"The King's Face" is tonally all over the place. It has lost what little stylistic cohesion it had in its first week. Luckily, there are a few saving graces such as the beautiful camera work and the new relationship between Prince Gwanghae and Do-chi, the independently-minded leader of the Daedong.
What stands out about "The King's Face" is that it hasn't yet settled into a groove. The tone shifts ungracefully from mood to mood and is paralleled by jumpy character development. Luckily, this episode was about face reading and how it works. There was a lot of demonstration of face reading that was informative and creatively presented. Should there be much more of it, the face reading will lose its appeal, but in these early stages, such demonstrations are welcome. It is also used to show the similarly brilliant minds of Gwanghae and Do-chi, both romantic and political rivals although they do not yet know it. Part of the appeal of the rivalry is the grounded chemistry between Seo In-guk and Shin Sung-rok. They will be a fun pair to watch on screen.
The biggest criticism I have is on the directorial style. Everything is portrayed in an overly exaggerated manner that gives the drama a slapstick feel that misses the mark of actually being amusing. Tears shed by Gwanghae seem overwrought as they happen several times with accompanying screams of sorrow. Lady Kim glares jealously at the king's newest, young concubine and dramatically declares her unacceptable. It's all just too much. The show is forcing emotion upon the viewer rather than letting him or her react naturally.
Shin Sung-rok as Do-chi is an interesting character, however. He is a leader who is extremely insecure. He hides dark secrets in order to pursue his noble cause. He is both talented and determined, but that insecurity is what gives him color and appeal I'm hoping the production team takes advantage of that insecurity because that will make him good second (or third) lead material.
Ga-hee, on the other hand, is supposed to be a strong heroine-type, but she comes off as self-pitying rather than genuinely hurt. She has been scarred by the deaths of her parents and the hard life she has lead, but that pain is not adequately portrayed. She is shown moping alone more than she is taking action. It's ineffective.
If I were watching "The King's Face" rather than reviewing it, I think I'd feel differently. It could be genuinely entertaining. But from where I'm sitting now as a critic, I find it lacking.
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 4"
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