This, I did not expect to like or love. But it turns out the writing does have its certain merits, at least substance and plot-wise. It’s not all about cheesy glossy visuals, not just about romance, but has a lot more to tell. There’s a deepening sense of plot behind the veil, politics come into play, and the characters are actually well thought out.
I had my qualms about this drama (obviously Kim Tae Hee being one the of main reasons we all know). The first ep didn’t leave with me a very good impression, the editing was sloppy, acting made me uncomfortable (I nearly considered Yoo Ah In and Sang Yeob miscasts because of their somewhat forceful expressions in certain scenes) and I just couldn’t get into the characters or story at all. Kim Tae Hee was surprisingly least of my gripes and concern. She isn’t entirely convincing in her sageuk performance, and still has her eye-bulging to annoy when she goes overboard, but she’s generally still watchable. Yes, she’s watchable. In a sageuk.
Ep 2/3 changed the course of things a bit, and credit no doubt goes to these 2 young kids Kang Min Ah and Chae Sang Woo who played young Ok Jeong and Suk Jong. Their backstory hooked me right off the bat, with acting and chemistry that clicked. Suk Jong was written in such broad strokes and played so adorably and lovely by the young boy (he impressed me a lot as the young king in Queen In Soo as well), and Ok Jeong, her perseverance and strength intensified by an endearing performance given by Kang Min Ah. How often do the kiddies part make me want more in a drama? I usually commend the Korean kids for their above par acting compared to most of their age outside the country, but unless you’re Yeo Jin Goo, I generally want them off quick to make way for the adults. Here I wanted more of the them. Their encounter, though brief and predictable, packed emotional punches, more effectively than let’s say Moon Sun’s or even the recent IOM’s.
Ep 4 marks a good turn for the drama (at least for me), and I say it owes that a lot to the tight writing and the gradual settling in of the actors (especially Yoo Ah In). It’s still not a sageuk of fine quality, and the somewhat jumpy editing still bothers me. But the characters start to emit distinctive and unique charms, their motivations and thoughts more so reflected through their actions. I’m starting to dig the whole political play between Suk Jong and the King’s ministers, his ambitious aims to make a better Joseon, and even his flirtatious manipulative ways around Ok Jeong. His character is richly structured, with such broad characterisation, that can either go both ways good or bad. A calm front with a storm burning inside and urging to break out.
Drama is definitely for Ok Jung, but I dare say Suk Jong is already or rather, has already stolen her thunder. Yoo Ah In is settling better and better into his character, and has already shown some gripping and heart-rendering moments thru out in Ep 4 alone. I still feel uncomfortable with some of his over-stretched “sugary” expressions, if you get what I mean, but when he explodes or implodes, you see it and you get it. He’s got the right poise for this character, I already love him by the end of Ep 4, hook sink and liner.
I’m still not all that invested in Suk Jong and Ok Jeong’s romance, but I can’t deny the chemistry between them. It’s like watching young SJ and OJ all over again, their interactions, the bouncing of ideas and opinions between them, the actors actually click each other pretty well (which is why I never take the noona-doongsaeng OTP pairing for granted now, you can still look like a baby next to noona and still rawk that OTP chemistry together). Now I’m hoping for more of Suk Jong and In Hyun’s scenes, just to see how she’ll fit into the story. She intrigues me a tad more than OJ because she doesn’t seem to be all black or white, but rather grey with intentions of her own. I can’t seem to like her because of her somewhat ignorant attitude, but I don’t hate her either for she does show empathy in certain scenes. Her relationship with Suk Jong is also something I’m really looking forward to because of the political play behind the scenes. No hope for her getting the man in drama, but at least give me the fire and bitch in her, the actress rawks it better than anyone.
And last, what better than to have the legendary Im Jae Bum sing for drama?
I’m so on board for now.
credits: poster/pics credits / youtube