Kolorful Palette: Family ties [Hwajeong]
Phew..I forgot how mentally exhausting the introductory week of a sageuk can be! Again. The previews always get me so hyped up that I don’t prepare for all the names and factions I have to learn, and by the time I remember to pay close attention it’s too late. Couldn’t all those ministers wear name tags or something?
That being said, Hwajeong is doing something right because I think I actually had a pretty good handle on things by the end of the second episode (although you shouldn’t go asking me for anyone’s official title) and I think we’re going to have some pretty solid political intrigue on our hands. Maybe it’ll even be enough to get me through all 50 episodes!
I always reserve judgment on a new drama until we’ve actually been introduced to the entire adult cast, but I’m pretty impressed at how quickly the pace has been clipping along so far. At this rate it looks like we may see Kim Jae-won and Lee Yeon-hee by Episode 6, which is a lot faster than many dramas half the length manage. Thankfully the backstory is interesting enough that I’m not impatient regardless.
There’s a lot to love about this drama so far, like the plotting, the cast, and the cinematography (I always expect less from longer dramas, so I was pleasantly surprised). What’s really getting its hooks in me though is Cha Seung-won’s character, Prince Gwanghae. I don’t know much about the history other than his morality being a source of debate, but I think this drama is doing a great job of showcasing him as a complex person with a variety of strengths and flaws that leave him somewhere in the middle. So often we see characters that have one critical flaw that turns them to the dark side, but if Gwanghae becomes corrupt I think it will a slow stumble down a slippery slope, and it’s not like he’s entirely pure-hearted to begin with. I can see that each decision he makes weighs heavily on him, and that makes me empathize with him even when I don’t agree with his choices. It seemed a little crazy to me that he excused his older brother for attempting to kill his younger brother and punished (by death!) three generations of the other men associated, but at the same time, he’s motivated by love for his family and didn’t do anything unusual given the times. How can I be mad at him for that?
This scene that I drew is from the end of Episode 2 when that love for his family is his emotional undoing. He has defended his brother — Prince Imjae — to a fault and had utter faith in him, even to the point of apologizing to him for doubts that he was loyal (after a supposed attempted coup). He then finds out that Imjae was plotting against him and that his faith was displaced. Heartbreaking! This exact shot is when Gwanghae stumbles outside after being crushed by this news (straight from his brother’s mouth no less). Snow is blowing through the air and the entire scene is wonderfully atmospheric. I chose digital watercolors as my medium but for some reason I didn’t stick to my initial vision which was a lot softer. Sometimes I think my fingers are disconnected from my brain.
Of course what makes this tragic scenario worse is that Imjae essentially suggests that he would be loyal if Gwanghae would just name him Crown Prince. He promises to be patient and wait his turn for the throne. Um…yeah…not likely. I seriously hope Gwanghae doesn’t fall for that ploy because an elder brother who is likely to die first and has already attempted to kill one sibling probably isn’t going to stay patient for long, especially with kingship one little murder away. Gwanghae needs to get rid of Imjae fast, but that doesn’t seem easy now that he’s gone through so much trouble defending him. Yay, intrigue!
I’m pretty sure that Prince Imjae is a fairly minor character, so it can only get more and more interesting from here on out. I’m sure that those intimately familiar with the history find each drama’s take on things compelling in its own right, but I think I’m going to stay a history virgin for this one and enjoy every twist and turn. In the meantime I just have to resist the temptations of the ever-seductive Wikipedia. Easier said than done.
- Hwajeong: Episode 1
- Hwajeong teases court politics and intrigue
- Cha Seung-won dons his villain’s hat for Hwajeong
- Kim Jae-won goes up against Cha Seung-won in MBC’s Hwajeong
- Han Joo-wan drops weekend drama Bluebird, joins MBC sageuk Hwajeong
- Seo Kang-joon up for first lead role romancing Lee Yeon-hee
- Cha Seung-won courted to join Lee Yeon-hee in MBC sageuk
- Lee Yeon-hee up for historical palace melodrama