Seon is back in the political arena with plans to change Joseon for the better. But those he faces are ready for him and they are much more experienced. Another formerly friendly face has now turned into that of an enemy and now the prince has fewer true allies than ever before. It's an engaging episode that mimics the fast-paced rhythm of the very first episode. It shoves us into the scary world of politics along with Seon who really doesn't know what hit him.
While Seon is very clever and he is well-prepared, Minister Kim has the advantage of experience and no moral shackles. It is Seon's greatest strength and weakness that he is bound by his moral code that drives him to serve his people. It is what makes him a heartbreaking character. Each person who deceives him chips away at him and makes him emptier inside, but he is still determined to do what is right despite it. This drive will wear him out in the end. The fight he puts up is what makes "Secret Door" worth the watch. It is the hope that this reimagined Crown Prince Sado's life will leave an impact on the world once he is gone. We know how his life ends from textbook accounts. We don't know how "Secret Door" will use Sado's legacy.
King Yeongjo and Minister Kim are playing Seon, manipulating his pure intentions to achieve their own ends. This time, however, Seon's crown is at stake, which is exactly what his opponents desire. Among those opponents is Seon's love Ji-dam, returned a vengeful woman who harbors hatred for Seon and the king for killing her father. Ji-dam's return is exciting on paper, but Yoon So-hee is not Kim Yoo-jung. She does not have the nuance of expression her younger counterpart does. In fact, she's rather flat of affect. Had Kim stayed and continued to play Ji-dam, the character would have so much more fire. It's a pity she was replaced. Aside from the actress issue, Ji-dam's character has her own motivations now, but ultimately she serves to break Seon further. The lack of expression on Yoon's part makes it hard to empathize with Ji-dam.
The princess on the other hand is acted with a wealth of color on the part of Park Eun-bin. She is a proud, rule-abiding, heartbroken woman who is doing the best she can in the very powerless position she holds as a woman in Joseon. She goes against the principles that guide her life to help Seon, which can, and most probably will, make her very bitter.
What makes "Secret Door"'s plot so engaging is the fact that everyone has divided interest and/or they are playing both sides. The king loves both his crown and his son; Minister Kim pretends to help Seon and then stabs him in the back; Ji-dam uses Seon's affections for her to stage her revenge on him and his family; Seon feigns friendship with Minister Kim while plotting to use him and take him down. All the secrecy and planning is engaging and takes careful planning on the part of the writer - it's very well done.
Seon has a mountain of obstacles ahead of him, the biggest of which is his inexperience. He's a hero we root for even if we know the ending of the story. Bravo, writer. Job well done.
Written by: Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'
Journalist, drama lover, and foodie, Lisa enjoys exploring Korea, speaking the language, and soaking in all that dramaland has to offer. Her Korean husband laughs that she knows more than he ever will about dramas and K-pop. Lisa Espinosa can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Door" Episode 15"
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