What makes "Empress ki" such a fantastic drama is the fact that despite its weaknesses, the overly quality of the show allows we viewers to bypass those weaknesses and simply enjoy the show. As a reviewer, I have a few things to nitpick, but that's all those things are: nitpicky details.
The first nitpicky detail that jumped out was the fact that El Temur, resident antagonist is losing his scary edge. He was a good villain because he was brilliant and he flaunted that brilliance and his immense power in the face of his enemies (our good guys!). This episode saw El Temur make a decision that is very much unlike his normal mechanism of action, which weakened his fear factor. The show is trying to play the bad decision off as a byproduct of his old age, but that is just plain stupid. The reason this is a nitpicky detail is because of the effects wrought by El Temur's weakness and the endgoal of the writers when they wrote it in.
The real reason El Temur weakened seems to be in order to give us some serious strife between him and his oldest son, Tangqishi (Kim Jung-hyun-I). I haven't mentioned Tangqishi much, but he's a bigger player now that the focus is on palace politics. He strives for his father's approval and is instead scorned and told he isn't good enough. On top of that, he has fallen in love with Seung-nyang who has rejected him for Wang Yoo, who his father compares him to. In general, all this serves to sever El Temur from his greatest ally and also manages to serve up a heavy dose of a sad father/son story. I'm strangely invested in it despite that Tangqishi is a terrible human being and that is because Kim Jung-hyun-I is a great actor.
All of the tensions between father and son could've been brought about by a better issue than El Temur's weakening mental prowess in his old age. That is lazy writing. What the situation does bring us is Wang Yoo's fallibility: his plans aren't foolproof and his people are suffering the consequences of that. He's been presented as the perfect man who has just had bad luck with his lot in life. The errors make him seem more human.
Those errors also make the love triangle much more interesting because the players in the game are changing so much. Wang Yoo gets more desperate to protect Seung-nyang and desperation breeds carelessness. Although that doesn't mean good things for him, I'm excited to see how it affects the plot. Then there is Seung-nyang who is following Wang Yoo's path. She is well-trained, and focused, like him. Also like him is the fact that her need to help him and protect him is making her rush and make errors.
Ta-hwan is also suffering from heightened emotions and stakes, but in his case, it sharpens him because he, unlike Wang Yoo, is immature and rough around the edges and wasn't trying to change anything. He needs the stimulation to step up and take care of business. While he does take action to try and start to regain power, the immaturity and inexperience hinder him. Combine the three players and the triangle gets a lot more tense. Stakes are raised, emotions are heightened and jealousy flares, making the whole situation even more desperate.
The other nitpicky comment I have is the fact that all the major players bought into Tangqishi's ruse a bit too easily for trained warriors in wartime. But the situation was well-built and well-played, so I'm going to let it slide. It was really good to see Seung-nyang dressed in comfortable clothes and doing what she is really good at, even if only for a moment.
While the interesting stuff was gained by rather simple means, it was still interesting, fostered character development and made the politics a lot more tense and interesting. I just hope in the future the writers are more clever with the delivery.
Written by Raine from Raine's Dichotomy
Follow on Twitter @raine0211
Journalist, drama lover, and foodie, Lisa enjoys exploring Korea, speaking the language, and soaking in all that dramaland has to offer. Her Korean husband laughs that she knows more than he ever will about dramas and K-pop. Lisa Espinosa can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Empress ki" Episode 18"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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