Politics in Korean drama can be a tricky subject, as ratings for KBS2's "Assembly" have shown. Perhaps catching audiences at a bad time for intrigue and government drama, the series has not been doing well in the numbers. For international fans, this is only important if changes are made due to it. What is most important, however, is whether the series is actually good and consistent in what it presents itself as. "Assembly" is both.
Some dramas use politics as a frame for romances and revenge stories, but this one makes it an integral part of its identity. This means that, while there is engaging character-driven drama, the show is heavily political. Writer Jeong Hyeon-min has personal experience in politics, so viewers can expect a thorough approach. For viewers who do not have an interest in it, it can be hard to follow at times. However, its human element is rewarding.
The writing is balanced and its basic concepts are very easy to become invested in and relate to. As mentioned above, politics is the focus, but we witness compelling character drama through it. Following a righteous man as he enters the lion's den and seeing his journey to become a voice for the people and their hopes is exciting. The dynamics between the persons, the power struggles, issues of loyalty, bonding, camaraderie and respect provide a human and emotional approach which is combined well with the topic of politics. Politics concerns us all and this personal approach makes it relevant to each viewer.
The drama is also a testament to how far a good cast can take a complex topic. It really pays off to have talented and skilled artists who can give nuanced performances. Politics is naturally a field where subtlety, presentation and charisma matter. Two persons can shake hands and smile while plotting to destroy each other. The cast makes every gesture, every look, every detail reveal just a bit more about how the relationships function and develop here. Even Ok Taecyeon, who is the least experienced and skilled among the main cast is faring well so far.
"Assembly" does have its minor issues too, as some parts get overly sentimental in the first two episodes and other things are rushed. The only significant issue is Kim Gyoo-hwan's (Ok Taecyeon) decision to begin his current course of action. The character plans to dramatically change his and another's future and although the emotional grounds for it are understandable, the logic behind it and presentation of it could be better, given its gravity. It is a bit hard to believe someone would start something so big without making sure it is not misguided.
The second point of worry is not a flaw, but rather a risk. The production could suffer if the political part loses its balance with its character drama. The ratings show that audiences are not interested, or rather that they prefer the more conventional pieces by the other two stations. Sadly, bad ratings for an industry filming its content as it is aired means temptation to force changes in order to heighten conventional appeal. Those changes usually harm the artistic integrity of a work.
What "Assembly" can and hopefully will do is to remain just as it is. At the moment, the drama is making its own identity and at the same time offering the typical story of an underdog trying to achieve something great. The balance works and the show is good for those who appreciate its political theme, character arcs or both. Hopefully, its ratings will not affect it.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama First Look] "Assembly""
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