This drama had such a strong, satisfying start that its slow decent into makjang territory was just all the more disappointing. It's almost as if we have to completely different shows here:
The first half - A sweet re-telling of the most infamous woman in Korean history.
The rest of the series - A melodramatic sageuk with bickering politicians and fizzled chemistry.
I love shows that try to shed a new light on popular stories (whether they be fictional or otherwise) because it is always so interesting to see things from a different point of view. I was also so pleased in the beginning of Jang Ok Jung because it did exactly that - it took a typically hated character and gave her a story where we could root for and love her.
But then it lost it's original purpose and started sticking more to historical facts and traditional sageuk shenanigans and in the process gave up all of the glorious chemistry between the leads. It also lost its lovely cinematic screen in the later half as well, which was just sad (this drama was so very pretty at first).
I would like to blame the ratings for most of this, since even with such a strong start Jang Ok Jung suffered from low viewership. And it's unfortunate but around the time the series started to go downhill is also when the ratings started to pick up (but only slightly) which probably encouraged the producers to continue forcing it down a road it was never meant to travel.
Having said that, I've never read the novel or seen any of the writer's other works so I can't say that either weren't also at fault. I CAN tell you that it is full of disappointment and misfortune.
It's such a shame and such a waste of what could have been a very original and beautiful series. Props to the actors for at least giving it their best. Cheers!