I don't know how many people here have seen Shin Don, either through our viewing or in the past. But I'd be extremely interested to hear from anybody who's seen it. What did you think of it? I have quite a bit to post about it but I want to look back over my summaries first and that will take a while. So in the meantime, anybody else who has anything to share, please do.
I am amazed thaat no one has any thing to say about this series. My ending thoughts are” kiived the romance and love between the King and Queen; alo the devotion of Choseon to Shin on. The poor King needed ome sort of mental help to get him past his deep an disabling grie over Nogbuk's deah. Hin Don needed a bit more patience in making so many government changes; he tried to do too much too quickly.
The horrible killing of Shin Don and then of the King … I did not lik the wa thoe inidents were ;ha;ndled. Since this was a fictionaly telling of the King and Queen I guess it had to end someway.
AJK – I could never have waatched this and understood much of it without your wonderful succinct summaries. You have done all of us such a huge favor and I wish more of the viwers would let you know how much they too appreciae your hard work. Tank you from a very grateful hea.
I'm sorry, I'm still watching early episodes as you know and don't think I'll be done for a couple of months. Really missed not being able to join in the discussions, but I'll post my thoughts as I go along (and I can find it if you move it to "old shows"). I think it's a great drama so far.
From Dae Jang-geum: Sun-dol: "Are you trying to dry me up and kill me? Why do you say the same things over and over every day? Rather, come and hit me once! Aigu!" But then: Dr. Lazarus: "By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Warvan... You shall be avenged."
Sorry it took this long to work on wrapping up this board. No excuses.
Anyway...I loved this series. Absolutely loved it. Looking online, there were people who complained about it for one reason or another, or got impatient and bailed on it early. Their mistake. Most of the complaints about it were unfair, and the people who bailed, they really blew it by not having a little patience. There was plenty to like about it, and not much to dislike. And some of the things it did well, it did incredibly well.
The positives: First of all, it was historically accurate. It was more of a character drama than the KBS historicals tend to be and didn't delve into historical details as much. But the history that was depicted matched up very closely to everything I saw in Jeong Dojeon and GKS and to almost everything I found independently. There were exceptions--Gongmin’s mother and a former king’s mother, their names seemed to be mixed up; the Jo Il Shin insurrection may have been altered; and probably other things here and there that I didn't know about. But every historical drama fudges on things here and there so this one is no worse than any other, and much better than most of them. So hooray for that.
Second, the writers and producers had guts. They took chances and didn't worry about trying to get a quick payoff. Right off the bat, the way the first episode was so dark and desolate and eerily quiet, like the palace and the whole kingdom was being drained of life by some unseen force (which it was) . A lot of slower-paced scenes in early episodes, and just generally how they were in no hurry to develop the story, it was all very unusual. The Pyeonjo character, for a long time we had no real feel for how he fit into the story--maybe that one didn't work so well, but still, credit them for trying it that way. Also, they didn’t try to end every episode with a forced cliffhanger. When it was time to stop, they stopped. A whole bunch of things like that; things you can point to as being unconventional. People will have differences of opinion on what worked and what didn't, but how great is it that somebody is willing to try these things and not just fall back onto formula and gimmicks and clichés.
(Oh, and the ending. It was not a happy ending at all, to put it mildly, and there were complaints about that too. But this wasn't a happy time in the nation's history, was it...what were people expecting? Duh...This was and is an important story to tell, and it's great that they told it, happy ending or not. So give MBC credit too, for choosing to tell it.)
Third, King Gongmin. I'd have to go back and watch IYSS again to be sure, but with the possible exception of Yi Soon-shin in that series, Gongmin in this series is the most complete, interesting and complex character in any historical I've seen. He was amazingly well written and acted, the way we watched him grow from a neurotic, scared, devastated young man with no confidence, into a strong, purposeful leader, and then fall apart and descend into madness after Noguk's death. The character was totally human and totally believable in how he was written. And the acting job by Jong Bo Suk, wow it was phenomenal. I first saw him in DJY and he was miscast in that one, and we sort of made fun of him here in the forum for not being very good in that role. But this role was ideal for him; he was able to show the king's very human weaknesses and insecurities and it was totally convincing. A fantastic performance.
And then of course Noguk, and the love story with her and Gongmin. What a great love story this was. It wasn't sappy or overdone at all; much more about devotion than passion. It was very moving to see how devoted she was to him and how he depended on her so much for strength and confidence. And I loved how Gongmin felt unworthy of her--another aspect of his character that made him seem real and very human. The Noguk they wrote, like Gongmin she was a very human, complete character too. We saw her make mistakes and saw her emotions get the better of her, things that happen to everyone. And Seo Ji Hye did a great job portraying her. Lots of beautifully acted scenes between the two of them.
Some other things I liked:
--The storylines in the early episodes about the boy kings and all of the scheming of the adults around them. Tragic how those kids were used as pawns, but honestly portrayed.
--Empress Gi, she was very good. Any time she showed up, things got more interesting. Sometimes weird or mysterious, but always interesting. And it was hilarious how she got her way with her husband, drugging him with aphrodisiacs and loading up his bedroom with babes.
--Most of the music was excellent, some of the best I've heard in a historical.
--They kept the episodes to 50-55 minutes rather than the typical 60-70 we've gotten in a lot of other historicals. People have different views on this but I've never been crazy about going 60 or longer...just too much at once for me.
--Humor! How about that, there were actually some funny lines in this one. Clever deadpan comebacks; occasional sarcasm, etc. Some of these series have tried to force humor and it hardly ever works. This series sprinkled it around in the course of the story and it totally worked. Especially with the grimness of the story, the occasional laugh was welcome.
Now for the stuff I didn't like. Unfortunately there were several significant things.
--I faulted Jeong Dojeon for not showing us enough of the human side of its characters. This series had the opposite problem; a lot of character development but at the expense of telling the full historical story. Would like to have gotten a deeper account of the real history. Also it had a problem that QSD had: too much of the bickering-for-power stuff, at the expense of showing us what was actually happening in the kingdom. When we got some of that material, it was excellent; for instance, the whole thing about the Directorate for Farmland Reclassification and how land and ill-gotten gains should be redistributed. I'm sure many viewers get bored by the policy-wonk stuff but still, the series could have used more of it.
--There were two characters that just didn't work. One was Master Wolseon. Partly it was a cultural difference but I found him annoying and not much else. He was supposed to be a wise teacher and enlightened master, but too often he came off as just an eccentric old crank, nothing more. And they tried to make him a humorous character with even some physical comedy, but it just didn't fit. Helpful comment from sageuk explained that this type of character isn't uncommon in Korean TV...so there you have it...maybe the Korean audience liked him better than I did.
--The other weak character was Won Hyeon. He got really tiresome after a while, the way he was ranting and raving about everything and overreacting and causing problems for Shin Don. And it didn't make sense that SD would just sit there and let him cause his problems and not do anything about it. It got to the point where Won was a huge liability; SD should have fired him or sent him back to the religious life for a while to get his head screwed on straight.
--The scenes of Pyeonjo as some sort of warlock or Jedi knight. Blecch. Way too much of that in the early episodes. Glad they got rid of it as the series progressed. Stupid and pointless.
--Kim Yong got too many second chances. It was ridiculous that after being repeatedly and totally discredited, so many people continued to buy into all of the blather he spewed out. I could even accept Gi Cheol being vain enough to let himself be suckered into going into the palace a second time, but the whole Kim Yong thing was just too hard to accept.
--As good as the music was throughout most of the series, the choice of a cheesy pop ballad after Noguk died was horrible. Maybe the most tragic, painful image of the entire series, Gongmin cradling his dead wife's body in his arms, and the music was totally tasteless and inappropriate. And they brought it back more than once after that too. Ugh.
--Kings and other people walking around or riding around in the open countryside or at night, or both, totally unguarded and unprotected. Stop it! That would never have happened.
And there were some of the usual problems we get in every historical: things that weren't explained adequately; timing problems with people making impossibly quick trips from one place to another, things like that. But I won't dwell on those because like I said, they come with the territory.
Those were my main issues with the series. One last thing I should mention, because a lot of people online griped about it: the Gi Cheol character. People found him creepy and disgusting and over-the-top and hated him. But he didn't bother me at all (except that they kept him in the storyline just a little too long). So he was a kook--why should that be so implausible? Those wealthy clan lords back then who had all the power, they could behave any way they wanted to. There's no reason the character we saw couldn't really have existed. Granted, they did portray him a little over-the-top, but his oddities were entertaining. The Gi Cheol grunt will go down in historical drama history! Plenty of the rich and famous in any society end up eccentric. Why should Goryeo be any different?
So that's how I'd sum it up. The bottom line is that there were enough flaws in the series that I can't quite put it up there with the best of the best. But it should only be one notch lower, because there were so many wonderful things about it that I'll always remember, and as I said, it's a series that took chances and that's a rare thing in television. Very, very happy I made the commitment to watch it.