FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Ki Chul attacks the king’s men powered up on magic go juice, and Young finally arrives to find the hall littered with bodies. Loyal Dol-bae sees Young’s trembling, swordless hand, and lunges at Ki Chul with his spear.
Young screams, “Nooooooo!” But it’s too late, and Ki Chul icy-hands him till he falls to the ground. Young runs over to Dol-bae, who’s spitting up blood but still smiling at his leader like a faithful puppy…
And he dies in Young’s arms.
Young gets up and asks for someone’s sword. Deok-man hands his over, and Young orders everyone out. But it’s Gongmin who refuses, saying that he knows what’s happened to his hand, and that it’s okay to step down just this once.
But Young insists there’s nothing wrong with his hand, “just that the sword has become heavy.” Ki Chul scoffs and calls him a liar, declaring that he will kill every living soul in this place until Eun-soo is brought to him.
Young puts his foot down, dragging the sword along the floor like it weighs about two tons. He tells the men to leave again. Gongmin: “No. I will stand behind you!” Aw. Not so practical, but very sweet.
Young starts to fight Ki Chul, and he swings wildly with both hands on the sword. Ki Chul easily knocks it out of his hand, but he just picks it back up again. They clash, and this time, Young gains the upper hand, and Ki Chul looks up in shock.
He shoves Ki Chul back, and gathers all his strength for one swing, and chops Ki Chul’s sword in half. Nice.
Ki Chul asks wide-eyed, “What sword is that?” Young: “I told you already. It’s a heavy sword.” Ha.
Eun-soo wakes up, and Aunt rushes to her bedside. She asks for Young, and Aunt says he was with her all night and just stepped out. Eun-soo sighs in relief as she looks around her, “I was so scared… that it was all a dream.”
She worries about how hard it must’ve been for Young, but Aunt asks if the poison-to-fight-the-poison worked. She checks… her fever’s down and her vitals are back to normal, and Eun-soo gasps that she might live.
Dae-man sees Flute Boy and Firestarter approach, and sounds the alarm for everyone to protect Eun-soo.
Meanwhile, the stateroom is at a standstill. Young asks the king if he intends to keep Ki Chul alive, and Gongmin says that despite Ki Chul trying to kill him, he doesn’t want to do the same to him. WHY NOT?
Ki Chul sees an opportunity to be the devil on Young’s shoulder, and says that despite Gongmin going on and on about his people, none of the people even knows his name. But Choi Young, on the other hand… now everyone knows that name.
He offers it right then and there on the spot: Doesn’t Young want to be king instead of serving one? All those people he collected for the king in fact follow him, don’t they?
It’s an eerily familiar quandary to Young, and he flashes back to the king who killed his Jeokwoldae leader, and the same question posed to him – what he was going to do about the fact that the people trust him more than their king.
Gongmin gulps, and asks Young to answer the question.
Young: “Someone I know was asked a similar question once. And because that question was so heavy, the only thing he could do was to answer with his life. I know now… that he was wrong.”
It sends Gongmin’s heart to his knees. But of course Young isn’t finished: “He was wrong, because he ran away.” Ki Chul sighs at his lack of ambition – doesn’t he want to be king?
Young: “I already have the king. What else could I want?” D’aw. Can we break the tension for a round of hugs? A high-five? A badass nod?
Young asks again if they aren’t going to kill Ki Chul already, but he doesn’t give them a chance to decide. He smiles that this should’ve bought enough time, and walks out. Oh crap.
More Woodalchi stand in his way, but Young shouts at them to move, instructing no one else to go near him.
Hwasuin storms into Eun-soo’s room, where Dae-man and Aunt fend her off. She starts to burn Dae-man by the throat, but he uses a washcloth and a basin of water nearby, countering her fire hand with water so that she’ll just steam herself. That’s pretty smart.
He struggles to hold her off, but it buys enough time for Aunt to come up from behind and shove a dagger right through her heart. Finally.
While that’s going on, another Woodalchi takes Eun-soo to safety… or so she thinks until she gets tossed into a carriage with Ki Chul’s minion. He knocks her unconscious and they ride away.
Dae-man runs to Young to tell him what happened, and Young picks up his chin to look at the burn marks on his neck, and pets him on the head before running off.
Gongmin finds his room tossed and the eunuchs find a few things the baddies left behind: Hwata’s instruments, and the pages from Eun-soo’s diary that we’ve seen.
Noguk wonders if maybe heaven is retaliating because they brought the heavenly doctor here, where she doesn’t belong. Gongmin admits that it was his doing, and so he’s the one who ought to be punished, if that’s the case.
Noguk says she learned some heavenspeak from the doctor, and says she’ll say it to him when something good happens. He names things that sound like far-off pipedreams to him, like reclaiming Northern provinces (which in fact he does do later in his reign).
She says yes, as if it’s just a given, and he beams. She holds his hand, and asks him to think of Young and Eun-soo first, and he agrees.
Young finds Aunt sitting in his room, and she says numbly that Firestarter’s body was removed, so Flute Boy probably took her, which means someone else took Eun-soo. He asks about her condition, and at least gets one millisecond of relief to hear that the poison was neutralized.
He turns to go, but Aunt reminds him that the king said to wait. He shouts back that he knows, “But I feel like I’m dying right now.” He grabs his sword off the wall (yay) and storms out.
He goes to see the king, who asks if he’ll follow Eun-soo to heaven once he finds her. Young impatiently asks if this is the reason he’s holding him back – to get an answer to his question.
Gongmin: “I know how weary you’ve grown in this land. So are you going to follow her?” Young: “I already gave you my answer. The answer my teacher gave, the path he chose – I won’t follow it. So I have already returned to you. Help me bring my woman back too.”
He finally makes Gongmin understand, and without another word, they nod at each other and Young walks out.
Eun-soo wakes up with a sword to her throat, and a fuming Flute Boy who demands to know who killed Hwasuin. Ki Chul puts a stop to that right away, and tells Eun-soo that they’re going to heaven together. He finally puts Hwata’s third thing on the table.
She opens it with trembling hands… and takes out a… what IS that? A tape recorder?
Meanwhile, Suribang gets the bright idea to track the medicine that Ki Chul always takes, in the hopes that it’ll lead them to their hideout. It works, but they’re a step behind. Young gets on his horse and goes after them alone.
In the carriage, Eun-soo warns that she doesn’t know where the portal will actually take him, but Ki Chul doesn’t care. He gets that crazy gleam in his eye and says he’s going, no matter what. “All doors in the world are there to be opened and entered.”
She says fine, she’ll take him to the door, but she has to remain here. Ki Chul is adamant about the fact that they have to go together. Can we just shove you in and hope you come out in the Cretaceous period?
Young follows their trail, but always a half-step behind. He stops at an inn the morning after Eun-soo has come and gone, but finds a note from her scribbled on the wall. It’s the one heaven-phrase he would recognize: “It’s okay.” I love that she’s a quick thinker.
She even offers to check Ki Chul’s vitals at their next stop, but he stubbornly refuses to let her check on his health. I don’t think she’s particularly broken up about it. Moments later, there’s a loud knock on the door of the inn. Whoo, is it hero time?
Young bursts in through the doors and Eum-ja fights him off. But this time Young isn’t faltering or losing his grip, and stabs the first minion, and then pins Eum-ja against the wall with a table.
He leans in close… and then stabs Flute Boy clear through the table. Nice. Not as satisfying as doing something to make his eardrums pop for good, but in any case, he goes down bloody.
In the commotion, Eun-soo manages to use her dagger to slice Ki Chul in the hand, and he runs away. Young and Eun-soo have a tearful reunion, as he makes sure twice over that she’s really poison-free and okay now.
Young: “Then will you be staying by my side?” Eun-soo: “Yes.” He grabs her in an embrace, and she cries in his arms.
They lie in bed together and he watches over her, asking if she wants to go to heaven’s door tomorrow to at least say her goodbyes to the other side. She warns that Ki Chul will probably be there, but Young says he can beat him in a fight.
OR how about you guys just head for the hills and say your heavenly goodbyes to yourself? How about that?
She asks why he’s looking at her, and he says it’s to remember her, “Now that I don’t have to forget you.” You guys are making me nervous. This is way too much happiness and counting chickens and whatnot. Stop tempting fate!
She traces his nose and his lips and he kisses her on the hand and tells her to sleep.
With zero transition to get us there, suddenly Ki Chul is standing before heaven’s door, with the portal swirling open. He goes through… but the portal rejects him and spits him back out. Huh. Is there a morality quotient involved in time travel?
He finds Eun-soo and Young on their way there, and asks how you go through the door. She says you just go through, but he calls her a liar, thinking there’s some trick she’s not sharing with him.
He launches at her in a fury, and Young throws his sword and skewers him in the chest. But it’s not enough to take him down, and he grabs Young in a death grip, and freezes him until he falls to the ground, paralyzed and frozen and barely breathing.
Eun-soo tries to revive him, but Ki Chul yanks the sword out, sticks it in the ground at Young’s side, and drags Eun-soo away to the door.
Young watches her go unable to move, and thinks to himself: “Why did it happen to be her? – I wasted a lot of time wondering that. Father, I have now found it. Am I too late?”
Ki Chul drags her kicking and screaming to the portal, and shoves her in. No! He tries to follow her through, but gets rejected again, and falls to his knees before the door. That my friends, is the world’s saddest popsicle.
Eun-soo goes through the portal and finds herself back home in 2012. Young’s voiceover continues: “But she’ll answer this way: It’s okay, it’ll all work out. It’s only the beginning.”
She dashes to the hospital, and grabs a reporter’s backpack and cleans out the medical supply closet and adds a few things from her office, like that tape recorder-y thingamabob we saw among Hwata’s things earlier. Uh-oh. I don’t like where this is going…
She runs back to the portal, as an announcement of an explosion in space flashes behind her.
Eun-soo (voiceover): That time in Seoul, when I was running only thinking of saving that person. That day, what moment, what thing… went wrong? To return to the person I had left once, what was it that I needed? Was I lacking in yearning? Or in faith?
She goes through and runs back to the field where she left Young… and no one is there. Crap. It’s the loop, isn’t it?
Her voiceover continues: “I am once again far from that person. I’ve been left alone a hundred years before that world where I left him, as he lay dying.” She runs back to the portal, and it’s now closed.
We see her live out her days as Future-Eun-soo-in-the-past. (Or is she Past Eun-soo now? Urg time loop sucks.) She writes in the diary, and heals people, and says in voiceover that she believes in her heart that he’s alive and well in that other world.
She turns on the thingamabob, which turns out to be a pocket projector that stores videos. It has her lecture from earlier that day she was kidnapped, and a video from her parents. She watches it over and over until the battery dies.
Sometime later, she journeys back to the portal. Eun-soo: “Someone said that earnest desire makes fate, and memory is what makes that moment happen.”
Suddenly, the portal reopens. She goes through it like a seasoned pro. Lord knows how many times she’s done this now. She ends up back in 2012, which doesn’t surprise her in the least. She simply steps back in.
She goes to an inn and sees some familiar uniforms. Woodalchi. She stops one to ask what he’s doing here on Yuan land, and he wonders if she’s been living under a rock. He tells her that this is the fifth year of Gongmin’s reign. Yaaaaay! We’re back!
And then familiar voices rise from the din. It’s Deok-man, and Dae-man, who now order around the other boys, using Young’s trademark, “Just do it! Well!” Aw.
And Choong-seok comes in behind them to ask where the general is. “You know, there. Where that tree is.” Dae-man wonders if they should bring him food, ’cause he usually spends three or four days there every time he goes.
At that, Eun-soo goes tearing back to the field…
And there, sitting by the giant tree, is an older, more grizzled Choi Young, waiting faithfully for her to return.
He turns to her and smiles, not surprised at all that she’s just appeared out of nowhere after all this time.
A tear falls as she walks toward him, finally in the right place at the right time.
Thank goodness for a happy ending. I was worried for a minute there that she’d just be stuck a hundred years in the past in that endless loop, which would’ve driven me crazy. For a show that really didn’t deliver in so many basic ways, a bad ending would’ve just sent me over the edge. It makes sense that she’d have to go back to the past and in effect become Future Eun-soo, and only after that could she find her way back to the right time. It’s just… if that’s where we were going, I would’ve rather spent more time with her on that journey back to him, rather than all that poison-re-poison hullabaloo.
The implication is that she travels back and forth over and over until she gets it right, and that it’s a long journey back to each other, earned through their faith and longing. It makes their reunion feel whole and deserved, which is a nice complement to the supernatural, because the last thing you want is a magical poof, happy ending! without it being earned. This way I feel satisfied that they didn’t just get an easy out, and their commitment to finding each other is what won out in the end. It’s probably the only thing about the finale that feels greatly satisfying, as the execution of the rest (as usual) leaves a lot to be desired. But, of all the things to get right in the finale, this is it – it’s the one thing that will carry you a long way.
This drama is such an interesting case of having solid parts… but put together all wrong. Kind of like sticking a new sports car’s guts inside your grandma’s ’84 Buick. Just… why? It’s painful to know what a scene is intending to do, and then have to watch it flounder time and again. The end result is that no matter how impactful a line of dialogue or a written heroic action, we don’t feel the full effect onscreen. There’s nothing worse than seeing the emotion that you know is supposed to be there, but not getting to feel it with the characters. And for me, there’s no coming back from that, as a drama. I enjoyed the characters and I liked the setup and the world. But the directing and the editing left me cold, which means I watched it all at arm’s length, excavating what was intended from what was given. There were certainly moments that got through to me, but they were far too few in 24 hours of screen time to get me on the hook.
I don’t even think that it’s a case where they took stellar writing and just shoved it through the wrong delivery device either, because there was maybe enough story for a 16-episode series. I feel like precious time was wasted recycling a handful of conflicts over and over, and meanwhile all sorts of things just fell by the wayside. And if getting the lovers back together was going to be the only central conflict we really deal with in a satisfying finale-worthy concluding arc, then why did we spend so much plot time in the political arena? I expected a much grander closing for Gongmin, who carried so much of my interest through the show. But alas, he just got a cursory Future-You-does-some-good-stuff nod to the audience, which left me wishing for more.
All told, it was still a fun show. I can’t in good conscience call it a goodshow, but it was enjoyable, mostly because of the hilarious band of baddies (We’ll miss you, Ki Chul!), and the thread of wit that carried through. That was something evident in the writing that the directing couldn’t mess up; in fact, the wit was probably this show’s saving grace. I came to this party for Epic; alas, he was a no-show, and instead I walked away with a sweet love story. It didn’t fulfill what I wanted this show to be (or heck, what Show wanted itself to be), but it was a nice consolation prize, and at least it closed its own story in a logical way, which is more than some.