1. I watched the first episode of the 36-ep Ji Sung sageuk The Great Seer
and the verdict is...hmmmmm. It's certainly better than The Horse Doctor, which I found an utter snoozefest, but I can't say I am particularly enthused. Here are my three problems with it, from smallest to biggest:
1. Like a lot of dramas that tend to spend a number of episodes on background, TGS does the tried-and-true trick of starting at some pivotal scene to get our attention and then moving episodes back. That can be a very effective device when you do it well, but here it fails to grab me. Basically, before the story jumps back 40 years or so, we have the future first ruler of the Joseon dynasty do the Korean equivalent of crossing the Rubicon. The end. Then flashback. Yawn. I don't know any of these people and don't care for them but that is unsurprising when you realize we got about two minutes with them, as opposed to something like Spring Waltz which gives us a whole episode before jumping back into flashbackland. But if the intro won't make you care about the characters, at least it should hook you through curiosity by doing something dramatic. Take Five Fingers - it opens with Ji Ho and In Ha squaring off in a piano match (OK) but then continues with Ji Ho setting his evil Mommy's house on fire and walking out as she pleads for help. Then flashback. Do I care about any of these characters at that point? Of course not. But I am hooked on finding out how the story got to that point. OTOH with the Great Seer, we get a dude on a mountain deciding to walk down with some CGI kicking in. Ummm, OK. Sure.
2. This one is not the drama's fault but a result of my own viewing habits. TGS has the bad luck of starting just as I am deeply obsessed by Faith
(which is currently in the running for my favorite drama of 2012), and TGS is sort of like Faith on Opposite Day. It is startling, when one is a Faith devotee, to see Goryo being presented as this evil regime that must be toppled by the noble Joseon or to see Gongmin...well, suffice it to say, he is nowhere near as awesome as Gongmin of Faith. Weak, is the word that comes to mind. Though I am pleased to notice that even TGS has Gongmin/Nogook as a total OTP and has Nogook be a total BAMF. When she drew a sword on the Yuan envoy to protect her husband:
I also know we are probably going to see Choi Young as an old man in this, and in a portrayal probably very far from the one in Faith, since this is a pro-Joseon story, and I don't think my brain could take it.
Oh, and on a shallow note - I love the costumes in Faith so much more. They have gorgeous embroidery.
3. I can be fine with AUs and slow starts, but I really find TGS a hard watch due to unmitigated and constant brutality and lack of likeability - we get lengthy torture scenes, lots of people getting stabbed slowly or fast, and not a single likeable character that I can root for. That does not make for a fun viewing experience. (To be fair, we also got a sex scene which would be incredibly explicit by normal kdrama standards and unheard of in a sageuk, but since I had nil investment in those people, I can't say it's much of a draw).
On the opposite side of the argument we get this:
Any man who can escape looking ridiculous in that get-up, and instead make my hormones go into a feeding frenzy, is quite something. Hooray for Ji Jin Hee!
Basically, I am not sure if I'll keep up with it or not. It might get better once Ji Sung appears. I guess I'll wait and see how much I enjoy I Miss You
, Arang's replacement - that would determine how crowded my roster gets.