My Country: The New Age: Episode 11
The tension in the country continues to rise, as factions split and leaders make their plans to overthrow the king and gain power for themselves. Our heroes also take sides, depending on who they think can best help them get revenge on their greatest enemy. History will be decided on one small decision from the king, and once he makes it, the future of the country is set in stone.
EPISODE 11 RECAP
Lord Nam shows up at the bamboo grove to learn who’s been stealing his golden vases, and he’s shocked to see Hwi, alive after six years. Hwi offers to make a deal with Lord Nam — his golden vases returned, in exchange for control over a marketplace in front of the new palace in Hanyang.
Chuckling, Lord Nam says that that district is practically worthless, and besides, it’s owned by the king. He claims it’s impossible, but Hwi tells him to make it possible.
Lord Nam asks how Hwi’s feeling with the viper venom still poisoning his system, and Hwi just says he’s used to it by now. Lord Nam mentions Yeon and asks Hwi if he wants more people to die because of him, and Hwi carefully composes his expression before calmly asking for Lord Nam’s answer by tomorrow.
Hwi dismisses his men, then suddenly clutches his chest in pain. He continues on, limping heavily now, but after only a few steps he drops to one knee. He sees someone approaching, but before he figures out who it is, he passes out. Sun-ho stands over Hwi, wondering what he’s trying to do when he’s in such bad health.
Lord Nam does a background check on Hwi and learns that he’s been working as a smuggler, and he assumes that Hwi is in Hanyang to make connections in the new capital. The king’s health is deteriorating, and Lord Nam desperately needs those gold vases for a ceremony in which he and his followers will swear fealty by blood to Bang-seok, the crown prince.
He approaches King Taejo about building a marketplace just outside the palace, framing it as an opportunity to help the new capital prosper. King Taejo remarks that Lord Nam is growing greedy for money and will soon covet the throne, but he grants Lord Nam’s request.
Hwi wakes up in a physician’s office, and the doctor warns him that the medicine he’s using to suppress the symptoms from the venom are too hard on his body. He tells Hwi that he was brought there by a man with empty eyes.
Even though Sun-ho burned the sketch of Hwi from the witness, Sung-rok correctly guesses who it was. He warns Sun-ho not to make the same mistake again by protecting Hwi, but Sun-ho drawls, “The biggest mistake I’ve made was not doing anything because of my fear of making mistakes.” Sun-ho says that Hwi’s return changes nothing… his father took away what was most dear to him, so he’s going to return the favor. But first he needs to let Lord Nam have what he wants most — the country.
The next day, Hwi and Lord Nam meet again, and Lord Nam agrees to Hwi’s terms. He hands over a document giving Hwi the rights to the new marketplace, and Hwi returns the golden vases. After he’s gone, Lord Nam orders his men to get Hwi alone and kill him, but when they try, Hwi’s men jump out of hiding to dispatch the assassins.
With blood still on his face, Hwi heads to Ihwaru to join a meeting between Bang-won and his followers. They’re planning to attack the palace with Hee-jae’s help, and Bang-won says that all they need now is ammunition powerful enough to turn a revolt into a revolution.
Hwi says that Lord Nam will provide that ammunition with the blood ceremony he’s planning. He tells Bang-won that he’s got control of the marketplace, so they can hide their soldiers and weapons in anticipation of an ambush at Sajeong Gate.
We flash back to years ago, shortly after Yeon’s funeral. Hwi had limped into Bang-won’s home and told Bang-won that since he saved him he had to take responsibility, then he’d passed out on Bang-won’s shoulder. The prince had seen Hwi nursed back to health as much as possible, and he’d tried to convince Hwi not to push himself too hard. Hwi had said that Lord Nam isn’t afraid of death, so killing him isn’t enough – he plans to stomp all over the world that Lord Nam built.
In the present, Bang-won tells Hwi that Lord Nam wants a puppet king he can control, but that that’s exactly why Goryeo collapsed, so he’ll do whatever needs to be done to stop it from happening again. “History will write my name in blood,” he says with resignation. “But who cares?”
Hwi replies that he’s not interested in a nation or a great cause… all he wants is to destroy Lord Nam. Bang-won guesses that Hwi is planning to leave (in other words, die) once he accomplishes his goal, and he asks Hwi, on that day, to drink with him first.
While still on Ihwaru grounds, the venom overcomes Hwi and he stumbles. Hee-jae takes him to a room to re-bandage his wound, and she says that she knows nothing she can say will change his plans, but she hopes that he’s not hurt too much. She gently lays a hand on his shoulder, and he lets himself cover her hand with his.
Now that he has the golden vases, Lord Nam orders the royal family members summoned for the blood ceremony. Afterward, he plans to ask the king to step down and kill all the princes. He feels safe, because anyone wanting retribution will have to kill all the royal relatives first.
His henchman reminds him that they still haven’t won over the king’s step-nephew, Wanwon Buwongun. Lord Nam says that he’ll meet with him in person, but before he can get a meeting, Wanwon Buwongun is woken in the middle of the night by a bloody Sun-ho, standing over him menacingly.
Sun-ho tells Wanwon Buwongun to attend the blood ceremony and pledge his loyalty to Bang-seok with the rest of the royal family. He goes straight from there to a gibang to get roaring drunk, and when a gisaeng touches Yeon’s embroidery on his sword hilt, he cheerfully threatens to kill her.
Lord Nam interrupts Sun-ho’s little pity party to yell at Sun-ho for threatening a member of the royal family. He also informs Sun-ho that Hwi is back and he’s ordered his men to kill him, because he never leaves his enemies alive. He warns Sun-ho that he’s about to become his next enemy, but Sun-ho snarls that Lord Nam is already his enemy.
Later, Sun-ho waits for Hwi, and says that he’s surprised that he’s back yet his father is still alive. Hwi admits that he hates that he can only kill Lord Nam once, so he plans to ensure that he dies in the most painful way possible.
Sun-ho gives Hwi a light whack to the torso, and Hwi is so weakened by the venom that he falls to his knees. Sounding like he’s choking back tears, Sun-ho says that Hwi won’t succeed in this state, but Hwi growls that this is his only reason for living. Sun-ho says that he wants his father to be remembered as such a horrible traitor that he was killed by his own son.
Struggling to his feet, Hwi screams that he doesn’t care about that. He says that he will die on the day Sun-ho’s father dies, and he asks Sun-ho not to stop him.
Soon, the market outside the palace gates is up and running. Dressed as peddlers, Chi-do, Jang Beom, and Moon-bok arrive with a cart full of heavy crates, and Chi-do tells Hwi that the shipments are arriving right on time. Hwi has Moon-bok give him more medicine for his venom symptoms, though Moon-bok also warns him that the medicine is much too dangerous and says that this is the last time he’s providing it.
In a storage shed, the guys inspect the crates, which turn out to be full of weapons for Bang-won’s revolt. Hwi again vows to destroy the world Lord Nam has built, and Chi-do asks if he plans to die once he has his revenge. He gently reminds Hwi that there are people who consider him precious, in the same way that he considered Yeon precious.
At the training grounds where he teaches prospective soldiers, Chi-do finds a peasant boy who he’s previously turned down for being too young. The boy says that he’s going to stick to Chi-do until he lets him join the army (his family needs the rice allotment), so Chi-do decides to give him a little slash with a real sword to show him what he’s in for, and hopefully scare him off.
The boy stands firm, saying that it’s all the same, starving to death or being slashed to death. Chi-do is just about to cut him when two men show up, both of whom wear the snack tattoo on their hands, so he leaves with them.
Moon-bok keeps a safe full of money and valuables at Ihwaru, which he visits occasionally. Hwa-wol pouts that he doesn’t even say hello to her before checking his safe, and her upset flies completely over his head.
Cheonga has been working as a double agent, reporting back to Bang-gan about Bang-won’s business, including the fact that he temporarily had custody of the golden vases Hwi was stealing. He tells Bang-gan that Bang-won will be out tonight, and Bang-gan insists on doing his own spying.
He’s pretty terrible, making all kinds of noise as he “sneaks” into Bang-won’s home. He finds the document giving Seo Hwi the rights to the new marketplace, then Bang-won catches him. Bang-won uses his fan as a weapon (which is incredibly sexy), and Bang-gan pretends that he thought Bang-won was a thief, HA.
The brothers discuss the fact that Lord Nam will try to kill them as soon as he completes the blood ceremony. Bang-won wants Bang-gan to attend the blood ceremony on behalf of the older princes, to incite Lord Nam to attack first and provide them justification to kill him.
Bang-gan correctly guesses that Bang-won also intends to kill Bang-seok, though Bang-won denies it. Bang-gan sneers that their father claimed not to have designs on the throne either, until he did. He agrees to do as Bang-won says, but only with a written promise from Bang-won not to kill him.
Just as Hwi is storing his final shipment of weapons, Bang-gan approaches him like a long-lost friend, though Hwi has no idea who he is, ha. Bang-gan introduces himself and invites Hwi to call him “Hyung,” and he says he admires Hwi’s swordsmanship. Hwi tells him he’s go the wrong person, and Bang-gan suddenly gets very serious.
He attacks, and Hwi defends himself with only his scabbard. He draws his sword only to slice halfway through Bang-gan’s sash, and Bang-gan says that this is why he wants to make Hwi his man. He notes broadly that a marketplace is a great spot to hide things, especially so close to the palace, and as he leaves, he thinks that Hwi’s swordsmanship feels familiar…
The new Minister of Military Affairs (the husband of the woman Hee-jae was planning with earlier) goes back on his promise to give Hee-jae control over the signal fires, so Hee-jae personally confronts him. She warns that she can take him down as fast as she had him appointed, and she demands that he place her people in the positions she wants or else.
Lord Nam’s blood ceremony takes place as planned, with the royal family members all swearing blood fealty to the crown prince (including Bang-gan, who makes the teeniest cut possible on his pinky finger, ha). At the same time, Sun-ho reports to King Taejo about the ceremony, and that Lord Nam plans to ask the king to step down. King Taejo knows that this will leave Lord Nam free to control Bang-seok, and that Bang-won will try to kill him.
Sun-ho suggests that King Taejo set up a battlefield for Lord Nam and Bang-won to kill each other, first. King Taejo sighs that no father would kill his own son, but Sun-ho counters that there are sons who kill their fathers. King Taejo decides to see if Sun-ho is right before making a decision.
Together with his closest supporters, Lord Nam goes to speak with the king. However, before they make their demands, King Taejo confronts Lord Nam about his blood ceremony. Lord Nam is ready with a plausible explanation — that the ceremony was simply to ask the heavens to watch over the king, and vowing loyalty to the crown prince is a good thing.
The king doesn’t believe him, and when Lord Nam implies that he should step down, King Taejo asks Bang-won what he thinks. Bang-won answers with silence, and the king collapses. Bang-won is the first one at his side, and he shoots Lord Nam a death glare before leading his father out.
As everyone holds vigil outside the king’s bedroom, Bang-won accuses Lord Nam of causing the king’s sickness. Lord Nam claims to be grief-stricken (Bang-gan’s eyeroll, hee), and Bang-won says that they’ve gone from comrades to mortal enemies. Lord Nam clarifies that they’ve never been comrades, they only shared a common enemy.
Bang-won says that he thought of Lord Nam as the king’s dog and lower than even Sambong, but now he thinks he was wrong. Lord Nam asks how Bang-won sees him now, but Bang-won just stares at him darkly.
The king sits up late, remembering Queen Sindeok on her deathbed. She’d accused him of prioritizing Bang-won and Lord Nam over her and her sons, and had said that she could clearly see her sons’ deaths. King Taejo had promised that wouldn’t happen, but when Queen Sindeok demanded he eliminate Bang-won and Lord Nam, King Taejo had refused to make that promise.
Queen Sindeok had died screaming that King Taejo’s protection of Bang-won and Lord Nam would mean the deaths of her sons, and that when they died, so would he. Now, he orders Bang-seok and Sun-ho brought to him, and he warns Bang-seok that if he becomes king, either Bang-won will kill him, or he’ll be forced to submit to Lord Nam.
Bang-seok begs his father to save him, and King Taejo decides that Sun-ho was right about setting up a situation where Bang-won and Lord Nam can destroy each other. But he doesn’t want to watch the confrontation, so Sun-ho says to leave everything to him.
Lord Nam moves up his plan to strike at the princes while he has the power. Gyeol stops his messenger on the road and brings the summons for assassins to Hee-jae, who in turn gives it to Hwi. Hwi knows that without assassins, Lord Nam will have to use palace guards instead, which is justification for Bang-won to attack Lord Nam.
Hwi goes straight to Lord Nam and tells him that his assassins won’t be arriving. He says that the only way for Lord Nam to survive what’s coming is to pledge loyalty to him and run around like a dog like he did. But Lord Nam vows that he’ll never serve Hwi, so Hwi tells him to watch and see how he destroys his world.
Sun-ho tells King Taejo that Lord Nam has made the first move. True to his word not to watch what’s coming, King Taejo leaves the capital to hole up in a nearby temple. Hwi warns Bang-won that Lord Nam is coming for them, but Bang-won knows that his father leaving is a signal to him and Lord Nam to settle this between them.
He still believes that no father would set up his son to die, so he wants to ask King Taejo personally. While he and Tae-ryong head to the temple, Hwi stays behind to dispatch the men Lord Nam has watching them. He runs into Sung-rok, who was watching the watchers.
Sung-rok wonders what’s so great about their friendship that Sun-ho hasn’t killed Hwi yet. He tries it himself, and just as Hwi is weakened by the venom in his system, Jang Beom, Moon-bok, and Chi-do pop out of the shadows to prevent Sung-rok from damaging Hwi’s pretty face, ha. Realizing that he’s outnumbered, Sung-rok leaves, grumbling that he’ll see Hwi again before dawn.
Bang-won arrives at the temple, and King Taejo tells him that he’s worried about Lord Nam’s recent actions. Bang-won asks who he is to King Taejo, a subject or a son. King Taejo says that as a king, Bang-won was a knife and a shield, but as a father, he’s merely the fifth of eight sons.
He assures Bang-won that he’ll be proud of what he does to Lord Nam, and says that maybe it will even make him a crown prince. Looking terribly sad, Bang-won asks how long King Taejo will keep using him. The king claims he’s never given Bang-won an order, but Bang-won knows how King Taejo makes vague statements about his enemies to avoid taking the blame, and he says he desperately regrets the decisions he’s made.
He performs a deep bow, then tells his father, “All the blood and tears that will be shed from now on will start from you, so do not regret or resent it.”
Bang-won exits the temple to find Hwi waiting with his men. Hwi sees the look on Bang-won’s face and says simply, “You did well.” Bang-won thinks about all the times he just wanted to hear those words from his father but never did, and he barks this heartbroken laugh.
Then his expression grows hard, and he gives the order to destroy the bridge, trapping his father in the temple and severing their connection forever.
It’s in the small moments that history is made, and whether or not a final conversation between Bang-won and King Taejo happened at all, I love how the show gives us these beats that really illustrate how the people who really lived through these times must have been feeling. We do know that in real life, Bang-won felt used by his father and slighted by not being made crown prince as a reward for everything he did to help King Taejo establish his new country. I like seeing My Country‘s version of Bang-won give his father one more chance to admit that he used him, because although we know how history turned out, it still feels like King Taejo could have prevented everything with a simple, “You did well, son.” But he clung to his protested innocence, and altered the future of the country forever.
One thing this show does very well (among many) is how nearly every episode ends with the feeling that something huge and world-changing is looming just over the horizon. The stakes continue to rise, and even though historically we know what’s going to happen, the show manages to instill a sense of dread because we don’t know how these versions are going to enact the sequence of events, or react to them afterward. Also, it was smart for the show to insert fictional characters so deeply among the historical ones, because while we know what Bang-won is planning and how things will work out for him, we don’t know how Hwi and Sun-ho will impact the situation, or how the events will change them. It allows for some unpredictability in the storytelling, so that we’re not just watching the same historical events we’ve seen in other dramas and movies play out with different actors.
That said, I have two complaints about My Country that also have to do with the storytelling style. The first is that the characters have a habit of discussing upcoming events without explaining what they are or why they’re important. And it happens that way with nearly every major plot point — the characters discuss something for an episode or so before the audience is told why we should care. It’s very hard to write about this critical blood ceremony, for example, when I have no idea what it is or how it will impact events for an entire episode and a half. And the second complaint is that the show often breaks the “show, don’t tell” rule of storytelling. It manages to hide this pretty well behind all the exciting and well-choreographed fight scenes, but for the most part, all of the most interesting political maneuvering has happened offscreen and we’re told about it later. The worst offense is Hee-jae — almost her entire story has happened offscreen, and all we’ve gotten to see her do is pine over Hwi. I was so excited to have a smart, capable, strong female character… and yet, we don’t get to see any of that.
There is something that confuses me, and it’s not a complaint really, just an observation. I completely understand that both Sun-ho and Hwi want Lord Nam dead, and for much the same reasons — for Yeon’s death, and in Sun-ho’s case, for his mother. I even understand why they feel that simply killing him isn’t enough, and that they want to make him suffer the loss of the thing he wants most before he dies, like he made them suffer. What I don’t understand is why they’re not willing to work together on this. Yes, they have a terribly painful history, and I think that they’re too damaged to etruly repair their friendship. But they’ve worked together before, and before Yeon’s death, they were on their way back to trusting each other, so why can’t they team up now? Or, well, maybe they do team up… maybe their rapidly approaching confrontation on the night of Bang-won’s coup will turn out to be something they set up together as a distraction tactic. Or maybe not, maybe Hwi will be ready to kill Lord Nam that night, and Sun-ho tries to stop him because his plans aren’t complete. I just know that Lord Nam needs to die, and I’d hate to see their revenge fail because they couldn’t agree on what it should look like or who gets to strike the final blow.
- Premiere Watch: Tale of Nokdu, Extraordinary You, My Country: The New Age
- Jang Hyuk explores humanistic side of bloodthirsty prince in My Country
- Yang Se-jong, Woo Do-hwan, Seolhyun prepare for a new world in character stills for JTBC sageuk My Country
- Woo Do-hwan, Seolhyun character teasers for Goryeo drama My Country
- Warrior Yang Se-jong to protect his loved ones in My Country
- Jang Hyuk, Seolhyun join JTBC sageuk My Country
- Woo Do-hwan to join Yang Se-jong in JTBC’s sageuk, My Country