5 Romantic Moments Where On Dal Proved He’s No Fool In Episodes 9-10 Of “River Where The Moon Rises”
Our favourite sageuk is back and better than ever as On Dal (Na In Woo) returns in full force with charm, charisma, and enough puppy-eyes to make us swoon. We take a break from palace machinations this week as Pyeonggang (Kim So Hyun) returns to Ghost Village with her new husband. However, this time, she isn’t running away from who she is but preparing for the future, for saving her country, and for keeping the man she loves alive while she does it.
Our main couple had plenty of time together this week for romance, kisses, and sword-training, all of which will undoubtedly become harder to find time for as stakes grow higher and Pyeonggang starts to form her own army. The greatest growth this week came from On Dal, who starts to realize just how dangerous the world is, and how difficult it will be for him and the woman he loves to find happiness in it. But that won’t stop him from trying!
Warning: spoilers for episodes 9-10 below.
1. Saving Pyeonggang from an unwanted marriage
Perhaps it was due to all the footage cut from episodes 7-8, but this move felt like it came out of nowhere. Sweet, kind Dal who never wished to spill blood suddenly hiding a dagger up his sleeve to assassinate Go Won Pyo (Lee Hae Young)? How?
However, Na In Woo sold it! He’s found his footing with this role and brings out a maturity and duality to On Dal. It’s brilliantly done and it would have been great to see this version from the very beginning! On Dal’s previous iteration felt like a lovesick schoolboy, a straight up himbo. However, now, he feels three-dimensional: manly, impetuous, and reckless, but also sweet and goofy. Na In Woo makes clear that On Dal is not 100 percent sunshine and rainbows and is more than capable of darker emotions, but he still doesn’t know enough about the world to fear it fully. Compared to Pyeonggang, he lived a sheltered life and retains a sweet sense of innocence. But On Dal starts to realize just how dangerous this can be. One example of how Na In Woo pulls this off is when On Dal prepares for the assassination attempt.
At first, he looks determined and a little cruel. But the moment he’s brought in front of King Pyeongwon (Kim Bup Rae) and the entire court, he realizes just how much is at stake, and his eyes immediately turn scared and innocent. It’s telling that he loves Pyeonggang enough to go as far as to kill for her. This is same Dal who was telling her to put down her sword and life a normal life as an herb-gatherer!
But On Dal is realizing that his life of peace was just an illusion, that living as a fool only made him blind to the dangers of this world. His presence saved Pyeonggang from an unwanted marriage (that much is certain because she had no other way out). However, if Go Won Pyo or Go Geon (Lee Ji Hoon) had seen that dagger up his sleeve, On Dal would have been immediately arrested and killed for attempted murder. It’s a shock to him, especially when Pyeonggang is publicly slapped in front of the court and sent away.
On Dal starts to realize that being protected from the world only made it more dangerous for him to navigate it because he lacks the street smarts and cunning necessary to survive. This is made all the more evident when Go Geon comes chasing after Pyeonggang before they depart for Ghost Village.
2. Defeating sword master Go Geon
This man needs a lead role, look at that smile!
Episode 10 shows Go Geon swiftly avoiding every one of Crown Prince Won’s (Park Sang Hoon) attempted blows. He was Pyeonggang’s sword master and made it all the way to general, so this man definitely knows what he’s doing. Yet, On Dal who’s never taken up sword training his entire life manages to wallop Go Geon enough to seriously concuss him. Perhaps On Dal would have been screwed if this wasn’t hand-to-hand combat and Go Geon had used a sword, but the fact remains that his raw untrained potential beat out a Goguryeo general and that’s something to be proud of. Plus, as the behind the scenes shows, both actors didn’t use stunt doubles for the fight scene, which makes it all the more impressive (starts at 7:04).
What’s so crucial about this fight scene is that it shows Dal that even escaping the palace isn’t enough. Trouble will continue to follow them no matter where they go, simply due to the reality of who Pyeonggang is. Even if she never wanted to retake her homeland, Go Won Pyo would still see her as a threat (he was trying to kill her before she even set foot in the palace!), and Go Geon would still immediately go chasing after her. The Sunno Tribe’s days of quiet existence were always numbered. Someone would have stumbled upon them someday. It could very realistically have been Silla spies, given that they use hidden mountain passes as well.
The fact that Go Geon tried to raze down the village once and then tries again post-defeat by On Dal is proof that it wasn’t meant to last forever. It’s more food for thought as Dal returns to Ghost Village with his new wife in tow.
3. Claiming Pyeonggang as his wife
Okay, they’re both enjoying this so much! While it makes sense that they have to keep up the façade of being married, it doesn’t mean they have to hide the truth from Sa Woon Am (Jung Wook) or from Lady Sa (Hwang Young Hee). On Dal’s friend Sa Poong Gae (Kim Dong Young) and Pyeonggang’s assassin twins, Tara Jin and Tara San (Kim Hee Jung and Ryoo Ui Hyun, respectively) know the truth so why shouldn’t the literal head of the tribe and Dal’s beloved adopted mother?
The way On Dal proudly keeps calling Pyeonggang his wife (even when they hadn’t kissed yet, please On Dal) and the way she keeps doing everything to earn Lady Sa’s approval shows that the two of them are actually taking this really seriously. What makes On Dal so great here is that he’s giving her all the time and space she needs and letting her initiate the first moves. If his bit of night-time exercise is any indication, our man is feeling things and needs to work off that energy. But unlike Go Geon who would probably face smash Pyeonggang if she so much as indicated any romantic interest, On Dal actually lets her set the pace. And she sure does!
He doesn’t try to interfere in Pyeonggang’s business or to do her work for her. He respects her enough to know when she wants to do things herself and gives her the time to do so, even when it means he can’t hold her hand.
Go Geon might diss On Dal as a “country bumpkin” or someone of “low birth” but On Dal still respects a woman better that Geon does!
4. Learning military tactics and sword training
What’s amusing about Pyeonggang whipping On Dal into shape is that Na In Woo’s incredible with a sword in real life (see “Mr. Queen” for more!) and does his own stunts. It was hilarious to watch him act like he didn’t know which end of a sword was up! But this scene and the training is touching in that it shows On Dal finally taking action after so many years willingly sitting in the dark and playing the part of a fool.
As much as he loves Lady Sa, he knows she wouldn’t agree with his path and hides the truth from her. He understands what she does not, that protecting someone from the world is a kind and admirable thing to do but ultimately hurts more than it helps. Because when the person comes face to face with reality, they’re not equipped to handle it. Pyeonggang notices his sadness at having to hide the truth from Lady Sa and gently tells him he can quit at any point because she doesn’t want him to do anything that would make him feel conflicted or sad. But On Dal persists, because he understands that he cannot afford to stay hidden anymore and that this is the only way he can protect those he cares about. Plus, his sword master sure is cute!
This is all the more important because Pyeonggang has started to amass power as a military leader, and she’s going to need someone dependable and strong by her side.
5. Understanding that Goguryeo comes first for Pyeonggang
“River Where the Moon Rises” is so compelling because Pyeonggang is its front and center. She’s the one amassing an army and looking to return the Sunno Tribe to its rightful position on the Five Tribes Council. She’s the one playing a political long game, whereas On Dal takes more of a background role as her husband and sword training pupil. It also means Pyeonggang has bigger things to think about than just On Dal. He finds this out the hard way, returning from a training session to find Pyeonggang holding a rally with the people of Ghost Village, who volunteer to fight by her side and regain their place in the world.
For Dal, who’s only been thinking about his wife, training, and his chores around the village, this comes as a visible shock. While he revels in being able to sleep next to her every night, she’s busy dreaming big and thinking further ahead. Pyeonggang sees how much this hurts him and apologizes, but she says she’s doing this for all of them, for everyone. It’s painful to see On Dal give her a sad smile and say that it’s okay, that this was probably what she had planned out during her brief stay in the palace and that he’s willing to fight for her and be by her side.
It’s a heartbreaking scene because it sets the foundation for the anguish in our couple’s future. For Pyeonggang, the people of Goguryeo will always come first. She wants to save her father, her brother, the entire country from Go Won Pyo and anyone else who threatens it. But for On Dal, Pyeonggang will always come first. He also loves the people of his village and hates injustice, but his wife will always come first for him. And right now, quite understandably, Pyeonggang loves him but has bigger priorities.
It goes to show how great a guy On Dal is because Go Geon would not be having that. His girl has to love him first or else. Other people? Other priorities? He’ll kill them all. He’s literally abusing the truth of King Pyeongwon and Crown Prince Won, the two people Pyeonggang loves most in the palace. Please, Go Geon, let’s be better than this. But Dal? Sweet, reckless On Dal loves even the part of Pyeonggang that puts Goguryeo before him and works even harder to be able to stand at her side!
He puts everything into training and succeeds in the same training exercise at which Pyeonggang beat Go Geon: knocking the sword out of her hand.
She literally has heart-eyes at how awesome he is!
On Dal’s maturity continues to impress. To love without asking anything in return, if that isn’t husband of the year material, then what is?
BONUS: Mo Yong and Go Geon’s electric romance
Go Geon’s a hot mess where Pyeonggang is concerned but he burns up the screen around Hae Mo Yong (Choi Yu Hwa). He’s repressed so much of his real personality around Pyeonggang for so long and acted caring, selfless, when he’s really obsessive, cunning, and angsty as heck. But with Mo Yong, he doesn’t hold back anything. She sees him for who he is and she really likes it. They rescue each other in their own way: her bringing down his fever and healing his wounds, and him, rescuing her from Cheonjubang’s assassins.
In contrast to Pyeonggang and On Dal, who are both relatively pure-hearted people and haven’t seen the worst in each other, Mo Yong and Go Geon have literally seen each other at their lowest and are drawn together in a way they don’t understand. Mo Yong is aware of the attraction. Go Geon isn’t but keeps coming to her at night when he’s tired, injured, drunk, or wants to discuss tactics (just open your eyes already!). She’s his mental equal and hopefully they figure it out soon and start fighting on the same side because that chemistry is potent! (Also how is Choi Yu Hwa 35?)
There was a lot to cover this week and things look like they’ll get even busier next week with On Dal heading off to train the mountains with Wol Gwang (Cho Tae Kwan), and Lady Sa potentially dying(!!) One thing’s for certain, next week can’t come fast enough!
Check out the drama below!
What did you think of this week’s episodes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Shalini_A is a long time Asian-drama addict. She would like Na In Woo to know that she always believed he could pull off the role. When not watching dramas, she works as a lawyer, fangirls over Ji Sung, and attempts to write the greatest fantasy romance of all time. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and feel free to ask her anything!