So it's not just my imagination- the opening crawl explaining the background of "The King Loves", with the threat of Mongol invasion, coupled with the increasingly aggressive character descriptions, make it pretty clear that even the production team has realized the content of this drama is incredibly dense. Unfortunately background alone doesn't really help explain motivation. That much is a pretty strong stickler, considering the bizarre series of events that closes out episode six.
I mean, don't get me wrong. That particular cliffhanger is well built up to. We're shown all of the relevant foreshadowing ahead of time. The main part that's missing is who contrived the situation that required Prince Lin to use such a painstakingly specific skill in order to "solve" it. And more importantly why. While "The King Loves" may be great at looking dramatic, its urgency is hobbled by how every character action just begs more increasingly complicated questions.
To date the only older character whose motivation I can easily follow is Chzhuan Muvan Khou (played by Jang Young-nam), as she is both the only important woman in the palace as well as the only Mongolian. A flashback also does us the favor of explaining her motivation- which for the most part is just to act mean, but really, who can blame her? People in "The King Loves" frequently come off as savage even if that wasn't their intent.
The main exception to this rule are the three leads, who at this point feel like characters from a completely different drama. Prince Won keeps flirting with Eun-san, frequently ignoring everything else that's going on for a moment of romancing. Prince Lin, with his much more serious demeanor, is at least being treated by members of the royal conspiracy as someone who could, one day, be important. But much like Eun-san, Prince Lin is still struggling just to catch up on basic exposition.
On that note, I have to admit that "The King Loves" consistently looks pretty great in motion. The definite highlight of episode five is Prince Lin and Eun-san running into each other, and the complicated actions they have go through in order to avoid detection. The choreography is just beautiful. Still, the rules regarding allowed sounds are inconsistent, and director Kim Sang-hyeob straight up skips a scene. How did they get on the roof? I wanted to see that part. I bet it looked cool.
Review by William Schwartz
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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 email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 5-6"
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