I’m really getting into this drama now and the intense relationship between poor Yi Do and his father is the main focus of the second episode. They have very different ideas about how Joseon should be ruled and even though his father is not the king anymore, he still acts like he is the king. And Yi Do seems helpless to do anything against his father’s wishes. But now he must decide what to do about this.
We begin in the cells at the prison where the nobi that worked for the queen’s father are locked up. They are angry at the way they have been treated and are also upset about Dol Bok’s father who has died of head injuries after being beaten by the king’s guards. A guard comes to see what’s going on and Dam tells him that one of the nobi has died.
But the guard just looks annoyed at the trouble they are causing him and without emotion unlocks the door to take the body out. This angers the nobi even more. They feel that they are not been treated like human beings. So when the guards come into the cell, the nobi start attacking them. They manage to get the keys to the other cells and release all the nobi. Then they run outside to escape but they are met with lots more guards who attack them with swords. At first Dol Bok doesn’t want to leave his father, but when Gul Sang finally addresses his father respectfully as 성님 Seong nim, he seems to accept the situation and he runs out too. (Here’s the scene about that from ep 1)
A lot of the nobi are killed. Dam and Dol Bok jump up onto an outside wall to escape and Dam’s father is right behind them. But as he tries to climb up, he gets stabbed in the back with a sword and falls to the ground. A guard tries to grab Dam too which infuriates Dol Bok who leaps on top of him and starts fighting with him. Dol Bok is full of rage and bites the guards and fights like crazy. He tries to help Dam’s father but he is already dead which enrages Dol Bok even more. He shouts at Dam to run away. She hesitates but then does as he says. But she must be traumatised as she has just watched her father be murdered.
Meanwhile the Queen has arrived at the prison to see her mother. But she is shocked to see the fighting and chaos that’s going on. Suddenly Dam comes running towards her. The Queen recognises Dam as one of her family’s servants. She also sees guards running towards them in the distance so quickly hides Dam under the skirt of her hanbok. This works and the guards don’t notice Dam!
The Queen is addressed as 중전마마 jung-jon ma-ma. This is not her actual name. It’s her title that shows she’s the Queen. The King calls her simply jung jon. When Dam bumps into her she calls her 마마 ma ma – the polite way to address court ladies. There’s a bit more info on ways to address people here.
Anyway, Yi Do has also arrived to witness the fighting and is upset to see it. He remembers how the queen begged him to save her father and how he couldn’t do anything to help him. He feels helpless but then, in the chaos, he sees a young boy (Dol Bok) racing past him and decides that he will to help the child. But Dol Bok is still incredibly feisty and refuses to go quietly with Mu Hyul, the bodyguard, demanding to know who he is. (It’s a fair question through, really). Mu Hyul has no choice but to knock Dol Bok out! It’s the only way to stop him struggling. Dol Bok is carried away and locked up in a small barn in the woods. Now Yi Do is pleased because he feels that he has at least been able to help one person. But Mu Hyul is concerned about the King’s father finding out about this …
Sure enough, suddenly, a voice behind them demands to know what’s going on. Yi Do turns to see his father and his men, on horseback. The scene changes to a more sinister mood and Yi Do looks shaken by the arrival of his father. He tries to defend his decision to save the young nobi servant, but his father is unmoved. He demands that Yi Do kill the boy because, even if he is a child, he has betrayed the country, attacked guards, AND tried to run away. He thinks this is all unforgivable and orders the young nobi to be brought here to be killed. But Yi Do is enraged. FINALLY, he stands up to his father. He demands that the guards STOP!
한 발짝도 음직이지 마라
Han pal chak do um jikiji mara!
Stop right there! Don’t move another step.
And then (this is one of my favourite bits so far) he says what I think we’ve all been wanting him to say from the beginning. He says,
상왕은 왕이 아니다. 내가… 내가 조선의 임금이다.
Sang wang un wang i anida. Ne ga NE GA Joseon ui imgum ida.
Sang Wang is not the king. I am, I AM the king of Joseon.
As I mentioned in episode one’s summary, sang wang is the title used for a monarch that has abdicated. So Yi Do’s father, formerly King Taejong, is now referred to as Sang Wang. But usually when Yi Do addresses his father, he calls him aba ma ma – the polite term for ‘father’.
Sang Wang looks bemused and says, “Yi Do, it looks like you have gone crazy!’ Yi Do is angry and frustrated and starts going through the list of all the family members and officials that his father has had murdered. He wants to understand his father but can’t understand why he had so many people killed. He now realises that he did this so that he could have all the power for himself.
But his father believes that he DESERVES all the power. Since HE was the one that did all the dirty work that nobody else wanted to do to make sure that Joseon was stable. Yi Do says he has a different vision for how to rule Joseon. But when his father demands to know what his son’s vision for Joseon is, Yi Do freezes up and can’t say anything. His father berates him for not being able to explain himself and then orders his men again to kill the nobi boy. The men start to move to carry out his order. In desperation Yi Do reaches for his sword and throws it in the air. It spins around and lands in the ground right in front of his father! He challenges his father to kill him first if he intends to kill the boy.
But the former king just laughs menacingly. He suggests that his son is bluffing and doesn’t believe that he could really kill him. Then he picks up the sword and holds it to his son’s neck! The guards look uneasy. Yi Do looks nervous but then he shouts his final order as King to Mu Hyul – he must kill the man who kills the king: so that means if his father kills Yi Do, then Mu Hyul must kill Sang Wang. Now this is a predicament! But Mu Hyul knows where his duty lies and he pulls out his sword ready to carry out the order. The other guards pull out their swords too and surround Sang Wang and Yi Do. It’s an intense moment which could end in a blood bath. (notice the loud and fast heart beat in the background too..) But everyone knows that Mu Hyul is the best swordsman in the land and if Yi Do IS killed, then his father will soon follow!
So Sang Wang pulls the sword away from his son’s neck, turns around and walks back to his horse. Has he lost face in front of his men? Surely from now on he’s going to make life difficult for Yi Do as their relationship must change. As he walks towards his horse, he throws the sword behind him without looking back. It lands in the earth right in front of Yi Do. Then before he rides away, he turns and asks,
Kam dang hal su I ken nu nya?
Can you handle this?
Is he telling his son that they are now enemies? After his father has gone, Yi Do collapses on the ground and has to be helped up by Mu Hyul. But at least he has stood up to his father for the first time. His father must see this too. (His character is so strong that he usually never changes his mind or stops once he begins to to do something. But Yi Do managed to stop him killing him. Perhaps this is the first time that this has ever happened.) However, Sang Wang admits that all he is interested in is power and he orders Jo Mal Seng to gather ALL the palace troops. He has a plan…
Meanwhile, Yi Do and Mu Hyul find Dol Bok attacking a guard in the barn and threatening to kill the king in revenge for his own father’s death. Yi Do looks guilty and upset but he’s also happy that Dol Bok is the first (and last) subject in his kingdom that he has been able to personally save. Yi Do strolls around the palace grounds, thinking. He has decided that he must give up the thrown.
Dol Bok wakes up in a strange bed. He grabs a tool to use as a weapon and cautiously goes outside – he’s obviously worried for his safety. But there is nothing to worry about. A lady is there and calmly explains that this is Banchon. 반촌. She tells him to relax, he’s safe here. It seems that she’s in charge of the nobi as when a group of nobi turn up, they bow to her.
Banchon is the name of the area where nobi servants lived. They lived separately from the rest of society and here their job is to serve the scholars at the Sungkyunkwan 성균관 – the most prestigious academic institution in Joseon. Today it’s still going – Sungkyunkwan University (There’s a drama Sungkyunkwan Scandal which aired last year, 2010. I was watching Dong Yi at the time so didn’t watch it. But I should add it to my ‘to watch’ list)
Dol Bok wanders around Banchon and watches as the nobi carry lots of food into the Sungkyunkwan. It seems to be a happy place and the nobi sing together as they go about their work preparing food, weaving, and making shoes. He watches men making charcoal. The head nobi takes his hand and he unwillingly follows her. There is so much food around – meat, fish, vegetables and Dol Bok stares at it all in amazement. But he’s still feisty and demands to know who brought him here. But she says she will tell him later.
Back at the palace, Yi Do discovers that his father has gathered all the soldiers and guards from the court to him – his father is now his enemy. Yi Do gets hold of all the King’s royal seals including the 오매패 omaepae – the royal badge used to show people and prove that this is an order from the king, 호패 hopae– identity bands from the high level ministers, and the 어도 odo – the king’s sword. He still thinks about how helpless he is as King.
For his next move, Yi Bang Won sends his son a lunch box. His men assume that they they must fill the box with food. But to everyone’s horror, he orders the box to be left empty – by giving the empty box he’s telling Yi Do to commit suicide.
Meanwhile, Yi Do apologises to the queen who is really upset as she’s guessed what he’s going to do. (She won’t be the queen either if he quits.)
The minister, Lee Shin Chok, nervously brings the gift to Yi Do. When Yi Do opens it, Lee Shin Chok and the queen are mortified to see what it is. Yi Do realises the meaning of the gift – don’t eat. In other words – commit suicide. (The meaning of the empty food box originally came from a story in China.)
Back in Banchon, two nobi secretly meet a scholar who wants them to deliver a book. There is obviously something dodgy about this book as the scholar retrieves it from a secret hiding place. But as the two nobi try to sneak off with the book, they get caught and dragged before the head nobi. But when she sees the seal on the book, she looks surprised. It’s by Jeong Do Jeon (the prime minister of Joseon who was killed by King Taejong) But the nobi are not supposed to get involved with political affairs.
The book is burned. And the two nobi are given knives to commit suicide. Dol Bok has also been brought before the head nobi and has to be tied up and gagged to stop him struggling and shouting. He is still as angry as ever. He watches the scene as one of the nobi commits suicide and the other is stabbed and killed when he tries to run away. The men are taken away and then Dol Bok is brought forward.
He is still refusing to co-operate. And his attitude lands him in trouble when he speaks disrespectfully. He says he’s not afraid to die and ends up with a knife to his throat. He keeps up the brave exterior but everyone can see that he has wet himself. The head nobi remembers Mu Hyul’s words when he delivered Dol Bok to her – he told her that if she can’t calm Dol Bok down, then she must have him killed. She saves him this time. But she looks at him with puzzlement.
Back at the palace the former king Yi Bang Won is dressed in his military wear and inspecting his soldiers. Mu Hyul comes to update Yi Do who looks like he has given up. But then suddenly he gets an idea. He quickly glances around the room at the different parts of the mathematical sudoku puzzle that he has been working on. Ironically, the shape of the open food box that his father gave him has given him an idea and he sees a way to solve the puzzle.
He begins to concentrate on the puzzle and finally manages to solve it! One of the court ladies confirms that now all the rows add up to the same number. But Mu Hyul can’t understand why Yi Do is so excited about this now when his main problem is his father. He wants him to ask his father for forgiveness and deal with the problem at hand rather than messing about with this puzzle!
But it seems that solving the puzzle has helped him realise how to deal with his father. Yi Do has worked something out and tells the court ladies to pack up because the game is over. He tells Mu Hyul to go and get the Royal seals …
The men are doing an archery exercise when Yi Do arrives to see his father. Perhaps the puzzle has helped him work out his vision for Joseon, which he couldn’t put into words when he faced his father in the woods. He enters the grounds and the men are shocked to see him, especially when they are ordered to carry on firing their arrows even though the king is walking towards them! It’s a dramatic ending as Yi Do walks towards his father with arrows flying all around him.
The star of this episode for me was Yi Do’s father. He is ruthless and focused, and I find him incredibly charismatic and powerful on screen. I totally believe that at this point, this is the man who really rules Joseon. With such a strong presence he seems unshakeable – he has seen so much bloodshed already that killing his son is nothing to him. It must be nice to believe so strongly that everything you do is the right thing. The young Yi Do is also doing a great job of convincing me that he is intimidated by his father but is also super intelligent – with a geek’s level of addiction to puzzles. Dol Bok, the young Chae Yoon, is completely out of control – but he should be after having watched his father die, then his friend’s father die and now two nobi killed right in front of him.
I also enjoyed the visuals in this episode – the white simple clothes worn by the nobi in the Banchon scenes contrast with the decadent and bright hanboks at the palace. The interesting camera angles make the scenes more artistic particularly in Yi Do’s study when the court ladies are setting out his puzzle. The scene is filmed from above and the splashes of red and blue from the court ladies’ hanboks dance around the gold coloured tiles.
Looking forward to the next episode which is on tonight…