Let me do a quick intro for those of you who are new in checking out The Crazy Ahjummas. For those of you just discovering our awesome blog, I am Kmuse, one of the three bloggers on the site and for now the most vocal. Dongsaeng and Unnie are still around but real life has taken a huge chunk out of their blogging time so for now you are stuck with me. I am a mother of three and an avid kdrama watcher, in that I love to watch literally everything. There are very few currently airing dramas that I am not watching so if you have any questions about them (or really any drama since I have seen an insane amount) feel free to ask me in the comments. Or better yet come like our facebook page and ask me there. https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-crazy-ahjummas/336988683021748?fref=ts For those of you who have not read my past recaps, I am one of those bloggers that really likes to just discuss my opinions on certain scenes or concepts of the drama. I don't go step by step through the whole thing. So if you are looking for a more complete recap you might have to look elsewhere (and then come back and read mine of course). But enough about me, lets get to what you are really waiting for and discuss episode 1 of "The Joseon Gunman".
Lets talk a tiny bit about the history that our story is set in. In 1876 it was the time of westward expansion in the U.S. The Civil War had just ended a decade earlier and for those of you who know your US history, when the US goes to war, it usually means a bunch of weapons are invented to be used in so said wars. The latest guns, which were easy to reload and quickly fire without flint and powder, had provided a whole new efficiency to the weapon. If you still need more reference, imagine your typical western with gunslingers and Indian fights, and you would be pretty close to that time frame (at least in the US). Elsewhere in the world, periods of enlightenment and progress were fighting the old regime of nobility and serfdom. Some countries embraced the new ideals and had easier transitions (United States, England) while others attempted to embrace enlightenment with bad results (France, Russia). The fear of commoner uprisings and the destruction of the nobility usually resulted in the closing of borders by countries anxious to stay with the status quo. This included a large majority of Northern Asian (China, Korea, Japan, and also east into Russia). But change comes to all people and places, and with global trade pushing Eastward into Asia, a faction of the Korean government (including the King) wanted to open its doors to the future. However the nobles (conservatives) within the kings council were adamantly against the change for fear of their power decreasing. Taking matters into their own hands, they hire and train assassin snipers (ironic that they are using a symbol of the very thing they are fighting against) to silence the enlightenment movement leaders.
Now that we have our historical background, lets get on to the fun part, the meeting of our characters. The first person introduced is leading man, Park Yoon Kang's father. He is proclaimed the best swordsman of Joseon and the head of the police force as well as a lord in his own right. He is an awesome fighter, and we get an opening scene (amazingly directed) where he is after one of the sniper assassins and fights him while using his bow and arrows. The assassin escapes, but not before our bad ass father injures him. We find out that the hero's dad is the king's right arm, and is attempting to keep those that support the kings open border policies from being killed off.
Enter Park Yoon Kang (Lee Joon Ki- 2 Weeks, Iljimae) who is a charming rascal from the get go. We watch as he uses his sword skills to cut a ginseng's top off her body. Receiving money from the watching crowd, he grins until he sees his father watching from the distance. His father lectures Yoon Kang about using his skills in such a frivolous way. Yoon Kang, just smirks and says that at least his skills are good for something as he walks away. Wow, someone is still in his "rebelling against parental authority" phase.
It always makes me chuckle when I see yet another cross dressing situation in an Asian drama. They truly love their gender bender plot lines. Leading lady, Jung Soo In ( Nam Sang Mi - Goddess of Marriage) is handed a derringer (small gun) by our second female lead, Choi Hye Won (Jeon Hye Bin - Queen of Office). Hye Won tells her it is for protection while she ventures into town dressed as a male scholar student.
Soo In determinedly sets off on her mission (to find one of the enlightenment scholars that is being hunted by the assassins), but bumps straight into our hero hottie. (What would be the point of cross dressing if our hero did not first meet our heroine while she is dressed as a man?) During their unexpected scuffle the derringer falls out of Soo In's clothes. She stares down at the gun, then up at Yoon Kang startled. Soo In then runs and throws herself on top of the gun after which Yoon Kang walks away (but not before giving her a speculative look). Yoon Kang doubles back and follows her to a local bookstore where she questions the owner as to the enlightenment professors whereabouts. Left without leads, she is again stopped by Yoon Kang, who demands to know where the gunman assassin is. Soo In tries to avoid him, but he continues to block her away. This eventually leads to Yoon Kang being on the receiving end of her slap (his expression of shock was priceless) and she escapes.
Quick Pause for Random Observation!I remember learning gun safety in school when I was little. The younger me is wincing every time that derringer falls onto the ground or the girls wave it in the air pointed towards their faces. EEEK it is an accidental gun fatality waiting to happen.
Bad Ass father (I would actually put in his name, but I read the synopsis and he is not much longer in this drama) gets a bit too close to the bad guys and they decide that he should also be assassinated via gun. Luckily our father bends down to hug his daughter just as the sniper fires, resulting in a miss as well as warning him about the assassin's presence. The gunman runs away with the father in hot pursuit. Yoon Kang also runs after the fleeing assassin and manages to find him after the assassin had evaded his father. I loved the fight scene that followed (how does Lee Joon Ki even make those puffy pajamas look good) between Yoon Kang's sword work and the assassin's gun. The style of having to fight between a sword or bow and arrow against a gun is a very interesting dynamic that puts the action scenes in this drama a step above those of your usual historical. Yoon Kang successfully out-fights the gunman, but the he is able to flee when Yoon Kang is distracted by the arrival of his father.
Worried for the safety of his children, Yoon Kang's father moves them all to a friend's house. A friend who just so happens to have a determined and strong willed daughter named Jung Soo In (a.k.a. our cross dressing heroine). We get several amusing scenes in which a very polite and nice Yoon Kang gets snarky looks and comments from Soo In. Our poor hero is stymied as to what he did to make the daughter of the house dislike him so much. These two really do have some great chemistry and I look forward to seeing it develop into something more.
We finish the episode (it seriously went too fast and I was left wanting more) with Yoon Kang coming across his scholar adversary (Soo In) yet again. She is on her way to bring a book (the enlightenment movement being the topic) written by one of the assassinated scholars to the last professor who is still alive. But she is stopped in her mission by Yoon Kang who again demands to know where the sniper gunman is. He pulls out his sword and waves it at her which makes Soo In panic and pull out her gun. At the same time we see the professor waiting for Soo In, but also the sniper lining up his gun to kill him. Yoon Kang lunges forward and Soo In jerks back as the gun in her hand goes off. See I told you so, only a matter of time til someone got shot with that thing, although we all know that she did not actually kill him since this is only episode 1.
I really loved this opening episode. It had the perfect amount of plot development, character introductions, and political background to get me interested. Often we see either a truly great cinematic drama that has so so writing or the opposite with a well written story but a more simplistic filming style. It is rare that we get both in one show, which makes this the white whale of Sageuks (at least so far). I really hope that the quality continues in the upcoming weeks.
Yay for strong women characters. Now if they can just manage to keep them strong without giving into the tradition of doormat heroines that need a man to take care of them (Yes, I am specifically talking about you Arang and the Magistrate. But upon reflection it could really be said of 95% of all Sageuks)
I hoped that you enjoyed the drama as much as I did, and that my recapping style did it justice. Thanks for joining me in my maiden Sageuk voyage, and I hope to see you back in the upcoming weeks as we watch the plot develop!
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