Happy belated Thanksgiving, everyone! After a week of pre-emption, it’s time for us to dive into our discussions for episodes 3 & 4!
As before, here are the ground rules:
1. Please don’t post spoilers in the Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point. I repeat: no spoilers for future episodes please! We have quite a few first-time viewers among us, and we don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.
2. Discussions on this thread don’t have to close when newer threads open, just so you know! But as we progress through our group watch, please keep the discussions clear of spoilers from future episodes, so that future readers coming to this thread won’t be accidentally spoiled. Does that make sense?
Without further ado, here are my reactions to this pair of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️
The face-off between Dae Gil and Tae Ha is basically art in motion, complete with freeze frames and indulgent panning shots. But it’s also functional; that shot where they leap at each other but bypass each other, isn’t meant for pure artistic effect after all, even though it’s milked for artistic impact. Tae Ha slices Dae Gil’s side as he passes, and this is our first indication that Tae Ha’s a more formidable opponent than Dae Gil imagines.
Their fight comes across as an adrenaline-filled, machismo-fueled dance that’s a feast for the senses; the gorgeous music; the panning shots; the swift exchange of blows; the abundance of glistening muscle. It’s a lot, and it’s great. I’m quite struck by how fluidly both Jang Hyuk and Oh Ji Ho wield their respective weapons. That must’ve taken a lot of training and practice. I’m also struck by how seamlessly the music meshes with this glorious dance of a fight; the music switches from the pumping fight anthem to a much more restrained bubbling, while Tae Ha and Dae Gil exchange words. It’s so perfectly cohesive that this is the first time I’m actually cognizant of it.
This episode, I’m quite amused by how ridiculously lusty Wangson is. The way he bursts into their shared room, sobbing at the rumor that Dae Gil is dead, and then turns around and heads right back out to continue his hot date with one of his ladies in waiting, the minute he realizes that Dae Gil isn’t dying. Pfft.
It’s so great that Wangson meets his match in Seolhwa, who’s clearly wise to his ways, and has no intention of giving him what he wants. I’d forgotten how awesome Seolhwa is, and I’m rather stunned this watch, to realize that she’s only supposed to be 17 years old. That’s really sad, that she’s had such a hard life – and has clearly been forced into prostituting herself – at such a young age.
I’m amused and impressed, though, at how quickly and thoroughly she understands the situation with General Choi and the two jumos, without needing to be told. Girl’s got good nunchi (literally: eye power).
I think I’ve gained enough objectivity – finally, after two whole watches! – to appreciate the way Show shifts gears between different narrative threads so cohesively. Before, I’d been less than absorbed by the story around the slave rebel faction, but this time, it’s landing with more poignance, to my eyes. The gargantuan magnitude of the task that these slaves are pledging to undertake, is impossible and impressive. I mean, I’m kind of shocked, really, that they dare to dream such a big dream, especially if they’ve lived this way all their lives. I’m particularly drawn to Cho Bok. She shines when she smiles, even though there’s dirt on her face and tears in her eyes.
Eonnyeon is so ladylike in her gestures and mannerisms; her disguise as a man is a big fail and I’m surprised she even lasts this long before getting called out. It seems particularly fitting, that this slave, who has the soul of a noblewoman, gets rescued by the slave who has the soul of a nobleman, heh.
I must say, Oh Ji Ho’s crazy eyes at the end of the episode are Quite Something. It’s all very theatrical and exaggerated, but it does help to convey just how he’s physically and mentally at the end of his rope, and just how hard he’s pushed himself to function, up to this point. Also, I feel like it somehow works with this show’s operatic vibe.
Y’know, I have to admit that I previously chafed at Eop Bok for shooting to kill Dae Gil, because, well, I had serious fangirl weak knees for Dae Gil’s languid brand of badassery, but also, because Dae Gil’s our protagonist and I think I’m mostly kind of programmed to root for the protagonist. This time, though, I can very much understand why Eop Bok would think Dae Gil deserves to die for being a slave hunter. Interesting how my perspective is evolving, on this third watch. I must’ve grown up some, in the last 7 years. 😂
Of course Dae Gil doesn’t get shot in the head – otherwise where would that leave our story, right? – but I still held my breath as Eop Bok took aim and the camera followed the path of the bullet in warped slo-mo. I really like these little fancy flourishes that Show whips out; it elevates the watch experience for me, in a similar way that the music elevates the watch experience. It adds a layer of immersion, while making everything feel extra polished.
I also love that Show takes the time to let General Choi and Wangson have their own little snazzy-with-selected-slo-mo action sequence, while they race to track down the shooter. It also occurs to me for the first time – after so long, and on my third watch, d’oh! – that Han Jung Soo and Kim Ji Suk also appear to do their own fighting and stunts. I mean, that blows my mind, a little bit. I’ve long thought of Jang Hyuk as a consummate action star (when the role calls for it), but I’ve honestly never thought of either Han Jung Soo or Kim Ji Suk as such, and this belated realization gives me a whole new appreciation for their dedication to their craft.
(Blame all this belated awareness on my Jang Hyuk blinders; I’d been too busy spazzing at his badassery before, and couldn’t see or think straight, aside from my very Jang Hyuk-focused appreciation.)
Which brings me to Tae Ha. I find that so far, with each watch, my appreciation for Tae Ha as a character increases. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again; this is the best I’ve seen from Oh Ji Ho, ever. That dream flashback, where we see Tae Ha discover the death of his infant son, while he fights for his life, is gut-wrenchingly good. Oh Ji Oh’s expression, which morphs from relief, to realization, to horror, to a guttural grief, is immersive and affecting. And this time around, I’m cognizant of the other part of his flashback, where he remembers declining to hold his child, telling his wife that he doesn’t want to spoil the child. What an awful irony, that the time that he finally holds his son in his embrace, is this moment, when the child literally dies while being carried. Sob. 😭
This entire backstory lends a strong layer of pathos to Tae Ha as a character, and I feel like sometimes, just the knowledge of what he’s been through, helps to smooth the edges (in my eyes) when Oh Ji Ho’s delivery leans a little stiff.
I don’t think it’s occurred to me before, but it strikes me that it’s a real stretch that the dainty Eonnyeon would have been able to move an unconscious Tae Ha all the way to the temple without any kind of help. Again, I’m going to file it away in my head under the collection of things related to Eonnyeon that require me to suspend disbelief. (Also, I’m sorry for the irreverence, but I couldn’t help but be amused at Lee Dae Yeon’s overly smooth, very large bald head, in his appearance as Monk Myeong An. I found it quite distracting, to be honest. 😂)
I’d forgotten much of Commander Hwang’s story, and it strikes me this episode, that he’s actually very reluctant to cooperate with his evil father-in-law. I’d also forgotten that he comes from a humble background, and cares deeply for his mother, who still lives in a modest hut despite him having married the Left State Councilor’s daughter. (Speaking of whom, Ha Si Eun has so little screen time as Commander Hwang’s palsy-ridden wife, but she does such a good job with those few moments that I can’t help but be impressed.) Perhaps I won’t find Commander Hwang so flat as a character, this time around? Maybe all I needed was for my eyes to be more appreciative of nuance?
I got nervous watching Dae Gil bargain with the Left State Councilor. Why is Dae Gil so daring and reckless about this? General Choi’s cautioning, that one should never trust a court official, seems much more prudent and wise. Dae Gil making a deal with the Left State Councilor feels akin to him making a pact with the devil. Eep. 😝
It hadn’t really occurred to me before, but Tae Ha asking Eonnyeon if she’d like to follow him, is a huge risk. He’s already injured, and having her along for the ride means that not only will he have to move slower to accommodate her, he also has to protect her as well, injured as he is. I’m not certain if he’s fallen for her at this point, but I think it’s safe to say that he feels indebted to her for saving his life, and he probably feels like he should help her now that there are people hunting for her.
Heh. Trust Dae Gil to already know Monk Myeong An, and to go so far back with him, that he knows all of Monk Myeong An’s more worldly history. Also, trust Dae Gil to push Monk Myeong An’s buttons until the monk’s ready to leave his monkhood behind, ha. Not gonna lie; I got a kick out of that. 😅
I’d forgotten how amazing the scenery is, in Chuno. The panoramic landscape is captured so beautifully, and on such a grand scale. It truly adds to the sweeping, epic nature of our story. Absolutely breathtaking! 🤩