The King’s Affection season 1, episode 20 recap – the finale/ending explained

December 14, 2021
Christina Geani 1
Ending Explained, K-Drama, Netflix, Streaming Service, Weekly TV


The King’s Affection finally ends the journey with an affectionate ending for everyone.

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The King’s Affection finally ends the journey with an affectionate ending for everyone.

This recap of the Netflix K-Drama series The King’s Affection season 1, episode 20 — the finale and ending explained — contains spoilers.

Check out the archive for this K-Drama series. 

It’s time to say goodbye to our favorite Palace romance couple. The final episode is truly intense and emotional. I have said this but I’ll say it again: The King’s Affection is truly not your typical romance drama. The complexity of family issues due to the wealth and power, the gender balance roles within the characters, and how it underlines woman’s issues, from patriarchy to misogyny, in the most poetic way possible. 

The King’s Affection season 1, episode 20 recap – the finale and ending explained

The King’s Affection season 1, episode 20 starts with Hyun passing a poem that Lord Wonsan writes which leaves a code that he is plotting treason. He warns Lee Hwi to gather her soldiers right away because it’s a wake-up call that the storm is about the break. On the other side, Lord Wonsan appears walking with a thousand soldiers behind him to the Palace, facing Lord Sangheon. Meanwhile, to avoid the worst scenarios, Lee Hwi decides to postpone Gyeom’s coronation due to the sudden outbreaks at the Palace. Lee Hwi asks Gyeom to leave the Palace right away with Hyun. She also orders Eun-Seo to come alongside and safely escort Gyeom and Hyun while she comes face to face with Lord Sangheon.

The intense battle between the torn family starts. It’s Lee Hwi versus her grandfather and Hyun versus Lord Wonsan, his brother. Lord Wonsan manages to stop Hyun’s escape plan. He asks Hyun to hand Gyeom over but he refuses. Hyun got into a sword battle but lost in numbers putting Gyeom in a dangerous state. Lord Wonsan is about to lay his sword upon Gyeom until an arrow hits him. It is Queen Dowager’s arrow. But, nobody can stop a man with deadly ambition. Lord Wonsan asks his soldier to get rid of her and continues his mission to kill Gyeom… And he did. 

Hyun breaks down after he fails to protect Gyeom but Lord Wonsan uses this chance to kill his brother, too. Unfortunately, Eun-Seo comes to interrupt his plan and almost kills him instead of leaving Lord Wonsan critically injured.

“There’s something I need to say,”

Meanwhile, Hyun is not the only one that got overpowered by numbers. The same thing goes for Lee Hwi and Ji-Woon. After being cornered, once again, our father Seok-Jo comes to the rescue! He asks Ji-Woon to escort the King safely. Lee Hwi demands Seok-Jo to stay alive no matter what because she still wishes to punish him accordingly. In the middle of running away, Ji-Woon chooses to go back and fight with his father instead. That’s a real father and son duo moment.

At the chamber, Eun-Seo comes with the news of Gyeom’s passing. It’s heartbreaking how Lee Hwi once again has to face another death in her life. All because of the throne. But Gyeom is not the only soul that left the Palace. Upon seeing Lord Sangheon leaving the battleground, Seok-Jo risks his life to run after him despite him being critically injured. The betrayal is strong in this one. Despite Seok-Jo having serves by his side and sacrificing everything, Lord Sangheon chooses to kill him instead. Their intense eye contact filled with betrayal and blood is intimidating.

This is one of the most heartbreaking moments which bawls my eyes straight away. Especially when Ji-Woon witnessed his father slowly dying in his embrace. Despite their rocky relationship, you can’t deny the fact how Seok-Jo always tries his best to protect Ji-Woon and his family. And for that, Ji-Woon takes that side of him even though Seok-Jo states how he likes that Ji-Woon does not take after his sides. Ji-Woon helplessly begs his father to stay with him because there’s still something he needs to say to him. It is true, the dangerous thing is when we think we have time. “Do not forgive me. Ji-Woon, my Ji-Woon..” says Seok-Jo before resting his soul for infinity. At the very least, Seok-Jo is finally brave enough to choose his stance at the very end.

“I want to live”

After dealing with Seok-Jo, Lord Sangheon comes to secretly visit Lord Wonsan who is critically injured. Lord Wonsan reports how he manages to kill Gyeom just like what he demands from him. “You have to put me onto the throne,” demands Lord Wonsan while holding every pain in his body. Even the physiatrist thinks he will not survive. And yes, he does not survive.

Meanwhile, Ji-Woon comes back to the King’s chambers in distress after his father passes away. Lee Hwi can’t afford any more death so instead of following the original plan, Lee Hwi decides to face Lord Sangheon and give up the throne she’s been willing to protect. Everyone is opposing her ideas but she adamantly wants to carry on with the plan. Ji-Woon desperately asks him to run, but she reassures him that she’ll stay alive because she’s willing to live. She asks for a hairpin after all the trouble and the two share a hug. A deep one. 

“I will give up the throne”

Lee Hwi comes to face Lord Sangheon outside. To live her own life, Lee Hwi must courageously let go of what weighing her down. The throne. “I will give up the throne,” declares Lee Hwi. Later, the two are having a tense conversation over a cup of tea. Lee Hwi apologizes for keeping her identity as a woman. Lord Sangheon, on the other hand, admits his mistake of not confirming her death. The second mistake is committed by Lee Hwi’s mother. But he closes his speech by blaming Lee Hwi for everything, and most importantly because Lee Hwi decides to reveal his crime. 

“Had you been born as a boy it would have been great,” says Lord Sangheon. “Must I die because I am a woman?” asks Lee Hwi. This dialogue is probably one of the most powerful dialogues said by Lee Hwi. Not long after, her royal psychiatrist, the ones involved in her late father’s death, comes to the room and serves them with a herbal tonic. Despite knowing that the herbal tonic is poisonous, Lee Hwi still manages to follow through. Because she got a plan: bringing Lord Sangheon to the afterlife with her. 

The death of a monster

Juggling with the assumption that Lee Hwi might not survive the battle, Court Lady Kim hopelessly wants to end her life. She recalls the last moment with Lee Hwi, where she asks Court Lady Kim to brew her poisonous tea that contains Sangocho. At first, our court lady refuses to do it but Lee Hwi insists on her doing it because she is no longer wants to live a lie that costs someone’s life. As the result, Court Lady Kim tries to attempt suicide but luckily Eunuch Hong and Eun-Seo come just in time to save her.

After finding the truth about Lee Hwi’s plan, Ji-Woon rushes himself to the chamber only to find Lee Hwi’s mouth is already covered in blood due to the poisoning. It turns out, Lee Hwi uses the sangocho that Lord Sangheon uses to kill her late father as a tea that she serves for Lord Sangheon. After knowing her intention, Lord Sangheon attacks Lee Hwi and snuggles her neck. Lee Hwi mocks him saying that she has no regret for punishing him at the end. She also states how she is grateful to be born as a woman because she does not need to stay by his side if she is truly a man. “The way we see the world is entirely different,” says Lee Hwi. Not long after, the poison starts to work. Both of them coughing blood here and there. The difference is, Lord Sangheon dies right away, all alone while Lee Hwi is slowly losing herself in Ji-Woon’s embrace. 

A world without

After Lee Hwi loses her consciousness due to the poisonous herbal tonic, we’re passing through the parallels of dream and reality to the “what-if’s” kind of world where there’s no obligation. The world where Lee Hwi is free to love and be herself. The world where everyone is staying alive. Lee Hwi is seen wearing a bridal gown in the middle of wedding preparation. Court Lady Kim and Eunuch Hong were also present. They scold her for switching places with the King, which indicates how the world will be if the real Lee Hwi also survives. Not minding their scolding, Lee Hwi happily runs outside her chamber to Ji-Woon who is waiting at their secret garden. He calls her “Yeon-Seon,” the name that he gives to her as a gift when they’re young. Slowly, Lee Hwi comes to the realization how everything is just a dream and everything starts to fade away, one by one. “Do not leave me alone,” says Lee Hwi frightened.

“Now you have nothing to worry about”

What Lee Hwi wants, Lee Hwi gets. Her body survives the poison. Her willingness to live has overcome death. It’s a miracle how the poison does not take her life away. After her wishful dream, Lee Hwi slowly regains her consciousness. She is still bewildered by the reality of surviving the battle. “Thank you for staying alive,” says Ji-Woon while holding her hand tightly. Eunuch Hong and Court Lady Kim also show a great sigh of relief. “What happen to my grandfather?” asks Lee Hwi confused. While Lee Hwi manages to survive towards the very end, Lord Sangheon passes away. “It’s all over now, Your Majesty Now, you have nothing to worry about,” says Ji-Woon as the two break into tears. This is probably the biggest relief moment that we have ever witnessed in the world of The King’s Affection.

Meanwhile, the Grand Queen Dowager orders the royal guardian to take Lord Sangheon’s body outside the palace with no funeral and burial. As he should. 

The ray of light in the rotten place

Later on in The King’s Affection season 1, episode 20, The Grand Queen Dowager meets with Lee Hwi. She asks her to live a quiet life and hide. “That’s how I live. I was alive and yet I was not,” respond Lee Hwi. She is tired living her life as someone else and asks to be punished according to the law due to the loss of lives. But, you know what’s interesting? It turns out, Hyun is now the King of Joseon. After hearing about Lee Hwi’s pledge and how she is willing to be punished according to law, the ray of light shines through. Despite the doctrine and ideology, her General Inspector defends Lee Hwi for her endurance and willingness to upstand the nation with her righteousness and act of humility. He demands the King to punish those who turn blind-eye on her and commit treason within the Palace. In the end, righteousness and kindness choose to stand with Lee Hwi. Not only the General Inspector, but Her royal inspector also kneels by her side and beg for Hyun’s generosity. You see, you only need one courageous person to make the first move and the rest will follow. 

It turns out. Before the assembly, Ji-Woon begs for Hyun and in front of the grand Queen dowager to give Lee Hwi a chance to lead her life as Dam-i. As a Royal Scribe, Ji-Woon finally uses his role as a scriber and asks Hyun to erase all the documents regarding Prince Lee Hwi because the real Lee Hwi never exist. He dies long ago. In return, he asks Hyun to restore Dam-i’s record as a symbol of her rebirth. Of course, Hyun grants everyone’s wish for Dam-i. 

The ending

Well, after a series of arousing, emotional turmoil, and intense battle, we were finally able to breathe. Everyone is finally receiving their perfect closure. Hyun is now the King of Joseon who still keeps his habit of eating sweets, Dam-i’s favorite, and resting at the top of the hill where Dam-i uses to rest when she is still serving as the King. Eun-Seo becomes Royal Commander and continues to stand by the King’s side. Ha-Kyung is now officially a commoner and lives an ordinary life where she can freely visit his father and doesn’t have to worry about her worth as a Queen anymore. Court Lady Kim and Eunuch Hong continue to serve the Royal Palace. They’re now serving Hyun. It is also one of Dam-i’s last orders before leaving the Palace.

Meanwhile, our protagonist is enjoying their extraordinary life outside the Palace. Remember when Dam-i asks Hyun about life beyond the sea? Now, she finally can touch the sand and feel the breeze of the ocean with the person she is affectionate about, Ji-Woon. “I am no longer curious about life beyond the see, I am perfectly happy where I am now,” says Damien.

A few minutes back, right before Dam-i faces Lord Sangheon, she asks Ji-Woon for a hairpin if they ever come out alive. Ji-Woon is a man of his word. He strokes her hair gently and gives her the beautiful hairpin she always longs for. Now, both of them do not have to worry about anything anymore. They stroll the beautiful beach with the sunsets sky above them. There is no more struggle and a scary dream. There are only beautiful ones as the genuine smile is painted on their face as they encounter Hyun, Eunuch Hong, Court Lady Kim, and Eun-Seo walking towards them with nothing but affection and happiness.

You can stream The King’s Affection season 1, episode 20 — the finale, exclusively on Netflix to see the ending unfold.

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1 thought on “The King’s Affection season 1, episode 20 recap – the finale/ending explained

  • December 17, 2021 at 4:48 am

    Lee Hwi surviving notwithstanding having taken the poisonous tea simply on the basis of her will to live is a very unrealistic ending. Lord Sangheon, no matter how evil he was also had the deepest desire to live because of his greed and ambition, and yet he died of the same poison which was supposed to be deadly. So what is now the logical difference between Lee Hwi and Lord Sangheon when both had the same will to live. The writer should have thought of a better and realistic ending, not one of fantasy. I watched the entire series with great interest just to be disappointed with an ending which does not make sense.

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