Lady Maeda as a character was woefully under-explored in Gyeongseong Creature parts 1 and 2. She was the one who started off the entire story by having Myeong Ja kidnapped. Later, we also discovered that she was the one who started the operation in the hospital. But in so many ways, she remains an enigma and not the good kind. Before we try to understand her further, we have to admit that the writer did not do justice to the women of the series, as in, they did not write them well. So many things about Lady Maeda were omitted, maybe to be included in a second season later, but their exclusion was a disservice to possibly the most interesting character of the show. While trying to understand Lady Maeda, there will be some guesswork and a few theories to make up for the gaps in the information and also to build up a villain that we did not get enough of.
When Lady Maeda is first spoken about in the series, she is referred to as the most powerful woman in Gyeongseong. Tae Sang feels the need to listen to her because he needs her power and protection. Tae Sang’s business was already well-known across the town, and Maeda never needed Tae Sang’s services. We were first under the impression that Maeda simply let Tae Sang be and called upon him whenever she needed an artifact procured or anything such. Their relationship was far from symbiotic, and it was a case of Tae Sang being in her good books for his business.
Lady Maeda had Myeong Ja thrown in Ongseong Hospital because she was her husband’s mistress and was pregnant with his child. The audience assumed this was a case of simple jealousy and Maeda being diabolical to protect her marriage. But in Gyeongseong Creature Part 2, it is revealed that Maeda and Ishikawa only had a marriage on paper. Ishikawa needed Maeda’s family name, and Maeda needed to be married to live in peace and go about her job, considering the cultural climate of those times. Maeda and Ishikawa were never shown to have any children of their own, and that may have been a joint decision, considering their lack of affection for each other and their personal ambitions. Another possibility is that they were once a traditional couple who had a normal marriage, though it started because of mutual benefits. With time, they decided that the marriage was better off being only on paper.
We suspect that Maeda may have tried to have children. Maeda comes across as a privileged woman who dearly held on to her prejudices and beliefs because they are what justified her power. She needed a husband because that made her ‘better’ than unmarried women. She was Japanese, and that made her ‘more powerful’ than the people of Joseon. Therefore, if she had a child, her life would be perfect on paper, and Maeda definitely cared about that, which is why we are sure that she must have once tried to have children. For whatever reason, that did not materialize. Many years later, Maeda saw that her husband’s mistress was pregnant. Perhaps Maeda was not just attacking Myeong Ja for the family honor but because this was a special kind of heartbreak for her to see what she ‘deserved’ (a baby) to be with someone else. We suspect that this could be why Maeda betrayed her friend (Chae Ok’s mother) and turned her into a monster. If Maeda needed to find someone for the experiment, she could have gone after anyone. But targeting her friend must be an act of revenge or deliberate cruelty. Maybe Maeda did not like that her ‘ordinary’ friend had a child, whereas she, who considered herself superior, did not, so she punished her by turning her into a monster. Maeda says to Chae Ok that a woman of Joseon ‘does not have the right to expect good things or a dignified life.’ This attitude may have first been suffered by Chae Ok’s mother.
Maeda fell in love with Tae Sang. She must have loved him before, because if she wanted to capture him, the gun in his shaky hand in the hospital was not enough to dissuade her. Maeda selflessly nursed him back to health, and all this time, maybe she wasn’t actually expecting anything to happen between them. Maeda was a much older woman who had lived most of her life without knowing love or affection. Pursuing something with Tae Sang may be too risky, and even the idea brings an assurance of heartbreak. Therefore, Maeda probably settled with the mentality that if she couldn’t have him, then nobody else could. That is why she wanted to kill him and Chae Ok, and previously, she tried to turn him against his people by listing their betrayals. Even at the last minute, she tried to act as if his team was still betraying him. That was unnecessary, and Maeda was being viciously petty.
At the end of Gyeongseong Creature, Maeda’s face was disfigured because of the fire that Tae Sang had set off as revenge. The Japanese had lost, and Joseon had regained its independence. Maeda was a widow, and the only life left for her was to go back to Japan and live in solitude. But a person like Maeda will never be complacent if they believe they have lost. Maeda had lost a lot of things, and she wouldn’t be satisfied until she left her culprits in a worse state than herself.
Maeda is given a choice as to whether she will go to Japan or stay back and help the scientist with whatever he is doing. If Maeda’s help is being asked for, that means she must have something to offer, which in this case must be money. If Maeda decides to stay back, she will help the scientist understand and work with Myeong Ja’s monster baby. That would also fulfill one of Maeda’s long-held dreams of having a child of her own, and the fact that he is part monster would suit Maeda just fine. The second option is that Maeda herself may become a monster by drinking the Najin. However, Maeda would probably not be willing to let go of her senses, especially when that is one of the last weapons she has left. A final probability is that the cup we saw near her was not water or Najin but poison. Maybe Maeda feels defeated, and the only thing that her pride will allow her to do is commit suicide. That would be an unfortunate turn of events since it would be interesting to see more of her in Gyeongseong Creature season 2, should there be one.