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Contains Spoilers for Episodes 3-4
Back to the story!
Note: I was wrong about the historical era of this show. I said it was the Joseon period of Korea (AD 1392-1897), but it's actually set in the Goryeo period (AD 918-1392). It's like the difference between Victorian England and Regency England--quite different, when you examine them.
Choi Young, chief royal bodyguard to the king and queen of ancient Korea, is undergoing surgery from Eunsoo, a female doctor from modern day Seoul who found herself caught on the wrong side of history.
In villain land, our Big Bad (Gicheol) is fuming about his thwarted attempts to kill the Queen. He talks things over with his cohort...White Hair. I'm not even going to bother learning this guy's name.
He May Also Answer to "Sephiroth".
Choi Young awakens, wincing horribly, but still moving around pretty well for a man whose liver was stitched back together only 12 hours ago. He's worried about the King, and says that everyone must leave the inn immediately, or they'll all be killed.
While Everyone Else Stands Amazed at His Not-Dead-Ness.
They all caravan onward, with Eunsoo riding in the pavilion with her sick royal highness, the Queen. Eunsoo tries to make small talk with the Queen, which is pretty funny because the Queen is sympathetic and half understands why Eunsoo is so befuddled--Eunsoo came from "heaven," but was brought by force, much like the Queen's own forced marriage and her move to Korea. Queenie is one smart chick, all told. But now her husband the King is wanting her to meet his retainers with him, which she can't very well do while still looking like she survived an assassination attempt.
So It's Eunsoo to The Rescue With Her Hello Kitty Mirror.
Eunsoo plays the unnie (언니, big sister) and does a quick makeover for the queen. I love their budding friendship so much. But the fixing-up is all for naught because when the King and his entourage walk into the capital city...no one is waiting to greet them. The nobles are all feasting with Gicheol, who planned the party intentionally to snub King Gongmin as he returned from Yuan.
Oh, man. It's heartbreaking to see the little king (literally very small; the actor is a petite man, which adds a great emphasis to the King's vulnerability) come home to no welcome and no recognition.
Just Barely Holding It All Together.
But some older court ladies come to tend to the King and Queen, and the matter is smoothed over for the moment. Choi Young stumbles off to heal his own internal injuries with his lightning powers. Okey-dokey, I thought he was Storm, but he's shaping up to be more like Wolverine.
A flashback shows us how the King broke his young wife's heart before he even knew who she was. In the Yuan palace, he met her and assumed she was a Korean hostage like himself because of her Korean language skills. She became his confidante when he wanted to complain about awful Yuan princess he'd be forced to marry, not knowing that the woman he was falling for and the woman he despised were the same person. Eee.
The two doctors, ancient and modern, confer in the palace's medicinal herb garden. Court Doctor thinks Eunsoo should be more earnest about saving lives. She's just a little too chatty and blithe for his tastes.
Just Got A Serious Set-Down.
The King learns that villain Gicheol killed a bunch of his loyal retainers and is swaying the hearts of the rest of them. The King chooses Choi Young's advice on how to proceed over his Advisor's advice, saying that there's only one person in the world he can trust--his captain of the guard, who nearly died to fulfill his orders. To Choi Young, he says, "I'm going to treat you like my trusted friend. Can you treat me the same way?" It's so great that the King and Choi Young get grow closer this episode, just as Eunsoo and the Queen do. They should double date.
But! Choi Young produces a written order from the last king, honoring Choi Young's request to leave military service and live as a commoner after he brought the new King safely back to Korea. Ah, sweet King, what are you to do? Let your new bestie go free and lose the only man you trust, or keep him around against his will and risk embittering his spirit against you?
Set the Genie Free!
The King does exactly what he has to, and exactly what you hope he won't do. The King tells Choi Young that he must find proof of who killed all the loyal retainers. After that, the King will think about freeing Choi Young.
Next, Eunsoo goes seeking out her "patient" Choi Young to see how he's mending. Choi Young refuses treatment, and Eunsoo throws a fit--he drags her from her home and brings her to this strange place just to drop her with nothing to do and no one to turn to?
Her Complaints Are Absolutely Valid.
Now we get some backstory on Choi Young. Before being captain of the King's guard, he was a member of a group of warriors you can only join if you have magical fighting powers. Woo. I knew he was a big deal, but it looks like he's an even bigger deal than we previously understood. Soon, we're in another animated sequence, but this one is mixed with live action.
And It Looks So Very Crisp.
It's Choi Young's memory (or dream-vision?) of his father, who cryptically asks him, "Haven't you found it yet?"
Eunsoo is back with Court Doctor, who is getting her outfitted with some functional hanbok. She's musing over how she traveled to this place--her current theory is a wormhole in space. Very sci-fi. Eunsoo also meets with the King himself, and this money-conscious girl says that she'll forget all about being kidnapped if he lets her take some antique Goryeo ceramics back to the future with her. Heh. One scene later, we see her toting around the ceramic pot she wanted. Awesome!
Valuable Ancient Vase + Captain of The Guard...What More Do You Need?
Choi Young realizes belatedly that everyone in the palace and the nearby villages is gossiping about the heavenly maiden/divine healer among them. He'll have to move her to safety before someone else decides to kidnap her or assassinate her to make a point.
Choi Young soon tells more of his backstory to the King. He was part of an elite team of superpowered warriors, but the former king sent them on too many missions and even the special warriors died. Finally, the remaining warriors were going to be honored by the king. Flashback to a live action sequence and...ruh-roh. We see Choi Young talking happily with his BFF in the supernatural unit, a female warrior who was also maybe his girlfriend.
This Probably Doesn't End Well.
They all went to see the King they'd risked their lives for, and they found him to be a drunken, reveling lout who didn't even know who they were. (This explains Choi Young's firm belief that a king should be an honorable man--he's seen the flipside.) During their meeting, the former king pulled the captain's sword from its sheath and started dancing around with it, then accosted Choi Young's girlfriend and prepared to molest her in front of everyone. The captain of the warriors stepped between the king and the girl warrior, and the king ran him through with his own sword.
This is a worse backstory than I was expecting. The dying captain made Choi Young promise to protect the king, because by protecting the king, he'd be in a position to protect the supernatural warriors. The king just laughed as Choi Young's captain bowed and died. I feel sick, just watching this. Choi Young finishes his story and King Gongmin in the present says, "That king was my older brother."
Family Ties Are Not So Noble As He Thought.
The King leaves the room, saying "Don't bow to me. I'm too ashamed to see you." Eunsoo has been hiding behind a partition, listening to the whole story. As the King leaves, Choi Young collapses and Eunsoo rushes to him, calling him "Psycho!" After treating him, Court Doctor concludes that Choi Young has no more will to live.
The King has to go ahead and officially convene court without his captain of the guard. He knows that if he plays his cards wrong, the powerful Gicheol will simply kill him and take over the kingdom. And he can't just bow the knee and fawn over Gicheol in hopes of keeping his throne, so he tells everyone the Eunsoo, God's doctor, is a sign of the divine favor falling on Goryeo. Gicheol scoffs and accuses Eunsoo of being a demon. Uh, how does he plan to prove that?
End of episode.
Things I Loved:
1. Villains. They may be a bit cartoony, but I love that we have a male villain who kills people by playing death notes on his flute and a female villain, Hwasuin, who kills with her fire powers. It's like the Goryeo Brotherhood of Mutants.
Magneto Would Be Proud.
2. Animated Sequences. I like that the influx of new art styles is a recurring part of this show.
The episode endings still have awful, anticlimactic timing. This show is full of exciting moments and story climaxes, so why can we end on a high point instead of just trailing off into nowhere? Oy.
Watch Faith on DramaFever.
Episode Evaluations: Character development abounds in these two hours, and the result is that I care about everyone. Absolutely everyone. There's not a lot of action in these episodes as we establish everyone's backstory, but I'm glad that we're getting depth from each of the key players and understanding more of the intricacies of the political conflict. Lovely!