I’ve pretty much confirmed that my love for The Moon that Embraces the Sun has waned (har har, moon joke). It was a steady and somewhat slow downward slide where lackluster acting, a plodding pace, and some wretchedly bad character and narrative development slowly sucked away my affection. I might switch to baby recaps soon, because I just don’t care about any of the characters anymore. Not even the OTP, who continue to circle each other. I do feel something for Yang Myung, who has become such a victim in this drama it’s not even funny. How much can a person’s life suck? I don’t know, but this drama sure as heck looks like it wants to release even more woe on him.
I wish the writer could remember that the characters are foremost human beings, with other emotions and interested outside of singlemindedly pursuing one objective. I feel like the entire drama rests on Yeon Woo – how she affects people, is she dead or not, what she represents, etc. – and that is not compelling enough in anyway to raise this story above the pedestrian. Kim Soo Hyun continues to sell Hwon like his entire entertainment career rests on nailing this performance, so I rest the laurels for this drama’s insane ratings on his shoulders. He’s what keeps me coming back.
Episode 11 recap:
Yang Myung grabs Wol and asks if she remembers him (from the town, not from their youth)? The guards immediately descend and try to drag Yang Myung away until he reveals his identity. Too bad Nok Young shows up and orders Wol taken to the King as she blocks Yang Myung from pursuing. Nok Young tries to convince Yang Myung to give up and leave. Wol is just a shaman acting like a charm, a piece of paper no less. Yang Myung feels like his life is just like a piece of paper. If the gods decree he can’t pursue her, he doesn’t care because this is his life. Nok Young finally stalls him with the age old excuse that he’s putting Wol’s life in jeopardy. Woon sees this scene.
Once Wol enter Hwon’s chambers and sits down, Hwon starts interrogating her with a rapid fire series of questions about her past. Wol can’t answer any of it because she has no memory of her past. She explains that when the spirit descends on a shaman, the memories leave so the shaman can cut ties with her former life. Hwon wants to break the seal so that she can remember her past. He asks if her past life includes any memory of him. Wol can only cry, begging him to stop pressing her any further. She doesn’t have the answer he seeks, because she is not the person he is looking for. She doesn’t know how much they look alike, but he needs to ask that person. Hwon finally stops his inquisition.
Nok Young tears into a crying Jang Shil, clearly knowing immediately how Yang Myung found Wol. While Jang Shil begs forgiveness, Nok Young has her cast out of the Royal Astrology Office. Jang Shil cries that her orabeoni is so sad, all she wants is to give him one thing. Everything is given to the King, she wants to give him but one thing. Yang Myung walks home, asking if Wol met the King first (again), and if she intends to stay by his side?
Jang Shil suddenly stops crying and stands up. She faces Nok Young and says “Mother, what do you mean by this? Why should I live my life for someone else?” We see Yang Myung visiting his mother who is praying at the temple. She is praying for the King, which immediately touches Yang Myung’s touchy nerve. He asks why she can’t say his name first for once, for once can’t she do something because she wants to as opposed to because she ought to. Yang Myung cries as he announces that from now on, he will not live for anyone else. He will cry, smile, steal her away, do whatever he wants. We see Jang Shil has been possessed by Yang Myung and is saying the same words he’s speaking to his mother right now.
It’s then that Wol returns. Jang Shil immediately grabs her and begs her to run away with her (meaning Yang Myung). He has always been thinking of her. If it was him, she would not have become like this. Before Jang Shil can say anymore, Nok Young grabs her and manages to dispel the possession. Jang Shil regains her senses and is promptly tossed out. Nok Young decrees that she will use the spirit’s punishment on anyone who dares to allow Jang Shil back. Despite Wol’s begging, Nok Young refuses to relent. Seol calms Wol down, reminding her that this has happened before and Jang Shil will eventually be allowed back.
Wol goes to see Nok Young and announces that she wants to leave the Royal Astrology Office. Not as a threat because Jang Shil got tossed out, but because she realizes that perhaps she isn’t suited to be here. Nok Young may be right and there is nothing Wol can do for him (Hwon). Her presence doesn’t take away his ills, but instead has created turmoil and confusion for him. The person he needs isn’t her. Wol’s departure is what is good for Hwon.
Hwon has spent the entire night analyzing the letters, despite Hyung Sun and Woon worrying about him. Hwon re-reads Yeon Woo’s letter about how her father is bringing medicine and soon she will no be able to see Hwon again. Team Hwon realizes Yeon Woo may have been predicting her own death. Hwon comes to the conclusion that the death of the Crown Princess was perhaps not simply a death by illness. Hwon asks Woon if Yeom might know something, but Woon explains that Yeom was sent away during that period so he can’t know anything. Hwon realizes that asking Yeom now would just trigger more pain for him.
Hwon sends Yeom away on a vacation. Mom reminds Yeom to comfort the Princess before he leaves. She’s right, as Princess Minhwa is already sobbing and sniffling in her room about her husband leaving her side. Yeom enters and Minhwa begs him to take her with him. He reminds her that the distance is far and travel will be hard on her. He tells her to wait for him to return. Minhwa sudden realizes that her behavior must be unbearable for him. Or the fact that he can’t become an important person because he married her. Yeom says none of that is true. She saved his family after they lost Yeom Woo, and she brought laughter back into the family. For that he is forever grateful. Minhwa wants him to promise to return, she will wait her for him to return because she believes in him. Yeom wipes away her tears as she lets out a wan smile.
Yoon Dae Hyung and his cronies are discussing Yeom’s vacation, wondering the purpose behind his trip. They suspect Hwon is starting to assemble his people, which includes Yeom. They decide to tame a bit of Hwon’s excess energy (in governing the country). At court, they beg Hwon to summon Yeom back. As the husband to the princess, he is not allowed to participate in politics. Hwon gives the excuse that he’s sending Yeom on vacation. They ministers suggest sending Yeom to another place, one less dangerous and filled with rebels who could capture him and create problems. Hwon makes a snarky remark that he can hear people saying that the King is but a puppet of his court. Afterwards, Hwon thinks to himself that the ministers not only broke the wings of Yeom, now they are using his safety as a warning to Hwon.
Hwon takes his team and runs to the records department, where he proceeds to behave like an angry overlord demanding to know where all the citizen missives are. During Hwon’s outburst, he attracts everyone’s attention and allows Woon to slip away and find the records from the time of Yeon Woo’s death. Even Hyung Sun gets in on the act, as he takes the records books smuggled out by Woon. Once Hyung Sun signals to Hwon that the books are in hand, Hwon leaves as if nothing happened.
Hwon reads the official record books which continue to sell the same crock of bullshit that Yeon Woo got sick and died. Looking back, the timing and suddenness of the illness is so suspicious. If she had gotten sick before the selection, she would not simply not been part of it. Because she got sick afterwards, she got kicked out of the Palace and her entire family suffered.
Bo Kyung’s spy reports that she overheard Hwon talking to the shaman about how she looks like someone. But the shaman repeated that she doesn’t know how much she looks like her, but she is not her. Bo Kyung rushes off to get some more answers. As she walks past the Hidden Moon Residence, she suddenly hears a woman weeping and the winds suddenly pick up. It’s eerie as all out. Bo Kyung continues on her way and arrives at Queen Yoon’s residence, only to be told that the Head of the Royal Astrology Office is inside meeting with the Queen.
Queen Yoon is pleased that everything has worked so well and wants to greatly reward the shaman. Nok Young suggests that they remove the illness absorbing shaman since the King is all well now. Her presence might interfere with the marriage consummation. Nok Young suggests placing a different seal in the King’s quarters, one that aids in marriage consummation. Queen Yoon buys her story and tells Nok Young to go ahead and do it.
As Nok Young leaves, Bo Kyung waylays her armed with her usual placid plastic smile. Bo Kyung thanks Nok Young for curing the King, especially in the use of the shaman amulet. Bo Kyung cuts to the chase and asks if the shaman looks like the deceased Heo Yeon Woo. The King, who dislikes women, readily accepted the shaman. There must be a reason for that. Nok Young says the shaman looks like an ordinary girl. When Bo Kyung asks to meet her, Nok Young points out that Bo Kyung has been hearing voices for some time because she is filled with anxiety. Nok Young assures Bo Kyung that the shaman is leaving the Palace soon and the marriage consummation has been moved up. Bo Kyung is pleased to hear this and appears to be appeased for now.
Nok Young has planned for Wol and Seol to leave the Palace tomorrow. Wol goes to pack when a letter from Jang Shil is delivered. In it, Jang Shil reveals that she is happy and well taken care of, by none other than Yang Myung. He’s her idol, a hero who is a man among men. She’s safe and staying at an inn, but she needs Wol to bring some clothes to her. As Wol is packing up Jang Shil’s belongings, she comes across the hair pin in the shape of the moon embracing the sun. Wol doesn’t recognize it and packs it away for Jang Shil.
Hwon continues his sleuthing, realizing that his father likely suspected something as well. Woon notes that the doctor who treated Yeon Woo is dead, Yeon Woo’s father is dead, everyone is dead except the personal servant who assisted the late King. Hyung Sun comes running in to deliver a snowman to Hwon, wondering why his sire suddenly wants a snowman. Of course it’s a ruse. Hyung Sun walks inside with the snowman to find Hwon gone. He pouts and then screams Hwon’s name. Hwon rubs his ears because he can hear Hyung Sun’s screeching from the town.
Hwon and Woon want to meet with the former servant but is told the man is away traveling. Hwon can see the man’s shoes and loudly announces that the truth will come out regardless of how hard he tries conceal it. The man should rest up because tomorrow he will be called into the Palace. Hwon suggest to Woon that the man was likely told to keep the secret at the behest of the late King. Yeon Woo’s death was not a simply death, and Hwon suspects his father may have left clues. If it was not a simple death and she was murdered, and his father kept silent about it even though he knew, there must be a good reason for that. For now, Hwon wants to enjoy this outing since there is nothing else they can do at this time.
Yang Myung sits and watching Jang Shil eat. He encourages her to return to the Royal Astrology Office but she’s reluctant. She worries that she’ll get tortured when she returns. Yang Myung wonders why such a cowardly girl would risk everything to help him.
Jang Shil explains that he was the first person who helped her. She doesn’t even remember her parents, but she’s never forgotten his face. Yang Myung reveals that there is someone he can’t forget either. Jang Shil is curious and asks about that person. Yang Myung describes Yeon Woo as a very intelligent and beautiful person. She brings him comfort, she also brings him pain, but she is someone who makes him happy. Jang Shil sighs, muttering that she called Wol here for nothing. Yang Myung realizes that Wol is on her way there right now, thanks to Jang Shil the little cupid.
Wol walks through town and when she passes the paper seller, she hears voices from her past. The same thing keeps happening as she continues to walk through town, including flashbacks from her life in the Palace. Wol suddenly stumbles and almost falls but a man’s hand steadies her. She looks up and sees Hwon. They stand there just staring at each other, with him propping her up.
Hwon and Wol walk side-by-side in awkward silence until Hwon asks why she’s out. He suddenly realizes that they both discussed their reasons for being out already. Hwon changes the subject and asks why she is out instead of resting. He teases that perhaps this is why he’s been feeling tired and sore lately, because his shaman amulet is not well rested. Wol takes him seriously and worriedly asks if he’s alright, leaving Hwon having to explain that he was just kidding. Wol, a sense of humor she does not have. Wol tries to excuse herself to finish her errand. Hwon wants to stop her but he sees the minister coming towards them. Woon comes running to confirm the coterie of evil ministers are all nearby, urging Hwon to leave now before he’s recognized.
Wol keeps walking and runs into one minister chiding a child for dirtying his silk robe. The child begs forgiveness but the minister wants him dragged home as a slave. Wol steps up and asks the child be released since running into people in a crowded town is quite common. The minister doesn’t see anything wrong with getting compensation for his expensive robe getting dirty. Wol lectures the minister on abusing his wealth and authority, which leaves her to become a target of his wrath. Before Wol can be dragged off, Hwon runs up and extricates her from the situation.
Hwon and Wol run away hand in hand, bumping into Yoon Dae Hyung along the way. He notices Hwon and wonders why the King is here. Once they are safe, Hwon lectures Wol on doing something foolish. What if she were dragged off to the authorities, she might lose her life. Wol says she was only doing what is right, and gives Hwon advice. Hwon concedes that what she says is true, but suddenly Wol’s attention is captured by the puppet show going on. A man runs up to offer them the best seat in the house to watch the story of a warrior and his lost love.
Hwon is dragged up to the front and Yeon Woo follows. When the man wants payment, and Hwon just stands there because he is not carrying anything money, Wol smiles and pays for the two of them. Hwon looks uncomfortable and goes to sit down. Wol sits down next to him. Hwon promises to pay her back. The puppet turns out to be the story of Hwon and Yeon Woo. Wol watches intently while Hwon is clearly bored since it’s his life story. He ends up stretching and shifting, which annoys the people behind him because he keeps blocking their view.
Hwon turns to yell at them, asking if they know who he is! But he stops himself and turns back to watch the rest of the show. Hwon sees how interested Wol is in the show and asks if she likes such low class entertainment. Wol answers that she is very interested. Hwon just stares at her intently while she watches the show. Yang Myung is waiting and waiting for Wol and finally decides to head out to look for her while Jang Shil nods off. He covers her first with a jacket. Awwww, these two are cute together.
Wol continues to watch the show while Hwon continues to watch Wol. She quietly asks him if he sees the person (he is looking for)? Hwon says he didn’t see her, explaining that the person he wants to see is dead. Wol stares at Hwon, finally understanding why Hwon is so obsessed with her. Hwon takes responsibility for what happened, it was because he couldn’t and didn’t protect there. There is so much he wants to say to her that he never got to say. All he could do was send the child away.
Since he heard that shamans can communicate with spirits, Hwon asks Wol to pass a message to that person. Hwon looks at Wol and says “I really, really like her.” Hwon and Wol sit there and stare at each other. Hwon lets out a small smile. The camera pulls back and we see Yang Myung standing there staring at this scene. His eyes are red rimmed as he turns around.
Thoughts of Mine:
This episode was actually not bad, and did move the story forward in a huge way by having Hwon start investigating Yeon Woo’s death. But sadly I’ve emotionally checked out. It’s like breaking up with an ex with the age old “I just don’t have feelings for you anymore” after the relationship short of peters out over time with a series of small but steady mishaps. I think this drama has all the makings of being great, but it’s so far below reaching that possibility I’ve grown weary of waiting for it to rock. But within the parameters of what it does have, I continue to find choice morsels to satisfy me. I used to think that only Kim Soo Hyun and Kim Min Seo were rocking their roles (with Jung Il Woo inconsistent but getting more and more into character), but this episode little Jang Shil delivered big time. What a talented young actress, with eyes that sparkled with any emotion required and expressions that are pitch perfect. She’s got a bright future, this one.
I enjoyed the Jang Shil-Yang Myung scenes immensely, outside of any romantic subtext. I like how she worships him, he definitely needs someone to make him number 1 as opposed to forever number 2. I really wished the drama had Yeon Woo have feelings for both brothers and then choose Hwon., because the love triangle is such a uneven three legged stool that I can’t really cheer for Yang Myung (despite pitying him) because Yeon Woo never liked him and it’s clear Wol doesn’t either. The lack of a divided emotional hook renders the love triangle so forced, keeping Yang Myung pointlessly pining after Yeon Woo and now Wol. if he wants to start living his life for himself, as he so announced to his mom, then I suggest he stop living in the past and start moving forward, namely find himself a nice girl and try a reciprocated relationship out for a chance.
I loved all the Bo Kyung scenes in this episode, despite still loathing her, because Kim Min Seo just brings her to life. Her face registered every subtle emotional turn, and she was brilliant when she plastered on that fake smile in front of Nok Young. It’s actually a smile that looks fake, which is just awesome acting. Can’t wait for her to get her dues and see how she falls apart. Hwon was amazing in this episode as well, so strategic and unrelenting. I’m totally loving his personality, despite being seriously full of himself sometimes. His relationship with Hyung Sun continues to tickle my happy bone, and even Woon was less wooden than usual. Yeom and Minhwa continue to be the useless subplot that I roll my eyes at whenever they show up, because the two have zero chemistry and their story is wafer thin. I wish I could just enjoy this pretty drama without noticing its flaws, but alas I appear not to possess an off switch in my brain once my emotions stubbornly refuse to engage.