The story draws to a close leaving us with the question: is it death? Is it the imagination? Is it a dream or is this something tacked at the very end. Hong Joo dies but she doesn’t go alone, nor did she trick her escort into dying along with her. The curse is broken but at a very expensive cost. And after twenty episodes, it’s time to say goodbye.
The Episode in 10 Moments:
- Soon Deuk can’t hide her crush on Yo Gwang and she spots Ok sneaking to run away
Seo Ri wakes up to find Jun sleeping right across from her. When he wakes up, he returns her smile and sadly tells her that it feels like he’s dreaming; a dream from which he doesn’t want to wake up. Their moment is ruined by the sound of Soon Deuk calling for Jun. When they meet her, Yo Gwang shows up as well and Jun points to the packet she’s carrying. He asks her if it’s for Yo Gwang and Yo Gwang perks up. But he slumps back down when Soon Deuk denies it. Except, upon giving it a good sniff, Jun concludes that the powder is medicine for a stab wound; kind of like the stab wound Yo Gwang currently has (hahaha). Although Soon Deuk tries to feign that the doctor had given her the wrong substance, Seo Ri and Jun chuckle at how obvious it all is. Soon Deuk runs away but Jun catches up to her and points out that she could just have easily given Yo Gwang the medicine instead of the subterfuge. He asks her if she likes Yo Gwang and Soon Deuk immediately denies it, claiming that she likes her guys to be pure in both body and mind (seriously girl, I doubt if Yo Gwang has ever even kissed a girl. As for the pure in mind part, have you seen how blindly trusting he is?). She insists that she doesn’t like Yo Gwang as the only thing she cares about is money. She mumbles that she doesn’t like being a burden on others and then runs away. Her words give Jun an idea though and he sets out to brewing her a potion to give her courage. Seo Ri sets out to helping him (Gah! I love these two brewing potions so much!). Whilst Jun brews his potions, Soon Deuk’s skipping along in town and then scowls when she remembers Yo Gwang pulling her behind him to protect her when Hyun Seo had attacked him. She growls as she wonders why she’s thinking about it, but then gets distracted when she sees Ok sneaking along. She follows him all the way to a shed (how many sheds do these traffickers have? Wasn’t it one that had burned down the night Jun’s mother had died?) and correctly guesses that he’s trying to flee the country. She heads back to her house where Jun and Seo Ri have been waiting for her. When Jun gives her the elixir of courage and tells her that it would help her in getting together with Yo Gwang, she protests loudly, causing Jun and Seo Ri to laugh some more. Jun finally tells her to do whatever she wants with the elixir and makes to leave. Except, Soon Deuk remembers seeing Ok and tells Jun that she thinks he’s trying to flee the country. Jun replies that he can’t be concerned with Ok at the moment and walks away, leaving Soon Deuk to give a what could happen shrug as she downs the entire elixir. Back in the cave, Jun is distracted and Seo Ri suggests he go and check. Jun tries to tell her that it’s not his concern anymore but Seo Ri asks what if he regrets it later, at which point the whole issue would just be a heavy weight on his heart if he doesn’t resolve it immediately.
2. Ok gets his last chance and Soon Deuk confesses
It’s time for the runaways to make their move and Ok is trailing behind them when Jun shows up with Seo Ri in tow to ask him what he thinks he’s doing. He points out that Ok can’t be running away because Ok knows very well what happens to runaways doesn’t he (Awww. Jun’s eyes as he remembers that that’s what Ok said about his mother’s death slays me). Ok bitterly asks if Jun’s come to turn him in. When he asks where the soldiers are at, Jun asks him why he would have brought soldiers considering that should they start to pursue Ok, then Ok will be on the run for the rest of his life. Ok scoffs at Jun once more doing the honorable thing and wonders if Jun is there to see how pathetic his life’s become. Jun replies that Ok doesn’t know what being truly pathetic is. He advises Ok to turn himself in and serve his punishment for his crimes as that’s the only way Ok can manage to create a somewhat respectable life for himself. Jun walks away and Ok screams after him that he too wants to live a respectable life. Seo Ri then walks up to Ok and tells him not to squander the last chance that Jun has given him. She hands him the second elixir of courage and walks away. Meanwhile, the first elixir of courage is being put to work as Soon Deuk goes to meet Yo Gwang up in the mountain and asks him why he’d grabbed her hand and pulled her to safety on the day Hyun Seo had showed up. She also mentions Yo Gwang telling her of his woes and their constant bickering. Yo Gwang reads the situation wrong and asks her if it’s an apology she wants and sets out giving her multiple apologies in a grumpy grouchy tone. Soon Deuk then admits that it’s because of his way of acting that made her like him. He’s stunned and Soon Deuk tells him not to bother as she doesn’t like being a burden, stating that they shouldn’t see each other again. She makes to leave but Yo Gwang stops her by telling her that she’s not a burden nor does she make him feel pressured (awwww). He tells her to not casually say things like “let’s not see each other again” and tells her to make herself at home. He smiles and although Soon Deuk grumbles at him feeling and acting all cool, she smiles as well (awwww). Ok on the other hand is terrified as he hides away from the sight of the palace guards. But he drinks the elixir and marches on to the guards, declaring loudly that he’s there to turn himself in.
3. A day free of worries, candles and curses and Yo Gwang gets the elixir of sacrifice
All the candles are lit except one and although Seo Ri smiles happily, Jun’s smile is tinged with sadness. He doesn’t say anything though and simply invites Seo Ri to a secluded house so they can spend the day together. Seo Ri finds herself worrying about the last candle but Jun tells her not to worry as he’s found someone willing to light the final candle for them. He tells her not to worry about the curse or candle and just focus on spending the day with him. They then proceed to do just that, wandering the marketplace place, trying things out and having fun. And even though Seo Ri spots what looks like Hong Joo, she doesn’t let it get her down. But she does look a little sad when they stumble upon a wedding and Jun takes note of it. Her sadness is only for a moment though as she’s back to her happy self when they’re cooking and then they make a kite, draw caricatures of themselves on it and send it flying (gosh this scene is so sad. The happy before the storm. Damn). That night, Yo Gwang’s sad as he drinks with Soon Deuk, his mind flitting back to Jun telling him that he knows all about the last candle and he intends to light it for Seo Ri. Soon Deuk asks him what’s wrong as he keeps chugging down the alcohol and Yo Gwang admits that it’s only through drinking that he can survive the day. He curses the heavens for the wretched fate it had bestowed on Seo Ri and Jun. Soon Deuk warns Yo Gwang to be careful of his injuries but Yo Gwang considers them just as the same as the rest of his injuries and screams at the injustice some more. He’s run out of alcohol however and Soon Deuk heads out to go get him some. The minute she does that, a shadowy man who’d been calmly drinking whilst Yo Gwang was throwing his tantrum tells him to value his life if he was saved from death (Ha. It’s the guy in episode 2/3 isn’t it? The one who had saved Yo Gwang’s life in the very beginning). The man continues that it’s a sad fate in which one of the two must die and then brings out an elixir and informs Yo Gwang that it’s the elixir of sacrifice to be given to Jun who would die without feeling any pain. The man continues that Yo Gwang should tell Jun not to despair too much as his sacrifice would save thousands of lives (yeah? But what about Seo Ri? What about needing them to spend thirty years together? What about my heart?)
4. Seo Ri learns the truth
Something startles Seo Ri awake that night and sleeping Jun doesn’t stir when she walks out of the house. She finds a message that leads her to Hong Joo and when she asks Hong Joo if Hong Joo’s there to try and stop again, Hong Joo replies that she’s lost everything she can possibly use against Seo Ri, but she’s come in order to tell Seo Ri something. Seo Ri starts to tell her that she’s not interested in anything Hong Joo has to say but Hong Joo stops her as she asks if Seo Ri’s heard about the last page of the Grimoire of Curses. Hong Joo figures that Seo Ri wouldn’t have been told, especially considering the lengths Hyun Seo had gone through to keep it hidden. She drops the bomb that only a true love’s sacrifice can light the last candle which would mean that Jun is going to die. Seo Ri, with tear-filled eyes tells Hong Joo that she doesn’t believe her. Hong Joo merely looks pityingly at her as she states that Seo Ri probably thought she would be able to spend the rest of her life with Jun. Seo Ri refuses to believe it though and walks away, whilst Hong Joo smiles (till the very end, she remains a cockroach. Why does she still have her tongue?). As she heads back home, Hong Joo’s words echo in Seo Ri’s head and she remembers Jun telling her that he’d found someone to light the last candle for her. When she gets home, a worried Jun is waiting up for her but she just heads straight to him and hugs him. Wondering why she’s crying, Jun asks her if she’s worrying over the last candle and tells her not to worry as he will light it for her. Seo Ri, with tears in her eyes asks if he intends to substitute his life for hers in order to do that. Seo Ri tells him that he should have run away when he heard and tells him to do that right at that moment. Jun though, tells her that he won’t leave. Seo Ri admits that once she started traveling with him, the one thing she was scared of was him dying because of her. She repeats her request that he leave and then runs away.
5. Hyun Seo asks Poong Yeon for a favor and Seo Ri and Jun get married (awwww *sniff*)
Poong Yeon receives a visitor in the person of Hyun Seon who asks him to burn Hong Joo with holy fire should the curse get broken (uh. And here I’d thought Hyun Seo had collected his powers back from Poong Yeon in the last episode when his palms had flashed with light. My bad then). Poong Yeon expresses his concern for what would happen to Hyun Seo after Hong Joo dies, but Hyun Seo tells him not to worry about it at that instant as they would think about it after Hong Joo’s dead (Hyun Seo would most likely have died right alongside her though. I would take his words with a pinch of salt Poong Yeon). Over at the mountain, Seo Ri wakes up that morning to tell Jun that she’d like to do something with him. The something turns out to be a wedding (awww. My heart. I shall still hold out hope to the very end though. Jun has to survive. He has to) which is coordinated by Yo Gwang and is adorably filled with the laughter and quirkiness that is distinctly Seo Ri and Jun (why are the writers doing this to me? Haven’t I suffered enough?). Just as Yo Gwang’s about to declare them man and wife, Jun has him pause for a moment as he enters his room searching for a garland. Seo Ri meanwhile cries as she tells Yo Gwang that she wishes she could have just one more day with Jun (my heart. The pain). As she cries, Jun cries as well in his room, but he’s all smiles when he comes out and places the garland on Seo Ri’s head. He tells her that they’re officially married now (the tears won’t stop) and that’s she stuck with him (why are you going to kill him writer? Why?). He tells her that he really likes her and Seo Ri tells him that she really likes him too and that she wanted to walk alongside him forever (I can barely see as I’m typing this. Why’s the writer doing this? Why?).
6. The sacrifice of true love is made (writer why?!!!!!!)
Jun meets with Yo Gwang and asks for the elixir, stating that Seo Ri doesn’t have that much time left. Yo Gwang gives him the elixir of sacrifice and apologizes even as he walks away. That night, as Jun and Seo Ri stargaze, another shooting star has the curse mark behind Seo Ri’s ear flaring and she faints. As Jun looks down at her, whilst holding the elixir, he tells her that during the time he’d spent trying to save her life, he’d lived his life solely for her, and he wanted to be someone who could save the person he loved. He pops open the elixir and as he drinks it, he mentally tells Seo Ri that all he has left are his sincere feelings of not wanting to die and he hopes his sincerity is not lacking for her sake. He lies on the ground beside her and dozes off. Over at the mountain, Yo Gwang is surprised to see that the final candle is not lit and takes off running. Meanwhile, Hyun Seo comes to meet Hong Joo at her lair. Yo Gwang though has finally caught up with Jun who’s still alive (yay?), but now, Seo Ri’s missing (no.no.no). Jun notices the bottle of elixir beside him, his eyes widen in realization and he takes off running. Seo Ri though is far away in the middle of the forest. She silently tells Jun that she hopes he will only be in a little bit of pain and miss her just a little bit. As Jun searches the forest, screaming for her, Seo Ri continues that she will savor the days they’ve spent together; days that they will never have again. She goes on to say that she’s sure that if his memories of the time they’d spent together translate themselves into ardent enough longing, then they will meet again. She drinks the elixir of sacrifice even as she tells Jun thank you (Oh God. The tears. Typing this is so hard. Why? Why?) and states that she loves him. Over at the temple, the final candle flickers on (that’s the first time in this entire drama that a flickering candle didn’t make me happy. Shit).
7. Hong Joo and Hyun Seo die together
Hong Joo collapses in pain at her lair as the curse finally rebounds on her. Spitting out blood and groaning in agony (girl, I’m still waiting for you to be ripped from limb to limb). She glares at Hyun Seo and asks him what he’s looking at, if it pleases him to see her die (I don’t know about Hyun Seo but I sure am happy. Seo Ri’s dead and so I don’t care. Your death, I’ve been waiting for since the bloody first episode). She asks him if he’s happy and relieved, her face crumbling in pain as she tells him that he has that look in his eyes; the look calling her a poor pitiful girl. The look telling her that she’s gone through so much and yet she still lives her life boldly. The look that says of course she must live. But everything’s over now. Panting and wheezing, she asks Hyun Seo if that’s what he wants to say. She tells him that the pain and curse won’t end just because she’s dead. She asks him if he thinks it’s her fault that the country turned into what it is now. She tells him that as long as it’s heaven’s mandate that chooses leaders and the people follow blindly like sheep, the citizens will continue to suffer and live in misery for thousands of years. She gets hit with another wave of pain, collapses to the ground and spits up more blood, and calls for Hyun Seo. Hyun Seo answers that it seems like they’re all living cursed lives. He carries her and walks towards the burning pyre Poong Yeon has set up. He asks Hong Joo if she’s in pain and tells her that that’s the pain that was inflicted on him which he in turn inflicted on others. He tells her that despite everything, their sins can’t be forgiven and so she should take the curse with her and go. He promises to go with her and Hong Joo slowly nods. Still carrying her, he walks towards the flames. Poong Yeon who has no idea what his father’s actually planning watches Hyun Seo walk towards the flame. But when Hyun Seo stops at the edge of the pyre to smile at him, Poong Yeon begins to look a bit suspicious. By the time Hyun Seo climbs up the pyre, Poong Yeon races towards him, screaming for his father. He can’t go near the flames however and can only scream for Hyun Seo as Hyun Seo is consumed by the flames right along with Hong Joo.
8. The curse is lifted
The dark clouds, after years of hanging over Joseon finally clear away, leaving clear blue skies behind. Queen Shim sees this happen but looks sad. Jun looks even more miserable when he races to the temple and sees the final candle lit. Poong Yeon and Yo Gwang who race in behind him are just as depressed to see the lit candle. Poong Yeon’s eyes are wet with tears and he leaves with Yo Gwang, giving Jun the privacy he needs to cry his heart out.
9. Time passes the way time does (without consideration for the fact that Seo Ri’s gone)
Some time pass by and we see Jun heading in to take the royal medical exam. He’s well dressed and looking like a nobleman and he finishes his exam in record time, stunning everyone around him. After handing over the sheet with his answers, Jun walks back out to meet Yo Gwang and Soon Deuk who are surprised to see him out so soon. Soon Deuk guesses that Jun didn’t pass his exams and even Yo Gwang thinks so too. Jun merely smiles and doesn’t bother to correct them. When Soon Deuk invites him over to her tavern for an all you can eat meal, Jun turns down the offer, stating that he has other plans. He leaves a back to bickering Soon Deuk and Yo Gwang and walks to town exit where he meets with Poong Yeon who is leaving. Poong Yeon mentions that he’d heard that Jun was taking the royal medical exam and Jun gives a sad smile as he states that he wants to keep his promise to Seo Ri. Poong Yeon tells him that he’s sure Jun would be able to pull it off. Jun then asks Poong Yeon if he really must go and Poong Yeon answers that he wants to learn more things and help more people as he feels like that’s his purpose in life. At the words, Jun bows and wishes him the best on his journey. Some more time passes and now Joon is a royal physician, attending to Sunjo who complains that Jun’s robes don’t look good on Jun, even though he’s pleased in his Sunjo way that Jun is back in the palace. Sunjo gives a little smile then wonders how someone like Jun can become a doctor in the first place. Jun replies that there’s a book he wants to write before he dies: a book that can heal people and touch their hearts. He tells Sunjo that he won’t be able to personally treat everyone in the world but he hopes he can touch many people with his book. Sunjo tells him there’s no need for that and walks away. But he stops, calls Jun his doctor and tells him that he’s looking forward to reading Jun’s book before Sunjo himself dies. Jun smiles at the words. Jun later returns to the temple to look at the abandoned and now burned out candles even as he sighs.
10. A very confusing ending (is he hallucinating? Is he dead? Is the underworld right across from Joseon? What’s happening here?)
Forty years later and Jun is an old man, teaching the younger generation. When one of the kids states that he wants to become a doctor like Jun, Jun tells him that a good doctor looks at the heart first before looking at the body. Jun then takes a break off his teaching to finally finish writing his book: the Dongui Bogam, exemplar of Korean Medicine (an extensive text that focuses on oriental medicine). His apprentice is pleased to see Jun’s work finally come to fruition and he asks Jun about the potions in the book, like the ones that can make people see ghosts and the one that can make people fall in love, pointing out that the potions aren’t scientific in nature. Jun admits that the potions aren’t science based, but they were created by a friend. He and his apprentice then set off for their journey but by the time they get to a field, Jun suggests they take a break and his apprentice heads out to get him water. Whilst alone, he spots Seo Ri’s kite and takes off running after it. The kite ends up leading him back to the house in the Black Forest (wait, is he hallucinating? Is this real? Is he dead? Has he entered the afterlife?). As he passes the boundary, he transforms to his younger self. He walks closer to the house (and I really do think those filters give it more of a dreamlike quality) and as he looks around, his eyes glisten with tears and he starts to laugh. He turns around and there’s Yeon Hee standing in front of him and Jun bust into a happy smile that’s also returned.
Character I wanted to bitchslap:
No one in this episode
Headache inducing moment:
None in this episode.
This episode’s a Boulevardier. It takes the very definition of bittersweet to a whole other level because Seo Ri broke the curse but at the cost of her own life. Meaning, Jun is made to live without her for more that forty years. And when he’s finally reunited with her, it’s in death or in his imagination or if my suspicion is correct, maybe he made himself one of those seeing your missed one in your dreams potion and is at the moment dreaming of Seo Ri whilst he’s napping and waiting for his apprentice to show up. Twenty episode and all of us willing that Seo Ri survives and this is what we get? The writer really did serve us a bittersweet mix. But it’s a mix I can live with. It’s not ideal in that I would rather Seo Ri hadn’t died but we choose our battles don’t we? And now I’m fighting with myself with regards to Hong Joo dying because even though I hated that cockroach with all my being, I felt sorry for her at the very end. Damn you writer!!!!