My Country: The New Age: Episode 10
We’re beginning to catch up to where the show started, and all the pieces are falling into place, leading us to the final battle between the deadly enemies who used to be the best of friends. A devastating loss cements their deviated paths, and their actions will affect the future of their entire country.
EPISODE 10 RECAP
On Lord Nam’s orders, palace guards pursue Hwi and Yeon, and one of them pierces Yeon through the chest with his sword when Hwi’s arrow is just a second too late. Hwi catches Yeon as she falls, and she gasps that she’s not in pain. She begs Hwi not to suffer anymore because of her, and she looks to Hee-jae, as if asking her to watch over him.
Yeon asks about Sun-ho, and Hwi assures her that he’s fine. His friends arrive in time to hear Yeon tell Hwi that she was happy to be his sister, and then she’s gone. Time stops, and Hwi looks confused for a long moment, as if he can’t understand what’s happening. He sobs Yeon’s name over and over, then he throws back his head and howls.
Suddenly, Hwi’s face goes blank, and something dark and hard enters his eyes. He gently lays Yeon down and picks up the guard’s dropped sword. Hee-jae begs him not to do what he’s thinking or he’ll die, but he doesn’t acknowledge her, he just starts running.
In town, he steals the first horse he sees and gallops straight to Lord Nam’s home. Before he can attack Lord Nam, Hwi collapses, desperately sick from his festering stab wound. Lord Nam reveals that the dagger’s blade was poisoned, and when Hwi screams wordlessly, he croons that Hwi is the one who got Yeon killed by breaking his promise.
Hwi asks why Yeon died if he’s the one who broke the promise, and Lord Nam says it’s because this is more painful. He picks up Hwi’s dropped sword, saying that he’s trampled on the corpses of countless enemies, and asks how Hwi could possibly believe he can take him down.
He reminds Hwi how he brought him his father’s body and begged him to bury it, and asks who will bury Yeon if he dies. He raises the sword… and a voice bellows for him to stop. Ohthankgoodness, it’s Bang-won, who threatens to kill Lord Nam if he doesn’t drop the sword.
Lord Nam asks why Bang-won would risk his life for Hwi. Bang-won says simply, “He is my man. He protected me, so now I must protect him.” Lord Nam lowers his sword, although he makes it clear that it’s only because Bang-won outranks him. Bang-won tells Lord Nam that if he lays a finger on Hwi, “I will shred you to pieces with all the swords that I own. This is how I protect my people, and how I live.”
In a flashback, we see Hwi’s father, Seo Geom, testing a young Bang-won in swordsmanship. He decides that Bang-won isn’t qualified to be his student, and when Bang-won says he’s only a “pretty good” swordsman, he offers to prove just how good he is. He has Bang-won shoot arrows at him, which he dodges while running at Bang-won until he’s close enough to knock the bow from his hands.
He slams his practice sword into Bang-won’s stomach, then asks why he didn’t try to avoid the blow. Bang-won says that he didn’t think Seo Geom would accept him as his student if he did, and Seo Geom relents. Bang-won asks if he’s his first student, but Seo Geom says that his first student is his son, and Bang-won admits that he’s jealous of that boy.
As Hwi lies unconscious outside Lord Nam’s home, his friends catch up and check that he’s alive. Chi-do tells Bang-won that they’ll take care of him, and Bang-won says to make sure Hwi recovers.
At the hideout, Moon-bok is horrified by how much Hwi’s stab wound has worsened. He identifies the poison as venom from a deadly pit viper, and Chi-do says that they have to save Hwi no matter what.
Hee-jae is still with Yeon’s body when Sun-ho finishes fighting the remaining guards and stumbles to the meeting place. He looks at Hee-jae questioningly, as if he can’t believe what his eyes are telling him, and she tells him, “Yeon waited for you until her last breath.” Sun-ho collapses, sobbing, his grief every bit as intense and palpable as Hwi’s.
By the time Hee-jae makes it back to the hideout, Moon-bok is finishing up surgery on Hwi’s wound. She asks if he’ll live, but Moon-bok says that’s up to him. She stays up with him, and at one point in the night Hwi wakes and tries to get to his sword. His hands are too weak to hold it, and he screams again, half-delirious from pain and grief. Kneeling beside him, Hee-jae says that before he looks for vengeance, they need to see Yeon off properly.
In the morning, Hwi is somewhat recovered. He says goodbye to Yeon alone, and as he sobs, he remembers how he bought her those too-big shoes years ago. He slides them onto her feet, where they now fit, and he tells her that he hopes they take her to a good place where she can see everything she always wanted to see.
They build a pyre, and as Yeon’s body is burned, Hee-jae looks very worried for Hwi. Sun-ho watches from a distance as Hwi scatters Yeon’s ashes into the river. At home, he goes to Yeon’s old room, where he finds a piece of embroidery with his name and a crane. He recalls the time Yeon told him to cry on her shoulder if he needs to cry, and his sorrow overwhelms him.
At the palace, Queen Sindeok sees a royal physician for an illness that she’s been covering up for quite some time. She asks how much time she has left, and his silence speaks louder than words. Later, she hosts a tea party for the royal ministers, but only Lord Nam attends.
She orders Lord Nam to summon them, but he grumbles that he’s been royally forbidden from associating with the crown prince, so his supporters are distancing themselves from him, and the others have joined with Bang-won. She tosses a list of the ministers’ weaknesses at him and orders him to win them back.
Lord Nam rips up the list and says that the only way Bang-seok will gain the throne is for her to kneel to Bang-won, letting the king and the people see her as a mother willing to do anything to save her son. Lord Nam says it will buy her time for Bang-seok to grow up and him to regain power. He adds that it’s the best use of what little time she has left, revealing that he knows she’s dying.
The queen goes to Bang-won’s home on the anniversary of his mother’s death, claiming that she came to pay her respects. She refers to Bang-won’s mother as a queen, and he reminds her coldly that she’s the one who said his mother couldn’t be honored as a queen since she died before the new country was founded.
Queen Sindeok claims that she was only following custom, and Bang-won asks if that’s the same custom that allows a concubine to become queen and an illegitimate son to become crown prince. The queen says that she’s asked King Taejo to make Bang-won one of the founding contributors, and she promises to be a good mother to Bang-won in the future.
He asks if a good mother would try to assassinate her son. There’s nothing that Queen Sindeok can say to that, so she drops to her knees and pleads for another chance. Bang-won tells her that if she admits her wrongdoings in front of the people and steps down as queen, then he’ll simply have Bang-seok deposed and not killed.
She snaps at him angrily, and Bang-won says that she only cares about Bang-seok, but he’s willing to cause a bloodbath to create a strong foundation for the kingdom, “So don’t you dare denounce me.” The queen gasps incredulously that he’d still kill her son even after she begs for mercy.
Hwa-wol brings some supplies to Hee-jae at the hideout, and Hee-jae can tell by her expression that something is wrong. They run together back to Ihwaru, where Lady Seo is obviously on her deathbed (though she’s still strong enough to fuss at Hwa-wol for not keeping a secret, awww). Lady Seo says weakly that she’s going to a lovely place where she doesn’t have to wear a heavy hairpiece or worry about Ihwaru, the place where her old friend, Hee-jae’s mother, is waiting for her.
She tells Hee-jae that when she meets her mother, she’ll tell her that her daughter grew up to be a fine, beautiful woman, and Hee-jae breaks down in tears. Lady Seo asks to sit up, and she gives Hee-jae a letter. Hee-jae reads it out loud — it’s an official document naming her as head of Ihwaru, and asking the employees to support her and protect Ihwaru. Before Hee-jae finishes reading, Lady Seo slumps over, and they realize that she’s passed on.
Overcome by grief over Yeon’s death, Sun-ho tries to obtain drugs to help him forget the loss of the one person who liked and trusted him. Sung-rok tosses Sun-ho his sword in disgust, and the next day, Sun-ho stands in front of his father, sword at his side and the embroidery that Yeon made tied to its scabbard.
He says that he must have looked ridiculous, running around like a silly boy. He says that he wants a world where all death is meaningless: “I will rise to the top of that world and look down as you die a meaningless death.” Lord Nam actually looks impressed, saying that Sun-ho has finally overcome his mother’s lowly blood.
The hideout is empty when Hee-jae eventually returns. Hwi is at the beach where they scattered Yeon’s ashes, and he walks into the water, intending to end his pain. But a tiny butterfly flits over to land on his shoulder, and Hwi nods, saying, “Okay, Yeon. I’ll stay a little longer. Just a little longer.”
When Hee-jae arrives at the riverbank, Hwi is gone.
Six years later, 1398. The First Strife of the Princes
Bang-won has finally disbanded his private army, but Lord Nam tells his followers that Bang-won could still attack at any moment. He believes that the king should abdicate the throne to Bang-seok, so he’s had his men pledge loyalty to the crown prince in writing, and he hatches a plan to dethrone King Taejo.
A mysterious man in black attacks three men in the dark of night. He kills them and steals the golden vases they were carrying, which are stamped with Lord Nam’s familiar flower emblem.
Bang-won and Lord Nam visit with the king, who’s heard about Lord Nam’s nickname of “king in a gat.” Lord Nam tells him it’s just a rumor, but Bang-won pipes up that Lord Nam is gaining a lot of powerful followers. Lord Nam hits back, saying that he heard a rumor that Bang-won will be the next king, and Bang-won replies with the equivalent of “He who said it, spread it.”
King Taejo warns them that he’s not planning to die, and that if he hears any talk of abdication, that person’s entire family will be torn to pieces. Outside, Bang-won sighs that the king should live a long life on the throne, and that the thought must make Lord Nam nervous.
Lord Nam is informed that a second group of men carrying golden vases were killed and the vases stolen. He thinks there’s a leak among his closest followers, and the only one not in the room is the Assistant Director of the Privy Council. That’s because he’s been killed by Sun-ho, who brings his bloody ID back to Lord Nam and says he wants to finish this himself.
He knows that there’s a third shipment of golden vases coming in from Ming today, and that another slaughter will probably happen. Lord Nam tells him not to worry about it, but Sun-ho says he has to if they’re going to be successful at dethroning the king.
Bang-won waits to talk to Sun-ho, and he notes that Sun-ho is turning out just like his father — willing to trample whoever gets in the way of his quest for power, even his best friend and his sister. Sun-ho retorts that he and Bang-won are a lot alike… they both plan to kill their fathers and take their power. Bang-won says that he would never kill his father, and Sun-ho grins that maybe they’re different after all.
That night, a group of slave traders lock several women in a shed at the docks, planning to have them transported to Ming for sale. They have the gold vases stored there too, and they figure that on a stormy night like this, only a crazy person would attack them.
Right on cue, the crazy person arrives… Hwi, who tells them calmly that none of them will survive before killing them all within seconds. Inside the shed, he tosses the women a knife to cut their ropes. One of the women stops to nod her thanks to Hwi before leaving with the others.
As he’s dragging away the crate of vases, Hwi hears something that sends him hiding in a corner. Sun-ho enters the shed, and the two fight in the dark. They both execute a unique move they’ve used on each other before, giving them a clue as to who they may be fighting. Hwi slices Sun-ho’s torso just enough to give him time to grab the crate of vases and run.
Lord Nam learns that the vases were stolen again, and that the Minister of Military Affairs was killed in the attack. He’s livid, needing those gold vases for a blood ceremony pledging allegiance to the royal family.
Hwi’s friends have all moved up in the world in the last few years. Moon-bok is an army physician, and OMG, his teeth are gorgeous! Jang Beom is a high-ranking officer, and Chi-do tests prospective soldiers to determine who is accepted into the ranks. Cheonga comes to harass Moon-bok and Jang Beom periodically, just to remind them that he’s watching them.
Bang-won’s brother Bang-gan visits Moon-bok and Jang Beom, and tells them to let Hwi know he wants to talk to him. He goes in to speak to Bang-won privately, bringing a gift that he claims is a valuable hundred-year-old wild ginseng, but Bang-won recognizes it as balloon flower root.
Bang-gan is curious about what Bang-won knows about Lord Nam’s disappearing gold vases, as he notices a locked box in the corner of the room. Bang-won just tells Bang-gan to mind his own business and disband his private army before the king has him executed. He offers to ensure Bang-gan’s survival, if only he kneels to him.
Moon-bok visits the new location of Ihwaru, which is larger and grander than the old one. He finds Hwa-wol, who doesn’t recognize him at first, so he shows her his fancy new toothbrush and flashes his pearly whites at her. Hwa-wol swoons, noticing that Moon-bok is actually pretty cute now that he’s clean and his breath smells nice.
She takes tea in to Hee-jae, who is entertaining a couple of female guests. She mentions Lord Nam and how she’s gotten rid of all his political opponents, and Hwa-wol casually mentions the way Hee-jae quelled gossip about one of the ladies’ many affairs and settled the other’s gambling debts.
One lady (they’re probably wives of high-ranked officials) asks what she wants, and Hee-jae says she wants control of the signal fire soldiers and policies of the Ministry of War. The lady says it’s an unimportant post, but Hee-jae counters that sometimes, even an unimportant post becomes important.
Later, Hee-jae sights Hwi in the marketplace. He also sees her, and for a moment they stare at each other, both looking infinitely sad. Then Hwi hardens his expression and walks by without glancing at Hee-jae again.
Lord Nam is angry that the person stealing the golden vases still hasn’t been caught. He finds a box on his desk, and inside are a single golden vase and a letter instructing him to come to the bamboo grove this afternoon to meet the culprit.
Meanwhile, Sung-rok catches the woman that Hwi freed on the night he fought with Sun-ho, and brings her to Sun-ho. He has her describe the man she saw to an artist, but the resulting sketch doesn’t look familiar. Sun-ho tells her that she has one more chance to tell the truth or her whole family will be slaughtered, and this time, the artist’s drawing is obviously Hwi.
Lord Nam goes to the bamboo grove that afternoon with several guards, but they’re surrounded by armed men so Lord Nam is forced to go on alone. He approaches the man waiting in the grove, and when he turns around, Lord Nam gapes to see Hwi alive.
I can feel it coming — the blood, the death, and allll the heartbreak. Hwi and Sun-ho are both careening towards destruction, which was exactly my fear after Yeon was killed. Yeon’s death was a devastating blow to everyone who loved her, and a lot has changed since then, and not in good ways. And even though it’s been years now, her murder was just the beginning of an upcoming slaughter that will change history and the lives of an entire people.
I’m a bit confused again, this time by whatever is going on with the golden vases and why Hwi is stealing them, but here’s what I took from it: The golden vases are for an upcoming ceremony, and from Hee-jae’s comment about Lord Nam being “confirmed,” I think that’s what the ceremony is for. Without the vases, the ceremony can’t happen, and the king’s confidence in Lord Nam will be damaged. Hwi is probably stealing the vases on Bang-won’s behalf, to break the relationship between Lord Nam and the royal family, while Sun-ho is trying to stop the thefts. What I don’t understand is how the golden vases feature in Lord Nam’s plans to dethrone King Taejo.
I have to stop here to give all the credit to Ahn Nae-sang for his portrayal of Lord Nam. To be honest, he’s always been an actor I could give or take in any given role, though I see him often because he’s in a lot of my favorite dramas (and I just now remembered that he acted with Yang Se-jong in Temperature of Love!). But here he’s taken a character that could easily have been a mustache-twirling stereotype, because Lord Nam is pretty unrelentingly horrible, and he’s given Lord Nam a lot of character and nuance that make him not just evil, but interestingly evil. He makes these wonderful microexpressions where you can read exactly what Lord Nam is thinking, like when Bang-won ordered him not to kill Hwi, and his eyes darted around like he was both confused, and also quickly weighing his options.
But anyway, it’s turned out exactly as I feared — without Yeon to give Hwi and Sun-ho something innocent and pure to protect and cherish, they’ve both gone off the deep end. I wasn’t surprised that they both tried to end their pain, though in different ways, and I expected them to realize that they still have a reason to live, if only to get revenge. I am sad that they have gone such different ways when they really should be working together to take down Lord Nam. They may not be friends anymore, but I don’t think that either of them wants to be enemies, either. I do think that their reluctance to kill each other when they fought sheds some light on the scene from the top of the series, where they have their deadly clash. Hwi says that he’s there to kill Lord Nam, and Sun-ho retorts that he can’t let him do that, but I have a feeling that Sun-ho doesn’t mean, “I can’t let you kill my father.” I think he means, “I can’t let you kill my father, because I’m going to.” The one thing that is clear is that Hwi and Sun-ho still care about each other enough that they don’t want each other dead. When they fought, Hwi didn’t kill Sun-ho when he could have, while Sun-ho looks devastated to have confirmation that Hwi is, in fact, the man he clashed swords with that night, and I’m anxious just thinking about what he’s going to do with that information.
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