It’s messed up how slow I was to pick up this dazzling drama! I’d catch up if I were you, because Jackpot promises excitement galore.
Jackpot aka Daebak aka The Royal Gambler is one sageuk you can’t put in a nutshell. It’s a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people. And a whole lot of gambling too – which is mostly the point really.
This historical drama is about high stakes at every turn and in almost every scene. Everyone fancies themselves much of wagerer, from the nation’s king, to the lowliest, down-on-his-luck noble. I like that no one is afraid to take risks in this drama. Whether it’s worth it, is what I’ll be hungry to find out.
We don’t get to see our young, impressionable hero till much later, but his life embodies the whole theme of strife and danger this drama is based on.
Jackpot starts out like a love story. Downtrodden wife married to a gambler noble with nothing but his name left to boast of. Soon, he loses that too. Even worse, is how he ends up losing his wife and son in a blink of an eye. And you wouldn’t even believe whom he has to contend with as his rival. No one less than the king, because why not?
What’s even worse, is that for most of the first four episodes, it seems like a lone schemer is setting the whole thing up. Who is this evil, calculating mastermind and what’s his motivation?
One man, three lives…Which brings us to Lee In-Jwa who manipulates just about anyone simply so he can reach his grandiose endgame.
He’s totally the baddie in this series, but I’m so glad there’s one person who just might one-up him each and every time: again, the king.
The eyes of a sinister genius…Noone is safe from his evil machinations. Is there really no way to stop him?
Jackpot develops steadily through its first four episodes. We have a view into the palace life and all its royal intrigues.
On the flip side is the outside world, where a bored prince seeks entertainment in drinking by day, and gambling/philandering by night. Talk about living cushy.
King Sookjong (played by Choi Min-soo) keeps you guessing just what goes on in his head. He’s certainly not as clueless as he first lets on.
Since we still have 20 episodes to go, there’s plenty of time for the young players to grow on us, and grow into their characters.
A tale of two royal brothers
One brother, Dae Gil/Gae-dong had the misfortune of being born in circumstances that made his birthright questionable. So he gets to live a simple, almost nameless life as the son of a retired gambling pro. At the same time, his royal ‘half-brother’ holds his shaky place as a second prince.
I can’t decide which one has the worse of it, considering neither of the brothers seem to be having fun with their lot.
The Prince and the Pauper…Baek Dae-gil and (later) King Yeongjo – brothers with compelling personalities, dreams and destinies. Picked a side yet?
I’ll be following Jackpot avidly, mostly because it’s been a while since my last sageuk. And this drama gives me a lot to sink my teeth into. Interesting characters, some even awe-inspiring (Choi Min-soo kills it every time, and his role as King might be his best yet.) And of course Jeon Kwang-Leol who plays arch villain Lee In-Jwa.
This scene. I’m just. I can’t. You need to be watching this drama, if you aren’t already.
Like I said, you can’t simply put Jackpot in one kind of box. Yes, it’s much about gambling, and rivalry for the throne, a lover’s heart, or something. Always something with this drama – and that’s the whole fun. You never know what to expect.
What’s a drama without a pretty damsel for our hero to lose his mind over? Dam-Seo is our eye-catching heroine with a surprising ancestry.
If you want entertainment, and some sleek if not exactly masterful storytelling, then start watching Jackpot. It just might have a surprise gambit up its sleeve!
Lee In-Jwa using a child as target practice in this chilling scene…Not sure how he could possibly top that in future episodes, but who knows?