Tag Archive | Empress Ki

Empress Ki – a half-review

Somehow I’ve made it through about 30 or so episodes of Empress Ki, mostly due to being sick and unable to do anything else. Thankfully, I am better now and enjoying the sunshine flooding Minnesota this week.

Empress Ki, like most of the Korean historical dramas, is decidedly epic in scale. A lot of the time it has me remembering the Lord of the Rings movies and that’s mainly due to the wonderful costumes and sets. The clothing alone makes the series worth watching. Empress Ki is a fast watch, despite so many episodes, because there’s really not much filler. Every episode has something major happen and the plot continually moves forward. The lead actors, Ha Ji-Won (Empress Ki/Seung Nyang), Joo Jin-Mo (Wang Yoo, the Korean king), and Ji Chang Wook (Ta Hwan/Emperor of Yuan), are all outstanding and do a good job with what they are given. I stress, what they are given, to work with.

Now to the story and writing. I’m in favor of keeping the plot moving most of the time and Empress Ki’s writing certainly fulfills that, however, in this case it comes at a cost, namely character and emotional development. Because the characters are constantly besieged by taxing or exciting moment after moment, they never really have time to process what’s happened to them, and neither does the audience. Seung Nyang and Wang Yoo, because they are strong characters, both physically and emotionally, deal with everything stoically–too stoically. We rarely get to see their vulnerabilities or them acting, for lack of a better expression, like humans! In contrast to them the Emperor of Yuan is so weak as to strain credulity. True, he’s much used and abused by the villain Yeon Chul (the subtitles I’m watching label him as El Tamur), and he’s young, but he has no interests or vices or focus in his life except for Seung Nyang and his out-of-control emotions often seem out of place. He would be more interesting, for example, if he actually was a drunk or a womanizer or even an actual basket case. The other leads, too, have no interests except the future direction of Korea and/or revenge. With a shorter series, these flaws would be fine, but at 51 episodes it’s not so excusable that most of the  emotional impact comes from minor characters, especially the eunuchs. Hopefully this gets addressed in the last 20 episodes, but it’s making me question whether I want to continue watching.

The love triangle is also irritating me, because the scenes depicting it are scarce and short. This wouldn’t be so bad if it was made up for by, say, amazing actions scenes, but, sadly it’s not. The Yuan Emperor has the most scenes dealing with romance, mostly his unrequited love for Seung Nyang. She is stoic, shows him no tenderness, has next-to-no feminine attributes and wiles that I’m often scratching my head at how he’s so infatuated. Because the plot calls for it, I guess. Also, the epic love for all time between Seung Nyang and Wang Yoo is scarcely represented adequately as such. She gets a ton more screen time with the man for whom she feels nothing. On top of that, both men seem incapable of having their own lives apart from Seung Nyang. She is amazing as their buddy and helping them get out of scrapes, but again, it’s baffling that she has cast such a spell over them in a (supposedly) romantic way, and she ironically seemed more feminine when everyone still thought she was a man.  I don’t think in writing strong female characters we need to balance it by making the male characters weaker, but it’s often done, though not quite believable.

All that aside, there are a lot of great scenes in Empress Ki, and many solid emotional scenes. We relish Seung Nyang triumphing over both villain Yeon Chul and his daughter, the Yuan Empress (played perfectly by Baek Jin-Hee of Missing Nine – Baek is a power house actress and her character’s story is a pathetic one.) We feel for Seung Nyang at certain losses and admire her smarts and resourcefulness. We feel the heartbreak of Wang Yoo and the Emperor, even if it’s not explained well.

I’ve decided to try and finish Empress Ki and I hope that it ends as well or better than it started, because the first fifteen to twenty episodes were pretty good. Middles are always hard to write and I do admire the writers for keeping the series jam packed with happenings, and for the production team and director having such attention to detail in the clothing, sets, and camerawork. I’ll have a full review up once I finish the series.


Stories this coming month

As I’m really trying to push myself on revising and correcting Trolls for Dust Season 2, this upcoming month, I may not have many stories to review. There are a few that I do want to, however. With movies or dramas I usually get on a kick of watching all projects by a certain actor or director or writer. Right now I’m in the middle of a Ji Chang Wook kick and found a place to watch Empress Ki. It’s a long series, over 50 episodes, so I probably won’t finish it in March, but wow, epic, awesome story so far and also starring one of my favorite actresses Ha Ji Won.

In doing more vaccine-related reading, I wolfed down Dr. Suzanne Humphries’ book Rising from the Dead and am almost halfway through Dissolving Illusions. These are not easy books to read, especially if, like me, you’ve thought your whole life (without really having actual knowledge of the issue) that vaccines are always safe and effective. These books call into question much of our modern medical practices and have historical evidence and testimony to back it up. Think the pro-vax/anti-vax emotionally charged debate started only with supposed frauds like Andrew Wakefield? Wrong. It’s been the same debate since day one of the small pox vaccine, only back then those who refused vaccine or questioned them were jailed, fined, and basically had no freedom on the issue. Any strides they made in the direction of choice in the matter had to be fought for. And the pro-vax side was just as arrogant and mean-spirited as they are today. And also as unquestioning of their own side as they are today. What’s most amusing today is that a lot of the claims that it was a vaccine that brought the rates for such-and-such a disease down are really a matter of correlation, which today we are told by proud pro-vaxxers does not ever equal causation. Dr. Humphries’ books indicate that to conclude better living conditions, cleanliness and overall public hygiene contributed the most to the decline in diseases, is also valid. Many vaccines, for example, were introduced well after many of these diseases were on a downturn due to public sanitation. The evidence that it was vaccines isn’t actually as strong as promoted. That doesn’t necessarily mean the vaccines didn’t and don’t work in some cases, but their benefits may have been largely overstated. This book is truly about dissolving illusions, and as a result is really hard to read. If you have any interest into why anti-vaxxers are certain they are onto the truth, this book is a good place to start in understanding why they think that way.

For March, I also have kindly been loaned the next couple of books in Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince series and am curious to see where it goes.

And lastly, I am re-reading my own Trolls for Dust series, both books one and two with the hope to get this much-delayed book two out for everyone to read in print. I also have another short series I am working on, and if it works out, may be able to publish that before the end of the year. But, who knows? I’m always hopeful about these things at the beginning and then other things clamor for my attention.