Dong-yi Episode 1, recap
Dong-yi: Episode 1
Yeah, I’m crazy. (50 episodes! My soul quivers.) But I’m going to make this clear up front: Dong-yi looks interesting now, and so I’m recapping it, in part because fangirling for Bae Soo-bin has caught me by surprise and in part because I love how epic this drama promises to be. I will not, however, guarantee regular as clockwork updates (real life, alas, intrudes) nor will I guarantee to be faster than the fansubbers.
Obviously if it becomes a pile of steaming crap in the middle or Han Hyo-joo loses her acting chops I will stop, because one torturous go-round on the ‘Force Self To Recap Machine’ was quite enough, thank you. (Or, god forbid, it turns into Yi San, the drama of 77 episode fame.)
In all honestly, I love the entire freaking cast; that does not happen very often. In addition, I have faith in the writer and director, so we shall see.
Without further ado!
It’s the year 1681, in the 7th year of King Sukjong’s reign (who ascended his throne in 1674 at a rather tender 14 years of age), and we begin the drama with that well-beloved sageuk opening move: a murder.
An unknown nobleman is fishing in the predawn silence when an assassin (complete with sketchy straw hat) approaches on another boat and stabs him in the chest. Before the nobleman falls into the water, he grabs a pendant off his assailant’s robes.
A little while after, a group of runaway slaves make their way through the snow-covered forest. They are, of course, pursued by police (yeah, I was hoping for a glimpse of Dae-gil and co., but wrong drama).
Fortunately for them, CHA CHUN-SOO (portrayed by Bae Soo-bin) and his friends show up to hold the police off while the slaves make their escape. Cha Chun-soo is part of an underground organization that I will call the Sword Society. (Notice the handy headband? Yeah. Not the most subtle secret organization ever.)
The Sword Society (the initials were unfortunate, not using them) specialize in annoying the officials and helping slaves escape.
Yeah, he’s really cool, and yes, I like the actor, why do you ask?
This is Dong-yi’s big brother, CHOI DONG-JU. He’s also a member of the Sword Society, though he daylights as a royal musician.
DONG-YI herself is only about 11 right now, but she’s already every bit as stubborn and brilliant as her adult self is reputed to be. The Daebi (Queen Dowager) is holding a celebration, and in honour of that, the town council organized a relay race for the children.
Winners get a scrumptious plate of honeyed sweets, so the competition isn’t entirely friendly. The boy in the picture on the right is the son of local yangban, and also a dirty rotten cheater who kicks relay batons out of people’s reach. Nevertheless, Dong-yi manages to beat him in the street race only to be denied her win because the judge is biased.
Please don’t ever be this adult.
He’s obviously just favouring the boy because he’s friends with the daddy, but because he’s in charge, Dong-yi can’t do anything about it. Until, that is, she get the idea to distract them and run off with the sweets.
And replacing them with a plate of rocks!
That Dong-yi, she is a handful.
Unfortunately the switch is discovered, so Dong-yi runs away. The other kids take off in pursuit, and coming to an abandoned bridge, Dong-yi and the loyal (but probably long-suffering) Ge-dwo-ra decide to hide under the bridge.
After the others have run off, vowing dire revenge, Dong-yi takes the opportunity to gloat in their general direction, only to discover the Ge-dwo-ra had been sneaking bites of the candies behind her back. She remonstrates with him, saying that she had intended to put some aside for her father, brother, Chun-soo and Ge-dwo-ra’s father.
However, Ge-dwo-ra is looking over her shoulder as the body of the murdered nobleman washes up on the riverside.
Dong-yi sends her friend off for the police at the local magistrate, and tends to the old man in the meantime.
He’s barely alive, but he tries to hand something to her. In daylight, we can see that he grabbed a name-plate of some sort off his assassin. She, however, is having none of it.
Dong-yi gets impatient and guesses (rather correctly) that her friend has run off without telling the police, so she gets up to fetch them. The nobleman is beyond speaking at this point, but he keeps making a hand gesture to her even as she leaves. It seems to be some sort of signal.
By the time Dong-yi and the police arrive, the man has passed away. His body is taken away by detective officers in the autopsy department for examination.
As her father had been an autopsy specialist before leaving the force, she knows quite a bit about proper transport procedure – when she informs the bumbling officers of this, they bluster it off as nonsense from a little girl.
At the same time, two other highly ranked South faction nobles have been discovered. The prefectural officers realize that this is probably a concerted attack on the Southern faction, which puts their political opponents, the West faction, squarely in the pool of suspects.
This is LORD OH TAE POONG, the leader of the South faction. He doesn’t seem too perturbed or surprised when he hears the head inspector inform him of his subordinates’ violent deaths.
INSPECTOR SEO YONG-GI is not happy when his subordinates are unable to give him a precise location for where the murdered nobleman had fallen into the water. His autopsy department head retorts that it’s impossible, given that the body had been soaking in the water since dawn.
But Seo Yong-gi, greatly impatient, says that he will bring someone who can.
And his ace in the pocket turns out to be Dong-yi’s dad, CHOI HYO-WON. He’d been mentored by Choi upon entering the prefectural police, and even though he had retired, Seo holds a great deal of respect for his old teacher. He asks that Choi stop by to inspect the corpse.
As he’d predicted, Choi pinpoints the place of murder as a lake upstream. It happens to be exactly where Cha Chun-soo and his own son were helping the slaves escape, and with official soldiers to witness their presence, Seo can finally pin a crime on the Sword Society. For all intents and purposes, they’ve been a thorn in his side for many years.
But neither Choi nor Seo knows of the two younger men’s involvement in the case, and both wax nostalgic about Choi’s days in the crime bureau. He’d been looked down upon for not being of noble blood, but Seo had always treated him like a well-loved mentor.
Seo puts out an ancient Korean version of an APB for any member of the Sword Society, even as Choi tries to discourage him from jumping to conclusions.
Seo goes to report to Lord Oh about the conclusions of his investigations, and while Lord Oh seems a little taken aback to find that the Sword Society are responsible for the deaths, he does commend Seo on his diligence and encourages him to continue working.
(I want to say: Don’t trust the teddy bears! It’s a historical drama, all grandfatherly characters are inevitably evil! Those that aren’t, of course, die.)
Yeah, the Daebi knows how to throw a party.
Dong-yi, peeking in at the general splendour, meets the gisaeng SEOL-HEE, who is not at all in love with her older brother, no, what are you talking about?
Dong-yi is pretty much a ball of energy on two legs.
Prefectural police interrupt, however, with search warrants for the general premise, because they’ve been given permission to root out all members of the Sword Society. A source has led them here, and though they’re sorry for ruining the festivities, murder investigations do take precedence.
Dong-ju knows he’s in trouble, and runs out with Dong-yi holding onto his hand.
At the same time, searches conducted in various households find the weapons and clothing used in the murder, and are also arrested.
Choi Hyo-won knows something doesn’t add up, but his pleas to Seo Yong-gi fall on deaf ears. The other man has spent much too long chasing the Sword Society to let go so easily.
And we find out that Lord Oh is indeed behind the murders. His nephew, OH YOON, is one of the highly placed officers at the prefectural police, and was in charge of orchestrating all the deaths. According to Lord Oh, the three men, leaders of the South faction in their own right, had begun to question his actions, and therefore they had to go.
Lord Oh advises his nephew to allow Inspector Seo to run off on his own wild tangent for the Sword Society, as this will neither implicate any nobles nor likely to cause too much of a ripple – after all, people expect the commoners to be culprits to crimes. (As opposed to, I suppose, the vastly superior yangban?) [Insert eyeroll]
Before dying, the nobleman had placed the wooden tag inside Dong-yi’s bag. She discovers it after a run-in with local children who demanded the return of the sweets she had run off with, and realizes that if she hands this in as evidence, she will get a reward. (Which will go toward the honey candies, I guess.)
To everyone’s shock, the tag belongs to one of the prefecture’s own, a subordinate of Oh Yoon’s. He had been one of the men sent to kill the nobles, and had lost it that morning.
Seo Yong-gi realizes that he’s been on the wrong track, and demands to see who had the alibis at the time of the murders. Unfortunately for the peasants and the presumed members of the Sword Society, Oh Yoon’s order for moving them to the state prison has already gone through.
On the other side of things, Oh Yoon is alerted that they may be tripped up by the small wooden tag, and makes contingency plans in case it doesn’t turn up after a thorough search.
Of course that search is called off once Seo reveals that he has the tag.
Seo’s quite happy that his mentor has a daughter as clever as he is, and so instrumental in helping him solve the crime. He realizes, as well as Choi, that if the Sword Society was not responsible for the deaths, then it means a court struggle is at hand. Seo plans to ask his father, a favourite of the king, to intercede on the behalf of the Sword Society.
That look means doom, death and destruction, as far as Dong-yi and her father are concerned. That night, assassins are sent to tail them (and presumably their quietus make in a dark alleyway).
Armed with her reward, Dong-yi stops at the marketplace to buy the honey candies. When she turns around, she comes face to face with a famous Daoist practioner, who tells her to take the main roads home and not to dawdle on the way.
After Dong-yi leaves, he explains to his apprentice that Dong-yi has twin auras – a miasma of death that is unusually strong, yet she also possesses a noble mien like that of royalty. He’s rather confused by the contradicting aura, but he says that if she survives the death that is coming for her, she will be great.
(Yay heavy-handed foreshadowing? I mean, at this point it’s kind of moot. We know the end of the story, it’s just the journey that interests us.)
At the police station, Seo finds that the officer who killed the noble was in turn murdered in his own prison cell. He realizes that whoever was behind the murders is trying to clean the trail, and orders his men to bring Choi Hyo-won and his daughter to the station for protection.
It’s a good thing Dong-yi stuck to the public paths, because her father was trailed home, and surrounded by would-be assassins.
Luckily he isn’t harmless, and reinforcements in the shape of his son and Cha Chun-soo arrive.
They know that if people attacked Choi, then Dong-yi would also be in danger, and split off to look for her. When they arrive at an empty home, Choi fears the worst, and calls a general meeting of the Sword Society.
- The street race scene itself is a beautiful piece of camerawork, but motion shots screencap poorly, so you’ll have to take my word for it. On the whole Dong-yi has one of the most beautiful and vibrant set-ups I’ve ever seen. Add in four delicious leads and I’m sold. (Though we’ve only seen 1 so far.)
- The child actors are all pretty damn great. I just hope Han Hyo-joo lives up to being the person who carries a 50 episode drama.
- ETA: Photobucket isn’t cooperating with me, so episode 2 may be a bit late.