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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" Episode 14


At least a year has passed since the previous episode of "Scarlet Heat: Ryeo", as it is now the second year in the reign of King Hyejong (played by Kim San-ho). I never felt much need to discuss King Hyejong back when he was just the crown prince, and unfortunately, his new regal title is of no help in making the character any more important. King Hyejong has a few scenes of pointless paranoia, makes a very bizarre demand of Prince So, then inevitably falls victim to the machinations of Prince Yo.

"But wait!" you're probably thinking, "didn't Prince Yo get dramatically stabbed by Prince So and fall off a cliff? Shouldn't he be dead? And even if he's not dead, how could he possibly have any political power having led a failed coup attempt?" These are all very good questions, which "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo", as usual, does not bother answering, because starlit romance between Soo and Prince So is more important.

In all fairness those scenes (irritating soundtrack notwithstanding) are the best ones we get by a large margin. Over the timeskip Soo somehow got a huge promotion, and with greater responsiblity comes greater character maturity. Soo is finally treating her daily life with the intense seriousness it deserves. The hairpin scene in particular was great because it shows that Soo knows exactly what the stakes are- and even if a stunt double was used for the acual point of impact, IU shows decent dedication maintaining that serious straight face the whole time.

The main issue is I don't have a clue how Soo turned into this when for most of the drama's run she was either goofily stepping outside of her rank or just being a passive receptacle for other characters' schemes. I would have liked to actually see her change as a character. Of course by the end of the episode we're right back where we started with Soo once again just being a random pawn, so it's not like this change mattered anyway.

If anything hurts "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" it's the consistent lack of purpose. Scenes are in this drama, not to assist in the story, but to achieve maximum romantic/dramatic impact. What the production team consistently fails to realize is that context matters. When the whole cast is underdeveloped at best and a weak archetype at worst, nothing any of them can do matters all that much.

Review by William Schwartz

"Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" is directed by Kim Kyoo-tae, written by Jo Yoon-yeong and features Lee Joon-gi, IU, Kang Ha-neul, Hong Jong-hyun, Nam Joo-hyuk, Baekhyun and Ji Soo.

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