Jang Ok Jung: Forever loved…

brokenheart photo dpbrokenheart_zpsc61bec94.jpgOh, my heart! Jang Ok Jung: Live for Love is done. It was a hell of a love story and Kim Tae-hee and Yoo Ah-in did a hell of a job. And… wow. So many tears and yet so much satisfaction. Definitely an addictive, romance-filled (to the brim!), watch.

And… okay everything I’m about to say will spoil everything… AKA: Spoilers below…

I loved, loved, loved that it was Ok-jung’s choice to come back to the palace and take the poison. I mean, I obviously wish there’d been another way out. But she’d never allow Lee Soon to sacrifice his throne for her. She loved him too much and he was too good a king. bravery photo ojbrave_zpsd1c1713b.jpgThat was foreshadowed when Lee Soon was near death and Chi-soo first rescued her. She returned to the palace, despite the danger, because she’d chosen to be by Lee Soon’s side and by his side she would stay.

That strength of character is the reason Lee Soon fell in love with Ok-jung in the first place. So I knew that running away was just not in her nature. But, in choosing to come back it turned the execution around. It became a declaration on Ok-jung’s part, of her love for Lee Soon and their son, rather than the repudiation the retainers were hoping it would be.

prepared photo prepared_zpsf91653fa.jpgI also loved that Lee Soon was prepared to (and effectively did) sacrifice his throne for Ok-jung. (He didn’t expect her to return; as far as he was concerned, his reign was over.) It showed the depth of his love for Ok-jung, that in the end she was more important than his status. It showed that what he’d said to Prince Dong Pyung at the very beginning — that’d he’d give up his throne for her — was true. He never did let go of her hand.

compassion photo compassion_zps4da44b43.jpgWhich leads me to… Oh my Prince Dong Pyung!!! His reaction to the whole debacle was the most heart-wrenching part for me. When he takes the poison from the kitchen maid to give to Ok-jung? Tears! Tears, streaming down my face! To see him so shattered and yet doing whatever he could to make sure Ok-jung was treated with love in her last moments… Gah, I’m tearing up right now just writing about it.

loved photo loved_zps713d4285.jpgSo that part of the story — the love story of Ok-jung and Lee Soon was fabulous. She dies in his arms, knowing he loves her. He knows she loves him. It’s tragic, but not bitter. Sad, but almost reaffirming — in that it shows a love that deep can exist.

I also really liked the final notes between Ok-jung and In-hyun. I’d always felt like, in different circumstances, those two could have been friends. I’d even say that, if the Dowager Queen Mother had just stepped back, let her foolish pride and petty politics go (or, you know, died a lot earlier), their friendship might have happened within the palace. friends photo friends_zps57dcc159.jpgNeither women were cruel connivers at heart and I wish they’d been allowed to develop their relationship without politics getting in the way.

But! I was happy they had good moments towards the end. I can buy that, newly restored and victorious, In-hyun would be graceful and allow herself to be kind. I’m cynical enough to think it wouldn’t have lasted. Politics would have reared its head and pressures would be brought to drive Ok-jung out. (Though I’d like to think that, on her own, In-hyun would have handled things better.) But for that brief window… yeah, I can see it.

Jae Hee fans will most likely be disappointed by the light touch his character had on the story. The way the story developed, Chi-soo was very much a background character. The love between Ok-jung and Lee Soon was so strong right out of the gate — there wasn’t room for a love-triangle. goodorbad photo goodorbad_zps0b37fa14.jpgThere wasn’t a plot need either. The challenge of a commoner loving a king was plot-stirring enough.

That said, I liked Chi-soo’s use as the means of rescue for Ok-jung. And I liked his moment where he decides to show his love for her by honoring her love for Lee Soon and returning her to the palace. It was a nice noble note. What I didn’t like so much is tied to what I didn’t like over-all with the drama. And that’s his involvement with Choi Suk Won.

Choi Suk Won is a problem I just cannot solve. Within the drama’s framework she’s fine. The amoral street-kid willing to do anything and everything to get what she wants makes for a good villain. The steps she took to get rid of Ok-jung were in-character and believable (taking advantage of circumstances is what she excelled at). But there is no way, no way she lives on in the palace after that. Let alone becoming companion to Lee Soon, mother of his children, and future mother of the King.

After Ok-jung’s death she’d have Lee Soon, Chi-soo and Prince Dong Pyung all out to get her. Lee Soon would never trust her with his son — not after she put so much effort into killing Ok-jung. And her political support would be shaky. As Ok-jung pointed out, she’s of even lower class than Ok-jung and plenty of those retainers would have plenty of daughters to take on the role of queen. sukwon photo sukwon_zpscb903d73.jpgChoi Suk Won is crafty and cunning — but I cannot see her taking on that many foes and emerging so victorious.

If she were a fictional character I’d be fine because I’d figure her fall was eminent. (Though a brief epilogue saying as much would be nice.) But because she’s a historical figure, and because I know her history is a good one, I just can’t make her fit. I wish the writers had used a completely fictional character to fill the unexpected villain role (In-hyun’s chief maid might have done — she certainly hated Ok-jung) and either have Choi Suk Won, the historical figure, show up in a brief cameo at the end, or just not mentioned at all.

Or, have her be far more sympathetic to Ok-jung — really treating Ok-jung as a role-model and teacher. Then they could have had it seem like her caring for Lee Soon later was being done for Ok-jung, not to spite her.

But! That’s a fairly slight bobble. It’s a side story and I can kind of tuck it out of sight. On the whole, I really enjoyed this drama. It was an emotional roller coaster, and there were some flaws, but the core love-story was really, really well told. So, through my many, many tears, I was happy.
ep13kiss photo ep13kiss_zps640a433f.jpg

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11 thoughts on “Jang Ok Jung: Forever loved…

  1. Here it comes, whether it’s wanted or not: (((hug)))

    I’m fuzzy on the history, but is Choi Suk Won = Dong Yi? Don’t laugh if I’m wrong. I thought that character had a whole drama named after it. And here she’s a smirky villain? Or maybe she’s some other “wife” of the King. Man! Sukjong looks like an ass to me. hehehhe. That’s my “bigger picture” verdict, since I was not there to witness the full journey. Probably the result of his position of power and the trend of the times, but 9 wives? Or is it 10? All the women fighting for his attention. Sigh.

    Anyway, I can see that the appeal of this drama was in the main romance and I’m glad they let her die still loved. It’s still sad, though. Women, always giving giving giving.

    • Via my intrepid use of Wikipedia… yes, Choi Suk Won is Dong-yi. I believe that drama had to make up a name, just as this one did, as these lower-class ladies are historically known by their titles and family names only. Their personalities, as far as I can tell, are as unknown as their names — just tradition and actions taken. Making her a full on villain… I think that was a mistake, honestly. But I handwave it. 😀

      Sukjong actually came across really well in the drama. I was impressed with how they handled the historical reality of all the higher born men having a wife and several concubines, with modern sensibilities. Something they highlighted, that fits so well with the history I lean towards it being accurate, is that every woman he “married” was a political move. He was incredibly politically canny and was a really good king for Joseon. The difference between the drama and history is who he had actual sex with. (A fine difference made for the modern viewer. Given the amount of babies had — that history actually knows about — suggests he was… active. ;))

      The cool thing about Ok-jung was that she gave what she wanted to give — but she also took what she wanted to take. Her decision to screw everything and love the man she wanted to love… it was actually pretty ballsy.

      • Oh yes, His Majesty was active. Indeed! 😀

        Historical dramas filtered through the modern perspective can be a whole new (interesting) can of worms.

        Glad to know Ok Jung took what she wanted to take. Maybe that’s why she got her name inscribed in the history books which is mostly about the men.

        The reaction to this drama may be an interesting take on mass psychology. It took the eternal Virgin-Whore dichotomy tale of Jang Hee Bin (the Vamp!) vs In Hyun (the Martyr!) and tried to turn it around. Of course it was going to be unpalatable. I’m glad they managed to keep In Hyun grey, though.

        But I think Dong Yi fans are mad. IF that is Dong Yi. [All my pontifications aided by Wikipedia (the enabler of all sageuk enthusiasts worldwide), of course.]

        😉

        • Hmm… I’d say that any historical story is, necessarily, filtered through the modern perspective. It’s why a movie or tv show from… say the 1960’s is easily identified as from the 1960’s even if it’s set in the 1600’s. Little fashion touches, obviously — but I think social mores also come through.

          And in this case, I think the writer was deliberately setting Jang Ok-jung up as a modern-minded girl — someone who rebelled against her low-class status and the narrow world women were supposed to walk in. I think the writer may well think this is a reason Jang is remembered. (I mean, she may have just been having fun twisting the old story on its head — I’m just guessing. ;)) But she did a good job setting up why Ok-jung had a different view and then carried that mind-set all the way through.

          And it certainly did turn the Virgin-Whore dichotomy upside down! That was part of the fun for me. 😀

          I can understand Dong-yi fans being upset. Their girl is totally different in this drama. (I know I’ll have to totally reset my head if I watch the Dong-yi drama. Because I adore Jang Hae Bin right now and she’s not the same girl in “Dong-yi”.)

  2. I’m glad the conclusion was satisfying for you. That’s all that counts, imho. Amongs all the lacklustre to idiotic to WTF! dramas in the past couple of years, it’s like actually finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when you happen to pick a drama that doesn’t turn out to be a major disappointment. I’ve lost count of how many dramas are now in my ‘discarded’ -pile. I think it’s actually higher than my ‘liked and watched’ -pile. *is sad*

    • With the vast amount of output I suppose it makes sense that the duds outweigh the gooders. Just makes the good finds that much sweeter. 😀 (But, I think I’ve finally also realized that there’s no real worth in wasting time on ones that aren’t doing it for me.)

      JOJ though… it totally hit all the right notes for me. It wasn’t perfect — there were definitely some flaws, but the good outweighed the bad and the writer told the story she was trying to tell. (And had a good sense of the story she was telling, as well.)

  3. Hi ^^. Your review on the last episode has tears welling up in my eyes. I’d like to share your post on the JOJ thread on soompi forum. Although it has ended, I still feel like it was only yesterday the onscreen chemistry of the leads burned my computer screen. I’ve tried so hard to move on but it still lingers.Your thoughts deserve to the shared with other JOJ lovers out there.

    • Hi, Pelicancharm — welcome to the blog! 🙂 And yes, please feel free to share my post. I’m really complimented by your offer. I adored the love-story of JOJ and am glad that came through here. (Oh, my gosh that ending… so many tears.)

      • Can I share your thoughts with the folks at Cafe Daum who are organising pre-sales for the DIrector’s Cut DVD (eng subs). I’d like to post your article on their forum ^^ to show them how much this show is loved. If you’re interested or know anyone who wants to buy the DVD, check out the link on cafe.daum.net/jangokjeongDVD.

        These are fanmade trailers supporting the project

        Thanks in advance.

        • Wow, thanks Pelican Charm! Please, do feel free to share the post. 🙂 And thanks for sharing those trailers — they were quite good (reminded me how much I enjoyed JOJ — especially that second one).

          I’m working on a more encompassing review of JOJ that should be up… today? If all goes well, hopefully later on today. Just for your information. 🙂

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