This has got to be the most frustrating sageuk I’ve ever watched. Not only was the script going in nothing but circles, Jang Hyuk’s character Chun Bong-sam is so frustratingly rigid and full of himself I had nothing but curses at almost every scene that he’s in. I have to admit that I have no idea what the original manhwa was, and whether the drama is alot different from its source material, so this is purely a (rant) review of Show.
I had no idea why an extension was granted because it only resulted in more roundabout story-telling (not that we needed any more than was already around), and I felt the story is plodding forward only because of Mae-hyang’s (Kim Min Jung) crazy obsession in marrying Bong-sam. I can’t believe she was never exposed for orchestrating the murder of So Sa (Han Chae Ah), and Bong-sam actually considered marrying her for a brief moment?! Like, whatever happened to him swearing he’ll find out the truth behind So Sa’s death? So he was led to believe that Gil So Gae (Yoo Oh Sung) killed So Sa and So Gae was executed by the traders’ law for his various evil-doings, but it was his very selective choice of believing what he wants to believe that drove me nuts watching Show. It made me swear up and down that Love is a lie. Ugh.
The late introduction of Queen Myeongseong and her maternal family meddling with politics and trading within Joseon did not serve much narrative purposes, as they feel more of a peripheral to Mae-hyang’s quest to proclaim Bong-sam as hers, than to give Bong-sam a reason to be the best businessman in Joseon. Show’s promotional articles gave an impression that Bong-sam will become Daehengsoo (Chief Trader of sorts) on his own accord, but no, he was nowhere near and come to think of it, scenes of him doing business dwindled as Show dwelled on. The Songpa Stable which he took over dealt no horses, nor cowhides as the previous owner did, dabbled briefly with dried mackerel (or some fish), and then, vanished as Bong-sam somehow was elected to an in-charge of the small traders.
The last few episodes were randomly tying loose ends admist introducing last minute conflicts between Seon-dol (Jung Tae Woo) (who turns out of be some yangban offspring), Queen Myeongseong’s nephew Min Young Ik (Ahn Jae Mo) and Bong-sam. It’s always the same old tactics and somehow Bong-sam always escape unscathed, which I feel the writer wants to say that it is Bong-sam’s upright nature that saves him. I also didn’t like how Bong-sam never feels he is at fault as well when he drives people away from him, but it always appears to be the other party’s fault.
I felt the narrative strayed and focused alot more on Mae-hyang’s and So Gae’s wrong-doings, than Bong-sam’s journey to be a successul businessman, and also it felt more like a long moral education than an underdog’s story. So in then end Bong-sam became a (ethics) teacher to children of fellow traders, in a time when modernization is rapidly taking root, and Bong-sam still obstinately retains the old-fashioned ways of trading on foot. It is precisely his stubbornness and penchant for tradition that made Show a turn-off for me, because it felt alot like a propaganda story than anything. It is also Show’s illogical and needlessly meandering writing that took away the inspiration it should have for its viewers. Not worth the time spent watching (and tearing hair out).