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Mr. Sunshine: Episode 23

Grab your tissues and get ready for this emotional penultimate episode! Even as Joseon plummets into ruin, the Righteous Army perseveres and continues to grow. Though their numbers may be no match to the size of the Japanese forces, their resolve and sacrifice make them a force to be reckoned with. The momentum of the rebellion simultaneously incites hope and despair, as we see our favorite comrades run head-on into the hypothetical-but-sometimes-literal flame.

 
EPISODE 23 RECAP

We return to events before the hotel explosion, as we see Hina visit the pawnshop seeking an ordinary painting. Choon-shik proudly opens up a closet full of art from famous painters, except they’re all forged paintings that he copied with his artistry. When asked why she needs the painting, Hina mysteriously responds that she plans on hanging it in a dark room in hopes that someone will see it.

Then, Hina asks if they can also provide bombs for her, as she wants to destroy her hotel — the second floor of her hotel is basically the Japanese army’s headquarters. Il-shik bravely agrees to find the necessary explosives for her.

Back to the massacre of the Joseon military forces, we see Hina expertly shooting the enemy Japanese soldiers from the trolley, as well as Hee-sung capturing the atrocities with his new camera. He remains focused on taking photos until some Japanese soldiers spot him and shoot his arm. Hee-sung falls to the ground and quickly flees the scene.

While running away, Hee-sung finds Seamstress (Joon-young’s sister) frantically searching through the dead bodies for Joon-young. Hee-sung sends her home to her other younger sibling and hands her the camera, promising to find Joon-young for her. As Hee-sung walks among the corpses, he recognizes a face — the man whose land Hee-sung’s grandfather unfairly sold to buy Hee-sung his expensive pocket watch. Hee-sung remembers the man’s indignant confrontation and closes the man’s eyes to let him rest in peace. Then, the sound of the ticking clock rings louder, haunting Hee-sung once again.

Hina gives Soomi the wish-granting bracelet from the peddler and hopes that its magic will work for the young girl. She admits that the bracelet didn’t grant her wish, but she presumes that it’s because she’s committed too many sins to reap the bracelet’s benefits. Hina tells Soomi to run as far as she can from the hotel and hands her a letter to deliver as her last mission.

At night, Ae-shin enters a hotel room from the window and finds the pawnshop duo covering the room with dynamite. They stand frozen at Ae-shin’s gunpoint, and Choon-shik recognizes her from the wanted Righteous Army sketches. Ae-shin demands to know who they’re helping, and Il-shik assures her that they’re Joseon people.

Downstairs, Hina watches the Japanese soldiers boast about their massacre with great restraint, and she hears the bell ring from the third floor. When she enters the room, she’s grabbed by Ae-shin, who asks if Hina really plans to blow up her entire hotel. Hina presumes that Ae-shin has a similar goal for visiting the hotel and suggests that Ae-shin save herself from the explosion. She plans on staying, since her absence will spark suspicion.

Ae-shin suggests that they work together and offers to do the work of the pawnshop duo to save their lives. At the very least, Ae-shin knows that none of the laughing Japanese soldiers downstairs will survive the night. Hina comments that somehow, they’ve found themselves on the same side.

Hina sends off her last two hotel workers with money and urges them to escape far from the hotel without looking back. Inside the hotel, Il-shik holds the bundle of dynamite fuses and urgently tries to light the matchstick at Choon-shik’s notice of approaching footsteps, but all the matchsticks fail to catch fire. A Japanese soldier walks in on them, but his yells are cut short by Ae-shin, who shoots him from behind. The gunshot alarms Dong-mae and Eugene, who had been searching for Ae-shin among the corpses, and they run toward the hotel.

Ae-shin quickly orders the pawnshop duo to escape and takes the responsibility of lighting the fuses. She blocks the door with a chair and shoots the fuses as the soldiers run upstairs toward the gunshot. A Japanese soldier grabs Hina’s hair as she tries to escape the hotel, and Ae-shin shoots him dead. Dong-mae and Eugene watch in shock as the hotel bursts into flames, and the force of the explosion catapults the women into the air. From afar, Hee-sung looks horrified at the sight of the hotel engulfed in flames.

Dong-mae and Eugene search through the burning rubble for our two heroines, and they find Hina under a door. Eugene confirms that she still has a pulse, and Dong-mae trusts Eugene to find Ae-shin as he carries Hina on his back to safety. Dong-mae urgently searches for refuge, and the tailor opens up his store when he recognizes Hina as the woman on the trolley who saved his life in the massacre.

As the bodies are cleared from the streets, Eun-san approaches the covered body of Seung-gu. He holds Seung-gu’s hand and looks upon him with a sorrowful smile. As Eugene searches through the burning debris of the hotel, we hear his narration: “Dear God — the father of my father, Joseph. I will use whatever is left of my life. Since I’ve relied on futile hope in every step of this journey, please let her be alive.” Eugene finally finds unconscious Ae-shin and carries her limp body in his arms. At the hotel entrance, rickshaw runner offers to help, and they quickly board the carriage before the onslaught of Japanese soldiers.

In the carriage, Eugene notices blood on his hands and orders the rickshaw runner to go to the medicine shop, but the runner informs him that the shop is empty. They’re stopped by Japanese soldiers, who demand to know who’s in the rickshaw. Eugene points his gun toward them as the Japanese soldiers slowly approach the rickshaw, but they’re shot by another ally — the mechanic who dissembled the gun that Seung-gu stole from the American freight.

The mechanic recognizes Eugene and immediately offers his help. Eugene orders the rickshaw runner to hide the bodies of the Japanese soldiers and asks the mechanic to take care of Ae-shin while he seeks out medicine.

Hee-sung looks numb in front of the incinerated hotel and gets dragged away as a suspect when he asks for Hina. At the Japanese Korean Army headquarters, Hee-sung remembers Hina’s warning on the day before the explosion. As they watched barrels of alcohol arrive at the hotel, Hina told Hee-sung to stay away from the hotel the next day and take any valuables with him. She thanked him for being a VIP guest at the hotel, and he noted how she spoke to him as if she was going far away. She confirmed that she was, and showed off her new red shoes to him.

At the Japanese Korean Army headquarters, Hee-sung listens to the Joseon police chief reporting that they found one shoe in the rubble. The Joseon police chief assures his Japanese superior that Hina could not have escaped far from the hotel, and he also urges his superior to release Hee-sung, who’s surely been mistaken as a conspirator. The police chief explains Hee-sung’s wealthy family background and assures his superior that Hee-sung would never rebel.

The Japanese superior notices the gunshot in Hee-sung’s arm, and Hee-sung adopts his rich boy persona to blame the Japanese soldiers for ruining his expensive clothes. He asks where to claim payment for the damage, and the Japanese superior quickly releases this headache of a man. Hee-sung tears up in agony as he reaps the benefits of his family’s wealth once more.

Dong-mae holds Hina in his arms and looks at her tenderly as she regains consciousness. She smiles to see Dong-mae has returned, and he asks her to endure a bit longer for the tailor to return with help. But Hina responds with clarity about her inevitable death, as she can feel that her entire body has been destroyed. Dong-mae gently caresses her face and says that Hina is still beautiful now. Hina struggles to breath and asks Dong-mae to take her to her mother. She asks for something to help her pain, and all Dong-mae can do is hold her close. Someone bring the box of tissues, stat.

At the chaotic hospital, Eugene finds a nurse and holds her at gunpoint for medical supplies. When she hears a summon from Japanese soldiers, she tells Eugene to stay hidden and responds to the soldiers in the Joseon patient ward. The soldiers demand that they clear the ward for the incoming injured Japanese soldiers. The nurse responds that they don’t have enough room, so the soldiers shoot all the patients in the ward to solve that problem. Monsters.

Eugene arrives at the ward, and a soldier fearlessly walks up to him. Before the soldier can attack, Eugene holds him in a chokehold and shoots at the remaining Japanese soldiers in front of him. A Japanese soldier approaches Eugene from behind, but a Joseon soldier shoots the enemy in Eugene’s defense. The Joseon soldier greets Eugene as his teacher from his military academy days, and that just made me tear up.

Eugene manipulates the gun placement to stage the scene as a battle between the Japanese soldiers and patients, and the nurse nods in understanding. Eugene helps up the Joseon soldier, who asks if Eugene has returned. Eugene clarifies that he’s still on his way, and he assists the injured soldier out of the volatile hospital.

At their hideout, Eugene extracts shrapnel from Ae-shin’s abdomen and wraps her wound. Ae-shin slowly regains consciousness and recognizes Eugene, but she quickly dismisses him as a dream. She asks about Hina, and Eugene responds that Dong-mae carried her to safety. Ae-shin seems relieved that Dong-mae returned, but she still won’t believe that the Eugene in front of her is real. She admits that she’s had this dream multiple times and won’t fall for it again.

Ae-shin cries as she tells Eugene that Seung-gu died and says that Joseon is utter hell. She tells Eugene not to come to Joseon, even in her dreams, as she must forget him to live. Ae-shin weakly falls into a slumber, and Eugene cries as he gently holds Ae-shin’s face. The mechanic informs Eugene that the comrades are arriving soon and forbids Eugene from joining them, lest he, a foreigner, attract any suspicion. Eugene agrees to this and asks that they also take the Joseon soldier, his student, and Seung-gu’s underling.

Under Eun-san’s watch, the Righteous Army comrades cover Ae-shin and the Joseon soldier like corpses and wheel them away. Eun-san looks up to Eugene on the roof, and they acknowledge each other with a silent nod. As they’re wheeled away, Ae-shin wakes up and recognizes the burn scar on the hand of the corpse wheeled next to her — it’s Seung-gu. She cries in agony.

At the pawnshop, Hee-sung asks the ash-covered duo if they were involved in the hotel explosion, and they both deny any knowledge. Hee-sung explains that the police will search for the source of the dynamite and warns Il-shik and Choon-shik to run away. Hee-sung asks in frustration about their motivations and why they would put themselves in danger. Il-shik says that he couldn’t eat properly knowing that he’s doing nothing for the cause.

They know that Hee-sung will receive suspicion if he’s remains at the pawnshop, but Hee-sung reminds them that he’s untouchable because he’s Kim Hee-sung. They return Hee-sung’s pawned pocket watch and smile widely as they shake hands with him.

Hee-sung brings Seamstress and her younger brother to his home and asks his parents to keep them safe. Nobleman Kim erupts in anger over his son failing to bring a wife home, but Hee-sung responds that Seamstress will be his wife. Seamstress looks surprised at this unexpected confession, and Hee-sung’s mother remains calm as she takes in Seamstress and her younger brother. She looks to Hee-sung, and they silently exchange a glance of understanding.

Nobleman Kim looks surprised at his wife’s actions, and Hee-sung tells his father that he’s lucky to have a wife like his mother. Hee-sung asks his father to take care of them, and he gives his father a hug before heading out.

Along the shore, Dong-mae carries Hina, as he did when she visited her mother’s burial spot. He informs her that Eugene has returned and asks if she has a message for him. She simply asks Dong-mae to welcome Eugene with a handshake for her and tells Dong-mae about something she hung in his room. Then, Hina admits that she let Eugene go from her heart a while back and notes that Dong-mae didn’t notice. She confesses that she had another man in her heart: “In the hotel backyard, the streets, the trolley, and the man’s room, I begged for him to come back alive. That man who only loved Go Ae-shin, who was a fool in love — I waited for him.”

Dong-mae stops walking as it becomes clear that Hina loved and waited for him. She looks around the shore and imagines that this place would look pretty in the snow. She remembers the one snowy night that Dong-mae grabbed her hand from the trolley, and she tells him now to visit her when it snows. He responds that it won’t snow for a long while, and Hina tells him to stay alive for that long while, to not visit her sooner. Hina gasps for air, and with her last breath, she says that she’ll be waiting for him.

Hina’s body goes limp on Dong-mae’s back, and he calls her Joseon name. “Yang-hwa? Yang-hwa, are you sleeping?” Dong-mae weeps and tells her that they’re almost there. As Dong-mae continues to walk along the shore, Hina’s shoe falls off and gets swept into the waves.

Resident General Ito Hirobumi berates the traitor Minister Lee Wan-yong for the hotel explosion, which was unexpected backlash for the dissolution of the Joseon military forces. The prime minister orders the capture of all rebels and expresses disapproval of Minister Lee Wan-yong for his inability to speak the superior tongue of Japanese.

The surviving Joseon soldiers are forced into hiding, and any accomplices are captured or killed for rebelling against the Japanese. At the hospital, a mother begs for help to treat her child, who’s suffered a gunshot wound. The nurse comrade tries to make room among the injured Japanese soldiers, but a Japanese guard shoots the child dead. The mother screams in horror, and the Japanese guard tells the nurse comrade to do her job. With new fire in her eyes, the nurse comrade gathers necessary supplies to do her job outside the hospital, throwing her hospital nurse hat on the ground.

One by one, we see more Joseon people joining the rebel movement. The tailor’s superior asks about the blood on the floor of the store and accuses the tailor of being a part of the Righteous Army. The tailor grabs his superior’s arm before he can hit him, and he storms out of the store vowing to join the Righteous Army. The rickshaw runner carries a traitor minister, who demands that the runner go faster. The runner angrily obliges and throws the rickshaw carriage into the stream.

The Righteous Army comrades gather to pay respects to Seung-gu, and Eun-san smiles as he remembers young Seung-gu vowing to die a different death from his father. They hear rustling from behind, and it’s the nurse, tailor, and rickshaw runner helping an injured scholar. They’ve come with medical supplies and food to support the cause, and Eun-san welcomes them. As the cherry on top, Il-shik and Choon-shik also arrive with their guns, ready to fight alongside their fellow Joseon comrades. Woo, the floodgates are opening — tissues please!

Soomi successfully delivers Hina’s letter to overthrown Emperor Gojong, and he reads it with tears welling in his eyes. She first asks that he ensure Soomi’s safety and then confesses to the unfathomable festivities she’s planned for the Japanese soldiers in her hotel. She asks the emperor to blame the Japanese Kudo Hina for the explosion so that others will not be punished for the deed. She included a confession written in Japanese and asks that he deliver this letter to the prime minister. The emperor follows the request, and the prime minister agrees to halt the unsolicited searches.

Dong-mae looks around his hideout and sees the painting that Hina hung in his room. When Hina had hung the painting, she had remembered Dong-mae’s hope for her to live a new life — to replace her gun with powder, her fencing sword with paintings, to meet a kind man and live an ordinary life. Dong-mae endures the night with opium (likely brought from Manchuria) and sits against the wall by the painting.

Dong-mae meets Eugene and offers Hina’s handshake as proxy. Eugene sighs in sorrow and informs Dong-mae of Ae-shin’s safety as he takes the handshake. He shares that Ae-shin expressed relief about Dong-mae’s return, and Dong-mae excuses himself to attend to important matters, as it’s almost mid-month (the promised meeting date with Ae-shin). Before Dong-mae leaves, Eugene offers his help and tells Dong-mae to find him at Hwawollu. Dong-mae agrees to see him soon.

The baker helplessly watches Japanese warriors beating up a Joseon man, and he falls to the ground in shock when he sees Dong-mae standing in front of him. Dong-mae’s next stop is the dojo, where he confronts the Musin warriors to reclaim what was his. As he mercilessly assassinates his enemies one by one, we hear his plea: “If the heavens help me, if poor electricity hinders the telegram, if poor weather delays the ships — if all this were to happen, the message to Japan would only take ten days. I could live those ten days as if it were a year and die.”

Eugene arrives at Hwawollu, where he’s met by Duk-moon (former aide to Wan-ik) as the owner. Duk-moon recognizes Eugene as the former American soldier, and Eugene expresses confusion about Duk-moon being Hwawollu’s owner when he just saw Dong-mae. Duk-moon dismisses this myth, but a worker confirms that Dong-mae just caused major bloodshed in Jingogae. Duk-moon quickly orders for backup, knowing that Dong-mae will target Hwawollu next. Eugene hears this news and heads to his room.

As the emperor burns Hina’s letter, Gwan-soo enters his quarters sporting a look. He interprets the New York Times for the emperor and translates the headlines about an auto race between New York and Paris. The emperor desperately asks if there is a single line about Joseon, but Gwan-soo apologizes for the disappointment. Then, the emperor asks if he’s heard from Eugene, who must have fulfilled his three-year sentence by now, and simply wishes for him to be alive. Gwan-soo offers to ask about Eugene through Kyle, who’s serving in Japan.

Gwan-soo writes a letter to Kyle, updating him about Domi and asking whether Eugene is alive. He looks up to the heavens and yells for Eugene, who surprises him from behind. Eugene corrects Gwan-soo’s letter with a missing adjective before his name — “handsome” — and Gwan-soo rejoices at the familiar cheeky joke. Gwan-soo hugs Eugene a little too tightly, and Eugene uncomfortably accepts the embrace.

Eugene pours alcohol on Seung-gu’s grave and waits for Eun-san, who arrives out of breath. He’s become quite notorious over the past few years and needed to take a detour to avoid recognition. Eugene hands him a beer, and Eun-san gladly gulps his favorite drink. Eun-san says that Ae-shin doesn’t seem to know about Eugene’s return, and Eugene says that the painkiller and her sadness were probably too intense for her to believe his existence.

Eun-san scolds Eugene for returning, since he’s not even joining the Righteous Army, and Eugene admits that he has no stake in Joseon’s sovereignty. He merely hopes for Ae-shin and his saviors to stay alive, but his path keeps overlapping with the Righteous Army comrades. Eun-san warns him to avoid the overlap if he doesn’t want to get shot, but Eugene says that he continued his long journey back even while knowing the risks. After that long journey, he realized that he can get seasick, he jokes. Eun-san welcomes back Eugene, and Eugene commits to keeping Eun-san alive.

As Eun-san savors the taste of his beer, Eugene says that Joseon was extinguished faster than he’d expected. Eun-san explains that for every addition to the Righteous Army, their enemies add ten, but those ten will easily crumble. One of those ten, the Joseon interpreter for the Japanese forces, sees the Righteous Army sketches and repeats a Japanese proverb: “If you eat poison, might as well eat the plate.” He takes down the sketches and enters Hwawollu.

Eun-san continues: “Traitors don’t risk their lives to sell their country while we risk our lives to protect.” Eugene solemnly lets those words sink, and we see the montage of Righteous Army comrades who’ve risked their lives to protect their country: Ae-shin’s parents, Seung-gu’s father, the innkeeper, Seung-gu, Ae-shin, and Hina.

At Hwawollu, the Japanese interpreter brings the sketches to Duk-moon and shows him Mori’s hitlist, which he previously copied down. He couldn’t read Eugene’s name written in English, but he wrote the rest of the Righteous Army comrades’ names. Duk-moon recognizes the sketch of Ae-shin and adds her name to the hitlist.

The next day, Duk-moon meets with General Ito Hirobumi and provides information on the sketched rebels. He says that Seung-gu’s old hideout is the basecamp for the Righteous Army, and he identifies the sketch of Ae-shin as his sister-in-law. Duk-moon reveals that Ae-shin’s grandfather was Emperor Gojong’s teacher, and General Hirobumi finds this information intriguing. Duk-moon holds onto the hitlist for his political advantage, and the general warns Duk-moon and his army commander not to embarrass him in front of the emperor again.

The Japanese soldiers discover the Righteous Army’s detour to their hideout, and a young boy spots two Japanese soldiers spying on their movements. The boy uses a stick to shoot the enemies, who play along and shush the boy before scattering.

The Japanese interpreter meets with Gwan-soo for a lavish meal, and Gwan-soo demands to know how he earned all this money. Drowning himself in guilt and drinks, the Japanese interpreter admits that he sold the Righteous Army hitlist to Duk-moon, unaware that Ae-shin’s name was also included. Gwan-soo holds his colleague by the collar and admonishes him for betraying his country.

Gwan-soo immediately notifies Eugene, who sends urgent word to Eun-san. Eun-san relays the news of the leaked hitlist to Ae-shin and orders her to kill Duk-moon when she sees fit. As Ae-shin prepares her gun in the medicine shack, she quickly turns around at the sound of someone behind her. It’s Eugene, and she’s utterly shocked as he walks toward her, unable to believe this isn’t a dream. She runs into his arms crying and admits that she spent days reliving what she thought was a dream.

Eugene pulls her away to look at her face, and Ae-shin asks why he returned to precarious Joseon. He reminds her that he promised to see her again and says that he had no other choice. He tells Ae-shin to save Joseon, and he vows to save Ae-shin. He offers to shoot Duk-moon for her, but Ae-shin commits to the mission so that Hina and all her fallen comrades will not have died in vain.

At the hideout, Joon-young explains the hideout rules and surroundings to the new comrades, and the elderly comrades commend the young new additions. The young boy pretends to shoot at Ae-shin’s servant, and he instructs the boy only to shoot at the enemy. The boy shares that he “shot” two Japanese soldiers on their way to the hideout, and that intel prompts the hideout residents to plan their escape. Eun-san orders the comrades to clear the hideout, and the servant wonders how he can contribute to a smooth escape.

When Duk-moon and the Japanese army commander Hasegawa arrive at the hideout, it’s completely empty. Commander Hasegawa points his gun at Duk-moon in rage, and Duk-moon insists that the women and children couldn’t have traveled far.

Then a solider brings an elderly man, who seems to have been a part of the Righteous Army group. Duk-moon tells the commander that the elder is deaf and mute, but the elder refutes this and says that Ae-shin is leading a revolt in Hanseong to kill the commander. Duk-moon translates this intel and offers his help to identify Ae-shin and her servants. Commander Hasegawa leads his troops back to Hanseong and shoots the elder as he leaves.

As they lead the carriage ensemble, Ae-shin’s servant asks the maid if she’s scared. The maid responds that she’s not scared but regrets not seeing Ae-shin beforehand. Her servant admits that he regrets not holding the maid’s hand before they go, and the carriage bearers lightheartedly tease them to hold hands now before it’s too late.

Juxtaposing the cheerful conversation, Commander Hasegawa orders his troops to find the carriage carrying Ae-shin. The commander tells Duk-moon that he’s only useful for the hitlist and threatens to kill him if this mission is unsuccessful. Then, the troops disperse to find the carriage.

Meanwhile, Eun-san and the Righteous Army escape their hideout in the night. Eun-san turns around and belatedly notices that they’re missing a few members. He sighs as he realizes their sacrifice.

The servant notes the approaching footsteps, and a carriage bearer commends the mute and deaf elder for correctly leading the troops to them. The maid corrects the carriage bearer and says that the elder can hear and speak clearly, and they wonder what his last words were. They decide to share their last words, and a carriage bearer shares that he always wanted to yell a summoning like a noble. The maid shares her last words for the servant and says that she enjoyed having him beside her. She offers her hand to hold, and the servant shyly approaches her with his arm outstretched.

Then, a gun fires, and the servant stumbles as he reaches for the maid. More shots fire, hitting the maid and the servant, who both fall to the ground. The Japanese soldiers fire relentlessly at the carriage, and the carriage bearers also crumble to the ground. Covered in gunshot wounds, the servant still reaches for the maid, who lies still on the ground. He slowly loses consciousness, and the lamp that lit their way extinguishes with him.

 
COMMENTS

What a cruel way to go. All they wanted to do was hold hands, and it’s so sad to see them just barely in reach of each other in death. The juxtaposition of the servants’ cheery sacrifice and the ruthless killing spree of the Japanese soldiers made me jump in my seat and let out a little yelp when I heard the gunshots. Even though these servants weren’t on the front lines, they found a way to support the Righteous Army and make a profound impact. In a way, their sacrifice better manifests how the Joseon people, the commoners, contribute to the rebellion. The small contributions of the nurse, the rickshaw runner, Eugene’s military academy student, and the elderly man collectively power the movement and drive it forward in the face of their monstrous enemies. Eun-san’s conviction in the Righteous Army is based on these people, frontlines or not, who would risk their lives to protect their home.

Of the three men, Hee-sung is the only one would I’d identify as a Righteous Army comrade now. Eugene and Dong-mae only seem motivated by the people they love, while Hee-sung seems actively invested in using his name to protect the Joseon people. This is the Kim Hee-sung that I was waiting for — the determined photojournalist who documents history and uses his powerful name to neutralize threats from the Japanese enemies. Hee-sung knows that his rich boy persona and family name saves him from harm, but it’s clear that the persona is excruciatingly painful for him to execute. He trembles in resentment when he uses his name for his own benefit, but he gladly offers his name to protect others. I found the silent understanding between Hee-sung and his mother to be one of the more poignant moments in this episode because it was affirmation for Hee-sung that his family’s wrongs did not all weigh on his shoulders.

Even though I knew it was coming, Hina’s death was painful to watch. Hina and Dong-mae’s interactions always blurred the line between friends and lovers, as they were kindred souls that knew each other’s deep anguish. Hina’s belated confession to Dong-mae was so raw and heartbreaking, as she struggled to maintain her classy composure while gasping for air. But it felt like a fitting and meaningful way for her to die. Kim Min-jung was especially noteworthy in her final moments with Dong-mae, though her ability to portray the sophisticated and deeply flawed Hina elevated any scene. This is possibly her best character — one that utilizes all her best qualities as an actress and stretches her potential — and it makes me excited to see what’s next for her.

This is such a tragic era of Korean history that progresses with defeat after defeat until much later in the occupation. It’s interesting that we’re entering the finale in such a desperate time, when the occupation is only growing stronger with the traitors far outnumbering the fighters. The victories will be small, and the sacrifices will be large. Considering the point in history that we enter our last episode, I’m expecting a sad ending full of guns, glory, and possibly a flicker, a flame of hope that will spread like wildfire to prevail over the atrocities.

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Heartbreaking episode; I cried from start to finish. Dong Mae sobbing as he carried Hina was the saddest scene ever, and the servants dying made me sob, long after the episode ended.

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my eyes are hopelessly puffed up, after sobbing every other minute...

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Aw..despite the utter failure of all my attempts to continue this show beyond episode 18, I was rather attached to the characters. To read that Hina and the servants died breaks my heart. Of the five main characters, Hina was my favourite - so vibrant and full of life. And those sweet, sweet servant folks. Even just reading the recap is making my heart break.

I wonder if I stopped watching then because I couldn't take what I knew was to come? *sobs in a corner*

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I would watch the last 2 episodes. They were powerful and heart breaking. I’m with you, though I did make it through all the episodes (more because I was really interested in the historical background of it all), but the last 3 episodes made it worth all the rest. Like I said on the fan wall, I think they could have done 16 episodes and it wouldn’t have dragged so much.

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I think I'll just do as you suggested earlier and watch the last four eps. The historical background was the most fascinating aspect of this show. Other than Gaksital, I can't think of any other shows set in this time period.

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Scandal in Old Seoul, Chicago Typewriter, Inspiring Generation aka Age of Feeling
but then I realize, they're set much later, similar to Gakistal.
- Scandal has ditzy moments that make it hard to take seriously.
-Chicago has some of everything: rom-com, ghost story, back in time flashes and some of the best acting to be seen in the final two episodes.
-Inspiring Gen is a really mixed bag. They lost the main writer at episode 8 but that's no excuse for how it loses any coherency plotwise BUT if you're a fan of video games and old martial arts movies then it's worth the watch. I would watch it just for the similarity to Bruce Lee's Gane of Death where our hero must face a different opponent with a different fighting style at each "level". And my all time reason to watch anything is Kim Sung oh has a nice meaty role where he's not regulated to just being background comic relief.

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Ah great! I don't count CT, since its mostly set in the present with a few glimpses of the past (I'm watching it now actually - still at ep 8). And yes, they're set later in time, but its still about the Japanese occupation.

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I loved the child part of Inspiring Generation. Kwak Deong Yun was very good in this role. But I don't really remember of the rest :p

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There are two other dramas set a bit earlier than this one, but depicting the tensions of Western countries & Japan descending after the opening of Korea. Joseon Gunman is very good, it deals with the progressive reforming scholars who allied with the Japanese because they promoted modern values -- ending in the Gaspin Coup of 1884 in which they briefly kidnapped King Gojong after murdering many cabinet members (Queen Min was assassinated by the Japanese the following year). It especially talks about businesses / merchants selling out to Westerners. The other one is called Jejoongwon, it's about the founding of the first Western-style hospital. It includes a positive view of Horace Allen, also occurs around the time of the Gaspin Coup, and the hero is a butcher who disguises himself as a yangban (noble) in order to learn medicine, so it has a lot of the social class issue stuff.

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OH! Thanks. Jejoongwon sounds really interesting! *puts on list*

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Certainly a different picture of Hoace Allen from the one in Mr. Sunshine.

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I was looking through my watchlist on DramaFever and I see that I've placed Road No. 1 (starring So Ji sub) on the list a long time ago. I remembered our posts here about other shows dealing with the Japanese occupation of Korea. I know that Road No. 1 is a war-time movie but I'm not sure what era or which war it is about. BUT, it has So Ji sub which means I'll be watching it eventually no matter what it's about. (I recall reading that it was a unique Kdrama for the time it was made in that it's scope is large and epic but I also read it didn't do well in ratings. That doesn't worry me though because Healer didn't do well in ratings along with several other great shows.)

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The history behind this story is fascinating. It's heartbreaking to be the dethroned king. I liked how this show portrays the king's stifled passion and internal frustrations. Every character in this show matters. Gwan Soo's shock and happiness from Eugene's return is a fantastic scene. The nurse's reaction echoing our disgust from seeing the Japanese cruelty to her patients resonates. Little scenes noted in this recap aren't so little in their impact.

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You are so right. The nurse was fantastic. Under played in just the right way. A perfect cast right down to the smallest role. The hospital room with all of the period hospital equipment, beautiful attention to detail. She cant be a nurse and witness this cruelty. she drops her hat and she is out of there.

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Wow, what an unremarkable end for Hina - it would have been so much better to have let Hina die in the explosion! It was strange to see Dongmae carry out Hina’s death wish *before* she actually dies. So instead of ripping up fabric in the tailor’s shop bandaging and tending to Hina’s wounds, spooning water/meds into her mouth he just takes her to another town to the beach without being caught by the Japanese on his way there and then calmly waits for her to die without even attempting to save her? Unrealistic.

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:( :( very good point. Now I just feel upset - that doesn't make any sense.

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I think it was great. She knew she wouldn’t make it and he did too. Since he cares about her and her wishes he takes her to her mother. Why waste resources that could be used to save someone who will live? He let her go as she wanted. With her mother and to be by her side. She was with her one true love and he comforted her all the way until her end.

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Hina knew she was too badly injured to survive and asked him to take her to her mother. . . who is buried by the nunnery where she died. We can assume that the nuns buried Hina there.

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She is a wanted woman.
.... she be hunted down and killed all the same.

She needs opium.
Now that is a serious hell of a pain.
In current time, she needs heroin.

She wants to go back to her mom.
DMae did an honorable thing.

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I really like Hina's bravery and courage. Her sent off was sad and i was glad dong mae was with her till the end. Her parting speech with dong mae was heart breaking and thankfully she get to say it all to him. Huhu 😢

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I am very satisfied with the story's progression, it feels real in all the right places. I appreciate the long ramp to get to this place known as 'sad ending'.

We knew we'd end up here.

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Hina's love confession was so beautiful and sad in the same time, it was a great scene. It was juste like their relationship :)

The end of this episode was very brutal.

It's sad to see that if Japaneses were brutal and were the villains, some Koreans sold their country which allowed the Japaneses to be more powerful. To see the King so helpless was very sad.

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@kurama,

I know it's an anachronistic term in 1910 or whichever year this is, but all I can say is this: there must be a special place in hell for the Joseon Quislings who sold out their own country. I can't help but wonder how many of them were eventually assassinated by the Righteous Army.

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On behalf of Koreans, in all wars, a part of the population "helps" the invader. In the 39-45 War, Germany didn't have enough men to stay in invaded countries and fight against the Allies. It was the local police who arrested a lot of Jews and sent them to the concentration camps.

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Yes, this is true. And there is a special place in hell for them, too.

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It was so sad indeed! But come to think about it, the Japanese were really brutal during those times. I remember my grandma used to tell us horror stories about the war. (Japan invaded Philippines from 1941-1945) One of their known horrific deed in the Philippines was the Bataan Death March, where 76,000 American and Filipino soldiers were forced to march for 66 miles to prison camps. I'm sure you've heard about the Rape of Nanking and the Mukden Incident right? They did a lot of unspeakable things back then, not only in Joseon but in some parts of Asia too. They paid the price of their sins thru the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings :(

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At least Japan paid the price. We were colonized by the French much sooner and longer than Korea. Guest what did the French paid any price? NO since they are on the winning side of WW2. What a shame.

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ahhhhhhh..... I haven't watched this and the last episodes. I need to prepare myself... but reading this recap had me so heartbreaking, and I'm not sure I could go watching this episode... :(((((.

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Watch it and enjoy the well done heartbreak. If you stuck around this long, you need closure. I want to see a sequel showing the Righteous Army from abroad coming back to fight even if it takes 30 years.

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Another fave character other than Hina is Kim Hee Sung. I think his heart is in the right place and is fully involved in movemont compared by the other 2 who are more moved by Ae-shin.

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I hoped Hee Sung got more screen time

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He finally found his true calling in life.

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I think besides Ae-shin, the others are shades more ambiguous about identifying as Joseon patriots namely because they recognise that the Joseon regime was corrupt and flawed. Yang-hwa was powerless as a Joseon woman and sold out by her father, there was no future for the son of a slave or the son of a butcher and Hee Sung's riches are built off exploitation.

I think rather than patriotism, our core five minus Ae-shin are driven to fight by the startling scale of Japanese brutality.

Sure Dong-mae and Eugene are occasionally thrown into vortex of Righteous Army activities because of Ae-shin but I disagree that she's the sole reason behind their resistance to the Japanese. Both Dong-mae and Eugene have a history of shielding the underdog and powerless and fighting against abusers of authority. Hee-sung is on a path of redemption. They are for the people more than they are pro-Joseon, Joseon has pretty much casted them all aside.

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True. Well said.

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Yes, Well said.

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@renarama ren,

Well said! I agree with you about the reasons why Eugene, Dong-mae, Hina / Yang-hwa, and Hee-sung all hang back from going whole-hog to support the decadent Joseon that so badly treated citizens of humble birth and all females. They know that the inherent inequalities will not magically go away with the expulsion of Japanese overlords. The infighting between the privileged classes, political foes, and throne versus powerful clans would return to business as usual, with the commoners, slaves, butchers, and women continuing to be trampled. I cannot fault the protagonists other than Ae-shin for being akin to conscientious objectors. They step up to the plate when it comes to personal loyalty towards Ae-shin, despite her being a yangban, not because of it. In contrast, the older household servants devise a suicide mission precisely because she IS Lady Ae-shin, and they will protect her at all costs.

I agree with your comments on Eugene and Dong-mae being champions of underdogs, which comes out of their own life experiences at the bottom of the totem pole. The increasing brutality of the Japanese forces them and Hina off the fence. Hee-sung finds his own way to make a difference, and uses his hated privilege as a yangban to good advantage in support of the people, and one person and her brother in particular. I would have liked to have seen more of his activities.

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"They are for the people more than they are pro-Joseon, Joseon has pretty much casted them all aside."

That's the sense I get too. They know that the Joseon social structure is flawed but the Japanese occupation is worse. All they can do is deal with the current threat and hopefully get a chance to untangle their own social problems. Until Japan is gone first, there is no way to deal with the Joseon class structure.

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Kim Hee Sung is adorable and smart. Very aware of his situation and smart enough to use it to his advantage. Thank goodness he is not a chip off the old block...head of a dad.

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The last 2 episodes will be so hard to watch...

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Eugene has willed away the remainder of his life in a bargain with God, Dong-mae has 10 days of borrowed time to live a year and Hee-sung's pocket watch ticks along in the background, a reminder that the karmic debt of his ancestors will be claimed.

Yang-hwa went first, and at this point all the leading men have already resigned themselves to die.

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Well described for the four.

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As usual I'll not comment much on the story line. I'm not happy that once again a Korean drama, even one filmed in advance used the same plot structure as the old "film until we almost kill the cast and crew style". You have episode after episode of sometimes agonizingly slow moving "character development" with almost no plot advancement. Then the last two episodes will pack in what could have been incorporated throughout the series. This played on Netflix which I really enjoyed. Watching all the lovely costumes and photography on my big screen TV. Still SK will not capture the western audience if they lose them in the first few episodes due to boredom. Europeans may stick with a 24 episode story that doesn't unfold until the last 4 episodes but Americans are usually used to big flashy openings and less careful character development.

Next, the performances because that's usually what I care about the most. Kim Min jung is the only core cast member that I'd seen before and had not been impressed with her previous work. She redeemed herself with this role. She's obviously grown as an actress and proves that even if it doesn't come naturally to you, it is a skill that you can improve. Lee Byun hun is probably my least favorite actor and character in this drama. While I like his movies, I'm not necessarily a fan. He pretty much always plays the same kind of guy, angry or stoic. I'm sure he has one out there somewhere but has the man ever even tried to do comedy? Byun Yo han is just a marvel, a completely natural actor that never misses a beat and steals every scene he's in. Yoo Yeon seok was perfectly cast as Dong mae.

I could enjoy watching all of these very good actors working at developing their characters throughout this series because I'm used to the pacing and style of korean dramas. I just hope that as Netflix will continue to offer these kinds of foreign produced productions. I don't have any idea what the ratings were for this drama on the network. I very interested to see how it fairs with Netflix viewers.

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So the basic gist of what I get from the comments online in the K-community is that Ae-Shin “symbolises” Joseon, and the sacrifices all the other characters make “for” her reflect the many, many choices and acts of bravery by people all over Joseon, from the soldiers, commoners, and to of course, the wealthy, made to keep her alive and safe. Watching it in that perspective in mind finally let me start watching the final two eps, but man, I’m still bracing myself for it.

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To me the people symbolize Joseon, not just Ae-Shin. There were many examples of commoners fighting back against the Japanese or the traitors even when Ae-Shin was not present.

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I'm hurt for Hina. Poor woman who actually waited for Dong Mae since the very beginning yet the man already crazy in someone else. Omo it's been so long since my heart were in pain just because a girl.
And I still can't bring myself to watch the last episode because I already fall into Eugene Choi so much.

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With Hina's beauty and her polished life style, she could have gotten any men. But she eventually fell for Don mae because they could understand their deep wound. He did not show his disgust when he saw her scars all over her body. He can tell how horrible life she endured and he empathized with her because he had a similar background. They both did some cruel acts but it was not for a pleasure( killing for the sake of killing) but for their survival. They were in a way soulmates.
What I like about Hina is that despite of her knowing two men she loved both fell for Ae-shin, she never had a bitchy attitude towards Ae-shin. She cooperated with Ae shin when she felt that she must do and kept her jealously at bay . She was indeed a lady.

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I love your comment. Hina is a survivor. She stops being one on her own terms. Kdramaland needs strong AND smart female characters like her.

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I don't think she waited for Dong Mae since the beginning of the show. At one point she was interested in Eugene romantically.

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In my eyes she just attracted to Eugene (well who doesn't?) and get along with him just like everyone else but she's most comfortable with DM. I felt like she's a bit jealous when she asked DM about Hotaru yet she always such a help toward Aeshin and Eugene relationship.
That's just in my own opinion :D

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Yes she was always more comfortable and compatible with DM but I don't think she realized or accepted her feelings for DM until near the end of the drama.

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That's what I mean.

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Just watched the finale... I'm an emotional wreck

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Did anyone else see Hina's shoe drop and think, "No! Pick it up! Don't leave evidence behind!" (I hope it was just symbolic of her death and not a clue for the enemy to find.)

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@barbara-fox Wag-a-muffin,

Don't worry -- you're not alone. I thought the exact same thing. I've watched too many seasons of Leroy Jethro Gibbs in NCIS policing his brass (USMC sniper taking his shell casings with him).

Alternatively, it was literally "the shoe drops." The truth is now out in the open at last. Fate has been too cruel to these two.

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ME! ME! Then the waves washed in and I'm like, "Pull it into the ocean! Why do the waves seem so weak? Hurry waves! Do your job!"

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I was more impressed by the fact she was still wearing her second shoe.

When I think about this scene, I find YYS did great. He was carring Hina (wearing a dress) in his kimono + 2 swords, walking in the sand and he had to act an emotional scene.

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More than the death, I find the characters willingness to sacrifice themselves for the independent Joseon where they wouldn’t be a part of is even more heartbreaking.

Despite the sadness, I teared up because I’m moved by their selflessness and I felt proud that these people led or ignited the independent movement even though I’m not korean.

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Well said, @chukahae! Same here. I can recognize the "Spirit of '76" when I see it, and so could Eugene Choi, although as a now-foreigner he could not directly participate. The parallels between the embattled farmers of Concord and Lexington and the nameless soldiers of the Righteous Army are not lost on me. The earlier "shot heard round the world" for self-determination and freedom from foreign oppression continued to reverberate from the muzzle of Ae-shin's sniper rifle.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirit_of_%2776_(sentiment)

I agree that the willingness of the Righteous Army to sacrifice themselves for a sovereign homeland they would not live to see is deeply moving.

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I came across this quote from the first episode again:

"Yesterday seemed like a distant past, today felt unfamiliar and tomorrow was terrifying. It was a time of turbulence. All of us, each in their own way, were living through the rapidly changing Joseon."

It's all so sad.

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Yes, this reminded me so much of our history lessons about colonial America fighting for their independence. The dethroned king desperately looking for any other country to throw his countrymen a rope as they drown in this cruel occupation is heart breaking. To see Eugene Choi as an American in the fight adds another layer to this.

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in America it was the Colonizers fighting for independence from Britain. Not like Joseon at all because the Koreans were the natives to Joseon not outsiders who took of the land and didn't want to pay taxes to Britain.

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Also in this same time period America was colonizing the Philippines.

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Lets remember that Joseon was so corrupt in the first place that it became too weak to stand on its own. Seunggu and the early Righteous Army in this story were rebels against Joseon before they were fighting against a Japanese occupation.

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Thanks for the link about Spirit of '76. It's good a read.

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I cried. Hina's confession and her inevitable death is so heartbreaking. DM's crying and denial were devastating as well. It's too late for him to realize the gem who was always there for him. And the servants... the killings are just too cruel to watch.

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Somehow I expected Hina's death. Don't get me wrong, she's a wonderful character. She's very strong and cunning.

What burst the waterworks for me was the sacrifice of the servants. I also loved that against a common enemy, one cannot be apathetic for long. Everyone, from the nobles to the servants, all want to fight. I loved that teamwork, unity, and patriotism (will discuss more on this on the last episode).

The last 3/4 episodes have been a rollercoaster ride indeed

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I didn't expect Hina's death at all :( She bought new shoes for her journey and blew up the hotel that was her life's work. I think it's really admirable how she did everything on her own terms.

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Thank you for your recap and commentary, dramallama. It has been a pleasure reading your thoughts on this show. Thanks for going the distance, which has been long and full of details I would have missed. ;-)

I cannot agree with you more about Kim Min-jung's stellar performance in this drama. I had had a feeling that she was underutilized in MAN TO MAN, and this role is proof of her considerable acting chops. (I totally did not recognize her from earlier roles in THE BEST / ZZANG, FLYING BOYS, and as the female lead in STRIKE LOVE, the only other productions I've seen her in to date.) Hina / Yang-hwa and Dong-mae really were kindred spirits. Their differing stations in life paralleled the gap between Ae-shin and Eugene, but with an expatriate Japanese twist that they shared with Hee-sung. The death scene is reminiscent in the best possible way of Lady Hae's demise in MOON LOVERS, right down to the imagery of snow. Dong-mae's belated realization of her true feelings towards him got me right between the eyes. As with so many other thwarted relationships in this drama, all I can do is hope they find happiness with each other in the next life.

Speaking of Hee-sung, he truly came into his own as a photojournalist who never gave up, and as protector of Seamstress and her little brother. I was glad he was able to at last move on from Ae-shin even as he became increasingly involved in resisting the selling out of Joseon.

My seat belt is buckled for Ep. 24.

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I was ok with KMJ in MxM but i prefer her in this. I think she is far better in mr sunshine compared to MxM. Her last scene with dongmae was acting at its finest. Hohoho

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I love KMJ in New Heart and Merchant of Gaekju, the first two drama that introduces me to her. The latter being her best performance before Mr. Sunshine. I was shocked to see her in MxM. It was a disappointment but I blame it on the character itself. KMJ as HN is just awesome! I will forever root for her. And I also wish she and DM will find each other and love in the afterlife.

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Not sure which one is right:

Recap: Hina gasps for air, and with her last breath, she says that she’ll be waiting for him.

Netflix subs: hina says to dong mae 'i wont be waiting for you there' before she goes limp.

I actually prefer the Hina saying she wont wait for him as she had waited long enough or even too long for dongmae who only has his eyes/heart fixated on Aeshin.

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I won't be waiting for you there, which means that she doesn't want him to die yet, and meet her in the afterlife, she wants him to live as long as he can. It shows how much she loves him, that she wants him to live, and not join her in death.

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Following a friend's advise to watch without subs in the process to practise and master my korean, I watched this scene raw and what you wrote is exactly what I understood from her speech plus the part where she was confessing her real feelings to this man who loves another. Urgh, and I cried....

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Me, too...couldn't stop, especially when Dong Mae started crying out loud, and he said, Don't sleep, we're almost there. I thought this drama was just sad, in that Hina never got to reach her mother's grave, and the servants never got to hold hands. But it was so real, and I liked that it was not romanticized, that they died without fulfilling their dying wishes. It lifted the drama for me, that the writer kept it so sadly real.

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The moment he realised it was him she talked about, I can see his disbelief, his regret. This man definitely loves and care for HN for sure. His health conditions from previous wounds didn't allow him to come sooner. He looks so sick by the time he reached his house. When HN asked him for some opium to reduce her pain... T_T

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@miracle23 Meheartisamusicbox
October 1, 2018 at 9:27 AM

I've been watching the episodes raw for the exact reason you mention -- to observe facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice undistracted by sub titles. Dong-mae's look of disbelief and regret was exquisitely acted. Just as he was privy to her old scars, he knows only too well the implications of her request for opium. The parallels and foreshadowing are merciless.

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Thank you for clarifying that, @yyishere YY! She's in no rush to see him on the other side. Dang.

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It seems i'm the only one interpreting it as she doesnt want him to join her soon as in dont die yet, live as long as he can and also as shes stopping her feelings for him from that moment of time, her feelings towards a man who never even took a glance at her. And i think ep 24, solidified my thoughts of Hina and DM's final scene together.

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Nope that’s how I interpreted it as well.

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I repeated this part and confirmed that Hina said she won’t be waiting for Dongmae over there, otherwise it will also contradict her previous line to Dongmae (ie. Dont come quickly)

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I wasn’t expecting Hina to die. Even when she said her initial plan was for the Japanese to find her body and hold her responsible I still assumed that plan had changed. When Aeshin helped her run out of the hotel I expected her to survive. Dongmae found her first and carried her to safety. That increased my expectation that she would live.
Dongmae is such a fool. Hotaru loves him and Hina loved him but he’s obsessed with Aeshin. I’m not completely surprised by Hina’s confession because it was clear they had a flirtatious chemistry and friendship. Many times they ran to help each other and were protective.
I really love Dongmae and I’m sad that he’s planning to die in 10 days or less. Hotaru is gone, he also sent his gang away. Hina died in his arms. He knows that Aeshin and Eugene have been reunited. He must feel he has nothing to live for but first he will go out in a blaze of violence as he takes back his territory. Then he will wait for Musin Society to come from Japan and kill him.
Precious Heesung seems like he will have a semi happy ending. He will marry his friend and use his family money to protect her family.

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@modestgoddess,

My take on Dong-mae's resolution to die with his boots on in 10 days struck me as a brutally realistic assessment of his fate after wiping out the Mushin Society detachment that had taken over his territory. He looks unwell, and knows his days are numbered. He will take as many of the next batch of thugs with him as he can.

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Good point, he never fully recovered from his wounds and he's coping with Opium. He knows his days are numbered physically so he rather die fighting.

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I'm realizing now that Hina telling Dongmae not to die and that she would be just as bad as him was her way of confessing in the previous episode.

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It was so sad and courageous to see the servants sacrifice themselves. I wish Aeshins maid and servant could have held hands for at least a second.

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A tough show to finish up but an important one. I've seen bits of the occupation times - most recently in Chicago Typewriter - but never the brutality of the takeover. I'm thinking I may try to watch something set right in the middle of these times next. Maybe Bridal Mask. I'm sure you guys will have suggestions.

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Bridal Mask is really good

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I'll recommend 2 movies, 암살Assassination and 밀정 The Age of Shadows. Both are describing resistance fighters, set in 1910's to 1930's colonized Korea, Manchuria and Japan. Both have a very strong cast, Jun Ji-hyun, Lee Jung-jae and Ha Jung-woo (Assassination), Kong Yoo, Lee Byung-hun and Song Kang-ho(The days of Shadows).

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Assassination is really good. I remember watching it on the plane and being totally engrossed by it.

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I`m too emotionally drained to even comment here..
but in this episode besides Hina`s sacrifice which was the highlight, I need to mention Ae shin`s crying scene on the carriage when she saw her master`s hand, awesome acting! and of course, the little smile that old man gave us after being shot. and Ms.Haman`s little romance at the end. not to forget, Eugene's mood boasting remarks. for Hui sung, I would wait for the 24th recap.

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I'm so impressed with the writing of Kim Eun-Sook, especially with Hina's storyarc. The way she built up the foreshadowing (Dong-mae's earlier piggyback plus his & Hina's previous beach scene) made Hina's final moments, while heartbreaking, also feel almost satisfying as if she had come full circle. I keep comparing this in my mind to Ann Patchett's novel "Bel Canto" which had a similar body count at the end but didn't give me the kind of resolution, unique to each character, which I felt they deserved.

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Losing Hina was devastating, for Dong-mae and for us viewers. Her confession made it that much more tragic. And when Dong-mae called her Yang-hwa, oh, it hit me right in the heart. If only they had more time together. Hina was tied with Dong-mae as my favorite character and to be honest her death makes it impossible for me to go back and re-watch episodes because I know she doesn't make it out alive. Between Hina's death and the death of the servants, well I feel like all my good memories of this show are now tainted.
But OF COURSE, Ae-shin survives. *rolls eyes* Of the five leads, I am least invested in Ae-shin. I mean it's fine that she survived, but killing my girl Hina! Not cool, Show. NOT COOL!

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Wow. WORST lover’s reunion ever. The yearning for an epic Aeshin-Eugene reunion after 3 years of being apart was met with a scene which fell so flat and was so unsatisfying that it is hard to put into words.

It seemed to me as if the writer and director were now strongly downplaying the romance to re-focus the audience on the Japanese oppression of Joseon.

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The image for the post is sort of a spoiler isn’t it...

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The part that broke my heart the most was the King having the New York Times read to him:
"What? Not even a mention of what's happening in our country? Not even one line?"
Nooooooo, we had no ideaaaaaaaaa *cries*
Also, thank God for the Internet.

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I feel for the king. :*(

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Reminds me of the movie A Taxi Driver, which takes place in 1980. The protesters in Gwangju were being killed. So the taxi driver's helped a German journalist who filmed and reported on the Gwangju massacre.

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Kim Min Jung stole the show and I could. not. stop. crying. I held my breath for most of the episode and copious tears were shed. Amazing.

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A question that kept nagging at me: Why didn't the Righteous Army take the guns, bullets, and horses from their enemies after a successful battle? They're worried about running out of bullets and their guns jamming. Why not replenish when they can?

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I agree. I think that's what the story lacks. I'll discuss more on this in the next ep's recap.

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yes I expected them to pick up the guns of the dead soldiers.

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I have many thoughts for the last 2 episodes but I’m waiting until the next recap is posted. This episode and the finale were by far the best of the whole series. I’m glad they rewarded us loyal viewers who stuck it out until the very end. I liked how they wrapped up the whole thing.

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I am glad that we had a sad ending. I wasn’t expecting a happy ending.

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Deleted my spoilery comment.

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I already expecting a sad ending from the beginning of the series but im glad that i put MS into my must watching list. I enjoyed the whole drama and looking forward to the last get together of Ae Shin's fan club (Eugene, Dong Mae & Hue Seong) and was really wishing that everyone will make it and alive till the end.

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"The emperor desperately asks if there is a single line about Joseon"
Sad just sad
That's the confirmation on the demise of Joseon.

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the floodgate is wide OPEN!!! 😢😢😢
So many heartbreaking moments and hearing the OSTs cued in, there is no way I can hold the tears.
It's not a good year for the Koreans, with all the death in the name of fighting Japan colonialist. I knew that the death is inevitable, but the PD do a great job in breaking my heart

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HINA!! (Korean netizens have agreed to call her Yang Hwa.) Yang Hwa will always be my favorite character. She is a total badass and role model. When Ae Shin realized, "You're planning on staying," I got chills. Ae Shin wasted a bullet on the fuse when the Righteous Army is low on bullets. I raged at that one colonel escaping the bomb because he had left the hotel to urinate. I cried when Yang Hwa wrote, "First and foremost, please watch over the girl who brought this letter to Your Majesty." She always takes care of her own. So they weren't just flirting. Yang Hwa was in love with Dong Mae. MaeHwa Couple (coined by Yoo Yeon Seok) was my ship. What does the Musin Society teach their members? Dong Mae has gone 1-on-20 TWICE and won both times.

Kim Tae Ri's sobbing is gut-wrenching. I was sobbing along with Ae Shin when she recognized Seung Gu's hand. Master-nim!! I can't bear to see her reaction to Haman-daek and Haengrang's deaths. It really got me when one of the palanquin bearers confessed, "We're scared too, so keep talking so we can relax a little." They've already accepted they were going to die tonight. I had a bad feeling Haengrang and Haman-daek would not be able to hold hands until the end. I've suspected since forever that the acupuncturist was not deaf-mute. That he had actually overheard everything Lee Wan Ik said. As soon as he revealed Ae Shin's plan to Commander Hasegawa, I knew it was a ruse and he had sacrificed himself.

Can I just say, I LOVE the pawn shop owners!! "Who's behind this?" Il Shik: "The people of Joseon." They played as big a role as anyone in this fight for freedom. I wish all the nurses left the hospital, so there would be no one to save the Japanese soldiers. I've loved the rickshaw puller ever since he worked for Yang Hwa.

I honestly will be disappointed if all most of them don't die tomorrow. This is not a happily-ever-after show. I expect the only characters to survive to be Joon Young and friends, so the youth can carry on the Righteous Army.

Thanks a million for recapping, @dramallama!

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Ha! MaeHwa couple! Love it! Thanks for sharing that behind-the-scenes video too, it was cute. I've noticed during his three massive fight scenes, Gu Dong-mae is a total BEAST. I've tried to get some screen captures and he literally is moving so fast in every frame it's a blur. For a show that has lots of long, still moments, their choice to make his battle style so raw and overpowering is distinctive. I'm reminded of Miyamoto Musashi, who also according to legend defeated up to 70 trained samurai in one famous duel and also pioneered the use of two swords at the same time.

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"What does the Musin Society teach their members? Dong Mae has gone 1-on-20 TWICE and won both times."
maybe that is how he became the leader of his own branch of Musin society, by being the best fighter

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Hina’s death was so sudden and I froze like Dongmae when Hina confessed her love to him. How could I never expect Hina to love Dongmae as a man. I seriously thought that she did everything for him out of friendship. “Be careful when you take a lady’s hand.” - Was that the start for Hina?! Now I really have to repeat all their scenes.

Dongmae, like Aeshin said to you before, “What must I do with you”!!!! ><

The moment this boy heard that Aeshin is alive and she knows that he’s also alive, he said he should go and deal with an important business “because it’s full moon soon”. Where to? The judo hall. What for? To take back his judo hall. Why? The judo hall is where Aeshin comes to make her payment. Now, that is important business for Dongmae. So important that he is willing to pay with his life in 10 days’ time. Sigh!

I think I can only pray for you, Dongmae. And to pray for myself so I can get over you quickly. I’m really scared how long will it take this time. It took me 1.5 years to get over Chilbong. Bad, bad Yoo Yeonseok!!!!

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I didn't expect Hina's confession but in hindsight I think her father's reaction to seeing Dongmae and Hina together was foreshadowing. Wan-ik saw Dongmae carrying her and immediately knew he had to try and get rid of Dongmae. He wanted to try to marry Hina off again for money so he wanted to eliminate any other love rivals.

Yes it will take a long time for us to get over Dongmae, why does Yoo Yeonseok keep breaking our hearts.

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Truly epic. Great production! Now I know more about Korean history than my own country's. Thank you for the recap dramallama. I too wondered if the Righteous Army flag and those kept under the ground by HS are found in some museum somewhere. Great pathos there. Hope the cast recover from this as well. Feeling honoured by their efforts; nearly all of them have lost weight by the last few episodes. Keep well everyone. Love this sharing, thoughtful, learning community here in DB. Till the next one. I hope the one that truly engages doesn't come too soon. Got to breathe and live in RL. A bubbly toast to all!

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Thank you for the synopsis. I didn’t understand some deeper meaning of some scenes and appreciated better after reading your post. This episode is too heart wrenching - so intense and sad. 😥

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