Weee~~ Finally got a chance to sit down and peacefully watch an episode of Bridal Mask. Now I understand what folks mean by Joo Won’s screaming. ha. I think his fans in Korea should donate soothing herbal drinks to the filming set because the boy really needs those. Our young leading girl is good so far, holding her own, but I wish she would sock Kang To in the nuts sometimes. That ought to teach the boy how to treat a girl!
The streets are cleared for the funeral procession of a patriotic death, Lee Kong Hae. Our hero, Lee Kang To (Joo Won), commands everyone lining the busy streets to show respect and grief. As the people incline their heads in fear, our heroine, Mok Dan (Jin Se Yun) stands erect and firm; she picks up a stone the size of her fist and throws it, directly smashing the photo of the so-called patriotic Lee Kong Hae.
Kang To scans the premise for the culprit and Mok Dan hurries away from the scene. They give chase and she successfully gives Kang To a few kicks to the chest during their brief struggle. She eyes an escape route and climbs up the balcony just to be whipped down by another officer, Kimura Kenji (Park Joo Hyung). The other lackeys seize her arms and Kang To smiles wryly, recognizing her face as the trouble-maker he’s been searching for. “Where’s is Dam Sa Ri?” he barks. She bites down with determination and throws the question right back, “Who’s Dam Sa Ri?” Kang To then proves he’s a man with little patience and slaps the girl. Owwww…Joo Won ah, how bad do you feel filming this scene?
Their attention is diverted when the people cheer happily for the appearance of their masked hero – Gaksital. He makes his grand entrance on a horse and flings a little note to all the high officers attending the procession with the message: “Your evil deeds will come back to your descendants as karma.” His final goal is tearing the red banner bearing the condolences words for Lee Kong Hae. He gives it three cuts, jumps through the gap, and resorts back on his horse.
This is when Kang To drags Mok Dan back to the main road. He points his gun at Gaksital, and Mok Dak, a gutsy girl, knees him in the back to save Gaksital. In return, he picks her up and along they ride, unscathed by Kang To’s consecutive gun shots.
A month ago. Kang To is promoted to First Class police officer for capturing an elusive fugitive. The crowd of officers cheer, with the exception of Kenji, who carries a look of contempt as he smacks his hands together reluctantly. We then flashback to the process and learn that Kenji had the criminal at gunpoint but an explosion in a nearby building gave the criminal a leeway to fight back and escape. Later, Kang To’s powerful punches subdued the criminal.
For celebration, Kang To and his crew of friends party at a club with the ladies wearing shimmering dresses. They make fun of Kenji’s failed attempt at promotion and Kang To doesn’t hide his dislike or ambitions either. He believes that with the new government structure under the Japanese, even a slave can rise to minister rank with proper skills. The ladies then join the men and they make bets to see how high Kang To can climb up the ladder in the police department. Afterwards, they hit the stage with a short dance. Aw, no singing?
Next morning, we see Kang To’s mother, Han Sii, preparing her rice cake to be sold in the market. Unfortunately, Kang To’s association with the Japanese alienates the people from their family and they scorn at her, “This market is for Joseon people only!” While one ajuhmma grabs and shakes the mother, telling her to cease existing around them, the woman’s son spits out insults, calling Kang To a traitor, wiping the Japanese’s behinds to earn dirty money.
From a distance, a childish voice calls out “mother” and we’re introduced to Kang To’s older brother, Kang San (Shin Hyun Joon). He’s mentally retarded and attacks the woman’s son when he insists on bad-mouthing Kang To. This set-up is going to break my heart later… This drama doesn’t have 20 episodes right? *checks and then breathes*
Traveling down the road in his fancy car is Kang To, with his buddy as the driver. When he stops to give the kids some candy, they register his ‘traitor’ face and run away. Even the kids know his occupation, tsk tsk. The screams from his mother jerks him wide alert and he rushes off the car to find his brother beaten to a pulp. He deals some blows to the offender’s face and screams at the people watching, “This is what you all can do? Watch while he’s getting beat up?!” It’s the bystander’s effect. A terrifying moment to witness.
However, the look on his mother’s face is not proud nor grateful. She tells him to leave them alone and go on about his business. Seeing her scattered rice cakes on the floor, he angrily throws a wad of bills down at her, “Here! Here! I’ve got plenty. Take it and stop selling rice cake here!” Kang San happily gathers the money but mother’s eyes betray no shred of giving in, “If I take your money, how will I face your father in Heaven?”
Feeling stuffed up with her attitude, Kang To beats his chest in frustration. “Why can’t you accept my money? I may be uneducated and stupid, but I make more money than those who went to college” he says, pointing to the onlookers.
His mother finally looks up at him, “You’re trash. You’re proud of making money from those who made your brother like this?” He shouts back at her, saying that he has no other choice. Father died, Kang San can’t work in his state, so he needs to do whatever to survive, even if he has to act like a dog —- *slap*
Kang San immediately steps in between them and hugs his brother. Kang To shoves his brother aside and leaves. He comes home and smashes the award certificate against the wall, and the family photo comes crashing to the floor. The picture shows us a healthy-looking Kang San in his black uniform, before he was tortured. He packs up some suits, grumbling at his mother’s stubbornness.
Kang To: “She has no idea how I got this far! Then, should I be like father? Selling off all of our properties to fight for the Independence movement and then died in vain? Or should I be like my brother? Becoming an idiot after being tortured? For Joseon?! HMPHS! Did Joseon ever buy me food? Give me a pencil? All I’m doing is trying to get out! Trying to live! ARHHHGGG!”
He heads outside, and he bids goodbye to his mom in a cold manner. He leaves, with Kang San trailing behind, apologizing profusely, thinking that it’s his fault. Mother watches them and remembers the peaceful time when everything was normal, their family intact. How Kang To, the little brother, would look up to his elder brother with proud, innocent eyes. Now, she holds the picture and lets her fingers sweep across the photo as if tracing back to the memories, the old Kang To.
Playing on the piano and teaching children in a small class is our second male lead, Shunji (Park Ki Woong). He’s of Japanese descent, brother to Kenji, and son to Kimura Taro, head of the police department. He dismisses the students and sliding the door open is an unannounced guest – Kang To, who’s here to request a fight.
What a great scene as we the boys swipe at each other. Turns out they’re good friends, close enough that Shunji offers therapy (fighting) every time Kang To’s bottled up emotions need an outlet. He detects the sadness in Kang To’s voice as his friend reveals the promotion, the increased salary. His voice becomes choked up, “If I work for one more year, I can get a house for mom, get my brother treated in the best hospital in Tokyo. As long as I can get back my brother back…who cares if they call me a Japanese dog?”
Shunji listens quietly and tries to lighten up his friend’s mood by calling him a dummy, “You’re a good person. You’re making me feel guilty for being a bad son.” He moves in closer to…tickle Kang To! 😀 His Korean nanny calls out his name, and Shunji breaks free from Kang To’s ambush to greet his beloved nanny. Looks like he’s not close to his father at all. He seems to prefer a peaceful life, away from war and discrimination.
That night, Mok Dan prepares to go on stage for her circus performance. She peers out from the curtain and scans the audience, hoping to catch sight of someone. When another circus member questions her, Mok Dan doesn’t reply and only grips tightly her dagger. Engraved on it is the word “Forever/Eternity”. She flashbacks to her childhood where she addressed a young master (noooooooooo childhood love story again!!!) and he handed her (name is Boon) the dagger, telling her to survive and live on. Afterwards, he purposefully led the enemies away so she can escape the perilous ordeal.
Mok Dan ascends the stage and perform. In the end, she takes off her mask and smiles.
The boys are having a sleepover over at Shunji’s place as he…recalls a girl he met when he was little. He doesn’t know her Joseon name so he refers to her baptist name – Esther. Please don’t tell me we have TWO childhood crushes. Shunji smiles when he talks about her and Kang To props up on his elbow to listen. Shunji confesses that she made him a person and he often created troubles for her. Kang To begins to snore when no detail is offered, and Shunji wonders, “Did she get to meet him?” He remembers her praying in church, asking to meet her father and the young master again.
Next morning, headline on a newspaper catches Mok Dan’s attention. Turns out the fugitive Kang To caught earlier is none other than Dam Sa Ri (Jun Noh Min), and he’s her father. She scurries off just as Kang To wears his new dandy suit to attend the court hearing.
Dam Sa Ri, along with his men, is lined up in front of the judges. When he’s not allowed to speak, he continues anyway, louder as they struggle to keep him muffled. Humiliated by their men’s inability to keep the criminals quiet, the judges dismiss the public audience. The trial continues, and Mok Dan moves stealthily to the top floor, watching as Kang To takes a celebratory picture with Dam Sa Ri. At this, she flies down the floor in high heels and fights smoothly through the policemen.
Yet, when she combats with Kang To, he quickly subdues her, knocking the dagger out of her hand easily. She glares and spits on his newly bought suit. Before he can raise his hand to slap her, Gaksital’s appearance plastered a panic expression on the law enforcers. He descends, and with a couple of swift moves, conquers the minions.
Kang To grabs a sword and charges forward. They move their battle to the upper floor where Kang To is an inch away from cutting Gaksital’s neck. Whew. Down below, Mok Dan reunites with her father (“I’m Boon!”) and they escape to the judge’s room just as Gaksital exits from the fight above.
Before Judge Choi enters his office, he’s surprised delightfully with a visit from a rich woman. He wants some fun, naughty times but Kang To shows up and requests to search his room for good measure, “Gaksital could be in there!” The judge is clearly impatient but he values his life more and allows the search to be carried out. Once inside, Kang To and his man rummage the room, find nothing, but a quick glance outside the window shows Kang To his prized criminal, running hand-in-hand with Mok Dan.
Outside, he shoots a man, believing it’s Dam Sa Ri, but he’s not.
Judge Choi is getting chummy with the rich lady but she’s here with a purpose – to free her husband from jail. She leaves him with a box of cookies behind. He opens it, gleefully takes in the load of bills and instantly dials a number, clearing a man named Lee Shi Yong from the murder he’s been charged.
He hangs up, unaware of another presence in the room. It’s Gaksital, calling the judge with a different name, shocking the guilty party as he darts his eyes nervously. Gaksital is here to make him pay for his crimes. “You’re not only betraying your people, but you’re using the law to commit murder! Now pay for your crimes.”
Kang To calls for a search team, announcing that since the criminals have been charged with death penalty, don’t hesitate to open fire, and then the window behind him breaks, allowing a body to fall with a thud to the ground. It’s none other than the judge as a pool of blood spreads around his head. Kang To hurries inside the building and catches sight of Gaksital at the end of the hall, and chases after him to the entrance again.
However, he loses track of Gaksital and spots his brother, Kang San, running around blowing a whistle instead. He’s furious to see him babbling nonsense in this tense environment and pulls his collar home.
That night, Mok Dan sits with a picture of her father in hand and slowly remembers what her dad said in their meeting today. Since he knows she’s working at Far East Circus under the wing of a familiar name of Jo Dan Jang, he promises to come and get her later despite her pleading, misty eyes to stay with him. Still holding onto the picture, she laments the fact that she hasn’t told him about mother’s death.
Still during the night, Kang To gather around a dark alley behind the police station to catch up with Kenji and his father, Kimura Taro. Kang To professes in shame that he wasn’t able to capture the culprit deemed by the people as Gaksital. When his son chimes in heedlessly about Gaksital, Taro slaps him across the face, “Why are you only telling me that now?” Kenji regains his composure. “I..thought you didn’t need to know. I didn’t know he was able to….” Taro’s brows furrow so Kenji loses the last nerve to finish his sentence.
They then head inside to examine the naked, dead body. The moment Boss Taro sees how the wound is drawn on Judge Choi’s chest, he’s taken aback. Another man, dressed in a white suit, barges into the room, gasping breathlessly at the demise of his friend. He, too, takes a step backward upon seeing the wound.
Boss Taro contemplates for a moment before deciding to hand the big task – catching Gaksital to his son, while assigning Kang To to the smaller case of arresting Dam Sa Ri.
Now we’re back to the funeral day of Lee Kong Gae right after Kang To fires consecutive gun shots at Gaksital and Mok Dan but none of shots touch a hair on their bodies.
He returns to Judge Choi’s office, hoping to find some leads in solving the case. Behind the Japanese flag hanging on the wall is a picture of Judge Choi and Boss Taro a long time ago.
He brings the picture to Kono Koji, another big gun as he’s the director of police affairs in Joseon. Even the friendship of Choi and Taro is news to him, so Kang To relates a detail he notices in the picture to the rapid unfolding of current events. The symbol on the men’s kimnos in the picture is the replica of the wounds inflicted on both Lee and Choi’s body.
Koji agrees with his subordinate’s assessment, “That’s why Taro wants his son to take over the case.”
Their conversation is interrupted with the arrival of Chief Taro and the other high-ranked police officers. Koji uses this opportunity to reprimand Taro for his sloppy handling of Gaksital’s defiant display in this past month and rightfully hands the case to Kang To. With a time limit of one week to bring Gaksital in.
Back in his office, Chief Taro faces the window, deep in thought, while Kenji prioritizes killing Kang To over the capture of other criminals. This guy always looks like he’s about to krap and kill someone, doesn’t he? Not surprisingly, Dad is thinking of the same plan, musing, “Make sure you do so that no one notices.”
Kenji acts as quick as a cat and decides tonight is the night to end someone’s life. Kang To breezes through the day looking at Judge Choi’s records, and later that night, he brings a box home for further investigation. Just as he closes the door to his car, a gun is raised to his head. We see that the person is dressed up…like Gaksital.
Alice: I love the impending conflicts ahead for all our characters and how the writer sets the brothers up to fight against each other as a major conflict. Kang To’s line of thinking in the new system is entirely understandable for he has witnessed the wasted efforts through his father, and it is reinforced again through the unfortunate fate that fell on his elder brother. And it breaks my heart knowing that the main driving force behind his determination to survive in this new world is to help his mother and cure his brother. Yea, fighting for country’s pride and patriotism is an admirable thing but that satisfied feeling in your soul does not settle the hungry monsters and other losses in life. A true hero needs to bend when the time calls for it.
The Love Triangle. I laughed so hard when I realized what the writer did in order to prolonge the characters’ reunion. Didn’t we have a headache with just two names? Remember that mess with In Joo and Joon Young? Our leading girl here has three names! One for each man in her life! Buhjeessbus.