(photo courtesy of Yoo Ah In for he uploaded onto Twitter)
Ok. So this half a trainwreck of a drama is finally over. I blame the super slow pacing in the beginning, which left virtually no breathing room in the latter half for better character developments.
The WTF-is-the-purpose-of-the-character award of the first half of 2013 in K-drama should go to Jae Hee’s Chi Soo. I seriously have no idea what is the purpose of his character, despite being touted as the second male lead, but in the end that position was being taken over by Lee Sang Yeob’s Prince Dong Pyeong. Chi Soo is like, one of the most delusional second lead I’ve ever seen. He thinks that by trying to cause harm to Jang Hee Bin she will be deposed and then she will be his is the worst ever course of action.
And then we had KARA’s Seung Yeon as Choi Sukbin, the evil version, as opposed to what was painted in Dong Yi. Her appearance in this drama is not only late, but very contrieved. I do like that when she said she’s here in the palace to steal, it resonates with her character’s brief behaviour in the first episode, but that’s it. There’s no further development of her character, only as a plot device. The other idol actress in this drama, Dal Shabet’s Ah Young, played a character who was blink and you missed her. Princess Myung Ahn, I don’t know why she’s included in the script. Producers, please. Don’t include idol actresses/actors just for the sake of it and create characters that last only 10 minutes in the 24 hours of the drama.
The first half of the drama was pretty solid, with a love story that one does not necessarily have to identify with, but is pretty to look at nonetheless. The shots are usually colorful, especially in the beginning where Ok Jung (Kim Tae Hee) was still managing her own business. It is strange, as javabeans and girlfriday had mentioned in their latest podcast, that everyone was so modern, from something physical like the catwalks, to behaviors of the characters, but I accepted these because this drama was supposed to be a retake on a (in)famous historical character. I do not expect major historical happenings to be omitted (as per some viewers wished Ok Jung did not have to die in the end), but I expected creative answers and explanations as to why Ok Jung did what she supposedly did.
But no. I was badly disappointed. It all started with why Ok Jung wanted to be a consort. That was when it all went wrong. I could still accept that she wanted to just be with the man she loves, but the villains were totally ridiculous. The Queen Mother (Kim Sun Kyung) was one character whom went from bad to worse, with all the classic nonsensical mother-in-law behaviors, a la bulging eyes and screechy screams. And then Ok Jung went tit-for-tat. The change in behavior in Ok Jung was abrupt and hard to swallow, and that she was supposedly gentle and sensible became yet another crazed woman.
It would had been better if the scriptwriter had planned for Ok Jung to be actually good friends with Queen In Hyun (Hong Soo Hyun), but the bff was not meant to be due to political reasons. The strange thing about Ok Jung and and In Hyun’s acquaintanceship was in the beginning, it seemed as if In Hyun was the petty one, and I seriously thought that the scriptwriter would make a daring reversal of character. Alas, I was in yet another disappointment. I guess Koreans are not too forgiving.
I question whether King Sukjong (Yoo Ah In) really loved Ok Jung. Too many times I asked myself this question when watching this drama. A lot of times it felt that Sukjong was just using her to consolidate his political power, even till the end. It wouldn’t be a surprise that he actually loved his son more than the mother.
Lastly, one peeve I had with the dialogues was that the dialogues were contrieved most of the time. It was as if the characters already knew what will happen in the future, it’s like some forewarnings, which totally got under my nerves. For goodness sake, why can’t scriptwriters stop making their characters some oracle who seems to know the future?
If only the production team was not hampered by the low ratings, perhaps this drama would have had more imagination and made Jang Ok Jung a truly tragic woman who lived to love.