My friends, I just wanted to start this post by saying how happy I am that you guys are enjoying the Open Thread discussions! I haven’t been able to keep up with the plethora of comments, but it’s really exciting to see the breadth and depth you guys are going to, in exploring this show. You guys rock. ❤️
Before we dive into episodes 5 & 6, 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! ❤️
See that smile on Seol Hwa’s face? It’s so full of glee and anticipation; I just love her. 🤩 Once their positions are mutually established – I think that’s what the river-riverbank sparring amounts to – it tickles me that as Tae Ha runs on foot, and as our slave-hunting crew set about tracking him down, that Eonnyeon regularly moans, whimpers and wheezes in the most delicate, breathy, tortured milady fashion, while Seol Hwa is basically grinning widely while grabbing onto Dae Gil for the ride of her life. The contrast speaks volumes, and I have to confess that I prefer Seol Hwa’s lively zest, by far.
You probably already know this, but I still think Dae Gil is fabulously schmexy and badass, and my fangirl heart swoons at his every intent, swaggery move. Part of the appeal is definitely how the swag seems to come so effortlessly and casually to him. I spazz at every opportunity. 😍
It strikes me that both Eonnyeon and Tae Ha are strongly in denial about their slave status, even though it is true that they both have had slave backgrounds, to varying degrees and for different reasons. And Tae Ha would rather lie and tell Eonnyeon that the slave hunters are people on her tail, rather than his. Given that his other actions indicate that he’s very likely fallen in love with Eonnyeon, this feels like quite a callous thing to tell her? Like, sure, let this woman that you think you love, believe that you are both on the run because it’s her fault. 😳
I don’t think Tae Ha means this in a mean-spirited way, but it still sticks out to me like a sore thumb, that his desire to keep his slave identity a secret is so strong that he’d push the blame on her. Also, I feel like both Tae Ha and Eonnyeon come across as quite self-righteous, in this scene. Like, “No, absolutely, certainly not me. I couldn’t possibly.” 🙄 But I’ll rationalize that that’s just how strong the stigma is, around slaves.
As we’d speculated, Left State Councilor really did recruit Commander Hwang as his son-in-law, using his position and power, in order to manipulate him for his own purposes. That scene in the bridal chamber, where Commander Hwang just gazes at his palsy-ridden bride for a long moment, then leaves, is so full of pathos. I feel most sorry for his wife, who can’t help her condition, and is rejected by her new husband, almost on sight. I also feel rather sorry for Commander Hwang, because it appears that he didn’t know about her condition when he agreed to the marriage. Lee Jong Hyuk plays Commander Hwang as pretty impassive, but there seems to be a subtle nuance in his gaze, in this scene. I feel like he’s conflicted, and possibly a mix of disappointed and repulsed.
The scene where we see Commander Hwang’s wife attempt to write a letter to him, to warn him not to go head to head with her father because her father is a scary man, is so painfully poignant. She has so much that she wants to say to her husband – the very husband who distances himself from her – and labors so patiently over the arduous task of writing the letter, even though she makes no headway whatsoever. This speaks volumes about how sincerely she cares for her husband, even though he doesn’t demonstrate the same care for her. I feel for her, so much. 💔
It’s never occurred to me before, but this watch, I wonder at the plausibility of Seol Hwa being able to whip out a haegeum in order to play that beautiful tune for the boys as they rest around the fire. Did she actually have that haegeum hidden in her skirt when she first ran away from the dance troupe? Because she certainly didn’t have it in her hands when she was on the run. And even if she did manage to squirrel one away, why would she take it with her while they were on a slave hunting expedition? 😜 The music is gorgeous, though, so I’m willing to just roll with the logic stretch.
Ah, we get information on how Tae Ha ended up as a slave, from the flashback where we see him being interrogated – well, tortured – over the alleged stealing of military supplies. It’s horrible how they basically torture the officer until he makes a false confession. I know this is something that we see in other period dramas too, but it hits me all over again, how dirty and manipulative the court officials’ supposed “justice” is.
Tae Ha’s strategy of leading the hunters on, and then throwing them off the trail at the last minute, is shrewd. And he would’ve succeeded too, if our smart-as-a-whip Seol Hwa hadn’t alerted Dae Gil to the big clue giving away Tae Ha’s plan: the horses that were still tied to their posts. Wangson may grumble that Seol Hwa’s a bother to have around, but she’s proving to be a lot more observant and helpful than they’d imagined, and I feel vindicated on her behalf. Take that, Orabeoni. 😏
I know I keep mentioning Chuno’s OST in any lists that have to do with best OSTs, but I really am falling for the music all over again, during this watch. The pumping fight anthem, the plaintive sound of the haegeum, the generous soaring strings, the choral voices; I love it all, and the music is doing so much, to elevate my watch. 🥰
I appreciate General Choi and his wisdom. He’s the voice of reason that Dae Gil needs; not that Dae Gil’s actually paying him any heed right now, when General Choi is advising him to get out while there’s still a going to be had, because it’s always a bad idea to get involved if there are court officials in the picture. Wise words, General Choi. But I suppose if Dae Gil had listened, we wouldn’t have much of a story.
I feel like I’ve got a much clearer idea of the details of our story this time around; I don’t know, maybe I’ve gotten better at understanding sageuk worlds, after accumulating many more drama miles under my belt? And maybe I’ve also gained some clarity, now that I have more functioning brain power even when Dae Gil’s burning up my screen? 😜
I don’t know if I was ever clear on it before, but this watch, it finally clicked in my head that Tae Ha was framed by now-Left State Councilor, as part of his plan to unseat the previous Left State Councilor, who had been implicated by the story that they fabricated in order to frame Tae Ha. And the previous Left State Councilor – Tae Ha’s mentor – had taken an early retirement to give his position to now-Left State Councilor, in exchange for Tae Ha’s life.
I know. I can’t believe I’m only realizing this now, 10 years after the drama aired, and 7 whole years after writing a monster review for this show. I plead Dae Gil blinders for my first 2 watches. 😝 Better late than never, I guess? Anyway, I love the detail, that our studious slave hunters find out all this important information, by reading about it. 🤓
I also love the little detail, that Seol Hwa sleeps so deeply that she’s basically dead to the world, but a casual promise of food gets her up and going, right away. Ha. Girl’s got her priorities.
I find that I’m also a lot more proactive about looking for layers in Lee Jong Hyuk’s delivery of Commander Hwang. It doesn’t seem like his heart is really in his turnaround; I feel like he’s agreeing to his father-in-law’s request, because he has no other choice, if he doesn’t want to stay in jail and worry his mother. The way he tells his wife that he can’t understand a word that she’s written, nor a word that she’s said, feels fatalistic and resigned. It’s almost like he can’t muster up frustration, even. (Again, Ha Si Eun communicates her character’s struggle so poignantly. Her subsequent frustration at her father is also very eloquently portrayed.)
What grabs my attention the most this episode, with Commander Hwang, is how his expression shifts, when he goes to look in on his mother, before departing on the mission given by his father-in-law. When he first catches sight of his mother, his expression softens just a little, and it’s possibly the warmest, kindest expression I’ve seen from him yet. And then, it’s as if he remembers his dishonorable mission, and his expression darkens again. I’m impressed because there’s very little movement in terms of his micro-expressions, but the overall impact is very significant.
Ahaha. I can’t help but roll my eyes at Eonnyeon. She’s told Tae Ha so many times that she’ll go her own way and won’t trouble him, but the moment he actually gives her some time on her own, by splitting up with her to avoid suspicion, she blows it by being super conspicuous. And when she’s cornered, she seems to completely forget Tae Ha’ instructions to act insane. Eonnyeon wouldn’t survive a day on her own, for real. It’s probably why writer-nim assigned Tae Ha to accompany her. It’s to keep her alive. Ha.
Also, how about that art class moment, when Lady Ninja splatters blood artistically on Eonnyeon’s hanbok by way of lethal hairpin to her various victims’ main arteries (the geyser-like sprays of blood made me laugh, not gonna lie), and Tae Ha uses charcoal to turn that artfully-splattered blood into a bespoke hanbok with strategically placed blossoms, right there in the back alley. 😃 It’s ridiculous, but again, it’s one of those Eonnyeon things. You just gotta roll with it. She’s art, and therefore, she should also get to wear art, yes?
It sucks for Tae Ha that his mentor gets killed, but I really do love the three-way duel that we get as a result. It’s a glorious dance of a fight, complete with slo-mo bits to highlight the beauty of the movements, peppered with circular panning shots, and scored by our stirring fight anthem which then breaks into soaring strings. Augh. It’s a feast for the senses.
Too bad it’s cut short by Tae Ha running off to Eonnyeon’s rescue, with Dae Gil hot on his heels. I wouldn’t have minded more of this three-way battle, but the three-way chase we get, with Eonnyeon, Tae Ha and Dae Gil, all poised to collide on the small village street, while scored by the same sublime music, is almost as epic, with the camera (or would that be me?) favoring Dae Gil – he looks absolutely magnificent as he races intently in slo-mo. 🤩