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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress ki" Episode 2


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.

Seung-nyang helped Wang Yoo attain the crown by betraying Wang Go. That makes Wang Go her enemy for life. It is a dangerous thing to have him as an enemy. He is clever and ruthless and he uses these traits to attempt to remove Wang Yoo from the throne. Along with Yuan, Wang Go plots to have Ta-hwan killed and blaming Wang Yoo for the death.

Underneath the major political movements of the episode, there are smaller steps made. Seung-nyang finds her father's ring in a pouch that belongs to the chief of police, which motivates her to test into and join the police ranks. She hopes it will confirm if he is indeed her father. The unit she is assigned to is one led by the chief himself. It is also the unit that is sent to protect Ta-hwan from assassination.

While the intrigue of the assassination plotting and family conflict for power is strong, the coincidences that bring characters together are just too convenient. The man who captures her just happens to be her father. Her unit just happens to be assigned to Ta-hwan's protection. These are but nit-picky things that can be overlooked when viewed within the overall scheme of the episode. The production is finely wrought and beautiful to watch. The hour passes by quickly while watching because Empress ki knows how to use its strengths. It focuses on the beauty of the show, the quick pace of political battles and the intense chemistry between the characters.

Although Wang Yoo has been documented to be a licentious king, I like his portrayal in the show by the writers and by Joo Jin-mo. He wants to better his country by eradicating the corruption propagated by the ministers and officials. He is an honest man in a difficult situation where lies, underhanded dealings and war are the modus operandi. He has to fight people who are willing to behave monstrously. Wang Go is willing to kill an emperor's son and place the blame on his nephew to sit on the throne. It's all about power, wanting it, struggling to attain it and how far people are willing to go to have it. Seung-nyang finds power in her skills and the money they can earn. That money can buy freedom for her men's sisters who were sold as concubines to Yuan. Wang Yoo and Wang Go find power in information that people like Seung-nyang provide.

There is also power in cleverness. Newly introduced Ta-hwan must outwit Bayan and those plotting to take his life by faking illness and making every excuse to delay his entourage from reaching its destination. His character is interesting in a way similar to Wang Yoo's: they feign idiocy in order to survive; they try to make the enemy underestimate them. But Ji Chang-wook plays Ta-hwan with a vulnerability that I don't feel from Joo Jin-mo. His Wang Yoo is strong and guarded.

One last nitpicky detail: Wang Go's cackling is ridiculous. He could be the Wicked Witch of the West. Lee Jae-yong needs to tone it down.

In general, "Empress ki" is on the right track. It is entertaining and has most of its historical facts straight. This was a solid first week, which hopefully means a solid twenty-five week run.

Written by Raine from Raine's Dichotomy

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