Seong-ryong appears to have lost all hope of trying to resolve the situation through meaningful diplomacy, and has shifted to reluctantly accepting that clandestine military preparations are the only hope the country has of getting through the war. King Seonjo, still refusing to acknowledge that the war is even going to happen, insists on terrorizing Seong-ryong for his impudence. On that end it's more of the same from "Jing Bi-rok". War is portrtayed as an inevitable outcome of political psychology gone wrong.
More interesting material comes up on the Japanese side. While they're not quite ready to invade Korea just yet, we see that preparations on their end involve quite a bit of forced conscription. As much as we like to romanticize bygone eras of armored armies duking it out in glorious hand-to-hand combat, it's moments like this that "Jing Bi-rok" reminds us that, oh, right, in wartime even the soldiers really don't want to be there. It's all just statecraft, and they're the tools.
The portrayal takes some of the edge of the risk "Jing Bi-rok" frequently skirts in regards to being racist. Because this isn't just a Japanese thing. Indeed, a scene with King Seonjo appears to imply that part of the reason why he doesn't want to commit to war even with all these ominous tidings is because this particular ruler actually likes his subjects, and knows that arbitrarily plucking random men from the fields will destroy families and livelihoods.
Unfortunately King Seonjo's portrayal also details all too clearly that the man is being horribly naive. As royalty he can never really understand what it's like to just be a normal person, and his attempts to escape from the reality of governance are just going to end all the much more worse. "Jing Bi-rok" really does have an awfully cynical bent regarding authority figures- and once again, it's a mystery how the drama is going to manage this general sense of darkness when Lee Soon-shin finally shows his face, because he's about the only person in this entire historical period with an unambiguously high reputation.
For now though it's just the usual sense of ominous. But take heart- next episode we really are definitely going to get to the actual war, as the preview details scenes that can't be viewed any other way. I do have to give further credit to the whole Japan sequence though- goodness knows that in last episode's preview, it certainly looked like the Japanese were harassing Koreans rather than their own people. Then again I wasn't looking that closely- part of the point, I think. Good and evil are rather ambiguous points here when the whole situation is just plain bad.
Review by William Schwartz
"Jing Bi-rok" is directed by Kim Sang-hwi and Kim Yeong-jo, written by Jeong Hyung-soo and Jeong Ji-yeon and features Kim Sang-joong, Kim Tae-woo, Im Dong-jin, Kim Hye-eun, Lee Kwang-ki and Lee Kwang-ki.
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 12"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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