[Before we get started, let me warn you. There will be spoilers for both the Korean remake and the original Chinese drama throughout. I’m going to be freely comparing the tone, characters and plotting of the two dramas. Enjoy.]
It’s later than I intended, but as promised, I’ve written some commentary. I watched the first three episodes of Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo–I will never stop side-eyeing that atrocious title–and I liked it. I’m overjoyed, actually. It was pretty clear from the promotional material that the Korean adaptation was going to deviate significantly from Chinese version. And to my mind, this is only a positive. The more they deviate from the original without losing the original intent of the story, the happier I’ll be.
And this is not because I didn’t like the original. The opposite in fact. I really liked the Cdrama. (from here on out, I’ll be referring to the Kdrama as Scarlet Heart: Ryeo and the Cdrama as Bu Bu Jing Xin or BBJX) I fell in love with Rouxi and all her princes. The writing managed to consistently surprise me and keep me guessing, even knowing how everything was going to end in advance. And watching it in the months leading up to the Scarlet Heart: Ryeo premier, I only grew more excited about the prospect of a remake. But I didn’t want to see the same thing again. I wanted a very different take, because Bu Bu Jing Xin is such a near perfect example of what it is, trying to make a carbon copy but in Korean can only have disappointing results.
Having now seen the first three episodes…it is a very Kdrama approach to the material isn’t it?
With the copious fan service front and center, stylized violence, dick jokes and a wholesale rejection of all subtlety. If there is one thing Bu Bu Jing Xin really has going for it over and above Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, despite its nearly identical fantasy reverse harem set up, it is the remarkable amount of restraint it showed with its characters and story. 30 episodes in the characters were still revealing things about themselves, their choices were still surprising you and it felt like you could take another 50 or 100 hours to fully understand what made them all tick.
That restraint is totally out the window here. All you have to do is take one look at the male lead and you know exactly what kind of ride you’re in for.
Haesoo’s actions due to her lack of knowledge are seriously bothering me.
A while ago I studied some of Goryeo’s history and I obviously came across Gwangjong. Maybe my memory is a bit fuzzy but I don’t remember reading that Gwangjong killed all of his brothers like Haesoo believes. He was in fact, a very wise ruler who made the government strong and he only achieved that by making other people fear him. He created and supported a lot of laws like the liberation of slaves and that national exam. He tried to weaken the power of some lords so this is why he actually killed a lot of people, but I don’t remember reading that he killed his brothers. I could be wrong, maybe he did kill someone who opposed him or maybe plotted against him, but he didn’t kill everyone for sure. If we look back in history most of the rules, not only in Korea but all over the world basically tried to destroy their enemy by killing them.
I kind of understand why Haesoo doesn’t know the history very well, she is a modern girl and to be honest if I went back in time 1000 years ago, I wouldn’t even know who was who, I wouldn’t even know who would be the next king. Koreans are pretty patriotic and they do learn history so most people kinda know the basic history. She just knows the king and Gwangjong but completely ignores that there were 2 kings before him and that history is sometimes distorted. What is written about a ruler is not always entirely subjective, so she has this one picture in her head: that Gwangjong is bad. (I don’t know why she thinks he’s bad, I mean he ended up being the king and did a pretty good job at being king for the first years of his reign, so I don’t know why she sees him as being evil) - if she thinks about warning Wook about So, she is interfering with history. She knows So is Gwangjong and that he will become the king so I don’t know if she is gonna actually warn Wook or not about him, but I hope she realizes the gravity of her actions.
I’m expecting she will try to try to distance herself from Wangso in the next few episodes, but it’s a change in the plot that makes me disappointed with her. I do want them together but I just can’t help but notice how ignorant she is sometimes. I hate how she is so fixated on Wook. The thing is that in this drama we haven’t seen Wook being a dick yet so she still believes he is the perfect prince. Rouxi was distancing herself from the 4th prince because she knew history, but Haesoo is like this because of her lack of knowledge which is extremely frustrating.
But… I’ll wait till tomorrow, maybe I could be wrong about some things. Ugh, my heart after that almost kiss *cries in a corner*
So, episodes 4 and 5. There’s a lot of rambling below.
I have a lot to say and I know I’ve probably forgotten a few (or a lot of)
things as well. It feels like I’ll never run out of things to say for this
show. Also, I do have a bit to say about Queen Yoo and Yeon Hwa but I think
I’ll keep that for episodes 6 and 7.
[Spoilers contained herein for both
the Kdrama and the Cdrama. There was a lot in these episodes to cover and I also wanted to address the controversy. I couldn’t manage to make this exhaustive, but it’s still so long. Please be patient with me.]
This is going to be a hard one because
the end of episode 9 is already gripped in such controversy. There’s
a lot to think about, and I want to give a full discussion of episode
8 and not just talk about the elephant in the room.
The time-slip/supernatural plots are coming to a head. The cat’s out of the bag, Soo knows the identity of Gwangjong and she’s terrified.
There was a lot of talk about fate and history, about heaven’s will and man’s ability to sway it. We learned things about the nature of Ji Mong’s future knowledge and potentially the reason he and Soo were sent to Goryeo. We got some answers but we came away with more questions.
There’s no doubt in my mind that these “red flashes” are supernatural in nature. There is no way Soo could be having memories of certain events they show, considering her very limited history knowledge, and flights of imaginative fancy don’t usually cause sudden, involuntary hallucinations that trigger panic attacks. I can’t be anything but sympathetic toward Soo, even if she ends up messing things up in the end, hardly anyone would be able to handle these traumatic visions better than she is. History knowledge or no.
But if they are supernatural…what is their purpose? Why are they happening now? It seems clear at this point that Soo’s tampering can and has changed things. Without her, So would not have been able to take off his mask. Without her, Wook would not now be eyeing So with suspicion. But is the effect she’s having swaying the course of history or is it guaranteeing it?
[I freely compare Scarlet Heart: Ryeo to Bu Bu Jing Xin and there will be spoilers through episode 5 peppered throughout. Be sure to get caught up before reading.]
This week was a lot more even in terms storytelling and character development. Most of the introductions out of the way, we’ve settled into fleshing out our central and tertiary love triangles. Also we’re starting to develop a pattern of sorts, as the even number episodes seem to want to focus on the Wang So love line, while the the odd numbered ones focus on the Wang Wook love line–discounting the first episode, of course.
In keeping with that pattern, I’m going to talk about Soo/So first.
My favorite thing about the development for these two so far is how Soo manages to break the 4th with her empathy. How she shocks him by not being scared of him, by being concerned about his well-being–whether he eats well, sleeps well, or has bad dreams–how she asks him to explain himself and treats him like a person not an animal. It’s also wonderful to me that he is becoming curious about her and trying to figure her out, that he has probably already fallen for her without knowing it, and she seems completely oblivious to the effect she’s having on him.
It took me a while to get this one up,
and it’s not even as long or complicated as my usual reviews, I just
had a hard time sitting down and doing it. For the first time since
this show began to air at the end of August, I found myself kind of
relieved that the episodes were over and I got a bit of a reprieve.
Not because I thought this week was bad, by no means. But I’ve felt
so emotionally strung out with this story for the last two weeks, it
was nice to have a few days to regroup.
I feel us hurtling headlong toward the
end of the show—only 5 episodes left—and I’m not prepared. I’m
just stalking up on lotion fortified tissues and bracing myself.
Scanning through other commentary and my askbox, disappointment seems to be the word of
the week. Disappointment with Jung and his attitude toward So.
Disappointment with Soo especially, for all kind of things.
Because she didn’t trust So and tell him where Eun and Soon Deok
Because she didn’t detect and stop Moo’s poisoning. Because of her
lack of history knowledge. Because she hasn’t done more to try to
change the future. And even because she waited two years to accept
So’s feelings. She just couldn’t do anything right.
lot of people on my dash already jettisoned the SoSoo loveline long
ago. They were primed early on by 4th prince’s death threats and physical intimidation, and the forced kiss
at the end of 9 cinched it. Into the garbage with the whole ship.
Which is totally fine, ship and let ship. I was down for this kind of
unhealthy, high-risk, high-intensity relationship from page one, so
it was going to take a lot to scare me off. But though I have been at
various times called a “So apologist” I don’t feel a particular
devotion to one character or another, not so far as to sacrifice the
narrative as a whole. For me characterization trumps a swoony romance
every day of the week. As long as all the characters are consistent
me not be accused of being more empathetic toward my male characters
than I am toward my female characters. Let it not be said I’m less
cognizant of the consistency in Soo’s character development than I
am of So’s.
So I’ve been told that there is a scene in BBJX where Rouxi (Hae Soo) is about to leave the palace with 14th when she sees 8th, and runs to give him a goodbye hug. And I’m so scared the same will happen between Wook/Soo.
Whilst it might not be a romantic parting, she will feel broken. Because she has no idea what Wook has been doing, since So has to pick up the pieces everytime Wook does something. And in doing so he also takes the blame.
She said it herself, nothing is Wook’s fault it’s just that it wasn’t his fate to be King.
And I feel like she genuinely believes that. So next episode, when Wang So decides to take Wook down - it’ll be like CR all over again.
In her eyes, he won’t deserve it. She’ll beg for his life unaware of the fact that he is the reason why everyone around her has died and he is the reason her life is in shambles.