Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Tribute to Jang Bin

by Hanjae


It is a fact universally acknowledged that Jang Bin was under-utilized; what originally promised to be a meaty role (perhaps even the equivalent of a second male lead) more resembled an extended cameo. He was trotted out at convenient moments to further the plot and development of other characters, but his own character remained in stasis.

Brushing aside these regrets, however, Jang Bin's impact was nevertheless immense. Like Moon Chi Hoo and Prince Gyungchang, the brevity of his on-screen time in no way decreased his importance. Jang Bin radiated calm, intelligence and logic, providing a necessary counterpoint to the dramatic events and fluctuating emotions of those around him. His voice of reason is heard frequently, whether he was advising against Queen Noguk's insistence on direct confrontation with Ki Chul, preventing a rage-driven Choi Young from rushing to Deok Heung defenseless or even simply guiding Eun Soo away from embarrassing fashion choices. He may not always have succeeded in preventing dangerous confrontations or needless sacrifices, but the fact that Jang Bin's advice was always sound also served to prevent viewer frustration. No matter how other characters acted, Jang Bin could always be relied upon to voice the sensible suggestions on behalf of a sensible, aware audience.

On top of providing a voice of reason in the face of major confusion, Jang Bin's greatest service to the story was as a tireless teacher and confidante to Eun Soo. Through him, Eun Soo discovered the true meaning of being a physician; to treat hidden wounds as well as the physical. Without his quiet reprimand, Eun Soo would have continued to stay deliberately detached from her patients in fear of emotional injury and Young consequently may never have been saved. Always available to offer medical advice, emotional support and sensible suggestions, Jang Bin went much further than helping Eun Soo find the tools she'd need to survive in Goryeo - he was her calm at the center of the storm.

Such an upstanding character deserved the respect that he evidently commanded, both within and outside of the palace. It is perhaps fitting that even Ki Chul and his siblings seemed to refer to the Royal Physician with a hint of respect - certainly there was none of the mocking casualness with which they spoke of the king, queen and other higher ranked individuals. Despite other fans wishing that Jang Bin had become involved as a rival to Young for Eun Soo's affections, I'm personally glad that he had not; it would, in some way, have tainted his character's good intentions as a confidante and friend to Eun Soo had he attempted to win her affections. In the end, Jang Bin's role was small, but he was the embodiment of a true doctor and a rock solid pillar of calm and good sense - and that's how I like to remember him.

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