I increasingly feel somewhat foolish for not focusing on Prince Gwanghae more in my writing on this drama. It's obvious the more we see of him that Prince Gwanghae finds this entire situation degrading and insulting, in every possible way. He's mad that the Japanese have invaded the country, he's angry that the Chinese are forcing political battles, and he's especially furious that accomplishing anything requires that Prince Gwanghae make deep serious bows to his weenie dad. As usual, King Seonjo doesn't really know what's going on.
Incidentally, the Chinese Emperor not having any idea what's going on ends up becoming an essential plot point. The Koreans finally realize that their negotiations simply aren't going anywhere and they're better off trying to appeal to a higher authority so they can stop wasting time with this stupid subplot. The whole incident comes off like a bit of a deus ex machina, which would normally be fair grounds for criticism except that this is all stuff that actually happened.
As usual the modern subtext of these exchanges is fairly noteworthy. We like to think that in the age of information technology everyone knows everything, but the reality is that ignorance is still frequently the order of the day. Most political leaders are too busy to really have in-depth knowledge on every possible subject. They have to rely on reports produced by aides. And aides are not always inherently trustworthy- this is how major intelligence failures happen.
What that means from a viewer perspective is, well, nothing all that new. That's always been the major flaw and virtue of "Jing Bi-rok"- it's not really a story so much as it is a pseudo-documentarian approach to actual events. There's a reason why these reviews are always a matter of decoding subtext and perceptions- without subtext and perceptions, "Jing Bi-rok" is just a big dry history lesson where there really aren't even that many surprises.
The calendar does appear to be moving a bit faster, although as far as I can tell we're not really that much closer to the actual end of the war. The political games alone appear to have stalled- the preview gives the impression that we're going to see more hot action soon, mostly thanks to Lee Soon-shin, who has been able to do more important things with his time than play politics. Whether that will be enough, well, we're just going to have to answer that question one episode at a time.
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 39"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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