HWARANG -- EPISODE 12
"Your necktie's crooked -- let me help you with that."
The Hwarang knights spread rumors that the king is either Jinheung or Moo Myung, the two young men they didn't grow up with. Ban Ryu is tasked by Minister Park to find out who among the Hwarang is the Faceless King. Ban Ryu, lost in thought, passes right by Soo Hyun. Cue tears. Dan Se and Han Sung spar together, until Han Sung storms off, yelling that he wishes their positions were reversed. The guard Hyun Chu suggests having Moo Myung pose as the king to protect Jinheung. Ji So tries to intimidate Ahn Ji into agreeing, and after she leaves he vows to kill her to protect his family. Soo Ho finally gets close to his crush -- the Queen herself. She asks to see him, steps on a thorn and is carried back into the palace by the young knight.
Moo Myung and Jinheung both ponder Dog-Bird's assertion that if he finds the king he will kill him, and our hero figures out who the king is. The day of the deadly sparring competition arrives. A matchup against a palace guard prompts the Queen to stop the contest before Moo Myung is killed. Minister Park now believes that Moo Myung is the king. Jinheung visits his friend, concerned about his condition, and finds Moo Myung's blade at his throat...
"I've got my d20. I'm totally ready for the game!"
It keeps getting tighter and tighter. This episode dragged a bit at the start (how many times can you listen to a rumor being passed around?), but more than redeemed itself in the last half. Especially with those fights. Contrary to Sook Myung's assessment, I found the battles, even the practice ones, absolutely sick. It's almost like they had an instructor hit the set and teach them between episodes or something, they were that good. I thought to pit Soo Ho against Ban Ryu was particularly interesting, and I hope they do more with that in the next episode.
I thought Moo Myung's assertion over-used. They kept reminding us over and over, in flashbacks, in encounters with other characters, that Dog-Bird intended to slay the king. We get it, no need to hammer us over the head with it. But the biggest plot-hole is this: why did no one really know? I would have thought someone would have overheard and alerted the Queen. Or if Minister Park found out, he could have tried to use Moo Myung as a tool in his own quest for power.
The trio quickly find out what the term 'laxative' means...
You almost feel sorry for Jinheung/Ji Dwi. In the last episode, he pretty much confided in Moo Myung, despite there being no obvious reason they were friends, in this they're laughing and teasing each other like close buddies. Because 'Hwarang' doesn't let you easily forget what a character said, we know that the young king had no friends. And I was hoping this bromance might develop more, but they brought it around to Mak Moon, and Moo Myung's quest for revenge got in the way. Frankly, I would have redirected his anger to the Queen if I was one of the writers, but they didn't ask me.
And Ah Ro knowing that Princess Sook Myung fired the arrow is one thing, but confronting her about it? In everything I've seen about those days, they would have had her punished for insolence. Maybe the Princess is so high and mighty that she doesn't care, but this was not usually the case. Most rulers acted like 5-year-olds and their moods were just as capricious. It is, however, nice to see Ah Ro standing up for herself and what's right. Indignation is a welcome switch from tears.
Why the frown? You're getting to carry your lady-love. What's more romantic than that?
I think the relationship between Han Sung and Dan Se was a nice touch. I like that they're developing more complex relationships between the characters. A lot of these guys were little more than cardboard for much of the series, more like something for the camera to focus on than anything else. While there's a lot of guys to keep track of, I feel it makes for more of a living, breathing world if even the minor players are given a subplot. I really enjoyed the depth that they give these two characters, and I hope there's a happy resolution there since Han Sung is not happy as a noble.
For all that, I think this show is developing nicely. I wanted a better, less awkward drama, and finally, I got that. Every drama has plot holes, but not every drama ambles around aimlessly trying to fill its running time. Finally, 'Hwarang' has come into its own, and I'm looking forward to the next 4 weeks. But how about you guys? Thoughts?