The throne is a powerful, yet lonely place to be. So steps up to defend the throne for the Crown Prince, knowing it is the right thing to do and what his late father wanted. Soo decides to choose integrity over loyalty, aware that she can’t change the course of history. For those who are not tempted (yet) by trappings of the crown, being pulled into a melee with interested individuals will only lead to heartache, heartbreak, bloodshed and tears.
Woo Hee fails to assassinate the king since the man himself faints first. Baek Ah, who I assume only suffers a nick, urges her to leave before anyone realises she meant to kill the king. The king is urgently carried to his quarters, clearly on the verge of death. He cynically muses that life is futile – he is here one day, gone tomorrow. He is happy at least to have two loyal comrades in Ji Mong and General Park. He makes them promise to look after the Crown Prince and 4th Prince when he is gone – he is done with his war, while those living have to carry on the fight.
Soo is at Damiwon preparing tea for the king and she thinks back about So’s proposal. The Korean version ends the scene here. I know I said I’ll review according to the Korean version but I think I’ll mix it up a little for this review. In the international version, Soo is reaching for a jar of tea when Jung appears and helps her take it from the shelf. He feels bad that is unable to help her but reassures he would be able to in time. He is now an adult and can take responsibility of her. He will keep his distance from for now and will prove his worth as time passes. Soo smiles gently, touched and amused by the youngest prince’s devotion.
The two queens are prevented from entering the king’s quarters. Yo, Wook and Won approach the outside of the king’s quarters, but are stunned to see General Park and his guards guarding the place. They claim they are here to see the king but General Park just smiles and said the king ordered that no one would be allowed to see him. If anyone insists, he would be taken as committing treason and suspected of trying to stop the Crown Prince from taking the throne. Won whispers that he can’t find So.
The king comments that Soo’s tea tastes and smells exactly like how Lady Oh made it. He weakly orders her to go to the Crown Prince, who needs to come back as quickly as possible from where he is to assume his heir-apparent position. The king informs Soo that he would be dead before the Crown Prince returns so they need to keep his death a secret till then. He warns her that would be people trying to talk to her once she steps out of his room. He instructs her to tell them that she is simply getting more tea for him as instructed. He warns her that if any man asks her whether he is dead, that person is eyeing the crown.
Soo runs as fast as she can with her limp, and runs into Wook, who asks her where she is headed. Soo mumbles that she is getting more tea for the king when Wook asks whether the king has already died. Soo is reminded of the king’s warning and demands outright whether Wook is after the throne. Wook admits he is but is doing it for her – he realised how powerless he was before when he could not help her, so now he craves power. He asks Soo again whether the king has already passed away and she numbly replies that she is getting more tea for him. She walks past him and he informs her dully that the Crown Prince is faaaar away south and won’t be able to return in time. He tells her that he and Yo will be spearheading a revolt the next day.
The queens are finally allowed to see the king but all the king sees is Lady Oh. He calls her name and breathes his last. Meanwhile, So is on his way to get the Crown Prince but his path is blocked by Yeon Hwa and guards. I think So figured something was amiss when he noticed Wook wearing armour under his robes and decided to get the Crown Prince anyway. He realises that Wook is involved since Yeon Hwa is involved. I’ll review the international version here for this segment. Yeon Hwa informs So that all roads to Songak are blocked and wonders why he is supporting the Crown Prince and not fighting for the throne himself. So says if he gaining the throne will help him gain someone’s love, then he will become king. When Yeon Hwa scoffs that the crown is not something so insignificant just to founded on love for someone, So returns that this is exactly how insignificant the crown is to him. So for the international version, both conversations, Soo-Wook and So-Yeon Hwa, are interweaved to present why each prince wants to become king. The Korean version simply cut short the conversation between So and Yeon Hwa.
Baek Ah is with Woo Hee, who is about to escape. Baek Ah demands to know why Woo Hee is after the king’s life and she snaps that his father killed her entire family, except her…thus her scars from that incident. Baek Ah apologises on his father’s behalf and apologies that he is the son of the man who killed her family. I like that he is rather matter of fact about the whole thing and doesn’t criticise, defend or advocate his father’s actions. He simply takes it as it is.
When Yo hears from Jung that Soo has been secretly brewing tea for the king, he figures she is the only one who knows whether he is alive or dead. He orders her capture. The Korean version shows Soo attempting to find So at the tower but he is nowhere to be seen. AHHH.. now I get it when in the international version, So asks her later why sought him out earlier. So this scene was deleted from the international version. So Soo tries to flee the palace but sees Won asking the guards about her. Someone yanks her and it is So, who has returned to the palace.
She quickly informs him that king has passed away, stating the last she saw him, he had trouble breathing. She also says that the king wanted her to get the Crown Prince back to the palace. Soo divulges that Yo is planning to revolt the next day and needs to be stopped. Ah…she didn’t mention Wook’s involvement. But So is sharp and asks how she knows, which she brushes off as not being important at this moment. So laments that the Crown Prince is in Hubaekje and all the roads are blocked. Soo brightens, saying she knows someone who would know a way to Hubaekje.
The person is currently being accompanied by Baek Ah, in the middle of escaping from the palace. The two couples run into each other and while So is suspicious of Woo Hee, he relents in light of the situation since both Soo and Baek Ah vouch for her. So informs Baek Ah that Wook and Yo will be leading a revolt the next day – So is disconcerted that he knows about Wook’s involvement but did not mention it to her earlier. Woo Hee says there is a way to Hubaekje that only she is aware of.
Meanwhile, Wook is plotting his path to the throne. Yeon Hwa wonders why he doesn’t just storm the palace now and take the throne since the Crown Prince isn’t around. Wook says he doesn’t want to be known as a traitor and he is prioritising – he is thinking who to get rid of first…Yo or the Crown Prince. His path to the throne has to flawless and without mistakes. He is more worried about someone betraying him.
That is, Soo, who is currently in the throne room. So pops up behind her, asking her why she is staring at it so hard…does she want to sit on it? HEH. Soo demurs that she isn’t interested and So replies many have risked their lives to sit there. Soo laments that the king abandoned Lady Oh to keep his seat and now… So will be fighting his brothers the next day. He wouldn’t hurt them…would he?
So clips she is worried about Wook…since they are relatives? EH? Does it he really not know or is he just testing her. If she cared for him so much, then why did she seek So out to stop him? Soo shares that Wook wants the throne because of her – he wants to amass power because he was powerless to help her before. Soo sighs that the king asked her to just go with the flow and watch things unfold and that’s why she is on the Crown Prince’s side. But if anything happens to Wook, she would be scarred for life.
So snorts with an indulgent smile and promises he’ll do his best not to harm Wook. Anyway, he doesn’t want to kill Wook, too. GAAAAAH. I love, love, love So here for being so reasonable and understanding about Soo’s concern for Wook but I’m really not sure whether he knows they were in love before. Yikes.
So adorably gripes that he may get injured during the fight too – isn’t Soo worried about him? Soo gazes at him with a resigned smile, reiterating to herself he is Gwang Jong and if history is accurate, So will live. So muses everyone must die one day, obviously wondering whether he would meet his maker in the battle the next day. Soo assures him that he would be fine and he smiles confidently and turns to stare at the throne in determination. The international version has him saying that Soo’s words (of being sure he is not going to die) makes him feel invincible. They both turn to study the throne that is causing brothers to turn against each other, lovers to betray and abandon each other.
Wook’s mom wants to cover the king’s face with his robe but Yo’s mom refuses to let her. So steps into the room coolly and both queens wonder why he is allowed in here. So states he is here to pay his last respects to his father. He kneels by his father’s bedside, overcome with emotion. Flashback to two years before in Shinju. Ji Mong hands So a box which contains a mask. So comments that the king sends him a new mask every year…which is the only fatherly duty he does. The King is parked in his palanquin some distance away, watching So fondly from afar. OMO…
So looks up, spots his father and smiles happily that his father cared enough to come to Shinju to see him in secret. The king settles back in his sedan, satisfied that he got to see his son yet overcome with sadness that he had to sent this particular son away. OMO…this scene broke my heart. I wonder if So is only remembering now at his father’s deathbed that the king did indeed care and love for him in his own way. He always thought he was being discarded by his father, always filled with hurt, but seeing the older man in death, it hits him that his father did what he thought was best for him.
I do think the king did love So and sending him away was the only way to protect him. So’s scar is partially his fault and he feels guilty, which is why he sent a new mask every year. He wanted to tell his son he had not forsaken him. He had General Park train him in secret and I bet my favourite heels that no one else in the palace knows the king visits So on the sly. So sheds tears and stands up. He takes the robe and covers his father. DAMN. I love it that both queens daren’t stop him, even his own mom. I love that So is the son who extends his father his last act of dignity; a beautiful, meaningful reciprocation of his father’s hidden love for him, an acknowledgement that his father tried his best to protect his scarred son’s dignity throughout his life.
Still shaking with tears, So orders Ji Mong to check with General Park how many soldiers and weapons they have on hand because at the next daybreak, Yo and Wook would be leading a revolt. The late king wanted the Crown Prince to be the heir and So states they have to follow his will. He’ll hold the fort till the Crown Prince comes. Both queens are shocked and horrified. Yo’s mom threaten to kill So if he touches Yo. So utters through gritted teeth that she can be accused of plotting treason yet she is making such pompous demands – she sure is one greedy individual. GAHHHHH. So’s fierceness here is glorious. He shrugs off his mom and stalks out. Wook’s mom stops the other woman from creating a spectacle – they both are in danger of losing a son soon and they should be thinking of ways to save them instead of stirring up more trouble.
Baek Ah is with Woo Hee, who is leading him to the Crown Prince. They have their moment and Baek Ah kisses her.
Dawn comes, and Wook and Yo are outside the palace. The place is too quiet though – it is as if their arrival is expected. Wook says it doesn’t matter since half of the troops are with the Crown Prince. He also has one request – that if So stops them, Wook wants him killed. DAMMMMN. And we have the naïve So earlier stating he doesn’t want to harm or kill Wook if possible.
The duo storms the palace, and find So and General Park waiting for them with a meagre number of soldiers. General Park warns them they are committing treason but Yo claims he is just worried about his mom. Wook spots Soo standing behind So’s soldiers and accepts bitterly that she has betrayed him. They draw their swords and Wook rushes to attack So first. He is getting pretty personal about this. They clash swords while Soo watches them in growing agitation.
It’s an even fight though I’m biased and love how LJK wields his sword. But suddenly, reinforcements arrive for So and it’s the Crown Prince, with Baek Ah by his side. Wook points his sword at Yo and the latter realises belatedly that he has been totally played by Wook. The Crown Prince commends Wook for informing him of Yo’s revolt in advance and he had been making his way back to the palace. Wook is one conniving fellow. Now he has the Crown Prince’s trust but I’m not too sure whether General Park and So are equally convinced. I hope not.
Ji Mong announces the king’s death and names the Crown Prince as the new king. The Crown Prince rushes forward to see his father but Wook drops to his knees in front of him and hails him as the new king. So follows suit and soon everyone is kneeling before the devastated new king who doesn’t even have the chance to grief for his father properly. Awww…tears run down Baek Ah’s face as he kneels to the new king, while mourning for his father. Yo’s mom comes out in a daze, her hair turned white overnight.
Soo meets with Wook and wonders why he lied to her. He refutes that she betrayed him, informing So of his so-called plans for revolt. Did she want him to die? Soo argues she was following what the king wanted and it was the right thing to do. Plus, So promised that he wouldn’t kill Wook. Wook is livid that Soo pleaded So for his life…so I wonder whether So could have killed Wook if he wanted to when they fought earlier. it dawns on her that Wook had wanted to kill So during the revolt and was using her to do so. OUCH.
Soo reminds him he once wanted to leave the palace with her. Well, they can do it now since the new king would have no qualms releasing her. Wook doesn’t budge, saying something else will happen again and nothing will change. Soo doesn’t believe anymore that Wook wants to become king because of her. She steps back and issues that she won’t be treating Wook the same way anymore. Wook inquires accusingly whether her feelings have been affected by So and she Soo asks whether Wook ever trusted her even once or have ever completely trusted her? She turns to leave and he states curtly he’ll win her back one day. Soo answers sadly that would be difficult task and they go their separate paths…never tread on a common one ever again.
Yo is chased by soldiers, with So, Wook and Jung after him. Yo is cornered at the edge of a cliff and when Wook raises his bow and arrow, So stops him, saying that they shouldn’t turn this into a hunt. Jung offers to stop Yo but So intercepts that Jung won’t be able to fight Yo till the end since they are brothers. So steps up to fight Yo instead. Awwww…he is willing to be responsible for the outcome and he would rather be the bad guy than have Jung do the deed.
So fights Yo and pricks him in his chest, driving him to the edge of the cliff. Yo retaliates and So ends up stabbing him, and Yo falls off the cliff before So can catch him. So is shaken that he has killed his own brother – which means he didn’t mean to kill Yo and probably just wanted to wound him and take him back to the palace. Yo’s mom goes berserk at the news of her eldest son’s death.
So is sitting stoned by the river and Soo arrives to join him. She asks tiredly why he wants to see her…and notices that he is crying. He chokes out that he doesn’t expect her to forgive him but he knows she’ll understand him. He blurts out that he killed his own brother and breaks down. Soo starts with patting his shoulder and finally, she embraces him as So cries his heart out. She understands.
OMO. LJK. Flawless again in this episode. Pitch-perfect emoting and boundless charisma oozing from every pore. But I have to commend KHN for turning in a great performance as Wook turns more ambitious, ruthless and cunning. I actually prefer this Wook than the placid one since he adds more depth, colour and intrigue to the story.
We can be certain that Soo doesn’t like So at all in a romantic sense at this point. Rather, she is touched and moved by what he has done for her so far, and sympathises with his inner conflict. That last Soo-Wook conversation is a major turning point for the whole story since Soo will now distance herself from Wook after he refused to give up his quest for the throne for her. This is when the So-Soo love story starts to develop more comprehensively.
Kudos to how the writer wrapped up the tumultuous father-son relationship between So and the king. So discovers in the end he always had a place in his father’s heart. It’s ironic that while the other princes were vying for their father’s favour in the palace, So didn’t have to do anything to earn his father’s attention and affection despite being sent away. The yearly gift of mask spoke volumes – So may have been seemingly abandoned but he was not forgotten. The king does have his selfish reasons regarding the crown prince, but ultimately, he did what he had to do to ensure So remained relevant to the royal family down the road, and developed enough strength and character to handle those against him.
I still get the idea that Soo is just reacting to whatever, whoever is around her and goes with the flow just because the king told her to. I would have liked better if she had made the decision herself. At least she showed some backbone when she confronted Wook – before the revolt and after. The thing is, LJK and KHN are much better actors than IU, which doesn’t help much to her underwhelming screen presence. I don’t mind her as Soo simply because LJK is just killing the role and dragging everyone along with him laboriously to the finish line with his amazing performance, blistering charisma and powerful screen presence. He is just eating up the screen and spitting it out through those glorious eyes.
The preview shows that Yo didn’t die and is back for revenge with a new hairdo. HA. Wook’s machinations will kick off in full drive from the next episode and it would be interesting to see how and why So begins his quest for the throne.