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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King's Face" Episode 23 (final)

2015/02/18 | 4766 views | Permalink

The finale matched "The King's Face" run in that it was disappointing and anticlimactic. Like the show, there were a few highlights, but those moments were not enough to save the finale or the show.

Gwanghae, through wisdom and an ability to read faces, climbed to the throne by using his intelligence and compassion. That was the premise of the show and "The King's Face" stuck to it. The show was rather haphazard about Gwanghae's land tax reform and diplomatic relations, which are two of his major contributions to Joseon. The tax reform seemed tacked on as an afterthought. It had been mentioned earlier in the drama's run, but then dropped until the last hour.

This is a general pattern of the show. Drama's with longer runs do have to pick and choose with plot threads to run with, but "The King's Face" lacked consistency in almost all of the plot threads. The romance was used at will, which made the final goodbye between Gwanghae and the self-sacrificing Ga-hee lackluster. In fact, I don't even get the last scene between them or why she was left alive. Another misused plot idea was the tensions between brothers who coveted the throne. That kind of tension molds and changes relationships. Brothers who care for each other have to struggle in their love. The only tension shown was Imhae's never ending fury. I would've liked to see Jungwon, who admired his older brother Gwanghae, struggle with that admiration and the goal's of his ambitious mother.

King Seonjo was another character I wanted to see more out of. Yes, he was weak, selfish, and a lackluster king, but his jealousy of Gwanghae and the innate competitiveness he felt towards his more competent son was not was used to its fullest. The reverse is true. Gwanghae was not unaware of his father's emotions and still blindly worshiped him. It is part of what made Gwanghae a two dimensional character as well. He had all the makings of a hero, but his inner workings were not shown nearly enough nor did we see the emotional turmoil he felt when his father made bad decisions or when he felt jealousy or selfish anger. In fact, I don't recall much selfish anger in this show. It was mostly righteous anger on behalf of his country, which is great, but it doesn't help to flesh out Gwanghae. In fact, Gwanghae had very little fallibility, which made him boring.

Seo In-guk did the best he could with what he had. Based on his other work, Seo is a capable actor as are the other main leads who have impressive bodies of work behind them. I must conclude that the writing turned a cast of talented people into an army of stiff players who had little depth. As time went on, the performances became even more stilted as the characters became caricatures of heroic, evil, and subservient. The humanizing factor was lacking. On a few occasions there were some powerful moments, but they didn't not carry nor were they replicated.

Do-chi, the ultimate villain, was the bad guy, but he wasn't truly pitiable, which would've made him a fantastic villain. He drove himself insane trying to achieve his goal, twisting himself and the people around him to win. It's such a fantastic, tragic character path that, in the end, was badly planned and timed so that his death meant little. It carried little emotional ambivalence or feelings of pity.

The face reading aspect of the show was also mismanaged in that it was utilitarian rather than a way of life for those who practiced it, but the ending statement was powerful: it isn't the king's face that should be read, but the people's. The people reflect the work of the king. That was a powerful statement to be made when the ruling class has been, and continued to be, corrupt and selfish.

Do-chi, the ultimate villain, was the bad guy, but he wasn't truly pitiable, which would've made him a fantastic villain. He drove himself insane trying to achieve his goal, twisting himself and the people around him to win. It's such a fantastic, tragic character path that, in the end, was badly planned and timed so that his death meant little. It carried little emotional ambivalence or feelings of pity.

"The King's Face" is not a show I'd recommend nor would I watch it again. It lacked heart, which is disappointing because the cast and the premise forecasted a better run.



Written by: Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'

"The King's Face" is directed by Cha Yeong-hoon and Yoon Seong-sik, written by Lee Hyang-hee and Yoon Soo-jeong, and features Seo In-guk, Jo Yoon-hee, Lee Sung-jae, and Shin Sung-rok.

 

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