K-Drama Review: “The Tale of Nokdu” Captivates With Lessons About Fulfillment And The Power Of Our Choices
Satisfaction or having the lack of it is not a result of fate but rather of the choices men have made.
The Tale Of Nokdu, behind its romantic-comedy premise, teaches a serious lesson about men’s penchant for power and thinking having it could bring all the things one’s heart’s desires. The drama clearly depicts a side to humanity that is innate yet abhorrent. It also shows that we are given the ability to make choices. Choices that would eventually define how we want to live our lives.
TITLE: The Tale of Nokdu
THEMEs: Historical, Romance, Comedy, Power Struggle
LENGTH: 16 episodes
BROADCAST DATE: 30 Sep 2019 – 25 Nov 2019
MAIN LEADS: Jang Dong Yoon, kim So Hyun, Kang tae Oh
HIGHLIGHTS: Engrossing Premise, Engaging Character
DRAWBACK: Lackluster confrontation scene
Jang Dong Yoon challenged himself in his very first period drama role and greatly portrayed his character of a man disguising himself as a woman. Kim So Hyun, being the historical drama veteran that she is, shone in her role as well.
The Tale of Nokdu, armed with the right balance of humor and mystique, is another historical romantic comedy drama that is a good addition to the watch list of sageuk enthusiasts.
Quick Story Round Up
A man disguised himself as a woman to infiltrate a widow village in order to identify the person or people behind the attack on his family. As he inched his way to finding out the leader’s identity, he got entangled with the lives of the villagers, particularly a gisaeng-in-training. Both of them were hiding a secret of their own and it only took a matter of time before one secret after another got revealed.
As they got to know each other and Nok Du got closer to the story surrounding his birth, romance bloomed. Little they did know their lives were far more connected. The man who was King did all he could, to the extent of eliminating Dong Ju’s family and had his own son killed for the sake of power. Thanks to people who still had their conscience, Nok Du was able to grow into a wonderful person, enough to have no desire to rule a throne marred by so much blood and evil desires.
The series’ premise revolved around a cross-dressing young man, who entered a village exclusive for woman in order to know the identity of his family’s attackers. That alone was enough to get viewers’ attention. However, from that initial premise, more interesting plots started to open up. The impersonating theme laid out the groundwork for the main and sub-plots.
I was glad that they brought it back towards the latter part of the series because it had so much to do with Nok Du’s character. It helped him to know the people who would eventually become a part of his family. Him pretending to be a woman had led him to solve mysteries and uncover pieces that had something to do with his birth right. I love how the drama related the story of Nok Du and the other characters. The drama was able to highlight the conflicts well and the characters’ connections.
Watching Nok Du slowly discover his true identity and seeing the pain it caused him after knowing the truth, was heart-wrenching. Looking at Dong Ju consumed by her hate and desire for revenge was so absorbing. Seeing the King slowly losing his hold to power was so satisfying and knowing that the same fate was in store for Yul Mo was oddly comforting.
I love that Jeon Nok Du was not a perfect hero. Sure he did fight well and knew how to outsmart his enemies, but the secret about his true identity made him vulnerable. His stubbornness caused much of the pain he felt. The father he knew and the one who raised him had been adamant for him not to know the truth because he knew it would hurt deeply. But as a human being, we always want to know, and I really can’t fault Nok Du for trying to find things out.
Dong Ju and her change of heart towards the end was an example of humans’ ability to forgive and let go. Yes, she suffered when she lost her family and her anger because of it kept her alive. Growing up, she dreamed of nothing but to exact revenge to the person responsible for her suffering. While I don’t condone her strong resolve to kill the King, I understood her motivation.
I liked her character even more when she realized he was not worth killing. Not all revenges have to end up with someone’s death, because sometimes having them without peace and in constant fear is actually a lot more effective of retribution.
Cha Yul Moo and the King did share a similar fate and their greed for power was their undoing. The supporting characters gave the much-needed comic relief and added more interests to the narrative.
Bland Confrontation Scene
I know it was a historical romantic comedy drama and the action was not the main focus. However, that confrontation/fight scene at the penultimate episode was not as gripping as I would like it to be. Perhaps it was just me being so critical, but I was actually expecting more for that confrontation. They had set it so well from the previous episodes leading to that moment, but it fell flat. While it did not disappoint me so much, I truly felt the drama could have done better.
The Tale Of Nokdu reeled in its viewers with an interesting narrative and appealing characters. But apart from that, the drama also left with lessons we all could apply on our daily lives. As humans, we have the tendency to desire for more that often leads to dissatisfaction. It turns that little craving to full-blown greed, which is obviously not a good thing.
Nok Du’s father had a great vision for his country but his desire for more power blinded him. He wanted a nation that was prosperous and free of any problems. While that was admirable, he thought that as King, he was the only person capable of doing it. This made him covet more as he tightly held onto the throne.
His decision to kill his own son based on a prophecy, was the root of his unrest. Constantly living in fear of someone taking his throne away, he decided to do drastic things. Killing those he perceived posed a threat to his authority. That was not a way to live indeed, because I can imagine how exhausting living that kind of life is. Yul Moo is heading down the same path. The shot was quite telling: him sitting on his throne, in an empty hall, all on his own.
On the other hand, Nok Du and Dong Ju were leading a more flowery road. Though it’s clear that it is not without mishaps, because such is life. It was evident that theirs was a simple yet happy existence. So far from the dirty politics and bad memories of the palace. It was their choices to forgive and leave that kind of life behind in exchange for a quiet and peaceful life in the island.
Life is never easy, and it is not supposed to be. But whatever challenges it throws our way, we only have the power to change it and live through it. The choices we make are the ones affecting and influencing our existence. The contentment that we seek can only be made possible if we learn and choose to accept that we could not have it all. The Tale Of Nokdu just showed us, in manner, that is convincing and so true.