This may just be the last week we see Gwanghae as a King, as this week’s episodes are basically events that happen to speed up dethroning him. With the capture of the Joseon troops after the ambush on the Ming troops, the Jurchens sent an envoy to deliver a message to Gwanghae, which is, they’ll release the Joseon troops if Joseon agrees to refer to their Khan as the Emperor. Gwanghae is enraged at the request, but in exchange for his people’s lives, and also recognising the rapid decline of Ming, he is inclined to agreeing to this unfair trade.
His decision is met with severe disagreement with all the high ranking ministers, including his allies such as Lee Yi-chum. While they sit outside the Office of Documents to prevent the Joseon envoy to send back the reply to Jurchens, In Woo approaches his father to suggest that he’ll marry the Jung-myeong, and in turn Kang Joo-seon can persuade the Westerner factions to let Gwanghae have his way. Furthermore, In Woo admits he doesn’t like Neung-yang, and that Kang Joo-seon has nothing to lose since it’s a gamble to lend his support to either Neung-yang or Gwanghae, he might as well go for the more established bet, ie Gwanghae.
Kang Joo-seon weighs the pros and cons, and seeks audience with Gwanghae. He proposes the political marriage between In Woo and Jung-myeong (which previously Jung-myeong has already told Gwanghae about it), and is rather smug that Gwanghae will accept it. He offers to get all the Westerners to stop their protest, and Gwanghae agrees to it. However at a meeting with all the ministers a few days after, Gwanghae announces he disagree to the arranged marriage of Jung-myeong to In Woo, after sending out the national reply to Jurchen’s regarding their request. He then orders an arrest of Kang Joo-seon, using the confession which Heo Gyun wrote before his execution, regarding Kang’s involvement in treason. The entire Kang household is also under arrest, and based on the character relationship chart, my guess is In Woo will eventually go to Neung-yang for help, and in exchange of his father’s release, he becomes one of Neung-yang’s man.
Over at the Jurchen camp, Joo-won finally awakes from his severe injuries (it’s highly miraculous but whatever), only to be dragged out to be executed. The Jurchens give the excuse of killing off some of the Joseon troops, so as to give Joseon a warning of not giving a reply within the given deadline. Apparently this sudden selective execution is not an official order, and while nothing more was being explained, I wonder if the Kangs have anything to do with it at all. Anyway, Ja Kyung the bodyguard slipped into the Jurchen camp and managed to save Joo-won, since he promised Jung-myeong to protect her, and Joo-won is the person she wants to protect, so yeah, by logic Ja Kyung has to protect Joo-won too.
Neung-yang finds out that Kang Joo-seon has given up on him, and while fuming over that, he finds himself a new ally: Kim Ja-jeom. Neung-yang was rather skeptical about Kim Ja-jeom, but the latter shows his cards saying that he doesn’t want the likes of Kang Joo-seon being more powerful than him, and he chooses Neung-yang to be the next king. He also reveals he has the weapon to overthrow Gwanghae, which was the order Gwanghae gave to General Kang, to abandon the Ming troops. Unbeknownst to Neung-yang however, is that Kim Ja-jeom has arranged for Jo Yeo-jung to seduce him, and Kim Ja-jeom will be controlling Neung-yang through her. And oh, it seems that Kim Ja-jeom is trying to get Kim Kae-shi over to his side.
On the day Gwanghae announced he disagrees to Jung-myeong’s marriage, Jung-myeong was supposed to get married to In Woo (!!! My jaw dropped). Yeo-jung, at the orders of Kim Ja-jeom, knocks Jung-myeong out with some really powerful poison (which causes severe allergy with just a small amount of the poison on the skin). Yeo-jung is a psychopath by modern definition, as she has absolutely no remorse nor guilt (it’s apparent in her first appearance, where she killed the cat for scratching her). Kim Kae-shi has also realised Yeo-jung being someone’s spy, but hey, you’re one step late, and you should have trusted your instinct the first time you met her!
I really like what Jung-myeong said at the Department of Artillery, when the mob arranged by Neung-yang to destroy the place as well as beat the crap out of the workers swarmed the Department. She pleaded with them that what is wrong with Gwanghae trying to protect his people, therefore developing Joseon’s own firearms in a bid to do so; because isn’t he better than those ministers who are only out to protect their own interests? She also added that even if Gwanghae killed her own brother, he treats the lives of his people like his own, and hence she thinks he is a true king.
The pacing and story development has fallen into the same trap most other sageuks tend to do, though I do appreciate a more grounded imagination of “what could have happened” by this writer, which is pretty characteristic of her previous works (Yi San, Dong Yi). It’s a tried and tested writing style, so while it may get abit boring at times, it’s at least not as outrageous as ahhm, Empress Ki was.