I mini-marathoned eps6-8 after my trip, so this is like a combined post/ analysis . (i hate backlogs…argh) So far, Three has been on Dal-hyang’s journey and his inoculation into the Musketeers group. Finally at the closing of ep7, he becomes an official member, obtaining Sohyeon’s stamp smile of approval. Refreshingly, instead of retaining the focus on Dal-hyang, Three shifts the spotlight on to Mi-ryung/ Hyang-sun and Yoon-seo. I take my word back that the women are likely to be sidelined in Three. Actually, they are pivotal to the story. Mi-ryung’s (or Hyang-sun’s) backstory contributes greatly to who Sohyeon is in the present. And not to forget her dabbling in the political conflicts between the Joseun and Manchu empires. Yoon-seo, who although sees less actions, has also been gradually making her presence felt in front of Sohyeon. Hopefully she will be able to blunt Sohyeon’s cynicism and allow him to have trust in other people.
At the end of the day though, these two women are trying their best to seek their own form of happiness in a male-dominated world.
The ambitious Mi-ryung/ Hyang-sun
Maybe you’d pity or despise her, for resorting to lying, cheating, prostitution and even murder(s), to obtain her objectives. I admire her though, and see her as resourceful. Considering that she is born in a time where status and gender determine your lot in life, she is doing fairly well. If she is born in the 21st century, she’d be a really successful entrepreuneur and/or rich.
Hyang-san is gifted with good looks, and intelligence. Thus, it is rather impossible for her to be happy being a slave for long. Whether it is Fate or a twist of ill (or good?) luck that leads her to have the chance to impersonate Mi-ryung, the taste of having something beyond her station fuelled her hunger. She cannot understand why she cannot be Mi-ryung’s equal, given that she is prettier and definitely more intelligent. It is juz too bad that because she is born a slave, the Crown Prince will never even glance at her in normal circumstances. But the unusual situation she finds herself in opened a window in her world — for once, a man (or boy) way beyond her station not only looked at her properly, but loves her.
And that hunger leads to her “downfall” — if you consider her death sentence, her rape, her whoring as “bad things”. Another way of looking at it would be she went through a baptism of fire and emerged stronger. Not that those events didn’t hurt or scar her, they did; but they also liberated her. She has gone beyond considering feminine ideals of chastity, of being pure and unsullied, as a measurement or definition of her worth. She casts those ideals aside and decides first to survive, then later to turn her assets to her advantage.
Her ambitious nature eventually leads her to a position where she can wield power and more importantly, have sufficient bargaining chips (gold, instead of her body) to negotiate for what she wants. Her status as a female now works to her advantage — the men underestimate her. They dismiss her as a pretty face and view her body as a plaything/ trophy, but they don’t see her ruthlessness and cunning. Even before she reaches her current position as a rich widow, Hyang-sun proves that she is not someone who will let others take advantage of her. She punishes all those who bully her — the servant who saved then raped her, and later her husband, who bought her as a 6th concubine cum sex slave — all die under her hand.
With Sohyeon though, her revenge gets a little complicated. Yes, Hyang-sun hates him…but she also loves him. As Discovery of Love has shown us, you cannot hate someone unless you also love(d) him/her. Hyang-sun stabs Sohyeon, but meeting him face-to-face has also unsettled her. She thinks she despises Yoon-seo, since she is married to someone who ignores her, but she is also very jealous of Yoon-seo…as she is near the person Hyang-sun wants. Sohyeon may be one of the driving forces that lead her to thrive thus far, but he likely will be the cause for her to trip up in future. Hyang-sun already shows that she can’t be cruel to Sohyeon despite what she claims.
The free-spirited Yoon-seo
…who is trapped in a gilded cage. And who wants out, asap. To the extent she volunteers to be cast out. There’s no such thing as divorce in the past, getting cast out likely means Yoon-seo gets stripped of her title and demoted to living her life out within the palace, alone and without much servants/ fanfare. Sohyeon can then take a few concubines, promote the one who gets pregnant (with a male heir) fastest to Crown Princess (or future Queen). Since getting cast out is a pretty harsh sentence, Sohyeon has to ask whether Yoon-seo has considered the implications. (which i think she didn’t…but she is juz so desperate)
Compared to Hyang-sun, Yoon-seo is the innocent, pampered hothouse flower. The one and only trial which she has to go through is surviving the day-to-day life in the palace. (and wear that horribly heavy headdress) Sounds like a piece of cake, in comparison to Hyang-sun’s life so far. But is life in the palace really that much better than bartering your body for societal advancement? Imo, both sux.
Before entering the Palace, Yoon-seo is a straight talker. Her teenage love letter to Dal-hyang shows a young lady who is brash, forthright and not afraid to admit her feelings. After entering the Palace, she becomes a canary with clipped wings and a glued beak. She cannot physically leave the Palace grounds, and those times that she does, she will have a huge entourage trailing after her. But the worst thing that can happen to her is not being able to freely speak her mind and not having a confidante whom she can trust to do so. It’s a wonder she hasn’t turned mad.
Thus, assuming that Yoon-seo knows what being cast out means, her current situation is already no different from being officially cast out. Yes, she has loads of servants. But none she can trust. Even her personal servant Court Lady Kim betrays her, by stealing the love letter. (though if Yoon-seo knows that Court Lady Kim did it for her, she may be less unhappy?) And Crown Prince Sohyeon is far from being affectionate with her. He ignores her for the 5 years they have been married, and doesn’t even bother to consummate the marriage. She is already cast out, imo.
I am glad that Yoon-seo finally finds the courage to share her frustrations and lash out at her uncaring husband in ep8. Seung-po may have recommended Dal-hyang in the hope that he will be a catalyst to fuel Sohyeon’s jealousy, but I think it is the leakage (and frank outburst) of Yoon-seo’s pent up emotions that finally makes Sohyeon look at his wife.