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. When he discovers why she dislikes him and why, his love for her allows for him to understand her better. That moment, when he breaks down in realization of the pain he caused the woman he loved, is also one of the strongest in the drama thus far. Ji Chang-wook is stellar. He really carries the drama despite the fact that Ta-hwan is a weak, weak man and character.
Opposite him are stoically brave Seung-nyang and the nearly-perfect Wang Yoo. Ha Ji-won has put in a solid performance until now, but it was only this episode that she seemed to truly find her stride, especially in scenes with the magnetic Ji Chang-wook. Her character is also getting more interesting now that she has more to do than serve Ta-hwan and look conflicted over how she feels about him. A quibble I have with her character is that I don't really understand how she feels until she says it. She varies so greatly that it doesn't just seem like indecision, but flawed character writing. Now, however, her character is starting to solidify, which makes her easier to warm up to. It'll also make the complicated relationship she has with Ta-hwan easier to follow.
As for Wang Yoo, I'm waiting for his character to have some serious flaws. Joo Jin-mo is wonderful as the lovelorn, exiled king, but that king needs to struggle because of his own failing, not just because of outside attack. Without that inner failing, his character is "too perfect" and therefore unrealistic. Hopefully the jealousy he feels over Seung-nyang will cause interesting changes in him as he battles Ta-hwan for his country and for the woman.
In terms of the political battles, they are fueled by greed, pride and passion and result in deaths of big players, growing animosities and questionable loyalties. The women fight with words, connections and pregnancy (or lack thereof). The underlings fight for power with carefully collected intelligence. It's a carefully wrought and balanced web of power that really shows the strength of the writer for the creation of the world and the director for so clearly depicting it.
The slow bits of the episode were concentrated at the end during the big reveal of the episode. It was a bit too grandiose with too much focusing on too many faces. There was too much indulgence with voice overs as well, but this is paltry stuff compared to the strength of the rest of the episode.
"Empress Qi" is all about the world and the telling of tales. And telling tales is what it does very, very well.
Written by Raine from Raine's Dichotomy
Follow on Twitter @raine0211
Journalist, drama lover, and foodie, Lisa enjoys exploring Korea, speaking the language, and soaking in all that dramaland has to offer. Her Korean husband laughs that she knows more than he ever will about dramas and K-pop. Lisa Espinosa can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 19"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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