The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling

Review: King’s Daughter, Soo Baek Hyang

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THE SHORT VERDICT:

Despite being dressed in regular sageuk robes, and possessing a political context that is key to its narrative, King’s Daughter manages to remain engaging and accessible to the average viewer.

On the downside, production values are on the lower side, the writing is slow at times, and the acting prowess across the ensemble cast is patchy in spots. Look past those flaws, however, and there are some pretty wonderful characters and relationships, delivered with so much heart and finesse, that it really does make it all worthwhile.

An engaging and pretty easy watch, despite its length.

King’s Daughter Soo Baek Hyang OST – 정읍사

THE LONG VERDICT:

To be honest, King’s Daughter isn’t my usual type of show.

I usually prefer sageuks of the more prime-time, more expensively-produced, shorter variety, and King’s Daughter is, well, none of those things. Not only does it feature a pre-Joseon period, of which I’m much less familiar, it aired as a daily, doesn’t have the best production values, and it’s really long. At 108 half-hour episodes, this is, to date, the longest sageuk I’ve watched.

So why did I pick it up at all? It was all for Seo Hyun Jin, who stole my heart in so many ways, in the limited screentime that she’d enjoyed as the Crown Princess in The Three Musketeers. I’d heard that she was wonderful in King’s Daughter, and I just couldn’t pass up more awesome from my favorite Crown Princess.

54 hours later, I can say that in spite of this show’s flaws, I am definitely pleased to have taken the time to visit this show’s world and get to know its characters. Not only that, I’m a little reluctant to say goodbye, even.

THE NOT-SO-UPSIDE

As you’ve already gathered, this show isn’t perfect. For the record, here are the main flaws that I felt I had to overlook (or at least accept), in order to enjoy this drama.

1. The production values aren’t the best, and it shows.

From everyone (including royals) wearing the same clothes almost all the time, to sets that didn’t reflect the opulence of royalty, to the same song on the OST being played over and over, it’s clear that this was not a big budget production.

Not in and of themselves bad things, but I do like my sageuks to feel luxurious and beautiful, and had to dial down my expectations when it came to those things in this show.

2. Not all the acting’s great.

While I had my favorites among the acting performances, I was also underwhelmed by certain deliveries.

Among the main cast, the weaker links, for me, were Seo Woo as Seol Hee,

And Jun Tae Soo as Jin Moo.

I wouldn’t say they were terrible in their roles, in that they both did decent jobs of getting me to feel a certain way about their characters.

Seo Woo made Seol Hee easy to dislike, and there were genuinely times I wanted to reach into my screen and slap her silly. Well. Or stab her. *Ahem* I’d say that’s being pretty effective in the role. Similarly, Jun Tae Soo was effective at getting me to feel frustrated with Jin Moo too, as a character.

What I felt was lacking, was them inhabiting their characters to a point where I could forget they were actually acting. With both of their deliveries, though, I was always aware that they were trying hard, with the acting. Even in the moments when their characters were expressing their inner conflict with minor twitches in their expressions, I couldn’t help but notice the effort that went into delivering those minor twitches, if you know what I mean.

Contrasted with some of the pretty fantastic performances around them, their effortful deliveries stood out to me for all the wrong reasons.

3. The writing can be jerky &/or draggy in spots.

At 108 episodes, this show is not an easy beast to write. On the whole, I appreciated that the writers seemed to know where they were going, and paced themselves accordingly, and even managed to deliver quite a great deal of cohesion in the overall narrative.

At the same time, there was some drag in spots. Certain plot points could have been wrapped up earlier, but instead were stretched out an episode or two more than necessary.

A bigger offender in my books, though, is the characterization around Seol Hee, and particularly, Jin Moo. The writing around these two characters felt particularly jerky, as the writers tried to show us different facets to their characters in order to present them in a more sympathetic light.

In principle, I like that idea. In execution, however, without sufficient context and build-up, this often came off as unnatural and odd.

[MINOR SPOILER ALERT]

Jin Moo essentially has 3 different personalities in the course of the show, and changes into those different personas quite abruptly, with no explanation given to viewers for the switch, save for an accompanying hairstyle change for each persona.

From the beginning of the show, we know Jin Moo as sardonic and distant (with hair styled away from his face). One day, however, he suddenly becomes much more overtly vulnerable and sentimental, with no explanation given. All we get is new side-swept bangs to signal the change.

Hairstyles 1, 2, & 3 to go with Personas 1, 2, & 3

I found this distracting, to say the least, and had to very grudgingly suspend disbelief around these sudden changes in persona.

[END MINOR SPOILER]

PERSONAL HIGHLIGHTS

1. Seo Hyun Jin as Seol Nan

The Three Musketeers had left me hungry for more Seo Hyun Jin, and King’s Daughter filled that need very nicely indeed.

As Seol Nan, Seo Hyun Jin gets to display a seriously wide acting range. From innocent and carefree, to scared and desperate, to confused, to determined, to being deeply in love, to sorrowful, to steely and strong, to being positively regal, she does it all. And she owns it all.

Not for a second did I stop to even think of her as Seo Hyun Jin in character. She inhabited the character of Seol Nan with such profound depth and ease, that I always felt that it was Seol Nan on my screen, living her life, feeling her emotions, and doing what she needed to do.

There were many difficult scenes for Seol Nan over the course of the show, and Seo Hyun Jin delivered them all with ease, finesse, and an effortless nuance that I really loved.

I didn’t think it was possible to love her more than as I did when I knew her as the Crown Princess in The Three Musketeers, but I do. She is wonderful and amazing and inspiring, as Seol Nan. What a great character, and what a great interpretation and delivery of that character.

Love.

2. Seo Hyun Jin & Jo Hyun Jae as our OTP

One of the things I’d heard about King’s Daughter, is that the romance is “juicy.”

While I wouldn’t quite call it juicy myself, I must admit that the love story between Seol Nan and Crown Prince Myung Nong (Jo Hyun Jae) was definitely a highlight of the show for me.

For a long sageuk that centers on court intrigue a lot of the time, I must say that we get quite a bit of couple screentime, and more skinship than one might expect in a typical sageuk romance.

With both lead characters being headstrong and opinionated, we do get nice spots of bickering romance. More than that, though, we get a deep sense that for these two, it’s not just about the romance.

Beyond the heart-racing and the spots of humor, there is a profound love that they carry each for the other, that expresses itself in selfless ways numerous times over the course of the show. Despite minor bouts of what some might term noble idiocy, we always have the certainty of this couple’s love for each other.

With heartfelt deliveries by both Seo Hyun Jin and Jo Hyun Jae, and a lovely warm chemistry between them, this couple was quite the joy the watch.

[For some couple highlight moments, you can find a couple of quick vids at the end of the review!]

3. So much love.

Expressed in so many characters and over many different relationships, this show features a whole lotta love, really.

Despite having court politics as its context, this show really is about love in all its forms. Beyond the love between lovers, we also see love between parents and their children, love between siblings, love among family, love among friends, love between a royal and his subject/s, a man’s love for his king and master.

In all of their forms, we get to witness and explore this love and all the ways in which that love is expressed, whether in happy times, or in the face of bitterness and pain.

In that vein, I’d like to give a couple of quick shout-outs, to some of my favorite characters &/or relationships in the show.

QUICK SHOUT-OUTS [MILD SPOILERS]

1. Lee Jae Ryong as King Moo Ryung

Yes, he often wasn’t an effective father, husband or lover, but King Moo Ryung loved his people like a father.

Lee Jae Ryong’s kind eyes and warm smile made me believe that King Moo Ryung truly cared for the well-being of his people, and that every decision that he made, was with that foremost in his mind.

2. Myung Nong and Kang Bok

Although not a very overt arc in the show, I really enjoyed all the little moments between Myung Nong and his personal guard Kang Bok (Yeo Eui Joo).

Not only did their interactions give us some amusing moments, the respect, love and care that Kang Bok had for Myung Nong was lovely to behold as well.

3. The Hodge-Podge Family

The three random stooges (from left: Kim Min Kyo, Kim Roe Ha and Park Hee Jin) that eventually become a hodge-podge family of sorts for Seol Nan brought much of the show’s humor. Beyond the humor, though, I loved that they came to truly care for one another, and for Seol Nan too.

Well, make that three and a half random stooges, actually, since there’s also resident cherub Choi Ro Woon to complete the motley crew.

4. Yoon Tae Young as Ku Chon

Oh, Ku Chon. I saved him for last, coz I think aside from Seol Nan herself, he might be my favorite character in the show.

For a character who basically had no lines, thanks to being deaf and mute, Ku Chon left a deep impression on me. I loved his character, who was so strong, so loyal, and so loving to his family. I loved his gentle gaze and his warm smile, that he flashed at the very sight of his loved ones.

At the same time, what a fierce and dangerous man he could become, when his loved ones were under threat. The way he loved his wife and daughters, and the way he would throw himself in harm’s way without hesitation, to protect them, moved me deeply all series long.

Yoon Tae Young is simply wonderful as Ku Chon, and completely became Ku Chon for me.

Love him. So much.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

In the end, I find King’s Daughter somewhat akin to a family drama, except that it’s clothed in Baekje era robes, and the usual familial issues and politics are amped up to royal proportions. The reason I say this, is because at its heart, this show is less about politics, and more about love and personal journeys – the same kinds of themes that are family drama staples.

While sometimes clumsy in the writing and execution, I appreciated that this show made all the politics and conflict simple to digest and easily accessible to the average viewer.

I also appreciated that our narrative had layers of conflict built into it, and no one in the story was evil for evil’s sake; every single character had his or her own perspective and motivations.

Which, in the end, makes for a thought-provoking sort of watch as well, coz the show makes it easy to put ourselves into each character’s shoes and ask the question, “Would I have done the same, in that situation?”

Not a bad accomplishment at all for any drama, I’d say.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Engaging, mildly cracky, and possesses oodles of heart.

FINAL GRADE: B

VISUAL TREATS:

Teasers

Here are a couple of quick teasers for the show:

Quick Highlights

For those who’ve seen the show and just want to relive a little of the OTP warm fuzzies, and for those who don’t mind spoilers, here’re a couple of highlights.

1. The adorable meet-cute, where Seol Nan pretends to be a husband-infatuated, chicken-craving loon to get out of an apparently risky situation:

2. A gleefully stolen series of kisses by a smitten prince:

3. And all the reasons he loves Seol Nan, including her “chubby waist” – to which she protests that her waist is not chubby, thank you very much. Adorbs.

Author: kfangurl

Proud to be a k-fangirl since 2007. Main diet of kdramas with movies and kpop on the side.

25 thoughts on “Review: King’s Daughter, Soo Baek Hyang

  1. I am in the middle of this and only come back for the stooges family and the OTP. I just can’t bring myself to care at all about Seol Hee and Jin Moo–to the point that I fast forward through their scenes and then get mad that I have to actually watch some of them for the plot to make sense. I’ll finish this over spring break though. A woman at work asks me about it every time she sees me because it is her favorite drama.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately you will miss some of the best scenes.

      Like

    • While I’ve managed to enjoy a number of shows using the FF button, I’m gonna have to agree with Bel.. this show doesn’t lend itself to FF-ing.. A lot of context is lost that way, and that’s when you likely end up frustrated coz stuff stops making sense. I managed to watch the entire thing without employing the FF button, and while I didn’t care much for Seol Hee’s and Jin Moo’s arcs too much, they provided a great deal of context to the characters that I did care about. I hope that helps you find a way to enjoy this one, trotwood. I ended up liking this one a lot more than I expected to, and I hope you do too 🙂

      Like

  2. Interesting review. This is not my longest saguek ever, I’ve seen longer. As a matter of fact, seen some so damn long I wondered why I even watched them. KD is definitely not the typical saguek drama. Not too many in this class. As I watched it live and not after the fact, you have to remember that this played the same time as Empress Ki. So can you imagine where all the production money went. Also, we had so many interruptions because of various events, the Olympics, holidays, you name it. There were times that the drama didn’t show for a week or two so I’m not going to hold the writer accountable as the drama original was supposed to be 120 ep and was whittled down to 108 so I imagine she had to do some serious re-writing and that will always affect the script. Just glad you liked it as I liked 3M even less than you liked this but that is me with fusion saguek dramas; I tend to mindlessly watch them without really enjoying them. Not really a big fan of them; more a fan of the hardcore ones but I remain a HUGE fan of Seo Hyun Jin! She has always brought her best in any role; any drama that she has been in, regardless whether the drama did well or not, you could always depend on great acting from her. She now has a gained a life long fan: ME! Ditto on YTY! He was simply phenomenal! I watched Nightwatchman for him! But if you saw Nightwatchman, I think the writer didn’t like the attention his character was getting so as the drama progressed, his role slowly whittled down to nothingness. Another crap fusion drama!

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    • I know I could never hold a candle to you and your voracious appetite for longer dramas, Bel! XD Given the original plan for 120 episodes, now I really do wish that we’d gotten those 12 extra episodes. I would’ve loved to see more of Seol Nan and Myung Nong making it work as a royal couple in the palace. I would’ve particularly loved to see how Seol Nan’s brand of awesome badassery translated into her new royal role. Darn! Now I really want those extra 12 eps! XD It’s also left unclear what happened with Jin Moo and Seol Hee. It’s too bad that the show got cut down to 108 eps, really. And I say this after being slack-jawed when you guys told me on twitter that this one’s 108 eps! XD

      I actually didn’t love 3M as much as most folks. I mean, I enjoyed it in a moderate manner, and mostly luffed Seo Hyun Jin as the Crown Princess. Loved her enough to attempt a 108-ep sageuk for her, as you can see! XD

      I loved YTY in this too – he was simply wonderful. That warm smile and those kind eyes. I swoon. Was it worth watching Night Watchman for him? I’ve heard.. very sketchy things about that show! XD

      Like

      • Yes, I too loved SHJ in 3M and she was about it! As you can imagine I’m looking forward to Let’s Eat 2 for the same reason. YTY is great in Night Watchman but the rest is meh. To compare 3M to NWM? 3M is better.

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        • Oh, I bet she’d be adorable in Let’s Eat!!! Though I’m still puzzled by them swopping out the whole cast except for Doo Joon. I vote for them making him Dae Young’s twin brother, so that we can keep our drama universes intact and Dae Young can live happily ever after with Soo Kyung! XD

          I wasn’t terribly enamored with 3M, so I don’t know if I have it in me to make it through Night Watchman. But for YTY, I might just check it out a little, just to see! ^^

          Like

  3. If I were a writer I think I would have written a review very similar to yours. I loved the father . So much said without a word spoken. This drama introduced me to some great actors and I am disappointed that the Musketeers was cut short because I loved the princess in that too. Thanks for sharing your opinions all of which I heartily agree with!

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    • Aw, thanks Marchair! I’m so glad you enjoyed this review!! 😀 And I completely agree with you that I loved the character of Ku Chon. Besides Seol Nan herself, he was my favorite. So strong, so caring, and so giving. I really wish we could’ve had more time with him, sob.

      YES. I’m also disappointed that Three Musketeers isn’t going to have their 2nd and 3rd season as originally planned. I didn’t love the show as much as most folks, but I would’ve definitely tuned in for more of our adorable Crown Princess! ❤

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  4. Great review, I have not seen many of these historical type of dramas so this was really useful.

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    • Thanks Arran! Not all historical dramas are created equal, so it’s hard to guess which ones would be your cup of tea. If you’d like to start with something shorter, I highly recommend Chuno (a magnificent, glorious masterpiece), and Tree With Deep Roots (fascinating, and written around the real history of how Hangul was developed). Let me know if you’d like other recommendations! 🙂

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  5. Great review, kfangurl. For me, KD was excellent. I didn’t pay any attention to the costume or the set. I was extremely focused on the stories and plots. I was so absorbed on the two sisters and I thought the romance was very subtle and smooth. I also saw SHJ in 3M but she’s more comedy there than in KD. But in overall, I’m glad I get to see her on two very different roles.

    As you know, sageuk is not my cup of tea but I am happy I saw it. I remember we talked about it on Tweeter and I’m glad you watched it too. Will you give Empress Ki a watch after this? I haven’t seen it and despite what everyone said about it, I MIGHT give it a try. Don’t count on it tho 😉

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    • Lol. You’re a super focused kind of viewer, seems like! I couldn’t help but notice the lower budget costumes and sets. It just didn’t feel as luxe as some of the more prime-time sageuks. Having said that, though, I genuinely enjoyed this in spite of the low-budget constraints. I ended up liking this a lot more than I thought I would, so I have all the KD fans on twitter to thank, for persuading me to give this a chance! 🙂

      Seo Hyun Jin is wonderful in this, and I loved her lots too, in 3M. Very different characters, both, and yet she brought them both so such believable life. I am definitely keeping my eye on this girl, I think she’s awesome!

      I am definitely thinking of giving Empress Ki a try, for Ji Chang Wook. But not right now, coz I’m still in Healer mode. I still have my Healer review to write, so possibly after I’ve finished writing that, I’ll check out Empress Ki ^^

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  6. Pingback: Review: Let’s Eat 2 | The Fangirl Verdict

  7. anyone knows the composer’s name and the song? seol hee or solhi’s song

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  8. anyone knows the composer’s name and the song? seol hee’s song 0:31 and the others instrumentals music

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  9. I’m just starting this one , but i can tell i will enjoy this till the end ❤

    Like

  10. Pingback: Review: Oh Hae Young Again [Another Oh Hae Young] | The Fangirl Verdict

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