Mirror of the Witch: Episode 6
Mirror of the Witch is a push-and-pull kind of show, and in this episode, we barely have time to let the satisfaction of our heroes’ victories sink in before bigger problems are hurled at us. The odds against our good guys are seemingly insurmountable, and circumstances force both Jun and Seo-ri to break a few rules to survive. We get a few answers about the past, but as always, we’re still left with many, many more questions.
EPISODE 6 RECAP
As Seo-ri busies herself in her cave at the temple, something drops from her clothes with a soft jingle — it’s the bell charm that her brother Poong-yeon had given her after she had gotten lost on the night of the lantern festival.
Her protector Yo-gwang notices Seo-ri momentarily spacing out, but she brushes off his concern and reminds him that there isn’t much time left; they need to light all the candles and lift the curse before the Northern star disappears. Yo-gwang thinks back to the part about the candle-lighter dying if the curse can’t be lifted, but he keeps that to himself.
In her forest lair, dark shaman Hong-joo continues to play with dark magic, summoning the cackling black shadow spirit to revive a group of previously dead fish. Her powers are growing if she can bring things back from the dead now.
At the gisaeng house, the girl from the gambling den, Soon-deuk, demonstrates various seduction techniques for her lovesick gisaeng friend Man-wol. With half of her pretty face marred by scars, Man-wol’s main responsibility as a gisaeng is playing music, and as a result, she is hilariously bad at flirting. She’s particularly head over heels for one man, and though Soon-deuk thinks it’s folly for a gisaeng to be in love, she shows her all the best angles to highlight her pretty side.
Outside, Jun glares daggers at his drunken brother Ok from afar, wearing quite a different expression behind his back compared to the deferential one he’s always showing in front of Ok’s face.
After Ok enters the gisaeng house, Soon-deuk coincidentally overhears his conversation with a merchant proposing that he overlook the merchant’s illegal ginseng trade in return for a large bribe. Although Ok is slightly affronted by the merchant asking him to fingerprint a contract for reassurance, the greedy Ok is quickly convinced when presented with a few more rings. His job finished, the merchant leaves and the gisaengs enter, although Ok takes one look at Man-wol’s scars and orders her out.
Soon-deuk follows the merchant out and watches him give the contract to a mysterious man, whose face is covered by his hat. Passing along some money, the mysterious man tells the merchant to leave town quietly, and the merchant scurries off.
Soon-deuk changes her target, and follows the mysterious man into the forest. He turns out to be none other than Jun, revealing himself upon arriving at his mother’s burial mound. He digs out a wooden box nearby and furtively places the contract inside.
As soon as he leaves, Soon-deuk loses sight of him and runs to try and catch up, only to be stopped in her tracks by Jun, who pops out of nowhere and scares her. She tries to run but he yanks her back by the collar. He had known she was following him the whole time, and remembering her from the gambling den, he wonders aloud what else she’s good at.
Back at the gisaeng house, Ok senses something strange about the contract and leaves to find the merchant. Unfortunately for us, he arrives just in time to see the merchant trying to run away, and he demands that the contract be returned.
The merchant confesses that he no longer has the contract, and that he was simply working for a mysterious man. Moreover, having never seen the man’s face, the merchant has no idea who he is. Suddenly, Soon-deuk’s voice rings out, claiming to know the identity of the mysterious man.
Jun returns to the gisaeng house and spots Man-wol sitting forlornly at the front gates. By the way she brightens up when she sees him, it’s clear that Jun’s her crush — the very man she had asked Soon-deuk to help her seduce.
In the temple cave, Seo-ri glances at her favorite kite and thinks back to how Jun had jumped in to save her and took an arrow to the chest. Holding the kite out, she imagines talking to Jun, asking sadly, “You’re alive, right?”
At the gisaeng house with Man-wol, Jun takes his own trip down memory lane when he sees persimmons on the table and recalls how Seo-ri had earnestly asked him to pick some for her when they first met.
He’s taken out of his reverie by Man-wol’s awkward attempts to flirt, but blind to her crush, he simply asks her if there’s something wrong. He guesses that someone’s said something about her face again and advises her with sweet but brotherly affection that she’s beautiful the way she is.
Man-wol smiles sadly and asks Jun not to lie, assuring him that she knows her place. She mentions that she plans to visit the Hundred-Year Tree, rumored to grant wishes. Jun scoffs that there’s no such thing, but Man-wol says with a bit of disappointment that it could be possible, and asks if Jun has a wish. He looks resigned as he tells her no, he has nothing to wish for.
Man-wol goes to the Hundred-Year Tree anyway and makes her wish: to become beautiful enough to be worthy of Jun. After she leaves, Yo-gwang brings her wish tag to Seo-ri, who immediately starts working on a beautification potion and prays that all goes well this time around.
Pacing around his room, Ok thinks back to his conversation with Soon-deuk after she had interrupted him with the merchant. Not the least bit cowed by his interrogation, she had offered to tell him both the identity of the mysterious man, and the location of the incriminating contract if he gave her some money. She’s got the upper hand here, and they both know it.
By the riverside, the palace investigation team finds yet another corpse with its heart torn out. Poong-yeon takes note of the nearby bottle, the same type that he’s seen near the other corpses. And although he doesn’t know yet, we see that it’s the same type of bottle that Seo-ri uses for her potions. Suddenly, an arrow with a message shoots out from across the river, and Poong-yeon opens it in alarm.
In her room, Man-wol readies herself to drink her potion. She thinks back to her meeting with Yo-gwang, who had asked her to light the candle “with an earnest heart” in return for receiving the potion. In the present, Man-wol gulps the potion down and immediately chokes in pain, doubling over.
When we cut to another gisaeng calling for Man-wol and entering her room, we find Man-wol sitting calmly at her desk. She turns her head slowly and reveals her face — perfect and unscarred.
Yo-gwang brings the lit candle back to Seo-ri, who uses its flame to light one of her candles in the trees. The two of them bring their hands together in prayer, and it seems that their hard work has finally paid off — the candle stays lit! Yo-gwang’s face lights up with a giant smile.
Meanwhile, in her lair, blood spurts out of Hong-joo’s mouth, as if in direct response to Seo-ri’s candle being lit. What’s really strange though, is her smirk after coughing up blood; an expression of anticipation, rather than defeat, passes through her eyes.
Poong-yeon rides through the forest and stops to unfold the message from earlier, revealing a map to Hong-joo’s lair. He makes his way inside and cuts to the chase, asking Hong-joo where she was the day his father disappeared. Hong-joo skirts around the question, lying that everyone was already dead by the time she got there.
But she makes Poong-yeon an offer: She’ll help him find his father Hyun-seo if he helps her meet the king. She tells Poong-yeon that she knows the king is very sick, and she just wants to cure his illness.
Poong-yeon curtly rejects her, and when Hong-joo asks if that means he’s no longer interested in looking for his father, Poong-yeon just responds that he’s just as capable of finding his father on his own. Hong-joo smiles disturbingly, and leaves him with a message from his father: “Find Yeon-hee.” As Poong-yeon steps out of the lair, he’s overcome with a strange sensation, and the curse mark on his neck reappears and glows for a brief moment, which Hong-joo sees. He shakes it off and heads out.
Hong-joo enters the chamber with Hyun-seo’s body, and gently brushes her hand against a large scar behind his ear. She flashes back to a much earlier period, when she had first used dark magic to bring about King Injong’s death, five years before the twins were born. As she performed her spell, she had asked the king not to resent her, reminding him that the palace is a place ruled by greed, where people are stepped upon like they’re bugs. Since the king himself had mercilessly used so many palace maids in such a manner, he should just think of this as a punishment for his sins.
Before Hong-joo managed to kill the king, however, she was interrupted by Hyun-seo and Yo-gwang, who burst in with swords and demanded that she stop. Hong-joo had responded that this was an order from the queen dowager, and asked him, what does it matter that she’d have to pay for her sins with her life, if she’s already an abandoned life? Insulted that Hyun-seo would think this is some kind of petty revenge, Hong-joo had insisted that this was all for the good of the nation.
As soon as she finished speaking, the palace guards had rushed in to help her. While Hyun-seo and Yo-gwang fought them off, Hong-joo successfully sucked out the last bits of the king’s soul. In a fit of anger, Yo-gwang had rushed at her with his sword. Blood splattered across Hong-joo’s face and she stood frozen in shock, looking up at Hyun-seo, who had jumped in front of her and taken the blow in her place. Trembling in pain and anger, Hyun-seo had ordered her to leave and never come back.
In the present, Hong-joo guides the dark shadow spirit into Hyun-seo, and the talisman on his torso flickers briefly. Talking to his comatose body, she tells him that he must, by all means, help her kill the princess this time around.
At the gisaeng house, Man-wol can’t stop touching her face and is giddy just at the sight of it. She arranges for a letter to be delivered to Jun, but it’s intercepted by Ok when he sees Man-wol’s servant loitering in front of their house.
Promising to pass the letter on to his half-brother, Ok convinces the servant to turn it over to him. He proceeds to read Man-wol’s letter, asking Jun to meet with her at the watermill tonight, hoping to confess the feelings she’s had for a long time. Ok scoffs at the idea that he would give anything to Jun and keeps the letter.
Ok follows Soon-deuk to Jun’s mother’s grave, and she excitedly digs out the wooden box. Sitting on top of it, she demands her money, and Ok reluctantly tosses it over to her, only to realize the box is filled with stones when he opens it. He screams angrily at her and Soon-deuk looks at the box in confusion, sure that Jun had left the contract there.
All of a sudden, Jun walks up to them and asks Ok what he’s looking for. Just as Ok realizes that he’s been set up by the two of them, the captain of the police force arrives to arrest Ok on corruption charges. They have evidence of 80 counts of bribery, thanks to Jun, and Ok will be hanged.
Ok tries clumsily to run away, but he’s easily arrested by the other officers, who drag him away kicking and screaming. Jun watches it all unfold with a somber expression, his eyes trembling in relief now that his revenge is finally all over.
Lady Sohn rushes into the jail to visit her wailing son, and demands that Ok uphold his dignity as the eldest son of the Heo family. Ok whines that dignity and family are nothing in the face of death, and begs his mother to use her connections to save him, reminding her that if he dies, so does their family line.
At night, Man-wol rushes out to meet Jun, excited just at the thought of confessing her love. As she waits in the shed by the watermill, a dark figure creeps slowly behind her. The door opens, and she turns around full of anticipation, only to be greeted by Red Cloak in the freaky wooden mask.
Yo-gwang arrives at the scene a step too late, discovering poor Man-wol’s corpse, with her heart brutishly ripped out. Seo-ri’s candle goes out, and elsewhere, Hong-joo withdraws her blackened hands from her cauldron to find them healing at a miraculous pace.
Yo-gwang chases Red Cloak through the forest, and demands to know why he’s killing people related to the Hundred-Year Tree. The two engage in a fierce swordfight and they’re evenly matched, but Red Cloak blinds Yo-gwang with a handful of dust and successfully escapes… back to Hong-joo’s lair, where he (or she?) hands her Man-wol’s heart. Hong-joo tosses the heart into the cauldron, and it goes up in a burst of flames, immediately turning to ashes.
At the temple cave, Seo-ri says in sad voice that as expected, the candle went out again. She asks Yo-gwang where he’s been, what he’s been hiding from her, and his refusal to answer incenses her. She stomps off, ready to cross the borders of her cave, which are lined with the same Taoist talismans that had surrounded her former home. Yo-gwang pleads with her to stop, arguing that everything will be over if she steps outside now, but Seo-ri reveals it’s not just that she’s sick of being caged in.
Seo-ri cries that there are only 49 days left, and she hasn’t successfully lit a candle in six months. If she dies because she can’t lift the curse, she won’t ever be able to see her loved ones again — that’s what she fears the most, not death. Yo-gwang looks down at her in pity and apologizes for not being able to do more.
At an outside tavern, Soon-deuk skips happily over to Jun and asks for her money, since he had promised to give her double for double-crossing Ok. Jun pays her but reflects none of her excitement, answering brusquely when she digs into his relationship with Ok.
He tells her not to live this way anymore and snaps at her to go, but just as she stands up to leave, she tosses the money back, insisting that she doesn’t feel comfortable taking money when it’s been exchanged for someone’s life. Jun leaves the money behind, ensuring that she’ll take it.
Suddenly, the police captain arrives to arrest Jun, to his utter bewilderment. He’s told that he’s been charged with libel and contempt against a nobleman, which violates the country’s Confucian principles. Jun is still confused when Ok arrogantly saunters onto the scene, back in uniform.
Jun begs the police captain for an explanation and asks how it can be libel when he’s seen all the proof of Ok’s corruption. Ok walks up to Jun and condescendingly pats his shoulder — in this world, Ok says, being born of the lower class is equivalent to being guilty, and being born noble is equivalent to being innocent.
Jun laughs in disbelief at the injustice and comments bitterly that he shouldn’t have built any hopes on people who could never experience shame. Ok’s not done yet, though, and announces that Jun has one more crime: He’s the serial killer Red Cloak. Ok even has evidence — Man-wol’s love letter proves that Jun was the last to see her before she died. Seeing the direness of his situation, Jun forcibly breaks away from the officers and runs for his life.
Nearby, Poong-yeon and Sol-gae have arrived to examine Man-wol’s corpse. They’ve just barely finished looking when they’re interrupted by the commotion from fugitive Jun. The townspeople hurl stones at him and the police officers point their weapons at him. Jun desperately screams that he isn’t Red Cloak, and manages to grab one officer and hold him hostage, frantically looking for a way out.
Spotting Poong-yeon’s horse not too far away, Jun makes a break for it and gallops away, but Poong-yeon follows close behind on Sol-gae’s horse.
Seo-ri flies her kite in her cave, and suddenly the curse mark on her neck glows. She hears the faint sound of Poong-yeon’s bell jingling in the distance, and her irises flash purple for just a brief moment. She recognizes the sound and calls out to her brother.
Ignoring Yo-gwang’s warnings to stay behind the line of talismans, Seo-ri crosses the protective border, and as soon as she does, the talismans burst into flames behind her.
Poong-yeon closes in on Jun in the woods and takes out his bow and arrow to shoot Jun down, when suddenly he’s overcome by the curse mark on his neck. Poong-yeon falls into some sort of trance, and the arrow misfires, missing Jun by a long shot.
Jun, however, is still not in the clear — a dangerously low tree branch knocks him off the horse and he rolls down a cliff, nearly falling to his death on the jagged rocks below, when suddenly, a magic force suspends him mid-air.
He turns his head to look at his savior, coming face to face with a white-cloaked, white-haired Seo-ri. Poong-yeon’s bell jingles with every movement he makes, but as he reaches out to her, she betrays no sign of recognition, simply choosing to make Jun unconscious instead.
In Hong-joo’s lair, she hears her jar (the one she uses when she sucks out souls) shaking violently, and realizes that Seo-ri’s finally come out of hiding. Meanwhile, Hyun-seo’s finger slightly twitches. He’s alive after all.
While I’m rooting for our good guys to come out victorious in the end, I actually find Hong-joo’s backstory to be the most compelling. I want to know more about her, what King Injong did to her, and why Hyun-seo saw something to save in her when Yo-gwang tried to attack her. There’s no denying that she’s as mercilessly evil as a villain can get (it doesn’t get much worse than literally tearing someone’s heart out), but I don’t hate her. Perhaps it’s because too much of my anger has been reserved for the infuriatingly entitled mama’s boy Ok, but it’s also that Hong-joo’s not entirely wrong when she rails against the broken system. She’s not as selfless as her righteous speech about the good of the nation might imply, but the fact that Jun’s careful plan still backfired on him simply because he was of a lower social status shows that there really doesn’t seem to be any lawful recourse for commoners like the two of them.
Speaking of Jun, I find myself sorely missing his lighthearted, humorous side, which disappeared ever since his mother died. It’s understandable considering his grief, but it’s almost like he’s given up on actually living life in order to exact his revenge. There’s this sadness in his eyes in almost every scene, and even when he just has a simple conversation with Man-wol about wishes, he seems like he’s resigned himself to a life of misery without his mother.
I suppose I should just be grateful that his grief hasn’t turned him into a jerk, because I love that he’s still wonderfully sweet to Man-wol despite not being romantically interested in her. He fully sympathizes with her being an outcast and having to “know her place” because of uncontrollable circumstances. Can you blame the poor girl for falling head over heels in love with him? Well, at least we have our resident sass-master Soon-deuk to provide some much-needed comic relief in the story.
Yo-gwang is another sweetheart, and it’s clear that he’s trying so hard to fill Hyun-seo’s shoes but doesn’t have Hyun-seo’s authority and wisdom. Just as Hyun-seo never explained to Seo-ri why she must stay inside the house at all times, Yo-gwang hides the truth of the Red Cloak killings from Seo-ri to save her some grief; the difference is, Seo-ri’s an adult now and Yo-gwang needs to work with her as a partner, not just a guardian, if they want to defeat Hong-joo.
As for Seo-ri, her earnest, tear-filled confession wrenched my heart. She’s not afraid of the actual act of dying, but of never seeing her loved ones again, and in a sense, it’s a fear of loneliness that motivates her to keep fighting the curse. While that rings true for all of us to a certain extent, it makes me wonder if she’s extra terrified of this loneliness because of the way she’s been cooped up for the majority of her life. She’s only met a handful of people in more than twenty years, and for her, losing them means losing her entire world. Ironically, her quest to prevent eternal loneliness can only be achieved through her current loneliness.
I can’t wait for Seo-ri and Jun to finally meet again and help each other get back on their feet. They’ve been roughing it through without each other for the last several years, but working together, it’s possible that they can find a way to overcome both their desolate situations.
- Mirror of the Witch: Episode 5
- Mirror of the Witch: Episode 4
- Mirror of the Witch: Episode 3
- Mirror of the Witch: Episode 2
- Mirror of the Witch: Episode 1
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