Monday, January 28, 2013

Thoughts on E18 by guadi

by guadi
Overall, episode 18 is a bit somber  

In terms of character progress, I really like Gongmin in this episode. A brief moment outside of the palace added a bit more steel to his traits. He's no longer that feeble-minded king who always self-doubted himself. 

I especially love the moment when Do Chi and one of the maids dis-robed Gongmin and Noguk. A simple act of having two ordinary citizens removing the king and queen's clothes somehow felt very powerful. Gongmin's end goal has always been to acquire his citizens' loyalty, so he can lead them confidently. To see his citizens sacrificing their lives in the name of protecting the King; that I thought was a sign to inform viewers that GM is no longer that timid king who has no one following his lead anymore. 

Also, I love how royal artifacts are interpreted in the past two episodes. We've already know the story of the seal and how much problem it created. In this episode, a minor thing really stood out for me - the royal attires. Similar to the seal, by having someone wearing them, some people don't even notice the difference. I think it means to tell us something about that turbulent period with irregular changes in leadership. The citizens have lost trust in their king. The objects of authority like the seal and royal clothing, become more important than the "owner" of those objects. These artifacts are stuff of permanency, while the owner can be disposed on a whim. In a way, episode 18 is the catalyst that alters the traditional way of thinking. Here we see, Gongmin, bereft of the objects that make him the figure of authority - the old Yuan seal and the royal attires - but what he gains in return is loyalty and trust from many more ordinary citizens. They are willing to fight for him, to stand by his side. Those superficial dressings have no meaning anymore. So even when Gongmin is dressed in peasant class attires, he still has loyal followers. I felt for the first time, he has acquired the "Mandate of Heaven" to rule this land of his. And we know how Episode 19 plays out with his people waiting in line to join the army  

Of course, there's at least one citizen who is experiencing an existential crisis - 

In time of crisis, but still look drop dead handsome 
This image has been resized to fit in the page. Click to enlarge.

Oh, Choi Young! much responsibility rested on this person's shoulders. 

But in this episode, my heart breaks a little for Gongmin when Young tells him, that Eun-soo has always been first. While I understand that comment because Eun-soo's lively presence is so contagious to those around her. Young is a primary beneficiary of having said figure to comfort him and to make him alive again. And in his heart, he loves her....BUT I still feel that his answer is a bit selfish because he doesn't take into account how Gongmin's presence has changed his life. 

Seven years ago, the family he came to love was taken away. His master died at the hands of the king; his fiancee committed suicide; and the rest got dispersed. That day Young lost not only his loved ones, he also lost the intangible belief in his nation, and more importantly in the throne. Knowing and serving Gongmin has allowed Choi Young to gradually reinstate that trust in the institution again. He now has a purpose to live and lead. Though he may not have realized it, Gongmin has been a good presence in Young's life. And to say that that Eun-soo has always been first and wanting to go away with her, I felt a bit mad at him. 

Eun-soo may have been the catalyst that thrusts Choi Young back to life. But a portrait of a life well-lived are filled with sometimes small and sometimes larger than life interactions with strangers, with close acquaintances, with foes and friends. So Gongmin, the Wooldachis, the queens, and the soldiers, the people, his enemies, those are the forces that fill the existential voids and capture his life narrative. 

I know at this point, Choi Young is already struggling with the heaviness of the sword (or in literal term, where his "heart" lies). I'm hoping the novel will tell us a lot more on that part of his struggle. @yuuni - I like how we get to see the dichotomy of the sword. From the outset, the sword  seems ghostly or light, as a representation of Choi Young the care free figure, the live to die character, the frontal attack exterior who has no attachment to this world. Then Eun-soo comes along, and everything within him changes. His live to die attitude changes to living with a future. But the process of transforming from the old to the new Choi Young is challenging. His heart can't change overnight, there is a heaviness in the way it must meditate and ponder over every life altering decision. The biggest question for him is -- in order to live with a future, does that mean giving his loyalty to the king or following Eun-soo where ever she goes? And we know the physical manifestation of his heavy heart is in the form of that immeasurably heavy sword. Her presence changes everything. 

I'm hoping the novel delves a lot more into Gongmin's and Ki Chul's story arcs. They were so interesting at the beginning, and then the romance really took central stage at the end; and other developments were a bit under-served. 

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