Two brothers. One girl. Clearly someone is getting his heart broken, and I can’t say I’m happy to see either guy suffer, even if I know both will. How can so much cuteness be built upon impending (and present) heartbreak? Episode 4 of The Moon that Embraces the Sun finds taciturn King Sungjo getting hit up by every one of his offspring to get married, and two of them want the same girl. Oh what a headache for the ruler of Joseon. I understand where he is coming from, and why he is a good father and a good ruler. His coldness towards Yang Myung is purely to keep that son safe, so he doesn’t suffer the same fate as Sungjo’s beloved brother Prince Uisung.
I can see how this story could have a way for everyone to be happy, except the greedy and controlling Queen Mother Yoon refuses to relinquish her grasping desire to maintain power for her family. I think the fundamental issue is that politics necessarily means sacrifice, and love is almost ways the first to be crushed. I enjoy watching the sweet love story develop between Hwon and Yeon Woo, and have grown so attached to many of the secondary characters in MoonSun along the way. A great drama makes you care about the totality of the story, and I’m already there. Toodles for now, as I’m off to the airport, headed to London for a quick jaunt. Posts are going to be sporadic for the weekend into next week.
Episode 4 recap:
Yeon Woo and Hwon finally meet again, and their reunion is seen not only by Yang Myung, but by Bo Kyung as well. The latter actually cries to see her dream of becoming the Crown Princess thus slip away. Poor Yang Myung doesn’t cry, but I literally hear his heart breaking. Hwon and Yeon sit down to talk. Hwon asks if her name means the misty rain, and Yeon Woo replies that the Han characters for her name do mean that. Hwon’s name is meant to symbolize that he will become the sun.
Hwon asks if Yeon Woo has been avoiding him because she doesn’t like him? Yeon Woo quickly says no, which makes Hwon happy, but he wonders why she’s so stern with him. Yeon Woo quietly says that Hwon’s heart belongs to someone else, since he met with Bo Kyung recently. Hwon blames it on Yeon Woo for causing the confusion by refusing to be honest about her identity, he never meant to meet Bo Kyung. Yeon Woo is relieved, which leads Hwon to lean close and asks if Yeon Woo is jealous? Yeon Woo lies that she’s not jealous.
Hwon reveals that the selection will soon be underway for his Crown Princess. He wants Yeon Woo to put her name in, and he’s sure she’ll be selected. He’s looking forward to it. Hwon suddenly looks up when the paper shards stop falling from the sky. He coughs in annoyance, and we see poor Eunuch Hyung Sun sitting on the roof with a bag of paper shards. He quickly resumes his sprinkling of the paper to create the romantic mood for his sire.
Hwon sits in his room and moons over the plant, which leads Hyung Sun to ask for praise since he didn’t throw the plant away like Hwon told him to. Hwon asks if Hyung Sun knows why Yeon Woo gave him a vegetable. Hyung Sun replies that it means waiting and hoping for the good of the people. Vegetables are a source of food and medicine, and can calm a person’s spirit. Yeon Woo wants Hwon to calm down and study hard for the future of the people of Joseon. Hwon is astounded that Hyung Sun knows all this. To which Hyung Sun replies that this is the 14th time Hwon has asked him and told him what the vegetable means.
Hwon acts surprised, like he really didn’t remember talking about it before. Hyung Sun confirms that Hwon has been talking about it nonstop since the night of the shaman ritual, and even if Hyung Sun was a moron, by this the 14th time, anyone would have remembered it. Hwon is just pleased with how intelligent Yeon Woo is, but Hyung Sun gripes about how he’s pretty much sick and tired of hearing about the wonderful Yeon Woo all day long.
The marriage prohibition notice is placed all over Joseon. Yang Myung sees it and immediately his eyes widen. Hwon happily runs off to study, and the first thing he asks Yeom is whether Yeon Woo placed her name in the selection. Yeom confirms that she hasn’t yet. Yeom gets on his knees and begs Hwon to let Yeon Woo off the hook this once, even though every girl in Joseon in the right age needs to be entered. Hwon asks why, and Yeom just says that Hwon and Yeon Woo cannot be together.
Hwon is furious but Yeom persists and begs Hwon to agree to his request. Hwon refuses because he doesn’t want to lose Yeon Woo. He finally just blurts out that he likes …… (he means he likes Yeom’s sister but he doesn’t finish his sentence)! Yeom is shocked, while Hwon looks embarrassed and frustrated and runs out. His guards and servants are hilariously perched outside and everyone leans their ears close to eavesdrop. Hyung Sun has to explain to everyone that the Crown Prince isn’t in love with Yeom. Ahahaha! He even runs in and tries to explain to Yeom that Hwon doesn’t like him, he likes a girl who looks a lot like Yeom is all.
Hyung Sun runs in and tells Hwon that to confess his feelings, he needs to identify the person. Hwon can’t because he hasn’t confessed to Yeon Woo in person, how he can reveal it to Yeom first? He’s just disappointed that Yeom, of all people, made this request of him. Hyung Sun explains to Hwon the real reason for Yeom’s objection, which is not that he thinks Hwon isn’t good enough for Yeon Woo.
Yeon Woo’s parents are arguing over submitting Yeon Woo’s name, since everyone knows Bo Kyung has been pre-selected already. Yeon Woo’s mom worries about Yeon Woo being one of the three finalists. The two girls not selected will be deemed to belong to the Crown Prince as well, so will have to live a life of loneliness unable to marry another man. She can’t watch her Yeon Woo take a vow of solitude for the rest of her life. Yeon Woo’s father reminds his wife that it is disloyal to not submit Yeon Woo’s name.
Hwon finally understands why Yeom objected, because Yeom wants to save his sister from the fate of being all alone. Hyung Sun explains that if the Crown Prince were to take pity on the two girls not chosen, he can select them to be a concubine. Hwon realizes that Yang Myung’s mother, Royal Consort Park, was one of the two girls not selected, and King Sungjo took pity on her and brought her in to be a concubine. But the majority of such girls will be forgotten and cast aside. Hwon realizes that his grandmother is in charge of the selection, so of course the pre-selected person must be Yoon Bo Kyung.
Hwon goes to seek a private audience with King Sungjo. He immediately kneels and asks his father to eliminate the pre-determined candidate for his Crown Princess. King Sungjo informs Hwon that Queen Yoon is in charge of the selection, so Hwon asks his father to leap over his mother and make the decision. King Sungjo refuses to do so, especially not for Hwon to get the girl he desires. Hwon says he is not asking because of his personal feelings, he is asking because the choice of Crown Princess must be the ideal candidate since it will be the mother of the country in the future.
Yang Myung arrives to meet King Sungjo as well, but is kept at the door because Hwon is inside. King Sungjo rages at his wayward son, explaining that his royal wedding is being rushed to stave off Hwon’s scandal (of meeting Bo Kyung privately), yet Hwon is still being rash about everything. Hwon asks if he can return everything to its rightful place, then will the selection be done fairly? Hwon returns to his chambers and tells Hyung Sun to investigate Sungkyunkwan and find out who is the current student body leader. Hyung Sun is told to do this secretly.
Yang Myung meets with his father and asks if his father will follow through with his agreement to allow Yang Myung to wed Heo Yeon Woo? King Sungjo says he never promised anything to Yang Myung, he only said he would agree to think about it. Yang Myung asks if this is because of Hwon’s request? Is the request of Hwon carry more weight than his request? King Sungjo explains that people’s fates are predestined. One can become a ruler, the rest are the subjects. Yang Myung asks if Yeon Woo’s fate is to become Queen? King Sungjo only replies that if Yeon Woo passes the selection, then that will be her fate.
Yang Myung asks if his father will grant his wish should Yeon Woo not be selected? King Sungjo reminds Yang Myung that the two girls not selected out of the three finalists will still be the Crown Prince’s woman. That is the law of the land! Yang Myung cannot bear to watch the woman he loves suffer such a cruel fate. Everyone knows that Yoon Bo Kyung has been pre-determined to be the Crown Princess, so how can Yang Myung watch the woman he loves be thus fated to be alone forever. King Sungjo rages that he will punish Yang Myung if he continues speaking thusly. It will be considered treason.
Yang Myung leaves the King’s chambers and suddenly he sees young versions of himself and Hwon playing and laughing. He asks Hwon not to smile so brilliantly, this Crown Prince who has taken everything away from him. If Hwon doesn’t smile, then it’s easier for Yang Myung to dislike him. Yang Myung suddenly sees a baby Hwon fall down, and he quickly runs to help him up, because he still loves his brother. He wishes that there is a way to calm the storm in his heart.
King Sungjo sits and broods in his chambers. He decides to visit Princess Minhwa because he is in need of her laughter. Princess Minhwa is peering around the corner at Yeom, who passes right by without noticing her. She stops him to give him the friendship bracelet. He accepts it and asks solemnly if she needs anything. Minhwa asks how Yeon Woo is doing, and Yeom says his sister is doing well. Minhwa asks Yeom if he’s married or engaged, and jumps up and down in happiness when he reveals he is neither.
Minhwa happily tells Yeom that she is learning more. Yeom just smiles at her, which causes Minhwa to lose her train of thought at how handsome he is. She quickly scurries away. Yeom looks quizzically after her. Minhwa is walking back to her chambers when she runs into the King. He leans down for a hug, which she is about to give, when she stops herself and addresses her father with great polite etiquette.
Princess Minhwa sits down with her father and asks him to bestow her hand in marriage to Yeom. King Sungjo hears this and immediately puts his head in his hand. LOL. He promptly refuses her request, because Yeom is destined for greatness as an official. He explains to her that a Prince Consort is forbidden from having any official position in government, or participate in politics. Which is why talented people cannot become the Prince Consort. Minhwa asks if she can only marry a ugly and stupid man? It’s not, but in this case, Yeom cannot be.
Minhwa cries that a great man like Yeom can only belong to others and not herself. A princess can only marry a second rate man. The King agrees to find her a good man, but she doesn’t want anyone except Yeom. The King explains to becoming the Prince Consort will be like clipping the wings of a great man like Yeom, who is talented and destined to achieve greatness. Doesn’t Princess Minhwa not want what’s best for Yeom. She cries and says she doesn’t care, she just wants Yeom. Oh damn, this is going to be a mess.
Yeom walks through the courtyard and sees Seol secretly practicing swordsplay. She tries to hide when she sees him, but he compliments her good skills. She keeps her head lowered when he talks with her, so he tells her to raise her head. He asks Seol if there is a woman who resembles him, who would that woman be? Seol says it can only be Yeon Woo. Yeom wonders how Hwon could have met Yeon Woo.
Yeom finds out from his sister that she met with Hwon by accident, and confirms that she also likes Hwon. He reminds Yeon Woo that another girl has been predetermined as the Crown Princess. He wants Yeon Woo to feign illness so that she is eliminated from the selection process. If anyone discovers Yeon Woo and Hwon’s feelings for each other, she may be in danger. Yeon Woo refuses, she will see this through to the end. A heart once given is hard to take back. She cannot lie to Hwon. Yeom is frustrated to hear this.
The student body leader at Sungkyunkwon is dressed as a eunuch and smuggled in to meet with Hwon. What Hwon wants is for Sungkyunkwon to stand up and direct the King to take the right path. The selection of the Crown Princess cannot become a tool for one family to maintain power.
Queen Yoon takes tea with her crony relative Yoon Dae Hyung. She reassures him that the selection of the Crown Princess is in her hands. Dae Hyung worries that Yeon Woo may still be chosen as a Royal Consort, and what if she bears the future heir to the country. Dae Hyung reminds Queen Yoon that she once got rid of an extra sun (Prince Uisung), it will be easy to get rid of the moon now.
Sungkyunkwon students are extolled to step forward and they stage a mass protest to the gates of the Palace submitting their demands to the King. King Sungjo reads their demands and thinks back to his conversation with Hwon, who wants everything done properly, beginning with the selection of the Crown Princess. The King agrees to see what Hwon can do. He’s impressed that Hwon managed to get Sungkyunkwon to do his bidding. The Sungkyunkwon students kneel outside and wail over having a fair selection process. Their protest lasts so long that the officials encourage the King to punish the students. Only Minister Heo says that the students want what is best for this country and the freedom of speech should be allowed.
The King agrees to respond to the students. For this Crown Princess selection, he will break with tradition and choose the girl himself. The selection will be done in the open and be moved to the King’s chambers from Queen Yoon’s chambers. Queen Yoon goes to complain to her son, but the King stands his ground. Queen Yoon claims that her choice was made with great thought and not because of familial relations. What a crock of bullshit. The King reminds her that they need to allow the people’s voice be heard. As the King, he is not just filial to his parents, he must be filial to his citizens.
Queen Yoon reminds the King that it was her and her family who protected his throne from those traitorous rebels. King Sungjo remembers, of course he remembers. He knows that to protect their power, Queen Yoon and Yoon Dae Hyung murdered an innocent Prince Uisung. Queen Yoon is stunned, and tells her son that if he knows the truth, then he must know she protected his throne at the cost of him never even shedding a drop of blood himself. King Sungjo knows this, which is why he’s stayed silent about what she did all these years. He cannot seek vengeance for his beloved brother because of his filial duty to his mother. He tells Queen Yoon to stop being even greedier now and accept all that she has.
Queen Yoon is furious and goes back to her chambers to plot even more. She vows that King Sungjo cannot treat her this way, she will not allow it. She will not give up on choosing the Crown Princess. Yeon Woo is practicing her royal bow with her mother in tow. Her mother tries to give Yeon Woo advice on how to respond. Yeon Woo asks if her mom thinks she will be eliminated in the first round. Her mom doesn’t know. Yeon Woo assures her mom not to worry, she simple wants to do her best and not let her father down. Yeon Woo’s mom hugs her daughter tighter. Oh lord, what a wonderful family they are.
All the girls enter the Palace for the selection. Later that night, Yeon Woo stands in the courtyard and looks up at the moon, remembering that Hwon is waiting for her. Yang Myung arrives dressed in his travel garb, confirming that his wanderlust has hit again and he’s off. He leans in close and teases her for having an unattractive face, but now he’s seen his fill of her and is ready to leave.
Yeon Woo asks if he’s planning to come back? She wants him to write during his travels because everyone will worry about him. Yang Myung asks if she’ll leave with him? Everyone knows Minister Yoon’s daughter is predetermined already, so Yeon Woo at best can become a Royal Consort, the worst is that she can never marry for the rest of her life. Maybe he can give up his Prince Yang Myung title, maybe he can take her and run away. She calls him crazy for saying this. He smiles and concedes it is crazy. Yang Myung confirms that this is Yeon Woo’s chosen path, so he encourages her to do her best and beat Minister Yoon’s daughter.
When Yang Myung scales the wall on his way out, he sees Woon waiting for him. Woon reveals that Yeon Woo has made it to the final selection. He wonders why Yang Myung didn’t go beg the King for Yeon Woo. Yang Myung shares a story with Woon. There was once a man who sought out Confucious for a compliment. His father beat him and he didn’t complain, wasn’t that filial? Confucious instead yells at him. What if his father had beat him to death? That would make him an unfilial son. In the future, if his father beats him without reason, he needs to run away. Woon stops and asks Yang Myung if he is running away. Yang Myung is a tree that just wants to stand still, yet the winds refuse to stop blowing. What other choice does he have but to run away. He looks at the moon, wondering if it will follow him no matter where he goes?
It’s ten days later and only three girls remain in the selection, which include Bo Kyung and Yeon Woo. The King tells the girls to relax and not be so afraid. The King has a question for the girls – how much is his life worth as the King of Joseon? The first girl throws out a big number, but apologizes since she doesn’t know how much is a lot of money. Bo Kyung says the King is worth as much as the sky and the ocean, impossible to value. When asked, Yeon Woo dares to say that the King is worth but one penny.
Hwon is shooting archery outside. Eunuch Hyung Sun comes running pell mell to inform Hwon that his Crown Princess is Yeon Woo. We see Yeon Woo already dressed as the Crown Princess. Both the King and Queen Han look pleased. Yeon Woo’s answer is explain thusly. To a hungry person, one penny is priceless. To a rich person, money has no meaning. Only a poor person will understand how valuable even a penny is. To a poor citizen of Joseon, the King is as valuable as a penny, a King who governs the country fairly.
The King asks his Queen if she is pleased with their beautiful daughter-in-law? Queen Han is indeed quite pleased. The King is pleased to have Yeom and Minister Heo by his side, and now he has their beautiful Yeon Woo as well. Queen Yoon just tells Yeon Woo to take care of the Crown Prince with everything she has.
Princess Minhwa is pouting in bed and refusing to eat or go outside. Queen Han comes to visit her daughter and finds out that Minhwa is demanding to be married to Yeom or else she will die. Queen Han refuses to concede to her demand, so Minhwa just cries that she hates her dad, mom, and older brother. Good one, Minhwa. With no one else to turn to, Minhwa goes to beg her grandmother Queen Yoon to convince the King to allow her to marry Yeom. This suddenly gives Queen Yoon an idea.
Nok Young is standing outside and looking up at the stormy skies. She’s called to secretly visit Queen Yoon’s chambers. Queen Yoon wants Nok Young to eliminate Yeon Woo. Nok Young tries to explain that the chosen girl has the fate now to become the Crown Princess. Queen Yoon threatens the future of the Royal Astrology Office. If the scholars rise in the power, it only means the shamans will no longer wield much influence. Queen Yoon reminds Nok Young that she was the one who told Queen Yoon that the future Crown Princess was Bo Kyung, so Nok Young must follow through with her own prediction.
Yeon Woo is settled in her private quarters called the Hidden Moon Wing, where she will reside until her marriage to Hwon. Yeon Woo will begin learning the royal etiquette tomorrow. All the serving ladies leave and Yeon Woo is left all alone. She looks around and starts to sniffle, missing her mom. She realizes that her serving lady purposely left her a hankerchief, with the wise words that she will surely need it. Yeon Woo uses it to wipe her tears, which is when she sees a note from Hwon telling her to open the window if she’s lonely and misses her family.
Yeon Woo opens the window to see Hwon and Hyung Sun outside. She shuts him out since it’s forbidden for him to be here. When she hears silence and opens the window to find Hwon gone, she runs outside to see that he’s set up a puppet theater in the courtyard for her. Awww, date. He confirms that the King specially permitted this entertainment for them. Yeon Woo walks forward and places her hand in Hwon’s. They sit down and the show commences, with Hyung Sun doing all the performing. Poor guy, I love him to pieces! Hyung Sun raises two puppets, each one symbolizing Hwon and Yeon Woo.
Nok Young goes back to her chambers and asks Ari what she should do? Will she be the person who destroys that child? Between the child and the Royal Astrology Office, which one shall Nok Young protect? Nok Young flashes to the hilltop grave site again and this time she sees a red head band with the Chinese characters of “two”, “person”, and “work” embroidered on it. The three characters suddenly morph and together form the word for shaman.
Nok Young thinks that the moon will be destroyed by getting close to the sun, yet it is the moon’s destiny to be protect the sun. Does Nok Young really have no choice but to kill Yeon Woo? The scene ends with Yeon Woo and Hwon happily watching the puppet show, unaware of the impending danger to their budding young love.
Thoughts of Mine:
Joseon law appears to be centered on one thing – protect the King’s throne at all costs. It’s becoming clear that many of what triggers propelling the plot forward center around these rigid and unfair strictures by which everyone’s lives are governed. While Minhwa was immature and spoiled, she does have a point that it’s not fair the best and brightest talent in Joseon can’t marry her because he would have no future. Why is it the Princess has to be stuck with second best, solely to keep her husband out of politics and potentially a threat to the throne. Similarly, what’s with the law that the two finalists for the Crown Princess selection have to live out their rest of their lives as the Crown Prince’s woman. It totally sucks to be second and third place in that race. Nothing feels more unfair than to be Prince Yang Myung, who isn’t even second best to Hwon, he’s pretty much discarded and cast aside completely.
I love how the characters are all written so intelligently, so we’re not left to people doing stupid thing to move the plot forward. King Sungjo has shown himself to be a wise and fair ruler, and much more aware of what’s going on around him than he lets on. I hate what he has done to Yang Myung even if it’s mean to protect. The King’s quiet face off with his mother Queen Yoon was fabulous intense, showing us that while the King is no dummy, perhaps Queen Yoon is much more powerful and dangerous when thwarted. I appreciate the lack of histrionics in this drama, which remains smooth and pretty on the surface, while underneath there are storms building and conspiracies churning. The pacing in MoonSun is wonderful, with the story moving along so quickly, yet taking time for scenes that matter. The cute reunion between Yeon Woo and Hwon, when he had his trusty Eunuch Hyung Sun toss down paper shards to imitate the romantic mood of the falling plum blossoms when they first met. In fact, every scene between Hwon and Hyung Sun is decidedly funny and witty, with their banter so charming and sweet. I trust when things goes to hell in a crapper soon, at least Hyung Sun will be around to keep Hwon company.
Yang Myung continues to take my heart and kick it around, his every word and every disappointment so palpable in it’s resigned sadness. He has the courage to stand up to the King for Yeon Woo, but also the selfless love to walk away when he confirms Yeon Woo wants to be Hwon’s Crown Princess. He doesn’t hide his hope that perhaps she might run away with him, but he knows her heart doesn’t lie with him. He hurts for the possibility that she will not be selected and thus waste her life away, yet he is willing to respect her choice to give it a shot. I find his character so proud yet pitiful, because Yang Myung doesn’t see himself as a tragic figure always bemoaning his woes. His quiet strength in accepting his fate is truly heartbreaking to watch, making him the character I want most badly to find happiness.
MoonSun really understands how to execute a compelling narrative, with the tension building even as the characters find moments of joy or quiet reflection. The Heo family is written with such warmth, showing us how much they love each other, which will only add to the pain when Yeon Woo must necessarily be sacrificed as a pawn of politics. I wonder how much Nok Young set things into motion with her prophecy to Queen Yoon that it was Bo Kyung who would be the Crown Princess? I doubt Queen Yoon was going to accept Yeon Woo regardless, prophecy or no prophecy. It’s sad that she hasn’t a care for the well being of the country, insisting that Bo Kyung be the next Queen when it’s clear that Yeon Woo has the intelligence and grace to suit the role much better. Watching a sageuk, I’m forever reminded that falling in love with royalty is always a recipe for hard times ahead. I guess we all need to strap on our seat belts now that Queen Yoon has ordered Yeon Woo eliminated. For now, I’m savoring the little moments of happiness that Yeon Woo and Hwon have found with each other, an affection built on appreciation of each other’s intelligence and heart.