This episode puts everyone’s loyalties to the test as alliances are formed and rivalries are created all in the name of one golden chair. The fate of Goryeo comes to rest on Su’s generally incapable shoulders, leaving her to choose which of the two prominent men in her life she should entrust with information that could end their world as they know it. No pressure or anything.
EPISODE 13 RECAP
So notices the armor beneath Wook’s outer layer, just as Woo-hee rushes the king. Baek-ah takes the blade meant for his father, but the feat goes mostly unnoticed—everyone gets too distracted by the king suddenly collapsing on his own.
Baek-ah kicks the bloody sword away to hide the evidence and tells Woo-hee to run. She does, while third prince Yo tells ninth prince Won to find Wook. He knows their plan has failed.
On his deathbed, King Taejo ruminates over what he’s managed to accomplish in life with only Grand General Park and Astronomer Choi at his side. They assure the king that he made the right decision in choosing Crown Prince Mu to ascend the throne, and in turn, he tells them to watch over both Mu and So.
That night, Su thinks over So’s marriage proposal. The next morning, Yo, Wook, and ninth prince Won approach the king’s quarters with a devious plan in mind. All roads in and out of the palace have been blocked, with Yo intending to receive the king’s final decree (presumably for him to succeed the throne) without the crown prince finding out.
But before they can advance any further, they’re joined by fourteenth prince Jung and surrounded by Grand General Park’s soldiers. General Park knows exactly what Yo’s about, and cautions all four princes to leave—should they not, they’ll be charged with treason.
Even the queens are denied access to the king, with Queen Sinmyeongsunseong slowly realizing that Astronomer Choi must be trying to buy time before Crown Prince Mu arrives. Inside, only Su is allowed to tend to the king in his final moments.
Taejo knows he doesn’t have much time, so he asks Su to bring the crown prince to him. It must be her, he says, because no one else can find out about his death before the crown prince arrives. “Once you leave this room, someone will approach you,” he breathes. “To the person who only asks how I am feeling, tell them that I am asking for more tea. But beware of the one who asks if I have died—that person eyes the throne.”
After warning her not to trust anyone, he adds that the fate of Goryeo rests on her shoulders. “That may be the reason why you are here,” he continues in voiceover, as Su weaves through the soldiers outside the palace to reach her destination.
So attempts to leave the palace grounds, only to be blocked by his half-sister, Princess Yeonhwa. When she tells him that no one’s allowed to leave, he surmises that those are Wook’s orders—he’d wondered why Wook was wearing armor beneath his robes at the ceremony, but now he knows that Wook was planning on attacking the king.
Despite her limp, Su tries to make a run for it. Wook stops her to ask where she’s going, and she lies that she’s going to Damiwon to fetch more tea for the king. Wook then asks her about the marriage proposal from So like he has a right to be jealous, and though she begins to tell him he’s got it all wrong, she soon remembers the task she was originally sent out for.
It’s only then that Wook asks if the king passed away, causing Su to realize the kind of person she’s facing. The king specifically warned her against anyone asking if he had passed. “Do you… wish to become king?” Su asks haltingly.
Yeonhwa asks the same question of So, despite his adamance that the crown prince is set to succeed the king. While Su asks Wook if he will become king, we return to So, who mockingly asks his half-sister if it’s so easy to become king that all one has to do is wish for it. Yeonhwa says it would be for So, since she and her clan could throw all their support behind him.
To Su, Wook claims that the reason he wants the throne is because he needs that power to protect the ones he loves. Quick cut back to So (I’m getting whiplash), who asks Yeonhwa what power being king would grant him. “If I become king, would the heart I so desire become mine?”
Back to Wook, as he says that he will become king. Then back to So, who now says that he will become king.
The queens are finally allowed in the king’s quarters, though he already has one foot in the afterlife. He imagines Court Lady Oh in a verdant field with an armful of flowers, and whispers her name before passing on.
Surprisingly, Queen Sinmyeongsunseong cries as she tries to shake the king back to the land of the living: “You cannot leave me like this! Your Majesty! Come back! Come back!”
“For your sake, I will surely become king,” Wook tells Su. That’s not at all what she wants, but he tells her it’s already begun—he’ll attack the king’s quarters with Yo tomorrow. He takes a protesting Su by the shoulders as he adds that the crown prince won’t be returning anyway. Someone has to take the throne, so all she has to do is hide and wait for him.
He asks again whether the king has passed, and with dead eyes and a flat voice, Su only says that the king asked for more tea. That’s when he tells her that the crown prince is too far to the south for her to get to him on her own, having guessed that that’s the mission she’s on. Su just runs away in response.
Meanwhile, Yeonhwa scoffs that the only reason So wants to become king is to win a girl’s heart. (Because he used one second to convince himself that he could, or something.) So doesn’t care what she thinks, since that’s all the throne means to him.
He orders her to make way for him, but she refuses, guessing that he might try to bring the crown prince back.
Baek-ah seems unharmed for the most part as he meets with an indignant Woo-hee, who blames him for ruining her plan to kill the king. When he asks her why she did it, she claims that it’s because his father killed every member of her family.
He actually apologizes on his father’s behalf, which causes a tear to snake down Woo-hee’s cheek. She fights him when he pulls her into an embrace, but eventually gives in. “I am sorry for being my father’s son,” he adds. Are there really going to be no consequences from that ceremony? Really?
Yo figures that if the king isn’t already dead, he will be soon. Fourteenth prince Jung doesn’t seem aware of his brother’s plans, and blurts that the king is probably feeling better due to the tea Su’s been making him. Since that means that Su knows of the king’s condition, Yo is determined to stop her before she gets to the crown prince.
Su sees that ninth prince Won is looking for her, and is pulled to safety by So. Trusting him, she tells him that the king has passed away, and that he tasked her with finding the crown prince. She also tells him of Wook’s plans to attack tomorrow, earning a rise out of So, since that means that she would’ve had to have talked to Wook in order to find out.
Since all the roads out of the palace are blocked, So tries to think of another way for them to get the word out. When he says that the crown prince is in former Later Baekje territory to the south, the displaced princess from Later Baekje, Woo-hee, instantly comes to Su’s mind.
Speaking of, Baek-ah asks Woo-hee if she’d be willing to forget everything and just be with him, since no one would recognize her from the ceremony. Before she can answer, they’re interrupted when Su arrives with So to ask Woo-hee about her hometown.
Since So trusts Baek-ah, he tells him that the king has passed, which causes Woo-hee to lose her footing. Baek-ah steadies her as So fills him in on what Su told him about their brothers’ plans, asking Baek-ah to be the one to send word to the crown prince. He’ll stay behind to try and stop their brothers—and thankfully, Woo-hee knows a secret road Baek-ah can use to leave the palace.
Princess Yeonhwa tells her brother about her encounter with So, though the more pressing issue is the king’s health. No one knows if he’s alive or dead, since his queens have basically been held hostage inside his quarters so that no word will leak out.
Yeonhwa sees this as an opportunity for Wook to storm the king’s quarters and declare himself king (which would mean altering the king’s final decree), but Wook doesn’t want anyone to be able to call him a traitor. “I wish to be seen as flawless,” he says, much to his sister’s dismay.
She claims to not understand what he wants, since he even went so far as to wear armor to the ceremony the night before. Wook only tells her that he’s weighing his options. Seeing his scheming side makes Yeonhwa happy, as she arrogantly notes that she’s no longer having to force his hand—he genuinely wants the throne now: “You’ve changed, Orabeoni.”
“If the situation will not change, then I must,” Wook says, resigned. But the only thing that worries him now is the thought of having to betray Su, or so he says.
So finds Su staring at the empty throne in the dark, and jokingly asks if she wants to sit in it. Does she not want the seat that everyone’s now fighting for? Su says she doesn’t, not when the king had to kill Court Lady Oh to keep it. And now that So’s having to fight his brothers for it. “Even if you fight tomorrow, you won’t harm them, will you?”
He guesses that she’s worried about Wook, but not for the right reasons—he still thinks that she only considers Wook a relative. But if that were the case, he wonders, why did she come to him? “He said it was for my sake,” Su begins. “He was angry that he couldn’t do anything when I was driven out, so he says he wants more power.”
So nods in understanding, claiming that he once felt the same way. Looking back up toward the throne, Su says that because the king told her to live her life according to reason, she’s siding with the crown prince. But that doesn’t mean she wants to see Wook hurt, since she claims that would scar her for life.
Surprisingly, So is more than willing to go out of his way not to harm Wook, since he doesn’t want to see Wook die either. “I could be injured too,” he adds. “Are you not worried about me?” She isn’t, because she knows he’ll go on to become King Gwangjong, though of course she can’t say as much. All she tells him is that she knows he’ll be fine. So smiles at her, then looks toward the throne.
Queen Sinmyeongsunseong becomes insanely possessive over the king’s body, enough to where she refuses to let Queen Sinjeong anywhere near him. Their tiff is interrupted by So, which makes the evil queen intensely unhappy—she’d rather either of the sons she actually loves to be the first to see the king dead.
So kneels at his father’s bedside as Astronomer Choi relates the king’s last words to him, which were about how fleeting life is. It’s then that So flashes back to two years ago, when Choi had gone to Shinju to give him a new mask, which his father gifted him every year.
While trying it on, So had turned and accidentally caught sight of the king in his palanquin nearby. He’d come with the astronomer to see his son receive his gift, even if it was only from a distance. Seeing how So’s face just lit up at the sight of him is heartbreaking.
In the present, he lays his father’s funeral cloak over him. Only then does he tell Astronomer Choi to gather General Park and his men to prepare for the rebellion Wook and Yo have planned for tomorrow. The king wanted the throne to go to the crown prince, so now it’s their job to make sure that happens.
Queen Sinjeong is shocked to hear about her son’s involvement in such a plot, but of course, the evil queen threatens to kill So if he so much as breathes on Yo. “You expect him to live after committing treason?” he growls, pulling his arm from her grasp. “You have too much greed.”
Queen Sinjeong is the one to think on her feet, since she and Queen Sinmyeongsunseong now have a common goal. If they don’t figure something out fast, both their sons will die.
Woo-hee forces Baek-ah to make camp later that night, since his wound is paining him. Over a warm fire, Baek-ah tells her that he never intended to hide that he was a prince from her. At least she knows she has no room to be upset, since she hid things from him too.
But Baek-ah can’t help but wonder what their lives would have been like if he were only a musician, and if she were only a gisaeng. Woo-hee just tells him to rest by way of answer, since they’ll reach her hometown tomorrow. They both know that they’ll have to part ways then, and neither will have a reason to meet again.
Woo-hee’s much more adamant about this point than he is, so Baek-ah just resigns himself to that fact. “If we can’t see each other again, then… can I do as I like tonight?” he asks, before leaning in to kiss her.
Wook and Yo show up at the palace gates in full battle regalia, and though Yo is somewhat concerned that it’s so quiet, they know that most of the king’s forces are with the crown prince. Regardless of what happens, Wook only has one request of Yo: “If So tries to stop us, make sure to kill him.” Yo readily agrees.
They walk their massive forces through the gates, encountering So and Grand General Park with an army of their own. Wook has the decency to look guilty when he spots Su looking at him from behind the lines, but it’s too late now.
Yo proclaims that he’s come to free his mother, who’s been unjustly held in the king’s quarters without reason. Yo is the first to draw his sword, but Wook and So are the only ones to go at it, acting as their respective armies’ champions.
Wook is strong in his offense, leaving So to parry his blows. But when So takes the initiative to rush him, it sets Wook back more than a few paces—and from there, the blows only become more intense. The two men lock arms and swords in combat until they’re at a standstill, which is only broken when archers on the roof send arrows raining down on Yo’s forces.
More soldiers come rushing through the gate, but So’s got his eyes locked on Wook as he crouches into a battle stance. But the arrival of the soldiers signifies a much bigger arrival—they’ve come with Crown Prince Mu and Baek-ah. Busted!
Yo orders Wook to go into the king’s quarters while he holds their eldest brother off. Instead, Wook spins around and holds his sword to Yo’s neck. Yo calls his brother out for his betrayal, though Wook says that it can’t be considered betrayal when they weren’t even on the same side.
Indeed, Crown Prince Mu claims that it was Wook who told him all about Yo’s treasonous plan, which makes Wook look like the real hero here. So’s face twitches in minor annoyance, but it’s not like he can interject—everyone wins with Yo looking like the big bad.
Only then does Astronomer Choi officially announce that the king has died, and that he decreed before his death that Crown Prince Mu would become king. Wook shocks them all by being the first to raise a victory chant: “Manseh! Manseh! Manseh!”
So joins him in the chant, and soon, everyone in the courtyard does as well. Crown Prince Mu is the only one left standing as everything hits him at once—his father is dead, and now he’s king.
A white-haired woman stumbles out of the king’s quarters to hear the news… and it’s Queen Sinmyeongsunseong? Did she go white overnight?
The princes take turns seeing their dead father, with fourteenth prince Jung being particularly affected by the sight. Princess Yeonhwa only thinks to herself that she’ll make this nation her own.
Meanwhile, Soon-deok does her best to stop tenth prince Eun from attending the funeral, because she knows all too well what happens when a new king ascends the throne. If Eun stays quiet and keeps to himself, she says, then the king will surely leave them alone.
Eun refuses to take the armor she tries to give him, refusing to wear his wife’s armor just to save his own life. Soon-deok gets a little too excited at the thought of them dying together, which Eun quickly refutes. “Why should we die at all?” he wonders. “Let’s both live.” By that, he means live together, which puts his loving wife over the moon.
Su confronts Wook about having lied to her about being on Yo’s side, realizing that he meant to test her. He admits as much, but adds that she still went to So in the end. With wide eyes, she asks if he was planning on killing So, and he levels her with a look as he says that he fully intends on becoming king, so he may as well start getting rid of anyone who’ll stand in his way now.
She can’t believe what she’s just heard—Wook knew how much she suffered from being the cause of Court Lady Oh’s death, so what did he think would happen if he used her to kill So? “You have changed. You are not the person I once knew,” she says, stunned.
Wook throws that right back at her, claiming that she hid things from him, too. “I wanted you to tell me that the king had died. Didn’t you care if I would die or not?” But Su tells him she was on a special mission from the king, and that So had promised not to hurt him.
That gets to Wook most, but with desperation in her eyes, Su reminds him that he’d once told her that they could leave the palace and live in peace. Approaching him halting step by halting step, she tells him that she’s ready to do that now, and firmly believes that the new king will grant their request if Wook only asks. Oh no, Su.
Wook simply says that won’t be possible, which causes Su’s eyes to fill with tears. “You said you would become king for my sake. You’re lying to yourself,” she realizes. She steps away from him as she adds that she’ll keep her distance from him starting now.
Su takes a special kind of offense when Wook asks if this is because of So, asking him if he ever trusted her and her feelings for him even once. Confronted, all Wook can do is claim that he’ll make her return to him. “It won’t be easy,” Su replies.
Yo runs for his life, pursued by Wook, So, and a small army of soldiers. They corner him on that cliff you’ve definitely seen in a sageuk before, and left with no other option, Yo fights and kills many of his pursuers. So stops Wook from shooting him with an arrow, as that would be too humiliating for Yo.
As Yo continues to cut down the men who approach him, So finally comes forward to fight him directly. He’s incredibly quick and agile as he fights Yo with his sword sheathed, though his goal is to talk him off the ledge (literally and figuratively). When Yo proclaims that he won’t give up, So unsheathes his sword and plunges it into his older brother’s chest.
The force of the blow pushes Yo back toward the edge of the cliff. He seems to sense that So won’t kill him, so he knocks the sword away, only for it to be plunged once more into his belly. Even So looks surprised at what he’s just done, and he rushes forward to catch Yo as he goes tumbling over the cliff…
But he’s too late. A crash can be heard far below as So just stares forward in shock. Jung cries for his hyungnim, who’s presumably (and luckily) fallen into the water below, then turns from grief to anger as he stares accusingly up at So.
Jung is the one to inform their mother of the death of her son, but it takes a while for the white-haired queen to believe him. If she didn’t have it out for So before, you can bet she does now.
Su finds So keeping to himself with tears in his eyes, and he tells her that he thought she’d never forgive him if he went to her. “But you might be understanding,” he says with hope, then adds the fateful words, “I… stabbed my older brother.”
He cries, and Su reaches out a tentative hand to pat him comfortingly on the shoulder. Just that touch seems to do him in, and when his crying intensifies, Su just pulls him into an embrace and lets him cry his heart out.
It’s still difficult to actually swallow the change in Wook, no matter how organic the show tries to make it feel. It’s not that I can’t buy that he’d do these things, only that it seems like such a giant shift for someone who was so upright and principled before. People change, of course, and maybe he was just waiting for an opportunity to let it all hang out—but call me old fashioned, because I miss the Wook of yore.
Now he’s seemingly more cunning than all his other brothers combined, which is already making him a force to be reckoned with. I knew he’d planned to flip the situation with Yo to make himself the hero, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so swift, so I was actually taken by surprise when Wook turned on him. He couldn’t have done it because he thought he would be king, but because he wanted to get rid of the competition and endear himself to the new king. I do wonder if he would’ve actually killed So had he been given the chance, and based off his conversation with Su, it seems he would have.
It certainly makes a difference that Wook now seems to be the more cold-blooded brother out of him and So, since he was ready to shoot Yo down without so much as a second thought. It was So who cared about maintaining Yo’s dignity, no matter how treasonous he’d behaved. And even before, it was So who promised Su that he would (to the best of his ability) try to not harm Wook, since he didn’t want his half-brother dead. Wook wouldn’t make the same promise to Su under any circumstance now. He’s made that much clear.
What worries me now is how So might change once future events start calling for him to do so. Compared to Wook, he’s much too trusting and good-hearted—but now that we’ve seen that side of So, it’d be absolutely devastating for him to turn to the dark side just to get his hands on the throne. I can’t quite get a read on how badly he wants the seat, since he tends to fluctuate between saying that he wants it and definitely will have it, to seemingly forgetting that he ever thought of it. Was he lying when he told Yeonhwa that he wanted to be king so he could win Su’s heart? I’m actually hoping that he was, because the alternative doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. When did he decide that being king was the way to Su’s heart? And when did he intend to act on that?
But this episode was a great showcase for Lee Jun-ki and the range of emotions he can portray with only silence. Whether it was that facial twitch of annoyance when Wook stepped up as the crown prince’s savior, or the look of horror and sadness when he stabbed his own brother, So gives us the most open window to his soul out of all the characters presented. Wook would probably come in second, since we can usually see what he’s feeling even if he makes an active effort to hide it.
Su still continues to be Su, but at least she took some action this hour, and realized that her future wasn’t with Wook. Her last conversation with him was as confusing as it was necessary for her to move on, though I can’t help but wonder if she actually meant what she said about being ready to run away with him. Why now, of all times? Did she actually believe that he was doing all this for her sake, and would she have truly run away with him had he agreed? How many men are going to profess to become king just for her?