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
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!
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.
They both have: smart female protagonists who dress up as men in the beginning of the story; intricate planning and court intrigue as they battle their way to the top; multiple love interests; etc.
Empress Ki is a much better fighter than Queen Seon Duk as an individual, but Seon Duk was up against a more intelligent foe and had some brilliant planning.
I f you are ready to watch 50+ episodes of historical angsty drama..then don't miss out on Empress Ki. This is another drama that can get you completely addicted..not to mention great acting by Ha Ji Won and Ji Chan Wook..
I'll admit to watching this for Ji Chang Wook, & it's been on my PTW list for ages. I was hesitant to commit to a lengthy Sageuk bc they tend to get repetitive & there's only so many eps of evil consorts and plots I can take b4 I just drop it out of frustration. But this masterpiece ... I have no words.This broke my heart in the best way possible! Empress Ki had such an independent female lead that could not only take care of herself but is ready and willing to go on the attack against her enemies. It was wonderful. Not to mention the OTP I was rooting for end up together (no spoilers). That always helps :-) Empress Ki has ruined me for all other female leads to come.Now, I find it hard to like watch those helpless female leads that just allow things to happen to them with no fight. What the heck am I supposed to watch next?! The struggle is real :'-(
Just finished watching episode 3. I like this drama I wish I could watch it when it was airing :( it's my first time to see Chang Wook having a role that is not related to being undercover.. pretty interesting XD
Maybe I'm the only one, but after Tanashiri's death I don't like this drama that much as I did it before. Tal Tal slowly became my favorite character, he is so smart, he is the only reason I'm interested until the end.
Same! Even if it's not the case I feel that they've changed the production team or something after Tanashiri's death as the whole atmosphere around this drama have completely changed. Especially after the time gape, all the characters started to slowly loose their appeal and the storyline became really really bad. As much as the first part of this drama is amazing to the point of being my favorite drama, as much the last few episodes were the biggest desappointment I've seen in dramaland (sorry for my bad english)
Totally agree with you! After the time gape I felt like I don't watch the same drama anymore, I lost interest and just wanted to finish it quickly. I loved the first part too, so I gave 8 points thanks to the first 38 eps.
Must've been very weird for the kind, caring Ji CHang Wook to act some scenes since his character basically tried to rape her like 4 times and finally did in fact rape her. o.O I'm glad this is a drama and not a movie, so no details are shown luckily.
I just finished this show and I can't get over it! IT IS SO GOOD! But sad ending. I'm glad that nyang told the emperor she loved him though. Personally I wanted them to be together and in my opinion she grew to love him. In the end he was the one she chose and loved the most.(well besides her son)
Nyang truly loved Togon/ Ta-hwan more than anyone else even right from the start of the series. Already right from the time when she was his bodyguard. And maybe even before that when he (was making her laugh loudly) as a fake/deserter soldier and when he was sleeping childishly in the box while full out war was going on. Her happy facial expressions back then and how truly amused she was by him tells everything about her feelings for him. It's difficult to understand why Nyang would like/ love so much someone as weak and childish as Togon. But she did love him nevertheless, way more than any other man in the whole series. Nyang cared a whole lot for Wang Yu as a person, her amazing king and true friend. And he might even have been her first boy crush etc. But she never loved Wang Yu romantically well no where close to how she really loved Ta-hwan/ Togon.
Actions and saying go hand in hand and if she really cared about Wang Yu. She would never have hesitated that much when he asked her to marry him. Also she would never have had thoughts and flashbacks about the emperor. And never had to smack her own head just to try stop herself from thinking about the emperor. And she wouldn't haven't been so uncomfortable when Wang Yu went to her room for some sex. It's understandable why she refused the emperor Togon in the beginning since he killed her dad and all. But what did Wang Yu do for her to be so awkward towards him? Absolutly nothing! She was just not that into him. Most of her interactions with Wang Yu was mostly awkwardly forced by him. Even their love making scene, the proposal and all the other promises between them were awkwardly forced by him. They were all one sided from his part way more than hers. Since Nyang had tremendous respect for Wang Yu, she fell for his constant pressure towards her and she might also have thought he was her only choice left. Simply because she felt anger and probably guilt (for still loving the emperor) specially since Togon/ Ta-hwans words lead to the injust execution of her beloved father. So if that wouldn't have happened Wang Yu would never gotten his chance with her.
And therefore Wang Yu was also one of the ppl that came between Nyang and Ta-hwan love. She would never have told Wang Yu to forget about her and left him that easily if she really loved him even a little bit. She was only sad concerning Wang Yu because of how much he had done for her and how she couldn't love him back the way he wanted. That's why she was apologizing to him and telling him it was all her fault. Even el Temurs crazy daughter loved Wang Yu more than Nyang. As she was constantly trowing herself at him and thinking about him so much. But Nyang never once in all those years regretted leaving Wang Yu. And Nyang didn't worry the least about not being able to have him. Crazy el Temurs daughter was fantasizing more about Wang Yu than Nyang. And that says a whole lot about how little she cared romantically for Wang Yu. Even Wang Yu knew that Nyang loved the emperor and that's why he never once tried to get her back. Ta-hwan/ Togon was her first choice even when he had absolutely nothing. And he was only making her empty promises on the beach (in the 4th episode). Wang Yu was King of Goreyo and could give her everything but she loved Togon/ Ta-hwan. And that's why she rode the horse with him, she had already choosen Ta-hwan right there and then, but since she didn't want to hurt Wang Yu's feelings by speaking frankly. Therefore she made up a lie/ story to Wang Yu about it being easier that way. Ta-hwan was strutting proudly after that, and Wang Yu was so jealous because all 3 knew deep down inside that Ta-hwan was her nr. 1 choice. But because of all the bad circumstances (her dads death and so on) it all went down hill.
In later episodes when empress Ki and the emperor where arguing and then sleeping together. She explains that her biggest fear was him being done with her. She was always on guard because she was afraid of being betrayed by him again and feared she wouldn't been able to handle it. She was probably emotionally scarred because growing up as an "orphan". Also the terrible thing that happened to her father because of the emperors words. Even if the emperor didn't know commander Ki was her father but it was still a huge betrayal against Nyang. That's why she tried to lie over and over again. Both to herself and to the emperor that she neither loved him or cared about him. But she could only keep it up for so long before fate brought them back to each other. After she forgave him for her dads death she was free to let her heart love him again. When he saved her during the hunt and he proved she could trust him more she slept with him willingly. In the end of the series empress Ki wanted to tell the emperor the secret about her hidden emotions and how much she truly loved him. But he died before she got the chance to tell him everything. That's without doubt the saddest part of the ending. But he probably knew deep down inside just how much she really loved him. Even if she never got the chance to tell him everything. And even if a lot of ppl tried to make him doubt her true love for him. He was always afraid to lose Nyang but he probably never really doubted her true love for him. Still the emperor probably would have been thrilled to hear her actual words so too bad for him.
I'm sure that I understand this story fairly well and to assume that I have a learning disability? That's very rude of you to say that. I'm sure that people who have learning disabilities can read just fine. I don't spend my entire time on the internet just to have arguments. Reading that long comment wastes a lot of my time.
Well I was just wondering and trying to understand. Why you or anyone for that matter would ever read something half-ass? And then still wanna whole-heartedly pose questions and try to discuss the full subject. It just doesn't make any sense to me at all and so I was just asking u what that reason could be? I never said there's something wrong with having a learning/ reading disability. So please don't ever try to accuse me of "being rude"! Truthfully if u can't be bothered to read anything than just stay consistent and don't even bother to comment on it either. Honestly that's just more common sense.
I never accused you of anything.... Okay I'm going to stop because this is going to keep going and I don't want to waste my stupid time on here arguing with you. Don't think that I agree with what your saying because I don't. I still have a lot more to say but I'm not going to say it. This is stupid.
Yeah you did accuse me of "being rude" just for asking you legit question if you might have a reading disability. Since most ppl can read a (book sized) page in less than 5 minutes time. Anyhow ur a difficult, contradicting and confusing person to understand and so I'm thankful u decided not to continue this discussion.
I'm surprised that many people don't seem to understand the real relationship between 3 main characters. That Nyang in fact loved one man more than the other one. And why she would have chosen him every single time if it wasen't for the unfortunate circumstances that prevented it in the beginning. I don't understand why some people think that she loved them both the same amount etc. Since not many people can have more than 1 top person in their heart. And want that person (the most) as life partner etc. I can explain in my spoiler comment above only man Nyang truly loved the most.
Well I don't really know of that actor and Empress Ki was the very first show I've ever seen him in. And I propably never seen none of all the other memorable actors and actresses before watching Empress Ki. Except for only Batulla (don't really know the actress real name) but I've seen her once b4 in drama series "Oh my Venus". But even If I knew previously any or even all of the other ones. I would still have tried to judge only the shows characters portrayals. And not the actual actors and or their previous works and what not. And I absolutly don't think about how "popular" they may or may not be among some other people. I usually don't prefer mainstream if there's anything better and more unique/ special thing out there.
I honestly truly wanted to like king of Goreyo more than the emperor of Yuan, but Wang Yu was way too much of a jerk towards Nyang. At first I thought he was more stable minded, also ruggishly handsome and so much more manly than the fearful, weak and powerless emperor. But I could no longer root for him when he started to pressure a pityful, doubtful, brokenhearted and unsure woman into a somewhat unwanted engagement and pregnancy.
I just finished watching this and I have to say that the ending wasn't what I expected. There was so much drama and action. But I have to say that it was totally worth watching! And the all the actors and actresses were amazing!