Mirror of the Witch: Episode 9
This episode of Mirror and the Witch gives us some answers, but also introduces new questions. Our main characters have now reached a turning point in their personal battles and are finally starting to gain some ground on their adversaries, as the tempo picks up in both the plot and relationship developments.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Hyun-seo makes his way to Cheongbing Temple, and does something to the first talisman protecting the entrance. The rest of the protective barrier goes up in flames, allowing Hong-joo to sense the princess’ presence. She sends her shamans out to get Seo-ri.
Seo-ri’s body is seized by a force, which raises her body into the air as she thrashes. Her hair turns white and the curse tattoo appears behind her ear, and then, suddenly, her body goes limp. She falls…
And it’s Jun who catches her. “We meet again,” he says, and Seo-ri’s hair returns to its original color and the curse tattoo disappears. She loses consciousness.
In Hong-joo’s lair, the prince’s rattling jar stills as Hong-joo stares, confused. The talisman barrier reappears at Cheongbing Temple.
Yo-gwang confirms to Jun that the curse mentioned in the Mauigeumseo refers to Seo-ri, and that the tree-shaped mark on Jun’s chest somehow blocks the curse. As they set the temple cave to rights, Yo-gwang takes surreptitious peeks at Jun’s mark, though he’s not very subtle about it. Jun catches him in the act, and Yo-gwang sheepishly tells Jun to take good care of it.
Yo-gwang asks why Jun was in prison, and Jun insists that he was framed as Red Cloak. Yo-gwang alerts at mention of the murderer and says that Red Cloak killed the people who gave their wishes to Seo-ri, preventing her from dispelling the curse. He swears Jun to secrecy just as Seo-ri appears.
Surprised, Seo-ri asks why Jun is here. Yo-gwang explains that Jun is a human talisman shield, although Seo-ri is incredulous.
Seo-ri asks Jun if he saw “everything” last night, as though afraid of his answer. Jun’s hesitation confirms that he did, and Seo-ri tells him to leave immediately. Though Yo-gwang attempts to appease her, Seo-ri demands that he bring her a wish tag immediately, intent on lifting the curse so that everyone can live. Yo-gwang counters that in order to allow her to do so, Jun will stay with them until the candles are all lit, and grudgingly Seo-ri accepts the situation.
Poong-yeon recovers from his collapse after his curse tattoo reappeared, and his mother surreptitiously peers behind his ear for a look. She inquires about Poong-yeon’s progress in the search for Yeon-hee/Seo-ri, clearly concerned that his condition might be related to the curse.
On his way out, Poong-yeon tells Sol-gae that he experienced similar symptoms the day Seo-ri disappeared. He’s worried that something has happened to her.
Checking Jun’s empty cell, Poong-yeon concludes that Jun must have had outside help in escaping. Sol-gae believes that he must have already left the area, but Poong-yeon flashes back to his interchange with Jun, who’d been dead-set on catching Red Cloak. He believes Jun is still around and suggests that they visit the Hundred Year Tree.
As Jun watches Seo-ri make another potion, he asks her if it’s true that nothing will happen to her if he’s present. Seo-ri is still skeptical that Jun is really a human talisman shield, but Jun comments that she must feel cooped up, being stuck here like she was stuck at her house in the Black Forest.
Jun says that if there’s somewhere she wants to go, he can go with her. His words finally make Seo-ri pause and look at Jun, though she doesn’t say anything.
Jun asks if she’s going to keep ignoring him, but Seo-ri simply tells him that she’s no longer the same person and that it’s better for him if they both don’t know each other. Jun asks why she didn’t give him the real Oblivion potion then.
Seo-ri angrily interjects, telling him to mind his own business. Jun says that he already knows some things about her and gently tells Seo-ri that he wants to help her.
In the palace, a eunuch comes across a lamp with a note underneath. As he retrieves it, Hyun-seo stands watching from behind a pillar. The note is delivered to the queen dowager, who stares at it with great intensity.
The councilors inform the king that there are rumors that Red Cloak is still alive. The king is furious at the insinuation that he caught the wrong man and rails at his court, just as the queen dowager is announced. She immediately takes the king to task for being too emotional.
A heated exchange ensues. The king resents the queen dowager’s interference in his court, while the queen dowager directly asserts her right to oversee state affairs if the king is mentally or physically unwell.
The king summons the head eunuch to escort out the queen dowager, but then she orders her eunuch to bring in someone: the attendant who has been secretly treating the king’s condition. At the queen dowager’s prompting, he reveals the truth of the king’s health.
In shock, the king shouts in rage that it’s a lie, just as his condition flares up and he collapses from pain. Blood begins dripping from his sleeve. The queen dowager feigns concerns for the king’s health, her voice steely as she promises to take care of the state affairs.
Kneeling by the king’s bedside, Hong-joo sprinkles ash over a brazier and sends black smoke into the king’s nostrils. Fresh blood has soaked through his sleeve.
The king opens his eyes and hisses that Hong-joo said she would cure him. His hold on the throne is shaky as he isn’t a direct descendant from the previous king, and everyone is trying to kill him; Hong-joo must quickly heal him.
Hong-joo tells the king to stay calm. She’ll clear the obstacles in his path, one by one. The king questions why Hong-joo would do that for him. He has already re-established the shamans in the palace — wasn’t that what that she wanted?
Hong-joo answers forthrightly that there’s more she wants: to rectify the affliction in the country. In reducing the power of the queen dowager, she wishes to remain his majesty’s faithful subject.
Back in the temple, Jun inspects the ingredients of the potion that Seo-ri is working on, noting that it’s a ghost-seeing potion. Jun wonders why she’s making it, but Seo-ri coldly states that she must complete her work so that Yo-gwang can send him away. She asks him not to interfere.
Jun grumbles in response, ready to leave. He turns back, however, to observe the completed potion percolating into a jar. Jun drinks the potion and the character for “ghost” appears behind his ear.
Seo-ri chases after Jun, who intends on questioning the ghosts of the people killed by someone he needs to catch. He tells Seo-ri that she needs to go with him as well, wrapping a coat around her and remarking happily that it looks pretty.
Overriding her protests, Jun cites Yo-gwang’s words that they must stick together. Then he guesses her true concern, that she’s anxious that he might not really be a talisman shield. He reaches for her hand and clasps it in his, telling her that it’s all the more reason to test it out.
At the gibang, Ok questions the palanquin bearers about who paid them to hand over his palanquin. Frightened, a man gives Soon-deuk’s name.
Ok’s men track down Soon-deuk and he demands information about Jun. Even under duress, Soon-deuk denies all knowledge of his whereabouts. Ok grabs her by the hair and with a chilling smile, says that if Jun’s hiding, then he just needs to come out.
Walking through town, Seo-ri attempts to keep her face hidden and nearly collides with several people. Jun pulls off her head covering and turns Seo-ri so that she can take a good look around her, pointing out how everyone is going about their business.
Jun tells Seo-ri that she looks very normal, then jokes that they might stare a bit because she’s pretty. Exasperated, Seo-ri marches off.
Jun begins to follow, but suddenly shouts in horror at the sight of little ghost boy. Jun runs to hide behind Seo-ri, cowering in fear as Seo-ri mutters, “Who’s the shield?”
Seo-ri asks Jun who he wants to meet. Still clinging to her, Jun says he wants to meet his friend, who was killed because of him.
Arriving at the Hundred Year Tree, Poong-yeon notes the messages left behind calling the tree the Murderer Tree. Poong-yeon directs Sol-gae to search for clues. Sol-gae asks Poong-yeon if they are chasing Jun or Red Cloak, to which Poong-yeon answers: both. One will appear if the other is chased.
Jun and Seo-ri peer into the entrance of the gibang, and Seo-ri isn’t particularly happy that Jun seems awfully familiar with this place. They sneak inside and to avoid detection, Jun suddenly shifts to hide behind a wall. He’s pressed up against Seo-ri and his proximity unnerves her. Jun peers around the corner, just as a ghost appears right in front of him, and collapses with a wail. Seo-ri looks too, then gives him the side-eye when there’s nothing to be seen.
Gathering up his courage, Jun continues on, fearfully making his way to Man-wol’s room. Jun enters with his eyes closed and arms swinging, but nothing manifests… just as a ghost pops her head down from the ceiling, upside down. Jun swiftly retreats, telling Seo-ri that there’s nothing here at the gibang and they should just go. Seo-ri is having none of it though; how can he find clues like this?
Cut to: Jun sitting outside with another ghost, trying to ask questions about whether she’s seen Man-wol. The ghost doesn’t respond, and Jun gives up.
Jun and Seo-ri start to leave, and just as Jun turns toward her, he recoils in fear — Seo-ri’s surrounded by a group of ghosts, though she doesn’t see them and looks around blankly while he nearly sobs from fear.
Jun decides that they’ll look for Man-wol where she died instead of where she lived, and head to the water mill. It’s empty at first, but when Jun turns to go, a creaking noise draws him back and he sees Man-wol’s ghost there, pretty and unscarred.
Jun’s eyes well up and he asks who did this to her. Man-wol looks down at the ground, where a round mark has appeared in the dirt. (For the eagle-eyed, this is the mark that once appeared on Poong-yeon’s neck when he was briefly possessed. Does this mean it’s the Red Cloak’s mark?) As Jun turns to leave with Seo-ri, Man-wol slowly drops to one knee, bowing and smiling gently at him.
Back at the Hundred Year Tree, Poong-yeon decides to leave, since they don’t know when Jun or Red Cloak might reappear. Sol-gae reluctantly agrees, without the support of other police, it’s difficult to capture Red Cloak. Poong-yeon turns to look at the tags one last time, and confirms with Sol-gae that Red Cloak kills the ones who hung wishes on this tree.
As they walk back, Jun explains to Seo-ri how Man-wol had been murdered by Red Cloak while waiting at the water mill for him. Jun asks why she didn’t ask more questions, to which Seo-ri responds that Jun has also looked the other way the other night.
She asks if he wasn’t scared by how she looked, meaning when she was in the throes of her curse. Jun pauses before gazing at her eyes, replying that he was a little surprised and his heart ached. Suddenly embarrassed, Jun changes the topic and asks where they’re going. Seo-ri simply answers that it’s somewhere she wants to go before returning to the temple.
Jun and Seo-ri arrive at the Hundred Year Tree just as Poong-yeon and Sol-gae leave in the distance. Jun notices a tag that says, “I want to meet once more the person that I miss,” taking it with him as he moves to look at the signs saying “Murderer Tree.” Belatedly, he tries to distract Seo-ri from seeing the signs, but it’s too late and Seo-ri asks haltingly why the Hundred Year Tree is now called the Murderer Tree.
Back at Cheongbing Temple, Yo-gwang angrily confronts them for leaving the safety of the temple. Seo-ri instead asks Yo-gwang how the Hundred Year Tree became a Murderer Tree. Now she wonders if the twelve candles that went out correspond to dead people.
Yo-gwang finally tells Seo-ri the truth, that Hong-joo had sent an assassin to kill the wish-makers. Seo-ri is devastated to discover that those people had died because of her and feels that no matter what she does, she’s trapped by the curse.
Crying angry tears, Seo-ri falters. Jun catches her before she falls, telling her that it’s not her fault. Seo-ri asks if Jun’s friend died because of her too, but he replies gently that he’s already told her that Man-wol died because of Red Cloak. Seo-ri looks up at Jun with tears rolling down her cheeks and asks him once more to let go. Jun finally complies, and the men watch her go sadly.
The queen dowager summons Hong-joo and coldly inquires after the king’s health, concerned since it’s the body that the prince’s soul will be inhabiting. Hong-joo pointedly notes that queen dowager has been handling state affairs, to which the queen dowager responds that her son’s throne must be strong.
The queen dowager orders Hong-joo to complete a ritual for the king’s health, requesting her presence in court the next morning to discuss the issue. While superficially the two women appear civil, there is an undercurrent of tension.
Seo-ri walks among her candles and comes to the twelve that have gone out. She kneels in front of them and puts her head down on her knees.
Jun comes up behind Seo-ri and looks at her sadly. He looks at the wish tag that he took from the Hundred Year Tree and takes a seat just around the corner, out of sight yet still right beside her.
Jun begins to talk, telling Seo-ri that because of him, his mother died and his friend died. Since he thought it was his fault, he couldn’t do anything. He was told that his existence was wrong, but he wanted to fight to live. If he fought, he’d be able to become someone who could help others. And then, he might be able to find a reason to live.
Seo-ri listens quietly and raises her head, looking up at the candles that had gone out.
At the palace, the queen dowager sits behind the king as she announces the ritual for the king’s health to the court. There is barely disguised frustration and anger on the king’s face. And then, the queen dowager proposes to hold the ritual at the court’s Taoist temple as well as the shamans’. Hong-joo’s smile slowly fades as the court begins to murmur and the king snorts in disbelief.
The king shouts that he will do what he thinks best. The queen dowager is unperturbed by the king’s outburst and rises as she announces that she reappoints Choi Hyun-seo the head of the Taoist temple. Then he enters court to join them, and Hong-joo’s eyes widen in shock.
Furious, Hong-joo returns to her quarters, and hears that Hyun-seo is currently meeting with the queen dowager.
The queen dowager consults with Hyun-seo regarding Hong-joo’s motives. He informs the queen dowager that Hong-joo used black magic to impregnate the queen dowager because she wants to destroy the country through cutting off the royal bloodline. Hong-joo cannot lift the curse as it is bound to her, and it can be dispelled by only one person: the crown prince’s twin, the princess.
Meanwhile, Hong-joo reveals to the king about how the crown prince and princess were conceived and the resulting curse, conveniently leaving out her role in the story. Hong-joo tells the king that the unstable state of the nation and his illness are a result of the curse. Despite orders to kill the princess and thereby effectively removing the curse, Hyun-seo saved the princess.
Indignant and incredulous at the queen dowager’s schemes, the king asks where the princess is. Hong-joo smirks.
The queen dowager is surprised to know that the previous king, her husband, had tasked Hyun-seo with protecting the princess. She’s also stunned to discover that the king knew about everything, including how the twins were conceived and the curse. The queen dowager blames herself, but Hyun-seo reassures her that the princess will stop Hong-joo.
Hyun-seo explains how he has kept her hidden, instructing her to dispel her curse. The princess should know by now that she can no longer hide. She is strong and will face her opponents.
Seo-ri bows to the unlit candles, then takes one and strides off to make a request to Jun. Yo-gwang attempts to prevent Seo-ri, but she insists on ensuring that the wish-makers are safe. Yo-gwang is worried for her safety, but Jun agrees that a frontal attack is the best: They need to show that they aren’t scared. Seo-ri nods in agreement.
Having been reinstated as the court’s head Taoist master, Hyun-seo enters his building and clutches his abdomen in pain. He opens his top, revealing a thorny mass pushing its way through his flesh.
Hong-joo arrives and offers to ease his pain, looking genuinely upset to see him in pain. But Hyun-seo refuses her help; even though she saved him to kill Seo-ri, he won’t move according to her will. Hong-joo tells him to give up the princess, and that he is barely alive thanks to the black magic.
Hong-joo tells Hyun-seo to take her hand to live. As she offers his hand to him, Hyun-seo grabs her and pulls her close. He grits out that she will regret reviving him, as he will make sure the curse takes her.
Provoked, Hong-joo throws his arm off and tells him to give it a try. However, he should remember the reason why he is still alive right now. As she leaves, she tells Hyun-seo to come to her if he’s come to her if he’s in pain.
Seo-ri, Jun, and Yo-gwang set out together that night. Seo-ri’s made a dreaming potion so that the wish-maker can meet the person they miss in their dreams. When they arrive, no one answers and the home is dark, so they split up to search the house.
Seo-ri and Jun spot something around the corner of the house and hurry forward. Approaching someone around the corner, Seo-ri asks if they left a wish tag at the Hundred Year Tree.
Just then, someone brings a sword to her neck, while another person steps up to do the same to Jun. It’s Poong-yeon and Sol-gae.
It takes a second for Poong-yeon to register who he’s looking at, and then he realizes, “Yeon-hee-ya!” Seo-ri’s just as stunned, answering, “Oraboni!”
After the cliffhanger from Episode 8 last week, I was super excited to be recapping Episode 9. There’s so many interesting details to discuss in this week’s episode!
In some ways, I actually find the queen dowager to be scarier than Hong-joo. Hong-joo has been very consistent about her objectives, so I feel like I know what to expect from her. However, the queen dowager is a little more opaque and her intentions aren’t always clear to me. Her loyalties seem so subjective, one moment she’s against Hong-joo returning to the palace, the next she’s actively working with Hong-joo to replace the king’s soul with her son’s. It was especially chilling how she refers to the king simply as a body, reducing the king to a host for her son’s soul.
It’s unfortunate that Seo-ri blames herself for the deaths of those who left wishes at the Hundred Year Tree. Her attitude isn’t particularly healthy; Seo-ri shouldn’t and can’t hold herself responsible for the acts of a murderer. That guilt is Red Cloak’s to bear. As a result, I really appreciated when Jun shared his perspective with Seo-ri. He’s had his fair share of unfortunate events happen to him and to overcome the tragedy of those events, he’s learned to return the onus of responsibility back on the real perpetrators. Happily, Seo-ri seems to have taken his message to heart.
I’ve been a little conflicted about Yo-gwang and his role in Seo-ri’s life. At first, I thought the way he tried to protect Seo-ri was really sweet and I enjoyed the comedic moments. However, it’s evident that his method of protection has actually been more harmful. Being better informed would have allowed Seo-ri to find a solution for keeping the candles lit, while Yo-gwang’s method is so ineffective that it drives me nuts. Hyun-seo also tried to protect Seo-ri (and Poong-yeon) by not giving her the details of her curse, which obviously backfired earlier in the drama. By attempting to do the same, Yo-gwang ignores the fact that Seo-ri is now an adult who is more than capable of making her own decisions. He seems to have come around to the idea now that Seo-ri might be better off in charge of her own future now though, while Hyun-seo’s certainly done a 180 — I was not expecting him to have removed the talisman protections under his own volition.
I think that’s why I’m especially glad to see Jun back in Seo-ri’s life. Jun challenges Seo-ri to face her fears in ways that her surrogate father Hyun-seo and protector Yo-gwang have never encouraged. Jun does so not because he’s reckless or ignorant of the ramifications of the curse, but because he believes in Seo-ri. I love how they are equal partners, though Jun is surprisingly a big scaredy cat. In a way, they’re two sides of a coin: Both of them have been isolated from society, ostracized because of the circumstances of their birth, and yet still, determined to see their individual causes through. They’re fighters.
Also, how awesome is it that we finally get to see Seo-ri begin to actually live and interact with the world? It’s especially beautiful to me that Jun gets to be the agent for her new-found level of freedom. Jun’s presence as a walking talisman shield affords her a degree of leeway against the constraints of her curse that she’s never been able to experience before.
In town, it was clear that she was overwhelmed, yet Jun doesn’t let her hide behind her fears; he pulls off her cover and shows her that she can be normal. I think she really needed that moment. I’m sure she’s always known that she was different from other people and being able to feel normal for a little bit gave her freedom to just be herself, undefined by the curse.
Ultimately, I’m just so happy to see Seo-ri emerge out into the world. She’s no longer a child and it’s time for her to finally fly free of her nest.