Bracing myself with a lengthy period drama run, what hooked my loyalty to weekender “Flower in Prison” was its balanced execution of political struggle, neat narrative, infuriating villains and optimistic underdogs.
I journeyed with the heroine Ok Nyeo in exploring the situation of state prison, merchant organization as well as the early days of defending crime convicted victims who can’t fend for themselves circa Joseon era.
It helped that the fiends were established since Day 1 and there were no alterations thereafter. It was an amusing video book read, I was totally immersed to following the lead girl in search of her birth secret and ultimately being instrumental in serving justice to the antagonists that have put her in a lot of rough situations.
Flower in Prison presented the heroine Ok Nyeo who was raised in Jeonokso, the state prison by Treasurer Ji when he extended help to a pregnant woman chased to death by hired assassins. The woman died and Treasurer Ji decided to adopt the baby who later grew as a charming young errand woman running to and fro assisting the Prisoners. She was taught face reading skills and Confucian classic ideas by a known scholar, Lee Ji Ham, who was an on-and-off captive in the jail house. Ok Nyeo discovered an underground cover and met a man in solitude for 10 years. She developed a bond with him and the jaded man who turned out to be a famous spy Park Tae Ha who shared a history with the Queen Mother. He took her in as his last student and passed along his espionage skills on her, but she hid from her master her joining a spy group under Kang Sun Ho who gave her a mission involving a Chinese envoy.
Ok Nyeo became acquainted with Yoon Tae Won, a son of an evil noble man, Yoon Won Hyung who harbored hatred to his step mother Jung Nan Jung. Tae Won was taken by a merchant head under his wings and joined the expedition where Ok Nyeo, Kang Sun Ho and Park Tae Ha were heading. Unbeknownst to Park Tae Ha, Yoon Won Hyung ordered to have him be killed after their mission and was successful in doing so leaving Ok Nyeo in tears after losing her master and having her close friend Tae Won knew her secret identity.
Ok Nyeo earned the ire of the evil married couple villain Nan Jung and Won Hyung and they framed her to a wrongdoing which sent her to another province as a slave. Ok Nyeo’s bright mind saved her when she helped in a prayer ceremony. She was offered a post in the rites and prayer department and started working in the palace. Ok Nyeo had some encounters with the King when he went outside the palace incognito. He was not aware that Ok Nyeo was sent to Haeju as a slave.
During her stay in Haeju, Ok Nyeo became close with her old master’s grandson, Sung Ji Hoon who broke his engagement with Nan Jung and Won Hyung’s daughter causing his adopted father’s death. They followed a map given by Park Tae Ha and Ji Hoon claimed an inheritance left by the grandfather he never met. They set off to the city and strategized a payback plan to stop Won Hyung and Nan Jung. Ok Nyeo continued on finding clues about her birth mother and stumbled on a possibility that she could be a daughter of a former King. She joined the group of Kang Sun Ho and her mother’s best friend who was a court lady in the King’s palace. They confirmed Ok Nyeo’s royal blood after Kang Sun Ho tracked a then palace officer who helped Ga Bi, Ok Nyeo’s mother, fled off the palace when she was ordered to be killed by Queen Mother, Nan Jung and Won Hyung as they were setting in motion the plan to put the current King to his position. The King not knowing his family relationship with Ok Nyeo offered her to become a court lady for her protection, but she refused vehemently unable to cite the reason why.
During this turbulent times, the King has been falling ill and losing his consciousness and in one moment when he lost it, the main villains took the opportunity and pinned Ok Nyeo’s group for another crime but it fired back on them and the Queen Mother who has been protecting them died. Ok Nyeo opted to work outside in the palace as a legal officer and asked for the King’s permission politely to fulfil what her heart wants. Together with Tae Won they formed a legal team that helped the weak citizens in search of justice and protection of law.
Flower in Prison was not an easy watch especially if you mostly lean on trendy dramas. There are a lot to absorb in a long sitting but there will be so much to learn. It has resonating characters and encouraging plot that magically locked me on a weekend alarm to check how Ok Nyeo and the rest of the guys were doing. I like that for a period drama, the main cast propelling the scenarios of the story did not reach a hundred in numbers and that the concentration of the wickedness was centered to the married couple only.
It gets so draining when punches are thrown from every direction so I felt that it was in a fair equilibrium. There was a moment that I want to rage war with Ok Nyeo for delaying her birth secret revelation and accepting all the stomping they received from the villain, but the charm of period dramas has always been the battles played by the heroes and villains in outsmarting each other. As romance was not a major element on the series, the vengeance plot took a lot of swinging and swaying and painstaking binge before the goodness banner finally prevailed.
Kudos to the cast who played well and good in casting the dice and overturning situations to annoy each other. Strong villains are indispensable in sageuk dramas and I like that they did not go over the top because the production team made sure that they won’t be on a baseless rampage but a worthwhile challenge to the optimistic protagonists.
With its perfect blend of political intrigue, side plots of espionage and state prison situation, memorable characters and engrossing storyline. I picked “The Flower in Prison” as my period drama this year because while it was fundamental in its approach in combining the political background to the characters impetus drive in creating their own moments, it was easy to digest without losing a polished vibe and a classic video storybook. It kept the excitement and historical lesson of the plot at a level where you craved for more and notched a satiating closure befitting of its humble opening and unwavering chronicle. -abbyinhallyuland