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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 13


Well the preview was a lie- for the fifth straight episode there's no framing device or context for "Saimdang: Light's Diary", although the story arcs are rather neatly bisected into two distinct portions. First, Lee Gyum goes on an expedition with King Jungjong which is allegedly about exotic artwork but practically seems to be more about Dick Cheney inspired hunting expeditions. Second, Saimdang is drawn into a tussle at the Joseon Parent Teacher Association because her son got into a fight.

Now, can you see what I mean about how Lee Gyum seems like the obviously more important character just because he always seems to be doing more important things? It's only a further aggravation how Saimdang's skill at calligraphy actually comes into play for once- in a high stakes, high stress situation so we don't get to see anything about process. Indeed, as presented in "Saimdang: Light's Diary" her artistic skill is treated largely as a very limited superpower, and the entire plot has to be contrived to lead to an climax where it could be useful.

It is also by far the least interesting way to interpret the life of the real Saimdang. In history, Saimdang was good at art because she had a very good education. Yes obviously talent was an important factor but Saimdang is a noteworthy historical person because a large conflagration of factors made her rise to fame plausible in an era when popular achievement by women was quite rare.

And these are, again, interesting factors in and of themselves. "Saimdang: Light's Diary" very briefly manages to show off some historical chops at the beginning by just using the subtitles to explain the schoolmaster's highfalutin language. Indeed, everything that goes on with the children is very relatable because being stressed out by performance anxiety is very much a thing in serious education that still exists in the present day.

Contrast this with the often psychotic ramblings Headmistress Choi goes into. That plays off less like something related to the real world and more the kind of generally mean petty gossip moms will make up about each other for the sake of heavy backbiting. The ultimate apparent conclusion to the story arc, Saimdang deals with Headmistress Choi by just leaving, is such an obviously logical solution that should have been thought of several episodes ago that I'm left dreading how Headmistress Choi is planning to go after Saimdang next.

Review by William Schwartz

"Saimdang: Light's Diary" is directed by Yoon Sang-ho, written by Park Eun-ryeong and features Lee Young-ae, Song Seung-heon, Oh Yoon-ah, Park Hye-soo, Yoon Ye-joo, Yoon Da-hoon and Kim Hae-sook.

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