There are huge upheavals that arrive in episode 17 of Joseon Gunman and with it our two leads are tossed into further frustration and worry about the future. Some plot threads reach a much needed conclusion while new possibilities open up that could be good or bad for Yoon Kang and Soo In. I’ve liked Soo In since the moment she arrived onscreen and find her character development always understandable and nicely paced. She’s the one who gets a major shocker and finds herself in the same place Yoon Kang once stood three years ago. How does one go about mourning the death of a beloved father who left behind a big legacy and a hole in the heart missing him? I thought Minister Jung’s death would be more of a plot driver than an emotional moment but I was wrong, it was really sad to see him leave with so much left he wanted to do both for the country and for Soo In. He really was a great dad the way Commander Park wanted everything for Yoon Kang and never got around to doing it. That makes it so apropos now that we see Yoon Kang and Soo In picking up the mantle of what their dads wanted to do, to protect the people and to change their stagnant political status quo.
I was sad to see Leader Kim go because in many ways he was way more scary controlling than Minister Kim who is now the remaining ministerial baddie trying to pull strings behind the King. It was supremely disappointing to see King Gojong swallow his pride and his conscience in sparing Minister Kim and Merchant Choi for the sake of padding his power base. Even he knows that neither should be trusted and have done more than enough to warrant an immediate execution, yet he royally shafts Yoon Kang and irrevocably seals his own legacy with people who would have supported him to the end in his dream to modernize his country. This was a fantastic episode of JG as it redirects the narrative to yet another major crossroads for all the characters now that the immediately political threat is gone and Yoon Kang is no longer a fugitive. Maybe he could forgive Merchant Choi at one time but not now and I totally support him all the way in taking down the man who executed his dad. There is a time and place for noble gestures, now is the time for Soo In and Yoon Kang to summon their full inner badass and fight fire with fire.
Episode 17 recap:
Yoon Kang takes matters with Leader Kim into his own hands and points his gun at him. Leader Kim isn’t frightened but asks Yoon Kang to spare his life. He still rules Joseon right now so if Yoon Kang spares him then he will give him whatever he wants. Yoon Kang doesn’t take the deal, if the coup fails then Leader Kim dies and if the coup succeeds then Yoon Kang will kill Leader Kim himself.
Merchant Choi and his masked gunmen have arrived at the residence where Queen Min is staying and are ready to take her out. Ho Kyung points his one gun at them and is vastly outnumbered but before any shots are fired, Hye Won rides up with her men and chase the gunmen off. Merchant Choi wisely calls off his men when he sees Hye Won approaching even though he’s not sure why she’s interrupting his mission.
Hye Won is taken to see Queen Min and introduces herself as Merchant Choi’s daughter. Queen Min knows her dad works for Leader Kim but Hye Won pooh poohs that as a wrong assumption and says her dad and her are here to help Queen Min. They came to eliminate all of Leader Kim’s gunmen once and for all. Merchant Choi and his band of masked gunmen chase a bunch of peasants and execute them and use their dead bodies to pass off as killing the gunmen.
Merchant Choi and Hye Won deliver the so called dead gunmen to Queen Min’s residence. Soo In stares at Merchant Choi and clutches her skirt and takes a few steps back. Merchant Choi is all smiles and he tells her not to be afraid because he’s here now and will protect them.
Minister Kim has turned against Leader Kim and sells him out to King Gojong, claiming he was coerced to join with Leader Kim and now wants to loyally serve the King and will bring all the rest of the yangban in line.
Merchant Choi greets Ho Kyung pointedly as Minister Kim’s son and asks Hye Won to listen to Ho Kyung. Soo In calls Hye Won aside to talk and Hye Won sticks to her story that she is here to protect Queen Min. She urges Soo In to hurry home because her grieving mom needs her right now. Hye Won tells Soo In that her dad was killed by the rebels but Soo In doesn’t believe it since she saw her dad alive in the Palace. Hye Won is certain Soo In’s dad ended up dying at the hands of the rebels.
Merchant Choi takes his gunmen to storm Leader Kim’s residence to capture him to bring back to King Gogong. He finds the study empty and Yoon Kang has captured Leader Kim and taken him elsewhere. Leader Kim continues to tell Yoon Kang that all of this is pointless, even if he dies then another will rise in his place. All the servants want is one meal and they are happy like they own the world. The yangban have more incentive to keep the world as is so they will win this battle.
Yoon Kang silences Leader Kim and tells him to shove it with his lies. The yangban cling to the present because they don’t want Joseon to modernize and the people to rise up to their full potential and overtake the yangban. Sang Choo arrives to inform Yoon Kang that the Qing army has landed at the port and is heading to the capital. Yoon Kang is shocked and tells Leader Kim that his foolishness has led to this.
Kanemaru is dressed in Joseon garb and walking outside with Je Mi when they encounter all the peasants running aside as the Qing army marches to the Palace. All the Sugu faction ministers are tired up and placed before King Gojong and he asks where Leader Kim is? Yoon Kang arrives with a tied up Leader Kim in tow and announces that he is the mastermind behind this palace coup.
Merchant Choi sits and thinks about his conversation with Minister Kim who is ready to be arrested first but knows he will survive this skirmish. After this coup the King will be afraid and want to make a deal with strengthen his alliance and will likely listen to Queen Min.
Hye Won sends Queen Min back to the Palace and is complimented for being a strong Joseon woman. She hears that Soo In has left this morning with Ho Kyung to head back home since her dad died. Queen Min laments the loss of a good man.
Soo In arrives at a house swathed in mourning and walks inside in a daze. The gathered scholars greet her silently while her tearful maid rushes over to ask where she’s been and why it took her so long to come home. Soo In’s tears finally break free. A sobbing Soo In dressed in mourning attire tearfully cries in front of her dad’s memorial altar asking for her dad to come back to her.
All the Sugu ministers turn against Leader Kim and out him as the mastermind behind the coup and the one who directed everyone to frame Commander Park as a traitor. Leader Kim merely smirks as his minions all toss him under the bus. The ministers all beg for leniency but King Gojong is fed up with being weak. He announces that Leader Kim and all the Sugu ministers will be executed for instigating the coup.
King Gojong further pardons Commander Park and strips Yeon Ha of her slave status and spares Yoon Kang from being executed. Yoon Kang and Yeon Ha cry to hear their dad finally given justice. King Gojong further gives Commander Park a posthumous elevation to a general.
Leader Kim and Minister Kim are locked up together and Leader Kim cackles that they will end up dying together. Minister Kim says not so fast, he’s not dying this time.
Queen Min is asking King Gojong for leniency because Left Minister Kim and Merchant Choi saved her. King Gojong and his scholar ministers don’t want to do it since Minister Kim assisted Leader Kim in the coup. King Gojong asks what benefit will come to him if he spares Minister Kim and Merchant Choi? Queen Min points out the rest of the yangban that Minister Kim will bring in line to support the King while Minister Min explains that Merchant Choi’s business reach will all be supporting the King. King Gojong decides to work with them to strengthen the royal power. If the royal power is shaken then Joseon is over and this coup even had the peasants participating. Joseon is his country, the country that he leads, to keep is under his control he will make a deal with anyone that can help him.
Minister Kim walks out of jail free and clear and Ho Kyung greets him and hears that Queen Min spoke up on his behalf. Minister Kim laughs and tells Ho Kyung to absorb this as yet another lesson of politics.
Yoon Kang gains a private audience with King Gojong who actually apologizes to Yoon Kang for making him wait so long to clear his father’s name. Yoon Kang thanks the King for keeping his promise but King Gojong sighs that Yoon Kang did it all himself. He captured Leader Kim and even saved King Gojong’s life just like his dad did. King Gojong clears his throat and asks Yoon Kang for his understanding, for the sake of Joseon he made a very difficult decision. He summons Merchant Choi in and tells Yoon Kang that this man will be working for the King in the future and lead the merchant group in Joseon. Yoon Kang is shocked to find Merchant Choi alive and well. Merchant Choi sniggers that he came back from the dead just like Yoon Kang did once.
King Gojong knows Yoon Kang and Merchant Choi hate each other but for the sake of Joseon and being loyal vassals they must now put aside their personal vengeance and work together. He orders the two of them to not harm each other and asks for their promise. Merchant Choi answers first and agrees to listen to the King from now on. Yoon Kang refuses and says this man killed many of King Gojong’s scholars and worse yet killed Commander Park. Yoon Kang cries and asks why King Gojong is working with such a bastard.
King Gojong pleads with Yoon Kang to listen to him on this for the sake of Joseon. Yoon Kang refuses so King Gojong gives him a royal order. He wants Yoon Kang to promise on his father’s name to not harm Merchant Choi. If he refuses then he becomes a traitor and will be executed and his sister will be made a slave again. Yoon Kang stares in horror at Merchant Choi and once again refuses to make the promise. He will kill Merchant Choi and make him pay for what he did. He tells King Gojong to kill him now if he wants him to stop because from this moment on he no longer trusts in the King.
Yoon Kang takes his leave and OMG I’m crying at how much guts and spine he has to confront the King like this. King Gojong is near tears as well and Merchant Choi asks if the King is going to let him leave like this. King Gojong is certain that Yoon Kang will do as he ordered and warns Merchant Choi to never ever harm Yoon Kang. Merchant Choi slithers past Officer Moon who warns him to leave his sight before he defies a royal order and kills him on the spot. Go Officer Moon!
Officer Han follows Yoon Kang out and tries to calm him down before telling him of the tragedy at the Jung residence. Yoon Kang rushes to Soo In’s house and finds her dressed all in mourning.
Soo In sits with Yoon Kang and her voice is so sad it makes me teary. She waited so long for Yoon Kang to come hoping that he can comfort her. Yoon Kang takes her hand and Soo In cries that she’s such a bad daughter for not even knowing that he had died. Yoon Kang pulls Soo In in for a hug and tearfully wonders why she has to experience this as well. He wishes only he had to deal with the loss of a dear father. He comforts her and promises to be by her side and share in the pain and tears until she comes out of this sadness.
Scholar Kim hears that King Gojong pardoned Minister Kim and Merchant Choi and chose royal power over justice. The scholars, with Ho Kyung present, decide that the time has come. They cannot leave Joseon in the hands of someone who will choose protecting his own power over justice. They have the support of the Princess’s husband so all they need is for everyone present to agree to the revolution.
Ho Kyung joins as well and Scholar Kim assigns him the task of being the spy. Right now Left Minister Kim rules Joseon so they need Ho Kyung to pretend to be on his dad’s side while secretly being with the scholars. He will be berated as a turncoat so can he handle that?
Yoon Kang sits with Yeon Ha and notices that she’s still wearing the owl carving necklace. He wants to add wings so the owl can fly but Yeon Ha doesn’t want the owl to go anywhere since when Yoon Kang carved it for her was when she was happiest. Yoon Kang is called out by Soo In’s maid to deal with a situation at the front of the residence.
Soo In is confronting Merchant Choi who claims to be delivering mourning presents at the orders of the King. Yoon Kang drags him out forcefully and Merchant Choi laughs about how Yoon Kang is still so impetuous. He reminds Yoon Kang that he’s also enduring since he would love nothing more than to kill Yoon Kang right away. Yoon Kang doesn’t care about what the King ordered but Merchant Choi reminds him that his life would be over if he defied the King’s order. Yoon Kang walks up to Merchant Choi and tells him not worry that Yoon Kang will kill him right away. He will make him suffer greatly before he kills him.
Soo In tries to ask Yoon Kang what is going on and why Merchant Choi claimed to be here on the King’s orders. Yoon Kang assures her not to worry and just handle the funeral arrangements.
Ho Kyung arrives and asks after Soo In’s well being, if she’s eaten and has enough help. Soo In assures him that she’s fine and Yoon Kang is here with her. Ho Kyung asks Soo In to live well so that she can complete her dad’s dreams. He will also be there with her and encourages her to be strong so that she can regain her smile one day. Soo In smiles and promises him to do that. Awwww, these two are so heartwarming together.
Ho Kyung goes home and asks after his dad’s well being after going through such an ordeal. Even if they have chosen different political paths Ho Kyung still sees him as his dad. He places medicine on the table and asks him dad to drink it and get better soon. Minister Kim stops Ho Kyung from leaving and extends an olive branch for him to come home and stop being so stubborn.
Merchant Choi pays Leader Kim who laughs at the thought that King Gojong’s new helpers are Minister Kim and Merchant Choi. But Merchant Choi points out that Leader Kim is at death’s door so the King obviously picked better and then wonders how Leader Kim fells to be bitten by a wild dog on the side of the road? Leader Kim concedes it doesn’t feel good so Merchant Choi thinks it’s good then that Leader Kim will be executed so he doesn’t have to endure the rage for too long. Leader Kim spits angrily at Merchant Choi who snarls back that Leader Kim should be grateful he will be executed. If he fell in Merchant Choi’s hand, then he will be tortured until he begs for death. Merchant Choi gets in one final dig at Leader Kim, telling him that he specifically asked Minister Kim to arrange for him to be the final person executed so he can watch all the other’s get their heads cut off first.
Execution day arrives and Leader Kim kneels before the executioner with his smirk on still and not cowering or looking regretful in the least. The knife falls and Leader Kim goes to Hell or wherever crap place will take his sorry ass.
Yoon Kang sits down with Kanemaru and Sang Choo to plan another avenue of attack to take down Merchant Choi. He wants them to find where all his assets are stashed and where the other gunmen are hidden.
Soo In’s mother hands her daughter Minister Jung’s diary and tearfully explains that everything he wrote inside was about Soo In. She sits down to read the diary and smiles to see how her dad always had her in his mind. He wishes he could work at the new palace department with her or open the doors to Joseon so she can see more of the world she longs to see. He wishes he could do more as a father for his daughter.
Yeon Ha comes by all upset that King Gojong forgave the man who killed her dad and even gave him an official position in the government.
Merchant Choi and Hye Won are dining with all the powerful merchants and tells him that soon their time will arrive in Joseon where the businessmen run the show. He hands over the Kyung Gi merchant group to Hye Won to run while he heads up the new government agency managing all the merchant groups in Joseon. A supremely pissed off Soo In arrives at the gathering and Hye Won tries to pull her aside. Soo In announces to Merchant Choi not to feel so pleased since it’s just temporary. Soon he will get the just punishment he deserves, the punishment that a gunman who shoots people in the back deserves.
Hye Won angrily slaps Soo In who like a badass that she is just grabs Hye Won’s hand in midair and holds it down. Booyah! Soo In gives the same warning to Hye Won because now she’s just the same kind of person as her dad. Soo In leaves with her head held high while Hye Won stews in frustration.
Soo In tells Yoon Kang that she went to confront Merchant Choi because she can’t deal with him getting pardoned after all that he did. Yoon Kang assures Soo In that he will make sure Merchant Choi is punished and he will do it in a clever way so he doesn’t end up disobeying the King’s order. He thought it was all over when his dad’s crime was overturned and he could live happily ever after with Soo In. But now…..Yoon Kang asks Soo In to wait for him, wait just a little bit longer until he finishes what needs to be done.
Kanemaru welcomes Yamamoto, the famous Japanese businessman we’ve heard so much about. He asks where Hanjo is and sits down angrily with Yoon Kang. He asks if he’s Hanjo or Park Yoon Kang right now? Yoon Kang says he’s Park Yoon Kang and Yamamoto angrily slaps the table and says he is still Hanjo. He needs to deliver to Yamamoto what he agreed to do. Since they are businessmen they Yoon Kang needs to deliver results before he can go back to being Park Yoon Kang.
A flashback shows Yoon Kang in Japan with the real Hanjo three years ago. They are guarding a shipment of goods and Yoon Kang is shocked that Hanjo works for the Yamamoto but has never seen him before. Hanjo assures Yoon Kang that Yamamoto owns so many businesses and is the best organization to work for. If they deliver this shipment intact then maybe Yamamoto will let Yoon Kang stay and work for him directly.
Their convoy is attacked and swords go flying as Yoon Kang and Hanjo try to fend off the assailants. Hanjo is taken down by the last attacker and before he dies tells Yoon Kang to use his name and meet Yamamoto as Hasegawa Hanjo.
Kanemaru reports to Yamamoto that the convoy was attacked but one survived and protected the goods. Yoon Kang is brought in to meet Yamamoto and gives his name as Hasegawa Hanjo and asks to work for Yamamoto who agrees to take him in. After Yoon Kang leaves Yamamoto orders Kanemaru to kill Yoon Kang since he can’t be Hanjo because he speaks Japanese with a Joseon accent. Kanemaru suggests keeping Yoon Kang because he saved the goods with his life at stake and they need someone like him in their organization.
Yoon Kang walks Yamamoto out and sees Merchant Choi coming to greet him.
Scholar Kim walks with Soo In and discuss what she’s going to do going forward? Soo In wants to inherit her dad’s dream and finish what he started. She also wants to get justice for Yoon Kang but she doesn’t know how to go about doing both. Scholar Kim tells her to be patient and she will figure out a way.
Yoon Kang pays a visit to the explosives expert and hires him for a project with twice the salary. Yoon Kang meets with the other businessmen interested in developing the old mine and they agree to work with them. But after they leave the explosives expert looks very worried and explains that he really doesn’t want to go back to the gold mine because it’s hell. He explains that the work was backbreaking so Merchant Choi bought slaves to do the work and beat and starved them. Yoon Kang looks shocked and the explosives expert explains that Merchant Choi did it back when he was working with Yoon Kang.
Merchant Choi sits with Yamamoto and offers to excavate the gold mine together and all he needs is to find an explosives expert. Yamamoto smiles and agrees to work together.
Yoon Kang is dressed as the masked gunman and arrives at the gold mine in the dark of the night and finds the slaves begging the overseers for food as they are starving. The overseer refuses to feed them more since the mine is not being excavated right now. The slave leader refuses to beg down and would rather die than be starved to death. The overseer draws his sword and Yoon Kang fires a shot to take him out.
Yoon Kang fires another shot in the air to warn the slaves not to harm the overseers who are just doing what they are told. He orders them to just leave and the slaves scurry away. Yoon Kang sees a little child who refuses to leave because his dad is buried here and he can’t leave him here. Yoon Kang walks up to the child and urges him to leave and put his dad in his heart because that is what he did as well. The child cries and thanks Yoon Kang before leaving.
Merchant Choi arrives at the gold mine the next morning to find all the workers are missing. He assures Yamamoto and Kanemaru that he will get more workers soon to start work. Yoon Kang arrives and says there is no need, he has all the workers and experts ready to excavate another mine nearby immediately. Yamamoto likes Yoon Kang’s proposal and tells Merchant Choi that they can work on another business deal other.
Yamamoto leaves with Yoon Kang’s group while Merchant Choi seethes. Yoon Kang tells Merchant Choi to keep watching because it’s going to get more interesting going forward and he can keep getting angrier because he can’t just kill Yoon Kang.
Thoughts of Mine:
This was a great resolution/set up double whammy type of episode that reinvigorates a drama for the final stretch of its run. Even better is that JG can sustain another arc and needs it with the 2-episode extension. I have all sorts of feeling over what happened even if nothing was surprising. This drama works less at being surprised but more that everything feels so gratifying when it happens. I loved how Yoon Kang dealt with Leader Kim, his wait and see threat that no matter what happens Leader Kim is at the end of his reign. Either by the law or by his hand, Yoon Kang is done being the good guy and doing things all aboveboard. The fast coming and even faster ending coup ended with the arrival of the Qing overlords and the ouster of the godfather that was Leader Kim. It was time he got his comeuppance but I appreciated seeing him leave angry but not cowed, frustrated but not frightened. That’s the sign of a true villain, someone who is willing to bet his life on power and faces the rise and fall of the fickle fates rather than begging for last straws. I know Minister Kim is supposed to be smart as well in how he maneuvered his way out of the coup group but Leader Kim had this sinister charisma that makes him the more formidable and sinister enemy. I feel like Minister Kim will end up getting hoisted by Ho Kyung and end his short reign with a whimper rather than a bang.
Soo In is still all sorts of awesome and I feel like she’s our stand-in watching the JG world unfold. She is sheltered no longer and when the shit hits the fan she rises to the occasion in both heart and action. I’m sad she lost her dad like Yoon Kang did and her grief was just as powerful in reminding us of how much Yoon Kang hurt three years ago to see Commander Park die. Sometimes we forget that there was a very profound loss which motivates Yoon Kang’s revenge and it isn’t always about some ephemeral justice. Yoon Kang hurts, there is a hole in his heart from losing his dad to such a villainous reason, so his anger is so raw especially now when he sees that he’s still being outwitted and outmatched by Merchant Choi. I love how the King gave Commander Park back his good name and pardoned Yoon Kang and Yeon Ha in this episode, this allows Yoon Kang to stop running and fight Merchant Choi openly and head on. That gives their battle a fresh angle and the end result could be that Yoon Kang destroys Merchant Choi’s livelihood without having to pull the trigger and kill him. Soo In now has an additional motivation to help Yoon Kang and I can’t wait to see them spitting fire to take down Merchant Choi and Hye Won. Soo In’s bitch face in confronting Hye Won was awesome, I need more of that because it’s not just Hye Won who can be strong after her pity party about her sad lot in life.
It was nice to finally meet the elusive Yamamoto and wonder how his arrival will shake up the party. Same goes with the reform scholars disillusionment with King Gojong and wanting to take matters into their own hands. Ho Kyung’s character finally gets more to do now that he’s being a spy for the scholars and stepping into dangerous emotional territory in actively working with his father to bring down the very framework that sustain’s his father’s power. The romance has been placed far inside the back burner but with the OTP fully connected emotionally there isn’t a lot that is necessary to sell the love for me anymore. I do want more sweet romantic moments because the two of them spending time together always makes me happy. Too bad crap continues to swarm towards them so they barely have a moment’s reprieve before the next wave hits. At least now they both know who is on their side, who can be trusted, and how to ultimately take matters into their own hands if they want to create the peaceful happy life beyond all the revenge and danger.
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