I am in love with this show and I must ramble about it!
So a brief introduction for those who are new and do not know this about me: I’m a 99.9% Kdrama fan. I got into SF9 only because of Chani from Sky Castle and thereafter, follow Rowoon’s drama activities as well. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I’m following this drama real closely and I’m glad thus far I’ve been enjoying every bit of it. I’m still unsure of the way I’m going to ramble about my thoughts for this drama, but I do hope I can commit to writing about it just a bit more. Because if not this one, then which better one to talk about?
So a quick spoiler-free summary for those who have yet to start the show. Our female lead/Park Eun Bin/Dam-I, by a turn of events, lives her life having to pretend that she’s a man and a Crown Prince, Lee Hwi, at that. Dam-I and our male lead/Rowoon/Jung Ji-Un met as children (Dam-I in her persona as Dam-I) and were each other’s first loves. They then separated and met again as adults, only this time, Ji Un met Dam-I as Lee Hwi (not knowing that she’s Dam-I because he has never met Hwi before and also because this is many years later) and ends up being her royal tutor. Other notable male leads who are intentionally chosen to be tall and dashing by the director include Lee Hwi’s cousin/Nam Yoon Soo/Lee Hyun and Lee Hwi’s bodyguard/Victon’s Byung Chan/Ga On.
Why you should consider giving this show a try (in random order and certainly does not represent the priority coughs):
- Dashing handsome male leads
- Park Eun Bin slaying the role as both male and female characters – love her eye expressions and her acting as an ice cold prince
- Rowoon’s acting – I monitor him very closely as both a SF9 fan and a critical Kdrama watcher so more on this under the spoilers section
- Cute interactions
- Complex familial complications – the hurdles Lee Hwi has to face are quite intricately woven and complex, and isn’t so simple as just one single power hungry individual or one single war
- In connection with the above, I like that the plot has so much potential to thicken and we already know what are some of the hurdles the leads will face. There is depth to the show, even if some of the basic premises are not new (e.g a female having to act as a male).
- So whilst the show is 20 episodes long, I am hopeful it will not fizzle out. Please don’t.
- There is some nostalgia in watching one female lead being surrounded by so many male leads, throwback to all those Hana Kimi days.
I’ve also seen some comparisons to Love in the Moonlight (mostly on how similar both dramas are, though these comments usually are complimentary in that commentators enjoyed both) but I personally did not like Love in the Moonlight / Moonlight Drawn by Clouds at all (my review can be found here: Review: Moonlight Drawn By Clouds) so I don’t see the similarities save for one cross-dressing female lead and royalty. For those who are holding out because of this similarity (because I know there are people who did not enjoy LITM like me), I just want to assure you, they are different. Please give this a try!
Okay now that my pitch is over, let’s head into the spoilers’ section.
I’m biased I know. I’m real invested and hope that this show can continue to do well on Netflix’s charts and in Korea. But still I think my thoughts are pretty objective so here they are.
Park Eun Bin is a good choice for the female lead because I can’t think of any other female lead who can act as a guy and yet remotely look even like a guy. Maybe Park Shin Hye in You’re Beautiful? I though Park Min Young was too pretty to qualify from Sungkyungkwan Scandal. But in any case, I didn’t think it was straight out ridiculous that Park Eun Bin could pass off as a man and what I liked about the show is that various characters have acknowledged that Hwi has a feminine aura. That to me, makes the show a lot more believable and the characters not as stupid. I think one has also made a jibe about her stature in general.
I’m not sure if Yeon Mo was shot chronologically but I did think that Park Eun Bin also matured into her role and got better with each episode at her icy cold glances. She also changes the way she behaves with each of the key characters, making the persona of Hwi very interesting and complex. For example, with her father, she’s meek and eager for approval. With her grandfather, she’s fearful. With Hyun, she’s at ease. With Ji-Un, her heart flutters (don’t deny it, Dam-I).
Which brings us to our key point – does Ji-Un like Hwi as a man or woman? My personal take on this is that Yeon Mo differs from its predecessors which went down the route of the male lead clearly liking the female lead in her guy form and then later finding out that she’s a female. Here, Ji-Un has met adult Hwi in a woman outfit, has acknowledged that Hwi LOOKS like that woman he met and even wonders about, and in the preview for Episode 9, appears to fantasize about Hwi as a female. I feel that Ji-Un instinctively gets attracted to Hwi as a female, notwithstanding that he joyously finds her cute and cool whenever she does something like sword fighting and catching his falls, because come on, those acts are pretty bad-ass / charismatic regardless of gender. On a separate note, I love it when Hwi shoots arrows. I prefer Park Eun Bin’s archery scenes over her sword scenes. It’s also key to note that Ji-Un really fell hard for her when she smiles and laughs and not really at those “manly” acts. So I think he wasn’t meant to be gay and he may only think that he’s gay because WHO would think the Crown Prince can be a female?
Next, on to Rowoon. I felt like She Will Never Know was Rowoon’s breakthrough drama where I no longer classify him as an idol-actor or idol trying to be an actor and one who is an actor. I was impressed by the way he exerts his dominance and also the hurt in his eyes when he met the female lead again after a year. These are very un-Rowoon things to expect as someone who has watched Rowoon as a person/idol and not in a drama. I also didn’t know he was capable of looking at someone with so much love and kiss so well. Lol. I mean being an idol, I don’t even know how he gains experience. Here, I think Ji-Un’s character is a lot more like Rowoon’s real personality. If you like Ji-Un because he’s cute, he’s funny, that’s Rowoon haha. I think he also aced the lovey dovey looks, the looks of concern and being deep in thought and the minor changes in eye expressions. For example, here in Episode 7, his smiley-eyes flicked into coldness when his mum mentioned that his father is worried about him. I genuinely re-watched that scene a few times.
What I do think that Rowoon is still lacking in and can work on is outbursts of emotions. Ironically, I would think that changes in inner emotion are harder to express but Rowoon has been doing well in that. For scenes where he has to cry for his friends who got beaten by the magistrates or scenes which require free flow of tears, I feel like sometimes he becomes a bit unnatural doing those scenes. Omg I hope no Fantasy comes at me for saying this. Because stop right there and let me tell you that I think save for that, I’ve been really proud of him. And there is no better face to grace your TV /computer screen than Rowoon’s. Hahahaha.
One of my favourite scenes where I thought both leads excelled was when Dam-I broke down after her father walked away and Ji-Un comforted her.
In terms of the other male leads, I’m sorry but because my love for Rowoon is so strong, I have no second male lead syndrome and am just intrigued to know how Hyun will turn out – jealous? Or loyal.
But I know you guys love his dimples so here you go.
Ga On on the other hand is a very interesting character, much as he has close to 0 lines (but we finally got to hear his lovely voice more in Episode 8!) Is he the royal tutor’s son and protecting Hwi because Hwi was his father’s favourite? If so, what was that zoom in into the scar on his chest for?
Ultimately, what I think sets this drama apart from the other usual similar genre dramas is that the whole saving damsel in distress idea is turned on its head when Hwi had to bail Ji-Un out multiple times and yet, Ji-Un also came to her rescue before. And not to mention that Hyun and Ga On had been super useful too. This is a drama where all leads FUNCTION and while everything kinda revolves around Hwi / Dam-I, I love that she has her own mind, she can hold her ground, she can turn Ji-Un into a fanboy and yet still convincingly holds a torch for Ji-Un.
For the plot, there are sooo many things to look out for. Hwi’s impending marriage. How is Hwi going to generate a child with her queen unless the queen is in it together? How is Ji-Un going to tackle his feelings and later on, how is he going to find out she’s a woman AND Dam-I, the girl he was told was dead? We all know Hwi is going to end up King (and if you think this is a spoiler, it’s not because of the title and the poster), so what did exactly happen such that her father dies?
We don’t even have to look so far ahead. Just by the preview of Episode 9, I am EAGER and can’t wait to know why Ji-Un requested for that hug. Is it to ascertain his feelings? I also want to watch him being all awkward haha. I like that the cheek kiss happened in that hide-out and that it was a cheek kiss.
So puppy like, innocent and pretty. I’m sure the hide-out will only become more and more significant but given the tragic backstory, I wonder if this bodes anything for our main couple. I’m also slightly anxious that Ji-Un had planted so many plants that attracted fireflies……………….. surely these fireflies would give your hide-out away?? Did anyone else also feel like the door of the hide-out seem to have changed?? In previous episodes, I thought it was in the inner palace / enclosed by walls and buildings, but now, it seems to be sitting beside a huge pond.
I’m excited to watch more and if you have been following the show, I would love to hear your thoughts! Here’s to hopefully more regular posts from me!
Hi, absolutely loved your recap. As you said, Rowoon sure do lacks in emotional outbursts part a bit. As a Rowoon fan and as i do not want to be biased i too critically analyze his acting parts.
Like you said, at first i too felt that why couldnt he let his tears flow when his friends were beaten up but after understanding the whole scenario and actually recalling some of my personal experiences and watching some similar scenes in other kdramas i think crying wasnt necessary as a part of the directing for that particular scene. But yes i sure do feel that he lacks in that part a bit and needs to improve and make it more natural.
This where i also remembered him saying that he wants to try a dark genre. Maybe he will be able to showcase his outbursts scenes more naturally over there.
Absolutely fantastic recap! Looking forward to reading your other posts!