I was telling kooriyuki that it is super possible I will be dropping Mirror anytime soon — cos it’s going into the I-feel-like-strangling-everybadi-on-screen territory. It’s not that the fantasy imbued plot isn’t intriguing, it is. But I realize (after some heavy pondering) my aversion to sageuk may have to do with the repeated motif this genre loves to use — that of women who dare to dream beyond their stations, and the dire consequences of doing so. Though I do understand that period dramas (i.e. not juz sageuks) are set in times where men dominate. And so, an ambitious woman is a threat to social order.
1. The Dowager
It is clear from the onset that the Dowager’s thirst for power is to blame for Joseun’s suffering. Our male narrator, Priest Hyun-seo, in no uncertain terms declares that it is the Dowager’s fault, for daring to over ride the system and placing her son as a puppet King on the throne. I suppose the subtext is: it is ok if a mother helps a son gains the throne, but she has to keep her hands OFF court (aka male) politics.
Which is exactly what Dowager Mummy doesn’t do. Not satisfied with juz placing her young son on the throne, she uses his “immaturity” as an excuse to rule — under the guise of a regent of sorts. Though she “hides” behind a veil, and sits obscured behind the throne, it is obvious where the power lies. The entire court of male officials are unhappy with her dabbling — but probably she is too powerful to assassinate.
2. The Black Witch
The most ambitious, and hence vile, woman in Mirror is no other than Hong-joo. We got hints that she was involved in the Dowager’s ploy to settle her son on the throne (though no concrete storyline on what transpired) and hence was banished by Hyun-seo. Again, in the barbed conversation with Hong-joo, he accuses her of causing unrest in society due to her dabbling in black magic. (yunno, like maybe the drought and famine were caused by her…)
We don’t know for sure what Hong-joo is after. But it looks like she definitely wants to be in a position where she can influence the Dowager (or Queen), and hence politics. So it isn’t far fetched when Hyun-seo accuses her of wanting to overthrow the current Joseun empire for her own gain.
Whatever the case, Hong-joo has proven herself to be a strong negative force in Mirror, and nearly every curse, suffering, disorder can be traced back to her — and her use of dark arts. (i also wanna point out that Hyun-seo isn’t below using dark arts to counter Hong-joo’s magic, since he goes around looking for a dark magic book…but it is “ok” for him, cos he is male, and he is using the arts “correctly”)
3. The White Witch
And that would be a yet untested Yeon-hee. The funniest thing is: her only transgression to date (in eps3/4) is to literally step out of her boundary of talismans which Hyun-seo has fenced her in. So what happens when she caves in to temptation to see the “outside world” instead of being a good little girl and stay put in her hut-prison? She triggers the curse on herself and her royal twin brother, causing both their hair to turn white overnight. She also strangely transmute the curse on to her foster brother, Poong-yeon. Then she causes Heo-jun to be shot by an arrow in her place, and she gets shot too. (though we are sure they won’t die, being ep4 only)
Wow. That’s a lot of punishment for disobeying your parents and breaking the “you’re-grounded” rule.