All about ideas…

Daebak The Royal Gambler – Jang Keun Suk, The Mark of a Great Actor

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Jang Keun Suk has thousands of expressions in his repertoire. Each expression conveys the thoughts of the character he’s portraying. With one expression he can humanize his character and say more than any amount of explanatory dialogue, regardless of whether it’s the lusty teasing in Mary Marry Me or the haughty disdain he displays in You’re Beautiful, or the distilled evil of a psychotic killer in Where the Truth Lies.

Nevertheless, the expression he displays in Episode 6 of Daebak the Royal Gambler, leaning against the tree looking over at the Swordsman, is entirely new to him. That one look conveys hopeless desperation, paralyzing fear, wary apprehension, bone-chilling exhaustion, and forlorn despair. I don’t know what anyone else thought when they watched this scene, before he ruthlessly pulls the snake off the branch, stripping its’ skin away with his teeth and biting hungrily into its’ bloody flesh, but for me at least, that short moment in this scene represents the turning point in this character’s life. It’s the penultimate climax in which Gae-ddong starts becoming Dae-gil.

He’s reached his lowest point outside of death itself. His body still bleeding from the knife wound In-jwa inflicted and starvation racking his endurance, he’s desperate to escape.  Almost subconsciously he knows that if the familiar-looking but still unknown Swordsman yells out, Gae-ddong cum Dae-gil will die. He knows Demon will ruthlessly slice his spine for attempting to escape. He wants to run but is too afraid to move. Exhaustion and starvation have taken their toll on his body and his mind.  He can’t move. He can barely think. All of his attention and thoughts are focused on the mysterious Swordsman: if he sees me, what will he do; where can I hide; how will I escape death. His thoughts at this moment no longer center around revenge but solely on finding a way to continue living. He knows he has reached the ebb of his life…and the Swordsman holds his life in the balance.

Daebak’s script writer could have written a thousand words of dialogue to describe what JKS conveys with just that one expression. For me, at least, that one expression, combining a multitude of thoughts and fears, defines JKS’ amazing acting talent. Through his own innate sensibilities, he digests his character he portrays and becomes that character. Truly great actors have said they stay in character even when not filming as they don’t want to lose the character even for a moment because it’s too difficult to recapture the character. I don’t know if that statement is true of JKS, but I do know this solitary moment in Daebak The Royal Gambler defines the remaining development of Gae-ddong into Dae-gil,

Metaphorically, too, the entire scene holds resonance. With the Swordsman making a slight nod of his head, Gae-ddong subconsciously realizes he may have a friend. Moreover, in pulling the snake off the tree branch and devouring it, another metaphor is added. Snakes, in literature, are used to describe both evil and good, death and rebirth. One has only to look at the symbol of modern of medicine to see the snake of death and health entwined to see the symbolism. Thus, the slight nod of the Swordsman metaphorically signals the bloody change in Gae-ddong. In eating the flesh of the snake, Gae-ddong ingests the metaphorical powers of the viper – wisdom, deceit, cunning, and regeneration – as well as its’ life-giving flesh. It’s as if having eaten the bloody flesh of the viper, Gae-ddong unwittingly is reborn as Dae-gil, even though he fails to realize it until he meets his real tiger and endures yet another trauma to his rebirth.

Regardless, in that one short moment before Gae-ddong ruthlessly yanks the viper from the tree branch, Jang Keun Suk treats his audience to a multitude of emotions through one solitary expression that says so much and, thus, defines the enormous acting talent of this actor. When one expression displaces thousands of words, that truly is extraordinary acting talent.


Written by Valerie Curl

April 16, 2016 at 11:12 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses

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  1. wow..that is a fascinating analysis of the snake scene… you said it all… thank you.. so many captivating expressions of JKS in episodes 3 to 6….from the simple-minded young man in love with the noblewoman… to his reactions to the two gisaeng touching his arms and legs… to his playful splashing of water when his dad gives him a bath… to all the hurtful humiliating scences… JKS is daebak!!!

    alma rosa dimaculangan

    April 17, 2016 at 2:25 AM

  2. es un drama excelente una actuacion magistral.


    April 17, 2016 at 7:47 AM

  3. Me gusta mucho la actuación de jang geun suk es maravilloso el dorama daeback muy interesante hasta ahora he visto 6 capítulos y me gustó mucho les doy todos mis votos

    brigida samanamud

    April 17, 2016 at 8:37 AM

  4. Your analysis shines a bright white light for me on this scene. I clearly understood that this scene gave us a turning point in his journey, and I also agree that I’ve never seen that look of primal need to survive on his face. But I hadn’t thought about it in terms of the look on his face replacing ‘a thousand words of dialogue’, and your understanding of the metaphor of the snake adds so much richness and depth to the scene. I’m not at all adept at literary analysis, and I’ve been certain that there is a depth to,this script that is going way over my head, so from an entirely selfish perspective I sincerely hope that you continue to record your thoughts about this drama.


    April 17, 2016 at 3:00 PM

  5. Beautifully written! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and giving excellent insight to one scene of many in this episode that was very hard and emotional to watch. I think no one else could have explained it as well as you have.

    Rose Deupree

    April 17, 2016 at 4:03 PM

  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and putting ours into beautiful and logical words..you write so very well…
    Exactly my thoughts…the lethargic way Daegil looked from the swordsman to the snake, calculating his chances…grasping that the swordsman who once said he would live….was not turning him in but trying to save him…food!!…the snake is the gate to the next step to his fate.., his empowerment….. I love the snake scene


    April 18, 2016 at 12:02 PM

  7. Dotto what everyone else said. Wonderful analysis. Great job, Val. Thank you for sharing.


    April 20, 2016 at 6:00 PM

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