Showtime Begins: Episodes 11-12
We dive deep into the past this week to learn how our leads met their fate in their former lives. It’s quite a shift from the previous episodes, but it seems the only way to right what went wrong all those years ago is to first understand how it went wrong.
EPISODES 11-12 WEECAP
While Cha-woong and the other shamans confront the Full Moon Killer, Seul-hae pleads with the ghosts who have barricaded her in Cha-woong’s house. Realizing they won’t budge, she pretends to give up and then sneaks out the window.
She arrives just as the evil spirit is overpowering all three shamans. She tases him, but he just tosses her aside and again lunges for Cha-woong – who’s zoned out, reeling from more past-life flashbacks. Just as he goes in for the kill, Seul-hae throws herself in front of Cha-woong, and in the same moment, the two are encased in what looks to be a force field.
Cha-woong, eyes glowing bright blue, is controlling it. With newfound supernatural power, he incapacitates the spirit, forces it into a bottle, and seals it with a talisman. The host body wakes up bewildered and frightened, and flees.
But the strain of all that energy completely drains Cha-woong. He falls unconscious, and though the others rush him to the hospital, he flatlines.
Three things happen as a result of that fateful night. The first is that Hee-soo receives a tip about the Full Moon Killer, chases him down, and apprehends him, winning widespread acclaim for putting a true end to the killer’s rampage.
Next, Seul-hae is mysteriously granted the ability to see and hear ghosts. And just when I was starting to think Showtime might have taken a fascinating but saddening turn and have the rest of its run be Seul-hae working with Cha-woong’s ghost to solve crimes, we learn the third result: Cha-woong is still alive – but in a deep, dream-filled sleep.
Three months go by, with Seul-hae looking after the ghosts and spending hours in Cha-woong’s hospital room. Then we jump inside Cha-woong’s dreams, wherein he’s reliving his past life as High Priest Poong Baek in the court of Princess Cheon-hwa (Seul-hae’s past-self) and her father.
Up to this point, we – and Cha-woong – have only seen flashes of this story, disjointed and out of order. But now, we get the full picture.
Though Poong Baek possessed incredible power, all that power was due to his Sacred Mirror, a gift only to be used for good, never harm. Cheon-hwa openly adored him, and though he loved her in return, he held back from expressing his feelings due to his lowly upbringing.
Choi Geom (now our General spirit) was Cheon-hwa’s bodyguard and Poong Baek’s good friend. Seeing their mutual pining, Choi Geom revealed to Cheon-hwa that Poong Baek retreated to a private cave when his feelings got too strong to control, where his secret confessions of love literally made flowers bloom. Awww I love him.
When Cheon-hwa confronted Poong Baek in the cave, he finally admitted that he’d tried not to love her, but failed. She kissed him, causing the last of his protests to falter, and then she went straight to her father, who by this time had already wholeheartedly agreed that he wanted Poong Baek for his son-in-law.
But, as we already know, their story didn’t progress happily from there. The prince of a neighboring – and far more powerful – kingdom took one look at Cheon-hwa and decided he had to have her. So he pressured her father into agreeing to an arranged marriage as a peace treaty. And yes, he’s HAE CHEON-MOO (Lee Dong-hwa), the man who would become the evil spirit plaguing our leads in the modern day.
Cheon-hwa begged Poong Baek to run away with her, but he couldn’t bring himself to endanger her or forsake his duty by provoking war. And Cheon-moo wasn’t finished with him. He fabricated evidence that Poong Baek was sending military secrets to an enemy kingdom, earning Poong Baek a flogging and exile.
Cheon-hwa escaped the palace to find Poong Baek and return his confiscated Sacred Mirror. But Cheon-moo was hot on her heels, and Poong Baek broke the sacred rules by using the mirror’s power to fight back, hoping to buy Cheon-hwa’s escape.
The cost of breaking the rules was his life. As Poong Baek’s strength faded, Cheon-hwa threw herself in front of Cheon-moo’s sword. Stricken with grief, Poong Baek used the rest of his power to tear Cheon-moo’s spirit out of his body and imprison him in a bottle, writing the talisman on it with his own blood.
With their dying breaths, Cheon-hwa and Poong Baek promised to meet again someday, and he vowed to love her as she deserved.
Only after the whole story plays out does Cha-woong awake in the hospital and find Seul-hae at his bedside. While she frets over him, he’s speechless with joy and sorrow, now understanding how meaningful it is that they’ve found each other again.
Cha-woong wastes no time in making good on Poong Baek’s 2,000-year-old vow. He expresses his feelings for Seul-hae every chance he gets, even embroidering a handkerchief for her just as Cheon-hwa did for Poong Baek. But while she appreciates the gestures, she’s also really weirded out by the fact that he’s making their current life all about their past one. Which, fair.
Understanding the past also gives Cha-woong a new perspective on Choi Geom, but this perspective isn’t a good one… because he was the one who presented the “evidence” of Poong Baek’s supposed treason.
He did it to protect his younger brother – the actual traitor – and when he found Poong Baek and Cheon-hwa dead, he took his own life out of guilt. Instead of moving onto the afterlife, he was tasked with making things right.
But lest we think the past is finally put to rest, there’s actually one more result of the night the Full Moon Killer was caught. Hee-soo didn’t just arrest him; he killed him. After the spirit of Cheon-moo lured Hee-soo there and possessed him instead.
It was certainly an interesting choice to spend most of these two episodes entirely in the distant past, stalling the present in the process. And now I have a problem: I loved Poong Baek and Cheon-hwa way more than I expected, and I’m devastated that they didn’t get a chance at a happy life together.
While I can appreciate the present-day second chance to an extent, Seul-hae was right – she’s not Cheon-hwa, and he’s not Poong Baek. And the story of the princess and the high priest will remain a tragedy no matter how Seul-hae and Cha-woong’s story plays out.
Two things I can get behind, though:
1) Since we’re running with past lives reconnecting, I loved the detail of Cheon-hwa’s faithful maid who died helping her escape being Seul-hae’s present-day friend and roommate. I always like seeing fated connections that aren’t romantic, because platonic or familial bonds can be just as strong and special.
2) I’m ready to see Choi Geom to earn his centuries-overdue redemption and for them all to get rid of Cheon-moo for good.
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