[REVIEW] Six Flying Dragons Premieres With A Strong Lead And Intriguing Story
Yoo Ah In & Nam Da Reum (Two Lee Bang Wons 😀 )
October 5 marked the premiere of three major K-Dramas and their ratings reflected a split in their audiences. The SBS period drama Six Flying Dragons, stars Yoo Ah In, Kim Myung Min, Cheon Ho Jin, Byun Yo Han and Shin Se Kyung, premiered with a strong lead over its competition. According to Nielsen Korea, the first episode captured the interest of 12.3% of nationwide viewership, and second episode rose by 0.1 percent to 12.4% in nationwide viewership.
Six Flying Dragons BTS
[Watch Episode 1 BTS here]
Six Flying Dragons kicked off Monday, October 5, offering insights into corruption during the late-Goryeo era.
Immediately prior to the Joseon era Korea was kind of a giant hot mess. Six Flying Dragons doesn’t get into too many details on how or why this happened. All that’s known is that General Yi Seong Gye (played by Cheon Ho Jin) is a capable leader who appears to be the target of constant attempted subversion precisely because he is a capable leader, and the people in the palace don’t seem to have anything better to do with their time than to gossip about him. The situation is a little absurd, actually- although that’s part of the point.
Seong Gye is an extremely important historical figure, but Six Flying Dragons makes the interesting dramatic decision of telling the story mainly from the perspective Seong Gye’s son and successor Lee Bang Won (played by Nam Da Reum, later by Yoo Ah In). From Bang Won’s vantage point Seong Gye is the coolest general/dad in the world, and it’s obvious that Seong Gye is destined for greater things. And yet Seong Gye feels so strongly about the importance of honor and humility that he cruelly kills any kind of romanticism Bang Won might have about, well, war.
It’s a marked contrast to what happens in the palace, especially by the time we’ve gotten to the end of the episode and seen firsthand just how completely unhinged the palace characters really are. Seong Gye is forced to choose honor before reason. What’s more, it’s pretty clear that this is a decision that has to be made every single time he has a conversation with anyone with some sort of higher rank.
Seong Gye is a fascinating historical character because by all rights it seems like he should be a despot. What else would you call a general who takes over the government? What keeps Seong Gye’s humility from turning into explicit militaristic hero worship is that Seong Gye’s main ethical objection is rather paradoxically the fact that he wants less wars. Even as Seong Gye teaches Bang Won important life lessons regarding personal honor, he has to deal with other adults who rather obviously have not had these life lessons.
The thematic territory is pretty strong. Not only does Six Flying Dragons prime us for Seong Gye’s very slow personal conflict, we also see Bang Won growing up and trying to decide what justice really means. Bang Won is a charming figure who’s very at ease with members of the lower economic classes- far more than the high level men in the palace and their rather…unsettling resource allocation. In short, I’m intrigued. [Hancinema Review]
I have a generally positive impression of the show from where we stand right now, because it feels stylish and assured and the characterizations are rich and interesting. Well, aside from the bad guys on Lee In Gyeom’s side, because in standard sageuk fashion, they seem selfish and avaricious to a simplistic degree. But I suppose that’s less of a concern since I don’t expect Lee In Gyeom to be the primary source of conflict—not when we have a richer conflict between our two headliners, Bang Won and Jung Do Jeon (Kim Myung Min). Not to mention all the strife that’ll arise regarding Lee Seong Gye’s successors and the scramble to grab power.
This show seems to be angling to put a spin on the commonly known history of Taejong/Bang Won, which largely paints him as a bloody, harsh mofo of a conqueror. But you cast Yoo Ah In and give him puppy-dog eyes as an idealistic child, and, well, I’m curious to see how you’re going to reframe the story of Taejong.
In any case, the casting is spot-on thus far, and the show even manages a pretty solid dash of light-hearted humor. [Dramabeans Review]
Photos: IG, DC