So we are a third of the way through Deep Rooted Tree now. First, I think it’s interesting that we have an anti-hero in Kang Chae Yoon. He’s not the perfect hero – he’s supposed to be protecting the king but so far he has been looking for opportunities to murder him! This desire was very intense at the beginning of the drama but it seems to be taking a back seat now as he focuses on solving the crimes.
I like that Chae Yoon is complex and has so many different sides to his personality. He’s not brilliantly clever, but he’s certainly street smart and knows how to protect himself by acting the fool. He’s cold and focused when he plans his revenge against the king, but sensitive about the plight of the lower classes and hasn’t forgotten life as a servant. When it comes to solving crime he’s like a dog with a bone, he won’t let go no matter how hard others try to pull the bone away. But he likes to play too and there’s lots of humour in this drama despite the sinister reason for Chae Yoon being in the palace not to mention the fact that there are lots of murders taking place too.
Favourite Chae Yoon scenes so far
My favourite scene with Chae Yoon so far is when he gets ‘kidnapped’ and tied up by Song Sam Moon and it’s so obvious that he could so easily overpower Song Sam Moon at any time. But he cries out “please don’t hurt me” or something like that in a high pitched voice as though he’s really worried. Poor Song Sam Moon’s face when he calmly throws away the ties – ha ha.
I also like the scene when he fights with the assassin and cuts his mask in half. I’ve never been into watching dramas with sword fighting and baddies in masks. It’s always made me think of comic books and that put me off. And the ability to fly through the air always seemed too far-fetched. BUT I’m actually really enjoying the chul sang sul moments and when Chae Yoon starts to run to take off after the assassin I want to believe that he can do it – it would be great to be able to leap/fly like that. With the right breathing and use of ki surely it’s possible??
The assassin says at first that he has no interest in Chae Yoon. But when he sees that Chae Yoon can do chul sang sul too, he demands to know who he is. “So you are interested NOW, are you?” Chae Yoon asks. Ha ha. And the assassin thought he was the only one who could chul sang sul. (Mind you, so did Chae Yoon!)
King Sejong doesn’t have the perfect character that we might expect either. He’s short-tempered and irritable and swears too! And spits!
I thought the young King Sejong did a good job of showing how intimidated and overpowered he was by his charismatic but power-hungry father. I felt his pain and loved it when he finally came face to face with his father and told him that he has a different vision for Joseon. (Unfortunately at the time he couldn’t put into words what his vision actually was.) King Taejong chose a violent path to be King and sees this as the only way to remain in power. And we keep seeing King Sejong struggling with his own decision not to be like that – he doesn’t want to rule with fear but it’s not so easy when you allow others to argue with you and criticise you. King Taejong just seemed to kill anyone who even said something he didn’t like! We have to admire King Sejong and I think from now on we’re going to see more of his secret hangul project too, which I’m looking forward to.
All the other sageuk dramas that I’ve watched were directed by Lee Byeong Hoon (Dong Yi, Dae Jang Geum, Heojun, Sangdo) and in those dramas women often play a large role – Dong Yi and Dae Jang Geum are both leading female roles. But this drama is very ‘male’ isn’t it? In the history books about Joseon, the women seem to be almost invisible – all the important people were men. And this was more than clear to me when I went to the National Museum to see the Joseon Portraits exhibition. I’ll write more about this later but there were only about four portraits of women in the whole exhibition – and they were of gisaengs and the wife of a yangban. The rest of the portraits were of kings and high ranking officials and scholars. The women of Joseon had a very low profile indeed.
In Deep Rooted Tree there are very few female roles. I feel as though they had to make the head nobi a woman otherwise the only main female would be So Yi and she doesn’t even speak out loud! So Yi’s character is supposed to be playing a large role in the palace helping the king complete his hangul project, but I don’t feel that she has such a large role in the drama itself so far. The head nobi seems to have a stronger part. The queen has a VERY minor role as do the other court ladies. Having the head nobi as a baddie and a woman makes it more dramatic and sinister though. Female baddies are always worse, aren’t they?
The fact that So Yi has to write everything down slows the pace of the drama in her scenes which is good as it contrasts with the fast paced action scenes and reminds me that life did use to be slower than it is today. It also enforces the fact that hangul had not been developed then so everyone was writing with Chinese characters.
The king’s dependable long-suffering bodyguard. Mu Hyul is my favourite character after Chae Yoon. He’s the rock and the one character we can completely trust and rely on to protect the king. And we need him especially since a lot of the other characters may not be who they say they are. Poor Mu Hyul has the stressful job of protecting the king and politely tries to get him to focus on the issues at hand. Sometimes he struggles to compose himself when he doesn’t understand what the king is doing. Mu Hyul is never far away from the king and prepares to kill Chae Yoon when he threatens security. BTW I love the king’s little boots sitting outside the room below. So cute.
It seems the threat of violence is never far away in this drama. I’ve lost count of the number of times some poor soul has had a sword or knife held to their throat – even the king and children are not immune to this! King Sejong’s father puts a sword to his son’s throat and since he has killed off lots of other members of his family, it’s quite possible that he could kill King Sejong too. (except then this would be a very short drama) Chae Yoon as a child gets a knife to his throat and since we’ve just seen another man killed, he could easily be the next to go. (except they can’t really kill the hero off at the beginning) So Yi also gets into trouble too when she throws a stone at the young king.
Finally, this is a mystery after all and so we can’t believe that all the characters are who they say they are. Some of the characters are quite odd – but are they members of milbon or just simply odd? I’m still not sure about who the ‘yangban’ guy really is. Perhaps like Chae Yoon, he is covering up something by acting the fool. And what’s going on with the grizzly-looking butcher’s helper? I’m looking forward to more twists as we discover who the members of milbon really are. But it’s not only the milbon members who don’t know each other. So Yi and Chae Yoon still don’t recognise each other either so I’m looking forward to the day their true identities are revealed. Is that the day that So Yi will speak again?