Eight months later, Yeong-sil is making decent progress on his scientific endeavors. Hee-ji, though, he just skulks at home having flashbacks of past fire-related incidents, grumbling about the obvious superiority of Yeong-sil and, I kid you not, projecting his weird fixation issues on a makeshift Joseon-era mannequin. It bears repeating. In terms of personality and inner conflict, Hee-ji is the real main character of "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama". Hee-ji is the one always making difficult decisions while Yeong-sil just tries to think of a better way to build a clock.
There's something sadly comical about the way that Yeong-sil has to shoehorn scientific breakthroughs into mostly unrelated scenes that involve stuff like elaborate swordfights. I have no idea whether the actual historical Yeong-sil got his insights, but I very sincerely doubt it was from constantly getting thrust into life-or-death situations. Even after all the assassination shenanigans we've seen so far, characters are still surprised that this stuff keeps happening.
What makes "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" especially irritating is the way all these scenes keep blending into each other. Episode to episode I can only ever make out meaningful progression through careful study of the diagrams and paying close attention to whatever engineering problem Yeong-sil is trying to solve. Everything else is just material we've already seen played out several times by now. The repetition is aggravating mainly because it causes the drama writ large to feel unusually generic.
Take the bulk of the entire supporting cast. Everyone, even King Sejong, exists mostly to provide a form of moral support to Yeong-sil. Hee-ji actually has fairly low-billing compared to most of the cast, yet simply by having an ambiguous relationship to Yeong-sil rather than a whole-heartedly positive one Hee-ji's role takes on disproportionate significance. Like So-hyeon. She's always around to offer a smile, yet never actually does anything.
Those are the two extremes "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" is stuck between. Its character are either getting wrapped up in unnecessarily complicated plots involving loads of political intrigue, or they're background scenery that livens the backdrop of the visuals. The middle ground is Yeong-sil himself, who aside from the occassional scientific breakthrough simply stumbles through Hee-ji's story looking more like a supporting character than a lead. And the worse of it all is that "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" keeps repeating this dynamic, so it forces me to repeat myself. I'm struggling to even remember the cliffhanger this time. That's how irrelevant this drama feels.
Review by William Schwartz
"Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" is directed by Kim Yeong-jo, written by Lee Myeong-hee, Ma Chang-joon and features Song Il-gook, Kim Sang-kyung, Kim Young-chul, Park Sun-young, Kim Do-hyun, Son Byung-ho,...
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" Episode 19"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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