Well here we are. It’s the final episode. But just because Kwanghyun has become the royal physician doesn’t mean he’s going to stop being controversial! He causes a stir when he shakes up the royal pharmacy and upsets the herb merchants. But on a happier note, there IS a wedding to prepare for …
So Kwanghyun now has a new title – Royal Physician Baek! (백 어의 Baek o-ui) But there are mixed reactions to Kwanghyun’s promotion. Of course his supporters are elated, but not everyone is pleased. The teacher shows his displeasure through word play …He says
백광현이 어의라니 내가 진짜 어이가 없구만 …
Baek Kwanghyun-i o-ui ra-ni ne ga chin-cha o-i ga op-gu-man …
“(the fact that) Baek Kwanghyun is the royal physician, I honestly can’t believe.” (royal physician- o-ui – and ‘unbelievable’ o-i – sound very similar. 어아가 없다 means unbelievable/amazing) He says this grumpily and means ‘unbelievable’ in a bad way 😕
The high officials (including the one who took over from Lord Jung whose title is 좌상 대감 chwa-sang dae-gam) is also against Kwanghyun’s promotion – since Kwanghyun refused to side with him, he doesn’t want him rising to power. They ask the king to change his mind but he REFUSES. So they stage a strike! The king turns up to the daily meeting to find that half of the officials aren’t there! And he is FUMING about this!
Kwanghyun is very unpopular with the high officials
In fact Kwanghyun doesn’t actually want the job either! He knows that power is trouble and only wants to be a DOCTOR. But Dr Saam points out that he doesn’t JUST have to be the king’s doctor – he can do other work on the side. So if he wants to help the poor he can do it in his spare time. And he can use his power as the royal physician for good use..
Dr Saam persuades Kwanghyun that the position will be good for him
The officials storm off to see the queen mother to complain hoping for her support as usual. She is the only one who can influence the king to change his mind. So is the queen mother going to side with them or Kwanghyun this time? She’s usually strict on “following the rules.”
But the only reason they can give her is that Kwanghyun didn’t pass the state medical exam. The queen mother calls for Kwanghyun to join them in her chambers. And – well, this is a first – she actually supports Kwanghyun! Since he also saved her life and the king’s life she trusts Kwanghun more than any other doctor to look after them. (And about time too!) And she’s realised that you don’t always have to follow the rules! The officials are shocked and stunned.
The officials try to get the queen mother on their side
Finally Kwanghyun appears before the hospital staff in his red official robes – he is a yong-gam (see how people at court were addressed during the Joseon period here). But he hasn’t been in the job for five minutes before he starts making unpopular changes. 😉 He tells his team that they will not be helping the noblemen from now on – in their spare time they will work at the welfare clinic helping the commoners! And he wants any extra herbs not needed at the royal pharmacy to be shared with the welfare clinic – instead of kept for wealthy private patients …
Kwanghyun makes lots of unpopular changes as the Royal Physician
Kwanghyun wants to start other welfare clinics where treatment is free for the poor. So they must find ways to get cheaper herbs – from herb merchants as well as recruiting locals to find medicinal herbs in the mountains. Of course this upsets the herb merchants and doctors who will lose money and so they try to complain.
The herb merchants complain about the reforms Kwanghyun is making!
Sungha gets ready to leave Joseon to study in Qing. First he visits Jinyung but he doesn’t tell her that he is leaving Joseon. They just chat about old times playing together as kids. Their old home is now a clinic but he’s happy about that. Jinyung doesn’t find out he’s gone until it’s too late – she rushes to the port but (as always) the boat has already left. Kwanghyun is there to comfort her. Sungha has left a present for her – a box of acupuncture needles. (It seems that in Joseon dramas the wealthy characters run off to Qing when they have any kind of trouble. In modern dramas they run off to America!) It feels very final as he leaves on the boat with flashbacks to their lives together growing up. Surely he’ll be back eventually. But in the drama we don’t see Sungha again. Poor Sungha
The wedding day
Kwanghyun is so nervous before the wedding that he’s even holding the acupuncture needles upside down (much to the concern of the patient!) Jinyung is embarrassed when the other nurses tell her to get ready for the ‘first night’ 😉 Meanwhile, the princess excitedly picks out what dress she should wear for the wedding. She’s so cute.
Right before the wedding – they are still working up to the last minute! – Kwanghun bumps into Jinyung. He calls her affectionately 부인 (bu-in) ‘wife’. And he asks her to call him ‘husband’ 서방님 (so-bang-nim.) She’s too embarrassed. (even though they’ve been ‘together’ for YEARS!?) In these quiet moments before the wedding he gives her a jade ring and promises that whatever the future brings they will face it together. Then we have the wedding ceremony …
Several years later ….
Chef Oh asks his boss (Daemang’s mum) to call him 여보 YOBO – Darling. (OMG this means they must be married! I can’t believe this!) And then we find Kibae on a first date with the old head nurse from the hospital! (I never saw that one coming either.) Dr Saam and Kayong return from Qing once again and there is more romance in the air as Taeju rushes over to carry Kayong’s bag with a huge smile on his face. (Now THEY make a cute couple 😉 )
(My prize for the character who has changed the most through this drama goes to Taeju. Remember what he was like at the beginning when they were medical students? He was a serious and rather anal type of character. Kwanghyun on the other hand hasn’t changed at all. And this episode seems to be all about making sure that we know he hasn’t changed – rank and titles haven’t changed him.)
We find Kwanghyun out in the field drinking with labourers and checking their health while he’s at it – He is now a district magistrate in the countryside and is addressed as 사또 (sado) (BTW He wanted to go – it’s not a demotion 😉 ) He’s still upsetting the other officials by behaving inappropriately though, by actually working! And spending time with commoners!
Then he’s called away to deal with an accident. He’s wearing very fancy clothes now – with feathers in his hat – but when a horse is ill he doesn’t think twice about treating the horse too. He never forgets his roots. But not everyone thinks his behaviour is appropriate. One of the officials goes to Jinyung – who now has a child – and asks her to do something about Kwanghun’s behaviour because he shouldn’t be treating ANIMALS. But she simply explains that to Kwanghyun – every life is precious. And he’s doing what makes him happy.
Historical note: The Joseon government divided the country into 8 provinces and 350 counties and prefectures. (the number 350 was chosen so that, in theory, the king would be able to visit every county and prefecture in a year!) A local magistrate was sent to each county or prefecture from the central government to help manage the whole country. This was a new system that was introduced in Joseon after the Goryeo period ended in 1392.
So that’s it. That’s the end. What am I going to do now?
I think the last episode was in keeping with the whole mood of this drama – quite light and feel good. (OK except for all the blood and sickness and punishments of course) The final episode wasn’t overly sentimental by showing the main characters in very old age. And there were no lose ends – nobody is still living with regret or some other problem. (Although Sungha has unrequited love but we don’t see him and this point is not really made a fuss over)
It was entertaining and there were certainly times when I wanted to throw something through the TV at Myunghwan or Lord Jung 😉 for their naughty behaviour! But I think the drama as a whole didn’t feel heavy to me because (unlike Heojun for example) Kwanghyun is not a complicated character. He doesn’t really have any character flaws, angst, or a chip on his shoulder. He’s not a wounded soul. And he hasn’t had to compromise – like marry someone he doesn’t love for the greater good for example. He just has very clear goals in life – to make sure everyone can get medical treatment no matter if they are rich or poor. And of course he wants to marry the woman he loves – Jinyung. And he gets everything he wants, so it’s a very happy ending indeed, isn’t it?
For Kwanghyun and Jinyung it’s a happy ending. But I thought Sungha was the most pitiful character in the whole drama. We don’t even see him return from Qing! Dr Saam and Kayong return and there is love in the air for many of the characters. Very strange couples I thought though … But we have no idea what’s going on with Sungha. I really wanted him to have more of a part later in drama. Surely there could have been a love interest for him – or SOMETHING?? But the princess and Eunso are both widows, so there were no eligible ladies for him. Saying goodbye to Jinyung was really the only sentimental scene in the whole episode- it felt so final as though they weren’t going to see each other again for a very long time. And so I’ll say it again for the millionth and final time: Poor Sungha