love + power
The throne is lonely, scary place to be. So discovers that his ascension to the throne does not lessen his problems but in fact multiplies them. He loses people he love – both physically and metaphorically – and though Soo promises she will never leave him, that decision is not hers to make, unfortunately. Also, just how much does Soo trust So? And if Lee Jun Ki gets any more glorious in his portrayal as So, he’ll explode into fireworks soon enough.
We start off where we last left off. So asks Soo whether she really doesn’t want him to become king. And she replies candidly that she doesn’t want him to be king but hates the idea of being apart from him even more. She reiterates that he will become king and reminds him of his promise to not kill his brothers.
The following year, the thundering sound of revolt echoes outside the palace as the terrified guards shut the gates. Meanwhile Soo, who is aware of what is to come, nervously serves the king tea. He accuses her of poisoning his tea (thus his sickness) and rails that it is her fault that he is in this state. His mom charges into the room, demanding that he officially pen down that Jung would be his heir. He refuses, bitterly acknowledging that all along she had merely been using him as a tool to sustain her ambition to become dowager empress and retain power. Now he knows how So felt all these years. He throws her out of his presence and when Soo tries to skulk away, he stops her, too.
Yeon Hwa informs her mom that Wook is nowhere to be seen (he went to see the same uncle who is in cahoots with Yo). Her mom is resigned and muses that one cannot have both power and love. Yeon Hwa declares she wants to be queen and the older woman wearily agrees that she will help her daughter and give up Wook in the process.
So arrives looking mighty fine with Baek Ah and General Park in tow. He is about to storm the palace when the palace gates creak open and Yeon Hwa sashays out. The princes are stunned. She coquettishly announces that she’ll help So to take over the palace without bloodshed. So and General Park know this isn’t as simple as it looks, but So states curtly that he won’t forget her loyalty.
Soo is stuck with the deranged king who angrily claims he knows So would steal everything from him in the end. He scribbles his will and waves it around, asking Soo which brother he should name as heir. He stumbles towards Soo, will and quill in hand, crying that he only did what he did to survive. He collapses for good.
So breaks into the room the next moment and analyses the scene before him. He spots the crumpled will in the king’s hand and grabs it. He reads it and asks Soo fiercely whether she had read it, too. When Soo shakes her head, So shreds the will and stares at Soo, his eyes cold with determination.
Dowager Empress flounces in and freaks out over her dead son. Soo scrambles to bow to So, greeting him as the new king. So is shocked but plays along with her ruse, facing his mom and articulating that Yo abdicated the throne to him. Ji Mong drops to his knees and greets So as king, and so does the soldiers.
So is crowned king. Soo watches as the newly crowned Gwangjong walks across her. She smiles and fervently tells herself she’ll make sure he doesn’t go down in history as a king infamous for spilling blood.
Wook broods for the hundredth time in his broody study, wondering where it all went wrong to the point even his mother and sister betrayed him. How did So end up with the position he wanted? Yeon Hwa promises she’ll make it up to him if he helps her become queen.
So eradicates all the works of his predecessor, which includes halting the move of the capitol and compensating all the families who suffered under Yo’s rule. Baek Ah is the faithful scribe. Meanwhile, Soo waits for Soo in his new posh bedroom. He returns late with Baek Ah and when he wakes her, she stares at his kingly robes in wonder. HA. Well, it’s not every day a modern gal gets to date a true-blue emperor.
The three have supper where Baek Ah is hilariously awkward, calling So “His Majesty” and averting his gaze from his brother. So assures his younger brother that he can keep addressing him as “Hyung-nim”, which is really sweet. The tension is finally broken after some teasing from Soo-So. So sighs in content that he always wanted to have a meal with the two of them, just like family.
Later that night, Soo peeps in on So while he is sleeping. He calls her name in his sleep and when he stirs, he hugs her in a frenzied manner, saying he thought she disappeared. She calms him and he suggests she just sleeps with him in his room. He yanks her down next to him but she pops up again. So confesses he feels uncomfortable in the room without her and so she stays, lulling him to sleep with a bedtime story. She wakes up the next morning in his bed alone.
Soo meets Woo Hee and complains she is bored since all she does is wait for So every day. She was tired of waiting for him, which was why she wanted him to be king but feels she isn’t in a better position now. Woo Hee warns Soo to watch her words since the queen position is still vacant. The Empress Dowager calls for Soo.
Soo goes to meet her. Jung is there too and mother and son demand to know the truth – did Yo really name So as his heir? Jung shows Soo pieces of the torn will, which scares her further. Soo shakily sticks to her story… and So walks in. Mommy Dearest asks why he tore up the will and he smoothly refutes, “Who said I tore up the will?” He holds Soo’s hand tightly as he goes on to say he doesn’t know why Yo tore up the will but he definitely verbally stated he wanted So to be his heir. When Jung butts in, So drawls that his little bro can ask the dead king in his afterlife about his decision. Eeeks. His mom demands that he stops addressing her as Empress Dowager but So coolly reminds her that she holds the title since he is her son.
So pulls Soo out of the room and when they are out of earshot, he chides her, saying that she doesn’t have to be at the beck-and-call of his mom. Whoever wants to meet her has to obtain his permission first. Ji Mong informs So that there are tons of petitioners who are suspicious of his legitimacy of his ascension to the throne. So is furious, and orders that they all be killed, including all the maids and servants who was the late king when he died. He wants EVERYONE dead. Ji Mong is taken back by his ruthlessness.
The uncle who was in cahoots with Yo threatens to expose Woo Hee and she kills him. She meets Baek Ah after, who sheepishly asks whether she will allow herself to be adopted by clansmen if they are to be married. His mother and her family have been tortured by the Hubaekje and don’t take too kindly of having a daughter-in-law of the same heritage.
General Park requests to return to his hometown. Though So pleads with him to stay, the general is adamant to leave – he is sick of palace politics and is reminded of his daughter whenever he is there. Also, he keeps seeing So wielding and slashing his sword. OUCH. The general understands why So had to kill Eun, but the fact that So did kill Eun stings. General Park begs So to be a just king so when he meets So’s late father in the afterlife, he would be proud to say he served So. Awwww… this scene is killing me.
Later, So shares with Soo about what happened and figures General Park is scared of him too. Isn’t she curious who Yo named as heir? Soo replies she is the last person who is curious about that and So relates that Yo in fact did not name anyone as heir. So was worried that this may cause more trouble and that’s why he tore it up. Anyway, he intended to storm the palace and the will wouldn’t matter in the end. Soo assures him that he made the right decision but her words don’t comfort So.
General Park leaving, Baek Ah who refuses to call him “Hyung-nim” anymore(as in Baek Ah who considers So as king above brother)… feels like death to So. This makes him feel he is one who took the throne solely for revenge. Coupled with the fact that his birth mother who refuses to acknowledge him… So says Soo was right when she said the throne was a lonely, frightening place to be. Soo assures him that she will remain by his side and won’t leave him. So accepts her word for now but he doesn’t look convinced.
Soo moves into her new quarters. Chae Ryung reveals that the king will be sending maids home and she is one of them – but she wants to stay at Damiwon. She begs Soo to help her change the king’s mind. So Chae Ryung and Won have a thing going – hints were dropped over the course of the drama but honestly, all the secondary romances are rubbish.
Won promises he’ll marry Chae Ryung once he is done with his agenda – there is more for her to do for him. Urgh.
Jung contests the legitimacy of the will and So comments jadedly his mom would rather die than acknowledge him as her son. Woo Hee and Soo have tea together. Woo Hee wonders out loud whether Soo would forgive her if she did something wrong. Soo says she will since both women suffer a similar fate filled with hardship. Because of that, she’ll forgive Woo Hee at least once for any wrongdoing.
Soo runs into Wook, who is waiting for her. He blames her, citing that she once said one cannot have both power and love, and yet she is now the king’s woman. What is about So that Soo supported his ambition to be king? Soo answers that So was straightforward and honest with her from the beginning. Plus, he was meant to be king. Wook is not at fault at all. Soo divulges about So possessing the star of the king and Wook is unnerved to hear that this so-called fate sealed his own fate.
He broods again in his broody study and grits out that is can’t endure the fact that Soo chose So. He smashes the bracelet he had given to Soo, and his sister walks in, as timely as ever. Wook says dully that he’ll help her become queen – one cannot have everything.
Soo is with So, who is repeatedly writing the poem he wrote for her. We saw earlier that Soo had stacks of the poem written by herself too. This is payment for the snacks she had made for him – or at least this is atonement since he ate up all the snacks she made for both he and Baek Ah. Heh.
Soo piles on the aegyo and asks whether she can help at Damiwon in the day. Also, she asks So to let Chae Ryung stay in the palace. So is sceptical about Chae Ryung but he gives in. I think he always had a nagging suspicion she was responsible for Moo’s death. I think everyone is suspicious of Chae Ryung except the clueless Soo. So says Soo won’t be bored for long since… there will be children soon. Soo sputters that they aren’t even married yet and insists So proposes properly. So grumbles handling her is harder than handling matters of the nation. He tells her he’ll send the royal physician over to appraise her health – she needs to be all hale and hearty to have his babies.
The court physician solemnly informs her she is in danger of going lame since her knees never recovered fully from her bout of torture. He also reveals she has a serious heart condition and has limited years to live.
This prompts Soo to engage in prayer. She feels that ten years more to live is too short – and she wants to spend more time with So. Jung comes along and comments snidely that Soo must be praying for So to reign for a long time. Soo replies she was simply praying that she could go back being friends with Jung.
Jung reminded her she once said she won’t choose sides yet she chose So – he feels thoroughly betrayed. Soo replies sternly that the late king killed two of his brothers – did Jung forget that? Anyway, it is So’s fate to be king.
Jung accedes that it could be fate but grouses that relationships between the brothers became strained the moment So returned to the palace. Plus, did Soo ever think of becoming queen? Soo stammers that she really never gave it much thought and Jung resumes, saying a queen is selected by her family’s connections and power. Likewise for all the king’s other wives.
Soo would end up being just one of the king’s many women – does she want to live like that? DIdn’t she once say she wanted to ride camels in the desert and sail the high seas? Jung concludes that anytime Soo feels she can’ take palace life anymore, she can come to him. He has a failsafe solution to help her leave the palace.
So is greeted by an empty court during morning assembly. Wook enters the room and states he represents all the clansmen. Wook states his terms: So have to give up control over the army and finances. When So objects, Wook suggests that So can consider giving up his heart instead – marry someone from the Hwangbo family.
At the same time, Yeon Hwa visits Soo. The latter claims she isn’t worried about Soo – she can’t be a concubine either so she’ll technically be one of the king’s many kept women. Yeon Hwa drops the bomb that she is getting married to the king.
Wook tells So if he marries Yeon Hwa, he will gain the support from all the clans. So replies brusquely that he is already engaged to someone and Wook blithely queries whether he is referring to Soo. Wook goes on to say that So can’t marry her. She once slit her wrist in order not to marry their father. Thus she has a scar and scarred women are not allowed to marry the king. So glares daggers at Wook.
I swear IU has only one expression in the entire drama – that wide-eyed, shocked stare, be it happy, sad or scared. It’s too late to be complaining since the drama is reaching the finishing line, but STILL. Lee Jun Ki is again faultless, even with a new hairdo. His eagle-sharp eyes look downright intimidating when he becomes Gwangjong, and the shift in mood and emotion in them is spellbounding to watch.
The tragedy of the So-Soo romance really lies in Soo’s trust in So. Does she really trust him in all circumstances? Is she committed to staying with him come what may? So doesn’t think so – you can tell from his weary expression in the scene in throne room, where Soo embraces him and promises him she will never leave him. He is aware that any untoward event will threaten the fragile trust she has in him, and that is why he is so jumpy and insecure with her. We’ll probably see her wavering trust causing the downfall of their relationship.
And Soo…oh well. I’ve given up hoping her love for Soo will run deeper and I’m not sure whether it is because of the way the character is written or IU’s bland portrayal. Yes, she did step up a couple of times in this episode but her love for So still feels so anchor-less, fleeting and transient. If she mentions one more time that “It’s fate” with regard to Soo becoming king, I’ll smack her with So’s unused mask. We all know that but I actively detest the patronising manner in which she says it. I wish she would back her stand with genuine, grounded reasons why So is suited to be king rather than using the fate card all the time. What really annoys me to no end is how she keeps saying she is going to do something or help So, but ends up hindering him or losing trust in him instead. When she practically crumpled under the pressure of Jung and his mom questioning her about So’s legitimacy of inheriting the crown…ARGH.
Jung. SIGH. I can’t exactly remember how Lin Geng Xin was like in the Chinese version but I don’t remembered being so annoyed with the 14th Prince then. Jung is back to being immature and a mama’s boy in this episode, which feels disruptive and irritating in the whole scheme of things. The way he thinks and expresses himself… a general of the highest order? Well.
So reminds us that he has that ruthless streak running through him when he orders all those against his claim to the throne, and Yo’s household staff to be killed. As he astutely reminds Wook – even if he is the emperor, he is still a wild wolf dog inside. I expected this to happen since So always had a complex about the issue of legitimacy and acceptance since being abandoned by his mother all those years ago.
The saddest part of the episode was how So was so devastated over the loss of General Park and Baek Ah refusing to call him “Hyung-nim” now that he is king. Baek Ah is the only one who genuinely treated him as a brother when the other princes rebuffed him. So the fact that Baek Ah now sees So as king before a brother hurts him deeply, and makes So realise no matter how hard he tries, gaining the crown means losing things precious to him. These are two people who relentlessly loved, supported and encouraged him unconditionally, who staunchly cared for him and stuck to his side through it all. They had his back even when Soo didn’t. So’s sense of helplessness struck a chord and my heart aches for him. I’m sure it will only ache much more as we enter into the final hours of the drama.