Hwajung: Thoughts on Episodes 3-4

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This show got intense. I really enjoyed episode 3, while episode 4 felt like an abrupt shift in tone. But we had to move forward with history – these kids can’t stay kids forever. It’s pretty amusing to see Cha Seung Won look at the child actors as if they were his own because he’s so much older than them; it implies he looks really old for his “age.” And then it’ll be jarring to think that Jungmyung is going to grow up into Lee Yeon Hee and Cha ends up looking really good for his “age.”

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Episode 3 and 4 just intensifies the politics in the palace. The Queen Dowager is ready to act against the king; she always regretted letting Gwanghae take the throne, so she’s ready to install Yeongchang instead. She has most of the factions’ support, but most importantly she doesn’t know if she has the Prime Minister’s support just yet. Lee Deok Hyung is still sort of Gwanghae’s man, but he’s realizing that Gwanghae is traveling down a dangerous path to tyranny.

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Jungmyung and Yeongchang venture outside of the palace during the full moon festival and meet with the older In Woo and Joo Won. Joo Won puts her to shame for not paying for the food, and it’s clear that while In Woo is smitten with Jungmyung, Joo Won is the one who’s going to get the girl in the end. (Maybe. After all, Seo Kang Joon will play the older Joo Won and I have a hard time picturing him paired up with Lee Yeon Hee.) The prince and princess get lost, and that’s when she hears the commoners talking about how Gwanghae will get Yeongchang next since he most likely killed Imhae. She begins to worry for her and her brother’s life, and is willing to marry either In Woo or Joo Won when she learns that’s the only way to protect her brother.

A diplomatic marriage with either the police chief’s son or the mayor’s son will give the Queen Dowager additional power.

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All this while, Gwanghae is becoming more tyrannical because he wants to beef up his military and weaponry without the officials’ knowledge, and move the capital to Gyoha. All of this is to strengthen the country against the Jurchens, but Lee Deok Hyung thinks that Gwanghae will become corrupt if he keeps demanding for his way to be done.

So when Yeongchang and his grandfather are arrested for treason on trumped up charges, Lee Deok Hyung warns the king against being unjust. The king is angry that Lee doesn’t seem to trust him or his judgment, and it actually makes him even more unstable. He ends up exiling Yeongchang, but the little prince doesn’t want to go because he knows he’ll die. Jungmyung insists on leaving the palace with him, so the court ladies let her go with her brother – until they step outside the palace. That’s when they forcibly separate the siblings.

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Episode 3 ended very interestingly: Yeongchang attempts to leave the palace again because he had fun (forgetting the fact that he cried when he was cold and tired), but goes the wrong way and ends up on top of the palace walls. Gwanghae saves him from falling down, and for a moment you wonder if Gwanghae will push his brother off. Not like anyone’s really watching. And it’s quite an opportune moment. Cha Seung Won makes the viewers and Yeongchang fear at that moment that he’ll really become murderous. But at the same time, he looks so hurt when his younger brother shies away from him that you feel sorry for having doubted his intentions.

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And then instead of continuing on that moment, episode 4 starts off with Kim Gae Shi getting something from a shaman and telling her story of how she entered the palace. It took me away from the intensity of episode 3 and I felt like we jumped ahead in time to show how much more threatening Gwanghae had become. I really commend Cha Seung Won in showing us how Gwanghae is becoming more controlling, and giving us less glimpses of the wise and good king that was always misunderstood. It makes it more palatable to see Gwanghae become the bad guy.

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I will admit that I’m a bit confused about Deok Hyung’s character and his loyalties, and how long he’ll last in this drama. It frustrates me that he doesn’t take enough action, always appearing to straddle the line between the king and his enemies. I want him to wield the greatest influence over the king, and yet I feel like his time is almost up. The only official with real clear intent and playing a very active role is Lee Yi Cheom (Jung Woong In), who acts more for his own ambitions than out of his loyalty to the king. It’s very interesting to see how a man who could easily be a good guy by being the king’s champion become the most evil man in court.

All in all, Cha Seung Won is great, so I think I’ll just continue singing his praises to the very end.

 

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