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Six Flying Dragons: Episode 1

I’m always wary of jumping onboard a long-running drama, because man that is a time commitment, but I did find Six Flying Dragons rather strong in its premiere. This is a drama with a lot of hype going in, and it’s a hype that didn’t really move me since sageuks this long often require such effort to follow, but that said I found this first episode compelling on most fronts: It’s beautifully filmed, well-acted, and paced swiftly.

The drama is a bit dense on the history front, in that there’s a certain baseline of Korean history that Korean audiences are expected to know and is thus not fully explained. That’s not necessarily going to be the case for most of us in the English-speaking audience, and I’ll attempt to lay in the basics of the background, because Six Flying Dragons also takes a bit of creative license in the fictionalization of certain characters and events, and it’s helpful to know what the canon is so we can appreciate where the show is deviating.

It’s been a while since we had all three broadcasters premiering new dramas on the same day, so I was curious to see how the ratings battle would shake out. As it turns out, the combined starpower of Six Flying Dragons’ producers and lead stars sealed the deal and it came out in front with 12.3%, with MBC’s melodrama Dazzling Temptation in second with 8.5% and KBS’s bubbly high school drama Sassy Go Go far back with 2.2%. All the numbers ticked upward for their second episodes, but the rankings remained the same.

SONG OF THE DAY

Han Hee-jung – “오래오래” (A long while) [ Download ]

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BACKGROUND

(I suppose this short summary may contain “spoilers” in the context of this drama, but it’s commonly known history, and many viewers will already know it.)

The drama opens in the twilight years of the nearly-500-year-old Goryeo dynasty, which fell in 1392. (We’re probably in the 1380s or thereabouts.) Goryeo was overthrown by Lee Seong-gye, a general who became Joseon’s first king (known posthumously as Taejo), aided by the influential ideologue and politician Jung Do-jeon, who was instrumental in establishing the new nation and its founding principles.

Taejo’s fifth son, Lee Bang-won, put in a considerable effort to aid his father’s rise, and thus expected to be named his father’s successor. However, Lee Bang-won clashed with Jung Do-jeon and his differing ideals for how to govern the nation; he was therefore unhappy, to put it mildly, when Taejo named a different son as his successor. Lee Bang-won attacked Jung Do-jeon’s side, killing him as well as the heir. Taejo abdicated but crowned another son (Lee Bang-gwa) as the second Joseon king, Jeongjong.

Lee Bang-won later became the third king of Joseon, Taejong, and is remembered for a rather bloody rise to power, which included battling his brothers and killing many of his potential political rivals. He did rule strongly and effectively for eighteen years, and was father to King Sejong, considered the greatest king in Korean history.

Sejong was the king at the center of Tree With Deep Roots, where Taejong was depicted as cruel and demanding; with the same producers behind this drama, we can see Six Flying Dragons as a prequel of sorts to Tree. It’s also worth nothing that the producers had been working on another drama, Unprecedented, which dealt in the same time period and around many of the same characters as this one. But Unprecedented was shelved by MBC, and in the interim KBS put out their well-received drama Jung Do-jeon last year. So in addition to being based on a dramatic and turbulent time in Korean history, interest in the drama also includes meta-level questions such as how this version of Jung Do-jeon or Taejo or Taejong will be portrayed, and how Dragons compares to prior works.

A note on naming conventions: Normally we’d treat drama characters as regular people and call them by first names, but I’m making an exception here with names like Lee Seong-gye and Jung Do-jeon. These are famous people in history and it just feels wrong to shorten them to “Seong-gye” and “Do-jeon,” so we’re preserving the full names. (On the other hand, we’ll refer to Lee Bang-won as Bang-won, because the other characters call him that.)

 
EPISODE 1 RECAP

On the road toward the capital, we meet one of our main characters—and while the show withholds identification for a while, we can identify him as one of our major players (if only for the fact that it’s Kim Myung-min), JUNG DO-JEON.

Jung Do-jeon swipes food from a peddler, and when confronted, he admits it with a sheepish grin and promises to repay the man later. But his playful demeanor disappears the moment he heads off alone, arriving at a hidden cave in the mountainside.

Inside, he becomes aware of a presence and snaps to alert when he sees the shadowy figure awaiting him. The young man (Yoo Ah-in) speaks earnestly, calling him Teacher and saying he has waited a long time to see him.

Jung Do-jeon eyes him suspiciously, then addresses the other young man hidden in the shadows. Out steps a second unexpected visitor (Byun Yo-han), who calls Jung Do-jeon the man who conned him of his life—a charge Jung refutes, saying he’s never seen him before.

The men engage in a round of “Who are you?” “No, who are you?” before the first man says excitedly that he knows them both. He finally gives his own name: LEE BANG-WON. So this is our future king.

Eight years prior, to Bang-won’s youth. As an impressionable boy, young Bang-won trails excitedly as his older brother chases a man through a field, struggling to capture him. Bang-won jumps in too, although he’s more impediment than help, mistakenly biting his brother instead of the runaway.

From a distance, a stone-faced archer shoots a flat-tipped arrow into the fight, knocking out the target. He joins the younger two, and is greeted enthusiastically by Bang-won, his son, who can’t wait to brag about how he caught the man.

Captions identify the three men: young Lee Bang-won; his brother LEE BANG-GWA (Seo Dong-won); and their father, General LEE SEONG-GYE (Chun Ho-jin). Or, in other words, Joseon’s first three kings, in reverse order.

Bang-won is a cheerful youngster with irrepressible energy, and by nightfall he has transformed the story to paint himself as hero of the day. He’s starry-eyed and full of romantic ideas of warfare, looking up to his father as the epitome of the ideal warrior. But his father eyes him sternly and asks if his son understands what war is. He takes Bang-won to the interrogation site of the caught traitor, an enemy spy whose backer they are trying to identify.

But Lee Seong-gye steps in, telling the traitor that he’s already betrayed him once, and not to betray a second time by revealing his backer. It’s equal parts honorable and harsh, which tells you what kind of man he is. With that, he draws his sword and executes the spy, while Bang-won stares in shock. Lee Seong-gye looks his son squarely in the eye and tells him that this is war, and that war kills people.

Bang-won trembles in the aftermath, and big brother Bang-gwa explains how betrayal is the one thing their father can’t abide, having been betrayed by his sworn brother. As Bang-gwa and his fellow soldier dramatically reenact the tale, Bang-won’s earlier enthusiasm returns at how cool his father is. He vows to become just like him, and to show no mercy toward traitors.

Next we meet their foes, the old guard of the Goryeo dynasty, led by crafty politician LEE IN-GYEOM. He and his cronies receive troubling news (while bathing together, as you do) that Lee Seong-gye is being called to the capital to take an office, which sends them panicking, since this bodes ill for their faction.

Lee Seong-gye receives the royal summons, and the news has Lee In-gyeom’s political rivals abuzz with excitement—bringing the famed general into the political ranks is their answer to preventing war from breaking out. They expect a big reaction from fellow statesman Jung Do-jeon—but Jung surprises them by saying in his absentmindedly bookish way not to trust General Lee too much. One colleague grumbles about Jung having suspect motives, but another argues that it was Jung Do-jeon who previously detected and prevented Lee In-gyeom from carrying out a plot.

Meanwhile, Jung Do-jeon instructs his subordinate to send a letter to the border. “We must stop war,” he says.

Lee Seong-gye makes preparations to head for the capital, and Bang-won insists (and pouts and pouts) that he be allowed to go too, whining that all his big brothers have been but he’s always left behind. His father isn’t about to cave… until Bang-won promises to learn standard Korean wholeheartedly—he’s been an indifferent student thus far, peppering his speech with Mongolian and rural dialect, and the deal seems to sway Dad.

In the capital city of Gaegyeong (present-day Gaeseong), we join a ragtag collection of urchins and orphans, led by a man who instructs them to target people dressed in flashy clothing gaping openly at their surroundings. In other words, easy marks.

Marks just like the slack-jawed, wide-eyed Bang-won and his guard-sidekick Young-kyu, dressed up in their best clothes so the city folk won’t look down on them. They may as well be wearing ROB ME signs.

Among the beggar children are a brother-sister pair: a precocious girl named BOON-YI and her oppa, DDANG-SAE. (Remember them, they’re two of our six dragons.) They’ve come to Gaegyeong in search of their kidnapped mother, and while it’s a daunting task, oppa Ddang-sae plans to search for clues by finding people who know the song their mother sang the day she was taken. It… doesn’t sound like a foolproof plan, and Boon-yi appropriately heaves a sigh. A better lead is the tattoo he saw on the arm of their mother’s captor.

But first, they have to find themselves an easy mark so they can feed themselves for the day. As it happens, Bang-won and his entourage walk by then, sticking out like well-dressed sore thumbs, gawking at curios in the marketplace like obvious tourists.

Bang-won’s eye is caught by a different sight, as he wanders down an alley and is horrified to see piles and piles of rotting corpses. Then, he’s grabbed by an unseen figure.

Bang-won’s bodyguard slips away looking awfully shifty, and hides a message in a secret spot. Ddang-sae notices this and follows, and takes that message after the bodyguard leaves. One look at the seal makes his eyes widen—that’s the mark on his mother’s captor.

Shifty Bodyguard returns to the marketplace, which is when he and sidekick Young-kyu realize that Bang-won is gone. They track him down just as the urchin posse strips him of his finery and jeers mockingly. The two men draw their swords and reclaim young Bang-won, only to be stopped by the urchin siblings: Boon-yi and Ddang-sae accuse the bodyguard of kidnapping their mother, pointing to the image on the letter as proof.

Both Bang-won and Young-kyu recognize the mark as belonging to their enemy, Lee In-gyeom, and realize Shifty is a traitor. Young-kyu swiftly draws his sword against him and a fierce clash ensues, although the bodyguard manages to snatch the incriminating letter and run away. Young-kyu chases, and the urchin crew joins in on the hunt.

Ddang-sae and Bang-won hang back, and hilariously, Boon-yi orders both boys to join in the chase—she seems rather a bloodthirsty sort for such a pint-sized thing. Bang-won reasons that they don’t have to chase when they can deduce where he’s headed—to the recipient of the letter, Lee In-gyeom.

Of course, they don’t know where that is… But the littlest urchin among them, GAB-BOON, pipes up that she knows where that big house is, and Bang-won lights up.

At Lee In-gyeom’s house, his chatty subordinate GIL TAE-MI suggests that they really needn’t worry about Lee Seong-gye, who’s just one man. But Lee In-gyeom is a shrewd old codger, and he understands that you can neutralize a threat by either winning them to your side by fulfilling their ambitions, or by cowing them by utilizing their fears against them. But he doesn’t know Lee Seong-gye’s ambitions or fears, and thus doesn’t know how to deal with the threat he presents.

Little Gab-boon leads the urchin group to Lee In-gyeom’s estate, having had experience sneaking inside to steal food. Boon-yi beelines for the food, and the kids busily stuff their faces, ducking out of sight when a man walks by dragging along a woman, whom they recognize as Gab-boon’s mother. Gah, why does this household keep stealing women?

The children follow and peer into a room, where they see dozens of women nursing piglets. Gack, so you’re kidnapping poor women and forcing them to breastfeed pigs just so you can have delicious meat to eat? That’s a new level of creepy, and the children realize with horror where the meat they’d just eaten came from.

Lee In-gyeom finds the bodyguard’s letter on his desk and is on immediate alert, ordering his men to search the premises and find the intruder who managed to sneak inside. The children scatter, but while Boon-yi and Ddang-sae manage to escape to a storeroom, Bang-won is caught and brought before Lee In-gyeom.

The old man just figures Bang-won for a hungry beggar and orders him turned out. Bang-won sees the hidden letter in the man’s sleeve and glares furiously.

Lee In-gyeom entrusts his subordinate with the secret letter, mentioning the well-known story of General Lee Seong-gye being betrayed by his sworn friend Jo So-saeng. But he adds meaningfully, “That’s the story the world knows,” and smiles nefariously.

Bang-won is fuming mad as he returns to the urchin base, all fired up to sic his father on the villains and get some justice. But he stops short to see Gab-boon sobbing inconsolably—the infant sibling she’s been caring for since her mother was taken has died, robbed of mother’s milk. Goddamn that delicious pork.

It makes Bang-won even more upset, and he vomits up every bit of that meat, sobbing angrily.

General Lee Seong-gye and his entourage arrive in the capital, and are greeted by our villain’s right-hand man Gil Tae-mi. Apparently the simpering, elaborately dressed Gil is known as Goryeo’s best swordsman, which makes for an incongruous sight.

Gil Tae-mi invites the general and his troops to a welcome banquet being thrown in their honor, although from the ominous music that plays, I’m guessing this isn’t going to be a very fun party.

Bang-won informs his father and brothers of the injustices going on under Lee In-gyeom’s roof, and all are appropriately horrified and press Lee Seong-gye to do something about it. But before he can, he receives a visit from a friend, politician-scholar JEONG MONG-JU, who urges him to help prevent war. Ah, so the leading faction is pushing for friendly relations with the Yuan Dynasty, which effectively pits Goryeo against Yuan’s rivals, the Ming. That drags Goryeo into their conflict and right to war—so they need Lee Seong-gye to prevent this.

Lee Seong-gye agrees to defeat Lee In-gyeom and stop war, and vows that he has never lost in battle. Listening from outside the door, Bang-won pumps his fists.

That night, Lee Seong-gye, his sons, and his entourage arrive at Lee In-gyeom’s home for the promised banquet. Bang-won glares at the old man, who recognizes him from the day before and chuckles. Bang-won announces hotly that he’s here to catch the spy, and his father adds that he has heard that a traitor has hidden himself in this house.

Lee In-gyeom feigns total ignorance about this, as well as the charge that he’s holding women here against their will. He laughs that Bang-won must have seen wrong, then leads them inside for the festivities. Bang-won throws the piglet off his plate to the ground, and Lee Seong-gye sits stone-faced as the entertainment continues.

Then a storyteller comes out to recount the story of recent wars in Goryeo history, where land was reclaimed by “traitor dogs.” Most of the partygoers enjoy the dramatic narration, but Lee Seong-gye stiffens in alarm, growing increasingly tense as the story continues, while Lee In-gyeom smirks to know what this story is doing to the general.

The story continues, and a Red Wolf is depicted being betrayed by a Shepherd… wearing the characters that spell “shepherd,” which happen to be the characters that make up the “Lee” in our good general’s name. The Shepherd tells his Red Wolf to surrender or die…

A flashback to 1356 shows us a younger Lee Seong-gye arguing with his father, an officer in the Yuan military who told him to attack his friend, calling him an enemy of Goryeo. Lee Seong-gye had pleaded against the plan, arguing that they’re in the same boat as his friend, but his father had seen opportunity—with Yuan on the decline, this would be their chance to rise to power. His friendship with Jo So-saeng, Dad declares, is trifling compared to what this could mean for them.

And so, a heavyhearted Lee Seong-gye had betrayed his hyungnim, letting in the attacking army and turning bow and arrow on him. Jo So-saeng had noted bitterly, “I did not raise a younger brother, but a dog.” He had called Lee Seong-gye’s lineage a family of dogs who bite their owners.

As he had taken an arrow to the heart, Jo So-saeng had asked, “What has Goryeo done for your family? Everything you have, I gave to you. You all will betray Goryeo in the end. That is the dirty fate of the dog who bites his owner.”

Much of this exchange makes its way to the stage play being performed, and Bang-won notices his father’s stricken reaction. Afterward, Lee In-gyeom speaks privately to Lee Seong-gye, addressing the matter plainly, saying he must have felt bad to have betrayed such a close friend. He says that he’s sure the general had his reasons, but adds pointedly that others might not see eye to eye on that.

Lee In-gyeom says he’s finally starting to understand the general, having previously wondered what drove him to throw himself into battle heroically and protect his people and never show much thirst for politics. “Now I understand,” he says. “It’s because more than anybody else, you cannot forgive yourself. However, why is it that you are now trying to forgive yourself? Why is it now that you are joining politics? Why did you appear now to try to block my path, WHY?!”

Lee Seong-gye wears a morose expression as he asks quietly whether anybody else knows this truth. Lee In-gyeom assures him that only the two of them know. So what will he do about it?

The two men stare each other down for long, tense moments… and then Lee Seong-gye requests, “Please let this go. I beg you.” And he bows his head low.

Around the corner, Bang-won watches aghast as his father, the hero, subjects himself to the enemy.

“The First Dragon: Lee Seong-gye, Joseon’s founder.”

 
COMMENTS

Considering how we’re only one-fiftieth of the way through this drama’s run, it feels pretty premature to be making any big decisions about it, and we can hardly make any guarantees so early on. (Plus the big burning question in my mind is: How the heck is Yoo Ah-in going to film the whole drama when he’s supposed to go to army by the end of the year?)

I have a generally positive impression of the show from where we stand right now, because it feels stylish and assured and the characterizations are rich and interesting. Well, aside from the bad guys on Lee In-gyeom’s side, because in standard sageuk fashion, they seem selfish and avaricious to a simplistic degree. But I suppose that’s less of a concern since I don’t expect Lee In-gyeom to be the primary source of conflict—not when we have a richer conflict between our two headliners, Bang-won and Jung Do-jeon. Not to mention all the strife that’ll arise regarding Lee Seong-gye’s successors and the scramble to grab power.

This show seems to be angling to put a spin on the commonly known history of Taejong/Bang-won, which largely paints him as a bloody, harsh mofo of a conqueror. But you cast Yoo Ah-in and give him puppy-dog eyes as an idealistic child, and, well, I’m curious to see how you’re going to reframe the story of Taejong.

Whenever you have a character whose ending is already known, whose beginnings are depicted in such strong contrast, you’ll be eagerly looking to pick up hints along the way for how he ended up this way. Call it the Anakin Effect, if you will, where I’m enjoying every small detail that might shed some light on the change. For instance, Bang-won looking up to his father as both a war hero and his personal hero, and declaring that he’ll be just like him in punishing betrayers. Or how he’s so righteous at the outset, and convinced that merely telling his father about an injustice will be enough to set all to rights. The disillusionment must be quite a shaping force, I expect.

Furthermore, there’s the whole part where Taejong banished, attacked, and/or trampled over his brothers to claim the throne. Bang-won has warm, loving relationships with his family right now, but how is it that he turns on him. And if he’s not the villain of the piece, how can the show humanize all of the violence to come? Perhaps it’ll paint him as the misunderstood victim, but I’m hoping it’ll do the more interesting character work of having him own up to his darker side and drawing us in with a human portrayal. And with Kim Myung-min as the main rival, I want an equally complex light-and-dark exploration of Jung Do-jeon as well.

In any case, the casting is spot-on thus far, and the show even manages a pretty solid dash of light-hearted humor. I’m surprised at how much I like little Boon-yi (and her sweet but kinda dense oppa Ddang-sae), and if she retains that sassiness as an adult, I could very well really love the main romance between Yoo Ah-in and Shin Se-kyung.

Like I said, it’s early days yet, and much of my hope is hanging on things that have not happened. But as always, I approach with cautious optimism.

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Are you going to continue recapping this?

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I never thought this will be recapped as it is 50 episode drama. thank you javabeans. i hope this will be continued.

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I can't help but notice that Yoo Ah In has an aura that fills up the whole screen, even when playing a young man in simple clothing.
If he has to stop filming this to enter MS, the day he stops is when I can stop watching this.

It's a stellar cast that inspires confidence. My only concern is of course Shin SK. Ppl have said that she has improved a lot in Girl who sees smells. SSK improving doesn't mean much, cos it was from such a low base, plus GWSS was a rom-com that didn't demand much of her. I'm hoping that she is only 1 of many actors in this, n won't have many scenes. Let there be no love line, plz.

I'm impressed by the performance of the veteran actor who plays Lee Seong Gye. He has been every one's father in KD, but he seems to bring to life a strong conqueror in this role.

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I believe they started filming 4 months ahead around June so it should wrap up right before he leaves. (I hope)

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SSK's best performances are in sageuks. Se suits those a lot, so don't worry too much!

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I thought she was quite good as So Yi in Tree and that was my first time seeing her in anything.

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Comedy is harder than drama...so they say.

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I have to say, this Lee Seong-gye is making very little sense so far. Why does he need to hide the fact that he betrayed/killed his commander in the borderlands when everyone in Goryeo knows him as a traitor, and in fact he gained a spot in Goryeo's military in exchange for his and his father's betrayal? Really, that was his father's fight anyway. Water under the bridge, dude.

Also, a little confused by the timing of everything (didn't catch a date at the beginning, sorry if there was one). I'm thinking this takes place during the reign of King Woo b/c of all the hysteria about the Ming (though I'm not sure why it's being posed as ~we need to cut ties with the Yuan. A more ingenuous approach would make it a question of resistance against Chinese imperialism, but since this drama is probably going to be all eff yeah! Confucianism I doubt they're going to problematize the Ming too much). Anyway, maybe I'm too wedded to the timeline presented in Shin Don, but shouldn't Lee Seong-gye have long since gotten into bed with Choi Young and the military by now, giving him the kind of authority/latitude to betray them down the road? And shouldn't we be looking at a quasi-military dictatorship at this point? Not sure what all this business w/ Lord of the Pigs is in light of that.

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He didn't kill a traitor he killed his comrade/brother because it would gain him power. Nothing noble about it. Hence his need to hide it.

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But he (well, his father, really) got rid of that guy under the condition that Goryeo would take them in and give them positions. Like, that's literally why Goryeo allowed them to come back and gain positions in the military.

They were part of disputed territory that ended up in Yuan hands at some point or other. He and his family were of Goryeo descent. When Gongmin cut ties with the Yuan and ordered an expansion into territories they had lost, Lee Seong-gye's father and Lee Seong-gye himself sided with Goryeo, while their commander sided with the Yuan. They betrayed him and surrendered the territory to Goryeo. Every powerful person knows all about this--their betrayal and surrender is the reason they were able to walk into Goryeo with relatively high positions. Obviously Lee Seong-gye had to prove his loyalty over many years in various conflicts, but nobody in Goryeo is going to hate him for killing that guy. They're going to hate him for his family background, namely, that his family ended up serving the Yuan.

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In-gyeon is the biggest hypocrite of all. Most of the high officials and rich landowners in Goryeo were all dogs of Yuan. They trade their women and their country's resources to Yuan so they can keep their wealth and power.

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Yup. idk, I feel like I've learned so much about this time period from watching Shin Don lol. Unfortunately, it makes dramas like this look pretty silly in comparison, pigs raised on human milk and all.

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They all served Yuan at some point to gain power. In-gyeon was a Mongolian language interpreter in the early days of Yuan's rules over Goryeo. I'm guessing that he was one of those officials who fulfilled Yuan's demands by forcing/abducting Goryeo women as slaves tribute. You can tell from this episode that he hasn't changed his old ways. He uses them to breast feed piglets instead. (who the heck came up with that?)

I think what they are trying to do here is maybe established the Pro Ming vs Pro Yuan parties. Pro-Yuan, those loyal to Goryeo (In-gyeon, General Choi Young, Jeong Mong-ju etc) and Pro Ming, those in favor of a new government (Lee Seong-gye, Jung Do-jeon etc). It's going to take a long time before Lee Bang-won and Jung Do-jeon becomes enemies.

I'm guessing the current timeline is around the 1370-ish. Lee Seong-gye is still living in the country at Hamju (where his father died around 1960-ish).

Lol at Lord of the Pigs and that one drag-queen. I'm really missing Shin Don here. I think it deserves another re-watch.

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lol I was really weirded out by the whole pig thing too. What an introduction to this drama. And what the heck was that guy doing dressed like that in Goryeo? He was so over-the-top he would have looked out of place at Empress Ki's palace in Shin Don lol. I had a good giggle at the armor in that flashback, too. Like, this is Goryeo, not Lord of the Rings lol.

But anyway, I guess if we're still in the 1370s that would make more sense. If we were in the 1380s as I was thinking, none of this makes any sense at all--Choi Young would be in control of the government by now, Lee Seong-gye would be his lapdog, and the Yuan would have fallen entirely. As it is, I'm pretty sure the Ming had declared victory by the end of King Gongmin's reign, so I'm not sure how these pro-Yuan officials can stay pro-Yuan even now lol. It will be interesting to see how they treat Goryeo/Joseon becoming a vassal state of the Ming.

Now I really just wish Jung Do-jeon had English subs lol.

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I don't think they are going to follow the historical timeline here. I'm just guessing just to make some sense out of this.

You are right, I shouldn't have labeled it as an establishment between the two parties since Yuan's rule was over and done with in 1368. That should have been a reference to the early 1350s (during uprising against the Mongols) all the way to the end of Gongmin's reign.

I guess I wanted to start from the beginning and go from there because it helps me keep track of the timeline and the political situation in Goryeo.
A few more episodes and we'll get it right lol.

Tears of the Dragon is the most detailed drama of this era. The translation was incomplete but still got a lot out of it. It's too bad they shut down those sites a few years ago. I think I saw some subbed eps on YouTube too. Don't know if it's still there or not.

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Yeah, it's even more confusing because the drama itself keeps referencing the Yuan, and is explicitly turning this into a pro-Yuan vs. pro-Ming conflict. It's like we get Lord of the Pigs on one end, representing the hedonism and greed of Yuan-ruled Goryeo, and the scholars shouting about "stopping the war" on the other, without explaining what the heck anyone is talking about or giving us a solid timeline to work with. (personally I think she's mashed the 1350s-1380s into one time period...not like she hasn't done that before. In Queen Seon Deok, Deokman should have been old enough to be Kim Yushin and Bidam's grandma, and Mishil died when Deokman was 12, if she was even a real person--some accounts dispute that.) But anyway, the main problem for me is I feel like they're manipulating history to put a dishonest spin on things. I think King Woo/Choi Young's plan to attack the Ming was about retaining Goryeo's independence from the Ming (whether that was realistic or not is another matter). It certainly wasn't about a desire to continue ties with the defunct Yuan Empire. I guess I'll just have to wait and see if they go there.

Whoa now I'm going to search Youtube high and low haha. Getting to see some of Tears of the Dragon would be so cool! I've only ever found it unsubbed.

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We are so spoiled by Jung that we are so confused here lol.

I should've been more specific about the timeline. DOtD is the most detailed drama on Lee Bang-won's era. Shin Don is still the best sageuk based on Gongmin reign.

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Just finished the first two episodes of Sassy Go Go (and I shall wait for your reviews on that lol)...can't wait to start on this, glad to know there is background information I can refer to while lost (which I know I definitely will be)...thank you!!

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Watched some of the first episode, thought it was trying to be grandiose and epic but fell a bit short. I thought for a batch of great actors, it seemed a bit off.

I am really interested to see how they handle the history though.

Thanks for the recap!

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Thanks JB. I took some time studying just that background and hammering it into my head. After TWDR I came to know so much about Sejong the Great and now to see Taejong's story will definitely be interesting. I so want this sageuk to be good....I really love a good sageuk.

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I thought ratings would be higher than this.

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Its getting so very intressting. That ending killed me...why did you have to do this to me drama gods?

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I know for a fact that Gong Seungyeon's character is Boonyi's love rival, and history states thay King Taejong's Queen is indeed GSY's character so I was wondering, is Boonyi fictional?

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Boon Yi, Yi Bang Ji and Moo Hyul are fictional
although Moo Hyul was also in TWDR he is a fictional character

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although Yi Bang Ji and Moo Hyul are fictional their character is based on real legendary swordsmen of that time

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Boon Yi is fictional together with her brother Ddang-Sae and Moo-Hyul (the one in this drama and TWDR).

TWDR is based on a novel. Just because it's about King Sejong doesn't mean is historically correct.

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lol Kiara. Telling it like it is

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Thank you so much for taking the time to give us the history.

I'm mainly watching this for the cast. With all these big stars, it has to be good...right? (well not really, because we've seen dramas where talent was wasted). I'm not a huge fan of sageuks, but maybe this one will change that. I want to find one that will be solid all the way through.

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Thanks for the nice recap and background. I was hesitated to watch it because it is a 50-eps drama. I will give it a try.

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many long drama start exciting then become biring halfway, the last long drama that i watch is empress ki eventhough it's really painful for wangyo lover, but the story could make me wanna see the how the ending of king wangyo

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It's still a little confusing to me and I think my expectations were too high because I felt a little disappointed somehow after I finished episode 1. I don't really like historical dramas but I watch them sometimes when I like/love the cast. Anyway, it's just the first episode so I'll try not to set high expectations so I don't get disappointed in the coming episodes.

Ratings are all.. quite low. Specially Sassy Go Go's (that I really liked because of interesting characters and Eunji's sass). Maybe it's because they air at 10pm? I mean, only the oldies would be awake by that time. University students would definitely choose to study than watch. Even I, who love K-dramas would do the same thing. I like all 3 dramas so I hope they don't turn boring, cliché, or uninteresting in the end. I hate it when I start watching dramas only to drop them because it would feel like I've just wasted time.

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Around 10pm is when they usually air dramas though. Variety shows even later.

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Yay! Can't believe you're recapping this since it's a very long drama. Kyaaaaa~! I've waited so long for this drama so I hope it delivers. I've been getting Tree feels since the first scene with Ddol Bok's dad. Can we get a cameo of all of them in the end? I mean, Song Joong Ki's out of the army too...

Wow, Gil Tae Mi can do better eye make up than me. Double wow (+creepy)! What the hell was that? You kidnap mothers to breastfeed piglets while killing the human babies in the process? I felt like throwing up while watching even though I didn't eat the meat.

Thanks for recapping, javabeans!

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So are Lee Seong-gye and Jung Do-jeon the OTP's fathers in The Princess' Man?

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No....Lee Seong-gye would be the great-grandfather to Moon Che Won's character. Her grandfather would of been King Sejong. Her father, Prince Yi Yi, later known as King Sejo was King Sejong's second son.

Hope that helps.

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Correction: Lee Seong-gye would of been the great-great-grandfather. (Oops -Left out a grand).

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Jung Do-jeon is not related to anyone in Princess Man. Princess Uisook (Se-Ryung - played by MCW) was based on a folktale/legend.

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Well. I guess I'll be watching my first 50-episode historical drama. I'm hooked. Though I've been "hooked" by a few before that didn't manage to keep me hooked until the end, so we'll see how this one does.

Kim Myung-min only had less than ten minutes of screen time, but it was more than enough to make me fall in love with him all over again.

Can't wait to see more of Byun Yo-han and Yoo Ah-in too. But the kids are cute (good casting there). Also excited to see Yoon Kyun-sang's take on Moo-hyul, my favorite character from TWDR!

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"But the kids are cute (good casting there)."

agree. is that the kid from Pinocchio? he's so talented!

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I shall attempt this only when it is in its 25th ep! Haha

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Oh! So pleasantly surprised to see Jeong Mong Ju as a character in this story too!

Shin Hye Sung (real name Jung Pil Kyo) of Shinhwa is his descendant!

For Hye Sung's sake I would watch this episode!

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I'm about to start my first 50-ep drama too. Fingers crossed.. would love to hang on all the way with everyone here on dramabeans!! Let's see how this goes. I lovvvvved Tree With Deep Roots and Moo Hyul is my favourite character too.

Great casting of the kids.. I'm glad Lee Re is getting a cool role like this. She was great in Superdaddy Yeol (though I was tearing my hair out watching that drama).

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Gil Tae Mi and his eye shadows really cracked me up :D

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This is unexpected! Thx javabeans for recapping it!

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I'm definitely curious as to how they're going to shape the character of Bang Won. First episode is already looking hella good. I especially love the intro of the first dragon at the end of the episode.

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Thank you so much for recapping this! I always find recaps especially helpful with the historical dramas since the plots and intrigue can get so convoluted. The background was also really helpful and now I too am interested in how they will tell this story.

As a first episode, I thought this was pretty good. I'm definitely interested in what's going on and still really excited my a lot if the cast. I did think the pig thing was really weird though - it honestly took me out of the story a bit. It felt more like a fantasy or horror story than historical. Very surreal.

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I thought the pig thing was very strange as well, but apparently it really did happen- in China, I think?

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Apparently but I'm not sure the extent to which it's real. Like were they actually breast fed? Were women kidnapped and chained up to feed the pigs? That's really the part that pushed it over the top for me - it was very theatrically shown. (It also vaguely reminded me of Mad Max if anyone saw that this summer)

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So glad you're recapping this! I love a good sageuk but the history gets a bit jumbled in my mind as a non-Korean unfamiliar with Korean history. Thanks for the context!

Really liking this so far. I have never watched a 50-episode drama, so we'll see how it goes!

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Oh dear, looks like I'm signing myself up for my first 50 episoder... I'm already loving Kim Myung Min and Byun Yo Han even though we barely saw them this episode. Also, really impressed with all the child actors! Especially the kid that plays young Bang Won.. who is this kid!

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apparently the writers were inspired by the incident in the jin dynasty, when sima yan talks about pork fed human breast milk. it's gonna wary that they decided to take a chinese incident into a korean history drama but much of this drama is fictional after all, so i'm gonna give them some benefit of the doubt.

i really like nam da reum here, he's great at acting for his age.

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I don't get it either. Why would the pro Yuan of Goryeo would adopt such a tradition from a dynasty ahead of their time.
There were some Jurchens during the Ming dynasty but they deal mostly with Ming.

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Yes!!!!! Can't wait to watch this! Finally!

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Could not finish watching ep. 1. So boring.

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Tree Without Deep Roots? Isn't it Tree WITH Deep Roots?

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@Robs thank you for the clarification , I guess I confused the kings by JB's describing him as a very bloodthirsty second son killing his brothers :)

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Javabeans: "Plus the big burning question in my mind is: How the heck is Yoo Ah-in going to film the whole drama when he’s supposed to go to army by the end of the year?".

Nah, Yoo Ah In said he'll go to military service around mid of 2016.

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Thank you for recapping!!! I sincerely hope you will be recapping the whole drama since this is one confusing for us foreigners without sufficient Korean/Chinese history background.

From the opening, it seems like they are suffering from amnesia already lol hopefully thats not the case.

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Oh god, why did i decide to watch the first episode? Now I have to watch all 50 of them.
First episode was awesome! I hope they keep it like this: nice and swift.

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Just watched this and I loved it! I guess this will be my first 50 episode saeguk!

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I decided to read the recaps for the first few episodes before actually watching the episodes. Thank you so much for this recap; it gives me a sort of 'hand-up' before viewing the first episode. Now, off the watch episode 1!

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Thank you so much for this recap, @javabeans!! I am just (finally!) starting this after being blown away by Yoo Ah In in Chicago Typewriter, and the 1st episode was super confusing to me trying to keep track of all the key players and all. You write in a way that it makes everything so much easier to understand! :)

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Ooh, I'm here for exactly that reason. Did you last all 50 episodes? I just saw the first one and I really want to watch a few more but the length seems excessive.

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