In episode 2 of Horse Doctor (MBC 2012) we catch up with the characters 12 years later. Myunghwan has worked his way up at the pharmacy but he has also become tough and pretty scary – prepared to do anything to save his own skin. (and he started off so well) Dojun’s son is a feisty young boy bored with living on a small island and desperate to go to the big city. And when he finally arrives there who should he bump in to but a young girl about his age. Who could she possibly be? But together they witness a heinous crime.
The guard raises his sword and is just about to kill Dojun’s baby son when Seokgu rushes forward announcing that ‘the baby is a girl’. (I knew it! He switched the babies) Everyone is surprised to hear this – even the nurse! (Even though the baby boy hardly has any hair but the girl has a handsome head of dark hair?) So Seokgu has sacrificed his daughter to protect Dojun’s son. His daughter is to be taken in at Yangju government office.
Horse Doctor (MBC 2012) Dojun’s son is saved from the royal guards
The nurse, Inju, says goodbye to Myunghwan. After all that’s happened she can’t stay around. Myunghwan can’t even look at her and makes an excuse not to see her off. She’s devastated the three of them were so close but have now been broken apart. Myunghwan seems to feel terribly guilty about what’s happened.
Inju says good bye as Seokgu leaves the capital with Dojun’s son.
12 years later. Dojun’s son Kwanghyun and his friends play on the island where they live. He has a strong character and is the ring leader of the gang. With his friends he has built a raft and plans to sail to the capital. The man he thinks is his father clearly has trouble controlling the boy and he is ready to beat him for not studying and trying to go to the capital when he knows it’s forbidden. But Kwanghyun doesn’t understand why he’s not allowed to leave the island. (Look, just do what you’re told Kwanghyun.)
12-year-old Kwanghyun is bored on the island
A local government officer on the island shows Seokgu a recent wanted poster sent from the capital. (So they are STILL looking for him.) The official has realised that it’s him. (Hmm. Really? He could recognise him from this hand drawn sketch done twelve years ago?) Luckily the official is on his side since he saved his life in the past and promises not to hand him over to the authorities. So he’s got a lucky break for now.
Meanwhile Kwanghyun bumps into his teacher who is drunk. He’s not a very good teacher though as he’s supposed to be teaching the boy Chinese characters but he doesn’t even know them himself! But Kwanghyun is happy to cover for the teacher so that he doesn’t have to study.
Myunghwan is shocked to discover they are investigating the death of the king’s brother
At the pharmacy school Myunghwan has reached a high position. He seems to be a kind and considerate leader, and a lot more confident than he was before. When he goes to treat the King – King Hyojong – he speaks his mind with him, reprimanding the king for not looking after his own health. But he is thrown off guard when the king suddenly mentions the death of his brother 12 years ago and wants to see Dojun, the doctor who treated him.
King Hyojong wants to reopen the case over the death of his brother
Historical note: King Hyojong (r.1649-1659) was the second son of King Injo (1623-1649) (see my chart of Joseon kings and sageuk dramas) but he became king after his elder brother mysteriously died in the palace. He was held in China for political reasons with his brother before returning to take the throne. His brother’s death remains a mystery.
Things get more tricky for Myunghwan when Doctor Yi Hyongik, the man hired to assassinate the crown prince, turns up. Myunghwan doesn’t want to be associated with him. (I don’t blame him) And we can see a shift in power here as the doctor seems weak and vulnerable now that King Injo and the queen are dead and can’t protect him. (He should have thought of that before, shouldn’t he?) It is Myunhwan who is the stronger one now. He assures the doctor that if they don’t say anything then no one will ever find out what really happened to the crown prince. (Oh Myunghwan, you seemed like such a good man at the beginning ..) There is just one problem: the one witness who saw the doctor kill a man with his needles is still alive somewhere and so he must be found …
Myunghwan is unhappy to see the doctor who made him assassinate the prince
Back on the island Kwanghyun is upset that his father wants to move again. He doesn’t understand why they live on the island and why his father is so intent on him studying medicine of all things. He clearly has not been told anything about his past. So he decides to go to the capital with his ‘teacher’. But his teacher has no ID badge (or can’t use it since he is in exile) and so tells Kwanghyun to bring his father’s ID badge for inspection to get on the boat. OH NO. I sense trouble ahead.
The boat sails for the capital
But with some luck Kwanghyun and his ‘teacher’ manage to get on the boat with the ID badge even though they raise suspicion when there is no record of Kwanghyun’s father’s ID in the books.
Kwanghyun leaves the island leaving his father in a panic
Kwanghyun is excited to be in the capital. But he’s naive and he soon becomes the target of a gang of child thieves- he thinks they are his friends but they steal his bag and money. But the children feel bad that they have left him with nothing since he was nice to them and gave them food. The head of the gang is a young girl around Kwanghyun’s age.
Kwanghyun thinks he has made a friend in the capital
At the palace Myunghwan is nervous when he is called to answer questions about the death of the crown prince. It’s not looking good for Myunghwan because the palace has discovered that he was close to Dojun. And then Yi Hyongik betrays him by presenting the investigation with ‘proof’ of Myunghwan’s guilt. (Myunghwan did the wrong thing but this guy really is a piece of work.) A flashback shows that Myunghwan was forced to administer the heated lethal needles to the prince all those years ago …
Crown Prince Sohyeon on his deathbed 12 years ago
Doctor Yi Hyungik is attacked and captured in the dead of night. Meanwhile, with no money, Kwanghyun and his teacher are left in the rain all night without a room. But Kwanghyun is determined to get the money back that the gang of thieves stole from him. The next day he goes to the port and plays the same trick on the country bumkins arriving in the capital. (He’s a fast learner – he’s only been here a day himself!) Finally he bumps into the kids who stole from him and demands his stuff back but they haven’t got it – it’s been taken by a gang of men. So Kwanghyun demands to be taken to the thieves’ den.
Kwanghyun demands the child gang return his stuff
So they go to the gang’s den and find his stuff but there is also a mysterious sack in the room that keeps moving (there is obviously a person under that sacking!) The children hear someone coming so they hide in the room. A solemn and quite creepy Myunghwan appears with his guard and they uncover the sack – to reveal the doctor gagged underneath.
The doctor begs Myunghwan for mercy
For a moment it seemed as though the doctor had managed to frame Myunghwan but now we see that the power is clearly on Myunghwan’s side. Losing his friend and contact with the nurse has toughened him up. He can’t afford to let the doctor live and so he ruthlessly kills him with two needles – the same way that the doctor killed his poor victim in the den. (I can’t feel sorry for the doctor. He showed no pity for the innocent man he abducted and killed. And yet he still begs for his own life now. It’s poetic justice that he should die the same way that he killed others and that his killer ignores his own pleas for pity.)
Myunghwan prepares to apply the lethal acupuncture needle
Myunghwan must be thinking that now at last he is safe with the doctor dead. But the two kids are hiding in the den and they watch this scene in horror. They follow Myunghwan and the guard to the river where the body of the doctor is unceremoniously thrown in. But just as the lifeless body dives towards the water, the little girl screams loudly drawing attention to them…. Myunghwan realises that someone has seen what he has done and he can’t afford to have any witnesses…
So Myunghwan who at the start of episode 1 was on his way to becoming a hero with big dreams of saving lives as a good doctor has now become the villain. And a powerful villain too with a high rank at the pharmacy and some serious skills with needles! I’m sensing a lot of sinister scenes ahead.
In a way I feel sorry for him since he was forced into assassinating the crown prince. And so this is not the life he wanted for himself. It is his fate and he can’t go back now, so how many more victims will he have to kill to keep his secret?