Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 7/10
Jang Ok Jung is a famous concubine of King Suk Jong of the Joseon Dynasty. Infamous for her role in the deposition of Queen In Hyun, she has been villainized throughout history. An interesting take on a oft-told tale, this version of the history attempts to humanize Jang Hee Bin and tell her story in a new, much more empathetic way, beginning with her early (pre-palace) days and ending with her death by poison.
Script/Acting: My Rating 7/10
While the story tended to bog down at times, for the most part it was entertaining and well-told. Jang Ok Jung (Kim Tae Hee) was an intriguingly thought-provoking character, ambitious but good-hearted at the beginning, becoming hurt and vindictive and finally building character to the point of self-sacrifice. Kim Tae Hee (My Princess, IRIS) brought all these characteristics to life in a convincing fashion giving us a new take to the old Jang Hee Bin character profile.
Yoo Ah In (Fashion King, Sungkyunkwan Scandal) was also provocative as Lee Soon, the skillful and powerful King Suk Jong whose only soft spots were for Ok Jung and his trusted uncle Dong Pyung. The King’s character was an interesting mix of intense, intelligent leadership and diplomatic skill and a heart-wrenching loneliness and vulnerability that comes with power and prominence. In a very early episode hs father warns the young Lee Soon that he can trust no one but himself, and the internal struggle that he feels as he resists this concept is evident throughout the drama.
Another well-known historical character, Queen In Hyun, was played by Hong Soo Hyun (The Princess’ Man, Lie to Me). Her acting brought the needed dignity and empathy to the difficult role of the unwanted, un-loved Queen. Thankfully, the character was not a shrinking violet, hiding and weeping over the injustices done to her, but a strong, dignified woman bent on upholding the prestige of the palace. Hong Soo Hyun often plays rather unsavory characters, so it was nice to see her in a role that allowed her to stretch her abilities to include a woman of nobility and poise.
Trusted friend to the king, Uncle Dong Pyung, also in love with Ok Jung (even before the king) was a great addition to the script. (Plus, a Korean drama just isn’t the same without a Ji Hoo-like character, right?) Not only was the character well played by Lee Sang Yeob (Innocent Man, Midas) but the character added a needed side-story to keep the story-line multidimensional.
One of the few less-than-convincing characters in the drama was Han Seung Yeon of the K-Pop group Kara. She had the unhappy role of Choi Musuri, who became Choi Suk Bin. The role was one of a conniving, evil, self-serving vixen with no redeeming features whatsoever. A combination of unexecptional acting and a character whose scripting was not as well thought out as other characters is probably to blame for the mediocrity.
Another less-than-likeable character, but one that was well scripted and well acted was that of Jang Ok Jung’s scheming uncle, Jang Hyun. Sung Dong Il (My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, Reply 1997) was credibly conniving, delightfully dasturdly and most definitely classified amongst the evil. Master manipulator and social climber, he provided one focus for audience hatred.
Even the actors and actresses in the smaller roles did execptional jobs bringing this story to life.
Cinematography: My Rating 6/10
The lush opulence of palace life was aptly portrayed in the beautiful costuming. Scenery was the same used in most historical dramas, as is to be expected. Nice touches were added such as the candle-lit welcome for Jang Hee Bin to her new home.
Music: My Rating 6/10
“Song of Sorrow” Im Jae Bum http://youtu.be/TRVNxZLtuQ0
“Even In My Dreams” Zia http://youtu.be/I6WX0U1G94E
“Season of Love” Rumblefish http://youtu.be/TG6MwVenF6Q
“Living In Love” Page http://youtu.be/P3chx4E1JOk
“Voiceless” Lee Jung http://youtu.be/zPoFcP8NXn0
“Will It Reach You?” Lee Soo Young http://youtu.be/okBFsbl-5ss
“Far Away” Sin Cho Ah http://youtu.be/jq5MSz9o0jc
Overall Charisma: My Rating 7/10
If I had to choose just one drama to watch about King Suk Jong’s reign, I’d probably choose Dong Yi over Jang Ok Jung. That said, the story was quite compelling and I give it extra points for so creatively telling a story that’s been told so many times before. The acting is also definitely worthwhile. While the script may be a tad slow in places, the overall storyline flows well. I truly enjoyed watching a famous villain come to life as a real human being with good points and human frailties as well, which, I would hazard to guess, might be closer to truth than the myth built over ages. But who knows?
Happy Drama Watching!
Director: Boo Sung Chul
Writer: Choi Jung Mi