Lee Gyum and Saimdang have tragically separated, off to live their own lives. That is, until the cliffhanger, when by fate they finally happen to meet again...and you know, that's the main issue I have with "Saimdang: Light's Diary". Considering that the framing device is literally academic research, one would think this drama would be more interested in the historical record. But no, rather than get exposition of Saimdang's life and accomplishments, we have to watch her suffer for not being with her one true love.
It's just so cheesy- and only made worse by the drama's more relatable moments. For most of the runtime here Saimdang struggles with trying to provide for a bunch of children in the midst of a bad housing situation. Sad and discouraging as the situation may be, Saimdang really womans up to make helping her family the number one priority, knowing that no one else will fill that gap if she doesn't. In her best moments, Saimdang is quite stoic.
Then the story switches back over to Lee Gyum doing ministerial stuff and I could not be more bored. Most of the men in this drama are rather forgettable really. With Won-soo that is at least sort of the point. The guy's so much of a dope he's zero help to his own wife, leaving Saimdang to solve problems that he created alone. This incidentally would be a very good parallel with Ji-yoon's modern day situation, so it's not really clear to me why Won-soo and Min-seok are being played by different actors.
The modern day framing device isn't doing too hot right now either unfortunately. Far from discussing anything academically related to Saimdang, Ji-yoon just engages in degrading economic survivalism. That too could potentially work as a parallelism with Saimdang's problems, except that we already saw Ji-yoon suffer from the housing crisis over the last several episodes, so that plotline is completely out of synch with the past one.
For all these glaring problems I do have to admit the issues are more with "Saimdang: Light's Diary" being excessively generic than being explicitly bad. This is a drama that comes with very high expectations, centering around a historical figure whose name is more famous than her story. And yet...neither writer Park Eun-ryeong nor director Yoon Sang-ho have any sort of experience with semi-realistic historical dramas. Well, that explains a lot.
Review by William Schwartz
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] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 5"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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