The shit hits the fan fast in Joseon Gunman. My emotions got dragged through the ringer thoroughly in episode 4 as my heart ached in different ways for all the good guys. Yoon Kang is forced to grow up literally overnight, with a series of tragedies befalling him worthy of a Shakespearean play. That’s rather apropos since sageuks often have bad things dramatically happening in quick succession to the hero in order to construct the trajectory of growth. With that said, JG tosses the kitchen sink at Yoon Kang and even I marvel that he simply calls it a bad nightmare when it feels like giant rocks falling. Yoon Kang loses family and romance in one fell swoop, but with it gains a new identity and purpose. Our titular Joseon Gunman arrives at the end of this episode in a bang bang entrance worthy of a movie star. But before that happens, Yoon Kang reaches an understanding and appreciation for dear old dad and manages to save beloved sister Yeon Ha. But his valient effort is no match for the truly powerful evil forces in the government that will not hesitate to sacrifice anything and anyone who stands in their way.
Daddy Park, the fantastically rendered Commander Park himself, gets a reprieve from a lifetime burden of protecting country and King, but with his passing the mantle may end up on Yoon Kang’s shoulders. I felt the romance really took a backseat in this episode even if it got plenty of sweet airtime. I love that Soo In and Yoon Kang confess their feelings for each other candidly and with a restrained intensity due to the circumstances. They don’t need to say a lot but their hearts have found a kindred soul in each other, so whether time or distance keeps then apart for now, they will eventually make their way back to each other. I did have a good chuckle at how Yoon Kang and Soo In’s big separation happened, because anyone who’s seen their previous drama Time Between Dog and Wolf will surely recognize an homage to a very critical scene between their characters in that drama which happens at a busy port and also involves a dip in the water. My suggestion for Yoon Kang is to get thee back to dry land soon and start unleashing some kickass.
Episode 4 recap:
Kidnapped Yeon Ha is tied up to a tree as her kidnapper gunman taunts her with the knowledge that her dad is on his way to certain death to try and rescue her. He takes off her blindfold so she can watch her dad die and points out another gunman on the treetop. Such an asshole, I hope his death is painful and drawn out.
Yoon Kang and Commander Park arrive and stop right before the meeting point. Commander Park will head directly in while Yoon Kang will go around back. Commander Park knows there are only two gunman left but Yoon Kang points out there is also two of them so it’ll be a fair fight. Father and son split up to save Yeon Ha. Back at the police bureau, Officer Moon orders the guards to depart headed for the original rendezvous point unaware that it’s been changed.
Commander Park walks up to the meeting spot and sees Yeon Ha tied to a tree with the gunman in front of her. He wants to pull his sword but stops himself as the gunman screams for him to come out. Commander Park yells back wondering why the gunman seems afraid. Merchant Choi as the other gunman stationed in the treetop senses movement in the weeds and fires a shot but it’s just a rabbit.
Commander Park sneaks up and slashes his sword down on the gunman who scurries away since he doesn’t have time to reload his weapon. Merchant Choi on the treetop is about to fire his gun when an arrow hits him being fired from Yoon Kang’s bow. The two gunman escape while Yoon Kang fires a few more arrows at them.
Commander Park cuts Yeon Haa off the tree and hugs her while Yoon Kang rushes up and anxiously looks over his sister to make sure she’s alright. The Park family is hurrying home when another shot rings out in the woods as the gunman will not let Commander Park leave alive.
Commander Park puts Yeon Ha’s hand in Yoon Kang’s hand and tells his kids to head off the mountain first while he diverts the gunman. The two kids call out for their dad but he’s already run off. Yoon Kang has no choice but to first take Yeon Ha off the mountain to safety.
The Sugu faction discuss how they are not going to just destroy Commander Park, their goal is to end the King’s insistence on this enlightenment plan. His cronies the various ministers agree and take on the task to come.
Minister Kim goes home and hears that his son from his concubine is home. Ho Kyung greets his father and before he can make pleasantries, Minister Kim cuts him off and wonders why he’s back and why he wants to see him? Minister Kim doesn’t see the need for meeting with Ho Kyung for fake filial greetings since his son wants to change the world. He tells Ho Kyung to leave and see if the world can change. As Ho Kyung walks out, Minister Kim remarks that baseborn children like him are always rebellious because they are just the offspring of concubines who are jealous of the official wife.
Ho Kyung remembers discussing his birth with Scholar Heo Am and how his father is always strict and never approves of him. His teacher suggests he hide his birth otherwise it would be hard for him to lead the faction for change if its known that his father is Minister Kim. His teacher will tell others that he’s just an ordinary yanban’s son, including to Minister Jung.
Ho Kyung returns to the Jung residence and hears from Soo In about Yeon Ha’s kidnapping. She feels its all her fault for suggesting the excursion which is why she’s pacing outside until she hears some news. She pleads with Ho Kyung to take her back to the area even knowing it’s dangerous.
Yoon Kang puts Yeon Ha on a horse and tells her to ride back to the capital. She’s afraid but he promises to return safely with their dad. He puts the owl carving necklace around her neck and tells her to be brave and go back to wait for him. Yeon Ha rides off and Yoon Kang hears another shot ring out and he rushes back.
Commander Park goes down as a bullet grazes his thigh but he manages to crawl off. Yoon Kang returns to the area and sees a rock thrown at him and looks up to see his dad hiding in a cave crevice and signaling for him to come inside. Yoon Kang explains to dad that he sent Yeon Ha back on a horse and came to help him. He wonders who the gunmen are and dad doesn’t know yet but suspects there is a connection with the Kyung Gi Merchant Group. One of the gunman was slashed by dad’s sword before so ought to have a shoulder scar. Yoon Kang begs his dad to hang in there, when Yeon Ha reaches the guards they will be alerted to search in the correct place.
Ho Kyung and Soo In ride up to the original rendezvous point and see swarms of guards searching the hillside. Suddenly they spot Yeon Ha riding up on a horse and Soo In is so relieved to see her back safely. Yeon Ho begs Soo In to alert the guards to go save her dad and orabeoni. The guards are a distance away so Soo In takes out her derringer and fires a shot into the air to get their attention.
Yoon Kang is keeping watch at the cave entrance when suddenly Commander Park apologizes to his son for his family suffering because of him. Yoon Kang suggests talking later but Commander Park wants to discuss it now. His wife died because of him even though he wanted to save her. After his wife was taken, Commander Park was ordered by the minister in charge to go destroy the marauders in the mountains despite them holding his wife hostage. Commander Park has no choice but to order an attack despite Officer Moon pointing out that they are still holding his wife hostage.
Commander Park attacks but in his impatience to save his wife, he falls for a fake dummy diversion which gives the kidnappers time to kill his wife before his eyes. Commander Park kills all the marauders but loses his wife in the end.
Yoon Kang cries as he hears his dad talking about this. For the first time, Commander Park regretted becoming a military man and that night he spent sobbing nonstop. Yoon Kang asks why his dad is only telling him about this now and allowed Yoon Kang to hate him all this time? Commander Park blames himself because he still didn’t save his wife so having his son hate him is his punishment.
Yoon Kang wipes his tears and looks back out the cave to see the guards have arrived. He asks his dad to stay put and he’ll go signal them to come over. Suddenly they see the two gunman and wonder how to deal with them. Commander Park looks down at his thigh wound and realizes they can’t survive together. He tells Yoon Kang that he will handle it himself and there is no need for both of them to die since the gunmen are after only him. He’s lived enough and can go in peace now that Yoon Kang is all grown up. He can go join his wife and Yoon Kang needs to stay alive to take care of Yeon Ha.
Yoon Kang refuses to let his dad go alone since he promised Yeon Ha that he would bring their dad back safely. Dad knocks Yoon Kang unconscious and apologizes to him before pulling his sword and running out to divert the gunman from the cave.
The gunman spot Commander Park and give chase. Commander Park’s thigh gunshot wound slows him down and leave blood tracks for the gunman to find him. Commander Park manages to slash the first gunman but before he can deliver the killing blow, a gunshot hits him directly in the chest. He turns around to raise his sword to face Merchant Choi only to have him raise his gun and shoot him again. Commander Park goes down and as he lays dying. Merchant Choi removes his face cover and reveals his identity to him. Merchant Choi helps the other gunman up and the two of them leave Commander Choi dying on the rock.
Yoon Kang regains consciousness and grabs his sword to go after his dad. He races around the forest until he finds his dad dead already of two gunshot wounds. Yoon Kang picks up his dad and cries for him to wake up and open his eyes. He cries that Yeon Ha is waiting for him, he cries that he still has so much to tell him that he never got to say. He begs his dad to wake up but Commander Park is gone.
It starts to rain as Yoon Kang cradles his dad and sobs his guts out. Officer Moon and the guards arrive, along with Soo In and Ho Kyung, and everyone can only watch as Yoon Kang sobs for his father.
Minister Kim reports to King Gojong that a subordinate of Commander Park confessed that Commander Park was the one who ordered the gunman assassination of the scholars as well as gunning for King Gojong’s father next, blaming everything on the now deceased Commander Park. King Gojong doesn’t believe it but Minister Kim insists that he needs to immediately arrest Commander Park’s family for treason. Minister Kim refuses to let King Gojong investigate and basically hints that he’s going to do as he’s told.
King Gojong’s wife Queen Min urges her husband to give in even knowing they are framing Commander Park. He can’t go up against such a powerful faction otherwise this will give them the excuse to rebel and remove him from power. She urges him to be passive now and lay in wait for the right time to come.
Yeon Ha rests in the altar room where Commander Park’s body is laid out. Yoon Kang covers up his sister with his robe and strokes her head.
Ho Kyung accompanies Soo In to visit the Parks and encourages her to not be so sad anymore because it’s really not her fault. Yoon Kang comes out and his friend Officer Han cries about how Yeon Ha is dealing with this loss at such a young age. Yoon Kang sees Soo In and Ho Kyung at the front door and walks up to thank them for their concern all this time. Soo In wants to know how she can help but Yoon Kang wants to do all the funeral preparations himself. He wasn’t able to do anything for his dad and for this final journey he wants to do everything personally.
Yoon Kang heads out to buy the items needed for the funeral while Soo In tearfully watches him leave. Yoon Kang just misses the royal guards arriving to arrest Yoon Kang and Yeon Ha as family members of the traitor Commander Park. Yoon Kang is ordered to be executed while Yeon Ha is to be made a slave while Commander Park will not be given a proper burial. Soo In screams at the arresting officer that this is a mistake but is pushed aside. Yeon Ha screams for her unni to help but is dragged off.
Yoon Kang pays a visit to Merchant Choi and identifies himself as Commander Park’s son. He openly states that he’s here to find the gunman who killed his dad because his dad said that the gunman was connected to this merchant group. Merchant Choi isn’t cowed and points out that his group employs thousands of people and he has no way of knowing all their activities. He tells Yoon Kang to leave but Yoon Kang asks Merchant Choi to help him if he’s innocent and not involved. His dad left a sword scar on the gunman so that is a clue. Yoon Kang asks Merchant Choi to give him an answer next him he comes otherwise Yoon Kang will treat him as suspect number one and personally inspect his arm for the scar.
Merchant Choi watches Yoon Kang leave and murmurs that leaving him alive will cause repercussions in the future so it’s time to pluck the weed at its root.
Ho Kyung has arranged for a boat at the dock to take Yoon Kang away to safety and asks Soo In to bring Yoon Kang there when she finds him. Officer Min apologizes for not being able to help Yoon Kang since he’s a government agent. He wants Soo In to hurry because Yoon Kang’s portrait will be posted up soon all over town so he needs to leave immediately.
Yoon Kang finishes buying the funeral attire and we see Merchant Kim with his gun following him. Soo In runs around the marketplace and finds Yoon Kang on the street. She sees guards coming towards them and pulls him to safety. She explains what happened to him but he can’t believe that his dad is now labeled a traitor. He hears that Yeon Ha has been captured and wants to go save her and refuses to save himself if it means leaving her behind. Soo In begs him to run because Yeon Ha is just being taken to be a slave while he’s going to be executed.
A guard spots them so they make a run for it and hide safely behind some clothes until the guards leave.
Soo In and Yoon Kang keep their heads down to head to the city gates but the guards there already have his picture and are searching for him. Yoon Kang tells Soo In to go through the gate first and he’ll fight his way out and join her. Soo In nervously makes it out of the gate while Yoon Kang gets in line with the rest of the people leaving.
A guard grabs his arm but Yoon Kang has some serious martial arts moves as he renders a few guards unconscious and even overpowers a more guards with swords. He even kicks a sword into the air before sending it flying towards another guard. Niiiiice.
Yoon Kang runs out of the gate and grabs the waiting Soo In before bolting for the forest. Yoon Kang and Soo In hide in the bushes until the guards have passed them by. Their hiding technique is full on skinship as Yoon Kang embraces Soo In tightly in his arms. Soo In is so wracked by this experience and Yoon Kang apologizes for her dealing with this because of him. Soo In just wants him to safely leave and Yoon Kang asks where he’s headed. She explains that Ho Kyung has a friend in Chunju who will take care of Yoon Kang. He finds out its hundreds of kilometers away from her and wonders when they will meet again?
Soo In stares sadly with no answer to his question. Yoon Kang reveals that his first and only dream in his life was to spend every day with her and talk all night with her. But this dream will have to remain a dream now. He doesn’t know what just happened to his life but it feels like a nightmare. Yoon Kang pulls Soo In up and they hurry to catch the waiting boat.
They arrive at the dock and ask if the boatman is hired by Kim Ho Kyung. This boatman explains the other boatman was worried why they were taking so long so rowed upstream to meet them but he’ll take Yoon Kang. Soo In assures Yoon Kang that she will take care of Yeon Ha, she will find a way to rescue her. Soo In hands her compass to Yoon Kang which will help him find his way no matter where he is. Yoon Kang takes the compass while Soo In asks him to be careful and stay alive. If he stays alive then they will meet again. When they meet again, then his dream will come true and they will be together. Yoon Kang promises Soo In that he will stay alive and he will come back.
Yoon Kang walks towards the dock but Soo In runs after him and gives him a parting hug. Yoon Kang hugs her back before pulling her in for a kiss. He tells her to take care of herself and then gets on the boat. The boatman quickly pushes off and leaving Soo In and Yoon Kang staring at each other.
Suddenly Ho Kyung screams out for Soo In and rides up on his horse but behind him are guards arriving to kill Yoon Kang. Soon In gets on the horse with Ho Kyung and he rides off. Yoon Kang watches Soo In riding away when we see Merchant Choi is hiding in the weeds and he sends a bullet right into Yoon Kang’s chest.
Yoon Kang body jerks upon impact and Soo In screams out in horror as she watches Yoon Kang shot before her eyes and he falls into the water. Ho Kyung takes her away to safety while Merchant Choi packs up and leaves. Yoon Kang sinks into the bottom of the river. Once Ho Kyung stops the horse, Soo In wants to run back to save Yoon Kang but Ho Kyung reminds her that the guards there will arrest her.
Ho Kyung informs Soo In’s parents that Yoon Kang was hit by a bullet as he was escaping though his body was never found. Minister Jung can’t believe how the world can turn upside down so suddenly. Ho Kyung is worried about Soo In having seen Yoon Kang get shot but her mom is just worried about their family getting affected by being friends with a bunch of traitors.
Soo In cries to her maid that she finally told Yoon Kang how she felt and now he’s so far from her. Everything that just happened feels like a nightmare.
A few men on a boat headed for Japan fish Yoon Kang out of the water. One of the guys says it will be his fate, if he wakes up when they are still in Joseon they he will stay there, if he wakes up on the ship to Japan then that is where he will go. The guy sees Yoon Kang’s broken compass and laugh about how amusing life is, indicating that the compass took the direct hit from the bullet which is why Yoon Kang survived. Since he saved Yoon Kang, he’ll be responsible for him until he wakes up.
Time jump of three years as Merchant Choi walks with his daughter Hye Won at a bustling Joseon port. They marvel at the changes in just three years and Merchant Choi discusses how even big merchant ships from other countries will be docking soon. Hye Won asks about the Japanese businessman named Yamamoto who they are here to meet. Merchant Choi explains that Yamamoto controls the merchant circle in Kansai and is influential in directing Japanese politics. If their merchant group does business with Yamamoto then they are set.
Hye Won asks who is coming today and hears that it’s someone named Han Jo that Yamamoto has given full authority to discuss business on his behalf. Hye Won is excited since the future of their merchant group lies in that man’s hands.
Soo In is at a teahouse and hears from her maid that Hye Won unni went to the pier to meet an important guest. Her maid asks if they need to come to the port every month on the dot? Soo In comes to buy the new things that are slowly trickling into Joseon. Ho Kyung arrives and Soo In excited asks if he’s confirmed whether the item is coming today? Ho Kyung confirms that it’s coming on the ship docking.
Soo In and Ho Kyung are heading to the port when a bunch of angry dock works storm past them and arrive at the dock to fight with another group already there. Suddenly a gunshot rings out and one of the dock works is shot. Everyone looks in shock out at the water as a man pulls back his gun having fired the shot. It’s Park Yoon Kang dressed in a three-piece suit with his hair cut short and sporting glasses. Yoon Kang points his revolver and fires another shot.
Thoughts of Mine:
Joseon Gunman continues to deftly balance compelling storytelling with a fluid touch. Critical events happen but the story never gets bogged down with excessive maudlin and overwrought emotions. The intensity is just right and my heart is really carried along with the fate of the main characters. Commander Park’s story arc comes to a close in this episode and while it’s great timing not to drag out the prologue, I’m nonetheless sad to see him go. He was a great guy all around, the type of father and subordinate that one is lucky to have as a protector. He’s not godly and isn’t able to control everything, but he tries so darn hard to always do the right thing even if it means risking his own life. I got a measure of solace that his passing didn’t seem to be tinged with regret for him. He left a grown up Yoon Kang behind with full faith that he could take care of Yeon Ha, and he actually wanted to lay down his burdens to join his wife. It wasn’t a suicide mission, but he was not filled with fear at the decision to place himself in harms way to protect his only son. He could have risked waiting for his guards to arrive, but that would also open up the possibility the gunmen will find them first and kill them both. I do mourn the way of the sword with his passing, because a gun allows the person using it to have an advantage that is machine driven rather than skill and courage. Hand-to-hand combat is traded for sniper attacks that cry out coward hiding in the bushes to shoot an opponent. I know that’s the inevitable arrival of the modern world, but there was such beauty in Commander Park’s representation of the way of the swordsman’s dignity. He shall be missed immensely.
It was so stirring to watch Yoon Kang and his dad get closure in the cave over the shared grief in the loss of a mother and a wife. Yoon Kang’s anger at his dad really explains his outlook when we met him but doesn’t need to be hammered home in the way his personality still shines through. He is adept and proficient with a sword as required training from his father, but he refuses to do anything meaningful with it as an outlet for his simmering resentment and anger. He’s a really moderate character when dramas like to paint characters in extremes. In many ways the Yoon Kang we have gotten to know so far comes across as rather vanilla, a guy with a looks and a charming personality just coasting by in life. If it wasn’t for his multiple run-ins with Soo In, I can’t see her becoming interested in him if he was just a dude with a gorgeous face and a glib tongue. Her attraction to him comes from the deeper aspects of his personality that he doesn’t allow himself to express. The warrior’s natural instinct to protect, the swordsman’s ability to fight back. He’s not very intellectual, that’s for sure, but Soo In has the very intellectual Ho Kyung around and she’s never fallen for him. Probably because he’s like the male version of herself, and a girl is always attracted to the bad boy rebel fun guys like Yoon Kang. I like Ho Kyung a lot even if he’s not gotten much screen time, he is righteous without being stuffy and harboring a well of his own family pain.
Being on the side of the good guys pushing for enlightenment isn’t a smart or stable position to take when even the all-powerful King can’t stand up for his own supporters. I don’t think he tossed Commander Park under the bus for the greater good, he clearly did it to protect his own tenuous hold on power. But I concede he didn’t willingly do it and he likely believes that only by accepting this defeat will be a chance at a victory for his grander plans down the line. I don’t know if he’s hoping old fogeys like Leader Kim will die out, or he’ll gradually sway more ministers to his side, it’s clear that he was backed into a corner and poor Yoon Kang and Yeon Ha paid the price. I’m so happy Yeon Ha isn’t dead even if she’s been demoted to a slave, having her alive will give Yoon Kang extra impetus beyond just getting revenge for his dead dad. Watching him sail into port firing his gun all badass was so awesome I got shivers down my spine. Extra kudos to the scriptwriter for placing all the main characters in one place to watch resurrected Yoon Kang’s big entrance. I hope he didn’t kill anyone though, LOL, because I don’t want new and improved Yoon Kang to start off his revenge journey with being a cold hearted killer. I want gunman Yoon Kang to remember his kind heart and doing things the right way. It’s too early to tell if Yoon Kang will start with revenge and end up fighting the good fight that would make his dad proud, but his character arc is thus far magnificently set up to go in many different directions.
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