Episode 2 of Damo introduces us to the back stories of Hwangbo (Lee Seo Jin) and Chae Ohk (Ha Ji Won) and their early relationship, as they continue their investigation of the counterfeiting ring.
SPOILER ALERT: Stop here if you haven’t watched yet.
Where it isn’t back story, Episode 2 is devoted to fight scenes. The first begins as a girl vs. gang face off. Girl (Chae Ohk) has handily dispatched about half of the gang when an unwelcome reinforcement arrives to become a distraction and a hostage. Enter Kim Min Joon. Despite his highly impractical headgear, he manages to save the day, but Chae Ohk is not as grateful as one might expect, holding him at stiletto-point and demanding to know why he followed her.
Before he can answer, Hwangbo swoops in, misinterprets the situation, and attacks him. Chae Ohk tries to intervene, but Hwangbo is on a rampage, slapping her aside repeatedly. This is the first time we see Kim Min Joon and Lee Seo Jin together. After a few rounds of aerial leaps and clashes, Kim Min Joon catches Hwangbo’s sword between his palms (ouch. But don’t worry, they have healed with marvelous rapidity in subsequent scenes). Chae Ohk finally gets a word in edgewise, and they both demand to know who Kim Min Joon is.
Doesn’t anyone ever say “thanks for saving my life” anymore, before starting in with the questions? But Kim Min Joon, who is rarely caught off balance, counters by identifying Hwangbo’s secret monk swordstyle, known to no living man (or so Hwangbo thought). Now Hwangbo really wants to know he is, but he flies off into the darkness.
On the way home, Chae Ohk stops for a moonlit bath and and once again encounters the thieves who stole her coins. After teaching them a valuable, if short-lived, lesson, she finally arrives back at the police station in a downpour, drenched and exhausted. Hwangbo is waiting, and forces her into a fierce aerial swordfight in the rainy darkness. They swoop through the torrents a few times until he knocks her down with a heavy practice sword and demands to know what he is to her. When she says something suitably submissive, he doesn’t like her answer. Chae Ohk is pretty confused by all of this, and so are we, so we are relieved to segue to a back story segment.
Hwangbo flashes back to his difficult youth (as Baek Seong Hyeon). The socially unsanctioned son of a noble and a concubine, he is bullied, and reacts in kind. His father, trying to endow him with skills to offset his unfortunate social status and bad attitude, sends him off to study with a wise old monk. The monk teaches him emotional self control (sort of) and swordfighting. Hwangbo’s struggle with shame, vulnerability, control, and righteousness add up to a signature Lee Seo Jin role.
Young Hwangbo befriends even younger Chae Ohk (then known as Jae Hui) the moment he sets eyes on her, and she responds with taciturn but persistent devotion. They grow up together at the monastery, sharing many moments of vigorous physical activity in miserable weather. Some of the background music in this segment is oddly reminiscent of Celtic-Canadian singer Loreena McKennitt – if she was singing in Korean, that is. Jeong Min Ah as 7-year old Jae Hui is impressively effective, not to mention irresistibly adorable. Her performance greatly enhances our understanding of Chae Ohk’s behavior and motivation in the present. Young adult Jae Hui and Hwangbo (we’re back to Lee Seo Jin and Ha Ji Won) are less inhibited before they join the police force, which also clarifies their relationship.
The monk hooks Hwangbo up with Left Police Chief Joh Seh Ook (Park Yeong Gyoo) who thinks Hwangbo is something special, and is willing to overlook his ignoble birth. Hwangbo visits his dying father, and requests Jae Hui as a tea servant. They head off to the Left Police Bureau together, as the flashback draws to a close.
Back in the dark and rainy field, Hwangbo tells Chae Ohk that her life is irreplaceable, and if she is going to keep “doing as she wishes,” she should leave him. At the edge of the field, he encounters Joh Seh Ook’s daughter in a fabulous parasol hat, who has been watching the scene. In a voiceover as the episode ends, Chae Ohk says she wishes they would get married soon, so she can “ease her heart and leave the police station.”
By the way, there is a huge spoiler abut Damo on DramaWiki (http://wiki.d-addicts.com), so avoid that site until you have finished the series. Maybe it’s not a big surprise to anyone familiar with Korean drama, but I’d have preferred to have my suspicions confirmed by the drama itself. Spoilers should be reserved for the review section, not the series synopsis at the head of the article, where any passing viewer looking for a cast list can’t avoid seeing it. Unfortunately, this is the first page that comes up in a Google search on “Damo cast.” If anyone reading this has a user account for the site, it would be a service to future viewers to propose an edit.
See all Damo and Lee Seo Jin reviews