Empress Ki tells the story of Ki Sung Nyang (Ha Ji Won) who rises from nothing to marry Emperor Ta Hwan (Ji Chang Wook) and become Empress of the Yuan Empire. She also gets involved in a love triangle with the Emperor and King Wang Yu of Goryeo (Joo Jin Mo).
Empress Ki has been on my watch list forever! It’s one of those dramas that I had only heard positive reviews for, but clocking in at 51 episodes, I was always hesitant to start it. I mean, I could watch three dramas in that time span! And I love a good sageuk, but they can be hit or miss with me.
I happened to take quite a liking to the Goryeo period not long before starting this drama, and that’s really what gave me the final push to watch it. I must say, there really needs to be more dramas set during the Goryeo period!
Now I really enjoy the costumes from the Joseon period, but I am in love with the Goryeo attire. They’re just more fun to me. There’s such a wide array of colors and styles. I love what royalty wears, what the soldiers wear, and what the common man wears. I also really love that the guys wear their hair down a lot more. I love the long, pretty hair! And the guys and girls both wear more jewelry which is something I really like.
Empress Ki is beautifully filmed and I was drooling all over the gorgeous cinematography as well the constant parade of beautiful costumes worn by practically everyone. 51 episodes in Goryeo really is a nice place to be.
Sung Nyang is about as strong as they come. After a difficult childhood, she has pretended to be a man for most of her life. Her skills are unparalleled and known by many. She is also as loyal as can be, so when she bonds with the Wang Yu, she will always be true to him. And because of his request, she does her best to protect the future Emperor of Yuan, Ta Hwan.
Her character goes through so many trials, and she is forced to harden herself as the drama goes on. Ha Ji Won displayed a wonderful acting range going from a more loose, fun Sung Nyang to the absolutely serious Sung Nyang out for revenge for her fallen loved ones.
Emperor Ta Hwan was so much fun! In the beginning, Ta Hwan is a spoiled and cowardly man. He was like a spoiled child who was out of touch with reality. But his fears for his life were genuine. People who were supposed to be protecting him were trying to kill him. He didn’t know who to trust. I got quite a kick out of his character. He was humorous and at the same time I felt bad for him.
He goes through a slow and painful transformation as he learns to use his power and truly be a ruler. Ji Chang Wook was fabulous at portraying both the humorous and regal sides to this character. It’s thanks to Ji Chang Wook’s performance that Ta Hwan was so likable despite having so many flaws.
King Wang Yu is a righteous man who always has the best interests for his people. He quickly takes a liking to Sung Nyang, but soon gets caught in the middle of the politics going on in Yuan. By having Sung Nyang be the Emperor’s protector, he unwittingly sets up a future of heartache. His character becomes more pained as the drama continues. Joo Jin Mo brings forth the intensity that a character like this requires.
My only real issue with the drama stems from the relationship with Wang Yu and Sung Nyang. I felt that they needed more time in the beginning of the drama to establish their relationship. The drama hints a lot at their unwavering love and loyalty towards each other, but it really wasn’t adequately established. And then they spend the bulk of the drama apart. I enjoyed them when they were together, but it just wasn’t enough to convince me of their epic love.
Sung Nyang spends lots of time with Ta Hwan though. In the beginning it is of a more humorous and fun nature. I loved their interactions in those early episodes. She goes through a period where she hates him, and then she finally begins to soften towards him and also sees that she can use him to help her in her revenge quest.
Ta Hwan initially likes her, but in a very possessive sort of way. He would stop at nothing to make her his. But when she finally softens towards him and shows him that he really can be a powerful ruler, he begins to truly love her for who she is. And her faith in him is what causes him to want to overcome his fear and become the Emperor he was meant to be.
The Empress Tanasili played by Baek Jin Hee completely nailed her role. How I disliked her! But she was always fun to watch. She was evil and completely oblivious to the hypocrisy of her blaming everyone else for her misdeeds.
I really got a kick out of her interactions with her main servant Lady Seo (Seo Yi Sook). This lady was ready to do literally anything the Empress said. The delight on her face when she was plotting with the Empress was priceless.
Baek Ahn (Kim Young Ho) and Tal Tal (Jin Yi Han) were a surprisingly fun pair. They start out as the first bad guys because of their attempts to murder Ta Hwan. But they finally decide to go against the Regent and pledge their support to Ta Hwan. They are forced to constantly play both sides as they try to navigate what is best for the Yuan Empire. They end up helping Sung Nyang in ways I would have never dreamed of.
Baek Ahn is your classic army general who’s loyalty to his country never wavers. Tal Tal was a character that I became more intrigued with as the drama progressed. Tal Tal always knew what was going on with everyone and was extremely wise. He doesn’t show a lot of emotion, but there is so much going on in his head. I found him so fascinating. And he just looked really cool in army gear and perfect hair.
This is a complete side interest of mine, but there is a portion later on in the drama that really got my imagination going. Tal Tal ends up secretly training Sung Nyang so that she can be their clans representative to be a consort to the Emperor. I loved their training sessions and exchanges of information.
Tal Tal becomes such an important guiding force in Sung Nyang’s life during this time. I actually found myself thinking it would be quite fun if they suddenly developed a real relationship at this point. Just forget the King and the Emperor and run off with Tal Tal. I guess I didn’t really want that to happen, but I thought it would be really interesting if it did. I have a special place in my heart for Tal Tal 🙂
The Empress Dowager (Kim Seo Hyung) was an interesting character. For the first two-thirds of the drama, she is one of the few people who supports Ta Hwan. She is integral in helping him and Sung Nyang battle the Regent. But she makes a swift turn in the latter third becoming a villain in her own right.
I must say that Joon Gook Hwan is excellent at playing villainous characters, and this has to be one of my favorites I’ve seen him do. The Regent is driven by his thirst for power and will do anything to get what he wants. He prays on Ta Hwan’s weakness and is easily able to rule Yuan in his stead. He is a ruthless but lively character who has one of the most awesome evil laughs.
Dang Ke Si (Kim Jung Hyun) has a bad history with Sung Nyang in that he is the one who killed her mother. He is the perfect extenstion of his father, the Regent, being the one who executes many of the plans for power. His brother (Cha Do Jin) is Dang Ke Si’s right hand man. He doesn’t do much on his own accord and is probably the least interesting of the villain characters, but he is a nice compliment to our first family of evil.
Wang Yu then has his band of loyal servants and bodyguards who are there for him from start to finish. Each one was unique with his own quirks and talents. This group goes through a lot for our King and Sung Nyang. They are the kind of friends anyone would want to have.
Empress Ki maintained a wonderful pace throughout the drama. Even though the pacing was always good, it also had several layers of well done story arcs that ramped up the intensity several times. It was very well structured. It was interesting from start to finish, and I was never bored. That says a lot considering it is 51 episodes.
Empress Ki created a rich world populated with fun and interesting characters. The villains were always entertaining to watch. They were the kind of villains you love to hate. We had humorous and loyal supporting characters. And we had the epic journey of our leading lady on her rise power that was aided by her relationships by the King of Goryeo and the Emperor of Yuan.
I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Empress Ki. Many people told me not to be scared off by the 51 episodes, and I will pass along that recommendation to you. It truly did fly by, and I was sad to see this rich world come to an end. I really did love every minute of it. Empress Ki really is epic, and as far as sageuks go, it is one of the best.
My Rating: 10/10
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