunhoe’s dreams, which she knows must be his twin sister Yeon-hee. She casts a spell and sends out another shadow monster. The shadow slithers through the Black Forest until it reaches Yeon-hee’s home.
Yeon-hee hurries around the house, frantically securing the lock on the door. She then shuffles under her blanket and covers her ears. It looks like she’s already used to this shadow’s visits. In a chilling, motherly voice, the shadow cries out, “Child. Come out, child.” She shakes as she chants to herself that it’s not at all scary.
Meanwhile, her older “brother” Poong-yeon arrives home to a very angry father. Dad Hyun-seo scolds Poong-yeon for having gone to Yeon-hee again. But Poong-yeon doesn’t understand—why can’t he go to her? After all, they’re not real siblings. I don’t think we’re talking about visiting anymore. He pushes his father further. Why isn’t he allowed to see her? Why does he keep her locked up? Hyun-seo sighs heavily, his eyes softening, as if he so wants to just tell his son the truth. He says that he can’t lose them both. However, Poong-yeon can’t be with Yeon-hee. Poong-yeon can’t accept that. He’s too far gone and he can’t stop now.
We cut to a woman getting her feet washed by her servant. This woman is Lady Sohn, Heo Ok’s mother and Jun’s stepmother. She makes some small talk with her servant, telling her about her trip to a fortuneteller. The fortuneteller had told her that Jun had a fate that would consume her own son, though she tries to laugh this off.
Her servant happens to be Jun’s biological mother. She reassures Lady Sohn that Jun isn’t capable of that; she needn’t worry about the fortuneteller’s words. Lady Sohn’s face grows serious. Even so, she still wonders “what if.” After all, Jun has been going around doing strange things for money. She can’t have him embarrassing the Heo family name.
Jun’s mother promises to give him a warning, but that’s not good enough for Lady Sohn. She doesn’t just want her to warn him; she wants her to make him give up. She fears he might get the idea to take the civil service exam or get a government position, like he dreamed of doing when he was young. She says firmly that he can’t do what Ok does. Because he’s the son of a servant. Jun’s mother tenses at that, but she agrees to keep him under control.
Jun’s mother waits out by the gate for Jun to come home. She jumps up when the door opens. Instead of her son, she’s greeted by the heavily drunk Ok. She asks him where Jun is, but he only slurs that Jun should be back soon and stumbles on inside.
It turns out Jun was knocked unconscious from the fall after retrieving Yeon-hee’s kite. Ouch, he looks pretty banged up. Meanwhile, Yeon-hee is still huddled under her blanket, chanting to herself when she hears a loud thud outside.
She walks out into the night to investigate, taking tentative steps. She slowly approaches the source of the sound to find… Jun. And, aw, he brought the kite. It’s so sweet that he willed himself to crawl all the way back even when injured to return it to her.
Instead of thanking him, Yeon-hee scolds him for stupidly risking his life for a measly kite. He scoffs and asks if that kite wasn’t supposed to be important to her. Yeon-hee agrees, though she still thinks it was stupid. Besides, even if he did bring it, she argues, he should’ve brought it completely unscathed! He gives up this argument as she tends to his wounds.
As she does, he can’t help sneaking in a few peeks—and smiles—at her face. When she looks up, he awkwardly turns away. As she finishes up, Jun says he must get back home because his mother should be worried sick. Yeon-hee advises him to wait until morning because it’d be dangerous to brave the Black Forest this late at night.
He gasps—is she telling him to spend the night here? She nonchalantly tells him to go then, if that’s what he wants. Then they have this cute little back-and-forth: “I’m going.” “Then go.” “I am!” But one look out at the pitch-black forest has him shuffling right back to her side. He uses the excuse that it wouldn’t be very gentlemanly of him to leave a girl out in such a dangerous place all alone. Ha, sure, big guy.
Yeon-hee still has her limits though, and she makes Jun sleep outside. He tosses and turns, perhaps a little too aware of her presence to fall asleep. He asks through the door if she’s still awake. She keeps her eyes closed but confirms that she is. He’s itching for more conversation, so he wonders aloud why her father keeps her secluded out here. Jun: “Were you also born in a household where you weren’t supposed to be born?”
That gets Yeon-hee’s attention. Jun clarifies that he means whether or not she was born into a place where her own existence is a burden. He’s asking this about her, but she answers as if to comfort him. She shares what her brother has always told her—that there isn’t anyone in this world who shouldn’t have been born. No matter who it is, everyone’s birth is a blessing that’ll benefit the world. And finding that reason is what life is for.
She says not to be sad, since he must also have a reason he was born. Jun half-smiles. It wasn’t what he was expecting, but he’s clearly touched. As if she can see his smile, he immediately wipes it off his face and retorts that he’s never been sad, and they go back to arguing. Even so, once the conversation ends, they’re both smiling, finally able to sleep.
Later that night, the shadow monster returns on schedule. This time, we see two spirit wolves materialize out of thin air to protect Yeon-hee’s house. They growl menacingly at the shadow, easily keeping it at bay.
At dawn, Hyun-seo and his team head off towards Cheongbing Temple to begin their search for the Mauigeumseo, the book that will help them break Yeon-hee’s curse. They’re in a hurry as today is Yeon-hee’s 17th birthday. And if her curse activates today, the death curse will also start. Determined to prevent this, they venture deeper into the mountains.
Heo Ok is off getting stone-cold drunk again—in broad daylight, no less—with his entourage. They all freeze with shock at the sight of a dirty, battered Jun sauntering right up to them, Yeon-hee’s kite in hand. (Yeon-hee had insisted he take it with him, since he went to such lengths to get it. She wasn’t giving it to him, she’d said. She was just letting him borrow it. So he definitely must return it.)
Now that he’s kept his side of the promise, Jun suggests Ok keep his own promise of the 500 nyang. Ok agrees, and even showers Jun with a round of applause. However, he’s a little short on money. He tosses the small amount of coins he has left at Jun, urging him to go on and pick them all up. He does, whilst ignoring his brother’s mocking remarks. Ok eggs him on: “That’s right, pick them up… That way you can free your mother.”
Jun stops cold. Ok continues that he knew this entire time that Jun’s crazy money schemes were because he was saving up to release his mother from her slave contract. He acknowledges Jun for working so hard and offers him a drink.
Ok pushes his buttons even further by asking if he slept with that pretty ghost in the forest to retrieve the kite, offering up his body just like his mother did in order to have him. Ok begins to disrobe and wave his arms around like a maniac, laughing.
Ok’s tone drops from joking to dead serious as he tightly grips Jun’s hand over the drinking glass. He gets in close and seethes that he will never give up Jun’s mother’s slave contract. He’ll have her licking his feet until she has to go to her grave. That tears it.
Jun has a vice grip on the glass at this point, and he throws it to the ground so he can form a fist and beat the living daylights out of Ok. Some of Ok’s men try to hold Jun back, but he’s far gone in his rage and easily breaks free. He gives Ok one last good punch that lands Ok in a pond below, screaming for his mommy.
Jun’s mom is still waiting for him and freaks out once she sees him trudge in, completely disheveled. She demands to know what happened, but we can already hear Ok answering her question as he stumbles through the doors, also hurt. Jun’s mother puts two and two together, incredulous that this was all her son’s doing.
Lady Sohn also comes running up, outraged over Jun harming her precious son’s face. She moves in to slap him, but to Jun’s surprise, his own mother beats her to it. She feigns anger as she scolds him for hitting the young master. Her eyes become more pleading as she demands he give Ok an apology, desperate to prevent any further damage.
But it’s just too much for Jun and an intense wave of emotion pools out of him. He looks right at his mother with tears in his eyes and refuses to apologize. “I did nothing wrong, so I don’t have anything for which to ask forgiveness,” he says as his voice breaks. I’m getting the feeling he’s not just talking about punching Ok now. Nonetheless, he’s done. He leaves without even giving his brother and stepmother a side glance.
Lady Sohn tenderly applies medicine to her son’s face only to hit him right where it hurts, ha. She’s tired of him running around drunk when he should be focusing on his studies. That way, he wouldn’t look so incompetent compared to Jun. Ok throws a little tantrum, shouting that he hates Jun. He reveals that Jun is saving up to free his mother and eventually hide her away. Lady Sohn is shaken up by this but quickly recomposes herself. She tells him she’ll take care of it.
Later, Jun’s mother sincerely apologizes to Lady Sohn and Ok in her son’s place. Lady Sohn accepts the apology, but that’s not enough—she’ll have to receive punishment for her wrongdoing. Jun’s mother begs to be spared, but Lady Sohn has the servants wrap her in a straw mat on the ground and beat her over and over. Lady Sohn watches her writhe in pain while giving her one last warning that she and Jun should know their rightful place.
In the marketplace, everyone is busy preparing for the flying lantern festival. Jun finally finds his buddy Dong-rae and, seemingly still upset, Jun walks right past him. Dong-rae sadly moves along, and Jun stops to ask why he isn’t following. They need to get back to work. Overwhelmed with joy that Jun is still talking to him, Dong-rae breaks down and gives his buddy a good hug. After making sure he’s okay, Dong-rae restores his usual cheeriness and gets Jun smiling again in no time.
Hyun-seo and his team reach Cheongbing Temple and search for an entrance through an underground tunnel. Hyun-seo lights a nearby candle, which seems to trigger something. Only a moment later, they’re encased in darkness, followed by a sharp, high-pitched noise. One by one, all the Taoist masters cry out, developing sudden rashes, stumbling over snakes, and fighting off bugs.
Hyun-seo tries to calm everyone down, yelling that this is a place that creates illusions, but they’re unable to snap out of it. He faces one snake in particular and the closer his hand gets to it, the snake dematerializes back into the candle, making the rest of the illusions disappear.
Once free from the tunnel, they all spread out to search for the book. Hyun-seo eventually finds it entangled in some tree vines. He reads out to the rest of the group that the curse can be lifted if a true soul lights 108 candles on that altar and prays.
But once the prayer starts, they must break the curse before the Northern star disappears, otherwise the person trying to break it will die. Yo-gwang sees no problem in this since they have five years before the Northern star disappears. He promises that they’ll be sure to protect Yeon-hee before the time comes. Now they just need to bring her there.
Poong-yeon checks out the marketplace, where the festival has gone into full-swing. But he’s not particularly enjoying himself. He suddenly stops to open Yeon-hee’s written wish—ack, that’s bad luck!—to discover she just wished to see the outside world once.
Yeon-hee can hear the festival music from her home, but it only strengthens her longing to see everything in person. She sighs, telling the kite Jun constructed that it’ll have to see everything for her. Poong-yeon then pops in, adamant on taking her to the festival for her birthday. This seems like a golden opportunity, but Yeon-hee worries about disobeying Father’s orders.
Poong-yeon takes her by the shoulders and promises he’ll take care of everything—he’ll be with her, so there’s nothing to worry about. He practically says, “What’s the worst that can happen?” She still looks uneasy, so he has to half-drag her out of there. Her feet stop right at the string of talismans, the safety net she’s relied on so heavily all these years. She starts to back away, feeling like it may not be worth it, so Poong-yeon flashes her an encouraging smile and offers her his hand. Hoping that this hand can be her temporary safety net, she grabs hold of it and builds the courage to finally step over the line. The moment she does, the red writing on the talismans starts to flash silver.
He escorts her to the festival, where she finds herself shying away from the crowd. After a while, Poong-yeon gets her to relax, and she eventually finds it safe enough to smile and start having some fun.
It’s adorable how she finds every little thing from a juggler to a puppet show to be the most spectacular thing ever. And the bigger her smile gets, the bigger Poong-yeon’s gets, as if she’s making it all the more spectacular for him.
Night falls and soon, the sky is filled with released lanterns, glowing like fireflies. As they watch the lanterns fly away, Yeon-hee asks Poong-yeon what he wished for. He playfully scolds her that he can’t tell her.
Yeon-hee scoffs and looks up at the sky again, though Poong-yeon keeps his eyes on her. “I wish for you to only walk on a rose-petaled path,” he thinks. “To not step on a dirty or painful path.”
Yeon-hee breaks his train of thought by asking if she really is a child that was born in a place she wasn’t supposed to be, and if that’s why Hyun-seo keeps her hidden away. Poong-yeon isn’t sure himself, but it must be for her own good. His answer doesn’t seem to comfort either of them.
Yeon-hee then blurts out that being here with him and watching the beautiful lanterns makes her heart feel kind of strange. But she just waves it off as jitters from being out for the first time.
They’re in much brighter spirits as someone helps them light Yeon-hee’s lantern. But as they lift it up, Yeon-hee’s face goes blank and her eyes turn silver. By the time the lantern leaves Poong-yeon’s fingers, she’s disappeared.
Back at the palace, the celebration for Prince Sunhoe’s birthday breaks out, with shaman Hong-joo leading the traditional dance. Jun and Dong-rae sneak right past the party, dressed in their women’s clothes with concoctions in hand. Jun heads back to find the piece of that magical shield that he dropped. And we see off in the distance that Yeon-hee’s wandered all the way there. She breaks out of whatever trance she’s in, having no idea where she is. She remembers Poong-yeon and starts calling out for him.
She reaches the palace walls and all at once, the talismans back at her house are specked with burn marks. The energy then hits Hong-joo full-on and she collapses in the middle of her performance, coughing up blood. Her head snaps up as it hits her—the princess must be alive. In a panic, she rushes to the prince’s side to confirm and surely enough, it’s there: the red mark behind his ear. The curse has latched itself back onto him.
Lightning strikes ominously, only deepening Hong-joo’s fears. She darts out of there, leaving the concerned royal family behind. It begins to pour, but she only has one thing on her mind. She can feel the princess’s presence. And she’s getting awfully close…
Closer. And closer. Yeon-hee and Hong-joo are now walking in the same direction, separated only by a wall. Hong-joo rushes to the doors, but once she’s out, Yeon-hee is already gone.
Jun has managed to get to her first, and gets them hidden behind a wall. He asks what Yeon-hee is doing here, but she seems disoriented, mistaking him for Poong-yeon. She murmurs for her brother before passing out. And Jun suddenly looks up as someone approaches them.
Oh, phew, it’s just Poong-yeon. He takes her out of the palace and waits until she regains consciousness. He blames himself for ever taking his eyes off of her and losing her, so he gives her a small bell that she can ring if she ever gets lost again. He holds up his own matching bell to reassure her that she can always listen for its sound if she needs to find him as well. Yeon-hee promises to do exactly that.
Soon, she’s on her feet again and Poong-yeon walks her through the Black Forest back to her house. But something stops her midway and she tells her brother she’d rather go the rest of the way alone.
Poong-yeon pauses, sensing something’s wrong, and picks her a few yellow flowers to cheer her up. Instead, the gesture makes her cry. She quickly wipes the tears away, apologizing. Coming out to the world has been overwhelming and she’s not sure how to handle it.
Poong-yeon understands. He promises to make her a new kite that will fly even higher than her old one, but she has to remain pretty and healthy in the time being. That gets a small smile out of her. He suggests he take her all the way home anyway and this time, she doesn’t protest.
Hyun-seo and the other masters are going crazy trying to find Yeon-hee and Poong-yeon. They worry what could happen if Yeon-hee’s curse were to activate while she was in a crowded area. They’re about to go out searching again when Poong-yeon finally comes through the gate.
He’s confused over just how upset everyone is, especially his mother. His father looks like he’s about to scold him, but instead, breathes out, “Are you okay?” Aw.
Poong-yeon confirms that Yeon-hee returned home safely. He starts to ask his father something when he coughs up blood, startling everyone. He collapses onto his mother’s lap and we see that Yeon-hee’s curse has now marked the back of Poong-yeon’s ear as well.
The shadow monster flies toward Yeon-hee’s home again, this time with a little more vigor. Yeon-hee can hear its cries from her room and she clutches the tiny bell Poong-yeon gave her. Outside, the spirit wolves appear without fail, but whatever happened to those talismans when Yeon-hee crossed the line must have weakened them; the shadow monster is too strong for them now. It wipes them out with one fatal strike, and just like that, the string of talismans all catch fire, allowing the shadow entry.
It seeps through the door easily and reveals its full form to Yeon-hee, who’s looking so incredibly small and helpless in the corner. The shadow attacks her, taking hold of her body with a force so strong that she’s lifted into the air. She desperately claws at her throat and gasps as the shadow grabs hold of her heart. Whatever it does to her heart makes her hair suddenly change to white.
At the exact same time, another shadow has already taken the crown prince and turned his hair white too. The queen, queen dowager, and Hong-joo watch in complete horror as the shadow finishes him off and drops his limp body to the ground.
Ah, Poong-yeon, why? Why did you have to bring her out? To be fair, it’s not entirely Poong-yeon’s fault since he had zero clue about Yeon-hee’s curse. I really wish Hyun-seo would’ve put a little trust in his son and given him all the information before it had to come to this.
The aftermath will surely be messy, but even so, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Yeon-hee take in a little freedom, even if it was just for a couple hours. She’s proved to us that she can be fearless and confident, but it’s mostly just her putting up a brave front to hide the little girl that’s scared to be all alone in her house. I especially appreciated Kim Sae-ron’s acting when Yeon-hee broke down in front of Poong-yeon. I think she’s been trying very hard not to be selfish and to simply follow whatever Hyun-seo and his wife tell her. So she was obviously hesitant to disobey their orders and leave her home so she could indulge in a little of her own happiness. Her tears in front of Poong-yeon made it evident to me that she didn’t even realize how much being outside would hit her. How exhilarating it would be for her. And her having to trudge back to her lonely home after coming to that realization made my heart break for her. No doubt, Poong-yeon’s heart has been breaking for her for years, but it doesn’t look like it’ll be mended anytime soon. I know seeing Yeon-hee in danger was the last thing he ever wanted, but it’s pretty much inevitable now.
However, when it comes to breaking hearts, it’s Jun that really takes the cake for me. He seems like such a sweet and incredibly bright boy, yet society keeps pushing him down. Between feeling belittled in front of his half-brother and stepmother and feeling burdened in front of his birth mother, it must be like he’s trapped within his own life. And no matter how much he tries to dig his way out of his misery, whether with his hard work or his intelligence, he’s afraid he’ll always fall back down because of how he was born.
That’s why I believe his romance with Yeon-hee could actually work. Not only are they super adorable together, but they also hold this strong connection. They’re both isolated—Jun in society, and Yeon-hee from society—and just longing for a way out. Jun practically killed me with that smile when Yeon-hee comforted him, saying it didn’t matter who he was or how he was born. He’s just as important as everyone else and it’s up to him to figure out what his specific importance is. He needed to hear that from her and I think he took it to heart. And now that it looks like Yeon-hee may be needing his help, I’m sure he’ll do whatever it takes to repay her.
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