[It’s finally happened, my thoughts on a pair of episodes
have ballooned to such a degree that I can’t put the all in one
post. The things this show does to me. I avoid BBJX altogether this week, but the post still includes spoilers through episode 11 of SH:R. Part 1 sticks mostly to episode 10 and the SoSoo dynamic. Part 2 will deal with Court Lady Oh, Wook and broader themes. Enjoy.]
talk about the unexpected positives that came out of the end of
episode 9: Contrary to what many people feared, Soo did not waiver
and begin to fall for So during the kiss scene, or at the beach, or
even during the makeup scene that followed. In
fact, Soo’s heart didn’t waiver throughout episode 10. She was very
firm and clear with So about her feelings, and seemed to have every
intention of marrying Wook and trying to make a life with him far
away from the intrigues of the palace.
think So’s sentiments are supposed to have a certain ambiguity, not
just for the audience but for Soo. Is he the dangerous, possessive
homicidal maniac who would kill for her without hesitation or remorse
(whether she wants it or not)? Or is he the emotionally
inarticulate little boy struggling to make his feelings known to her,
when the language of love is so totally unknown to him he can only
express it in warlike terms?
The answer I keep coming back to being…can’t it be both? A character like Wang So can be more
than one thing.
think there is a genuine fear of So and what he is capable of, but
that’s not the beginning and end of her feelings toward him. For
instance, she doesn’t seem to be particularly afraid of what So would
do to her personally, but she does fear what he could do to
the people she cares about. She fears the Gwangjong of her visions
and believes So will eventually becoming him. Yet she worries about
and cares for So. She wants him to live a good life without the need
for violence or bad dreams. She’s having difficulty squaring these
contradictory realities in her mind.
tries to protect Wook from So a couple different times. In the scene
where she and So meet Wook and Jung on the road back to the palace,
though there are a couple different possible readings, I firmly
believe that Soo is trying to keep So from realizing that Wook is the
one she likes.
His casual threat to kill whoever she likes is still
fresh in her mind at that point. And if you look at her expression,
his is not a person who feels comfortable in her current company, but rather one who desperately doesn’t want to give Wook and So a reason to be at
odds. She tries on two or three occasions to explain to So that the affection he is feeling from her is friendship and not love,
and to differentiate the two. But, of course, So is having none of
with So, Soo and Court Lady Oh more or less confirm my theory from
last week that what Soo had intended as a friendly gesture, So had
interpreted as romantic and construed them to be in a romantic
relationship because of this.
Lady recognizes that being the recipient of So’s devotion is a
perilous thing, and tries to warn Soo that she won’t be able to talk him
out of it, neither will she be safe trying to run away with the 8th prince. The only thing that she can do is wait for So to lose
interest. In the meantime she wants Soo to leave the Damiwon with
her. The last thing the trusting and friendly Soo needs is to be
caught between two brothers from two powerful families vying for her
love and for the
for her as a woman, it’s especially dangerous for her as a Court Lady
if rumors of her liaisons with either prince start to circulate.
think it’s important to point out the veiled sexual politics at work
in the way the princes talk about Soo. Wook is picking up on it when
he meets Soo and So on the way back to the palace, when So says that
king “gave” Soo to him Wook repeats the phrase back to him with
an unspoken question. In what sense to Soo belong to So? What exactly
did the king give to him? An assistant? A piece of property? Or does
So mean it in a sexual sense?
whole scandal of Soo leaving the palace is charged with sexual
overtones. The problem with Soo leaving the Damiwon with So isn’t a
matter of geography, it throws her virtue into question. Soo is a
Court Lady, an extension of the harem. Anyone who heard that So and
Soo went out, alone together, at night, would naturally assume that
So slept with her. In this light, Wook’s panic at hearing the news
she had fled the palace, his jealousy and paranoia for the rest of
these episodes, make a lot more sense.
Baek Ah’s conversation with So later on with this coded sexual
language in mind, the implications there are much clearer also. When
Baek Ah tells So he can’t treat Soo like a “regular girl”, he’s
reminding So that she still belongs to the king. He means that So
can’t sleep with her and expect there to be no repercussions
simply because of his princely status. At which point So clarifies
his intentions: He’s not thinking of Soo in such casual terms. He
doesn’t want to make things hard for her. He doesn’t want people
thinking he’s slept with her. He admits at that point that he made a
mistake taking her out the way he did.
think this is a good place to point out that, while So does refuse to
apologize for his actions with regard to Soo, that doesn’t mean he
feels no remorse for what he’s done. Clearly he feels that almost as soon as he kisses her. He she’s
her hands, clenched and trembling, and stumbles away from her. His
expression showing he feels like the dog he is.
And I truly believe
his taking her outside of the palace was his attempt to fix things.
Though he is particularly poor at expressing his feelings, he wanted
to take her to a place without eyes, without the suffocating
constraints of the palace, where he could tell her how he felt.
in an emotional muddle for the vast majority of episode 10. I think
that’s why his confession is more than a little ambiguous. Is he just a homicidal maniac or is this just his
failed attempt to tell her he loves her? Is he
daring her to run away from him or is he trying to give her the
opportunity to reject him? Soo certainly doesn’t know. I don’t think
we’re supposed to know either. Not until later scenes in the episode
provide context for what he says on the beach.
Emotionally stunted from years of neglect and abuse, So doesn’t differentiate between love and friendship. He doesn’t have enough experience with either.
It’s all the same to him. Everything or nothing. And accordingly, he only sees two categories of people: His people and everyone else. Though arguably there may be others, the only ones he places categorically into the “his people” basket at this point are Baek Ah and Soo. I saw someone argue that this statement to Baek Ah was emotionally manipulative. But he’s not trying to be manipulative. In So’s mind, what he’s saying is literally true. That’s why he asks if the one Soo likes is Baek Ah. Baek Ah is the only person in his life he would feel compunctions competing with. The only person So couldn’t kill for her without hesitation or regret.
And make no mistake. This aspect of So’s personality is highly disturbing. But if you care to understand him at all, you have to take things from his perspective. He has spent so long fighting simply to survive. He’s been longing for
the smallest scrap of affection from his family’s table, he’s been starving for it. Now
he’s finally met someone who sees him as neither sword, nor shield, nor attack dog. And he’s not entirely sure how to respond. He’s been waiting for love for so long that he’s never learned how to love someone in return. He doesn’t know how it works.
In that way the poisoning scene is a kind of revelation for him. Up until that moment he’s been so preoccupied with trying to possess Soo, that he’s hardly thought about what he would give up for her. When he thinks to himself “I am drinking the poison you’ve poured me” it isn’t accusation. It isn’t even irony. It’s the moment when he realizes the depth of his feelings for her. It’s the moment when he decides that he loves her enough to die for her. Even if she never knows it was for her. Even if she never returns his feelings.
This is the biggest turning point for So’s character so far.