Warrior Baek Dong Soo or Musa Baek Dong Soo (2011) episodes 6 to 10
Those of who read these reviews of sageuk Korean drama will know my attention span is short and although the opening was not unpromising as we ran through the backstory, the newly adult bunch are proving to be boring. We need to start with the political rationale for all this toing-and-froing. It seems to be driven by two quite different issues. Externally, the Qing Empire seems worried the Koreans will invade at some time in the future. According to the backstory, an earlier King did a comprehensive geographical survey and identified the most effective route for an army to attack and overwhelm Chinese defences. Let’s put to one side the problems of reliability in military maps. The actual lay of the land does not change that much, even with some deforestation through the development of agriculture. However, the disposition of troops and the construction of walls round defensible sites, the placement of outposts to monitor for movements of troops. . . are all subject to change. The idea the Qing Empire would be alarmed by the prospect of Crown Prince Sado (Oh Man-Seok) launching an invasion seems excessively paranoid. Then we come to the Norons. I really can’t see why they have taken such a dislike to Sado. Although he might not directly favour the Noron faction, he’s clearly pro-Korea and, as a good patriot, should be popular. It’s all rather baffling as to why everyone should be plotting to bring him down. That said, Hong Dae-Joo (Lee Won-Jong) is great fun as the evil guy even if his motivation is, for now, obscure.
Then we come to the status of Hoksa Chorong. This is a guild of assassins that, in theory, sells its services to the highest bidder although we only see its interaction with the Noron faction. Allowing for differences in skill level, it’s run by Chun (Choi Min-Su), a morose drunk, Ji (Yun Ji-Min), his “wife”, and In (Park Cheol-Min), a looney coward who has been losing body parts and an alarming number of supposedly highly trained assassins in his various expeditions. There’s a remarkable attrition rate in the black masked brigade of killers. Whenever they come up against anyone who can actually fight, they fall like flies. It’s inconceivable this organisation could actually survive. Where would all these incompetent people come from to keep filling the ranks of the masked? This is not to deny the skills of the drunk and his “wife”. They are in the elite of Korea. But they seem to have their own agenda and bend the instructions to suit themselves. Making all this even more murky, Ji seems to have had a child thanks to Kim Kwang-Taek (Jeon Kwang-Leol). The daughter, Hwang Jin-Joo (Yoon So-Yi) has been brought up as the natural child of Hwang Jin-Gi (Sung Ji-Ru), a bandit and apparent traitor. The fact of a birth is known by both Chun and Ji but, so far, Kim Kwang-Taek does not seem aware of a daughter’s existence (it’s a secret who the father is, of course). With this love triangle, you see why Chun is a bit depressed and prefers to drink himself to sleep.
However, central in this drama are Baek Dong-Soo (Ji Chang-Wook) and Yeo Woon (Yoo Seung-Ho). The annoyingly cocky titular character is so full of himself without the discipline to train and genuinely improve his skills. He’s also flooded with testosterone and lacks all normal social skills. He therefore lusts mightily after Yoo Ji-Sun (Shin Hyun-Bin) but has the sex appeal of a daft puppy. However, he’s unfailingly loyal to Yeo Woon, being prepared to lose his arm to defend him. Yeo Woon, however, is the mole planted by Hoksa Chorong. He’s the only one to come out of their training school to have any skills — that’s why he never has to wear one of the black masks which always means instant decapitation or disembowelling. This pair epitomise the tension between warriors and assassins, and mirror the mutual respect between Chun and Kim Kwang-Taek. Indeed, Yeo Woon goes on to save Baek’s arm which would otherwise have been removed after a snake bite. They could not be more different. Baek is a braggard but slowly catching up to Yeo Woon in skills. Yeo Woon is taciturn but increasingly coming to terms with his own demons — he now acknowledges that he killed his own father, a fact he had been trying to forget.
The story is moving with the pace of a snail. Our heroes have completed their early training and, to celebrate their arrival in the palace and cement their place in the affections of all, beat up the sons of the nobility and upper class on the training ground. As a reward they are sent out into the wilds to guard a small section of the wall with Qing. Sado finally gets to see the map tattooed on Yoo Ji-Sun‘s back and has it copied. Now all he has to do is get rid of the tattoo without killing her. We then have an attempt to kill our heroes by staging a beacon lighting test immediately after heavy rain. Failure to complete the lighting sequence of beacons means instant execution. This challenge encourages the two young men to co-operate to get the job done. It’s all rather petty as more people find out about the map and plan to kill off the Crown Prince. It’s not that the plot is lacking invention or that the acting is deficient. It’s just milking every moment instead of getting on with things. Unless the pace picks up, I’m going to lose interest.
For reviews of the other episodes, see:
Warrior Baek Dong Soo or Musa Baek Dong Soo (2011) episodes 1 to 5
Warrior Baek Dong Soo or Musa Baek Dong Soo (2011) episodes 11 to 15
Warrior Baek Dong Soo or Musa Baek Dong Soo (2011) episodes 16 to 20
Warrior Baek Dong Soo or Musa Baek Dong Soo (2011) episodes 21 to 25
Warrior Baek Dong Soo or Musa Baek Dong Soo (2011) episodes 26 to end