meganbmoore: (Default)
For the interested, Netflix just added the cdramas King’s War (more commonly known as The Legend of Chu and Han) and Qin Empire Alliance (Which I THINK is the first of a now 3-part collection of series about the Qin Empire, but I’m not 100% certain-King’s War was easier to figure out because it has Peter Ho, whose series are easy to find descriptions of).


I don’t know who else pays attention to Netflix foreign acquisitions, but I do and it’s been...interesting. They’ve had a ton of Mexican telenovelas for ages and they used to have a lot of major network kdramas, a well as a lot of Taiwanese and Chinese dramas, but those dwindled down to almost nothing a while back. Then I think around the middle of last year, they started adding a lot of Turkish and Indian series-I’ve added some of these to my queue, but all I’ve watched so far is the first 11 episodes of Razia Sultan*, which I really like, but am stretching out as far as I can because there’s a lot more episodes that they haven’t added yet- and they started slowly replenishing their Korean and Chinese series selection, though they’re sadly light on historical and fantasy Chinese dramas, and the only sageuk they had is Tamra, which I’ve never managed to finish the first episode of. The last few weeks, though, they’ve been pretty much flooding the new additions with Chinese and Korean dramas. The Korean dramas are mostly cable network shows, particularly franchises-I Need Romance, Reply and Let’s Eat- and they’ve been pretty steadily adding Naver webseries for a while, so they probably did bulk purchasing from a couple of production companies, though they've also been purchasing exclusive international licensing for several series in recent months. The cdramas appear to be more random and a lot of them are ones I’ve never heard of, but I’m assuming there was similar bulk purchasing involved there. There have been some historical cdramas in the mix, but aside from the 2 I mentioned at the beginning and Ice Fantasy, they’ve been set in the 30s and 40s, and those tend to end up fairly heavy with the political propaganda.


There haven’t been too many series that I want to see added on the cdrama or kdrama front during this recent spurt, but I’m hoping this means more shows that I want to see will be added eventually, especially some of the recent cdramas that neither Viki nor DramaFever got.


*I should mention that there’s a truly cringeworthy quest arc at the beginning that I probably only got through because I’ve encountered far worse in anime and some cdramas, and the villains are sadly cartoonishly one note, but otherwise, it’s quite enjoyable.
meganbmoore: (parker and sophie)
Last weekend I watched all the available episodes of Lookout, and this weekend I’ve watched 7 episodes of Bad Thief, Good Thief (I had already seen and enjoyed the first 3 episodes well enough, but wasn’t invested yet.) For other kdrama fen who got over-invested in Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People, both of these series are pretty good followup series, though neither is a sageuk.



Neither series is perfect, but qualify for “Korean Leverage of my heart and soul” status. Bad Thief, God Thief, IMO, should have held off on various revelations until later on, and Lookout is...very clearly by a newbie writer at times-the male lead is over-complicated ( as opposed to complex) in that way where “morally ambiguous” becomes “convoluted and will anyone buy redemption at this point?” (the right actor could pull it off, but while this actor does smarmy well, he doesn’t have the screen presence and charisma to quit pull it off) and things don’t always come together the way the writer thinks they do. Bad Thief Good Thief has the more expansive and complicated plot tied to current and past politics (and almost 4 times as many episodes) but takes a few episodes to get going. It has a lot of narrative similarities to Rebel, and a few spoilery things actually had me looking to see if the two shows shared and production members or writers, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. They do share several actors, though. Lookout is much more fast paced with action scenes and a heroine who regularly is a gallant knight in shining armor rescuing other women.



They both get the “It” that Leverage had* but most shows of the type miss. That “It” is that it isn’t just cool people being attractive and witty and competent. It’s a wish fulfillment fantasy that there is someone who will see to it that the people who the law can’t or won’t punish will still be punished, an justice will be met. This is also the general “Robin Hood” fantasy, though the dynamics play out differently when it’s in a historical setting than when it’s in modern times.



Unsurprisingly, both shows, like Rebel before them, are from MBC. While SBS is floundering all over the place to figure out how to still mostly depend on an international audience when they’ve lost their biggest outlet (China) and KBS is...doing something (Like, I dunno. They aren’t the mess that SBS is, but they seem trying really hard to make their mark different kinds of dramas this year more than usual, with mixed results.) MBC is pretty much running around yelling “VIVE LA REVOLUTION” at the top of its lungs. (Ruler: Master of the Mask is also pretty heavy on the political commentary, but it’s much more focused on “Puppet ruler under the control of unseen master, BAD IDEA” while Rebel, Lookout and Bad Thief Good Thief focus more on widespread corruption and abuse of power and social standing.)



As an aside, Lookout might require trigger/upsetting stuff warnings beyond what you’d expect for these kinds of political thrillers.



*ok, Leverage had several “It”s that other similar shows lack, but I’m talking about a specific “It” here.
meganbmoore: (hwajung: jeongmyung revealed)
See this poster for the newly-airing sageuk, Seven Day Queen? This poster is very pretty, and makes me very angry.




Park Min Young may be in the center, and she may be playing the title character, but she isn’t the POINT of the poster. She’s demurely looking down and away, and almost seems incidental to the poster. See Yeon Woo Jin and Lee Dong Gun there? they’re both looking directly at the viewer, and their eyes are ALMOST level. Not quite, and noticeably not actually level with each other, but close enough that, with both looking at you, THAT’s what demands the viewer’s attention, with Park Min Young conveniently positioned well below that focal point. The message the poster sends is perfectly clear regardless of if you know anything about the plot: The men are the point, their relationship or conflict is what’s important. The woman is there as the love interest for one or both, but not the point. or the show. (To be fair, while this is the poster for the show I’ve seen the most, it isn’t the only one. The other posters are better in that she’s more of a focus, but they’re also very clearly focused on the romance, and don’t give her the gravity or import that this poster gives the men.)



This has been aggravating me since it first showed up, and the previews (after the first with all the quick cuts and the white color scheme) only furthered the impression. I still held out hope (and still do-it was my most anticipated of the current crop of kdramas) despite the steadily increasing unease the promotional materials gave me, but the first episode seemed to reinforce that impression, with most of the gravitas of the episode of the conflict between King Yeonsan and Lee Yook/future-King Jungjong and their issues with each other and Yeonsan’s daddy issues. Our Heroine was endearing and plucky, but almost incidental to most of the plot in the episode, despite supposedly being the main character. As I said when I watched the first episode over the weekend, I’m hoping that the focus readjusts itself once the childhood parts are over and it ends up the show it could be instead of the show I fear it will be.



more sageuk babble )

ETA:

Compare that poster to this poster of MBC's Hwajung (another drama about a female historical figure who rarely gets used in dramas set in her time period) from two years ago:



Once again, we have the female lead (and the series actually was originally titled Princess Jungmyung) centered between two of the male leads, and standing in front on them.  However,  Lee Yeon Hee is roughly eye level with Cha Seung Won and Kim Jae Won, and she is looking directly at the viewer.  Despite being outnumbered two-to-one, she is clearly the focus of the poster, and there's no doubt she's the lead and that this is her story, with the men playing parts in it.  Mind you the relationships are different-while there is romance and a romantic triangle (tough very one-sided) in Hwajung, neither of these men are involved in it.  One plays Jungmyung's older half brother, while the other plays her nephew (who is older than her, because, I mean, Korean Royals...) but the point and difference remain the same.



meganbmoore: (hwajung: jeongmyung revealed)


First teaser trailer for Seven Day Queen, about King Jungjong's first queen, Queen Danyeong, who was deposed and sent into exile only seven days after becoming queen because of her family's attempt to overthrow King Jungjong.

Probably my most anticipated of the upcoming sageuks for May (Ruler: Master of the Mask is the most likely hit of them, but only really on my list for the leads, and My Sassy Girl looks bad and everything I've read supports that, but I might check it out for Jung Da Bin if reviews aren't too bad) but i do worry that I, South Korea, and fandom in general might have a bit of a burnout with 3 sageuks set in the same basic period (7DQ is set in the overlap period between Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People and Saimdang: Light's Diary) in the first half of one year.
meganbmoore: (chae-ohk)
I wrote this for tumblr, where I've been writing about Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People a lot, and decided to crosspost this one here.

At this point, it’s actually a little sad that Saimdang: Light’s Diary and Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People are airing at the same time. Mind you, it’s not because one is easily one of the most hyped sageuks in years and isn’t performing well, while the other seems to have just been thrown out there as an afterthought and is pulling in good ratings, as well as better critical and popular response, it’s the content and themes. Personally speaking, I spent almost 2 years impatiently waiting for Saimdang, and was pretty sure it was going to be the best sageuk of the year when it did come out, something that I thought would hold true after watching the first two episodes. In contrast, Rebel was barely on my radar, and on my “watch now” list instead of “watch if people say good things while it airs” primarily because I liked Hwang Jin-Young’s previous sageuk (and only previous writing credit aside from a special) King’s Daughter Soo Baek Hyang. Halfway through their runs, Saimdang was moved to “I really like it but it could be better” status (with a lot of anger for how SBS execs screwed the show and LYA over, and now they’re taking their screwups out on the show, but I’m not going to dwell on that today) while Rebel has become the sageuk I just can’t see another sageuk surpassing it for a while. (Particularly since they all seem to at least partly center around the tropes and worldview that Rebel critiques.)



this ended up over 2500 words so here's a cut )
meganbmoore: (covert affairs: gimme tv)
1. I haven’t talked much about TV here recently, but I haven’t really felt fannish about US shows? Elementary and Madam Secretary are solid shows that I have great fondness for but little interest in initiating conversation about, though it is worth noting that MS is one of those shows that’s really going after the current political climate. Bones is on its final season and it’s still Bones, which mean that, like the last several seasons, it’s worth watching for the characters that I’ve been following for a decade, but not really a lot else. Supergirl is a show I was fannish about last season but am not really fannish about this season. I still enjoy it, and there are definitely very good things about this season, but the problems we were worried about when we learned it was moving to CW came to pass.  Rosewood is also still solid and enjoyable, though I'm slightly concerned that a miracle cure is in the works.

Timeless wraps up the first season tomorrow.  It's not brilliant SciFi, but it is very entertaining SciFi, and is pretty good at calling out how much US history has erased and persecuted POC.

Star Wars Rebels continues to be great, but I wish it would fully commit itself to the Mandalore plotline that’s been building up instead of the endless build up. I’m very much looking forward to some things in the trailer that haven’t happened yet.

I still enjoy Emerald City despite its problems, and I have so many questions about the past that can’t possibly be answered in the last two episodes without putting the main plotline on hold. At least it looks like my questions about Jane might be answered next episode, though.

The only new show I’ve checked out (or really plan to) is Powerless, which is a sitcom set in the DC universe about the employees of a security firm who work on inventions to keep people and possessions safe from superhero battles. It also falls into the realm of “really like but don’t feel fannish about” but really is a delight. Of the shows I’m watching, it’s also probably the one most blatantly anti-Trump.

I haven’t watched How to Get Away With Murder since it returned from hiatus and I haven’t watched any of this season of Jane the Virgin (I’m spoiled about That Thing in JTV, though). I’ll probably watch both when Netflix gets them this summer.

Right now, I’m mostly waiting for Underground, Into the Badlands and Brooklyn 99 to return from hiatus, and wondering if Still Starcrossed will ever make it to my screen.  I think all my other shows are summer/late spring shows.

2. For a few US shows I’ve completely recently:

Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events was a delight, due in large part to excellent casting and the actors’ ability to maintain an almost impossible pace for something so dialogue heavy. It’s hard to make something that requires that much dialogue and whose humor requires the narrator to step in so much to work, but they did it. My favorite character was Jacqueline, who had maybe 10-15 minutes screentime total throughout the season.

LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures is a TV show set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi about a trio of scavenger siblings who come across a woman claiming to be a Jedi who survived Order 66, and help her look for the pieces of the kybersaber, a weapon that pre-dated the lightsaber. It’s an irreverent comedy that spends a whole lot of time mocking Palpatine and Vader, and the Empire in general. I kind of wish it was pat of the main Star Wars animated Universe canon, because there’s some good stuff in there.

I finally got around to watching the back half of season 5 of Haven now that netflix has it. I appreciated how fully it committed itself to its gothic horror roots and its devotion to the new mid-apocalyptic setting. I did not appreciate hoe it still felt th need to kill off any plot-important women who weren’t Audrey. It also somehow took an ending that SHOULD have been perfectly satisfactory to anyone and made it be awful and make no sense. Sigh.

3. I have been fairly fannish about kdramas and cdramas lately, though, but most of that portion of my friend’s list has migrated to tumblr, or are both here and there, so I forget to also talk about them here. Surprisingly, I’ve been fannish about Hwarang, which has been an admittedly fairly-average sageuk, but an enjoyable one, and utterly harmless. For an idol-heavy youth drama sageuk, it’s actually pretty decent, despite the almost universally-awful promotional material and trailers. It’s Silla-era and has enjoyable characters, and I’m easy there. It also has the worst fandom possible, largely due to stans of certain actors and their characters who believe the universe has horribly wronged them by not making the show and all the characters revolve around their favorite.

I’m also really enjoying Saimdang: Light’s Diary and Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People, but despite the split-timeperiods aspect of Saimdang, both are being fairly old-school in their approaches, and so things are really just getting started. (Unlike Hwarang, both are also excellent sageuks by any standard right now, but not to the tastes or the more vocal parts of kdramas fandom. As in, there are no idols, and they’re busy being Serious Business Sageuks.)

4. Slightly related to the above, I’m glad Moon Lovers brought a lot of people to sageuks last year, but frankly, that drama was mediocre. Entertaining and with some bright spots, but mediocre both as a sageuk and as a drama in general. It’s popularity was because of the popular idols in the cast, Lee Joon Ki fans, the fact that it wasn’t set in the Joseon era, and because it hit a lot of fandom’s buttons for character overinvestment, none of which are actually related to quality. I didn’t bother finishing it when I learned that the final episodes literally killed off every single female character except for the one history said that it absolutely could not kill off. But it got a lot of younger viewers interested in sageuks, and also got some not-so-young viewers in that didn’t typically watch sageuks, but now I can’t go to any drama sites with seeing other sageuks and popular ancient cdramas compared to Moon Lovers and somehow being found wanting, with people going out of their way to find ways to compare them. Hwarang fandom is probably the worst about that. But every drama I’ve seen compared to ML in the last 6 months or however long its been has, IMO, been a better drama.

5. Completely unrelated to TV, I’ve been checking flights for WisCon and the prices are almost double what they were two years ago. Hopefully they’ll go down in the next month or so, but I’m not holding my breath. (I also have no idea yet if I have roommates or need to start asking friends if they have room. I know one of my regular roommates isn’t going, but I haven’t heard back from the other yet. I don’t think most people start worrying about roommates in February, though…)
meganbmoore: (nancy drew: girl detectives)
Wanted is a recent SBS series about an actress, Jung Hye In (Kim Ah Joong), whose son is kidnapped the same day she announces her intention to retire from acting. The kidnapper's demand is that she create and star in a reality tv show called Wanted, which has to maintain 20% ratings throughout its run, with the kidnapper providing a "mission" for each episode. The director she recruits is Shin Dong Wook (Uhm Tae Woong), who is famous for being difficult to work with. They dislike each other for reasons the show never bothers to explain (I think the writers forgot they put that in for early conflict) and he initially refuses but then decides that maybe it'll be a fun challenge. It takes a few episodes for him to get his priorities in order. Choi Joon Goo (Lee Moon Shik) is a producer close to Hye In who joins them, and Dong Wook pulls in Yun Woo Shin (Park Hyo Joo) who REALLY dislikes him, but has her priorities a little more in order Rounding out the production team is Park Bo Yun (Jun Hyo Sung) who did not realize Dong Wook hired her to be his personal hacker. MEANWHILE, Detective Cha Seung In (Ji Hyun Woo) is investigating the case of a kidnapped girl and does not really have time for this high profile case every other detective is paying attention to that might just be a publicity stunt, until it turns out that his kidnapped girl might be related to the same case.

The villain is rather A-like initially, seemingly omnipotent with spy gear and a network of associates, except that not-A decided to target grownups instead of scared teenaged girls, and grownups are more likely to to successfully chase down your messenger and find the hidden camera and catch your flunkies and remember to bring along the strapping detective who knows martial arts when going into the creepy building. It quickly becomes apparent that not-A is using Hye In and the show to expose a network of conspiracies and corruption and is arguably doing things for the ultimate greater good, but the show never forgets that not-A abducted a small child and terrorized his mother, so we shouldn't find them TOO sympathetic. Like other shows with A-like villains, the plot quickly becomes labyrinthine when it comes to the mystery and previously-unknown character connections, but since it's a limited series and not meant to go on forever, they're able to actually tie everything together and resolve it before it becomes too convoluted, and none of the many, many cliffhangers and plot twists are left hanging. Even if they did forget to ever tell us why Hye In and Dong Wook disliked each other at the beginning. (Fandom jumped to the most obvious theory that they used to be lovers and he's actually the abducted child's biological father, but canon discarded any possibility of that rather quickly.)

There's lots of women mentoring/protecting other women, and Hye In is one of the few kdrama heroines I've seen who owns and drives her own car, though whether she's driving herself or being driven around by someone else largely depends on what the plot needs at the time. this may sound minor, but it's actually a pretty big deal for a woman to actually rive herself around in a kdrama. Usually they take buses, or are always passenger being driven around by one of the male characters, even successful businesswomen don't drive themselves around.

Like Liar Game there is absolutely no romance whatsoever to speak of, though the show has a clear preference if you want something to ship. I spent a lot of the series thinking about how, if this was a US series where they wanted renewals and to drag the show out as long as possible, there would be a romantic triangle between Dong Wook, Hye In and Seung In since romantic triangles always bring in the drama and often ratings. But since it's a limited series marketed as a thriller, they don't have to worry about having people come back for more next year, just in having enough ratings to not get cancelled. (And, I mean, the way Korean drama programming is set up, your ratings have to be really, REALLY bad to be cancelled, and then you still get to have an ending, just earlier than expected.) Mind you, Wanted DID have low ratings, just not low enough to be in danger. They did push the final week's episodes back because of the Olympics, though, which didn't make any of us happy.

It may not have been popular, but I thought this was a good thriller series that ended up more female centric than it initially seemed (at first I worried that Hye In would be the central character, but that any other women would have minor roles. The former was true, but not the latter) and managed to deliver a satisfying resolution too the A-like villain plot, which I always start off liking in the US shows but then they lose me because it gets too convoluted without resolving it.
meganbmoore: (hwajung: jeongmyung revealed)
The K2 and Moon Lovers were dramas with such huge potential that ended up such disappointments.



Two days ago, someone asked me whether or not I’d rec Moon Lovers and my answer was a longer version of “It’s a mess but it’s an entertaining mess with enough bright spots to make up for it.” (My favorites being the playboy musician Goryeo prince in love with the vengeance-seeking Baekje princess turned gisaeng, assassin and spy, and the Goryeo princess who starts a minor ambitious antagonist but later explodes in a flurry of righteous anger and ambition and a lot of hate for the men who keep trying to control her) But now I’ve read spoilers for the last 4 episodes and just...want nothing to do with the rest of it. It sounds even messier than the rest and possibly in a hurry to kill of as many female characters as possible. And, well, while both men and women have died because History Said So, no men have died for the primary purpose of furthering another character’s arc, but multiple women have. I just hope casting directors were paying attention to Kang Han Na during this, because she’s perfect for sageuks.



Then there’s The K2, which I thought/hoped would be an improved version of Yong Pal, which had the same writer, and a similar setup in terms of initial character positions and allegiances. Instead it dumped most of what was good about Yong Pal and replaced it with inconsistent and poor characterization more often than not. I was led to expect a drama about a politicians secret daughter who seeks revenge against her ambitious and ruthless stepmother and a bodyguard torn by loyalties between both. And I’m pretty sure the creators really did think that was the show they were writing. Instead they didn’t get the plot started until around episode 9, couldn’t be bothered to give the heroine more than the sketchiest development (what characterization there was mostly came from Im Yoon Ah trying her hardest with little to go on) and gave the most development to the villainess, who they gave sympathetic development to then told us she was irredeemably evil. I don’t even know what to make of the characterization of the male characters, as they seemed to be making their personalities up as they went along, along with the plot. Then the PD did an interview where he actually criticized Song Yoo Na for being a good actress and said it was annoying because her outacting everyone else was leading to fanon interpretations that he didn’t want.



These were my most (only, really) anticipated kdramas of the last round of dramas. Hopefully the next round will be better, and I might check out a couple others that people have talked about. Hopefully the next batch is better. At least The Flower in Prison hasn’t let me down? I haven’t watched last weekend’s episodes yet, but nothing about the first 47 episodes makes me expect disappointment for the last 3.
meganbmoore: (paladins: yan yu/mo le: pre-angstplosion)
I've started watching The K2 (I'm around 20 minutes into episode 2), and airing kdrama about a presidential candidate's secret daughter (who was locked away in a Spanish convent by her stepmother) and a former secret service agent who becomes her bodyguard, and the main thing I've gathered is that in Spain, it's totally normal for desperate women in white nightgowns with bloody feet to run through the streets like a gothic heroine fleeing a wicked baron's castle (or in this case, a convent where she's beng ilegally imprisoned?) regardless of what time of day it is.



Brief notes:



1. The fairy tale elements aren't as prominent as they were in Yong Pal, the previous series by the writer, but they're there, this time more along the lines of Snow White or Cinderella than Sleeping Beauty.



2. Hobo!Ji Chang Wook, you rescued Gothic Heroine from three pursuers already, why did you just thrown up your hands at the fourth? (Hopefully that will come back to bite him in the arse later on.)



3. Gothic Heroine's Scum Dad wants us to believe he's a tragic figure who loves but can't see his daughter in the same breath he states that he knows where she is and that she's desperate to escape, ut that he...is basically too busy or whatever to go to her, and can't be bothered to do more for her than to forbid her being killed by Wicked Stepmother. I hope Scum Dad is the actual villain of the piece.



4. I agree with most comments I've seen that Wicked Stepmother completely steals the show and I hope she ends up more antagonist/eventual ally than villain. However, I've been following the tags off and on for the last week and am uncomfortable withow a lot of posts seem to be falling into the trend of disregarding/undermining the narrative of an abuse victim in favor building up the abuser. (Which, actually, is pretty common among fandoms for fairytale retellings/themed things in recent years regarding Wicked Stepmother characters, though that's at least in part because they're typically played by the more experienced actresses with larger followings.)



5. I can't remember how many episodes of Yong Pal it took for Yeo Jin to escape her medically induced coma, but I hope Gothic Heroine gets unleashed with just as much scorched earth vengeful spirit going for her, but without getting punished for it.



6. The only name know is Gothic Heroine's, which is Anna (because they say it so much), but I'm going to continue to call her Gothic Heroine until they get the poor girl some decent clothes and she doesn't have to spend all her free time plotting ways to escape a Spanish convent.
meganbmoore: (hwajung: jeongmyung revealed)
Maids is a recent sageuk set during the reign of King Taejong, about an arrogant young noblewoman, In Yub, who becomes a slave after her father is framed for treason. She's sold into the house of her former romantic rival, who proceeds to make her life miserable, and clashes with the existing servants of the household, who she had been arrogant towards before. The head of the household is a high ranking official, and In Yub sets out to find a way to prove her father's innocence, while trying to adjust to her new life. There's also the shenanigans by the ACTUAL traitors, and their plots to overthrow the king. Somewhere in the mix, there's the secret offspring of the king who various people are searching for.

As the title suggests, the main focus of the series is on the maids of the household. The political aspects drive a lot of the plot, but are secondary to the character stuff. In Yub isn't difficult to like or sympathize with at first-in the first episode, she throws a temper tantrum that results in the second female lead, Dan Ji, being severely beaten, and this is after several smaller acts of arrogance and mistreatment of servants. The show does make a point to say that she's usually much kinder to servants and is only acting that way because of stress, but it still makes her someone who takes out her frustrations out on people who can't fight back. Naturally, In Yub is pretty well hated by the other servants of the household at first, but since no one really wants to spend 20 episodes watching the main character be arrogant while everyone else bullies her, she soon grows up and becomes friends with many of the other servants. While her actual character arc to make her more likable and sympathetic is well written, I mostly credit the actress with the fact that I came to love the character as much as I did.

On the romantic end of things (it IS a kdrama, after all) In Yub's former fiance, Eun Gi, is also trying to find evidence that her father was innocent. I initially liked Eun Gi a lot, but he's a bit less upstanding than he initially seems, which I would have been fine with. I was not, however, fine with his being so determined to "save" In Yub that he ignored the fact that many of his efforts actually made things worse for her, and made her requests that he stop doing things that get her beaten, almost married off to human slime, and almost sold to another household as a surrogate and so on be all about him and his pain at being rejected. At one point, he starts bemoaning about how there's no one in the world who is more miserable than he is, referring to the fact that his ex is suffering a lot while he's off visiting gisaeng and eating well and wearing nice clothes and literally benefiting from her labor. On the flipside, we have Moo Myeong, the head servant of the household who many other servants consider to be hard and cruel, but is actually secretly trying to protect them. He may or may not be involved in all the political shenanigans, which puts a kink in his status as the better love interest. There's also a secondary romance between Dan Ji and the young master of the household, whose name I forget. I spent most of the series thinking she could do much better, but I guess he proved himself well enough towards the end. There's also, of course, plenty of femslash options around, given the setup. The most obvious one being In Yub/Dan Ji, but also In Yub and Sa Wol, her maid from before she was a slave, who eventually joins the household. Even the villain ships In Yub/Sa Wol.

A lot of the plot and developments are fairly standard for the genre, but the show manages to stay largely fresh and exciting by the writing and the acting. It also escapes one of the huge downfalls of many of its kind in that it never stops being completely In Yub's story, even at times when many series would cheerfully let the focus shift to the male characters.

Interestingly, Jeong Yu Mi and Lee Cho Hee (In Yub and Sa Wol) went straight from Maids to six Flying Dragons, which is about King Taejong in his younger days.
meganbmoore: (gfb: cute)
If you follow me on tumblr (and don't black out when I talk about kdramas) then you know that I spent 9 weeks devotedly watching this show, which I initially only checked out for Seo Hyun Jin and Kim Mi Kyung. Two women named Oh Hae Young (OHY for the lead and OHY2 for the secondary female lead) were in the same class throughout high school. OHY2 was bright, popular and pretty, the social center everywhere she went and consistently one of the top students in her grade. OHY was plain (or so I'm told by the show...like Hollywood, "slightly less glamorously gorgeous and not fashionable" counts as "plain" here), always in the bottom half of the class, and always mistaken for OHY2 when it came time for bullies to come around, or rejected suitors to throw rocks through windows, and was constantly made fun of by their classmates.

As an adult OHY's life seems to have turned around, until her fiance dumps her the day before their wedding. In a grand case of mistaken identity, it turns out that OHY2 left her fiance, Do Kyung, at the altar, and Do Kyung, believing that OHY's fiance is the man OHY2 left him for, arranges to have the fiance's business ruined, resulting in the fiance being arrested for fraud. He later learns about his mistake and alternates between trying to make amends without revealing what he did, and pretending he never did anything (there's actually a point towards the middle where both he and the show seem to forget that he ever did anything to start with, though the show recovers from that). He also has visions of OHY which always come true. Shortly after, OHY2 returns to Korea working for the same company as OHY, upsetting both OHY's professional and personal lives.

The show has two main alternate titles, Oh Hae Young Again and Another Oh Hae Young. When the title is OHYA, it's from the perspective of OHY, and referring to OHY2 entering her life again. Both Hae Youngs have depression (OHY2 also has anxiety) though neither presents in a way that we immediately associate with depression, and both live in a constant state of impostor syndrome. OHY is lazy and cheerful and willing to laugh along and even joke at her own expense, but will speak out if you go too far. But she's also a complete mess inside, and aside from the laziness, much of her public persona is a defense mechanism. OHY2 continues to present as open and cheerful and, friendly but if you look closely, she doesn't actually have any FRIENDS. Instead she's the bright star everyone orbits around, but no one seems to truly care about or really know. Even before she returns to the main story, we know from flashbacks that she exists in a state of near-desperation for approval, without letting others know how insecure she is. OHYA is about both women coming to love themselves and dealing with their jealousy towards each other (OHY2's reasons for jealousy don't get revealed until later on) and coming out better for it, with a hefty romance plot to go along with it.
AOHY is from the perspective of DK, and his realizing his mistake and trying to deal with it, while also falling for someone he unintentionally hurt, as he deals with his own enormos load of problems. For better or worse, AOHY is the route the shows opts for, with OHYA being the secondary focus. While I really, really like AOHY, OHYA is the show I wanted.

Along with the Hae Young's, the best characters are OHY's parents, who are poor in money but huge in personality and cooking skills, and Soo Kyung, the extremely weird boss of the OHYs and DK's older sister, who has her own weird romance plotline with DK's playboy best friend (and the one who co-plotted the destined-to-misfire revenge while extremely drunk).

The show had a two episode extension that it really didn't need, resulting in some things dragging out much longer than it should, and DK is difficult (to say the least) for a lot of the show. There's also a lot of toxic relationships and some secondary focus on the affects of bad parenting. In addition to the sometimes laggy middle, some things towards the end were blatantly manufactured for the greatest drama. Despite that, and it not going for the focus I wanted, I think this is one of the better kdramas I've watched so far in 2016.
meganbmoore: (detective dee: red)
Something about Jeong Jo's reign seems to inspire short sageuks. Or at least, 3 that I've watched (maybe 4...I can't recall when Joseon X-Files was set). Jeong Yak Yong is an 8 episode procedural sageuk about the titular Joseon Scholar. Framed for charges of corruption, JYJ is stripped of his official title and sent to by a minor official in a small province, where he promptly proceeds to start coming across murder investigations and helping/annoying the local police.

The cases tend to focus on social ills and abuses, and should probably include warnings for rape and suicide, and spousal abuse in the first episode. Nothing close to most US procedurals or "grim and gritty" shows in these regards, but moreso than most sageuks. I should mention it ISN'T a "grim and gritty" show-it's lighthearted when it comes to character interactions and serious with the cases and social issues. Aside from JYJ, the main characters and his partners are Seol Ran, a female police officer who is a baby social activist (and who JYJ has a crush on) and his bodyguard Moo Young, who doesn't actually have a lot of personality. His main job is to look pretty and save JYJ from getting killed a lot. And Seol Ran, sometimes, but she's less prone to needing it. There's also Seol Ran's boss, and thief JYJ occassionally employs, the mother and daughter who runs the inn he stays at, and a mentally ill young man who has latched on to JYJ. The supporting characters are largely used for comedic relief, sometimes well, sometimes not so well.

Since it's episodeic in nature, almost all the usual sageuk faces show up at some point. My favorite is the not-so-regular-in -sageuk guest appearance of Yoon Ji Min, who I loved in both Chuno and Warrior Baek Dong-Soo. I really wish she got more sageuk roles, or major roles in general. I found it hilarious that she was playing a well known and respected investigator here, since she played an assassin in her other sageuks, even though they came after.

Overall, I thought the series was pretty good, though I did briefly think I'd have to anti-rec it after something in the last episode, but it fixed that at the last minute.
meganbmoore: (city hunter: na na/gun)
 One of the kdramas I bingewatched recently and keep getting sidetracked from writing up is Healer. Thankfully, I eventually remembered that [personal profile] skygiants did a writeup that covered about 90% of what I would have said. (The other 10% involves things like shouting KOREAN SUPERMAN and talking about how no one outside of anime REALLY does all that Parkour stuff, and non-awful-if not 100% consistent-handling of autism, anxiety and depression.)

So go read their post here and then watch the show.
meganbmoore: (hwang jin yi)
I'm very pleased to report that the first 2 episodes of The Flower in Prison, the latest superlong MBC sageuk from Lee Byung-hoon about a woman, Ok-Nyeo, who is born and grows up in a prison and wages war against social and legal injustices as an adult (plus romance and political shenanigans), lived up to my expectations.



A few brief notes:



1. This girl playing teenaged Ok-Nyeo is proof that sageuks tend to get the most talented child actors. (I mean, she's probably 16 or so, so older than most child actors, but you know what I mean.)

2. Most sageuks of this type tell us most or all of the main character's origins in the first episodes, but here we barely know any more than Ok-Nyeo does. I suppose they can get away with that since she's completely fictional (afaik) as opposed to based on a historical figure. Even The Royal Gambler has a protagonist based on a prince who died in infancy.

3. I guess it's because the characters are probably going to be close in age to the actors, but it's really, really weird and slightly uncomfortable that they didn't get a younger actor for Tae Won (Official Love Interest) for the episodes when Ok-Nyeo is only 15. Granted, people physically change less between their 20s and 30s than their teens and 20s, and he (thankfully) isn't displaying even the vaguest hint of romantic or sexual interest at this point, but it's weird watching an actor in his 30s playing a character in his 20s against a teenager, knowing the same actor will be romancing the character when she's being played by someone else in her 20s and he'll be playing the same character in his 30s.

4. These are apparently the nicest and most helpful prisoners ever? I mean, granted, we mostly see them interact with Ok-Nyeo, who is a kid who does favors for them, and who many have known for years, and they don't seem quite as nice when she isn't around to see, but I was expecting something of a harsher environment? It does look like Ok-Nyeo is going to grow up a bit darker and more devious than most sageuk heroines are, though.
meganbmoore: (hwajung: jeongmyung revealed)
Trailers for 2 upcoming sageuks that I plan to watch:

Mirror of the Witch:



It doesn't really give anything away as it's the first teaser trailer and they probably haven't filmed much, but it certainly looks pretty. I'm somewhat leery of the age difference between the leads, but we'll see how it goes.

More importantly The Flower in Prison:



It's directed by Lee Byung Hoon (Dae Jang Geum, Yi San, Dong Yi, etc.) and about a Joseon-style female litigator.


I've been watching The Royal Gambler, in which the firstborn son of Choi Sukbin and King Sukjong doesn't actually die in infancy like he does in history, but is hidden away and grows up a peasant, but don't think I'll watch more. It's not BAD by any means. Good production values, pretty good acting all around (with plenty of reliable sageuk faces), interesting enough plot, but it just isn't working for me. If there weren't multiple sageuks coming out soon (in addition to the above, I am most definitely watching Shin Saimdang: The Herstory later this year, will most likely at least check out Scarlet Heart: Ryou and may give Hwarang a chance) I'd probably watch more to see if it grabs me more, but for once I have enogh new stuff coming my way soon that I don't need to worry about being left bereft.


I actually have a LOT of TVs that I need to post on: Maids, Liar Game and Healer on the kdrama from, The Legend of Hua Mulan (I watched all 48 episodes in under 2 weeks. Take that as you will.) for chinese series, and a bunch of British dramas that would take too long to list off. Plus Wynonna Earp and maybe The catch for US TV.

But writing them up takes away time from watching TV and reading books...
meganbmoore: (arang: bedsharing)
Set in a fictional alternate-Joseon, Scholar Who Walks the Night is about a vampire scholar, Sung Yeol, who battles the evil vampire, Gwi, who has secretly ruled Joseon through a series of puppet kings for centuries. When he was human, Sung Yeol served a prince who was trying to expose and stop Gwi. The prince wrote a book that supposedly holds the secret for how to kill Gwi, but it has since been lost, and Sung Yeol hires Yang Sun, a book merchant who is a young woman who dresses as a man, to find the missing book. There's also the CURRENT prince, Lee Yoon, who wants to avenge his father, also killed by Gwi, and who thinks Yeng Sun is a lot like his missing childhood best friend, who was a boy, as well as Hye Ryung, a young woman who was sold to Gwi as a child, and who is the spitting image of Sung Yeol's dead fiance, Myung Hee, who was a victim of Gwi's fridging spree. The rest of the cast are a bunch of court officials who are hard to keep straight aside from the king and Hye Ryung's scumbag father, and then Sung Yeol and Lee Yoon's sidekicks.

The first episode, which is Sung Yeol's origin episode, tries to kill you with the cheese, amplified by the cheesiest overly melodramatic soundtrack ever. It pretty much consists of having Sung Yeol find out that vampires exist, become a vampire, an dthen having Gwi kill off pretty much everyone Sung Yeol knows for maximum fridging effect. The cheese factor steadily decreases after that and is at an acceptable level by around episode 4 or so. Except for with Gwi. I can only assume they amped up the cheese there to try to mask the fact that Gwi is the boringest of boring fantasy sageuk things. Maybe a better actor could have made the character work, but the actor did nothing for me on any level. I struggled to pay attention during his scenes until about 2/3 through the series, when more interesting things started to happen around him because of other characters. (He also doesn't come across as remotely dangerous or scary to me, which sometimes made me wonder if Sung Yeol was just incompetent.) That said, about 80% of the tumblr tag is people loving him, so it could just be me.

Despite finding Gwi boring, I did really get into the series after a few episodes, and liked all the protagonist characters.Sung Yeol has a fair number of Jerk Vampire Boyfriend moments early on, but he gets over them and the romance ended up pretty enjoyable. Yang Sun has GREAT reactions to Angsty Vampire Exposition. Her reaction to the whole I am a vampire and you must hate me now. Let me display my powers a bit to make sure you understand how I am Very Bad Wrong For You and I'll go back to may angsty and lonely immortal existence" is "A. Why did you think this would make me stop liking you? B. I know you have a good memory so you better not have forgotten I ever existed in a few decades since you still spent some time mooning over your first girlfriend, and C. THANK GOODNESS YOU DID NOT DIE CHECK IN WITH ME WHEN IT LOOKS LIKE YOU DIED BUT YOU'RE OK, WILL YOU?" I do sideeye some of the things that didn't clue her in, since VAMPIRE WHO SECRETLY RULES THE KINGDOM is a rumor that's been going around for centuries, but I've seen worse. The final arc has Yang sun actively weaponizing popular fiction and urban myth, not to mention saving Sung Yeol and Lee Yoon with her fanfiction, which made me forgive a lot.

The show is also blessedly free of romantic triangles. After being hit by a figurative bulldozer on meeting Hye Ryung, Sung Yeol switches to mostly being weirded out by someone looking exactly like his dead girlfriend wandering around town once he realizes that she has no relation to Myung Hee, and is just kind of vaguely uncomfortable around her but there's no interest at all on either side. (There is an arc where there's a bit of gaslighting to make him think it's the whole "she was secretly turned into a vampire and must be saved" thing, but it lasts about 5 minutes.) For a bit, it looks like Lee Yoon might be falling for Yang sun, but he categorizes her as "adorable little sister" instead of "woman I cannot have" and his only reason for having an issue with the Yang Sun/Sung Yeol relationship is the fact that he's a vampire who likes to battle an evil vampire who likes to eat young women. One of Sung Yeol's sidekicks, Soo Hyang, has a jealous period, but that's more "I thought you never looked at me that way because you were Permanently In Love With the Tragically Dead Girlfriend, but you were in love with this girl after about a month so I'm kind of wondering why I never had a chance..." than anything else, and she gets over it before long.

It's not the best of the fantasy sageuks in recent years (ignoring the time travel ones-because I haven't seen most of them-I think that's still Arang and the Magistrate) but I ended up really enjoying it. I will admit that I probably would have lost interest if I'd tried watching it weekly, but it works really well for a bingewatching show. (And I don't do well with watching kdramas as they air anyway.)
meganbmoore: (covert affairs: gimme tv)
I have not died, I've just been on a bit of a culling spree in my apartment. I've also been binging on kdramas, though that really means that I've been alternating between multiple kdramas.

They are:

Oh My Venus: Airing drama that's a romcom about an overweight woman and a hollywood fitness trainer. On paper it's everything wrong with romantic fiction, but in practice, it's actually very very delightful, largely because od Shin Min Ah and So Ji Sub. I freely admit that I wouldn't have bothered with it if I didn't like both leads. There's definitely some fatphobia going on, but not nearly as much as I feared, and they do at least try to avoid the worst of it first by having him decide to help her lose weight not because he thinks fat=yucky, but because she's doing harmful things to her body to try to lose weight. They also attach her weight to an initially-undiagnosed medical condition, which I sideeye because the real world medical profession tends to dismiss a lot of issues as being the result of weight instead of exploring other possibilities, but at least they tried. There's also a secondary romance between a boxer who is So Ji Sub's foster son and an idol who is his fan that is simultaneously hilarious and semi-cute, and offputting because she pretty much stalks him. I'm hoping they move past the stalking soon and they have real conversations, because I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to want them to get together. I haven't seen the most recent episode yet because I'm watching on Hulu and they don't have it yet, but am current otherwise.

My only big "OMG NO NO NO" moment was actually entirely unrelated to the romances and all about someone soing CPR by pressing on the top of the sternum. YOU DON'T PRESS THERE. THE POINT OF CPR IS THAT YOU'RE FORCING THE LUNGS TO WORK BY MAKING THEM PUMP AIR. THE INTERNAL ORGANS ARE ENTIRELY UNAFFECTED IF YOU'RE JUST PUSHING AGAINST UNRELENTING BONE AND CAN'T GET TO THE ORGANS. *medical pet peeve to end all pet peeves*

Yong Pal: About a medical student who secretly provides medical aid for criminals to earn money, and an heiress who is being kept in a coma by her evil brother. (Who actually seems very fond of her in the one flashback we had of them pre-coma? WHAT HAPPENED BESIDES HER RUNNING AWAY TO GET MARRIED TO SOMEONE UNAPPROVED?) I wasn't interested in it but tumblr made it look interesting when it was airing, and I like Kim Tae Hee, who plays the heroine. The actor who played Myong Nong in Soo Baek Hyang plays the evil brother, and I still haven't quite accepted that. It's a Sleeping Beauty story, something they keeps hitting us over the head with. Episode 4 literally begins with "here is our version of Our Hero having fought his way through the wall of brambles (or in this case, absurd levels of corporate hospital security) to get to the sleeping princess, and we'll tell him she's Sleeping Beauty in case anyone in the audience has missed it.' Hopefully, now that he's found her, she'll wake up soon and set out to get her revenge, which is what I signed up for. I had just started episode 4 when I realized I should post about the shows I've been watching.

Jung Yi: Goddess of Fire: Drama based on Baek Pa-sun, a Korean potter during Gwang Hae's reign. (And will have what i'm pretty sure is a 100% historically anachronistic romance with him.) I'm still in the childhood parts, so it's pretty much the teenagers who play kids in all the sageuks running around being adorable dorks and the adults who are in all the sageuks doing Important Political Scheming Things while the importance of pottery and ceramics is drilled into us. So, normal MBC sageuk biodrama stuff. Very delightful so far, though I'm only 3 episodes in.

Queen In Hyun's Man/The Queen and I fantasy series about a scholar/swordsman who served Queen In Hyun accidentally travelling through time and meeting a woman who is playing Queen In Hyun in a drama. This was seemingly universally loved when it was airing and I've neber encountered anyone who didn't like it, but I bounced off the first episode several times ober the last few years. I finally finished the first episode (3 episodes, actually), and I do like it, which I always assumed would be the case if I finished the first episode though I can't say I'm in love with it.

Maids: My favorite so far of the completed dramas I'm watching. An arrogant young noblewoman becomes a servant in her romantic rival's household after her father is accused of treason. Romantic interests are her previous fiance and the head servant of her new household. Said head servant is played by Oh Ji Ho (who is likable cardboard in modern dramas, but does the "stoic and serious sageuk action hero" thing very well) so we know who will be the final love interest even when the current plot makes it seem very implausible. As the title implies ,most of the focus is on female servants, with the politics providing the B plot. I hadn't realized this drama had been completed after the fire/death of a crew member made production stop after the first episode aired last year until I saw it on hulu. It's kind of unrelentingly angsty and depressing so far, but then, I'm only watched 4 episodes.

I also watched the first episodes of the Chinese series Perfect Couple, but it was a little too OTT for me, and the first episode of the Japanese series Atelier. I actually really liked Atelier, but it was a bit confusing hearing Japanese when my brain kept expecting to hear Korean because of all the other shows I'm watching, so I'm saving it for when I've finished a few things.

For US TV:

The Librarians has almost finished its second season. I don't like this season's ongoing plotline as much as I did the first season's, but the entertainment level is just as high, and it's been doing some nice character stuff.

Into the Badlands ended and no second season has been confirmed yet. I really really hope there is one. For better or worse (depending of whether or not you cared about them) I probably won't spew a thousand words about the last 2 episodes, but I have a lot of feelings about how incredibly satisfying Quinn's villainous comeupance was, and about The Widow's dual role as protagonist and antagonist, so I may post about those on tumblr. If there is a season 2, I hope they don't keep locking M.K. up in cages and boxes so much. Just let the poor kid go find his mom already!

I'm watching Jessica Jones and it's going slowly because of the content and because of some of my issues with it (mostly race!fail stuff, but also the fact that I'm apparently not meant to hate the entitled annoying Jessica-hating cop guy) but I do like it. I do really appreciate how the writers were clearly aware of fandom's tendency to woobify villains and went out of their way to give nothing to grab onto for woobification or logical sympathetic interpretations of the character, or any reason to find him interesting in and of himself. I mean, it didn't work, but I really appreciate the effort. Trish (which I always type as "Patsy" first) is my favorite, despite her awful taste in men, and I thought she and Hope were the same character in gifs I saw. Pretty sure the resemblance is deliberate for maximum levels of investment for Jessica.

This reminds me that I really need to post of several dramas I bingewatched over the last few months.

TeeVee

Nov. 7th, 2015 11:46 am
meganbmoore: (arang: smoochies)
1. The Librarians is back and I hadn't even realized z return date had been set yet.

spoilers )

2. Supergirl officially started! I watched the pilot when it leaked and it was mostly like I remembered it, though there were a few scenes I remembered being longer before.

spoilers )

Despite its issues, I really really like it. And sure, it's pretty 101 when it comes to feminism, but let's face it, unlike the bulk of the people criticizing the show for the heavyhanded feminism (and ignoring the ones who are trying to cover for being afraid of girl cooties getting in their superhero shows) the vast majority of people who watch superhero shows and movies don't spend hours a week directly or indirectly consuming information on or discussing feminist theory and intersectionality.  And even a lot of those have decently long passages that amount to "it has this thing which is actually a really good thing but I feel compelled to explain why it isn't, or should barely count."

3. Every new episode of Scream Queens makes me hope that i'll finally lose interest in the mystery and save myself from this garbage, but nope.

4. Mark Pellegrino playing Graham Norton's father in Quantico is very weird to me, since the only other thing I've seen either in is Revolution. (Where they both played much more endearing characters.

5. Sleepy Hollow continues to be better than last season, but not as good as season 1.

spoilers )

6  I've started watching the supernatural fusion sageuk The Scholar Who Walks the Night (AKA, romance between vampire scholar and crossdressing bookseller) now that it's over. It's a bit cheesy (a lot of which, IMO, is the soundtrack. Hard not to compare it to Arang and the Magistrate's excellent soundtrack, as both are supernatural fusion sageuks starring Lee Joon Ki.), but good so far. My problem with it, though, is that the antagonist is SO BORING so far. Part of it is that the actor is...not good. At all. Like, he fails embarassingly at "dangerously evil but sexy" (It takes more than lighting and eyeliner to pull that off.) and I just cringe at all his scenes. I'm apparently meant to believe that he's so dangerous that Lee Joon Ki's vampire scholar hasn't been able to kill him in 120 years of trying. I can only conclude that, all evidence to the contrary, Our Hero is just amazingly incompetent. I mostly want him to quit boring up my screen so more time can be spent on the protagonists and Lee Joon Ki's sidekicks and even the angstmuffin prince. (Who I do like so far, but he has the potential to go very wrong for me.) Everyone else in the show ranges from competent to pretty good as far as acting goes, and then there's Cardboard Guyliner Vampire. The tumblr tag for the show is about 85% him, though, so I guess others felt differently.c

7. I'm watching season 3 of Grand Hotel (aka, the first telenovela I watched back before Hulu and Netflix started carrying any, though only the first season was available then.) and it's the last season. The first episode (well, Netflix's first episode, Netflix breaks the 70-90 minute episodes into 44 minutes, which gets awkward at times) was rather awful, but it got better after that, though it's not as good as the first two seasons were. Largely because Diego's villainy is is almost comical in how over the top and extreme it's become. I keep expecting him to try to twirl his mustache.

TeeVee

Aug. 29th, 2015 11:14 pm
meganbmoore: (eklavya)
1. One more episode of Beauty and the Beast, and all my summer shows are over. Not entirely certain what to make of this season of BatB. There are parts I really like, but the main plotlines of the season just haven't grabbed me. Also, massive waste of Gloria Vostis and Natasha Henstridge.

2. When Dark Matter and Killjoys started, I preferred Dark Matter of the two, but it's pretty firmly the opposite by the end of the season. Dark Matter just has too many microaggressions against Two-as-leader, and while it isn't exactly fond of rape threats, it came up enough for the show to lose points for it with me. Also, much as I like MOST of Dark Matter's crew, I liked One less every single episode, whereas D'Avin in Killjoys, who I initially also disliked, grew on me a fair bit. I mean, I like him less than pretty much every other named and main or recurring character, but I'll take him over One easily.

Both shows broke out the big guns for the finales (though I think the rebellion in Killjoys was a bit too background for the whole season to work the way they wanted it to in the finale). Killjoys is absolutely forbidden to open season 2 with sad music playing as the camera does a slowmo pan over the bodies of dead recurring characters (the show had it's chance with the "what's behind the door?" tension. It isn't allowed to pull anything like that.), and while I'm not pleased with the reveal of the traitor in Dark Matter, there aren't many ways that could have gone without my objecting.

Fingers crossed that both will get renewed.

3. Continuum is back, though, for it's fourth and final season. I wasn't big on the new future introduced towards the end of season 3, but we'll see how things go. If nothing else, I do at least trust the show to have a good ending. (Though I hope Kiera/Brad isn't end game.)

4.Years after Moon Embracing the Sun was the big Kdrama of the Moment, I'm getting around to watching it. I remember being moderately interested in it when it aired but not enough to watch it at the time, and that it seemed everyone either loved it, or hated it because everyone else loved it. It also came out in what seems to have been a bit of a Flower Boy craze in fusion sageuks after Sungkyukwan Scandal (another that i need to see, though most of my interest is Park Min Young) and it really shows.

I'm 8 episodes in and enjoying it, though in a somewhat passive way, largely because of my disinterest in the adult version of the main character. Kim Yoo Jung as Yeon Woo in the childhood (really early teens) part was really great, and I loved the character then, but Han Ga In as the adult Yeon Woo is rather...blank. I mean, part of it is because the character has amnesia, I think, but the acting is (IMO) rather bland. There have been a couple scenes where the character grabbed me, but they were exceptions, not the rule. There are a lot of other characters that I like, but it's hard for me to get invested when I don't feel anything for the female lead. I don't dislike her or anything, she just doesn't grab me.
Sseeing Kim Min Seo as Bo Kyung is a little odd, as she's also in Hwajung, where she also plays an evil scheming lady who wants to be queen. Though i'd say that, despite the type, the characters are completely different. I actually wouldn't have even realized it was the same actress because she looks and acts so different in the two series, but she has a rather distinctive face.

Speaking of faces, I don't know what casting was doing with the child actors, to a certain degree. It's like they actively sought to find young actors who bore a strong resemblance to the adult actors, then randomly assigned the roles without paying attention to which adults the younger actors actually resembled.

5. Fall shows start up again soon, though I'm not sure there are any new ones that I'll be checking out. Nothing grabbed me when I glanced through new shows a while back, but I might have missing something.

6. I rewatched the K Project anime as a refresher before season 2 airs, and also watched the Missing Kings sequel movie, which was pretty good, despite someohw managing to make Seri's skirt even shorter. I'm never forgiving the series for the reveal about Shiro's true identity, but I do still like it, mostly for the characters. I went ahead and watched the series dubbed and...most of the dubbing was ok, but Reisi and Fushimi's dubbed voices would have made me dislike the characters even if I didn't already have issues with them. (Reisi I would like if he wren't prone to manhandling prisoners and din't seem to enjoying showing off his powers to those weaker than him so much. Fushimi just annoys me. A lot.) I'll probably rewatch Noragami before the second season of that airs, too, though I watched the first season much more recently than my first watch of K Project.
meganbmoore: (wbds: ji: sword)
Soo Baek Hyang, The King’s Daughter is one of those sageuks whose title has a lot of variants when translated into English but that and just straight Soo Baek Hyang are the ones I prefer. I typically dislike “woman’s role and status determined by relation to male” titles, but in this case the designation is extremely plot relevant, and also not something that the main character bases her view of herself on.

The series is set during the reign of Muryeong of Baekje, though with impressive liberties. I mean, it is an MBC sageuk. Historically (as I understand it), Muryeong is believed to be the son of his predecessor, Dongseong, but is made Dongseong’s cousin for VERY IMPORTANT PLOT REASONS. Muryeong is in love with Chaehwa, the daughter of Baekga, the eventual assassin of Dongseong. When Baekga is manipulated into assassinating Dongseong by a supporter of Muryeong, Marshall Hae, Muryeong brings what can only be called unholy vengeance down on Baekga. He intends to spare Chaehwa but STUFF HAPPENS and Chaehwa is saved from a fire by a servant, Kuchon, who takes her to the neighboring country of Gaya, with bother believing Muryeong intended to kill her too.

Side note on Kuchon: Kuchon is a deaf mute (Though they seem to sometimes forget the deaf part, as there are a few times he’s definitely responding to sounds.) who was a Gogoryeo assassin who was captured and converted into an agent of Baekje by Marshall Hae and sent to spy on Baekga, only to dump Marshall Hae when he falls in love with Chaehwa. He is the guy who carries unconscious pregnant women dozens and dozens of miles without breaking a sweat, gets stabbed a bunch and gets back up, grabs swords with his bare hands, and takes a twig and beats down a dozen well trained soldiers for the crime of approaching his daughter in a threatening manner. Kuchon is what happens when you merge a wuxia hero with a shounen hero after his 4th or 5th powerup.

Getting back to the plot, unknown to Muryeong, Chaehwa is pregnant and names her daughter Seolnan, but also secretly names her Soo Baek Hyang, The name she had told Muryeong she would give their daughter, if they ever had one. Eventually, she falls in love with Kuchon, and a couple years later, they have a daughter named Seolhee. Meanwhile, back in Baekje, Muryeong is wallowing in guilt because he believes he killed The One Great Love Of His Life, and because he knows his cousin was killed to make him king, which is what happens. Then he happens to be watching his three year old son, Myongnong, playing with Dongseong’s son, Jinmoo. He notices they look almost exactly alike and hatches a plot to swap the boys. Both mothers are conveniently long dead, so there’s no one to yell at him about what an incredibly terrible idea this is. The official canon reasoning given is that this way, Dongseong’s son will still be king one day, and Muryeong will never be convinced to have Jinmoo banished or killed to secure his position if Jinmoo is actually his biological son. BTW, I’m only going to refer to Myongnong and Jinmoo by the names they grew up with after this. He also latches onto the idea of having Jinmoo raised by a supporter of Dongseong’s who hates Muryeong and thinks he had Dongseong killed to get the crown and wants vengeance. I mean, surely that setup won’t lead to Jinmoo being raised to hate Muryeong and think he has to avenge his father. NO, MURYEONG, THAT ISN'T THE OBVIOUS OUTCOME. NOT AT ALL.

Anyway, that’s the official canon reasoning. The real reason is so that there can be a lot of fake-cest wallowing later on.

Moving on to the main plot (gotta love how long it takes to explain the essential back story in sageuks) Seolnan and Seolhee grow up in Gaya, blissfully ignorant if their parents’ pasts. Seolnan is perfectly content as a mountain peasant. Seolhee has a hefty dose of typical petulant "But I deserve SO MUCH MORE. I should have been born someone IMPORTANT." teen stuff going for her, which escalates quite a bit before long. Myongnong grows up superresponsible and becomes Muryeong's spy master in between crown prince duties (In another drama, Muryeong would be a cold jerk. Here, he's ruthless can can be standoffish, but is pretty much relentlessly good intentioned, and only ruthless or cold out of absolute necessity, and has few moments that comes close to jerkishness.), and Jinmoo grows up a playboy who bounces between "I HATE MURYEONG AND WILL AVENGE MY FATHER" and "I really really really want Muryeong to like me and we can bond over board games and maybe one day he'll be proud of-WAIT WHAT AM I THINKING?"

Things go bad when, on a political trip to Gaya, both Jinmoo and Marshall Hae learn that Chaehwa is living there an has a family. Marshall Hae goes to Muryeong with his tail between his legs and prepares his "So, uhm, you know twenty years ago, when I told you I'd learned Chaehwa was dead? Well, I sorta-kinda-maybe lied about that-FOR YOUR OWN GOOD-and have felt really guilty ever since. Anyway, she lives here now and has a family. Including two daughters. One of whom is probably yours. I kinda neglected to tell you she was pregnant due to the whole lying about her being dead thing." speech. Jinmoo's reaction is more along the lines of "I WILL HAVE BLOOD AND VENGEANCE. BRING HER TO ME. But don't hurt anyone. I WILL TORTURE HER AND HER CHILDREN BECAUSE HER FATHER KILLED MINE. Hey, don't hurt anyone, ok? This is, like, a peaceful, non-violent kidnapping. FOLLOWED BY VENGEANCE AND TORTURE." Jinmoo rather sucks at being a tortured-half-villainous bad boy. Too bad he's so good at causing destruction anyway, because things go TERRIBLY WRONG and people die and Chaehwa is blinded with she and her daughters are the only survivors of their village. (My personal opinion is that Jinmoo's guardian pulled his men aside and told them to be sure to murder everyone from the outset, but I have no proof.) Chaehwa dies of her wounds, but because of Plot Significant Hairpins she thinks she's alone in a cave with Seolnan and unknowingly tells Seolhee that Seolnan is Muryeong's daughter, and how to prove it to him.

Later, Seolnan is determined to find the bandits and GET VENGEANCE AND JUSTICE for their village (it's a genetic thing) and Seolhee fakes her death (except Seolnan takes the evidence she leaves behind as indicators of abduction by bandits, not death, and adds AND SAVE MY SISTER to her vengeance plans) and travels to Baekje to convince Muryeong that she's his daughter with Chaehwa.

And all this is just the setup.

Eventually, Seolnan meets Myongnong and becomes a member of Bi Mool, Baekje's secret band of spies, and they totally-do-not-fall-in-love. Except for the part where they do. Naturally, at some point, one of them learns that Seolnan, not Seolhee, is Muryeong's daughter,, resulting in a lot of "OMG NOES I AM IN LOVE WITH MY HALF-SIBLING. THE ONE GREAT LOVE OF MY LIFE IS MY SIBLING. I MUST PULL AWAY AND NOT TELL THEM WHY BECAUSE I CAN'T LET THEM SHARE IN MY AGONY." Seolhee successfully passes herself off as Muryeong's long-lost daughter and becomes increasingly involved in court politics. And maybe becomes reeeaaallllyyy close to Jinmoo, causing Muryeong to engage in some "OMG NOES, INCEST. YOU TWO CANNOT BECOME CLOSE FOR REASONS I CANNOT TELL YOU EVEN THOUGH IT WOULD BE PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE FOR COUSINS TO GET MARRIED AND IT WOULD ACTUALLY BE A POLITICALLY SOUND MOVE BECAUSE THEN MY DETRACTORS WOULD SHUT UP BUT IT CANNOT BE BECAUSE OF INCEST THAT I CANNOT TELL YOU ABOUT."

A lot of the series is Seolnan and Seolhee involved in (and in Seolhee's case, sometimes causing) political intrigues not only in Baekje, but also in other countries. There are some filler bits, but overall, it's stuffed with plot that manages to be consistently interesting, with great characters.

cut for length )

I eyed the series when it was airing but was leery about the "enemy sisters" aspect, and then one day I looked and saw there were about 90 episodes and went "Nuh uh." Later I learned that it was a daily drama that was 108 episodes. Unlike most dramas, which air 2 60-70 minute episodes on two consecutive nights, daily dramas air half-hour episodes Monday-Friday. There are even fewer sageuks among daily dramas than in your average kdrama percentages. Like their hour-long countparts, daily drama sageuks are more expensive and difficult than contemporary-set dramas, but with less exposure and typically lower ratings, making it harder to get big-name actors, which sageuks often rely on, and they also have to film more scenes per week because they have to have an extra half-hour of scenes per week. I actually only know of one other sageuk that's a daily drama.

I actually find 108 half-hour episodes less daunting than 54 hour long episodes. It's a lot easier to sit down and know you have time to finish an episode when it's short episodes. That's just me, though. The different format is that it also allows for different narrative structures. An obvious one being that, if needed, an episode can focus exclusively on one character or plot, without actually losing momentum or distracting form all the other plots going on. For, example, Seolnan barely features in the episode where Seolhee first presents herself to Muryeong, but features heavily in all the episodes around it, so the show was able to exclusively focus on that one important plotpoint without losing focus or momentum for everything else for the week. Later on, there's an episode that's almost entirely two family members who thought the other dead for two years barely missing each other the whole episode, to be finally reunited in the last couple minutes. Normally, that'd have to be split between other plotlines in the episode because a series couldn't devote half its airtime that week to it, but here they can comfortably fit it in while still keeping everything else going for the week as a whole. Airing 5 consecutive days and never having more than 2 days between episodes also means that the series could do cliffhangers and storyarc climaxes in ways that other dramas can't do. Certain cliffhangers are just fine for a 24-hour wait, but not a 5 day wait, so they could end on a rising BAM moment anytime they wanted without worrying about viewer frustration.

There are some things that rely on irritating contrivances, like the toddler-swapping (MURYEONG THAT WAS SUCH A TERRIBLE IDEA DESTINED TO BACKFIRE ON YOU) and times when characters are clearly not knowing about something or being kept out of something purely because ever so much could be cleared up by their seeing something or hearing a description, but the overall drama and plot and characters are great enough that I could usually roll my eyes and move on. I think I watched this in the space of about 3 1/2 weeks, if that.

Hulu has it but, sadly, neither Netflix nor DramaFever do. It is very, very worth watching, though, and everyone should hunt it down and watch it so we can talk about it.

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