Hey, guess what? Politics. And you know what else? Politics. Then, just in case you were unsure about my first two points: politics. One more time for good measure: politics.
But then, the drama ended and it was an amazing ending. This is probably one of the best endings that I have seen in a drama in a while. It made me forget how bored I had been with the constant barrage of political intrigue and I even shed a tear or two at the beauty of it all. Then the final shot/line of the drama was the cherry on top of that magical ending.
Even with all my complaining, I don't want to make it sound like this was a bad drama, because it wasn't; it just wasn't what I wanted from this story. As I looked into the history of Crown Prince Sado and the controversy of his death, I was hoping that the drama would leave us to draw our own conclusions about Sado's life. I guess I was looking for something more philosophical and maybe a little Hamlet-esque and that is not what I got.
The point that I started loosing interest in this drama was at the time jump towards the middle. The the crown prince destroyed the maengui and the king then revoked all the crown princes political power leaving Sado with a title and nothing more. Before this point there was a lot of character growth and the main issue was who killed Sado's friend and painter Heungbok and of course the maengui.
Something else that I wasn't too keen on was the change of Ji Dam's actress from Kim Yoo Jung to Yoon So Hee. It wasn't even the new actresses fault though, it was the way that Ji Dam 2.0 was written. I understand that Ji Dam lost everything and she became extremely disillusioned with the world and the man that she thought would change everything for the better, but sad Ji Dam was lame. She didn't have a lot of facial expression either and I just found her to be extremely boring which was a shame because before the change she was one of my favorite characters.
The only other female character of not in this story was the Crown Princess played by Park Eun Bi. She knew her place in the palace hierarchy, but she also wasn't afraid to speak her mind and push for the things that she wanted. It was because of this drive that I was a little conflicted about her at the end. She did want what was best for everyone and she was very adamant about that, but I was sad that she was so bent on her son being the king that she would have turned her back on Sado. It was the correct move but it was heart breaking to see everything that he had been working on destroyed.
Let's talk about that ending now. I was only paying half attention to the drama as I had been doing for a few episodes but I started to pay more attention as we got closer to Sado's end. That is why we started to watch the drama right? What finally caught my attention was the letter that Sado wrote to his son San and the clincher was the agony that San displayed as his father got ready to climb into that box. I don't know if that kid is the greatest actor ever or if the director traumatized him before the shoot, but I felt the utter despair that he felt as he watched his father prepare for death. The utter calm that was on Sado's face was also very touching. No one in the palace was in a good place at this moment so it was like he took it upon himself to be strong for everyone. Even when he is locked inside he still seems very at piece with how his life is ending.
Our second ending was of an older San walking with his very old and arthritic grandfather. It broke my heart a little to hear the king tell San that even though he will be a king and that is a lonely road, he should try to have a friend to help ease the loneliness. It was at this point that we really see how saddened the king is by everything he did in the drama. He ruined his son's life and it all started with the death of a single painter at the beginning. More tears are shed.
Then, the final ending. Yes and yes. As we got closer to the end of the drama I wanted something like this to happen. I wanted to see San as the king and praising his father and it happened. Thank you writers for that. To make it even better King Jeongjo (as he was later called) was also played by Lee Jae Hoon and his final line, looking dead into the camera, was "I am Prince Sado's son." Even if I didn't get the story that I wanted, I got the ending that I wanted and that might be better. It's amazing how a good or bad ending can make you forget everything that you felt prior to it (please see my Surplus Princess review).
So, in the end, this drama isn't what I wanted but it did have some really good points and I'm sure there are people who would love this super politically driven story. Like I have said many times, I am so glad that I stuck around for the ending. I would watch that ending again and I kind of did to get the above picture and I might has also cried again because I'm a giant baby. This drama has also made me want to go out and buy the memoir that the Crown Princess wrote when she was living in the palace. I'm afraid my desire to learn more about Korean history may be overtaking my will to not buy books while I am over seas. That could be dangerous. Who wants to come visit me so they can take things back to the states for me?