FENG SHUI-ING A POLITICAL UPHEAVAL
The drama spans about 50 years from King Gong Min’s reign in the Goryeo Dynasty to the beginnings of the Joseon Dynasty. A group of Feng Shui advisors help to establish Lee Sung Gye as the first king of the Joseon Dynasty.
Normally I would have passed on this drama because of the length but I really love the actors in this cast. After seeing them together on Strong Heart and Running Man, I was keen to give this drama a try.
The drama begins with Mok Dong Ryoon (Choi Jae Woong), Ji Sang’s (Ji Sung) father, when he is sent on a quest by King Gong Min to seek out the Ja Mi Won Guk.
According to history, it’s a location that would allow the king to reign over the lands deemed by the heavens and the earth. The royal family of the Goryeo Dynasty was able to receive the power to rule over their lands from the Yuan Dynasty to create an independent state. King Gong Min was eager to find out where this place was in order to garner support from his subjects who were losing faith in him. Unfortunately for him, the Ja Mi Won Guk needed another 50 years in order for fate to be realized so Mok Dong Ryoon refuses to reveal its location. The drama skips through time to cover major historical events which helped keep the story moving along at a nice pace.
Chi Yeol – 하늘길 (Path to Heaven)
Like many epic sageuks, it usually starts off with a younger cast depicting the main characters in their youth. Lee David (playing the young Ji Sang) was especially compelling as his character bore most of the emotional weight early on in the story. The other young cast members also do a good job in setting the emotional tone of the drama at the start as well but Lee David definitely made a strong presence.
It was a little jarring to see the logic behind some of the casting choices. While most of the character had a younger counterpart, Ji Jin Hee plays Lee Sung Gye throughout. Ji Jin Hee does make up for it by distinguishing the young Lee Sung Gye as a brash, rogue warrior who grows into a careful and rational leader.
However, I couldn’t help comparing Lee In Im’s mistress, Soo Ryun Gae (Oh Hyun Kyung), with Young Ji (Lee Seung Yeon). Oh Hyun Kyung plays the part throughout the drama while Lee Jin plays the young Young Ji. Their characters’ ages should have been relatively similar but even more I couldn’t understand the reasoning behind the casting decision as Oh Hyun Kyung doesn’t play the character differently nor does she appear to age significantly. Oh sure, you could argue that because she’s a female shaman she doesn’t really age but I’m not buying that.
The reason is that while the drama is about people who believe in Feng Shui principles, the drama doesn’t push you to suspend your belief for the sake of the drama. It’s about how these principles shaped politics at the time and in some ways it’s like having a fortuneteller as your political adviser. Not that Ji Sang had some uncanny, supernatural ability, he just happened to be very observant picking up on slight differences in people’s expressions or the tone in their voice and hypothesizing what they must be up to. It’s no different from The Mentalist or Sherlock Holmes doing the same thing. Except with a Feng Shui twist. In that sense, his character seem relatable to our modern sensibilities.
While Ji Sang was the emotional force in the first act of the drama, it seemed that Lee Jung Geun (Song Chang Ui) sense of abandonment or betrayal drove most of the plot later on.
It was a nice buildup to see the two opposing forces at work because you got so much of their childhood backstory early on. While Jung Geun’s motives are twisted, you don’t rule him out just because he’s the antagonist. His ambition compensates for the love that he feels he lost.
Ban Ya (Lee Yoon Ji) is also blinded by her ambitions. Since her youth was plagued by one obstacle after another due to her class, she also feels that she’s due for something better. It’s hard not to feel for Banya because at every turn she’s disappointed, wronged and betrayed.
Out of all the main characters, Yoon Hae In (Kim So Yeon) remains the same. Ji Sang may flirt with walk that fine line between right and wrong (even if it might be for the greater good) but she is steadfast about being loyal and protecting the innocent.
There is a nice power play that continues throughout the drama.
The conflict even continues after Lee Sung Gye ascends to the throne which was an odd way to end the drama. I get that it wanted to have an open ending. The point was that despite a new royal blood line, the conflict now continues between Lee Sung Gye’s children as to who will succeed him.
However, it was anticlimactic and left me feeling unsettled after the continuous tension. Sure, Ji Sang departs from lee Sung Gye’s side to live a normal life with Hae In but there was this overwhelming feeling that the hope of founding a new era doesn’t really change things all that much.