I want more! While this first episode didn’t blow me out of the water, it sets up an interesting world and character dynamics that you can’t wait to see fleshed out.
We start off with illustrated retelling of a legend.
Hwa-ta was a famous physician who could cure and heal any disease, wound, or illness. He was particularly skilled in surgery, anesthetizing his patients first through paralysis before splitting them open.
Jo-Jo, a powerful warlord, lived around the same time as Hwa-ta. After Hwa-ta cured his severe headaches, Jo-Jo tried to recruit him as a personal physician, but Hwa-ta refused and ran away. Hwa-ta was chased by Jo-Jo’s men but before he could get caught, the “sun commanded the wind,” and the sky turned red. A portal opened and Hwa-ta, laughing, entered the portal.
It is 1351 A.D. near the Yuan border. General Choi Young (Lee Min-ho), the Woodalchi unit (the Goryeo king’s bodyguard unit), Jang Bin (the royal physician played by Lee Philip), and Jo Il-shin (Lee Byung-joon) are heading down a muddy road, rain pelting down on them. They are escorting two carriages and we don’t yet know who is in them.
Jo Il-shin notes the red sky but nobody else seems to care. One of Choi Young’s men informs him that people are following them, dangerous people. Choi Young sleepily replies that he already knows. Suddenly, the carriage that they were escorting gets stuck in a pothole. Inside is the Yuan princess and Goryeo queen, No-gook (Park Se-young).
One of the youngest of the Woodalchi and Choi Young’s messenger, Oh Dae-man (Kim Jong-moon), acrobats back from the port city to Choi Young and informs him that there are no boats currently available. Choi Young rides back to one of the carriages to inform the person inside, King Gongmin (Ryu Deok-hwan), that they need to stay a night in the town. Jo Il-shin, who did not hear that there was not boat, protests that Goryeo is just across the river. Why must they stay the night here? Choi Young just ignores him and the caravan heads into the port town.
The Woodalchi men payoff the innkeeper to clear out all the other customers, claiming that they escorting a very sensitive, newly-wed couple. Our royal couple enters the inn in secrecy, veiled.
Choi Young gets ready to take a nap while his second in command, Bae Choong-suk (Baek Kwang-doo), worries that this might be a trap set by those men that were following them. Choi Young figures as such but shows a lack of concern and anxiety. Choong-suk asks how they should set up a defense and General Choi just obtusely replies that they should do it well, very well.
Jo Il-shin is upstairs with King Gongmin, complaining about Choi Young. King Gongmin’s been away from his motherland for ten years, sent to Yuan as child basically as leverage. Now he is returning to Goryeo as King but Choi Young and his men have stripped this glorious trip into a secret journey, during which the King and Queen must hide their faces and identities.
Choi Young interrupts Il-shin’s tirade and with a yawn, informs King Gongmin that he needs to bring Princess No-gook into the same room, lest they have to divide their defenses between the two. Princess No-gook enters the room and she glares at King Gongmin, who returns the distaste.
Later at night, Jang Bin is sauntering around the inn. Choong-suks warns him to stay close so that they can protect him but Jang Bin replies, with a little flare of his fan, that he knows how to take care of himself.
As predicted, the inn comes under attack. The Woodalchi men are prepared to fight, however, the darkly clothed attackers camouflaged by the darkness. They sprinkled the men with glow-in-the-dark powder. The attackers’ clothing lights up in green while the Woodalchi men’s swords glow blue. Cool! Light sabers!
Choi Young is upstairs with Gongmin and No-gook. He realizes that there are a lot more men than they thought and asks Gongmin if he will be able to stay closely behind without running away. King Gongmin swears that he won’t.
The Woodalchi men fight bravely but they are grossly outnumbered. The unknown attackers make their way to King Gongmin’s location. It is Choi Young against many. Thankfully Jang Bin can hold his own. Choi Young is able to kill most of the attackers but one of them gets dangerously close to Gongmin. But as promised, Gongmin does not run and Choi Young is able to stop the attacker.
No-gook has her own female bodyguards who are keeping her safe but with so many attackers, No-gook is soon wounded on the neck. Everyone rushes to her and Jang Bin immediately starts to treat her. He informs Choi Young that he needs Young’s nae-gong (something like an internal energy). Young places his hand over the acupuncture needle that Jang Bin has placed on No-gook, and delivers his energy into her, slowing down her heart rate. He does the same for another acupuncture needle placed in No-gook’s neck to slow down the qi and blood circulation. Gongmin, Jang Bin, and Choi Young look at No-gook and each other with concern.
The Woodalchi men chase the attackers in order to find out who sent them but the attackers fall dead, frothing at the mouths. They have committed suicide rather than get caught alive.
Inside the inn, Jo Il-shin runs down to Jang Bin who is treating the wounded Woodalchi men. Jo Il-shin demands to know what Jang Bin is doing instead of treating Queen No-gook. Once upstairs, he reminds Gongmin that No-gook is a Yuan princess and that Yuan is just waiting for a reason to swallow Goryeo up into their kingdom. They just can’t let No-gook die like this.
Jang Bin informs Gongmin that an important artery in No-gook’s neck has been injured. They’ve slowed down the hemorrhaging but there is nothing else they can do without the risk of killing her. Jang Bin: “There is no way to save her unless you are “shin-eui” (great doctor.) Jo Il-shin remembers the red sky he saw earlier that day.
Choi Young has been listening to all this with disinterest nearby. King Gongmin paraphrases Jo Il-shin: “If that woman dies, our country dies.” He asks Choi Young if he also thinks so. Young claims that since he is only a warrior, he doesn’t know politics. Gongmin ruefully replies, “I’m about to destroy my country as soon as I have become king. What a great king I am.”
Jo Il-shin excitedly slams his hand on the table exclaiming that there is indeed a “great doctor.” Choi Young wants to know the location; he will get his men to bring the doctor. Jo Il-shin explains that the “great doctor” is in heaven and he knows where the doorway to heaven is. King Gongmin looks skeptical.
Jo Il-shin continues to persuade King Gongmin. Even Jang Bin, Goryeo’s number one physician, is unable to heal No-gook. King Gongmin wants to know if he has to go as far as to plead to the heavens in order to appease Yuan. Jo Il-shin reminds him that this is for Goryeo. King Gongmin relents and commands Jo Il-shin to prepare.
Choi Young informs King Gongmin that he will split his men into two groups and leave the larger half at the inn to protect the queen, as it seems that the attackers were after the queen.
Before Choi Young leaves, Gongmin stops him. “On the long journey to come pick me up, what did you think about?” Choi Young replies that he doesn’t really think about much most of the time. Ha.
What Gongmin wants to know is what the country thinks about the king. Young rattles off a predictable answer, that he thought the country was blessed to have such a fair and virtuous king. He transparently asks, “Do I have to continue?”
Gongmin: “You hate me, right? Even before you even met me.” Gongmin wants to know why, when he is Choi Young’s king. He wants to know the truth.
Choi Young reminds Gongmin that the previous king was only fourteen years old. Yuan had him abdicated because they claimed he was too “young.” Gongmin is twenty-one years old. In Choi Young’s eyes, fourteen and twenty-one are both “young.” In addition, Gongmin has lived in Yuan since he was ten. He must be a Yuan person to his bone by now. How unlucky the people of Goryeo are to have to serve underneath such a king.
Gongmin wonders if all the other citizens think the same thing. Choi Young, in a gesture of comfort, claims that the citizens probably don’t even care, as Gongmin is the fifth king in twelve years.
Gongmin thanks Young and turns away, saddened by the harsh truth. Choi Young stops Gongmin and clarifies, “So I don’t particularly hate you.” Gongmin gives a little smile. Aw, is this the start to a beautiful bromance?
The Woodalchi men, King Gongmin, Jo Il-shin, and Choi Young are now at the portal’s opening. Jo Il-shi has prepared the alter. Jo Il-shin explains that according to legends, Hwa-ta went through the opening one thousand years ago to go into Heaven. Once there, Hwa-ta taught many disciples, who have come down one every 300 years through the heaven’s door. Ha! I think I like this explanation better than the jar-fetus theory.
The opening suddenly grows wider and brighter. Jo Il-shin urges Gongmin to order the men to go through the heaven’s door. Bae Choong-suk pushes Jo Il-shin to go himself. Gongmin looks at General Choi. He can’t believe all this but it’s better than not doing anything. General Choi understands what Gongmin wants him to do so he starts toward the door. Bae Choong-suk and Oh Dae-man voice their concern over sending their dae-jang (leader) to the unknown. But Choi Young steadfastly proceeds into the opening.
Whoosh! Choi Young comes out of the portal and lands in Seoul, 2012. But of course he doesn’t know this. He thinks this strange and brightly lit place is heaven. He bows at the Buddhist statue that stands now in the place of the Goryeo alter. A modern-day woman snaps a picture in secrecy behind a statue. She tells her boyfriend who appears later that she saw Young materialize out of nowhere!
As Young looks around with apprehension at this “heaven,” we hear in the background reports of solar flares that has been disturbing the atmosphere today.
Choi Young makes his way to a busy street. Suddenly cars speed past him and Choi Young moves to pull out his sword. I swear, after so many time-traveling dramas you would think this gets old but it’s funny every time. Seeing grown men cower at cars. Especially because Young grabs his sword. LOL. Just imagine, Choi Young slashing hysterically at a motorcycle!
Choi Young returns to the Buddhist temple where the portal is located. He hears a familiar sound; it’s a Buddhist monk listening and singing along to music from his earphones. Young asks for the monk for help. He informs that monk that he is from earth and while he knows he came to a place he shouldn’t have, he really needs to find a “great doctor.” The monk wants to know which kind of doctor? Internal medicine? Gynecologist? Dentist? Choi Young does not recognize any of these words. He just gestures at his own neck to describe the location of the injury. The monk, unfortunately, misrecognizes the location as the jawline and recommends a plastic surgeon. LOL. There are tons here, the monk exclaims; after all, it’s Gangnam. Hahaha! But Choi Young doesn’t want any ol’doctor, he wants a “great doctor,” so the monk directs him to COEX building, which is holding a conference right now for plastic surgeons. He points in the direction the Choi Young just came back from, after being scared silly by cars. Choi Young, wide-eyed with apprehension, wants to know exactly how he can get to this “COEX.” The monk simply replies, “You just go.” Young repeats after the monk and his face lights up. Ah, just go! He thanks the monk for his wise teaching and leaves. The monk whips out his phone from the robes to call the head monk. Is there a hidden camera shooting going on right now? If it was drama shooting, he would have known.
Choi Young prepares for battle. He fixes his clothing and checks his sword. He closes his eyes and repeats the monk’s teaching: “Just go.” Choi Young determinedly walks into the street, causing havoc all around him as cars come to a screeching halt. People look at him curiously and some take pictures of him with a flash. Thankfully Choi Young doesn’t completely pull out his sword although he makes a move to do so every time.
Choi Young is soon at the COEX and he, fortunately, recognizes the Hanja (Korean usage of Chinese characters) that indicate that this is indeed a meeting of doctors. Young looks around in wonder at the medical equipment exhibitions. He enters a lecture hall where Yoo Eun-soo (Kim Hee Sun) is explaining a face-lift procedure. People start to murmur at Choi Young’s presence but Eun-soo ignores him and tries to continue through with her lecture. Security soon comes to lead Choi Young out of the hall. Eun-soo looks dismayed as her audience loses its focus.
The lecture is over and Eun-soo is ranting to her friend on the phone in the bathroom that some strange guy ruined her lecture. Eun-soo swallows some pills as she explains that it’s been a bad day from the beginning. She can’t wait to set up her own practice in Gangnam. She wants her rich friend to invest in her clinic. Is she willing?
The guards throw Choi Young at a table in the security room. One suited guard asks him where he from but Choi Young doesn’t reply; he only stares at all the CCTV screens showing the various locations at COEX. He excitedly goes toward one showing Eun-soo walking around COEX. Choi Young points at the screen where Eun-soo can be seen and asks the guard how he can get there. He fumbles at the edges of the video screens; ee need to go inside there! Please open it! Choi Young knocks at the video screens.
The guard ignores Choi Young’s request to curiously touch Choi Young’s costume and sword but Young twists him arm around. The guard gets scared and orders for police to be called. He pulls out his nightstick and tries to hit Choi Young but Choi Young deftly slices the stick in half. By the time he turns back to the screen, Eun-soo has disappeared from the frame.
Eun-soo is called over by a salesperson selling “name-brand” surgical loupes. Choi Young has made his way out to his exhibition hall and the salesperson notes his presence, wondering at the unique ways people are selling things.
Choi Young walks over to Eun-soo to inform her that there is a patient with a severe internal injury who needs help immediately. Can she save her? Eun-soo looks away. “Why are you asking me?” Choi Young asks one more time, angrily, “Can you save her?” Eun-soo ignores him. She tries to walk away but Choi Young blocks her path.
The guard is back with the police and he informs them that Young is carrying a real sword. Young pulls out his sword. He asks Eun-soo one more time, “Can you save the patient?” She replies that she needs to see the patient first to know exactly where and how much the patient was injured. Choi Young repeats her words, remembers No-gook’s wound, and injures the guard the same way No-gook was wounded.
Choi Young places the guard near Eun-Soo, who is crouching behind a booth with the loupe salesman. Choi Young instructs Eun-soo to save the guard, otherwise he will do the same thing to the salesman. Eun-soo can’t believe that this strange man wants her to heal the guard here and now. She looks at the guard’s injury and goes around grabbing the equipment needed from all the exhibition booths.
She starts to perform the surgery and Choi Young looks on curiously at her brightly lit loupe. Oh Lee Min-ho, you really should do more comedy. Eun-soo needs help so Choi Young reminds the salesman that if the guard dies, he’s next.
The surgery is successfully completed as the swat team enters the building and secures the area. Choi Young tests the guard for a pulse. He’s alive! Choi Young looks happy and starts to wrap Eun-soo’s bag and medical supplies in a large piece of clothe. He ties the bundle across his back and tells Eun-soo that she needs to come with him. Eun-soo tries to explain that she hasn’t practiced general surgery in a while. Choi Young ignores her pleas and just tells her to stay close, as the trip back might be rough. He turns around, thinking that she will follow him but Eun-soo runs away instead.
Alas a woman in heels is no match for a determined Goryeo warrior so Choi Young soon catches her and proceeds to drag her out the building. He complains that this would have been easier if she just did what he asked. Heh. I have a feeling that he’s going to have to do say this a lot to her. Eun-soo tells him that there’s nowhere he can go since the police are all over the place but Choi Young is up for a heads-on challenge.
They make it to the lobby but the swat team surrounds them. Choi Young looks around at the situation and channels his energy and shoots it at the swat team. They are all blown away, as well as the glass doors and police outside. Choi Young kneels in front of Eun-soo and excuses himself. He slings her over his shoulder and carries her out, picking up a police shield on the way.
Choi Young and Eun-soo make it back to the portal opening and he sets her down. She begs for her life so Choi Young assures her that he is not going to kill her. He just needs her to save the patient. He will definitely let her return. Eun-soo falls to her knees in fear. He’s lying! Since she’s seen his face, he’s never going to let her go alive. That’s what all kidnappers say in the movies!
Choi Young crouches to meet Eun-soo at eye level. He places his hands on her shoulders and swears that as a Goryeo warrior, he will risk his life to bring her back here.
Rewind to ten days before all this happened. Eun-soo is at a fortune-teller to find out when and where she will meet her future partner. She would like a rich AND handsome man but foremost, he has to be rich. The fortune-teller, played by Oh Kwang-rok (making a special cameo after appearing in the PD-Writer pair’s previous work, The Legend), throws his divination sticks. But he can’t read them immediately and confers a book. He explains to Eun-soo that her fortune says that she will meet a match made by heaven. It also says that the man is from the past.
From the past, eh? Well, Eun-soo had dated someone while she was medical student. It’s Ahn Jae-wook, making me think this is a shout-out to the 1998 medical drama, Sunflower, in which Kim Hee-sun and Ahn Jae-wook starred as an OTP. Hee! I loved that drama. Anyway, Eun-soo had been one of those dense girlfriends who packed lunch and did all sorts of favors when the man obviously didn’t like her. Ahn Jae-wook informs Eun-soo that he’s found another girl who’s uglier but richer than her. Ooh. Burned.
Eun-Soo also remembers the second man she dated, played by the comedian Park Hwi-soon. He was rich like she wanted but he was just too ugly. Eun-soo clarifies that she doesn’t necessarily want a husband; she just wants a fiancé who can lend her money so she can finance her project. She can break the engagement after she pays him back.
The fortune-teller continues to read her fortune. He explains that Eun-soo will go to a faraway place for a year. She will met her match when she “exits the door” and only when she does this will everything come to be.
Eun-soo’s had enough. The fortune-teller can’t tell her exactly when and where she will be able to meet this “heavenly match.” She gets up to leave and asks if he knows where the tarot card reader is in this building.
It’s Goryeo, seven years ago. Dol-Bae (Kang Chang-mook) rushes into the Woodalchi unit to inform Bae Choong-suk that they will be getting dae-jang who is only twenty-two years old! Still, another member intercedes, the new dae-jang used to be the leader of the Jeo Geol Dae (the unit with the red crescents you see in the animated screencap above). They say he is an amazing warrior who also knows how to use nae-gong. He has a temper too and is known to have beaten someone almost to death just for waking him up.
Dol-bae doesn’t think much of the Jeo Geol Dae; they’re only good at attacking people secretly at night. He doesn’t want to serve underneath such a young person. Choong-suk reminds Dol-bae that the move is a royal command but Dol-bae adds that there is rumor that this new guy is coming to Woodalchi, not as a promotion, but as punishment. Choong-suk warns Dol-bae to watch his mouth; Goryeo still exists today because of the Jeo Geol Dae.
Dol-bae assures Choong-suk, as he heads out the door, that he will “take care” of the new dae-jang. Just at that moment Choi Young enters, pushing Dol-bae away. Choong-suk asks for identification but Choi Young doesn’t answer. He simply asks if Choong-suk is the top guy and asks where he can sleep. Choi Young sees a bench by the window and lies down.
The other Woodalchi men look on curiously. Choi Young has been asleep for two nights and three days without sleeping or peeing! Is he even alive? Dol-bae wants to wake him up but Deok-man (Yoon Goon-sang) is scared to wake a sleeping Choi Young. People have almost died doing so!
Dol-bae stubbornly makes his way to wake up Choi Young. Eyes still closed, Choi Young throws a stick at Dol-bae’s forehead. It leaves a dark red pelt mark and Dol-bae looks at Choi Young angrily. But our sleeping beauty continues to slumber peacefully.
And the prize for the worst first impression ever goes to Choi Young! We’ve had several time-traveling heroes make some lasting first impression with their strange outfits and manners but Choi Young has got to beat them all; you know, with all his slashing and energy-force stuff.
It’s still funny, even after all the other time-traveling dramas, watching this brave warrior fumble over a television screen, trying to get in. I guess you can’t do time-travel stories without making it funny, especially if our heroes travel far into the future. It’s not like they are skipping a hundred years but hundreds of years where things have changed so much from what they know. Particularly in Korean time-time traveling stories, the Hanja is proving to be very useful for our heroes, standing the test of time.
I had a lot of expectations for this drama because I have watched the PD-Writer pair’s previous work, The Legend, which was also a fantasy sageuk. I loved and appreciated The Legend as a detailed and well-written story but I could see how it wouldn’t appeal to a huge international audience. It wasn’t “crack” material like the way a Hong Sisters drama can be.
Faith gives me the same feeling. It definitely belongs in the wuxia genre and I would actually loved to see it serialized as a wuxia manhwa. There is going to be a love story because hey, what K-drama doesn’t, but I can also see that there will be a lot of focus on the state politics. Perhaps this is for the best, because the chemistry between Kim Hee-sun and Lee Min-ho isn’t quite exploding off the screen yet. We’ve had very little interaction so far between the two so I won’t write them off yet.
I think the most interesting relationship in this drama will be between Choi Young and Gongmin. How will they help each other grow? Choi Young has all the qualities to make him a leader yet he doesn’t care to be one to his full potential. Gongmin is already a leader who’s not sure if he has what it takes. You could tell he wants to be a good king but feels powerless against a much stronger Yuan kingdom. Goryeo at this point is nothing but a puppet controlled by Yuan and this makes Gongmin angry. His anger and disdain is channeled toward his Yuan wife, No-gook, setting up another interesting dynamic.
I’m keen on learning more about No-gook. She’s going to be torn by her Yuan identity and her current position as wife to a Goryeo king when Gongmin starts to make the moves against Yuan. She’s also loves Gongmin but he has only expressed disinterest and hatred towards her, forcing her to be cold and angry.
Eun-soo. Loves money after being burned by a boyfriend she trusted. She’s a capable doctor who had hoped to be a general surgeon but decided to practice plastic surgery to earn more money. So far she’s been a bit screechy, but I’m not going to dislike her for that just yet. Hey, she’s been coerced into performing surgery and dragged by a strange man wearing a warrior’s uniform, wielding a real sword. Kim Hee-sun has a naturally high-pitched voice and after hearing Lee Min-ho, Lee Philip, and Lee Byung-Joon’s particularly low-pitched voices, her voice is going to stick out to any listener.
I’m was a bit surprised by Lee Min-ho’s line delivery at first. Even though Faith is a fusion sageuk, his tone sounded so “young” and informal. It veered a little bit from my expectations for a great warrior of Goryeo’s But he’s not our typical warrior, will all the sleeping and not caring about anything, so I see why his tone was fashioned that way. I expect it will gather more gravitas as he becomes a stronger leader.
I look forward to tomorrow!