I’ve just come back from a few weeks in the UK for a holiday and there was a pile of recorded Dong Yi episodes waiting for me. Normally I’d sit down and keep watching one episode after another, but this time I watched a couple of episodes and then took a few days break. This means that this drama is still not gripping me as much as Lee Byeong Hoon’s previous ones did. It’s slower and not as exciting and I was asking myself why.
King Sukjong at the daily meeting, Dong Yi, MBC
So I started thinking back to his other historical dramas that l’ve watched – Heojun, Dae Jang Geum, and Sang Do and I was trying to work out what the difference is. And it’s this: In the other dramas the main characters have a special skill that helps them succeed and beat the baddies. And they are intense and passionate about what they do – Dae Jang Geum wants to be a fantastic palace cook, Heojun strives to be the best doctor he can be, and in Sangdo, the merchant wants to become the most successful merchant in Joseon. They struggle to become the best overcoming the jealousy and opposition of others and throughout the dramas I struggled along with them, cheering them on. After all, as a palace doctor or a palace cook, the wrong prescription or a dodgy meal could be life-threatening for the hero or heroine.
But in Dong Yi I don’t feel that there’s a real struggle for her. OK, so she is exiled from the palace because of her family history and she has to bring her son up away from the King. She misses the King and she’s a mother and wants to protect her son. I get that. But when there is any trouble, it’s the King or the bodyguard who comes to save her. She is quite a passive leading character really. When she first entered the Court Lady Investigation Bureau she solved some crimes, and so perhaps if this problem solving part of her character could have been used more, then maybe I’d feel that she had a stronger role to play. A female Sherlock Homes perhaps.
Having said that, I suppose this drama is meant to be more of a romance than a detective story! And there are lovely parts to the drama. I enjoyed the beginning of episode 46 where the King finally gets to bond with his son even if his son doesn’t know who he is. And the Korean wrestling sirum scene was pretty funny. The gentle romance between the King and Dong Yi is cute too especially when they go out of the palace and try to blend in with the people.
But I’m not completely addicted. Hee Bin and her brother are great villains but their naughty plans aren’t given the time to brew and create enough tension to make me worry about Dong Yi’s fate.