In case you missed the latest casting news in the kdrama circle, SBS has decided to put its historical drama of the year on the Monday-Tuesday slot. Six Flying Dragons, the latest project from the combo which brought us the brilliant Tree with Deep Roots, is slated to air after High Society in September, but I am so freaking ecstatic already, although we are only in mid-May! There are many reasons to be excited for it, and here are some of them…
The PD-writers combo
If you have watched Tree with Deep Roots, then you will know why they receive great reviews from people of kdramaland. If you haven’t..what are you waiting for? Go and experience the greatness that is the 2011 drama helmed by writers Kim Young-hyun and Park Sang-yeon and production directors aka PDs Jang Tae-yoo and Shin Kyung-soo. Six Flying Dragons will be directed by Shin Kyung-soo and written by both writers, and it worth mentioning that the writers also worked together on several projects prior to Tree like H.I.T. and Queen Seondeok. Although one can argue that Tree was adapted from a novel of the same title penned by Lee Jung-myung, the writers both have several hit works in their resumes, so they deserve all the spotlights for the upcoming drama!
I am actually happy that SBS has decided to push through with this drama because the writers had been reported to have another project in the backburner since 2013/2014, Unprecedented. The drama was said to be picked by MBC with big names like Han Suk-kyu and Cha Seung-won reported to have received the offer, but the plan didn’t get through amidst all the hullabaloos surrounding the possibility of a sequel to Dae Jang Geum which had been put to rest (at least for now). Han Suk-kyu ended up starring in Secret Door, SBS’s sageuk for 2014 (which had its moments but didn’t exceed the expectations) while Cha Seung-won is currently leading MBC’s Mon-Tue sageuk Splendid Politics/ Hwajung.
Based on the news, both Unprecedented and Dragons will be focusing on the conflicts between Taejong, Joseons third ruler, and Jeong Do-jeon, the main figure behind the founding of the dynasty. That brings me to the second reason to celebrate the news..
..because Six Flying Dragons is officially a prequel to Tree with Deep Roots!
Taejong was also Sejong’s father and the drama will focus on the conflicts early into the founding of Joseon dynasty. Familiar character names are being mentioned in the news articles such as the ministers, who will be in their youth in Dragons. Well, it is just logic since we will be seeing Taejong, or his birth name Yi Bang-won, fighting for his chance to sit on the throne and embarking on his journey of ruling without mercy against his father Yi Seong-gye and his brothers.Looks like we won’t just see the ministers like Jo Mal-saeng and Yi Shin-jeok (portrayed by Lee Jae-yong and Ahn Suk-hwan respectively in Tree); we will get to see the adorable Mu-hyul in his prime! Cue lots of cross-referencing and pointing out who’s who and who will grow up to become the characters in Tree!
Well, the translated title Six Flying Dragons does give off a very wuxia-y feel to it, and I hope they keep the title instead of changing it later. Dragon was commonly used to refer to the rulers in Korean Dynasties and things associated with the kings, such as the throne, yongsang (용상) and the king’s face, yongan (용안). Still, it’s unknown whether the six dragons in this drama will refer to the kings or the people behind the dynasty, including the powerful ministers.
The historical background
Dragons is set against the background of the young, newly built Joseon, after Yi Seong-gye, the general of Goryeo decided to turn back and staged a coup against the court instead of crossing the Yalu River to attack Liadong, forcing the weak dynasty to be overthrown and Joseon was found, with Yi Seong-gye reigning as the first king, Taejo. Founding of Joseon has become a popular subject of Korean series and cinemas, with the recent examples being KBS’s historical series Jeong Do-jeon (2013) and drama Maids (2015) aired on jtbc. Although Taejo had saved the nation by overthrowing the weakened Goryeo Dynasty and directing the country’s allegiance towards the new and powerful Ming, there was tension among the princes and with the Goryeo-turned-Joseon scholars.
Grand Prince Jungan or Yi Bang-won was well-known in the history as the prince who was willing to kill his own brothers in order to realize his dream of seizing the throne. Having contributed greatly towards the founding of Joseon, he did not become the first choice to inherit the throne, since he was only the fourth son born to Taejo’s first wife, Queen Sinui. The queen actually passed away two years prior to Taejo’s coup and she was only honoured posthumously as the queen; instead, the queen consort at that time was Queen Sindeok, Taejo’s second wife. Her sons became strong contenders for the Crown Prince position and Grand Prince Uian (Yi Bang-seok) was chosen, leaving Bang-won unsatisfied.
How about Taejo’s eldest son? Although the practice of naming the firstborn son as the heir was prevalent later in the dynasty, Taejo did not get to do so since his eldest son was a loyal Goryeo stateman. Prince Jinan, born Yi Bang-woo, passed the national examination and secured the government position in Goryeo court, holding various posts such as Minister of Rites and Royal Secretary. Upon hearing his father’s attack on the capital, he ran to the mountains in Cheolwon with his family, refusing to show himself or expressing support for the new country. He was granted titles befitting his status as the king’s son but in the end, he died and it was said that he became an alcoholic in his later years.
Yi Bang-won, known as the cold-blooded prince, killed his stepbrothers during the First Strife of Princes in 1398, prompting Taejo to abdicate the throne as he was greatly disturbed by Bang-won’s action. However, he passed the king’s seat to his second son instead of Bang-won. That didn’t end the ambitious prince’s hope to rise to the much coveted seat. After witnessing Bang-won’s power in defeating his fourth brother Grand Prince Hoean (Yi Bang-gan) during the Second Strife of Princes in 1400, Jeongjong (Yi Bang-gwa) made the decision to renounce his position after a mere two years sitting on the throne. Bang-won achieved his dream his dream at last, but that was not the end to his ruthless way of dealing with people who might harm the position of the throne.
Jeong Mong-ju, a Goryeo scholar who decided not to support Taejo’s new nation, was seen as a threat against Joseon, thus causing him to be assassinated by Bang-won at the famous Seonjuk Bridge. Jeong Do-jeon became the greatest rival of Bang-won because of their different ideologies and the scholar was also killed when his plot to kill Bang-won was found out in the first strife. When Queen Wongyeong urged Taejong to crown one of her sons as the heir since she was afraid that other princes would catch his eye, Taejong in return killed his wife’s family to teach her a lesson, as well as getting rid of potential interference in the future king’s duties. He took the same measure as seen in Tree, where he wiped off Quen Soheon’s family in entirety just to ensure that no one would be able to shake Sejong’s reign later.
Characters and cast
The characters won’t be complete without the cast, and I have to say that the names being reported in the news so far are great, and it keeps getting better. I think it’s wise to wait until the script reading photos are released, just to be sure who is confirmed to join the drama. Yoo Ah-in the strong contender for the young, hot-blooded Yi Bang-won and he’s reported to be considering the offer favourably. Well, everything can change at any moment, but it be SO interesting to see him bringing a different character to life. He got enough experience in sageuk department, playing Sukjong in Jang Ok Jung, Live In Love and Crown Prince Sado in his upcoming movie Sado/The Throne. If he accept the role, then Yoo Ah-in will technically be Song Joong-ki/Sejong’s father in Dragons/Tree world. Ah, if only Song Joong-ki can make a cameo in this drama…
Continuing the list of star-studded cast is Kim Myung-min, courted to play Bang-won’s archenemy Jeong Do-jeon. The actor’s last sageuk on the small screen was KBS’s Immortal Yi Sun-shin in 2004, in which he played the titular Yi Sun-shin. His recent stint on SBS was through King of Dramas back in 2012 (no one should forget Anthony!) and had his silver screen comeback through the sequel to Detective K, so he will go back to sageuk through Dragons. I hope he accepts the offer and brush off the possible disappointment brought upon by his last drama, A New Leaf.
Chun Ho-jin is offered the role of Joseon founder Taejo, and rounding up the dragons are Byun Yo-han, proposed to portray a swordsman inspired by the character of Lee Bang-ji, in which he will become Jeong Do-jeon’s bodyguard Ddang-sae; and my darling Baek Jin-hee is offered the righteous lady character aka Bang-won’s love interest, Boon-yi. I initially thought that the ‘six dragons’ in the title will be referring to Taejo and his sons including Bang-won, but the writers might have something better in mind, that is their own interpretation of the dragons.
Yoon Kyun-sang is reviewing the offer to portray the young Mu-hyul, and I can’t be even more relieved! He was widely known as Lee Jong-suk’s brother in Pinnochio but I knew him through Faith, in which he played the adorable Woodalchi Deok-man.I think the are moments when we have to put our ‘suspension of disbelief’ glasses because of the characters’ age, because Mu-hyul looked way younger than Lee Bang-ji in Tree but here, Byun Yo-han and Yoon Kyun-sang looks like same age friends. Maybe there will be some mane of glory and stache involved for Byun Yo-han? Awww yeah!
SBS’s sageuk of the year
This is the reason that makes me both excited and nervous for this drama. On one hand, it will guarantee the high quality production for Dragons but on the other hand, there are so many ways a historical drama can be ruined. SBS does not have a long list of successful sageuk in the past 10 years despite its tendency to invest in only one of two historical series each year. These are the sageuk which have aired on the channel to date since 2005, and judge it for yourself: Ballad of Suh Dong (2005); The King and I (2007); Painter of the Wind and Iljimae (2008); Princess Ja Myung Go (2009); Jejoongwon (2010); Warrior Baek Dong Soo and Tree with Deep Roots (2011); The Great Seer and Faith (2012); Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love (2013); and Secret Door (2014). The recent sageuk offerings did not fare very well in terms of ratings and review, so I do have to approach Dragons with caution, since high expectation will only end in disappointment if the drama performs less than what I expected it to be.
Still, I really hope that Six Flying Dragons will be able to bring back the glory of SBS’s historical dramas and repeat the success of Tree, although the ratings might not be as high as it was several years ago. I will continue to follow the casting news and updates with bated breath, and crossing fingers that it will be awesome!
P.S: Sorry for the constant mention of Tree with Deep Roots! I can’t help it because it’s one of the best dramas for me, and it’s a recommended series from me!
(Pictures credit to AsianwikiI and Dramabeans)