Friday, November 25, 2011

first impression: Tree With Deep Roots (Korean)

This article is about fourteen episodes too late; the series has been airing for quite some time now and we've already moved well passed that story line build up of childhood to adulthood. It's all the rave around kdramaland world about the awesome performances and the intriguing story line. So having read so many articles praising Song Joong Ki's excellent performance as the young King Sejong as well as getting positive reactions from netizens about the continuing intrigue of the series' storyline itself, I finally decided to jump into the bandwagon as well. It wasn't like I wasn't entertaining thoughts of watching Tree With Deep Roots -- the summary was interesting enough and the presence of Song Joong Ki is usually a good way of getting me to seriously consider partaking in a genre that I normally wouldn't touch too willingly.

Tree With Deep Roots, while promoted as a mystery/thriller type of story, also involves a lot of political struggle and the like (as is usual with many a sageuk, it seems). And the first few episodes of this series (even though I've only seen the first one) details a battle of power and wits between the young Lee Do (King Sejong) and his father, King Taejong as well as each of their personal supporting cabinet members.

I'm not a fan of political intrigue -- I don't really understand government that well. The only reason I made it through so many Chinese historical series was all due to famed author Jin Yong's wuxia novels and my own father's detailed descriptions of government and Chinese history as they pertain to Jin Yong's wuxia novels. Otherwise, I would have been quite lost -- spending over ten years basking in the excellence of Jin Yong novel adaptations has gotten me quite familiar with the Chinese dynastic history.

But I know little about Korean government and historical Korea; I even suck at understanding modern government, which is why I steer clear of any types of series that have to do with politics (yes, that means I may never touch something like Daemul).

And I'm pretty sure that even after the political struggle between King Daddy and King Son, there will still be political intrigue amongst cabinet members and the king -- this is how almost ALL historical story lines work when it comes to the centering a plot around a king and his subjects and court officials. There will ALWAYS be power struggles. It's typical in Korean sageuk and it's also quite prominent in Chinese wuxia.

And so I'm still hesitant about watching this series despite that magnetic force telling me that I really, really DO want to continue watching.

I jumped into Tree With Deep Roots because of Song Joong Ki; I wanted to see that amazing performance that everyone has been raving about. And I also had a small desire to see this mystery slash thriller that was advertised. And while I didn't much become enraptured with the opening of this series (the imaginary "Kill King Sejong" scene that Jang Hyuk's character frames was kind of amusing) the following intensity of the story line felt like that magnetic force on my consciousness -- I couldn't pull myself away as the first episode progressed.

While I'm not sure WHAT it is that I'm looking forward to, I simply know that there's SOMETHING I'm attracted to about Tree With Deep Roots. (And no, this part has nothing to do with pretty boy Song Joong Ki... although it IS a bonus. And I'm not in it for Jang Hyuk either -- I know little about his acting and have not seen any of his projects outside of the first ten minutes of Chuno, which I haven't been able to go back to after watching the first half of the first episode. I know only that he's a very handsome man, and my knowledge of Jang Hyuk stops there, so he holds no appeal over me.)

Instead, I think it's the atmosphere, the suspense and the progression of this very first episode. The base story line has yet to be revealed, but I'm feeling the need to continue watching just to find out exactly WHAT that base plot will entail. Again, it's this strange feeling wherein I just NEED to continue watching the series for some unknown attractiveness reason -- I'm not even sure how to describe it, but I'm sure it might have to do with the intensity of the entire first episode as well as Song Joong Ki's portrayal of a tortured king.

Coming to him, Joong Ki was absolutely amazing. It was like, he's no longer that playful, adorable, loud and flamboyant Gu Yong Ha I fell in love with in Sunkyunkwan Scandal. Just seeing his eyes and his expressions and the nervous shaking of his shoulders and hands when faced with King Taejong... It's hard to describe outside of... well: "Wow!" In SKK Scandal, he was simply fun and pretty and cutesie (and yes, I fell for that charm), but without the aid of such an attractive character as Gu Yong Ha, Joong Ki could have easily been overlooked as "just another pretty boy." Sure, he did his part and brought Gu Yong Ha to life... but it wasn't like his acting skills were anything beyond that. He did good, but he didn't stand out and instead, Gu Yong Ha was the one who stood out because the character is a memorable one.

However, in this particular series... I'm totally speechless -- I just want to keep watching him as the tortured young king and I can't wait until the moment when he can stand up to his father and show an even more attractive intensity.

Without much that I can say to give justice to how well Tree With Deep Roots has been produced (from scenery, to editing, to atmosphere, to camera angles, and finally the cast and characters...) I can only really give an impressed "Bravo!" If the rest of the series is as thrilling as the first episode, I might remain onboard. Again, I'm not familiar with Jang Hyuk outside of the fact that he's quite handsome. So it's still up in the air for me to decide what to do with Tree With Deep Roots after Joong Ki's last appearance. I'm hoping the series itself will continue to reel me in even without the Song Joong Ki bait.

So far, it's proving its potential, so I'm hopeful. It's based off of an actual written book, so the story line of the series can't possibly veer too far into WTF territory like a lot of other drama series.

Unfortunately, at the same time...

Too many series to watch, too little time to watch them.

Something's gotta give.

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