Writer: Val Kaye Taozen
Photos credit : SBS
Injwa’s burning supply barn lights up the night sky. And in rides Dae-gil who, essentially, admits to the sabotage and tells Injwa to quit now as he has no chance of winning. He adds that their supplies and horses have been stolen, and half his army is down with diarrhea [from whatever medicine Seol-im administered to the soup]. Of course, Injwa refuses. [What good villain gives up before he’s dealt a deathblow?] He tells Dae-gil that it’s too early to give up, and he has a large army heading his way. Prince Mil-poon arrives on the scene and introductions ensue as Injwa grins. Dea-gil says the government will commit everything it has to end the rebellion, but Injwa clings to his Great Cause. They continue to argue but Dae-gil stops the arguing by saying he will send all the rebels to their ancestors. With that said, he turns the horse around and leaves. Injwa giggles and orders pigeons sent to Jeong and Park to learn what is going on in Gyeongsang and Jeolla Provinces.
Leaving the sick behind, the remaining rebel army marches towards Anseong, pulling their now horse-less supply carts. The next morning, Dae-gil’s little group hand out medicine to reverse the effects of the previous medicine as well as the food supplies they stole from Injwa. Meanwhile, Dae-gil sends a message via pigeon to Yeon-hwa who promptly delivers it to King Yeongjo’s faithful guard.
Back at the village, Dae-gil leaves the messages he’s reading to step outside and reassure the failed revolutionaries that they can go home. The King promised to take no action against them, although when Seol-im questions him about the promise he evades answering her. Meanwhile, as the King discusses strategy with his military advisors, Dae-gil’s message arrives. Yeongjo learns that Injwa lost half his army and his food supplies, thanks to Dae-gil, but he believes the rebel army will arrive in Anseong in two days. He says if his forces cede Anseong, Injwa will be able to march on Hanyang with his central forces that are due in two days. Yeongjo orders his forces to leave immediately for Anseong.
On their way out of town, Yeongjo’s army drop fliers along the way, one of which Hong Mae reads and prepares to send a message to Dae-gil. However, Yeon-hwa says there is no need because he already knows. Injwa’s ragtag army continues their march, but, as Jin-ki relates, they are near collapse. Injwa agrees to halt for the night at a nearby village. At the same time, Dae-gil receives a message from his master saying that he’s found Jeong and will end his life.
At Hong Mae’s gambling den, Yeon-hwa begins filling her in on Dae-gil’s three-part plan. Since the first part is already successful, they’ll now move on the second: spreading a rumor that Injwa’s forces have been defeated at Anseong. Thus, few if any will want to join Injwa. Sure enough, Park Pil Heon learns that the military leader who had promised his support declines to keep his promise as a result of the rumors. Man-geum and his merchant forces quietly spy on the scene, ready to take the next step against Park.
Cut back to Injwa’s army. The men are hungry and tired…and Mil-poon rebukes Injwa for plundering the villagers’ food, which his men have refused to eat, and for killing the villagers. Injwa, looking confused, asks one of the men why they haven’t eaten the food. The man replies that they cannot eat the pillaged food and that he joined because of Mil-poon and not Injwa. Angered, Injwa cuts him down which shocks and disgusts both Jin-ki and Mil-poon.
From the ramparts over the gates, Yeongjo orders all the rebels slaughtered. Dae-gil runs after him. In the briefing room, he argues that if Yeongjo chooses to slaughter all the people, he can no longer follow the King. He pulls his sword on Yeongjo only to have Yeongjo’s guard step in. Dea-gil defeats the guard, but as the generals watch with drawn swords, two turn their blades on Yeongjo.
Cut to Injwa outside the gates waiting, where he explains that he has two traitorous generals on the inside that will kill the King and open the gates. A white flag flies from the ramparts, signaling his plan worked and Yeongjo is dead. Injwa grins from ear to ear. His peasant army, with Mil-poon in the lead, race into Anseong. As soon as Mil-poon enters with his followers, the gates close tight, leaving a confused Injwa. Yeongjo and Dae-gil arrive on the ramparts. Injwa swears, “Baek Dae-gil,” and orders a retreat.
Inside, Mil-poon orders his men to lay down their arms. In a flashback to the grave the night before, Dae-gil arrives, saying he heard Mil-poon was looking for him. In another flashback, Yeongjo recalls the third part of the Dae-gil’s plan: to learn the traitors in Yeongjo’s army, Dae-gil will pull his sword on Yeongjo.
Mil-poon drops to his knees and the rebels surrender when Yeongjo comes down from the ramparts. Yeongjo promises pardons to all the rebels if they surrender now, which, of course, they do. Yeongjo, then, tells Dae-gil his work is done and now he will punish the rest. Dae-gil attempts to stop Yeongjo but since 100,000 soldiers are due any time, Yeongjo remains firm that he must use his armies to stop the rebellion. Yeongjo orders a night attack, explaining to Dae-gil that he will beg forgiveness and care for the families of the dead after he has killed all the rebels. He says he has made up his mind to “suffer the disgrace of being called a tyrant.” Dae-gil looks pained at hearing his brother’s words.
Night arrives and so does Yeongjo’s army. Injwa’s untrained and ill prepared men are arrayed across the road. Yeongjo orders the attack. Peasant rebels fall under the blades of the Yeongjo’s army until Jin-ki steps in, annihilating all the soldiers. Yeongjo watches the slaughter, emotionless. Just then Dae-gil rides up, begging the King to stop the slaughter. Just before the army opens fire on the rebels, Dae-gil spurs his horse forward only to take two bullets in the back. Yeongjo flinches momentarily, then watches as Dae-gil slowly stands up and yells for Injwa to stop. Of course, Injwa refuses, and Yeongjo prepares to fire again.
Dae-gil turns to Yeongjo with his arms spread wide to stop the guns from firing, trusting his brother won’t fire on him. At that moment, Seol-im, Grandpa and others race in front of Dae-gil with their arms also spread wide, yelling for Yeongjo to halt, don’t fire. In a nod to Dae-gil, Seol-im confirms the remaining rebel armies have been stopped.
Staggering, Dae-gil wearily confronts Injwa who says it’s not over yet. Dae-gil reminds him that he’s lost not only more than half his army but also Mil-poon…so who is he going to put on the throne? Injwa basically says, “so what”, and that he’s willing to be buried right there. Dae-gil shouts that he will ally himself with Injwa, by leaving it up to heaven to decide who wins. If he wins Injwa will surrender and be tied up. If Injwa wins Dae-gil will follow him. He makes a bet with Injwa. Using the same coin his father gave him and that saved his life from Injwa’s arrow, he spins the coin and covers it. Injwa chooses heads.
But before Dae-gil can reveal who won, Injwa says he’s curious as to whether heaven will select him or Dae-gil. Dae-gil replies that Injwa should know he never makes a bet he won’t win. With that, Dae-gil lifts the cup, revealing tails. The rebels pull their swords, and Injwa says he has no intention of keeping his promise to surrender if he lost the bet. He continues that he expects the forces from Yeongnam and Honam to join him the next day.
Dea-gil responds that Jeong and Park are already finished. Park’s route was blocked by damage accomplished by Man-geum while Chae-gun attacked Jeong. In disbelief, Injwa says he received word they would arrive soon and asks if that was Dae-gil’s doing. Dae-gil answers, “Do you think I did it alone?” In short flashes, Chae-gun catches the fleeing Jeong, and Man-gum confronts a captured but still defiant Park.
Dae-gil continues, saying Injwa’s reinforcements no long exist and his selfish ambition is over. Injwa commands the rebels to kill Dae-gil, but they drop their swords. He then calls on Jin-ki to do the task, but Jin-ki turns his blade on Injwa.
He tells Injwa that he once believed in Injwa’s Great Cause of creating a nation for the people and that he would establish a king who would look after his people. Instead, Jin-ki says, Injwa not only was unable to fill the stomachs of hungry people, but he also pillaged and killed the people and turned the people’s flesh into cannon fodder. With that, Jin-ki rhetorically asks, since he once served this nobleman, shouldn’t he be the one to send him off. With that he raises his sword to strike the final blow, only to have Dae-gil shout, “No. This fellow’s life is the people’s. The time is not now.”
Knowing as much of the actual history of this event as I do, I remain somewhat surprised at how well the screenwriter adapted the fiction to coincide with actual events. But what surprised me the most were the transformations of Yeongjo and Dae-gil.
Especially since the murder of his son, Yeongjo has become more and more emotionless on the outside. Stiff and hard. Unwilling to allow anyone, even his brother and friend, to see him flinch or feel a human emotion. Yeo Jin Goo does a masterful job of portraying a mature and hardened Yeongjo, adept at using political power while keeping his own thoughts private. But, then, the real Yeongjo was a child prodigy of whom his father, Sukjong, was extremely proud.
Meanwhile, Dae-gil chose an opposite course. He has become even more humane, willing to give up his life for the people whom he now cherishes. Even after threatening to send them to their ancestors, he chooses to put his life on the line more than once to save them.
These two young men are the opposite sides of the same coin. No matter how much Yeongjo tries to deny it, he does trust his brother and to trust that his brother accomplish whatever he sets out to do. And Dae-gil trusts Yeongjo’s love of his people and his desire to become a great King as well as his love for himself, his brother and friend.
As for Injwa, I’m constantly amazed that he fails to understand human nature, particularly the human nature of people who live such meager lives and only want justice, a chance to live a decent life and an opportunity to work. His vulgar attitude reveals itself over and over again, even to the point that the somewhat dim-witted Jin-ki is repelled. Yet for all his static nature (he does not grow or evolve as many of the other leading characters do), he remains almost addictive. Jeon Kwang Leol does a brilliant job portraying him as a deeply flawed human being, bent on a revenge that even he cannot admit to himself. Nevertheless, his time has come. No more escapes for him.