Thorn Birds: Episodes 1-2

Let’s try an experiment, shall we? Let’s follow the drama’s lead and begin this recap backwards, from the end of Episode 2 rather than the start of Episode 1. Let’s start with a scene to make your hair stand on end.

Your jaw drops, your eyes bulge (which is de rigueur in this drama); you can’t believe what you are seeing. This isn’t real, you whine to no one in particular, not realizing that the lizards in your room are watching the same scene with you and feeling just as stupefied.

Look carefully. What’s wrong with the picture below?

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Sageuk Awards

Was it six years ago? A man and a woman at night, she bleeding from a wound on her shoulder, he tending so gently to the wound. Their voices are as soft as the breeze is light. As they walk home afterwards, cherry blossoms flutter around them, like a million pink and white lights aglow in the dark.

Even now, six years later, I can’t speak of my first sageuk (Korean historical or period drama) without a lump suddenly forming in my throat. Damo changed my life, literally flinging me over the edge into the depths of kdrama addiction. It marked the beginning of a love affair that has continued to grow; both my top movie and drama are period ones and I don’t see any other genre coming along to topple them, in the foreseeable future or otherwise.

Damo stayed at the top of my favorites list for a long time, but the day finally came when I had to sadly acknowledge that another drama would take its place. So it has been, this game of musical chairs, this rotation of faves and favored. I’m not alone. One of the contributors to this post sent me this note along with her picks: “I RESERVE THE RIGHT TO CHANGE MY MIND.” (See how passionate we sageuk fans are? Haha.)

So here we are, a special post on my favorite genre. Six dear friends, all familiar names in the Kdrama community, responded enthusiastically to my invitation to participate in this poll of sorts. Nine categories in all (because it’s obvious thundie can’t count; she thought she listed ten), with picks that I’m sure will delight or dismay you. Wrapping up the post is a hilarious and insightful look at how sageuk and wuxia stack up against each other.

Many thanks (and cups of coffee) to ockoala (who wrote the sageuk/wuxia piece), dahee, dramaok, hjkomo, javabeans and His Grumpiness misterX. All of you inspire me every day to be a more discerning viewer.

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Conspiracy in the Court

What did I do after I watched Conspiracy in the Court (a.k.a. Hansungbyulgok a.k.a. Seoul’s Sad Song, 2007)? Went down on my knees and whispered, “Thank you, KBS, for the DVD.”

Because to own this, to be able to look at and hold it, somehow makes it all tangible. Because I can’t tell you how many times I pinched myself, disbelieving that I had watched the most exquisite of sageuks (period dramas). I thought surely something so underrated (6% average ratings) would not see a DVD release. And with English subtitles, too!

Only eight episodes and yet more intense and complex than sageuks five times its length, Conspiracy in the Court is a thrilling whodunit, a compelling love story, a political duel, a social commentary.

The first episode left me breathless. Characters flit in and out of buildings, a murder takes place and then another, darkness veils the perpetrators, events unfold so fast I could barely keep up. In fact I was so lost I had to pause the video midway so that I could go on the Internet to find a (spoiler-free) synopsis of the drama.

After that bewildering first episode, Episode 2 took me completely by surprise.

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