This episode of Joseon Gunman is so good and so aggravating I almost needed to pop an anti-anxiety pill or take a nap to lower my blood pressure before recapping. All the baddies get more bad and more good at being bad, which doesn’t bode well for our decent and humane gunman Park Yoon Kang. He really doesn’t stand a chance when he still retains a shred of his conscience in going up against foes who have long ago abandoned it or find it convenient to compartmentalize their actions. Merchant Choi went from stirring my sympathy to making me want to personally wiggle my way into the screen to shotgun blast him into hell since Yoon Kang can’t pull the trigger. It’s one thing for a villain to be completely ruthless, it’s even scarier when the villain has weaknesses to exploit and equally compelling set of motivations. The difference between Yoon Kang and Merchant Choi is merely that the former still won’t hurt innocents while the latter can throw anyone aside from his daughter under the bridge.
Episode 13 started off with the first inkling that Yoon Kang’s revenge quest may have accomplished its goal of catching Merchant Choi and exonerating Commander Park. But then the shit hits the fan fast and everyone goes downhill on a speeding train that makes my heart lurch in shock. Leader Kim is starting to look like he has even worthier successors in Minister Kim and Merchant Choi, the former an expert in manipulation and the latter completely without desire to turn back around. What’s even scarier is that Hye Won makes a very devastating choice in this episode and I can’t give her my empathy. It’s one thing to beg for her dad’s life, it’s another to actively sentence Yoon Kang to death in lieu of her dad. Soo In was rendered completely devoid of agency in this episode but it was important for the spotlight to shine on the antagonists scrambling to keep their misdeeds under wraps at all costs and remove the volatile danger that is Yoon Kang. What makes JG continue to fire on all cylinders is seeing the evolution of the narrative heading towards yet another game-changer moment.
Episode 13 recap:
Yoon Kang tries to play the mean noble idiot and force Soo In to leave him in order to keep her safe. But his noble idiocy last all of three seconds the moment a sobbing Soo In walks way. Yoon Kang clutches his hurt heart and then rushes after Soo In to pull her into his arms. Yoon Kang joins Soo In in crying while admitting that what he just said were all lies. He apologizes and tells her what he really feels, he misses her so much and thinks of her all the time. He can’t even imagine ever forgetting her. Yoon Kang asks her not to leave and stay by his side, stay only by his side. Soo In smiles through her tears and can only manage to nod her head like an idiot.
Yoon Kang pulls her in for a longing kiss and the lovebirds have finally found their way back to each other.
Merchant Choi pays the newly reinstated Left Minister Kim a visit and is complimented for actually making good on his offer to get him back. Merchant Choi thanks Minister Kim for taking him under his wing and vows to do everything to serve his new master.Sang Choo delivers a message to Hye Won that Hanjo wants to see her later tonight. Her dad asks if something happened but Hye Won is still curt with him and excuses herself.
Yoon Kang and Soo In walk home hand-in-hand and he assures her than everything will be over soon and he will come back to her in his rightful place. He will stand before her not as Hanjo but as Park Yoon Kang. Soo In only wants him to promise that he will be safe and take care of himself. Yoon Kang pauses before taking her hand and making the promise that he will be safe and come back to her soon.
Yoon Kang heads down to his gunman lair and changes into his gunman disguise while prepping his shotgun for whatever mission he has in store. Clearly that mission is the reason he had Sang Choo lure Hye Won out of the Choi residence so she’s not in danger (or the line of fire). Sang Choo fires a revolver shot from the roof to lure the guards out to chase after him as he runs down the street. That gives Yoon Kang the chance to leap inside the courtyard and head into Merchant Choi’s chambers.
Yoon Kang walks in and finds Merchant Choi sitting there but immediately the other gunman points his gun at Yoon Kang’s head. Merchant Choi can’t believe Yoon Kang is this careless since a good gunman can tell the difference between a shotgun blast and a revolver shot. Yoon Kang is still overeager and acts according to emotion, that is his weakness as well as his limitation as a gunman.
Merchant Choi takes out his old shotgun that was used to killed Commander Park and wants to use it to send Yoon Kang off. He points it at Yoon Kang and gets ready to pull the trigger but Yoon Kang’s fighting prowess comes in handy as he overcomes the other gunman and makes his way out of the chamber. Both Merchant Choi and the other gunman pursue Yoon Kang and he manages to fight the gun away from the other gunman. The fight turns to knife and hand combat until Yoon Kang gets a hold of the gun again and takes out the gunman with a blast to the leg.
Merchant Choi runs after the escaping Yoon Kang and senses his presence on the roof but before he can fire Yoon Kang jumps down from the roof and knocks Merchant Choi down. Yoon Kang pulls down his face cover and orders Merchant Choi to turn himself in. Merchant Choi reveals he didn’t want to kill Commander Park either but he had no choice but to follow orders. Otherwise he would be their slave for life as a mere hunting dog. He did it all for his daughter, the daughter who was raped and beaten and had to endure it all.
Yoon Kang screams and doesn’t accept Merchant Choi’s excuses, accusing him of doing this for his own personal ambition and desire for power. How dare he try to cover it up with his daughter’s plight. Merchant Choi killed Yoon Kang’s dad with his sister sold into slavery while Yoon Kang lived in a hell-like existence dreaming of this moment when he could get revenge and end his life. Yoon Kang declares that Merchant Choi dies today and this is his end.
Merchant Choi closes his eyes and lays his head down to accept death but before Yoon Kang can pull the trigger Hye Won returns home and shields her dad. Yoon Kang screams for her to move aside otherwise she dies as well. Hye Won offers to die for her dad since he did everything for her, all that she has now came from the barrel of her dad’s gun so in that sense she’s also liable. Hye Won urges Yoon Kang to pull the trigger and she’s willing to accept the punishment.
Hye Won cries and tells him to shoot and Yoon Kang cries and agrees to send them both on if that is what she wants. Merchant Choi freaks out and pushes Hye Won aside and tells Yoon Kang that his daughter did nothing wrong and he will accept all the consequences. Merchant Choi grabs Hye Won for a tight hug and Yoon Kang can’t bring himself to murder father-daughter and screams in rage.
Yoon Kang has Merchant Choi trussed up at gunpoint and is about to walk him to the police bureau to confess his crimes. Sang Choo arrives with Officer Moon and Officer Han and asks Yoon Kang to end this now. Yoon Kang shoves Merchant Choi to the officers and reveals that he is the gunman who killed his dad and ordered Son to frame him afterwards. Yoon Kang also says that Leader Kim was behind this all. Yoon Kang orders Merchant Choi to tell the entire truth now otherwise he’s won’t let him off the hook.
Officer Moon greets Yoon Kang and is so grateful he’s still alive. He asks Yoon Kang not to get involved anymore and he’ll handle things from here. Tomorrow Commander Park’s crime will be exonerate and Yoon Kang can go back to being his real identity. Officer Moon walks away and Yoon Kang turns to look at Hye Won who thanks him for not killing her dad.
Officer Moon brings Merchant Choi back to the police bureau and a very shady officer looks upset to see him being brought in to be questioned.
Yoon Kang remembers his dad’s last moments with him and cries at finally avenging his death and false branding as a traitor. Yoon Kang tells his dad that it’s all over and he can finally rest in peace now. Soo In arrives and runs into Yoon Kang’s arms and he hugs her back tightly. They smile to finally be together.
Merchant Choi takes the “I know nothing” route and tells Officer Moon that he’s not the gunman and doesn’t know Leader Kim. Officer Moon shows him the gun which Merchant Choi claims to be used just for hunting. He wants to be released now because he was threatened to turn himself in. He wants that criminal Park Yoon Kang arrested for being the gunman. The government law enforcement agency storms into the interrogation and forcibly exert their jurisdiction over this case and takes Merchant Choi away.
Leader Kim holds a meeting informing his minions that Merchant Choi has been moved to a department under their control and they need to extricate him soon before eliminating him for good. He reminds everyone present that if something goes wrong then everyone is ruined. Leader Kim wonders who created this mess and hears from Minister Kim that the dead Commander Park’s son Park Yoon Kang is to blame. He’s still alive and was pretending to be the Japanese businessman Hanjo who interrupted their attempt to remove Minister Jung earlier. Leader Kim orders Yoon Kang eliminated immediately.
Soo In can’t believe that Hye Won’s dad could be the gunman, the way he could do such things and still smile at them as if nothing had happened. She wonders if Hye Won unni knew about it and hears that she didn’t before though she does now. Yoon Kang couldn’t kill Merchant Choi in front of his daughter because then he’ll become the same type of person. Soo In assures him that he did the right thing. She turns back to look out at the river’s edge and reveals that she used to come here all the time to just sit and cry but from now on she won’t be alone anymore because Yoon Kang will be with her. She takes him hand and asks him to forget the painful memories of the past and just live happily with her and Yeon Ha. Yoon Kang smiles and nods his head.
Yoon Kang and Soo In pick up Yeon Ha from the temple and the three of them adorably walk home hand-in-hand. Yeon Ha can’t believe the danger is over and wonders if she’s dreaming. The trio find Hye Won waiting outside the residence and her presence causes Yeon Ha to shrink back in fear.
Hye Won sits with Yoon Kang to apologize on behalf of her dad but Yoon Kang doesn’t accept an apology from her nor will an apology bring his dad back. He tells Hye Won to leave because there is no reason for them to converse like this in the future.
Yoon Kang finds the whole group teasing Yeon Ha for looking like her older brother but the happiness is cut short when guards arrive to arrest the criminal Yoon Kang for the murders of the two dead ministers killed by the gunman. Yoon Kang yells back that he’s not a criminal and refuses to go with them and gets smacked in the head when he tries to struggle. Yeon Ha cries out for her orabeoni but Yoon Kang only tells her not to worry and this will get sorted out.
Yoon Kang crosses paths with Merchant Choi at the interrogation headquarters and gets an “you should have killed me when you had the chance” smirk from Merchant Choi. UGGHHHHH! Yoon Kang tries to rush Merchant Choi but is held back and all he can do is warn Merchant Choi that he will not let this end and Merchant Choi will be punished.
King Gojong is getting mixed entreaties from the two factions, one wants Yoon Kang arrested for killing the two ministers and the other side wants Merchant Choi arrested for the murder of Commander Park. The King staves off the bickering and orders both men questioned for the various allegations and hands the investigation to Minister Min (the nephew of the Queen but also the guy who took the bribe from Merchant Choi).
Hye Won pays her dad a visit and he’s in a good mood because he got another chance now and doesn’t believe he needs to beg forgiveness because he did nothing wrong. Hye Won is shocked and her dad tells her not to say anything and he’ll take care of it. Hye Won wants him to tell the truth about the people controlling him and hurting him. If he won’t do it then she will. Merchant Choi warns her that if she reveals it then he’s dead and if she wants to be the cause of his death then go ahead and tell the truth.
Officer Moon visits Yoon Kang in jail and assures him that he’s not being questioned for the death of the two ministers because there is no evidence he’s that gunman because a search of his residence did not turn up the guy. He’ll only be questioned as the criminal Park Yoon Kang so he should keep insisting that he’s Japanese businessman Hanjo. Yoon Kang knows that will won’t because they will drag Yeon Ha and Soo In to pressure him. He wants to admit his identity and prove Merchant Choi killed his dad and had him framed. He wants the official who wrote down the false testimony to be questioned but hears that he’s now even more high ranking. Yoon Kang begs for his help and Officer Moon agrees to ask Minister Min for help.
Yoon Kang also wants a Mr. Jo found because Son said he penned the fake Commander Park letter. Yoon Kang figures he’s a professional counterfeiter likely hired by Merchant Choi to write in Commander Park’s pen. Officer Moon makes the connection with a guy he’s been investigating and agrees to find him.
Minister Min along with Ho Kyung sit down with the trussed up Merchant Choi and Yoon Kang to interrogate him. Yoon Kang admits his identity and reveals he didn’t die in the hail of bullets. He got shot by Merchant Kim but didn’t die and is back to clear his father’s name as a traitor. He accuses Merchant Choi of being the gunman who killed his dad under orders from Leader Kim and sent Son to frame his dad. Merchant Choi claims that he doesn’t know any Leader Kim and is not the gunman and has done nothing wrong. Yoon Kang asks why he’s that afraid of Leader Kim and that rubs Merchant Choi the wrong way and he screams back that he’s not a coward. Yoon Kang says Merchant Choi confessed last night and Merchant Choi is asked if Hye Won heard everything. Merchant Choi yells for Hye Won not to be brought into the middle of this and then threatens Minister Min saying that if his daughter is embroiled in this then he can’t guarantee what he will say.
Minister Min remembers getting the bribe from Merchant Choi to have Minister Kim reinstated and asks if Merchant Choi is threatening him? Merchant Choi claims he’s not and is merely worried he might resort to foul language under interrogation. Ho Kyung speaks up and assk that Hye Won be brought in for questioning since she’s the only eyewitness and he knows she’s not that weak of a girl. Minister Min agrees and asks Hye Won to be called in for questioning tomorrow. Merchant Choi freaks out and screams loudly at Minister Min not to do this. That pisses Minister Min off and he has both men dragged outside. Merchant Choi doesn’t give up and keeps yelling back at Minister Min.
Soo In sits down with Hye Won and asks her to tell the truth tomorrow at the public interrogation. Hye Won asks back if Soo In wants her to sentence her own dad to death? She tells Soo In to leave but Soo In reminds Hye Won that Yoon Kang saved her life once and his dad is dead all because of Hye Won’s dad in the first place.
Ho Kyung visits Yoon Kang in prison and confirms that Soo In knows he is Yoon Kang. He wonders why Yoon Kang wasn’t better at concealing his identity if he tried to do it. Ho Kyung shares how hard it was for Soo In to get over the pain of the last three years and Yoon Kang vows that he will get out of this mess. Ho Kyung agrees but it’s not for Yoon Kang that he’s doing this but for Soo In.
The officer who helped frame Commander Park is taken in for questioning by Minister Min. Officer Moon also arrested the counterfeiter who forged Commander Park’s writing. Yoon Kang is told that neither is talking so he suggests that questioning be split up and each is told the other person came clean before being offered a pardon. The officer won’t confess and Yoon Kang says that he should be released once the powerful officials exert pressure. Yoon Kang is sure that they will try to assassinate him and when that happens Officer Moon should rescue him and that will get him to reconsider his testimony.
Like Yoon Kang suggested, another officer dressed like the official is released and immediately a gunman tries to kill him. He can’t believe they want to sacrifice him and agrees to tell the truth tomorrow at the interrogation.
Yoon Kang walks over to Merchant Choi’s jail cell and gives him the final warning to tell the truth tomorrow for his daughter’s sake. He’s sure Hye Won will lie for her dad but once Merchant Choi’s crimes are proven then Hye Won will be guilty of giving false testimony.
Minister Kim pays Merchant Choi a visit in jail afterwards and reveals that the other side saved the life of the officer who will likely turn against him. He thinks Leader Kim will be ready to sacrifice Merchant Choi but he assures him that he will not forsake Merchant Choi. He will find a way to help him. Merchant Choi tells Minister Kim to pay a visit to Minister Min. Minister Kim stops Minister Min in the Palace with a sinister cackle asking to chat but gets the brush off.
The public interrogation is about to start and Yoon Kang knows that the truth will soon be revealed. Merchant Choi wants to teach Yoon Kang a lesson that the victor’s words become the truth. King Gojong arrives for the interrogation and Yoon Kang gives his testimony that Merchant Choi controls the gunmen brigade as ordered by Leader Kim and he also killed Commander Park. Merchant Choi denies it all and claims to be a simple businessman and was threatened at gunpoint by Yoon Kang to admit his involvement.
Hye Won is called in as the eyewitness and King Gojong asks her directly what she heard two nights ago. Hye Won stares at Yoon Kang and Merchant Choi before lying that her dad is not the gunman and never admitted it. He merely begged for his life. Yoon Kang is upset but not shocked at Hye Won lying for her dad. Hye Won says it was Yoon Kang who threatened her dad but claims not to know why he would do that to her dad. Hye Won says she knows nothing about Yoon Kang since he was always Hanjo when interacting with her.
Hye Won leaves the interrogation and runs into a nervous Soo In waiting outside. Hye Won walks over to Soo In and apologizes before saying that Yoon Kang has become someone that neither of them can have. Soo In freaks out.
Yoon Kang continues his testimony that Commander Park’s crime as a traitor was falsified years ago by the counterfeiter and the officer. The counterfeiter admits he falsified the letter and is asked who ordered him to do it. He remembers identifies the person who paid him to do it as Merchant Choi. King Gojong then turns to the officer and asks if his involvement is also true but he denies it. Minister Min looks down at the ground with a guilty conscience. Flashback to last night and turns out Minister Kim did speak with Minister Min by threatening that if Merchant Choi is outed as the gunman then his bribe to Minister Min will also be revealed.
Minister Kim asks to see the officer tonight and pays him a visit to change his mind about testifying. He tells the officer that once the truth comes out he will be executed along with all the people who framed Commander Park. Minister Kim makes a fake apology about trying to have him killed but warns him that even if he reveals the truth he will still be hunted down afterwards. If the officer keeps lying then Minister Kim will vouch for his safety.
The officer claims that Son delivered the counterfeit letter and says the counterfeiter is a liar and he never saw him before. The counterfeiter speaks up that he wrote exactly what the officer told him to write. The King is stunned at such blatant lying right before him. The King wants both of them arrested and he wants to torture them until they tell the truth.
Minister Kim warns the King that he can’t reopen the Commander Park case because he was accused of besmirching the name of the former King. He also can’t torture the two men to get the truth because torture was the reason he used to exile Minister Kim. Yoon Kang begs the King to keep investigating because they are so close to the truth and if they stop here then his dad will never get justice. Yoon Kang cries that his dad died in doing his duty for the King so the King can’t forsake him now and must find out the truth.
Minister Kim asks the King not to go back on his decree that no prisoners can be tortured so this interrogation needs to end now. The King looks over at his enlightenment faction members who all bow their heads in agreement as well. The King has no choice and stands up to end the interrogation today.The King orders Merchant Choi released since there is no evidence of his crime and then orders Yoon Kang executed as the criminal he is. Merchant Choi smirks while Yoon Kang screams at the King.
Thoughts of Mine:
I feel so grateful that the drama has enough confidence to move past the Yoon Kang pretending to be Hanjo with a night job as the masked gunman bit. It was wonderfully executed but risk becoming draggy since he can only escape being captured or found out that many times. With the truth out in the open that he’s the not-dead Park Yoon Kang, there is now different narratives to mine to freshen up the story and take it to the next level. Yoon Kang’s revenge up until now was personal and directed only at Commander Park’s killer who he confirmed was Merchant Choi. If he had shoved his conscience under a rug and shot Merchant Choi, that would still be a pyrrhic victory since the truth about his dad’s false accusation remains out there. Merchant Choi actually needs to stay alive so that the truth of the wide-ranging conspiracy can be revealed since he was personally carrying it out for Leader Kim. What’s so frustrating but believable is seeing that the baddies like Merchant Choi and Minister Kim get second chances and promptly continue to be evil without blinking and eye. We want to see our villains repent, to know they are being taken to task for their crimes and accept the punishment, so it’s even more frustrating and galling to watch Merchant Choi avoid a bullet to the head from Yoon Kang only to immediately turn around and keep trying to destroy him. There is no honor among the ruthless and poor Yoon Kang learns this lesson the hard way even if he ought to have learned it already.
I don’t think Hye Won deserves to die for anything she’s done so far but the way she chose her dad over Yoon Kang doesn’t upset me as much as her choosing to save a criminal and sacrifice an innocent. She knows Yoon Kang is innocent and that her dad did all the bad things Yoon Kang is accusing him of. If she believed in her dad’s innocence that would be a different story, but to so unconscionably give false testimony knowing she was getting her dad off the hook while signing Yoon Kang’s death warrant makes her absolutely a villain now. Pleading for her dad’s life from Yoon Kang was a fantastic scene and I totally felt for her there and supported what she was doing. But then she went and ruined all my goodwill by picking her dad over doing the right thing. The difference between Yoon Kang and Soo In and the selfish people around them is exactly that, neither would hurt others to protect something they care about. Hye Won and Merchant Choi do that, and more, all under the auspices of protecting each other. Not acceptable and honestly this seals their death warrants down the road because redemption isn’t in their cards anymore. It’s also time for Soo In to totally wake up from her sheltered world and see how cold and ruthless people can be when push comes to shove. Ho Kyung is also getting a hard lesson in seeing even his same faction colleagues acting like weak cowards. In the face of such blatant power oppression of the truth, how can Yoon Kang stand a chance?
My only hope is that the King remains true to his promise to not cower before his enemies so that his public death sentence for Yoon Kang is just a feint. I didn’t expect the truth to come out so quickly since Leader Kim and his ilk is not that easily to topple but it was frustration (in a good way) to watch the baddies keep one-upping Yoon Kang’s attempts to clear his dad’s name. At least he’s not getting executed for the death of the two ministers, that would be like pouring fuel on the flame. This drama really wants to keep Yoon Kang’s suffering high since he barely got a day of feeling happy and brought Yeon Ha home only to be dragged off mere minutes later. I kinda feel for the King and understand that he’s forced into a tough spot, but even worse is seeing his enemies so shamelessly powerful while even his so-called loyal ministers don’t have the backbone to speak up and support doing the right thing. The King better start planning things on his own rather than hoping anyone around him can get to the bottom of things. His first alternative might be to find himself a fallen gunman to act as his own personal justice seeking missile.
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