It’s one of those dramas that keep you on your feet, eagerly awaiting and devouring each episode as it is aired. At least, that’s what it was like for me watching Deep Rooted Tree. It’s kept me on my toes all the while, following it episode by episode up till the very end.
I always had a bit of a bias for Korean sageuk dramas. I’d somehow be able to finish a sageuk drama, no matter how long it is (take Queen Seon Deok as a prime example), but with contemporary dramas I’d have so much less patience, even if it’s a good drama I’d be able to withhold myself from the weekly watching up till the weekend, or when I have more free time. But I deprived myself of sleep just to watch Deep Rooted Tree, for the plain reason that ‘it was out!’.
Alright, enough of rambling about my own drama-watching habits. I thoroughly enjoyed Deep Rooted Tree and will recommend it to any sageuk junkie in a heartbeat. I think some people might have a bone to pick about the ending, but I was quite happy to leave it at that, with all the characters having their own closure. The writers threw in a bit of fan-service with regards to Chae-yoon and Dam’s ending but I thought even that was unnecessary.
The actors’ performances in the drama were all top notch; I particularly loved Han Seok-kyu’s portrayal of Sejong. I loved Sejong as a character and how Joong-ki portrayed him as a young king – but to be truthful Han’s acting really brought it all out. He was powerful, funny, vulnerable and his rage was fearsome. It’s hard not to like Sejong. His little bromance moments with Mu-hyul were also great.
Jang Hyuk did well as Chae-yoon, if not a bit overacted. I have read some comments on his acting (and I had never watched any of his dramas before, not even Chuno) and it is somewhat part of his style. Not really my cup of tea, the overacting, but I can’t deny that he has a strong charisma that made his character likable, even if a bit dramatic. I found myself rooting for him throughout the show, sometimes even more so for him than for Sejong. Because Sejong is a man who can take care of himself, and Chae-yoon always comes across as a boy who needs a hug.
Which leads us to Shin Se-kyung’s character, So-yi/Dam. She is Chae-yoon’s childhood love who was separated from him, and she grows up to be a court maiden who is strongly involved in the king’s creation of the Hangul alphabet. I had only really watched her brief appearance in Queen Seon Deok, and she hadn’t really wowed me. In Deep Rooted Tree, I was really amazed by her portrayal of So-yi. She is mature, level-headed and intelligent. She also has an eidetic memory which proved to be a great advantage to Sejong and his mission. Her bond with Sejong was interesting to watch, because their relationship is so hard to explain. I truly think that they loved one another, but in what sort of sense, I find it hard to put my finger on. I just accepted that they did love one another and the show was not a matter of who gets together with who. Which is one of the reasons I love sageuk dramas, I have to admit. If it were a contemporary drama, the whole show would be about who ends up with who and how.
I don’t really want to go into the specifics of the plot, because I don’t want to spoil it and it would be quite tough for me to explain it in it entirety (and its beauty) anyway. I was really satisfied with how it was developed and how even the villains were well-developed. I still rooted for Sejong’s team throughout but I did not despise the villains at any point – I felt that both sides fought for what they believed in. I don’t respect how they went about it though, violence and everything, but for the sake of narrative I found it acceptable.
So yes, watch Deep Rooted Tree. Not a complete waste of time but a truly compelling journey.