DONG YI’s finale sucks! Not because it’s bad, but is… blah. Seems like the writer didn’t really know how to end the 60-episode historical drama. Because the last episode is choppy, uncharming, and plain boring. If it wasn’t the finale, I’d effectively drop the episode entirely.
(If you haven’t watched this, you may want to skip to “The story of Dong Yi…” as the following three paragraphs may spoil parts of the ending)
Dong-yi is stubborn and pretty much goes her way regardless of how many people oppose the idea and ask her to reconsider. Some of her decisions were incomprehensible for me – such as refused to ascend the throne thus leaving her ‘fate’ in yet another queen’s hand, sort of abandoned her child in the hands of the queen, and moved out of palace. We already know how benignly angelical she is, but to spend almost an episode of her post-palace eleemosynary doings (particularly to help a certain made-up suspect) is too much a treat when the ending is within eyeshot. Because like any other case she’d handled, we knew she’d come out victorious. Why don’t we focus on her so that the road to the finish line is much smoother?
Actually shortly after the death of Consort Jang, I felt there’s nothing left for the story to evolve for another 5 more episodes. All of her oppositions have perished – she is the last woman standing in the full-of-conspiracies palace – what’s left? Making the crown prince the bad guy is too much to ask of him. Yet when another queen was brought in, who fiercely shot a glare at Dong-yi, I was gnarling, “Not again~” Introducing yet another villain this late is…unthink of. It turns out that the last man for Dong-yi to pwn is… the remaining minion of Consort Jang, Deputy Minister Jang. He who switches sides as easily as he changes shoes darts the last arrow to bring Dong-yi and Prince Yeoning down… for the sake of the crown prince, as if he – the prince – asks for it.
I guess the deputy never learns a thing from his doomed predecessors. Doesn’t he know how many ridiculous times Dong-yi escaped death? Or how many million times Consort Jang and co’s unsuccessful plans to harm her backfired, which eventually led to their own downfall? I thought capital punishment serves as a deterrent for those considering going toward similar unlawful path… thus idk what made the deputy think he could outfox Dong-yi. He may be good at manipulating people – the new queen included – but winning over people’s hearts is Dong-yi’s forte.
The story of Dong-yi – which is (loosely?) based on true past story – begins in her preteen years when she lives with her father, brother, and his brother’s friend. The family is framed and accused of murders. Dong-yi manages to escape and seeks refuge in the most dangerous place she could ever be – the palace – as no one would expect her to be there. Besides survival purpose, her goal to work in the palace as a low maid, unlike her friend’s to flee out of town, is to search for a lady she spotted showing a mysterious hand gesture which she believes could be used to track down the real culprit thus restoring her father’s honor.
In the process her primary intention seems to shift and be forgotten as she works her way up in the palace (while others seem to get stuck in their position for years). Started off as a music bureau maid, her fateful encounter with the King and then Lady Jang (ally-turned-nemesis) reveals her hidden capability, effectively makes her rise in ranks within a short period. At first her interaction with King was awkwardly cute, but they sober up as the story progresses and the relationship develops; and Dong-yi finds herself being entangled in the palace and kingdom’s intrigues and intricacies. Aforementioned, many are unhappy with Dong-yi’s speedy advancement (position-wise) mostly due to her lowborn background, thus repeated attempts to oust her.
However, she keeps on rising above her league until King takes her in as a consort (it’s actually ‘concubine’, but i suppose ‘consort’ is a politer term). She then bears a son who bonds with Consort Jang’s son, the crown prince. Their attachment is particularly sweet yet sad. It’s sweet as they innocently grow a liking in each other as they barely have anyone their age around the palace to play around with, naively form a brotherhood. It’s sad because they are in fact enemies who would one day fight for the throne. (Their outing scene is endearing but surely won’t end happily – as proven). They’re unaware of it yet, but their childhood innocence can only last so long – let alone when Consort Jang incessantly reminds her beloved son of that inevitable fact. In the end, while Consort Jang forcefeeds her son with the notion of power and domination, Dong-yi wishes to teach her son about life and humanity.
DONG YI is a long yet captivating drama. The overall tempo is slow – they walk and talk slowly with lots of respectful gestures and appellations – as the director gives us tons of long shoots and heedful expressions. This ain’t a fast pace drama but the tempo heightens whenever one (out of many many) conflict is about to end. The plot tightens up accompanied by revelation and triumphant moments (which happens only in one or two consecutive episodes) before the mood gradually subsides until we come across another case. It gets draggy — and yes, boring — after a while, but an episode (or two) a day is a good dose for me.
Oh! At times I came to hate the recurring flashbacks. They appeared too often especially when they returned to scenes happening just minutes earlier. I’m not that forgetful you know. They’re helpful for those who don’t closely follow the drama, but for those who did, it’s a fatal bore.
What I like about the drama is its lessons about life – namely power and politics. The moral lessons are timeless as they are still applicable in today’s life: e.g. how greed drives people to do anything to seize or maintain power. Or how Dong-yi views fated destiny: “There is no such thing as fate in this world. All this was nothing but your own choice.” If only laws were that pro-justice.
Good story, solid acting (Jang Hee-jay’s pouting irks me so much though), nice background music. Above all, I like the royal flared costumes (the flowy skirts!) and hair pieces best =p
Cast: Han Hyo-joo, Ji Jin-hee, Lee So-yeon, Bae Soo-bin
Genre: K-drama, Historical drama, Romance (60 Episodes)