It’s flashback time, as we see what happened when Gang To met Shunji, and why they have this incredible bond that makes their present situation all the more unfortunate. I don’t know why these scenes couldn’t have come earlier, but whatever. And Gang To is still finding himself, as evidenced by the many new hairstyles he tried out – it must be hard to work with the longer hair he has, now that he’s Gaksital.
Shunji had, like, the worst first day, and first week of work ever, as he tried to seem all authoritative and anti-Joseon. I get that he’s trying to protect Mok Dan, but the lines between the Teacher Shunji and Lieutenant Kimura are already gone, I think. Not that he realizes this – he obviously thinks he’s the same beloved teacher of little Joseon children. He wasn’t scary when he barked orders at his new subordinates, but he was scary when he called Gang To into his office, closed the blinds, and then gave him a sheepish grin. Uh, I don’t think you can still pull that kind of “Aw shucks, I’m a nice guy” behavior anymore, Shunji.
And I think it’s so funny how Gang To is now judging every little thing that his best friend is doing – he certainly took to the life of a self-righteous superhero pretty quickly. Does no one else notice how he gets judgmental face whenever Shunji says something embarrassing, like how he’s not going to tolerate any unsubmissive Joseon people?
The Jongno Police Station is also starting to become a pretty catty place with the arrival of Shunji. Koiso is so jealous that Gang To is the new favorite, and Abe loves to rub this in. Maybe they should concentrate on catching Gaksital instead of devolving into petty in-fighting and popularity contests like this. The only thing Shunji did was to place Koiso at the circus to watch show after show, and that’s not exactly the most proactive thing to do. Koiso’s job is easy!
As Shunji was still settling into his new uniform, we got a glimpse into how he and Gang To ever became best friends in the first place. It seems they first met when rickshaw driver Gang To was getting pummeled by Kenji (he lives to see another episode!) and his friends for daring to ask to learn kendo at the university club.
I wonder how much the memory of this early torment played into Gaksital’s later decision to kill him – but our hero’s probably not that vindictive, right? But seriously, how could he work with this guy after that kind of meet-violent? Shunji should have recognized the freedom fighter in the making since then.
Shunji was Pocahontas again as he intervened, only to have a prideless Gang To latch onto his leg (after having tried Kenji first), and beg them to let him learn. A gym is too expensive for him, and now that he’s the head of the household, he needs a better job right away. So his thoughts immediately turn to the police force, which is a really poignant choice considering his brother was in custody (or maybe had just been “released”) at the time.
See, Gang To is just a really damaged and lost person. Also, this kind of reminded me of Secret Agent Miss Oh, since the heroine of that drama also went into the police force as a quick way to get a steady living. But at least she didn’t have to get beat up, or anything. Anyways, the police take in a special hire who is super awesome at kendo, and that’s how Gang To is hoping to get in.
Of course Shunji teaches him, and a friendship starts to blossom, one that even starts to make Kenji a little jealous (did Gang To actually get in between these brothers?). And more than just a best friend, we see that Shunji was like his sire, and his Yoda, so it’s going to be super hard when they start to fight to the death. Plus, won’t Shunji recognize Gaksital by his fighting style, unless it’s changed, or unless Baek Gun has been teaching him new Joseon moves?
Gang To still drives him around in the rickshaw, but Shunji is as nice as he can be in the situation, even giving him lunch and everything (that seems to be Shunji’s modus operandi – see the lunch he brought for Mok Dan earlier). I see how easy it was for Shunji to get attached to Joseon people when they all worked as servants for him.
And Shunji is such a good friend that at the police kendo trial thing, he lets Gang To win. He claims that he has no desire to become a police officer, but how much of this was him deferring to Gang To? If Gang To hadn’t been there, what would he have done?
And let’s hope Gang To has surpassed his teacher, or else we already know the outcome of this Gaksital vs. Lieutenant Kimura smackdown. I had just accepted that these two were close, so I didn’t really need this making-of-documentary. I was really uncomfortable during the entire Gang To Origin Story, and I have to wonder why Joo Won seems to revel in playing someone so sad and brutish. So much for the back story.
Back in the present day, Gang To’s outward personality has changed somewhat, since he has now adopted the persona of the careless hedonist. It’s a pretty good cover, since this is a valid change for someone who has just gone through the major upheavals he has (like, his family dying). No one will question if he’s less interested in work, having been passed over in favor of his best friend. And he was always vain, so there’s no difference there.
His documentary filmmaker friend, Minami Tamao (Choi Dae Hoon), the Count’s son, embraces this shift, since it aligns so much more with his own philosophy. Plus, he’s more concerned with how Gang To knows Rie (who really needs a better stage name than Rara), asking him how he knows her – smooth, Tamao. But Gang To is pretty dumb when it comes to girls who don’t have moles by their ears, and he just thinks Rie is dead gone over him, and has no pride.
Speaking of Rie, she has become an ever sadder character as she continues to do bad things for the Kishokai. I know that the Ueno guy adopted her, but he can’t think of her like a true daughter when he still gets all touchy feely, and makes her do gross missions, like seduce the cheap governor-general. Girlfriend can’t even enjoy a bath without Bodyguard Jun coming in (and averting his eyes – so it’s this unrequited love/devotion/obsession thing with him, I see) to tell her that the Gyeongseong Kishokai members need her help. I guess she’s almost like a female Gang To, the way she misplaced her anger and joined the wrong team. Let’s hope that both of these misguided souls find their way by the end of the drama.
And speaking of females with moles by their ears, Mok Dan was a busy bee as she started performing her freaky mask dance again, and even reunited with her dad, who is undercover in Gyeongseong as rich guy Choi Tae Geon. This should have been a pretty eventful episode for her, but it felt so much like filler to me. I was more interested in learning that her dad brought a souvenir from his sojourn in Shanghai – the 36th spy group, which rescued Mok Dan from the harassment of Koiso. And Damsari finally found out that his wife had died, and was buried in Manchuria (where The Girl Who Played Go lives).
They don’t really seem like a close family, especially when Damsari let his daughter join the independence movement. Ok, it was just to get in touch with Gaksital, which she’s been trying to do anyway using the black arts, but it’s still dangerous. I guess these times aren’t really conducive to traditional family setups.
When Gang To wasn’t performing at the Angel Club (doesn’t he know any other songs?) with a wavy new hairdo, he was busy riding his Bridal Horse through the verdant Joseon countryside. Seriously, what the hell was he doing just riding around like that – was this just for practice? I don’t generally think of superheroes as needing to train, but since even Buffy has to, I guess it’s ok.
Gaksital’s latest exploit lacked the pizazz of his earlier feats, but maybe this is just a warm up. He didn’t kill the Joil president (did he judge his older brother for killing people?), but instead placed the naked man in a rickshaw (big clue, right there), in the center of the Joseon people’s marketplace. Poor Abe got involved, and he and President Jo ran from an angry mob until they reached the base of the Jongno Police Station. I didn’t even want to include a picture of what he did to President Jo (who seemed to be laughing during the whole scene), but I will since that will add to Jo’s humiliation.
This Gaksital sighting didn’t go over too well with Chief Kimura or Shunji (wasn’t that so embarrassing for him?), and Konno even went so far as to show everyone Kimura’s incriminating photograph with an earlier Gaksital victim, and then to have Gang To arrest Kimura. This arrest caused a rupture between Shunji and Gang To, but I think Shunji was being a little unreasonable. It’s not like Gang To could disobey Konno, and it’s not like Shunji ever thought his brother of father were so bad for what they did to the Joseon people, like Gang San, on a daily basis. No amount of harmonium playing or museum exhibits can really cancel that stuff out, you know. And how is he going to justify asking papa to join this Kishokai? It doesn’t look like he’s going to be offering Gang To homemade lunches any time soon.
Gang To continued to play a dangerous double game, especially during his “interrogation” of Kimura. He asked why Kimura hated him when he had devoted everything to the new regime, and Kimura implied that he looked down on opportunistic and ambitious people like Gang To, who would have changed his name to John or Michael if the US had taken over Korea. How rude – Gang To would have chosen a much flashier name than that.
But I think Kimura is only fooling himself, even though I kind of agree with his distaste for those with a lack of conviction or loyalty. Would he really have liked Gang To better if he had been a Joseon zealot? By that reasoning, he should also have much respect for Gaksital. But I get that Kimura has an inferiority complex. His origins seem pretty humble, especially compared to Konno’s (who was so funny as he pocketed the gold bullion the governor-general shared with him – that’s what hyungs are for, right?), so he also has a lot to prove. In that way, he probably has a lot in common with Gang To – they both saw this crazy time period as an opportunity to better their stations. I wonder what Kimura thought of Gang To’s dad – don’t tell me they were once best friends, too. Because if they were, it didn’t really end too well for Gang To’s dad.