After last week’s emotional ending, “My Dearest” eases us into a new chapter in Lee Jang Hyun (Namgoong Min) and Yoo Gil Chae’s (Ahn Eun Jin’s) relationship. Gone are the days when they hid their attraction in the desperate hope of appearing nonchalant—the Gil Chae and Jang Hyun of today are open about the fact that whatever is between them hasn’t vanished. But even as Gil Chae comes to realize the depth of Jang Hyun’s regard and dares to hope for a new life, the shifting political landscape might be our couple’s biggest enemy yet. As always, their fates remain in the hands of others. Here are five characters who wield far too much power and control in this couple’s lives.
Spoilers for episodes 15-16 below.
Warning: mentions of sexual assault.
1. Ryang Eum
Ryang Eum (Kim Yoon Woo) was instrumental to reuniting Jang Hyun and Gil Chae in Shimyang after being equally instrumental in tearing them apart all those years ago. But he’s regretting it deeply as he watches Jang Hyun recover from Gak Hwa’s (Lee Chung Ah’s) arrow. Gil Chae tends to Jang Hyun night and day, determined to ensure that he recovers. And the truth is that Jang Hyun’s doing pretty well. He just wants Gil Chae to remain in Shimyang and fuss over him.
Gil Chae spots Ryang Eum weeping at Jang Hyun’s bedside and quickly realizes that he’s in love with Jang Hyun. A quick flashback reveals that Ryang Eum was sexually abused as a child by a wealthy noble but rescued by Jang Hyun who killed the man. He’s relied on and adored Jang Hyun ever since, but Gil Chae knows that Jang Hyun doesn’t reciprocate those feelings. For all Jang Hyun’s intelligence, it isn’t even clear if he knows of those feelings. Gil Chae and Ryang Eum basically duke it out over who gets to take care of him, resulting in Jang Hyun getting splashed with medicine and basically wondering why everyone loves him. Ryang Eum also spills to Gil Chae that Jang Hyun was the one who saved her all those years ago on Ganghwa Island, not her husband Goo Won Moo (Ji Seung Hyun). He points out that Gil Chae is a curse to Jang Hyun. Every decision he’s made is because of her and has gotten him into this pit of hell in Shimyang. But instead of wasting her time feeling guilty, Gil Chae resolves to fight even harder to keep Jang Hyun safe, saying that if she’s a curse, then she’s also the cure. I love her!
Ryang Eum’s fierce loyalty to Jang Hyun and him likely being the “madman” locked in prison in the current timeline mean that he’ll remain pivotal in the last four episodes of “My Dearest.” The only question is whether that’s for better or worse.
2. Hong Taiji and his successor
The Khan’s presence looms over all of Joseon, and especially everyone in Shimyang. Gil Chae is determined to aid in Jang Hyun’s recovery, and he’s overjoyed at her attention. He loves having her around and loves that she so clearly still cares for him. When he point-blank asks why she abandoned him all those years ago and married Goo Won Moo, she quietly says that she didn’t think she had the right to have him. And that changes everything between them. He knows the truth now, so he’s about to make a move on Gil Chae. She’s even written to Goo Won Moo to find why he abandoned her so that she can request a clean break from him. They’re so close to finally getting together.
And the Khan dies. The biggest political player in the occupation and conquering of Joseon is dead. And that means that everything and everyone is caught in a whirlwind of power grabs and violence. Prince Dorgon now rules as regent in lieu of the Khan’s son, and he’s looking to shake things up. And that means Joseon, its ruler, and its slaves. This places Jang Hyun directly back in the line of fire as advisor to Crown Prince So Hyun (Kim Moo Joon) and who’s secretly keeping the largest contingent of free Joseon people by pretending that they’re slaves. And Gak Hwa sees her chance to take a shot.
3. Gak Hwa
It’s a shame that for a drama that has given us plenty of lovely, nuanced characters, Gak Hwa is little more than one of those awful second female leads in an early 2000s drama. She has nothing more to her than greed and wants only Jang Hyun regardless of the cost. Prince Dorgon places her in charge of managing all the slaves, and she sees a chance to break up Gil Chae and Jang Hyun’s budding romance because she can.
His smile. I can’t!
She threatens Jang Hyun by saying that she could have Gil Chae accidentally sent back into slavery and get her limbs cut off. If Jang Hyun insists on staying with Gil Chae, she’ll report to Prince Dorgon that he hasn’t been hunting Joseon slaves but freeing and buying them to keep them out of the Qing empire’s hands. Jang Hyun is given yet another terrible choice. It’s the fate and freedom of hundreds of impoverished Joseon farmers who have placed their trust in his hands versus the fate and freedom of his heart and soul, Gil Chae. This time, it’s Jang Hyun who has to push Gil Chae away because of his responsibilities to the people depending on him. And he can finally understand where she came from. He coldly rebuffs her attempts to stay with him and tells her to leave and that he’s tired of her being hot and cold with him. Gil Chae’s heartbroken but forces on a smile, vowing that she’ll do what he wants because she never wants to see him hurt again. And our lovers are torn apart again.
4. Crown Prince So Hyun
This character will probably be the most crucial to this story. Throughout Crown Prince So Hyun’s stay in Shimyang as a political prisoner, his father King Injo (Kim Jong Tae) has gone increasingly wacko. He genuinely thinks that his son is about to depose him. It’s probably because he himself deposed the previous king, but that’s just him projecting. He’s cruel and ruthless to the already-starving Joseon people, and no one likes him. Through Jang Hyun’s manipulation, Prince Dorgon views the Crown Prince favorably and allows him to visit Joseon and see his family. But the deranged king is taking this as another sign that his son wants to kill him. A divided Joseon only spells trouble. And the fact that Jang Hyun is the Crown Prince’s most trusted advisor does not bode well for his reputation in Joseon.
5. Goo Won Moo
This absolute clod of dirt continues to prove that he deserves nothing good in life. Gil Chae returns from Shimyang, heartsick and weary, and he doesn’t even bother to show up. She’s reunited with Kyung Eun Ae (Lee Da In) who asks no questions and simply embraces and weeps for her dearest friend. Even Nam Yeon Joon (Lee Hak Joo) tears up to see Gil Chae safe and home.
But when Gil Chae returns to her marital home the next day, she’s in for a shock. Goo Won Moo has not only gotten himself another wife but has also gotten her pregnant. Gil Chae’s in shock while Goo Won Moo tries to pretend that he’s the good guy in this situation. The townsfolk who owed their jobs and livelihood to Gil Chae badmouth her, calling her a filthy woman, because apparently being assaulted is a victim’s fault. Gil Chae’s own sister doesn’t want to associate with her, and her father tries to kill her because she’s apparently better off dead. The fact that Gil Chae keeps her head high and stays strong is testament to this incredible woman’s strength. When Goo Won Moo shows up in front of her, she tells him four things: 1. She was not sexually assaulted by anyone in Shimyang, 2. She ran into Jang Hyun there, 3. She left her heart with him, 4. And that’s why she wants a divorce.
This woman. This woman. Getting divorced in Joseon was a huge no-no back then, but she’s finally daring to fight for what she wants. She gave up everything, her happiness and all joy for her family, only for them to abandon her at the first opportunity. She’s done with prioritizing them. She’s out for herself from here on. And it’s so great to see! Next week shows Jang Hyun accompanying the Crown Prince to Joseon and romancing Gil Chae there, but with only four episodes to go, anything could happen! Can our lovers finally be happy? Two weeks and we’ll know for sure!
He keeps saying stuff like this, and it makes me so nervous!
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Shalini_A is a long time Asian-drama addict. When not watching dramas, she fangirls over Ji Sung, and spins thrillers set in increasingly fantastic worlds. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and feel free to ask her anything!
Currently Watching: “My Dearest,” “The Killing Vote,” “Song of the Bandits,” and “Twinkling Watermelon.”
Looking Forward to: “Gyeongseong Creature,” “Ask The Stars,” “Demon,” “Queen of Tears,” “Vigilante,” “Daily Dose of Sunshine,” and Ji Sung’s next drama.