Timeout: So, Jang Ok-jung…

No Pimp That Scene entry this week because I am not impressed.

No, I don’t mean it unkindly, nor do I mean to pull the plug and call Jang Ok-jung, Live In Love crap or a lost cause. Not at all, given that the first half of the show really has been solid. But this week’s episodes? I’m… conflicted. It’s been bugging me; I felt uncomfortable watching episodes 11 and 12… let me attempt to coherently explain why.

A quick caveat: I haven’t read others’ impressions about this week’s episodes, aside from glimpses of (unhappy) comments here and there on other sites, so in truth I can’t say for sure if most others are throwing the towel on this one or not. I hope not, because there’s still enough episodes for the story to take the rein again and end satisfactorily, happy or not. Another caveat: I haven’t read anything about the novel, so… I’m basically staunchly spoiler-free, both in terms of the drama and the existing novel it’s taken from.

So here’s the root of my dilemma: ethics. By that I mean, I get it that they love each other, the King and Jang Ok-jung. Nothing wrong with that, feelings are one’s own after all. I get it too, this whole concept of concubines, especially during those time – I’m familiar with this one-king-many-women then-social norm. But you see, knowing does not necessarily mean accepting.

Here’s where I have a problem with, with where we are plot- and character motivations-wise with this show: the fact that yes they love one another, yes she’s his official concubine and yes, his marriage to Queen In Hyun was nothing more than convenience and for political gains – I get all that, trust me. I get this whole one-true-love concept, that they’re of totally different social stature and thus, she’s doing all she can, driven and motivated by love, to be on par with the man she loves; she’s saying be damned with heaven and earth and destiny, I’ll work for what I want until I get it in my hands. It’s not in her intentions therefore, to be mean because she wants to… rather that it’s either she risks losing the one person – perhaps even, the one thing in her life that she’s ever actually wanted and dared to hope for – or she puts up a well-worth fight to the finish line. Clearly we know which path she decided to take and I do like that spunk in her decision because obviously she’s not taking crap from anyone unless she condones it.

But… their smug in-your-face affections for each other, clearly to Prove A Point to Queen In Hyun and their open rendezvous around the palace walls without giving thought to keeping the Queen’s grace… I am not cool with this. In fact, honestly, I’m really genuinely conflicted. Let’s put it in this way, because this is what I think, despite yes, familiarity with this whole concubine-shiz – is an affair justified, ergo acceptable if it’s between two souls who genuinely love each other deeply? Is an affair justified if the marriage completed by one-half of the lovers, this marriage that stands in their way is one that’s not a product of love, but political reasons? Is an affair justified if sentiments, whether love, hate or indifference are openly known, expressed and the like? Is The Other Woman justified in her actions and desires if it’s an open secret that the King is in fact, in love with her and not his wife, the Queen? Does it then mean it’s alright to continue pursuing and holding onto him like the lovers they’ve always been to each other? If the wife, the Queen has consented, albeit indirectly given that she’s being incredibly tolerant and accepting of their relationship, does it then make the two lovers guiltless and their love indeed the one true love? If the intention is purely love and not at all malicious, does it then justifies the cause?

If you’re following my train of thought and thus, source of conflict – hurrah. Do you see my dilemma? I get it they love each other, and though I doubt it, maybe I will feel less empathy and confusion had Queen In Hyun been a mean character, but at the same time frankly I’m questioning… so what? Yes they love each other and okay fine, in their era and time he’s able to resolve the conflict by having her as his concubine because apparently a King is more prosperous if he has concubines or whatever; fine, I’ll take that. But this open rendezvous, this in-your-face smugness about their love – yes it’s real, but must they smother it all across the wife who’s doing everything she can to hold it in, keep her cool and continue playing her card of being ridiculously understanding? Yes it’s love, yes it’s real and yes the odds aren’t in their favor given the crazy Queen Mother, their social class difference and all the crazy politicking going on around them – but just because it’s love and just because it’s society’s norm… Just because it’s love, does it make it right, perfectly acceptable to continue loving each other they way they do?

Basically, I love it they love each other, it makes my heart flutter too …but I can’t say I’m happy that they’re happy, because this happiness is so obviously at the expense of a particular woman’s heartbreak and whom in my opinion, has been nothing short but kind. Okay fine, it’s not like In Hyun didn’t know what she got herself into, I agree and true as well, that it’s not like In Hyun’s such a Samaritan herself. I agree, but this is the here and now, this is the aftermath of decisions that have been made – the river’s been crossed, we’re now standing on new and different grounds. Thus… there’s this level of malice and cattiness in Ok-jung and at times, the King, which I sense that leaves me feeling cold, instead of aflutter.

I’m not saying I hate this show, not at all… but moral dilemma. Perhaps this is what it is.

Still trying to sort out my thoughts, thus I can’t even say if I’m excited at the coming episodes. All these snarky-eyes scheming by everyone of relevance is making my head spin, my moral compass haywire and my mind very, very tired. This week’s not very fun.

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10 thoughts on “Timeout: So, Jang Ok-jung…

  1. I share some of your dilemma here.. particularly since the drama’s gone to great pains to NOT paint Queen Inhyun as an evil villain (we can thank the queen mother for taking all of that role). Personally though, I can look at this 2 ways:

    1) The king rrrreally needs to accept some political responsibly that isn’t just politicking around with the old guys at court. In other words… you married a queen. * Consummate and Respect your queen* (even Inkyung got more respect in the end!!) You have your lovely concubine yes, but it would solve a LOT of other peoples’ anger if he appeared to at least respect his poor wife. Her father would be happier, his mother would be happier. SHE would be happier. He’s a old-timey king and he gets to legally mess around with however many women of his choosing. Why all of a sudden does he not think things through about pointlessly pissing off so many people. (Would one night with the queen really be the end of the world..??)

    2) All this of course leads to my other thought – which is (and since this is a novel, and now a for-TV drama) – that their whole principled “one true love” thing is just a modern projection, written up for the sake of giving us a sweeping love story. I know, I know! It’s entertainment. But when I take this in the context of issue number 1 (above), it aggravates me that the king would be so dumb. Of course, I don’t know the history – so maybe the real king did exactly this. It’s just frustrating as a viewer to slowly watch what’s obviously going to have so many extra side effects.

    In short, I’m not that fond of the past couple eps as far as their romance. I’m not giving up yet though, because it’s still extremely watchable.

    1. Rosie, you said it exactly with your point (2). It’s that modern projection, written for the sake of yes, a supposedly epic, virtuous love story. The only issue is it’s not quite working out in execution as it prolly worked in the novel. I hear you on point (1) as well – I don’t know if it’s absolutely necessary that he needs to sleep with her to hush the gossip and I’m no moral police to say that’s right or wrong, but I totally get what you mean by him needing to step up and do more. What bugs me is that it’s not just Ok-jung who seems to be mean, but the King’s also being such a douche being all cold when technically, he’s kinda (sort of?) in the Queen’s favor. “Why all of a sudden does he not think things through about pointlessly pissing off so many people. ” -> Ahhh I totally agree!

      Anddd on a last note, I am in total agreement as well that this show is extremely watchable, though I admit that trying to make myself start on episode 12 required serious effort. Let’s hope next week’s episodes are less perplexing; I’d watched the two episodes which such heavy heart. Not fun…

    2. My issue with Lee Soon actually consummating his marriage with In-hyun is I think he really, really, really doesn’t want to have children with her. For political reasons. It would cement Minister Min’s power base too much if he’s the actual grandfather of the next king, wouldn’t it? And as I suspect any kind of child-prevention move would be frowned on… best not to consummate.

      And, until In-hyun actually had a son — I think Minister Min would keep the flames of outrage fanning to pressure Lee Soon to perform his stud duties. One night wouldn’t have cut it.

      Just my view, though.

  2. Oh my, thanks for posting this. I was wondering why I felt detached with the drama since the episode where Sukjong slept with Ok-jung…I guess I’m not the only one who finds it uncomfortable when they seem to be flaunting off their love. Maybe I’m just biased towards a love where the two parties involved show their affection for each other when they’re alone.

    I really disliked it when Sukjong went straight to Ok-jung’s lap in front of Inhyun. Okay, I admit that Inhyun is the daughter of the most vicious man of that era, Minister Min, but she’s not that bad, as in the one personally plotting to kill Ok-jung etc. I pitied her as she had to go through not only the rejection, but the two lusty love birds who are showing off how they’re so caring towards each other. Oh well, now I’m more sympathetic towards Inhyun and I can’t help but to wish for Sukbin’s appearance to come faster.

    The other I find quite annoying is that Ok-jung is becoming more…complicated. I can understand how she has to change because of the pressure from people around her because of her low status, but I don’t really like this new Ok-jung, who is so smug with her sweet little victories and becomes more depending on Sukjong. I miss the old her, who is more independent. To be honest, Sukjong is too lenient on her. I get that he’s trying to overcome the opposition from Westerners with his own way and at the same time, bringing Ok-jung higher in the social status, but he comes out as a pushy and hasty man.

    I only browsed through ep 12 but I could feel that Sukjong is now becoming a lovelorn king who’s too hasty with his decisions (especially with regard to Ok-jung) and Ok-jung is embroiled with her scheming to topple down the people who mocked her low status instead of focusing on her love.

    I assume that the writer is being pushed by the station to change the story for the sake of ratings..so that’s why Ok-jung comes out as a scheming woman. I also pity Jae Hee for his late appearance and hoping that he will somehow revive my addiction and love I had for this drama in the beginning :)

    *sorry for the long rant ^^;*

    1. Don’t worry about the long rant! Frankly I think the past two episodes have been generating lots of mixed feelings and convoluted thoughts – not necessarily negatives, but requiring us to not just flail and such at the romance anymore.

      In terms of what you said about Sukjong, I think he’s definitely playing this blindly-in-love role, down to a tee that at this point, Jang Ok-jung can do no wrong in his eyes. It’s sweepingly romantic in a modern way, but silly within the context of the show. I hear ya on Ok-jung becoming more dependent on the king, though there’s a part of that wonders if it’s greed? Or is it really, simply love?

      I do think episode 12 is still worth watching, because it is all in the details after all. Hard to digest and watch after awhile, but you don’t want to miss it, especially if (okay, I hope) eps 13 and 14 steer right back to the right directions.

  3. Oh, I’m so glad you’ve shared your thoughts! I actually really liked the past two eps but have realized they’re not as universally loved and it’s nice to see some reasons why that I can think — oh, yes I can see that.

    Lee Soon and Ok-jung are definitely being a bit cruel to In-hyun. And Ok-jung is enjoying her moments of victory probably a bit more than is morally healthy. (Even as I enjoyed her getting her own back I’m worried about her taking it too far.) And so I can totally understand it leaving a bad taste behind.

    For me, while I worry that it’ll come back to bite them, I get their cruelty. In-hyun saw Ok-jung thrown out like trash and did nothing to help her — twice. So yeah, Ok-jung is angry. And In-hyun is the wife Lee Soon has had foisted upon him — who then apparently lied to him in their first ever conversation, making a promise she didn’t intend to keep. (That he associates her with her father, who’s lied to him multiple times probably only deepened his distrust.)

    So while I do see that In-hyun is swimming in deeper waters than she realizes (not helped at all by either her father or the Dowager Queen in winning Lee Soon’s trust), and still see her as a sympathetic character — I totally see why Lee Soon and Ok-jung see her the enemy.

    Though, I think it’s also very, very huge that Lee Soon doesn’t trust her. Any victory for her (including a kind word from him, etc.) works to strengthen a political group that is so strong it’s threatening his throne. Hence his words to her that she needs to realize she’s no longer a member of her father’s class — she’s royal. It’s something his mother never got and it wrecked his dad’s reign. So I’m thinking there’s political reasons behind Lee Soon’s coldness as well.

    Wow! Long reply is long! These are just my own thoughts — I honestly do see how their cruelty is a bug.

    1. Betsy thanks for giving insight from a different perspective, i.e. someone who really did enjoy the past two episodes! Regarding what you said about In Hyun, I found myself nodding along – totally hear ya and thus, I see where and what you mean about Ok jung feeling and doing what she does towards In Hyun. I can’t say I agree exactly with the execution (all this cattiness suddenly, oi character motivations are now kinda confusing).

      As for Lee Soon and In Hyun – I see what you mean with the politics but isn’t he also aware that Ok-jung is always leaning on a political faction, i.e. the southern party just as In Hyun is with the northern one? I may be wrong and I totally understand why there’s obviously more baggage and distrust in the latter though, hence I get what you mean about there being political reasons between them on top of everything else. But on a human/relationship perspective, I can’t help but just question – would it REALLY hurt for him to be nice to her? Cos I think after awhile it’s clear she’s not scheming anything, not towards his lady beloved whom he’s so lovelorn to protect, that I’m like dude… ease up a little.

      But that’s just me haha. Ack episode 13 is today. I hope it’ll be good!!

  4. No, you’re right, Ok-jung is just as politically involved now as In-hyun is. I think Lee Soon’s giving Ok-jung a pass because he understands she got involved to get back into the palace (which happened after they’d confessed to each other). But that pass won’t last forever, I’m sure. Which is why I’m worried for her.

    (I’m desperately awaiting subs at the moment. So much hinges on the next two eps!)

  5. Everytime i look at those comment mocking and bashing in hyun (viki), i became confused myself. I did adore “the lusty love” king and ok have, but come on the king will have another amazing love story after that (dong yi) so i’m not really flutter with the king’s. Hence, after first queen, whom he neglected until she died in vain, he did cried and regret rite! did he not learn anything! and i believe yoo ah in still not learning! after fashion king, then here in “fashion queen” in sageuk!! Arghh.
    That’s why when i read your thoughts, I’m glad at least I have someone sharing the same views! thanks

    1. Hello! I sense your frustration… I don’t watch at viki do I don’t know what they’re saying over there, but though eps 11-12 hit a thud for some of us, personally I definitely wouldn’t go do far as to say that JOJ is shitty like Fashion King. This one is a decent drama, if nothing else by the end of its run, but the latter… Lets not go there haha. I will agree though, that YAI tends to pick very interesting (and diverse) projects. I don’t know what he bases his decisions upon!

      Have you watched eps 13 & 14? I hope they redeem your faith. I’ll be watching some time later :)

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