Review – Empress Ki (Sageuks, Not Sanity!)

Review – Empress Ki (Sageuks, Not Sanity!)

I feel like the most important thing everyone should know before committing 51 hours of your life to a historical drama is this… you will never get so torn up over whether or not two people will be in the same room together as you will in these slow burn historical romances.  Just intensely looking at each other in silence turns into the most erotic of experiences.  Holding hands? Gasp!  Someone bring the fire extinguisher because you’re gonna be BURNING UP!

I know it sounds ridiculous.  It really defies reason, in this day and age, that we can revert back to grade school romance so quickly, no matter how old we are… but such is the power of the historical drama.  Such is the power of Empress Ki.  There is literally a scene where two grown men are fighting over who is going to covertly hold a woman’s hand in a dark room and the stakes have never been higher!  Who will win?  Which hand will she hold?!  I imagine a bookie is literally taking bets from an excited audience at this point (“$15 on the Emperor!” – “Put me down for $100 on Wang Yu!”) – cause it’s like… what… episode 17 and it’s hard to explain but by then you’re just INTO IT and you’re ready to scream “Chuna!” and “Kill Me!” and the spell has been cast.  You are committed to these characters and their stories and this love triangle is EVERYTHING – it’s not just about two men and a woman, it’s about two countries fighting for power and you know this woman is going to be key… but it’s also about love and you kinda want her to lean left, no right, no left, no right!  Curses!  They’re both so awesome!   And deep down you know you’ll probably sit through 51 hours of this show and never even get any tongue, cause if Queen Seondeok taught us anything, it’s that you’re going to have to take those chapters to the fan fiction forums.  Does that stop you from chewing your nails off as the intensity between these people increases?  Hell no!  Cause… we’ve got mega intense hand holding happening here!  And who knows what might be next… there could be a dramatic rescue scene or some heartbreaking sacrifice or… a hug… oh my god, they might hug!  THERE COULD BE HUGGING!!!  And that might as well be uncensored porn, because that’s how rewired your brain has become watching these shows.  I say this without irony.  This really happens.

And while watching something this long… you may be tempted to start skimming.  DO NOT DO THIS.  You can skim all you want the second time you watch it, but the first time it is vital that you watch it – every scene – just as it is.  The pacing is important.  The details are important.  The people are important.  And yeah… it’s freakin’ crazy long.  So take a break if you need to – watch another drama and come back to it.  You do not have to binge Empress Ki.  I watched about 32 episodes of this before I had to stop – and then I didn’t return for a while. When I did return, the last chunk of eps flew by with babies, deaths, madness and intrigue.  I’m glad I took a break, though – cause even with the break, that’s still a heck of a lot of time to spend with one show.  After a while, you kinda start to get wonky.  But hey… I don’t need sanity, I need Sageuks!

Empress Ki is bound to live on for some time as one of the great historical dramas… and it is well deserved.  The character development alone is worth the price of admission.  The amazing acting, the incredible sets, the drool inducing costumes… it was a work of art.

Empress Ki is divided into two sections – PRE CONCUBINE Eps 1-24 and POST CONCUBINE eps 25-51.  Both sections are cool.  There are also “two houses” in this play… and two men, both the heads of each, vying for the same women.

I felt like my grandmother was in the room lecturing on me on the importance of finding a man who “needs me” over a man who “wants me.”  According to grandmother, a woman who is needed is never taken for granted and will always live a happier life.  I’m not sure if that’s true – but this show was definitely the perfect example of a man who Needs You and a man who Wants You.  The Emperor needed her.  And the King wanted her.  Let’s face it, though… it feels nice to have either type of love… and to have both, well… that’s kinda the plot.

Overall Rating – 9/10.  To Be Needed Is To Be Loved.

More musings… and SPOILERS

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Review – Hwarang

Review – Hwarang

So, I knew going into this it was going to be cute guys and silliness and romance and hopefully a pretty decent plot.  I expected to be won over with non-stop light amusement, an occasional tear, some excellent bromance, and cool costumes.  I was not disappointed.

The writers of this show, thankfully, paid attention to the success & failures of other ensemble shows featuring a heavy cast of men and managed to not make the same mistakes.  Instead, they repeated the tropes we love (estranged brothers coming together, best friends with loyalties tested, sons having to stand up to the tyrannies of their fathers, the injustices of the caste system, and so on) and made them shine.  We got our favorite stereotypes (the flirty guy, the stern guy, the sincere guy, the girlish guy) and of course our main love triangle where the two dudes invariably end up besties.  Honestly, there isn’t much to review.  It was a good with just the right amount of drama to keep you interested but not enough to make you lose sleep.  20 hours flew by.  It had synchronized dancing and “nightclubs” and political scheming and secret identities.  The female characters were enjoyable and interesting, even the bitchy ones, and I actually can’t find anything major to complain about.

Everyone pretty much loved this show and I pretty much loved this show too.  If you haven’t seen it yet – go ahead and pop it in your que.  It’s not my favorite historical drama, but it’s definitely up there in the top ten.

Though all the men in this show were charming and you’ll end up adoring them all, I looooooved Go Ara.  She was the best thing about You Are All Surrounded and she saved this show as well, if you ask me.  The two male leads were excellent (and handsome), but it was her hysterical facial expressions, her playfulness, and her natural stage presence and comedy that brought the love triangle together and kept my interest.

Overall Rating – 8/10.  Lots & Lots Of Handsome Young Men… In A Good Historical Drama (need we say more?).

Review – Painter of the Wind

Review – Painter of the Wind

This is less of a review and more of me expressing my frustration over this drama.  The costuming, the cinematography, the sets, the actors – all fantastic.  The music was wonderful.  It offered a nice twist on the cross-dressing girl trope.  You had a lady  disguised as a dude so she could perfect her artistic skills and study the craft under the masters.  There’s some royal conspiracies and a lot of fuss about a portrait of the prince, all of which was rather underwhelming and generic “historical political” hoopla.

My problem is this:  Our female lead didn’t come across as a girl pretending to be a guy, in the style of this tried and true K-Drama trope.  She came off as a cute, artistic lesbian.  Thus my exasperation with this show.  Painter of the Wind should have embraced its obvious natural direction and  gone gay.  The entire show felt like an indie coming-of-age lesbian drama, but failed to fully embrace its already deliciously implied girl-girl romance and instead meandered around with an old man artist and attempted to go straight.  Don’t they remember the lesson from art class… that if the straight line is long enough eventually it will curve?  Come on!

 

Overall Rating – 2/10 For Not Coming Out of the Closet.

or…

Overall Rating – 8/10 If You Ignore The Lesbians And Watch It Straight.  This is probably the more fair rating – cause it really is a lovely drama and the subject of old school painters is very interesting and beautiful to explore.  But… I just can’t.  Cause this is my blog and my review and fair is for love and war.  And this is war!

More bitching and moaning and some sexy photo stills and SPOILERS follow.

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Review – Warrior Baek Dong Soo (I can’t quit you!)

Review – Warrior Baek Dong Soo

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The Plot, Short Version:  Two young warriors choose two different paths and swords clash.

Though I still don’t think this is a perfect drama and stick firmly to my 8/10 rating, I must confess… the rewatch factor on this show is HIGH.  I have rewatched this show several times.  Maybe not all the way through, true, but I’ve cherry picked my favorite episodes and scenes and tend to crave them like a pregnant woman craving pickles.  Nothing else will do.

Let’s Dig In.  (minor spoilers follow)

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Review – Scholar Who Walks The Night

Review – Scholar Who Walks the Night

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Supernatural historical dramas are some of my favorites.  Even though I have yet to see one with a really solid plot, I always enjoy them.  You would think that a drama about trying to overthrow an ancient vampire who lives in an underground lair beneath the royal palace and secretly controls the Joseon monarch would be fantastic.  Eh.

Okay, maybe the plot was a little boring sometimes.  I mean, how many secret diaries does it take to kill a vampire, am I right?  But did that spoil my enjoyment of this show?  Nope.  Still loved it.  Why?  Cause vampires, that’s why!  Who doesn’t love a good vampire story?  Throw in a pretty girl disguised as a boy (love that trope!) and some romance and I’m hooked.  Add an incredibly sexy evil vampire as the bad guy… and I’ll pop my popcorn and settle in for a long binge watch.

Overall Rating – 8/10.  Dark Shadows of the Joseon Era.

SPOILERS FOLLOW

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Review – Scarlet Heart Ryeo

Review – Scarlet Heart Ryeo

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Scarlet Heart Ryeo… can we just cut you in half and only keep the good part?  The first 8-10 episodes of this show were solid.  They were sweepingly romantic, filled with tense political intrigue, familial love and hate, and suppressed emotions.  Though it’s a time travel story, you’d never really know it.  The female lead, our time traveler from the future, doesn’t do much other than start out a little hellion rule breaker and slowly, sadly, adjust to the past and all the impossible restrictions and repressions it affords its people, especially of the female gender.  She went from defiant and interesting to suspicious and bland… not to mention confusing.  I didn’t get her at all towards the end.  I didn’t really get anyone towards the end.  What happened?  Was Goryeo just too much for everyone?  It was too much for me, apparently.

The second half of this show, when it basically slid down a very steep hill into boring, incomprehensible emotional mush, should be stricken from the record.  If only, right?  The last few episodes were so bad, so painful to watch, that I literally lost all love for this show – which had me firmly wrapped around its fingers in the beginning only to drop me along the way like a toy forgotten.  Bah!  There’s nothing wrong with having a 10 episode show.  If you can’t sustain your drama, then cut it!

I really like Lee Joon-Gi.  He has this cute devious smile and gives us some of the firmer K-Drama kisses on the market.  Lee Ji-Eun was unknown to me before this show, but delivered a convincingly cute duck out of water until she was beaten and almost killed.  That’s really when this show started to flounder.  It’s like it felt bad about its own plot line decisions and, like someone caught in a lie, kept trying to rework the story to make us believe it… but the longer it babbled on, the more we knew it was b.s.

Overall Rating 5/10.  Battling princes that only want to play until halftime.  First half was excellent (9/10 good, really), second half pure Sageuk garbage.

Review – Queen Seon Duk

Review – Queen Seon Duk

THE GREAT QUEEN SEON DUK

If this show wasn’t so long, it might be the greatest thing to ever come out of South Korea.  Of course, if it wasn’t so long it might not be so darned epic and unforgettable.  Curse you, conundrums!  This show can be effectively divided into two sections:  Pre-Queen and Post-Queen.  Half of the show depicts the young life of Deokman and her struggle to raise herself to royal status.  The second half is what happens when she gets it.

In my opinion, everyone should watch this show.  Wait til you have the flu and a few days off work, if you must.  But watch it.  The “Mishil” music is still played in current dramas as a gag reference all the time.  It’s a staple of K-World.

Overall Rating:  10/10 – near perfection period-piece epic with romance, action, betrayal, friendship, rivalry, political intrigue, and unforgettable characters – it’s a massive commitment of time that will ultimately leave you deeply satisfied and possibly traumatized for life.

Now come cozy up beside me and let’s talk about why this show completely rocks my socks, shall we?

———————— MASSIVE SPOILERS & RATINGS FOLLOW ————————–

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