There’s only one episode this week due to a pre-emption yesterday, but it certainly is an eventful one. Su has to come to terms with her trust issues this hour, despite some of her visions of the future (in the past) coming true. But the question remains: Is the future she saw one that’s already taken her into account, or is it all just inevitable anyway?
EPISODE 16 RECAP
King Jeongjong looks on as Soon-deok valiantly fights to protect her husband, though tenth prince Eun steps in when Soon-deok is wounded. He asks his brother to spare them, but with one look from the king to one of the soldiers, Soon-deok is cut down in an attempt to spare Eun.
Eun crawls over to her with tears in his eyes, and cradles her face as he tells her that everything’s going to be all right. But she passes on, leaving Eun crying and helpless.
It’s then that King Jeongjong takes his bow and fires an arrow straight into Eun. Just before he can fire the other, So jumps into the fight to protect his brother as fourteenth prince Jung and Su arrive to see the scene before them rapidly deteriorate. So tries to fight off the soldiers, but that doesn’t stop Jeongjong from shooting an arrow into Eun’s chest.
So catches Eun before he can fall, and Eun, gasping for air, reminds his older brother of the birthday where So said he’d grant him any gift he wanted. Motioning to Soon-deok, Eun says that he can’t let her go alone, and asks one, final gift of his brother: He wants So to kill him so he can be with his wife, rather than the cruel Jeongjong.
With tears in his own eyes, So slowly raises his sword and cuts Eun down even as Su whispers, “No, you can’t.” It’s the same as it was in her vision, except that So watches in horror as a dying Eun reaches out toward his wife before he joins her in the afterlife.
Jung runs to his brother, urging him to wake up as So struggles even harder to contain his emotions. He breaks and begins to laugh incredulously instead, which fulfills the final part of the vision Su had—except that what she had considered to be victorious laughter is instead something much closer to a sob.
She crumples to the floor in shock as So looks toward her, but he leaves without saying a word. Su flashes back to all her fond memories with Eun as she sits, too shocked to even cry.
Grand General Park has to only look at So’s bloody sword before he goes running to the courtyard to find his precious daughter and son-in-law dead. He cradles the limp form of his daughter as Su continues to look blank, and says with a rueful smile that Soon-deok was the one who wanted to marry Eun, because he was her first love.
He was against it, General Park adds, because he knew this would happen. “Was my Soon-deok very adored by the prince?” he asks. “Very much,” a shell-shocked Su finally replies. “Very, very much. They loved each other.” The general seems soothed by this somewhat, though he cries pitifully as he holds his dead daughter in his arms.
“I’ll kill him,” Jung says, breaking the emotional moment. “I’ll kill Wang So.” Wait—you’re blaming him and not Jeongjong? Su grabs onto his robes and tells him not to do it, because that’s what Eun asked So to do. Jung can only drop his sword and cry out in frustration.
Outside the palace, a still-bloody So tells Astronomer Choi that he thinks he should become the rabid dog-wolf everyone once accused him of being—the king who ends lives, bites his master’s hand, and takes over his master’s house.
As he walks away, he thinks to himself, “I, Wang So, will become King of Goryeo.”
When King Jeongjong relays the news of Eun and Soon-deok’s deaths to Wook, Wook’s hands tighten ever so slightly even as his face remains neutral. Well, at least he still feels something.
That’s when Jeongjong decides to announce his plans to move the capital from Kaesong to Seokyeong, which will make his uncle, Wang Shik-ryeom, happy.
An emotional Baek-ah tells So that they won’t be allowed to mourn for Eun because he was labeled as a traitor, and though he and his wife’s body were thrown outside the palace gates to rot, they were able to give them a secret burial.
So tells Baek-ah about how Eun asked for one last gift from him, and Baek-ah completely understands why So did what he did—he knows that Eun would be thankful. Astronomer Choi interrupts to give So a letter from Su he just found, where she told him that Eun was hiding out at Damiwon.
So finds Su by the river, and despite her running up to him with hope in her eyes, he gives her a hard look. “I must look like a monster in your eyes. I killed Eun.” While Su claims she understands, So asks her why she hid Eun’s secret from him—was she that worried that he would kill Eun if he knew?
Su admits that she was only worried about Eun, and wanted only for he and his wife to escape together safely. “I didn’t realize we could end up hurting each other until it was too late. That was why I left that letter. I trusted you. I know it took some time, but I truly trusted you, enough that I would trust you in any situation,” she adds tearfully.
“But… now I no longer feel that way,” So says. He adds that he won’t be able to disassociate her from what he had to do because she didn’t trust him: “Eun died because of you. I will remember how I had to kill him.” Even when he had to become the king’s dog to save her, his feelings didn’t change. But now, he says coldly, they have.
“Let’s stop,” he says, turning away. But when Su calls him a liar, So gives her a small smile as he amends that they promised never to lie to each other. Ouch.
When So’s alone, however, we see him falter as tears spring to his eyes. Oh, you did lie! And broke your promise! Tsk.
So is rewarded with land by King Jeongjong for his help in executing the traitors, and is sent to see to the construction of new fortresses in the soon-to-be capital of Seokyeong. So commits himself to the royal command in a dead voice.
Jung calls his older brother out for his crimes while simultaneously announcing his plans to travel along the borders to help secure them. King Jeongjong warns him to stay away from the front lines for their mother’s sake, but Jung refuses to acquiesce, claiming that he lived like a coward for too long.
But before he leaves, he drops the two arrow stems they broke off Eun’s body in front of the king as a reminder. As if on cue, Jeongjong hears Eun’s voice as he pleaded for his and his wife’s lives. Fearful now, the king orders that sacrificial food be left for the dead—though he can’t specifically make an altar for Eun and Soon-deok, he might be hoping to calm their ghosts.
Grand General Park sarcastically wishes So prosperity in his new endeavors, especially considering that he gained land and wealth for hunting down and killing his daughter and son-in-law.
However, a flashback reveals that So, Baek-ah, and Astronomer Choi went to see the general, who already knew of So’s desire to become king. General Park also knew that So was born beneath the star of a king, and King Taejo knew it too, which is why he sent So to him to learn martial arts.
So claimed to not believe in such things, but despite that, he fully intended to become king, even if he had to kill for it. General Park reminded him that King Taejo once said that to become king, one had to throw everything else away, so General Park planned to wait and see what So would be willing to give up for the throne.
Cut to Su, the sacrifice So had to make, as Baek-ah tells her that So’s left for Seokyeong and won’t be returning for a long while. She runs out with the hope of catching him before he’s gone, but when she doesn’t, she only says into the air: “I will wait for you.”
And wait she does, as seasons come and go around her. It’s been two years, and Chae-ryung comes with exciting news that someone Su really wants to see has come to the palace.
Su runs to greet the visitor, and barely hides her disappointment when it turns out to be Jung. She manages a small smile as she greets him for the first time in two years, with Jung looking a bit more mature (and now a general) from years spent protecting the borders.
Jung admits that he paid a visit to Eun and Soon-deok’s graves, and that he was worried that Su would’ve left the palace before he returned. He thought she would’ve gotten married by now, but Su says that she plans to work until she retires, and only then will she travel the world.
Baek-ah and Woo-hee get to greet the recently returned Jung, though it’s Jung and Woo-hee’s first meeting. Su introduces her as the highest ranked lady of the gyobang, and Jung recognizes her as the former gisaeng. He says this in order to insult Baek-ah, who he claims keeps bad company—So is another example.
He also accuses Baek-ah of sending a spy to keep an eye on the troops, but it’s only when Jung’s gone that Baek-ah and Woo-hee smile over how “cute” Jung is. And how quick, too—Baek-ah did send a spy, but only because he wanted to know how his brother was doing.
Su’s face loses its smile when Baek-ah asks which room So’s staying in, because he assumed that So was also here. Su hasn’t heard such a thing, but is clearly hopeful/worried.
With enormous dark circles under his eyes, King Jeongjong rings bells and gongs to ward away spirits at a temple, the altar of which is riddled with protective talismans. His concerned mother walks in to ask what he’s decided to do about Jung, and struggles to talk over the loud noises the clearly mad king is making.
Queen Sinmyeongsunseong finally grasps her son’s hands in order to quiet the noise, as she urges Jeongjong to make Jung the crown prince. Jeongjong looks distant as he asks his mother what he is to her—why is he pressuring her to pick a crown prince when he’s not dying anytime soon?
“Does Jung want the throne?” he suddenly asks, causing the queen to slacken her grip. Just then, So comes to give his greetings, and King Jeongjong just laughs that if his mother is so afraid, he’ll just make So the crown prince.
Su and Wook run into each other in the palace, but their encounter is formal and silent. Wook continues on to meet with the king, who’s acting slightly less mad as he berates So for the lack of progress with the fortress in Seokyeong.
So claims that it’s due to a lack of manpower and supplies, but the king chucks a cup at him before threateningly grabbing a nearby Su by the wrist. He tells So to do whatever it takes to get it done as he grabs Su’s wrist ever tighter, and before Jung can intervene, Wook grabs him to stop him.
It’s not until So drops to his knees to apologize for his error that the king slackens his grip, helped in part by Wook suggesting that they discuss this further in private.
Chae-ryung finds Su rewriting the same poem Su once gave her (“Walking until the water’s edge, I sit and watch as clouds rise up and appear”), recognizing the same characters despite her illiteracy.
She knows Su can’t sleep and suggests she go for a walk, and when she does, she finds So staggering at the spot where she’d go to wait these past two years. She chastises him for not coming to visit once, which he doesn’t deny. He also claims that he just came to this place because he was lost.
As he walks away, Su grabs him into a backhug. While he claimed to have forgotten everything, she says she hasn’t, and tearfully asks him to bear with her embrace just for now. Since he left on his own, she claims she has a right to do this much.
So hesitates, but stops himself from covering her hands with his own. She hesitantly asks if he still hates her, which is when he wrenches her hands off him and walks away. Su can only cry in his wake.
Woo-hee gives a report to the king about So’s false progress on the fortress in Seokyeong, claiming that he’s deliberately making it so that the fortress can’t be built. Though the king’s uncle Wang Shik-ryeom was supposed to oversee the construction, Woo-hee claims that he isn’t doing his job because he’s ill.
King Jeongjong wonders irately if this is all a ploy on So’s part for the throne, but Woo-hee has another concern: “Why have you broken your promise?” Since the king has mandated that those who can’t pay their taxes will be sold into slavery, the people of Later Baekje are being forced to work to death on the fortress.
“What meaning is there for me to be your eyes and ears, Your Majesty?” she asks, adding that the deal they made is no longer beneficial to her. The king calls her “Princess” as he threatens to tell Baek-ah about their little arrangement.
So flashes back to his fond memories with Su, smiling. He then thinks about how she asked if he still hated her as his smile fades—but just then, he turns around to find Su right behind him.
Apparently neither of them see King Jeongjong, ninth prince Won, and an entire party of attendants on the pavilion just feet away, watching them. Won uses this as evidence that Jeongjong can’t trust So, despite Jeongjong being sure that the two had no more feelings for each other. He even checked to make sure they never sent letters to each other during So’s absence.
In order to test where So’s loyalties truly lie, the king shoots an arrow at Su. So sees it just in time to grab her out of the way, getting slightly grazed by the flying arrow in the process.
He gets up immediately when the king and Won come down, with Won making it a point to notice that the two of them are closer than they appear. So just claims that it would’ve looked bad for the king to kill a court lady, though he’s probably not fooling anyone anymore.
Su takes the arrow that almost killed her back to her quarters, where she’s called Woo-hee to deliver a message to Baek-ah. We hear his response in voiceover as Su goes to the house where So is recovering, as Baek-ah mentioned that the gash on his arm got worse while he was traveling back to Seokyeong.
She finds So near the palace, with the arrow wound on his arm looking red and angry. He only catches half-unconscious and feverish glimpses of her as she tends to it, while she reaches out a tentative hand to trace the numerous other scars littering his body.
When he wakes, he finds Su sleeping across the room and gets up to kneel closer to her. Reaching out a hand, he moves as if to cup her face, only to be interrupted when Su wakes up.
Caught, he simply asks why she’s here. She said she asked Baek-ah for a favor so she could come ask him one question: “You still haven’t forgotten me, have you? You said you no longer liked me. You were lying, weren’t you?”
But that’s not the question she came here to ask, as she tearfully reminds him that she risked her life to leave the palace so she could be here. “In the past two years, there was not a day when I wasn’t waiting for you. I wanted to go back to that time. I wished for it again and again. So I wanted to tell you… that I trust you.”
She says she’ll ask him once more, and wants an honest answer from him: “Do you still love me?” There’s a long pause before So answers by turning around to kiss her.
He pulls back to see her crying, and wipes away one of her tears with his thumb. He swoops in for another kiss, and Su pulls him in tighter. A nearby candle flickers out, which can only mean one thing…
We return to find the two lovebirds lying in bed, with So stroking Su’s cheek. She wakes from her sleep and smiles at him, and they spent the rest of the night making shadow puppets on the wall. So’s actually pretty darn good at this.
They’re as adorable over breakfast the next morning, with Su hand feeding him bits of protein while smiling. That night, they study the stars together as Su points out constellations, though of course their bliss is interrupted by the arrival of Astronomer Choi.
He’s come with bad news: The king is very ill. Apparently the monk who was tending to the king got hit by lightning (hahahaha, sorry), and the shock of it was too much for the king to bear. We see the king going literally mad as he imagines Eun in his room and outside of it, as well as the ghost of King Hyejong or King Taejo.
Upon finding the king, Wook immediately left to see Wang Shik-ryeom in Seokyeong, which is why Astronomer Choi has come to So. General Park is gathering his forces, so it’s up to So to decide whether he wants to make a grab for the throne.
“Do you want the throne?” Su asks him. “I do,” So admits. Now Su realizes that the throne is the reason he left her, though he tells her that it was because the king was using her against him that he had to make it look like he no longer loved her.
She asks what he’d do if she asked him to give up the throne, and he just smiles at her as he says he’d convince her. Reminding him that he once said he didn’t need the throne as long as they could be together, she’s noticed that he doesn’t say that anymore.
Since they agreed not to lie to each other, So tells her that he came to realize that the world can change if the king changes. “I will not let others keep me on a leash. And if it is a seat where I can put an end to irrational matters, then I surely desire… to become king.”
I’m at least glad they didn’t drag on the separation storyline for more than one episode (despite years passing in the timeline), though I’m still scratching my head over why it was necessary in the first place. It felt obligatory, like this was just the point in the story where we needed some noble idiocy and forced separation, and even if it was there to just provide some angst, it was so short-lived that by the time I noticed that this was where we were really going, it was over.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the cute romantic moments between Su and So, even if their togetherness kind of negated the reason they had been driven apart. I get that So wanted to fool Jeongjong into thinking that he no longer loved Su so that she wouldn’t be used against him, but what good did that ruse do? It’s not like Jeongjong has a conscience that would’ve kept him from making Su’s life a living hell if he suddenly thought that So didn’t care, and it certainly didn’t stop him from manhandling her in front of So anyway. Or are we supposed to believe that the only thing standing between Su and that arrow was Jeongjong’s intel that they hadn’t sent each other any letters in two years?
Speaking of Jeongjong, I admit to being fatigued by what now feels like a parade of mad kings in this show, especially since the directing seems to have no desire to rein in any of these performances. It’s all just too much, what with Hyejong screaming his head off like a lunatic, and now Jeongjong constantly staring off into the middle distance while he talks crazy.
It’s fine to portray him as being plagued by guilt, even though guilt isn’t an emotion Jeongjong ever even hinted he could feel, but what’s the reasoning behind taking that idea to the absolute extreme? It’s to the point where I feel like they’re using madness as a cop-out to create an easy way to delegitimize whoever’s on the throne without having to create character-driven reasons for it, that way we’re left with only one option to root for. The simplicity can be nice sometimes, but we lose out on the complexity of So having to actually make plans against a worthy foe when that foe imagines dead people in his room at night.
I thought it was interesting that the scenario with Eun played out exactly as it did in Su’s original vision, but the intent behind So’s actions was (potentially?) different. It’s a question I dearly wish the show would explore a bit more, since we had Su looking wide-eyed at all the events happening before her, realizing that they were happening just as she saw them, and then… thinking nothing else about it. Are her visions true glimpses into the future? Is she seeing a future she already had a hand in, and does that mean everything’s predetermined to happen with or without her interference?
But now that she’s seen that So didn’t actually want to kill Eun, I wonder if she’s considered that perhaps the past has already changed, and that So won’t leave a trail of bodies on his way to the throne. I did like that So called her out on not trusting him this episode, and do feel that he was genuinely hurt by that—but I like it more that they’re back to being cute. At least we have a week to enjoy it.