A new beginning in a new place can be both exciting and intriguing: new people, new environment, and new resolution.
Watching episodes 5 and 6 again got to be the hardest thing for me to do last week. How can I stay still, when episode 5 showed the blossoming friendship between two different people, only to have it completely shattered in the next episode? I hate to see Yoo and Seung-nyang being treated like less than human beings and I wanted to resent Ta-hwan for causing the tragedy, but I found myself happy to see him gaining a little bit of power, respect, and trust from his people while secretly sharpening his knife behind Yeon-chul’s back. We’re only in the fourth week and I’m already torn in between the two sides: which one do I need to root for? I haven’t found my answer yet and I might never do so, because I love the three of them equally. The only thing I want to see is the demise of Yeon-chul’s family…and Wang Go too, while we’re at it.
Episode 7 opens with Dangkise confirming his suspicion by ripping off Seung-nyang’s shirt and exposing her bound chest, earning himself a slap. Byung-soo witnessed this and tried to hit her, but Dangkise laughed it off and ordered him to prepare Seung-nyang for him. She’s transformed into a beautiful girl and Dangkise was mesmerized with her beauty. He viewed her as a challenge for him, just like the foxes that needed to be tamed. While Dangkise was prattling about making her his concubine, she eyed the porcelain wine bottle and the bow suspiciously. She took the chance by making him angry, smashing the bottle in the process, and cut the rope tying her hand with the broken porcelain. Byung-soo overheard about the concubine thing and freaked out, afraid that Seung-nyang would have the power to get back to him. He went to Yoo, who’s awaken by a bad dream about Seung-nyang.
Yoo tried to get through the soldiers guarding him but failed; however, Byung-soo took over and told him that Seung-nyang was a woman, sending him to Seung-nyang’s rescue and halting Dangkise’s plan. Meanwhile, Dangkise was getting angrier when Seung-nyang mocked his father’s name and Seung-nyang took the opportunity to take the the bow. She aimed it at him, ordering him to prepare horses but he threatened that Yoo would be killed of he died. She had to choose between avenging her mother and saving Yoo, and the memories of her mother’s death weakened her. She was overpowered by Dangkise in no time and he tried to force himself onto her, before Yoo came into the tent and punched him. Yoo wanted to kill him but Seung-nyang blocked him, telling him that it’s not the time yet although she really wanted to properly avenge her mother.
Yoo took Seung-nyang’s hands and decided to take her away, only to have all the soldiers waiting outside the tent, ready to strike. Wang Go was surprised that Seung-nyang was indeed a woman. Jeombakyi saw the commotion and reported it to the others, thinking that it’s about time for them to save both Yoo and Seung-nyang. Officer Park joined forces with them, having told them the truth about him following after Seung-nyang. Yoo and Seung-nyang were tied for the whole night facing against each other (WHY?). Yoo was touched with Seung-nyang’s effort to save him with her little strength all this while without him realizing that she’s a woman. Seung-nyang apologized for lying to him, but assured him that nothing would change with the revelation of her true identity. She’s still his loyal servant and that statement made Yoo teary.
Moo-song, Eunuch Bang, Officer Park, and Jeombakyi decided to disguise themselves as Yuan’s soldiers and started a fire in the camp, causing havoc in the middle of the night. However, Eunuch Bang and Jeombakyi met Wang Go’s henchman who recognized them straight away, causing them to run away from him. Moo-song and Officer Park walked past Byung-soo and Wang Go on their way to save Yoo and Seung-nyang, but they were also recognized by Byung-soo. Officer Park tried to attack them; but then, Eunuch Bang and Jeombakyi were caught and they were forced to surrender.
Back in Yuan’s palace, Yeon-chul already set a date for the wedding without consulting with the Empress Dowager. She didn’t have any power to resist and decided to make Tanashiri undergo the harshest training before becoming an empress. Tanashiri defied the norm for everything, from trying to wake up later than the set time, walking brashly instead of gracefully like an empress should be, and stuffing herself without any control. She’s quite good in reciting the text but forgot it halfway, hence Dok-man, the person in charge, told her to repeat it from the beginning if she wanted to become the empress. Tanashiri refused to follow his order, challenging him to let her give up on the training.
Ta-hwan was laughing after hearing about Tanashiri’s tantrum and he’s willing to bet that she would give up and fail the training. The Empress Dowager went to meet Tanashiri, who vowed to change the rules of the inner court when she became the empress. Seeing how Tanashiri won’t quit anytime soon, Empress Dowager ordered ‘that thing’ to be prepared. Ta-hwan and Tanashiri went for a walk in the garden while Ta-hwan kept praising her beauty, leading her into thinking that he’s fallen for her. She proceeded to say that she didn’t like the garden but soon apologized when she got to to know that Ta-hwan’s late mother was the one who personally planted the flowers there. She wondered if Ta-hwan really wanted her to become his wife and he assured her that he never thought of anyone else except her. Tanashiri asked several things from him: to bring her servants from her house, to meet her when she feels like meeting him, and to give her a garden full of rare flowers as his official proposal. Ta-hwan gladly agreed to follow her wishes but behind her back, he ordered the opposite, such as getting rid of the flowers that Tanashiri liked.
Baek Ahn complained that sending him to the border was like sending him to exile, but Taltal thought that it’s better than getting killed by Yeon-chul. Dangkise and Co. were worried that Yeon-chul would be angry about the destroyed tribute because of the fire and planned something about Yoo. They decided to send him to the border in order to help Baek Ahn fighting the rebellion over there, while it’s more like sending him there to die. Yoo got dragged away alone despite Seung-nyang’s plea for her to be taken away together with him. They promised each other to stay alive and meet again as Seung-nyang could only look at him, unable to do anything. Yoo was more concerned on Seung-nyang than his own safety and Dangkise did nothing to ensure that Seung-nyang would be safe under his control. Dangkise led the tribute women’s group to the capital and he looked somehow concerned when Seung-nyang fell down. Has he started to fall for her?? Tapjahae, on the other hand, led the men to the border including Yoo and his underlings while they’re wondering about their destination.
Baek Ahn and Taltal reached the border, where the lower ranking soldiers were mostly dying. The leader of the camp greeted them cheerfully and even prepared a table full of food; however, Baek Ahn knew that something was wrong. It turned out that the Yuan military officers were abusing their power and torturing the people under them, most of the people being Goryeo origin. He wanted to make a new troop of soldiers for the next battle. Dangkise’s group stopped somewhere for the night and Seung-nyang was the only one who was tied outside and didn’t get any food. Dangkise overheard Wang Go talking to her and he looked at her intently from afar. He asked her to be brought to him and gave her the chance to choose in between becoming a maid inside the palace (where she could end up dying) or becoming his concubine. Seung-nyang chose the former while making a promise to herself that she would deal with Dangkise after she killed Ta-hwan.
In the palace, Ta-hwan was shooting the baby arrows with perfect pose but none of them hit the target. He tried recalling Seung-nyang’s teaching and tried again….only to have the arrow hitting the floor for the umpteenth time. He left in a huff, refusing to do it again. LOL, he’s sure on the same level with Tanashiri when it came to throwing tantrums! Teacher Jang was angry that Tanashiri had never drop by the Empress Dowager’s quarters to pay her respects but the Empress Dowager had already planned something beforehand. Her court lady brought her an incense that she intended to give to Tanashiri as a present and it hit Teacher Jang: it’s something related to infertility medicine despite its nice smell. Tanashiri liked the scent and being so full of herself, thinking that the perfume was a bribe from the Empress Dowager since she’s becoming the Empress and would have absolute power in the inner court. Although Dok-man reminded her that the Empress Dowager was still the most senior in the inner court, thus power would still be in her hands, Tanashiri refused to accept it and she’s set to become the owner of the inner court as the empress.
Dangkise’s group reached the capital and headed straight to the palace. Dangkise told Dok-man to reject Seung-nyang and give her to him as Dok-man eyed Seung-nyang suspiciously. Seung-nyang’s eyes darted around the palace, taking in the place where Ta-hwan was staying while her thoughts lingered around the promises Ta-hwan told her before. Ta-hwan passed by and although he was miles away, the women including Seung-nyang had to bow to him. Ta-hwan was reminded of Seung-nyang when he saw the tribute women but left without approaching the group as Seung-nyang shot death glares towards him from afar.
The women prepared themselves for the inspection and they talked about the possibility of being concubines (gongnyeo), the lowest servants (musuri or water maids), or kicked out from the palace and sent to be sold away as courtesans. Seung-nyang was nervous and worried that she would fail the inspection and she was close to being expelled because of her scar; but then, Dok-man was amazed when she told him that her father was a hunter and thinking that he strength would benefit them, he made her a water maid, or musuri. Her first day didn’t go well since Seung-nyang’s feisty self didn’t bode well with the leader of the water maids, Yeon-hwa. Another maid warned Seung-nyang to be careful of Yeon-hwa (who was close to become a concubine but failed. HA) and moments after that, Seung-nyang got ordered to massage her and then slapped for pressing too hard. The maids were getting ready to punish Seung-nyang for glaring at Yeon-hwa but the court lady’s arrival saved her for the time being.
Yeon-chul was angry that Yoo was sent to the border without consulting with him first and Wang Go managed to trick him into believing that it’s Yoo’s choice to go there in order to make up for his mistakes and regain his right to Goryeo’s throne. He seemed satisfied and was expecting to hear the news about Yoo’s death instead of his victory since their enemies were not easy to be defeated. At the border, Baek Ahn wasn’t too excited that Tapjahae arrived there. Yoo was greeted with dead people in front of them and Eunuch Bang heard that they were all Goryeo people. Yoo himself volunteered to fight together with his people but he didn’t know that he might end up killing himself. Yoo and his underlings was wondering about the things they would be forced to do there when they were told to change into shabby clothes. While his underlings wanted to get better ones for him, Yoo decided to follow the Yuan people’s order and changed into the clothes.
In the middle of the night, someone approached the sleeping Seung-nyang and dragged her into a storage room, where Yeon-hwa was waiting and she wanted to hear her admitting her mistakes. Seung-nyang refused to budge and she ordered one of the maids to fetch the whip. Ta-hwan was strolling around the palace although it’s past midnight and saw the lights from the storage room. He was suddenly curious about the room. Seung-nyang was getting lashed by Yeon-hwa when someone knocked on the door and the maids were nervous that Ta-hwan was outside. Seung-nyang and Ta-hwan were staring at the door, without knowing that they were only separated by a short distance and a door….
In episode 8, Ta-hwan’s eunuch Golta checked on the maids and Yeon-hwa said that they were just teaching the new maid that was Seung-nyang. He left together with Ta-hwan and the maids were going to resume their ‘teaching’ through torture, but Seung-nyang suddenly fought against them and warned Yeon-hwa not to bother her anymore. She ran out after Ta-hwan but he already disappeared. She sighed in frustration. A maid, Hong-dan, was amazed with Seung-nyang’s bravery and Seung-nyang took the chance to lure some information from her about Ta-hwan’s daily life. He didn’t really have a ‘normal’ life as an emperor: in fact, he’s a far cry from what an emperor should behave, unlike what the maids thought of him. Spending his day waking up late and falling asleep during breakfast (instead of waking up early and praying), managing the state affair under the guide of Yeon-chul (instead of doing it by himself), playing games with Golta (instead of martial arts training) , and finishing the day with cracking nuts using the royal seal while he’s supposed to read the books .
Seung-nyang got to know that he’s getting married and realized that she might have the chance to approach him during the ceremony, but it’s not easy since not all low maids like her would get the chance to be involved in the ceremony. She asked Yeon-hwa to include her in the ceremony and the scared Yeon-hwa could only agree (serves you right, girl!) to her order. Seung-nyang stole a knife from the kitchen and started planning her attack as she reminisced about her promise to stay alive to Yoo. She apologized to him, knowing the fact that she might be killed in her assassination attempt.
Tapjahae urged Baek Ahn to kill off Yoo as soon as possible since this was their only chance to get rid of him. Plus, Yeon-chul only knew that Yoo volunteered to come there and to avoid suspicion, Yoo would better die there. Baek Ahn however didn’t want to do so. Yoo met other men in the camp, who turned out to be Goryeo people just like what he suspected earlier. They told him about being forced to become slaves after the failure to defeat the enemies and asked his help to relief them from the misery. The men followed every order given, including kneeling to the Yuan officials. Yoo refused to do so at first, but he couldn’t do anything and had to obey the order, kneeling multiple times to save his life while his underlings could only grit their teeth, witnessing the humiliation he had to go through. Baek Ahn knew that it won’t be easy to get out of the battle alive, but both he himself and Yoo had to go through it.
Tanashiri was having a brief family moment with Yeon-chul and Dangkise before her wedding and Yeon-chul kept reminding her that she had to consummate her marriage during her first night with Ta-hwan. Dangkise even gave a gift (a kind of perfume that can seduce the men? heh) to her but she declined it, confident that she could seduce Ta-hwan with her own charms since he’s already head over heels for her. If only she knew that Ta-hwan hated her face so much because she reminded him of her father…LOL. Golta was more worried than him about the wedding night and offered him some advice, but Ta-hwan were reminded of his times with Seung-nyang when asked about the moments that made his heart beat faster. Golta got even more worried when Ta-hwan told him that he was with a man at that time. HAHAHAHA!
Dangkise met Dok-man and asked why Seung-nyang was made a maid although he had told him not to do so. He warned that his sister Tanashiri would become the empress and told him to take care of Seung-nyang: not to let her die until she begged to meet him. Meanwhile, Seung-nyang made it to the group of maids working during the ceremony and she planned her attack carefully, from practicing to lacing the knife with the snake venom to ensure Ta-hwan’s demise.
The wedding day arrived and Ta-hwan was less than excited for it, while Tanashiri was smiling victoriously as she was getting ready for the ceremony. She decided to take along Dangkise’s gift with her. Dangkise spotted Seung-nyang among the maids as she switched place with another maid. Seung-nyang waited until Ta-hwan was right in front of her and she was about to pull out her knife when Dangkise approached her, offering her the last chance to get out from the place and follow him. She could only watch as Ta-hwan walked to the throne together with Tanashiri and received blessings from the people as her eyes brimmed with tears, frustrated with her failed attempt. She went back to her room and accidentally dropped her knife in front of Yeon-hwa. Hong-dan tried to cover it for her but Yeon-hwa seemed to have seen it. Seung-nyang also got to know that Ta-hwan was going to sleep at the harem that night and vowed to turn his first night into his funeral.
The Goryeo people were forced to be slaves at the rock mine, including Yoo and his underlings. Baek Ahn wanted to see how long Yoo would be able to withstand the harsh environment while Tapjahae preferred to see him die earlier. The two of them were conflicting with each other but Taltal knew it could get worse with Danashiri now as their empress. The slaves were not given any chance to rest and they were all tired from hard work all day long. They were finally given some food but Officer Park sensed something was not right around that place. It turned out that the enemies were getting ready to attack the place secretly. The Goryeo people, having witnessed how Yoo was unable to help them, started to disrespect him and Yoo was ashamed of himself. Officer Park warned Yoo and Co. about the strange atmosphere and suddenly, the enemies launched the attack on them. Instead of saving himself, Yoo was enraged that his people were dying right in front of his eyes and decided to protect them with all his might.
Most of the slaves ended up dead from the attack and Yoo, fuming with anger at the Yuan officials for sacrificing his people, tried to attack Baek Ahn but he soon blocked by Taltal. Those Goryeo people who used to sneer at Yoo, looked at him with admiration. Yoo offered himself to lead the people as proper soldiers since Byung-soo, although the leader on the paper, chose to flee rather than lead them to defeat the enemies. Baek Ahn decided to let the best man lead and told them to fight each other in order to determine who would be the leader. Both of them agreed to do so.
The maids were helping Tanashiri getting ready for her first night and she’s so excited for it, applying the perfume from her brother. Meanwhile, Ta-hwan tried to buy some time since he’s not that happy to spend the time with his enemy’s daughter when the Empress Dowager came to meet him. She knew that he’s doing it because he was forced by Yeon-chul and told him not to consummate his marriage with Tanashiri to prevent Yeon-chul from getting more powerful in the court. Knowing that Yeon-chul might not live any longer and the absence of heir could be an issue when he passed away, she promised that she would find a suitable concubine for him soon. Seung-nyang woke up from her sleep and tried to sneak out of the room silently, but Yeon-hwa heard her. Suddenly, Dok-man barged into the room and ran into Seung-nyang. He inspected her and found the knife in her possession. It looks like Yeon-hwa reported the matter to him earlier and Seung-nyang was dragged away, much to her delight.
Ta-hwan went to Tanashiri and tried to act like he’s happy to see her. She was all set to seduce him, all sultry and exposing her beauty, but Ta-hwan chose to drink continuously without even bothering to look at her properly. Meanwhile, Seung-nyang was being questioned about the knife and she said that it was for protecting herself from Dangkise, since she’d choose death rather than being possessed by Dangkise. Dok-man didn’t believe that a lowly water maid would refuse Dangkise since he’s the empress’ brother. However, he stopped her from being dragged away when she told him that Dangkise killed her mother. He reminded her that everyone would die because of many reasons and in that place, one won’t die alone. He then made her stand through beatings instead of kicking her out.
And the newlyweds…didn’t have the best night ever. Tanashiri was getting tired of waiting for Ta-hwan to get on bed and he kept asking for more drink although she’s lying on the bed. Golta urged him (from outside) to continue with his first night ritual and he approached the bed. He’s already drunk but still praised Tanashiri for her beauty, flattering her in the process. She welcomed him into her arms and Ta-hwan lied on top of her…only to fall asleep like a baby. She pushed him away and proceeded to the table, asking for the drinks for herself. HAHA!
The Empress Dowager was so happy to hear that the first night didn’t go as what Yeon-chul planned and asked for the news to be spread to further humiliate Tanashiri. Ta-hwan dropped by to offer his first greetings to her as a married man but Tanashiri was nowhere to be seen, while she had to do that as part of the wedding ceremony. The Empress Dowager was so angry that Tanashiri defied the norm right on her first day as an empress. She ordered a meeting with all the inner court personnel but Tanashiri refused to do so using sickness as her excuse; instead, she met all the court ladies and the eunuchs of the inner court beforehand. Instead of identifying them with their names, she found it too hard to remember and started calling them by nicknames, most of them weren’t that pretty and downright insulting. Dok-man tried to correct her but she also gave him a nickname. Tanashiri reminded them that the Empress Dowager was no longer their leader and she’s now the top lady.
Tanashiri met the Empress Dowager outside and after a brief stare off, she bowed to her, prompting a smug smile plastered across the dowager’s face. Tanashiri was stunned that she knew about the failed first night but played with the power she had as head of the inner court. She reminded the Empress Dowager that she should get out of the palace as what the law said, displaying her lack of respect. Empress Dowager ordered to see the candidate for Ta-hwan’s concubine. Satisfied with the girl, she ordered another maid from Goryeo to accompany the concubine and Seung-nyang was chosen as the maid to be the concubine’s aide.
Byung-soo was getting ready for the fight with Yoo and he didn’t plan to win fairly. Yoo’s underlings thought that Byung-soo was no ordinary man in skills, but Yoo himself never lost in sword fighting before. The common people came to meet him and offered their support for him to win and lead them. The atmosphere was getting tense as Taltal told them that the end of the fight might be the death of one of them. Yoo’s underlings were scared upon hearing it but Yoo was ready to do so. And the fight begun…
Seung-nyang went to serve the tea to the concubine earlier, which turned out to be a Goryeo woman named Lady Park. Lady Park got to know that Seung-nyang was also from Goryeo since Dok-man would pick a Goryeo woman as her maid. Their ice breaking session was cut short when it was announced that Ta-hwan was coming and Seung-nyang was ordered to take away the tea. She was on her way out the room when she ran into Ta-hwan. Seung-nyang tried to hide her face but Ta-hwan seemed to be able to recognize her. She held her head low but then, she was ordered to look up at him. He looked at her intently and…
I think it’s about time for us to bid goodbye to the cool, boyish Seung-nyang and welcome the brand new goddess Seung-nyang with cold heart and piercing stares. I will miss the old Seung-nyang who is spunky and cheerful, but I’m glad that she’s still the same Seung-nyang who’s strong and focused in every single thing that she does, although she’s now bounded by the rules of the palace and her primary target is her revenge. The new Seung-nyang earns respect from the people around her through her strength and her unyielding attitude, refusing to follow the bullies like Yeon-hwa. Although it seems like she has changed, but it might be her survival instinct kicking in and she has to protect herself from harm inside the cruel environment that is the palace. With the new, strange place and a new identity to get used to, she’s starting a journey that is not easy and her target, the highest ranked person in the palace, she needs a strong foundation for support as she’s at the lowest point, alone without anyone to turn to. She might have the revenge as the closest thing to her heart and her promise to Yoo as the next one, so will she choose one or embrace both?
Yoo actually experiences the same thing as Seung-nyang: after living with respect from people around him, he’s pushed to the lowest point of his life, from a king to a slave. The treatment he has to face may seem trivial to common people, but he lost everything, from power to respect, plus the people around him are enjoying the sight of him living the harsh life and waiting for him to give up on the difficulties. He’s still better than Seung-nyang, with his faithful underlings beside him all the time, but he has to live his days being mocked by the Yuan officers and sneered by his own Goryeo people, while constantly questioning himself about his own credibility as a king. Yoo is selfless and he’s willing to do anything for his people, only that he doesn’t have the power to do so. And that is so painful to watch, knowing his struggles and conflicts he has to overcome for the sake of the Goryeo that he loves so much, the country that he’s willing to sacrifice himself for.
Ta-hwan seems to get the best of both worlds: survived the assassination attempts and becoming the emperor after all the sufferings. Life sure looks like a bed of roses to him, but it’s not without thorns. He’s acting like a puppet to Yeon-chul, flattering Tanashiri all day long, and displaying his regal self while throwing tantrums when he’s not watched by those people. I feel sorry for him since he has to put with so many people working against him. He’s more of less similar with Yoo, being controlled against their will and the only difference is that Ta-hwan gets a better care in the palace while Yoo is forced to wrk under the hot sun. Ta-hwan does have some power in his hands; however, it’s all controlled by Yeon-chul. He has no one else to turn to, except his loyal eunuch Golta (love him!) and the Empress Dowager, plus he can’t make any decision: either he has to follow Yeon-chul or heed the Empress Dowager’s words. ‘Emperor’ is just a mere title for him, and looks like he’s going to feel stuffy, stuck in between the two conflicting sides of Yeon-chul and Empress Dowager.
Tanashiri should not be taken lightly. She appears to be a bratty and spoiled girl who whines when things doesn’t go her way and underneath that pretty face, she inherits the possessive and controlling trait from her father. In fact, I think Yeon-chul’s family members have the controlling attitude carved into their DNA and it gets worse when they have the power in their hands. Just look at the evil brothers. Everything has to go according to their order and they will ensure nothing will go against their will. Same with Tanashiri, who takes charge of the inner court right on her first day as an empress. She’s dangerous and I won’t be surprised if she is willing to do anything to to make sure that things will go according to her order, just like her older brothers Dangkise and Tapjahae.
Overall, this week’s episodes are still moving fast but still find the balance between the serious and light scenes. The primary reason for me to watch Empress Ki is because of the writers since I like their previous works and I really enjoy the writing so far. Trust the writers Jang Young-chul and Jung Kyung-soon to inject witty lines and humour into a fusion sageuk like this effectively. Besides the return of several actors from their past projects (something that I really love when it comes to their dramas), I can see some similarities when it comes to how they write the characters. Ta-hwan reminds me of Choi Hang-woo in History of the Salaryman, who despite his evil plans against the main character Yoo Bang, is a character that I love dearly. I’m not saying that Ta-hwan is evil, but he is similar to Hang-woo when it comes to their funny lines and expressions. Not to forget the beautiful cinematography, which is a feast for my eyes. Love that the settings are dreamy and it’s like watching a movie.
We are moving into the more serious territory of the plot this week and looks like more angst will come our way for next week, judging from the preview of episode 9. Bring it on!
Thanks for reading 😉