"The King's Face" opened with a fast-paced, visually pleasing and plot-thin first episode. All main characters were introduced with their major qualities and quirks and physiognomy, or face reading, is given its proper place at the top of the totem pole. Based upon this opener the drama could be beautiful and vapid, or beautiful and delve deeper than what was given in this first taste.
There is no doubt that "The King's Face" is a beautiful drama. The filming is smooth, the colors vibrant, the angles creative. The casting is solid, costumes and sets are lovely. Everything is as it should be. And yet, it felt like mindless hour. There was no need to truly engage in order to follow along. The premise is an old one: father and son of high-stature pitted against each other as political enemies. King Seonjo and Prince Gwanghae are a well-known story in Korean history. It's all well-trodden territory. Even the face-reading aspect is used and, in fact, disputed. What "The King's Face" is going to need is to be more than skin deep.
That said, let's talk about the actors. Seo In-guk is engaging as always. He has taken on all of his own stunt work, which allows for some great viewing, but also means he's gotten hurt twice. I'm not sure if the excitement is worth his health, especially with the grueling live shoot process. Seo has a natural affability that he brings to Yi Hon, or Prince Gwanghae who is written as lively, curious, and earnest. His counterpart is his father, King Seonjo, played by the chameleon Lee Sung-jae. Lee makes for a particularly terrifying opponent to the young prince. His knows how to play the game and is willing to take lives without second thought - Lee plays this character as though flipping a coin, which makes it great. He's hard to read because he shifts between good and horrifying so quickly, and so often.
None of the ministers have yet stuck out from the texture of self-important robed men, but Jo Joon-hee as Kim Ga-hee, the romantic interest, has an interesting role to play. She is a crossdresser, but is doing it because she is to live her life as a man. It's a great take on the crossdressing theme so popular in K-drama and Jo adds an appropriate amount of levity to the role. It's not easy to do as there are a few hijinks.
Face reading is the major plot building block, but, thankfully, "The King's Face" builds the story on more than just that. Some dramas that base their premise on a single idea use it until it has been wrung dry. This drama has already begun to weave other elements into the import of face reading like political manipulation and religion. Hopefully it will continue to do so.
The music of "The King's Face" is high-quality, but ill-fitting. During the action scenes, the music seems almost dream-like rather than insistent and forward-moving. In the early episodes, the music is most important in setting a tone, and, unfortunately, it does not match the mood of the drama.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King's Face" Episode 1"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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