Despite being one of the most anticipated and hyped-up dramas of the year and in spite of the fact that it marked the comeback of acting-giants, Saimdang ended up being rather disappointing and underwhelming failing to live up to expectations according to the majority of viewers. While I can’t completely argue against any of it and having said all that, I can’t deny that Saimdang turned out to be quite special for me against all odds. Story Having had studied Art History in Uni and with it being my favourite module, you can understand my initial excitement when I realized this is a drama about art history but in Korea! Only 2 of my biggest interests intertwine like that. I wouldn’t miss the chance to savour this rare opportunity! Saimdang is a wonderful drama but not without flaws. It takes place simultaneously in the past and the present, depicting the past and present lives of the characters. Starting in the present it centers on a woman who tries to prove that a painting is or is not authentic facing serious enemies in this endeavor of hers. Simultaneously and very flexibly the story travels to the past as we get to see the whole story behind the painting in question and how this is connected to our main flawless female character Saimdang and her life. I can totally understand why viewers found this boring and disappointing. Most of the drama depicts Saimdang’s life but focuses a lot on events rather than romance, politics or other juicy things saeguks are known for. First half of the drama focuses on how Saimdang grew to become a memorable and powerful figure of her time creating and sustaining her own business. There are classic villains who try to destroy her but everything is more connected the job development rather than her personal life. The second half was a bit rushed because of the trimming of 2 episodes and the re-editing was very obvious to the point it reduced the drama’s quality. Still, it stays in the same lane of events. I read comments from Korean netizens expressing their disappointment in the drama’s direction. More specifically, they disliked the fact that there wasn’t much of Saimdang’s drawing and painting showed. I cannot argue with that. Simultaneously, I can safely say the story line that took place in the present was rather disappointing and ill-developed. I can totally understand their idea behind it but they spent too much time perfecting the past story –which ended up being, understandably, a tad boring for some people- that the present one just rounded up being a constant back and forth. All that being said, I cannot quite put my finger on it but this drama just charmed me to the point I was completely unfazed by all the -otherwise- stern drawbacks. I thoroughly enjoyed the backstory. Some of it a bit clichéd – classic evil 2nd female lead who is just too self-centered for her own good- but all of it really interesting and really well-written as far as I’m concerned. Against all odds, I loved the business part of the story, it was inspirational seeing a woman overcome so many pitfalls and achieve greatness! One of the main parts that I especially appreciated was the female empowerment of the drama. Saimdang on her own is such an incredible character, empowering and just inspirational. Even if we barely got to see her drawing, the passion for it was well-depicted and the characterization was just brilliantly presented! Moreover, I enjoyed several parts of the past story illustrated like the education for non-wealthy citizens, or how women were looked down upon but were undeterred by it. Plotlines that involve weak and easily manipulated kings are nothing new and play significant roles here as well. Continuing to my favourite part, the romance. I'm not the biggest romance fan, I tend to rather cringe but here… here it was special! I can understand why some people would find the romance here disappointing. There is no skinship at all; barely any intimacy while everything is kept on a platonic level. Rather frustrating. However, there is no need for obvious affection when you have Song Seung Heon’s eyes just depicting everything better than a gesture ever could. My heart ached in every scene he looked at Saimdang and I was completely blown away by their tragic and heartbreaking love story. Strongest part of the drama for me, but you have to be into doomed couples to like this. The drama did have some boring parts, but I enjoyed it throughout. I can’t say I felt fulfilled by it, rather depressed especially during the last 5 episodes, but it just felt special in ways I can’t put into words. Acting Overall exquisite. Lee Young Ae. Acting giant and I feel a bit intimidated to actually judge her acting. She was amazing, overflowing with charm and experience; she was a blast to watch on screen. I thoroughly hope it won’t take her another decade to comeback. Song Seung Heon was luscious in ways I can’t describe. I usually complain about kdramas lacking actual manly characters since all those flower boys have taken the industry by storm. He brought exactly what I wanted to see. Manliness, masculinity all spiced up with actual emotions and sentiments. His character just elicited unlimited emotions out of me, his acting was out-of-thing-world good and he had amazing chemistry with Lee Young Ae. Other than them, the full casting was amazing and most of it quite memorable, namely Oh Yoon Ah as the evil 2nd female lead, Choi Jong Hwan, Yang Se Jong and the rest really made the drama shine. Recommend Considering most of the reaction I saw was rather negative or indifferent I wouldn’t openly recommend this to everyone. Saeguk fans would probably like it and people interested in tragic and unfulfilled love.
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