Episode 9 was “ok”. 10 was “a little better”. 11 was “getting interesting”. 12 was “pretty good”. 13 is the first time I thought to myself, hmm Iljimae is finally getting good. And then 14, my budding interest recedes a little. Just a little. Still watching, still waiting. But on the other hand, it takes 13 long episodes for me to finally reconsider Iljimae without too much scorn.
Plot wise, episode 13 establishes a conflict, confronts it, and builds on it with layers and layers of tension. Then 14 comes around, intending to push the conflict to its height, resolve it, and bring about a glorious re-entrance for Iljimae. What kills it for me is the “push”. After the excellent ground work 13 had established with appropriate insertion of comic relief, 14 slips on the climax and fails to impress.
Now here’s the recap:
The spoiled ambassador’s son proves himself a coward, more than the impetuous jerk and boastful filth we’re been previously introduced to when he used Yang Soon, who is bending down to pick up the hair ribbon in the middle of the street, as an obstacle course, killed her in the process, and hid away in the safe sanction of his powerful father’s wings.
Bong Soon witnesses the murder and decided that the criminal should pay for his deeds, noble or not. She chases after the horse and stops at his door to protest. There she sat for an entire day, unbudging to the temptation of food, rest, and even Yong’s persuasion. A Bong Soon different from the greedy Bong Soon that opportunistically seizes every chance for money, or the frail Bong Soon that begged for mercy on the cliff, or even the cheerful Bong Soon that follows Yong around and makes him yummy foods no matter how he treats her. She exhibits the same stubborn little Bong Soon that followed Kunghe persistently as a little girl. The character development is part of the reason I like this episode.
With Bong Soon’s protest, peasants’ seemingly subsided anger start to come to surface. They gather and demand an apology. The fearful nobles first attempt to disperse the crowd with the guards at the door. If the wrath of the people can be so easily put out, it wouldn’t make a good episode.
Soon after, Eun Chae joins the people despite her noble status. From the perspective of a viewer, Eun Chae is the exemplar of perfection. She is appropriate, proper, thoughtful, and brave in every measure. Yet, all these things at the right amount added together makes her boring. Please, give me some personality.
Miss Perfect earns the respect of the skeptical mob by rubbing mud onto her silk hanbok, putting down her noble status and becomes “equal” with the poor. She stands side by side with Bong Soon against the oppressive nobility. A very symbolic moment.
The nobles orders the mafia to disperse the crowd with force. The mafia arrives on the scene and are soon to be picked out by their parents/grandparents and dragged to the side of the protester by their ears. Instead of going against the people, the mafia cheerfully joined them. Finally, the nobles resort to unleashing troops to beat the protesters into giving up.
The protesters do retreat, only to tend to their wounds. The next day they are back out. This time, with wet horse feces.
Episode 14 takes the trouble to make it clear to the audience that dry horse feces makes good material for fire and sometimes bombs. The nobles utilize it as an excuse to persecute the mob for attempting treason, manipulate the king into ordering a mass elimination. By then, it’s already nightfall, the horse feces have already dried up. Whatever that’s intended to hint at.
Nothing happened really. Danger is announced but before the right mood can be established, Iljimae resolves it through his excellent skill. What he stole this time is the ambassador’s son. Some fighting takes place, resulting in Iljimae’s victory. No narrow escapes, no up the throat “almost’s”. Iljimae just comes back and saves the people.
What did happen is Swe Dol’s realization that Yong is Iljimae and Iljimae is Lee Geom, which in my opinion highlights the entire episode. He designs an impeccable lock, brings the lock to the three target families for free in advance, hoping to prevent Iljimae’s break in. Yet, he unhinges part of the door, just in case Iljimae needs an escape route. (Why am I super worried about Swe Dol?)
Iljimae does break in through the roof, he does steal some valuable ginseng, but he also gets ambushed, which marks the end of episode 14.