5 Moments That Spell Trouble For Namgoong Min & Ahn Eun Jin In Episodes 18-19 Of “My Dearest”
“My Dearest” got a one-episode extension this week, stretching the narrative to add plenty of turmoil as we head into the final stretch. Lee Jang Hyun (Namgoong Min) and Yoo Gil Chae (Ahn Eun Jin) have never been happier together, but things are getting worse and worse for them politically with a fully insane King Injo (Kim Jong Tae) on the loose and his scheming concubine Jo (So Yu Jin) ready to kill everyone in her path. Here’s everything that spells doom for this beloved couple, even as they try their best to weather the serious storms coming their way.
Warning: spoilers for episodes 18-19 below.
1. The king’s murder of the captives
Ascending the throne via a coup means you can lose it via the same, and King Injo is painfully aware of this fact. The trouble is that he’s under the belief that his son, Crown Prince So Hyun (Kim Moo Joon), is gunning for his seat. Prince So Hyun tearfully tries to convince him that this isn’t true, but Injo isn’t hearing it and refuses to allow the captives who’ve been farming so hard for the prince to return to Joseon. The prince is devastated at being unable to keep his promise, and Jang Hyun loses all faith in the prince upon hearing that he won’t keep his word.
He tries to bring back the captives anyway with Ryang Eum (Kim Yoon Woo) and Goo Jam’s (Park Kang Sub’s) aid, with Goo Yang Chun (Choi Moo Sung) leading them across the river onto Joseon land. Only, they’re surrounded by the king’s men and slaughtered. Jang Hyun fights back in shock at the king’s cruelty, but he’s knocked out, captured, and tortured at the palace. The captives loyally stick to Jang Hyun’s story that he’s Yang Chun because revealing his identity means that the king would have immediately linked Jang Hyun to the prince and would have accused the prince of treason because his captives dared to fight back instead of just sitting and being killed. But the captives that are brought in with Jang Hyun are all murdered. And those who flee back across the river to the Qing empire (because the invaders are now safer than their own country) meet a very pissed off Gak Hwa (Lee Chung Ah).
2. Lee Jang Hyun’s promise to Gak Hwa
This was a terrible idea last week, and it’s come right back to bite Jang Hyun in the face because Gak Hwa is not pleased. Their deal was that she would ensure that the captives crossed the river safely onto Joseon land, and he would cross the river to her, and they’d be together forever. Which is the worst deal ever. But instead, all she gets are dead and dying captives returning and no Jang Hyun. She’s convinced that he isn’t dead and decides to come to Joseon with Yong Gol Dae (Choi Young Woo) to find him.
This is terrible for so many reasons. Given King Injo’s paranoia, when Gol Dae and Gak Hwa start requesting Jang Hyun as their interpreter, he’s going to assume that Jang Hyun sides with the Qing. When he hears that Jang Hyun was tight with his son, he’ll assume that Jang Hyun’s gunning for a coup. If the prince could somehow convince his father that he has no interest in the throne, then perhaps Jang Hyun would stand a chance. But he can’t. Because he’s dead.
3. The Crown Prince’s death
At this point the prince has been a political prisoner for almost on a decade. His health has declined, and his father’s constant accusations, belittlement, and spite didn’t help. And one night, he finally breathes his last. And that’s when insanity breaks loose in the palace.
Rather than grieve his son’s death, the king accuses him of treason some more, and with Concubine Jo’s influence, he accuses Prince So Hyun’s wife Kang Bin (Jeon Hye Won) of murder and planting a cursed object in the palace (in an effort to depose Injo). This was a common accusation made against women in the palace. In the patriarchal Joseon-era, poison and magic were seen as women’s weapons, and men were only happy to believe the worst, no matter how baseless or ridiculous the accusations were. The thing is that the accusations aren’t entirely false this time. A woman did bury a “cursed” object on palace grounds hoping for the death of a royal family member. Only that woman was Gil Chae.
Some months ago, Gil Chae attempted to sell Concubine Jo some knives. Instead, Jo saw someone she could use and destroy: a divorced woman who had once been dragged away by the Qing. Someone no one would care about. She pressures Gil Chae into burying the object on palace grounds, and Gil Chae only agrees because she’s heard that they’re torturing Jang Hyun in the palace and wants to rescue him. She buries it and manages to see him being carted out for disposal, half-dead. She’s so ridiculously brave that she not only smears blood over herself and plays dead in a pile of corpses so she can save him, but she also bludgeons a eunuch to make their getaway.
Jang Hyun’s barely conscious, and they’re assisted by another eunuch who helps take Jang Hyun to Gil Chae’s place. But by morning, the palace has tortured that eunuch too to reveal where “Yang Chun” has gone. The eunuch bravely holds out, directing the soldiers to Gil Chae’s place but denying that Gil Chae was a part of any of it. And that allows Ryang Eum to transport Jang Hyun to the home of Minister Kim Ja Jeom (Kim Min Sang), who is sick of the king’s nonsense. But how does one fight a corrupt, cruel king when your country is also being invaded by another corrupt, cruel monarch?
4. Jang Cheol’s and his scholars’ protest
“My Dearest” has been pretty realistic in showing us just how slow political change was in the Joseon era. The king’s word was law, and ministers were usually torn between the king or the replacement they were supporting. A king had to mess up really, really badly in order for people to consider a replacement. The fact that no one has considered deposing Injo despite his mass murder of his own people speaks to how high the threshold is. The Confucian ideals enshrined in Joseon law dictated that the king came from the heavens and therefore could never be questioned, especially when said king is under attack by a foreign ruler. This puts everyone in a quandary because it means that a cruel king in a time of war can do anything because people have to support him over the foreign invaders.
Jang Cheol (Moon Sung Geun) has been a background player for sometime. His scholars, including Nam Yeon Joon (Lee Hak Joo), fear King Injo but advise him anyway because Confucian ideals state that it is better for a wise man to provide an evil king counsel than to just sit back and allow other evil men to provide an evil king counsel. But with the king torturing and killing innocent escapees, the scholars finally take a stand outside the palace and protest. This form of protest is meant to demonstrate that the king has violated a Confucian ideal, and the longer the protest goes on the more bad press the king accumulates because scholars do not protest lightly. Still, Yeon Joon is linked to Kyung Eun Ae (Lee Da In), who Gil Chae will always fight for. And with Injo ready to kill everyone in his path, if he goes after the scholars, then Gil Chae is within the line of fire once more.
5. Jang Hyun’s past and amnesia
Jang Hyun’s injuries are bad. Both Gil Chae and Ryang Eum fear that he’ll die, but he pulls through. The trouble? He has amnesia. This is the worst K-drama trope of all time, especially because of the memories he relives while unconscious that indicate that Jang Hyun is Jang Cheol’s missing son! The show’s just dropped a surprise birth secret on us! This entire time it has seemed like Jang Hyun was a young slave who grew up through skill and wit alone, but that’s not the case. He has a slave whom he named Ryang Eum (not the same as our Ryang Eum) who was in love with Jang Hyun’s sister. Naturally, Jang Cheol was furious and beat the slave to death, after which Jang Hyun appears to have run away and become the man we know today. That’s a massive secret to drop, and Gil Chae’s still unaware. Jang Hyun’s reverted to a much younger self and is a little awkward around her because he doesn’t recognize anyone. But she’s happy with that.
For once, they’re two people unburdened by the past and are able to laugh and tease in ways they normally haven’t. Jang Hyun makes amnesia charming. The spell doesn’t last too long, and he reverts to himself pretty quickly by the end. But that still leaves them in quite the pickle and only two episodes left to hear how this story ends. We have Gak Hwa and Gol Dae on the way to ruin Jang Hyun’s life. And there’s Concubine Jo who’s ready to ruin Gil Chae’s life. The king has already poisoned his dead son’s wife to death after accusing her of treason, so he’s fully lost his mind. Jang Cheol is unaware that his son is alive but could be Jang Hyun’s last hope because he has no powerful backing at the moment. Also, there’s the white-haired man we saw in the first episode and all those men surrounding a weeping Jang Hyun on the beach. Will next week bring us agony or elation? One thing’s for sure, it’s been one heck of a ride.
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Shalini_A is a long time Asian-drama addict. When not watching dramas, she fangirls over Ji Sung, and spins thrillers set in increasingly fantastic worlds. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and feel free to ask her anything!
Currently Watching: “My Dearest,” “Moon in the Day,” “Song of the Bandits,” “Vigilante,” and “Twinkling Watermelon.”
Looking Forward to: “Gyeongseong Creature,” “Ask the Stars,” “Queen of Tears,” and Ji Sung’s next drama.