If I had to describe this drama in just four words, it would be, “Makjang at its finest.” Trust me, after watching the first episode, you might go, “Are you serious?!” That was my reaction at the end of the first episode, but fret not if you’ve not watched this, I’m here to smoothen things out for you before you venture into this unfamiliar and wild journey.

The Last Empress uses absurdity to its own advantage. Plenty of scenes might make you go, “How can this happen?! Does that even make sense?” Additionally, it has revenge, murder, adultery, birth secret and the “drastic change of appearance” of a certain character. These are notoriously overused and exaggerated dramatic plot devices that viewers (including me) get tired of, but none stopped it from becoming a popular drama with over 10 percent in viewership ratings. In fact, it was exactly what made things addictive and juicy. I’ll be listing three ways how the drama takes viewers through a rough, wild ride of emotions.

WHAT IS THE LAST EMPRESS ABOUT?

The story sets in the present day, but South Korea is still governed by a constitutional monarchy. Sunny Oh (Jang Na-Ra) is a musical actress who is a fan of the Emperor Lee Hyuk (Shin Sung-Rok). She marries the Emperor without knowing that he is secretly dating his secretary, Min Yoo-Ra (Lee Elijah). Working as the Emperor and Empress’ bodyguard, Na Wang-Shik (Choi Min-Hyuk) aims to take revenge for his mother’s death. Soon, he falls for Empress Sunny while they work together to plot against the royal family. 


A FEW POINTS MAY PUT YOU OFF

Too much of plotting against one another. Almost everyone is out to get one another, and yet, you have completely pure and innocent characters added to the mix. While it can be tiring to see every character going after one another, you may find it frustrating to watch ignorant characters falling for their evil schemes and tricks.

Not family friendly. As exciting as it is, there are some scenes I wouldn’t recommend watching with conservative family members. Mildly suggestive scenes and torture scenes in this drama may leave viewers a little uncomfortable.

Absurd scenes that fuel the storyline. I’m sure the drama is aware of how absurd and over the top some of its scenes are and its plot holes, they make things interesting with these and use them to fuel the story. It’s to the point where the drama will end prematurely if these scenes don’t exist. Unfortunately, this drama loses a portion of viewers for this reason.

One way to enjoy the drama is to watch it light-heartedly. I couldn’t get used to its unique style in the beginning and it took me 3-4 episodes before I could laugh it off and enjoy it as much as I do now.


Now, let’s put these negatives aside and move on some of the positives! Here are 3 ways how the drama is capable of putting viewers through a wild ride of emotions.

1 Unpredictable Characters That May Make You Change How You View Them

Emperor Lee Hyuk (Shin Sung-Rok)

The drama begins with Emperor Lee Hyuk doing all kinds of bad and even hinting that he has killed several people. In the beginning, I was determined that I won’t ever like Lee Hyuk or even go soft on him, but I was so wrong. As the story develops, Emperor Lee Hyuk’s character fleshes out and shows his humane side, this is particularly more apparent after he falls for Empress Sunny. The Emperor is now seen as an adorable puppy (at least for me at times), he is occasionally coming out as someone pitiful in later episodes and has the ability to rip hearts apart with it.

Despite that, I’m constantly having an internal debate, trying to determine if I should really sympathize with him because he’s not exactly a good or kind person. That’s where I’m impressed with how the drama changed my view on him.

Empress Sunny Oh (Jang Na-Ra)

Sunny Oh started out as an airhead who is heads over heels in love with the Emperor. Honestly, I didn’t like her character in the beginning, it frustrates me watching her being among people who have hidden agendas while she knows completely nothing. And when she decides to take revenge, she does silly things such as declaring that she will be taking revenge (a common thing in Korean dramas and one of my pet peeves) and talk about secrets loudly. Thankfully, these things didn’t annoy me for too long, she grew as a character eventually and became better at hiding her agenda pretty quickly.

Princess Ah-Ri (Oh Ah-Rin)

Ah-Ri is an arrogant princess and no, she doesn’t get rid of her arrogance throughout. But rather than retaining that obnoxious arrogant side of her, her arrogance gradually turns into something to smile at. Thanks to Empress Sunny, she slowly learns that she shouldn’t look down on others and is able to differentiate right from wrong, she is able to identify obnoxious children and reject them while keeping her arrogance as a princess. Ah-Ri is intelligent, and I’m impressed whenever she helps Empress Sunny out in her own ways. At the same time, she has also left me smiling on multiple occasions despite how cunning and manipulative she seemed to be in the beginning.


2 High Tension Most of The Time

Forget about trying to predict what’s going to happen. Nothing is what it seems to be, the drama excels in proving this point. Countless plot twists and suspense kept me at the edge of my seat for all episodes. I would say, there is hardly a boring moment. But ironically, this brings me to my next negative point.

Not Feeling the Heart-warming and Romantic Scenes. The drama spends time showing how Empress Sunny’s family is supportive of her in whatever she does and her romance with her bodyguard, Na Wang-Shik. With characters going after each other all the time, it felt as if riding a rollercoaster that is constantly on free fall. Slowing down its pacing all of a sudden with these emotional scenes only make things seem uninteresting, neither do they warm up my heart or make my heart flutter.


3 Ridiculously Addictive Comedy

Na Wang-Shik’s drastic appearance change. Was this meant to be a comedy? I can’t tell, but I’ll put it here because it gave me a good laugh. Looks like staring intently at the mirror and cutting your hair can turn you into Choi Jin-Hyuk. It’s ridiculous, but I laughed, and I kept watching. Well, I guess the bad part about this would be having to wait till episode 6 to see Choi Jin-Hyuk.

Princess So-Jin’s comical character. Princess So-Jin is a cartoony character that brings in laughter in the drama often. Her exaggerated actions and reactions make the drama so much more interesting.

Other Slapsticks. From scenes that leave you confused, thinking if you’re actually reading a comic to seeing an ornamental hairpin stuck in a mirror like a dart, all these little weird slapsticks are uniquely hilarious. Once again, these scenes are ridiculous and absurd, almost as if a parody of its own. However, I see this as the drama’s charm that made viewers fall for it.

Here’s the catch! You can watch the first 28 episodes of The Last Empress on KOCOWA for free now! Do check it out!

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Binge-watching Korean dramas while eating ramyeon. University student. During her free time, she imagines beating up villains in Korean dramas, but often have to remind herself that she can't fight. And then, reality gives her a gentle reminder that she has research essays waiting for her.

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