I am rarely ever so wrapped up in a drama and its characters.
This was my first long sageuk that I watched and to those that are scared away by the length I can say that this drama never dragged at any point. The pacing was really quite excellent up until the end, where I actually felt that it was a bit rushed.
I will talk about the characters first because they are the reason I enjoyed this so much. If you want to watch a drama about happy characters who make admirable choices and lead happy lives this is not your show. These characters are all full of flaws and there were numerous times where their actions infuriated me, and yet all the actions that they took were believable in the context of their situation. Seung Nyang is fiercely independent and is difficult to read at times, but her stiff, cold attitude is part of why she is able to survive in her circumstances. Wang Yoo is your typical heroic knight character, but he gets more interesting as he takes on a more active part in the political drama. And Ta Hwan--I must say I was impressed by Ji Chang Wook's acting, and that he was more than just a very pretty face. Ta Hwan is actually quite a pitiful character and could easily be disliked for his foolishness/uselessness/delinquency--call it what you will. Yet I could sympathize with his character. He is a victim of the vicious characters around him who are all vying for power, and many of his faults can be attributed to his upbringing in that toxic environment. All these characters do despicable things, but in the end I came to adore almost all of them. I actually liked the other characters more than the 3 mains. El Temur is such a superior antagonist and he was a huge part of why I enjoyed the story.
Which brings me to the soundtrack--the soundtrack is epic, which is appropriate for a historical drama. El Temur's theme was my all time favourite leitmotif.
Visually, this drama was astounding. They chose a vivid colour palette for the scenes within the palace, which was quite pleasing to watch. This was definitely a high budget project.
As for the storyline, I realize this drama received a lot of criticism for not being historically accurate. I will just review the storyline that the writers have given us. The political intrigue drove the storyline forward, and kept me interested throughout the entirety of the show. Only a few aspects bothered me. One of which were the cheesy loveline scenes at the beginning. One thing to keep in mind is that these characters generally do not have healthy, equal relationships. I would not watch this show looking for great romance. That being said, I did enjoy watching the intricacies of the relationships. The only other aspect that bothered me was the last story arc that I felt could have been better explored--they were nearing the end of their 51 episodes and I felt they tried to pack too many elements in. Even so, I was quite satisfied with the ending.
Having said all that, this drama had me on a rollercoaster of feelings throughout its length, which I actually didn't feel to be so long in the end. The complicated collection of characters and the interesting storyline pulled me along.
I can say without doubt that this is a really masterpiece.
Honestly I was so lazy to watch it because when I saw it had 51 chapters I was like "wow no" but once I started watching it I couldn't stop.
The OST is amazing, the story interesting and the characters hilarious. All them. The thing I like the most about Empress Ki is that the characters are kind of... realistic? All them have good and bad things and all them fight for the thing "they think is correct" so you can actually understand the point of view of the "bad characters" and sometimes you can think that the "good ones" are not that good.
And well, what should I saw, Jin Yi-han (my favourite actor ever) is in the drama and his character is probably the best one! (maybe one of the few characters who are really good hearted?) but the roles are all hilarious.
So, to sum up, don't be scary about the lenght, if you enjoy of exciting stories where will happen things that you don't expect, realistic characters who change and grow up mentally and amazing historical places and clothes... this is your drama! You won't regret it.
Both historical dramas are relatively long, and focus on the main characters struggling to get to the throne, starting from nothing. They are both very political and dramatic with a twist of romance and comedy.