The first 10 minutes of Damo Episode 5 are awash with wave after wave of fighters swooping over rooftops into and out of the Left Police Bureau. To make sure we understand it’s exciting, it’s filmed hyper-energetically from a myriad of camera angles. The place is like a Joseon Grand Central Station, as lone Damo Chae Ohk (Ha Ji Won) rescues two escaping prisoners from dozens of guards armed with swords, bows, and rifles.
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t watched yet, stop here.
She has inside help, of course, but they have to make it look good, barraging her and the escapees with arrows and bullets by flickering torchlight, without actually hitting anyone. Add to this that one of the prisoners has badly burned feet, neither of them are armed, and they have to get over a 20 foot stone wall. Also, they’ve both been beaten and tortured for days. Hey, don’t look at me, I didn’t write it.
A final incoming wave adds smokebomb flashbangs to the visibility challenges. And who was that last group anyway? The escapees were already long gone…
The fight produces close encounters. Boss Jang’s sidekick catches Hwangbo (Lee Seo Jin) off guard, as he stares after Chae Ohk in the middle of the battlefield, but he comes to in time to inflict a serious wound.
Boss Jang (Kim Min Joon) hurls his not-so-dead comrade over the wall (which is mysteriously taller from the outside than from the inside), snatches in mid-air an arrow headed for Chae Ohk, pulls her over the wall with him, and lands on top of her.
Chae Ohk returns the favor, rescuing him from a police officer who’s going for his sword, but to her horror the officer continues to fight and is summarily dispatched by Boss Jang. His flashy high-jump, bouncing-off-the-wall maneuver spooks the officer’s men, who cut and run, even though they outnumber the escapees 4 to 1.
Most of this was part of the infiltration plan. The elite forces, under the leadership of Chae Ohk’s erstwhile partner, Officer Lee, are shadowing Chae Ohk and the slave to learn the location of the counterfeiter’s hideout. The wary gang members are not so quick to accept them, however.
Boss Jang knows who she is, of course, and can guess what she’s up to, but he can’t let on to anyone else or she’ll be killed. He tries to discourage her without tipping his hand. Chae Ohk is creative and determined, though, as we have seen before. She manufactures yet another rescue, and he finally has to yield to pressure from his freed friend, and let them tag along to the mysterious mountain camp.
Meanwhile, Chief Joh goes to court to explain to the king how a key suspect in the counterfeit investigation managed to escape. The king (seated on the best throne ever) is no fool, and clears the room so Chief Joh can speak freely. The Police Chief trusts no one, it would seem, which is kind of silly, seeing that dozens and dozens of police officers are in on the plot.
Without explaining beyond an acknowledgement that he let the prisoner go, he asks for some additional time. But Chae Ohk is still working her way into the gang, so they don’t hear from her as quickly as they expected. Chief Joh receives a disciplinary (though minor) cut in his salary and an order to fire Hwangbo.
Hwangbo takes this well. Or maybe he’s just too worried about Chae Ohk to give a damn. He can’t go home to his mother in disgrace, yet Chief Joh picks this of all moments to broach the subject of marriage to his daughter. We don’t see how Hwangbo responds, but when he encounters Nan Hui immediately after the conversation with her father, he tells her rather pointedly not to concern herself with him.
While all of this is going on, the clerk’s son takes his military exam. He fails miserably on all the combat tests, but excels on the strategy exam, and is given a supervisory classification. He promptly pulls rank on a police officer and demands to be addressed with honorifics (if you listen to the dialogue, you will hear the reference to banmal).
Back at the mountain camp, the rescued prisoner is reunited with his young daughter, who bears a suspicious resemblance to young Chae Ohk (aka Jae Hui). The two undercover agents are moved by this softer side of their former prisoner, and we also see that Officer Lee has finally caught up with them. Hwangbo will be so relieved!
The troops assemble for Boss Jang’s review, bearing clan banners and trident spears. The Damo and the slave/spy exchange astonished glances. We’ve known for awhile that counterfeiting was a means, not an end, for this gang, but it’s news to them. And the viewers finally understand why the magistrate was willing to go to such lengths not to risk Boss Jang.
Once again, Chae Ohk has to prove herself, since the rebel soldiers are sharp enough to notice she looks a lot like a girl. This time it’s a drinking contest. When she’s good and drunk, Boss Jang has her throw a bunch of darts at him. Not afraid of risks, our charismatic Kim Min Joon. She doesn’t quite miss, but close enough. Chae Ohk is in, and the rest of the gang goes to bed.
In another touching moonlit courtyard scene, Kim Min Joon tells her whatever her reasons for coming, she should forget her past, and he hopes they will live together in the mountains for a long time.
Forget her past with Hwangbo? True, it was getting a little complicated, but still, that’s a lot of history. Yet, she is not immune to the rebel leader’s charm, and smiles as she flashes back to their previous encounters.
Then she looks seriously confused. I don’t blame her. Lee Seo Jin or Kim Min Joon, what’s a yoja (여자 = woman) to do?! Get some rest, Damo, and think about it when you sober up.
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