Although Gwanghae gets nearer towards the much coveted royal throne, his life is slowly getting even more complicated in this hour. Lies and betrayal are things that can’t be separated from life inside the palace and he gets the bitter taste of it as he seizes power in his hands. It’s still early into the game, but Gwanghae has to accept the fact that sitting on the dragon throne means much more than being a wise king and working towards the betterment of his people; there are threats around, and even inside him.
The royal physicians were trying to revive the king, but Seonjo only grew worse. Gwanghae knelt beside him and Queen Inmok arrived there right before Seonjo leave this world forever. The queen wailed, pleading for her dead husband to come back to life to keep his promise to protect their children, while Gwanghae sat there saying no words at all. Even though it was late into the night, the ministers gathered in front of the king’s quarters and Deok-hyung, who had only received the news, realized that it was true after witnessing the late king’s body lying in the quarters. The mourning period started, and preparations began for the occasion as everyone changed into their mourning clothes.
Queen Inmok had the power to hold onto the royal seal and she’s gathering herself for the sake of protecting her children. Her father confirmed her suspicion that someone tried to assassinate Yeongchang the night before and both of them thought that it was Gwanghae’s doing. The queen was upset and found it hard to believe that the Crown Prince would do that, but her father assured her that she had the highest power in the court now that the late king was gone, and the only thing she had to do was to prevent the royal seal from falling into Gwanghae’s hands.
Yi-cheom laughed merrily despite being in the mourning palace and he thought that it’s a good thing that the late king suddenly passed away. That statement irked Imhae and he muttered that Gwanghae would still rise to the throne even if it’s not immediate, because he had planned to kill Yeongchang and made it known to the queen’s side as a warning. Heh, they’re taking turns getting upset at each other and later, Court Lady Kim remarked that it was an expected childish move from Imhae. Yi-cheom cursed, upset that their plan might went awry because of the prince. She suggested for him to just wait and see, leaving the matter in Gwanghae’s hand to be solved.
Of course, Gwanghae found out about the matter right away and he was disappointed that his brother made a reckless move despite his warning before. He’s still in a difficult position and because of the incident, the queen’s feelings might be swayed and Imhae could end up dying. He decided that it’s time for Imhae to stop getting involved in the matter, and he made an inquiry about the number of soldiers under his brother-in-law’s command. The moderate ministers (Deok-hyung, Hang-bok, Won-ik) gathered around and Hang-bok thought that the death was sudden but fortunate for the Crown Prince; however, Won-ik wasn’t really sure about the fortunate part.
He guessed it right because the Lesser Northerners had already swore their allegiance in supporting Yeongchang for the throne instead of Gwanghae, who would eventually kill them if he ever ascended the throne. Deok-hyung confirmed the suspicion he had as he found out that the Lesser Northerners were not in their office, suggesting that they were having a secret gathering somewhere inside the palace. Gwanghae went there too but he’s also a step too late this time. Queen Inmok was uneasy to see the proof of attack on her son’s quarters, and Gwanghae grew more desperate to ensure everyone’s safety, asking for Deok-hyung’s help to deal with the Office of Royal Secretariat. He expressed the reason he kept holding on for the past 16 years and pleaded for Deok-hyung to help him if the minister have some faith in him to prevent the bloodbath in among the royals.
Deok-hyung asked if Gwanghae’s really going to prevent Yeongchang and him from killing each other, and Gwanghae promised to build his country not from shedding his own brother’s blood. He was still bothered with the prophecy he got from the old paper document (that Gwanghae would eventually kill Yeongchang) but in the end, he made his way to the Office of Royal Secretariat to retrieve an envelope. Gwanghae could only wait for the result after putting his effort, but unknown to others, he’s already shedding people’s blood through his brother-in-law’s soldiers.
Jungmyung had hidden herself in the garden even though it’s way past midnight and Gwanghae found the little princess alone beside the pond. She was in tears and stated that she’s scared of everything happening around her: her father’s dead and she saw her baby brother being killed in her dream. She hoped that it won’t be Gwanghae, and he made a promise that such thing would never happen. Ah, if only you know! The Prime Minister had a meeting with Queen Inmok and she’s done writing the document to relinquish the throne to Yeongchang, but Jungmyung’s disappearance made her postpone the announcement.
Everyone literally dropped their jaw when Gwanghae and Jungmyung appeared at the queen’s quarters holding hands, but the terrified Queen Inmok was more concerned on Jungmyung’s safety above everything else. Gwanghae was well aware of what she was thinking at the moment but he was more interested in knowing why the queen was together with the Lesser Northerners. Were they planning something behind his back, perhaps? He wondered if the queen couldn’t even trust him that much, to the point of thinking that he would have the heart to kill Jungmyung and even Yeongchang. His brother-in-law arrived just in time to bring the people responsible for the assassination attempt on Yeongchang in front of Queen Inmok.
They had a private meeting afterwards, and Gwanghae apologized since everything happened because of his shortcomings while pleading for her to forgive Imhae’s mistake. He vowed to ensure that no one could harm Yeongchang and Jungmyung, and asked whether the answer was sufficient to make her believe him. She admitted that it’s hard for her to believe him because everything could change once he sat on the throne. Gwanghae showed her the envelope Deok-hyung retrieved from the office, and it was actually Seonjo’s last will. He could easily win the war against her with the will, but he showed it to her in order to prove his sincerity. He promised to rise to the throne without trampling over her children and asked her: would she grab his hand and become his ally?
By the time Gwanghae walked out of the quarters, it was already morning and his expression hinted his relief after the meeting. Jungmyung was outside and she greeted him, while the queen was still torn in between her choices. Jungmyung went to her mother, concerned if Queen Inmok had an argument with Gwanghae earlier. The little princess realized that she called him brother instead of using his official title Crown Prince, but that got her mother wondering if she really liked calling him brother. Jungmyung really adored Gwanghae, and Queen Inmok realized that her daughter treated Gwanghae just like her own brother.
But then, the moderate ministers were shocked to hear that a royal decree would be unveiled on that day and they speculated that it could be an order for Gwanghae to be deposed from his current position, judging how early it was for him to be made the new king. Gwanghae’s side was also nervous and they’re ready to protest the decision, but Gwanghae decided that they should meet the queen first. The ministers were already waiting there and Queen Inmok went straight to the point when the Crown Prince joined them. Queen Inmok announced that she would relinquish the authority as the top person in the palace, and the ministers held their breath waiting for the sentence to be finished. She chose Gwanghae, and the Prime Minister protested the decision right away. Gwanghae thought that it was too early, but the Royal Secretary quoted that Queen Jeonghee proclaimed King Seongjong as the next king on the same day King Yejong passed away.
Queen Inmok wished that Gwanghae would not leave the throne empty for too long, but she’s only trying to ensure her children’s safety as soon as possible. She handed over the royal seal to him and the prophecy rang in Deok-hyung’s ears again, as if warning him about the impending tragedy. Gwanghae was proclaimed the new king, and the court all bowed to him.
All hail the king!
The court was relocated from the temporary palace to Changdeok Palace, and Gwanghae sat on the throne in all his glory. Deok-hyung asked for the prophecy matter to be buried and told Chief Hong that the corpse was probably a famous fortune teller, Nam Sa-go. The younger Deok-hyung (Nam Da-reum!) followed a scholar named Yi Ji-ham (author of Secrets of Tojeong, a traditional fortune telling book) and saw him meeting the fortune teller. The scholar was informed that bloodshed would be impossible to avoid, but Deok-hyung believed in a person’s strong will more than the prophecy, as advised by the scholar.
Deok-hyung ran into Minister Kang, who visited Chief Hong’s house to send Joo-won and In-woo there. The boys greeted him and Joo-won even made a request to become his student. In-woo followed suit too, but the boy got bored pretty easily when he had to read. He tried to coax Joo-won into leaving behind his book but Joo-won won’t stop reading. In-woo sighed that he won’t be able to secure a government post in the future no matter how hard he study, but he had a new dream. He wanted to become the Royal son-in-law by marrying the princess they met before. Awww…someone’s already crushing on Jungmyung! Meanwhile, Court Lady Choi noticed how Jungmyung grew quieter these days, and the princess was again reminded of the nightmare because of the scorching sun. She fainted and stirred awake later, but she’s still restless over the images in her frightening dream.
Deok-hyung accompanied Gwanghae for a short trip outside the palace, visiting a village full of people suffering in poverty. They were living as wanderers because they failed to pay the taxes. Gwanghae suggested for Deok-hyung to start again the effort to make the Daedong Law a reality despite the strong protest they would face from the nobles and the ministers. He wanted to build a new nation with Deok-hyung’s help, and proposed him to become his Prime Minister. The news reached Yi-cheom, who wasn’t too happy to hear about it, and Court Lady Kim wondered if he was thinking that Gwanghae woud appoint him as one. He didn’t really aim for that post, but Yi-cheom felt that he should receive the compensation for making it possible for Gwanghae to sit on the throne. Court Lady Kim didn’t think he would tell the king that he was the one who poisoned Seonjo to death and Gwanghae has his own reason for choosing Deok-hyung, but she said dryly that the king would soon realize the real taste of the throne and witness betrayal in front of his eyes.
Queen Inmok was getting ready for an overnight stay outside the palace as suggested by the royal physician to help with Jungmyung’s recovery, but something happened in the palace: Imhae was found out to have brought his private army to the palace and he was accused of treason. he was probably acting out while he was drunk, judging from the woman clothing he was wearing at that time, but the ministers were urging for Gwanghae to be punished accordingly. Deok-hyung tried to protect Imhae and Yi-cheom argued that Imhae was claiming that the throne belonged to him as the late king’s firstborn son. Gwanghae had enough of the arguing court and told them to stop. Deok-hyung and Yi-cheom took their argument outside, with the former vowing to stop the latter’s every greedy move.
Court Lady Kim was summoned to the palace by Gwanghae although she was supposed to stay away from the palace a bit longer after the late king’s death, but Gwanghae had something to ask her as his closest friend. He would be receiving the visit from Ming’s ambassadors regarding his approval as the king, but there’s another problem: Ming would refuse to give the approval because he’s not the firstborn son and Imhae was still alive, but proving Imhae’s incompetency to become a king by feigning madness would ensure the green light from Ming. But then, Gwanghae was conflicted: what if Imhae was indeed wishing to sit on the throne and made it known to the envoys? Lady Kim thought that it would be best for Gwanghae to show Imhae to the envoys instead of killing him, but only after conveying his sincere wish to his brother.
The envoys met Deok-hyung and demanded to see Imhae, but Deok-hyung made an excuse that the prince was sick. However, Imhae made his appearance and everyone was waiting nervously what he would say to the envoys. In his flashback, he was thinking that Gwanghae was going to kill him, but his brother actually spared his life…and he laughed out loud in front of the envoys, as if he was a madman. Queen Inmok found out about it and she was relieved to know that Gwanghae’s sincerity moved his brother’s heart. She was staying at the temple with her children and thought that they should go back to the palace since Jungmyung’s got better. Jungmyung was holding to a bracelet which resembled the one wore by the fortune teller’s corpse and told her mother that she found it on the Buddha’s statue. But then, Queen Inmok saw the bracelet and she seemed to recognize it too!
Gwanghae had a talk with his brother and he apologized to Imhae for suspecting him, but Imhae broke down into tears and thought that he was the one who should beg for forgiveness. The realization sank in and Gwanghae recalled what Court Lady Kim said to him about human’s greed and now that he’s sitting on the throne, he would be able to witness greed that was much worse than what he saw in the past 16 years. He demanded to know if it was true and Imhae admitted that he thought that he had to be rewarded since he gave in his rightful position to him, and wondered if he could be made Crown Brother. That was enough to shatter his trust in his one and only brother.
The wind accompanied Gwanghae’s sorrowful wailing and his friend’s words rang in his ears: human’s resolution knows no boundaries and it’s no different even when he’s sitting on the powerful throne. Yi-cheom appeared behind him and suggested that Gwanghae leave Imhae for him to handle…
[END of Episode 2]
That was one irresistible offer, and it won’t be easy for Gwanghae to reject it now that he knows that his faith has been betrayed by his own brother. I doubt Imhae will survive after making such a sudden request to Gwanghae, and Yi-cheom is willing to make himself available at Gwanghae’s disposal in order to get rid of the king’s rivals. I actually like how Yi Yi-cheom and Kim Gae-si (or Court Lady Kim) were introduced and portrayed in the first two episodes, because they are both like shadows. This duo will be the reason for Gwanghae’s downfall later and it will be interesting to witness how their influence grow by utilizing their connections to Gwanghae, and to see a petty minister and a lowly court lady pulling strings while controlling the turn of events in the court will be both terrifying and riveting.
Gwanghae is slowly breaking away from his own comfort zone when people around him start to show him their true colours, and it’s only the beginning for a journey full of agony for him. His ideal dream of being a wise king is something easier said than done, and it’s especially harder for him to achieve with constant conflict with the influential faction against him. In his case, his position as a king is not that stable because of Yeongchang, and he will have to acknowledge that the boy is a threat to him when the boy grows up. Keeping his promise will be difficult, and I’m a bit sad to see Gwanghae turning his back against Jungmyung. She looks up and adores him, so imagine how heartbreaking it will be for her to know that the person she trusts the most will be the same person who broke his promise with her. Not to forget Deok-hyung, who will likely blame himself for letting the tragedy happens although he was well aware of the prophecy.
I find it funny that Joo-won was supposed to be way younger than Jungmyung in history but here, he’s already towering beside the petite princess. Hehehe! The child actors were adorable (especially the princess!) and I want to see more of them, but we don’t really have much time left with them since the preview for the next episode has hinted a time jump, which will bring in the teenage version of the characters. The plot moves swiftly and it’s not showing any sign of slowing down soon, probably until the kids grow up. It can be a good way to attract more viewers into watching the series, which already ranked first place in ratings compared to other dramas airing in the same slot. The camera work is beautiful and dreamy at times, but it doesn’t forget the dark side of the plot, highlighting the mood to match the situation for each scene.
Two thumbs up for the beautiful and compelling first week, Hwajung!