Warrior Baek Dong Soo or Musa Baek Dong Soo (2011) episodes 26 to end
Well if anything can be dragged out until you are bored to the back teeth, the team behind Warrior Baek Dong Soo or Musa Baek Dong Soo (2011) can do it. Let’s start with the redemption ploy. We’ve been watching the terminally incompetent In (Park Cheol-Min) crawl from one malevolent disaster to another, snarling in frustration and shedding body parts. Well, he has one more go at Baek Dong-Soo (Ji Chang-Wook), offering gold to a group of mercenaries recruited by Hong Dae-Joo (Lee Won-Jong) to chop off our hero’s head. He should know by now this man is invincible. You could send a squadron of M1 Abrams against him and he would snip the ends off their 120 mm smoothbore guns with his supersword and leave them helpless in conveniently adjacent quicksand. However, despite this latest provocation, our hero just smiles wearily and lets him go. Hong Dae-Joo is not nearly so forgiving. He has his men collect In and start the slow process of beating him to death. While taking a breather, our hero wanders into their camp and frees In. This finally convinces the worthless slob that there’s something to this hero lark and perhaps he’d better get on board before the end of the series. So in a moment of nobility of spirit, he surrenders his life to protect a group of poor people who are being wrongly accused of being terrorists. He manages a smile when everyone of note gathers around to say he’s dying a good death and can go to Heaven after all.
At the betting hall being used as a showcase for recruiting competent mercenaries, Hwang Jin-Joo (Yoon So-Yi) is acting like the energiser bunny. Wearing a mask matching her hat, she’s beating all-comers and proving she’s a lethal weapon. Yes, it’s another of these terminally stupid cross-dressing sequences. She’s wearing a mask covering half her face and no-one’s supposed to notice she has breasts, hips and speaks like a woman. Only when she actually gets to meet Hong Dae-Joo does anyone notice she’s not quite what (s)he claims to be. Meanwhile our hero has to fight the Japanese ace while under the influence of drugs. I’m suddenly conscious I’m watching all this without the benefit of anything to dull the pain. Fortunately, Yeo Woon (Yoo Seung-Ho) covertly saves our hero from being slaughtered. There are then some terminally silly scenes where Hwang Jin-Joo pops up with her bow and arrow. First she saves In (which is pretty magnanimous of her given the way he was beating and kicking her in earlier episodes). Then she kills a couple of musket-wielding men about to shoot our hero (yes, we have flintlock muskets in use at this time). Finally she and Hwang Jin-Joo (Yoon So-Yi) go off to prevent the baddies from launching the signal meteors from the local hilltop and fail miserably (a necessary idiotic trigger for the coup attempt to go ahead so we can see our hero fight and defeat an army on his own).
Curiously, Yoo Ji-Sun (Shin Hyun-Bin) has almost completely disappeared from sight. She’s trailing round doing vague detective work, trying to follow people to find where the gunpowder is being stored. It’s a major fall from grace. Originally it looked as if she was going to be a star player, but she turned into a wallflower. Meanwhile Yeo Woon, the man who has been doing everything for his love of this wilting flower, is playing a deep game, shuttling between Hong Dae-Joo and Queen Jungsoon (Keum Dan-Bi) working out the details of the coup. So when the “meteors” fall from the sky, battalions of soldiers and assassins converge on the Palace. Fortunately, Baek Dong-Soo climbs over a wall (note to designers of palaces that five-feet walls are not a good defence against infiltration) and becomes a one-man killing machine until he gets tired. At this point, Yeo Woon stands back-to-back with him and they kill all that are left standing. Except, at one key moment, Hwang Jin-Joo pops up from behind a wall (she’s definitely a lot more useful to have around than the wallflower) and rescues both of them with a few well-placed arrows — she kills the musketeers who would shoot our heroes dead from a distance. This is tediously repetitious fighting and the rebellion is ludicrously easy to defeat.
Now Hong Dae-Joo and his fellow conspirators are captured, loudly proclaim how virtuous they were in trying to protect the kingdom from the son of a traitor, and are executed. This just leaves a few loose ends to tidy up. At this point, there’s a remarkable shift in tone from feel-good Korean drama sageuk to realpolitik. The standard pattern is the heroes all get the romantic endings they deserve after all the baddies have been seen off. But this recognises the impossibility of Yeo Woon’s position. As the head of an assassin organisation, he’s never going to be free of suspicion and intrigue. Indeed, the harder he tries to dissolve the organisation, the more the rank and file resist. So, in the best spirit of melodramatically silly endings, he decides to commit suicide by Baek, i.e. following in his father’s footsteps, he runs at our hero, jumps in the air and deliberately impales himself on Baek’s sword. Our hero is naturally devastated and holds his friend in his arms as he dies. This leaves Yoo Ji-Sun with no choice but to step away from the wall and hold our hero’s hand, while the always-useful-in-a-fight Hwang Jin-Joo gets to marry the soppy scholar with the artistic bent. As a final thought, it’s completely incomprehensible why Yeo Woon should save the Queen from any fallout connected to the coup.
Summing up, there are a number of running jokes. First, if any minion is touched by a sword or pricked by an arrow, it’s instant death but no accumulation of wounds slows down our main players in the heat of battle and, even if they appear seriously damaged, they are up and about the next day as if nothing had happened. Second, our heroic Baek is terminally stupid, running into fights when he’s obviously outmatched but, with consistent accuracy, the arrows of Hwang Jin-Joo save him from certain death. Quite why he never looks at this woman and wants to keep her around as his bodyguard is beyond me. Finally, Yeo Woon has an unerring radar for people about to do something they shouldn’t. As if by magic, he materialises behind them with his short sword and instantly terrifies them into agreeing to do whatever it takes to avoid death. The man is an entire organisation of enforcers rolled into one slim body with hair covering part of his face making him look mysterious.
You are therefore warned to avoid Warrior Baek Dong Soo or Musa Baek Dong Soo. At no point is Ji Chang-Wook likeable as the supposed hero Baek. Yoo Seung-Ho is marginally better as the conflicted assassin but he’s never really convincing. Most of the women are there for decoration (except for Yoon So-Yi who can beat any man apart from one of the headliners) and almost all the other men are caricatures. The only one of any interest is Choi Min-Su as Chun, the Sky Lord of the assassins who finds the young Yeo Woon and trains him as his successor. His relationship with the one-armed wonder Kim Kwang-Taek (Jeon Kwang-Leol) feels authentic even though Jeon Kwang-Leol’s passivity gets a little wearing — he really should put a hook on the end of his fishing line every time he wants to eat fish.
For reviews of the other episodes, see:
Warrior Baek Dong Soo or Musa Baek Dong Soo (2011) episodes 1 to 5
Warrior Baek Dong Soo or Musa Baek Dong Soo (2011) episodes 6 to 10
Warrior Baek Dong Soo or Musa Baek Dong Soo (2011) episodes 11 to 15
Warrior Baek Dong Soo or Musa Baek Dong Soo (2011) episodes 16 to 20
Warrior Baek Dong Soo or Musa Baek Dong Soo (2011) episodes 21 to 25