The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling

Flash Review: The Last Empress [An Empress’s Dignity]

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Do you enjoy rollercoasters? Coz if you do, The Last Empress might just be the show for you.

At its best, and right out of the gate, Show is a fun romp rife with makjang plot points, logic stretches and murderous intent (it’s all about the lens, which I’ll talk about very shortly). I personally think the extension didn’t do Show any favors, coz Show spins its wheels a fair bit in its later stretch, which is a serious pity. On the upside, Show wraps up in a reasonably solid manner, and I’m emerging on the other side without regretting my watch.

That’s not bad, all things considered.

THE LENS

The experience of watching this show reminds me of a story from when I was 15 or 16. This was, quite likely, my first lesson about the importance of wearing the right lens.

My English teacher (let’s call her Ms. B) came to class one day, and announced that she owed one of us an apology. Wait, what? Turns out that she’d read one of my classmate’s essays (let’s call her Wendy), and had been so frustrated by the ridiculous plot points in the story, that she’d ravaged the paper with her red pen, and then graded the essay an F.

BUT THEN. Plot twist! Ms. B then told her best friend, another English teacher (let’s call her Ms. C) about it, and Ms. C, after giving the essay a read, looked at Ms. B and said, “But this is brilliant.That’s when Ms. B adjusted her lens, re-read the whole thing, loved it, and gave Wendy an A instead. Ms. B then proceeded to read the essay to us. It was full of nonsensical plot twists and unexpected surprises, and we all laughed until we literally cried; it was just so good. (At one point, I’m pretty sure a monkey popped out of nowhere and bopped the protagonist on the head with a toy hammer. Ha!)

Afterwards, we all asked Wendy how she’d managed to write such an amazing essay, and Wendy just shrugged, “I dunno. I just wrote whatever I thought of.”

I.. kinda really think The Last Empress is just like that, from the lens needed to enjoy it, to possibly the writing process too, heh.

The best way to watch this show, I think, is to not take it seriously. Stuff happens chockablock, and it literally feels like a rollercoaster. In just the first hour, we have a body count that I quickly lost count of, an Empress Dowager (Shin Eun Kyung) who seems to be power-crazy and literally looks like she will go mad when she’s crossed, an Emperor (Shin Sung Rok) that is cold and slightly unhinged, a lot of hidden stories, an attempted assassination, a torrid encounter – and coming away, I felt like I was only scratching the surface (which I was).

At its best, Show was fabulously OTT and makjang-licious and proud of it, and I was happily eating it up with a spoon.

A SMATTERING OF HIGHLIGHTS

This show is such a crazy rollercoaster that it would’ve been monumental – and also, unenjoyable and ultimately quite pointless – to try and keep track of all the events and analyze everything. So I didn’t. I just sat back and enjoyed Show for what it was, and basically threw all my need for logic, cohesion and consistency out the window – a somewhat freeing experience, come to think of it.

So instead of any kind of plot or character analysis, here’s a sprinkling of my various thoughts on some of Show’s key offerings.

Shin Sung Rok as Lee Hyuk

Even though Shin Sung Rok is listed as this show’s second lead, he basically steals almost every scene he’s in. Word on the street is that he stole a good number of viewers’ hearts too – quite the feat, considering that Lee Hyuk is a character who’s got a trail of blood, bodies and other crimes on his hands. (That’s not a spoiler, coz we learn this about him right away, in Show’s first hour.)

Personally, I felt that Shin Sung Rok was the perfect casting choice, to play our story’s slightly unhinged Emperor. I find it hard to imagine anyone else in this OTT role. I feel like Shin Sung Rok brought a lot of dimension to Lee Hyuk, likely adding a lot of his own ideas into rehearsals and ad-libs, if my little glimpse into some of the behind-the-scenes footage is anything to go by.

[VAGUE SPOILER] Show also does a good job of making Lee Hyuk a more sympathetic character by its later episodes, and even though I sometimes wondered whether Show had forgotten that Lee Hyuk was technically a criminal, Show never actually forgot, which I’m pleased about. [END SPOILER]

Jang Na Ra as Oh Sunny

In a drama world where everything is OTT theatrical and crazy, it’s easy to come off as boring, when you’re playing one of the non-crazy guys – but happily, Jang Na Ra does not.

I personally felt like Jang Na Ra imbued Sunny with a lot of emotion, and this emotion helped to ground the show and make this crazy makjang-fest somewhat emotionally engaging. Sunny acts almost like an emotional barometer for the audience; more often than not, she’s the guide showing us what we as an audience ought to feel, at any given point during our story.

Even though I thought it was in-principle kinda dumb for our characters to keep marching up to their enemies and informing them of what they planned to do (Sunny did this a lot), I did enjoy watching Sunny go from being an innocent pawn in the royal struggle for power, to becoming an Empress made of steelier stuff.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Here’re just two instances where I felt especially pleased with Sunny’s steps forward.

E15-16. It was satisfying to see Sunny fight back this hour, even though she has limited power and understanding. That scene where she marches in on a shirtless Emperor and a fawning Yu Ra, and unleashes all of her pent-up frustration in a wild wave of flailing emotion, throwing food, ice, water, and everything she can lay her hands on, on an incredulous Emperor, was gold.

E17-18. I like the new steely side that we’re seeing of Sunny. The way she takes Yu Ra down when Yu Ra tries to keep her from entering the Emperor’s chambers, is a great one-two punch. First, she unflinchingly retorts that even an Empress in name has way more authority than a mere assistant like her; that’s the law. YES. And then, she feigns surprise that Yu Ra doesn’t know that Ari is the Emperor’s child, and remarks that the Emperor mustn’t trust Yu Ra that much then. DOUBLE YES. So satisfying.

[END SPOILER]

Lee Elijah as Min Yu Ra

Not gonna lie; even though Min Yu Ra is listed as our second female lead character, I often found her more interesting to watch than our female lead Sunny. Yu Ra’s quite a delicious sort of character for how audacious she is, and Lee Elijah does a fantastic job leaning into the crazy, by playing her hyper-breathy and OTT theatrical.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Here’re just a few examples of when I couldn’t help but be impressed by Yu Ra’s ballsy attitude.

E3-4. When she hears that the Emperor wants her killed, Yu Ra goes and wagers her life before the hit can happen, and thus earns his trust and affection. Plus, knowing that the Empress Dowager is watching via hidden surveillance cameras, she goes and seduces the emperor, while looking right into a camera. Girl’s not afraid to play big, and I can’t help but be at least a little bit awed.

E8. How bold and salacious, that Yu Ra would make the moves on the Emperor to seduce him, while he’s having a couples massage with his new Empress.

E11-12. It’s interesting, the way that Yu Ra’s reaction to the car explosion is played. She’s all gaspy and in shock, but she smiles in pleasure. It’s almost like she got an orgasmic high from watching Wang Shik die. It’s sick, but it’s also fascinating.

[END SPOILER]

Choi Jin Hyuk as Na Wang Shik

Remember when I said it’s quite easy to come off as boring when you’re playing one of the non-crazy guys? Uh. I personally think that’s what happened with Choi Jin Hyuk playing Na Wang Shik / Chun Woo Bin. ([SPOILER] I did laugh a great deal when we transitioned from Tae Hang Ho playing Wang Shik, to Choi Jin Hyuk. The power of a haircut! Lols. [END SPOILER])

On the upside, Choi Jin Hyuk looks great, and really looks the part of a strong bodyguard with formidable skills. He’s very lean and very fast on his feet, which are both nice things. On the downside, I do think that Choi Jin Hyuk’s range of expression is more limited than his co-stars. I personally felt his emoting range was quite limited, and so, in certain key scenes where Wang Shik is supposed to be extremely angry, grieved and torn up, I found Choi Jin Hyuk’s delivery a little flat and one-note. This was.. unfortunate.

Another not-great thing is Show’s extension, which went on even though Choi Jin Hyuk was not available for the extra filming the extension required. This was also very unfortunate.

All in all, I felt that Choi Jin Hyuk did decently in his role, though I do wish that he could’ve done better.

Shin Eun Kyung as the Empress Dowager

I found Shin Eun Kyung pretty fantastic as our resident Empress Dowager with dubious intent. The Empress Dowager is power-hungry, manipulative, and quite desperate, underneath it all, and to bring that all to life, Shin Eun Kyung commits to the crazy in a big way. She brings it, whether it’s screeching, crying, hysterics, or murderous looks, and really made the Empress Dowager the kind of character that you love to hate. I enjoyed watching her very much, in all of her dysfunctional glory.

[SPOILER ALERT]

There are many examples of the Empress Dowager’s extreme dysfunction, but here’re just two instances that stood out to me extra.

E25-26. The Empress Dowager being all pleased and proud of her son Lee Hyuk, after he tells her that he “took care of” Yu Ra the night before. She even wants to reward him with a present. For committing murder. Wow.

E49-50. Ordering a hit on one son, and then setting it up so that her other son would be framed for the murder, is quite possibly the most terrible thing a mother could do to her own children. Yikes.

This is my I-can’t-help-but-murder-both-my-sons face. Sob. Poor me.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Oh Ah Rin as Ari

Oh Ah Rin is impressively excellent as little Princess Ari, and by Show’s end, I was genuinely convinced that she’s a child actor to watch; I think she’s going to go places.

Given Show’s makjang nature, it’s par for the course that Ari needs to display a wide range of emotions, from haughty-angry, to fake sugary-sweet, to genuinely sad, and Oh Ah Rin delivers on every count. Not only that, she delivers her lines – often difficult royal-speak on adult topics – with aplomb. Very wow.

[SPOILER ALERT] At first, I was somewhat disturbed by the kind of behavior that is required of Oh Ah Rin. Like in episodes 9-10, where she flatters the Empress one second, then turns on her nanny (Yoon So Yi) the next, with stabby words and tantrumy cold shoulders – but then turns on a dime and is syrupy sweet the minute she speaks to the Empress again. I worried that this would have a negative effect on Oh Ah Rin.

By series’ end, however, I’m convinced that Oh Ah Rin’s handling herself just fine, and I was very pleased too, that Ari gets a happy ending at the end of our story. [END SPOILER]

Lee Hyuk’s bromance with Woo Bin [SPOILERS]

Even though Show toys with a number of lovelines in our story, I have to say I was never fully taken with any one of them. I did, however, feel very tickled by Lee Hyuk’s growing affection for his new Chief Guard Chun Woo Bin.

First of all, all the gratuitous competitions in episodes 11-12 between the two men, as Lee Hyuk tests Woo Bin, give us lots of glistening pecs and rippling muscle on our screens. Can’t complain about that.

After that, once Woo Bin is firmly in place as Lee Hyuk’s Chief Guard, the chemical tension between them grows to crackling proportions. It’s amplified to delightful effect, with Lee Hyuk continually referring to Woo Bin as “my man.” Add on all the face-grabbing and intense pleading in episodes 19-20, as he asks Woo Bin to hit him, and I can totally see why people have been making memes of these two, snerk.

As we get deeper into our story, Lee Hyuk clings to Woo Bin more and more, as Woo Bin quickly becomes the only person Lee Hyuk feels he can trust. Show hams it up, making it look like Lee Hyuk’s got a thing for Woo Bin, and I giggle. So funny, even though it’s really more of a one-sided love on Lee Hyuk’s part. Which, aw.

WHEN SHOW WAS LESS FUN TO WATCH

Basically, sometime in Show’s second half, I realized that I just wasn’t having as much fun watching this show anymore. I realized that this boiled down to two main things: when I didn’t jive with Show’s idea of entertaining, and when I felt like Show was spinning its wheels.

Let me break that down a little bit.

[SPOILER ALERT]

When I didn’t jive with Show’s idea of entertaining

While I generally loved Show’s audacious makjang-ness, there were times when the Intended Funny fell flat for me, or when I just wasn’t as entertained as Show probably hoped I would be. Here’re a couple of examples.

Who killed the Grand Empress Dowager?

I was suitably shocked when the Grand Empress Dowager (Park Won Sook) was killed off at the episode 15-16 mark, but I found the subsequent episodes not very fun to watch. I felt like too much time was spent circling around who killed the Grand Empress Dowager. I know it’s supposed to be suspenseful and everything, but it fell kind of flat for me, to be honest.

The treatment of Princess So Jin

I thought Lee Hee Jin was pretty great as Princess So Jin, hamming it up for the camera and everything, but I did feel sorry for the Princess, who’s treated as invisible by her family. To make matters worse, Show has Woo Bin pretending to woo the Princess, which is supposed to be funny, but I felt sad for her because So Jin, as eccentric as she seems, is desperately sincere towards Woo Bin. She believes that he loves her, and would do anything for him. The fact that Woo Bin leads her on for as long as he does, made me uncomfortable.

The shifting tone

In Show’s initial stretch, everything was deliciously makjang and intense, with a sprinkling of comedic moments, which I loved. Later in its run, though, Show becomes more heavily comedic. This was fun for a little while, but I soon found myself wishing for Show to tone down on the comedy and bring the makjang back. The heavy comic touch sat quite weirdly, I thought.

When I felt like Show was spinning its wheels

My watch of this drama reminds me of my experience watching Jane The Virgin.

When I first dived into Jane The Virgin, I found it all fun and fresh, and binge-watched Season 1 in a matter of days. Once I got to the end of Season 1 and went on to sample Season 2, though, I found everything a lot less fresh and fun. It felt like Show was dancing around the same old stuff all over again in Season 2, and I found myself getting bored pretty fast. I never finished Season 2.

While I did finish watching The Last Empress, I hafta say, it was the same feeling with this show. I’d found Show so fresh and fun at first, but by the episode 39-40 mark, I felt like I just wanted it all to end. Not only did I feel like Show was coming up with filler to take up screen time, I also felt a distinct touch of makjang fatigue. All the high-tension, dramatic makjang stuff is hard to take for an extended period of time. I mean, even a person who loves rollercoasters will get fatigued if they spend days on end riding ’em, right?

So for a while, until I hit Show’s penultimate stretch, I was literally hanging in there just to see what would happen. Happily Show managed an uptick in its final few episodes, which I’ll talk about next.

[END SPOILER]

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

As early as episode 16, I had this thought: “I feel like by the time we reach the end of our story, everyone will be dead.”

Now that Show’s completed its run after 52 episodes, I can say that I wasn’t that far off, with my prediction. By the time the final credits roll, many key characters are either dead (Na Wang Shik and Lee Hyuk), on death row (the Empress Dowager, Seo Kang Hee, and Team Leader Choi), crazy (Min Yu Ra) or suffering amnesia (Ari).

But first, let’s back up a little bit. There were a couple of things that I liked, in Show’s lead-up to its finale.

First of all, after dancing around the truth behind the death of the Grand Empress Dowager all series long, Show finally reveals the truth, and I must say, I was genuinely surprised by the plot twist. Despite my becoming somewhat jaded by Show’s tricks and twists, Show managed to pull of a plot twist that I was really quite stunned by. I mean, the Grand Empress Dowager killed herself? I never would’ve imagined, seriously. On the other hand, this plot twist doesn’t make 100% sense, really, since she would’ve had a chance to right things with the Imperial Auditors in the morning, if she’d lived. Maybe that’s why I’m so surprised, heh.

Secondly, I rather liked the idea of people who were previously at each other’s throats, coming together to face a common enemy. Yu Ra & Sunny, and Lee Hyuk & Lee Yoon, working together, was nice to see. Yes, the quick turnaround in loyalty didn’t always make sense to me, but Show never always made sense anyway, and after so many hours of people being ready to kill one another for their own gain, it was just nice to see more teamwork in the house.

Thirdly, I was also quite pleased to see a recap of all of Lee Hyuk’s crimes. It’s true that Show – and Shin Sung Rok – worked hard to endear Lee Hyuk to us in its second half, but when you think about it, whatever warmth we’ve seen from him doesn’t excuse him from the terrible things he’s done, and I felt it was right, to set that record straight.

Also, for the record, the body double for Choi Jin Hyuk was very awkward to watch. It was obvious that it wasn’t Choi Jin Hyuk onscreen, and Show’s effort of giving him a heroic death was very diluted and quite wasted, I thought, by the necessary facelessness of it all.

In our story’s final hour, Show wraps up pretty neatly, all things considered, and manages to retain at least some of its signature crazy tone. I mean, Lee Hyuk piercing his chest with the Chief Guard pin is truly bizarre. On a tangent, I personally feel like this must’ve been Shin Sung Rok ad-libbing with delight. “The scripts says Lee Hyuk puts on the Chief Guard pin? What if he puts it on.. but on his body??” – cue gleeful grin. I can totally see that, heh.

In the end, Hyuk dies a fitting death, which would’ve been almost heroic, if he wasn’t also guilty of so many terrible crimes. Sunny puts the Imperial Family out of its misery by abolishing it, and pledges to use her inheritance from the Grand Empress Dowager in service of the victims of the royal family. We see the now-ex-Empress Dowager being bullied in prison, while she presumably awaits her execution. We also see that Yoon and Hel Ro (Oh Seung Yoon and Stephanie Lee) are finally living a normal happy life together. Lastly, and most importantly for me personally, Ari is now a cheerful, normal little girl, and Sunny is simply Mom to her now, which is sweet.

As the camera pans across the various rooms in the palace during a palace tour, I can’t help feel a mix of poignance and irony. Poignance, because of all the lives that have been lost within its walls, and irony, because the dignified tour belies the absolute insanity of the very people whose names are mentioned with respect. Kinda makes me wonder how much we know of the past is the real deal, and how much unexpected crazy might be hidden within the pages of history. Which, you gotta admit, is an interesting question, eh?

THE FINAL VERDICT:

A crazy ride that would’ve been funner, if it’d been shorter.

FINAL GRADE: B

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Author: kfangurl

Proud to be a k-fangirl since 2007. Main diet of kdramas with movies and kpop on the side.

23 thoughts on “Flash Review: The Last Empress [An Empress’s Dignity]

  1. I’m so excited to see you reviewing this crazy, fun show!

    I am now totally a fan of Shin Sung Rok and Jang Nara, both of whom kind of annoyed me before this. This is my first time seeing Shin Eun Kyung but now that I know she’s the title character in the My Wife is A Gangster films, I’ll be watching those soon.

    SPOILER: If I didn’t already love her from the first 51 episodes (which I did), her sticking her tongue out longer than Gene Simmons of KISS in her final farewell in episode 52, cemented the deal! END SPOILER

    I actually enjoyed the changing loyalties partially because I rewatched Six Flying Dragons in between waiting for each week’s new episodes of Empress. I was thinking during SFD how quickly alliances and loyalties changed back in saeguk days and how your life didn’t mean too much if you or your agenda got in the way of someone else. So Empress revolving around the palace fit right in to what SFD had me ruminating on. The changing loyalties just meshed, especially Oh Sunny and Yu ra.

    As to the ending, I’ve posted this on various sites discussing this drama but I just wish the show had thought to go get the heavyset actor that played Na Wang shik at the beginning of the show. Skinny-handsome Na Wang shik made a point of how he struggled with his weight and overeating so after the time jump that showed everyone going about their lives, the romantic in me wanted to see Oh Sunny and chubby Na Wang shik happily raising Ari and starting a family of their own.

    Show was crazy hilarious and totally worth my time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hiya Beez! ❤ Always great to see ya, and I'm glad you enjoyed this crazy show, lol. Twas a mostly fun ride indeed. I just wish it had been shorter. Around 20 hours would've been good, because it was around the E40 mark that I started to feel the drag. 😛

      Have you seen any of the BTS clips? I saw a little bit of Shin Sung Rok, Jang Na Ra and Choi Jin Hyuk discussing and rehearsing a scene, and it totally looked like Shin Sung Rok in particular was having a great time, with ad-libs and everything. Based on what you said about being a new fan of Shin Sung Rok and Jang Na Ra, I feel like you'd enjoy those BTS clips. Here's the one that I saw, enjoy! 😀

      YES, Shin Eun Kyung is truly the gift that keeps on giving! 😆 She just never ran out of crazy-murderous eyes or twisty-trembling lips, and I loved it. That bit of her sticking out her tongue was gold; I totally didn't expect it! 🤣 You're right, the switching of loyalties was very sageuk, and therefore fitting for our setting. Maybe I was looking for Show to flesh out the switching a little more. The way it was executed, it felt rather sudden, like one minute everyone's all "Imma KILLYOU!!!" and then the next, "Don't you DARE say a bad thing about her!" It was rather comical, in that way. 😂

      Ah, what a great idea, to have brought back Tae Hang Ho! That would've been quite funny – and that would've also been way better than the death-of-the-body-double route that they chose. What a missed opportunity! But then again, maybe Tae Hang Ho wasn't available for filming either..? 😂

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      • Haha! Yes, I had already seen that clip! I was scouring my cloud trying to find a gif that I thought I had of the Emperor holding out his arms to catch Oh Sunny falling off the ladder but Chief Guard catching her instead. That is my favorite moment and it can’t be adequately described, it needs to be seen. lol Too bad, I must’ve unsuccessfully tried to send it to my cloud and deleted it from my phone after thinking I’d sent it.

        But I also wanted to mention that I was very surprised at a couple of the scenes between the Emperor and Yu ra – her straddling him and then the massage room scene. And here I thought I understood how censorship and Kdrama works but that set me back to realizing, I know NOTHING about it at all.

        Does anybody have any insight on the subject?

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        • Ah! I think I know the gif you’re talking about, Beez! 😀 Is it this one?

          Also, you’re so right – I was surprised too, to see the scenes of Yu Ra straddling Lee Hyuk. We generally do NOT see that kind of action on our kdrama scenes. I don’t have proper insight into the subject, unfortunately, so hopefully someone else could help us out! I’m starting to think, though, that some of these scenes are not seen in kdramas more because of societal norms than media guidelines.. Otherwise, how would this show have managed to get those scenes to broadcast? 🤔

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          • YES! That’s the GIF! Thank you so much! (I just snurched it for my own enjoyment. )
            Awwww, he wanted to be her hero, poor fool can’t understand why he can’t after trying to murder her. lololol

            As to the riske stuff (why didn’t my keyboard just me the e with an accent? ) – anyway, I might not have understood your response because wouldn’t almost all societies have women straddling their men albiet in private?

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            • Sorry but this comment ‘wouldn’t almost all societies have women straddling their men albiet in private’ had me rolling in laughter… The major broadcasting stations rarely show this level of sexual interaction and even the actresses do not act out any kiss/bed scenes properly. The ‘frozen, wooden’ lead is the norm rather the exception (preserving the actress image)… which is weird given how actresses tend to be more respected when they get fully naked in movies. Forward advances seemed to be reserved to ‘certain types of women’ in past series; even if the media outlets do not have any specific restriction today, some people would frown upon these scenes being shown in the daily media (the comments ‘called out’ the scenes in the early episodes)… I don’t think the broadcasting company had anything to lose showing these scenes, given nothing had been garnering interest lately.

              Liked by 1 person

              • @nonAnonnnnns (did I get all the “n”‘s?) Yes, you’d have to read Kfangurl’s and my earlier comments, which were made precisely because we don’t usually see such intimacy that does not leave you guessing at all in Kdrama. blushing😊

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            • Hi Beez! Glad to help you reunite with this GIF! 😆 And yes, it was so silly, that he couldn’t understand why she was cold to him, after he’d tried to murder her!

              As for the risqué stuff, nonAnonnnnnns’s reply actually echoes my own take on it. It looks like the broadcasting guidelines do not prohibit the level of risqué-ness that we see with the straddling per se, but there are other social norms at play, where a nice girl just isn’t seen doing that on TV. That’s why many of the k-actresses kiss with frozen fish lips. It’s how “nice girls” are expected to behave onscreen, and that’s why many actresses’ agencies dictate their romantic scenes be handled this way, in order to protect the actress’ image among her viewers and fans. nonAnonnnnnns is right to point out, though, that a different set of unspoken rules seem to apply in films, coz actresses are still respected for doing nude scenes. Perhaps it’s because it’s in the name of art. 🤔

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              • Ahhhh. Apologies to nonAnonnnnnns (and again, if I didn’t spell your name right). I was the one who misunderstood by not catching what he/she was saying and thinking he/she misunderstood me. I get it now. 👍

                Like

  2. Side note: Jane The Virgin seemed like it lost it’s magic in Season 2 but the supporting characters made continuing with that show worthwhile, mainly Jane’s dad. lol

    Like

    • Hi5 that you felt the same about S2 of Jane The Virgin! I wanted to love it, but I tapped out relatively quickly. Even the supporting characters couldn’t save it for me, oops. 😝

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  3. Thanks for the review, Fangirl. I just finished this show last night and like you say…it was a ride! A real trip without luggage! When our Oh Sunny looked Emperor in the face and said..”You’ve messed with the wrong girl” …I knew it was game on! What an excellent job by Shin Sung Rok….the bad guy you can’t help but love ‘cause that’s all our Emperor really needed was love to give him courage to do the right thing. And sweet country bumpkin Wang Sik. All caught up in boksu (revenge), so often finding himself too kind for his own good. I did sorta see a bit of sympathy for Emperor in Wang Sik’s face as he realized what a sad tragic life Emperor had lived. Wang Sik so loved by his mother and Emperor so NOT loved by his. 😔😔😔. I want to find Yu Ra’s plastic surgeon….great job of repairing those burns on her face!

    You’d really have to be familiar with all that KDramas are about to appreciate what The Last Empress had to offer. Not a drama I’d suggest as a first or even second watch for someone not iniciated into Kdramaland, but for the veteran…it’s a must watch!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Wow Georgia Peach, what great timing, that you just finished this show – at about the same time that I managed to post this review! 😀 You’re right, I do think there were traces of sympathy in Wang Shik’s face for Lee Hyuk. Yes, Emperor was a cruel nutjob, but given his extremely dysfunctional childhood, the guy never stood a chance of being normal. 😥 Shin Sung Rok nailed it, killed it, and then killed it some more. What a fantastic job. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 And yes, that was some amazing plastic surgery work in this show! 😆

      I agree, this show isn’t for a drama newbie.. unless they are familiar with the crazy of telenovelas, I think audiences of telenovelas would likely feel right at home, with the extreme makjang of this show! 😄

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  4. A wonderful insight regarding adjusting the lens kfangurl, because I can see how this would make a world of difference regarding one’s point of view. Alas, my lens is faulty. No matter what I did in the end, I just couldn’t achieve the right focal length and so my viewing ended at episode 29. I did enjoy watching Lee Hee Jin very much – she did ham it up beautifully (I just watched her in The Greatest Love and she was quite ordinary in this, although you could see glimpses of something). As for our little princess, yes she was a wow. So, at the end of the day my spoon will stay where it is 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, thanks for enjoying the review, and for the compliment, Sean! It’s all thanks to Ms. B, who had the courage to apologize and set the record straight, and teach us about the importance of perspective. ❤ That informed my watch of this drama a great deal, and helped me enjoy Show at its best very well. I definitely don't think this show is for everyone, and I can understand your not finding a comfortable lens that worked for you. Props to you for giving it a go, and for enjoying at least parts of it! 🙂 I'm guessing it was kind of worth it, for Princess Ari alone? 😉

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  5. Hi kfangurl!! Have I said I love you? No? So here it goes: I love you. hehe. Your blog here definitely is the one place to go for a kdrama review (as I avoid c-drama like crazy coz I can’t handle another bottomless pit called drama-watching 😜). Even when sometimes I don’t agree will your take on several dramas, your reviews are always entertaining to read, and by adjusting my own lens, are always on points and reasonably well-versed. Glad I found you!

    Ok, enough chit-chat. Now let’s get down to The Last Empress. Frankly, this is the first makjang drama that I watch because I usually HATE makjang drama and avoided it at any cost. But this one is so….. what should I call it, different? From its departure, it seemed as if it was intended to be the makjangest of the makjang drama, with the most twisted plot twist, crazier than the craziest characters, and the most illogical logic that you are willing to gobble up just because. And it all was deliberately design as such. So it showed that Show knows about it, pretty much aware of what to do about it, and handle it well. These are the strangest reasons I found that lure me there, and made me stay. And I can see that this is pretty much what you feel about it as well.

    I agree on everything you said about this drama. You also right about Shin Sung Rok stole the heart of the viewers, because I am one of his victim. In the beginning, I decided to watch because of (1) Choi Jin Hyuk AND (2) Shin Sung Rok. Somewhere in the middle, it became solely because of Shin Sung Rok, and I stayed faithful to my re-discovered love for him till the end. Out of all villainous characters he had played, the Emperor is my most favorite of them all. Choi Jin Hyuk’s character felt so uni-dimensional without much character growth, that it’s a shame for someone his caliber (not to mention his look heh), even killing-off this character seemed unnecessarily flat. But then I think we all should blame Shin Sung Rok for that because he’s shining too bright, not just in the scenes where he was present, but in the overall story of the drama.

    In the end, I guess the psycho in this drama is not anybody in the characters, but THE WRITER himself! And I mean it as a compliment 😋 Thank you for this wonderful review! Looking forward to your next post!

    PS: have you watch the Epilogue? It’s cute, really. You can find it here

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, thanks for the love Widya! I’m feelin’ it! ❤❤❤ I’m glad you’re enjoying the reviews; I’m glad you found me too! 😘

      Yes, The Last Empress is very high up on the makjang scale, I think. I haven’t seen that many, but this is probably the most makjang of the ones I’ve seen 😉 This particular writer seems to specialize in makjang.. I’ve seen one of her other works, Temptation of Wife, and it was ridiculous and crazy too, but I just kept on watching it anyway! 😆 That was years ago though, and I do think that my ability to appreciate makjang is much better now than before. Now, I know to just roll with it, when Show does ridiculous things. Before, I would angst about why Show was so illogical, lol. I was new and naive. 🤣

      Thanks for sharing the link to the Epilogue! I hadn’t seen it yet, even though I’d heard about it. It’s a nice bit of fanservice indeed! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • @kfangurl – After reading your response to Widya and from the review, I think I must reevaluate what exactly is makjang? I know it means the plot is crazy and all over the place but i still always thought they were dramas (as in, taking themselves seriously). Since I mostly watch rom-coms and saeguk, I never really checked out a makjang before. If they’re all as funny as The Last Empress, maybe I meed to add them to my watchlist? (But if, as I suspect, they’re more like American soap operas of the ’80’s, no thank you.)

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        • Hm, I haven’t seen enough makjang to consider myself an expert in this area, but I do believe you’re right to say that makjangs take themselves seriously, ie, they are not filmed to be funny. I think Empress was more of a straight makjang in the beginning, when there was less comedy served up. Later, Show started leaning quite heavily comedic, while still holding onto its makjang roots, and I think that’s what you enjoyed. I personally liked the first half better, when the comic stuff was more like comic touches than anything else. That said, I do think it’s possible to watch a straight makjang with your funny lens on, and enjoy it that way. I previously watched Temptation of Wife by the same writer when it aired on our local network. It was straight makjang, but if you so desired, it could be entertaining in a comical way as well. 😉

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  6. Pingback: Year In Review: 2018 | The Fangirl Verdict

  7. Your review made me want to watch this Kdrama 😀

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    • Lol, I’m glad you found the review and the idea of this show interesting! It’s not the best show I’ve ever seen, but if you want to try something different, no harm giving it a try!

      Liked by 1 person

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