Seven Day Queen: Episode 16
Wow, what a doozy of an episode. I’m still amazed at how this drama can be so delightful at times and then so effectively sucker-punch me a moment later, and make me like every part of that roller-coaster experience. What this show never lets us forget is that actions have reactions, and consequences are never far around the bend—it’s a sobering truth, but perhaps also one that reminds us to savor the highs when they come, like the characters in the drama.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Presented with (Myung-hye’s planted) evidence of the Snail Brides’ treasonous plans to overthrow Yeonsangun, the king declares that Minister Shin will have to give up his life for abetting the traitors. Moreover, his wife and daughter will also die for his crime.
Minister Shin begs for Chae-kyung to be spared, insisting she knows nothing of any of this. Chae-kyung wants to stay with her father, but she is dismissed while her father remains with the wrathful king.
Yeonsangun asks if Minister Shin let Yeok go when he could have captured him, but Minister Shin declares that the accusations against him are false. He explains that it took him a while to pinpoint the headquarters of the Snail Bride operations, which is the only reason he delayed making a report to the king. His error was in allowing someone to use this trumped-up excuse to turn him into a criminal—at that, he shoots the smug Secretary Im a look.
Secretary Im says that Minister Shin is lying to save himself, scoffing at the idea that there were other headquarters to be investigated other than the pawnshop. But Minister Shin surprises them by calling for a map, and a flashback reveals that Yeok had relayed a plan before escaping the pawnshop.
Now we see that when Yeok had returned to the headquarters to find it overrun with the king’s soldiers, he’d told Myung-hye that this would be her chance to right her wrong. His plan: Clear out the pawnshop of Snail Bride evidence, then scatter those materials in other hideouts, creating multiple bases throughout the city.
Yeok had told Minister Shin which locations to search, and when men are sent to check out the minister’s claims, they find a hefty supply of Snail Bride materials—books, pamphlets, flyers. Thus Yeok’s plan proves Minister Shin’s claim of innocence, thank goodness, saving his neck for now.
But wait, there’s more! Found in the storeroom of a certain estate was a secret ledger logging the corruption of numerous government officials. And who should that storeroom belong to… but Secretary Im. Booyah.
Now it’s Secretary Im sputtering that he’s been set up, and Minister Shin turns the tables on him, accusing him of framing innocent people as traitors. He says that materials can be forged, and holds up the crumpled flyer (the faked one declaring Yeok the true king), saying that the Snail Brides always stamp their flyers. This one bears no such mark.
Secretary Im tries to protest, but can’t press too hard because he’s also been implicated with planted evidence and risks condemning himself. Yeonsangun declares that he’s tired of hearing both men talk, and tells Minister Shin to continue his investigation until more concrete evidence is found, giving him one more chance.
Yeok storms into Deputy Commander Park’s home to challenge him on going to such extremes. Park’s initial reaction is to lie that there’s been a misunderstanding, but Yeok says that Myung-hye told him everything and insists that he doesn’t want to become king by using other people as his weapons and shields just to keep himself safe.
Deputy Commander Park tells him that this is what politics and the throne are about, and that he will learn that you can’t get things done purely on beliefs and conviction. Yeok asks what meaning the throne has when one’s beliefs and principles have collapsed: “Is that any better than a tyrant?” He instructs Park to disband the Snail Brides in a way that causes no casualties.
Deputy Commander Park heads back inside to his guests: government officials he is recruiting to the cause. They note that Yeok is just as he used to be, in the way he faces the king and says what needs to be said without caving to fear, and are impressed with his resilience.
Minister Shin returns home to a worried wife and Chae-kyung and assures them that all is well, and that Yeok’s quick actions got them past the immediate threat. He sits down with Chae-kyung to explain that in helping her and Yeok, he wronged the king, which troubles his highly principled nature. To atone, he intends to focus his efforts on serving the king and government. Saying that he has done all that he can as Chae-kyung’s father, he tells her to live only as Yeok’s wife now.
She protests tearfully, saying that before she was Yeok’s wife, she was her parents’ daughter. But her father tells her firmly that now that she has married Yeok she must toughen up in order to survive—and if that requires cutting ties with her parents, that is her fate. He instructs her to leave the city and never return for any reason: “That is for the benefit of you, the prince, the king, and our family.”
Yeok returns home to find Chae-kyung’s belongings pulled out of their drawers, and he recalls Minister Shin’s urging to leave the city with her. He runs outside just as she arrives in a palanquin, and he grabs her in a bear hug. He bombards her with frantic questions of whether she’s okay and whether she’s heard of her father, and Chae-kyung calmly takes his hand, assuring him that she’s here.
Chae-kyung shows Yeok the scroll given by the king that grants permission for them to leave the city. She says that it was thanks to Yeok that her father was saved, but he says it was because of her father that they were. He supposes that him leaving the city will ease the king’s mind, while she focuses on making the necessary preparations.
Minister Shin’s mind is troubled that night, thinking back to earlier that day when the king had suggested killing Snail Bride members every day until the leader presented himself. Minister Shin had pointed out that they don’t know their identities, but Yeonsangun had used his twisty logic to reason that any citizen who received their gifts of rice are complicit in the Snail Brides’ treason. Minister Shin had protested that those recipients were innocent, but the king had retorted that those receiving gifts from traitors are harboring treasonous feelings.
Chae-kyung lugs in rolls of cloth brought from her parents’ house, a little winded from the effort, and Yeok takes this chance to massage her arms. She begins measuring him for a set of traveling clothes, stretching out his arms and circling his body with the measuring stick. He points out that he has a lot of clothing that could be used to measure, and teases that she’s using this excuse to get all handsy with him, which she protests.
But he goes along with it, and outstretches her arms and compares her body measurements using his own, noting the differences in their arm spans, heights, and hands.
He references her words from earlier about how the food she cooks for him tastes the best, and says that no matter how the clothing turns out, whether too long or too short, he’ll happily wear them. Ha, spoken like someone who expects the worst. Chae-kyung beams, though, telling him she’s taught him well.
Morning finds Yeonsangun slumped against a bookcase in the library amongst empty liquor jugs. It looks as though he’s been up all night, probably because Chae-kyung is leaving today, since she tends to trigger his drinking binges.
Out in the hallway, two eunuchs start gossiping about the previous king’s secret will. That sets off a chorus of whispers in Yeonsangun’s mind, accompanied by his father’s voice issuing the decree for him to hand over the throne to Yeok.
Moments later, Yeonsangun opens the door and grabs one eunuch in a stranglehold, his face frighteningly blank as he chokes the life out of him.
The other eunuch drops to his knees, and Yeonsangun just shushes him with a finger to the lips. Then he heads to his bedchamber and lies down to sleep, only to have the whispering in his ears intensify. He twists his ear in agitation, and asks Nok-soo if she has seen this secret will, suddenly talking like there’s no reason his father could have left such a thing. Nok-soo says appeasingly that it’s just a groundless rumor, and Yeonsangun asks if she knows why those rumors persist.
He motions her closer, and says in a paranoid tone, “Because my mother was a deposed queen. That’s why they look down on me.” He mutters that that’s why his father left a secret well, because he didn’t trust him to rule—and then catches himself in horror: “Did I just say secret will?” Oh man, he’s losing it, and Nok-soo looks seriously concerned.
Yeonsangun is now fixated on reinstating his deposed mother’s status, and calls for Secretary Im, intent on finding out which officials were responsible.
Nok-soo informs Secretary Im of this turn in the king’s thoughts, and thinks this will be a good chance for them to win back his confidence.
Yeok and Chae-kyung pack up their belongings, and then she takes a last look around their house, thinking of her father’s words to live only as a wife, and not as a daughter. Yeok takes hold of her hand, telling her that they’ll leave behind their sadness and pain here, and leads her out to start their journey.
Seo-no lies low at an inn, where he broods over that moment when he saw Myung-hye shiftily stuffing papers away and how he later found those traitorous flyers. Cries from outside interrupt his thoughts, as men insist that they’re not Snail Bride members. Seo-no starts to slip away quietly, but pauses to see two men being manhandled by royal soldiers. Ack, no, don’t be a hero! Or do I want you to be a hero? I’m conflicted!
Seo-no ultimately can’t stand to see the innocent men captured and takes down the two soldiers, but there are many more on the way. The entire city, in fact, is overrun with soldiers raiding homes and dragging out ordinary citizens, all of whom protest their innocence.
Seeing this unfold, Seok-hee gets fired up to save one man who frequents their pawnshop, but Gwang-oh warns that this is intended to lure them out. Seok-hee growls that they should have killed Minister Shin while they had the chance.
Minister Shin uses the king’s badge to order a crackdown at the city gates, to prevent criminals from escaping.
Yeok and Chae-kyung take a break during their journey, and he asks why she doesn’t whistle anymore. She says it’s been a while since she whistled, since it makes her think of him. Yeok asks if she knows how he survived, and she recalls how Yeonsangun informed her that a woman saved him, which turns her mood snippy.
“You saved me,” he says. “Your whistling saved me. Even as I was dying, I kept whistling, and Myung-hye heard that sound. Myung-hye made my body heal, but ultimately what saved me was you. So do not worry about Myung-hye.”
Mollified, Chae-kyung smiles and asks why he’s telling her when she didn’t ask. He replies that they’d said they wouldn’t keep secrets from each other, and it made him uneasy that she didn’t ask about it.
“In truth, I was afraid to ask,” she says. “I was afraid that she did more for you than I did. That she might be more important than me.”
He assures her that it’s not the case, and that he wanted to tell her again that she’s the reason he lived, since he wasn’t sure she believed him the last time, amidst all the lies he’d told her.
That night, the prison overflows with accused citizens who insist to Minister Shin that they’re not Snail Bride members. He looks dismayed at their plights, but Secretary Im snipes that surely he’s not just going to let them go.
Deputy Commander Park confronts Secretary Im angrily over this latest turn, and Im merely says that by keeping this up, the leader should present himself eventually.
Park tells Myung-hye that they should have cut off their tail properly, upset that Seo-no is nowhere to be found. Myung-hye asks if there’s no other way, and he replies that this won’t end until Yeok comes forward.
At the palace, Yeonsangun’s murderous rampage continues as minsters are paraded in and executed for their role in his mother’s dethronement. Some of the men who pushed to depose her are long since dead, but Yeonsangun says coolly that they have graves, which can be dug up so that punishments can be meted out posthumously. In between calm bites of his dinner, he adds that their descendants can bear the punishments, ordering them all killed. Secretary Im looks alarmed, but he agrees.
The executions are carried out in public, and Seo-no watches with helpless fury as innocent men are cut down before their wailing families. “Do you not see?” he thinks to Yeok. “The king does not change.”
Yeok and Chae-kyung put up for the night in an inn, and the innkeeper apologizes for the meager dinner table, as she has been unable to go to the market with the city gates shut because of those traitors. This is the first they’re hearing of this, and it weighs heavily on Yeok’s mind.
He stops by another room to ask the travelers if they have any news from the city, and one peddler shows him the king’s decree that anybody connected to the Snail Brides will be executed, and that the deaths will continue until the leader surrenders himself.
Chae-kyung knows what Yeok is thinking, and speaks first to urge him not to do anything—those are state affairs, not something for them to involve themselves in. She adds pleadingly that they’ve already found land to live on, and that she has plans for their new home: “Just trust and follow me.”
She excuses herself while he changes his clothing, and he pulls out an unfamiliar bundle from his bag. In it, he finds baby shoes and clothes, with a note from his friends congratulating him on his marriage. Each friend has written a line, with Seok-hee wishing three children for the couple and Gwang-oh promising to visit.
Seo-no’s reads: “Even if our paths diverge, I will always be hyungnim’s Seo-no. I will live and die with the heart of that young Seo-no with the black eye.”
It moves Yeok to tears, and twists him up even more inside. Chae-kyung hears his sobs from outside, and wrestles with her own feelings as she thinks of her father’s warning to stay away from the capital no matter what.
Seo-no finds Myung-hye drinking alone in an inn, and when she sees that he’s safe after all, he notes darkly that he wasn’t meant to be. She says that they needed one sacrifice to ensure that everyone else could get away safely, and he says that it wouldn’t have been so bad to die as the leader of the Snail Brides.
Myung-hye tells him to get angry with her, since it would make more sense to threaten to kill her (yeah, no kidding), but he returns, “Why would I kill you? You’re already living in hell.” I don’t know, I’m not quite satisfied with the level of hellishness in her life, but I suppose he has a point.
Seo-no points out that she has no cause to smile, which makes her life hell. He predicts a lonely life for her when she loses everyone, and urges her to do some self-reflection. “Now you do not even have a friend to drink with,” he says, pouring her a bowl before leaving the room. He walks away thinking that there cannot be more deaths like his father’s, vowing to kill the king with his own hands, for the good of everyone.
Yeonsangun asks the queen dowager for her help in restoring his mother’s status. She argues that he would be flouting his father’s orders, while abiding by the prior king’s decision is a way of strengthening his own power. Yeonsangun points out that his lack of power is not due to his father’s wishes but his mother’s status as deposed queen, which calls his legitimacy as king into question. He blames that for the people looking down on him and supporting the Snail Brides.
The queen dowager snaps that he’s having all those people all killed, and he replies that it’s just a temporary measure—in order to establish his legitimacy, he must reinstate his mother.
Yeonsangun returns to his quarters, where Minister Shin awaits to deliver news: The Snail Bride leader has been caught.
Myung-hye receives this news too, and her first reaction is alarm that Yeok has turned himself in. But Deputy Commander Park reminds her that Yeok couldn’t get back into the city with the high scrutiny at the gates, and Myung-hye wonders who it could be—just as her mind flashes to her last meeting with Seo-no. Ack, no, he’s being the hero again!
Sure enough, it’s Seo-no who lies bloody and battered in his prison cell. Secretary Im drops by and clucks his tongue disapprovingly, figuring that the king will be disappointed.
When Yeonsangun arrives at the interrogation room, he notes that it’s not the face he wanted to see. But Secretary Im says that Seo-no was Yeok’s right-hand man, and that if they press him hard enough, he will name Yeok.
In a weak whisper, Seo-no says it’s a wasted effort, since he’s the leader. “Just kill me,” he challenges. “Just like you killed my father.” But Yeonsangun laughs that he promised Seo-no’s father that he wouldn’t kill Seo-no, and asks why he would sacrifice himself when Yeok fled to save himself. He urges him to admit that he was acting under Yeok’s command.
Yeonsangun leans in eagerly when Seo-no starts to reply—but Seo-no sizes up the torture implements nearby and moves quickly to knock aside a guard and grab a sword. Aha, the weak act was a ploy, and he thrusts the blade straight for Yeonsangun’s chest.
He very nearly succeeds, but Yeonsangun grabs the blade with his bare hand and shoves Seo-no back. Seo-no is subdued swiftly and pinned down with several swords to his throat.
Seo-no growls that killing Yeonsangun would have saved the country and stopped the people from dying. Yeonsangun thanks him acidly for showing such concern for his country and his people, and orders him executed in public, his body hung for all to see—especially Yeok.
Yeok and Chae-kyung lie awake that night, unable to sleep. She takes hold of his hand and urges him to rest, and he explains that he used to have nightmares, but that he can sleep more peacefully next to her. “That is what home is,” she tells him. “I am your home now.”
He smiles and agrees. “You are my home. No matter when or where I am, you’re the home I must return to. That is why the home must always be in the same place, do you understand? So that I don’t lose my way back.”
She tells him he wouldn’t lose his way if he didn’t go too far from home, and her wistful hope is heartbreaking. He agrees with her, but she can’t stop tears from springing to her eyes and turns to sewing for distraction. In her haste, she sticks herself with a needle and Yeok immediately fusses over her hand.
She asks if he’s worried, to which he replies automatically that of course he is. But she clarifies that she means his friends—and whether he’s unable to go to them because of her. He denies it, but Chae-kyung doesn’t buy it in the least, knowing that he’s dying to go back to the city, and that he will end up going anyway.
He can’t deny it, and she hits him in the chest, asking why he can’t lie to her now. He reminds her that they agreed not to lie to each other. She tells him to go, set on accompanying him, and he assures her that they’ll just check on the state of things and then head down to their new home as planned.
Myung-hye slips into the prison dressed as a man, scanning the cells for Seo-no. She finds him a dirty, battered mess and asks why he’d choose to die for people who have nothing to do with him. He answers that no matter who they are, he sees every poor, downtrodden citizen as himself: “Every time they die, it feels as though my father and I are dying too.”
He wishes he’d succeeded in his attempt, saying that he could have relieved a bit of Myung-hye’s burden too. She calls him foolish, and he looks her in the eye to say solemnly, “Yes, that is me.”
“Who will I drink with now?” she asks, in tears. “When will I smile, if even you go like this?”
Seo-no asks her to smile now: “I would like my last memory of you to be your smiling face.”
Execution day arrives, and Seo-no is dragged out along with the other accused prisoners. He tells Minister Shin that the others have nothing to do with the Snail Brides and insists that they be released. Minister Shin looks out at the distraught families of the accused, and as Seo-no’s voice grows more insistent, he gives the order: Let them go.
All goes silent in surprise. Minister Shin insists on their release, and suddenly the crowd erupts into cries of relief as the men are released. But for Seo-no, time seems to slow as he looks around and thinks to the first time he met Yeok and Chae-kyung, and how he’d sworn then that because Yeok saved his life, he would die for him.
“You will think I was foolish,” Seo-no thinks. “You will resent me for leaving this way.” He thinks of how he liked Chae-kyung’s and Yeok’s methods—hers foolish, his rash—as his friends arrive in the crowd, their faces stricken.
Minister Shin asks one last time if he acted alone, telling him to name his accomplices. Seo-no affirms that he has none.
“I thought that I would like to die as a person who resembled the two of you,” Seo-no thinks as Yeok and Chae-kyung race toward the city.
He looks at Myung-hye’s tearstained face in the crowd, thinking again that he wants to see her smiling at the last, and it looks like she tries her best to muster that smile. Then his mind flashes to all the happier times in the past with his friends, because I’m not already a sobbing wreck. Minister Shin reads out his sentence, and the order of execution is given.
“Your highness, Lady Chae-kyung, please protect each other,” Seo-no thinks. “I have nothing more to protect in this world, and so I am doing what I must and leaving.”
Yeok and Chae-kyung push their way into the crowd just as the sword is held to Seo-no’s neck. Seo-no looks over and sees their faces in his last moments.
The sight of Seo-no twists Yeok’s face in agony, while Chae-kyung receives an extra blow to see her father carrying out the execution orders. Then the deathblow is struck, and Seo-no falls.
Yeok falls to his knees, wailing, as Seo-no closes his eyes.
At the palace, Yeonsangun drinks with Secretary Im, asking whether Yeok has shown himself yet. Just then, his doors burst open as the man himself storms through, his face thunderous.
Swords are drawn and keep Yeok at bay, but a seething Yeok knocks the swords aside with his bare arms and takes on the guards, seizing a sword and launching himself into a fierce fight.
Yeonsangun calls for a halt, and Yeok asks what he wants from him. Yeonsangun asks, “If I tell you, will you give it?” but Yeok knows that he’ll ask for something impossible, that he will demand something he cannot have.
“And so, I cannot give it,” Yeok says. Yeonsangun asks if Yeok will accept something from him instead, and Yeok asks what that is.
“The throne,” the king says. “Take the throne.”
He adds that Yeok can’t just leave like this, telling him he must keep up his revenge and fight for the throne: “That way, I can hate you and torment you.” I’m… pretty sure you’re doing a good job of that anyway…
Getting that manic glint in his eye, Yeonsangun says how entertaining this all is, that Yeok would charge in and challenge him with the sword. He grabs the sword by its blade, not even registering that it slices his palm—and then yanks it toward himself, into his gut.
Horrified, Yeok tries to remove the blade but can’t with Yeonsangun’s fierce grip, and Secretary Im shouts that Yeok is trying to kill the king. Guards rush forward to separate them, and even with a blade in his abdomen, Yeonsangun manages to smile and says, “Go well, little brother.”
Yeonsangun falls to the ground, looking triumphant while Yeok reels in shock.
Just when you thought Yeonsangun might be getting predictable in his murderous rampages and jealous fits, he goes and pulls this. I’ve always found him a fascinating character, but I have to say that he’s growing even more riveting as the drama goes on. What’s particularly intriguing about him these days is that his words do make logical sense to me, but because his temperament is growing increasingly unstable, they come off as unhinged rants more than reasonable beliefs. For instance, his insistence on his mother’s status being the cause for his lack of respect does make sense, to an extent, but he’s approaching the matter with this frenzied intensity that makes me think he’s grasping at straws. He’s always been brilliant at deflecting his own responsibility by turning it around on someone else (the classic “You made me hurt you!”), but now it feels full-on delusional.
It’s also particularly chilling to see him growing positively cavalier about killing people—when he killed the eunuch accidentally, we saw his immediate shock at his actions, but now he’s far past the point of feeling that twinge of guilt. And worse than rage-fueled violence is the blank-faced kind, as though he’s broken with his sense of moral code, which I find infinitely more chilling. It was a particularly nice touch to have him eating dinner while giving orders on how to desecrate dead bodies, like the matter was so trifling that he couldn’t be bothered to tear his eyes away from his beef while issuing it.
There’s something visceral and discomfiting about watching his lusty appetite for food on full display, as though it correlates directly with his bloodlust—early-series Yeonsangun seemed tightly in control and intellectually sharp, but now it’s like he’s letting go of that control and letting his impulses drive his actions. Which is, of course, a heckuva lot more dangerous than the cat that toys with its prey without killing it. Granted, he’s a cat that’s going to kill his dinner ultimately in any case, but at least before it felt… I don’t know, civilized. Not like you could go at any moment, in any number of gruesome ways.
As for Seo-no…. waaaaaaah! *cries a river*
I was startled at how much Seo-no’s sacrifice moved me (there was some seriously ugly crying going on)—not because I didn’t like the character or the plot but because I thought it was completely expected and in character. I’ve always thought that it felt fitting for his character to go out with the cause, for so many reasons, but mostly because in my eyes, Seo-no was the cause. That seems strange given that it’s Yeok’s rebellion, but Yeok has always been pulled in multiple directions and fielded layers of conflict, and has at points doubted his reasons behind it. It’s part of why it’s such a compelling central storyline, because every part of Yeok’s life is intertwined in this rebellion and he’s in so deep that there’s no way out of it without messy, painful casualties.
Meanwhile, Seo-no has always felt like something of the pure hero to me: He lives for this one reason, and is able to pour everything into it because he doesn’t have anything else to lose. It’s not that either friend has it easier or tougher than the other, but it makes Seo-no a symbolic type of character—he is the nation’s hopes, and appeals to that side of Yeok’s desires for a better future. He’s not conflicted about the mission the way that Yeok is, which makes him an idealistic voice among them. With his death he now becomes a martyr, and therefore, I suspect, a galvanizing force for Yeok—just when he thought he was out, he’s pulled back in.
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- Premiere Watch: My Sassy Girl, Seven Day Queen, Best Hit, Duel
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- Seven Day Queen’s young lovers realize their tragic fates
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