Writer: Rika Setiati
Editor : Val Kaye Taozen and Tabby
Photo credit: SBS
Summary of thought
Tears. Grief. Emptiness. Denial. Pain. Anger. A tragic climax point for Dae-Gil. His father's death leads Dae-Gil to go through catastrophe and anagnorisis (the startling discovery that produces a change from ignorance to knowledge): a phase of recognition about his feelings, his father’s killer, and his suffering afterwards. In other words, episode 5 presents the destruction of Dae-Gil’s existing self, before he changes from a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly—or, maybe it’s more suitable to say, into a beautiful tiger. To be what he will become, this Dae-Gil character must meet the sadist, Yi In-Jwa, who tortures him to the limit. Even so, seeing his slight smile before he falls from the cliff, hearing his own conviction that indeed he would return alive, I wonder what is actually the limit for Dae-Gil.
Recaps and thought/comment
While Dae-Gil was crying and denying his father’s death, Dam-Seo demanded that Yi In-Jwa explain why Baek Man-Geum had to be killed. Angrily, she expressed her feelings toward Yi In-Jwa as man who takes the blood of citizens and gains profit. Even so, instead of putting her sword to Yi In-Jwa’s throat, she puts it at her own neck.
Reversing the blade position, Dam-Seo continues asking for the reason. Yi In-Jwa grabs hold of the sword blade, causing his hand to bleed, but ignores her question. He tells her Dae-Gil is the king’s son and, therefore, is an important hidden card to use against the King and Prince Yeoning. Dam-Seo refuses to accept his reasoning. In-Jwa responds by saying Dam-Seo is a naive person, unable to see how Baek Man-Geum’s death will change the immature Dae-Gil. He tells her, “Nothing makes someone stronger than suffering.” He adds that Dam-Seo’s weak heart will hurt them in their Great Cause. Dam-Seo is not convinced. She again questions why Man-Geum’s death is ‘a just cause,’ as if a man's death was nothing. In-Jwa replies, “Dam-Seo, you are my daughter. You are my life. And you are my every thing. That is my cause. Those are my convictions.”
I sense his sincerity. He loves Dam-Seo as his daughter, the daughter of a man he killed years ago. The problem is that the way he loves a person (almost) always makes his own hand bloody and the other person die.
Later, Dae-Gil vents his anger in the river. He hits the water over and over again, crying out for his father’s return. Having exhausted his raw emotions on the water, he wakes up the next morning, lying beside the river. Back at home, his wound still open and his grief raw, he picks up a scythe, ignoring his Grandpa’s efforts to hold him back from seeking revenge. At the gambling house, he puts the scythe to Hong-Mae’s neck, demanding she take him to his father’s killer. As a man with remarkable intelligence, In-Jwa has already predicted Dae-Gil’s arrival.
Dae-Gil expresses surprise that the man who tossed the coin to him at the gambling house is the one who killed his father. But instead of answering Dae-Gil’s question as to why he killed his father, In-Jwa challenges Dae-Gil to return when he has become a great tiger. Listening, Dae-Gil grows even angrier. Dam-Seo, the girl he felt in love with at the first sight, throws her sword on the ground in front of Dae-Gil, challenging him. He accepts the challenge but ends up in the dirt, unable to touch even the hem of her skirt. In this moment, Dae-Gil’s earlier feelings for Dam-Seo no longer seem important. All his feelings for his father and his desire to take revenge eliminate any the other feelings he had.
Although I was quite upset with Hong-Mae’s impulsive act, I was quite happy with the presence of Yeoning. After watching Dae-Gil forcibly take Hong-Mae away, he arrives on the scene as Hong-Mae repeatedly beats Dae-Gil. Still not knowing their familial connection, he decides to save Dae-Gil’s life.
I was more fascinated with the fierce conversation between Yeoning and In-Jwa. Both of these men show their claws. Yeoning expresses his interest in knowing more about Dam-Seo, to see through to Yi In-Jwa real motive. He states that with Dam-Seo’s remarkable abilities, she could easily enter the palace. Moreover, he already knows the tragedy surrounding In-Jwa’s family. He says it’s not surprising if In-Jwa holds a grudge against the king. In-Jwa politely denies it, nevertheless, through their eyes, they read each others real thoughts and show each other their power.
I enjoyed watching this scene. Since the first episode, I thought it was only In-Jwa who had excellent intelligence. I almost thought he was too superior a villain. But then, discovering Prince Yeoning knows about In-Jwa, I found In-Jwa alone was not outstanding character. I got the insight that this is how the drama shows a smart character.
Prince Yeoning seems able to predict Yi In-Jwa’s next step too. When Prince Yeonging asks the King for the Inspection Document, the King questions him about the reason why he wants the document in order to determine his second son’s motive. The King uses a metaphor of baby tiger that lost his mother. The metaphor causes Prince Yeoning to apologize and think about his father’s warning. Instead closing the conversation, however, the King gives both sons a test by re-telling the story of the beast with 100 eyes and 1000 ears that regulates rain.
“Everyone found the beast is strange. Instead of being thankful for the rain, people always feared it. There were people who threw rocks at it. There were people who poked at it with iron skewer too. So the beast could no longer endure it. On the rainy day, it come out of the well and swallowed them up in one bite. Killing the beast meant the skies would dry up. To let the beast live, they feared future troubles. What should they have done with this beast?”
The Crown Prince answers that the beast is actually good, so he would calm it and send it far to the sea. The King glares at him.
Prince Yeoning answers differently. He understands his father’s story: the beast is the King himself. Therefore, he dares not speak about what he would do with this beast. Prince Yeoning’s response wins approval from the King who makes him an Inspector General.
This conversation between the father tiger and his babies—I mean King and the Princes—is really interesting. I was amazed by the way this drama portrays King Sukjong as a father. I love that he carefully tests his sons’ competency through this beast story—the same story that Yi In-Jwa also did not know in previous episode.
On learning of her son’s appointment, Choi Suk-Bin scolds Prince Yeoning. Again, the prince openly expresses his feeling. He says he will find his path by himself because he has already grown up, making his mother speechless. I don’t know if this is related to her anxious feelings to understand her son or not, but Choi Suk-Bin asks the palace healer about the unknown patient her son brought to the palace. Dae-Gil hides when he hears Choi Suk-Bin voice and only sees her back through the door after she leaves. Fate seems to have not intended for them to meet yet.
After Dae-Gil leaves the palace, he and Grandpa go to his father’s grave where he cries once more. His eyes, his tears, his voice saying, “Dad, I’m here. Your son, Gae Ddong,” all made me cry too. After he calms down, he pours rice wine and drinks to his father.
“Dad, do you remember? When you, Grandpa, and I traveled the eight cities with the rooster. It was so much fun back then. Don’t you think so, Dad?” Silence follows.
Oh, I was crying more here. The way Jang Keun-Suk made a gesture of emptiness, as well as his feelings in the silent moment of missing his father, really tore me apart. A painful silence.
Realizing his sorrow, until he feels he could no longer breath properly, Dae-Gil asks for permission from his Grandpa to take revenge on In-Jwa. He does not care if he dies. Taking a bow and a number of arrows, he runs, full of anger, to Yi In-Jwa's house. Telling Dam-Seo and his guard to step aside, Yi In-Jwa openly invites Dae-Gil to shoot him. Although he trembles with anger, Dae-Gil takes a shot. The first shot fails. The second arrow barely scratches In-Jwa’s cheek. Shaking with fatigue and anger, Dae-Gil prepares a third arrow only to have In-Jwa offer him a bet. Dae-Gil angrily ignores him and tries again.
They argue but the weakened Dae-Gil is no match for In-Jwa. His own anger rising with each sentence, Yi In-Jwa hits, throws and stabs Dae-Gil, breaking his wrist and ankle. Dae-Gil can barely crawl. With his mouth in the dirt and his body broken, Dae-Gil laughingly challenges In-Jwa once again to kill him. He remains persistent, claiming that nothing between them will end including his suffering, until either In-Jwa’s death or his own. In-Jwa accepts the challenge.
Overlooking a steep cliff, Dae-Gil is tied to a tree. In-Jwa looses an arrow, saying he wants to test Dae-Gil’s fortune again. And yes, fortune is with him: the nyang coin saved his breath. In-Jwa, Dam-Seo, and the guard are all surprised. Laughing, In-Jwa says he saved Dae-Gil life. Flashing back, he remembers the coin is very one he threw back Dae-Gil at the gambling house. Well, he was wrong. It was the nyang that Baek Man-Geum gave to Dae-Gil. His father saved him. Not you, Yi In-Jwa.
In-Jwa is about to leave when Dae-Gil challenges him again. However, this time, as opposed to the events earlier, Dae-Gil asks In-Jwa to make a bet on his life. Dae-Gil says if he lives after falling off the cliff, In-Jwa must stand at his father’s grave and apologize. In-Jwa accepts but increases the challenge. “I would stab you once more. Do you still want to do it?” The additional condition frightens Dam-Seo. She attempts to stop Dae-Gil and begs him to ask for forgiveness so he’ll remain alive. But Dae-Gil refuses, telling Dam-Seo he will come back alive.
Both step closer to the cliff, staring boldly at each other. In-Jwa thrusts his knife into Dae-Gil and repeats, “Come back when you’re a tiger.” Slowly Dae-Gil, wearing a slight, confident smile, falls backwards off the cliff.
This scene, I think, is the peak or climax of this episode, especially for Dae-Gil. The first moment of the all-in gambling phase presents itself here, betting on Dae-Gil's life again. The difference between when he was baby and this time is that it is Dae-Gil himself who makes the choice. It shows how persistent Dae-Gil is as a character even though he lost the most important person in his life. When his persistence is shown like this, I wonder if it is really fortune that saves him? Or is it his own character, his physical strength after living hard life, and his courage? And about that smile on his face as he fell from the cliff, I feel I’m seeing the seed of a unlimited, powerful person who has nothing to lose.
Watching Dae-Gil fall, Dam-Seo runs down to the river to find his body but only discovers his shoes. She quietly cries, realizing Dae-Gil is gone. Nam Dokkebi (Grandpa) cries too after Dae-Gil’s shoes are placed in front of the house. Although everyone is certain Dae-Gil died, In-Jwa believes that he still lives. Speaking as if he were the owner of Dae-Gil’s life, “Without my permission, he cannot and will not die”.
With Dae-Gil no longer in Hanyang, In-Jwa turns his focus on Prince Yeoning. The Prince, wearing a double-face mask, enters the gambling house late at night to look for the money and treasures garnered by the gambling business. His search comes up empty, however. Dam-Seo arrives, as if she knew his plan, and warns Prince Yeoning to not trespass on other’s property. In-Jwa later reveals he knew Prince Yeoning’s plan and decides to take another step forward. He tells Dam-Seo to go to the palace and meet Choi Suk-Bin.
Choi Suk-Bin, perhaps led by motherly instinct, invites the shaman to come to her room. Dam-Seo arrives with the shaman. Choi Suk-Bin wants to know the presence of her first son, whether he is still alive or not. Dismissed as she expected, Dam-Seo goes in search of Prince Yeoning’s residence. At Yi In-Jwa’s order, she goes to look for the inspection documents. Unbeknownst to her, Prince Yeoning follows her and catches her searching his room. As he is confronting her, one of the prince's guards starts to enter the room, surprising the two into hiding behind a screen. Prince Yeoning happens to hold Dam-Seo's hand and then later hugs Dam-Seo while the guard wanders around the room. After the guard leaves, Dam-Seo slaps the prince’s face for being too familiar. Looking her over, he tells her she’s not his type. While helping her escape unobserved, Prince Yeoning hands the inspection book to Dam-Seo and says his hospitality ends there. Well, let’s see, since their chemistry is quite strong, eh?
Later, In-Jwa asks the shaman about the meeting with Choi Suk-Bin. The shaman replies that Lady Choi had asked about Dae-Gil’s condition. Her response is enigmatic: a son born with an unlucky fate, a monarch with the hilt of three swords. It means if the son meets a good fate, he would become a king. If he meets the bad one, even a light wind would lead to lowly fate. Curious, In-Jwa asks whether Dae-Gil is live or dead. The shaman goes into a trance after which she says that currently he is barely hanging on and breathing. She adds, with shocked surprise, that Dae-Gil has met a good fate: the best swordsman in the nation, an imperial one. The one who can cut open the mountains and slice the sea.
And there it is: Dae-Gil, covered in mud up to his chin as he tries to catch a crab with his mouth. When the fated swordsman arrives, he picks up the tiny crab and puts it in Dae-Gil’s mouth. After giving him water, the man says, “Your eyes have the look of a tiger. Who are you?”
Instead of answering, Dae-Gil laughs and replies, “Should we make a bet? Whether I live or die?” The swordsman responds, “You should live.”
The episode ends with the swordsman walking away, leaving Dae-Gil still up to his chin in mud.