[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 50 2014/04/30,
The extension has made "Empress Qi" struggle for material. It has introduced a new character and is playing out a scheme that should've been given much more time. What this penultimate episode has done is fleshed out the emotional ranges of Wang Yoo and Seung-nyang, both of whom have been tightly bound for the majority of the show's run. There has been a new plot twist as of late. Golta, Ta-hwan's trusted eunuch, is the head of an illegal financial operation that works selfishly and often against the betterment of the Yuan people. Golta is interested in power and money, and intends to use Ta-hwan (via slow poisoning) as a mean to an end,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 49 2014/04/28,
There was a very strange tone shift in "Empress Qi" 's penultimate episode. While the episode was heavy in subject matter, there was an incongruent levity in the comportments of the main characters. Seung-nyang seems to have rid herself of the hunger for power she'd acquired and makes amends with Ta-hwan, smiling and getting along as though she'd never kept secrets from him. The change in her demeanor was so sudden and strange that it may belie ulterior motives. Her intentions as a leader of the Yuan people was always to help the commoners, but her way of achieving it involved deception. It required her to make difficult decision, to take lives, to lie to Ta-hwan. Because of that, it is just plain bizarre to see her laughing and smiling with Ta-hwan as if nothing had happened. They never addressed her deceptions,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 48 2014/04/28,
Power games are in heated play as key players are removed from the board. "Empress Qi" is almost ready to crown Seung-nyang empress. It is busy setting up, but it still allowed time for one of the most poignant moments of the series - Tal Tal's decision to turn again Bayan. It's Tal Tal and Seung-nyang's friendship has always been a highlight of the drama,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 47 2014/04/24,
Power corrupts. It quietly slips into the most steadfast of hearts and makes them yearn for more. Not one character in "Empress Qi" has been untouched by power's temptations and they, and the nations they affect, are suffering because of it. Ta-hwan believes that power will bring the acceptance and love he's always desired,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 46 2014/04/20, "Empress Qi" is throwing everything it has at us, but it fails to be truly compelling. There are tears, and death, and convoluted political plots, but none of those things carry any weight. The buildup towards the events in this episode was sorely lacking and made the biggest reveal seem anticlimactic. This drama has struggled with uneven development since the beginning. Seung-nyang and Wang Yoo's romance was choppily pieced together. The same can be said for Yon Feisu's strange relationship with Wang Yoo. While her romantic feelings were made obvious, his connection to her seemed to end with business. That is, until the show kills Yon Feisu off (in a scene that was absurdly forced and overly dramatic) and has Wang Yoo weep platonic tears for a woman he never seemed to care about before,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 45 2014/04/16, "Empress Qi" is pulling out all the stops as it nears the end of its run. It flails it's arms as it grabs for some logical purchase, but finds none. Characters grapple with stability, who they want to be and what they've become. The biggest issue lies with Ta-hwan,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 44 2014/04/09,
Episode 44 of "Empress Qi" was very inconsistent. It focused on Ta-hwan and his fears of inadequacy. Those fears make him easily manipulated by everyone. While this is a solid focus, the execution was messy. Empress Hudu only appears once in the entire episode despite the fact that she's supposed to be a power hungry woman who will do anything to attain it,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 43 2014/04/06,
The difference in story quality between the Monday and Tuesday episodes is startling. Monday episodes tend to be awkward and hackneyed while Tuesday episodes infuse "Empress Qi" with energy. The development of young prince Maha brought this episode to life. The young actor is exceptionally strong as the revenge-filled youth who is confused by his strange connection with Seung-nyang and Wang Yoo, the two people he was raised to despise - his real parents,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 42 2014/04/06, "Empress Qi" is fishing for material and for ratings. This episode included yet another person going insane and a completely jarring time jump. The show is now going for shock value rather than for quality. The few issues that were begun earlier in the drama played out smoothly, but anything introduced in recent episodes developed haphazardly,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 40 2014/03/31, "Empress Qi" is adept at throwing in plot twists and maneuvering characters and their desires into places that will have the most dramatic impact. What it lacks is the ability to fully develop characters and make their sincerity clear. Seung-nyang is in a difficult place. Her loyalties are divided between her child, her caring for Ta-hwan, and her Goryeo heritage,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 38 2014/03/23,
On the heels of change is opportunity and when there is opportunity there is greed. In the wake of El Temur's death, only his memory, wealth and power are left for the living to fight over. This is when differences in goals come to light and allies divide to become foes. Seung-nyang has been clever, powerful, and at the head of the pack because she was the leader of a revolution everyone supported,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 37 2014/03/15,
The end of a major enemy in "Empress Qi" has arrived. The journey and the battle to achieve this end were both epic and full of excitement. It made this episode a fun watch, but in retrospect, there was a lot of waiting around for pieces to line up. What I mean by that is that too many plot threads took such a long time to unravel and climax that it made this final battle with El Temur and his allies stale in hindsight,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 36 2014/03/13,
Political tensions have finally peaked and "Empress Qi" is on the brink of war. The good guys have mustered enough strength to combat the tenacious El Temur and his minions. There are still quite a few questions left to answer going into this war that will remain after the battle ensues. What of Seung-nyang's first born,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 35 2014/03/11,
The mythological elements continue as "Empress Qi" focuses on Shamanism to further the story, which is an awkward turn because those elements are unclear. What saves the episode from being awkward is the focus on relationships: father to child, mother to child, leader to men, man to woman. It looked at many relationships that had been left undefined and examined how they have changed over the past thirty-five episodes.
The biggest relationship looked at was that of father to son. Ta-hwan feels nothing for Maha, the son he supposedly had through Tanasiri and the son who is supposedly El Temur's bloodline,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 34 2014/03/10, "Empress Qi" has decided to take the mythical route and the move was jarring and strange. It feels like a ploy for ratings rather than genuine plot stuffs. This shift comes along with newly defined relationships between Seung-nyang and Ta-hwan, and Seung-nyang and Wang Yoo, both of which are developed very well. As for the mythology, it's used to show just how far Tanisiri is willing to go for revenge and power. It paints her desperation for Ta-hwan's love and her crown's power in a very stark, terrifying light,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 33 2014/03/05, "Empress Qi" is at its strongest on Tuesdays. Episode 33 was exciting, grand, and chock full of great material. It came together as a piece of art, a well-wrought story, and was one of the most entertaining episodes to date. The characters see a lot of growth because they are vulnerable physically and emotionally. Wang Yoo finally makes a mistake, which forces him to make choice that is not readily understood - it made him incredibly intriguing in the way that he was only in the earliest episodes,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 32 2014/03/04, "Empress Qi" is going strong and that strength is due to the show's ability to draw interest. It puts each character through innumerable highs and lows each week and keeps the action rolling. Whether or not this action follows a logical progression is dependent on the situation. Sometimes situations are contrived for the shock factor rather than to logically fit into the story, but they are all eventually integrated into the overall texture. This episode addressed a few issues that have been on the backburner, which amped up the excitement level,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 31 2014/02/26, "Empress Qi" was much more exciting this episode because of an increased pace and because of constant power shifts. This power tug-of-war that breathes much needed life into the storyline. It has given the actors more material to work with because the drama gears towards being very plot heavy and skimps on the character development. The only good character development seen is with Tanisiri and Ta-hwan because they show the most weakness and are therefore easiest to change. Tanisiri has stronger constitution, but she has been prone to hysterics as of late,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 30 2014/02/22,
It's difficult to try and forcefully change a tide, but that's what Seung-nyang, Wang Yoo, Ta-hwan and their team of trusty sidekicks are attempting to do. El Temur, Tanisiri and their band of nasty friends are fighting back, making the power struggle huge, but a stagnating affair. While the politics are growing a bit stale, there are a few markedly wonderful performances by the actors,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 29 2014/02/18,
Political tides are changing in the Yuan palace and the star crossed couple is on the cusp of being reunited because of it. The fun of "Empress Qi" now rests solely with the action and the continued beauty of the show (the scenery, the costumes). Character growth has stagnated. Ta-hwan and Tanisiri are the most interesting characters because they are the most flawed and struggle against themselves and the odds to persevere. First we have Ta-hwan who's love for Seung-nyang drives him and keeping him fighting for his own strength. Everything he learns about her changes him and forces him to reckon with himself,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 28 2014/02/13,
Even episodes in "Empress Qi" tend to be much stronger than their odd counterparts, as though the odds are just set up while the evens get to have all of the glory. That glory is found mostly in action and suspense rather than organic storytelling. This episode found Seung-nyang making calculated moves against Tanisiri who has been impulsive because of her jealousy of Seung-nyang and the other consorts. Jealousy as a writing tool is wearisome in the odd episodes, like yesterday's, and much more engaging in today's even episode,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 27 2014/02/10, "Empress Qi" fluctuates in quality from week to week. Whenever it starts a new idea, it's strong, smartly-paced and is full of wonderful character development. As each new idea wears on, it becomes ragged, belabored and quickly dulled. This is purely a writing issue. There needs to be some follow-through on the writing. Focus can't be only drawn to novelty of change. It makes "Empress Qi" only enjoy true development in its characters and many interweaving plot threads,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 26 2014/02/01,
Power games are the bulk of this episode of "Empress Qi". Seung-nyang has become a consort and has to establish her place in the palace. Her opponent is Tanisiri who has political power and the backing of her father, El Temur. Under her are greedy and ambitious maids. The war waged between the two women has no rules: it is dirty, bloody, and someone is bound to get hurt. With stakes like those "Empress Qi" is a show worth watching,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 25 2014/02/01, "Empress Qi" has gone back to what it does best: focusing on smaller events and milking them for the most plot and character development that can possibly be had. At its halfway mark, that is exactly what this drama needed to do. This show does not do well with change or with overly dramatic elements. It's grandeur is best shown in the quieter moments. This episode saw Seung-nyang competing amongst eleven other women to become Ta-hwan's consort, which gets her where she needs to be to become the titular "Empress Qi",...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 24 2014/01/27,
Big decisions have been made and characters that were flat have filled out some. "Empress Qi" has finally shown us how it will put Seung-nyang on the path to becoming The Iron Empress. It is a bit incongruous with logic, but I'll go with it.
This was the episode that saw Seung-nyang facing her painful past, the loss of her loved ones, and making a decision about her future. She teams up with Bayan and Tal Tal. I haven't mentioned much of Tal Tal because he was merely Bayan's smart sidekick until now. Jin Yi-han plays the quiet, wary man who hasn't really had much of a role to play in the drama until now,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 23 2014/01/27, "Empress Qi" is a beautiful show and that is its biggest draw. The people are beautiful. The sets are glorious. The costumes are grandiose. The music is grand. What it is starting to lose, however, is logic. Time frames don't make sense, such as the length of time Lady Park and Seung-nyang were pregnant. Park was long overdue and Seung-nyang was definitely not even close nine months when she delivered. But the pregnancies were paralleled to forward the plotline and to allow for further plot mechanizations,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 22 2014/01/22,
Death makes it mark in this episode of "Empress Qi". It reminds the main characters of their own mortality and how quickly the tides may change. It is countered by life and what it fosters in people: hope. The two opposite forces battle as fiercely as the players of the political game do to win the upper hand. The women deal with pregnancy and the hope it brings. It clearly defines social status within the palace and the moods of Tanisiri, the dowager empress and those surrounding them depend heavily upon it,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 21 2014/01/21, "Empress Qi" has always been about power plays and who the characters know and who they can influence. Ta-hwan is starting to really learn what it takes to play the game and while he has gone from being a primarily reactionary character to an instigator, the other main characters have fallen into trying to fight the tide. Shifting loyalties of those in power comprise the strongest part of the political tide. The dowager empress is a big component of that and she shows how women gather, keep and use power in the Goryeo period,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 20 2014/01/15,
As if the plot wasn't already thick enough, the plot of "Empress Qi" thickens even further as more schemers are added with hidden agendas fueled by greed. Old schemers become more ambitious and our main players struggle to stay on top. This episode dealt with the attempt to poison El Temur and the aftermath, which is a very complicated, tangled web of misinformation and shifting alliances. Most of the characters believe him to have passed and the resulting chaos is a well-written and filmed chorus of power-hungry people trying to achieve more power,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 19 2014/01/14,
The tides of fate are shifting again in "Empress Qi" and this time Ta-hwan actually has a hand in all of the change instead of merely being a frightened puppet. He's finally coming to stand against Wang Yoo and his political opponents using his own strength and it makes for a much more interesting game. Love is the motivation for Ta-hwan's newfound bravery. He had plenty of reasons to act in the past: the murder of his father, the state of the imperial family. But it is his love for Seung-nyang that is the catalyst for him to step up and take charge,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 18 2014/01/02,
What makes "Empress Qi" such a fantastic drama is the fact that despite its weaknesses, the overly quality of the show allows we viewers to bypass those weaknesses and simply enjoy the show. As a reviewer, I have a few things to nitpick, but that's all those things are: nitpicky details.
The first nitpicky detail that jumped out was the fact that El Temur, resident antagonist is losing his scary edge. He was a good villain because he was brilliant and he flaunted that brilliance and his immense power in the face of his enemies (our good guys!),...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 17 2013/12/30,
My wishes were fulfilled in this episode. The love entanglements are further knotted, Ta-hwan grows up a scoach, and the political game now hinges on a very delicate balance of power.
Seventeen episodes in, Ta-hwan has finally decided to step up to the plate. He may be inexperienced and weak, but he has the motivation and wherewithal to fiercely battle El Temur for power. It took a lot of hardship and suffering to break through his insecurity, but Ta-hwan has decided to be no one's pawn; not El Temur's; not the dowager empress',...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 16 2013/12/29, "Empress Qi" saw a huge jump in character development while the plot's progression slowed considerably. It isn't a bad thing through, to minimize one element to highlight another. Suspicions were cast on on major characters last episode and now those suspicions are being developed, allowing characters to learn and grow under duress.
The conflicts in the story have gone from political and physical, to purely political. Battles are fought in the palace rather than over the Silk Road using intelligence and intrigue rather than strategy and swords,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 15 2013/12/28, "Empress Qi" is finally bringing the main love contenders together with the major political storylines under one very expensive palatial roof. There are childish antics of men in love and cutthroat political dealings all in one hour and both are melded in a way that is singularly appealing.
Because Ji Chang-wook plays Ta-hwan with such finesse, he can make Ta-hwan a very immature emperor who spends his time obsessing over Seung-nyang rather than fighting to put power behind his crown,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 14 2013/12/17, "Empress Qi" has all of its major pieces on the playing board and it's moving through the plot, romantic development and character development at a nice clip. It is easy to engage in all of the story elements, even the politics, which normally tend to be too heavy-handed in dramas. The players of "Empress Qi" have been moved to Ta-hwan's palace and both romance and politics sizzle. El Temur, the show's major villain, has been foiled by the dowager empress and Seung-nyang and must seek out other methods to retain his political power,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 13 2013/12/16, "Empress Qi" focuses on its romances in earnest, which shines light on one of its most glaring weaknesses: Seung-nyang and Wang Yoo's love. In fact, it is love and its guiding presence in the lives of the main characters that moves to the forefront this episode. Love means different things to each character in this show. For Seung-nyang and Wang Yoo, love is their tether to sanity as they try to survive in exile,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 12 2013/12/10,
The battles inside and outside of Ta-hwan's palace rage on and both come to a head. This means "Empress Qi" is on the brink of another plot shift that will show us what these characters are made of and send them along the next stage of their fifty episode journey. Inside the palace, dealings are foul between Empress Tanisiri, the empress dowager and the poor concubine who had the misfortune of getting pregnant. Seung-nyang is at the center of Tanisiri's plans and struggles to stop them without losing her life or losing Tanisiri's trust,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 11 2013/12/10,
The parallels in "Empress Qi" are clever, fun to follow and enhance the rest of the drama. The big parallel this episode was the political battle between the royal Yuan women and the physical battle on the Silk Road between Wang Yoo, Bayan and the Turks. The battle over the Silk Road allows Wang Yoo and his men to shine and prove their mettle. It also allows for some great character development to happen,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 10 2013/12/04, "Empress Qi" continues to amaze with its physical beauty and the seemingly effortless way that it pieces all the story elements together. There is never a dull moment in this show because the characters are constantly pushed into action and towards realization. What is wonderful about it is that none of the events or behavior in the show seem contrived or badly timed,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 9 2013/12/01, "Empress Qi" has begun to explore the changes that will bring our characters to fulfill their destinies that were shown in the first scenes of the drama. What is beautiful about this episode is that this explorations happen alongside significant plot movement. Ha Ji-won as Seung-nyang was particularly poignant because she is so devastated by everything that has happened that she only sees one thing: revenge. It blinds her to everything else,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 8 2013/11/26,
Although this episode mainly focused on re-establishing the characters in their new environs, it did so without the clunky awkwardness of most dramas. All characters, major and minor, are in a state of flux due to shifting political situations and tensions. Even those in power must contend with the restrictions of the existing political structures. The beauty of "Empress Qi" is how clearly it depicts such complex ideas while still keeping an air of mystery about how things will happen,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 6 2013/11/19,
Ta-hwan had a chance to act like a leader (rather than a coward) in this episode despite the fact that his decisions were less than favorable. The Catch-22 presented to him was one that affected not only his life, but the lives of everyone in Yuan and Goryeo. Seung-nyang, Wang Yoo and the other major players are left to deal with the brutal fallout,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 4 2013/11/09,
This episode was very wisely planned. The story of "Empress Qi" is long and complex. Developing the overarching plot, weaving smaller plot threads into it and developing the huge number of characters necessary is and will continue to be very difficult. But this episode was clever. It focused most of the major development around one situation: the safety of the Yuan prince Ta-hwan on a Goryeo Island. This is a very wise strategic move so early in the drama,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 3 2013/11/07,
This show is stunningly beautiful. The special effects and the fight scene choreography are finely done and match the lavish costumes, shoot locations and sets. Despite the show's grandeur, the stakes and the characters still feel very real. Another strong point of the show is that the introductions to the world and the characters don't feel like introductions. Rather, it seems like the viewer was made privy to a private world. This quality was especially important for this episode because there was a lot of character development and backstory,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 2 2013/11/03,
All major players are on the board now with the formal introduction of the banished Yuan prince, Ta-hwan. An array of important Yuan figures appear such as the General El Temur and the General Bayan to eliminate Ta-hwan and seize complete control over Goryeo. Wang Yoo is crowned king over his uncle and it is his responsibility to deal with this strife,...More
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