Yes, I calmed the heck down since my spazzing about episode one of The Moon that Embraces to Sun. This drama is settling in nicely with a great steady pace, building on story and character developments with ease and a light touch. Sageuks normally take their time to create the universe and allow the narrative to proceed at a fluid pace rather than tossing random scenes that might attract the viewer interest but serve no greater purpose. Everything that has happened in the first two episodes make sense, are necessary, and help ease us into the world where fate appears to dictate the lives and loves of Hwon, Yeon Woo, and Yang Myung.
Unlike the immediate pathos of episode one, this episode focused on the teenagers and their friendship, old and new alike. Prince Yang Myung has pretty much become my favorite character, with his glib and joking ways just a mask for a lifetime’s disappointment and helplessness. I love how he gives rocks as a present, loves teasing everyone around him, and appears to adore Yeon Woo without reservation. I guess I have to thank the drama lords for casting Kim Soo Hyun as Hwon, because I love him so I’ll get back on Hwon’s ship when he shows up. Otherwise I’ll spend the entire drama mooning over Yang Myung and digging myself a grave of despair second lead shipping.
Episode 2 recap:
Hwon happily watches as the red umbrella falls to the ground while his retainers refer to it as a possessed object since the umbrella appears to be moving by itself. He takes it as a sign that he may see Yeon Woo again. Yeon Woo hears a noise and looks around the courtyard, wondering if perhaps an assassin was sent to dispatch her. She walks towards the wall where Yang Myung sat watching her and finds that he left her something. It’s a rock. LOL, so cute.
Not just any rock, but a rock that has been named “worry relieving rock”. She also finds a note which reads: if ever you cannot sleep at night because of worries, tell those worries to this rock, it’s name is “worry relieving rock” and will take away your worries so you can sleep peacefully at night. It’s my present for you from my travels. Yeon Woo is angry that Yang Myung did it again, despite her telling him not to (likely she told him not to scale a wall and sneak around but rather come see her directly).
Yeom and Woon are practicing swordsplay in the courtyard, Yeom dressed in pink robes while Woon is wearing blue. Yeon Woo’s servant girl Seol is hiding behind a ledge sneaking a peek at their practice, which Woon senses. Woon easily dispatches Yeom, who cheerfully concedes Woon’s superior skills and reminds himself to practice more. Woon quietly asks if the young master is alright, leading Yeom to remind Woon not to address him so respectfully. Yeom wonders where Yang Myung is since he’s late for their getogether, which is when Woon notices Yang Myung hopping over the wall. Yang Myung’s presence always livens up this joint, without him it feels rather lonely with just Yeom and Woon.
Yang Myung pipes up that had he known Yeom missed him so, he would have come straight here rather than travel around first. Yang Myung grabs “his favorite love” Heo Yeom for a bear hug, congratulating him on becoming the top scholar. He leaps towards Woon for another hug but Woon sidesteps Yang Myung’s hug attack. Yang Myung pouts that Woon is so cold-hearted, so he’s only going to give Woon half a congratulations for becoming the top martial arts scholar. The three of them head inside for a drink and to catch up.
When asked why he was late, Yang Myung cryptically replies that he had to go visit someone precious first. Yang Myung jokingly grabs Yeom’s hand and asks for forgiveness, he has found someone he loves more than Yeom. Ahahaha, I’m going to love this bromance between Yang Myung and Yeom. Yeom asks if Yang Myung climbed a wall and went to visit Yeom Woo, reminding Yang Myung that there is still a gender distance they need to keep even if Yeon Woo is yet young. Yang Myung pouts that he ought to be able to sneak a peek at Yeon Woo when he misses her, why does Yeom need to be so serious and get a thunderous expression. Woon can’t help but let out a tiny grin, which Yang Myung notices and points out as further proof that Yeom needs to lighten up. Yeom warns Yang Myung that the next time he flips the wall to go visit Yeon Woo, Yeom isn’t going to let it go easily.
Yang Myung changes the subject and presents to his two friends their gifts. Each of them gets a magic rock that is blessed. He wants them to carry their rock around so they remember him. Woon suggests that the rock may be too heavy to carry around, so Yang Myung swaps Woon’s #2 rock for a smaller #4 rock. ROFL, Yang Myung and his rock gifts are brilliantly adorable. Yang Myung asks wistfully if now his two friends are going to become the Crown Prince’s retainers? Yeom and Woon put their rocks down and look somber, but Yang Myung tells them to be happy they have gained an official government position. They toast each other.
The King and his officials are in court going over the list of the newly appointed officials. Hwon is getting dressed for his day and his eunuch arrives bearing the list of the new officials. While the final appointments are not finalized, he has a list of the potential candidates. Hwon already knows everyone on that list. They discuss who will be his next tutor. Hwon doesn’t care who it is, his only goal is to get rid of every one of them. He happily heads off to wreak his havoc on his new tutor.
The court ladies watch Hwon head off to class, wondering how long the next tutor will last. Yeom passes by on his way to the study chambers and his bright glow and gorgeous features causes the court ladies to gape and one even faints from seeing his splendor.
Yeom enters the study and politely introduces himself to Hwon. When Hwon raises his head to look at Yeom, his mouth drops open to see the beautiful Yeom.
Yeon Woo and her mother are doing needlepoint and discussing how Yeom will be tutoring the Crown Prince from now one. Yeon Woo’s distracted and pricks herself with the needle. She worries, wondering if the Crown Prince will discover that she is Yeom’s sister. She then remembers telling Hwon that she was attending the ceremony for her brother.
Hwon stands up and asks Yeom how old he is? Yeom says he is 17 years old, which leads Hwon is be even more annoyed, suggesting that Yeom must have a strong backer. Queen Yoon is furious at Dae Hyung that Heo Yeom was chosen as the tutor, reminding Dae Hyung that she wanted him to pick one of their people to teach the Crown Prince. Dae Hyung suggests that Yeom won’t last long in the company of Hwon. The King has his own ideas, wanting Hwon to become friends with his teacher who is around the same age.
Hwon is pacing his chambers furious that his new teacher is so young. His eunuch runs in to inform Hwon all the information he’s gleaned about Heo Yeom. Turns out Yeom is perfect, in looks, manners, and learning. He is the idol for all the scholars. We see all the scholars at Sungkyunkwan gaping at Yeom, he even gets extra rice from the serving lady, and when they are out walking, everyone stops to stare. When a man picks a fight with Yeom, he’s instead mesmerized by Yeom’s beauty and grace and instead wants to become Yeom’s friend. Yeom is also learned in every single subject matter, a true genius of learning. Hwon angrily dismisses his eunuch for daring to rave about Yeom in such glowing terms.
Yeom is studying in his chambers at night when Yeon Woo enters for their nightly study session. Yeon Woo notes that Yeom’s face shows that he has worries on his mind. Is the Crown Prince causing trouble for Yeom? Yeon Woo asks what the problem is, she wants to help her brother. Yeom confesses that the Crown Prince appears to dislike Yeom and Yeom doesn’t know how to gain the Crown Prince’s trust. Yeon Woo asks if her brother wants to gain Hwon’s favor. Yeom smiles and asks if she has an idea?
Yeom and Hwon are studying in silence. At the end of the session, Yeom ends their studies and gets up to leave. Hwon calls Yeom shameless for taking wages and doing no teaching whatsoever. Yeom suggests that Hwon is not prepared to learn. Yeom asks Hwon if he will accept a riddle from him in lieu of the next lesson. If Hwon can solve the riddle, Yeom will resign his position as teacher. If Hwon fails, then Hwon must accord Yeom the respect of a teacher and be willing to learn. Hwon accepts the challenge. Yeom’s riddle is this: what can immediately brighten the world, and also immediately darken the world. Hwon scoffs that the answer is simple. Yeom suggests it’s not as simple as Hwon believes.
Princess Minhwa is walking through the garden and sees eunuchs carrying piles of books towards her brother’s chambers. Minhwa playfully runs into Hwon’s room and sees Hwon hard at work studying. She wants to know if he’s being punished by their royal father and must study. Hwon tells her to leave. Minhwa turns and sees the eunuch facing the wall since displeasing Hwon. The eunuch tells Minhwa that Hwon is trying to solve a riddle. When Minhwa pouts to find out what the riddle is, eunuch is no match for her aegyo and tells her the riddle. Minhwa says the answer is eyelids, with one blink the world becomes either dark or bright. Hwon listens to this answer and scoffs at Minhwa’s simple thinking.
Hwon informs Yeom that the answer is politics. The King and his retinue of officials pass by the study chambers and listen in on the discussion. Yeom tells Hwon that his answer is incorrect. Hwon demands to know what the answer is. Yeom says the answer is eyelids. Everyone outside eavesdropping looks askance outside to hear this seemingly ridiculous answer.
Yeom asks Hwon whether an answer that doesn’t exist in a book cannot be the real answer. An answer that a child can come up with can also be the real answer. Yeom chides Hwon for committing two critical mistakes: one is being so arrogant as to believe he knows the answer, the other is to use his own prejudices to color his thought process. Hwon’s arrogance and prejudices have clouded his thinking, so Hwon must first get past this.
Yeom tells Hwon that when the eyes are closed, how can he see his citizens. First Hwon must study so that he can understand how to govern. Hwon suddenly stands up and calls out, demanding to know if anyone is outside. Eunuch quickly runs inside, where Hwon asks that tea service be prepared for him in the pavilion. He would like to continue this conversation with his teacher outside, so they can better get to know each other. Hwon informs Yeom that he intends to properly show Yeom the courtesy of a student to a teacher, and to ask Yeom to forgive him for his mistakes. The King is pleased that the Crown Prince finally has a proper teacher.
Princess Minhwa laughs to hear that her arrogant brother conceded defeat. Minhwa is determined to meet Yeom and praise him for doing well. Plus she wants to tell Yeom that she figured out the right answer. Minhwa runs off to look for Yeom and Hwon. She sees the two of them walking towards the pavilion, and she stops in her tracks when she gazes upon Yeom. She quickly hides her face and peers at him in awe.
Hwon and Yeom are having tea in the pavilion. Hwon asks if Yeom if he was prepared to give up his position as the tutor if Hwon answered correctly? Yeom tells Hwon that he got his courage from his younger sister, who encouraged Yeom to use his sincerity and gain the Crown Prince’s trust in the long run. Hwon is impressed with Yeom’s sister’s courage, and surprised to hear that she is just 13 years old. Hwon has the eunuch pack up some snacks for Yeom to take home to his younger sister.
On his way back to his chambers, Hwon asks his eunuch if a 13 year old girl can say something so intelligent and daring. Eunuch says if it’s Heo Yeom’s younger sister, then it’s possible since Yeom passed the exam as the top scholar. This leads Hwon to make the connection with Yeon Woo, which leaves him pleased.
Yeom hands Yeon Woo the snacks the Hwon gave him as a teacher’s gift. Yeon Woo thinks the snacks were intended for Yeom, but Yeom says Hwon wanted her to have the snacks because she was the one to give Yeom the courage to challenge Hwon.
Yeon Woo walks outside while holding the box of snacks. She looks up at the moon as the cherry blossoms begin to fall around her. She suddenly imagines herself talking to Hwon, who asks if she’s solved his riddle? She asks if he is really the Crown Prince? She wishes he wasn’t. Hwon smiles and tells her to eat one of the snacks. Yeon Woo tentatively takes a bite and tells Hwon that it’s delicious. She asks if he’s forgiven her by giving her the snack? Or is he merely taunting her some more? Hwon smiles and then Yeon Woo snaps out of her reverie.
Dae Hyung is meeting with officials who are complaining about Yeon Woo’s father, worried that he’s rising quickly in power and will serve to curtail their behavior. Dae Hyung calms them down, suggesting that even if they lose out on one position they can gain another. Dae Hyung stumbles home drunk and his wife and daughter Bo Kyung come out to welcome him home. Dae Hyung asks Bo Kyung if she wants to enter the palace. If she desires it, he can make it happen. He then refers to himself as the father-in-law to the Crown Prince, meaning he wants Bo Kyung to become the next Crown Princess.
Seol accompanies Yeon Woo to a paper shop where she is buying expensive paper to write an apology letter. Seol suggests Yeon Woo just apologize in person, but she’s afraid of getting Yeom in trouble. Seol excuses herself and runs out when she hears a blacksmith forging a sword. Yang Myung walks up to Yeon Woo and asks if she really did something wrong? Seol runs into Bo Kyung and knocks her down. Seol apologizes but Bo Kyung looks annoyed, even though Bo Kyung pretends to be magnanimous and excuses Seol. At the vendor, Bo Kyung’s servant discovers her purse is missing and runs off to confront Seol as the pick pocket. Bo Kyung finds the purse fallen on the ground. She picks it up and then has an evil look on her face.
Seol is happily watching the blacksmith forge a new weapon. She asks if he makes any swords for warriors. Which is when Bo Kyung’s servant arrives and slaps Seol, demanding her purse back. Seol cries that she didn’t steal anything. Bo Kyung arrives and calls off her servant since this is a public place. Seol pleads with Bo Kyung that she didn’t steal the purse. Bo Kyung leans down and whispers in Seol’s ear that Seol needs to prove it then.
Yang Myung suggests Yeon Woo not buy any flower patterned paper for an apology letter. Yang Myung wonders if it’s intended for the King, or perhaps the Crown Prince? He confirms it’s for the Crown Prince by Yeon Woo’s expression when he mentions Hwon, which leads Yang Myung to offer to pick the paper for her since he’s the older brother and knows what Hwon likes.
Yeon Woo ignores him and walks outside. She notices that its started to rain and wants to make a run for it. Which is when Yang Myung runs up behind her and shields her from the rain as they both run to seek shelter.
Yang Myung takes Yeon Woo to a greenhouse. This is the first time she’s seen such a place and she’s so pleased. When asked if he constructed this place, Yang Myung confesses that it’s the handiwork of one of the relatives who doesn’t have anything to do. Yeon Woo remembers Hwon sadly telling her that his older brother is not allowed to make anything of himself. Yeon Woo asks why Yang Myung hasn’t been to the learning academy in a long time? Yang Myung dodges her question, showing her the sunflowers that are the King’s favorite. Yeon Woo asks what the King is like?
Yang Myung describes the King as someone with great authority who looks out for his people. We see a flashback of the King chastising a child Yang Myung for daring to read the great books reserved for the King’s learning. Even if the King has ultimate power, he is still capable of kindness. We see the King complimenting young Hwon on doing well on his studies, while Hwon smiles and Yang Myung looks on sadly.
Yeon Woo wonders if Yang Myung shouldn’t go visit the Palace, perhaps someone is waiting for him? Yang Myung laughs that no one is waiting for him, but Yeon Woo lets slip that the Crown Prince is waiting for him. Yeon Woo tries to hint to Yang Myung that Hwon misses him and is waiting for him. Yang Myung suggests that Yeon Woo also understand him then, his tendency to scale a wall to go visit her.
Yeon Woo says it’s not the same thing. Yang Myung leans in close to her face with a serious expression, asking Yeon Woo how it’s any different? Yeon Woo quickly averts her face and tells him to just visit the palace. Yang Myung laughs, happy that he got to talk to her for so long and she look directly at his face during this conversation. He flicks her forehead and tells her to take care of herself.
Seol is getting beaten by Bo Kyung’s servants, who demand to know who Seol’s master is so they can demand their money back. Bo Kyung sits to the side and says to herself that Seol ought to have watched where she was going. She dirtied Bo Kyung’s favorite dress, there is no way Bo Kyung will let it go this easily. Yeon Woo finds out from the blacksmith that Seol was dragged off as a thief. Yeon Woo arrives at Bo Kyung’s estate to find Seol severely injured. Yeon Woo introduces herself as the daughter of the head court scholar, and Bo Kyung quickly adopts a fake stance that she ordered the truth be ascertained first and implies that her servants beat up Seol on their own without her knowing. Ugh, her evil plus her fakeness is going to make her such an easy character to loathe.
Bo Kyung’s servant takes the blame for the beating and apologizes to Yeon Woo. Bo Kyung walks up and asks Yeon Woo for her understanding, it’s hard to teach the lowly servants. Bo Kyung suggests Yeon Woo sell this servant before she becomes a bigger thief. Yeon Woo lectures Bo Kyung that Seol is not a thing to be bought or sold, she is Yeon Woo’s friend. People are precious, and money that was lost cannot compare to the pain Seol endured. Bo Kyung fumes inside to be thus lectured, and clearly Yeon Woo has made an enemy today. Yeon Woo takes the injured Seol home.
Yeom hands Hwon a letter and a present from Yeon Woo, as thanks for the snacks Hwon gave her. Inside the snack box is some soil and indoor plants that will grow under his care. Hwon wants to know more about Yeom’s younger sister. Yeom explains that he studies with his sister every night and they talk. Hwon says Yeon Woo is totally different than Hwon’s sister Minhwa, who knows maybe one letter in this world. Minwha comes running inside crying, accusing Hwon of making her seem uneducated in front of Yeom.
Minhwa keels before Yeom and holds his face in her hands, crying that she is close to learning the thousand characters and is not an uneducated girl. Yeom says he believes her and tells her not to cry. If she keeps crying, her cute face will get messed up. Minhwa sniffles and starts smiling, asking Yeom if he really thinks she’s pretty. Minhwa is taken away by her servants while she continues to stare moon eyed at Yeom as she leaves.
Hwon sits in his room and read the letter Yeon Woo wrote to him. He’s stunned that a girl of 13 can write such beautiful characters. Yeon Woo’s letter to Hwon is about a monk who lived in the mountain who was so enamored of the moon that he put the moonlight into a tub. It was only later that he realized that the moon in the sky was gone. One cannot be covetous of things and seek to own it. She tells Hwon to forget about what happened between them, as she is also trying to do the same. There is no need for him to keep a worthless girl like her on his mind. Hwon laughs that Yeon Woo thinks he can forget her. He looks towards his ledge where the plant she gave him is sitting.
Princess Minhwa runs to greet her royal father and asks to study alongside the Crown Prince with Teacher Heo. The King refuses her request since the teacher’s job is solely to educate the Crown Prince. Minhwa cries at being thus thwarted and runs off. Dae Hyung makes note of this request. At court, Dae Hyung suggests that a girl of the same age be brought into the Palace to keep Princess Minhwa company. Dae Hyung’s cohort’s suggest his daughter Bo Kyung. The King agrees, but suggests that the head scholar’s daughter Yeon Woo be selected as well as Minhwa’s playmate.
Yeon Woo is told by her father that she will be entering the Palace to accompany Princess Minhwa. She does not protest, despite her father telling her that if she doesn’t want to, he can plead to the King on her behalf. Yeon Woo’s father worries about her fate once she enters the Palace, now they have two children in such a dangerous place. His wife tells him not to overthink and let the children just be kids. Yeon Woo’s mom tells her husband that someone once told her that Yeon Woo had a high born fate, and the person would protect Yeon Woo no matter what.
Nok Young goes to visit Ari’s grave, wondering how she is doing? Nok Young is now the head shaman. She asks Ari to please tell her who the child she must protect is. Queen Han meets with Queen Yoon to discuss Princess Minhwa’s future. A servant comes to announce that the head shaman Jang Nok Young and her retinue have returned to the palace. Queen Yoon wants Nok Young to look at the faces of the two girls selected to be playmates for Princess Minhwa. Perhaps one of them will be the next Crown Princess. Queen Han does not look pleased that Queen Yoon is already planning Hwon’s future spouse.
Nok Young returns to the Palace, and she has the little shaman girl that Yang Myung saved by her side. She steps out of the paladin right outside the Palace walls, which is when Yeon Woo arrives in her paladin and steps outside. Nok Young sees Yeon Woo and immediately freezes. Nok Young remembers Ari’s final words, that the child is born to protect the sun, even if she will be destroyed by getting too close to the sun. Bo Kyung’s paladin also arrives and she steps out. Nok Young also freezes when she sees Bo Kyung. Nok Young realizes she is seeing two moons standing before her.
[Koala explanation: Bo Kyung’s name literally means treasured mirror, so in the context of the story, she represents the diametric opposite of Yeon Woo. She is the mirror of Yeon Woo, and we already see that if Yeon Woo is kindness then Bo Kyung is lacking any empathy. But because Yeon Woo is the moon of the story, then Bo Myung the mirror reflecting Yeon Woo must also be a moon. I suppose she is the dark moon to Yeon Woo’s bright moon.]
Thoughts of Mine:
We already have two suns, and now we have two moons as well? Add to that a flame (Yeom), snow (Seol), and a cloud (Woon), we’re three-fourths the way to a complete climate system. I appreciate the poetry of everyone’s names and the imagery of the sun and moon juxtaposition, but I wonder how this drama is going to deal with all this talk of destinies and prophecies. I suppose love is just like the throne, there can only be one victor, and the loser can’t really stick around because that would be too awkward. I feel terrible for Prince Yang Myung, though I appreciate how this drama doesn’t make his mom power hungry and trying to elevate her son to the throne. Nor does it make Hwon’s mom evil and always trying to get rid of her son’s half-brother. Though Queen Yoon is scheming enough for everyone involved. I see Hwon and Yang Myung’s situation a perpetual dilemma, which is that Yang Myung’s very existence poses a threat to Hwon even if there is no such desire on the part of Yang Myung to usurp the throne. Clearly Yeon Woo will become a potentially divisive catalyst between them at some point.
At so early in the drama, it’s yet early to discuss what might come to pass, and best to focus on this idyllic time when the teens are still carefree. Yang Myung, Woon, and Yeom’s friendship was lovely to see, though it did make me sad when Yang Myung pointed out that soon his two friends would become Hwon’s people. We see Yeom becoming Hwon’s esteemed teacher, and soon Woon will become Hwon’s trusted bodyguard. The drama really establishes the sensation of unavoidable fate. So even if Hwon feels bad for Yang Myung and doesn’t want to take anything from him, he’s naturally going to be taking things from him. It feels so wrong towards both of them, especially when you can see that they clearly love each other. I do think Hwon needs Yeom and Woon to help him become the King he will need to be one day.
I’m not bored in the slightest during this early episodes because I find the children’s stories so riveting and critical to setting the stage for all the angst to come. The dialogue in MoonSun is intelligent without feeling pompous, shedding light on the character’s thought processes without feeling like we’re subjected to dry lectures or stale storytelling. Yeom and Hwon’s mental jousting was well presented, showing us that Hwon is indeed much too arrogant and in need of a friend and a guiding hand. I still feel Yeon Woo is written much too perfectly, with her vast intellectual potential being a little unbelievable, even if she studied with Yeom every night. Speaking of Yeom, I chuckled each time the drama presented him as this paragon of perfection, with people swooning over him left and right. It’s a little tongue-in-cheek, so I buy it even if I snort at how the man fairly glows wherever he goes. Princess Minhwa’s crush on him in adorable, and if her desire to gain his approval makes her better herself, that’s always a good thing. She seems harmless enough even if she is immature and spoiled.
We finally get to meet second female lead Bo Kyung in episode 2, and I wish I could send her back from whence she came. Likely the depths of hell. She’s absolutely horrid! I wonder if it was too much to ask for all the main characters to be awesome and just let fate screw their lives up. But I guess having one evil character is bearable, even if all her smirking and sneering make me want to wipe the floor with her face. Clearly she’s being set up as Heon Woo’s rival in love and power, just as their fathers are rivals in court. I was thoroughly repulsed at the way Bo Kyung had Seol beaten, all because Seol accidentally knocked her down. Sadly, I got no satisfaction from watching Yeon Woo lecture Bo Kyung, because the latter clearly isn’t going to change, plus Yeon Woo earned herself an enemy right there.
My favorite scene in episode 2 was the encounter between Yang Myung and Yeon Woo at the paper shop and leading to the greenhouse. Both Lee Min Ho (Yang Myung) and Yeo Jin Goo (Hwon) have played opposite Kim Yoo Jung in other dramas as her OTP, but here it’s undeniable that Yang Myung and Yeon Woo’s chemistry is through the roof already. It gives off this heady aroma, a feeling of undeniable affection that makes me root for Yang Myung right off the bat. Whereas Hwon is still learning about Yeon Woo, so that lends their relationship more of a feeling that it is in development. Clearly Yeon Woo is more affected by Hwon, but I chalk it up to their intellectual discourse when they first met. Conversely, Yang Myung pretends to be a carefree layabout so Yeon Woo doesn’t get to see the real him, who is clearly a deep and thoughtful man. While Hwon conceals his identity from Yeon Woo but reveals his true personality, Yang Myung conceals his true personality from Yeon Woo while acknowledging his real identity. I wish there was a girl for both guys. Sigh.