I finally finished all 29 episodes of Warrior Baek Dong Soo. It was a long and meandering journey, true to the historical drama that it was.
In my years of Korean drama addiction, I’ve tried to stay away from period series for I thought them to be boring. Lately though, some of the best ones I’ve watched have been one historical series after another.
Warrior Baek Dong Soo was one of my most recent discoveries. It had none of the usual drool-worthy Samsung gadgets, fashion eye-candies, and actors’ cute antics that make even the flimsiest storylines riveting. What it has, however, is a story with a lot of heart, centering on a warrior’s life. The travails and journey of a man who aspired to become the best swordsman of his time. It’s about blood, pain, sacrifices, transformations, and the paths people choose to take.
I hated it. And I loved it.
I hated how the good people suffered or ended up dead.
I hated how the bad guys got away with seemingly endless evil schemes and plots.
I hated how Warrior Baek Dong Soo’s best friend assassin Yeo Un lived and died without anyone truly grasping and understanding all the good things he’d done.
I hated how Baek Dong Soo and his master Sword Saint indirectly caused more suffering by letting one of the baddest characters repeatedly get away with his crimes. Following the logic of one of the oldest warfare techniques emphasizing the need to crush enemies completely, said evil character should have been put to death the first time he tried to kill the reigning best swordsman in the story.
But it was all the things I hated about this drama that made me love it as well.
I loved how the story taught lessons that transcend pain. It showed that the true measure of a person’s character lies on what he’d do with power once he’s given it. That true power can be found in one’s ability to forgive.
This was how the former Human Lord, certainly one of the vilest characters who lived in this drama, found whatever humanity he has lost for so long. The warrior he vowed to kill treated him again with kindness as he was lying betrayed and left for dead by an evil “nobleman” who has used his skills as an assassin for years.
Baek Dong Soo ultimately fulfilled his master’s wish that he surpass him. As the dying Human Lord said, he indeed became Joseon’s best swordsman – even 100 times better than his master. For in changing the heart of an evil man like him, Dong Soo proved himself capable of saving everyone.
It is said that renderings of an ancient character for Budo can both mean “the way of the Warrior” and “to stop two swords from clashing”. The greatness of a martial artist is not measured by the number of opponents he has wounded or killed. Rather, it can be found in his ability to influence harmony and achieve peace despite all the evilness thrown at him.
Warrior Baek Dong Soo exemplified this story. It was painful to watch especially for someone like me who prefers rainbows and happy endings. But it was brave enough to dish out all the possible things to hate about reality. And finishing all 29 episodes with buckets full of tears, I’d say it effectively sold its story to me.
Right now, there’s this lingering sadness and feeling of loss. I feel hollow. Like I’ve lost dear friends. Maybe because for days, all their joys and pains have also been mine.