My Country: The New Age: Episode 16 (Final)
After so many years of misunderstandings and betrayals, our heroic friends once again share a common enemy and a common goal. They finally get a chance to repair all of the hurt between them, giving each other the strength to do what must be done. One final betrayal requires a sacrifice to be made, and at last, they discover what’s really worth fighting for.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Bang-won allows Hwi to take Sun-ho from his house, in return for Hwi’s promise to forget everything Bang-won did to him and his father and not to seek revenge. Sun-ho complains weakly that Hwi keeps making it hard for him to die, but Hwi says he’ll keep them both alive.
After they’re gone, Jung Beom goes to Bang-won and asks if he really killed Hwi’s father. Considering the circumstances, he resigns his position as Bang-won’s guard, and Bang-won stops Tae-ryong from killing Jung Beom on the spot. On his way out, Jung Beom decides to take loyal Sung-rok’s body with him.
Sun-ho asks Hwi why he saved him after saying they should go their separate ways. Hwi says their bond is too strong, and that they’re in this mess because they tried to sever it. He half-carries Sun-ho all the way to Ihwaru, where he hovers as Moon-bok patches up Sun-ho’s wounds and eventually announces that he’ll live.
As Hwi watches over Sun-ho, he remembers how Yeon once told him, “Don’t ever lose Sun-ho, no matter what happens. He was the only one that held our hands when everyone else treated us like ghosts.” Hwi promises Yeon again that he will never lose Sun-ho.
He finds Hee-jae and says that he’ll take Sun-ho somewhere else as soon as he wakes up, but she says that Ihwaru is the safest place for him. She tells Hwi that Taejo recently visited all of his father’s old friends, intending to launch a coup against Bang-won.
Meanwhile, Bang-won will probably kill Hwi and Sun-ho once he’s made crown prince, so Hee-jae tells Hwi to leave. Hwi says there’s got to be another way and that he won’t go anywhere without her. They go for a walk through a festively-lit marketplace, and Hee-jae starts to say something about being together on the first snowfall, but she stops herself, as if she knows something.
It begins to rain so they seek shelter under an awning. Hee-jae notes that this is the fourth time it’s rained when they were together, and when Hwi is surprised she remembers that, she teases him that he’s the one who remembers every day they’ve shared.
Hwi kisses her and tells her she was always in his dreams, and that he remembers even the nightmarish times as happy because of her. Pulling Hee-jae close, Hwi says, “You’ll always be my dream, until my last breath.”
As Bang-won contemplates his sword, he remembers the day he and Tae-ryong met. Tae-ryong had been trying to kill him, and as he’d fought to reach him, Bang-won had thought that he wanted Tae-ryong as his man. He says that he felt the same way when he first saw Hwi, though he wonders if Hwi was ever really his.
Tae-ryong warns Bang-won not to waver — Hwi and Sun-ho tried to kill him, so if he lets them live, he’ll be a laughingstock. Bang-won remembers how his father had taunted him about knowing Seo Geom in front of Hwi, and he makes his decision. He says that once he’s confirmed as crown prince, “The bloodbath will begin.”
When Sun-ho wakes, Jung Beom is watching over him. He tells Sun-ho that he gave Sung-rok a proper burial, and Sun-ho holds his friend’s sword and cries.
King Jeongjong approaches Taejo with his plan to adopt Bang-won and make him crown prince. Taejo is furious, but he stamps the proposal with his royal seal, warning King Jeongjong bitterly that there will be dire consequences.
Sun-ho visits Sung-rok’s gravesite and thanks his friend for everything. When Hwi goes looking for Sun-ho later, all he finds is Sung-rok’s sword sitting on top of the stone cairn. Hwi goes to Bang-won and offers to talk to his father’s former men and convince them not to be used by Taejo, believing it’s the only way for himself, Bang-won, and Sun-ho to live.
Bang-won wonders why Hwi isn’t asking why he killed Seo Geom, but Hwi says he promised to forget the past. Ignoring him, Bang-won says he falsely accused Seo Geom of corruption and bribed the deputy leader of the Black Snake Unit to give false testimony, all because he feared Seo Geom.
Hwi bellows at him to stop, shaking with fury. He snarls that he chose not to kill Bang-won in order to protect his loved ones, not because of Bang-won himself. Bang-won tells Hwi, “Then hate and resent me, so that I can kill you.”
Reminding Bang-won to keep his promise (not to hurt his people), Hwi turns to go. Bang-won says that ultimately he failed to make Hwi his, but Hwi fires back that ultimately, Bang-won won’t have anyone’s loyalty. After he’s gone, Bang-won whispers with tears in his eyes, “So I have no choice but to destroy everything?”
Hwi takes Chi-do with him to see his father’s people, and on the way, they’re ambushed by assassins. They’re outnumbered, but luckily Sun-ho shows up to help. They stop to camp for the night, and while Hwi is out looking for food, Chi-do tells Sun-ho that it’s okay to show when he’s in pain, though he’s not talking about physical wounds.
Hwi muses that Hwi has a lot of wonderful people around him, but Chi-do says that to Hwi, Sun-ho is his number one, and that he knows Sun-ho feels the same way about Hwi. He tells Sun-ho that Seo Geom had asked him to take care of his children but he was sent to war the day before Seo Geom died, and that Hwi and Yeon only survived because of Sun-ho.
Hwi returns, joking that Chi-do and Hwi will fall in love if they keep talking like this, hee. As they crack chestnuts, Sun-ho says he doesn’t trust Bang-won, who sees people as swords to be used then discarded when they’re no longer useful. Hwi agrees, but he wants to believe that Bang-won was sincere about building a “country for the abandoned.”
Sun-ho grumbles that Hwi hasn’t changed, he’s still too gullible and trusting. Sun-ho says that Sun-ho hasn’t changed either — he complains, yet he still helps.
Back in town, Tae-ryong asks Bang-won how many they’re to kill. Bang-won sets his blood-soaked fan on fire, and as he watches it slowly burn, he says, “Kill them all. All of them.” Tae-ryong goes to see Cheonga, who’s still locked up and assumes he’s finally going to be disposed of… but instead, Tae-ryong tosses him his weapons.
Chi-do leads Hwi and Sun-ho to a remote village where he’d planned to train kids in swordsmanship, where Seo Geom’s people now stay. Sun-ho notes that it looks more like a fort, and Chi-do tells Sun-ho that he’s observant (Hwi: “He should at least be smart…” LOL). When Chi-do introduces Hwi as Seo Geom’s son, the people gather around him in awe.
Hwi asks Chi-do what exactly his father did, and Chi-do explains that Seo Geom took in the injured and abandoned during the war, and that they gathered and built this village, calling it “Captain Seo’s country.” For the first time since his father died, Hwi holds his head up with pride.
Later, the leaders hold a meeting with Chi-do and Hwi while Sun-ho waits outside. The cutest little girl ever brings Sun-ho a flower, and he looks happy and relaxed for the first time in a long time. But moments later, Sun-ho sees Cheonga charging in leading a phalanx of Bang-won’s men, so he grabs up the little girl and runs for help.
Hwi, Chi-do, and the other men hurry outside to help Sun-ho fight. Cheonga gets his chance to fight with Hwi again, but Hwi injures him badly. Chi-do tells Hwi and Sun-ho to take the women and children and escape, and they obey.
Meanwhile, Hee-jae decides to go with Jung Beom and Moon-bok to meet up with Hwi, sure that Ihwaru will be fine in Hwa-wol’s capable hands. Hwa-wol is hugely pregnant by now and Moon-bok worries about leaving her, and she says that she loves his loyalty and that little Bo-gum will be proud of his daddy when he’s born.
Hwi and Sun-ho lead the women and children through the woods, and after dark, they’re intercepted by more of Bang-won’s troops. Before they even draw their swords, Jung Beom and Moon-bok arrive with more men and slaughter the enemy troops, then they fuss at Hwi for taking so long, ha.
They had stopped to pick up some friends on their way, and awww, it’s the one-eyed guy from the village that took them all in when they first returned from Liaodong. Hwi introduces Sun-ho to him, and when One-eye welcomes Sun-ho as a friend, Sun-ho looks like he’s not sure what to do with such a friendly person, which is both heart-warming and sad.
When they arrive at One-eye’s village, Hee-jae is waiting there. Sun-ho hesitates when he spots her, but his new little friend takes his hand and it gives him courage. Hwi is worried that Hee-jae came here, but she reminds him that his father saved her life, too.
There’s a re-enactment of their first awkward dinner with One-eye when everyone sits around just staring at the food. Hwi places a choice piece of meat on Sun-ho’s rice, and Sun-ho eats, looking touched at how Hwi and his friends have forgiven and included him. Hwi says that he hopes they can do this again next year, so they all decide to share a reunion meal at Ihwaru every year on this date.
After dinner, Hwi and Sun-ho sit outside together, both unable to sleep. Sun-ho confesses that he always thought he had two choices in life — the worst choice, or the second-worst. Now he says he thinks a life like this would have been nice, and that he knowingly ignored that option. Hwi says that in Sun-ho’s position, he’d have only seen the same two bad choices, and he says Sun-ho can live a better life from now on.
He leaves Sun-ho with a smile, but instead of going to bed, he collects his weapons. He finds Hee-jae outside and gives her a bracelet he saw on the day they walked in the market. He says it represents their fate, and Hee-jae sees that he’s wearing an identical bracelet on his wrist. Hwi hugs her and promises to return, and she says tearfully that she’ll wait for him.
Before Hwi gets very far, Sun-ho catches up to him. Sun-ho knows he’s going to confront Bang-won for breaking his promise and sending his men after them. He says that one of them will die, but Hwi counters that the only way for them all to live is for Bang-won to retract his kill order. Sun-ho asks if he’s one of the people Hwi wants to save, and when Hwi says yes, Sun-ho sighs, “Let’s go then. Liaodong is the last place I’m letting you go alone.”
At the palace, Bang-won prepares for his coronation as crown prince. King Jeongjong begs Taejo to attend the ceremony, but Taejo refuses to congratulate Bang-won. Afterward, Bang-won storms into the throne room and angrily throws his headpiece onto the throne.
Hwi and Sun-ho stand in front of the palace gate, planning to storm in when the gate is opened to change the guards. Hwi sighs that all he ever wanted was not to worry about starving: “That’s all I ever wanted. But look how far I’ve come.” Sun-ho asks if he’s scared and Hwi nods, and Sun-ho admits that he’s only a little bit scared.
The gate opens and they charge at the guards, prepared to take them all on… but suddenly Chi-do, Jung Beom, and Moon-bok are right there with them (I’m officially crying). They urge Hwi and Sun-ho to run inside while they hold off the guards, and as the gates close behind them, Chi-do yells, “Come back! Don’t you die!”
The two friends fight their way through more guards in the courtyard to get closer to the palace itself. When they reach the steps, Tae-ryong comes out, and Sun-ho tells Hwi to go inside, intending to stand his ground. Hwi looks at Sun-ho for a long, charged moment, then runs inside to find Bang-won.
Sun-ho announces that nobody will get past him. Tae-ryong attacks, and although Sun-ho fights valiantly to protect his friend, eventually a guard darts in and spears him in the belly. Sun-ho continues to fight, but two more guards spear him, and his knees buckle. Oh no…
Tae-ryong puts his sword through Sun-ho’s chest just to make sure he doesn’t survive this time. When he tries to pull his sword out, Sun-ho grabs it, keeping Tae-ryong close to that he can pick up his own sword and stab him through the heart. Tae-ryong topples to the ground, dead.
Inside the palace, Hwi enters the throne room, where Bang-won is waiting for him. Bang-won says that he’d hoped Hwi wouldn’t come, but he also wanted Hwi to witness his coronation as crown prince. Hwi asks why Bang-won didn’t trust him and broke his promise: “I didn’t think you of all people would abandon your people.”
Bang-won says that he must sit on the throne to create a country of the abandoned, and that he’ll endure the sacrifice. Hwi raises his sword to Bang-won’s throat and tells him to revoke his order to kill his people, or he dies right now. Bang-won offers him a trade — Hwi’s life for his people’s freedom.
With no hesitation, Hwi gladly agrees. Bang-won gives him a genuinely fond smile and tells Hwi that he has saved everyone, then officially announces that the order is revoked.
Hwi leaves, and when he sees Sun-ho kneeling in the courtyard, gravely injured, he goes to him and gently tells him that it’s all over. As if he was only waiting to hear those words, Sun-ho collapses into Hwi’s arms, and he gasps that he’s finally paid Hwi back for his life.
He whispers that he only looked too far ahead and too high up, and that when he finally looked behind, he found Hwi and Yeon there. He tells Hwi that he wishes he’d realized sooner that his country was only a step behind him.
Growing weaker, Sun-ho sighs that after a lifetime of sleepless nights, he’ll finally sleep well tonight. Crying, Hwi says, “Yes, you should rest now. I’ll join you soon.” Sun-ho says to take his time, and that he’s happy he’ll be able to face Yeon.
Smiling, Sun-ho tells Hwi, “I missed you so much…” and then he’s gone. Still holding his friend, Hwi looks down at his bracelet, then says to Hee-jae, “You’re going to cry again. I should have made you laugh more.”
In the palace, Bang-won sits on the throne. Tears fill his eyes as he lets loose a pained laugh, then he whispers, “You did well.” He lowers his head in respect, and when he raises it again, his gaze is that of a king.
Hee-jae runs to the palace gates just as they open to let in more guards. She can see Hwi holding Sun-ho’s lifeless body, with an entire team of archers aiming their arrows at his back. Hwi smiles at her, his expression full of love, as the gates close and the archers release their bows.
One year later, Hee-jae, Chi-do, Jung Beom, Moon-bok, Hwa-wol, and new baby Bo-young (awww, they had a girl) gather at a beautiful waterfall for a meal together as they’d promised. Chi-do gives Bo-young some sage advice about asking for food instead of whining, which gets him teased as a forever-single.
He claims he’s dating someone, and Moon-bok jokes that Hwi would have shot him for such a lie, which makes everyone go wistfully quiet for a moment. Hee-jae steps away, and as she thinks about Hwi, she says in voiceover:
“We all have a country we wish to protect. We break, snap, and crumble, but we can’t give up on our nation. It is because that nation is equal to our lives.”
Smiling, she rejoins her friends.
I always knew that My Country wouldn’t end with both Hwi and Sun-ho alive, but I didn’t start to suspect that they both might die until this final episode. But honestly, unless they were willing to let go of their grudges against Bang-won, there was only one way things could end. If either of them had made that choice, this ending would have made me angry, because it would have directly contradicted everything they’ve ever stood for and undermined everything they’ve suffered. But this ending, though tragic and heartbreaking, is the only one that makes sense knowing Hwi and Sun-ho’s commitment to what they believe is right. I even find myself happy for them that they got to go out at the place, time, and manner of their choosing, with Sun-ho protecting Hwi with his death, then Hwi using that opportunity to protect those he loved with his death.
For me, the true love story in My Country: The New Age was always the one between Hwi and Sun-ho. Like Chi-do said, they were each other’s Number One, no matter what happened between them. They fought, they hurt each other (physically and emotionally), they betrayed each other in the worse ways out of necessity, they went years without seeing each other, but whenever a choice had to be made, they chose each other every time. Even though Sun-ho betrayed Hwi over and over again, Hwi never hesitated to go to Sun-ho’s rescue if he needed it, and even when Sun-ho wanted nothing more than to die, he lived just because Hwi asked him to. As sad as it was, it was fitting and right for them to die together, choosing each other, protecting each other, and loving each other until the very end.
I would be criminally remiss if I didn’t mention the absolutely magnificent performances this drama was universally blessed with — from the smaller roles like Sung-rok and Tae-ryong, to our love-to-hate-him villain Lord Nam, to our main trio of Hwi, Sun-ho, and Bang-won, every actor brought their best performance (and yes, I include Hee-jae in this — her character’s issues were in how she was written, not Seolhyun’s acting). I won’t be surprised if several acting awards are handed out for My Country, particularly in the cases of Jang Hyuk and Woo Do-hwan. They both portrayed characters that could easily have become intensely unlikable, but they were able to show moments of vulnerability, sorrow, and regret even when committing the most heinous acts. Yang Se-jong was fantastic as well, imbuing Hwi with a soft vulnerability that he never lost, despite everything he went through. The main quality I took away from Hwi’s personality is that he was a man who loved completely, and once his love was given, it never faded or wavered. Yang Se-jong is great at portraying this gentle sincerity in his characters (which makes me think that it’s a part of who he is in real life), and he couldn’t have been more perfectly cast as Hwi.
The moral of the story is so beautiful — that we all have a country we are willing to risk everything for, and that that “country” is the people we love. There were a lot of other love stories told within the larger story — the love of people for their countrymen, love between friends, romantic love, the love between parent and child. The most painful love story was the one between Bang-won and KT, who loved as much as they hated each other, and never found a way to see eye-to-eye. The brotherly love of Hwi and his loyal friends was sometimes funny but always touching, and it was wonderful to see how they so easily folded Sun-ho into their love, even after everything he’d done. In the end, Hwi and Sun-ho were willing to die for the “country” they loved, and their sacrifice deeply honored the people who loved them in return.
- 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