6 Moments From Episodes 15-16 Of “River Where The Moon Rises” That Broke Our Hearts
This week’s episodes of “River Where the Moon Rises” bring plenty of pain and little in the way of levity. The portents of doom sprinkled last week bloom into war and revolt, as Go Won Pyo (Lee Hae Young) and Go Geon (Lee Ji Hoon) decide to stop manipulating King Pyeongwon (Kim Bup Rae) and go straight for the throne themselves.
Pyeonggang (Kim So Hyun) is prepared for what’s coming and what she has to do to rid Goguryeo of Go Won Pyo once and for all. But the man who loves her (Na In Woo) finds that he couldn’t possibly have known the extent of what he would have to bear. Without further ado, these are the moments that had us tearing up this week.
Warning: spoilers for episodes 15-16 below.
1. Pyeonggang lying to Dal
Pyeonggang’s confrontation with Go Won Pyo and Queen Jin Bi (Wang Bit Na) was epic, and her ploy results in her taking down the two people who directly brought about her mother’s death. On Dal’s fierce protectiveness of her throughout the scene is evidently a source of strength for her. Which is why it comes all the more as a surprise when he gently says that she lied to him about the letter being real.
There’s so much that’s heartbreaking about this scene. There’s the tender way Dal says it, and how he says it’s okay for her to use him in any way she sees fit but to not do it to anyone else. There’s the clear conflict in Pyeonggang’s eyes when she sees that he’s hurting but also believes that what she’s doing is right and necessary for the country. Then, there’s the awful fact that Pyeonggang’s never lied to Dal after their initial encounter. She’s always chosen to omit the truth instead. Even in episode 6, when she knew she would temporarily resume life as an assassin to save Tara Jin (Kim Hee Jung) and Tara San (Ryoo Ui Hyun), she merely crept out to do what she needed to do and return. And once Dal saw her, she readily admitted what she was up to.
But this time Pyeonggang actively lied to him by saying the letter was real when it wasn’t. And no matter how she justifies that it had to be done, that Dal couldn’t keep a lie to save his life, she knows that he also knows that she chose to hurt him. And even though he’s willing to take that, it still hurts to watch.
2. Their bittersweet date
But this isn’t to blame Pyeonggang, because she does make an effort to fix that mistake by taking Dal out on a date outside the palace. The happy couple of old finally resurfaces as the two leave the politics, scheming, and endless backstabbing of the palace for some fresh air and good old-fashioned fun.
They’re so happy!
Pyeonggang starts to smile again, and Dal, well he’s absolutely ecstatic. Yet, reality comes crashing down again in the worst of ways. Pyeonggang might leave the palace but the palace never leaves her. She learned the hard way in episodes 7 and 8 that palace life is in no way straightforward, and that she has to sink to the level of her enemies to survive. So, like Go Geon, Hae Mo Yong (Choi Yu Hwa), and Go Won Pyo, Pyeonggang can’t stop looking over her shoulder, focusing on what she’s missing and what she has to figure out before it’s too late. And just like that the magic is gone and the date is over.
Her dropping the mirror Dal was about to gift is an ominous warning as to what is to come and to how their relationship would fracture. And the sad way Dal stares at it while she focuses more on Go Won Pyo’s spy shows that he knows it. Incidentally, Victory Contents, the production company for the show, was inundated with so many complaints about Pyeonggang’s actions that they released a deleted scene that takes place right after this disastrous date.
In it, Pyeonggang tells Dal that she finds it hard to breathe in the palace every day, so she can’t imagine how stifling it must be for him. She says she wishes she could smile and laugh with him like a regular person, but she feels like she messed that up. She knows he’s having a hard time because of how she’s changed upon entering the Palace. Dal assures her that he doesn’t care about stuff like that. She’s scared of disappointing him but he tells her to go ahead and see if he even blinks at it. Pyeonggang’s worried but Dal leads her off to show her something. This scene segues into when he reminds her of the horse he carved her and its meaning: that he is always on her side. This one’s a hero for the books. What a guy!
3. Pyeonggang losing her temper with Tara Jin
Dal isn’t the only one feeling the change in Pyeonggang. When Tara Jin is insulted by Go Sang Cheol (Yoon Joo Man) for being a Goturk, Sa Poong Gae (Kim Dong Young) and Dal come to her defense, with the latter delivering a satisfying punch to Sang Cheol’s face. Yet, Ga Jin is dismayed at the fighting and tells them that this isn’t Ghost Village. As members of the palace they have a duty and dignity to uphold and cannot be seen fighting in the street like rabble, as the infighting could cause people to question the royal family’s strength. As fair as her comments are, they remain centered around politics and not around Tara Jin, who has recently lost her brother, uprooted her life to move to the capital just so Pyeonggang can have a friend around, and was insulted and demeaned by Go Sang Cheol.
While Dal does his best to defend his wife, Jin sighs that he has it the hardest and leaves. Dal tells Pyeonggang that Jin was hurt, and she does try to make it up to her by giving Jin her freedom: if she wishes to return home or go where she wishes Pyeonggang won’t be selfish and stop her. Yet, Jin stays, despite Doo Joong Seo (Han Jae Young) trying to recruit her to return to being an assassin, proving that the people around Pyeonggang love her enough to overlook anything. However, the question arises as to how long they can keep doing so.
4. Dal goes against Pyeonggang for the first time
Dal’s resolution to stay firm despite what Pyeonggang does is sorely tested when she threatens Yang Chaek (Choi Kwang Je) the leader of Hwangju Fortress with his family’s lives. Horrified, Dal pulls her away and tries to show her that she’s turning into Go Won Pyo, but unfortunately, that’s exactly what Pyeonggang wants. To defeat her enemy, she has to think like him and play the same game he’s playing. Trying to be kind and upright won’t take her far and she knows it.
What’s so awful about this scene is the way Pyeonggang defends the law and argues that she’s doing what’s right. While Dal begs for her to show Yang Chaek’s family leniency, Pyeonggang argues that as princess she is bound to the law no matter what that law is. It’s a strange argument for her to make given that she just used her authority as princess to argue for a tax on the wealthy (which was what precipitated the rebellion at Hwangju Fortress). And Dal sees it. That inflexibility and determination to stick to unjust rules instead of changing them doesn’t bode well, and he refuses to see Pyeonggang stain her soul this way.
So he does it himself.
There’s no words for how heartbreaking it is, and the look on his face when he kills Yang Chaek to prevent him from being threatened and to spare his family’s lives is so tragic and true to Dal’s character. Pyeonggang wants to save a country but Dal wants to save people, no matter who those people are. He sees himself and his tribe in the shattered remains of these revolutions and endless battles. And he won’t let anyone hurt them more than they already have been. Even if it’s Pyeonggang, because he loves her too.
5. Dal’s emotional breakdown
Pyeonggang and Dal’s argument post-Yang Chaek’s death is tragically true to their character arcs. He yells that this is a problem between the two of them and to stop bringing politics into it, and she retorts that she isn’t her as his wife but as a representative of the King. Ouch! And as always, Dal yields to Pyeonggang. The second he hears that there’s been a series of revolts in neighboring fortress, he immediately volunteers to go in and do all the dirty work necessary to quell the rebellion. To her credit, Pyeonggang does her best to make him return to the capital, knowing that this is too much for him and that he needs rest. But Dal points out that she can’t be in two places at once. Pyeonggang personally fighting would leave Pyeongwon and Crown Prince Won (Park Sang Hoon) defenseless against Go Won Pyo and Go Geon. So once again, Dal dons his armor and fights. Only, he can’t take it anymore. The war, the blood, it’s breaking him up inside and the show does an excellent job of showing how each successive fight wears him down until he’s a mess.
This culminates in a heartbreaking scene with a dead rabbit where Dal weeps aloud, wondering if he killed it. In a way, the rabbit represents everything good and innocent about his old life in Ghost Village. Dal’s innocence is gone. He’s learning exactly why On Hyeop (Kang Ha Neul) asked him to live as a fool, and he mourns those carefree days. Poong Gae and Jin are speechless in sorrow at how much this is hurting him. Dal’s a changed man when he returns victorious after those battles. He’s still the same kind, caring person inside but he’s been broken into a thousand pieces. And he’s terrifying as a warrior now.
When Dal returns to find Go Geon (who’s gone completely insane at this point) and Pyeonggang looking like this:
He loses it and snarls at Go Geon, looking so homicidal and battle-mad that even Pyeonggang shivers. Go Geon literally puts down his sword and lets himself get thrown in jail. That’s how scary Dal is now. And the sad thing is, he never wanted to be that way.
6. That bathtub kiss
This scene was incredible. He’s so obviously shattered inside but still gently telling her that he’ll always be on her side.
This is so heartbreaking because it sets up what this show is hinting at: that Pyeonggang knows the toll this is taking on Dal but will still ask him to keep fighting, and that Dal knows what this will do to him but loves her too much to ever refuse. This doesn’t mean that Pyeonggang is a bad person. She isn’t. She just has different priorities than Dal, and he knew that from the start.
However, those different priorities mean that Pyeonggang won’t recognize just how important Dal is until it’s too late. She loves him, but he’s secondary to Goguryeo and defeating Go Won Pyo. Her goals are laudable and extremely impressive, but she hasn’t realized that building a new Goguryeo will mean nothing if Dal dies in the process. With the show heavily hinting at tragedy in every moment, it’s unclear if they will actually follow through and have Dal die, but there’s no denying both of them are on a dangerous path. And neither shows any sign of stepping back.
Speaking of people who have no intention of stepping back, Go Geon and Mo Yong have officially both gone nuts and are determine to become Goguryeo’s Bonnie and Clyde. As magnetic as they are onscreen, there’s no redeeming or understanding them anymore. At least they’ve found each other to be insane with.
Mo Yong, you could’ve been so much better than this!
We’ve got Mo Yong about to kill Pyeonggang, Go Geon making declarations of love to her and completely forgetting that he was in love with Pyeonggang for eight years, Go Geon suddenly tearing up at the thought of being king, him getting thrown in jail with his dad, whom he’s also backstabbing because he loves Mo Yong, and we’ve got Doo Joong Seo (Han Jae Young) on the loose, so everything’s a mess.
Next week doesn’t bode well either. We have Lady Sa’s (Hwang Young Hee) dreams hinting at Dal’s death, and she’s worried enough to journey to the palace to ask him to return to the village. But the preview shows Dal getting angry with her and also shows Go Geon nearing Lady Sa’s carriage, which cannot be good. It’s looking very likely that she’ll die and that Dal will be tormented by regret. With four episodes left and Mo Yong, Go Geon, Go Won Pyo, Doo Joong Seo, and King Jinheung of Silla (Kim Seung Soo) to take down (so many enemies!), it looks like the action will keep going strong, as it has thus far.
But hopefully, the approaching darkness will be balanced out with moments of peace! Dal needs it and so do we!
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. 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!