TL;DR: “If we get married, let’s live like friends and have fun, like this, forever.” <– What you should never say if you actually want this to happen.
Would you look at that: a saguek where the end of the childhood portion is marked by tragedy, bloodshed, and the separation of the OTP. AKA, standard fare for sageuks. It felt a little hollow to me, partly because Yeonsangun’s tendency to make what could have been written off as a childhood indiscretion/impulse as something being on par with treason is just plain tiring, and partly because I’m really annoyed that they bothered to separate Chae-gyeong and Jinseong at this point in time.
Now, I’ll admit that my knowledge of Joseon dynasty history isn’t the best, but I’m pretty sure that Jinseong never faked his death after an assassination attempt on the way to his exile and resurfaced several years later as a scruffy be-cloaked man with a list of people he needed to get revenge on. There honestly is no need to separate Jinseong and Chae-gyeong at this point—not in such an overdramatic fashion—especially since it ultimately won’t matter since the real tragic, final parting will be at the end of the show.
That said, the two kids were really cute in these episodes. The drama hit all the right notes for a sweet, mutual childhood first love. Whether or not they’ll be able to transition that into something more mature in the adult portion is another question entirely. That’s the other problem with the dramatic time skip—now the show has to start all over in convincing me that these two belong together.
While Chae-gyeong clearly hasn’t been able to let go of Jinseong in the intervening years, I fear that this show will revert to standard tropes again and have him turn into the gaslighting asshole who still secretly loves her but would rather “protect” her by leaving her in the dark and thus actually putting her more in danger. *still upset over the travesty that was Joseon Gunman*
Please prove me wrong! The clock is ticking, though—the drama has used 20% of its screen time and the main couple still isn’t together. That’s going to be a problem soon if the show wants us to care about their inevitable and permanent separation.
Yeonsangun gets less and less interesting as time goes by. I really do think I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to his character as I’m unfamiliar with the typical way his story is told and can’t judge this particular depiction against the historically popular ones. While the show did a good job showing the childhood relationship budding between Chae-gyeong and Jinseong, it has really fallen short with the brotherly love between the two royals. Too much time spent on waiting for Yeonsangun to lose his temper; not enough time proving why Jinseong should have a single shred of hope that there’s anything that can be salvaged there. It just bores me, watching the two of them go through the same motions in every episode, because I’m not convinced that there’s anything deeper between the two.
That said, I really took a liking to the queen dowager in these episodes. She’s doing everything she can to protect her son and keep him alive (despite Jinseong’s inability to listen to her suggestions). Though she has a bit of an impulsive streak, too. I hope she becomes a much bigger player for the rest of the show since there’s so much potential with her as the highest ranked lady in the palace. Dare I hope for a grudging alliance between her and Chae-gyeong to keep Jinseong alive, once he finally returns?
There is one thing that continues to annoy me, however. It’s the fact that Soo-geun (and his wife, presumably) are keeping the Prophecy of Doom secret from everyone, including Chae-gyeong. How hard is it to say that a monk appeared in front of you, vomited blood, and prophesied that if Chae-gyeong ever met a royal, there would be serious bloodshed? You clearly believed it enough to keep your daughter in the countryside for most of her life. Now that she has been caught up in the rivalry between the brothers, why don’t you fake ill health and retire to the countryside with your family for the rest of your days? Or, I don’t know, tell the king that the prophecy is why you’ve hidden your daughter away? Why haven’t you had her betrothed already so this wasn’t even an issue in the first place?
There’s no need for this prophecy, especially since it’s a transparent device to make Chae-gyeong the country bumpkin who storms into the brothers’ lives. We already know this all ends badly; no need to have a blood-vomiting monk with dire words part of the equation.
Regardless, I’m still going to stick with the show for another week. There’s the potential for greatness here, if they would just shed all the little things that are holding it back.
By the Numbers
- Years skipped: 5
- Broken railings: 2
- Cute hand closeups: 4
- Underwater knife fights: 1
- Times Jinseong and Chae-gyeong spoke in unison: 2
- Royal losses of temper: at least 5 (they’re so frequent that I lose track, okay?)
- Bechdel Test: 2 episodes passed (but barely)