I’ve never been so relieved at the “darkest before the dawn” trope getting used. I mean, it’s all relative to be sure. Episode 22 left us hanging over a fairly dire cliff. But I will grab the straws they’ve given us. Grab them and cling to them gladly.
(Actually — I wonder if the writers gave us episodes 19 and 20 just to show us how bleak things could get? So that even when things end badly (damn you history!) we’re still happy that it’s not as bad as it could be.)
Spoilers through episode 22 below…
The happiest, sunniest ray? The love between Lee Soon and Ok-jung is not dead. It got pretty severely bruised there, but everyone behaved like thinking, civilized adults (finally!) and talked things through and dug for the truth rather than listen to poisoned whispers. I was so proud of everyone — and it’s not often I get to say that when a romantic triangle exists and misunderstandings are strewn about like wrapping paper on a Christmas morning.
First up, I was so, so thrilled that Lee Soon actually spoke with Ok-jung and tried to understand why she’d gone a little crazy. And I was thrilled that Ok-jung responded and admitted she’d gone ’round the bend for a moment there and shared her fears that he didn’t love her anymore (or had let go of her hand if we use the drama’s lingo). It meant they were able to work out from where they were together. And that’s when they’re at their strongest.
And Dong Pyung is back (which is always reason to cheer up). And he spoke honestly to Lee Soon about loving Ok-jung and working to let her go because she was definitely not interested. (He said he succeeded, and Lee Soon took him at his word, though I have my doubts. However, he’s certainly not trying to steal her from Lee Soon and that’s the important thing. Which might be Lee Soon’s view as well because that man does not miss much.)
Ok-jung even grit her teeth and accepted Choi. Which leads me to another aside about the writing…
As a modern girl, I have a hard time wrapping my head around it being understandable for Lee Soon to be upset and jealous over Dong Pyung, but Ok-jung’s very similar reaction is reason for shocked pearl-clutching. So it’s very helpful to me that jealousy was the excuse used to dethrone In-hyun. That way Lee Soon’s horrified, “are you actually… jealous!!?!” makes sense in the context that it’s extremely foolish to show the emotion that just ended In-hyun. It’s reasonable, for this modern viewer, that he’d expect Ok-jung to be smart enough to hide her unhappiness. (I intellectually understand that Lee Soon would frown on jealousy no matter the situation because he’s supposed to have tons of women — but it’s nice to have an emotional reason to accept his thinking.)
I can even (sort of) understand why he hadn’t shared with Ok-jung the extremely important little detail that he never actually slept with Choi. He was trying to prod the Southern faction into better supporting Ok-jung (maybe doing a little PR of their own in support of their girl) and if she was able to soothe their fears it wouldn’t have worked. They’re idiots, unfortunately, so it still didn’t work. But I got what Lee Soon was trying to do. (I think Ok-jung would have been smart enough to work with his plan, but…)
Speaking of which… I’m still pleased that it’s the incompetency of the Southern faction that’s bringing Ok-jung down. (For plot reasons — not that I’m happy Ok-jung’s side is losing.) It feels real to me — they’ve got good motives but they’re just completely untrained in wielding actual power and it means the Western faction is able to tie them into knots. And it means Lee Soon has a very real reason to turn from them.
I am also happy that Ok-jung’s brother — though a bear of very little brain — really was trying to do his best by his sister. I worried that he’d sacrifice her for his own ambition and hated that idea because she loves him so much. So that his failure was mere stupidity and that he did his best to then sacrifice himself to save his sister… it’s sad but it also warmed my heart a little. I want Ok-jung to be loved.
Which… I’m still trying to figure out if that’s Chi-soo’s motivation — love for Ok-jung. Lee Soon seems to think that winning Ok-jung is Chi-soo’s ultimate goal but… That’s more obsession and pretty much the exact opposite of love. Which would make Chi-soo the bad guy and… Is he? This show makes it hard to call who the bad guys are going to be. Like Ok-jung’s brother for example.
Fortunately, Ok-jung is still definitely a good guy. Her willingness to sacrifice herself for her husband and son is pretty damn awesome. It rips my heart but in a vastly different way than her turning bad would have done. Rather than channeling the dowager queen, she’s showing herself to be made of much stronger fiber and higher class. The dowager queen constantly pulled her husband and son down to satisfy her own needs. Ok-jung is better than that. And that’s why I love her. And why Lee Soon loves her too.
(My thoughts on how it might end: I’m hoping — now that Ok-jung and Lee Soon are fully reconciled — that Ok-jung has another baby. But to protect him, they all pretend it’s Choi’s child. I have no idea how they’d manage to swing that in the walls-literally-have-eyes, seriously-they’re-made-of-paper, palace but… Just knowing my history I’d really like Lee Soon’s second son to be Ok-jung’s as well. I’m going for all the twists I can, okay!! *sob* damn you history!)