The final epilogue to "Jing Bi-rok" is an extended speech made by Seong-ryong, not directed to anyone in particular except the viewer, where he exhorts us to continue the struggle. It's a fitting epilogue to a drama that doesn't really end. Yes, the war ends- with a final battle the Japanese threat to the Korean peninsula is eliminated once and for all. But anyone who's been paying attention so far knows that "Jing Bi-rok" was never about the war- it was about the dysfunction that made the war possible. And that dysfunction yet remains.
Several scenes exist for little purpose except to establish that. King Seonjo still has no idea what he's doing. A memorable meeting with other members of the royal family has Gwanghae biting his lip in frustration. It's obvious to the future king that the current king is still more interested in abstractions than in anything more tangibly useful. Seong-ryong is still discussing philosophy, for no particularly good reason except that he has to.
Lee Soon-shin, amusingly enough, is briefly brought into a diplomatic discussion with which he quickly loses all patience. It's funny to think how this is the only time we've ever seen Lee Soon-shin actually angry, although the real question is why it's taken so long. Well, that's not too hard a question really. After working studiously for the entire drama to prevent another Japanese invasion the political leadership screwed it up in just a few episodes, and Lee Soon-shin isn't about to tolerate that level of nonsense anymore.
Everybody else still has to though- and that much is a story that continues into the present day, hence Seong-ryong's epilogue. A lot of analogies have come to mind while watching "Jing Bi-rok", although I never thought that life itself would be one of them. When you think about it Seong-ryong's journey throughout "Jing Bi-rok" has just been one bad day after another, struggling to do the right thing until finally just dying- and the work still isn't completed yet, even if the war was eventually resolved.
A neverending story indeed. Overall "Jing Bi-rok" is such fantastically dense material I'm not even totally sure I'd describe it as watchable. The historical edge has always been the strong part of the appeal here, and for me at least, it's always been somewhat fascinating watch the story play out in a general absence of genre conventions, even at the most heroic of moments. That's because the work is never really done for heroes. Chaos and entropy are villains that never really go away.
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 50 Final"
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