As if last week didn’t bring enough revelations, “Our Blooming Youth” pulls out the big guns for this week’s episodes as several major characters finally put things together. Politics and other machinations take a back seat as the capital of Hanyang readies for the selection of Crown Prince Lee Hwan’s (Park Hyung Sik) bride. But with a murderer running loose and a plot to dethrone the royal family long set in motion, can our prince and and the eunuch he secretly loves survive all the way to a happy ending?
Warning: spoilers for episodes 15-16 below.
1. Myung Jin puts it together
Kim Myung Jin (Lee Tae Sun), the resident wacky apothecary and herbalist, has never given the impression of being the brightest bulb in the shed, but no one can accuse him of not knowing anatomy. So when he happens to touch “Soon Dol’s” hand (much to Hwan’s extreme irritation), he knows that it doesn’t belong to a man. It doesn’t take long for him to put it together from there. Min Jae Yi (Jeon So Nee) and her disguised maid Ga Ram (Pyo Ye Jin) have both made some pretty obvious slip ups around Myung Jin, and all of it comes back to him as he contemplates the mystery of Jae Yi’s not-male hand.
Ga Ram discovers his suspicions and tries to throw him off by offering her hand and insisting that men can have dainty fingers as well. But Myung Jin isn’t fooled, and before long, he knows that the mysterious Scholar Park, “Soon Dol,” and his goofy apprentice are the Prince, Jae Yi, and Ga Ram. But as one person puts it all together, another remains frustratingly in the dark.
2. Sung On remains in the dark
For the second male lead in this drama, Han Sung On (Yoon Jong Seok) has a frustratingly brief amount of time on screen. Yoon Jong Seok is absolutely nailing this role, all upright with burning eyes and a loyalty to the Prince that is all the more admirable for how conflicted he was at the start of this show. Yet, he is kept frustratingly in the dark on almost everything. He isn’t invited to Hwan and Jae Yi’s inviestigative sessions with Myung Jin and Ga Ram. Neither is he privy to their concerns regarding Tae Gang. Neither is he even close to being aware that the woman he’s been searching for for so long is this close. Even this week, he remains a vehicle via which we learn about other characters, more specifically the woman the King (Lee Jong Hyuk) intends for Hwan to marry.
Sung On’s cousin, Han So Eun (Han So Eun), has been placed as the prime candidate for future Queen, but the girl wants nothing to do with it. Sung On accomodates the girl’s fears at being thrust into a position that she is supposed to want. The show highlights them as kindred spirits in a way, with Sung On having already walked the path that So Eun is on. Yet, it feels like a waste of a character to have such a compelling actor reduced to a scene or two in each episode without much in the way of a character arc. Though the romantic arc Sung On is missing out on remains equally frustrating.
3. The dimwitted prince and his stubborn eunuch
If only these two would just be honest with each other. Granted this is a historical drama, and this is Joseon, and there are a thousand obstacles in the way of these two being together. But watching them waffle back and forth while refusing to admit what they feel for each other is an exercise in frustration. Upon hearing of his impending marriage, Hwan throws away the bracelet he once bought for Jae Yi and starts to belittle her as though trying to force her away from him. Classic.
Yet, he secretly buys her a house to set up as a school to teach impoverished children literacy and gets every specification she wants, right down to the orchid tree she wanted in the backyard. But does he tell her that he has done this? No. Jae Yi is equally tightlipped. For someone who vowed to tell Hwan how she felt when she was searching the mountains for him, she hasn’t breathed a word since. Even when Hwan asks her what she said she’d tell him once he got better, she mutters that she forgot. Oh boy. These two are peas in a pod. He asks Tae Gang whether Jae Yi has been seen hanging out one on one with other men, and Tae Gang points out that she’s only ever with Hwan. Of course, Hwan still doesn’t get it. Jae Yi waxes rhapsodic about him and drops so many clues that it’s obvious that it’s him. Who else “seeks to open new paths for women in Joseon”? Hwan remains clueless. Will we ever get a kiss? It’s all up in the air.
4. Of magic and murder
Meanwhile, the ghostly part of this drama seems to be rearing its head. The spooky aura of the initial episodes returns as we discover that the people of Byeokcheon were never rebels but peaceful villagers who ended up being wrongfully painted as usurpers by the powerhungry Jo clan, specifically Jo Won Bo (Jung Woong In). But the scary part is that the people were known to pray to a particularly ancient fish that apparently housed a powerful spirit who got quite murderous when crossed. Add to that the mystery of the dead shaman and Shim Young’s (Kim Woo Seok) hair turning mysteriously white, and it appears that some form of sorcery could still be involved here. And we finally know the mastermind behind it all.
5. The Queen’s secret
It’s no secret that the Queen (Hong Soo Hyun) has remained a far more compelling character than her husband. He’s a puppet king, but she’s a powerhouse with feeler in every corner of the palace. And this week we discover why: she’s one of the women of the Song family. The details remain unclear, but the truth is known to even her uncle, Jo Won Bo (or is he really her uncle? Did she take his real niece’s place?). The Queen’s been having a pretty rough time of it so far. Her son Prince Myung An (Im Han Bin), Hwan’s half-brother, is still gravely ill after witnessing the whole shaman incident. So much so that he’s hallucinating that Crown Prince Ui Hyeon (Lee Ha Yul), Hwan’s older brother, is in the room with him. And that’s real bad because the person who gave Ui Hyeon those peaches, the ones which ended up interfering with his medication and accidentally causing his death, was Myung An.
The Queen only finds out when Myung An starts blurting it out, terrified that he’s being haunted. Only the Queen, Princess Hayeon (Jung Da Eun) (Hwan’s sister), and the Queen’s head maid and confidant hear it, but she’s furious upon hearing who gave Myung An those peaches to give to Ui Hyeon: Jo Won Bo. In private, she pretty much loses it, cursing Jo Won Bo and vowing to see him destroyed and his name cursed for generations. But first, she has to take care of the only person who heard Myung An’s confession: Princess Hayeon.
This is a real shame because it’s evident that the Queen does care for Hayeon. And despite the Queen being her stepmother, Hayeon genuinely loves her as well. The relationship between the two has been so wholesome so far that it’s horribly tragic to see this happen. But the Queen’s responsibility isn’t to herself but to the survival of her people: the people of Byeokcheon. And she knows that Hayeon can’t keep a secret (which is true because Hayeon immediately tells Jae Yi about Myung An and Ui Hyeon). So that means Hayeon must die.
6. A tale of two Tae Gangs
This twist has been obvious for a while because there’s no way that Tae Gang (Heo Won Seo) can eb in two places at once, but it takes our gang a long time to put it together. All it takes is Myung Jin realizing that he saw Tae Gang at the same time that Tae Gang was with Hwan in the Palace for them to realize that there are two Tae Gangs, twins. That also leaves two possibilities: either Tae Gang (the one by Hwan’s side) isn’t aware that he has a twin brother, or both brothers have been trading positions by Hwan’s side this whole time. This could explain why Tae Gang seems so hard and cold at times, and just genuinely cranky but earnest at others. Either way, it’s a shocking revelation for Hwan, especially given how much he has trusted Tae Gang. And that’s where we leave off this week.
With only four episodes left, we have a frustratingly short amount of time to wrap up what appears to be a complex mystery. There have been bits and pieces of it eased thus far, but very little in the way of actual details. How did the people of Byeokcheon manage to catch Jo Won Bo’s attention enough for him to turn an entire city into a rebel holdout? How did the Queen manage to ingratiate herself into the Palace, and is she really Jo Won Bo’s niece? Why did Shim Young poison Jae Yi’s family and believe that he and Jae Yi were lovers, and is there really magic involved in this entire scheme? And will Hwan and Jae Yi ever admit their feelings for one another? We only have two weeks to find out!
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Shalini_A is a long time Asian-drama addict. When not watching dramas, she works as a lawyer, fangirls over Ji Sung, and attempts to write the greatest fantasy romance of all time. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and feel free to ask her anything!
Currently Watching: “Island,” “The Interest of Love,” “Agency,” “Payback.”
Looking Forward to: “The Heavenly Idol,” “Gyeonseong Creature,” “Ask The Stars,” “The Girl Downstairs,” The Worst Evil,” “Black Knight,” “Queen of Tears,” “Vigilante,” “Demon,” “Dr. Romantic 3,” “Daily Dose of Sunshine,” and Ji Sung’s next drama.
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