Monday, October 24, 2011

thoughts: Warrior Baek Dong Soo (Korean) -- eps. 6 to 25 -- the hero and a twist of fate

무사 백동수 -- Musa Baek Dong Su

This article contains a lot of big spoilers. Please do not read it unless you have already seen the series. Otherwise, proceed with caution.

For an overall short review of this series without spoilers, please refer to intro info: Warrior Baek Dong Soo


There are some series I watch where, inevitably, I'll get around to writing about it in full detail as a whole. This often happens when the series is so fast paced or so one-tracked that I get through it in one entire sitting. Or it could also mean that I had nothing better to do, such as going to work or doing house chores -- those are the shorter, sixteen episode romantic comedies as of late. Or sometimes it just so happens that the series is one that needs to be watched in full before I can really formulate any type of opinion. Sometimes these series need to be watched once more because I was so busy enjoying the riveting experience that I didn't have a chance to really formulate any opinions outside of "Wow, this was a great series!"

So I honestly don't know what's better. Being able to breeze through the entire series without any break through thoughts mid-series, or constantly thinking up subjects of discussion while viewing the series that makes you just want to stop and blog about it.

So far, the only other series I have blogged mid-series is Scent of a Woman. But that was because the series was still broadcasting and I had time to think about the story line and progression while waiting for the next available episode.

Warrior Baek's first mid-series post came about due to the same reason. And it was a good turning point where the kids of the series grow up into adults to start their adventures. I guess, in a sense, this next mid-series article chronicles up to another good turning point (I guess) nearing the end of the series. It would have been a rather symmetrical balance if the darn series had ended at 30 episodes instead of 29 though -- but there is no inner OCD in me that is demanding redemption for the strange asymmetry. After all, there is still an overall review and an intro info article yet to be written.

And so for full effect of this article's thoughts, I purposely stopped watching the series at episode 25 so that I could chronicle my thoughts without being influenced by the series' ending (which I already got a spoiler on one of the more significant occurrences).

Anyway, moving along...

In general, this article really only focuses on character development and my hopes for the last four episodes. And specifically, I've chosen to focus on two particular people, even if I DO mention the rest.

Yeo Woon

It was inevitable that Yeo Woon would become the antagonist foil to Baek Dong Soo's impending hero role. We saw as much in the young twelve year old Yeo Woon's intensity and rage. The moment that he joined the Hoksa Chorong and sealed his own destiny by agreeing to kill his father... well, it was only a matter of time before he would have to reveal his true identity and break up the brother-ship bond with his fellow Warrior Camp boys and his dearest friend Baek Dong Soo.

But as the story progressed into Prince Sado's political intrigue against the Norons and the Qing, Yeo Woon's behavior had always been in favor of our protagonistic side. For that short duration of time spanning episode five and onto episode eleven and partially twelve, we are given a Yeo Woon who seems to be taking up his duty as a true Warrior Camp trainee, created to help protect the Crown Prince at all costs. It was kind of nice to see Dong Soo and Yeo Woon fighting side by side like brothers, drinking like brothers, and just being together like brothers.

A highlight of my viewing involved the moment where Yeo Woon finally loses his cool with Dong Soo for the first time after Dong Soo caused trouble that got the three friends to be punished together. Before then, Yeo Woon had always been quite the heck care type who didn't even really let it show that he was bothered by Dong Soo's haughty nuances. He took his punishment in stride and only silently blamed himself for not keeping an eye on Dong Soo as well as become silently exasperated with Dong Soo for being such a nuisance. But then he finally lets his own exasperation get to him and it was sweet fun to see him get up and tell Cho Rip to hold Dong Soo while Woonie went for a stick to beat his pompous friend with.

That was the making of a wonderful friendship!

It was very sweet to see the two elatedly embracing after they complete their first mission together as soldiers. Upon the lighting of the last beacon in episode 10, the joy and the satisfaction was refreshing and the brother hug (though a little awkward looking) was squeal-worthy. No other words needed to be said about their wonderful "bromance" as many netizens have dubbed the loving relationship between two men.

This was Yeo Woon at his truest: being able to be happy for an accomplishment and having worked together with his dearest friend to finish that task.

It would have been nice if there were more of these moments, but this is, sadly, the one and only scene because Yeo Woon's step into the dark side occurs quite quickly afterwards. Before then, even though he was with his brothers a lot, he was often always calculating and treading carefully, never being able to fully enjoy his young life with his best friends.

This boy is a roller coaster of emotion and frustration to me. He subconsciously fought so hard against his own fate only to end up following through with it, even if reluctantly. And then, he ultimately learned that there was no such thing as that crazed murdering fate that his father had predicted for him. He didn't have to walk the road of an assassin and he didn't have to be someone who would cause bloodshed whereever he went. But he chose to do so because he truly felt that he had no other choice.

And this is the difference between Yeo Woon and Dong Soo: one resignedly chose to let his path come to him, the latter stubbornly chose to make his own path happen.

It was undeniably heart breaking to watch Yeo Woon have to carry out his first mission; to top it off, it was supposed to be the deaths of three of the boys he grew up training with at the Warrior Camp. While episode 11 drops off onto a cliff hanger, we focus in on Yeo Woon's devastating moment after having plunged his knife into two of his comrades. A tear rolls itself down his cheek and he lets out an agonizing cry of despair; and we find ourselves wondering why he feels so strongly that he needs to choose such a difficult and cold-blooded path. After all, anyone can tell that betraying his friends and killing people is NOT what he truly wants to do.

The first kill wasn't so bad for me. But the moment that the second guy woke and realized that it was Woon who is committing such an act, I think I may have cried out. It was already bad enough that Woon needed to kill his comrades, but letting one of them know that he was doing it and then still going through with it was terribly sad to witness.

Granted, the next episode tells us that, not only did Woon not intend to kill his friends, but he dismisses the rest of the assassins and returns to treat the three friends, remaining with them until people start to arrive.

This is what makes the scene so tear-worthy. Because this was the point where Yeo Woon finally succumbs to his life as an assassin. Even though he didn't kill them, he still hurt them and it was enough to make one feel a pang of sadness for the remaining dark journey this young man would have to take. Eventually, Yeo Woon won't be able to so easily mask the deaths of his comrades -- this is the thought that anyone would end up having. Eventually, one day, he would have to truly plunge his sword into an old friend's heart and take away a precious life.

On a side note, it is duly and significantly noted that Yeo Woon, up to episode 25, has not had to accomplish such a task.

So why is this boy's destiny such an emotional AND frustrating one? Because throughtout his actions, you can clearly tell that he continues to fight his fate as an assassin. Using loop holes and his own tactics, he manages to keep most of his intended kills alive. He saves his friends and Dong Soo time and time again, and that sense of worry for his friends' well-being is still there. He doesn't kill like a cold-hearted assassin and instead does quite the feat ruining his benefactor's plans.

In truth, he makes a better double-agent than he does an assassin, really, and this is what makes things so frustrating.

This boy is constantly tip toeing that line between dark and light (although in a world full of political intrigue, who's to say which side is truly the good side and which side is the evil side?).

Over and over again, I kept asking: "Why, Yeo Woon? Why do you make yourself suffer so much? Why is it so hard for you to simply turn back around and return to your friends?" Was the destiny truly THAT difficult to break away from? Is the power of Hoksa Chorong really so great that even Yeo Woon, a seriously skilled swordsman, cannot fight against? Why continue to lead a life you despise so much when you want to go back and be with your friends and fight alongside Dong Soo?

Why? Why? Why?

And yet, somehow, at the same time, it's truly not a bad place that he's in right now. The only unfortunate part is the turmoil he must go through to start writing his own fate rather than succumbing to it. If Yeo Woon can finally lead the Hoksa Chorong and change his own fate, then not only can he break away from being an assassin controlled by the malicious Commander of State, but he can also have an entire army of strong warriors at his behest to fight for his own righteous causes. He can take his Hoksa Chorong and return to being who he truly should have been since the beginning. And who's to say that he can't turn Hoksa Chorong into a much more revered and upright society? There are always tons of them in Chinese wuxia story lines where an organization of warriors exist to uphold justice following a righteous leader and they are typically separate from the governing class, creating their own hierarchy and the like. They co-exist with the royal kingdom and sometimes even lends a helping hand defending against foreign invasions or settling rebellions.

After all, the ruling class isn't always sunshine and bunnies and everyone who lives under it constantly has to fear a misstep that could cost oneself his or her life without even a chance to for redemption. In history, because of the fight for power and the need to establish authority, ruling monarchies have always housed extremely dark underbellies that are even scarier than even hundreds of assassin guilds put together. At least an assassins' guild is known for their ruthlessness and killing; the ruling class is supposed to represent hope for a nation's people.

Anyway, all I can say is: Damn his father for making such a prediction about his life! What was up with the entire deal where Woon was destined to be a killer of hundreds? But mostly, I pity Woon for not trying harder to fight against his own fate.

And maybe this is why Dong Soo and Yeo Woon end up becoming the perfect foils for one another. Yeo Woon had been better at Dong Soo in every way, shape and form. Woon was the better man, a better fighter, a better leader, and a better tactician. In a sense, Woon had also been the better hero as he managed to do so much even in his state of unorthodox status. But the one thing that Yeo Woon lacked was that sense of control over his own life. Instead, Dong Soo seemed to be able to grasp his entire existence with his own strength and proudly say that he would not allow fate to choose his future. Yeo Woon, on the other hand, completely succumbs to what he believed to be his destiny.

Yoo Seung Ho is absolutely mesmerizing as Yeo Woon, from the moment he appears as the adult version and up until his transition into true assassin form. The only complaint I have about him is his continuous lack of expression, which really has to do with the type cast "cool" character role of Yeo Woon (and really, any other character I've ever seen him cast in). Yeo Woon is a quiet and level-headed young man with bottled up emotions and no room to joke around; this much you can clearly see through Yoo Seung Ho's portrayal, especially in his eyes. Despite having few lines and a need to remain the expressionless assassin, this young boy brings out the anger, rage, and conflict just by appearing on screen and becoming Yeo Woon. His eyes tell you just how much turmoil Yeo Woon is going through and how conflicted his heart is at all of his actions.

Much like his twelve year old counter part, Yeo Woon's character is portrayed almost to perfection.

But was it really necessary for costuming to change his hair-style as well as add on a liner of black around his eyes as physical indication that he's dropped into his own abyss? The style bugged me for the entire duration. Don't get me wrong; he still looked fairly handsome in spite of the change. But still...

As we come into episode twenty-five and Yeo Woon is finally determined to change his fate, his style changes again, back to what looked better before: hair up and not so much make-up.

Anyway, once again, here's hoping that Yeo Woon will soon be able to join Dong Soo once again. We don't have much time left, and while I've been trying like the devil to avoid all spoilers around the internet, I've already heard some bad news about the ending and have already begun formulating my own thoughts on this knowledge.

In essense, as I had already mentioned before: Yeo Woon was created to be a tragically doomed antagonist. I can't see his end being too ideal due to circumstances and story progression, but I can see his final stance being at least worthy of all the love he's receiving from viewers and fans everywhere.

Hwang Jin Ju

Ever since the appearance of her twelve-year old strong and rambunctious presence, I had been keeping my hopes up that Jin Ju would somehow become more significant in the journey. Whether she would lend importance to the general story line to propel it's development, or in Baek Dong Soo's life to propel HIS personal development, I didn't care. I just hoped that she would be significant enough to merit the somewhat female lead role that everyone had been looking forward to seeing. She was to be the strong presence as a foil to Yoo Ji Seon's damsel in distress role.

Outside of lending her physical labor to work around the petty side devices and almost getting herself roasted to death once again to help Dong Soo snap out of his soulless period of time, the character of Hwang Jin Ju so far has been quite a disappointment.

During her childhood, as I had stated before, there was little significance to her appearance. She was the girl who followed Dong Soo everywhere because she'd grown to like him. Because of her near fiery death, Dong Soo's limbs became normal when trying to save her. Dong Soo, of course, like any twelve year old boy, treated the tag-a-long girl like dirt. They were friends, yes, but Dong Soo didn't show his feelings very well as a kid, apparently, and just wanted to show off that he's "the big man."

When they finally meet up again as adults, Jin Ju's significance in both the story line and Dong Soo's life continues to flat-line. Sure, Jin Ju DOES help Dong Soo and company quite a bit... but now her role has been downgraded to minion status. The things that she does, ANYONE can do and then be dismissed. This is the weight of her actions: worthy, helpful, but easily dismissed as a supporting character act.

Once again, outside of almost getting herself roasted, there was nothing really special about the little things she'd do for Dong Soo (which also amounted to very few anyway). I admire her passion for being a supporting pillar for Dong Soo. She keeps her feelings to herself because she knows that Dong Soo is only interested in Yoo Ji Seon. She remains quite strong throughout all the significant deaths around her and all the revelations going on. This is a very admirable thing, but the series just seems to keep down-grading her role after each significant turn for her.

We learn that Jin Ju's origins aren't so simple as a bandit's young daughter. Hwang Jin Gi is not really her biological father and merely adopted her when she was born after her birth mother abandoned her.

The Earth Lord of Hoksa Chorong, Ga Ok turns out to be Jin Ju's mother. This turn of events had been foreshadowed the moment that mother and daughter run into each other for the first time; you have a feeing that their meeting wasn't as simple as two passers-by staring each other down. And so when it is officially revealed that Ga Ok is Jin Ju's mother, it wasn't so surprising, but then that gave a prelude to that defining significance to Jin Ju's presence in the story line.

Hwang Jin Ju was the daughter of one of the Hoksa Chorong leaders. This was a pretty big thing!

And what made things even more interesting was the fact that her father was a mystery. While at first, we all think that, undoubtedly the father has to be Sword Saint Kim Gwang Taek, Ga Ok denies this upon question. Suddenly, we are hit with a new revelation when Ga Ok tells the Sky Lord Chun that Jin Ju is actually HIS daughter. Okay, this came as quite the surprise... but when you really think about it, not so much. Ga Ok was apparently with both men twenty years ago and either could have fathered Jin Ju. I mean, Chun obviously believes it while he is tasked to save his daughter and keep her safe for the duration of time. He even grows some sort of attachment to Jin Ju as he cares for her, nursing her back to health and keeping her safe.

In retrospect, this ended up giving Jin Ju's origin as well as her future outlook an even bigger line of significance than I'd been expecting. Not only is her mother the Earth Lord of Hoksa Chorong, but her father is now known to be the Sky Lord!

Oh, the possibilities that could play into the ideas of fate and duty and the like! Jin Ju's destiny was suddenly so much more delicious than Yeo Woon's chosen fate. Because while Yeo Woon chose to become an assassin, Jin Ju couldn't choose her true parents and might even have to succumb to a fate much more terrifying if she wasn't strong enough to fight against it. What if she were destined to return to Hoksa Chorong with both parents and help them continue their legacy as the daughter of two of Hoksa Chorong's three leaders? What if her origins ended up being an item of scrutiny between acquaintances? What if her father demanded that she stay with him and in the end, she must side with him against all the friends she cherishes?

So, so many possibilities could have taken place. Hwang Jin Ju was going to have a more interesting story line to look forward to.

I was even ecstatic to think that Jin Ju's mediocre fighting skills might have a chance of improvement. Maybe Ga Ok could train her, or even Chun could teach her a thing or two worthy of a lifetime of training. I was looking forward to Hwang Jin Ju become just as badass at swordsmanship as her mother. After all, Ga Ok was famed for her skills being almost on par with Sword Saint. She took out Dong Soo withing two swift moves (although at that moment, I'm sure anyone could have knocked the moron out with his own incompetence).

But then those possibilities are all dashed so quickly. Jin Ju's significance dwindled to the size of a pea when Ga Ok's dying confession revealed that Jin Ju is indeed Kim Gwang Taek's daughter and not Chun's daughter. Sure, this could have still lead to much significance in Jin Ju's life. She was the daughter of the Earth Lord of Hoksa Chorong and the Sword Saint of Joseon. She could have continued to lead a very significant life with this back history.

But the series decides that the only significance Jin Ju can be capable of, unfortunately, is to reunite with both of her biological parents and then watch them die. On top of that, she ends up becoming an important person in Chun's life which also leads to his eventual death at the hands of Hong Dae Ju's army while he's trying to protect her from being speared by arrows. This could have been another turning point... but it did nothing really but to put an end to the former Sky Lord's existence.

Yes, the scenes were very attractive and heart breaking. But what significance did they really serve? Kim Gwang Taek's death was used as a means to continue teaching Dong Soo about becoming the best swordsman in Joseon. Ga Ok's death was sad and pitiful, but it doesn't serve any purpose except to change Chun's outlook in his life, which leads to his final advice to Yeo Woon and the young boy's chosen fate. "If you still have that woman in your heart, then you should take her," is what Chun tells Woon. Of course, the boy doesn't follow through with it anyway, but he DOES finally decide to fight against his own fate.

Eventually, all of these events leads back to Dong Soo and Yeo Woon and their development in the story line.

Jin Ju's significance continues to dwindle.

More frustrating to me, I guess (and my hopeless romantic soul) is that the ship for the Dong Soo and Jin Ju relationship has definitely sunken.

There had been so much potential for an angsty, tumultuous love line in this rectangle. Jin Ju had been built up to be an important pillar in Dong Soo's life, being the friend who would support him through thick and thin. She loved him since she was twelve, proposing marriage to him without hesitation and even keeps her troubles to herself concerning him because she knows that he has enough to deal with already. She agrees to help Dong Soo take care of Ji Seon which was depressing for her because he doesn't know that he's asking a girl who loves him to protect the girl he loves. And Jin Ju unhesitatingly does everything for Dong Soo's sake. But when the Dong Soo and Ji Seon ship just sailed off and left Jin Ju watching from the pier, there seemed to be no more need for more development in the love line.

The relationship between Dong Soo and Jin Ju ended up just being a normal friendship. All the possible hints that Dong Soo might start seeing Jin Ju in a much more important way faded to dust. His concern for Jin Ju's well-being was merely out of care for an important friend. At least he acknowledges her significance in his life, even if she's simply filed away in the category of "all the other people I cherish" which is probably a level down from Ji Seon and Yeo Woon, the truly special people in his life.

Finally moving back to Jin Ju's origins, the only thing that happens as a result of Jin Ju's relationships being revealed was even more frustrating to sit through. More problems than was necessary end up being built for the sake of sadness and turmoil which didn't really hit any chords anywhere.

You would think that being a bandit's daughter, especially the daughter of highly skilled warrior Hwang Jin Gi would have allowed this girl to be able to defend herself against attacks a bit better. In the beginning, I had pegged her as a strong and admirable girl. This hasn't changed -- she is still strong and admirable. But her sudden helpless "damsel in distress" role was uncalled for, coming up in almost every other episode.

This frustrates me because Jin Ju was supposed to have been a fighter. She was a bandit, for crying out loud!

So how is it that she couldn't even fight against a man who was unable to hold a sword ever again? She was knocked out almost too easily and the the jerk was able to control her and beat her up and use her to orchestrate others' suffering. She ended up becoming the target bait to get to other people. She couldn't even protect herself for the benefit of others. But she's great with a bow and arrow and she's pretty good as a bandit. And yet she gets captured almost too easily when it mattered most. Her adopted father, Hwang Jin Gi nearly died because of her. Her own mother ended up dying while trying to protect her; and all this time, Jin Ju never once even tried to fight or defend herself. She just watched the people around her drop like flies.

It was getting rather frustrating. Why wasn't she able to be stronger? I mean, it was a given that the other girl, Yoo Ji Seon would be the damsel in distress, but Hwang Jin Ju was supposed to be the stronger, more competent female lead who didn't need to be protected like a rag doll. Even Gu Hyang, the Hoksa Chorong's gisaeng spy lends more significance to the story line than Jin Ju has, being quite a helpful asset at gathering intelligence from within the government. But SHE wasn't one of the main female leads and had been introduced merely as a minion.

Truthfully, I think I blame the writers. Jin Ju's importance to the series just kept rolling up and then plummeting downward. And by the time you reach that next turning point in episode twenty five, you find yourself asking what the point was anyway. Revealing Jin Ju's birth origins should have been a big thing. For Chun, it definitely was a big thing and I actually felt kind of cheated for him when he found out that Jin Ju wasn't his daughter and that Ga Ok lied to him so that he would make sure to keep the girl safe. But as he had told her, whether or not Jin Ju was really HIS daughter didn't matter. Because he loved Ga Ok enough that the fact that Jin Ju was Ga Ok's daughter was all he needed to make sure the girl was kept safe and well protected.

It was quite disappointing really, and I found myself thinking that it would have been much more intriguing if Jin Ju ended up being Chun's daughter instead of Sword Saint's daughter. After all, Sword Saint already had Ga Ok's love, this is for sure. Having a daughter together with Ga Ok would have been that defining connection he had desired so much between him and Ga Ok's love line. But it was gotten rid of just as quickly as it had come up as a teaser. And along with it, Jin Ju's significance followed into oblivion.

As episode twenty-five rolls through, we finally get to see a Jin Ju with a little more strength and fight in her than we'd been seeing for the past ten episodes. And so my hopes that her role isn't simply there as filler for heartache has been reignited. Hwang Jin Ju, please prove me wrong and do something much more worthy than just being Baek Dong Soo's silently supporting shadow (that's already Ji Seon's job and she does it quite well).

Am I asking for too much, maybe?

Noteworthy, is the father-daughter relationship between Jin Ju and Jin Gi. Very, extremely touching and wonderful to see this type of dynamic, even if it doesn't really get elaborated on too much.

The Others

Is it a little superficial that so much has gone on with so many people in this series, but the two most important ones for me were Yeo Woon and Hwang Jin Ju. Even Baek Dong Soo didn't make the cut as an interesting follow-along character despite his titular significance. Yeo Woon, we can all probably understand why I love him so, but Jin Ju is a love hate between a lot of other viewers.

Nonetheless, the only comments I will be making are fairly brief.

Baek Dong Soo proved my theory of becoming the mature and great hero and warrior we were expecting to show up. This is a rather predictable (and honestly monotonous) turn of events. After almost losing Ji Seon and failing to protect the Crown Prince, Dong Soo is determined to become stronger and be able to protect the people around him. And so he follows the Sword Saint as apprentice and after two rather fun montages and some training, Baek Dong Soo returns to his comrades with a newfound sense of maturity, responsibility, highly cultivated fighting skills, and a bit of awkwardness.

I've eaten my own words. I said that I was looking forward to seeing Baek Dong Soo's more matured personality after he starts his road down Hero Lane. But after the short training time-skip montage... well, Baek Dong Soo's transformation was a little too extreme for me to accept. It was like he'd become a completely different person overnight; and that was a little disconcerting for me. Instead, I found myself missing his immaturity and his playful, almost embarrassing personality. It was like there was no middle ground for this guy -- he was either extremely immature and bratty, or he ended up being extremely mature and suddenly omnicient?

The guy seemed to be able to sense things going on around him all of a sudden. When Jin Ju goes missing because of the former Human Lord, Dae Ung and Hwang Jin Gi goes to look for her, Dong Soo seemed to suddenly sense something was amiss. At about that same time, Hwang Jin Gi was being severely damaged by Dae Ung with a bunch of carefully placed arrow traps. As another reviewer had mentioned, it was like Dong Soo suddenly felt a "shift in the force" because otherwise, how else would have have known that there was something wrong with Hwang Jin Gi?

It was like one of those "Huh" moments, but you're not sure why you're asking.

Honestly, it was nice to see Dong Soo be able to kick butt the way that he does. But I think his personality could have found less change and the effect would have still been rather nice. Instead, his maturity is now kind of strange and it isn't until episode twenty five after Kim Gwang Taek's death that we start to see a little bit of that playful Baek Dong Soo again coupled with those master level fighting skills. Why wasn't this the Baek Dong Soo presented to us after the training montages? It would have been so much more fun.

Nonetheless, I don't really harbor much interest in this guy aside from the rekindling of his friendship with Yeo Woon in the end. He's suddenly very straight-laced and won't even call Heuk Sa Mo by name which was kind of depressing -- except for those rare moments when the writers want to tell us that Dong Soo hasn't really changed too much and can still be his old self which lasts a very rare half a second.

Dong Soo started off as "The Prelude to a Great Hero" and developed into the predicted "Great Hero" we were all expecting. Along the way, he had his obstacles. But that was about it. Ultimately, his change into a hero really only gives him enough confidence to deal with the malicious evils of Lord Hong's conspiracies, but what does he truly accomplish other than being a better fighter? Because during his investigations of the strange ginseng conspiracy, Woon is there in the shadows to give him all the answers and resolve the problems. During the Prince Heir's trip to the grave of his new adopted father in order to take the blood line rightfully, while the entourage was guarded by Dong Soo and company, wasn't it Yeo Woon who seemed to be able to help them succeed in their mission to keep Prince Heir alive?

It's not like I'm not giving Dong Soo any credit. He fought valiantly and protected the Prince Heir well. But a lot of things were done behind the scenes by Woon that could have proven disastrous had he not appeared when he could at the right times. And on top of that, Woon doesn't even really kill any of his old comrades... even if he DOES kill a bunch of no name soldiers. Ah, the beauty of historical drama is that during battles, any no named passer-by can die an insignificant death just to show case the more major character's own skills. And also for visual effect, of course.

As for Yoo Ji Seon, her role was very significant since the beginning of the series. She was the bearer of the Northern Expedition Book of War. She was Prince Sado's woman. She had a fate literally carved onto her that she couldn't get rid of. It was rather intriguing and I was starting to enjoy her presence because she IS rather pretty and CAN be a very helpful ally with her knowledge.

But then Dong Soo burns the tattoo off of her back and relieves her of her destiny. And then the writers do their number and also dwindle her significance to the size of a pea. But at least she still lends importance to her role as the woman whom both Baek Dong Soo and Yeo Woon are in love with. Even if they've never fought each other for her favor, her existence continues to propel a lot of action, especially on Yeo Woon's part wherein a lot of his controlled actions were for her sake. Learning that she was the woman in his heart, Lord Hong Dae Ju does NOT hesitate to use this as a chess piece against Yeo Woon when he threatens her life continuously.

Of course, there are only hints at what the love line could come out with. The shippers of the Yeo Woon and Ji Seon boat might have seen a lot of potential in Ji Seon being more inclined towards Yeo Woon. She treats him with the utmost kindness and sweetness even after she learns that he had a hand in Prince Sado's death (who was a man she had convinced herself to commit to since the day she learned she would become his woman). In the beginning, it really DID seem that Ji Seon was leaning more towards the beautiful and quiet, competent and level-headed Yeo Woon upon their first meeting. She certainly treated him with more attentiveness than she did Dong Soo. And what girl wouldn't fall for the cool and calm Yeo Woon anyway? I certainly did.

But alas, the ship also sailed away with Yeo Woon looking on from a distance.

In order to allow Ji Seon some more significance (much like the Jin Ju's birth origin fiasco), Ji Seon is shown to desire being able to plan her future for herself by starting a trader group to make money. She starts with fur hats and then leads into ginseng trade, which also eventually leads into a ginseng conspiracy in the court. I wonder if anyone else felt that this plot device was a bit forced and kind of unnecessary. Sure, it further displayed the ruthless Lord Hong and his need to rebel against his own nation and king... but really... ginseng?

Some of that could have been cut out and maybe the plot device between the Sky Lord, Sword Saint, Earth Lord, and Jin Ju could have been expanded on a little bit. At least that's what I thought. The trader group ordeal was fun while it lasted, but it was kind of unnecessary as well and took up precious room that could have been used for better footage of other things. Eventually, it was forgotten altogether anyway in favor of the ending conspiracy.

And did anyone else notice that Ji Seon, aside from coming up with the idea of the trader group, really didn't do much to organize her own business. Jin Ju ended up doing all the leg work by going to Qing and acquiring the fur caps for Ji Seon. And then it was also Jin Ju's idea to become the middle man for trading between Qing and Japan. Yeo Woon used his own connections to help her find business partners willing to work with her amateur trader group. And then Ji Seon was also very ready to just drop all the work onto Jin Ju so that she could romp off with Dong Soo to play detectives for the ginseng court conspiracy (even though when she was there, she really didn't do much to help).

How about worrying a little bit about where Jin Ju's been for the past few days? I understand that she's a big girl and will go anywhere she pleases and disappears randomly. But while Dong Soo is around, did you think that she would so readily just wander off without at least seeing him once a day? Besides, she'd been gone for so long that, even given a reason as to her absence by mother and father, shouldn't we still be a little concerned that she's missing? I give a small nod to Dong Soo who at least shows a small pinch of concern for the fact that Jin Ju's been missing for so long; but of course, he's got more important ginseng court conspiracy matters to concern himself with, so it's okay that he has priorities.

I guess I was just frustrated because whenever Dong Soo leaves for a duration of time, he pointedly tasks Jin Ju with taking care of Ji Seon. And then he also goes berserk if Ji Seon is missing for even a millisecond. So is everyone else -- we are looking for Ji Seon everywhere when she goes missing for anything. But when Jin Ju disappears for the second time, the only person who combed the mountains for any sign of the girl was her father; everyone else just kind of sat around and waited for her to come home. But then when Jin Gi also goes missing, THAT's when we all start worrying -- and thus the sudden Jedi Dong Soo moment.

Anyway, I feel a little guilty that I'm in eternal favor of Jin Ju over Ji Seon when evidently, Ji Seon DOES play a bigger role in the story line and in Dong Soo's life. But as I already stated, the writers severely dwindle her significance after the whole Prince Sado fiasco ended and she is simply now the silently supporting pillar in Dong Soo's life as well as the woman who propels all of Yeo Woon's actions being that he wants to make sure she stays safe. There definitely won't be much of a fight for her heart between Yeo Woon and Dong Soo; we are already shown that Yeo Woon has withdrawn from that fight as his bond with Dong Soo is so much stronger than his love for Ji Seon.

And maybe this is why I favor Yeo Woon as well as Jin Ju more than the other two. Yeo Woon tells Jin Ju in episode twenty five that he and she are the same. Dong Soo is his friend and will always remain his friend despite all that's happened; he will protect his friend at all costs and make sure the Dong Soo can live a long and healthy life. This was his way of telling Jin Ju that he desperately wants to rejoin his friends. As for Jin Ju, her love for Dong Soo is great enough that she doesn't want to fight for his heart knowing full well that he's already declared himself to Ji Seon and so she simply stands on the side lines and watches him happily be together with the woman he loves.

Relationship-wise, I'm at least glad that Dong Soo doesn't continue his "minion-like" treatment of Jin Ju from when he was twelve years old. Instead, he sincerely sees her as an important friend he cherishes and even tells her so. Sadly, she's only barely on par with... say, his friendship with Yang Cho Rip. She's an important friend, yes, but she's not that special someone like Yeo Woon or Ji Seon. She is still easily dismissed by him when he doesn't really need her for anything. I like that he worries about her and I like that he sees her usefulness in his detective work. But other than that, very little goes into their friendship and Jin Ju's significance once again takes a severe blow.

These ideas are becoming more and more depressing as I write.

As a note on the love line, I think I pretty much bit it when we realize that Ji Seon and Dong Soo were going to be it for the romances. But the development of their love line was so non-existent that it was rather disappointing. Ji Seon was pretty much a "love at first sight" woman where her icy elegance gave her the edge for two men to fall hopelessly in love with her. There is little else that can rationally explain why both Yeo Woon and Baek Dong Soo were so infatuated with her aside from that first impression. I had pretty much just pegged it as two love sick little boys who were lusting after a woman they couldn't have.

But then the writers throw us all for a loop when they have Ji Seon sort of reciprocating both Dong Soo and Yeo Woon's affections, even if it wasn't really love she was going for. After all, she had committed herself as Prince Sado's woman. But we could clearly see that she seemed to favor Woonie over Dong Soo's immature, bratty behaviors. How then, was it suddenly so definite that she would turn to Dong Soo so quickly and so easily? I mean, I would probably be grateful to a man who changed my destiny too. But being grateful and being in love are two different things that cannot be lumped into the same category.

And to be totally honest, I don't think that Ji Seon every truly loved in the beginning and merely accepted. Prince Sado was a man she had no choice but to remain with. Dong Soo was a man who changed her life and so she accepted his affections readily. If Woon had been the one who'd saved her at that time (which he was truly attempting various plans to keep her alive) would she have turned towards him instead? And then we'd have a completely different spin on the love line... which would have been fine by me.

But since there was very little development in the love line altogether anyway, I guess it's fine with me despite my disappointing witness of the Dong Soo and Jin Ju ship sinking like a ton of rocks. Excuse me as I mutter injustices...

As the series comes to an end, I pretty much forced myself to stop watching at this sort of significant turning point in the story line to write this article. With this freshness in mind, it was much easier than watching the entire series and then realizing that I've changed my mind... again.

In general, the rest of the story line is really just dragging. The political intrigue is getting a little out of hand as it carries into Sado's son, the Prince Heir and those who continue to oppose him and his ideals. The Queen is turning out to be quite the scary looking, wide-eyed malice of the court. Lord Hong is just frustratingly persistent in his desire to be all powerful. And why, oh, why is the Human Lord Dae Ung NOT dead by now. This guy is like a walking zombie wherein he has lost a thumb, his hand, his life, his ability to wield a sword... and then he was burned alive. And he's STILL walking around like nobody's business! And he continues to cause havoc. He's like a cockroach, because no matter how many times you kill him, he still comes right back to cause havoc. By this point in time, if the writers finally decide to kill him off in the last episode, I think I might actually be a little disappointed.

The guy really SHOULD have just died the first time... if not the second time. His eventual death is not going to be very satisfying, because then it would just be repetitive and kind of stupid.

Nonetheless, the series in general has been rather captivating even if a lot of things didn't make any sense. In terms of historical story telling, it doesn't really measure up. The political intrigue is frustrating, to say the least, with a lot of the pettiest things being able to be used against people. The whole ginseng ordeal still kind of confuses me.

And then there was Yang Cho Rip's transformation back into his former self as a son of a wealthy family? Where the heck did this come from? Granted, it was nice to see that he had his own dreams and his own ambitions. Being a court official was more beneficial than him continuing to be a warrior.

The true survival of this series, I would have to say, is really the hope of a rekindled brother-ship between Dong Soo and Woon. Yeo Woon pretty much carries the story line with his turmoil, conflict, and now his renewed faith in rewriting his own destiny. If I had to choose, Yeo Woon would have been my title character and not Dong Soo. He is truly the soul of Warrior Baek Dong Soo and we just continue to look forward to his conclusion.

As I end this article, I know that it probably won't be posted until a little bit after I've finally finished watching the series. But that doesn't matter. The overall review won't be written for a while anyway as the processing of details and thoughts into writing takes me a bit longer than it normally would take others.


Related articles:
first impression: Warrior Baek Dong Soo
thoughts: Warrior Baek Dong Soo -- the childhood years
thoughts: Warrior Baek Dong Soo -- the ending and overall review


No comments:

Post a Comment