Mr. Sunshine Episode 19 felt like a season finale as the Japanese show their violent hand and begin to destroy the spirit of Joseon.
Where on earth do I begin? Mr. Sunshine Episode 19 had all the elements of a groundbreaking finale, stringing together several scenarios that have been brewing for weeks; I was not expecting it to come to a head so early. Hold tight, we have a lot to discuss.
It’s important to wind back to last week for most of this episode to understand the events that ensued here. Gu Dong-mae infamously cut off Lady Ae-sin’s ponytail, embarrassing her publically. I had a few comments in my last recap regarding this scenario; according to a few of our readers, Gu Dong-mae’s act of aggression was highly disrespectful, belittling Lady Ae-sin’s wellbeing and reducing her to a lower form of a citizen in front of onlookers. Cutting the ponytail is an act of symbolism; and according to one reader, the head/hair represents honour in many cultures, even in the present day.
For Gu Dong-mae, this act asserted dominance at first glance but for Lady Ae-sin, this was a huge blow to her reputation, and she felt it too – she initially threatened Gu Dong-mae and then resorted to gloominess for most of the episode. However, when Eugene confronted Gu Dong-mae regarding his audacious act, he explained that Lee Wan-ik was attempting to get information on her, placing him in an awkward position; in reality, Gu Dong-mae was protecting Lady Ae-sin in a slightly odd way – by trying to threaten her, he believed she would hide away and keep out of trouble.
Mr. Sunshine Episode 19 swiftly draws its attention away from that situation, focusing instead on Eugene and the romantic music box that he shares with Lady Ae-sin. At the end of the last episode, Takashi Mori suggests there is more to Eugene’s relationship with Lady Ae-sin than meets the eye and uses the music box to try and prove his point. Eugene, as always, blags the situation, stating that the box could have been purchased anywhere. Takashi Mori does not buy it, but more to the point, Eugene kept his cool during times of rising tension, searching Takashi Mori’s hotel room to find his top targets in Joseon. The character is trying to stay one step ahead.
Takashi Mori pays Gu Dong-mae a visit and embarrassingly lands on the floor after a brief altercation between the two. It is clear that Takashi Mori has the brains but in this scenario, he was no match for the swordsman, with his gun instantly disarmed and thrown to the ground. I suggested in Episode 18 that Joseon does not appear ready for the growing Japanese aggression. I was thinking at this point that I maybe I was wrong.
It turns out I was probably right. After Takashi Mori’s remarks that he will destroy the spirit of the Joseon people, that intention came to fruition but in the form of Lee Wan-ik, who decides to pay Lord Go a visit. Lee Wan-ik displays a railway map to the respected man, pinpointing that his house will need to be destroyed for the purpose of transport lines in case there is a war with Russia. Lee Wan-Ik cackles like a madman as his men start destroying the outer walls and the infrastructure of Lord Go’s residence. Lord Go holds his chest and collapses, ordering his people to lock Lady Ae-sin away so she does not get hurt. Lee Wan-ik at this stage is clearly feeling the pressure of Takashi Mori about his unwillingness to destroy Joseon. The Foreign Minister clearly took it to heart.
Takashi Mori takes matters further, hanging a dead Joseon woman from a bridge in the middle of the village. I had to take a mental step back at this point and take it in. Mr. Sunshine was slowly concocting the demise of the Joseon people in such horrific and unexpected circumstances, using dead people as a tool for war. Eugene turns up on horseback but looks powerless at this point – not only had Takashi Mori broken the spirit of a respected elder nobleman, but he had used Lee Wan-ik as a pawn to spread his desires.
The latter end of Mr. Sunshine Episode 19 shows Takashi Mori’s plan go full circle. Lord Go dies due to the stress of his situation paying a price on his old heart, leaving the Joseon people to start many days of mourning. The Emperor shows up, much to the surprise of Lee Wan-ik, who decided to mock the king for kneeling to the dead man. The mourning of Lord Go drove an emotionally-fuelled ending, showing the effect this man had, not only on Lady Ae-sin but the wider community. The pain did not end though, as Lee Wan-ik ruthlessly drives his men at the mourners as they try and pass Lord Go’s coffin through the village, brutally beating them all to a pulp. Episode 19 highlighted war, inflicted with no mercy.
And just when I thought I could not take any more, the Japanese soldiers walk through the villages, high in confidence, showing the true nature of their rise in Joseon. The primary aim is to capture Lady Ae-sin. Mr. Sunshine Episode 19 ends in violent consequences, as the Japanese army start an onslaught on Lord Go’s residence workers in the hope they can find Lady Ae-sin. Hui-seong heroically tries to save the situation but more bodies keep falling. At this point, I felt this was the end of Hui-seong, but as all the guns pointed at him, The Righteous Army responded, killing the Japanese soldiers. As Hui-seong looks up at the roof, he sees Lady Ae-sin perched at the top with a rifle in her vigilante attire, giving the audience a brief moment of elation.
Despite the heroic ending, Mr. Sunshine bravely showed many casualties; the Japanese army finally showed their violent hand in their quest to destroy Joseon and take it for themselves. With three episodes left, I do wonder how this will turn around in favour of Joseon. At this stage, I doubt Mr. Sunshine will display the end of the Joseon dynasty, as history tells us, but it will be interesting to see how they angle it as the season ends. More importantly, the relationship between Lady Ae-sin and Eugene will need to be concluded, but what is abundantly clear is that the war is here, putting together nicely the final three episodes. See you tomorrow.