kingly ambition…at the expense of love

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Tell me you’re not in love with that pair of eyes…The broadcast of the drama in China went on as scheduled so I’ll review according to the Chinese version. I don’t know how many more times I shall say that Lee Jun Ki is absolutely compelling as So. He owns So so unapologetically and is pure awesomeness in every scene. DAEBAK. Really. DAEBAK. Simply Wonderful. Sinfully Sexy.

Eun runs after Seon Deok, only to see her cut down. He is struck in the arm by Yo’s arrow and when the latter takes aim again, So rushes to protect Eun, putting himself between his third and 10th brother. As So attacks the guards, Yo takes the chance to shoot Eun in his chest. Jung arrives but is held back by the guards. Soo watches in horror as her vision unfolds before her.

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Eun, sputtering in pain, grabs So and reminds him that Yo once said So was able to give Eun a gift only So could give. Eun is claiming that gift now because he cannot bear to let Seon Deok go the afterlife alone… and So’s eyes starts to glisten with tears as it dawns on him what Eun wants. The 10th Prince would rather die by the hand of So than Yo. GAHHHHH. I’m tearing now….GAH. Baek Hyun is actually really decent here – maybe he’s more suited to playing serious roles than silly.

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So shakily releases Eun, furious and devastated at once. He roars in rage and slashes Eun. He bursts out in maniacal laughter, all the pain, rage, horror pouring out. He who doesn’t want to hurt his brothers, actually kills his brother because he loved him too much not to fulfil his last wish. It is macabre. So is openly crying now, while Jung and So just helplessly watch the heartbreaking scene taking place in front of them. Yo walks away, a little stunned that So actually did manage to kill Eun.

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So sees Soo, collapsed on the ground, and walks away in dazed despair. He meets General Park along the way and the older man knows what happened at the sight of So’s bloody sword. So’s expression has turned to stone and he barely blinks as the general rushes off.

General Park cradles his daughter, with Soo and Jung watching over the dead couple in shocked grief. General Park growls that he wanted Seon Deok to marry either the cultured 13th Prince or 14th Prince who is a good fighter, but his daughter picked Eun because he was her first love. He asks whether Eun cherished Seon Deok and Soo replies that the couple loved each other deeply. Then seems to satisfy the general, who is at peace that Seon Deok died happy and found love with Eun.

Jung springs to his feet and grab his sword, trembling with rage, and states he is going to kill So. Soo clutches him urgently, saying that it was Eun who wanted So to kill him. It wasn’t So’s fault and right now, he is hurting the most. Jung seems to understand where Soo is coming from and throws away his sword with an agonised yell.

So walks to the main quarters of the palace and Ji Mong is there. He too knows what has transpired just by So’s bloody face and sword. So drawls cynically that he is going to become that dog who breaks free from his collar and bites his master. He wants to put a stop to all this fratricide and he knows the only way is for him to become king. So states with determination, “I am going to become the king of Goryeo.” Even so, tears of agony roll down his face.

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Yo informs Wook of Eun’s and Seon Deok’s deaths and Wook barely holds in his grief, gripping his shaking hands tight as tears wobble in his eyes. Yo also share his kingly plans but Wook is barely listening though he forces out a word of congratulations.

So is brooding at the observatory tower when Baek Ah arrives. The younger brother relates that since Eun was considered a traitor, he was not allowed burial or funeral clothes. He was not allowed to be buried at the royal tombs but his body was flung in the woods outside the city, for the ravens to feed.

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But Baek Ah and Jung managed to stealthily take Eun’s body away and buried him in a remote place. They could not remove the arrows from Eun’s body so Jung broke off the parts that stuck out. So muses sadly that Eun still remembered that So owed him a gift only he could him – So himself had forgotten all about it. Baek Ah comforts So that Eun was probably grateful for what So did. JI Mong comes up to the brothers and reveals the letter that Soo wrote to inform So that Eun was hiding in Damiwon.

So, Baek Ah and Ji Mong goes to see General Park, who greets So respectfully. I guess he is reasonable and rational enough to know that So handed Eun a mercy killing. He says he heard that So wants to become king. Baek Ah shoots So a bewildered glance as General Park remarks that So has the star of a king, and his father, the late king, believed it too. This is why he ordered General Park to train So.

So scoffs that he doesn’t believe in such nonsense but he still wants to be king. If being on seat is causing all this bloodshed, he wants to take the throne to stop all these senseless killings. So isn’t going to give up on his new ambition and only his death will stop him.

So inquires who is with him? Everyone looks at Baek Ah first. Baek Ah answers with a smile that he was born as So’s younger brother and it is his fate – he’s with So. AWWWWWWWWWWWW. BROMANCE!!!! So-Baek Couple! My OTP of this drama!!!

Ji Mong solemnly utters that he will take responsibility for this word and deed, so obviously he is on on board, too. Only General Park is left. He reminds So of what his late father once said: A king is one who is willing to sacrifice anything and everything for the nation and the royal family. So replies that he remembers what his father said.

General Park grins coldly and wonders out loud who So will sacrifice for his quest for the throne? So’s jaw tightens as he is aware of who exactly General Park is referring to. General Park muses he wants to see who So sacrifices first before he makes his decision on whether to support him. His support is important as he controls most of the royal army.

Cut to Soo who is at the fave hangout of she and So. She runs eagerly to So when he arrives but steps back warily when she sees the jaded coldness in his eyes. Soo quickly says that she understands how difficult the decision was for him to kill Eun.

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But So ignores her sympathy and asks her why she didn’t tell him Eun was hiding in Damiwon. He figures she didn’t trust him and was worried So would kill Eun upon capture. Soo admits she was worried about that and at the same time, she didn’t want to hurt So’s feelings. That’s why she decided to write the letter in the end, but it turned out that her action only caused both of them more hurt. But she earnestly swears she did trust him even though it took her awhile. She also realised she loved him in the process.

Her fervent explanation doesn’t sway So and he refutes that he has changed. When he looks at her, he is reminded of the times when she didn’t trust him, and suspects that she would think he caused Eun’s death and how So killed him. To save her, he became the king’s dog but yet his heart didn’t change then. But now his heart has changed. So coolly suggest they break off.

He walks away and Soo cries out that she knows he is lying. He levels her with another fierce stare and reminds her that they don’t lie to each other, and stalks off. So numbly returns to the observatory tower and collapses against the rail as tears overcome him. He barely can draw a breath. Lee Jun Ki….daebak.

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Yo rewards So richly for killing Eun while So lifelessly pledges his allegiance. General Park spits on So later, remarking that So has gained all the rewards by killing his daughter and son-in-law. Wook silently walks away from So. So just continues his march forward stonily.

Jung seeks Yo out and informs him that he won’t be returning to the palace for a long while. Yo agrees it is a good idea but reminds him out of consideration for their mom, Jung shouldn’t join the frontline troops. Jung refuses, saying he wants to test how many lives he has. Plus, he has to make up for Yo’s sins as much as he can. Jung holds out the arrows that had struck Eun and leaves them on the floor before walking out of the throne room. Yo stares at the arrows and starts to hallucinate Eun’s voice begging him to let he and Seon Deok go.

Baek Ah delivers bad news to Soo: Soo has left for Seo Kyung and won’t be back for a long time. She rushes to their favourite meeting place but he isn’t there. Time trickles by and we time jump to two years ahead. Chae Ryung rushes to find Soo to tell her someone important, someone who has been away for two years, is waiting for her.

Thinking it is So, Soo returns to Damiwon giddily but is disappointed to see Jung instead. He is now a general of the highest order and well, now sports messier hair and darker sideburns. HA. I’m amused at how they tried to age Ji Soo. Soo makes him tea and he remarks that he rushed back just to drink this. And he stopped by Eun’s grave on the way back. Sweet boy.

Jung wonders why she isn’t married since she can leave the palace if she is. Soo just smiles and says she’ll still have to serve someone even if she leaves the palace. All she wants to do is grow old and travel to faraway places in her later years. She has been saving money for that and boasts that she has amassed quite a fortune so far.
Jung also meets Baek Ah and Woo Hee, who is now the sang-gung of the gyobang. Jung isn’t pleased to see her, muttering that everything of Woo Hee is suspicious, including her shady past. When Jung leaves, Baek Ah asks where So is. Soo is stunned to hear that So has returned too and Baek Ah sheepishly admits he thought So had already visited Soo.

Yo is busy chanting away in his throne room, obviously mentally unsound. His mom comes to visit him and insists that he installs Jung ass the crown prince. Yo wonders whether his mom treats him as son or a pig – someone she uses to ensure she has a hold on the throne. He lashes out and ask whether Jung is after the throne, she stares at him, askance. At this moment, So’s arrival is announced and he walks in. Yo blurts out that he should just make So the heir to his throne since they are blood brothers anyway and his mom calls him crazy before flouncing out in a huff. Yo snorts at says So sure has many uses. So ignores the insult as he watches Yo chant away.

So arrives at the throne room with tea and is disconcerted to see So already there, joined by Wook and Jung. Yo complains that a certain construction is taking up too many lives and grabs Soo’s wrist in anger. So drops to his knees and claims it is his fault. Back at her quarters, Soo practises writing the peom So had written for her previously.

So heads to THAT garden and of course, bumps into Soo. Won and Yo sees them from the pavilion and Won comments that So hasn’t gotten over Soo yet. Soo approaches So and he orders her not to – it is better they act as if they don’t know each other. Yo takes aim at Soo with his bow and arrow and So spots him just as he lets the arrow fly.
The arrow skims So’s arm as he jumps to cover Soo. Soo realises belatedly that So has just saved her from getting wounded. When she reaches out to touch him in worry, he shrugs her off, aware that Yo and Won are on their way.

Won comments the two still look friendly while So says he took the arrow since it wouldn’t be seemly for the king to be caught killing a palace lady. Yo just laughs it off, saying it was his mistake. So says it’s only a flesh wound but Soo has a good look at it and knows it is a lot worse than that. Won follows the king and So warns Won to be careful. So leaves Soo after his brothers leave.

Soo is back at her quarters, examining the arrow. She calls for Woo Hee and asks whether she can contact Baek Ah. When Woo Hee says she can, Soo asks her to pass a message to him: she wants to see So. Woo Hee reminds her it is dangerous to do so but Soo isn’t deterred.

Jung is in audience with the king, who acknowledges that his youngest brother has contributed to the stability and safety of the nation. He asks what Jung wants as a reward – he’ll grant him anything except the throne. Jung states there is something he wants very badly.

Cut to Jung charging into Damiwon, wanting to see Soo and insisting he has something very important to tell her. Chae Ryung lies that Soo is sick and when Jung thinks it is all the more reason to see her, the maid rattles off if Jung catches whatever ailment Soo has, the whole army might be affected, too. Jung is pacified by the explanation and reminds Chae Ryung that she must tell Soo that he wants to see her.

Soo is off to find So, who is outside the palace. Baek Ah has made sure everyone has been dismissed before Soo’s arrival. She arrives to find him feverish and delirious, with his wound infected. She treats his wound and So snaps out of his delirium enough to see Soo looking after him. He rests more peacefully after.

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He wakes up sometime later to find Soo asleep near him. He reaches out to stroke her cheek when she wakes up. He asks her curtly why she is with him and she says she had something to ask him and enlisted Baek Ah’s help. So tells her to ask her question and leave.

Soo says So hasn’t forgotten her, has he? When he said he didn’t love her, he was lying, wasn’t he? So just reiterates that she has to return to the palace and Soo bursts out that she risked her life to sneak out of the palace just to ask him this question. There wasn’t a day in the last two years that she didn’t miss him and she keeps hoping they could go back to the where they were. So she is asking him again and this time, he shouldn’t lie. Does he still love her like last time?

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So succumbs and kisses her deeply. She kisses him back. She tears, he wipes it off gently. He envelopes her in a tender hug and she hugs him back tightly. And well, the candle flickers off and yup, they sleep together. I wished they had made it a little more obvious ala Kim Tae Hee and Yoo Ah In in Jung Ok Jung? It was such an abrupt transition from the passionate kissing and sweet hugging, to Soo sleeping like the dead next to So. Wished they had shown them cuddling at least. Though I admit Lee Jun Ki was killer tender in this scene, which I’m sure caused many females to swoon. The last time I saw the candle flickering off to represent a bed scene taking place was some Chinese drama eons ago. Hahaha. I don’t think I’ve seen this “tactic” used in a current sageuk drama before.

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They are kinda cute though that they actually play shadow puppets after that and feed each other. They gaze at stars outside, all lovey dovey… until Ji Mong turns up. Ha. So quickly puts Soo’s hand away and stands up.

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Ji Mong informs them that Yo’s condition is worsening… and surprisingly, So doesn’t gloat. Rather, he says that though Yo acts as if he doesn’t give a damn outwardly, inside he has been affected by his involvement in the deaths of Moo and Eun. Ji Mong concurs. And he adds that the time is now. So looks conflicted, and even a little sad.
Later, Soo asks So whether he wants the throne. He replies without doubt that he wants it. She sighs that the throne was the reason why he left her? So answers candidly that the king would use her to control him, and will use him as a reason to pick on her.

And if Soo asks him to give up? So smiles and says he will convince her until she agrees to go along with him. Those words… when he said he didn’t have to be king and would be happy as long they were together…he isn’t going to say them now.

So says they promised not to lie to each other. He wants to stop all the needless bloodshed and while he was away, he realised one thing – once the person-in-charge changes, the world can change. He wants to put an end to all this evil – that’s why he must sit on the throne.

Lee Jun Ki. Again perfect. The wealth and depth of emotions he exhibited in this episode probably adds up to more than what all the princes and IU have tried to display in all 16 episodes so far. His eyes are just…. No words can describe my awe and swoon.

Anyway, I love how So is written, able to understand all his brothers despite the fronts they put up. I was touched by his observation of Yo and he willing to cut him some slack. I love how he didn’t gloat over Yo’s illness and how you can tell that the throne to him is really his last resort to end all this pain, evil and devastation.

He is the only prince who sincerely cares for his brothers to the point he would really rather not hurt or harm any of them. It’s ironical since he was the one who was sent away but then again, his lack of love and lack of interaction with them made him appreciate their presence more. When he couldn’t turn down Eun’s plea….my heart broke.

Oh, Jung. I can see why you are the best person for Soo even though she doesn’t love you. He would be the one who will be able to love her unconditionally without causing her heartache. She may not find love with him…but she would find peace and stability, unlike the other two princes she has loved and lost.

Anyway, Jung’s request to Yo as a reward is most probably Soo’s hand in marriage. That was what happened in the Chinese version. 14th Prince had a decree from the late emperor for the marriage between he and Ruo Xi but he kept it a secret when he found out that she was in love with 4th Prince. But he wielded it later in order for 4th Prince – who had then become the empreror – to release Ruo Xi from the palace.

I honestly find all these time jumps utterly useless since it doesn’t help to substantiate the plot much. I find Soo marginally palatable and well, when she railed that she risked her life to visit So outside the palace….I wanted to say… just how many times has So risked his life for her? I’m pretty disappointed with the way Soo is written: mostly weak, indecisive and her “future-ness” totally eroded. Her love for So feels flimsy and childish but I guess I mostly just ignore it since So’s love for her is so understated yet so deep that it overwhelms me as a viewer.

I don’t mind IU but I’m wondering whether a more experienced, slightly older actress should have been cast because Lee Jun Ki is acting circles, triangles, squares, pentagons around her. Someone like Han Hye Jin would have been awesome since she was all sorts of awesome as Soseono in Jumong. She may be a little old for Soo but she is around the same age as Lee Jun Ki and would have matched him perfectly in screen presence and acting chops, and lend weight and meat to the character. Plus she does strong-willed roles so well.

My fave scene was definitely the one when So had to kill Eun because he couldn’t bear to refuse Eun’s last wish. It was so devastating and Lee Jun Ki was sublime in this scene, his pain, rage and horror playing across his features, his eyes and every gesture.

The good part? The reunion of Soo and So because Lee Jun Ki was seriously to-die-for in the scene. The close-ups of him were great and lent an intimacy to the whole exchange. Actually, he is to-die-for in every darned scene.

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