[If you’ve been wondering what new series Thundie’s Prattle is going to be recapping after Best Love, wonder no more! A good friend and awesome writer, momosan, who is no stranger to many TP readers, having taken part in three of four epic reviews for the blog, will be bringing us Warrior Baek Dong Soo recaps. I’ve always enjoyed momosan’s wit and no-holds-barred commentary on kdramas and am confident that you will as well. Please join me in welcoming her! –thundie]
Be still my little sageuk loving heart! I know that this is a fusion sageuk based on a manhwa, and that it’s probably going to play fast and loose with everything but the kitchen sink, but I’ve been starved for too long! And who can’t hope for the best when a series drops you right into the action with a crown prince galloping across the scenic landscape? Hope springs eternal, especially in k-dramaland.
And so we begin!
It’s 1743, and Crown Prince Sado (Oh Man Seok) is galloping off to knock down the Samjeondo monument. Which might not be the brightest thing he’s done, since it gives the Noron faction and the Qing representatives ammunition to attack him with. However, since he is the Crown Prince, the attack bounces off of him, and results in the sentencing of his guard Baek Sa King (Uhm Hyo Sup) to death. Not just him, but three generations of his family.
We then switch to a scene of a man galloping across a beautiful vista (honestly, could this landscape be any prettier?) where he comes upon a sword in the ground, and on a nearby ridge a man in black (and a hawk – he gets extra points for the hawk) prepares to bar his way. This is Kim Gwang Taek (Jun Kwang Ryul), trying to ride to the rescue, and his path being barred by Chun (Choi Min Soo), who wants to delay him long enough to prevent a rescue.
And so with music straight from spaghetti westerns and sword flourishing worthy of Jack Sparrow, they banter and we get our first sword fight of the series.
Intercut with that is Baek Sa King being led off to his execution. Several of his friends gather waiting for Gwang Taek, and deciding whether to take action. Chun decides he has delayed Gwang Taek long enough, and breaks off the fight, offering him a drink and saying farewell in the way of familiar enemies.
Meanwhile, a woman goes into labor, and Crown Prince Sado pleads his case before King Yeongjo. And we meet more of our cast as more fighting breaks out in attempts to prevent the execution and the capture of the pregnant woman.
The rescue fails and just as the execution is set up again, Gwang Taek arrives, a single
gun sword fighter riding to the rescue. It turns out that he has a royal talisman that grants immunity, which he is going to put in play to stop the execution and get pardons. But there is the quandary that thwarting the wishes of the King may threaten the Crown Prince.
Baek Sa King suggests that he forfeit himself and the pardon be used for Jang Dae Pyo (Park Won Sang), the man who attempted to rescue him. As a last request, he asks that if his wife and child can be saved, that his child be entrusted to Gwang Taek’s care.
Meanwhile, Huk Sa Mo (Park Joon Gyu) has fought off the attempt of the police to arrest the pregnant woman. We meet the cartoonishly evil In as he is dispatched by the police chief to take care of Sa Mo.
Sa Mo escapes with the women, as Gwang Taek and In trade verbal barbs and then sword play.
Gwang Taek soundly defeats In, chopping off his thumb and humiliating him. As a result, the police are desperately searching for the pregnant woman in order to slay the last of the line of Baek Sa King.
Finally, in the dark, candlelit lair of evil, we meet Ji, who is meeting with the Qing official to explain her failure to find a book detailing the War of the Northern Expedition. Chun is seen lurking in the darkness, listening.
When the official gets snitty, Chun backs up Ji, pointing out that it’s hard to find something if it probably really exists. He promises that as long as he’s around there will be no expedition against the north. So, on the side of the baddies, we have the Qing, the police chief and minions, Ji, In, Chun, the Noron faction and a few comic relief baddies.
Sa Mo takes the women to Banzi village to hide out, and Dae Pyo arrives with the corpse of the late Sa King. As they bury him, Prince Sado arrives to pay his respects.
Meanwhile, in a fiendishly Herodian move, the police are rounding up all pregnant women and new mothers to try to find the hidden family. When the child is finally born, he is found to be deformed and likely to be crippled. The mother tells Gwang Taek that the child should be named Dong Soo, and then dies, dramatically clutching a cloth for the child.
The police have caught up with them all, and using what appears to be the entire police force, haul off the mid-wives, the baby, Sa Mo and Gwang Taek. Even then, Gwang Taek starts a fight so that Sa Mo can escape and take care of business.
The next day, a boiling cauldron is lurking next to the stand where executions occur, and Gwang Taek is led off to face execution for helping a rebel to escape. The baby is there as well, and his fate is announced to be – being boiled alive. Even the official in charge of the execution seems to find this horrifying, but he’s prepared to carry it out despite the pleas of everyone but his boss.
To the rescue! It’s Crown Prince Sado, arriving in the nick of time! With a royal decree pardoning Gwang Taek!
Alas, this leaves poor babe, Baek Dong Soo still under threat of being boiled alive. In a flashback we see that the Crown Prince had been given the horrible choice of who he would save, and he chose Gwang Taek over the child. Knowing that Baek Sa King had entrusted the child to him, Gwang Taek offers to sacrifice his own arm to save the baby.
And so we have the tableau of the Crown Prince, feeling the pain of his actions and ineffectiveness in general in the foreground, the evil sneering police officer in the background, in the far background, the execution officer still holding the baby, and Gwang Taek with his arm in a guillotine as the execution prepares to loose the blade.
As the blade drops and chops off Gwang Taek’s left arm, we come to the end of episode 1 of Warrior Baek Dong Soo.
WOOT! First some housekeeping. For those wanting subtitles, apparently the only subs publicly available are at darksmurfsubs. Viki has a WBDS channel, but it is not licensed (yet) so it is for qualified contributors only – although it’s always possible that the kind folk at Viki will release them as softsubs, or that they will leak out into the world. I’ve seen both, and the Viki subs are more consistent (no offense darksmurfers – ya’ll are doing the world a service just getting those subs out there!).
I am not a native Korean speaker. I do watch the shows raw, but if I go astray in my translations or interpretations, please have pity and don’t hold my feet to the fire for it. On the other hand, if they are going to have regularly scheduled extended fighting sequences, that cuts down on the possibilities for going astray, not to mention being a whole lot of fun to watch.
Next, those of you even barely conversant with Korean history will observe that the version of Crown Prince Sado here is redonkulous. Does Oh Man Seok look 8 years old to you? Me either. So, just pretend that this particular episode of Korean history isn’t so well known among sageuk fans that it’s causing you a migraine to think about it. This is a manhwa come to life and so far gone into fiction that it is unapologetic in the warp in the space time continuum that it is causing.
Setup wise, this show reminds me vaguely of Emperor of the Sea…if EotS was on speed and crossed with Superman. Good guys, bad guys, frenemies, regularly scheduled fights and battles – I’m happy!
Someone I know complained that WBDS is a grab bag of styles and plots. True. But somehow so far, it’s working for me. I suspect that Choi Min Soo is a big reason for that in my case. His Chun is a blast, and my failing for fighting men in black is well known. In could easily be the mustache twirling baddie out of any cartoon, and Ji is refreshing as a lady assassin, but Chun just brings the awesome. Episode 1 had a lot of setup and introduction, but if nothing else, this show has given me the awesome opening fight sequence.
My advice? Pop open your adult beverage of choice, lean back and enjoy the ride for as far as it takes us.