If there is a type of work in Korean drama that has the potential to be ambitious and thrilling, that is sageuk. If there is a premise that has the potential to be an emotional rollercoaster and give audiences a riveting journey, that is a revenge plot. With both of those characteristics, 'The Joseon Shooter' had everything it needed to be one fun ride. While ultimately a pretty good series, some things sadly kept it from being quite the epic it could have been.
'The Joseon Shooter' takes place during a time of change in Joseon. With the kingdom caught between Qing and Japan, a group of reformists clash with the conservative noble class who are afraid of losing power. After Park Yoon-gang's (Lee Joon-gi) father is killed by the conservatives and his family is branded as traitors, he is aided to Japan and then returns to have his revenge. Back in his homeland, his quest for justice puts his morality in danger, as well as his love with a noble woman and reformist called Jeong Soo-in (Nam Sang-mi).
One great element of the series which many dramas of its kind and many in general lack is how rich and realistic most of its main and even some supporting characters are. There are clearly evil ones and clearly good ones, but it is a great thing that most of them occupy a grey area of morality. They have their reasons, motivations and they get shaken by the conflict of their desires, guilt and sense of honor, which makes their trajectory a mystery and therefore engaging and this drama's biggest strength.
The fact that the characters falter and are, for the most part, not one-dimensional also ties in with the era very well and makes the battles, both physical and political all the more interesting. This is an era of conflicting values and the series does well in showing that it is the people who suffer through such transitions the most. The series also has good enough production value, so both the action in it and the power games have good presentation which adds to the enjoyment of watching them.
But despite the things 'The Joseon Shooter' does well compared to other works, it also has some issues which just hold it back. For one, there are one too many villains to begin with and they are really not used well for the most part. They are also not equally nuanced. For revenge stories, focusing viewer hate is important, because injustice with a face is easier to hate. Some of the less villainous characters are also eventually abandoned, despite their potential and the quality they add to the series.
This is an issue which reaches further and engulfs the entire work. Lack of consistency. For a big part of it, the series focuses on characters development, which is done very well, but plot progression suffers during that time. On the other hand, when things pick up, all that character development is halted and we witness the sad decline of most of them into boring stereotypes. So as a revenge story, the ending result is somewhat lukewarm and this death of potential is the saddest character death here.
'The Joseon Shooter' fails to develop both its characters and plot at the same time, making it uneven in the investment it can bring and harming its good element in the process. That said, this is a good series. All the things it did well and all the usual wrongs of dramas that it addressed are admirable and many of its parts are truly a joy to watch. It is an overall solid work. However, it is not the epic tale of revolution and revenge that its promising start could have led to. With that in mind, this is a work worth checking out and one to surely be enjoyed by many.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Joseon Shooter""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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