Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! Can you believe we’re at the end of this epic journey?!? My goodness, what a journey it has been! Thank you so much for being here, you guys. You have all contributed so much, to making this a delightfully rich and expanded experience for everyone. ❤️
Before we begin, just a few administrative details:
1. If you’d like, you can find my review of Chuno here, which I wrote in 2013, after my second watch.
2. The poll for our next Group Watch is here; please do head on over to cast your vote!
Without further ado, here are my reactions to this pair of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️
A lot happens this episode, and it definitely feels like pieces are being moved into place for some kind of Big Showdown in our finale.
One of my favorite things this episode – arguably the best thing this hour – is watching Tae Ha and Dae Gil working together side by side, despite their differences. Dae Gil’s street savvy, combined with Tae Ha’s military training and knowledge, makes for a potent combination, and I’m glad that they find a way to make things work, even though they don’t always agree.
I love that when before, Tae Ha had stubbornly refused to take Dae Gil’s ideas seriously (like about heading for Mt. Worak), this time, he gives in when Dae Gil insists that he, being good at trailing, is also good at fleeing. Progress! I also love that Dae Gil knows how to get them shelter, food and a helping hand via Younger Jumo, while Tae Ha has the ability to interpret the rumors that Younger Jumo is able to report back to Dae Gil. Their skills are so complementary!
And through it all, we still get smatterings of philosophical conversations, which are such a nice touch. It really drives home the point that these two are thinking men. What Dae Gil muses, about how it’s not your genealogy, but what you eat and what you wear, that determines who you are; that he’s never seen someone in fancy garments endure adversities, nor anyone in rags leading a happy life, is so full of jaded pathos.
And I also love that bit where Tae Ha sends Dae Gil out as bait, saying that he’ll back him up with arrows from above. When Dae Gil remarks that Tae Ha’s giving up the hound in order to catch the tiger, Tae Ha responds that he wants Dae Gil to be that tiger. That feels like a statement of acknowledgment and respect, and I like it.
It’s fantastic how in sync Tae Ha and Dae Gil are, during the actual fight, with Tae Ha shooting down soldiers, while Dae Gil fights the ones remaining, face to face. The fact that this all happens simultaneously, as if Dae Gil can anticipate which guy he doesn’t need to be bother about because Tae Ha will get him, is quite thrilling.
They trounce Commander Hwang’s men, and Commander Hwang is left fuming at the troops that had defied his orders, and redirected themselves to the Tribute Bureau in response to the attack.
It’s quite dissonant, how, one minute we see Commander Hwang beating up the officer who had dared to defy his orders, and probably nearly killing him, and the next minute, we see him interacting with his sweet, gentle mother, who’s so worried about him, despite her own poor health. Oof. I feel really sorry for his mother, honestly. She loves her son so earnestly and wants only for him to have a family with his wife, and even goes out into the cold winter in order to gather what she believes to be healing evening primroses. She has no idea that her son has cut off his conscience and become a heartless killing machine. I’m sure that it would break her heart if she knew. 💔
In the close-up of Commander Hwang in this scene where he kneels down to speak with his mother, we see that there is a faint glimmer of tears glistening in his eyes. Could Commander Hwang’s conscience have been awoken, after all?
New Guy proves our suspicions right, with his slimy meeting with Left State Councilor. It’s quite startling, really, how disgusted he is by the slaves that he’s been spending time with, and whom he’s been smilingly addressing as “Hyung-nim.” Park Ki Woong is so good at this kind of dark duplicity.
Also, Left State Councilor really is turning out to be extraordinarily manipulative and scheming. It seems that he’s had the rebel slave faction simmering all this time, so that he’d have proof of an insurrection when he wanted it, in order to further his political goals. Dang. That’s evil, but it’s also genius.
Clearly, New Guy’s patience with his rebel slave faction “brothers” has been wearing thin; the way his friendly facade falls away is quite awful to watch. It really feels like his nice facade is so eroded that it’s crumbling with every additional second that he has to spend in the presence of these slaves whom he’s clearly repulsed by.
I feel so sorry for our rebel slaves, who have trusted him so completely, and had dared to hope, because of New Guy’s smiling big talk about revolution, and a new and better world. What an awful sense of betrayal they must feel, to see New Guy now turning on them, and killing their own, without an ounce of hesitation. Ugh.
I feel most sorry for Ggeutbong, whom I’ve grown rather fond of, and whom I feel sorry for, because earlier this episode, he’d said that he didn’t even know if his own children were still alive, because they’d been sold by his master. What a horrible realization, that all his hopes were essentially a lie. 😭
Meanwhile, Eop Bok realizes belatedly that Cho Bok’s been married off by their master, and he goes crazy looking for her. Not only does he kill his master for having the presumption to buy and sell others even though they are all human, he storms the house of Cho Bok’s new master, armed with his rifle.
It’s as if Cho Bok’s been expecting him, though, and she runs out to greet him with widest, biggest, happiest smile. That happiness is short-lived, though, as Eop Bok soon tells her to head to Mt. Worak, while he goes off to fight.
When Cho Bok expresses reluctance to be separated from him, Eop Bok tearfully asks her if she’d like them to run away together and live a new life together, just the two of them. Oof. It moves me so much, that after some thought, Cho Bok shakes her head and tells him no, because if he doesn’t, who would then change the world? She gives him her blessing to go and fight, and Eop Bok thanks her, the tears bright in his eyes.
Augh. This is so painfully bittersweet, because there is so much love in here, and yet at the same time, because of how dangerous the mission is, there’s also only a sliver of hope that Eop Bok will actually be able to survive and come meet her at Mt. Worak. And still, she kisses him and gives him her blessings. Sob. This is really heartbreaking. 💔
On a tangent, this last screenshot is what Beez and I were talking about before. I’d mentioned in my review of Chuno (which you can find here), that there’s a sense of poetry about how, when Eop Bok and Cho Bok kiss like this, their cheek tattoos together read 奴婢 (nobi; slave).
Oof. What. An. Ending. Even though this is my third viewing, this ending still hits me with the same intense feels, and my mind is left whirling while my heart staggers about, trying to steady itself, so that I can write about this.
It strikes me more than ever, how Eop Bok is a man who lives passionately, consistently striving to align his actions with his values, and who loves sincerely, even though he might not be very expressive about it. The way he sobs over Ggeutbong’s body is so heartbreaking. 💔 And then, when the tears stop, there’s a quiet resolve that’s settled over him, as he watches the sun shine over the city, with Ggeutbong’s head nestled in his lap. He tells Ggeutbong that even though he can’t live without Cho Bok, and even though she’s told him that she’ll be waiting for him, he can’t die like a beast.
Augh. In this moment, I realize that Eop Bok’s decided that running away and hiding – and therefore not making a stand for what he believes in – equates living like a beast, and he doesn’t want his life to amount to that. The way that he states resolutely, that showing them that even slaves like him live in this world, is worth dying for, gives me chills.
The way Eop Bok singlehandedly storms the palace gates on his own, with a handful of rifles strapped to his side, is so coolly iconic. He knows that this is a suicide mission, and yet, there’s no sign of nervousness about him; he’s got his wits about him, and is precise and targeted, when it comes to choosing which rifles to keep with him, reloading his rifles, and shooting his targets.
I’m pleased that Scholar Jo gets taken down as collateral damage, mostly because he’s such a traitor, and I got a great deal of satisfaction seeing New Guy literally fly through the air, when he gets shot. Yes, it’s completely unrealistic that Left State Minister basically just stands there and waits to be shot, while Eop Bok reloads his rifle for the last time, but I rationalize that he’s possibly too shocked and therefore is frozen to the spot?
What strikes me about Eop Bok’s Mission Impossible, is that even though it’s short-lived, it leaves a deep impression on his friend, who’s all wide-eyed and scared when he watches Eop Bok begin his mission, but who gets a determination and fire in his eyes, even as he sees Eop Bok captured within the palace grounds. It’s as if he’s gained courage from Eop Bok’s display of boldness, and this makes me feel like Eop Bok’s effort will have a positive ripple effect.
I loved seeing Dae Gil and Tae Ha work together this episode. The mutual respect is clearly growing, and I really like that they are even starting to acknowledge each other’s positive traits. These two have come such a long way since they first met, and it’s so bittersweet, that this pinnacle of their friendship, comes at a time when they’re about to meet their end. That said, it occurs to me that it’s possible that both men have a sense that this might well be the end for one or both of them, and that’s why they are both more gracious towards each other; life-and-death situations do have a way of getting people to rise above their grudges, after all.
I so love this scene of Dae Gil and Tae Ha running together. The looks that they give each other, even as they run, is full of relish and enjoyment. To me, this says that they find this experience of fighting on the same side, while complementing each other in both skill and knowledge, quite exhilarating indeed. And I feel that they’re communicating and acknowledging this, in the looks that they exchange, without the need for words. I love that. 🤩
They still manage to have philosophical lashings of conversation, and the one that I find most important, is when Tae Ha tells Dae Gil that he feels sorry towards him, but that chance is part of destiny as well. My subtitles say, “I feel sorry for you,” but I’m pretty certain this is an unfortunate mistranslation. It’s huge, that Tae Ha would essentially express that he’s sorry for taking Eonnyeon away from Dae Gil, for lack of a better expression. I also really like that Tae Ha asks Dae Gil if they could have been friends, if they’d met under different circumstances.
Dae Gil answers Tae Ha with gruff words, but he does soften, though, when Tae Ha asks if Dae Gil still thinks of him as a slave. The way Dae Gil answers, that anyone who’s bound to the world by something is a slave, basically acknowledges Tae Ha’s standing in his eyes.
While a part of me wishes that Dae Gil never took up Tae Ha’s request to go with them on the last part of their journey – because then Dae Gil would’ve been fine, I say – I appreciate the sentiment. Tae Ha understands that Dae Gil is concerned for Eonnyeon, and he believes that seeing Eonnyeon board the boat safely headed for Qing, would give Dae Gil peace of mind. That’s quite generous and respectful, I think, given that at this point, Tae Ha doesn’t realize that he will need Dae Gil’s help later on.
I also think it’s very gentlemanly of Tae Ha to create an opportunity for Eonnyeon and Dae Gil to have a private conversation by the fire.
I don’t know that I’ve noticed it before, but dang, Jang Hyuk’s delivery of this scene is sublime. The way Dae Gil’s gaze subtly shifts nervously, multiple times, as he searches for the words, is heartbreakingly vulnerable. Augh. This scene just makes my heart go out to him; he’s clearly preparing to officially let Eonnyeon go, with his statement that he’d searched for her not because he’d yearned for her, and it feels like such a sucker-punch to the gut, when Eonnyeon tells him that she knows that. Oof. I felt that, on Dae Gil’s behalf. What a blow, to hear that the woman you love, whom you’ve yearned for, for years, essentially negate the fact that your love existed, all that time. 💔😭
It’s little wonder that Dae Gil leaves the group as soon as he can, saying that he’ll go on ahead, to secure a boat for them. I.. don’t understand how Dae Gil has a pair of pink shoes to look upon in that boat when we see him, and it’s not like he’s got a bag or anything, to carry those shoes around in, so it does seem like these pink shoes just appear out of nowhere. I also don’t get the significance of the shoes; does Dae Gil plan to give them to Eonnyeon as a farewell gift? That seems.. inappropriate?
Anyway, the main point is that when Dae Gil realizes that Tae Ha and Eonnyeon must be in trouble, he wastes no time in getting to them, and jumps right into the thick of the action. Unlike previous fights, though, this one is much harder to watch because it isn’t long before our key characters start to get dangerously injured, and we start to realize that – sob – they’re most likely not going to make it. 💔
When Dae Gil tells Eonnyeon that she must survive, because that’s the only way that he’ll survive, I feel like he’s saying that there’s a piece of him that belongs to her, and if she lives, that that piece of him will live on, too. 💔
As I consider the sequence of events, it occurs to me that if not for Dae Gil, things would have turned out very differently. It’s because Dae Gil is there to fend off Commander Hwang, that Eonnyeon is able to escape with the Little Prince. It’s true that Tae Ha doesn’t make it, but it’s because Dae Gil bought her that time, that she’s able to escape to Qing, and it’s only because she’s able to escape, that the Little Prince eventually receives absolution, after the Crown Prince comes into power.
Also, the way Dae Gil puts his life on the line, for something that’s technically not his battle to fight, essentially gives Commander Hwang pause for thought, and eventually stop his soldiers from going after Tae Ha and Eonnyeon, saying that it’s all over. I feel like Show is saying that it’s Dae Gil’s statement about fighting for a better world, that causes Commander Hwang to change his course of action. Instead of pursuing Tae Ha in order to kill the Little Prince, he tells his men that it’s over. Perhaps what he means as being over, is all the politicking and fighting that involves Left State Councilor. With Left State Councilor dead, perhaps that fight really is over, for Commander Hwang.
I did find the scene of Commander Hwang crying in his wife’s arms very poignant and affecting, even though it’s arguable that his turnaround comes quite suddenly.
The most affecting scene for me this hour, has to be Dae Gil’s death scene, with Seol Hwa. Oof. So painful. 😭
First of all, I’m just so grateful that Seol Hwa follows her instincts and finds her way to Dae Gil. Even General Choi and Wangson don’t pick up on the shades of finality in Dae Gil’s instructions, and innocently believe that Dae Gil will meet them in Yicheon. It’s Seol Hwa who’s observed Dae Gil so closely, and has attuned herself to his ways, to the extent that she can sense when something’s not quite right.
I’m thankful that Seol Hwa finds Dae Gil while he’s still alive, so that he isn’t alone, in his final moments. I just have to say, Jang Hyuk’s delivery of Dae Gil’s last breaths, is so masterful that it’s painful to watch. Guh. 😭 The way he struggles to choke out his words, even as he keeps coughing up blood; the way his eyes can’t seem to focus; the way he lifts his hand towards Seol Hwa, but can’t seem to see her in order to touch her; it’s all so heartbreaking to watch.
It moves me, that with his last dredges of strength, Dae Gil chooses to apologize to Seol Hwa – even addressing her by name, for the first time – saying that he’s sorry that he couldn’t see her heart beating for him, because of the darkness surrounding him. It hits me like a ton of bricks, that even in his dying breath, he’s using the last of his strength to comfort Seol Hwa and distract her, by asking her to sing for him. AUGH. This man. And his scarred, but caring heart. 💔
I am gutted that we lose Dae Gil, even though I knew it was coming. 😭 But it’s a strange, transcendent sort of consolation, that in the end, he did dedicate his life towards the better world that he’d once dared to dream of. Even though he’s taken a long, roundabout, battle-scarred journey to get there, he’s come full circle, to embrace that dream again, to the extent of giving his life for that dream. There’s something meaningful, and even beautiful, in that tragedy, yes?
In a voiceover by Commander Hwang, we are informed of the eventual abolishment of slave hunting, and the Little Prince’s absolution. And it’s then that we see Cho Bok and Eun Sil gazing at the (rising?) sun together, where Cho Bok tells her that the sun belongs to them, because no one has ever been able to posses it. What a profound statement, about belonging vs. possession. It’s food for thought indeed, and it does feel like something that we’ve been wrestling with all story long, given that we’ve been exploring the idea of slaves and their masters.
Thinking about it, Dae Gil’s heart had absolutely belonged to Eonnyeon, and ironically, even though she had once been his slave, we never see him once try to possess her. And she is a big part of the reason that he has the conviction to support the dream of a better world, to the extent of giving up his life.
With the glimpse of the future that we are given, we can conclude that even though change is slow in the coming, the sacrifices that our characters make, do contribute to the making of a better world.
I do love that epilogue shot of Dae Gil pretend-shooting an arrow into the sun – not trying to possess it, but simply enjoying it. I thought this was a fitting tribute to our favorite rogue. ❤️
Also, it’s a sight for sore eyes, to see General Choi and Wangson farming the land that Dae Gil bought for them. How like Dae Gil, to pay for everything in full – except for the land that was meant for himself.
Dae Gil may not have managed to change the entire world with his actions, but he certainly did manage to change the lives of General Choi and Wangson, and that thought gives me a good amount of comfort. I’d like to think that in the afterlife, Dae Gil’s looking down on the both of them with fondness and pride, smirking wryly that he was right after all, to manage the money for them. 😏❤️
PS: I know that not all versions of Chuno have this final scene in it, and I’m sorry to say that I can’t find a clip of it anywhere to share with you guys. I’d once uploaded it to share in my review, but it got flagged for copyright infringement, so I don’t want to try that again. 😬 It’s literally only 10 seconds long, and shows Wangson and General Choi chuckling at each other, as they try to get into the hang of farming. These 3 screenshots capture it all, pretty much. I hope this helps!