A woman from Goryeo marries Emperor Huizong and becomes a powerful Empress of the Yuan Empire, Empress Ki. The series depicts her loves and political ambitions as she is torn between the two countries.
Also Known as:
Hwatu; 화투; Qi Empress; Battle of Flowers; Gi Hwang-hu
It took me 5 days of mind wrecking just to decide on an overall rating for Empress Ki. The eternal reviewer's doubt whether it is fairer to value a drama using the brain or the heart is maximized here: this is an epic tale where almost every single aspect is at the same time exceptionally good and glaringly bad. In trying to elaborate this, what follows may become very long, and for read morethis I apologize in advance.
First, the pace.
If you are preoccupied by the length, be assured the rhythm of the narration is so fast you'll come to the 51st ep. wishing you could have another 10. There isn't even one moment of boredom among the hundreds of little and big events that follow one another. By the end of each episode, I sat there wide awake wishing it wasn't already 4 a.m. and I could watch another. The downside of such a fast pace is that it never gives you respite. I wanted to linger, now and then to bask in the sweetness, or simply see these people being happy for a while, but it was not to be. Every time an issue is concluded the next is ready to shatter that glint of satisfaction it was so hard to finally obtain. The infamous last 10 episodes I've read many criticize, could have been the most poignant part of the drama if they hadn't been so incredibly rushed, to the point that events seem to make little sense. As a matter of fact they do make a lot of sense – with the glowering exception of the silly Maeback botch – but you have to think the entire journey over in order to see it.
Which leads me to the script and its characters.
This isn't a journey to begin in search of historical dependability, not in the details, at least. Little to nothing is known about the woman who became the Empress of Yuan before she entered the palace as a tribute from Goryeo, and there isn't much information about the single steps that were taken in order for her to sit on that throne. The writers have taken many liberties both in characterization as well as chronology, but I personally think they did a great job in always making those steps exciting and suspenseful and when you reach the end you will realize the plot is rounded up very well, with a couple of exceptions. This is why I think knowing a little about Empress Ki's true story in advance can actually enhance the watching and explain the choices some of the characters make.
For instance, we can assume Crown Prince Ta Hwan was exiled to Goryeo when he was only a teenager, which perhaps will make you judge his character with some indulgence. King Wang Yoo of Goryeo, on the other hand, is by all means the most fictionalized of all the main characters, so much so that knowing his true story is not only unnecessary but extremely counterproductive. My humble advice: stay well away from the true known facts about him if you want to enjoy the drama.
When history is taken into consideration, a lot of the twists invented by the writers acquire significance, since the opening scene tells us in advance where we are heading and curiosity is all on how they'll get there. History also explains why so many characters in this drama change side, go from good to bad, from bad to worse or are suspended somewhere in between. It obviously does not explain or justify the fact that everyone speaks Korean, but I am aware that having the huge cast speak different idioms would have rendered the watch almost impossible.
To this drama I own the realization that I possess a dark side too. There have been moments when I wanted to see blood and wished some characters would not only be killed, but killed with pain. It's such an alien feeling for me, it shocked me. It goes to the credit of writers and actors to make me hate with such an intensity, but I'm not sure I want to experience that kind of emotion again. Attachment and love to some characters, though, was equally intense and I swam in it with gusto. It's going to take a very long time before I can get these people out of my system. While it kept me highly entertained in the first half, in the second this drama almost broke my heart. It has very little to do with characters dying or living, and a lot with them losing their innocence. At some point I almost wished the leads had died on that exile island and remain forever what they used to be, before being scarred and marred by that terrible imperial palace, "a place with no blood, no tears and no mercy". to quote Lady Park.
When it comes to the much talked about love triangle, I must say I jumped on Seung Nyang & Ta Hwan's ship very early on and never wavered. I could not see or feel any chemistry between Ha Ji Won and Jo Jin Mo and while my brain kept on telling me these two characters had a lot in common and it was logical for them to fall for each other, my heart never agreed. In fact, my heart unyieldingly refused to accept it. Ha Ji Won and Ji Chang Wook, on the other hand… I could have watched them waltz one around the other for the whole 51 hours run without complaining even once. Some of the most poignant moments in the entire drama involve these two and they are the main reason why I enjoyed Empress Ki so much.
This said, the love triangle was not only central to the story, but dual purpose too. Because on final analysis the true seesaw is not between a woman and two men, but between a woman and two countries. The issue of eradication underlines the whole narration and should never be forgotten in order to understand Seung Nyang's choices. This is, after all, her story, how she's initially forced to abandon her country and her roots and gradually develops an attachment to her adoptive one. The more she distances herself from Goryeo, the more the story focuses on China and takes the viewer along.
Spectacular acting by Ha Ji Won - no news here, not for me, at least. I doubt any other actress would have pulled off such a role with that seeming ease; Ji Chang Wook - yes, I'm just a little obsessed with him right now, after seeing him in two very different dramas I loved and being impressed by his ability to convey such a varied range of emotions. His Emperor is so controversial I could write a review only on him, but let's go on; Baek Jin Hee – Danashili, my most hated and beloved villain was terrific too and Jin Yi Han, who possibly didn't deliver the best performance of his career, but whose charisma alone made him into an all time favourite, unforgettable Tal Tal. The rest of the cast did great too, although I was more impressed with the young actors than the older ones.
A word needs to be spent on the villains. There are a lot of them here, all evil for different reasons. A few of them are very consistent; others are such since the beginning, but the viewer is manipulated to the point of thinking otherwise; some suffer from inexplicable 180° turns. What they all have in common is the unyielding conviction they never did anything wrong, which for me is the saddest trait of this drama and even when they got what they deserved, I was left feeling… empty. Their evil logic is at times extremely lucid and makes the line between good and bad blur.
Music is the hardest aspect for me to rate and perfectly mirrors this drama fluctuating between good and bad. The instrumental pieces are hauntingly beautiful and extremely powerful. Listening to them with closed eyes might be the biggest spoiler of all as to how this story is going to end, which is an achievement in itself since an Ost exists to tell the story via music. The songs, on the other hand, were not only very annoying to my ears (personal taste) but also inserted too abruptly at times when not completely random for the scene they soundtracked. I ended up using good old maths: instrumental 12 + songs 5 = average 8,5.
To come to such a high overall score despite the glaring shortcomings of the script, I took the whole picture into consideration. A 51-hours long story that manages to keep the interest alive till the very end is commendable in itself and the fact that I already know I will definitely re-watch it in the future is proof of the high level of emotion it made me feel. Furthermore, this is not a book, and the visual means is used at its highest, with stunningly beautiful sets, costumes, colours and camera work. If you are able to suspend belief at times and focus on style and emotional impact, you'll no doubt enjoy Empress Ki as much as I did.
At first, I was skeptical about it. Wanna know why? IT'S A FRIGGIN' LENGHTY DRAMA! To watch a 51-episode historical drama requires full time and dedication to finish it. And yes, I indeed took the challenge. Thanks to those who convinced me and of course to the helpful reviews as well.
Empress Ki, I must say, is a very compelling, powerful and controversial historical drama. I am always deeply enthralled with every read morescene with every scene that leaves you in awe and keeps you wanting for more. I suggest you (future watchers) dramathon it and don't skip a single episode nor a single scene.
Story - I love how the story of EK started and ended. Not the usual save-all-the-main-characters-protagonists kind of plot. I love killings, and I think these killings were the most highlighted parts of the drama aside from the intriguing plot. If you know what I mean. I was overwhelmed by it to the extent that I didn't look for any flaw. And mind you, when I'm really enjoying a particular drama, I become LESS OBJECTIVE. (You might disagree with me on this, but it's actually true.) It only means that I am satisfied about it. There was just one thing though that I got confused about. So if ever you happen to read this one and have watched the drama already, my profile is waiting for your comment to ask me what was it about. But, nevertheless, it was an EXCEPTIONAL sageuk. One thing that I loved as well was the turn of events. They were really unpredictable. I like unpredictable things.
Acting/ Cast: Every actor in this drama did a stellar job in portraying each character. I have not seen any actor acting with an expressionless face nor overrated acting. Again, if you know what I mean. Ha Ji Won's acting here was outstanding. She has that MAJESTIC BEAUTY. Joo Jin Mo did great as well. Just like how much he was great in A Frozen Flower. I mean, his acting. LOL
Ji Chang Wook - My first time seeing him in a drama. He did a great job in acting esp in crying scenes. He was the best. Actually voted for him in the MDL 2014 poll for best actor.
Baek Jin Hee - portrayed the Tanasiri character very convincingly. I hold her dearly to my heart. *whispers* I have a girl-crush on her. Hihihi ^^
Jin Yi Han / Tal Tal is a bonus here.
Lee Mun Shik / Bang - ahjussi, I will never forget how well you played in Iljimae and also here in EK. For the comedic parts, I salute you.
Jun Gook Hwan / El Temur - I never hated him even though how ruthless he was.
I loved all the villains in this sageuk except for one. His name is Yom. Yom the Scum.
Music - OST overall is pretty brilliant. Gosh, the feels... I especially liked Xia's I Love You.
Given the chance that I'd want to watch this again, I WOULD.
And finally, watching EK is an adventure which will be with me forever. It felt surreal when I finished it. I can't even start a new drama after watching it. No drama can surpass the roller coaster ride of emotions I felt in this drama.
P.S: Don't get surprised by its long episodes, it's totally worth watching!
I've been a huge fan of HJW ever since Secret Garden, and after watching JCW in Healer, I wanted to watch Empress Ki. I've been planning to watch this drama for a long time, and yet something keeps me from even starting to watch it. Maybe because I'm afraid that the ending might disappoint me, because a friend of mine told me that she cried after watching EK. I have watched one 30 something episode Historical drama. The story was very nice, but the ending was very painful that I lost interest to watch another drama for a week or more. :( T.T And I'm afraid I would feel the same after watching EK (thoughts wander around; eyes loses focus; and the urge to just cry out of the blue).
Hehe thanks. Actually I happened to re-watch one of the episodes of You Who Came from The Star, and it made me change my mind. I realized that I have a big love for kdramas and that a single sad ending shouldn't stop me ;) I am planning to watch it but not for now because I'm a bit busy :) Thanks for encouraging me though. I'm a fan of HJW and JCW so I shouldn't miss this for my life :D
This drama is very sad. Sometimes you hate how it came to be like that in the end, but you realize that in the end nyang had no choice but to change who she was, in order to survive. The last scene at the end makes it totally worth of watching all the episodes, you won't regret it. 10/10
I felt somehow uneasy after it ended.. probably because it felt so empty at the end.. every one died except for Ki.. and her boy though it's easy to forget about him.. and the attack.. I wished for a better ending but it's not supposed to be all pink.. I hate that TalTal died TT_TT
I was hesistant whether to watch it or not because it has 51 episodes.. and I find it hard to finish some of the dramas eventhough if I really liked them in the beginning.. but I gave it a try.. and the outcome is: watched in one single breath... And after I finished it I felt like I was part of it.. The night after it ended I was so immersed in it that I was dreaming it and thinking about it all morning.. It left me feeling uneasy.. and I don't know why
The first 20 episodes were perfect to me. Excellent storyline, script, and actors. From then on the story didn't really flow due to several time jumps and the ending ruined the series. Nonetheless I still loved this series. I was a big shipper of the Empress Ki & the Emperor from the beginning to the very end. I definitely recommend this series to people who like historical drama.
There are a lot of people who compared this series to Queen Seon Duk, but I don't think it's that similar. I actually find this series more interesting than Queen Seon Duk.
every single actor and actress in this drama were AMAZING! The love between the three main characters was really beautiful.Gosh, I cried my eyes out in the last two episodes, and the last episode seemed empty without Wang Yu.They could have at least kept Tal Tal alive, it felt too lonely! The ending was too painful to watch :(
Ah the last 10 episodes were so heartbreaking and tragic :/ At first I felt like it should have ended before episode 40 but the last 10 episodes gave me so much feels that I can't not love it. Also I cannot believe how the fool Yom Byung Soo survived for 51 episodes. -_-
I found it funny how sometimes it was only Wang Yoo and his like four/five men confronting a group of soldiers yet when they're fighting there's randoms in the background fighting each other, lol. I know it's for visual purposes but yeah,
I was hesitant to start this drama for two reasons: the number of episodes and the fact that I never liked a historical kdrama enough to finish it. But I'm so glad I gave Empress Ki a chance because I loved it! Even though there are 51 episodes, I didn't find a single one of them boring. There were flaws but still really good. All feels.
I think Tal Tal was my favourite character. :P