I really wish I could say this was a great watch and I understand why it got its ratings….but I don’t.
Let me start off with what worked for me and why I persisted for 20 episodes, even though I was disappointed again and again. For one, I do agree that the cinematography is beautiful, especially in certain memorable scenes such as the water dance ritual, where Hong Ra-On (Kim Yoo Jung) shows herself as a girl for the first time, where the couple breaks up, and the list goes on. For another, the acting is superb. I’m a huge fan of both Park Bo Gum and Kim Yoo Jung so the couple pairing couldn’t be better for me. Every emotion is nuanced and conveyed with such subtlety that it is amazing to watch and admire. The last reason is that I was truly interested in the game of politics and I wanted to know how Lee Yung (Park Bo Gum) wins in the end. These are the only 3 reasons why I continued.
The main reason why I don’t think this was a great watch was because of its portrayal of the main female lead. I can have odd views on this (read my Man x Man review here) but this is one drama that really plays into the damsel-in-distress archetype and never gets out of it. Sure, if you want to show me a female lead that eventually learns to love and fight for herself, I can definitely go with a few episodes of her being saved. I like watching female leads get saved sometimes. I like to watch that they have friends and love to keep them strong. But Hong Ra-On is useless on another level. Am I being too harsh?
From the get-go, Ra-On has been portrayed as a pawn. Okay, but nobody wants to watch a pawn stay as a pawn, right? So it becomes really annoying that she doesn’t end up fighting for her freedom and happiness through her own strength and ability, but by virtue of being Lee Yung’s love interest. Additionally, I love Kim Yoo Jung’s acting, I really do and I still do, but I don’t think there’s any need for me to watch her cry in 100 different scenes with 100 different nuanced emotions. I know she can act, so just use it effectively! Overdoing it just makes me skip all her crying scenes and I’m not exaggerating when I say this – she cries almost every episode. Sometimes even twice in the same episode. All she does is cry.
I think it’s because the drama was never about Hong Ra-On; it was about Lee Yung’s ascension to the throne and how he protects his people. Sure, but in a scheme of things where the romance is clearly a main point, how could you neglect the characterisation of your female lead to such an extent? How could I root for a couple where the girl doesn’t get/take the chance to fight for what she believes? Ra-On becomes a eunuch against her wishes but her decision to stay as one is motivated solely for love. She becomes a rebel’s daughter against her wishes but that is only relevant insofar as that poses an obstacle to the love interest. Till the end, she didn’t do a single rebellious thing or did anything for the people. How did she get out of being a rebel’s daughter? She was pardoned by Lee Yung. Why? Because she “discovered” a letter that wasn’t even discovered by her to begin with. What?? She has no agency; she’s always a by-product of someone else’s actions.
You know who was a much better female lead? Jo Ha-Yeon (Cha So Bin). This woman actively works for what she believes in – she wants to help Lee Yung, so she marries the guy even though he doesn’t love her. That’s courage and that’s kindness.
It’s such a pity because I really wanted to love the couple and the set-up has so much potential. A king falling in love with his eunuch and thinks that he’s gay? Bring it on! But the ride to that point was slightly disappointing and the fall-out thereafter only got worse. According to Wikipedia, the press referred to the drama’s influence as “Moonlight Syndrome”. I can only say that I wish other more deserving dramas had the same influence.
Here’s a few screenshots I took while watching the series – trip down the memory lane?
This was when I was still rather confused why it was called Moonlight Drawn By Clouds, and not Sunlight.
Undeniably good acting.
I really hope their next project would be a lot more satisfying! Let me know what you think in the comments, do you agree with me or was I too harsh?