Hwang Jin Yi (Episodes 1-24)
I really hate to say this since I had such high expectations for this drama... but I really didn't like it that much. At least, not compared to other dramas I've seen from this genre. Don't get me wrong--the acting, setting, costumes, choreography--it was all top notch! But in the end, it was the story that let me down the most. And for something like this that tries to invest so much... the story should be the strongest.
Now, for those of you who have heard amazing, glowing reviews for this drama... here me out first before you start hurling things at your screen.
First, I must start out by saying that I LOVE period dramas, and Ha Ji Won (Damo and Duelist) is actually one of my favorite actresses. Yet, when I try to compare Hwang Jin Yi with other dramas I've seen that are set around the same time-period, it just pales in comparison. I mean, Dae Jang Geum had 54 episodes, but it had me hooked from beginning to end! Damo was the same--though depressing, it had a strong story, cast, costumes, settings, fight scenes, etc. It lacked nothing. However, Hwang Jin Yi seemed like another attempt to duplicate the success and feelings that those dramas evoked... only it never quite succeeded.
One of the main problems I had with the story, was that towards the end, the main point of the drama appeared to get blurred, or maybe just forgotten. While I was watching it, love and romance seemed to be the main motivation for Jin Yi... she was driven by it, inspired by it, and was willing to die for it. And though she never truly stopped loving her art, to me, it always seemed to come second in her life.
Towards the end, when she finally manages to successfully run away with the Minister... that, I think, is when the story begins getting itself tangled up. All of the scenes that show their life far away from the palace and the Gyobang, show them happy, content, and in love... even if they occasionally have regrets about the lives they left behind, they genuinely appear happy just being together, and feel that the sacrifices they made were well worth it. The fact that she's pregnant and plans to surprise him with the news soon, only seems to reinforce that fact.
And then they get caught and dragged back to the palace--and Jin Yi appears to change suddenly, without warning. Given the chance to run away with him again (with the king's blessing, no less!) she decides to go back to the Gyobang, and live out her life as a courtesan. Even though she's pregnant, and has constantly fought against this very thing--she decides to throw it all away. Supposedly it's for his sake... but I don't know if I believe that, or truly agree with it. First of all, who is she to make that kind of decision for him? He knows what he's given up--he was with her for 3 years after all--so why does she suddenly think she knows what's best for him? Does she truly think he'd just let her walk away? Especially after finding out she's pregnant?
That just seemed very selfish to me... and though, not exactly out of character, it was frustrating, stupid, and apparently a very convenient plot devise to get her back where the writers wanted her. After her miscarriage, the writers seem to forget all about her "husband" and tried sweeping the whole incident under the rug. I mean, one minute she's willing to die for him--the next, she's abandoning him and their love to pursue her art. Blah, whatever!
Love seems to be the main thing motivating her throughout the entire series--to watch her throw it away suddenly without any real, adequate reason, just doesn't make much sense to me. Especially when he's willing to lower himself so that she can have both... it's as if he's the only one truly invested in their relationship.
A majority of the drama is devoted to building up the "rivalry" between Bu-Young and Jin-Yi... and yet, when their show-down finally comes, I couldn't help but feel disappointed by it all. I thought it came to late, and the outcome left me annoyed and angry. When it was over, I couldn't help but think of it as another frustrating mistake by the writers. Jin Yi was just some puppet they used in order to force the characters around her to evolve and change.
After everything she sacrificed to get to that point, she basically ends up back at the beginning. I didn't sit there for over 24 hours, just to watch the main character lose everyone and everything she cares about... just to dance happily in the marketplace.
Overall, I felt it could have been much better, and the story (if not closer to the actual historical character she's supposedly based on) then at least something less muddled, and more coherent. Towards the end, I just couldn't shake the feeling that it was wrong somehow-- like, something else was supposed to happen, but they changed it at the last minute for no discernible reason. THAT'S what I walked away thinking after watching this drama...
It was good. But there are MANY other dramas I'd definitely recommend watching before this one.
Also, for a more balanced review, definitely read xinisterlayer's comment below!