Ah, so this episode answers my previous question about whether or not there would be a time jump, since it appeared that Jeongjo had not been born yet even though he was actually eight by the time that the real Sado was executed. It would appear that Jeongjo has already been born, but that the drama has just chosen not to show him up until this point. It’s somewhat fitting that our first introduction to Jeongjo is a direct parallel to the flashbacks of little Sun kneeling before the king’s quarters and begging for his leniency. And it’s also interesting to note just how differently Yeongjo responds to Jeongjo’s begging versus his Sun’s—he orders Hyegyeong to put Jeongjo out of his misery, while with Sun, he blatantly ignored his son’s distress.
While I’m disturbed by the fact that Hyegyeong once again takes out her frustrations by attemping to inflict bodily harm on Sun’s servants, I am glad that Hyegyeong is now using her knack for political scheming to save Sun. And I’m even more glad to see that she’s joining forces with Ji Dam to do so. Considering that Hyegyeong initially suspected that Ji Dam was Sun’s secret lover outside the palace—and considering that Ji Dam is in fact Bingae, the real Sado’s beloved concubine—I thoroughly expected Hyegyeong and Ji Dam to become antagonistic rivals. Yet, not only is there an alliance forming between the two women to save Sun, Hyegyeong has declared that she’ll be personally responsible for Ji Dam’s safety. Is it too soon to start hoping for a sismance between the two?
You know, the reason that the real Sado was killed the way he was—being locked into a rice chest and left to die—was that the royal family wanted to avoid the appearance of a criminal execution. Yi royal custom, according to JaHyun Kim Haboush (the translator of the Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong), forbade the killing of a family member in such a way that would dismember or disfigure the body. Poisoning Sado would solve that dilemma, but that method also connoted a criminal execution, which would threaten the safety of Hyegeyong and Jeongjo. Ultimately, the solution was to have Sado step into the rice chest on his accord.
This is all to say that I am now curious how Sun being quite openly treated as a criminal in Secret Door fits with that historical fact. Sun hasn’t formally been found guilty of murder, but he is considered a suspect and is being held in prison. Moreover, Yeongjo is playing an active role in ensuring that Sun be treated as a criminal. Once again, this drama is highly fictionalized, but I do wonder—disregarding the facts of this particular case—how historically accurate would accusing a prince of being a criminal really be? Would even accusing a royal family member of murder also go against royal custom, or is it just executions that are the real issue?
(Side note: In flipping through the Memoirs to double-check my facts, I came across a footnote that I hadn’t noticed before. Haboush notes that the family’s original solution to Sado’s execution was to have him strangle himself. And Sado did try—several times, in fact—but each time, the knot was loosened by his tutors, who were duty-bound to protect his life. It was only after several failed attempts at self-strangulation that Sado entered the rice chest. How truly awful.)
Just when I thought the shit finally hit the fan thanks to Sun outright accusing both Minister Kim and Yeongjo of murder AND shoving the secret document right in their faces, it turns out it was all just a dream sequence. Dammit, show! I don’t know if I should applaud the writers for so brilliantly faking us out, or if I should be angry. I think I’ll go with both.
I did, and I LOVED it. Seriously, so many feels!