After the debacle of “Mrs. Cop” and the distress I suffered watching Kim Hee Ae trying to act cool and intelligent with a script written by idiots, I wondered how that experience would stack up against Yoo Ah In’s return to DramaLand with “Six Flying Dragons”. The well-deserved buzz about this show has been going on for months. The casting is first rate all the way. It looked like no expense would be spared for costumes and sets. The rumor/truth that this would be YAI’s final project before leaving for Military Service for two years amped up the expectation that viewers would see his finest acting talents displayed on the TV screen–just like he’s done recently on the movie screen with “Veteran” and “The Throne”.
I knew going in that it would be an uphill battle to watch this show. I am really bad with watching historical dramas to completion. Having a very minimal working knowledge of Joseon-era history and all the individuals involved is strike one. Strike two is that I have a difficult time keeping everyone straight. There’s a lot of characters, and I need a scorecard with pictures and a list of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, and who are the traitors. AsianWiki is my best friend for helping me out in times like these. This show is 50–count ’em–50 episodes. Yikes! I have never made it all the way through a 50 episode drama. “My Daughter Seo Young” which was 50 episodes, and pretty darn good–well, I got to about episode #37 and I burned out on all the daddy issues. HITTG was 30 episodes–I made it, but burned out on the recapping. That show seemed to hit a number of nerves for me; maybe not as intensely as SLA, but enough that I was mentally exhausted at the end of the show.The socialistic and PC ending completely fried my conservative Libertarian-leaning brain. I felt like the chandelier in the final frame….with one bulb burnt out!
DF had the first episode of SFD subbed late on Tuesday night, but I wanted to see this when I was wide awake so I could watch carefully and try to figure out the tangled alliances. I figured it would benefit me to get a good start to the show. If I was confused from the first episode, it wasn’t going to go well. I made myself a bagel and lox breakfast and sat down to watch first thing Wednesday morning on my day off work. Please forgive any goofs I make–I am doing the best I can with the limited knowledge I possess of Joseon-era history.
*Episode 1 screencaps from Tivee.com*
Everything starts out pretty good. The scenery is pretty. The BGM sounds epic. I feel like this is a movie, not a TV show. Oh goody, there’s YAI, looking mighty fine in his sageuk clothes. Dang, he rocks that hanbok! And his hair is up in that topknot thing…yeah! So crisp…
Show flashes back to his childhood. Gosh, that young actor looks just like I imagine YAI looked as a boy. Lee Bang Won thinks his father, General and future King Lee Seong Gye is about the coolest Dad ever, but Dad has seen too much, and hauls LBW over to where the troops have caught a spy/traitor. Traitor guy is pretty beat up, and the General coolly tells this spy/traitor that he hates betrayal. He then executes the traitor guy with one swift slice of the sword. LBW is in shock as his Dad comes over and tells him that this is war, people die in wars, and it’s not one bit pretty.
LBW seems to get the message, at least for a minute or two, before he decides he’s gonna be like Dad and not tolerate traitors either. I will admit the execution scene was harsh, but not out of place or gratuitous at all. Executing traitors=Perfectly Acceptable. I liked how LSG made it into a lesson for his son.That’s some fine Shamrockmom-approved parenting right there!
The enemy faction, including Lee In Gyeom, a corrupt politician, and Gil Tae Mi–a weird simpering OTT and over-accessorized dude with way too much guyliner–find out General LSG is coming into
Dodge Seoul (?) Gaegyeong to take a position in some official capacity with the existing government. I think they are scared LSG will kick butt (especially theirs) and take names because he’s a no BS kinda guy. So they start to plot against him. Meanwhile, LBW whines to his Dad that he wants to come along to the city; he even promises to learn and speak proper Korean! Dad relents, so LBW, and his bodyguard Young Kyu (plus another guard who is wearing the standard sageuk version of the Kdrama black baddie costume) tromp off to the city. Their heads nearly fall off their necks as they swivel around looking at all the sights!
They look like easy marks for a band of beggar kids, who spot them immediately and plot how to separate them from their money. The kids are cute; the littlest girl is taking care of a newborn baby because something has happened to the mom. At first someone mentions the mom ran off; later on it’s clarified that she was abducted. The kids are pretty much at a loss; they think they can find her by hearing her sing a certain song.
LBW gets distracted, and finds an alley full of dead bodies.
He and I are both thinking WTH is this deal when he gets pulled back into a doorway. The baddie guard wearing black dumps a note off in a hidey hole.
One of the urchins sees this, and grabs the note. Nicely done! There’s a confrontation when YK notices his charge is missing, and finds him being stripped of his clothing.
YK finds LBW, but the band of urchins accuse the Baddie guard of abducting their Mom because of the seal on the hidden letter was the same one on the note the dude was carrying when he took their Mom away. Now they know this dude’s a traitor. A quick sword fight ensues, and the Baddie guard grabs the letter and runs off. LBW is implored to join the chase, but he’s too smart for that. He’s got a better idea–go and wait at the house that the letter should be delivered to. I like how he just helps himself to some clothes from the clothesline! He’s not going anywhere until he’s dressed…
The kids sneak into the intended recipient’s home to wait, with the help of the littlest urchin girl, who knows about the banquet-like spread of food in this joint. They sneak in and partake of the buffet line, but when someone is coming to look for them, they hide. From their hiding place, they see the abducted Mom being led away in chains. I wonder how all this fits together….then the kids peek in a room where the women are chained up and they have these little pigs, and they’re…OMG. I’m in shock. I can’t even…
I’m totally freaked out by what I’ve just seen. I immediately hit the pause button. WTF…no, that doesn’t even begin to cut it. I know how my brain works when I see something I shouldn’t. It plays it over and over in an endless loop; this will surely be a day’s worth of distraction and anxiety for me. Thankfully, my DAOM gave me some Chinese herbs for menopause related anxiety attacks. I could use one of those right now. Gah, where were these meds when I was freaking out over the ending to SLA. It could have spared my tablet, a couple of buckets of tears, along with hundreds of hours writing fan fiction! I take a capsule with some ginger ale, and I shakily turn the show back on. The irony that I take an ancient Chinese herbal concoction to deal with Kdrama induced anxiety attacks is not lost on me. My stomach rebels against my partially eaten bagel. How can I ever get through this series? This is only the first episode! And it’s 7 in the morning! It’s gonna be a long day…..
After I take the meds, the thought comes to me…did this happen in RL? Short answer: Yes. (See the DramaBeans comment section for SFD Episode 1) And what about that young boy who plays LBW? He’s all of what…maybe 12? 13? He had to know where the script was going; there was certainly a read-through. And what about the younger girls? Omo. How can a child handle this kind of scenario? I’m a grown woman and I can’t even deal with it.
Side note: When my son’s friends came to live with us during their high school years, I found out–bit by bit–the horrific abuse they had gone through as children. They survived huge quantities of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, over and above anything I’ve ever personally heard or read about….plus one of the boys had an eating disorder. I ended up getting counseling because the stuff they told me upset me so badly. I knew I had to get my own head straightened out–or I’d be no use to these kids at all. I had no idea on how to help with the eating disorder either. I found out quickly there’s a big blind spot–most people just don’t believe that boys have eating disorders too; it’s seen as a female-only problem. I was able to get some ideas to minimize the damage their stories of childhood abuse caused between my two ears, as well as putting my focus and theirs on the future. I also got some great tips on letting them talk to me without feeling like I was being put through a wringer, and how I could be a help to them and not a burden. I also think about how innocent my boys still were at age 12, especially my older son who would hear coarse jokes and innuendo from his junior high sports teammates and then ask me questions–the kind that can really challenge a parent!
OK, back to the show. LBW gets caught hiding in the house, but the bad politician guy Lee In Gyeom thinks he’s just another rug rat looking for some free food, so they let him go. He goes back to where the urchins were, only to find out the newborn baby died from starvation. Looks like LBW has about the same feeling as I do right now, as he barfs up whatever he ate recently.
General LSG and his entourage get to the palace in Gaegyeong, and the General finds out he’s been invited by GTM to a lavish banquet in his honor. I love the reaction from LBW’s hyung:
Answer: None of the above! It’s an alien…
Frankly, LSG looks like the kinda guy that would rather eat BBQ with his troops, but he relents and agrees to go to the banquet, along with the Baddie Politician LIG, and GTM, the King of Guyliner. I also get the strong impression that GTM is not the sort of dude LSG would hang with. Ever. Like, never ever in a million, billion years.
LBW wastes no time and informs his Dad of the freaky/creepy/WTF’ery he saw with the pigs and the kidnapped moms. And he’s worried about the beggar kids too:
I am very impressed that Dad, older hyung and the rest of the entourage are completely outraged, even if they have this rather dim moment:
I have to mention here that LSG seems to really respect his son, and takes what his son says seriously, even if he doesn’t react right away like LBW expects him to. I like that LSG is probably going to think through a plan carefully. That’s a great example to show your son–think first, don’t just react. And kudos to LBW who seems to have a functioning moral compass! Yay! LBW also trusts that his Dad is gonna get to the bottom of this horrific deal, and remove some bad guys from the gene pool permanently. LSG meets with another government official and they agree that war with Yuan would be a bad plan.
At the start of the banquet, LIG recognizes LBW, and calls him out for being a thief. Undaunted, LBW confronts the Baddie Politician LIG that he was there to catch a spy. Wow, this kid is braver than brave…
LSG boldly asks LIG:
and he gets blown off. Gah, you have too much patience LSG! I’m all-in for a big martial arts fight scene right about now, and rescuing the ladies held captive. Sadly, that does not happen.
The banquet does not go well. LSG and LBW both sit there stonefaced:
not eating the tainted food while the Baddies put on some kind of stage production. Good to know that Kdramas have a backhistory too! Drama productions have been rolling continuously in Korea since ~1385! Then we see in a flashback that it’s a reenactment of the time when LSG betrayed his brother-like friend Jo So Saeng on order of his father. Hoo-Boy! That’s rotten to the core–both the betrayal and the stage production. JSS lets LSG know that his family is gonna be cursed by brother/brother betrayal right before he gets an arrow to the chest and dies.
LSG continues to watch the stage production of “The most regretful moment of my life”, and his son notes that this dinner banquet and play is upsetting his Dad big time. I think LBW is still seething over the WTF’ery he saw earlier. LSG is confronted by the Baddie Politician LIG after the banquet, and he basically blackmails LSG by offering to cover up the JSS betrayal info.
LBW is stunned to see his illustrious Daddy bow to this evil snake of a politician.
Yeah, me too!
I have to add in here that Nam Da Reum (the actor playing LBW) has already developed that gaze of intensity. Even though he looks like a young YAI, the expression he has in the two solo screencaps above remind me of Joo Jin Mo. This kid is flat-out amazing in the way he communicates without a single word This scene and the Banquet scene are both displays of the finest acting talent by NDR.
Now that the first episode is over, and the meds are kicking in, I have to decide–can I and/or will I watch Episode 2? As with “Mrs. Cop” I want to like this show so much, so I decide to risk it. Besides, I want to see somebody rescue the kidnapped moms and kick some butt while doing it. I entertain no hope that there will be less violence–there will certainly be plenty forthcoming, and I think I can deal with it–but I do hope there’s no more freaky/creepy/high level WTF’ery like what I saw today. Please DramaGods, show some mercy to Shamrockmom! I am your faithful viewer and loyal customer! Viki and DF can provide receipts of my yearly memberships if you need. I am also the most gullible viewer when it comes to product placement. Kindly acknowledge my ownership of an LG fridge, Samsung phone, printer, TV, etc., etc. Oh, and those snap-lock-top containers No Ra used to pack lunches in “Twenty Again”….yeah, I went and got those too! The US made Pyrex glass containers I bought to replace my old plastic containers a few months ago have lids that have obviously been designed by morons. I can’t bring soup for lunch to work because the lids don’t seal tightly enough! I shouldn’t need to put a rubber band around the lid, and have it leak anyways. The Korean-made ones I buy (for a premium price) at the market where I buy my Vietnamese coffee–they never leak. Daebak!
OK, on to Episode 2. I decide that two episodes of SFD in one day is probably too much. A couple hours at the piano plus a lesson that went well seemed to make me feel better.
*screencaps for Episode 2 from Viki.com*
After watching the second episode, my mood and outlook for the series has greatly improved. This is more like what I thought I was going to be watching. Maybe that freaky/creepy/WTF’ery in the first episode was an aberration. Whew! The second episode starts with a recap of LBW watching his Dad kowtow and bow to LIG. Incensed by what he has seen, LBW confronts LIG:
Yesss! I like how this young man calls it like he sees it. They get into a menacing conversation about who is good and who is evil, and the way LIG touches LBW on the arm makes me shiver. LBW confronts his Dad, but Dad doesn’t know that LBW heard everything and saw him bow to LIG.
There’s also a flashback sequence from about 15-20 years back (?) which probably sheds more light on the current situation, but I am kinda lost as to how it all fits in. Hong Ryoon has just assassinated the king, and GTM and he have a swordfight to determine who is the best–winner take all. GTM may look like a
girl alien, but he has plenty of fighting skills, and defeats HR. LIG comes marching in with a contingent of troops. I do understand that Baddie Politician LIG and Guyliner King GTM were in cahoots way back when, as the original “odd couple” of villainy.
Jeong Do Jeon, who is a high level government official, and the head scholar at Sungkyungkwan finds out LSG has declined the position in the cabinet, and is headed back home. Everyone calls him “Sambong” which is fascinating to me because Sambong is a plant used in TCM to disinfect wounds and treat kidney stones. (link) I wonder if there’s some relationship there. Personally, I don’t blame LSG one bit for declining the job. Nothing has changed in 500 years–politics was/is a cesspool, and LSG wants no part of it. JDJ knows his plan to stop the war is in trouble.
The urchin kids end up hiding in the drama troupe’s stuff, and they get a ride that they didn’t bargain for as the convoy moves out. They get to overhear a conversation with Jeong Do Jeon telling another government official that war must be stopped between Yuan (China) and Goryeo (Korea).
The oldest boy follows JDJ to his secret lair, then comes back to get his sister…and he gets captured by JDJ’s bodyguard Lee Eun Chan. LEC ties him up as the kid pleads for his life:
and he’s tossed in a shed.
Meanwhile, LBW has decided: FML…I’m gonna go live with the urchin kids!
Uh, what happened to some parental supervision here? Didn’t this kid come to town with at least one honest bodyguard? Where the heck is Young Kyu? Boon Yi begs the leader of the beggar kids to help free her brother. Once that guy finds out warriors are involved, he tells her to ask LBW. LBW is really depressed that his daddy is not the invincible man he seemed to be, and this in turn upsets Boon Yi. She cries that she wanted LBW’s powerful Dad to rescue her brother and her mom, but he’s obviously not gonna be up for that job. She calls LBW a liar, and calls his dad pathetic. LBW pushes her down, and the kids fight. (Boon Yi is quite the little spitfire!) LBW tells BY:
She may be a spitfire, but she’s just a kid who’s already been through a lot:
and they cry together at the injustice of it all.
LBW comes to his senses, and decides to ask bodyguard YK for some help in freeing BY’s brother. (What about the Mom?) It takes some cajoling, but YK wipes out a couple of guards easily, and busts into the shed. They find JDJ and one of his helpers tied up–and the brother of BY too. LBW hears JDJ talk about how he can prevent war with Yuan…and LBW is all-ears as he asks JDJ if he’s powerful enough to do that. JDJ assures him that stopping the war is possible. I sense that if JDJ stops the war, LBW is gonna look up to JDJ in a big way. He needs a hero in his life–someone to be his role model now that his Daddy has failed to be the man of honor and integrity that LBW thought he was.
JDJ is freed, and there’s a slightly confusing (at first) scene where it looks like JHJ kills the Yuan envoy with a knife hidden in his sleeve. Then we find out that is no envoy–it’s GTM, looking like he’s a beekeeper modeling for the Yuan/Goreyo edition of High Cut or Esquire Magazine.
GTM starts to give this speech about how JDJ was gonna kill the real Yuan Envoy, but he faked him out. However, the real fake-out is that JDJ used a piece of taffy (!) like he was pulling out a knife.
Super kudos to the Viki subbers, who explain the whole Taffy-as-an-insult issue. You can read this post over at the Ask a Korean blog for a more modern version. DF did not give any background here, and I thought when I watched this the first time on DF that JDJ meant it in the way the Viki subbers explained, but I wasn’t completely sure. I love the Viki subbers!
JDJ gets up and a bunch of his supporters lock arms to protect him, as he gives a stirring and impassioned speech against a future war with Yuan.
He specifically calls out LIG, saying it’s the poor dudes who die in wars, and not the rich.
It’s the young guys who die, and not the old.
I remember the Vietnam war protests on TV as a child; the arguments against that war sound exactly like the ones in Joseon days. Sigh. Nothing ever seems to change. I also remember the time I went over to my Kindergarten friend’s house to play, only to find out her older brother was KIA in Vietnam. There was another day I was over there and her older sister found out that her boyfriend was also KIA. So sad….
Amazingly, the entire speech was done in one take! In the broiling summer sun, there was concern over how everyone would hold up if multiple takes were needed…heh, no worries. Kim Myung Min who plays JDJ pulled it off.
Check out LBW–I think he’s gonna look up to JDJ and not Daddy..
The second episode ends with a big brawl; the soldiers that are loyal to GTM and LIG are beating up the unarmed locals and the scholars that are in support of JDJ. Strangely, the urchin kids recognize the song that the crowd is singing as they get beaten by the military guards–it’s the one their mom sang as a lullaby to them. Oh crumbs. That reminds me–no one has freed all those women yet. Would the show blow this part off and leave it as a loose end after shocking
the viewers Shamrockmom? It better not! Heh…now I will have to watch Episode 3 to find out!
So am I gonna give this show a watch? Yes, I am–but very carefully. That means not watching at night, so if there’s anything crazy, I won’t lose sleep over it. I will also have the remote close by. I hope DramaBeans will keep the recaps going, and I am sure there will be some other bloggers who will add in their thoughts as well. I am sure the Soompi forum will be a treasure trove of interesting facts like it normally is. I found that a lot of things were much clearer on the second watch; it may be one of those shows like HITTG or SLA that two viewings (with subs on different sites) are required to take everything in–although I am leaning toward the Viki subs right now. I plan to do a lot of supplementary reading of Korean history over the course of the show. I may or may not throw in some random posts about SFD in the future, but I don’t plan to recap it–I already have a FT job! I think this show holds a lot of promise, but after 2 episodes, it’s difficult to know if it will deliver.
I want to highlight this Soompi forum comment by Homura because I thought this was the case–but I don’t have the “boots on the ground” knowledge of the intricacies of current Korean politics. Here’s the comment:
“The puppet president just wants to play her majesty’s role in the palace. The actual power is upon the administration officials behind her, and they are extremly corrupt like the nobles in SFD. In case the incompetent and rotten governement is attcked by the public, they avoid criticism by using North Korea’s threat as a shield because McCarthyism is still working in South Korea. The opposition party is all talk and no actiton, like the opportunist Sadaebu(scholar gentry class) in SFD. Meanwhile, South Korea’s suicide rate and crime rate are rapidly increasing. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Journalists, manipulated by the ruling class, don’t have a courage to report about social justice, for fear of retaliation. The wail of pain is spreading year by year, but nobody is responsbile for it. Ordinary people are all choked with politics, asking “What the government(politics) exist for?” That’s the reality of South Korea hidden behind the luxurious Hallyu drama and K-Pop idols.
Everybody wants another Jung Do-Jeon to destroy the status quo. I really want this drama to succeed. Actually, I’m seriously worried about the writers. I guess that a lot of courage is needed to write such a drama today. They are literally risking their lives.”
I have noted many dramas seem to touch on the rich and privileged class, and how poorly they treat everyone else, plus the corruption at every level of society. This comment sets that in cement.
Side note: I also took some heat recently for my “Veteran” movie review. I had several readers email me privately and blast me for putting so much emphasis on the crazy/scary YAI parts of the movie. Overall, I liked the movie, but I was genuinely shocked at a few parts. I started this blog so I could write about things like that–and not have to put my typically unpopular and contrarian thoughts up on a public forum where I would surely be roasted. Besides, someone else out there might be like me–and have different than mainstream feelings about a show. Maybe that reader might want to know if a movie or drama could have some parts that they need to skip, or at least be warned about.