I marathoned this show over the past few days because it is the kind of drama that gets you so involved that you just have to keep going to the next episodes.
I love this show for:
-the king Jae Ha’s growth as a person from a coward to a strong king who loves his people. It is the theme of the drama and it was kept strong till the end. Lee Seung Gi plays the role engagingly and it doesn’t hurt that he looks dashing whether he was in uniforms, suits, or sportswear.
-all the good characters in the show were played skillfully and beautifully by great actors: Ha Ji Won as Kim Hang Ah, Jo Jung Suk as Eun Shi Kyung, Lee Yoon Ji as Lee Jae Shin, Lee Sung Min as Lee Jae Kang, Yoon Yeo Jung as queen mom. I love the love and trust they have for each other and the way they are “real” people whom you can relate. I love HA’s strength of character, mom’s mummy instincts and dignity, Shi Kyung being “Earnest Bot” (need I say more? everyone loves him), the sweet and loving hyung king (i was so sad when he died)…
-the relationships of the characters (minus the bad guys of course). So many of the mom-son scene, hyung-dongsaeng, husband-wife, shy lover-princess, dad-daughter, bro-sis were so poignantly written/acted out. LOTS of GREAT MOMENTS in the show. Even though almost all scenes were played in contexts that are out of our normal life (in the royal family grounds, military grounds in contrast with just a regular street in Seoul for example), the people and their lives feel so relatable to us.
-the humor/social commentary. Hyun bin billboard, SNSD, doraemon, anne of green gables… Other subtle moments played out in the gestures e.g. when Jae Ha tried to act cool by doing a “Greek thinker’s” pose leaning on the phone and the phone tilted down giving away the cool moment. ha.
-beautiful cinematography. Some which are just simple and poignant e.g. crossing the line at their wedding scene. Others which are high budget that give us the grand, majestic feel.
-ep 12. so good.
What detracted from this show:
-Shi Kyung did not have to die!!!! still holding a grudge. (interesting enough though, 4 of my top 6 korean dramas’ righteous 2nd leads died towards the end of the series: City Hunter, The Princess’ Man, Queen In Hyun’s Man, and this one; Secret Garden and Shut Up Flower Boy Band are fine)
-the villain scenes. too creepy sometimes. (I know it’s necessary for the story, but i still hate it)
-the foreign day actors (i know it’s not their fault and again, it is necessary for the story, but alongside the awesome acting of the likes of Ha Ji Won, they stick out like sore thumbs—sorry peeps, nothing against you guys since you are not professional actors).
-the rushed pacing of maybe the last two episodes.