Second Impression: In Defense of Jang Ok-jung, Live In Love.

Jang Ok-jung, Live in Love (2013)
Jang Ok-jung, Live in Love (2013)

Six episodes in and ladies and gents, we have right here… CRACK.

I don’t know what to call this entry, so I’m just going to settle for this being a second impression of Jang Ok-jung, Live In Love. I’ve been reading plenty about the ratings-race and the sometimes-petty complaints being directed towards this show. I can’t defend it from a historical standpoint because I’m neither Korean nor adept in the Korean history, but as a general viewer who’s enjoying this drama, I’d like to therefore defend it in the way I’m able to: writing.

However small this defense is through this entry – I’m attempting anyway, because seriously, why isn’t this show getting more love?

Let’s reassess by revisiting the same points pointed out in the first impression.

1) YAY – ergo Yes, More Please!

Casting & Characters

Can I please just confess how friggin’ much I love Yoo Ah In here? I am telling you… This dude will be the death of me, at least where this crack is concerned. He is slayin’ the role of the King with so much intensity and – wait for it… – intelligence that ah hot damn, nothing is sexier than smarts, I tell ya. Ahem in all seriousness, for real, I can’t say enough how much I appreciate that our King isn’t mere political puppet, yet there’s no denying the dilemma and reality which he realizes himself: his inability to stop and prevent his two-faced politicians from taking advantage of him and or attempting to kill him because too much is at stake, even if it’s his life that’s at risk.

As for Kim Tae Hee, I get it she’s pretty and so does everyone else – let’s move on from that, shall we? She’s not the greatest or strongest actress, that’s true too, but we’ve also established this fact! I can’t believe I am saying this in defense of her, but for once, I really wish everyone would quit with the elephants in the room, rather give the person the benefit of doubt to prove she’s up to task, which I honestly think she is. Again, she’s not the strongest actress – her emoting for instance, I admit requires more practice or nuance, but she’s not horribly bad at it, y’know? In fact, I really like her character’s sass and fierce independence, as well as her unwillingness to let another dictate and choose her life course. I love the fact that she’d much rather go down in her own ways as opposed to ending up as a pawn or miserable concubine to unprincipled men. All these are points and traits of Jang Ok-jung which Kim Tae Hee really is convincingly portraying; I genuinely think she’s doing a good job. You go, girl.

In hindsight, I do believe Hong Soo Hyun should be given more screen time because this woman is fierce in her role – on fire, anytime she’s on my screen. Perhaps I’m being overly biased due to my obvious affections towards her from The Princess’ Man, but I do love her portrayal of Princess In-Hyun here, which I realize the writer is taking an interesting approach: she is inherently kind, true to the real character, but she’s not one without her own ambitions and smarts. For this reason, I love it even more that Hong Soo Hyun is the actress carrying this character – if it’s about creating a richly layered character who’s outrightly the paragon of virtue but internally human like the rest of us, damn right she’s the one who can breathe this and more to life.

Jae Hee has yet to make an appearance and quite frankly I’m a little surprised, given that we’re six episodes in. However at the same time, I couldn’t care less either. Why? Because I will be damned if anyone stands in my (okay, Jang Ok-jung and Lee Soon) way of seeing my main couple get together!

That Sizzling Chemistry

Oh. My. God.

Someone please get them a room and get some action going on around here.

What does it take, seriously? And please don’t tell me I’m the only one who’s feeling the blossoming chemistry and budding romance? You feel it too, right – right? (pause) If you’re not… you will, mark my words. I can smell chemistry a mile away where Kdramas are concerned, aha!

Whenever they’re together, ack, my heart! I can’t wait for when they start running into each other in the palace – would the writer play the lovers-in-secret route? Or would I forever have to be teased with so-close-but-can’t-be moments? Ahhh, possibilities are rife and I’m excited!

Directing, Visuals & Costumes

Loving the directing, as already attested. I wish I’m good with screencapping, because I’d really love to screen-cap those scenes in episodes 3 and 4 last week – the ‘fireworks’ in the former and that colorful fabrics swaying around the two in the latter (so romantic). So friggin’ gorgeous, those scenes. In this week’s episodes, we were shown more costuming beauty through Ok-jung’s hanbok – I love that black one with flowers!

The Plot (ergo, Writing)

This show’s rating is unfortunately, seriously dwindling that I fear a little in terms of the quality of future episodes – please don’t succumb to this, dear writer, please don’t – and I know it’s definitely not being historically correct, but I wish the conservative Korean viewers would be more open-minded and accepting of this retelling because do they not see how creative this alterna-version is?

I know in general the rule is to not mess with traditions or history (heck, I’m Asian myself – I can easily vouch that this whole don’t-mess-with-traditions is practically a life-virtue) but there’s something so extremely liberating and satisfying, plus yes, creative, about taking a part of written history and tweaking not the destinations, but the journeys undertaken. I don’t know how else to say and stress this: the retelling in Jang Ok-jung, Live In Love is just so deliciously refreshing!

In addition, may I please point out that this show is kicking ass from a feminist perspective? Most of the women in this show thus far have been surprisingly brave and or independent, considering this is the Joseon-era. Although they’re bounded by obvious traditional, societal and cultural limitations, in whatever ways they’re able – as far as I see it, they’re definitely trying to be their own masters. Jang Ok-jung is without a doubt at the forefront of this, but one can’t forget that independent lady who was her mentor and in present-day, evil and cunning as they may be, the Queen and Queen Dowager are bringing in some serious A-game, meddling or attempting to, politically.

2) NAY – ergo Notch It Down, Please!

As of right now… I can’t think of any, ha.

I know this show isn’t perfect, as those eagle-eyed netizens keep pointing out. For instance, they need to be smarter about the little details such as the supposed secret army hideout, the assassination plots and those damn high heels that made headlines (though seriously, really netizens? Really? I’m just sayin’) but in the scheme of bigger things, Jang Ok-jung, Live In Love is currently being all kinds of wonderful.

3) Final Verdict

If I’m to sum it up simply, I’d attest that it is virtually pleasing, deliciously refreshing and quietly romantic.

I honestly, seriously can’t wait for next week’s episodes because I’ve been impatiently waiting for when she enters the palace and their romance ups a notch within palace walls and not to mention, identities are cleared. Things need to HAPPEN in episodes 7 and 8, ya hear me, Show?

Bring in the excitement, you know I’ll be watching!

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4 thoughts on “Second Impression: In Defense of Jang Ok-jung, Live In Love.

  1. I watched a couple scenes for Kim Ha Eun’s supporting character! *w* I don’t want to hate on Kim Tae Hee but I’m not that big of a fan of hers. But omg, the costumes in this drama are so beautiful!

    Is it just me or do a lot of the kdramas focus on the ‘puppet emperors’? O_O

    1. It’s definitely a favorite thing, puppet emperors! But! He’s not one here’s, which is just so awesome!

      The costumes are a major plus, I agree and certain scenes are also shot so beautifully that I’m like, dramaaaa you’re making me love you more! Haha. Are you liking the show though? I’m a little addicted now o.o

      Oh btw, awesome job at the DF blog !! :D

      1. Well I haven’t seen enough of it to really decide whether I like it or not. >_<"" From what I did see though, it looked so pretty! Even though the ratings are not as good, from what I've heard it has a pretty loyal following. So ratings don't really matter!

        Thanks! :3

  2. So, so, so much agreement! Especially on the chemistry because… damn. And now they’re finally within the same walls and he’ll realize she’s there (or she’ll realize who he actually is) and part of the reason she went there in the first place was for him and… oh my heart! (Also — there better be some kissing soon. I hope!)

    I’ve heard that the show is more popular with downloads or computer watching, which is apparently a young people’s thing. So maybe the writer will take that as encouragement? I really do hope she’s getting some positive feedback from somewhere — because she does deserve it.

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