want!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Scarlet Heart: Ryeo Episodes 10-11 (part 1)

[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.]

Let’s 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.

And I 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.

I do 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.

Soo 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 it.

Conversations 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.

Court 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 throne.

It’s dangerous 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.

I 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?

The 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.

Reading 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.

I 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.

So is 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.


[to be continued in part 2…]

5

Edgeworth, get your boyfriend some flowers. He very obviously wants some.

Phoenix, just because Edgeworth didn’t get you flowers that one time you really wanted some is no reason to bring up your lover’s spats during a trial.

  • Atsushi:I'm... grounded?
  • Dazai:*folds arms* Yes, you're grounded!
  • Kunikida:You disobeyed an order.
  • Ranpo:[holds up a shovel] and now we're gonna bury you 'til you've learned your lesson!
  • Fukuzawa:Ranpo... that's not how grounding works