I can’t pick what I love best about Joseon Gunman so far, and that’s a shocker since usually the OTP would top the list. Nothing is wrong about the reunion of Lee Jun Ki and Nam Sang Mi, their characters continue to be interesting and the chemistry bubbling over with cuteness. The kicker is that this drama is just good all around so it would be a disservice to focus on the romance and not appreciate and soak in everything else. Like a good sageuk needs to, this drama slows down the pace when the characters are talking and revs up the engines when action arrives to jolt up the joint. There is so much going on all the time but the energy isn’t frenetic or scattered. Instead the story feels taunt and tense, so when Yoon Kang and Soo In continue to spend time together in episode 3, I appreciate the quiet romance building because I can sense angst coming right around the corner. Unlike most sageuks dealing with court intrigue in the battle for the throne, this drama shows us the costs of ruling and the price to be paid by the people who support a good ruler’s wise choices.
King Gojong hasn’t gotten much screen time to show us his struggles and thought processes, but it’s evident that he’s trying to do something he believes is right because it will make his nation better off in the long run. I don’t see his opponents as necessarily myopic or evil, they are simply unable to intellectual grasp the dangers of a closed off nation when the world is modernizing around it, or maybe they understand but think Joseon is sufficient to withstand attacks both internal and external. Commander Park really shines in episode 3 with a fleshed out backstory for why there is conflict between him and Yoon Kang, and why he is faced with a task where there is no reassuring light at the end of the tunnel for him. He can stop this one gunman, stop this series of assassinations, but the gun represents a train that has already left the station and tossing roadblocks in its way won’t stop the inevitable. The romance may come across as too easy and fluid between the OTP, but it works wonderfully in conjunction with knowing the conflict of the times will tear apart the lovers, and families, while undergoing a painful shedding of the old skin.
Episode 3 recap:
Soo In’s attempt to deliver the deceased Scholar Heo Am’s manuscript to Scholar Oh Kyung ends up with her and Yoon Kang staring down the barrel of the assassination gunman’s shotgun while cornered with a cliff behind them. Yoon Kang convinces Soo In to hand the manuscript to the gunman since it’s not worth dying for. The gunman takes the manuscript before pointing his gun back at them, clearly never intending to let them live. Yoon Kang places himself in front of Soo In to protect her.
Luckily Commander Park and his guards arrive just in time and the gunman is forced to stare down tens of guards with bows and arrows as well as a few holding their own guns. Commander Park orders the gunman to put down the gun and surrender but he’s not that easy to apprehend. The gunman lowers his gun before bolting for the edge of the cliff and makes a flying leap into the water below.
Commander Park runs past Yoon Kang and shoots a look at the boy-dressed Soo In before taking off his hat and jumping off the cliff into the water after the gunman. He’s insane and awesome. Yoon Kang freaks out as his dad cliff dives after the baddie but Commander Park isn’t Joseon’s number one swordsman for no reason.
Both gunman and Commander Park surface and start swimming towards the shore. The gunman is a few steps ahead which gives him enough time to climb on shore and put his face mask back on before laying in wait for Commander Park. His attempt to discharge his wet firearm doesn’t work so it’s away he goes to outrun Commander Park and escape.
Commander Park cuts off the gunman in the woods and the two men face each other. Commander Park pulls his sword and the gunman pulls a bullet and cocks his weapon before firing a shot that strikes Commander Park in the arm. That renders him unable to fight or give chase anymore and the gunman manages to escape.
The guards are fanning out to search for the escaped gunman while Officer Moon patches up Commander Park. Soo In explains that she was trying to deliver a manuscript and got caught up in this. Commander Park wonders how she knows his Yoon Kang and Yoon Kang interjects to gloss over it as a chance encounter at a gibang. Soo In gives him a “you gotta be kidding” look but can’t say anything else. Commander Park orders Officer Moon to give these two kids a horse to go back.
After Yoon Kang heads off to grab the horse, Commander Park compliments Soo In on her bravery. She tries to argue that she’s not Soo In but Commander Park laughs and reminds her that he’s been an inspector for much too long to be fooled by her. He tells her to buy some girl clothes in the market before going home and give her parents the excuse that she spent the night at the police bureau discussing what she knows about Scholar Heo Am’s assassination. He leaves her with the admonition not to get involved in this dangerous situation again, and to tell Yoon Kang the same thing. Soo In heads off with her head down to join Yoon Kang while Officer Moon asks if Commander Park is fine? Commander Park is physically fine but even more worried. His tussle with this gunman convinces him that this is the more dangerous and powerful man that the captured and now dead gunman referred to.
Yoon Kang and Soo In return home and Yoon Kang has gotten quite the hang of helping Soo In off horses. He gives her his hand and then plucks her right off the horse. Soo In is chafing in embarrassment at how Commander Park saw through her ruse but Yoon Kang tells her not to think too much about it. Yoon Kang is the one who was surprised because his dad isn’t normally such a forgiving and understanding person. Soo In chides him for not knowing his own dad well. Yoon Kang clearly doesn’t want to talk about it so reminds Soo In that her family is waiting so she quickly scurries inside.
Soo In tries to sneak in but her whole family is gathered in the courtyard. Her furious mom drags her off to rake her over the coals. Soo In tries to give her mom the cover story but mom doesn’t believe a word of it, pointing out why Soo In is wearing new clothes. Soo In claims her old clothes were splattered with ink and then keeps wheedling her mom to believe her and forgive her. She vows to be especially well-behaved going forward.
Commander Park has to deliver the bad news to the King that even Scholar Oh Kyung is dead. King Gojong wonders what will happen now? Commander Park stakes his life on catching the gunman and that’s the only reassurance for the King. If the gunman isn’t captured, no scholars will ever be willing to discuss Kaeha (enlightenment).
The leader of the Sugu faction Leader Kim is cackling over reading Scholar Heo Am’s enlightenment manuscript. Right Minister Kim arrives and Leader Kim welcomes him inside to personally meet Merchant Choi who he refers to as the person responsible for carrying out their plans.
Minister Kim reports that the King is still not giving up on his plans. In fact, the King has given 200 more guards to Commander Park to get to the bottom of things. Leader Kim sneers and orders Merchant Choi to kill Commander Park and not to underestimate him but eliminate him completely. Leader Kim then burns the enlightenment manuscript.
Officer Moon reports to Commander Park that the gunman was laying in wait at the pier for Scholar Oh Kyung. They kept the tip secret and only those who were working near Commander Park’s office could have overheard. He orders Officer Moon to investigate and root out the spy. Merchant Choi hands off his task to assassinate Commander Pork to his subordinate who promises to start by investigating his family to find a way to lure Commander Park out into the open.
Two scholars discuss how their gatherings are getting more and more empty as scholars are being assassinated and the rest are too fearful to leave their residences. The two scholars are ready to pack up when a third scholar Kim Ho Kyung arrives and points out that the future of Joseon is doomed if they just call it quits. Ho Kyung was in Japan when Scholar Heo Am was assassinated and when he got the news he immediately came back to Joseon. The other scholars sadly discuss how the rest of the scholars are too scared to come out anymore. Ho Kyung asks them to contact the other scholars and arrange a meeting. They have to start somewhere to make a difference.
Soo In is in her room remembering all her interactions with Yoon Kang on their little jaunt together. Her maid mutters about how the Madam’s temper has mellowed over the years since before Soo In wouldn’t have been let off the hook that easily. She sees Soo In in a daze who quickly makes an excuse to head outside.
Who else does she spot but Yoon Kang lurking around her courtyard and she calls out to him. Yoon Kang is here to see how she’s doing after losing the precious manuscript. Soo In does feel bad but nothing is more precious than a life and she’s sure her teacher will understand. She wonders if he’s here just to see how she’s doing? Yoon Kang tries to make a quick getaway but Soo In stops him and offers a tour of her courtyard filled with new wonders from the West.
Soo In explains the round world theory to Yoon Kang by showing him the globe. She brings up how scholars in Italy died of heresy in their belief that the world was round. Yoon Kang chuckles to hear that Italy has crazy scholars willing to risk their life for their beliefs much like this girl here. Soo In finally takes the chance to sincerely thank Yoon Kang for everything he did for her. He did a big favor for her and she wonders how to repay him? She really wants to do something for him and Yoon Kang immediately wants to tell her what she can do for him.
Before Yoon Kang can tell Soo In what he’s thinking, Soo In’s excited maid comes running in to announce that a special guest is here. Soo In lights up to see her orabeoni Kim Ho Kyung.
Soo In walks Ho Kyung to his old room but it’s taken by Yoon Kang now. She offers teacher’s old room to him and takes his suitcase inside while Ho Kyung shakes hands with Yoon Kang to make his acquaintance. Yoon Kang looks even more miffed with when Ho Kyung walks into the room after Soo In and lets the door close.
Yoon Kang lays in his room muttering about how Ho Kyung is so impolite shutting the door when it’s just a man and a woman in the room. He hears Soo In’s voice outside and peeks out the room to see Soo In smiling as she tells Ho Kyung to rest well.
Commander Park sits with Officer Moon and sighs that the era of the sword is coming to an end. Officer Moon wonders what will become of people like them who have used a sword their entire lives? Commander Park suggests giving up the sword or dying with it.
Hye Won brings her father a late night snack and worries about him working late. She tells her dad to be careful since there is a gunman on the loose causing unrest and even the police bureau can’t seen to stop him. Merchant Choi’s injured shoulder hurts but he declines Hye Won’s attempt to massage it.
Ho Kyung greets Yoon Kang the next morning and he wonders where Ho Kyung is headed so early? Ho Kyung explains he’s headed to a gathering and asks Yoon Kang to pass word if Soo In comes looking for him. After he walks off, Yoon Kang mutters about why Ho Kyung is all Soo In, Soo In all the time. The maid comes running over to summon Yoon Kang to see Soo In which makes him smile since he though the maid was looking for Ho Kyung. Soo In has come up with a plan to repay Yoon Kang. There is a lunar eclipse tonight so she wants to show him something cool which is setting off fireworks on an all dark night. She suggests bringing Yoon Ha along but Yoon Kang lies that his sister has a cold so it should just be the two of them.
Yoon Kang is all dressed in his finest clothes to go on his fireworks date and walks out all happy to meet up with Soo In. He stops in his tracks when a very angry Yoon Ha turns around to glare at him. Soo In explains that Yoon Ha doesn’t have a cold, she just swallowed some dust and was coughing. Yoon Kang feigns happiness that Yoon Ha is totally healthy and tries to hurry the group off.
Yoon Ha stops her orabeoni to demand if he lied to keep her from going on this excursion. Yoon Kang insists he was looking out for her well being. As he walks out with Yoon Ha, he goes on and on about how happy he is to hang out with Yoon Ha, his little healthy Yoon Ha who doesn’t get sick. He pinches her cheek and they huff at each other. As the group departs, Merchant Choi’s man walks by staring at the Park kids.
Commander Park is showing the dead gunman’s portrait around and hears that he’s used to work for a merchant group. But the dead gunman was supposed to have died five years ago in a fight over a woman. Commander Park orders Officer Moon to investigate that death.
The fireworks excursion group head out to the countryside with Soo In and Yoon Kang continuing their skinship even more when Yoon Kang pulls Soo In up some rocks and she lands in his arms.The group goes to a temple to pray first and Yoon Kang has only eyes for Soo In as she prays.
Yoon Kang and Soo In sit on the rocks looking out for the capital and Yoon Kang marvels at how small it actually is. Soo In points out that Joseon itself is small in relation to the greater world out there. Yoon Kang wants to know what she prayed for and is surprised to hear that Soo In prayed for her own dream to come true. After she saw the globe of the world, her dream is to one day travel to the other end of the ocean. Most Joseon ladies don’t even have the courage to leave the capital walls but she wants to see the world.
Yoon Kang keeps smiling at her until she asks what his dream is? Yoon Kang is chagrined not to have a dream and just getting by in life. Soo In suggests he can still find a dream now. Yoon Kang thinks about it and then turns to look at Soo In. She asks if he has a dream now and Yoon Kang just smiles and says yes. Before he can tell her what it is, Yoon Ha splashes him with water and Yoon Kang heads down to a water fight with his little sister. Yoon Kang suddenly gets a great idea and suggests Yoon Ha and he not fight since they are one family and instead turns to splash water on Soo In. Merchant Choi’s man has followed them here and keeps his eye on Yoon Ha.
Commander Park pays a visit to Merchant Choi to ask about the deceased gunman who used to work for his merchant group. Merchant Choi feigns ignorance and claims the last he heard was the guy died in a fight. Commander Park suggests someone could have saved him from the brink of death but Merchant Choi assures him that the merchant group has very strict rules and no one would dare save him. Commander Park suggests that whomever saved him would then earn his eternal loyalty and would do whatever that person asked. Merchant Choi nonetheless says that couldn’t have happened.
Soo In and Yoon Kang are getting reading to light the fireworks and she beckons him closer before startling him with the flicker from a match. Yoon Kang gets his composure back as Soo In successfully lights a firework but it doesn’t go off. Her maid and Yoon Ha stand off to the side to view the lunar eclipse while Soo In tries to figure out how to light it. Yoon Kang points out the moon is almost gone and Soo In yells at him for hurrying her when she’s trying her best. Yoon Ha wants to let her orabeoni spend some private time with Soo In so makes the excuse to the maid that she’s cold and wants to head down the mountain. The two of them tell Soo In that they are going to the temple to wait.
Yoon Kang discovers that the fireworks have gotten damp from being set out in the field to wait for the lunar eclipse. Soo In dries the flint and successfully sets off the fireworks at last. It goes off beautifully in succession and Soo In stares with a smile at Yoon Kang’s face light up at the fireworks going off. Yoon Kang turns around and locks eyes with her, and when Soo In lowers her eyes bashfully, he leans in and kisses her on the cheek.
Before they can discuss what just happened, the maid comes running back to inform them that Yoon Ha has gone missing. Yoon Kang takes off to search the forest while the maid follows Soo In and joins in the search. Yoon Kang finds the owl wood carving he made for Yoon Ha which she wears as a necklace, it’s hanging off some tree brush. Yoon Kang’s screams turn more and more desperate and we see Merchant Choi’s man has trussed up Yoon Ha and is carrying her away as she tries to scream but can’t make noise from a cloth stuffed in her mouth.
Yoon Kang wants Soo In to head home first but she wants to keep searching with him. Her maid convinces her to go otherwise they might slow Yoon Kang down. Poor Yoon Ha is delivered to Merchant Choi who wants her kept alive until they manage to lure Commander Park out.
Soo In runs to Hye Won to ask her unni for help to search. Hye Won turns her down because it’s in the middle of the night and the searchers will be lost. She promises to send a search group out first thing in the morning and tells Soo In to calm down for now. It’s morning time and Yoon Kang is still searching the forest for Yoon Ha. He finally staggers home alone having found no traces of Yoon Ha. Soo In suggests that it’s time to alert Commander Park because Soo In’s intuition is that Yoon Ha didn’t get lost in the forest.
Commander Park has already gotten the kidnapping letter that demands he show up tomorrow at noon because Yoon Ha is in their hands. Yoon Kang arrives then to tell his dad that Yoon Ha is missing and Commander Park slaps him before he can say anything. Commander Park asks where he was when his little sister went missing? What was he doing that was so important that he didn’t even know his sister went missing? He ordered him specifically to watch out for Yoon Ha, to keep her safe, he even stashed them in another residence to keep his kids safe.
Yoon Kang asks if the gunman has Yoon Ha and Commander Park confirms that he got a kidnapping letter to go meet them. Yoon Kang asks what he’s planning to do? Is he planning to do what he did when Yoon Kang’s mother was captured? Will he lead an army to go after her like he did last time? If that’s what he’s planning then Yoon Kang won’t allow it. He will go after Yoon Ha himself!
Commander Park orders his subordinates to lock Yoon Kang up until tomorrow. Yoon Kang screams as he’s dragged out and keeps calling out “Dad, dad, no, no, you can’t do the same to Yoon Ha and lose her that way.” Soo In is outside and sees Yoon Kang get dragged off to the jail for the night. The guards prevent Soo In from following so she can only watch Yoon Kang screaming over and over for his dad not to do this.
Yoon Kang gets tossed in jail and through his tears he remembers the traumatic events of the past. Marauders stormed to Commander Park’s home and his wife stashed little Yoon Kang and baby Yoon Ha under the floorboards to keep them safe. Yoon Kang’s mom confronts the marauders and is knocked unconscious before being kidnapped. Little Yoon Kang can only watch through tears as his mom is carted away.
Commander Park is informed that his wife has been kidnapped by the marauders who left a message that if Commander Park stopped chasing them then they will release his wife. Little Yoon Kang begs his dad to do as they say and save his mom. Commander Park orders Yoon Kang kept at home before he leaves to deal with the marauders.
Commander Park plans with his guards on how to surrounded the meeting place tomorrow for the rendezvous. Yoon Kang can hear all the guards mobilizing for tomorrow’s engagement and he remembers pulling the white cloth of his mom’s dead corpse that his dad brought back. Little Yoon Kang cries that he told his dad not to go and it’s all his dad’s fault that his mom died.
Yoon Kang hears Officer Moon arrive to call the other guards to get ready for the deployment. Yoon Kang begs Officer Moon to release him. He asks if Officer Moon wants to see the same thing happen to Yoon Ha? Does he want Yoon Kang to hate his dad even more? Does he want Yoon Kang to lose his sister on top of losing his mother?
Officer Moon releases Yoon Kang and gives him a horse and the location and time of the meeting. Yoon Kang hears that his dad already left and was going to rendezvous alone, telling the guards and soldiers to come afterwards. It’s enough time for him to live or die after he engages with the gunman. Officer Moon reveals that he released Yoon Kang for this reason so that he can go assist his dad and buy him more time until the soldiers arrive.
Soo In stops Yoon Kang as he’s leaving and asks what’s happening now? Yoon Kang reveals that Yoon Ha has been kidnapped and his dad went to meet with the kidnappers. Yoon Kang is leaving as well to join him. Soo In grabs his arm to stop him from leaving so Yoon Kang promises her that everyone will come back safely. Soo In is left watching in worry as Yoon Kang rides off.
Commander Park heads to the rendezvous point when a peasant approaches him to pass word that the meeting point has been changed. He begs Commander Park to hurry there otherwise the peasant’s own family will be killed. As Commander Park switches to the new meeting point, Yoon Kang rides up and insists on going with him. Commander Park pulls a sword on him to go back but Yoon Kang would rather die than hide away to save his own life. When he hid and watched his mother get taken, he was so scared to make any noise and he never wants to do that again. Yoon Kang reminds his dad that he trained him as a swordsman so that he could protect Yoon Ha, so now he’s going to do just that.
Commander Park lowers his sword and agrees to let Yoon Kang go with him. Yoon Ha’s eye cover is taken off as her captor tells her to watch carefully to see how her family dies. He has gunman stationed on top of the trees ready to shoot. Commander Park and Yoon Kang ride off together to save Yoon Ha.
Thoughts of Mine:
There are so many great beats in episode 3 I don’t even know where to start. LOL, I’m like a kid in a candy store. Commander Park is just the bees knees for me, a great character that is needed to ground all the pathos to come. The drama doesn’t try to hide his fate to come and does a wonderful job of making me care about him, which in turn will make it matter to me when Yoon Kang suffers the devastating loss of his family. Same goes with spunky Yoon Ha, I love every single scene with her in it and wish the drama had more time to spend with her before the shit hit the fan. She’s written so much younger than Yoon Kang so that he’s both a father and an older brother to her, but the way they bicker and banter is pure delight to watch. Commander Park’s conflict with Yoon Kang is revealed seamlessly as Yoon Ha is kidnapped, showing us that his position is always dangerous for his family members and repeats the events leading up to losing his wife. I don’t blame Commander Park for leading an army to get his wife back, just like I don’t blame Yoon Kang for being upset with him. Both of them have their own reasoning and neither are fully right or wrong. Commander Park is stuck between his duty and allegiance to his King but Yoon Kang doesn’t have that burden so he can always choose his family.
I find the evil ministers credibly written and interesting to watch because their nefarious plotting makes sense. They are not evil for the sake of being bad, but they are so very heartless in the way they order deaths without blinking an eye. I’m curious about what motivates Merchant Choi to work with them, and do so clearly without letting his daughter in on it. He seems to have more money than he can count, so even if Joseon opens up its borders and his merchant business is impacted somewhat, I’m not sure it justifies his whole scale massacre of scholars and attempting to take out Commander Park. I’m looking forward to hearing his thought process, and also learning more about Hye Won. I appreciate her steely confidence and grounded demeanor, she makes Soo In seem like a hyped up chipmunk, albeit an adorable one at that. With the arrival of scholar Kim Ho Kyung in this episode, all four leads have shown up and confirms this drama’s casting is a total home run. I find Ho Kyung more and meets the eye, and he clearly sees a lot but doesn’t always find the need to express it. The way he sized up rival Yoon Kang with a more subtle eye shows me he’s currently the more mature one. As a scholar, he represents the last hope of the King in pushing his enlightenment project so at least I know his role will be important rather than just pine needlessly for Soo In down the road.
Soo In and Yoon Kang’s romance has all the hallmarks of a sageuk version of a teen Summer fling. It’s heady and adventurous and the two of them dance around each other like colorful butterflies to enchant the viewers to their growing affection. But it came at a price in this episode, when Yoon Kang was busy spending time with Soo In, little Yoon Ha got kidnapped. I doubt he could have stopped the kidnappers even if he was around since the baddies were going to grab Yoon Ha no matter what. It was devastating to see Yoon Kang realize that he lost Yoon Ha on his watch, and that she was in the same dire situation that he watched his mother experience. Yoon Kang seemed flighty and rather directionless in the first two episodes but it’s clear now that family is his motivation. The lost off his mother was the scar that drove him to oppose his father and live a wastrel life, and the loss of his father and Yoon Ha may push him in the other direction. I felt the romance in this episode really took a back seat to Yoon Kang confronting the deepest regret and pain of his past and letting his protector side come out in full force. It’s a shame the ratings stayed unchanged at around 8%, this drama is fantastic without the need for any asterisks.
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