Saving Prince Jehyeon
Episode 20 of The King’s Affection begins with Hwi and Ji-Un shocked by Lord Sangheon being freed. Hyun rushes into the room with a scripture, a poem that Lord Wonsan wrote in the past. However, his use of the word “moonlight” is code for his treason. Specifically on the day of the coronation.
Upon hearing this, Hwi has Jehyeon’s coronation immediately postponed, with Hwi making sure the Prince is escorted to safety by Hyun. Hwi promises that nothing will happen to him and encourages the boy to leave.
Fighting for the crown
Meanwhile, fighting breaks out in the palace. With Lord Sangheon (Ki-Jae) walking purposefully in the midst of all this; his secret army comes face to face with Hwi’s loyal guard. Both groups square off, with Hwi standing toe to toe with all these men and fighting her own battles. It’s ironic because Ki-Jae hangs back and watches.
The soldiers target Hwi predominantly, but Ji-Un comes to her rescue before she’s bested. With everything looking bleak, a whole horde of soldiers come rushing in to help. And the man leading them? Jung Seok-Jo, Ji-Un’s father. If you’ll remember, he was sent out to supervise these soldiers last episode, but he returns at the right time to prove his worth.
Does Ji-Un’s father survive the battle?
He protects Hwi and tells her to stay someplace safe, deciding to take this fight on himself. “Stay alive. You’re not forgiven yet,” She says, before taking off with Court Lady Kim, Eunuch Hong and Ji-Un. The latter though, stays behind to fight alongside his father.
When we catch up with him a bit later in the episode, Seok Jo is badly injured. In the heat of the battle, Ki-Jae makes his move and stabs Seok-Jo in the gut. It’s a callous and cowardly move, but as this proud soldier bleeds out on the floor, Ji-Un drops and stays by his father’s side.
As blood dribbles out of his mouth, Seok-Jo tells his son not to forgive him. As he mumbles Ji-Un’s name, the man passes away. A noble death for a man that was very much on the wrong side of this conflict for long stretches of the season.
What happens to Prince Jehyeon?
Elsewhere, Hyun has his own battle to attest to. On the way out the palace with the Prince, he’s blindsided by his brother. He’s held up at swordpoint and outnumbered. Just before Jehyeon meets a bloody demise, the Queen Dowager shows with a bow and arrow. Wonsan is too smart though and soon thwarts her threat, instead having the Queen Dowager taken inside. And just like that, he turns and slashes Prince Jehyeon across the chest. Good grief! Hyun is shocked and promises never to forgive his brother for this act.
With the lifeless body of the Prince brought into the palace, Hwi sees the young boy dead and is heartbroken. After all, she promised him that everything would be okay. She’s reeling, and even more so when Ji-Un appears, distraught and covered in blood.
Hwi’s Big Decision
With little other choice, Hwi stands by her morals and decides to confront her grandfather and concede the throne to Wonsan. She doesn’t want any more bloodshed and believes this could save lives. Before she leaves, Hwi requests a hairpin from Ji-Un. She promises to stay alive for long enough to allow him to do that, as Hwi touches his cheek and tells the man that she loves him.
Meanwhile, Ki-Jae arrives before Prince Wonsan and makes sure his men save his life no matter what. He’s going to take over as King and, of course, be the new puppet for him to control. For now, the pair (and their army of course) meet Hwi and her survivors out in the courtyard. There, she concedes the throne and implores him not to sacrifice anyone else.
Ki-Jae & Hwi’s Confrontation
As they sit together, Hwi is brought a broth from the physician. She knows exactly what this means and before she dies, decides to drink a cup of tea with Ki-Jae. Her smirk though tells a very different story. Now, it turns out Court Lady Kim actually spiked the tea with her grandfather’s poison. Holding the woman’s hands, she told Kim kindly that she considers her to be like a mother and implores her to do this, knowing she could well die as a result. Hwi essentially sacrifices herself to save the kingdom.
The pair of them begin coughing up blood after drinking their cups, with Ki-Jae eventually collapsing and doubling over. Just before Hwi succumbs to the poison, Ji-Un comes rushing in and holds his lover.
As she fades out of consciousness, her beautiful dream soon turns to a horrible nightmare, left alone outside in the gardens.
How does Hwi survive the poisoning?
However, Hwi survives her poisoning and awakens to find her grandfather is not so lucky. He’s died as his heart wasn’t strong enough to fight this off. Now, it’s not initially clear upon first glance how she survived. So naturally this reviewer rewatched the scene several times to be sure!
The camera never actually shows Hwi pouring her own tea. For her grandfather, the tea is almost at the top of the cup. For Hwi, there’s a delay while tipping the cup into her mouth before she slurps.
Based on this, one could assume that she did drink the tea but potentially with a half-cup or even just with a little splash down the bottom, allowing her to fight off a smaller dose of poison.
With the help of the physicians at the palace, she may well have had extra help and given antidotes to stop the poison spreading so quickly.
What punishment does Hwi receive?
With the conflict over, Ji-Un and Hwi embrace and allow themselves to feel the weight of the world ease slightly. Ki-Jae is not to be buried and he’s given a dishonorable death, taken outside the palace gates and presumably left to the crows.
Now, given everyone believes that Hwi is dead, if she changes that and declares herself to be alive, there will be big punishments for impersonating the King.
The Queen Dowager decides to do a kindness by Hwi. She agrees to keep her identity a secret in exchange for Hwi living a quiet life. Now, our court maid has never been one to shy away from her responsibilities. She’s done pretending to be someone she’s not. Too many people have died and this could be used against her.
Instead, Hwi is going to face the music and atone for whatever punishment is coming her way.
At the meeting, a few of the ministers actually side with Hwi. Despite her gender, she’s always done what’s right for the nation and for that alone, they believe she deserves some leniency.
Eventually this leads to all the other officials dropping to their knees and pleading with the new King to have mercy. Well, the King decides to give her old life back, erasing the records of what happened in the court and allowing her to be free.
How does The King’s Affection end?
With order back in the court, and all our supporting characters happy and content, we cut across to Hwi (who is now using the name Yeon-Seon) and Ji-Un, who are out hunting together. They’re living the simple life just like they always wanted.
As they head down to the shore, the pair embrace and kiss under the falling sun for the day. The sun sparkles like diamonds off the water as Ji-Un promises to be by her side.
Walking up the shore though are our supporting characters, including Court Lady Kim, Eunuch Hong and Ga-On who are joined by Hyun as they greet our main characters once more.
The Episode Review
The King’s Affection bows out with a really solid finale, rounding out all our big plot points with a heavy amount of action and excitement in the first half of the episode. This entire segment was brimming with tension too.
Seeing Jehyeon and Ji-Un’s father both killed was pretty shocking, although the latter was perhaps foreshadowed given what happened before. In fact, I’d actually say his death is quite reminiscent of Boromir’s from Lord of the Rings, sacrificing himself and redeeming his character at the end. It’s a great send-off to a man that’s largely stuck to his principles – even if they’re mired in shades of grey.
The ending with Hwi and Ji-Un is suitably predictable but also a little contrived with the poison. I genuinely thought they were going to go the route of killing Hwi to show how futile gender is in the grand scheme of things. However, keeping her alive does make sense, even if her surviving the poisoning isn’t completely explained. However, I’ve done my best to try and explain this away in the recap above!
Out of all the historical dramas this year, King’s Affection is arguably the one that’s managed to maintain an air of enthusiasm and intrigue from start to finish. The romance has been well worked into the story and there’s some great character development across the chapters too.
In the end, this historical k-drama bows out with a satisfying final episode, rounding everything out with a neat little bow while not dragging out its story unnecessarily.