Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! What an eventful set of episodes this turned out to be! ..Which is what I said last week, heh. 😅 Why do I have a feeling that I could say this every week, and it would still be true?
SOME IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTS, before we begin:
ZERO SPOILER POLICY
1. We will be adopting a ZERO SPOILER POLICY for this Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point.
The spoiler tags don’t work in email notifications, therefore, please take note that WE WILL NOT BE USING SPOILER TAGS FOR THIS OPEN THREAD.
ANY AND ALL SPOILERS WILL BE REDACTED to protect first-time viewers in our midst (although, I’d appreciate it if you would save me the trouble of having to redact spoilers, heh 😅).
This includes, but is not limited to, how characters &/or relationships develop, later in the show.
We need to protect the innocent! 😉
2. HOWEVER!! If you’d like to discuss spoilers from a rewatcher’s point of view, I’ve created a SPOILER ZONE for you, where you can discuss all the spoilers you’d like, without the need for spoiler warnings. You can find it here!
Without further ado, here are my reactions to this set of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️
One thing I’m pleasantly surprised by, is how much ground Show covers, in just one episode.
We get farther and deeper into our story than I’d expected, in these 60 minutes of screen time, and it tickles my imagination, to wonder just how much farther Show is going to be able to take us, by the time we hit the finale.
If Show manages to maintain this pace and intensity (which, if memory serves, it does), then we are in for an excellent ride.
Another thing that strikes me extra, this episode, is how gorgeous this show’s OST is, and how well it’s used.
I think this could be a trend and style thing, in that, I notice that dramas from this era of Hallyu are much more.. inclusive, in how they treat the OST.
What I mean is, the OST plays a much more active role in creating the vibe and atmosphere of the scenes, so much so that it’s almost a character, all on its own.
I find this to be less the case, in more recent dramas, and while I put that down to a natural evolution sort of cycle in kdramas, I do personally have a soft spot for dramas that are able to draw me in with their detailed, on-point application of a stirring range of OST tracks.
Here are the two main tracks that Show’s been using, in these early episodes; Today, I Love You Too by Baek Ji Young, and Destino:
This episode, I’m not surprised that Se Ryeong would confess the truth to her father and beg for his help to save Seung Yu’s life.
At this point, it occurs to me that although Se Ryeong does have feelings for Seung Yu, I don’t think it’s her feelings per se, that is causing her to say things like it doesn’t matter if she dies, if that means that he could live.
Beyond the growing feelings (which, to my eyes, aren’t quite so strong and mature as to warrant sentiments of “I would die for you”), I do think that it has a lot to do with the fact that Se Ryeong believes that she is the reason Seung Yu is facing death.
She believes that if she had never pretended to be Princess Gyeong Hye, that none of this would have happened, and because she feels responsible for this, she is willing to take responsibility for it, even if it means paying with her life.
Our Se Ryeong is proving to be a very principled sort of character, isn’t she? I do like and respect that about her.
And, as we’ve talked about, Prince Su Yang does care about his family, in his own way, so I’m not surprised that he would take Se Ryeong’s request into consideration, when thinking about what to do about Seung Yu.
Even though Prince Su Yang is being set up as a key baddie in our story world, I must say that I find his course of action quite clever.
Although I’m sure that he wouldn’t want his daughter to die, he uses that scenario, to play Princess Gyeong Hye’s feelings for Se Ryeong, to ensure that Gyeong Hye will not do anything to endanger Se Ryeong’s life.
And then, when Kim Jong Seo becomes desperate to save Seung Yu’s life, Prince Su Yang gets him to resign in exchange for Seung Yu’s pardon – which effectively removes Prince Su Yang’s greatest political opponent, in one fell swoop.
It’s effective, and clever, and achieves his promise to Se Ryeong, while also maintaining his own political ambition.
And now, he also has Se Ryeong’s promise, to never see Seung Yu again, in exchange for saving Seung Yu’s life.
I have to admit, Prince Su Yang is pretty brilliant.
It’s great to see how relieved Se Ryeong, Myeon and Jong are, when they hear of Seung Yu’s release, but this feels like just the beginning of our complications and troubles, not the end.
As our narrative unfolds, I’m beginning to see that our story doesn’t only have a Romeo and Juliet sort of vibe for our central lovebirds, Seung Yu and Se Ryeong.
There’s also a similar vibe that’s unfolding among our three friends, Seung Yu, Myeon and Jong.
Up to this point, they’ve been the best of friends, not just eating and drinking together, but also, bearing one another’s burdens, as we’ve seen from how Myeon and Seung Yu are quick to help Jong, when they realize he’s in need of money and owes a debt to the loansharks.
However, with the way things are going, they are going to be split into different political camps, because of their fathers.
Myeon’s father is aligning with Prince Su Yang, while Jong becomes the King’s son-in-law, this episode, which already puts these two friends on opposite sides of the political divide.
And then there’s Seung Yu, whose father resigns this episode, but has secretly vowed to help protect the Prince. This puts Seung Yu on similar ground to Jong, because they’re both on the side that’s duty-bound to protect the Prince and Princess.
It gives me a small sense of relief to think that at least Seung Yu and Jong will be on the same side, but it is sad to think that Myeon will be on the opposite side of them, the moment he aligns himself with his father.
And, we already start to see some of that disintegration happening, with Seung Yu’s brother turning Myeon and Jong away from their family residence, because Myeon’s father had requested for Seung Yu’s execution.
It’s open-hearted and gracious of Seung Yu to tell Myeon that they should just live as if they don’t know about their father’s world, but based on where we start our story, we already know that that’s easier said than done.
..Which makes it all the more bittersweet, really, because it’s so poignant that Seung Yu and Myeon have the desire to be friends, in spite of their father’s choices.
And then there’s also how Princess Gyeong Hye has now officially placed Se Ryeong on the side of the enemy.
When Se Ryeong approaches to congratulate her on her marriage, all Gyeong Hye can see, is that Se Ryeong’s on the opposite side of this political fight.
Sigh. I guess this really could be the end of their friendship and sisterhood, which I’d found so endearing at the beginning of our story.
The scene where Jong and Gyeong Hye set eyes on each other for the first time as bride and groom, is quite cute, actually, because of all the reaction faces that we get, between them.
Jong is delighted that he’s marrying the fairy whose palanquin he’d crashed before, when he’d been running from the loansharks.
But Gyeong Hye, who also recognizes him as the beggar-like dude who’d been dragged away by loansharks, is much less delighted, oops.
I’m actually curious to see how their relationship as husband and wife develops, because Jong’s a goodhearted man, at his core, and I’m hopeful that Gyeong Hye will come to see and appreciate that.
How dramatic, that the King collapses before the wedding is over, and is pronounced to be in a critical condition.
Ack. This makes Prince Su Yang look like a roving hawk watching its prey, and biding his time for the perfect moment to attack. 😬
Given the situation, I’m not surprised that Kim Jong Seo sends word for Seung Yu to hurry back to the capital.
..Which is how Seung Yu and Se Ryeong finally come face to face in that remote village, where she’s gone to pray at the temple with her mother, and which he’s passing through, on his way back to the capital.
With the almost-meet moments slowly stacking up, I was wondering if Show would really have them miss meeting each other.
But no, they do come face to face – ahhh! – and I’m wondering exactly what Seung Yu will say to Se Ryeong, now that he’s finally found her.
Well. Our OTP meeting doesn’t quite go as I’d expected, but on hindsight, it makes sense.
There are no attempts at questions or explanations, when they come face to face; in fact, Seung Yu only says that it’s a relief that she’s ok, and that he doesn’t want to run into her again.
In the moment, I’m a little disappointed, as I’m sure Se Ryeong is too, but on hindsight, it makes sense that Seung Yu would choose to keep his distance.
He’d almost died because of her, and there are more pressing things at hand, back home and in the palace, for him to be having any sort of dalliance with a so-called expelled court lady.
It’s duty and logic over heart, basically, and I do think that Seung Yu’s made a conscious decision to shut down whatever feelings he’d allowed to grow for Se Ryeong, during the time that they’d spent together.
But of course, Se Ryeong, as tenderhearted as she is, can’t help but be hurt by Seung Yu’s coldness, even though she can understand why he’d be angry at her.
I did feel bad for her, when she can’t hold back her tears and cries in front of her mother.
She’s been rejected by her first love, basically, and this first heartbreak must be so new and painful, for her. Aw.
Show does hint, though, that Seung Yu’s troubled in general, with the way he gets Myeon to spar with him, and the way Myeon remarks that Seung Yu only does things like that, when he’s got a lot on his mind.
I feel that this is Show’s way of indicating to us, that even though Seung Yu’s made a stand with Se Ryeong, it’s not such a simple nor straightforward thing for him, after all.
Meanwhile, as the King gets weaker, Prince Su Yang’s getting more prepared, for the time to act – which is when the King breathes his last.
It’s so dark, really, to think that someone would be waiting with such anticipation, for his brother to die, but I rationalize that this is just the way things are, with royalty, and ambition.
The way Prince Su Yang essentially forces Princess Gyeong Hye to move out of the palace, when she’d much rather stay, is sad.
I mean, even though he says that she can just come back to visit the King, it’s just not the same, is it? She’d be able to see him so much less, if she moves out.
Which is why, political ambition aside, I find Prince Su Yang’s move so cruel. He basically robbing Princess Gyeong Hye of precious time that she could have spent, with her dying father. 😭
That scene of Princess Gyeong Hye sitting in her palanquin, unable to stop the tears from flowing, while on her way to her new home, is so poignant, to me.
It feels so sad and ironic, really, that the only place Gyeong Hye feels she can cry, is this public parade, in front of the world, because everyone needs to avert their eyes, while bowing to show respect.
I’d mentioned last episode, that I was sorry to see the end of the friendship between Gyeong Hye and Se Ryeong, but it looks like Se Ryeong’s not letting it go so easily.
The way she keeps showing care and concern to Gyeong Hye, despite Gyeong Hye’s cold treatment of her, is so earnest and pure.
And, even though Gyeong Hye puts up a strong front, it’s clear that Se Ryeong’s sincerity, like with that package of items that mothers usually prepare for their newlywed daughters, touches her.
Perhaps there’s hope yet, for the sisterhood between Gyeong Hye and Se Ryeong to be restored?
With Jong getting married to Princess Gyeong Hye, and Myeon’s father in talks for him to marry Se Ryeong, it feels like our various threads, which have thus far been kept separate, are already in danger of colliding.
Aside from the fact that Myeon’s positioned to marry Prince Su Yang’s daughter, which would put him in a different political camp than Seung Yu and Jong, there’s also the thing, where Seung Yu doesn’t know that that daughter, is, in fact, Se Ryeong.
I do appreciate that Jong echoes what Seung Yu had told Myeon, last episode, that their friendship shouldn’t be ruined by their fathers.
Again, I like the sentiment, though I think this group of friends will be much more challenged on this front than they realize.
Of course, our OTP can’t just separate like that, and Show’s got to find a way to give them some time together.
On that note, I really like how organic to the story and their situations, their meeting turns out to be.
Because, Se Ryeong’s already on the path of being there for Gyeong Hye, repeatedly, despite Gyeong Hye’s cold shoulder treatment, since she is concerned for Gyeong Hye.
And, of course Seung Yu’s going to visit Jong, since they are best friends.
So, when Gyeong Hye disappears the day after moving out of the palace, it doesn’t feel like a stretch at all, that Seung Yu would run into Se Ryeong at the newlyweds’ house, and that they would set off together, to look for Gyeong Hye.
And it makes sense that they would inevitably get a little closer, on the way, with him taking care of her (somewhat, at least), and with them getting a chance to talk a little more, when they get to the grave of the late Queen, which is where Se Ryeong had guessed Gyeong Hye would be.
Through it all, it’s clear to see that Seung Yu’s keeping a gruff distance from Se Ryeong, which I’m putting down to his decision not to have anything more to do with her.
At the same time, we also get glimpses of him perhaps softening towards her a bit, like when he watches her, as she contemplates the wildflowers, which she eventually picks for Gyeong Hye.
I do appreciate that Se Ryeong looks like she’s about to tell him the truth, and that the only reason she stops herself and continues with the lie, is because she’s under strict instructions from her father, to maintain the secret and stay as a court lady, because it would be dangerous not only for her, but for her entire family, if people knew what had really happened.
However, at least she’s honest about how she’d felt; that she’d enjoyed being with him, even though she’d known that it was wrong, and that she’d wanted to apologize to him personally, once she’d gotten the chance to do so – and then actually apologizes, right there and then.
Seung Yu still maintains his gruff distance, but I’m sure a seed is sown in his heart, with Se Ryeong’s sincere apology, for all that he’s been through because of her.
And afterwards, as they bid each other goodbye, there’s such a distinct sense of wistfulness on both their parts, as they go their separate ways.
It’s just too bad that circumstances just aren’t in their favor, first with Se Ryeong finding out that Myeon is the person her father wants her to marry, and then with the King’s worsening condition.
On that note, I have to say, that scene where the King arrives at Princess Gyeong Hye’s new home, to visit her, was so very poignant.
The way father and daughter look at each other, like it’s the last chance they have to gaze upon each other, is so sad and touching, at the same time.
I knew that the King’s death was coming, but I still felt sad when he passes, and Princess Gyeong Hye collapses from shock and grief. 😭
Even though the whole thing is positioned as part of a political fight, these are real people with real relationships, who feel real grief and real loss, and I’m glad that Show gives us a glimpse of that.
I did feel a stab of satisfaction, that Prince Su Yang’s plan to get the Crown Prince to appoint him as regent gets scuttled by Prince An Pyeong, who produces the King’s royal order, for Kim Jong Seo to assist the Crown Prince, in the capacity of Second State Councilor.
However, that again puts Prince Su Yang and Kim Jong Seo on opposing sides, and even more fiercely than before, even, as they both state in their own ways, that they are now ready to kill, if necessary.
And of course, this the moment when Seung Yu can’t fight his feelings for Se Ryeong any longer, and, STILL not knowing that she is Prince Su Yang’s daughter, seeks her out at the temple, and goes straight for an embrace, the moment he sees her.
I guess he realizes that he loves her, after all.
But, will love be enough, though, with how complicated things have just gotten, on the family and political fronts? 😬