Right from the start, we knew the Joseon storyline would not end well, which became even more apparent when we learnt that Dam Ryung would die at the early age of 27. However, even all the foreshadowing could not prepare me for what happened and I actually gasped in shock when Sae Wa grabbed the spear and pierced it through herself too. It was such a visceral, cruel and painful death. Yet death would be more bearable than living, because at in death, they would be able to meet in Heaven and have the hope of meeting in the next life.
The connection between Joon Jae and young Dam Ryung becomes even more poetically drawn out in this episode, as we see young Dam Ryung telling Sae Wa that if they were born again, he would find her, meet her and protect her – and he would remember the conversation they had.
Right from the start when Joon Jae and Sim Chung met in Spain, even when he didn’t know she was the mermaid, Joon Jae’s protective instincts were already evident as he kept going back to find her and never let go of her. When they met again in Seoul, he took her in and kept her close, even though he had never met her before. He’s always been there to protect her, even before falling in love with her. In this episode, he keeps holding her so close to him with such intimacy and watchfulness, because he wants to give her security and comfort. I’ve been wondering for a while why he has not told Sim Chung that he can hear her thoughts and that he knows she’s a mermaid. However, I see that as his protectiveness for her too as he does not want her to become too self-aware and being respectful of her desire to keep it a secret from him.
Joon Jae takes proactive steps in working with Detective Hong to uncover Dae Young’s identity. He is more determined and driven than them to solve this case, because it’s not just another criminal case, but it affects him deeply and threatens to take away the only person who he really feels love for at this point in his life. His most heroic act is delving deeper into the dream, which the professor warns him may cause him trauma. However, he realises he cannot be passive and just wait for the dreams any more. Through telepathy he hears that Dae Young already knows Sim Chung is a mermaid and he assures her, telling her not to be afraid. As he holds Sim Chung in his arms, he tells her that he will protect her and not allow events to repeat themselves. He decides to take control of his and Sim Chung’s destiny in the midst of ever-increasing danger from both Dae Young and Seo Hee.
Seo-hee amps up her evil quotient in this episode by changing the will and allowing her husband to fall down a flight of stairs. Following that, she calls Dae Young to hasten his taking down of Joon Jae, so that her, Chi Hyun and him can be happy once again. She also learns that Sim Chung is a mermaid, and given how merciless she is, I wonder what she will do with that piece of information. We have seen how ruthless and heartless is with her husband and we know she’ll stop at nothing to get rid of Joon Jae.
While the connection between the past and present for Sim Chung, Joon Jae and Dae Young and Seo Hee is tightening, I also like the fact that Joon Jae’s story goes beyond his love story with Sim Chung and saving her, because that on its own would be a rather one-dimensional story.
Joon Jae has his own story arc and that is one of his turning away from a life of crime and falsehood. It’s touched on briefly in this episode with the exchange between him and Nam Doo and Nam Doo’s evident disappointment that Joon Jae is turning away from being his accomplice so as to fulfil his promises to Sim Chung. Prior to meeting Sim Chung, it was Nam Doo who gave him a sense of purpose in his life. Joon Jae was pretty much an outsider of society with no family and interacting with the world mostly through multiple fake identities. Sim Chung’s appearance in his life has given him a strong reason to turn away from his life of crime to live a righteous life, possibly as a civil servant. His partnering with the police now can be seen as a parallel to Dam Ryung rooting out crime and corruption. As much as he’s Sim Chung’s saviour, Sim Chung is also there to save him from falling deeper into deceit and corruption.
In spite of all the serious stuff going on, there’s also lots of fun stuff happening, especially with Sim Chung. Both Lee Min Ho and Jun Ji-hyun do comedy extremely well and I really enjoyed the scenes of Sim Chung getting jealous of Sae Wa and repeatedly questioning Joon Jae about it. Sim Chung even starts applying what she learnt from the Internet, which I’m pretty sure was lost in translation, but it was still very funny to see her telling Joon Jae he should learn how to use the phrase “dog-gone”. It was also great seeing the strength return to Sim Chung and her using her strength to do random acts of kindness and shift furniture around Joon Jae’s house.
The episode finds the perfect balance between light-hearted fun and epic, moving storytelling and here’s hoping the rest of the series can get that balance right.