각시탈 (Gaksital)

It’s been a year since Gaksital finished airing. Thanks to my Chuseok staycation, I finally had the chance to watch it.I could do it with two but it took me three days to finish all 28 episodes.It was difficult to watch-but in a good way.

I love the irony of it all.The enlightening darkness.The story made me ask myself a lot of things.

If I were one of the oppressed Joseon people would I be end up being a Lee Kang San or a Lee Kang To?

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Country or Family?And if I choose to fight for one or both..then how much would I be able to sacrifice?How far would I go?

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Mok Dan or Ueno Rie? Would I choose to die rather than bow to my oppressors or would I just choose to survive by sticking with their power at all costs? Would I fall for the Joseon fighter Gaksital or the strong and ambitious Lee Kang To? Since they are one and the same, would I be able to accept them both?

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Being Kimura Shunji would have been the most difficult for me.He struggled his inner demons and most of the time,he just couldn’t win.He struggled so much because he wanted to go back to his old self so bad but it’s just not possible.He was using his aim of killing Gaksital and his unrequited love for Esther as pathetic excuses to take off his uniform and redeem himself after all. I would have gone crazy too if I were him.

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It’s sad because we saw the kind,gentle, Korean-loving teacher that he was, but in the end, he was caught up in a dark path.

I love the unraveling of the main characters’ layers. It reminded me that everyone came from somewhere. We can never really judge a person solely based on who we think he is now. We can never categorize someone as good or bad.We all have both sides,it’s just that sometimes when we make a decision,we can never turn back.

So it was truly heart-tugging when Lee Kang To was crying at his hyung’s back. It shows the humanity that he tried so hard to turn off for the sake of his family.

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And later on, Shunji questioned himself just the same.

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Even some of the side characters were given a chance to grow: such as Minami Tamao (Lee Hae-suk) whose death brought depth to the show’s most ridiculous characters, the Count and Countess. For us they are nothing but selfish traitors who would sell their own country for the sake of money and power but for them,they are just helpless parents who only wanted what they thought was best for their son.
The mean circus girl Gye Soon, the police’s mole. I was annoyed with her for the longest time but the show made the audience realize what most of us have forgotten: that she’s someone’s daughter and someone’s sister,too.She thought that reporting to Shunji was the easiest way to make money without knowing its implications to the bigger cause, the dangers it could bring to all the circus members, because she was only doing it for her family.

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I love a drama where the characters are more than the usual cardboard cut-outs. I love the heart wrecking scenes that make you cherish the lighter moments…

… and small victories.

The show doesn’t hold back on revelations. It’s not afraid to unmask Gaksital halfway through the series or even halfway through an episode. It doesn’t use cheap tricks that toy on audience’s feelings for the sake of a cliffhanger.

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The complex characters and the intense performances of their actors, the well done narrative with its seemingly endless chase and one-upping, the unity for a patriotic fight, the odd twists of romantic fate, the badass and realistic action sequences and Joo Won’s swoon worthy suits and stares…

BINGO!

Gaksital is certainly one of the best historical dramas I’ve seen in my life. It’s epic but not something I’d watch over and over again.It isn’t necessary anyway.Watch it once or twice,that’s enough…because the feelings linger for a looong time.

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