Home > TV and anime > Dong Yi — a review of episodes 30 to 36

Dong Yi — a review of episodes 30 to 36

This is a spoiler-rich discussion of what happens in these episodes so do not read this post if you want the experience of watching the serial unfold onscreen. Further, these episode numbers are based on the terrestrial broadcasts I have seen and not on downloaded or DVD episodes. It’s possible that these numbers do not match your experience.

In Dong Yi, a lot can happen in 120 days. A new Queen can be installed and have a chance to replant an ex-Queen’s garden. A King (Ji Jin Hee) can mourn a missing smiling face. Seo Yong-Gi (Jeong Jin-Yeon), the Chief of Police, can be dismissed from his post by the King and disappear into the countryside with a trusted friend Cha Jeon-Soo (Bae Su-Bin). The family of the new Queen and some of their loyal supporters can find new wealth and status, moving up in the housing market. . . So what’s really happening?

Queen Jang (Lee So-Yeon) is haunted by dreams of Choi Dong Yi (Han Hyo Joo), fearing that she will suddenly reappear and reveal all to the King. She and her brother, Jang Hee-Jae (Kim Yoo Suk), are also concerned that the Chinese have not yet acknowledged the “boy” as the heir. While the passage of time is wearing away resistance among the courtiers, this failure from the neighbours is disconcerting. Otherwise, all the plotting appears to have paid off. Except, out in the countryside, Seo Yong-Gi and Cha Jeon-Soo are turning over every stone in their secret search for Dong Yi. Yes, the dismissal was a ruse. This ex-Chief of Police is carrying a royal seal requiring instant obedience. Not surprisingly, this “secret” mission is soon reported back to the capital.

King Sukjong insists Dong Yi looks directly at him

As to Dong Yi herself, it now appears she was found unconscious by a merchant who has nursed her back to health. She was unconscious for two months but is now regaining her strength. He has already found her to be an astute businesswoman, prepared at her own initiative to take control over much of the day-to-day trading. He has been lying to her, of course. He sees profit in a wife and someone to run the business for him. None of the messages she wrote to the capital have been delivered.

Now the searchers are on the trail. They have literally been turning over the stones left by merchants to give each other messages. They have found word of a Dong Yi in a distant province. By one of these coincidences favoured by scriptwriters, Jang Hee-Jae is also going there to meet with a Chinese delegation. Now, after delivering the good news to the King, everyone is converging on the right point on the map. Not surprisingly, by this time Dong Yi has recruited a potential ally. A young nobleman turned academic in exile, Shim Woon Taek (Kim Dong-Yoon) has appeared as a lodger in the merchant’s house.

Bae Su-Bin as Cha Jeon-Soo riding to the rescue again

As an aside, I find myself growing slightly annoyed by the instant flashback technique employed in this series. I’m quite happy for this to be employed every now and again to remind us what happened in previous episodes. But it’s a bit wearing to have a scene start, then we cut to “some time later” and have flashbacks to discover what was said in the first scene or to hear the same lines instantly repeated. This is bad continuity, redundant padding, and distracting. And that dream sequence. What where they thinking? This is so Dallas when Hollywood is having a bad day. Korean directors should have more style.

So now we know Jang Hee-Jae is prepared to give military secrets to persuade the Chinese to formally endorse the “boy” as legitimate heir. He will stop at nothing to see his faction win even though this may mean prejudicing the defence of the realm. Dong Yi is fortuitously reunited with Sul-Hee (Kim Hye-Jin) from her past, now acting as a courtesan in this border region. It seems she has fallen among friends but, because her new male confederate’s name is known to Jang Hee-Jae, the letter he tries to send to the capital is intercepted and she’s once again captured by her enemy. This is cranking up the melodrama, but it remains quite exciting. I’m reminded of early Batman episodes where super-villains come up with ever more elaborate plans to kill the caped crusader rather than just shooting him in the head. A rational Jang Hee-Jae would immediately insist on having his nemesis killed in front of him with the body cut into pieces and buried in distant parts of the land so she can never be resurrected. But the exigencies of the plot require her to survive so, with a little help from her friends, she’s free again and heading off in the direction of the capital to tell all. Fortunately, thanks to the ingenuity of our academic, the Chinese delegation leaves with the wrong documents. Not unnaturally, Dong Yi is carrying the military secrets safely with her.

Kim Hye-Jin as Sul Hee — a courtesan with a heart of gold

While the Police Chief and her brother search for her in the provinces, Dong Yi and Sul-Hee make it back to the capital only to find it in lock-down mode. The Jangs have put every police officer and soldier under their command on the look-out for Dong-Yi — it’s wonderful just how many copies of an artist’s impression of our heroine can be cranked out and distributed only among the “loyal” supporters. Cross-dressing as a boy, she sneaks into the city by the skin of her teeth and, as a chambermaid, gets to within sight of the King before being caught by disinterested guards and thrown out of the Palace. Now she needs a Plan B.

Back in the palace, desperate times call for desperate measures, so Lady Jang takes poison, and all her supporters allege yet another conspiracy from the deposed Queen. Although the plotting remains quite interesting, I find the melodrama of whether Dong Yi will be caught before she gets to the King with all the evidence is a little wearing. When you know how many other episodes there are to come, I wish the scriptwriters would make faster progress to reunite the lovers. As it is, she sits outside the walls playing her two-stringed fiddle with a tear in her eye, while he moons about inside the Palace dreaming he still has the chance of seeing her again.

Lee So-Yeon as Lady Jang relaxing into a happy moment

In all this, Lady Jang is actually the most interesting figure. Having been trapped into playing the role of a villain, she displays a simple determination to succeed. She’s risen from poor circumstances to the position of Queen and she’s not going to give up the position without a fight. Ironically, she feels the King has betrayed her. During all this, he has smiled, allowed her to become Queen and made a fuss of their son. But he has had the Chief of Police out in the countryside secretly searching for Dong Yi. She takes poison not caring whether she lives or dies. Either way, the ex-Queen can be blamed. When she lives, the relief that the King showed signs of worry is short-lived. It seems the King continues to play a double game as the search for Dong Yi focusses on the capital.

For more general discussions of the social and political context for the serial, see:
Dong Yi — the politics

Dong Yi — superstition and magic

Dong Yi — the minor characters

Dong Yi — final thoughts

Click here for the reviews of the narrative itself:

Dong Yi — the first 22 episodes;

Dong Yi — a review of episodes 23 to 29;

Dong Yi — a review of episodes 30 to 36;

Dong Yi — a review of episodes 37 to 41;

Dong Yi — a review of episodes 42 to 47;

Dong Yi — a review of episodes 48 to 50;

Dong Yi — a review of episodes 51 to 54;

Dong Yi — a review of episodes 55 to 63;

Dong Yi — a review of episodes 64 to 69;

Dong Yi — a review of episodes 70 to the end.

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