So here it is. It’s the final and yes, there were tears. It’s longer than the other episodes with a lot of drama to get through before the king finally manages to announce his new alphabet to the country. I think it ends the only way it could end – more people have to die for the cause. But we know the king will succeed in the end.
Jeong Gi Joon has FINALLY realised that So Yi is ‘the book’. He orders her to be killed but Chae Yoon arrives just in time threateningly holding his sword to Jeong Gi Joon’s throat. So Yi runs away while Chae Yoon fights with Gae Pa Yi. But his sword catches Jeong Gi Joon who collapses with a deep wound but STILL he just keeps shouting at them to kill So Yi. He’s SO obsessed with this.
So as Chae Yoon and So Yi run away, Gae Pa Yi picks up the bow and poisonous arrow and aims at So Yi. And knowing his reputation we can guess that this is not going to end well. The arrow flies through the air catching the top of Chae Yoon’s hair cutting his top knot so that his hair falls down. (That was cool though!) But the arrow hits So Yi in the arm and she falls off a cliff and disappears. (and they were SO close to getting away ...) Chae Yoon shouts her name in vain. Gae Pa Yi carries Jeong Gi Joon back to the Milbon base.
So Yi finds she’s been hit with the arrow in her arm. She pulls the arrow out. (is this possible?) Yikes, her arm is black and blue from the poison. She must realise that she can’t live long now. Already weak she looks around and sees a cave. Cho Tak and Park Po arrive to help Chae Yoon. But So Yi wastes no time. She (somehow) rips up her white underskirt into perfect squares and gets out her calligraphy pen and ink and starts writing the explanation for the writing system. Chae Yoon finds the arrow near the cave.
Back at the Milbon camp things are not looking good. Jeong Gi Joon is bandaged up. But Dodam Daek, the head nobi, is injured. She’s been loyal to him and they are all upset. On her deathbed Jeong Gi Joon tells her that Milbon is no longer his responsibility and with that she dies. Jeong Gi Joon calls Gae Pa Yi for a change of plan.
Jeong Gi Joon has decided that he will do 방벌 bangbol – forcibly remove a dishonourable king. He plans to show everyone how the king has failed. He gives Gae Pa Yi his final order. And even Gae Pa Yi wonders if he is strong enough to do whatever this is ….
So Yi sits in the cave and hears Chae Yoon’s screams outside. She is near to death but her writing is finished. Chae Yoon rushes into the cave. He sees her arm but he’s in denial and still wants to carry her home. She stops him and wants him to go back to the palace with her writing. And warn them that Jeong Gi Joon intends to assassinate the king at the proclamation. And he must protect the king. But he doesn’t want to hear this.
She tells him not to waste any time. And he thinks back to Lee Bang Ji’s words – he knew that Chae Yoon would have the same fate as him. And it looks like this is going to happen – he will see the woman he loves die and there is nothing he can do to stop it. So Yi tells him that after meeting him again she was able to sleep properly for the first time in over 20 years. And she was happy. She dies and collapses in his arms. Oh dear. Of course he’s devastated. But I think this was inevitable. Chae Yoon’s character was never meant to be happy.
Cho Tak and Park Po arrive at the cave to hear Chae Yoon’s screams of sadness. So Yi is laid out on the ground with the two wooden ducks (sadly symbolising the marriage they will never have) beside her. Chae Yoon remembers So Yi’s dream is to help the people to read, so he pulls himself together, stuffs the silk in his chest and runs back through the mountain to the palace.
Back at the palace, Lee Shim Chok is disappointed and worried to hear that the Ming agent won’t help him anymore and hasn’t found ‘the book’ either. He’s concerned what Shim Jeong Soo will do now. Suddenly Shim Jeong Soo bursts in. Lee tries to butter him up, saying how much he was worried about him. Yeah right! But Shim isn’t interested. We’ve learnt a lot about him over the last couple of episodes. Early on he seemed arrogant and power-hungry. But now it seems that he is just concerned about the great cause. He isn’t interested in being loyal to anyone in particular. And he NEEDS Lee Shin Chok. (He wants Lee Shin Chok to make the proclamation ceremony go ahead so that Jeong Gi Joon will kill the king …)
To Lee Shin Chok’s DELIGHT, he gives him the Milbon Scroll with all the signatures of the members. Lee Shin Chok is not bothered about Jeong Gi Joon now – whether he’s alive or dead! Because this means that he can dissociate himself from Milbon now. He cries with joy. He had to do so much because he signed this paper. And now he happily burns it.
With a new confidence he joins the prime minister and other leader to sign his agreement to the proclamation. The king is pleased to get their agreement. But he hears from Mu Hyul that So Yi still isn’t found. Only that she was taken somewhere by Jeong Gi Joon …
It’s the day of the proclamation and everyone is getting ready. Gae Pa Yi cuts off his hair with a knife ready for his final battle! Jeong Gi Joon leaves the Milbon hideout knowing he is not coming back. Han Ga sadly bows to him. The local people gather at the palace for the proclamation. Chae Yoon is rushing back to the palace too.
Jeong In Ji begins the announcement: The king has called his new alphabet Hunminjeongeum. And he has offices to help spread the writing system around the country. But during the ceremony we see Jeong Gi Joon in the crowd dressed as a local and Gae Pa Yi hiding under a hooded cloak. Suddenly he steps forward and throws off the cloak revealing a Mohican hairstyle! The crowd gasps and Jeong In Ji stops.
Guards surround Gae Pa Yi but he attacks them while more guards on the palace gate raise their bows and arrows. Gae Pa Yi overpowers so many of the guards so Mu Hyul jumps down and draws his sword. I had a bad feeling here. Because we’ve heard that NO ONE can beat Gae Pa Yi. Sure enough Mu Hyl manages to cut Gae pa Yi’s leg but then TO MY DISMAY Gae Pa Yi viciously pushes his spear through Mu Hyul’s side. I was kind of expecting this but it’s still a shock. Blood pours from Mu Hyul’s mouth. NO! This was the saddest part of the episode for me. Mu Hyul has been so loyal to the king for years.
Then Gae Pa Yi turns his attention to the king who is now VERY vulnerable without Mu Hyul. But as he lunges towards him through the air he clashes with Chae Yoon who has appeared from nowhere. His Spear slices through Chae Yoon’s clothes and So Yi’s silk comes flying out and falls to the ground like snow. Chae Yoon fights like a man with nothing to lose. His eyes are empty. And he doesn’t react when Gae Pa Yi’s spear cuts him. But then he manages to cut Gae Pa Yi too. Now there’s blood coming from Gae Pa Yi’s mouth. (There are a lot of bloody mouths in this episode!)
After Gae Pa Yi collapses on the ground, everyone rushes to Mu Hyul. But nothing can be done. He tells the king that this is the warrior’s fate. He’s carried away with the spear still in his side. It’s clear that he knows he’s going to die.
I have a lot of problems with this scene though! I see the need for a dramatic ending but things just don’t make sense. Firstly, why don’t the guards just shoot Gae Pa Yi with arrows now when the crowd backs away from him? And at this sign of danger shouldn’t the king be taken away out of danger? But he’s just left there as an easy target. NOBODY goes to his side. And they let the little girl stand and watch this fight. The children were a lot hardier back then, weren’t they?
As he’s taken away, Jeong Gi Joon (who I’m getting very fed up with now!) appears out of the crowd with a knife. So he’s finally going to do his own dirty work it seems. He has ordered lots of murders so far but has not actually carried one out himself yet. But then the locals pick up the silk from the ground and they begin to READ the LETTERS. Jeong Gi Joon can’t believe it.
Flashback to Chae Yoon and So Yi in the village when she was preparing to teach the people. His idea was that since the people are superstitious so they could use that to their advantage. So like a chain letter So Yi tells Yon Doo that people who can read the letters must teach three people otherwise it’s bad luck. Looks like the plan worked because everyone can read!
Jeong Gi Joon puts the knife back in his clothes and disappears into the crowd. The king gazes around the crowd in surprise. Chae Yoon is holding onto the blade of his sword and there’s blood everywhere. He hands the king So Yi’s silk. The other scholars collect the rest of the silk and Jeong In Ji says these are the explanations, jejahae, for the hunmin jeongeum. The king accepts them but he’s emotional. He know So Yi’s gone.
The king finally stands up to read the speech he has been preparing but hasn’t been able to finish. The translation of his speech appears on the screen in modern Korean ..
나라의 말씀이 중국과 달라 문자가 서로 통하지 아니하니이런 이유로 어리석은 백성이 일러 말하고 싶어도 마참내 제 뜻을 능하 펴지 못할 사람이 많아
Our spoken language is different to that of China and so the written characters don’t match our speech. For this reason our people cannot communicate even if they want to.
Then he stops. He STILL hasn’t finished his speech! So he makes it up thinking back to everything that has happened.
백성을 불쌍히 여겨 새로 스물여덟 글자를 만드니 사람마다 쉽게 익혀 나날이 씀에 있어 편안하게 하고자 할 따름이 나라
I felt pity for my people so I made this new alphabet of 28 characters that can be learnt easily ...
While the king speaks, the ever vigilant Jo Mal Seng spots Jeong Gi Joon in the crowd. Meanwhile, Chae Yoon is getting weaker. He clasps the sword blood dripping everywhere while everyone does a banzae! (hurray!)
Chae Yoon collapses on the ground. He has a mouth full of blood too. The king goes to his side. (He seems to be having trouble speaking while not swallowing that fake blood!!) He says it’s a good day and then collapses on the king. A flash to Chae Yoon’s dream married to So Yi and living happily with their children. But it’s a dream that was never meant to be. He’s had a hard life but fulfilled his purpose.
So Yi and Chae Yoon lie side by side with guards around them. The king joins their hands together. Park Po holds the ducks nearby reminding us again of the life that was never to be. There’s a stillness in the aftermath of all the fighting.
But then it’s back to the action in another part of town where Yoon Pyeong is still fighting to defend Jeong Gi Joon. They get surrounded by palace guards. But Yoon Pyeong will fight to the end. (Say what you like about Yoon Pyeong but he IS very loyal.) He realises that this is the place where he will die. Jeong Gi Joon tries to escape, but one of the guards fires an arrow which hits him. Yoon Pyeong gets sliced up and killed by the soldiers. And yes, blood pours from his mouth!
The king is told that Mu Hyul is dead.
Jo Mal Seng is angry to hear that Jong Gi Joon has somehow got away AGAIN. Then he has a thought. He rushes to the king. There are secret tunnels into the palace from the stream which Jeong Do Jeon designed – so Jeong Gi Joon will know about them too …
Sure enough Jeong Gi Joon has got into the palace and he’s sitting on the king’s throne! The king laughs when he sees him. I laughed too. He looks comical sitting there. He’s injured and pathetic. It’s interesting that he’s sitting on the throne – as though this symbolises his envy of the king and shows how he really wants to be in his position.
The king thanks Jeong Gi Joon because thanks to him he has been able to love his people. Jeong Gi Joon spits out a mouth full of blood. (Oh come on!) And dies. But even after Jeong Gi Joon dies, the king STILL seems to be trying to persuade him to see his point of view!
Jo Mal Seng and Jeong In Ji rush in to see Jeong Gi Joon sitting on the throne, dead! The king walks quietly away. Jo Mal Seng’s face is a picture! He didn’t expect to see THAT!
A year later Shim Jeong Soo is the head of Milbon. He tells his supporters that they must look down on the new letters – like they should only be used by women! Charming. As Shim Jeong Soo gives orders to Han Ga he realises that he doesn’t know his real name. Han Ga introduces himself as 한명회 Han Myeong Hoe (흣날 영의정에 오른다 he later became Prime Minister! oh NO!) As he walks away he bumps into Song Sam Moon and Park Pyeong Myeon. Song Sam Moon feels a strange vibe from him. Han Ga (Hang Myeong Hoe) vows to complete Jeong Gi Joon’s work and destroy the Institute of Learning.
And for the final scene we are back to how we saw the adult king at the beginning of the drama. He’s walking in the grounds of the palace followed by his entourage. Then he stands on the bridge just like at the beginning. He stares out thinking about everything that’s happened. He says he has other work to do and doesn’t think about the letters he created so much anymore. They are the people’s responsibility now. And just as in the beginning, the ministers want to know if he will be holding a meeting again today. And as always the answer is yes. He walks away smiling. Things are back to normal.
Then we see Chae Yoon’s dream again – (just in case we had forgotten) living simply and happily with So Yi and their children. He’s teaching them to read. As as the final credits roll the hangul letters thank us for watching their drama!