Love is a fickle thing indeed, and that love is put to the test this hour more than ever before. Does it pass that test? Not exactly. Su seems to have made up her mind when it comes to So, and any attempts to convince her to the contrary fall on deaf ears. Now all that’s left for us to do is hope and pray that we all come out of tomorrow’s finale unscathed.
EPISODE 19 RECAP
So finds Su sitting dejectedly in front of the Damiwon baths, and offers her his hand to help her stand. He’s been wanting to talk to her, he says, but Su rejects the offer: “I cannot go back to that room.”
He knows that this is about Chae-ryung, and reiterates to Su that all Chae-ryung ever did was fool her. But Su remembers differently, and insists that Chae-ryung was always sincere to her. (Really?) So asks if she’s really going to trust Chae-ryung over him, but Su just says she wants to leave the palace.
“What about me?” So replies, an edge to his voice. “Do you think I’ll let you go? You can never leave me.” But when he returns to his room and sees the folded wedding hanbok, he looks more conflicted than ever.
While bathing with an unnecessary amount of candles, Yeonhwa considers So’s proposal for her to leave her family behind and become his only queen. In return, he promised that he would make their future son the crown prince, so Yeonhwa decides that she’ll take him up on it—she wants Goryeo to belong to her son.
Su hands a small box of Chae-ryung’s belongings to Astronomer Choi, asking him to deliver it to the girl’s family. But when ninth prince Won passes by, she tells him in a flat voice that Chae-ryung has died, clearly waiting for a reaction he won’t give.
At his blasé attitude, Su reminds him that Chae-ryung died because of him, and warns that he’ll come to regret it. Won just scoffs that a king’s mistress thinks she can talk to him in such a way, with the “mistress” part catching her by surprise.
Word makes it fast to So, who tells Su that he’ll have to give her an official title as concubine in order for her to be considered more than a mere mistress. She’ll be second only to the queen—and if she has a child, she’ll be considered a second queen entirely.
Su insists that she doesn’t care for a title and simply wants to leave the palace, but So steamrolls over her. “You know that you can’t leave, so stop being so stubborn,” he says. He’s not saying it to hurt her, as he takes her hands in his and calls for an end to their bickering.
“Have you forgotten how long we had to be apart from each other?” he asks tenderly, adding that they shouldn’t let this fight ruin their relationship. But Su pulls her hand from his wordlessly. Sigh.
Meanwhile, Wook tries his hand at political maneuvering, deciding that he’ll act loyal to So outwardly for the time being while planning his next move. Whatever it is, it has something to do with Baek-ah, since both Wook and Won know how much So favors him.
Speaking of, Baek-ah can’t help but wonder why Woo-hee won’t marry him, especially now that they’ve had her registered under a noble family’s name. He guesses it might have to do with her stance on the treatment of people from Later Baekje, but no sooner does he promise to remedy that do they see dead runaway slaves from Baekje displayed for all to see. Woo-hee can barely contain her rage.
Astronomer Choi informs the king that slaves from Later Baekje have been setting fire to the houses of noble families. Wook speaks on behalf of the families being attacked as he asks that So send soldiers to protect them, though So is reluctant to enter a conflict that could bring more chaos.
Under pressure, So finally relents, but adds that the soldiers must use non-lethal force to subdue the slaves in order to avoid bloodshed. Strangely though, Wook proposes that Baek-ah lead the forces, despite Baek-ah never having even held a sword before.
His reasoning is that doing so would dispel rumors that So cares more for Baek-ah (whose mother was of Silla royalty) and the people of Later Baekje than he does for the people of Goryeo, considering that he had a former noblewoman of Later Baekje adopted into a noble family.
It could then be construed that someone close to So (Baek-ah) is being manipulated by someone from Later Baekje, should the marriage happen. Despite the accusations sounding ridiculous, Wook says it would be very easy for them to be spread as rumors.
Baek-ah wants to volunteer to lead the troops despite everything, hating the idea that he and Woo-hee are being used against So. Though So would rather go himself, it’d be seen as him taking sides, so Baek-ah reassures him that he’s not going to die.
We know it’s serious when we get a lovey-dovey scene with Baek-ah fixing Woo-hee’s hair into a bun, indicative of her new status as a wife. Though they aren’t officially married yet, Baek-ah promises that they will be as soon as he returns.
The rebelling slaves of Later Baekje read a posting of the king’s decree that they will not be harmed, and that those forced into slavery or taken from their homes will be reinstated as full citizens of Goryeo. However, the slaves think it’s all talk, and resume their march through the city.
Poor Baek-ah is so nervous as he prepares for the oncoming conflict that he drops his sword, though fourteenth prince Jung is there to pick it up for him, despite him supposedly being exiled to his hometown.
He helps Baek-ah into his armor and tells his brother to come back alive. Baek-ah asks if he received the hairpin from Su, and adds the message only now: “I want it.” He tells him exactly what Su told him, but he knows that it’s a cry for help.
He gets emotional as he asks Jung to remain a friend to Su as well as the king, since he doesn’t know what’s going to happen to him. Jung can only wish him a final farewell and depart, moments before Baek-ah looks up to see Woo-hee standing precariously atop the gates, where a banner reading “Later Three Kingdoms: Reunification of Goryeo, Baekje, and Silla” hangs.
The oncoming slaves stop at the sight of their princess, urging her away from the edge. Baek-ah runs up to confront her, knowing what it is that she’s thinking of doing.
All Woo-hee tells him to do is turn around, and with tears in his eyes, Baek-ah does as she asks. “If you see,” Woo-hee says tearfully, “you won’t ever forget.” And then, she steps off the ledge. Why is any of this happening?
“I thought I could ignore it and live my life,” we hear her say in voiceover as she falls to her death. “I was going to deny my parents. But I can’t turn my back on my people, who look to me as a mother. I don’t think I have the strength to live like that. Goryeo and Baekje, Gyeon Hwon [founder of Later Baekje] and Taejo Wang Geon. I will pay for their sins with my life. Perhaps… this is the reason I was born.” Was it, though?
Su sinks down when she hears the news, and So seems similarly stunned. We find Baek-ah clutching Woo-hee’s lifeless body and sobbing as her voiceover continues to tell him how much she loved him.
Later, he looks at the drawings he’d made of her, and thinks back to their memories together (including that time she stabbed him). Su finds him holding the hairpin he’d given her as he wonders why Woo-hee didn’t say anything to him.
He blames himself for not recognizing Woo-hee’s unhappiness sooner, believing himself to be shallow. But Su says it was Woo-hee who betrayed them, since in the end, she wasn’t selfless enough to care how they would feel.
Now, Baek-ah turns his ire to the king, guessing that he knew everything from the beginning. He confronts So over the deal he’d made with Woo-hee, though So insists that he didn’t know she would die because of it. All he wanted to do was save Baek-ah, and though he claims he didn’t know Woo-hee would commit suicide for it, even if he had, he would’ve done it again if it meant saving Baek-ah.
Baek-ah knows how his brother feels, but he can’t accept it. He gives the king a deep, formal bow, usually reserved for farewells. So recognizes this and desperately admits that he was in the wrong, but Baek-ah takes the blame upon himself. He wishes his hyung a long and healthy life and leaves, despite So calling for him to come back.
So approaches Yeonhwa in the bedchamber, asking if she’s sure about her decision. She says she is, and the rest is left to the imagination.
As he previously discussed with Won, Wook gifts So with a hunting hawk in front of the rest of the court. But when the cage is unveiled, the hawk inside is dead, and the serious music cues us into this being a Bad Omen.
Wook looks more shocked than anyone, having clearly not expected this, as one of the ministers cries out that it’s considered a curse to gift a king a dead hawk. Wook tries to explain that it was just a misunderstanding, but Won makes sure to place the blame squarely on his shoulders.
So asks Wook if he’s committing treason by placing such a curse upon him, and the entire court echoes the sentiment. Wook drops to his knees to beg for the king’s forgiveness, and So smiles grimly: “If it is treason, you will have to pay with your life.” Wow, how is it that I feel sorry for Wook again?
Queen Sinjeong rushes to Yeonhwa with the news of Wook’s predicament, but Yeonhwa couldn’t be more cavalier about the whole matter. She refuses to heed her mother’s request that she save her brother, claiming that she can’t cover up her brother’s crimes for him.
Reminding her mother that she’s queen now, she tells her to let her go as her daughter. She has bigger things to worry about, which leaves her mother trembling with rage.
Wook doesn’t move from the spot where he prostrated himself, despite the throne room being empty now. Su begs So for Wook’s life, claiming he was framed, and even drops to her knees to do so.
That gets So’s attention, since he knows she has bad knees. He kneels to help her up, but she reminds him of his promise not to hurt his brothers. Then, she adds that she knows it was he who killed the hawk and put Wook’s life in danger.
He pulls away from her slightly, asking if there’s a reason he shouldn’t have done so, considering that Wook killed King Hyejong and Eun, chased Baek-ah off, tried to kill him, and tried to separate the two of them. “That’s the kind of person he is,” So argues.
But Su says that whatever goes around comes around, and that if So continues to be too harsh in meting out punishment, everyone will soon turn against him. She doesn’t want him to go down in history as a tyrant, to which So finally relents that he’ll let Wook live. But he’ll be forever confined to his home, and won’t be allowed to take one step out of it.
“He will suffocate in that house,” So all but growls. And now that he thinks of it, he likes this punishment much more than killing him outright. His laugh unsettles Su as she looks up at him in bewilderment, but there’s nothing she can do.
For now, Wook is confined to his library, with soldiers standing watch outside. At the same time, Yeonhwa finds Su near the baths, and strangely admits to pushing Wook too hard. However, she places the blame regarding the change in Wook on Su, since Su was the one who warned him about So. Because of that warning, Wook believed that So would become king.
“He had feelings for you. He hated more than anything that you were acknowledging another man as king. I may have been the one who pressured Wook, but it was you who hammered in the nail,” Yeonhwa grits out.
Su thinks back to King Jeongjong blaming her for everything too, because she helped So to cover his scar. She remembers telling Wook to stay away from So lest he die, and also remembers her prophetic visions about So. “It was all my fault,” Su realizes in the present.
Yeonhwa goes on to say that if Su hadn’t have gotten involved, then Wook wouldn’t have changed the way he did. “You ruined everything. And yet, shamelessly, you still live.” Oh, okay. Right. You’re completely blameless, Yeonhwa. It’s not like Wook had to kill someone and put himself at your mercy because of something you did, right?
Of course Su believes every word Yeonhwa says, and has more heart troubles because of it later. In the meantime, So has his portrait painted because he has a special someone he wants to give it to.
The portrait session is interrupted by Jung, who’s managed to enter the palace despite his exile. He’s brought a decree from the late King Jeongjong, in which he declared his approval of a marriage between Jung and Su.
Flash back to when Jung had been given one wish due to his bravery on the battlefield by King Jeongjong. We never heard what it was he asked for then, but now we know he asked for Su’s hand in marriage. In the present, So throws the decree to the ground, claiming it to be fake.
Jung challenges him to compare the handwriting, but So says that even if it’s a match, he’ll refuse to allow it. So tries to use the “Everyone knows she’s with me” line, but Jung just as easily throws back that she’s not a wife or a concubine—thus, there’s no reason why she can’t be free to marry him.
He throws down the gauntlet by adding that he’s already informed the ministers of the decree, and that they know he’s waiting for the king’s consent. It’s only when Jung says that this is what Su wants that So stops with his threats to punish him.
So goes straight to Su, asking her if she already knew about the decree of consent. So says that Jung claimed she wanted to marry him, but since he knows she doesn’t, he’ll—… “I want to,” Su interrupts.
She mentions how it would only be harmful for So to go against the late king’s decree, and brings up how he’d talked about their longing for each other when they were apart. She admits this was so, but says that now, she sees him daily and sometimes even despises him.
This comes as a shock to So, but Su continues that if they were to keep going as they are, only hatred would remain. Her reasoning is that if she leaves now, she can prevent that from happening, or something. “I will never allow that to happen,” So answers in a low voice.
Yeonhwa tears into So for ignoring the late king’s decree, since he’s not helping his case. She can’t understand why he can’t just let Su go, but warns that she won’t just stand by and let him throw the throne away.
While confined to his library, Wook flashes back to when he was still prostrated in front of the throne. Su had gone to him to say that the king had agreed to let him live, though Wook had worried that people might begin to suspect her.
Su had answered that she would have done this for anyone, and had kneeled before him to tell him to give up his aspirations for the throne. “No one can escape this misery if you do not leave this place. You must give up first,” she said, leaving Wook with much to consider.
In the present, he returns to the letter he’d been writing, only to get an unexpected visit from a disguised(?) Yeonhwa, asking for his help. Well, well.
Cut to: Wook greeting the king in the throne room, which he was only able to do because Yeonhwa made it so. Yeonhwa is sent from the room as Wook confesses to the one thing So has stubbornly not known until now: that he and Su had once promised to marry each other.
He explains that their relationship took place before Su became So’s woman, adding that back then, Su was his. We cut to So confronting an oblivious Su over this newfound bit of information, explaining that he knows all about the bracelet and her secret meetings with Wook.
“Is it all true?” he asks, clearly wanting it not to be. But she affirms it asthmatically, leaving So to put all the pieces together that he hadn’t before. So would rather her lie to him and tell him it was all a misunderstanding, desperate for things to go back to the way they were.
“We said we would not lie to one another,” Su reminds him. “How could you do this?” So asks desperately. “How could you hurt me like this? Why is it Wook, of all people?” He steps back when Su approaches him, a tear running down his cheek. “Wook was the only one in your heart,” he adds, believing it to be true.
Su looks tearful herself, and reaches out to take his hand. So pulls it away with a warning: “After today, I will never see you again.” Su collapses in his wake, crying. I’m so confused. Isn’t this what she wanted anyway?
Su takes her leave of the palace as Astronomer Choi warns So that if he throws Su away like this, he’ll lose a part of himself as well. But then So says the truest statement ever told: “I did not throw her away. Su threw me away.”
Baek-ah and Su share a parting drink, taking a moment to discuss the marriage Su didn’t know about. And while she claims not to love the idea, she’s ready to go through with it just to get out of the palace, explaining that she fell out with So because “there’s just too much blood in our relationship.” (That’s literally what she says, but I have absolutely no idea what she means.)
Regardless, Baek-ah says he’s grateful for their relationship, and ends his farewell there. He tries to chase Wook off when he comes to say his farewell, but at a nod from Su, Baek-ah relents and takes his leave.
Su thanks Wook for what he did, though he clarifies that his intentions were far from righteous. She believes that statement to be false, knowing that he would never have said those things if he thought she didn’t want to leave.
“Jung will be good to you,” Wook manages to say, along with a well-meaning wish for her to forget the past and think only of the future. He looks like he’s just barely holding it together as he takes a long pause, and then sighs.
“Su-ya,” he says, returning to the endearing way he used to say her name. “I think you understand me,” he adds, reaching an uncertain hand out to gently grasp her shoulder. Pulling her in closer, he tells her that this life is now over.
He smiles when he pulls away, and Su watches him go for a very long time. After a brief cut to So looking to the wedding hanbok Su only ever got to try on, we return to her as an inner monologue begins:
“If I had not met him, I would not yearn for him. If I did not know him, I would not think of him so much. If we had not been together, I would not have to disappear. If I did not treasure him so much, I would not have so many memories. If I did not love him, we would not need to throw each other away. If we had not crossed paths, we would never have been together. Perhaps, if I had not met you at all…”
And then, we find So holding the wedding hanbok in shaking hands as he cries.
In the vein of Su’s inner monologue, we could say that if we had never watched this show, we would never have had to try to understand an indecipherable heroine. If we didn’t love seeing Lee Jun-ki on screen, we wouldn’t have gotten this far. If things made sense, we wouldn’t have to yearn for explanations. If we knew what Su was saying, we would have something to go on.
But alas, there’s been this permeating sense of malaise ever since So took the throne, because things only started to go downhill from there. What’s strange is that I thought that the throne would be the grand goal we needed to reach, but it was treated with such little fanfare that it felt like just another day in the life. Which meant that the only story left to tell was Su and So’s, and we can all see how well thought-out that part of the story is going.
I’m honestly confused by Su’s motives and her ever-shifting loyalties, since it didn’t take much for her to go from “I’ll help you” to “Never mind, I’m leaving you.” Even if we tried to see things from her perspective, i.e. that So is a ruthless murderer and killed her friend for no reason, he actually tried to talk things out with her, which should really count for something. For her apparently thinking him an unreasonable monster, he was the only one speaking sense, and it was Su who willfully decided to believe only what she wanted to be true. Instead of taking all the evidence So presented to her and thinking back to the times Chae-ryung has been shifty, she thought only of the time Chae-ryung held her hand and staunchly refused to believe that she could ever have been insincere or false.
So instead, she’d have to believe that So was the one lying to her, and it was beyond aggravating to see her just shut down. At that point, I threw my hands up, because her misery seemed self-inflicted, and her path to ignoble idiocy firmly secured. Granted, So isn’t exactly an angel to be with, but after an entire series about them finding each other and discovering their love, was this where it was all going? I feel cheated.
I suppose all isn’t lost since there’s still one episode left, and I don’t want to think that we’ve been hoping in vain. I’m not even sure where I’d want things to end in an ideal world, since everyone’s paths have gotten so twisted and crossed. As of right now, I don’t think a marriage between Jung and Su would be the worst thing that ever happened, if only because he deserves props for being true to his word. After this episode, I’m kind of sad that they didn’t develop their loveline to its fullest potential however one-sided it is, because out of everyone, Jung has been selfless in loving her and has never asked for anything in return. Marriage was just the only way he knew how to honor her request, and he planned ahead enough to make it so that even So couldn’t argue the point.
If things had been left there, they would have been moderately better, but then it felt like the show was throwing everything and the kitchen sink in as reasons to drive Su and So apart. At least Wook’s confession had an ulterior motive that wasn’t awful, so I appreciated that they gave that couple a bittersweet sendoff, which worked in its own way to ever-so-slightly redeem Wook. (Does he not know that his sister betrayed him, though? Or does he not care?)
But then we come to all the nonsense Yeonhwa spouted, and the fact that the show could’ve actually gone somewhere in having Su believing herself to be responsible for the way historical events turned out. It’s only that we were given that scene with Su believing everything to be her fault, and then… nothing. They went nowhere with it. It didn’t influence Su’s decision to leave, nor did it seem to weigh on her conscience for very long. Somehow, it seems worse that the show dropped in actual, real reasons for Su to be conflicted, but it chose to go with her just being over it all instead. C’mon, Moon Lovers. You’ve got one last chance to be the show we all wanted you to be—don’t waste it.