Despite the high praise of basically all of my mutuals, I didn’t get around to watching Splash Splash Love until this year. I’m so glad I finally did, because this drama special is funny, heartfelt, and just two hours long. You should definitely put it on your list this fall/winter, for when you need a little pick-me-up. Here are five reasons why I gave this drama special my highest rating category:
1. It focuses on the heroine’s personal journey.
Splash Splash Love is all the better for the fact that the heroine’s good ending is mostly focused on her personal growth and return home than it is its youthful romance (though more on that one later). It’s always refreshing to see a heroine who has a life independent of her romantic relationship with the hero, and it isn’t often that a heroine chooses home and family over a life that would have probably been good for her but wouldn’t have been able to assuage her homesickness.
On top of that, Dan-bi’s happiness couldn’t be achieved until after she had conquered her own trial: building up her confidence and skills in math. Not the most common of goals, but fulfilling that point really is what makes our heroine fit a lot of the old Hero’s Journey milestones (complete with death threats if she can’t math well enough). I’ll never get tired of ladies leveling up and doing things that once were hard for them.
2. The comedy isn’t cruel or at the heroine’s expense.
Second-hand embarrassment gives me hives, and nothing will make me hate a show faster than if it takes cheap shots at the heroine’s expense. Despite Dan-bi’s many comedic scenes, none of the humor came across as cruel or as being at her expense. She did hilarious things all of her own volition a lot of the time, from drawing on a fake thin mustache to complete her eunuch disguise to using “Gangnam Style” to figure out how to ride a horse. There were a few moments where I wasn’t thrilled with the humor for other reasons, but by and large I didn’t feel like the show was mocking her.
3. There was a genuine friendship between Dan-bi and the queen.
So many sageuks dodge the whole polygyny issue and the murderous possibilities between queens and the king’s other state-sanctioned women (at the top of my watch list: dramas that do not dodge this). Splash Splash Love tackled a full-on plot arc of it, all the way from jealousy to genuine friendship. My heart ached for the queen when she revealed that her dream was to not be lonely in the palace. (And it was such a wonderful touch that both Dan-bi and the queen didn’t know what their dreams where when we were first introduced to them.) I fully believe the two of them could have made it work.
4. The romance was cute and surprisingly equal.
Extreme imbalances in power can often ruin romances for me. While there were points where the king was too romantically aggressive (or just plain aggressive) for my taste, I found myself enjoying his well-paced romance with Dan-bi. It probably helped that their relationship hit all of the familiar notes I thought it would (and some unexpectedly cute things that made me very happy). Yes, he was the king, but he also grew to respect her (as closely to an equal as was possible)—and he learned from her.
5. The king grew up and realized what his wants weren’t above Dan-bi’s needs.
Do the king and Dan-bi fall in love? Absolutely. But when push came to shove and she told him that she missed her world, and most importantly, her mother, the king realized that their time together was coming to a close. It was such a painful, raw scene, and the tears that both of them shed felt like they had been earned. It may have taken a burning building, but the king realized that his request for her to stay had been selfish and against Dan-bi’s best interests. That’s a realization I wish more heroes had.
Splash Splash Love may not have been particularly challenging, but cute and endearing can go a very long way when you need a bit of happiness and light. If you haven’t seen it already, put it on your list of things to check out when you’ve got two free hours.