The opening is a fairly good representation of the main political conflict right now. Prince Gwanghae behaves like an actual leader, carefully considering the advice of his subordinates, but ultimately deciding that difficult situations necesitate risk-taking. And as usual he has to run all this past his dopey dad King Seonjo, who always puts the considerations of the people first, even when in the long-term being well-liked is a matter of demonstating competence, not empathy.
The actual plot gets started when King Seonjo receives another message- this one dealing with more serious and more violent internal problems. The basic irony is rather difficult to avoid. Prince Gwanghae's strong hand likely could have prevented a situation like this from coming up in the first place. As we see resolving the problem barely takes any effort at all on the part of the people in charge. The bigger problem is the way the conflict reveals the very serious ongoing lack of faith of the Korean people in their leaders.
The funny part about all this is that even if a war wasn't going on there's easily enough dramatic meat in the topic of peasant uprisings to justify a drama on its own merits. Even if the timeline has to jump a month or two every so often there's always way too much going on because the Korean state in general was fairly weak at this point in history, and the often chaotic nature of the political situation exacerbates these problems.
This is once again another good way that demonstrates how Prince Gwanghae ends up becoming King Gwanghae the jerk. A lot of the problems are just a matter of advisors jockeying for position with King Seonjo, and the way that they deliberately give King Seon-jo advice that he wants to hear rather than something that would actually be helpful in the current situation. This is what constantly frustrates Seong-ryong- the political stuff wastes a lot of energy that would be better redirected elsewhere.
The situation is not, admittedly, completely terrible. The overall lack of problems with the Chinese and the Japanese right now is a definite improvement. And besides, at least King Seonjo has a good heart. The situation would have been completely impossible to salvage if the Japanese had decided to stage an attack a hundred years earlier, back when King Yeongsan was in charge. "The Treacherous" might have had its flaws but it at least managed to communicate that much.
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 41"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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