There are a few topics one doesn't talk about at social gatherings. One of them is language. I myself have tried a few times but, in front of a pizza and coke, people are ready to talk about almost everything except their means of expression. Language is used, not pondered upon, unless one wants to be labelled the smart aleck of the party and be thrown out with the half-eaten pizza. Why? Because our mother tongue is perceived as a given, a common possession whose technicalities are learnt and then put into practice by everyone, well or not so well. We live in a society where illiteracy is almost unheard-of and have therefore forgotten how huge a power is held by simple education. This is exactly what Tree With Deep Roots is about: the power of knowledge. So this drama is, first and foremost, very brave: it takes a topic generally considered yawn inducing - and conceited - and builds upon it one of the cleverest, suspenseful plot I've had the fortune to watch. Because the topic intrigued me, I approached this drama expecting to be intellectually swept away. What I wasn't prepared for, was to have my feelings deeply involved too. This drama is clever, yes, but it's emotionally intense and moving too. Truth be told, in the beginning I was so confused by the trillion characters, names all sounding the same and genealogy tree that for a moment I thought I had suddenly become an idiot. Should you happen to experience the same, please don't despair: this is like a pile of jigsaw puzzle tiles thrown at you all at once that you start putting together. Once you have glimpsed the main picture, the rest follows on its own. I haven't found a single dull moment in the 24 episodes. I enjoyed the sometimes long political dialogues and didn't want to miss a word. I enjoyed the steadfast growth of each character and the relationship between them all, the marvelous setting, the wuxia-like sword fights. Mostly, I enjoyed the portrayal of a great King, which naturally leads me to the acting. Among the brilliant performances of all, Han Seok Kyu shines his own light. I was sad to see Song Jong Ki go, as he delivers a great act of a young and fearful king who grows a backbone, but it's his older version I came to love, admire and enjoy the most. Second in my personal enjoyment chart is, hear hear, So Yi/Dam. By general consensus, a female character is considered strong when she opposes the rules, or when she can kick and fight. So Yi's strength, however, is in the brain, which she uses to comply with the rules, instead of opposing them. Shin Se Kyung embodies intelligence and courage in a very calm and effective way. Loved her to bits. Our third lead is the bridge between the passionate vision of a King and the idealism of the woman he loves. His common sense and simple views on life are a paramount addition to the dynamic and while he undergoes a major change throughout the drama, he stays consistent to his nature till the very end. A character/actors review would be incomplete without the villains. There are moments when you may question who the villains really are. Their motives aren't wrong in the grand scheme of things, but idealism alone won't win a war and their methods go from arguable to unacceptable, mixed as they are with political greed, blind loyalty or personal grudge. Kudos to all the actors, though, for making me love to hate them. I don't think the music is the strong trait of this drama. It has a few instrumental pieces and a couple of songs which are neither a disturbance nor a feeling magnifier. I must admit, however, that a couple of pieces are quite haunting, as I found myself humming a tone or two while doing totally unrelated things. Whether this is because they were used too often or because they were good, I don't know. I've long debated about the re-watch value. I don't see myself sitting through the whole drama again in the near future, mostly because a well crafted thriller lingers in the memory much longer than a simpler plot. Ironically, its high quality makes this into a one-time experience. Which doesn't mean I won't go back to it when a considerable time has lapsed. It's an intense journey I recommend to everyone who's ready to invest a good dose of concentration in a drama.
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