The theme this episode appears to be how war doesn't make anyone happy. The Korean leadership is angry because they've managed a temporary stalemate with no real options. The Japanese leadership is upset because given the prior pace they should have won the war by now. The Japanese military leaders are worried because there's no positive way to spin these setbacks. Yi Sun-shin is mostly doing all right because the man has an amazing sense of patience.
If "Jing Bi-rok" is a case study in how not to commit international relations. Yi Sun-shin's brief scenes are a pretty strong argument as to what an actual leader does in a crisis situation. The man just acts like he's in control and stays calm no matter how chaotic the situation looks. Yi Sun-shin isn't getting immediate results but that's part of the point. He's buying time in a somewhat misguided effort to allow for the situation to resolve in a non-military way.
Mild historical spoilers- Yi Sun-shin will, at some point, run afoul of the leaders he's currently working for. And it's easy to see why, and especially how little this has to do with Yi Sun-shin. These guys just spent every waking moment fighting, even when there's no imminent danger. And part of it is just that they're scared. Any minute someone might change their mind. And if that someone is Yi Sun-shin, well, they're all in trouble.
That's the big problem with political unpopularity- unfortunately, this all isn't just in their imaginations. As is made clear by the cliffhanger, the common people quite literally hate their leaders right now. This is exactly the kind of widespread dissatisfaction that leads to military coups. So overall, the situation remains mostly a discouraging one, with the exact content of the arguments barely even relevant to the greater sense of malaise.
So, good stuff generally. But as is usually the case with the political elements in "Jing Bi-rok", the sheer quantity of intense, legalistic dialogue can get to be terribly exhausting, especially as presented here almost breathlessly. The few brief moments of genre relief aren't much of a reprieve. As much as I like watching Cheon-ri ineffectually try to show himself off to the ladies, there's only so much of a silver lining to be found when war is everywhere. The lack of actual action scenes this episode only show that off all the more- war is more a state of mind than an event.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 21"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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