The new weekender on MBC following The Marriage Contract, The Flower in Prison has all the necessary ingredients as an entertaining sageuk. It is no surprise of course, considering Show is penned by the same writer behind Jumong, IRIS, Midas etc. The director is also a veteran in directing sageuks, PD Lee Byung Hoon of Jewel in the Palace (or Dae Jang Geum), so I have no doubts that Show is in good hands, at least in the technical aspects. What’s worrying is the actress playing the titular character, the Flower in prison: Ok-nyeo (Jin Se Yeon). I haven’t really seen her act (except in Bridal Mask and Age of Innocence), but man, was she still as green as ever despite being the female lead in several dramas.
The good thing is, the first two episodes of Show is about Ok-nyeo’s teenage years, played by Jung Da Bin. From the promo materials I thought Ok-nyeo’s mother was a criminal, hence Ok-nyeo being born in the prison. The truth can’t be any further than that, as her parents were being chased by some unknown assailants, who we eventually learn were sent by Yoon Won Hyung (Jung Joon Ho). The reason being killing her parents are unknown as of yet, but eventually Ok-nyeo’s mother ended up being brought to the prison by chance, after being injured by one of the assailants. Ok-nyeo was born shortly after, and her mother died in childbirth (and/or from her sword wounds).
We then fast-forward to 15 years later, Ok-nyeo is all grown up and working as the youngest damo in the prison. Everyone, prison staff and and prisoners alike, dotes on Ok-nyeo. She’s observant, smart, thinks quick on her feet and eager to learn. Much like every other female protagonist in any other sageuks. Anyway, her good nature and intelligence got her into the good books of Yoon Won Hyung (of course, all sageuks must have the fate of the villains and the protagonist tied in as many ways as possible) eventually.
Ok-nyeo ends up being kidnapped by some bandits who thought she is Yoon’s daughter. They did so in hopes of blackmailing Yoon in getting their leader released from prison, but little did they know that not only did they got the wrong girl, Yoon had no intention of releasing the captured bandit leader and even brought forward his execution by a day. The prison ahjusshi who brought Ok-nyeo up desperately tried to find ways and means to rescue her, as the bandits will definitely kill Ok-nyeo since their blackmail failed.
Having been through life and death at a young age, Ok-nyeo is more mature than her age as Show never fail to prove it over and over again in the span of just two episodes. I think Ok-nyeo will be no different from Dae Jang Geum: achieving what will be otherwise impossible for females to do in 16th century Joseon. It’s a tried and tested formula that worked 10 years ago but I’m not sure about now, especially when a much weaker actress is playing the titular character. The story is interesting enough (since it set at the era of Queen Munjeong (Kim Mi Sook) and the rampant corruption she and her relatives commit) at this moment, and we have a strong ensemble, so I hope all these will be able to help Jin Se Yeon carry her character better.