Only when you have learned to appreciate Sageuk productions can you really claim that you are a certified kdrama addict because understanding the beauty of period dramas requires patience and total immersion to Korean history and culture. So it is but a challenge and a path you have to go through in discovering the extent of your kdrama addiction. *chuckles
The longer the period drama the greater the struggle so it will be a blessing if it will be a mid length drama that can tackle the story without rushing it. Unfortunately that was the case for me for Six Flying Dragons so I settled with Jackpot/Daebak as it didn’t tire me out with its 20 episodes.
Jackpot managed to nail the fundamental elements of a historical drama. It has a thrilling plot with Joseon gambling scene on the side, birth secret and family issues, conspiracy woven conflicts and the strong showdowns of the villain and the hero. Though it may not be perfect, it presented a solid story that didn’t go astray but focused on the main characters’ discovery of the lessons they have to learn on their own journeys.
Known to his superb control of the political factions in his era, King Sukjong and the Royal family endured the cunning ways of gambling Lord Yi In Jwa in maintaining the power of the monarchy. The main villain used a beautiful woman to set a game that he will play with the monarchy out of personal vengeance and more of unexplained problem with his self worth.
Yi In Jwa successfully sent a married woman, later being hailed as Suk Bin, to seduce King Sukjong and became an official concubine of the King. When Suk Bin gave birth to her first born, a month earlier than expected, she had to save the baby who has already been doubted to be the King’s offspring upon his conception. After severing her ties to Yi In Jwa, Suk Bin sacrificed herself to make sure her baby survives with her ex husband, Baek Man Geum.
He raised him away from the palace and named him Baek Dae Gil. He later on lived learning his adopted father’s gambling tricks.
Years later Yi In Jwa came across the father and son and took interest of the role Dae Gil will play on the grand treason plot he has been orchestrating all his life. When Dae Gil realized how being powerless caused his father’s death, he vowed to make himself stronger to avenge the hardships he suffered in Yi In Jwa’s hand. Dae Gil befriended the King’s second son, who unbeknownst to him was his half brother. They share the same love for Dam Seo, a woman who works for Yi In Jwa.
Dae Gil begged a famous swordman to become his master in his goal to become stronger, and soon after he was able to return to the city to challenge Yi In Jwa. He first took over the gambling houses ran by the villain around the country and cut the hands of people helping out his nemesis.
But the sly In Jwa has constantly slip on an escape plan and return even stronger than what he used to be.
On his last attempt to overthrown the leading monarch, Dae Gil who was highly taunted to have been more a greater King than his prince brother Yeoning, stood beside his brother in finishing with conviction the rebellion initiated by In Jwa’s personal vindication.
STORY AND SCREENPLAY
Jackpot opened to the brilliant rawness of the set design of the gambling scene of Joseon. The antiquated but thriving in excitement ambiance of underground gambling houses more than 200 years ago put me on a hypnosis and before I knew it, I was religiously watching a drama that didn’t thrive on the romance plot of the story to sail the story to its finish line.
Jackpot has all the required elements of a period drama but it focused more on the development of the character. The story was not as shifting when it comes to the outwitting moves of the heroes and villains but it was steady to the protagonists’ goal to defeat the villain and vice versa. When I looked back to what I recall most about it, I remember most the equally brilliant depiction of the main cast. I really enjoyed the gambling scene premise and any story with master-padawan-ish story arc is sold for me. I also like that the brothers chose patriotism over love. lol The ending scene put tears in my eyes while the OST airs because it made the picture even more poignant and satisfying.
CAST AND CONFLICT
Period dramas biggest charms are the perfect unveiling of conspiracies and the quest for the heroes and villains to outwit one another. Yi In Jwa and Baek Dae Gil were amazing in their yin-yang mind games in trying to defeat one another. The main story problem was also not messy and just hit straight to let’s-get-this-showdown-and-be-done-with-it spirit for the opposing characters.
Yi In Jwa is in the running as the best villain for me while Jang Geun Seok earned my respect in his commitment as an actor in his brave and flawless portrayal. Yeo Jin Goo also expressed evident depth in his character.
It was well and good that they went to just one main conflict as what typical sageuks do with its endless conflict.
There were hurdles scattered for the heroes to conquer but it ultimately catapulted to a closure involving the final defeat of the villain who made them suffer all throughout.
RATINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
Though it was not perfect, Jackpot delivered and its length didn’t drag me from dozing. Kudos to Jang Geun Seok. As always he can do well in romantic stories but even more in drama. It started strong, sailed steady and closed without any rush and with finality.
If you like organic historical story, you would appreciate its authentic drive to present the story without unwanted plot swervings and misplaced characters.
HOW I ENJOYED IT: 8/10
HOW MUCH I RECOMMEND IT: 8/10