Hwa-Goon & Gon
One of the dramas I finished most recently was Ruler: Master of the Mask. For me it was one of the most emotional drama experiences I’ve had (besides Fated to Love You starring Jang Hyuk). That was due mainly to the above mentioned characters. Even though Hwa-Goon was the second female lead and Gon was a character who barely spoke more that 4 sentences the entire series their story was the one that grabbed me the most.
For those who haven’t watched the show and are planning to, be warned, there are spoilers ahead!!
So first some backstory.
Hwa-Goon is the granddaughter of the man who is essentially the most evil power hungry character in the show (I have days of commentary about all of these characters to be honest). Our first encounter with her she is being her sassy self with the queen and proceeds to sneak off to the royal garden that is forbidden to all but the crown prince. Upon seeing his face the penalty is death. The crown prince is in the garden and quickly hides her from the guard checking in on him, thus saving her life and making her fall deeply in love with him. This one sided love lasts until her death.
In order to gain more power for herself to protect the things she loves (namely the crown prince, who her crazy grandfather has determined to kill) she asks for Gon for her birthday. He is the most powerful assassin that her grandfather’s organization has. From this first moment you can tell that he has a deep emotional connection to her, and perhaps always has. Hwa-Goon makes him swear allegiance to only herself, regardless of what her grandfather will do, he agrees to serve her.
In the latter part of the series we see his devotion to her as he goes through beatings without incriminating her in any way, the night he stops her from attending the Crown Prince’s initiation into her grandfather’s organization because he wants to protect her life, and finally his acceptance to help the crown prince on her behalf while she embarks on a mission that will claim her life.
We also see Hwa-goon’s absolute devotion to the crown prince, a man she sees as good and honorable. She throws away any of her own ambition and ideas and does everything in order to help, protect, and save him, ultimately sacrificing her life so he can escape her grandfather’s henchman and return to his rightful place on the throne.
Two of the scenes that stand out the most to me are:
- The moment that Hwa-Goon determines to burn down the field of deadly flowers and remove all of her grandfather’s power, thus cutting off everything he loves, the same way he did to her. As she stands in the field of burning flowers with a smile on her face she steals in a single blow all that her grandfather has built, you can’t help but feel moved. She has determined to live her life in her own way and to achieve her own goals. With the help of her loyal Gon-a she is able to do just that. The crown prince is saved, and she dies thinking of him and what she has just accomplished.
- The second scene is when Gon is sitting beside her after she has died. Her father comments on his lack of humanity and when her father leaves the room, tears enter Gon’s eyes. A side of himself that no one can see, but perhaps her. (Hwa-Goon must have seen the emotion in his eyes as he looked at her throughout her life.) His last words directly to her, a promise that he will live serving her. In that moment he will not let her death be in vain and he does as he has always done, living his life for someone else. But unlike working in service of her grandfather, this sacrifice is made in love, giving him purpose and determination.
Though both characters had a one-sided love, each loved with all their hearts. Gon knew that Hwa-Goon was satisfied in her death because the person she loved would live on, and he promised to follow her orders until the day he died, resulting in him becoming a palace guard and the man who helped save the crown prince’s true love. Each was devoted to someone other than themselves.
I think it’s that devotion that speaks to me. Hwa-Goon’s determination to live her life as she chose and Gon’s promise that he would fulfill all those things that she had wished for.
To me this love, though tragic, was such a heartwarming and heart wrenching portrayal. I mean these two characters made me cry (I don’t cry at movies or shows except in extreme cases), they inspired me with their ability to overcome the shadows and darkness in their own lives and live in a way that was bright and honorable. They brought needed strength to the crown prince’s team of misfits trying to get the real and rightful king back on the throne.
The fact that these two (who barely got half as much screen time as the rest) made me so emotional is a testament to their acting ability and the fantastic writing. (Also I’m not going to lie, I totally cheered every time Gon came on screen. These two are my favorites ever.) As far as character motivations, yes each of them sometimes did the wrong thing, but that is what makes them so triumphantly human to me.
And if I had to pick a love story for myself, I would hope I would pick one where I would love with all my heart.