Power games are in heated play as key players are removed from the board. "Empress Qi" is almost ready to crown Seung-nyang empress. It is busy setting up, but it still allowed time for one of the most poignant moments of the series - Tal Tal's decision to turn again Bayan. It's
Tal Tal and Seung-nyang's friendship has always been a highlight of the drama. As of late, the pair has turned into grudging enemies because of her antagonism with Bayan. Tal Tal is an interesting character because he actually abides by the principles he holds dear. Power has not corrupted him as it has every other major character in "Empress Qi". He values Yuan, its people, knowledge and doing the right thing. It was why he initially followed Seung-nyang - her plans and actions provided respite for his starving people.
Tal Tal has watched his beloved uncle, Bayan, grow increasingly more corrupt in his deluded attempt to bring honor and glory to Yuan. His unwavering devotion has won him the heart of Ta-hwan, but lost the trust of Tal Tal. The young man's lost trust and faith has been one of the most heart-wrenching journies of the latter half of "Empress Qi". Slowly, Tal Tal pulls away from his uncle and aids Seung-nyang. She is no less power-hungry, but she helps the people. He visibly fights himself each time he chooses Seung-nyang over Bayan. This inner turmoil is something I wish to see more in Seung-nyang, Wang Yoo, and Ta-hwan.
Instead Seung-nyang is difficult to read, and has been for the past forty-eight episodes. She feeds on her new power as empress regent, but she also seems to care for the well-being of Ta-hwan. It's a strange, unbalanced, and unclear dichotomy between her power lust and her genuine emotions for Ta-hwan and Wang Yoo. She deceives Ta-hwan but doesn't seem to feel guilt over it. I'm not expecting her to feel guilty. Rather, I expect the show to make whatever emotion it wants her to be feeling clear. Only when she cries tears over Maha's death do I know that she is sad and using her grief to fuel her plans. The extreme emotions are the only ones that find on screen clarity. The others are left open to interpretation.
Bayan's fall into corruption has been much clearer than Seung-nyang's, which makes him a much more relatable character. He sacrificed his people, his nation's resources, and his ideals in order to wage war in the name of the emperor and power and glory. He blindly devotes himself to a cause without observing the consequences of his actions. Tal Tal tries to stop him, but Bayan pushes forward. The ends justify the means and that causes the heart-breaking end in the relationship between uncle and nephew.
Then there is Ta-hwan who is still a puppet. He caters to Bayan who is his emotional support and is easily manipulated by Bayan, the dowager empress, and Seung-nyang. Because of Ta-hwan's emotional neediness, he cannot make rational decisions regarding the welfare of his nation. While this was compelling for the first thirty episodes, it is not so compelling now. His character has become an afterthought that pales in comparison to Seung-nyang's ambition. If he is to continue to be a weak man, he should be developed more. The drama needs to show us why he cannot change.
Lastly there is Wang Yoo who only appears to push the plot forward. The drama needed someone to stop the financially powerful Eagle House from becoming more potent, and it decided to use Wang Yoo. It's a logical decision as Wang Yoo has consistently been involved with Eagle House, but the scenes involving him crop up so randomly that they feel as though they have no place in the show. There is no fluidity in the storylines and no real emotional impact.
What I would like for the end of this drama is for it to bring us to Seung-nyang's coronation without too much hooplah. The groundwork has been laid and it needs to be built upon and followed. Too many twists and turns at this point would be futile.
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 48"
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