Prince Won (played by Im Si-wan) and Prince Lin (played by Hong Jong-hyun) are royal brothers. Prince Won is small, impulsive, and reckless. Prince Lin is patient, thoughtful, and tall. For most of the first episode we get into a fairly complicated and beautifully choreographed backstory about how Prince Won and Prince Lin were witness to the tribulations of Eun-san (played by Yoona), a girl who was on the wrong end of a bunch of assassins.
To be honest I wasn't totally that enamored with the first episode of "The King Loves" because while it looked cool, almost all of the action was being initiated by characters who lacked screen presence. The main important establishing storytelling it does is by showing off all those kickin' rad Goryeo era costumes. As is usually the case for Goryeo dramas, all of the characters, even the women, are unusually aggressive, so no poking around with obscure court procedures here.
Which incidentally is why I liked the second episode of "The King Loves" quite a bit more than the first. Instead of being a generally passive victim, Eun-san instead takes the lead as the best Goryeo lacrosse player around. Straightaway we get great combative chemistry between her and Prince Won, and even the game itself is a good metaphor for the physical conflict we've already seen. Technically it can be played in a way that is not violent, but Prince Won and Eun-san make it violent just as a force of habit.
I also like how all three of the main characters, even Prince Lin, are basically stupid teenagers who can barely be trusted to be alone by themselves for a few minutes without inspiring some sort of preposterous calamity. The entire incident at the bridge was hilarious as it was character-building and scary, because even knowing the dangers ahead of time, Prince Won and Eun-san just can't bring themselves to stop engaging in petty fights long enough to achieve the simplest goals.
If nothing else I'm optimistic about "The King Loves" just for the novelty value. I can't quite recall the last time I saw a historical drama, or any drama really, where the lead heroine was this proactive and willing to get her hands dirty. There's also effective balance in showing how, even if the main characters aren't all that smart just yet, the adults are, which implies that there is room for improvement when it comes to story arcs. That, or tragic misunderstanding brought on by political crisis. Either one works for me.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 1-2"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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