Home > River Where the Moon Rises > Recap: The River Where the Moon Rises Episode 1

Recap: The River Where the Moon Rises Episode 1

We are checking out River Where the Moon Rises, and so far I really like it! I love the clothes and the setting and how it kind of reminds me a bit of Conan the Barbarian (which I loved watching growing up!). It has an Arthdal Chronicles feeling to it too, so if you enjoyed that show, you might enjoy this opening episode as well.


Character Chart: River Where the Moon Rises

This episode started off with an epic large scale battle. Pyung-gang and On Dal are fighting in this battle. It might be a final battle, we don’t know. Pyung-gan is looking for On Dal in the battle. She finally finds him at the end. He has a shoulder injury but he is alive. He tells her, we won. She kisses him.

Then we rewind several years to a young princess Pyung-gang in the palace. It seems like there are five tribes total in the country, and the palace rules over them all. However, their palace is not respected by the top three tribes. Because of this, the Gye-ru tribe along with the top two other tribes takes over the salt trade from the palace. It is something the King does not want to do, but he has to do.

The Queen wants to tour the country and visit her father in order to build respect for the Kingdom. But this is overheard by the Concubine Jin-bi. Her and Go Won-pyo scheme to get the Queen killed by making the King believe she is having an affair with a former lover. The Princess, Pyung-gan, overhears this, but does not tell anyone at first because she is threatened by Go Won-pyo.

Instead, she decides to train to fight with a sword by Won-pyo’s son, Go Gun.

They leave the palace and are on their way to the Queen’s father’s tribe. They pass by the Soon-no tribe. Here we meet On-hyeob who is the chief of the tribe and general of the country Goguryeo. His son is O Dal. His son wants his sword so the chief tells him he has to save a person instead of kill a person in order to be a real chief. So he gives him a task to pull him up a cliff. If he drops the rope, then the chief will die.

On Dal drops the rope, but the chief does not die. However, he does break the sword and buries it at an important place. It was mostly a lesson that he gave to On Dal on how to be a good leader. 

The Queen gets to Soon-no tribe and the story really gets going because Concubine Jin-bi and Chief Go Won-pyo have successfully convinced the King that his wife is sleeping with a former general who is now a monk. They did this by hiding a fake love letter and reminding him that his oldest child was born early. The King is convinced and orders for her and the monk to be killed.

Won-pyo takes an army to the Soon-no tribe to have the Queen killed.

In the Soon-no tribe, the Queen tries to convince On-hyeob to attack and defeat Go Won-pyo. At that same meeting, Pyung-gang tells her mother and Chief On-hyeob what she overheard. The mother instantly knows that this is really bad and she needs to go back to the palace. 

However, it is too late. Go Won-pyo has attacked first and has already reached the Soon-no tribe. They say the entire tribe is coup and everyone will be killed. The King and Queen see this first hand. But instead of running, the Queen stays and reveals herself. 

But before she does that, the chief tells his son, On Dal, to take the princess safely to the monk in the mountains. The Queen gives her daughter a necklace that will help her. The chief and the Queen both stay to fight and they both die. But the chief agrees to say he is a coup person in order to protect his people from dying, even though they all know it is wrong.

On Dal is able to pull the princess to the top of a mountain for her to get to the monastery, but he falls into a river while doing it.

The Princess gets to the monastery, but it is also being attacked by soldiers. Her father is there as well and is killing everyone in order to find the monk. He looks mad.

Instead of going up to her father, a mysterious hooded man knocks her out and takes her away. The soldiers might assume that the princess is dead because they find her shoe on the edge of a cliff.

The mystery man that took Pyung-gang away, gives her a drug that appears to remove her memory. She wakes up eight years later. She is called Yeom Ga-jin now and is the #1 assassin in an assassin guild. However, she is tired of all the killing and wants out.

The boss tells her that she can only leave the guild if she kills the king. The King is a horrible King now and just wants to play with women.

So Ga-jin heads out to accomplish this mission.

On the way, she helps an adult On Dal who is trying to keep three men from cutting off a deer’s antlers. Or perhaps he is the one that originally hunted this deer, it isn’t clear.

She fights off the men and tells On Dal that he doesn’t have to thank her. He gives her a good look up in the face and tells her that he knows her.


So far so good! This show is nicely stylish which really draws my eye to the screen. It is also set in the Goguryeo period which is a period in Korean history that is not often covered in sageuks. Honestly, as cool as the Joseon period is, I have kind of had my fill of it for the time being, so it is nice to have a palate cleanser with a new period of Korean history to fall in love with.

This show feels more like a mix between Arthdal Chronicles and Conan the Barbarian or perhaps King Arthur though of course set in Korea with Korean history and period dress. I only say it reminds me of Conan the Barbarian and King Arthur because they make a big deal of a huge sword that the chief of the Soon-no tribe has which the next chief would carry. That is something that is a big trope of western historical epics of around this time period (0-500 AD?) so it reminds me of that.

I really love how the stakes are right front and center in the opening episode and how our two love interests have met and have this shared history together of both parents sacrificing themselves for the good of the country and the people. It is really a great start. Hopefully episode two continues in this vein!

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  1. Chuws
    February 17, 2021 / 4:06 am

    Many thanks for the recap!! Just checked this drama and loveed it! Ep 2 was also epic, like the storyline so far, and love the setting as well!

    • V
      February 20, 2021 / 10:21 am

      I love the setting!

  2. Titil0la
    February 17, 2021 / 6:56 am

    You are right, love the change of clothing. M actually now tired of Josean and love this new approach into Korean history. So far so good its interesting

    • V
      February 20, 2021 / 10:21 am

      Yes, I need a tiny rest from the Joseon period and this one is a nice fresh take so I am all on board so far!

  3. Sarah
    February 17, 2021 / 5:30 pm

    Thank you so much for you recap! The drama is so good!

    • V
      February 20, 2021 / 10:22 am

      You’re welcome, Sarah! We need to get episode 2 up asap. 😊

  4. Nelly
    February 27, 2021 / 4:57 am

    I got confused with one scene ,was that scene where queen hugs the ex general is just a illusion of king or is that a collection of memories by queen , like he was her past lover?

    • V
      February 27, 2021 / 11:26 am

      I feel like that might have been an illusion of the King, but I am also not sure.

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