There is a time and place for everything and I ought to be patient but I am chafing for Park Yoon Kang to immediately lay the hellfire smackdown on all the baddies in Joseon Gunman. More and more characters are turning to the dark side and all of it feels like nails on chalkboard painful. I’m not surprised but darn it can my hottie gunman get a break now and then? It feels like the drama is playing a game of whack-a-mole and when one issue is solved three more pop up and when Yoon Kang takes a step forward he then has to take a side step back. Is it the result of the extension that gives the story more room to tack on conflict without building to a bigger resolution moment yet? Yamamoto shows up and promptly turns bad at which point I’m just like “that’s it?” since his character was given this powerful mythology only to show up and feel like a whimper. The story is still doing well with paralleling Yoon Kang and Merchant Choi’s drive and passion for their own goals and how it is completely at odds with each other each step of the way.
I still wish Hye Won didn’t turn bad that quickly and completely when she had principles and seem to have zilch now. I can believe her tacit support her father but all this active participation only makes me hate her without leaving room for the pity that used to exist. She’s probably elevated to major baddie so that Soo In’s rise to participatory heroine has a foe to take down. I still don’t quite know what the enlightenment scholars want to do in their new plan, and with all the seemingly good guys turning selfish and self-serving at the blink of an eye, I don’t even know if I ought to support them over the weak and hypocritical King and Queen. This drama is starting to make me slightly depressed feeling like no true justice will come for Yoon Kang, or at least he won’t be able to wake away like he won in the end even if he defeats his enemies. With that said, can I please have more OTP skinship and romantic moments in the meantime so that at least I can walk away feeling satisfied these two wonderful characters made their most of their time together.
Episode 18 recap:
Merchant Choi’s plan to have Yamamoto partner with him directly on the gold mine excavation is scuttled when all his slave workers run off, which we know was due to masked gunman Yoon Kang liberating them the night before. Yoon Kang arrives the next morning to offer Yamamoto an alternative which is to partner with another merchant group to excavate a different gold mine. Yoon Kang offers this as compensation for the losses he incurred earlier for Yamamoto.
Yamamoto is pleased with this new offer and heads off with the other merchant group. Merchant Choi is shooting daggers at Yoon Kang who faces him right back and announces that Merchant Choi’s gold mine plan is no more and he must be so mad he wants to kill Yoon Kang right now. Too bad he can’t so he needs to wait to see what other more exciting things Yoon Kang has planned.
Sang Choo is super excited as he heads back with Yoon Kang, crowing over how pissed off they made Merchant Choi back there. Yoon Kang’s just getting started and he confirms Sang Choo has placed the order for the silk and cow hides.
Merchant Choi storms into his study and upends furniture while screaming that he’s going to kill Park Yoon Kang immediately for ruining his plan. Hye Won urges her dad to be patient and not ruin their hard work in getting the trust of the royals. She discounts her dad’s assertion that she’s speaking up for Yoon Kang but Merchant Choi can’t believe he got so close to working with Yamamoto and now it’s over. He even knelt down to Hanjo that bastard for a chance to meet Yamamoto. Hye Won understands how much her dad wanted to work with Yamamoto but continues to counsel him to keep his cool.
Merchant Choi is about to calm down when he gets further bad news that their order of silk and cow hide just got bought by the other merchant group. Merchant Choi flips out even more and screams that he’s going to kill Park Yoon Kang!
Merchant Choi barges in to confront Yoon Kang about the shit he pulled and points a gun at him despite Hye Won desperately begging her dad to put the gun down. Yoon Kang isn’t scared since Merchant Choi will lose everything if he shoots now, lose everything he worked so hard to build up. Yoon Kang orders Merchant Choi to shoot, he wants to see how Merchant Choi’s one gunshot now will take away everything he built using that same gun.
Merchant Choi angrily tosses aside his gun and Yoon Kang leaves him with one final smirking reminder that he will continue to torment Merchant Choi until he loses everything. Oh yeah bring it on!
Ho Kyung has moved back home to the delight of his dad to finally have things back in its rightful place. Merchant Choi storms in demanding an immediate audience with Minister Kim. Ho Kyung is told to step aside and Merchant Choi informs Minister Kim that Park Yoon Kang is ruining his business opportunities right now. He needs Minister Kim to push forward with the King the establishment of the new trade department which Merchant Choi will run, then he will be able to prevent Yoon Kang from doing business in Joseon.
In court the next morning, Minister Kim puts forth the proposal to form an overseas trade department but Scholar Kim speaks up strongly against it because it will further strengthen and give a monopoly with outside trade. King Gojong halts the bickering and agrees to consider the proposal.
Scholar Kim meets with the enlightenment scholars about this new proposal and the news is disheartening to the scholars because it feels like King Gojong is no longer interested in reform and is moving further away from their ideals that he once supported. They can’t let Joseon stagnate when Japan and the West is modernizing rapidly. One scholar asks if they have a new information source from within the Palace and Scholar Kim assures them he has someone very trustworthy on the inside.
Scholar Kim solicits Soo In’s help and asks that she join with the enlightenment scholars in pushing Joseon forward into a world of equality and modernity. He wants her to pick up the mantle of her dad’s dreams and assigns her a task that only she can do since she’s a woman. He needs her status as a court lady to be their eyes and ears on information within the Palace. Soo In was planning to stop being a court lady but Scholar Kim asks her to reconsider.
Soo In shares this development with Yoon Kang as well as the concern the scholars are planning something big. Yoon Kang is glad she didn’t immediate accept because he doesn’t want her involved in anything potentially dangerous. Soo In asks if he’s going to develop the other gold mine with Yamamoto and is worried when Yoon Kang says he’s willing to do anything to destroy Merchant Choi. Yoon Kang assures her that he won’t do anything dangerous to worry her plus Merchant Choi is more scared of losing wealth than a gun so Yoon Kang’s life is safe for now. Soo In is still worried that if Yoon Kang continues he’ll be in danger no matter what but Yoon Kang is dead set on ending this no matter what.
Soo In broods over the latest worries, wanting to help carry out her dad’s dreams of a new future but so scared when watching Yoon Kang busy with what he needs to do which is dangerous. Why can’t they live an ordinary life, just living happily together and sharing meals and having kids that look like them. A life that is filled with simple smiles and tears. Can’t they just have that?
Merchant Choi and Hey Won head to meet Yamamoto and Minister Kim who brings along Ho Kyung to translate for them. Minister Kim meets the real Yamamoto and remembers seeing the fake Yoon Kang as Yamamoto once at Leader Kim’s residence. Yamamoto wants to confirm from Minister Kim if its true that a new overseas trade department will be established with Merchant Choi as the head representative? Minister Kim confirms it and encourages Yamamoto to work with Merchant Choi since he will be running all business in Joseon going forward.
Merchant Choi thanks Minister Kim later for this meeting but Minister Kim isn’t pleased to have to attend such meetings for him. Merchant Choi assures Minister Kim that he will also reap the rewards of this new business venture. Hye Won hears that Ho Kyung has moved back home and wonders if Soo In knows yet? She isn’t judging him and merely understands how it feels when love and the difficulties of life butt up against each other.
Ho Kyung reports this development to Scholar Kim, with the new trade dollars controlled by Merchant Choi being funneled to the government for use in later buying the support of government officials. Scholar Kim thanks Ho Kyung for being his spy and knows how hard it is since Minister Kim is Ho Kyung’s dad.
Ho Kyung runs into Yoon Kang outside Scholar Kim’s residence and is surprised that Yoon Kang knows Scholar Kim who saved his life and took him to Japan.
Yoon Kang asks Scholar Kim to assign tasks for him to do and he’s willing to help since he owes his life to Scholar Kim. But he doesn’t want Scholar Kim to put Soo In in danger and asks that he not seek her involvement in anything. Yoon Kang shares that Soo In is more important to him than his own life and after this is over he wants to live peacefully with her forever. So he doesn’t want Scholar Kim to incite Soo In with revolution or promises of a better future. Scholar Kim claims he is merely offering Soo In a choice of picking up her dad’s calling.
Yoon Kang threatens to never see Scholar Kim again if anything were to happen to Soo In even if Scholar Kim once saved his life. Scholar Kim is disappointed that Yoon Kang is willing to sever their ties over a woman. Yoon Kang apologizes since that is not his intention and Scholar Kim laughs and says he’s joking. He will however remember Yoon Kang’s offer to help him.
Ho Kyung returns to Minister Kim’s residence late into the night but his dad is still awake and calls him inside to talk. Minister Kim is planning to tell King Gojong who Ho Kyung is and then have him elevated to commander of the left army division. Ho Kyung isn’t ready to assume such a high ranking position but Minister Kim says he deserves it since he’s the son of the nation’s Left Minister.
Merchant Choi and Hye Won waits for all the grain suppliers to arrive for their business talk but no one shows up because another group offered them a better deal with longer payment terms. Merchant Choi overturns the table in fury again. The suppliers leave Yoon Kang’s meeting and Sang Choo asks if he really offered them double. Yoon Kang says no, he offered them the same but is taking a smaller cut and that is how he’s going to deal differently than Merchant Choi.
Merchant Choi and Hye Won enter the Palace to meet with Queen Min who is grateful to them for helping her during the coup. She asks them to further support the Min family and offers her help if they need anything. Merchant Choi thanks the Queen and then asks her to convince King Gojong to quickly approve the formation of the trade department. It’s also good for the nation since the merchants will all be paying taxes that will flow to the government coffers. She agrees and Merchant Choi offers her a gratitude gift consisting of many accessories. Queen Min is pleased and thanks Hye Won when hearing that she selected all the pieces.
Soo In is announced and enters the Queen’s chambers and contains her shock to see Merchant Choi and Hye Won there. Queen Min hears from Hye Won that she and Soo In are best friends and she’s very pleased the ladies are friends. Merchant Choi announces that Soo In is like his other daughter and that makes Queen Min even happier to have all three assisting her. Soo In says nothing and clutches her skirt in controlled rage.
After walking out, Hye Won hears that Soo In comes in and out of the Palace to chat with the Queen. Soo In snarks about what nefarious plans Hye Won and her dad are trying to pull now and is warned to watch what she says lest Soo In and Yoon Kang find themselves in danger again. Soo In is uncowed and judging by Hye Won’s nervousness wonders if she’s worried because her dad is the gunman or that Hye Won tried to kill Soo In before. Soo In tells Hye Won to wait because one day the truth will come out about all their misdeeds and Hye Won’s dad will pay for all the crimes he committed. Soo In walks off with her head held high.
Soo In shares with Yoon Kang that Queen Min summoned Hye Won and her dad into the Palace and is on good terms with them. Yoon Kang already knows because Queen Min thinks they saved her during the coup. Soo In asks if the Queen doesn’t know Merchant Choi was the gunman who killed Commander Park and all those scholars? Yoon Kang tells her that the King and Queen both know but chose to overlook it now for their own gain, which makes it even more upsetting that their dads died to serve people like that. Tell me about it!
Suppliers are delivering grain to Yoon Kang’s warehouse and promises more tomorrow. Hye Won arrives and asks if he’s planning to keep taking away their sources one by one. Hye Won smirks and announces that the new trade department has been formed today and from now on without the department’s permission there can be no trade in Joseon. A bunch of officials arrive and call off the deal with Merchant Choi walking up and looking very pleased.
Sang Choo grouses to Yoon Kang that there is nothing they can do because it’s the law now. They hear a noise from the kitchen and Yoon Kang runs outside to find a little boy stealing a bowl of rice from the kitchen. He recognizes the boy as the little slave he freed from the gold mine. The boy runs off before Yoon Kang can tell him it’s okay. The little boy is run over by a horse outside the residence but Yoon Kang sees that he’s still alive and takes him back.
The doctor announces that the boy has severe internal injuries and Yoon Kang asks the doctor to do his best to save the boy. Afterwards Yoon Kang hears that Merchant Choi has tightened all grain sales so the price has skyrocketed and now even ordinary citizens don’t have enough food to eat much less a runaway slave. That’s why the entire capital is awash with food thieves but people are starving so there is nothing to be done about it.Yoon Kang has Sang Choo and Je Mi hand out rice and when they run out of suppliers the remaining citizens get on their knees to beg for even the few grains left.
Yamamoto thanks Merchant Choi for so quickly gathering up a store house of grain reserves that will be shipped to Japan. Yoon Kang arrives at the meeting and chastises Yamamoto for betraying the business ethics of his Osaka forebearers. Yamamoto isn’t cowed and says he’s now a Kyoto businessman and the bottom line is making a profit. He tells Yoon Kang that he is now back to being a Joseon person so has no place to speak with him about this.
Yoon Kang tells Scholar Kim about the suffering of the people so the grain can be sold to Japan for a profit.
Scholar Kim brings up the situation to King Gojong while Minister Kim claims this is merely international trade that benefits the country. King Gojong asks for an investigation and doesn’t look happy about this development.
As Scholar Kim leaves the Palace, he runs into Soo In and pulls her aside to ask her for answer to his offer. Soo In declines and Scholar Kim doesn’t push her further. Scholar Kim asks her to forget she ever heard the offer and to be careful, though he tells her to contact him if she ever changes her mind.
Soo In then sees Ho Kyung walking with his dad Minister Kim who walks over and asks why Soo In is in the Palace? She explains that she is here to see Queen Min and Minister Kim rudely walks off. Soo In asks if Ho Hyung really went back to his dad in the end? Didn’t he say he could continue her dad’s dreams? Ho Kyung tries to explain it’s not what she thinks and asks that she believe in him. He can’t explain now but what he said before was his real heart. Soo In refuses to listen to him explain but she does understand if it is impossible for him to cut his family ties. She asks that they not see each other again and walks off.
Sang Choo spreads the rumor that a warehouse by the port is giving away free grain so people ought to go check it out. Masked gunman Yoon Kang arrives that night and chases away the warehouse guards before breaking the lock and throwing open the doors. The citizens who arrive due to the rumor rush inside and grab the grain. Yoon Kang’s masked figure is spotted on the rooftops and the citizens see him.
Merchant Choi and Hye Won are given the bad news that their grain store in the warehouse has been stripped clean by the citizens after a gunman showed up. Yoon Kang then attacks a grain ship leaving for Japan and orders the ship to turn back to port where the citizens cart the grain back home.
Yamamoto is informed that a full moon gunman attacked their ship and the citizens took the grain back. Kanemaru privately chastises Yoon Kang for thwarting Yamamoto’s grain shipment since it’s already been purchased lawfully. Yoon Kang retorts that the money isn’t even enough to pay for the blood spilled by the Joseon citizens. Kanemaru concedes he’s not personally upset with Yoon Kang and in fact admires and likes him so much for being so decisive. Yoon Kang snarks back but Kanemaru is serious, to someone like him who only knows how to take orders he finds Yoon Kang very admirable. He warns Yoon Kang to be careful since Yamamoto will not let him off the hook if he found out what Yoon Kang did.
Soo In is brooding over Ho Kyung’s seeming defection back to his dad’s side when her maid rushes inside to share with her the story about the full moon gunman who attacked the grain warehouse and shipments to release the grain back to the needy Joseon citizens. Her maid asks if Soo In knows who the gunman is?
Soo In pays a visit to Yoon Kang and they walk through the marketplace and hear the citizens listening raptly to the storyteller recount the heroics of the full moon gunman. Soo In knows Yoon Kang did it and asks if it’s because of revenge? Yoon Kang admits it was initially motivated by revenge but later it’s because he felt bad for the suffering citizens. His heart feels different when he sees the citizens happy now. Before his heart felt empty when he pulled the trigger for revenge but now his heart feels filled up.
Yoon Kang comes back to find Yamamoto waiting for him inside and Kanemaru warning him privately to deny to the end if Yamamoto asks about the gunman. Yamamoto asks Yoon Kang if there is a way to catch the gunman with a reward and Yoon Kang explains that no Joseon citizen will help in the gunman’s capture since he helps the needy. Later on Yamamoto walks with Merchant Choi who asks what he’s going to do about the gunman? Yamamoto says it will be over soon and then heads inside to have a drink. Kanemaru notices a few of Yamamoto’s men are not present and rushes off.
Soo In sits with Yoon Kang late and still hasn’t gone home because she was worried about him. As she gets up to leave a gun is suddenly pointed at her. Two of Yamamoto’s men enter with guns pointed at them and one demands Yoon Kang’s pistol. Yoon Kang hands over the pistol and wants them to let Soo In go but they are both ordered outside.
Sang Choo and Je Mi are already tied up and Soo In is shoved to the ground beside them. Yoon Kang is being walked out by the three men when Kanemaru arrives and shoots one guy while Yoon Kang fights off the other two and takes them out with successive gunshots.
Soo In rushes over to make sure Yoon Kang is fine while Kanemaru unties Sang Choo and Je Mi. He warns Yoon Kang that this is just the beginning and Yoon Kang thanks Kanemaru for helping him. He’s surprised Kanemaru would betray Yamamoto but Kanemaru says it was Yamamoto who betrayed first. A flashback shows us how masked assailants attacked Yamamoto and Kanemaru and it was Yoon Kang who arrived and saved their lives.
Yoon Kang wonders where Kanemaru will go after this since he can’t go back to Japan anymore. Yoon Kang pats him on the shoulder which is when Kanemaru sees a fourth gunman arrive to shoot Yoon Kang. Kanemaru darts in front of Yoon Kang and takes a bullet to the back for him.
Yoon Kang begs Kanemaru to hang in there but Kanemaru isn’t sad since he’s just going to see his dead parents and hopes to see Yoon Kang someday again. Kanemaru dies and Yoon Kang cries in grief.
Yamamoto is lamenting about Hanjo and how he was really such a useful guy to have on his side. Merchant Choi assures him that he made the right decision since Yoon Kang was thwarting his plans. Hye Won rushes inside to inform the shocked men that Park Yoon Kang is outside.
Yamamoto and Merchant rush outside and find Yoon Kang has brought back the bodies of Yamamoto’s dead subordinates. Yoon Kang orders Yamamoto to go back to Japan and then snarls that if Merchant Choi wants to kill him then he still needs to do it himself and stake everything on it. If looks could then then both Yamamoto and Merchant Choi would be incinerated by Yoon Kang’s reignited vengeance.
Thoughts of Mine:
This episode leaves me wondering if Yoon Kang should just take the most important victory in hand, namely the royal pardon for him and Yeon Ha and the restoration of his dad’s good name, and get the hell out of dodge. I don’t think he lost since he regained a future for himself and Yeon Ha. Sure the criminals like Minister Kim and Merchant Choi aren’t being punishing, a situation even more galling when even the King knows it and still lets them get away with it for his own greater good. Why can’t Yoon Kang just marry Soo In and they can move to Japan and be merchants together and take Yeon Ha with them. I know this sounds like a running away situation but Yoon Kang staying around to punish the villain and help rid Joseon of baddies feels so pointless when even the ruler is a weak coward that will never do the right thing when push comes to shove. I’m not even all that trusting of Scholar Kim or his enlightenment faction either, not to mention Yamamoto turns out to be a self-serving immoral baddie in the blink of an eye. Sure there are good folks around, though one less one now that sweet stalwart Kanemaru goes to the great happy place in the sky to join his dead parents, but our Yoon Kang has suffered and given so much already can’t he just stop taking one for the team and walk away now when he still can? When Soo In was lamenting why she can’t just live a simple happy life with Yoon Kang, I’m just getting all sorts of pessimistic premonitions that it’s going to end up being a rocks fall down ending if Yoon Kang does all the way to take down Merchant Choi.
It was supremely satisfying to watch Yoon Kang’s little victories in this episode, the way Merchant Choi was driven mad like a thwarted rabid dog and even Hye Won was turning on her eye bulging bitch mode. Too bad it really was just little victories without a bigger decisive win at the end, not to mention Yoon Kang ended up sacrificing Kanemaru in this particular skirmish. I hope Yamamoto runs back to Japan with his tail between his legs, a real coward with no loyalty or any business ethics. Watching King Gojong keep making bad decisions while Queen Min’s eyes sparkled at the bribe from Merchant Choi and Hye Won made me actually wish the coup had succeeded and both of them were taken out. Maybe Daewonggun would have been better off ruling the country along with Leader Kim for the time being rather than selling it out to the Qing in might and the Japanese for profit. Soo In and Yoon Kang need to stop planning their next moves and remember to make time to get in some romantic downtime, it’s frustrating seeing them always together and talking but keeping a respectful distance with each other. I know this is Joseon era and all but Soo In is a modern woman and her loverboy is the hottest gunman around – grab the boy and make the first move for once girlfriend! Then I’ll have more patience to sit back and watch the battle of wits and guns unfold to the very end where I’m still not certain what type of final ending awaits all the major characters.
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