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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 49

2015/08/01 | Permalink

The war starts to come to an end, not with a bang, but a whimper. Really, the entirity of the Myeongnyang battle is completed within about ten minutes. Lee Soon-shin shows up, reassures the men that they're not all completely doomed, then they come up with a plan, they execute the plan, and just like that the Japanese invasion plan is once again completely tattered. With no fallback options the Japanese just fall back into complete despair.

Note that for all this the tone at the Korean court doesn't really change all that much. Seong-ryong has to struggle to get anyone he can talk to to not make terrible decisions, and Seong-ryong still never manages to be all that unambiguously successful. It's a bit telling, actually, that even though this is the penultimate episode of "Jing Bi-rok" none of the characters themselves seem to be aware of this, and in fact appear to be bracing for another fifty episodes of this constant back-and-forth.

What changes matters isn't that some characters or another suddenly start demonstrating unusual foresight or competence. No, the main serious plot event is that Hideyoshi reacts to the recent series of turnabouts quite poorly. As per usual Hideyoshi manages to kill multiple people who just happen to have the bad luck of being nearby. But more relevantly Hideyoshi has never had the most stable physical condition either, and it's clear that his dreams of empire will now end with him.

Again, this isn't exactly the most exciting finish. But in terms of history it's much more true to how these events actually play out. When it comes to international conflict, it's never that one side is beaten, it's that one side finally decides to give up because their plan isn't working. Take World War II- Hitler had plenty of advance notice the Nazis were finished. The Japanese were just holding out for some sort of promise that the United States wouldn't turn them into a colony. Last-ditch resistance can only go so far.

It's also bittersweet to consider all this and realize that the last episode, the one that will end with Lee Soon-shin's death, won't actually accomplish much of anything for exactly the reasons listed above, even though on the surface that story sounds like something really epic. The Japanese Invasion has been an exhausting slog that's only ever been made practical by the consistent lack of competency and foresightedness that made up Korean politics at this time. So too, has it been with "Jing Bi-rok".

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.

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