Having watched the entire drama, I think these episodes (5-6) were the slowest. I will give these 7.8 stars out of 10. Many other episodes, especially the later ones, are 10 stars in my book. The drama is still introducing the players and building the base where the rest of the story will unfold. These episodes are still good. It was simply hard to watch our good guys being stabbed in their backs when they had thought they had won.
Inspector Han Jeonseok is a very upright man; he personifies the mystic animal Haechi, a righteous judge. For him, it is easier to fight for justice, even if he has to go against the current, than to compromise. This is what life is all about, doing the right thing. My husband was watching this for the first time with me, telling me that with his personality, he will surely become a high ranking official later. In real life though, I find that those who compromise to corruption are the ones who really advance politically. Like Minister Min demonstrated towards the end of episode 6.
Lord Min Jinwon believes Haechi is an idealistic ideal. For him, life and politics is about gaining power and keeping it, at all cost. Controlling people through fear and vindictive force. He explains: “This is how we win, Prince Yeoning. We put fear in everyone’s hearts. If they hurt us, they must learn about the consequences. If the world sees that, no one will ever dare to stand up against us again… We break their legs so they cannot stand up again.”
Yi Geum, whose dormant desire to be a Haechi was awakened by his encounter with Inspector Han Jeonseok, could not understand this logic. Fortunately though, he is surrounded by other Haechi dreamers. His servant Jadong, and the newly sworn “brothers” Park Moonsoo and Yeoji (with the pair of subordinates Jangdal and Ahbong).
Park Moonsoo is a funny character. Having a boisterous personality, he talks passionately before thinking. But he is a pure heart, as honest as you can get, and maybe a little too naïve. We can only hope that as the drama progress, he will learn self-restrain and may he grow a little more brains.
Yeoji is more stoic and cooler headed. Very straightforward. She takes things too literally and too seriously, lacking in sense of humor. But it is this stoicism that makes her more endearing. She does not consider herself feminine, so she does not take offense when people talk to her as a man. A true warrior of justice.
On the grey spectrum, there is the undecided lurker Dalmoon. He seems to be aware of everyone and everything. Working for the horse trader Kaedol, he purposefully misleads his boss into believing the Prince has escaped the city. And then, he is entertained watching Kaedol’s arrest at the hand of Prince Yeoning’s friends. Why? Staring at the statute of Haechi, he wonders: “Are there still idealists who believe in True Justice?” I guess he wants to believe too. Can he hope and dream too? Can we the viewers hope for him to become another Haechi dreamer? Or will he join the skeptic Lord Min instead?
Finally, there is Yi Tan, His Lordship Prince Milpoong. Does he believe in Haechi or is he a cynic like Lord Min? He is neither. I do not think his mind ever wondered at the meaning of Haechi. He is a serial killer, acquainted with breaking all kinds of laws. Having blood in his hands, he does his own type of penance at the Buddhist Temple, thinking that might be enough to atone for his crimes. He has zero understanding of true justice. He feels no remorse. Was that the reason Lord Min first picked him as the right candidate for the throne? Did Lord Min really want a cold blooded King without conscience?
Oh Dear! May the true Haechi wake up! May this righteous warrior spread out its wings to bring forth true justice to the nation of Joseon! Who can this be? – You may ask.
There we see… a lowly Prince, an insecure good for nothing Prince. But one whose mind is sharp and quick and knows how to love. For he identifies himself with the lowliest of the people in Joseon, and he loves them so. More than anything, he loves his younger brother Prince Yeonryeong who has returned his love openly without prejudices. It was for this brother that he asks to be exiled to Tamra Island, a forsaken place where many criminals were sent; isolated and underdeveloped, a place without future. Knowing his brother was a just person, he can hope and dream that the future of the nation will be in good hands.
His father and his younger brother tries to change his mind. Why throw his life away like that? But he feels he belongs in exile, like the loser he is. Maybe this is the reason he was born, to become a log to be thrown into the fire, in Tamra Island. It is hard for us to see how a person with such a low self worth could become a king later. But history tells us he did.
Please drama, let us see how this happens. How he goes from thinking he is a nobody, to becoming the ruler of the nation, the Father of Joseon. And not just any king, but a good king. A true Haechi! May His Lordship Prince Yeoning arise!
FAVORITE SCENE (Episode 5):
I had read that according to history, Prince Yeoning was his father’s favorite son. I can see a bit of this during the king’s conversation with Yi Geum.
King Sukjong: “Why did you do it? I could have protected you. I could have easily ignored your wrongdoing. But why…?”
Yi Geum: “Why would you protect someone like me? I am useless. If I can become a firewood to be burnt, there will be at least a purpose in my life.”
“Did you do this for Prince Yeonryeong? Is that why you came forward and requested self-exile as punishment? Do you not know, really, what kind of place Tamra is?”
“I have wandered all my life. That place too, will be another resting place for me.”
The king is watching his son walk away, and sadly talks to himself: “Why can’t you be the one? You too are a Prince. And more than anyone else, it should be you. Why wouldn’t you think that you can become king? My son…”
Towards the end of episode 6, the king secretly tells Chief Lee that he wants Prince Yeoning to be the next heir to the throne. However, why is the king saying this in secret? I guess he needs to protect Yi Geum’s life against all the opposing political factions. But then, why didn’t he write something, like a proof of what he wanted? Maybe that too, if falling in the wrong hands, can mean Yi Geum’s death. This games of thrones is really dangerous.
ABOUT HIS WIFE
On a separate note, I did understand the wife’s feeling of betrayal after finding out about the exile. Divorce carried a horrible stigma in those days, especially for women. Yet she preferred that over being exiled to Tamra, a no-man’s land. She may be rude according to Cho Hong and might have treated him with contempt from the beginning of their marriage due to her aristocratic prejudices. But I fear that his own self-loathing may have fueled the disrespect she felt towards him. It almost feels that he subconsciously inflicted pain upon himself out of frustration of his half-blooded status. And fooled around with other lowly women in order to demean himself. As if he was saying, he did not deserve his wife’s love or respect.
Therefore, he became a careless and loveless husband. Did he even consider asking her before he decided to self-exile, or at least give her a warning? No. The mere fact that he accepted Yeoji’s invitation to go out drinking shows a picture of an insensitive husband. His wife just broke down before him, devastated and humiliated. The least he should do is to stay home and try to comfort her. But I am guessing they lacked communication, and they were a married couple just on paper. Maybe him staying home was more toxic for her emotional and mental well being. Maybe he felt he needed to give her space, lol.
According to Wikipedia, she became a generous and benevolent Queen but died without any children. Prince Yeoning had like 9 children. Did she have health issues or was it just marital issues? Makes you wonder…