Time for another trip into the hole of sageuk obsession
My first “I wish I’d watched this while it was airing” moment in Tree With Deep Roots was the fight at the end of episode 7/beginning of episode 8. Because while I recognize that the flying/mid-air clashing effects were fairly advanced and cutting edge for 2011, they are…very dated, especially since I watched and rewatched the more advanced versions of that technology in Gil Dong and Mori’s fights in Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People earlier this year.
Speaking of Rebel, as I’ve been discussing with @dingax, who I’m watching the show with, Tree is almost an inversion of Rebel. Or more accurately, Rebel is an inversion of Tree.
The hero of Tree is a former slave who took on a new identity and entered the capitol, intent on killing the king, who he believes murdered everyone he knew. Presumably, he will eventually change and become the king’s man. (I man, it’s Sejong. I can’t imagine them having a hero who hates him from beginning to end.) The hero of Rebel is a former slave who took on a new identity and entered the capitol. He is loyal to the king, who he believes genuinely cares for his people, but starts a rebellion to overthrow the king once he realizes the king is cruel and corrupt.
The king in Tree is Sejong, one of the most loved kings in Korean history, believed by many to be the best. He is on the verge of a nervous breakdown due to his obsessions about what it means to be king, and what is best for the people. Daddy issues largely revolve around being antithetical to his tyrant father. The king in Rebel is Yeonsan, regarded as Joseon’s worst tyrant, with no redeeming qualities that any historian can find, pretty much universally loathed by everyone except whoever wrote Seven Day Queen, who thought he’d make a good secondary love interest for his wife’s niece. He is on the verge of a nervous breakdown because he’s obsessed with his own power and divinity, and someone made him doubt that. Daddy issues revolve around…honestly, there’s a lot there, but it’s safe to say they were much more personal in nature, as opposed internal conflicts over what’s required to be a good and strong king (and ho those two coexist, if they do).
In Tree, a female character who is beloved to the hero is believed to have died as a child, but has entered the palace under another identity and has become one of the king’s closest confidants. In Rebel, a female character who is beloved to the hero is believed to have died as a child, but has entered the palace under another identity as a spy who strives to get closer to the king as part of her duty. Another female character enters the palace intent on killing Yeonsan because she believes he killed her husband and his family.
Both shows feature fictional revolutions. The fictional Revolution in Rebel turns into the actual historical rebellion that overthrew Yeonsan and placed JungJong on the throne. Since I’ve only watched 8 of the 24 episodes of Tree, I don’t know how the rebellion there will go, since, well, Sejong doesn’t get overthrown. This rebellion, though, is more rooted in the actions of Sejong’s father, Taejong-one of those kings where historians are “well, yes, he was a tyrant and probably an awful person, but he DID make the country stronger, and helped create it, in this case.”-than a direct response to Sejong’s reign.
I kind of feel I should watch for similarities between Mori and Pyeong, even though I still have a “nope” reaction to the actor after disliking him so much in Scholar Who Walks the Night. (I know I’m in the minority there. At least I’ve overcome my instinctive desire to hit the FF button when he’s onscreen?)
It does make me really wonder who if anyone, Hwang Jin Young trained under. Her first show was a daily sageuk (almost unheard of-the only other one I know of is the Heo Jun remake from around the same time) set in Baekje (not as unheard of, but pretty uncommon) and then she came back a few years later with a prime time drama that brutally and brilliantly deconstructed and critiqued pretty much every aspect of her chosen genre. As far as I know, the only other thing she’s done is a short special that I think is set in the occupation era, but i can’t say anything about it because I haven’t been able to find it. (I kinda take part of that back-Frozen Flower appears in her credits in some places, but I have no idea what role or how large a role she had in writing that. I assume a petty small one though.)