"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". While the focus on Seung-nyang, her intelligence and her desire to avenge the deaths of her friends and Lady Noh is admirable, what lacks is proper competition. The women she competes with are all basically the same character. None of them have distinct personalities and they're all generally dim. It doesn't provide for much competition, and the show therefore focuses on bullying instead. It's still entertaining to watch Seung-nyang work through the tasks of the competition despite the odds stacked against her, but it would've been nice to have some real competition.
To that end Seung-nyang does have allies who are intelligent and well-formed characters like Tal Tal (Jin Yi-han) and Eunuch Dok-man (Lee Won-jong). The actors are strong and they are finally being used to greater effect. I hope their alliance with Seung-nyang allows for more screentime because the intelligent rapport they have is missing from a lot of other relationships in the drama.
Using the consort competition as the story's focal point worked well to make the episode more cohesive than the previous ones. Tanisiri has grown into a bigger villain as is evidenced by her efforts to sabotage all of the competitors and by the fact that El Temur's brass-heavy theme music now plays for her as well. Nothing gives a villain away quite like brass. Darth Vader's theme music is the best example.
While Seung-nyang is competing for the chance to avenge her friends, baby and father, Wang Yoo is working to financially attack El Temur and his family. By producing counterfeit bonds, trading slaves and hiring assassins, El Temur has been able to control the financial arena of both Yuan and Goryeo. It is Wang Yoo's goal to crumble this structure and he plants spies in order to do that. This course of events is good for him because his character and his character's path were stagnating. He needs a challenge other than loving Seung-nyang and mourning her death to make him interesting. This challenge also sets him on course to eventually reunite with Seung-nyang. He still doesn't know Seung-nyang had their child, so I expect for that revelation plus the discovery that their baby is now Tanisiri's supposed son should make for some delicious drama.
As for Ta-hwan, he's been out of his mind with grief and comes back to himself at the sight of Seung-nyang. What he gets from her, instead of comfort and affection, is the offer of a political alliance. While that is sad and not quite the romantic reunion he wished for, it is exactly what he needs as a ruler. They have the potential to be a strong team together and joining with her can pull him out of his pathetic apathy and make him great.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress Qi" Episode 25"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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