Starring: Jang Nara, Choi Jin Hyuk, Lee Elijah, Shin Sung Rok, Shin Eun Kyung
Number of episodes: 52 (each episode is approximately 30+ minutes)
Initially, the Last Empress wasn’t on my to watch list when it first started to air last year. However, with the recommendation from my colleague and realizing that Choi Jin Hyuk was in the show (whom I started to like after watching emergency couple that he co-stared with Song Ji Hyo), I started watching the drama. And I am extremely thankful for not missing out on this drama, but this drama turned out to be one of the best Kdramas that I had watched thus far.
Note: Some small spoilers ahead!
Based on a fictional context, where the modern day Korea is under the constitutional monarchy, the Last Empress is a story of a musical actress, Oh Sunny (Jang Na Ra), who married into the Imperial family as the empress after being courted by the Emperor, Lee Hyuk (Shin Sung Rok). It was after her marriage did she realized that the marriage was simply to cover up a crime that Lee Hyuk had done, together with his lover, Min Yu Ra (Lee Elijah). She also discovers how rotten the Imperial family was and is determined to uncover all the crimes the Imperial family had done to the world. During her quest, she met new allies, such as Na Wang Shik (Choi Jin Hyuk), who entered the Imperial palace as a bodyguard seeking vengeance for his mother.
There were many reasons that attributed to the Last Empress becoming one of the best Kdramas that I had watched thus far.
Character Development for Lee Hyuk and Min Yu Ra
As the summary suggests, the drama started off with me having soooo much dislike against Lee Hyuk and Min Yu Ra, probably because they were one of the many antagonists inside the show, so it’s kind of normal of people to dislike the characters right?
However, as the story progresses, the changes to both characters were so amazing that I simply can’t dislike them after completing the entire drama because they had changed so much to my surprise.
Special section for Emperor Lee Hyuk because the character development for this guy was simply beyond my expectations. This is especially so for the last 2 episodes and the scene that he had with Oh Sunny made me teared because it was extremely emotional.
The full fledged Protagonists
And as with most palace dramas, the most scheming ones always turned out to be the women and here’s the two women that caused the most havoc in this drama, or at least to the Empress life. However, I must admit and give kudos to both Shin Eun Kyung (Empress Dowager) and Yoon So Yi (Seo Kang Hee). They were definitely wonderful actresses because they pulled off their “evil” characters so well.
The Empress – Oh Sunny (Jang Na Ra)
Oh Sunny’s character was another character that developed much over the course of the drama. She started off with being so bubbly and happy but as the drama progresses, she became to be slightly scheming as well but despite all the setbacks and obstacles, she was able to climb back to her feet and ensures that she sees through the end of what she wanted to do (in this case, to bring down the Imperial family). Not sure if I’m bias here, but I think Jang Na Ra is really suitable for this role as the empress. Her acting skills were really showcased in this drama and every single time she started crying in this show I would have this face… 😦
The bodyguard – Na Wang Shik (Choi Jin Hyuk)
Well this is sounds 99.99% bias but putting aside that I did start watching this drama because of Choi Jin Hyuk, his acting was amazingin this drama, as Na Wang Shik who enters the Imperial Palace to seek his revenge. As the story progresses, not only he wants to destroy the Imperial family, he also want to protect those that he cared and loved. Also, I loved the interactions that he had with Oh Sunny. And because of the fact that he was acting as someone who hates Lee Hyuk, his glare and anger towards the emperor can really be felt through all the facial expressions and tone that Choi Jin Hyuk uses (now I really sound bias).
However, one of the bad points of this drama, was also attributed to Na Wang Shik. Due to the drama’s popularity, the Last Empress extended 4 episodes, from 48 to 52. As a result of the extension, Choi Jin Hyuk wasn’t able to film the last 2 episodes due to conflicting schedules. I’m not blaming Choi Jin Hyuk for his inability to film the last 2 episodes because circumstances like this cannot be avoided. But it is disappointing to see Na Wang Shik’s final moments in the drama to turn out in a way that it was as though Na Wang Shik didn’t play a crucial role to this drama at all. It was as though Na Wang Shik turned out to be a dirty secret and the producer was eager to bury him away at the last 2 episodes.
Personally, I felt that if Jin Hyuk was available to film for the last 2 episodes, there was be a drastic change in how the ending of the Last Empress will be. However, it is what it is, and one of the major flaw to the Last Empress will always be the fact that were no proper closure for Na Wang Shik.
Apart from the characters, two of the soundtracks for this drama was amazing, which I am sharing the soundtracks below. I especially loved the one sung by Gaho because there were just sooooo many feels whenever I listen to it.
So I conclude that the Last Empress is definitely a must watch drama for Kdrama lovers. It’s a highly recommend! At some point I might consider re-watching this again because this drama is so good.
The Last Empress is available on Viu.
Thanks for reading this long post, till the next one!