"Empress Qi" fluctuates in quality from week to week. Whenever it starts a new idea, it's strong, smartly-paced and is full of wonderful character development. As each new idea wears on, it becomes ragged, belabored and quickly dulled. This is purely a writing issue.
There needs to be some follow-through on the writing. Focus can't be only drawn to novelty of change. It makes "Empress Qi" only enjoy true development in its characters and many interweaving plot threads. The main thread that has grown stagnant much too quickly is Wang Yoo's. It wasn't strong to begin with and now, after playing out for three or four episodes, has lost all intrigue whatsoever. It is meant to show Wang Yoo's efforts to regain Goryeo independence by quietly destroying El Temur's economic foundation. That could be an exciting prospect. Instead, it comes off as one-dimensional and dull. The strengths of Wang Yoo's storyline comes from Eunuch Bang who is winsome and brings the screen to life every time he appears. That credit belongs to actor Lee Moon-shik who has been a staple in this show since his appearance in the first episode. It's mostly due to the actor and not the writing because his character shifted for the better from comedic relief in the early stages to a much heartier, more grounded character in the present.
Also, if they were going to bring back the Turkish crossdresser Batolu, they should've made her reappearance more exciting. Her screen time has been lame. This is a major issue with recycling characters: they've lost their effectiveness. It's not like a plastic bottle that can be remolded. It's the same character stuck in the same tropes providing no new interest.
The palace battles between women continue. Tanisiri fights for her pride and her vigor is fueled mostly by jealousy and ambition. She is an interesting character because she is both ambitious and petty. She is also intelligent, which is her weapon and her burden. Unfortunately, she isn't used as well as she could be like most characters in "Empress Qi".
The best part of the show is the growing partnership between Ta-hwan and Seung-nyang. She inspires him to work hard and to move past his insecurities and doubts. He, in turn, melts some of her icy exterior. He forces her to reckon with her beliefs and to truly consider the best courses of action. With him she has to learn and grow. With Wang Yoo, she was a stagnant bore. With Ta-hwan, she isn't just righteously vengeant. He is on the verge of making her human again, of curing her wounds, and that is beautiful to see. Hopefully the gravity of the political turmoil doesn't outweigh that character development.
My sincerest wish for the show is that it stops fluctuating and keeps the quality level even. If not, it feels like I suffer emotional whiplash every two weeks and that is difficult on the heart.
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 27"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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