Queen In Hyun’s Man
Watching a special drama such as this one, reminds me exactly why I fell in love with Korean dramas in the first place, its heady and intoxicating blend of charm and heartfelt romance bringing me back to the early days of my obsession, where every show had some sort of magical spell over me that hooked me right from the start to the end, no matter the actual quality of the show.
These days I have been watching dramas long enough that the sheen has since worn off and I can see a drama for what it truly is, either good or bad, a skill I didn’t used to possess at all (until maybe Coffee House killed me).
But don’t get me wrong I still love kdramas now just as much as I did in the beginning, except that maybe these days coming across a magical compellingly perfect drama is much more of a rare occurrence than an everyday norm.
But you know what, maybe that makes those rare perfect dramas even more of a revelation and joy just because I had to wade through an ocean of okay, terrible and mediocre dramas to get there!
As you have probably guessed from this introduction, ‘Queen Inhyuns Man’ to me is one such drama, and in my opinion it does not step one foot out of line in its entire running time (and yes this even extends to the ending), grabbing me by my heart so effectively that I am left smiling with the warm and fuzzies (or crying from heartbreak) long after I finished each episode.
Its clever mix of cuteness and fantasy, bittersweet and seriousness, with a truly epic romantic love story means I couldn't recommend it more.
Although I am now singing its praises in the very beginning it actually took me a few episodes before I realised I was completely in love with this drama.
Don’t get me wrong, there were still some terrific gems in those opening episodes of course but to be completely honest, it wasn’t until things really got underway that I became irreversibly hooked. Looking back on those perfect and intriguing scenes that first clued me in that I was watching something special, I can now see that they all involved our two main leads meeting each other, meaning basically every scene which shows our OTP interacting together in any way is pretty much gold.
This comes down to their incredible chemistry, as well as their sweet and natural dialogue which both work together to make it an absolutely charming experience to watch their relationship slowly unfold as they get to know and then care for each other.
And um …. this review is LONG!!!!!!
So I warned you!!
The opening sequence is a desperate race in split screens, one scene tracking our heroine Hui Jin as she drives her car towards the palace, and the other following Boong-do on horseback as he arrives over the gates.
They travel towards each other across time (a very romantic concept) before meeting in the dark open square before the palace, staring at each other silently. This beginning accentuates the beautiful visuals of this drama and also the overall romantic mood which permeates every corner of the narrative, setting us up for what’s in store next.
After this opening sequence we begin the drama proper in Joseon times, and we see a set of assassins attacking a house where a sad young woman is writing a letter. This would be our Queen Inhyun of the title, a woman who has been usurped, dethroned and banished and now also is about to endure an assassination attempt. I must say I really love this scene for the way the Queen realises from the sounds outside her door that she is about to die, and although she is obviously truly terrified by this prospect she still just continues to calmly write her letter to the king as she awaits her fate.
Of course she needn’t have worried because our hero turns up just in time to save her. Kim Boong-do is a man who has endured not only torture but also the branding of his father as a traitor, resulting in the death of his parents and also his pregnant wife. He is calm, collected and clever, and most definitely out for revenge. And he also happens to be in possession of some very damning evidence against the official who he believes caused his misfortune.
But what he has also got is a protection Talisman given to him by a young beautiful gisaeng (with a sad story) who is very much in love with him, and this small bloodstained piece of paper is the catalyst of this entire story because it has embedded within it all the love and hope this selfless gisaeng could possibly give to him.
And it is because of this Talisman that Boong-do’s life is saved in the palace when an assassin finally manages to catch up with him. Closing his eyes at the moment his life is meant to end, the sword slides down to pierce his chest…
… only to hit the ground as Boong-do disappears into thin air.
Meanwhile we are introduced to our heroine Choe Hui Jin, and she could not be a more perfect foil to our hero’s cool and calm thinking man type.
Here we have a struggling actress, made up to the nines, absolutely gorgeous which she is definitely aware of, and yet she is also refreshingly unaffected by it nonetheless. She is sweet, humorous and above all a modern woman with a bit of an attitude who is well capable of taking care of herself.
In contrast to Boong-do’s Joseon scenes, Hui Jin’s modern set storyline is breezy and fun, much less serious and also much closer to the popular type of romantic comedy story ideal.
It shouldn’t really work as we flick back and forth between the very different story styles, and yet somehow it does, probably because this modern storyline is not boring or samey, and Hui Jin is compelling and oh so likeable, her cutesyness not at all outweighing her spunk.
The couple’s first meeting is such a strange, surreal fish out of water moment which I feel is handled really well. Watching these two characters collide, Boong-do having woken up in the palace 300 years beyond his time, is really a meeting of opposites and yet it works.
Hui Jin’s introduction of herself is hilarious when you imagine it from Boong-do’s point of view (she tells him she is Queen Inhyun and then does some cutesy excited Aegyo) and his reaction to her and also his new surroundings is handled in quite an interesting way. No screaming in horror for this hero, instead he slowly and carefully peruses his new surroundings (actors and film crew shooting a palace scene for Hui Jin’s drama) his face kept still and expressionless. It is pretty obvious that he utterly overwhelmed, yet you can also clearly see the wheels and cogs turning rapidly inside his brain as he works at overtime to understand this shift in his reality.
I am sure Boong-do has never before met a problem he can’t fix and he is certainly not going to start now.
His question; ‘Am I dead or am I dreaming?‘ is amusing but clearly also meant very seriously. Even Hui Jin pauses to answer him solemnly, before turning on her Aegyo again to declare cheekily that he must be drunk.
Obviously Hui Jin doesn’t want to believe Boong-do’s farfetched story straight away but she is faced by a series of unexplainable events so incredible that time travel actually does start to feel like a sound solution.
Boong-do is also a charming and very sincere man so when he says in his matter of fact I- don’t- care- if- you- believe- me kind of way that time travel is the truth, well, you just cannot help but accept his story.
By the third time they meet (when Hui Jin leaves the hospital to find her missing phone and tracks it using GPS straight to Boong-do at the palace –side note: notice the first inclusion of the running theme of their connection by phone) it is pretty obvious that Hui Jin has been completely charmed by him against her better judgement.
I must also mention that this was the point in the story that I too was irreversibly charmed by this refreshing character.
From the moment she finds him at the palace and Boong-do flashes that ridiculous toothy grin I was completely sold on this drama, on the story and characters, and most of all on the unfolding romance.
Although Hui Jin has now begun to believe in Boong-do, she is still constantly left wondering if he is for real or not. And considering he asks her to demonstrate how to complete incredibly normal tasks (such as how to open a car door or how to put on a seat belt) I really can’t blame her for being confused.
Yet always it is his simple, straightforward and undeniably honest reactions and answers to her own questions that somehow instills a sense of trust in her.
I really loved Hui Jin as a character and watching her fall in love was quite a heart melting experience, her obvious lack of guile or coyness is charming in itself but her very open and honest way of interacting with Boong-do is my favourite.
She never once pretends to be anything she is not when she is around him and when she does begin to understand her feelings and attraction to him she is immediately very upfront about it. She wants him and so she goes for it, which I think is both brave and lovely, making her such a perfect heroine for this drama. She may not be as well educated or collected as Boong-do but that doesn’t make her into a bumbling idiot either and I found her to be a perfect strong and astounding character throughout the story.
Never once does she turn into a weak passive female lead even as the drama progresses, a fault so many heroines that start out strong do succumb to, however she does fall very much in love, and this puts her into a position of extreme vulnerability when faced with the loss of this one person she wants more than anything else in the world.
But being vulnerable and being weak are two very different things.
Vulnerability makes her human and relatable, whilst being passive makes me want to stop watching my dramas. Ugh to that boring character trope.
Anyway, back to the actual story, Hui Jin’s reaction to Boong-do’s departure after their library trip is one such instance of her forwardness.
Facing the thought of losing this mysterious but undeniably magnetic stranger before she even has a chance to properly know him, she finds she just cannot bear to let it end so abruptly. Telling him some nonsense story about modern manners, much to Boong-do’s shock she pulls him in for a kiss, a moment of courage that really pays off.
This is a funny and charming scene but you know what, its also very romantic and swoon worthy too. And it is made all the better for Hui Jin’s manager’s exposition afterwards in the car, when she tells Boong-do that shaking hands is the true way to say farewell in the modern world.
I just adore Boong-do’s chuckling (but rather smug) reaction in the front seat of the car as Hui Jin sits mortified behind him. He is a bit of a smart cookie though, so I am sure he already knew the truth but that just makes it all the better when he pretends later not to understand when they meet again, instigating a kiss to say goodbye to Hui Jin this time.
And it pretty obviously knocks her socks off.
Two other scenes that I completely adored, and that I also felt were incredibly important in regards to the growing story and narrative, was firstly the point where Boon-do has disappeared, leaving Hui Jin waiting in the present day, poring over history books to try and find out tidbits of information about what has happened to him.
With the help of a scriptwriter on her drama, she finds out that Boong-do has actually been tortured as a traitor and exiled to Jeju Island, where it is written that he fell sick and died.
This news is such a horrific shock to her system, and her crush-fueled fantasies of enjoying more time with this enigmatic man come crashing down around her as the true reality of their situation and the very real dangers involved suddenly become apparent.
And the worst thing is that Hui Jin must just continue along with her daily life, as obviously being devastated by the death of a man over 300 years ago is not something that she can easily explain, though she does give it a go where her manager is concerned. Obviously her manager just thinks she is being crazy, watching nervously as Hui Jin cries desolately over the death of a man whom she could never have met, until suddenly her phone rings.
As soon as Hui Jin realises the area code is from Jeju Island her whole demeanor changes and she reaches for that mobile like it is going to bring Boong-do back to life and return him to her, which in a sense is exactly what it does, like a lifeline hanging between them and performing miracles. (Side note: phone lifeline take 2…)
I loved this scene where they speak to each other over that distance, Hui Jin in absolute relief and Boong-do smiling happily to be hearing her voice again.
Although I think this is a massive moment in Hui Jin’s mind in regards to understanding her true feelings for Boong-do, I kind of feel like Boong-do is still a little behind her in this realisation of his feelings. Afterall he has other very real responsibilities and expectations of his life in the past, and I do not believe that at this point the possibility of living in the future permanently has yet crossed his mind. That is one reason why I also really love the reunion scene between our main couple that takes place when Hui Jin flies out to Jeju to collect Boong-do and bring him back to Seoul.
Boong-do waits alone in the airport and catches an advertisement for Hui Jin’s drama on TV, showing her in full Hanbok regalia, and the sight of her dressed in clothes from his own era is a bit of a moment for him I think. To be honest, the first time I watched this scene I thought it was a little rude that he tells Hui Jin that he never thought she was beautiful until this moment, but on a second watch I can see that it is actually very telling. It is a moment that he can see past the strangeness of Hui Jin’s modern world and her odd clothes to the actual woman underneath, and it is easy to tell from his expression when finally seeing her again, that it has begun to dawn on him that she does mean something very important to him.
I feel like it is the moment that Boong-do begins to actually fall in love with Hui Jin for real, not just enjoy her company or find her amusing and interesting, but actually develop very real and irreversible feelings for her.
Another scene I love is the car gift scene.
This is a gesture that could have come across as being very cheesy, the male lead wants to do something nice for our heroine so decides to buy her a car, an outrageous gift for sure, but given in such a sweet and honest way that although Hui Jin herself labels it ‘corny’ it is impossible not be charmed nonetheless.
But it is that moment as she drives her new gift for the first time in circles around Boong-do that really struck me. She watches him as she wheels around him, and he follows her with his eyes the entire time, smiling back at her, creating a truly magical moment between them. By the time Hui Jin pulls the car to a stop she has realised that she is in love with him, though she still tries one last ditch effort to pull herself back from that gaping precipice by asking Boong-do to confirm that he is conning her. Her argument makes no sense, but it’s clear that it would actually make their relationship easier for her if he was a conman just playing with her, because the alternative of being in love with a man who is truly from a whole different time period is almost too terrifying to bear.
The kisses they share in the car immediately afterwards are also very monumental, as this time they are no longer just goodbye kisses given to ease their own feelings of unexplainable loss whilst parting, but actually confirmation that they are now both hoping for the same thing from their future, a path they can tread together.
But instead of an easy path forward, what we get instead is amnesia.
As soon as Boong-do returns to his own time he is attacked by those assassins who seriously have nothing better to do than be huge nuisances in the fight for the loveliest romance ever. (I mean, seriously, is their boss still paying them even though he is in prison now?) As he is attacked, Boong-do’s precious talisman, his one connection to Hui Jin and the future is severed in half, and along with it his memory of the last two months and all that has happened.
Boong-do returns to his rightful place as an employee of the palace and tries to continue on with his life, meanwhile Hui Jin has awoken in hospital the only person who still remembers that Boong-do ever existed.
What first starts out as a rather amusing comedic angle, soon turns into heartbreaking gravity as Hui Jin begins to fully understand what this loss means. An alternative timeline has sprung up in Boong-do’s absence and not only does he not exist in her world anymore, but she is now dating someone else, meaning all those around her that no longer remember her love also believe she has become delusional.
Watching Hui Jin struggle with her (now groundless) belief in Boong-do’s existence is rather sad, as outwardly she must appear as if everything is still the same, whilst really she feels like her heart has been torn from her chest and worst of all, everyone she knows keeps telling her it is all a dream and she has confused reality with a man she has made up in her own head! Hui Jin tries her best to hold onto what she knows is reality, but the whole thing does sound quite far fetched and she has no evidence whatsoever (except her memories) and so she tries her best to do the right thing by those around her and move on with her life.
Meanwhile Boong-do begins to realise something strange has happened to him, and he tracks the issue straight to the source, the Talisman. Because he is a smart cookie it doesn’t take him too long to get it back and, as it has now been sewed back together again (thanks for that evil assassins), he is immediately transferred back to the future during the ensuing fight. I love the small serene smile on his face as he stares up at a screen displaying Hui Jin’s face (in her drama role) as if everything has returned to its rightful place. Except it is a little harder than that because Hui Jin’s manager friend decides to be the biggest prick in the entire world and destroy her best friends life by trying to hide Boong-do’s return. To be fair the woman does think he is a crazed fan, but I was still horrified by this development, mainly because the manager would prefer her friend continues to believe herself insane then letting her validate whether he is for real or not. Seriously, if that had been my friend I wouldn’t have been nearly as forgiving.
Boong-do has taken the manager at her word and now believes that Hui Jin has moved on and no longer wants to see him, but Hui Jin races desperately to the park to find him. Although she believes herself to be too late, Boong-do does spot her before he leaves, asking her why she has come, seeming genuinely shocked that she is there (what, do people not lie in Joseon?). Hui Jin answers by throwing herself into his arms and it is then that Boong-do realises that she clearly still loves him and that the manager was full of crap.
The next few scenes are basically all cute couple moments which couldn’t be more welcome to be honest. Boong-do asserts his authority and precedence over poor clueless Dong-min (Hui Jin’s new boyfriend) and the two reunited lovers head to a rental apartment. Hui Jin attempts to leave Boong-do there alone before returning to clean up the mess they have made, but Boong-do is having none of it. I love his assertiveness here, not domineering like so many K-hero’s can be, but he wants her and he makes it very difficult for Hui Jin to deny him by kissing the living daylights out of her.
Hard to say no to that!
I don’t think I will bother going into the details of this lovely kiss (except to say that it is truly lovely) as I am pretty sure it is famous enough to speak for itself. All I can say, is that it is truly refreshing to watch a drama in which a couple in love can properly kiss and choose to spend a night together in such a romantic way, a truly satisfying culmination of their romance compared to the utterly boring lip presses which are often so disappointing in other dramas.
Boong-do then makes a decision to forge a life for himself in this new world next to Hui Jin, giving her his money from selling his sword and asking her to buy him clothes and a house near hers.
And a phone, so that they can always be in contact with each other.
Towards the end:
But Boong-do still has to go home and sort out his affairs, after all he is responsible for a household of people. But the evil jailed minister and his evil assassin minions have an evil plan in the works….and you know what? Its actually a pretty smart one.
Shooting a bunch of arrows into Boong-do in broad daylight is basically the idea but the consequences are far reaching, with the third arrow aimed as a killing shot causing him to disappear…all in front of a crowded marketplace who immediately begin to make up rumours about black magic and treachery.
Meanwhile Boong-do has appeared in the middle of Seoul in full Yangban garb with two arrows sticking out of his back and chest, but all he cares about is getting to the library to read the historical records, because its pretty obvious to him that this turn of events is going to screw everything up. With a quick pit-stop at the park to collect his new clothes and phone that Hui Jin has purchased for him, he struggles into a taxi dripping with blood where he straightaway passes out from his wounds.
By the time Hui Jin arrives in a panic to the hospital everyone is abuzz about this mysterious patient who has no identification and two arrow wounds. Even this close to death, all Boong-do is able to think about are the historical records but his condition is pretty bad and he falls unconscious….for ten days.
When he awakens the first thing he asks of Hui Jin is to read the records but she lies (badly) and says that nothing in history has changed. Boong-do knows better and is desperate enough to flee from the hospital before his release (whilst still in a lot of pain) to find out for himself.
And it couldn’t be worse. Because of the dark rumours circulating around the capital, the King has ordered all of Boong-do’s household to be executed and even the Queen, who has kept silent all this time regarding Boong-do’s secrets, has been accused of having an affair with him and so is also to be beheaded.
This is too much for Boong-do to bear and he calls Hui Jin to ask where she has hidden the Talisman. Still in the hospital waiting for him, she hurriedly tells him that she burned it and that it is too dangerous to go back. But of course smarty pants Boong-do points out that they don’t know what would happen if the Talisman was burned but it would probably be pretty bad considering the results of it being only cut in half.
The following conversation they have on the phone (note the life changing couple moment they share, connected by their mobiles ..again! I am really pushing this! Notice it!) is so sad, Hui Jin dissolving into tears as she finally quits giving excuses and says what she really means:
‘Don’t go. If you really go I won’t see you again. Don’t go, you jerk. We saved you from death so how could you do this? Didn’t you say you would be responsible for me? Don’t go.’
And Boong-do answers:
‘Listen to my words. Although I made a promise to be responsible for you, five years ago I made a pledge to protect the Queen with my life. But now she was beheaded because she tried to protect me. I don’t think I could live here happily with that knowledge.
So I will take responsibility for everyone.
I can do it.’
I love this conversation. He is right of course but it would be so hard for Hui Jin to hear his words, to accept that he has other responsibilities more important than forging their new life together. But she also knows that if he doesn’t go back he wouldn’t be the good man that she knows him to be. Not that it makes it any easier to accept though.
Hui Jin comes home to an empty apartment to find Boong-do’s modern clothes folded neatly on her couch with his mobile phone sitting on top. She also finds a blood soaked rag sticking out of her rubbish bin…
Boong-do’s plan on how to save everyone is pretty rubbish in that he is basically sacrificing himself to save the Queen and get rid of the evil minister for good. Sure, he has a few secret moves up his sleeve (the King is in on it, as is Boong-do’s trusty servant) but it is still a 90% chance he will die and I don’t much like those odds and, come to think of it, nor would Hui Jin.
Honestly, if the King was really trying to help Boong-do out and not kill him in this situation, maybe he could have ordered for only one arrow to be shot at him instead of three?
The moment the arrows hit Boong-do’s chest Hui Jin starts to feel sick, like a feeling of bad foreboding overcoming her. She asks her manager to read out a paragraph in history regarding Boong-do and her hands begin to shake uncontrollably as she hears that he was executed, dying instantly from his wounds. This news is too much for Hui Jin and she passes out, resulting in a car accident caused by her concerned manager and then another trip to the hospital. As her manager screams and cries dramatically, Hui Jin lies still and silent with her hands over her face and it is not until one of the nurses forcibly removes them that she begins to cry like her heart is breaking. This scene is so gut wrenchingly horrible and Hui Jin’s grief so marked and deep that you really feel like you are witnessing someone breaking inside.
The above scenes may sound a little silly when written down in point form like this but there is an affecting gravity of sadness and grief whilst watching them that just overwhelmed me, and I felt like I cared so much for this couple that I just couldn’t bear to watch them suffer like this. Seeing Boong-do’s blood covered and lifeless body being dragged into the hospital was also quite distressing because suddenly the true horror of death and separation becomes a very real possibility for this couple.
But of course it does all work out and Hui Jin hears that the ‘missing identity’ case was back in the hospital with some more arrow wounds before disappearing again, making her believe that Boong-do is still alive after all even if she is not sure where he is. He doesn’t turn up until a month later in fact, presumably recovering in Joseon before traveling to witness the evil minister’s execution, which seems to be the final moment that enables him to let go of everything that tied him to his own time period.
The scene where Boong-do returns to Hui Jin, tears covering his cheeks both for what he has lost (his home) and for what he has gained (life and Hui Jin) is very touching and romantic. They begin to plan for the future, starting with their first real date.
When Boong-do finally does disappear for real it is such a shock. Whilst at the park a deliriously happy Hui Jin sends Boong-do off to buy cotton candy whilst she waits on a bench. They have just spent a beautiful day together and their sweetness is overwhelming as they revel in the small things they can now enjoy, namely time, time to just be together. But Boong-do never returns, disappearing into thin air right in the middle of the park, even without the Talisman. Hui Jin’s worst nightmare has begun and she stays right where she is for lack of anything better to do, waiting and waiting for Boong-do’s return, her immense grief palpable.
Meanwhile Boong-do has seen the Talisman fall from the sky, now completely black and leeched of all colour. He immediately seeks out the young Gisaeng who first gave it to him only to find her murdered at the Pavilion where she lives and entertains. I feel so much sympathy for this poor girl, all her love poured into a protection talisman for the man she loves but can never have, only to watch him withdraw away from her into a completely unknown world and into the arms of the woman he has met there. This sad story is punctuated for me by the sight of Boong-do sobbing over her graphically dead body, highlighting the sad fact that this is the most she could have ever expected of him. Although he is grieved by her death and horrified at her fate, he never loved her and is perhaps even more grieved by what her death represents to him, the end of his connection to Hui Jin and the modern world.
Boong-do tries one last time to use the Talisman, holding a sword to his throat with tears in his eyes not knowing if it will lead to his death or salvation, a gut wrenching scene that is both distressing and poignant. Much to mine and Boong-do’s relief it actually works and he immediately calls Hui Jin, surprised to find her sitting in the exact same place her left her days earlier. As Boong-do slowly walks towards her, their eyes locked across the park, she cries into the phone that where else could she possibly go? She said she would wait for him so she did.
And then Boong-do disappears again, leaving her all alone.
In their separate worlds they both fall to their knees, understanding now the full weight and despair that their love has brought them. Horrifyingly sad and distressing.
Over the next few weeks Boong-do searches for answers and Hui Jin waits.
And waits and waits.
It turns out that the master who originally wrote the Talisman is dead and all hope is lost, a shocking discovery that Boong-do was not ready to hear.
There is a truly beautiful scene here where Boong-do, now in total despair, lies flat on the ground alone and staring into the sky, his expression dead and haunted as he contemplates what he can do. He lies there all day until it grows dark, agonising over the decision but eventually choosing to burn the Talisman, hoping that by destroying it he will also destroy Hui Jin’s memories of him, as he just cannot bear to think of her sobbing as she tells him she waited for him because there was nothing else she could do. The idea of her spending her entire life only waiting for him is just too much for Boong-do, so he writes this, the most beautiful letter ever as a record of their love and of himself:
‘This is a letter I am writing to you,
but at the same time it is also written to me.
I may forget that I even wrote this letter, or this letter may disappear completely, but I’m writing this letter to me, or you, or whoever that might live on holding onto their memories…
When I received this talisman by chance, I wanted to know it’s cause and effect.
At first, I thought the effect was accomplishing my hopeless dream,
then I believed that the effect was meeting you through fate,
and then I believed the effect was living a new life in a different world,
but I now realise the effect is of me losing everything.
My future, my honor, my values, my people, and even you…
It may have been an obvious logic that I’d have to compensate earning a life by losing everything else. I was foolish for believing that I’d be able to keep at least one of those things.
How much do I have to lose until I fully compensate?
Being unable to meet you, I now realize even that is a luxury.
That is the last price I must pay.
Even I don’t know what will happen now.
Whether we will live forgetting each other or be unable to let go of these memories and live eternally miserable…
My last wish, I want to remember you.
Because not having those memories on top of living my remaining years with no goal will feel like hell. And you…
Even if you read this letter in the future, I only hope you won’t realise who this letter was addressed to.
(Translation by starcandii)
And then he burns the Talisman.
The last episode of this drama made me cry, there is just something so stirring and so poignant about this ending that it just seeps into my soul and makes me feel.
A year later Hui Jin has forgotten about Boong-do due to his burning of the Talisman, but when she is asked to narrate a documentary about him, a series about figures lost in history, she begins to feel like something is missing. As she stands in the palace grounds filming the documentary, we see that in Joseon times Boong-do is also there, standing right behind her as he waits to be taken to the prison before he undergoes interrogation for the murders he committed a year before at the Gisaeng house. The camera pans around them, originally with Boong-do in black and white with his world leached of all colour, but then the edges start bleeding into each other and Hui Jin can feel him there behind her. She spins around but of course she is alone.
But when she begins to film, she can feel that something is wrong even if she has no idea what it is. Something huge is missing and it makes tears stream down her face uncontrollably, embarrassing her in front of the film crew.
Later as she drives home, still unsure why she is feeling like she does, she begins again to cry. And this time she also has a strange flash of memory, herself in the past entering an unknown number into her mobile phone and labeling the person ‘player’. Her hands shaking, she pulls her mobile out and uncertainly enters in the number that she shouldn’t know and it begins to ring but no one answers.
And that’s when the memories hit her.
Boong-do at the palace. Boong-do at her house. Boong-do at the park. Boong-do kissing her. Boong-do wounded by two arrows. Boong-do holding her and crying. Boong-do reaching out to her and disappearing from her world.
Suddenly Hui Jin can’t breathe and she crawls out of her car into the rain, holding her head and sobbing as her heart breaks all over again.
She makes her way to the documentary studio and is let into an empty cinema room to watch the unedited footage titled ‘Queen Inhyuns Man’. When the letter is read aloud, it is Boong-do’s voice she hears speaking to her across the centuries and it is images of them together that she sees on the screen.
Meanwhile Boong-do has made the most horrifying decision of his life. He has decided to die. Crying in his tiny cell, he carefully pulls out the remnants of his happiness from his satchel, a black suit and tie. And his mobile phone. He runs his fingers over the thin black tie as he remembers Hui Jin teaching him what it was for, pulling him closer and kissing him. Tears run down his cheeks as he ties it onto a roof beam and stares blankly through the looped noose he has created out of this object of love.
And then he hangs himself.
And it is right at that moment that he is dying that his mobile rings and he can see Hui Jin’s face on the screen. He focuses on it at first in disbelief and then with determination, managing to free himself and fall limply to the floor. His hand shakes as he reaches for the mobile, and when he takes the call and places the phone against his ear he immediately disappears, finding himself lying on the street in the pouring rain, cars whizzing by and towering concrete buildings all around him.
Boong-do begins to laugh and cry at the same time, hardly being able to believe that this is possible. At the exact moment he was to die, he has been allowed to live.
This magic has always been about bringing life to those prepared to die. Boong-do had given up all hope when he tried to kill himself, he knew there was no life for him after death and so he did not expect it, and that is why it worked. It was always a curse to those that attempted to use it for their own gains, and a savior to those that didn’t attempt to own its power or use it as a tool.
The original Talisman was just a piece of paper with a Gisaengs love embedded into it. The second Talisman is a modern phone, no more or less magical then a simple piece of paper, just an everyday object embedded with all the love and hope Hui Jin could ever give to him.
She called him and he came for her, through the power of his despair and the strength of her love they found each other again and were given a second chance.
When Hui Jin and Boong-do are finally reunited, he asks her to demonstrate for him the true use of a tie, because he had forgotten and almost used it for the wrong thing….
Here we have a main couple who really gets put through the wringer, not only must they move mountains in order to be together, their own minds are constantly working against them (amnesia) along with history and even fate stepping in the way of their love.
And to be honest that is exactly how I enjoy my OTPs, a hell of a lot of strife and shit to get through to give me the feeling that they have truly earned their love followed by a satisfying and truly happy ending. And yes, I do realise that all sounds quite sadistic, but really what is the point of watching a drama if there is no drama?
A romance with no struggle can be a bit of a letdown, but a love that endures hardship and still survives, growing stronger and deeper all the while, now that is a love that I can truly be affected by, that is a love with the power to make me cry.
Lee Evie is an author of historical fiction set in old Korea, during the Joseon dynasty.
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