Writer : Kat Philpot
Editor : Valerie Kaye and Tabby
Picture credit: SBS
As with the preceding episodes, the cinematography in episode 3 is incredible. It’s hard to believe PD Nam Gun is a fairly new hand at taking the helm. He captures the best angles, gives us incredible landscapes, and keeps our perspective exactly where he wants it. The cast, consisting of veteran actors and actresses, play their parts convincingly and with expertise. Nam Gun knows their strengths and uses them to convey the story not just through lines in a script, but also by taking full advantage of the expressions and gestures the actors use to bring their characters to life.
The writing, by Kwon Soon Gyu, has been a treat as well. He keeps things tight, advancing smoothly through the story without useless scenes and dialogue to fill the time. It has been my experience that historic dramas are dry pieces...the worst nightmare of everyone who is not a history buff. However, no one can accuse this drama of being dry or uninteresting. Daebak has been an intense journey to this point, even grave in tone. As a result, the levity introduced toward the end of episode 3 is completely unexpected and, to some, most shocking. It is almost as if the channel has changed in the middle of the show.
We begin the episode with Baek Man-Geum, the drunken gambler, redeeming himself as he rushes to the rescue of his “son.” He takes the place of his former wife, Suk-Bin, for the final choice of card. Relying on his knowledge of cards and of Yi In-Jwa, he chooses the top card from the deck instead of one of the five laid out on the table. His hunch pays off, but nevertheless, Yi In-Jwa takes a third shot at baby Dae-gil. Incredibly, the bow breaks just as the arrow is released, changing its trajectory. The charmed life of baby Dae-gil and his mother are spared.
Back at the palace, Jang Ok Jung is jealously plotting to rid herself of her rival. First, she has Suk-Bin arrested and imprisoned in a clay jar overnight while it rains. The King intervenes the next morning and releases Suk-Bin from her imprisonment in the jar. Carried into the palace in a dead faint, a palace doctor examines her while the King questions Lady Jang on her actions. She attempts to defend herself, only to be foiled when Suk-Bin’s maid places a packet of pregnancy herbs on the floor, and the doctor declares Suk-Bin is pregnant once again. The King warns Lady Jang to be more careful: someone could die.
Lady Jang, fearing her son’s claim to the throne might be challenged, makes a second attempt to do away with Suk-Bin. She arrests Man-Geum and brings him to the palace. Tied up and tortured, she questions him about the baby he has—is it not the supposedly dead prince? He denies both knowing Suk-Bin and having any knowledge of the King’s son. The King once again intervenes, denying the child is his. This time, he drags Lady Jang by the hair out of the palace, tossing her roughly to the ground with the words, “Stop it!”
Holding the infant while leaving the palace, the beaten and tortured Man Geum returns home. The baby he was questioned over turns out to be the child of a local shopkeeper. Once again, baby Dae-gil survives the threats to his charmed life.
Fast-forward a year. Suk-Bin gives birth again and is honored by a higher rank, while Lady Jang is demoted and banished from the palace. Her young son Yoon (later to become King Gyeongjong), frightened over the loss of his mother, becomes an unwitting victim of Yi In-Jwa’s machinations.
Now we race 20 years into the future and meet the character that will become Dae-gil. This is not the serious man with eyes of steel that we met at the beginning of the first episode. He is not the man who played mind games and board games with Yi In-Jwa. This character is immature, impatient and devoid of all social graces. This character is an undisciplined, and seemingly unintelligent, 20-year old child who throws off responsibility in favor of the pursuit of fun. This character is Gae Ddong.
Keeping in mind that Baek Man-Geum and Nam Dokkebi have raised him in remote villages, Gae Ddong is what you would expect. He has grown up learning to gamble, to con his way through life, and to swindle anyone and everyone he can in order to live. Life for Gae Ddong, though absent of material things, has been a playground. He’s had no permanent home, moving from village to village when prospects dried up, and promised that one day he would become a nobleman and marry, no longer having to scrounge for a living.
Jang Keun Suk plays Gae Ddong with abandon, allowing him to be a carefree spirit with a catch-as-catch can attitude. To anyone unfamiliar with his acting ability and natural talent, the character of Gae Ddong might seem poorly presented. Mr. Jang, however, portrays this character brilliantly. He will shed Gae Ddong and bring Dae-gil about flawlessly when the time comes, and not a second too soon or too late.
I am fascinated by the story. I can’t imagine how they will bring it about, but I believe it will be very interesting to see how the writer, director, and Mr. Jang transform the free-spirited, youthful Gae Ddong into the cold-as-ice gambler Baek Dae-gil.
For once in my life, I do not dread Mondays. I greet them with great joy and anticipation. Bravo, SBS. Bravo Daebak cast and crew. Daebak is most definitely daebak!