This episode of Joseon Gunman is best summed up as “when everything goes wrong for everybody”. For once neither the good guys nor the bad guys get the upper hand, more like they keep trading shots in an unlimited salvo that will have to wait until next week to see which side reigns supreme. King Gojong is basically the most ineffective ruler ever, neither able to protect his loyal subjects nor effectively counter his opponents. If it wasn’t for having smart and loyal subordinates he would pretty much be deposed by now. I applaud his desire for reform and doing the right thing, I just wish he had more cojones. Luckily Yoon Kang has enough guts and smarts to go around and this episode lets him play the hero to his heart’s content. That’s also critical since his beloved Soo In is in danger, but she more than holds her own bless her brave little heart, and also because he appears the only one who has the wherewithal to try and take down Leader Kim. I’m loving the deals and more deals that are all flying around while the dust settles. The drama keeps chugging briskly along and the implied political coup happens swiftly without the draggy episodes worth of plotting.
Poor Queen Min, who is steely enough to merit holding such a position power, is tossed to the wolves and needs to fend for herself outside of the Palace while her husband the King finds his well-intentioned plans blowing up in his face left and right. The King is also learning a lesson that he needs to take out his opponents when he can rather than hoping they don’t band together and try something bold and daring like trying to depose him. Hye Won’s turn to the dark side is fully complete despite Yoon Kang sparing her life and also learning that her beloved dad isn’t dead. Even without a fatherly vendetta Hye Won is still tossing her lot in with her dad’s way of doing things to get ahead. It’ll be fun to have another villain to thoroughly despise and dark Hye Won is going to make for a great contrast to Soo In’s rise as the strong heroine that also tastes the pains of life once she realizes that it’s her dad who is now dead. What an unexpected twist to let the two girls deal with the same pain as Yoon Kang but then ask what each would do under the same circumstances. I’m convinced Soo In will rise about the need for revenge and understand from seeing Yoon Kang’s emotional struggles that grief does not need justice to heal.
Episode 16 recap:
Hye Won uses Soo In to track down Yoon Kang and is ready to take revenge for her dad’s death at Yoon Kang’s hands. Considering it took Yoon Kang three years and countless hoops to avenge his dad, Hye Won sure moves fast. Hye Won’s gunman is no match for Yoon Kang who immediately disables him and snatches his gun. Hye Won has plan B which is to point her pistol at Soo In and take her out in order to hurt Yoon Kang where it hurts the most. He stole her most beloved person so she’ll kill his most beloved person.
Hye Won’s hands are shaking as she cocks the pistol and tells Soo In that it’s the end of the road for their friendship. Soo In calls her unni and closes her eyes to brace for the bullet to the head which never comes because sharpshooter Yoon Kang fires a shot that shoots out the pistol in Hye Won’s hands. Hye Won is resigned to her fate and tells Yoon Kang to shoot her next because she has nothing to live for. Soo In pleads with Yoon Kang not to shoot Hye Won while Hye Won screams at him to hurry up and shoot her!
Yoon Kang lowers the gun and tells Hye Won to leave, he’ll let it go this time because he knows exactly how it feels to lose a dad. But next time he won’t let it go. He asks Hye Won to remember that no one can go back now and tosses the gun aside before leaving with Soo In while Hye Won stands there crying.
Soo In is still processing how Hye Won pointed a gun to her head and the unni she knows would never have done that. Yoon Kang describes for her the emotional trauma of losing a beloved parent, using rage to fill up emptiness and longing and how it changes a person. Soo In wishes this will all end soon, for Hye Won and especially for Yoon Kang so that he will be able to live a safe ordinary life. Yoon Kang assures her the day will come soon since Leader Kim is all that remains and he promises not to resort to his gun to end things but will let the law handle it.
A recovered and awake Merchant Choi thanks Leader Kim for saving him and explains that he survived because wore the bulletproof vest as a precaution. Leader Kim needs Merchant Choi to quickly heal and to do something critical for him. He promises that afterwards all of the business rights in Joseon will belong to him. Leader Kim tells Merchant Choi to stop thinking of aligning with Minister Kim and Leader Kim will forgive him for trying to cut a side deal. Merchant Choi gets permission to contact his daughter so she doesn’t believe he’s dead.
Hye Won sits in her room brooding about what Yoon Kang said to her earlier and picks up the pistol to blow her brains out. Her dad’s right hand man arrives in time to stop her but she struggles to die since she lost her dad and has nothing else to live for.
Merchant Choi returns just in time to end her daughter’s suicidal thoughts and takes the gun away from her. He chides her for thinking of harming herself since their body is all lowly people like them have. Hye Won cries that she thought he was dead but her dad tells her to keep on living even if that happened. Her mom couldn’t even live if she wanted so Hye Won needs to keep living for the life that she was given. Hye Won apologizes before finding out from her dad what happened – he really was shot by Yoon Kang but was saved by Leader Kim.
Merchant Choi needs Hye Won to keep his existence a secret for now and she readily agrees. Hye Won asks what her dad wants to do with Yoon Kang and Merchant Choi coldly says he must be killed and this time Hye Won doesn’t disagree or try to dissuade him.
Merchant Choi pays a visit to Minister Kim and clearly has changed sides back to Leader Kim. He lies that he recovered alone in the mountains and after seeing Minister Kim then he was going to visit Leader Kim. Minister Kim tells Merchant Choi that Leader Kim is planning a coup to install a new King and needs Merchant Choi’s help. He wants Merchant Choi to go along with it, and he will as well, but they will need to be prepared for a contingency in case it fails. Merchant Choi agrees.
Yoon Kang posing as Yamamoto pays another visit to Leader Kim and uses the opportunity to scope out his residence for where the guards are stationed. He offers a mining deal with him and Leader Kim agrees to consider it. He reveals that political matters may change soon that will make their business deal easier to push though. Yoon Kang agrees to wait and contact Leader Kim after such matters are completed. He takes his leave and sees Minister Kim arriving and quickly turns his back. Minister Kim notices Yamamoto and wants to greet him but Leader Kim says it’s not someone Minister Kim has the right to meet yet. Whew. Yoon Kang and company leave without their cover blown.
Yoon Kang reports to Officer Moon that high ranking Left Minister Kim was seen at Leader Kim’s residence as well as various military officers coming in and out. Officer Moon confirms that the military officers have been in secret meetings lately and a military coup could be forthcoming. It makes sense now that the guard provisions would be diluted with sand to get the soldiers angry and agree to participate in a coup. Yoon Kang offers to sneak into Leader Kim’s residence tomorrow night as he heard all the yangbans are meeting there. Officer Moon is worried about the danger but Yoon Kang assures him he knows his way around so Officer Moon goes along to be his support on the outside.
Yoon Kang successfully sneaks into Leader Kim’s residence while Officer Moon notices all the yangbans entering the residence. Leader Kim tells the gathered yangbans that if they sign their name on the paper to participate in the coup to install a new King then their fates will forever be set together on this path. Everyone gathered signs and inks their blood on the sheet including Left Minister Kim. Yoon Kang hides behind the partition and takes this all in.
Merchant Choi arrives at the residence as the yangbans are all heading out. Leader Kim folds up the coup letter and is about to put it away safely when Yoon Kang steps out and points a gun at Leader Kim’s head to demand the letter. Leader Kim tries to make a deal but nothing flies as Yoon Kang declares that all he wants is the lives of the Sugu faction members so this letter is exactly what he came for. Booyah. Yoon Kang demands Leader Kim to stand up as his guards arrive with swords at the ready.
Leader Kim is used as a hostage as Yoon Kang makes his way out of the residence. His guards attack but are no match for Yoon Kang with superior fighting skills and a shotgun. Yoon Kang spots the arriving Merchant Choi as he’s vaulting over the wall to make his escape. He’s met outside by Officer Moon on a horse and the two make a successful getaway. Leader Kim is freaking out and orders his guards to immediately spread word for the coup to take place ASAP.
Yoon Kang delivers the coup letter to a grateful King Gojong who has enough to have all the Sugu faction officials arrested and then comes the clearing of Commander Park’s name. Both Yoon Kang and Officer Moon look relieved.
King Gojong summons court the next morning to announce to his gathered loyal ministers that he sent word to arrest all the Sugu ministers. Minister Min rushes to court to announce that the rebellion has started with disgruntled soldiers at the helm and are storming the Palace with the royal guards no match for the invading forces.
Yoon Kang is walking through the Palace and finally processes that he saw the still alive Merchant Choi last night in Leader Kim’s residence. Before he can do anything, he sees the rebelling soldiers rushing into the Palace yelling about killing Queen Min. The palace guards are overpowered and Yoon Kang watches as a soldier confronts Soo In to demand to know where Queen Min is? Soo In holds her ground and is about to get slashed when Yoon Kang fights off the soldiers and takes Soo In away safely.
Yoon Kang explains to Soo In that a coup is taking place right now and wants her to leave the Palace to safety but she refuses to leave without protecting Queen Min. Yoon Kang has no choice to go with her.
Minister Min declares that the rebels aim to kill Queen Min and all the enlightenment faction officials and even the citizens are supporting them. He assures the King that he already sent guards to protect Queen Min but King Gojong orders Queen Min to be quickly taken somewhere safe.
Soo In and Yoon Kang arrive in time to see Ho Kyung and his guards about to take Queen Min away to safety. Yoon Kang tells Ho Kyung that it’s not safe for him to escort Queen Min out because the rebels will target them. Yoon Kang tells the Queen that he’s Commander Park’s son and Soo In asks the Queen to trust them. The Queen agrees and sends Ho Kyung away.
Yoon Kang has Soo In disguised as a serving lady for the Queen and is able to evade the rebelling soldiers who are only targeting Queen Min. Yoon Kang gets the ladies away to safety with Queen Min disguised as a lowly maid. Ho Kyung passes word to Minister Jung that Soo In and Yoon Kang safely took Queen Min out of the Palace. He asks Minister Jung to be safe as well.
Minister Jung is surrounded by the rebelling soldiers who are ready to kill him for being a member of the enlightenment faction that is helping the King with the reforms. One rebels declares that someone wants Minister Jung’s life. Minister Jung knows its Leader Kim but remains uncowed. He wants the rebels to tell Leader Kim that there will always be scholars who push for the betterment of their country and support the King to protect and guide him. Even if they try to stop it, Joseon will keep moving forward. Minister Jung closes his eyes and declares that he will die for his King today. The rebels kill Minister Jung on the spot.
After Yoon Kang safely gets Queen Min out of the Palace, Soo In gets out of the palanquin and changes places with Queen Min. She thanks both Soo In and Yoon Kang for protecting her and the group sets off again.
Leader Kim pays a visit to the residence of the King’s father Daewonggun who doesn’t seem all that excited about the coup. He asks if it has to be done and Leader Kim assure him that he will spare the life of the King but will have the Queen killed to appease the angry masses. Afterwards Daewonggun can stand out to speak for the royal family before ruling again behind the scenes. Daewonggun tacitly agrees with this plan.
Leader Kim orders Merchant Choi to track down and kill Queen Min and explains to Merchant Choi that he made a deal with the Prince. Spare the King but kill the Queen which is also important to eliminate all members of the Min family from court. Leader Kim reminds Merchant Choi that after this assassination he will own all business rights in Joseon while Leader Kim runs the political show behind the scenes.
Merchant Choi gets ready to go assassinate the Queen and gets word from Hye Won that a strange palanquin was seen passing by headed for the mountains. Man, Hye Won really has gone all out if she’s gathering information for her dad to kill Queen Min. She worries that he’s placing all his eggs in the coup basket but Merchant Choi assures her that he’s cut a side deal for a contingency plan in case the coup fails. No matter which side comes out on top, he will be the ultimate victor. He wants Hye Won to contact Minister Kim while he is away and listen to his orders.
King Gojong surveys the casualties of the Palace coup and is especially pained to see the corpse of Minister Jung laying there. King Gojong sinks to his knees and cries about how things came to this.
Daewonggun arrives at the Palace with the Sugu faction behind him while the King approaches with the enlightenment faction flanking him. Daewonggun pats the King on his shoulder as he walks up to him, both father-son clearly pawns to the court powers.
Merchant Choi gets word that the rich palanquin was seen headed to the countryside where Queen Min was from originally. Merchant Choi takes his men and asks his right man man to head back to the city and tell Hye Won where he’s headed to find Queen Min.
It’s nightfall and Yoon Kang stops the procession for the night to rest as they can’t travel any further. Soo In apologizes for the Queen having to stay at a peasant residence but she doesn’t mind and is more worried about the King. She heads in to rest while Yoon Kang keeps watch outside. Merchant Choi and his men are fast catching up to them.
Soo In and Yoon Kang sit outside together and this situation reminds Soo In of when the gunman was after her and Yoon Kang years ago and they hid in the mountains. She’s scared now as she was then, but she feels comforted both times as long as Yoon Kang is with her. Yoon Kang smiles to hear that. Soo In finally gets around to asking why Yoon Kang was in the Palace and hears that he knew about the coup and was telling the King but the coup happened too fast to stop. Soo In can’t believe how powerful and scary Leader Kim is and worries about the King still in the Palace. Yoon Kang assures her the King will be fine since he’s well guarded.
Yoon Kang is more worried about Soo In since she’s now embroiled in the coup. She could have escaped the Palace with him so why did she stay to help the Queen? Soo In explains that the Queen and King are important to her because only they can give Yoon Kang back his innocence and a free life. Soo In will stake her life on the line to make that happen. Yoon Kang is so touched and pulls Soo In in for a embrace. Merchant Choi arrives at the now empty countryside hut to see the remnants of last night’s fire and knows that the group can’t be that far ahead. He continues to track them through the forest.
The journey is arduous and Yoon Kang can see Soo In’s energy is flagging and he urges her to hang in there as they are almost at the port. Suddenly shots ring out and a few of the maids are shot. Yoon Kang quickly orders Soo In to lead Queen Min away to hide in safety while he pulls out his gun and fire back at the gunmen. Merchant Choi leaves his gunmen behind to engage Yoon Kang while he runs after the escaping ladies.
Merchant Choi intercepts the ladies and orders them to leave if they want to stay alive. Soo In stands in front of Queen Min and refuses to leave so Merchant Choi raises his gun to shoot her first. Thankfully Ho Kyung arrives with his guards and Merchant Choi runs off without succeeding in the assassination of the Queen. Soo In thanks Ho Kyung for arriving in time to save them but is worried about Yoon Kang still fighting off the gunmen.
Ho Kyung runs through the forest and finds Yoon Kang as the two men point their guns until they recognize each other. Yoon Kang hears Soo In and the Queen are both safe and safely on a boat back to her family home.
Queen Min is safely back at the Min residence where her nephew now lives. She assures Soo In that she is safe here for now but wants to send a letter to the King to tell him that she is fine. Soo In offers to deliver the letter but Yoon Kang is worried that it’s too dangerous for her to go and offers to deliver the letter. He cannot let Soo In head back into danger and he was planning to head back to the capital anyways. He still has unfinished business which is to capture Leader Kim so the coup can end.
Soo In and Ho Kyung send Yoon Kang off together. Soo In asks Yoon Kang to stay safe while Yoon Kang asks Ho Kyung to protect the Queen and Soo In while he’s away. After Yoon Kang rides off is when Merchant Choi and his gunmen arrive outside of the Min residence.
Yoon Kang returns to the capital and tells Officer Han what happened. He hears that Yeon Ha is safe and also that the Prince is planning to hold a national funeral. Yoon Kang hands Queen Min’s letter to Officer Han to deliver to the Palace and tells him that the Queen is still alive.
King Gojong is furious that it’s been days and there is no confirmation of whether Queen Min is dead or alive. He refuses to hold a national funeral now and is furious that all his hard work has evaporated in one night. Officer Moon delivers Queen Min’s letter to the King and he’s relieved to hear that she’s alive and safe.
Merchant Choi’s men is staking out the Min residence and gets visual confirmation that Queen Min is alive. He also reports there aren’t a lot of men guarding the place and Merchant Choi orders them to kill her.
Minister Min suggest asking the Qing dynasty for help to quell the coup but Scholar Kim counsels against that idea because the Qing will never want to support the King’s reforms to strengthen Joseon. Minister Min believes this is the only way to secure the King’s power and bring back the Queen. Minister Kim’s spy in the Palace passes word about this to him and he tells Hye Won about it.
Minister Kim tells Hye Won that once the Qing troops arrive the coup will fail so he needs her to contact her dad to stop doing what Leader Kim ordered him to do.
Ho Kyung walks with Soo In and notes that it’s been a long time since they walked like this. Soo In thanks him for showing up in time to save them all and apologizes for being cold towards him lately. She was really stunned to learn who Ho Kyung’s dad is and felt betrayed since he always told her eveyrthing. But then she realized that Ho Kyung had to send his father into exile and also severed his relationship with his dad. She wants Ho Kyung to come back and live in the Jung residence after they return to the capital. Merchant Choi’s gunmen walk up to the Min residence and Ho Kyung points his gun at them while shielding Soo In but he’s clearly outnumbered.
Yoon Kang sneaks into Leader Kim’s residence and openly walks into his study and pulls off his mask to announce that he’s not Japanese businessman Yamamoto but is instead Commander Park’s son Park Yoon Kang. He also confirms that he stole the coup letter and the coup will fail. Leader Kim isn’t worried since the Prince is in the Palace now and no one will arrest him.
Yoon Kang points his gun at Leader Kim and plans to take justice into his own hands if the law won’t punish him. He asks only to know why Leader Kim had his dad killed and coined as a traitor? Leader Kim claims its to keep the national safe and orderly and to do so there must be sacrifice. Yoon Kang screams that it’s too keep the yangban’s order intact. Leader Kim offers to overturn Commander Park’s traitor verdict and give him back his good name if Yoon Kang spares his life. Yoon Kang cocks his gun and refuses because he’s done making deals with them.
Thoughts of Mine:
There was a bit of a let down on how the whole coup went down. Nothing wrong with jumping the gun especially when the King got wind of it, but I’m surprised at how easy it was for the rebels to storm the Palace and how few loyal guards were around to protect the King and Queen. It’s also unclear whether the King was fully deposed yet, and if not why the heck not? Why wait for confirmation that Queen Min is dead or alive before proceeding with installing a new ruler. Th fighting also felt rather underwhelming and perhaps the drama is headed towards an ending so the production is not spending more on more extras. My little gripes are nothing that would take away from my continued affection for this drama and how it has been superbly consistent. If Hye Won got a personal taste of what’s at stake going on around her, soon Soo In will also personally experience losing a beloved father and I’m already grieving for her even if she doesn’t know yet. Minister Jung was a wonderful character and his indulgent and caring love for his daughter mirrored his good friend Commander Park’s parenting style. To have those two men die too early for the sake of their King means more sacrifices that doesn’t yet have an end in sight. It’s clear that even if Yoon Kang kills Leader Kim there is Minister Kim ready to assume the evil mantle, and even after him there are plenty of corrupt and power hungry officials ready to place personal gain above all else. There future looks pretty bleak for Joseon even if Yoon Kang gets his vindication for his dad.
It works to have this drama focus on story rather than dwell on emotions, there is very little beat given for brooding and connecting as people continue to move on to the next thing to arrive. The romance also presents potential second wheels without dragging it on to intrude on what does work which is Yoon Kang and Soo In’s love and commitment to each other. I love that they make each other stronger, push each other to think outside the box, to make decisions together and respect each other’s emotional drives. Yoon Kang needs to balance keeping Soo In safe with his revenge plans while Soo In wants to help Yoon Kang even if it means getting personally in danger’s way. But short of picking up a gun she’s able to face down the barrel of a gun and stand her ground and that’s what makes her continued evolution work for the OTP. She’s also pulled Yoon Kang back from the eye-for-an-eye path while never placing her own judgment on him. I’m sad to see Hye Won actively help her dad do the dirty work for the villains since it means her hands are now getting just as dirty as Merchant Choi. What happened to her principles and wanting to show her dad that she could do it another way without harming innocents? As Yoon Kang got to the edge and is backing away from it, it’s gratifying to see him make the right choices while Merchant Choi and Hye Won continue down the path of no return. It’s going to feel so much like they earned their comeuppance when it arrives.
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