Mad About the OTP of Ha Ji Won and Joo Jin Mo in the Surprisingly Entertaining Empress Ki

I have to confess I almost dropped Empress Ki about 10 minutes into episode 1. It happened at the scene where second male lead Ji Chang Wook as the Yuan Emperor Huizhong (nee Ta Hwan) whined like an insecure kid towards Joo Jin Mo as the Goryeo King Wang Yoo about whether Wang Yoo still loves Seung Nyang played by Ha Ji Won. Bearing in mind this was Ta Hwan’s coronation ceremony to make Seung Nyang his Empress, and all I saw was a boy bleeting about how much he lurves Seung Nyang and way more than Wang Yoo so neener neener. My head hit my desk and I pressed stop on the video. It was days before I made my way back, and thank god I did because Empress Ki has turned out ever so watchable. It bills itself as a sageuk (which means historical drama), and in the olden days of yore in K-drama land that word “sageuk” actually meant something. It meant a dramatization of history, with some fictional license, but by and large it was merely putting dry history from the pages transformed into the big screen with pretty people acting it out. Now sageuk means that all the way to straight up fantasy make-believe but slapped with the names and events from history.

The latter is what Empress Ki is, zero historical accuracy other than borrowing names and major events, but it acknowledges it with a huge disclaimer that this story is all made up. I’m good with that and off we go to the races! This drama is fun and fast, utilizing its talented sprawling cast marvelously. Episode 1 starts with a mid-drama open showing Seung Nyang becoming the titular Empress Ki, but that’s nowhere as riveting as when she looks at her future husband Ta Hwan like she wants to string him along on a leash in between shooting devastating lovelorn looks at Wang Yoo. That was the moment I was sold on his drama, with an OTP of Goryeo King Wang Yoo and future Empress Ki Seung Nyang that is epic and cannot be, but perhaps with all the fictional license this drama can give them a happy ending? I’m onboard for all 50-episodes dying to find out. Check out my OTP recap from the first 7 episodes and hop on this steam rolling drama train with me. So far there is more romance between the OTP in 7-episodes when he spends most of the time thinking she’s a man than in the entirety of Goddess of Fire.

The drama starts with Seung Nyang marrying Ta Hwan, which has about as much romance as marrying your nemesis to stab him during the wedding night. Put aside His Supreme Whino and his need to announce to rival Wang Woo that “Seung Nyang is all mine”, Seung Nyang could probably break his arm with a flicker of her pinky, and that amuses me to no end that she’s marrying him to advance her own interests while he’s wallowing in his own one-sided love. It also starts the OTP angst wagon when Seung Nyang spots Wang Yoo in the crowd of thousands, standing in the far back to watch her marry another man. He can’t get any closer because his heart will literally break, but he also can’t bear to not see her one more time.

Rewind back to the first meeting of the OTP, hoodlum gang boss Seung Nyang is challenged to an arrow shooting contest by pretend hooligan Wang Yoo. Loser has to listen to the winner. Seung Nyang puts up a valiant effort but passes out drunk in Wang Yoo’s arms, and then barfs on him. Seung Nyang may have ended up losing but she won herself a King’s heart so I think she’s the ultimate victor.

Seung Nyang wakes up from passing out drunk and finds herself in Wang Yoo’s room. She sees him playing an instrument and he offers to teach her so she can impress the ladies. LOL. His idea of teaching is the sit behind her and make her all tingly and uncomfortable with the male awareness. I approve of this type of homo-erotic subtext skin ship.

They spend a night out at the festival and it’s as magical as it gets in sageuk land.

She takes an arrow to the leg to protect him. He princess carries her back home despite still thinking she’s a guy. She slaps him when he tries to bandage her up. These two with constant skin skip. I can’t get enough of it.

Seung Nyang leaves on a mission that takes her to the camp of the exiled Yuan dynasty crown prince Ta Hwan. The Yuan dynasty prime minister is in cahoots with the Goryeo minister to assassinate the crown prince while on Goryeo territory, eliminating him and pinning the blame on Goryeo and thereby take out the Goryeo crown prince Wang Yoo. He hears about the plot and races to save Ta Hwan for the sake of saving Goryeo from becoming a Yuan colony.

Seung Nyang ends up being the one to discover Ta Hwan survived and she reunites with Wang Yoo and discovers he’s the Goryeo crown prince.

Wang Yoo is way too happy to see Seung Nyang again. He gets down to her level to talk to her and then pulls her up for a hug.

It’s a man vs. boy showdown as Wang Yoo lights into the sniveling Ta Hwan about why he is still alive and if he were to die he better do it back in Yuan territory. I actually like Ta Hwan, he’s smart but plays stupid and is hilariously emotional. Ji Chang Wook plays him well, except his character isn’t compelling in the least as a contender for Seung Nyang’s heart. He’s like a little puppy following her around. Seung Nyang needs a man, not a puppy.

Wang Yoo gives Seung Nyang a mission to accompany the Yuan crown prince Ta Hwan to his exile and keep him safe. She ends up escaping with him when the assassins come again to kill him. Wang Yoo tries to race to save her but sees her and Ta Hwan falling down a cliff. They both survive and his relief that she’s alive earns her yet another hug.

Ta Hwan betrays Seung Nyang and Wang Yoo and lies that Seung Nyang’s father a Goryeo general was the one who tried to kill him. This results in daddy’s death, Seung Nyang’s eternal hatred for Ta Hwan, and Wang Yoo being taken a Goryeo crown prince hostage to the Yuan dynasty. Seung Nyang is also taken to be a slave. Along the way, Wang Yoo takes an arrow to stick up for the mistreatment of Goryeo hostages.

Seung Nyang drags him on a board behind her to keep up with the Yuan convoy so that he isn’t left to die. It’s not everyday that a leading lady is as tough as her leading man.

When Yuan general Dangkise learns that Seung Nyang is a girl, he has her dressed as one and taken to his tent to be ravaged. Wang Yoo arrives and beats him up, but Seung Nyang keeps him from killing Dangkise otherwise he’ll be killed as well.

They are tied up back-to-back in a pole all night. She asks if he’s mad that she lied about her gender. He is clearly not mad and just upset he can’t get her to safety.

When they are forcibly separated, with Seung Nyang being taken to the Yuan capital to be a palace slave while Wang Yoo is sent to the war torn borders where he”ll likely die, the way their hands are loath to separate speaks volumes.

My two sets of OTPs. Seung Nyang+Wang Yoo = for love of Goryeo patriotic dignity and kindred spirits that transcend class. Ta Hwan + Tanasiri = for the good of the Yuan dynasty and hilarity all around. Because this drama is pretty much pure fiction, I like how MBC changes Empress Ki from a traitoress to a patriot in the eyes of Koreans since she married into the oppressor Yuan dynasty and rose through the ranks there and joined in the subjugation of Goryeo people. Now she’s a red-blooded Goryeo citizen who wants to free her people from Yuan dynasty oppression. Her love with Goryeo King Wang Yoo makes her marriage to Yuan Emperor Ta Hwan acceptable since she is sacrificing the man she loves for the country they both love. I heard a spoiler rumor that this drama will end with a Da Mo Yao ending for the OTP. I’m positively giddy with glee since after this whole shebang both the Goryeo and the Yuan dynasty doesn’t last for much longer anyways.

Ha Ji Won and Joo Jin Mo are even perfect together at the press conference in complementary black and white.

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They are tied up on a pole back-to-back. Promising they will stay alive for each other. He tells her that he will come back for her. She tells him that she will wait for him. The way they grab each other’s hand. How they cry for each other even in front of their enemies. When he’s dragged out, the way he turns back to look at her and never lets his eyes leave her. How she calls out for her Jeonha and he screams out her name. This tough girl who never cries for anything as she’s survived it all, she’s sobbing with worry for him. Guh.

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Their first meeting is an archery showdown. After drinking. This one needs no discussion, just watch and laugh. OTP for life after this meet cute to end all meet cutes.

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They go out to the night festival. She takes an arrow in the leg for him. He princess carries her back to his place. He tries to bandage her up and gets slapped for his trouble.


Mad About the OTP of Ha Ji Won and Joo Jin Mo in the Surprisingly Entertaining Empress Ki — 105 Comments

  1. thx koala for posting this!!! ^^ love this drama too…very engaging from the start. love how Ha Ji Won’s character SN really portrays a tough and strong leading lady, especially when she’s pretending to be a man, unlike the leading ladies of SKKS and You’re Beautiful, who sometimes frustrated me to death for being so obvious that they’re not guys. Love how Empress Ki is well cast. I look forward to the upcoming episodes. ^^

  2. I’m watching this drama too. I had super low expectations, but it turned out to be a fun watch… as long as I shut off my brain.

    Joo Jin Mo is looking oh-so-fine. His scenes are the best.

    Ha Ji Won looks pretty… and that’s all. Her character is an idiot and she doesn’t look like a man at all. I’m not sure if they tried to make her look super feminine on purpose or not. When she blushes and stammers after being hugged or seeing a guy’s chest I actually facepalm. It’s so ridiculous!

    The whimpering Prince is annoying but endurable.

    Overall the drama looks very pretty.

  3. I’m totally in agreement with you here. Empress Ki is surprisingly enjoyable (although occasionally cringe-worthy when Prince Ta-Hwan is being obnoxious). I actually kinda want him to man-up and win Seungnyang over. 😉

    • I think it’s just because I have never liked Joo Jin Mo or even found him attractive physically that I can’t get down with them as an OTP. I want the prince to grow some balls and prove his worth and win her over too. Obviously that ain’t gonna happen (the winning her over bit) so I hope the king can somehow win me over before things are all said and done.

  4. Wow I am not watching this but what a heart thumping review. Sure beats the slow as molasses GoF recaps. Plus the way the OTP looks at each other. It’s so hot.

  5. Oh, thank God you are into this sageuk and keen on giving us background on it as well as recapping it (?), hopefully. I totally love it! Historical accuracy can be shelved for a bit because this is so entertaining!

    • Plus Ha Ji Won always gets so shy and flustered (for her anyways) around oppas… she is just the most adorable thing ever and I totally get why Korea loves her so much. Gah.

  6. Not gonna watch a sageuk for a while..but will continue to follow ur recap. I like Ha Ji Won unnie..but 50 episoder..nah..I can’t commit. Its tooo long.:)

  7. Truly we’re addicted to this drama, from the very start we’ve notice that it has a potential to deliver quality HISTORICAL scenes and both main ACTOR’s are known to be a very good and efficient one.

  8. I expected not to watch this drama because I don’t like sageuks but I was hooked from episode one. Ha Ji Won looks so pretty when dressed as a concubine. It will be interesting how the whiny prince falls for her.

  9. i don’t usually watch sageuk dramas too, but i got hooked to this because i find the story entertaining and i love the chemistry/tandem too of ha ji won and joo jin moo..

    though i think koala we are both part of the minority who loves the woo young and seung nyang i’ve seen in most forums, majority are loving the ta hwan and seung nyang OTP..

    i just hope the writers wont change the story line just because a lot are loving the character of ta hwan than woo young for seung nyang..there are still more episodes to go, so i hope there will be more character development and skinships for woo young and seung nyang..i am mainly onboard in this drama because if this OTP! 🙂

    • I think lots of (young) people get confused about who THEY are attracted to vs who a character is actually interested in. Reminds me of how some fans are hoping that CJW in Suspicious Housekeeper ends up with a psychopath stalker who massacred her husband and son… because he’s hot. There is no facepalm big enough for that kind of stupidity.

      Mind you, the emperor is hardly a stalker psychopath but we can already see the beginning of an ugly obsession in Episode 1. Ewwwww. No thanks.

      • Wow, reading this year’s later and you said everything I tried saying to this “young generation” of viewers. Ugh, I like Ji Chang Wook, but couldn’t stand Tahwan. Seriously didn’t understand these viewers at all!

    • I feel like I’m watching a totally different drama that those who ship TH-SN. I like TH and Ji Chang Wook is killing it as Ta Hwan. Fantastic and fluid performance, first time he’s managed to impress me. But stack him up against Baeksang Best Actress Film winner Ha Ji Won and Baeksang Best Actor Film winner Joo Jin Mo, and he’s just in a different league charisma-wise. Add to it his character being totally not suited for SN in any romantic mutual way, I’m going to have to chuckle over those who think the TH-SN ship will have a happy ending.

      This is the drama that cast HJW-JJM right off the bat, and couldn’t for the life of it cast the second male lead because NO ONE wanted to play him. That was silly as well because TH is nicely written so far and for all I know his character may end up stealing the show. Kinda like how JGS did in Hong Gil Dong, interesting but not OTP suitable.

      But right now WY and SN have the most character development and their chemistry and romantic interludes are off the charts. As if all the screencaps above lie, and its sheer volume speaks to how many scenes they have together. Plus TH is the Yuan Emperor, he is the “enemy” of Goryeo, the people who are ancestors of the modern Korean citizenry. Pigs will fly before MBC, the very conservative network, will make it so Empress Ki is in love with an enemy Emperor. At most she’ll pity him and have stirrings of affection, but her heart and patriotism belongs to Wang Yoo and Goryeo. That is the entire purpose of this drama, to rewrite her so that she becomes a white-washed female patriot.

      That this drama managed to give me a compelling OTP romance that makes sense, has chemistry up the wazoo, is just icing on the cake.

      • I don’t understand how you two were able to come up with that WY and SN “have the most character development?” i agree that they have chemistry. HJW has chemisty with every leading men in her dramas.

        There were more “romantic” scenes and more screen time between SN and TH than the latter. SN seen TH in his birthday suit. There were skinship when she was trying to keep him warm and so forth.

        The only scenes I could think for regarding SN and WY was when he was teaching her how to play the musical instrument. He dreamed that he liked her and several small scenes far in between.

        I’m open to both ships but objectively there weren’t many scenes devoted to SN & WY.

      • Yeah, I agree. Friendship, ok, but full blown romantic love? Don’t think so. Too dongsaengish. And it’s hilarious that Seung Nyang is the one who’s supposed to be charitable and make a treacherous enemy emperor a man… can’t think of any quicker way to kill romantic feelings in a woman’s heart than having to make someone a man. This drama may be complete fiction but a manga, it ain’t.

      • @Rina
        Kings2Heart. Ring a bell????? LOL. Despite the romance shipping. I’m really looking forward to TH growth as a character. He has so much potential and is a very interesting character. He’s a rare bird in this type of drama.

      • @lem, Seung Nyang doesn’t see Ta Hwan as a man so his scenes with her aren’t really romantic ones from her perspective. Whereas she’s very much aware of Wang Yoo as a woman is aware of a man.

      • @Rina

        I see what you are saying. I have a feeling that this is a show that actually may satisfied both ships. It is possible for SN to love two men at different periods of her life. I believe that she will fall hard for WY but in the long run will also fall hard for TH. I know they took strong historical liberties in this drama but I don’t think they are going to break up TH marriage with SN. I think in time she will genuinely fall for him too as their marriage progresses. Wishful thinking maybe hahaha

      • I think a much better example would be Kim Nam-gil in QSS! He was so charismatic that they changed the whole story for him and had him winning the queen’s heart. I don’t see it happening here tho.

      • @lem, I’m open to affection developing on her part… would hate it if the drama producers did go the Da Mo Yao route! *hugs*

      • Apparently the DMY ending is the one the writers and MBC wants. I mean – she’s going to have a child with Wang Yoo mid-way through the drama! If that is not branded OTP ship for life I don’t know what is. The ending might change and go all Hong Gil Dong, who knows? But SN and TH living happy ever after in wedded Yuan dynasty bliss? Never gonna happen.

      • I read the rumors from those who read the novel published by the studio. According to those who read it, the show so far didnt follow faithfully to the novel. For instance, SN met TH before she met WY in the book. Im not saying, WY and SN will not be the end game but the show is not going to be completefully faithful to the book. It is possible that SN could also have a second child but with TH. Anything is possible at the time being, we are still early into the show.

  10. I am really curious to see how Ta Hwan will change. Now he annoys the heck outta me. Been waiting for the ep7 subtitles since last night! Finally Sun Nyang’s girl identity is going to be exposed. Hurrah to that! cuz Wang Woo doesn’t need to think he himself is gay anymore><

  11. 50 episodes is too long for me too, but as long as Ha Ji Won is on board, I’m pretty sure it’ll be worth it. I’ve watched the first 6 episodes and so far, I’m loving it! I’m a Wang Yoo- Seung Nyang shippper too! I can’t wait for episodes 7 & 8 to be English-subbed!

  12. Dear koala,
    what took u so long to finally recognize this show is really decent and worth recapping? Yes it is supposed to be an historical drama and it certainly deviates from history. Who cares as long as the show is entertaining. We will tune into history channel if we want fact. Your beloved BBJX is not exactly historically accurate either but it certainly was superb. Every actors in this show is carefully chosen ( kudo to Hjw of course) and I even enjoy watching the villains. Can u please recap this show instead of stupid Heirs which is the biggest disappointment of the year. Thank you!

  13. Look who is back!
    Dang, I love Togon more. Kinda makes me more exciting to see a man who need to be fixed. SN needs to do that, fix that man and make proper king of him.

    Sound familiar?

    • Kings 2 Heart 😀 GO TH and SN. He will grow up and be a man one day. At least he has room for character growth. WY, not so much.

      It’s hard for me to believe that SN likes WY because, they had almost no time together to develop romantic feelings.

      • hmmm, i dont think two people need that more time just for them to develop romantic feelings to each other..i think sometimes its automatically felt when that person makes your heart jump and skip, that was evident to wy and sy (e.g. instrument play lesson, when wy hugs sy, and recently when they where hostaged by yuan soldiers, their parting scene)..the connection is there too..but it just so happens that sy and th has more scenes together and their scenes are more playful..

        yeah i think th definitely needs a lot of chatacter improvement based on the aired episodes..but i don’t think that wy has a small room for character improvement, there are only 8 episodes, and 40+ to go, and i see a lot of things already on his character that needs improvement too..

        i don’t hAve anything against th, i like how jcw plays the character..this is just my opinion though..

      • I dun understand why you keep comparing Empress ki TH to K2H’s Jae Ha. Their characters are totally different, while K2H JH is rebellious, stubborn, brilliant, willful with bold determination, EK’s TH is weak, shallow, no guts nor willpower, illiterate, spoil & pompous. So pls stop comparing K2H’s JH & EK’s TH. They are different like the sea & the sky.

        I also love the chemistry a man & a woman between WY & SN. In fact SN was attracted to WY long before she knew who he was & while she was still disguising as a man. Although the now the focus more on TH & SN, but so far most of what SN’s did/does are for WY’s sake, She try hard saving TH before bcos of WY, her endurance in the palace also bcos of WY, her happiness & sadness all bcos of WY. The turbulence in her heart are all bcos of WY. Whenever she’s with TH she only coping up with him like she did with a spoil kid, at times mothering him but mostly she is like a nanny to TH. She might eventually get attach to him as one wud to a kid or a pet but that’s not love we’re talking abt here

  14. I actually prefer TH at the moment with SN. He’s a funny comic relief. He’s young and may be at times be a tad annoying. But he has a big heart and I am more interested in his background and his growth. TH and SN have mad chemistry. I’m glad you are talking about this show now. i could never fathom why you chose two bad shows (heirs and mirae choice) to recap.

  15. Hi Ms Koala, I really love n enjoyed watching this Empress Ki!!! But most of all I really Luff luff you for posting this n pray that you could do the recap too^_*:-)) I do like the whiny little prince Ta-Hwan with seung yang \*o*/((-:
    Anyway I really appreciate you for everything and thank you.
    God bless:))

  16. This makes me so happy. Leave it to Ha Ji Won to pick another awesome project. Love huh. Anyone know if this is streaming anywhere with english subs?

  17. Oh Ms Koala, thank you so much for recapping heirs and mirae choice too!! Luff luff watching this 2 drama and especially reading your recaps^_*:-)) Best regards((: FIghting\*o*/!!!

  18. Wow! Thanks for this! It feels so different to watch something less trendy; only rare blogs are covering it! It makes me so sad!

    Out of curiosity… what is a Da Mo Yao ending? They both die for their countries?

    • Spoilers.

      DMY ending means WY and SN fake their deaths and live happily ever after in far away obscurity, leaving politics and their high positions behind.

      • I’m sorry, but that sounds absolutely idiotic. Then again, it’s not like Empress Ki was supposed to make sense anyway. How is running away from your country with your lover (and King) patriotic in any sense of the word? XD

        Now I get what you mean by Yuan and Goryo ending soon anyway.

      • Ah. Sort of like the princess’s man ending except the stakes were probably higher in dmy..

  19. I’m really enjoying this drama.Can’t wait for the english sub and Monday.I actually like both OTP.JCW performance is quite a surprise.All the actors are portraying their roles well.I’m hoping that HJW will win an award for her solid performance. Fighting Empress Ki.Most of all thanks for the recap.

  20. So glad to finally find someone who loves this OTP as much as I do. So sick of everyone wanting her with Ta Hwan after what he did!!!

    • Ta Hwan is an interesting character and I don’t blame him for throwing Goryeo under the bus to save his own hide. If he didn’t then he’s too stupid to live. If he is in the position to stop a bigger evil, then he has to make hard decisions and live with the consequences.

      I don’t think he’s bad for SN because of what he did. I actually quite like TH, he’s amusing and has plenty of room to grow as a character. Plus he’s about the only Yuan male I don’t completely loathe so far. I just don’t think he understands and connects with her the way WY does. Those two fundamentally “get” each other. I actually think Tanasiri is adorably bratty and the two of them suit each other perfectly. I have two OTPs in this drama already~

      • Don’t know.., with WY is love for the country, love for the King the same now.
        With TH is love-hate relationship which is deeper and excites me more.

  21. This looks interesting but as someone who is not a fan of historicals would you guys recommend I watch it. I don’t like melodramas but ended up loving Secret.

      • And a GORGEOUS one, to boot. They certainly are NOT skimping on any details. The jewelry and clothes they put Kim Suh Hyung in are stunning.

        How about that one long outdoor shot of the whole court as they carried the Emperor in? Very impressive. I was looking for CGI give-aways but didn’t see any.

        And the armor, I LOVE THE armor.

  22. If the pace for this drama keeps up, it easily becomes one of my most favourite this year!

    I love both OTP..both guys have great chemistry with SN..but in terms of character wise, I am definitely leaning on to WY..just b/c he’s so righteous and caring towards SN and his people. It is sad though that as a King, he barely have any power to fight back.

  23. Like a few others, i watched a couple minutes just to get a taste of this show but i never got around to watching the rest. I probably should, given the glowing recap of the OTP moments. One major concern though before I go back: how’s the director? He’s the main reason i tried to steer clear. How bout that choppy editing we got from Dr.Jin?
    the 50 episode slot is scaring me a bit, but if Ha Ji Won and Joo Jin Mo continue to sell their passionate love then i can stick around for as long as it doesn’t start dragging. That’s another concern. It could start at breakneck pacing and then slow down considerably towards the middle.
    I’m weight pros and cons here!

    • The key here is the writers. If they can give Ha Ji-won’s character motive, depth, and urgency, 50 eps won’t be a problem. Then again, getting motive, depth, and urgency into a show isn’t easy. I wanted Empress Ki to be a smart show, but the more I read about it, the more shallow the construction becomes.

    • The PD is fine here so far. When it gets deep into live-shoot territory then I don’t know. Dr. Jin was live-shoot from the first week on. Craziest drama filming in years.

  24. I love you Capt Koala!!! Thank you for this post. I have been watching this since ep 1 and I am just waiting for more OTP scenes. They are on fire together. hJW and JJM’s have awesome chemistry… And both are amazing in sageuk roles.

    I read a lot of people shipping the yuan emperor and SN and I just didn’t get it. Why would someone want her to end up with the enemy, and esp since he is such a weak man. I get he will probably grow up later but not right now. In any case, I am sticking to my OTP. Mbc better give me good scenes for them. The separation one was soo nicely done. One of my favorite scenes in the entire series so far.

    • I’ve re-watched the tent scene too many times to count. XD

      I genuinely don’t get why anyone would ship her with TH. At most she’s like an older sister to whip his ass into shape and help him grow some balls. That invokes zero romantic potential in me.

  25. This is a great drama. I’ve been watching it since ep 1 and I have not regretted it so far. I’m on this train for sure.

  26. I was wondering why you didnt recap this show when it is really worth watching. Finally, I am really glad that you are onboard. I seldom watch ancient drama but after seeing so many positive feedback, I started to watch also. I dropped MHIYD and follow this show and so far, is really worth watching. After seeing the preview for Episode 9, I think next episode will be interesting as TH will meet SN.

  27. If this continues to be at current acting, directing and production… it would be our second 40+ dramas after “Giant”… Empress Ki is sooo interesting, thrilling and fun to watch. Actually we liked the character Ta Hwan played very well by Ji ChangWook… Makes one empathetic with his restricted life.

  28. I think a lot of ppl ship the SN-TH couple because they think Ji Chang Wook is cuter and younger than Joo Jin Moo. I think Joo Jin Moo is a lot manlier and more handsome than JCW can ever become. Its not even close in terms of acting ability. This is the first time I’ve seen any improvement in JCW acting but if you put him in any scene with JJM. JJM by a landslide has more screen presence and acting ability. SN-TH might have more scenes than WY-SN but there is absolutely no romantic chemistry. TH character might learn to grow a backbone later on but he’s still a petulant child as shown in the first episode in the first scene at the Empress coronation by the way he talks to WY. So I’m definitely hoping for a happy ending for WY-SN.

    • I don’t even think its an insult to say JJM is a way way WAY better actor than JCW is right now. I mean, maybe in 10 years let’s talk, JCW. I think JCW has improved since I last saw him in WBDS and bits of Five Fingers. It’s not even an insult to say that JJM has more screen presence, he’s a freaking Baeksang Best Actor winner ferrsakes! Just like its clear HJW is a way better actress than Baek Jin Hee is right now. Again, no insult to BJH, who is adorable here and does well with putting so much spitfire into Tanasiri. I also find JCW hilarious and entertaining as Ta Hwan. But narratively I don’t see any emotional or rational reason to ship SN with TH. She sees him as her father’s killer, and the oppressor regime to the Goryeo people. Not to mention the Yuan killed her mom, too.

      If this was some true love thing where they fell in love and then realized each other’s real identities then I could get behind the angst because love transcended country and loyalties. But she is completely uninterested in him as either a human or a man. At this point at least. Whereas she and WY set the screen on fire, their mutual respect and love for Goryeo is so complementary, and they find in each other that bit of goodness so lacking in their own lives. Why would Seung Nyang choose a 7-11 rice ball (whiny, immature, enemy of her own family and her own country) for a meal when she can have a juicy steak (hot, passionate, and righteous). Nnnnngggg, Wang Yoo, come to mommy you smoking hot namja! I would like SN to make TH into a better person, and if he loves her, then he would let her go to the man she loves. His “Seung Nyang is all mine!” and “I love her way more than you!” speeches at the beginning of episode 1 roiled my stomach. Ugh, I hate possessive and insecure tools. Hopefully he gets better after he marries SN.

    • I have lots to say about shippings and endings and for that I’ll use the writing Technique of these husband-wife mega screenwriters in S. Korea. I have no idea how many of you watched their (Jang Young Chul, Jung Kyung Soon) previous work: Giant, History of the salaryman and Incarnation of Money, but for those who haven’t and only encounter in their work for the first time in Empress Ki, you need to know:
      1. They ALWAYS put young/sexy/handsome second lead to complicate thing up.
      2. They Always punish indirectly the MAJOR evil character and let the second lead to redeem himself somehow.
      3. They Always ends with the meant-to-be OTP as FINAL OTP, so shipping for others won’t work.

      I still get angry and frustrated when I recall our long discussions over Jung Gyu Woon’s character in Salaryman. Ta Hwan is nothing for comparison to Cho Hang Woo, and still lots of young full of hormones female viewers shipped him with the woman he fall in love with not before he made countless bad deeds like trying to KILL her among others. Even this fact didn’t stop these fans continue to ship for them together.

      BUT, here’s the big BUT. Even if the writers will keep messing with our hearts, for SN and WY be strong and believe they’ll end together.

  29. So happy you’ve decided to writte about it Koala. I’m loving so much the OTP! I can’t recall a drama that Ha Ji Won us in and doesn’t have chemistry. Hope Empress Ki will keeps the quality. It’s so easy to watch and so pretty. I’m mesmerised by Ha Ji Won, she’s so beautiful and I lie how Joo Jin Mo and she looks.

  30. THANK YOU! I have 6 episodes of this downloaded and was waiting to hear from someone whose opinion I trust, so after reading your first paragraph, I’ll be giving it a whirl. 🙂

  31. I really hope you continue to recap empress ki Koala! I have so much hope that I am posting my first comment after habitually lurking on all your other posts. haha.

    I had much of the same initial reaction as you, giving it up after less than 10 mins into the first episode. but after watching damo (after seeing your high rating for it), am now a devoted follower of ha ji won and gave empress ki another shot. I’m all aboard the the SN-WY ship!

    • Damo is amazing, isn’t it?

      Now THAT is a drama where both ships are totally viable. I may be Team Naeuri but HOMG Team Rebel Leader is just as compelling. In the cave scene I wanted them to make out even though its just all sorts of wrong and would break my Naeuri’s heart. XD Damo proves a good love triangle makes both men worthy of loving.

      Here TH is like leftovers. Very endearing in his buffoonish way but not a man for the kick-ass SN.

  32. I’ve been “reading” some online Korean articles and I think most people likes Seungnyang and TaHwan together. My hunch tells me that in the finale writers are going to try hard to please both TH-SN and WY-SN shippers. More likely, SN is going to live with WY after TH’s death…

    I must admit, I started out this drama wanting HJW to end up with JJM’s character. WY’s character looks really good on script but as the show goes on, I can’t help but like TH-SN couple more. Ratings are also higher when SN is with TH. For me, it doesn’t matter who she’s gonna end up with because you know, both ship will go through a long and sad journey.

    Anyway, thinking of how this will drama end is too early.. Writers may decide to change the finale depending on what will be decided but like what I’ve said earlier, it is going to end with WY and SN together.

    • I understand there is a reason viewers may like SN-TH, I just meant I don’t personally feel it or understand the rationale other than JCW is cute and putting in a nice performance. I love me a love-hate relationship but this I don’t see any love just hate. Even mild attraction would be good but that’s not there either from her side.

      • There’s a lot of things that is going to happen for the next 42 episodes. I’m a fan of Ha Ji Won and the writers so my faith in this drama will not fade… even if the ship I’m sailing is bound to sink.. kekeke..

  33. Koala! i had to watch 7 and 8 unsubbed before I could look at and read this!

    So many things you said already that I agree with, so I will add:

    Ki has as much chance as being romantic with TH as Inigo Montoya did with the Six-Fingered Man. Doesn’t “You killed my father, prepare to die.” fit this situation perfectly? The closest Ki will get to the Emperor is maybe NOT wanting to murder him after a few years, but love? I don thin so.

    JJM and HJW are a freaking match made in heaven. Very few men on screen matched her as well as he does. Holy sh^t, it’s like they have been together in past lives or something. I love them.

    I tried to watch JJM from a distance to see if I had attributed smexy to him just because I wanted to. But even when he is dressed down, and being forced to subjugate himself to the Yuan rats, he still radiates manliess and kingliness like nobody else. Of course, it isn’t just HIS acting that makes that work. The rest of the cast is like a bunch of Drama Dream Team pulled together to create the perfect saguek Jets and Sharks.

    JCW is adorable and really killing it. It is a tough balance playing such an adolescent and be seen as a romantic contender. He is nowhere near man enough now to attract Ki. I do look forward to how much TH grows across the 50 episodes. Once he finds out he DID kill her father, he may understand just how really really far he is from winning her heart. Poor thing.

    The twisted side of me reeeeeally likes every single HJW scene she has with Kim Jung Hyun. When did he get sexy? He has been the ONLY man in a sea of many who picked up on Ki’s obvious femininity. The smell-yer-neck moment was both creepy and tantalizing. You know he is half way to falling in love with her in a threatening way. My money is he will be taking an arrow/blade for her at one point. I actually felt a spark between the two of them as people, not in character, a few times. Since this is an AU sageuk, they are my AU ship.

    As an aside, all the blade blurring in Cruel City is laughable when we see GIANT swords and small swords and little knives and big knives in this show. What exactly was the point (no pun) of that censorship again?

    Looking forward to reading more here!

    • LOL…. I see what you mean with Kim Jung Hyun, He’s dreadfully sexy when harassing SN, that one need to keep reminding oneself, he’s the baddie, he’s the villain but with justthat one of his fiery/lustful stare all senses flew out of the window, of cos the heart is WY & SN but in Yuan WY’s tought competitor isnt TH but DK

  34. Thanks for the well done analysis on my OTP. I love me some SN-WY moments.
    JJM and HJW are killing it in this drama, and JCW and BJH are improving, so that’s all good.
    I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the tent scene too, hopefully it will last me until the the OTP moment.

  35. Thank god for this post and the much needed WY love. I love Ji Chang Wook and his role as TH so far, but Joo Jin Mo and Ha Jim Won easily convinced me who the OTP is. Of course, in some AU of this AU saguek, Jin Yi Han as Tal Tal would also be a contender for SN heart 🙂 I fell in love with his sexy voice the first time he appeared.

    Not that I don’t feel the SY-TH that many are feeling, but there hasn’t been any romantic feels between them yet. And from the flashforward in ep 1, clearly the love between HT and SN is not as deep as the WY-SN one. HT love is clearly on the unrequited end, and I quite prefer it that way. The beauty of this love triangle lie partly in its tragedy.

    But the love story is not the only awesome aspect of the drama. I am loving the secondary cast. Wang KO, the Queen mother, El Temur’s children, Bayan and his sexy nephew Tal-Tal, the Goryeo King’s followers….everyone is doing such a great job and its a joy to watch them.

  36. What a wonderful recap! I hope you continue to recap this awesome drama as the storyline seems more worthy than some of the other recent dramas airing. Right now I’m more on the WY and SN ship and loved your OTP feature of them. Although I like TH too, he needs to man-up more before he can be suitable for SN.

  37. HJW is absolutely stunning and ageless! One of my favourite Korean actresses. Will wait a few more weeks to accummulate enough episodes so I can hungrily devour them at Christmas!

  38. Thank you sooooo much for posting this. I have been addicted to this drama since its start – and I thot I was the only one! I am totally in love with the OTP. The small interactions between SN and WY… and ep 7!!! Ahhhhhhh!

    Yeah… that prince turned king – what a whiner! Bah! You are a king. Act like one. I want to see more growth for his character, that’s for sure.

    And I have so much hatred for that evil-doer-general family!!! It totally runs in the family!!! Evil two bros and the evil sister… and the big evil dad who needs to wash his hair and get a trim.

    Just finished 8, must see other people’s reactions too! Thank you for giving me a chance for that! 🙂 Koala – You’re the best!

  39. Love HJW and JJM.Finally an actor who’s in the same calibre as HJW.No need to speak .You can see it in their eyes.I love the scene where JJM was jealous of the prince.Perfect OTP.

  40. I’m totally on SN and WY ship. Funny thing is, ockoala you gather all scene that I always get back and rewatch while wait for the next ep to come.
    If this gonna be the separation ending , my heart will surely break 😛
    I actually wanna wait untill April next year, however cannot stop myself for click on online watch every Mon-Tue and wait for sub and serch for recap , comment 😛
    Hopefully I can hold myself not to watch next ep.

  41. I’ve been following this drama from the start and just finished Episode 8 when I thought of you, Koala. I remember your recaps on Jang Ok Jung and I too had high hopes for that drama which crashed and burned. However, Empress Ki has been surpassing all my expectations and is quickly becoming an addiction for me. I don’t really care about the romance between Seung Nyang and the king or the emperor. I just appreciate Seung Nyang’s character of being a strong, independent woman who fights for herself rather than letting her love interest do so for her. I also find it extremely refreshing that for once, it’s the girl protecting the second male lead and not vice versa. Ji Chang Wook is an adorable man and he acts the part as the pathetic emperor extremely well. I’m waiting for Ta Hwan to grow a backbone but I’m not sure if that shall happen. I hope that this drama continues in its strong stead. Episode 9 preview shows Ta Hwan basically chasing after Seung Nyang like a love-struck (MARRIED) puppy which is bound to be entertaining but the real kicker is the reunion of Wang Yoo and Seung Nyang.
    I heard somewhere that Wang Yoo and Seung Nyang have a child before she becomes empress. I’m very curious to know how that is supposed to happen.
    This drama is captivating but at 50 episodes, I can only hope they can keep it up.

  42. Watching the drama thus far, I get the feeling the wedding that took place in ep 1 wasnt an ending but suwhaere in the middle. So far up to date the ep has only been focusing on flashback so I bet once the flashback reach to the point of the wedding, then only the story will continue as the current events.

    We also see at the point of the wedding although she’s beautiful, SN certainly not radiant with happiness. Her tears & WY’s tears are evident enuf they they both are still very much in love with each other, thus saying her marrying TH is for other reason but love especially when she turn to TH she quickly masked her teary eyes with a force smile, so for now I’m just gonna believe Koala that WY & SN will end up together.

    Even if they dun end up together, being the hottest stars in Korea, what with all his ‘controversial’ scenes in Frozen Flowers & her passionate kiss scenes in most of her drama, I hope this writer wont disappoint us & let JJM-HJW talents in these areas go to waste. I cant forgive the writer if she doesnt include at least 2 or 3 passionate/kiss scene between these 2 in this 50 long hours drama

  43. dear koala< thx for ur recaps of most dramas and ur lovely analysis! its my first time ever commenting and sharing my thoughts about a drama but empress ki is such a master piece so far, that i couldnt resist but point out a few comments….
    1St in episode 1 we notice the emperor telling WY that he has to attend the conoration since "its an honor for goryo that a GORYO CONCUBINE became an empress" and that, even though true, but very rude and mean to come out of the mouth of the man who then screams that she is his everything and he loves her!!!! which makes us suspicious to the real reason behind this wedding since the emperor added that SN saved WY's life and not to forget the worried suspicious look the emperor gave SN while they were waving to the crowd..and personally as i see it…WY was somewhat in great danger and his life on steak and SN pleaded to the emperor who obviously is a bit tougher now than he was at first, to save him and he asked her to marry him in return to which im sure WY strongly opposed but she still went on with it thats why WY said sarcastically thank her for me for saving my life… also come on guys the look in her eyes on her wedding day while she was being carried on this carriage thing shows anger and revenge!
    2nd she promised her father when he died in her arms that she will avenge for him and for all of goryo and yet at the wedding we still c that WG and his evil soldier are there with a weary look on their faces which tells us that ep1 isnt the end and actually the beginning of the real revenge of SN!
    3rd according to history the yuan dynesty ends with that emperor so my hunch tells me that in this fictional drama empress ki will intentionally bring it to and end n thus fulfilling her promise of revenge!
    4th and lastly the hotty jjm said during the press conference that "WY will fall deeply and happily with SN'! please concentrate on happily:) yeeeeyyyyyy happy ending for WY n SN hopefully:)))))))
    sorry for my extended comment but i had to let it all out;)

  44. I think Ta Hwan is so selfish. He does everything for himself. He said he loves Seung Nyang. I think it is not true love. He feels alone. He never has true friends because of his habit.
    Wong Yoo is a very nice king. He always helps and looks after his people. He has true love for Seung Nyang. He worries and takes care her. They both think of each other. I like Wong Yoo and Seung Nyang more.

    • Me too!!!!! I really love them soo much!!!!!! Ha ji won is always laughing,,, if jo jin mo Oppa beside her,,,,, Oppa is so handsome!!!! I cant explain it,, but i love him,,!!!!!!

  45. Im going crazy wt this Drama!!!!! Wangyu Oppa!!! I really love u!!! U and Ha ji won are perfect together!!!!!! Saranghamda!!!!! 😉

  46. so sad how this drama ended. they freaking wasted JJM and his chemistry with HJW. it should’ve been a happy ending for WY-SN but the other one refuses to be overshadowed so they made it look like a TH-SN ending, SN said “I love you” to TH when the whole 50 episodes showed how SN loved WY more and what’s worse is that TH was the murderer of WY. WHAT A WASTE

  47. I cant get over with the break up of WY and SN..WY died for her to live or TH was his murderer..ugh!I have heartache.

  48. Just finished the drama…my heart broke for WY and SN not being together. JJM and HJW are top rate actors that emote so much. The emporer was no match for SN. I never got over why she would not stay with a real man over a boy…the emporer never grew on me and I felt WY pain throughout the whole show on not being with his SN. JJM is hot hot hot and he and HJW look amazing together. Nuff said.

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