"The King's Face" is slowly shaping Joseon's next king, Prince Gwanghae, for the heavy crown he will bear. Seo In-guk is charming as the young prince who is just discovering what he wants to do with the intelligence and political power that he was born with. His skill with face-reading helps him as he navigates the murky waters of backdoor politicking.
In his time exiled from the palace, Gwanghae has learned of the sordid affairs that happen beyond the palace walls that keep palace officials afloat in gold and riches and their power honed towards magnifying their riches and positions rather than helping those who need it. It is this time and experience that allows Gwanghae to realize that he wants to make a difference and that he has a change to help his father enact tax reform to make taxation more fair for the poor. He uses the face reading skills he has honed over the years along with his connections and wit to dig into the corruption that lines the monarchy. It gives Seo In-guk plenty of opportunity to display his humorous side as his magnetic appeal on camera.
What this show lacks is chemistry between the main couple. Seo In-gook and Jo Yoon-hee, while very fine actors, do not have great chemistry. Each part of the couple mourns, and broods, and yearns appropriately, but it feels disjointed. It doesn't help that their love story has a very weak basis. Gwanghae's intonations of anguished love are moving, despite it all.
Do-chi's character as well as King Seonjo's are pretty much duds. King Seonjo is purely reactionary. He likes to bide his time to see what outcomes will be, but isn't proactive. He is extremely paranoid, but lacks the wit of his son. An actor like Lee Sung-jae is wasted on him. It is not that a man of weak character is bad in a story, its that he lacks depth. The underlying tension that drives Seonjo is conspicuously absent. In Do-chi, that tension is obvious. It manifests in a need for justice and in his love for Ga-hee. But still, the depth is lacking. Or its ill-conveyed. In any case, it doesn't make itself known.
The other characters who plot and connive like Lady Yoon and the ministers are rather haphazard, cartoonish villains. Again, they lack substance. There is plenty of substance in the story of Gwanghae and Seonjo to go around. It was a relationship fraught with political tension born of status conflicts, political conflicts and the dire needs of the people. None of these are utilized well.
Somehow, "The King's Face" continues to be entertaining. It is mostly in Gwanghae's escapades in markets, and taverns, and gibangs that make is interesting, but the intrigue is, nonetheless, there.
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] "The King's Face" Episode 8"
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