Empress Ki aired in South Korea for six months but I finished it in six days right after its final episode on April 29. The show once again reminded of why I love watching sageuks. It impressed me in all ways, both in grandeur and in tragedy.
Ha Ji Won is one of my all time favorite South Korean actresses. She’s gorgeous, versatile and spunky – the perfect heroine for both historical and modern dramas. Her performance got me hooked since she made me recall her famous Gil Ra Im character when she cross-dressed to avoid being sent to Yuan as a Goryeo concubine.
From his prominent jawline, to his deep voice and masculine stance, Joo Jin Mo looks as if he was born to play the role of a king. I could still see a bit of his Ssanghwajeom ( A Frozen Flower) character in him but the first half of the drama has some light moments that allowed him to show his softer, more vulnerable side.
Speaking of light moments, there’s no one funnier than the cute heir to the Yuan throne. In reality, the Emperor would have looked so annoying and pathetic but Ji Chang Wook showed Ta Hwan’s puerile actions in a way that makes people just wanna hug him.
This is my first time to watch Ji Chang Wook in a drama, and I love hiiiiiim! *stalking his Twitter and Instragram now* “Where have you been all my life?”
Despite Seung Nyang’s not so manly disguise, both royalties were mesmerized. She must have saved an entire country in her past life to have the sexy Goryeo king and the adorable baby Emperor slowly fall head over heels for her. She’s worth it since she literally saved an entire nation later on anyway.
Ha Ji Won has an effortless ability to create chemistry with her co-stars so it’s quite hard to choose whether you’d root for the sizzling Wang Yu-Seung Nyang pairing or the sweet Ta Hwan- Seung Nyang.
MY FAVORITE ACTOR
Aside from the three main actors, the drama boasts a stellar cast and the one performance that I personally enjoyed was Baek Jin Hee’s spoiled Empress Tanashiri. I was entertained by her Empress trainings, snarky exchange of words with Lady Ki and Empress Dowager, and her adorable assumption that both the King and the Emperor had a crush on her. When she crossed the line with Lady Park, I couldn’t wait to get rid of her but when that time finally came, it made me wish she just stayed. Losing her was sad because she was replaced by a more cruel, less attractive Empress Bayan.
MY FAVORITE CHARACTER
Out of all the characters in the fictional world of Empress Ki, Tal Tal is the most consistently likable one. Seung Nyang went from being a kickass heroine to a revenge-driven biatch. The King went from being a strong leader to a loving martyr (Not that it’s a bad thing. I just wished he hadn’t died, but we all know, he had to.) The Emperor from a clumsy puppy to a paranoid drunkard. Baek han and Empress Dowager has some serious thirst for power while Eunuch Golta has greed for money… They all had their ups and downs. Only Tal Tal has remained loyal and rational amidst all the madness that’s going on around him.
It has been highlighted since Day 1 that trust is going to play a huge part in this saga. When the then-Crown Prince Wang Yoo went head-to-head with The Jackal for a drunk archery match, Seung Nyang’s men were all eager to volunteer as her target. As the story continues, it further proves that one’s strength does not solely rely on a person’s skill and wits.
Just like Seung Nyang, the King has his most loyal followers, too. He wouldn’t have made it that far if it weren’t for them and he never fails to acknowledge them. Wang Yoo has the ability to inspire people. He has his way of making something out of nothing. He was given a bunch of beggars but he knew the proper treatment to turn them into soldiers.
Trust is earned, not through bribery or intimidation but out of sincerity. The same way the Emperor won over the governors. And with that, he led his nation.
The more you trust, the harder it is to accept once it’s broken. There was too much treason in the palace but what surprised me the most was when the head of the Eagle House was finally unmasked. I was afraid that if Ta Hwan finds out, it would break his heart. It sure did.
An Aweful lot of cuteness and a hell lot of heartbreaks…
It’s hard to say there’s an OTP when O stands for One but there are actually Two. Wang Yoo is without a doubt, Seung Nyang’s first and true love. But that doesn’t make her love for Ta Hwan any less real.
The amazing thing about Wang Yoo and Seung Nyang is how they managed to show such powerful chemistry without even being on the same scene. While Nyang was serving the emperor in Yuan, Wang Yoo was fighting hard at the border. Their longing and loyalty for each other does not yield that’s why it was truly satisfying for us to see them reunited.
However, death is inevitable in sageuks, and Wang Yoo’s sacrifice moved me to tears. He loves Seung Nyang so much that he is willing to die for her even without a fight. His demise was easy to accept though, because we know that Seung Nyang loved him through and through.
It was the Emperor’s death that crushed my heart into tiny little pieces. He was young when his father got killed, he grew up in fear, he ruled as a puppet, he tried to man up and took the burden of his nation on his shoulders. He was totally in love but he loved for 5 years while suffering in silence because of that scum Yom’s fake love letters. And the revelation about Maha’s identity was such a huge blow but he continued to endure the heartaches while holding onto his love for Seung Nyang.
Seung Nyang was a little bit iffy in the beginning but that there were times when she genuinely cared for the Emperor. She should have been just a bit more expressive about it. The Emperor wouldn’t have had those schizophrenic moments if she paid more attention to him instead of getting caught up her complicated plots of vengeance.
Wang Yoo was wrong when he said Ta Hwan has never done anything for Seung Nyang. He might have been childish and all, but it was clear from the beginning til the end that the things he’s did, he all did it for her. His final words were “I love You”. I was afraid that he might leave without hearing Seung Nyang’s reply. I’m so glad he did. He nodded. And that nod assures me that the boy who once had no one is now happy on his way to the afterlife.
I love that the show doesn’t rely on fate the way most dramas do. More than fate, it reiterated the importance of making choices: to either side with Yuan or Goryeo regardless of where you were born, to either fight or to bow down. There’s so much twists going on and so the characters can never be complacent because one day they may be royalty, the next day they may become a slave or worse, a corpse.
From a cross-dressing warrior to an illegal salt dealer to a concubine to a servant to consort to empress – Seung Nyang had one heck of a long journey. The same thing goes with the other characters. We didn’t get to see it but they all have their history, they all have someone or something to protect.
Just as Empress Ki pointed out as she witnessed the death of Yom Beongsu, they were all just victims of circumstances. However, everything that happened afterwards were neither about fate nor luck, it’s their choices that make them who and what they are.