야뇌 (Acoustic Version) – BMK [Warrior Baek Dong Soo OST]
I seriously do not know where to begin. This drama took me on such a ride, I simply was not prepared. There is so much to say about it, but since this is a postscript to my K-Shot post on Yoo Seung Ho, I am going to focus solely on the agonizingly conflicted Yeo Woon (Un). Gosh, the minute I say or think of his name, Un, I am filled with such incredible emotion. Yoo Seung Ho became Un – he wasn’t Yoo Seung Ho playing a character, no – he became the character he was cast to play. And it was amazing to watch unfold.
Un confused me a lot throughout the course of the drama and I think it was because he was so confused himself. You could feel his struggle, every moment of it. He felt trapped by a fate he believed he was destined to live because it was what he had been told since he was a child. Oh the power of words, right?
Park Gun Tae played Un as a teen and was superb. He was able to bring a smoldering gaze all of his own as the young Un which of course translated perfectly to Yoo Seung Ho’s adult Un.
I loved that this drama had two sets of protagonists and antagonists. On the good side there was Kim Gwang Taek (the Sword Saint), Baek Dong Soo’s mentor; and, on the dark side, Chun (the Sky Lord), Yeo Un’s mentor. Each boy fell under the tutelage of these respective masters and grew up to follow in their footsteps. The Sword Saint was deemed the best swordsman in all of Joseon, an honor that would ultimately befall upon Baek Dong Soo. The code to live by was to use the sword to save lives, not take them.
And, on the other side, there were the assassins of the Heuksa Chorong led by the Sky Lord, Joseon’s most lethal assassin. This clandestine group of assassins were put in place by the Qing and had been in existence in Joseon for 100 years. The path of the assassin was to live by the sword in complete command of the life and death of another. This was the path Un chose when he left his father’s home after discovering the truth about his mother’s death, and committed his allegiance to the Heuksa Chorong which would ultimately place him in tenuous situations where the choices he made were not necessarily those he would have wanted, but felt he had no other choice but to make. He felt it was his destiny and fate. It was agonizing to watch Un make the decisions he made.
The Psychology of a Reluctant Assassin
The Warriors [Baek Dong Soo OST]
It was so hard to get inside Un’s head. He really kept all of us guessing. I am sure much of that had to do with the writing. Every time I thought Un would break free of his assassin persona and return to his brothers, even making the move or gesture to do so, he would somehow never follow through. As confident and badass as Un was, there was still the vulnerable and unsure boy lingering inside.
Such a wonderful character for Seung Ho as I really think he likes to get into the psyche of a character as any smart and talented actor would do. Think of the likes of Edward Norton or Gary Oldman. They are so brilliant, imo, and I see Seung Ho being able to get a firm hold on a character like they do, immerse and then deliver.
According to his own father, Un was born under a killer star meaning he was destined to grow up a murderer. As a result of that belief, his father tried to kill Un while he was still a baby but ended up killing his own wife (Un’s mother) instead when she attempted to protect Un. Un believed his mother died in childbirth after he was born. He grew up an angry mother-less child and he was constantly reminded (by his father) that he was no good and destined to cause harm to the world. Can you imagine growing up and hearing that day in and day out?
Un wore the killer star chip on his shoulder always allowing it to define him. It was a heavy burden for him to carry and Yoo Seung Ho made you feel Un’s struggle under the weight of that fate. If there were moments of pause when he thought he could escape that destiny and rid himself of that burden, those moments were fleeting. His hurt, pain, feelings of loss and betrayal all fueled the anger that broiled inside of him igniting what he believe was his destiny. When he became resolute and accepting of this fate, he told himself that he would become the best assassin in all of Joseon. And he did rise through the ranks, and did it quickly. Yet, there were still moments when he wavered, when he felt his only escape was perhaps death itself. Un walked the earth in pain.
As a youth, Un swore his allegiance to the Heuksa Chorong and the Sky Lord. But, he still fell under the care and guidance of Sa Mo who was Baek Dong Soo’s guardian. I got the impression that he was a plant for the Heuksa Chorong. The Sky Lord gave Un the tools he needed to become his successor, Sa Mo, however, gave Un family. And this is what continued to wreak havoc on Un’s psyche.
Un and Dong Soo grew up together and although not born of the same parents, they were brothers. Sa Mo eventually sends both boys to a martial arts training camp run by Dae Pyo. Sa Mo, Kim Gwang Taek (Sword Saint), Baek Sa King (Baek Dong Soo’s father), and Dae Pyo were all friends, comrades, and warriors. They were also protectorates of the Crown Prince Sado.
Following their training at the martial arts training camp, Dong Soo, Un and fellow student, Cho Rip in addition to three other student warriors, were all assigned to enter the palace and become protectorates of the King, the Crown Prince Sado and his son the Crown Prince Heir.
Soon after landing this prestigious position, Un made a decision that altered the course of events and rendered him (in his own mind anyway) unable to return to his brothers and forever be under the veil and control of the Heuksa Chorong.
[SPOILERISH] As Un was trusted as a court guard (and his alter identity unknown) he became privy to all kinds of confidential information and plans that he ultimately uses to betray the Crown Prince Sado and his brothers. OHHHHHH! I was beside myself when Un did what he did which ultimately resulted in the death of Crown Prince Sado and estrangement from Dong Soo. The tenor and tone of his friendship with Dong Soo, Cho Rip and his other camp comrades changes….yet, Dong Soo never wavers in his hope that Un will return. In fact, it was Dong Soo’s love that urges Un to want to leave his situation telling him over and over that he doesn’t have to settle for the ridiculous fate he believes he has been born to live. But then something always seems to happen that holds Un to his place with the assassins. I continued to cheer for Un hoping he would just trust and believe in himself, that he could escape the life of an assassin, and return to his brothers.
After he began moving up the ranks, as it were (because of his advantageous connections and incredible skill), he was automatically aligned (though not by choice) with those politicos who were against the King, secretly plotting to kill the Crown Prince Sado (and his son) and who had sworn allegiance to the Queen. I guess it makes a little more sense if you dig a little into the actual history. Queen Jung Soo was not the Crown Prince Sado’s birth mother so naturally she did not want him to become king. She called upon the swarmy Hong Dae Ju (Minister of State) to plot and connive and connive and plot in order to ensure that Sado would not succeed her husband on the thrown. Dae Ju hired Heuksa Chorong to make this happen.
By joining the Heuksa Chorong and ultimately becoming the Sky Lord himself, Un inherited a bad relationship. What I mean is, prior to Un becoming head of the HC, he was just a resident assassin – but he was an assassin with connections – meaning, he was still very much connected to Dong Soo, Sa Mo, the Sword Saint, and that whole group who were pro King.
As the trusted and revered leader of the Heuksa Chorong, he started playing both sides of the coin. On the surface he was aligned with Hong Dae and the Queen. In order to maintain their trust so that he could change the course of things by ultimately dissolving the Heuksa Chorong and returning to his brothers (his rightful place), he had to do some pretty nasty things. I totally got it. I knew exactly what Un was doing. Did I like it?No. But I understood him.
Ode To A Beautiful Bromance
사랑에빠지다 – 김태우 (Fall In Love – Kim Tae Woo) [Warrior Baek Dong Soo OST]
As Baek Dong Soo and Un grow into manhood, their love-hate relationship deepens. Always at odds, always in competition, there was nevertheless a love and camaraderie that remained even through all of Un’s harrowing and inexplicable decisions and actions. This was the ultimate killer, blow-my-heart apart bromance.
When they worked together to get something accomplished they were brilliantly successful because each was slowly becoming a master of his own excellence. Separate they were great. Together, they were amazing. Not even a plot to sabotage their rightful positions as personal protectorates to the Crown Prince Sado and Crown Prince Heir could hinder their collective abilities.
I absolutely adored these two characters. It was easy to like Dong Soo. His carefree playful attitude was endearing as a youth. And, his astute command later as the expert swordsman was downright sexy (but I will save that for another post when we can all swoon over Ji Chang Wook – and you will indeed swoon over Ji Chang Wook).
To find compassion for Un may have been hard for some, but I happen to think Yoo Seung Ho played him so that you had no other choice but to feel compassion for the character, even when he was doing bad things. There then was the mark of a character well-played. On the page, I suspect Un could have easily been deemed reprehensible. But Yoo Seung Ho was not about to let that happen.
I loved that as children/teens, Dong Soo was always so annoyed by Un and always trying to best him and Un so tolerate of Dong Soo’s never-ending challenges. Un would silently be in the background quiet and calculating when Dong Soo was gregarious and, at times just goofy. But this is what made their brotherhood so wonderful – their complete opposite natures and personalities.
Even if he seemed annoyed by Dong Soo’s incessant badgering, I actually believe Un loved it. When you think of it, the two of them really did teach each other in these adolescent battles. Each were honing their skills and where Un was teaching Dong Soo persistence, Dong Soo was teaching Un tolerance. Their relationship is probably one of the most poignant I have seen on-screen.
As adults, however, Dong Soo moves away from that envy I suppose of Un’s incredible skill and martial arts ability as he begins to focus on his own development. In doing that, he also seems to have a change of heart where Un is concerned and begins to love him as a comrade, as a counterpart, but most importantly, as a brother. It never wavers and continues to deepen. And as much as he tried to fight it, or perhaps believe he was unworthy of that love, Un knew Dong Soo would never give up on him and for that I honestly believe Un’s love for Dong Soo was as deep and equal.
When following instruction to do some of the heinous things he had to do, Un did them with tears in his eyes. Most often because it was action taken against his brothers, the boys he grew up with, lived with, fought with, and learned with. Somewhere buried deep within Un I think he always wanted to come back to them but circumstances or his ongoing belief that he could not, continued to prevent him from doing so.
He tried but I think he was in too deep. Nevertheless, Un was always there; always in the background to help Dong Soo, to protect him, and to protect the others Dong Soo himself was protecting. Un’s outward allegiance may have been to the Heuksa Chorong but his heart’s allegiance was with Dong Soo. Even when he did the unthinkable, like attack and severely injure three brother comrades as they slept, he did so while weeping and then stayed to tend to their wounds until they were past any physical danger due to the injuries he inflicted upon them. Un was truly a master at the art of swordplay but was also a medicine man who knew how to place a sword’s point into the body without causing injury to any major organs. He also knew acupuncture, herbs and how to heal. The dichotomy of his character was beautiful and tragic. On one hand he was a killing machine and on the other, a healer.
In his heart, he was still very much a brother to Dong Soo, Cho Rip, and the other boys from Sa Mo’s camp. His heart was ALWAYS with them. When he ultimately betrays Hong Dae and the Queen I was cheering, crying, chanting his name and yes, okay although it may have happened late in the game, it still happened!! You could feel Dong Soo fill with pride, relief, and love when he quietly thanks Un for helping him fight practically an entire army and tells him that he is happy he is back.
다시만나면 – 지창욱 (Meet Again – Ji Chang Wook) [Warrior Baek Dong Soo OST]
I always got the feeling Un did not have faith in much – but what he did have faith in was Dong Soo. Un made no apologies for the things he did because he believed he was living his purpose, his path and he always seemed to have a back up or remedy, reversal plan or a way to heal any of the wrong he did. And, at the foundation of it all was Dong Soo never giving up, always urging, never faltering in his belief that Un was still his brother and he would leave the Heuksa Chorong. And it actually appeared that it was exactly how it was going to play out. But, it was a false hope those of us rooting for Un had as it did not play out that way at all.
The writers certainly could not go against history so I knew that Dong Soo was going to survive. I wasn’t so sure about Un because in my research I could not find a Yeo Woon (Un) in Korean history. Walking the path of an assassin was always going to be a dangerous one and Un did it begrudgingly, but did it with authority nevertheless.
When he witnessed Dong Soo taking on the palace army all by himself, I think he finally realized Dong Soo’s greatness and was resolved to live a better life. His plans were to dissolve the Heuksa Chorong, disperse its assets equally among the assassins and return to Dong Soo and Sa Mo. He knew he had to resolve his karma but I believe he knew that he would be accepted back by the only people who truly showed him love and encouragement. There was a moment in time when the Sky Lord Chun tells Un (not once, but twice) that there is more to life than just killing and that if he could find love, that THAT would be the ultimate and most important thing he could have in his life, even over being the best assassin in all of Joseon.
But, fate would not have it. Even to the bitter end, there were conspiracies and plots to usurp Un’s plans. This is why I found Un to be the ultimate tragic hero. He tried over and over again to overcome his fate but was denied each time. His final fight was to be against the one he probably loved most in the world and in the golden grassy fields as they saw their lives, their friendship, their love, and their brotherhood pass before their eyes, Un finally let Dong Soo win.
A Post Script to the Post Script
Yoo Seung Ho was born to act and to share his amazing gift with us all. His Un is probably my favorite of his characters to date. I really cannot say enough about his performance. And now, after ALL that, I still have a few more things to say and share.
As I have been so wrapped up in Un and wanting to write about Yoo Seung Ho’s wonderful performance, I failed to pay proper respect and attention to the beauty of this drama in way of its cinematography and music. The cinematography is simply breathtaking and only added to the splendor of the show. Here are some screen shots I captured throughout my viewing that are not YSH-specific. 🙂
A young Dong Soo (Yeo Jin Goo) framed by a setting sun as he sits in a field.
Sky Lord Chun (Choi Min Soo) and Earth Lord Ji (Yoon Ji Min) set up camp amid bamboo (one of my favorites that I captured).
Dong Soo (Ji Chang Wook) on the hillside in the wind.
The Sword Saint Kim Gwang Taek (Jun Kwang Ryul) and his student Dong Soo.
The Sword Saint and the Sky Lord face off.
Dong Soo confronts the Minister of State Hong Dae Ju (Lee Won Jong).
Various nature shots. Just wonderfully magnificent cinematography.
고여 – 신성우 (Goyeo – Shin Sung Woo) [Warrior Baek Dong Soo OST]
The OST is also amazing and I have placed a few of the tracks throughout this post. I really cannot say enough about this drama. It has been a few weeks since I finished it and I cannot seem to let it go. Don’t know if I ever will.♥