It’s Friday (my favorite day) and schoolwork is not as hectic as usual this week so I figured I’ll triple-pow and just publish three entries today. This Pimp That Scene entry will be long however, so please do sit back and tread with your mind switched on!
Jang Ok-jung, Live In Love is a show that makes me think; it’s really hard to turn off my mind, as much as I would like to because drama-watching is my downtime, because there’s just so much going on in this show. This week’s episodes 9 and 10 seem to specifically be focused on this theme – I may be wrong, but here’s my interpretation, or rather take: premonitions and fate, or destiny.
Specifically, there were significant number of scenes piecing together memories of the past and relating them to present-day, a particular crazy shaman at work, more wheels of fate and destiny at work and history, though unchanged in outcome, propelled to different detours. In terms of fate and destiny, I like this interesting take that while free will and decisions are granted to and made by men, in the end forces bigger than the human spirit still prevail – it doesn’t mean that therefore we shouldn’t try as hard or at all, rather that there are moments in life when you can fight, resist, attempt to hinder or want so desperately to occur but that ultimately, the strings are pulled by the real, unseen puppet master.
I am interested in the motivation of the characters and by the end of episode 10, I think it’s safe to conclude that all our central leads are having elevations of perceptions – we’re in the second half of the show alright, whereby innocence are shed, hearts are broken, relationships are established and the manipulative, chess-strategic deceptive games will proceed in full force from here onward.
We open with the above, perhaps my favorite scene from episode 9 not only because it’s gorgeous, but also because it’s tinged with symbolism. Like a play with light, it’s that seen/unseen, known/unknown or very simply, the whole metaphor that there’s more than meets the eye, in my opinion.
In this week’s episodes, romance seems to be especially high from this frisking-at-night encounter complete with a back hug,
To subtle, no-you-didn’t-see-it romantic affections which literally had me feeling warm fuzzies all over,
To that decisive moment when he consciously made his choice and strutted off immediately, not even stopping to take off the garment; full of resolution and determination.
I personally think this scene was epic and very strong in execution because as I’d said last week, a hero that acts, thinks and decides like a man is commendable because though the choices decided upon may not be the best or right ones, respect is due nonetheless in my opinion, to the few that bravely, consciously and steadfastly hold onto their decisions and thus, walk that line come hell or high water.
Of course, when such decisions are made, the best follow-up would be when the payoff is well-worth it, or romantic like no other. I won’t be so quick to call upon the former, but as for the latter…
I know – my heart, be still.
Did I see these coming? Not at all. Plus, two back hugs! My heart, be extremely still.
And now, let’s talk characters. To start off, I’ll openly admit that I actually think Yoo Ah In is overacting in select scenes. I love this guy, but that rage is sometimes being emoted way too hard. Fortunately, this is actually acting in his favor because it’s coming off as the King, Lee Soon’s frustrations at his own inability and powerlessness to be with the woman he loves despite being the ruler of his own nation. Irony, indeed.
The simple fact that they love each other, yet that it is also the hardest reality to dream to life is heartbreakingly romantic. It’s not just their social class that’s standing in their way, but it’s also what they’re required to give up in order to attain each other that’s equally as perplexing. And really, to think that it’s literally all in the name of love!
Next, another character that’s stepped up under my radar is none other than our resident second lead (that other second lead who’s yet to make an appearance… I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s now wondering this aloud) who had questioned and could so easily succumb to, “I loved her first!” – but didn’t. To be honest, I like Lee Sang Yeob but I am not entirely convinced or think highly of his acting here in a sageuk – his line deliveries and intonations sound much too modern to my ears – but where he hits the bulls eye, as he did in Nice Guy, is easily right here in the heart.
It starts with the longing look from afar…
Followed by the quiet resolution and determination to protect his lady love…
But when realization hits that it’s too late – or more appropriately (unfortunately), he never stood a chance, those tears came from somewhere deep, personal and sincere. It’s moving, because it’s so heartfelt.
Finally, of course being the resident (good) second-lead means giving way to the hero, playing the role of catalyst in reuniting the two lovers. I love the scene below so, so much because it spoke of dejection, but also of acceptance. It resonated with sadness at a love that never did blossom, but so full of heart and kindness because he took it upon himself to be the bigger person …though in the end, he’s left by himself, much like the gaping hole in his heart.
For doing the right, noble thing – Dongyup, you’ve my vote of love and respect.
Then we have our resident second-leading lady, none other than Hong Soo Hyun playing Princess In Hyun. I’ll be honest and admit that I personally think she’s currently underutilized in this show, but in terms of an overall spectrum ergo plot-wise, I understand why. In the scene below, I love her obvious show of elation; beaming with pride and full of dignity, thinking she’s finally elevated to the status she deserves.
Only to then realize that while it’s true the position she covets is the one that will lead her closer to the King, the man himself – it doesn’t come without a price. She can have the throne, the title, the King – but not the man. That daunting look, a subtle realization – so richly expressed here.
But no scene was more painful to watch, in my opinion, than this one below; there’s her in all her wedding costume glory… alone, in an empty room.
The heartbroken sentiments I can’t even begin to describe – they’re in this expression below, of a woman scorned and this is the one that hits an epiphany, both within herself as well as I suspect, to us the viewers. There’s that thud to reality, the realization that whatever her initial desires or plans about him and the Queen position – she might need to reconsider or re-strategize because if she doesn’t, she’ll very likely come out empty-handed both in love and in aspirations.
If you’ve watched up to episode 10, then you’ll know exactly what she decided to do and which road she chose to tread upon. I’ll admit to being surprised by her motivations and thus, decision, because it’s a road to great prowess and success – that eye on the throne, she’s hitting the bulls eye for sure – but it’s also a road that’s ultimately lonely and that is very simply so, so sad.
What gets to me whenever I watch an oldie-setting show is the restrictions, constrictions and whatever else when it comes to the women. Simply for being a woman, one’s lot in life is almost as if predetermined and wanting to change that requires not only bravery, courage and determination, but also an equally palpable sentiment of acceptance that certain things will have to be given up or lost, in deciding to walk this line.
I sensed that in Princess In Hyun through her move here, accepting her reality and thus, choosing instead to hold onto something more tangible and concrete. Of course, this is interestingly juxtaposed with our own heroine’s paradigm shift, evident below. Look at her transitional facial expressions, going from passive to increasingly affirmative as she comes to the realization that if she wants the man she loves so bad, she’ll have to step up and make her presence known because unfortunately, he’s not just a man.
So innocent, doe-eyed and quietly accepting Ok-jung is no longer, replaced by a woman who’s also hit by that same wave of reality and having to accept it in order to continue living. However, in contrast to In Hyun’s realization that she can’t have all of the cake and eat it too, Ok-jung is thinking the exact opposite; she’s determined to grab the cake, make it hers and eat it all. Fueled by motivation and purpose, that quiet resolution is most affecting to me.
Of course, I simply can’t leave out the calculative, conniving game player, acted so fantastically, as always, by Sung Dong-il. Just look at these expressions of greed and delight, so evident through his eyes!
Jang Ok-jung, Live in Love is propelling forward alright –
I’m super excited at what the next half of the show will give us!