Rec of the Week: Warrior Baek Dong Soo

“You can lower your head, but don’t ever lose your focus.”

I purposely put this drama on hold because I knew I’d get addicted and alas, I know myself all too well. For, I viewed all released episodes to broadcast in three and a half days. The show is that good. I have no intention of telling you everything about the show, ’cause I want you to see it in action for yourself, but I’ll give a little rundown, to hopefully entice you to sit through at least one episode. It’s so worth it.

[Please check out the list to the right of the blog for torrents, subtitles and any other files relating to this drama. If you are in the US watch here.]

Story and Setting– Based on, Yanoe Baek Dong Soo, the manhwa pinned by Lee Jae-Hyun, this story is set in the Joseon era, named after legendary a martial arts guide writer. It begins in 1743 during King Jeongjo’s reign and depicts the inception of Crown Prince Sado’s infamous conspiracy. Dong Soo leads a faction that defends King Jeongjo against a sect of assassins warranted in a plot to kill the King.

Airdate/time– SBS  Monday and Tuesday at 9:55 pm KST (July 24-Sept 20, 2011)


Baek Dong Soo (Ji Chang Wook)

“I am Baek Dong Soo. The world’s number one Baek Dong Soo.” episode 3

Yeo Un (Yoo Seung Ho)

“Knowing(the truth)or not, does make a difference.” episode 8

Hwang Jin Joo (Yoon So Yi)

“Although I’ll dirty my hands being a thief, I’d never dirty my mouth.” episode 6

Yoo Ji Sun (Shin Hyun Bin)

“Emotions such as fear, I’ve abandoned them along time ago.” episode 6

Chun (Choi Min Soo)

“You can’t take you’re own life. This is the life of an assassin. Assassin and warrior, I still don’t know that difference, but the life of an assassin I know well– it’s pain. Embracing someone’s else’s pain as your own– that’s the life of an assassin.” episode 8

Kim Gwang Taek (Jun Kwang Ryul)

“If I can’t even save someone right in front of me, how can I save others?” episode 1

Crown Prince Sado(Oh Man Sook)

“Joseon history will be rewritten by my hand.” episode 1

Ji (Yoon Ji Min)

“How can I even dream of such happiness? If you want me to go with you, won’t you complain about my heart? Your sincerity, I won’t forget it for the rest of my life.” episode 2

Reason to Watch: Historical dramas always speak of people that lived in a time when everyday was a struggle and equality was a dream. They tell stories of human beings that paved the paths of freedom we tread today, bearing circumstances beyond our understanding with unbridled integrity and fervor. WBDS is another dramatization about  many people doing amazing things, for the future generation that we now live. It may be titled after a hero but this story is less about him and more about the people that sacrificed and influenced who he is, what he will become and whom he will then influence. However, WBDS isn’t just about the future but the present, the current relationships and entanglements these characters engage in, living and acting extraordinarily, yet, in the most ordinary fashion.

Young Cast: Most often in dramas where the cast is split between child actors and their adult counterparts, the void left by the young actors is felt for a large amount  of time. The audience spends the first fourth of the show getting to know these kids, then they are thrust into adulthood. I won’t say that WBDS doesn’t have a similar issue but the gap isn’t nearly as noticeable in this drama. However, the child actors were superb. From Dong Soo(Yeo Jin Goo), down to Jin Joo(Lee Hye In), all the kids transformed these children into characters that I never wanted to say goodbye to. The roles were performed so well though, I wanted to see what these kids were going to be when they grew up and that to me demonstrates how winning they actually were.

Overall, my favorite young character is Yeo Un based solely on the portrayal of young actor, Park Gun Tae, Yoo Seung Ho is doing a great job but if not for the solid performance of his younger counter part, Baek Dong Soo definitely would have needled into first place. I do, however, wish we’d seen more of Nam Ji Hyun, just for the simple fact that I love her, but I was pleased with her portrayal of this role, because it’s quite different from many of the roles I’ve seen of her in the past. She’s certainly matured and her interpretation of Ji Sun has made it easier for me to deal with Shin Hyun Bin’s stiffness. Ji Sun is a character that is stifled and reserved, and ultimately resolved to her fate and this works for now.

Basic Thoughts: WBDS is like most sageuk’s I’ve seen filled with political scandals, love triangles, sword fighting, bow and arrow whipping, breathtaking locales and great costumes. But ultimately it’s a sageuk with so much heart that mine bursts with each episode. The characters are larger than life, like most sageuks, but there is a continuity and authentic quality within each background and journey. Historically, it isn’t necessarily accurate but being based on a manhwa, how can you expect it to be? What is thrilling about this drama is each characterization, each story, connects with you and envelops you, demanding you root for them and their progress.

Whether they are considered “the good guys” or a nemesis, each person has a true to life story to tell, that humanizes them and allows you to empathize with their decisions. I know many don’t find themselves captivated by sageuk, but fusion sageuks are a bit different giving a great foundation segue into the genre and this drama is one of the best(and most fun to watch) this year.

I’ve pondered frequently why I’m drawn to this drama and it has to be the men, the brotherhood, the passion of the common man that rings within each hour. We watch men and boys trudge through dirt and muck, shed blood and tears together, with very little return but unbegrudgedly. I have no idea where this story will lead or what hurdles each character will triumph or travail but I am sold on their path.

The characters of this drama are so well written that though the lines of political alliance are fixed and visible, there are no true black and white teams. I can’t choose between Chun and Kwang Taek  or  Hoksa Chorong and the Crown Prince, I also can’t justify each character’s position or actions. Instead, I trust them to live their lives and live according to their personal will and wisdom. in this story, everyone has their reasons for living the life they’ve chosen, some bound by honor, some pinned by duty, others hemmed by proxy. I understand it all. The beauty of saguek is that you can. Their doesn’t have to be an omnipotent capricious enemy or a righteous servant of truth. Everyone is human, with real hearts and minds, emotions and desires, responsibility and free-will. Currently, Warrior is depicting this world so well, I can’t help but be forced to trust that each character walks the road they’ve chosen with dignity until their journey ends.

13 Replies to “Rec of the Week: Warrior Baek Dong Soo”

  1. Wow, you got to 14 already? I’m like only at 11, and I already feel bored. I dunno, I just think that the story is moving a bit too slow for my liking? And the thing that they’re going for a DS-JS OTP irks me to no end, they’re so boring together. Totally don’t buy DS’s affection for her at all o_0 and her? I dun care about her.

    I hope when I get to the next episode, it will be about DS and his growth. So far I’ve seen none, save for moments when he’s with Samo. And Yeo Un, I still dun like the guy (altho it’s Yoo Seung Ho). I wonder if it’s the actor’s fault, I dun feel bad for him, sorry for him, or rather, I just don’t believe him.

    The main reason I’m still watching right now is for Oh Man Seok’s Prince Sado. I know he’s time is almost up, but darn, this actor breathes so much life into Sado, in spite of his solemnness and all. I will be sad when he leaves. T_T

  2. Ha! I hate you’re getting bored but I can see how it might be moving a little slower. I guess it’s all in the drama approach? I think of this drama on terms of relationships, bonds and motives. I don’t know about you but the older actors are so wonderful that I can’t help but love the drama thinking about their passion and pursuit. I don’t think that this drama is about much more than martial arts and solidarity. I don’t get much more from it than that.
    The romance I’m not digging AT ALL! DS-JS don’t need to be together EVER! I could see how he could be the only person who truly loves her for herself alone or some bs reason like that but ultimately it gets a “NO” from me. I don’t want to see that crap. Bros over hos, man! Seriously! If there needs to be any romance it should be DS-JJ or YU-JJ. JS is fine alone being a cold wet blanket. She’s so lonely and pitiful it’s annoying. Of course none of my fantasy couplings are going to happen so I should probably take up writing fanfiction(kekeke).
    Like I said, I love all the characters for one reason or another. But Yeo Un still remains my favorite character (among the younger cast) because I do pity him. He has zero concept of love and I hate that for him. I think he wants to love others and has positive feelings for and about people but he’s so warped and hollow. Then given his position, he’s never going to have a real chance of cultivating any of his relationships on a true, genuine level. And to me that truly is depressing. (May I ask what about him don’t you believe or what do you think he wants you to believe?) As for DS, he’s just too much for me. I like him but I can’t wait for a real substantial change in him.
    I also see what you mean about Sado, though he is one of my least favorite characters. I suppose it has a lot to do with my drama approach? Being he has so little personal interaction with the other characters I find it hard to care about “him” as a person.
    It’s interesting what makes a show work for each viewer and how we latch on to some things and are repulsed by others, ne? Let me know how you’re feeling by ep 20. Shoot, by then, even I might be bored 😉

    1. That’s the beautiful thing about dramas – one man’s meat may be another man’s poison. 😀

      For WBDS, I guess I didn’t have a particular approach to begin with? I just watch whatever comes. I guess I’d expected more emphasis to be given to DS’s growth as a person and as a warrior, such as its title suggests. But somehow, the direction or execution of the plot isn’t giving me that, or at least I’m not feeling anything from it so far. I can see your approach tho, in respect of the bromance, friendship and bond between the characters, but those to me, ain’t enough to carry a drama. Martial arts ain’t my focus too, cos TBH, I do not think the action scenes look very real or convincing (yaiks).

      Oh boy I’m so glad we’re not a Ji Sun fan. I really have no understanding or genuine connection with this character AT ALL. The actress has lovely eyes but she doesn’t know how to use them. You have no idea how much I curse aloud whenever she comes on screen. And worse when DS starts pining for her (for whatever reason I cannot see!), I bang my head on the wall. Hello? You’ve got better things to do, and you care for a girl who doesn’t even know how to emote?

      About Yeo Un – I guess I just don’t believe in the actor’s acting? I honestly do not think he’s doing the character justice. He just feels bland to me I dunno why.

      1. I can see that. I was never very interested in Dong Soo. I picked up the drama for the older cast and YSH. So that’s what I love about the drama(though YSH isn’t my reason for my affinity for YU). But I do believe we should get more of what you want(are looking for) in the latter half. I usually try to watch what I want to see, then assess why I’m watching. If I like a drama, what do I like, etc. If I’m disappointed, why? You know? Sometimes it helps me gander why a drama pisses me off so much 😉 The martial arts bit isn’t the action(fighting scenes and things I really don’t pay attention to) but the practice, the purpose, the result. I feel the drama wants to draw attention to that being the real Dong Soo personality wrote a “handbook.” Idk, just my thinking.
        I’m glad we can agree on JS as well. I’ve been thinking that all the actors are holding back for “the big transformation” but that’s not working for me in any case overall. Instead, I’m trying to enjoy who they are in the moment, and don’t care about JS at all (even my feelings for JJ are residual from her childhood personality). I hope it changes because it would be real nice to understand why DS fancies himself in love. That’s truly one of the dumbest things ever. I’m still holding out that they aren’t the OTP. Wishful thinking?

  3. Wow! Your writeup is superb, unnichan.

    Omo! You guys!
    I actually LOVE Jisun! No, really. Both the performance by Nam Ji-hyun and Shin Hyeon-bin and the way she is written. If it helps I could try explaining my admiration a little.
    Her character is supposed to be a little stoic, a little unreadable, as she has learned to surpress her true feelings since pretty much the whole of her existence. Hey, she’s a monkette — who’s had her life mapped out for her, with nary a word of protest spoken. Because she’s so unreadable she’s unpredictable and thus carries that air of mystery. But what really wins her character points is that she’s very aware of other’s feelings and their general character. i.e. she feels Yeo Woon’s gaze and Prince Sado’s sincerity. All the qualities and details you would expect of a Buddhist Monk? They are all there. There is also a gravity about the actress that means I can actually take her seriously (even that is a feat unto itself with many young actors these days, so kudos).
    Personally, I am moved by her character and find her a little tragic. So she did deserve Dongsoo over Woon. Even then, he is not your average wholesome nice boy, but a complete ruffian. And because of his capricious nature, he carries more of an air of danger than even Woon. So I don’t find how it could be boring.
    I’m not easily invested in romances, no matter how great a drama, but I am quite won over by the Dongsoo-Jisun romance. Even though I
    The writing may not be groundbreakingly different and sticking within its manhwa confines but it’s also brilliant storytelling! In terms if it being tightly structured and everything happening for a reason, because ironically enough it IS fate-centric (I am a sucker for this style of writing), and we know about the story’s intrinsic fate versus free will debate (which kind of reaches an explosive dramatic peak in ep15 — aargh! That crazy but ingenious bastard, Dongsoo!). Again, everything that happens is absolutely necessary to the story, and that includes Dongsoo and Jisun. Even down to the way Dongsoo was so earnestly, openly smitten, as a contrast to the more ambiguous Woon.
    If you hang around it does make sense in the long run. Promise. But if it ain’t your cuppa cha, then respeck to that.
    I mean, there are loads of other interesting dramas airing currently and among them are three other sageuk, I’ve heard Gye Baek is doing really well, too.

    1. supah, I’m glad you enjoyed the entry! This show OWNS me right now! I’m obsessed with these characters(well most). This and Princess’ Man are the sageuks of my season. For totally different reasons.
      As for JS, someone has to love her? So you and DS make three? LOL. Seriously, I see your point. I do. Her issues just haven’t hit me as hard as others. Perhaps later. Idk. Regardless, I’ve found that many of the dramas this season have so many likeable characters, I can’t outright “hate” anyone. I’m just more indifferent to their plight. I still don’t want the love story though. I don’t think I’ll ever be sold on that, eventhough I “get” that too.This story and the romance (especially for JS over JJ and YU) just don’t work for me.
      Ultimately, I’m just glad we’re all enjoying it on some level ’cause it is worth it. Tons of fun.
      Stop back in and discuss anytime 🙂

  4. I’m on 13, and it did get a lil better. phew. Ji Sun did not bug me as much as Yeo Un in this episode because she showed some emotion. And Dong Soo, I’m starting to see why he can be so invested in something or someone. Guess when he feels for something or someone, he goes all out and gives his all.

    Yeo Un still bugs me.

    1. Haha. I suppose poor YU won’t ever get any love from you… It’s ok, he has me and the whole of Korea to shed a few tears for him (LOL). Dongsoo is ultimately a good kid, with a big heart and though he’s incorrigible, he’s harmless. I find alot of his traits to have dual affects and effects. I’m concerned about this, but I suppose we all have these issues.
      And of course, I’m am delighted to hear you are enjoying it a bit more. It’s horrible to invest time in a drama then, wonder why, when it’s over.
      Here’s hoping we all can persevere happily to the end!

  5. unnichan: *squeals* me too me too! It OWNs me too! *claps hands in glee*
    Ahem… Not even going to try forcing you to love any one character. Plus, I’ve been there, as in, watched a great drama and LOVEd it, yet still been indifferent towards the romance or some of its characters.
    So maybe I was overselling it a little there heh. (Plus, those typos, guh! Always happens when I’m sneaking online whilst at work.)
    It’s all secondary, ‘cos for me it’s all about the men, too. They are sofa king amazeballs! Their relationships with one another, their interactions, their sparring, how each of them stand for something more symbolic. Plus, one of my favourite themes in all heavily fate-based tales, the mirroring — the symmetry of the two generations… Except, it still outwits you, because it is evolving into a beast I can no longer predict (Episode 16’s ending! Aaaaagh!).

    ripgal: hehe, poor Yoo Seung-ho. While he doesn’t bug me, I am yet to buy the hype about his talent an’ all. But yes, he does look more and more uncannily like So Jisub the more I’m seeing him, especially in this drama. My heart has never been so torn.

    1. Well I’m glad we can agree on more than one front. The brotherhood by far is what keeps me hooked. No matter what these characters do, I don’t see myself changing in that area. And the symmetry! You hit it! I can’t get enough. I’m still not sure what I actually think about Ji, Chun and Gwang Taek. I thought I knew but now…
      And I actually haven’t seen this week’s episodes. I hate being up to broadcast and also my drama buddy just got hooked (teehee). She just finished 6 so, I’m using that as an excuse to wait. I’ve got plenty of other dramas to keep me company. I’m watching entirely too many but it seriously takes every ounce of will power I have not to click over to Warrior.
      I’m sad. I know, but wow, I just don’t seem to care. 😀

      I love Seung Ho, but I’m not sure it has anything to do with his acting. I’d also love to believe it has nothing to do with my unwavering crush on SJS but I won’t go on record with that one. Ultimately, I’d watch that kid do anything. However, I will say I’m not at all torn. Seung Ho may not be young enough to be my son (but he’s close), therefore, I won’t let myself be convinced otherwise. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane. I may slip at times but I get it together rather quickly 😉

  6. I’ve finished watching the entire episodes of WBDS recently.
    Even until now, I’m still preoccupied with Yeo Un thingy >_<
    The ending is just ultimately heart breaking TT___TT
    If I could re-write the final episode n kept everything else…..

    But overall, WBDS is definitely worth to watch 😉

      1. He will always have a special place in everyone’s heart who has watched wbds 😉
        Even now, I’m still craving for Yeo Un (╥﹏╥)
        More review, recap, rant or anything about WBDS please….. \(-__-)/

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