"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. She is an example of what happens to women when they become power hungry in a man's iron world. She has no man to shield her because her husband, Ta-hwan's father, is dead and Ta-hwan is effectively useless, Tanisiri can hide behind her currently unkillable father, Regent El Temur. The dowager must gather her own power, forge her own connections, and use her own quick wits to stay afloat and keep the inner court under her power. But it can't compare to Tanisiri's strength that is based upon her father. As long as he lives, Tanisiri will always have the upper hand.
El Temur has managed to survive a long time because he is a crafty old badger. However, there are a few people who keep surviving in ways that make it seem like they're only being kept alive for plot purposes. Their mortality seems to be suspended - namely Yeom Byung-soo played by the fabulous Jung Woong-in. Byung-soo is a human cockroach: he has suffered the plague, multiple deadly stab wounds and survived battle agaistn those much stronger and agile than he. "Empress Qi" needs its weasel and Byung-soo is it. It just seems unrealistic to keep him alive, except to keep Woong-in on screen as long as possible.
As for El Temur, his tricks are, as a television badguy, growing tiresome. He cackles in the way that Wang Go did - in a way that seems only to show that he is evil rather than the fact that he is reveling in his victory. It's annoying, and makes me want Bayan to take over soon. The best thing about El Temur now is that he challenges Ta-hwan to grow and now that the dowager empress is out of the way and now that Ta-hwan thinks Wang Yoo and Seung-nyang have left him, he must stand on his own and man up.
Along with Ta-hwan I want Wang Yoo to grow. He's been basically this perfect statue of a man who only seems human when he is with Seung-nyang, acting like a fool in love. Joo Jin-mo is excellent and injects depth of character where the writing is lacking, but it doesn't make up for the one-dimensionality of the character. I like his sidekicks better than him: eunuch Bang Sin-woo (Lee Moon-shik) and guard Choi Moo-song (Kwon Oh-jung). They have a close, jovial rapport between them and they are much more endearing and amusing than Wang Yoo. I find beauty in their friendship; it shows the closeness forged over time and through struggle. The same beauty is in the love Ta-hwan's eunuch has for his comrades who he must kill to protect Ta-hwan. Those little moments are what make "Empress Qi" gold. Now what the show needs is to have these moments more often between the main characters.
Of course the biggest, most engaging development for all viewers is the growing relationship between Seung-nyang and Ta-hwan. She starts to aid him more of her own volition and in the end, he helps her as well. There is the benefit of oxygen transfer in the form of a kiss, which I'm glad did not happen before when Ta-hwan was willing to force her to do anything physical. If he had, the character would've become intolerable for me. In this, it is purely to help her and it is as selfless as he's ever been It's important for him to learn that it be a good leader, and, in the future, a good husband.
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 21"
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