I began this with way more confidence than last night. The verdict is in and I am in this for the long haul. There are just too many nuances of SKKS for me not to fall in love with this drama. The most obvious is the music and how a scene just pulls the two leads together for a moment where they stand, bathed in light and wonder. The story is different, but it still skates along the same lines as letting girls be educated, brothers and sisters getting along really well, and all this bromance coming at us from every direction. There are just too many good things about this drama to resist. 🙂
Here is a legend of the abbreviations we’ll be using. It includes photos of most (but not all) the child actors and will grow as the drama progresses:
|Lee Hwon – H||Wol – WolHeo Yeon Woo – YW||Yang Myeong Goon – M|
|Yoon Bo Kyeong – B||Heo Yeom – Y||Woon – Woon|
|Seol – S||Princess Min Hwa – MW||King Seong Jo – SJ|
|Park Hoe Bin – P||Gr. Empress Yoon – GE||Shaman Jang – J|
Since sageuks are confusing, here are some very brief character descriptions. There are more detailed descriptions available, but they could be considered rather spoilery. The names in brackets are the actors’ names (childhood actors are listed second, where applicable):
Lee Hwon (Kim Soo Hyun/Yeo Jin Goo) – The future king.
Heo Yeon Woo (Han Ga In/Kim Yoo Jung) – An intelligent and beautiful girl who was betrothed to Lee Hwon.
Wol (Han Ga In)- A shaman who bears a strong resemblance to Yeon Woo.
Prince Yang Myeong (Jung Il Woo/Lee Min Ho) – Lee Hwon’s older half-brother from another mother. He is next in line for the throne after Hwon, but is a loyal brother.
Yoon Bo Kyeong (Kim Min Seo/Kim So Hyun) – Hwon’s first wife.
Heo Yeom (Song Jae Hee/Si Wan) – The affectionate and incredibly smart older brother of Yeon Woo.
Woon (Song Jae Rim/Lee Won Geun)- Lee Hwon’s bodyguard, he is the son of a nobleman and a concubine (which gives him a low status despite his intelligence and martial prowess).
Seol (Yoon Seung Ah)- Yeon Woo’s personal maidservant.
Princess Min Hwa (Nam Bo Ra/Jin Ji Hee) – Hwon’s younger sister who was jealous of Yeon Woo as a child, and smitten with Yeom.
King Seong Jo (Ahn Nae Sang) – Lee Hwon’s father.
Park Hoe Bin (Kim Ye Ryeong) – The king’s consort and mother to Lee Hwon and Yang Myeong.
Grand Empress Yoon – (Kim Young Ae) – Lee Hwon’s grandmother.
Shaman Jang/Guk Mu (Jeon Mi Seon) – Wol’s adoptive mother.
When the parasol drops, H takes that as a sign that he might meet her again. YW hears a sound and wonders if H sent the guards. she goes to the wall and finds a note from M. he said:what problem do you have that you cant sleep? tell the rock your problems- this rock will worry in your place . this rock will take away your problems and bring back a book of solutions so go and sleep comfortably.it’s my present from my trip. She says aloud: he came and went again. this person – really – after I told him so he would understand (she is upset cuz he didnt listen)
S hides and watches Woon and Y practice fighting. Y says Woon is impressive while Y is still like this even after years so Y thinks he doesnt have any talent for swords. Woon: are you ok young master? Y: couldnt you stop calling me “young master?” how many times did I say that? While Y is talking about how late M is cuz lots of time has passed, Woon sees M come over the wall. Y says that woon talks a lot when M is around so since it’s just the two of them (Y and Woon) something feels like it’s missing. M says: If I knew you missed me this much then I would have quit my travel and come back sooner. Y calls out M’s name and M hugs Y. M congratulates Y for passing the civil service exam. M tries to hug Woon but he steps out of the way. so M says I will just give you half a congratulations on passing your exam. Y: did you have fun on your trip. M: whether I had fun or not. M says he brought precious tofu for his friends and takes them away
The 3 of them go and drink. M says he was late seeing someone precious and asks Y forgiveness cuz there is someone more important than him. Y wonders if M has a girl now since M never mentioned one and then guesses and asks: you didnt go over the wall again did you? M:what are you talking about? how could I when I am friends with you and it’s your sister’s wall. Y says how YW is still too young. he points out what M did last time so M cuts him off saying: I know so you can stop. if she had just showed me her face when I asked her – that embarrassing situation wouldnt have happened. M goes on so Woon smiles. M brags cuz he got Woon to smile cuz Woon is like ice. Y warns M not to hang around again (not sure if he means that wall or YW). M gives them presents he prepared especially for them– rocks. He says to think of him when they look at those and carry it around. Woon says the rock is too heavy to carry around so M gives him a smaller rock. M wonders if Woon and Y now become H’s people (meaning they work for H now). They get quiet so he makes them drink and be happy tonight.
H is being dressed. His servant comes in with the list of teachers for H-sort of like the finalist but the servant doesnt know who the top choices are yet). H recites the names on the list before the servant can read any names. H has them memorized and mutters his grandmother used her strength.H: is that all you found out . Servant says someone new is coming but doesnt know who yet. H thinks they will be the same as others. H says he only has one choice. he is going to test how long they can hang in there.
Servants wonder how many months the teacher will hang in there this time – last one was a few months so the girls bets a month this time. The servant women see Y walk by and almost faint cuz he glows/radiates a light.
H is in the classroom looking bored and Y goes in and greets him. H stands up and seems surprised to see him.
YW asks her mom if her brother is going to become H’s teacher. The mom says yes. YW pricks her fingers with a needle. YW wonders if H will know that she is her brother’s sister. Cuz she remembers telling H about her brother and how her brother was at the ceremony
H asks Y how old he is. Y replies. H asks if that means Y is 17. Y: yes. servant tries again to get H to say hello to the teacher but H makes a comment about Y’s young age.
Empress gets mad at lord yoon for giving the position to Y and not putting one of their own in that place. cuz that position is important. She says Y is so and so and so’s son. (YW’s dad’s name)
H is fuming mad cuz the new teacher is only 17. Servant comes in and says impressive things about Y about his looks and intelligence (we see footage of Y while he talks). How popular Y was at SKKS. Other kids gave up their seats for him. Y got the most rice cuz he was pretty and serving women had crushes on him. Women on the street fell for him. Bullies melt when they see his face. Servant goes on about how good Y looks but how much Y studied. H tells him to be quiet and turn around for a bit cuz H doesn’t want to see the servant’s face. basically H just gave that servant a time out and he had to face the wall
YW goes to see her brother. She asks if something happened. Or did H make things hard for you. Y mentions H is displeased with him. YW offers to help and asks him what it is. Y says H is misunderstanding something cuz I am too young. YW says in her head: it’s not cuz of you. it might be cuz of me. She asks: you want to melt H’s heart don’t you brother? Y: is there a way?
Next morning Y is in front of H and H is ignoring Y. Y says that’s all for today’s lesson. H says how Y didn’t teach anything. Y says H isn’t ready to learn. Y offers a deal – if H can solve a riddle then I will step down as your teacher as you want– if you can’t find the answer then you must treat me like a teacher and let me teach you H: so you want to make a bet. ok – give me the riddle. Y says the riddle. what is it that can make the world bright in a moment and what is it that can make the world dark in a moment. H: it’s that too easy. Y: that wont be that easy. H: that’s what you think. Y says he will hear the answer in the next lesson. H: after that I wont have to see you again then right?
The princess “MW”(H’s sister) sees books being taken to H so she runs over to H. she asks when he is going to read all these books. H says he doesn’t have time to play with her. she asks the servant why H is like this but the guy is facing the wall. she asks why he is there and he says cuz H told him to and servant says how H is solving a riddle now. so MW asks what it is. H: told you to leave. MW asks him to tell her. Servant repeats the riddle : what is it that can make the world bright in a moment and what is it that can make the world dark in a moment. MW thinks about it for a second and says it’s eyelids -she blinks as she explains– when you close your eyes everything is dark and when you open them everything is bright. Servant thinks that might be the answer too but H is annoyed cuz it cant be that simple. H makes fun of how she thinks and says this is why I dont talk to you. you are getting the way of my studies so leave. he goes back to his books.
H tells Y what H thinks is the correct answer and explains it. The king is outside and listens. Y says it’s the wrong answer. H:what did you just say? that it’s not the correct answer? Y: yes. H: then what is the correct answer? Y: the answer is eyelids. H: are you kidding/playing with me now? Y: if you dont like the correct answer then does it become play? H:what? H gets mad and says you are saying the answer is child’s play. Y sort of gives an impressive answer : if you look through a young child’s eyes, everything in the world could be a problem and everything in the world could be an answer. he says there are two things – one is arrogance that you know the right answer and other is your bias -those two things are making your eyes and heart dark -you have to realize that. how can you lead if you cant see in the dark? H gets up and asks for his servant. H orders sweets and drinks set up and says he is going to have that snack time with his new teacher after their lesson is over. H greets Y more politely and smiles at Y. The king says H met a proper teacher today. Y’s dad doesn’t react but Lord Yoon doesn’t look happy
MW is laughing cuz she heard how many hours H was trying to find the answer that she got right away. She wants to go and tell the teacher she got his difficult answer. MW starts to run over and sees H and Y coming out together and hides her face from Y cuz he radiates so much.
H and Y are eating together. H: I am curious about one thing – if I got the right answer would you have really quit and left as my teacher. Y says stuff and how his sister came up with the idea.
YW had explained to her brother how Y had to think about what is the best path for H to take – for his sake. she says nice things about H and that right now H is just misunderstanding Y but at some point he will recognize that Y means the best for him. so she gives her brother encouragement. H asks how old the sister is and Y says she is 13. H: but you talk over your problems with your younger sister? servant tells him to drink before the flavor/scent of the tea goes out. H tells Y to eat. Y is about to eat a sweet, but H takes the sweet away from Y and says since Y’s sister gave the lesson today so the person who has the right to eat this precious sweet is Y’s sister. H wants the sweets wrapped up to give her. H’s exact words were: “wrap up this up -I have to give this as a present – not to the one in front of me but the teacher who is hidden”
H asks his servant -can you believe that a 13 yr old girl said all that? (that impressive explanation) Servant says it’s possible and talks about some 17 yr old but H discovers that one of the additions to the teacher list that the servant had told H about was Y who had recently passed his exams. H remembers how YW had told him that about her brother so H sort of yells at the servant for telling him now. Servant defends himself and says how he tried but H shut him up.
Y gives YW the sweets and says H gave it to her for the lesson. she says her brother did that so why give it to her. Y explains to her how he told H that she gave Y the courage to do it. So H said you are the real teacher and not me and gave you this. She asks if he said anything else about her. Y: nothing special oh yeah he asked if the riddle was yours too. cuz i gave him one.
YW goes outside and catches petals and imagines seeing H there next to her. H: did you solve the riddle I gave you? YW: are you really the prince? H: what do you think? YW: I wish you weren’t. he tells her to taste the sweets. H: how does it taste. YW: it’s sweet. She asks: giving this to me-does it mean you forgive me? or does it mean you are trying to give me fear. Please tell me what it means. He is suddenly gone. She holds out her hand and there are petals.
Lord Yoon talks with other guys over drinks about how much power YW’s dad might gain from being in the King’s favor, but Lord Yoon says what need is there to rush.
Wives go to meet their husbands. Lord Yoon says to B that he could make it so that she lives in the palace (or around the palace) if she wants. He repeats her name. (his offer meant to make her qualify to be one of the possible wives for H)
YW goes to look at expensive paper. S asks why she needs this. YW says for penance (apology letter) so S says why use expensive paper just go and beg for forgiveness in person.YW: it’s not someone I can meet that easily that’s why. S: It’s not like it’s for royalty. just say it with words or get hit a few times. YW: it doesnt matter if I get hit but I am worried it will affect my brother. S hears blacksmiths and asks to go somewhere for a minute.
M shows up and asks: did you two really do something wrong?
S runs into B and knocks B down. S says sorry asking if B is ok and tries to brush off the dirt. B’s aunt starts to scold S saying dont touch B with dirty hands, but B is nice about it and says S must have been busy to run into her and didnt do this on purpose. I am ok so you can leave.S thanks her and leaves.
B’s aunt is missing her money pouch and thinks S stole it and goes after S. B picks it up from the ground where the aunt dropped it and smiles to herself.
S asks the blacksmith if he doesnt see swords. suddenly S is slapped by B’s aunt. S:why are you doing this? aunt: are you asking cuz you dont know.The aunt asks for her money purse. You think I don’t know you ran into a person on purpose to pretend to dust off the dirt to steal the purse. S says she didn’t steal it. Aunt tries to search her saying S hid it. B stops her aunt saying there are lots of people watching. S: please believe me miss – I didnt steal it. B whispers to S -show that you are not the thief
M is talking about the papers and guesses that she is selecting it for some royalty. he says too many flowers will go into that and says the other one is better for that person. YW: I said it wasnt him so why do you keep saying it is. M: then is it the prince? so you like the prince? I am the prince’s hyung. let’s see what his taste is. but what did you do wrong to write out this apology. she already left while he was looking through the papers.
She goes outside and it starts to rain so she starts to run but M comes up and holds his sleeve over her so she wont get wet. He takes her to a nursery – some place with plants. She says she saw it in a book but never saw one in person. she asks if he made this himself. M says there is a crazy guy who cant work as a civil servant and used some money to make this. she remembers how H said it was his fault that his brother had to live like that and how it’s been a long time since M went to see H. M says cuz of that person he borrows this place often – like to dry off clothes that got wet. She says she heard that it’s been a long time since M went to the palace. M holds up flowers and says the petals wont fall off easily and is used a lot for the purpose she needs it for. wont this help with the apology letter. She asks what kind of person the king is cuz she is curious. M says how King is sincere and stuff. Flashback to young M being scolded. the king says how dare you learn this when you arent going to be the king. then M says some more stuff. flashback to young H being praised by the king for learning something within a short time and how the king is going to give a big reward to those who taught H. M says something positive about the king.
YW asks if M isnt going to the palace cuz after he came back from the trip he hasnt gone. M asks if she is asking cuz Y asked her to but she says that’s not it – it’s cuz she thinks family is waiting. M asks: who is waiting for me. YW says the prince but changes it to M’s mom and brother. M: They are all busy so would they miss me. YW: they are waiting for you. She says how missing someone can become an illness. why do you..she says the rest in her head- how H tried to leave to see M. M says then you should understand how my heart feels. YW: that is different from this. M: how is it different. YW says she is serious so why is he laughing. He says it’s been a long time since she looked at him directly and talked this long. He thanks her for her advice but tells her “ you just do what you have to do well.”
S is being beaten up by B’s servants and the aunt. Aunt asks S to say who S belongs to – her owner so they can get paid back the money but S wont speak and keeps getting beaten. aunt: why are you saying – are you in cahoots with your owner? before i put you in jail are you not going to talk? B is over by the side oblivious to what’s going on and says in her head: that’s why you should have watched where you were going cuz you made my favorite clothes dirty. (Wow this girl is scary evil)
YW hears how S was taken away by B’s aunt for robbery. the aunt is told that YW is coming. YW runs over and asks S if she is ok. YW says to the aunt and them: how could you do this – even if she did something wrong – how could you (beat her this much). B asks what’s going on. YW says pardon me and introduces herself and says she heard that S stole the lady’s purse and there seems to me a misunderstanding. B scolds her servants: what is this. I told you to find out about where she was from – who told you to beat her. But the servant speaks up and says: but miss you told us to beat her enough but make sure she doesn’t die. Aunt quickly covers up that truth and lies and says to B: sorry you told me to send her away but my anger had not subsided. B says the apology should go to YW first so the Aunt says sorry to YW. and says how S wouldnt say who she belonged to no matter how much she was asked.
B walks over and asks YW to forgive those who don’t know better. she advises YW to sell S off if S cant fix her bad habit of stealing before she becomes a bigger thief. YW says she will replace the missing money. B says let’s forget about it and act like it never happened. YW says: this child is not an object to buy or sell – she is like my family. B: what? YW: I don’t know how much money you lost today but will it cover/repay how much you scarred this kid’s heart today? B:what did you say? YW: I will assume you are letting her go and will take her away now. YW helps S walk away. B glares after YW
Y gives H a present from his sister to thank H for the sweets. H says there is plant soil and wonders what to plant in it. Y says i dont know and repeats what YW said about whatever he plants will grow well. H smiles. Y: then should we start our class? H asks what kind of person Y’s sister is. cuz she seems smart cuz of the riddle she came up with and stuff. Y tries to get him to stick to the lesson but H says he was envious of people who lived with siblings cuz he has to live separately. Y says how his sister reads with him after dinner and they talk about this and that a lot. H is surprised to learn that. H: you read books with your sister? Y says how she liked to read since she was young and can read harder books than kids older than him so he has a lot to learn from her. H starts to say how his sister the princess is the opposite (doesnt know any characters) and says unflattering stuff about her (throwing temper tantrums) when MW suddenly comes in crying. She was demanding that H take back what he said about her cuz H said it in front of Y. she holds Y’s face and tells him not to listen to what H said cuz it’s not true. Y tells her not to cry or it will mess up her pretty face so she calms down and is happy and asks: am I really pretty. Her servants take her away
H opens the letter and there is pretty flowers pasted on the sides with letters in the middle. H asks the servant -look at this- how could a 13 yr old girl write this. Servant says it’s unusual for a girl to know how to read and write but how could she know Chinese characters. he tries to see the content of the letter but H glares at him to step back.
YW is making the letter with S. they soak the paper in pink. YW recites the content of the letter. she gets poetic in the beginning part but says later asks him if he couldnt forget what happened at that place (they talked) cuz she is feeling penitent (for saying all those bad things about the king’s politics I am guessing)
H stares at the letter. He guesses she solved the riddle he gave her. forget? I thought you were smart but maybe you are a fool. How could I forget you?
MW comes running over and calls out “father” to the king. She says she wants to learn the alphabet from H’s teacher. King says no. Y is the prince’s teacher. She says no she wants to learn from that teacher. King says even if she throws a fit there are things that cant happen. She runs off crying
Lord Yoon says stuff about who should teach MW -some girl who knows a lot so the king asks if anyone has a professor to assign this task and some guy says Lord Yoon but the King assigns YW’s dad (to ask his daughter). *I think Lord Yoon was trying to get a position for B
YW’s dad asks if YW will do it. teach the princess and learn from the queen. If you don’t want to then you don’t have to. YW: it isnt that.
YW’s mom asks why her husband isnt going in to sleep – did YW say she wont do it. He says YW said she would. He doesn’t feel comfortable about it though. The dad feels uneasy for some reason. The mom says how there was a person who was going to protect our YW with her life. dad asks who. She says there is a person like that.
J goes to visit Ari’s gravesite. J: have you been well sorry I didn’t come to see you often. J remembers Ari’s words to protect that child in her place. J: who is the child I need to protect?
H’s mom the queen goes to visit the empress. Empress says who knows among them there might be a wife for the prince
J’s carriage pulls up alongside YW’s and as J gets out and stands, J and YW look at each other. J remembers Ari’s words to protect that child. Next B shows up and J looks at B. B and YW stare at each other. J’s voice says: two moons
Narration: Two moons and two suns -what is this joke of fate.
J tells someone: it’s not an order you can handle agassi (young miss/lady)
H is wearing a mask and takes YW’s hand and leads her away. Once they are alone he faces her and takes his mask off. H asks: Do you know me (recognize me)? YW: You are this country’ Chosun’s …H finishes her sentence: I am the prince – Lee Hwon.
(*those shots are for you Softy; I know you loved all the greenery!)
Gosh these kids are cute. I’m not old enough to be their parents, but can I adopt them anyways? Well…everyone but B. Apparently “B” doesn’t just stand for Bo Kyeong.
I’m a big fan of the age that was chosen for all this back story. In most dramas the “children” are a few years younger than this and form romantic relationships and act mature even though they’re nowhere near puberty. All these characters feel like they’re on the brink of transitioning into adulthood, and the actors (as well as the writers) are doing a fantastic job of capturing the awkwardness and excitement of that time in life. I also feel like the chemistry all around couldn’t be much better, whether it be romantic, bromantic, or between siblings.
I’m particularly excited about watching such an appealing cast within the context of a historical drama. I love sageuks for their political intrigue and fascinating plots, but I’m not going to lie…I don’t find old men in funny hats nearly as endearing as all these young folk.
I even think that B is going to be an interesting character. She’s horrible, but rather than just being annoying like many second leads, I think she will pulling a lot of political strings and creating compelling plot points. Most female second leads also have no real chance with the male leads (they usually resort to sabotage and stalking) so I’m looking forward to seeing how marriage changes the game.
I’m pretty picky with female leads and usually don’t love them, but YW looks she could end up being a favorite. I’ll take a quiet and intelligent girl over a boisterous one any day, but YW seems to have a bit of a fun side too, and always speaks up when there’s something to say. I tend to be a bit overly-opinionated IRL, so maybe I just like characters like her because they off some sort of self-validation!
The bromance hasn’t been given a ton of time to breathe yet, but I loved every second of it and can hardly wait for the next episode after seeing the preview. I am already starting to feel twinges of dread at the thought of any real conflict between H and M at some point in the future. Conversely, I’m already feeling a tad giddy about getting to watch KSH and JIW act all chummy and brotherly together. There’s no way it’s not going to be great!
I also noticed this episode that Lee Min Ho is either extremely well cast (in the sense that he’s naturally a lot like JIW) or that he’s been studying Jung Il Woo’s acting. I feel like he often speaks with a similar inflection and has some of the same small mannerisms. Maybe I’m just crazy, but I swear it’s not something I was looking for! I loved H and YW together, but by the end of those scenes between M and YW I could feel myself wavering. I think this drama is going to be hard on me!
On paper, I would probably find MW obnoxious, but instead I find myself feeling affection for her, and think she makes for the perfect cute, but incorrigible little sister. I like that she runs around the palace in such an unassuming and casual manner, and that she smiles as easily as she cries. I find myself laughing at all her antics, but do not envy Y having to deal with her volatile emotions, especially since she’s royalty.
It’s no big surprise that H is fantastic since Yeo Jin Goo is always great, but this role really suits him well. He and KSH were my favorites in Giant, and I actually preferred them to their adult counterparts in that drama. Thank goodness KSH is the person replacing YJG, or I might be resentful!
One thing that I love (and almost didn’t notice) is that this show isn’t getting too overly dramatic (which is my biggest beef with most sageuks, and even many modern shows). It’s not laden with excessive slow-motion and cheesy flashbacks, and everything happens fairly organically without going over the top. I was actually surprised that H revealed his identity to YW so quickly and that it wasn’t turned into some shocking scandal, because that never happens in a drama! Instead they were thankful, forgiving, and apologetic, and YW made adorable paper! Other than the fantastical shaman element this plot setup isn’t breaking any boundaries, but it still feels fresh and has me glued to the screen. I guess that’s what happens when a drama is made well!
BTW, next week I’ll be faster with screenshots since I’ll be back home again. It’s a shame to make anyone wait with a show this pretty 🙂