THE SHORT VERDICT:
A live-manhwa-meets-contract-marriage-meets-sageuk-meets-fusion-fantasy sort of mashup, Goong is something of a modern classic in dramaland.
Despite its multiple elements, Show is cute and adorable a lot of the time, and manages to serve up some very lovely, melty OTP moments through its run.
On the downside, with its mostly raw and inexperienced cast, plus some starkly melodramatic tendencies, the watch can feel uneven at times.
Even so, it’s quite a lovely watch, given the right lens.
THE LONG VERDICT:
This was the drama that started it all, for me.
Because my sister came home one day in early 2007 with the DVD box set and announced that we were watching this show, I ended up falling in love with not only this show, but with kdramas in general. Which means that I will always, always have a soft spot for it, in spite of its flaws.
In my early drama-watching days, I rewatched this show something like 5 or 6 times coz I just loved it that much.
Despite my soft spot for this show, though, since I started expanding the boundaries of the types of kdramas I watched, and also, since I started blogging about them, I hadn’t actually gone back to this show.
So why the rewatch now, when there are so many other shows that I want to check out? Here are my top 3 reasons for this particular rewatch:
1. Not too long ago, my friend Jo watched this show for the first time, and her squees brought back lots ‘n lots of fond memories. ❤️
2. I became curious to see how the sageuk miles I’d clocked would add to/affect my appreciation of the show’s fantasy royal context.
3. There are 2 sets of subs available for Goong, one set by fansubbers and the other by MBC, neither of which are perfect (yes, I’ve watched the show with both sets of subs).
I was curious to see how my now-much-better (I’m far from fluent, but hey, it’s all relative, isn’t it?) understanding of the Korean language would add to the richness of the show, since lots of stuff tends to get lost in translation.
I figured these 3 angles would be a pretty great way to tackle this review.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it as you read the review.
FOND DRAMA MEMORIES
Ahh.. I have so, so many fond memories of this drama.
I remember staying up wayy past any reasonable bedtime as I watched this show with my sister, both of us alternately squeeing and crying in unison, as we gasped at the end of each episode, and then promptly threw any remaining caution or reason out the window as we clicked on the next episode.
1. Tone, music, the entire Goong experience
If you think about it, Goong is pretty daring in the elements that it aims to mesh together. Joseon era flavored palace intrigue, with a live manhwa sensibility in the “normal” world.
You wouldn’t think it’d mix well, but Show manages it very decently for the most part. If you have sageuk exposure, that sageuk lens comes in handy too, in appreciating the royal context of the show (more on that later).
I like the concept, that this entire drama world is the construct of the hyperactive mind of an over-imaginative schoolgirl. The manhwa touches, with voiceover and sound effects, add cuteness.
The music is great, and so evocative. Whether it’s slow and mellow, or richly melodious, or bright and tinkly, it always adds to the atmosphere of this world, and deserves a good chunk of credit for making this world as immersive as it is.
One might not consciously think that the music in this show is masterfully conceived and applied, since Show has a tone that’s largely fluffy and light, but really, the music is masterful.
It’s always put to perfect use, consistently helping to create the scene’s exact mood and atmosphere, to help immerse us in Show’s drama world.
The Emotional Resonance
This is quite possibly the key to why this show sticks with me so much. It’s that, in spite of its regular bits of campy, there’s a lot of emotional resonance in Show’s characters and their narrative arcs.
It’s the emotional resonance that gives weight to the characters, and creates that emotionally sticky effect that Show has on viewers. There’s a hefty amount of heart in our characters, and it’s what causes us to care, and it’s also what creates the cracky quality of the show.
A great minor example, is in the characterization of the family of our female lead Chae Kyung (Kang Nam Gil plays Dad, Im Ye Jin plays Mom, and Yoon Eun Hye plays Chae Kyung).
There’s a distinctly campy bent to how Mom and Dad are portrayed, and we often see them in cartoony situations where they bring the Funny.
Yet, the beat when they are on the brink of sending their daughter to the palace, is extremely poignant.
That moment, as they both wonder, with tears glinting in their eyes, whether they’re doing the right thing for their daughter, gives their characters – and the narrative – much-needed weight. These were the moments that made me care.
The bottom line is, Show made me care, as a general rule.
It’s why, even though I’d seen this show at least 6 times before this latest rewatch, this time, at the end of the first episode, I still felt like I wanted to keep going. Show had drawn me in, all over again. And that’s a quality that’s not to be sniffed at.
2. Development of the OTP
Treatment of the OTP
You know that saying, good things are worth waiting for? Well, it totally applies in the case of this OTP.
While some dramas quickly develop the OTP’s feelings for each other in order to get us to certain points in the story, it is often served up in hasty head-scratching romantic shorthand that causes us to ask questions like,
“Did I miss something? Why does he love her again? When did that happen?”
Goong, on the other hand, takes its time to actually tease out and develop the OTP’s relationship in a way that feels organic and believable.
Yes, it’s true that sometimes Show feels slow because of it, but our patience is eventually rewarded with an OTP whose feelings for each other feel true and believable.
Show takes its time to show us the feelings developing on both sides, along with the discomfort and awkwardness that each person feels, as they each deal with the unfamiliar feelings burgeoning. By the time romance blooms properly, it feels real and well worked-through.
From the time the OTP first crosses paths, Shin (Joo Ji Hoon) is regularly portrayed as being cold and brusque to Chae Kyung. Eventually, later in the show, we see that he’s warmed up to her considerably.
And here’s the thing: that warming-up process happens in such slight degrees over Show’s episodes, that we barely register the changes. It’s only when we compare Later Shin with Past Shin that we realize with a bit of a start, that his behavior really has mellowed a lot.
That’s just testament to how organically the OTP’s development is treated. Kudos to the writers for managing such a natural and believable development arc.
The entire inch-forward-slip-backwards sort of dance that the OTP engages in, in their journey to truly becoming close, feels real and true-to-life as well.
Treatment of the characters
I really appreciated that even as the OTP takes slow steps towards each other, Show lets us get to know Shin and Chae Kyung better, as characters in their own right.
In the nuances, and in the private moments, we see the layers peel away, and in degrees, we get to understand the person underneath the persona.
This had the added effect of making the eventual union of our OTP feel extra gratifying to witness, since by then, we’d come to know them so much better, as individuals.
Joo Ji Hoon was still a pretty inexperienced actor when he played Shin, and I think he did a solid job of the role. More than that, I feel like PD-nim did a great job directing Joo Ji Hoon in the role, because we get to see a good number of nuances in the portrayal of Shin.
Yoon Eun Hye does a fine job fleshing out Chae Kyung as a character, and it’s particularly impressive given that she was also pretty new to acting when she played Chae Kyung.
While a little rough around the edges, I feel that Yoon Eun Hye very credibly portrayed the various facets of Chae Kyung’s character. Kudos for her crying scenes too, which felt natural and very believable.
Between Chae Kyung and Shin, Shin is the one that’s more reserved and less of an open book, but we get regular glimpses beneath the detached manner that he adopts, and slowly but surely, these fragmented insights solidify into an understanding for Shin the person, versus Shin the Crown Prince.
Here’re a handful of those moments:
1. As early as episode 1, we get glimpses of vulnerability in the midst of Shin’s aloofness. For one thing, the first thing we see him do, is to order his guards to stay outside the school instead of follow him around inside it. Right away, we see that he does desire normalcy in his life.
2. Also in episode 1, there’s the way that Shin proposes to Hyo Rin (Song Ji Hyo). We can hear the uncertainty in his voice as he says the words, like he’s actually quite terrified of being turned down.
3. There’s a poignant moment in episode 4, when Shin silently listens to the squeals from Chae Kyung’s water fight with Yul (Kim Jung Hoon) and her friends. There’s a quiet longing about Shin even as he listens, which hints at his inner desire to connect with others.
4. Also in episode 4, there’s a small beat when Hyo Rin sits down next to him and tries to put the earbud of the mp3 player into his ear. Shin doesn’t say anything, but it’s in his minor responses that we see his discomfort with her proximity.
When she first sits down, Shin shifts uncomfortably in his seat, and when she tries to put the earbud in his ear, he flinches. These little things tell us more about what’s really going on with Shin, despite his silence.
5. One of the times that my heart really went out to Shin, is in episode 8, when Shin misses the normalcy of Chae Kyung’s family.
There’s a moment when he tries to recreate it in his room by himself, which is played for laughs, but which really, is also a little sad.
And there’s the moment that he musters up the courage to address the Queen (Yoon Yoo Sun) as Mom, only to be swiftly berated and shushed. That really made my heart ache for Shin, coz it showed just how lonely he is, on the inside.
In general, I also really love, as we progress deeper into the episodes, how Shin starts to leak smiles around Chae Kyung, in spite of himself. ❤️
In comparison to Shin, Chae Kyung is much more of an open book. Her bubbly nature makes her likable and relatable, while her compassion makes her endearing.
It’s quite lovely to see her infect the people in the palace with her cheer. At the same time, it’s sweet to observe her compassion and empathy at work, especially when it’s directed at Shin.
Despite being peeved by his cold behavior towards her, we regularly see her observing the different sides to Shin, and actively wondering what he’s thinking, and what kind of person he is.
Considering the fact that Shin is quite prickly and doesn’t come across as the lovable sort, it’s extra moving to see her demonstrate such strong empathy anyway.
While Chae Kyung is a general bright ray of sunshine at the palace, she also has her shades of sadness, and it’s poignant to see her feel so alone and lost without her family.
When she misses them and cries, it’s a stark reminder that she’s just a baby at 19 years old, and yet, she’s doing such an adult thing by putting her life on the line to save her family, through this arranged marriage.
All these facets come together to make Chae Kyung a very appealing character that I easily felt for and rooted for.
3. Squee-worthy scenes [SPOILERS]
Because of how organic the OTP development feels, the squee-worthy moments are truly, well, squee-worthy. With solid build-up and robust contexts for each couply moment, each little step that brings our OTP closer together feels precious and well-earned.
There are actual subbed video snippets at the end of the review of some of these (remember to check those out later!), but first, here’s the quick spotlight on some of my favorite scenes of this OTP.
1. Visit to Chae Kyung’s family home
One of my favorite parts of the show, is in episode 7, when Shin asks for permission from his parents, for he and Chae Kyung to stay at Chae Kyung’s parents’ home for a few days, because he knows that Chae Kyung is homesick.
I love how Shin’s so gruff about it, when really, he’s thinking of a workaround to enable Chae Kyung to be around her family for a while, even though the Queen had earlier forbade it. The entire arc is lots of fun to watch, with lots of warmth, cute and squee packed into it.
I love the bickering fuss that Shin and Chae Kyung get into, over who gets to sleep on the very small, very single bed, and how they end up sharing it.
Even better, once they’re sharing, Chae Kyung finds herself obsessed with how sexy Shin’s back is, and can’t stop staring, while wondering at her back fetish. Hee.
That doesn’t stop her from falling asleep eventually, and unglamorously drooling all over Shin’s back, which she’d snuggled up to while unconscious. HAHA.
Shin wakes up to a wet back, and is suitably grossed out, but he’s soon smiling to himself at the absurdity of the situation. I especially love that as he looks at Chae Kyung who’s fast asleep, that his gaze softens. Melt.
I also love the fact that after Shin goes back to bed after exploring the bathroom a bit, that very quickly, Chae Kyung’s got herself all wrapped around him.
Giggle. Girl’s subconscious mind sure knows what it wants. 😉
Another unforgettably cute moment, is when, the next day, Chae Kyung gives in to her over-active imagination and in an almost trance-like state, cleaves to Shin’s back in an unconscious backhug.
Haha! Shin’s stunned reaction face is priceless.
At the same time, through all the cute and funny, I found the most heartwarming and heartbreaking thing of all, was Shin observing the warmth of regular family life, with an understated sense of wonder and wistfulness.
2. The Not-A-Wedding-Night
Another of my favorite OTP milestones is the Not-A-Wedding-Night that our OTP gets duped into by the Royal Elders, in the hopes of the conception of a royal baby.
The entire section is full of cute and funny, sprinkled with a bit of pathos here, and a little sexy there. You can check out most of the section among the Favorite Scenes videos at the end of the review. In the meantime, here are my top highlights.
I love the amusing beat where Chae Kyung needs Shin’s help to remove her elaborate headgear, and as Shin gets to work, so does her imagination.
She imagines that Shin passionately puts the moves on her, and her moans of protest, “No, no, no..” eventually turn into dreamy smiles of, “Yes, yes, yes..” HAHA. Too funny. XD
Chae Kyung isn’t the only one battling her instincts, though, as Shin’s been served some vitality tonic prior, and his growing feelings for Chae Kyung, combined with his dialed-up-to-raging hormones practically drive him crazy.
I nearly bust a gut when he starts exercising right then and there, to work it all off, only to have Chae Kyung join in the exercise, and send his imagination right back into overdrive. Snerk.
I also found it quite amusing that Shin and Chae Kyung decide to spend the time playing games, only to have her squeals of protest and pain from Shin’s punishment wrist smacks, be, uh, completely misinterpreted by the court ladies in waiting outside. Hehe.
Sprinkled through the scenes, are some heartfelt gems of quiet conversation between Chae Kyung and Shin, and my favorite bit, is when Chae Kyung asks if Shin hates her because she’s so different from him.
I love Shin’s gentle tone when he asks her instead, why she thinks he hates her. Swoon.
Of course, I love even more, that Shin then grabs her for a kiss. YES.
Afterwards, I find it equally funny and squee-worthy, that Shin holds Chae Kyung while she sleeps. It’s so swoony that he’s holding her so close, and it’s so amusing that through it all, he’s still battling those raging hormones. HA.
And how much do I love, that when morning finally comes, we see them sleeping soundly in a sweet mutual embrace.
I find it so telling, that when all the self-consciousness and ego is out of the picture, that these two cleave together so naturally. Love. ❤️
3. The backhug-turned-hug
After things come to a head after the photos of Shin and Hyo Rin in Thailand are leaked to the press, and after Shin’s confrontation with Yul for basically hiding Chae Kyung, Shin takes Chae Kyung on a drive, and they end up in the middle of a quiet wooded area.
Unfortunately, the attempt at talking things out doesn’t go very well, and Shin’s and Chae Kyung’s wires keep getting crossed about getting a divorce.
The whole upside to this, of course, is that Shin, growing desperate to get through to Chae Kyung and not knowing what to say, is galvanized into giving her a backhug.
I love how the moment is played out; Shin wrapping his arms around her, Chae Kyung allowing herself to be turned around into his embrace; Chae Kyung relaxing into his arms; Shin, feeling her cleave to him, kissing her hair. So sweet!! Eee! ❤️
4. Visit to the Summer Palace
Another of my favorite parts of the show, is in episode 16, when Shin takes Chae Kyung to the summer palace, so that they can watch the sun rise.
I love how cute they are, playing on the beach. It’s the most playful and relaxed they’ve ever been together, and I love the fact that Shin is taking photos of Chae Kyung, through it all.
Considering that in the past, Hyo Rin had been the subject of Shin’s photos, I find this little detail a Pretty Big Deal.
Another moment I love, is when it rains, and Shin and Chae Kyung simply chill in the car, all sprawled out in the backseat.
While they talk, I LOVE that Shin reaches out and takes Chae Kyung’s hand, in the most relaxed, natural manner. Eee!
Throughout this little trip to the summer palace, I just love all the little throwaway moments when Shin reaches out to touch Chae Kyung.
Like when he’s about to sit down with her at the window of the summer palace, for instance. He reaches out to touch her on the shoulder as he sits down. He doesn’t have to, but he just does. Which is really nice.
Afterwards, at the supermarket, they are super cute together, buying groceries like a regular couple, while Shin’s let’s-buy-everything antics add nice spots of funny.
I loved watching them cook together and eat together, which are typical regular-people things that they never quite get to do, as a royal couple.
Of course, I melted when Shin asked Chae Kyung if she would be willing to live with him for a hundred years. Eee!
Afterwards, I love the quiet beat when Shin wakes up in the middle of the night. He sits up to contemplate Chae Kyung next to him, then lies back down and draws her into the most swoony, tender, close embrace.
Spazz. This moment is quite possibly my favorite in the entire series. So sweetly romantic, and yet so quietly understated. Love.
As much as I love the great parts of Goong, I hafta admit that Show isn’t without its flaws.
The 3 biggest problems that Show has, is clingy second leads, a manipulative Big Bad, and a draggy final stretch. Combined, these really did work to dampen an otherwise really enjoyable watch.
1. Clingy second leads
It’s unsurprising that second leads are brought in to complete the typical kdrama love square. All series long, Hyo Rin angles to get Shin back, while Yul covets Chae Kyung’s affections.
While Yul remains a relatively more reasonable character for longer, both Hyo Rin and Yul behave in unreasonable and rather illogical ways. It did get annoying after a while, and in the last stretch of the show, I was particularly aggravated by Yul.
The thing that I found most exasperating about Hyo Rin as a character, is that she had her own legit chance to be Crown Princess when Shin proposes to her in the beginning of the drama.
It’s just so mystifying that she then decides drop the ballet chance of a lifetime – that she’s been working for almost her whole life, mind you – at the mere sight of Shin’s and Chae Kyung’s royal marriage procession.
When Hyo Rin had turned down Shin’s proposal, she’d been shown to do so in a very level-headed manner.
She turned down Shin’s proposal very much aware of why. Yes, she wavered a bit when Shin’s engagement was announced, but she went ahead anyway, to pursue her ballet dreams. And now, at the sight of the procession, she throws away the chance of a lifetime?
It’s far-fetched, and makes Hyo Rin come across as a rather unreasonable character.
I mean, Hyo Rin later even goes so far as to verbalize to Shin that she’s not happy that Chae Kyung is by his side, and that Chae Kyung doesn’t deserve to be by Shin’s side, because that’s her place.
This, when Hyo Rin had turned Shin down flatly. How entitled, and how annoying. Gruh.
While Yul is introduced as a very nice character – in particular, nicer to Chae Kyung that Shin – he quickly starts to display questionable behavior.
I hated that in trying to dampen Chae Kyung’s growing feelings for Shin, that Yul would say things that hurt Chae Kyung. Like in episode 6, when Yul tells Chae Kyung that it would’ve been better if Hyo Rin were the one to look in on an upset Shin. Ugh. Low blow.
Then in episode 8, he does it again. I hate that he tells Chae Kyung that Shin will be nice to her occasionally, but really likes Hyo Rin. I mean, who says that to someone they like? And who says that to a friend about her husband?
I hate that Yul basically treats Chae Kyung as an object to be possessed, rather than as a person with her own feelings and her own personal agency. Multiple times, Yul talks about taking back the crown from Shin, so that he can take Chae Kyung away from him.
Every time Yul said something like, “She was mine,” “I’ll take her,” and “Give her back,” it showed me that he only thought of Chae Kyung as an inanimate object. Which, argh.
As the show progresses, Yul’s behavior towards Chae Kyung becomes more and more inappropriate, with forced hugs coming into the picture too.
Preying on her feelings and manipulating them, treating Chae Kyung like an object, and forced skinship, all added up to make Yul a very unsavory second lead indeed.
2. Manipulative Queen Mother Wannabe
To amplify the amount of damage that our second leads could do, we also have Yul’s mom (Shim Hye Jin) being Show’s Big Bad.
With her warped ideas of revenge and her cruel methods of manipulation, this Queen Mother Wannabe certainly added dimension to the court politics.
Unfortunately, the writers allowed her too much screen time and narrative influence, and the dramatic tension she was likely meant to create, turned into narrative drag.
3. Draggy final stretch
There’s some drag around episode 18, with accumulated miscommunication and misunderstandings between our OTP.
This section of drag actually makes sense, though. Given their young age and the amount of pressure they are under, I understood that Shin and Chae Kyung needed to wade through difficult times in order to build a stronger relationship.
The drag around episode 20, though, is really a drag. The story cycles in place with slow and repetitive arcs, and I honestly think the show’s extension didn’t do our story any favors.
I’m quite sure that we wouldn’t have had to circle so long, if the writers hadn’t been trying to fill up extra hours of screen time.
SAGEUK LENS INSIGHTS
Rewatching this show, after accumulating a fair number of sageuk miles under my drama belt, felt like a whole new experience, honestly. Many things which had seemed boring or unnecessary in the past, now made much more sense to me.
For example, I used to find the dark opening in episode 1 really slow and boring.
This time, though, I actually liked it. I found the troubled, secretive concern of the king’s health very true to sageuk norms, and found the entire arc around the king’s failing health a legitimate premise for turning the royal family’s attention to thoughts of Shin’s marriage.
Plus, the palace language is also true to Joseon era palace language, as far as I can tell, and I like that too.
I also found it genuinely fascinating to see Joseon style hanboks and other touches, mixed with the modern clothes and finishings.
The TV in the palace living room, which I’d not thought of twice before, now looks oddly out of place to my eyes, after having seen a good number of sageuks.
That also applies to the royal procession. In a sageuk, this procession would be greeted by commoners standing on dusty sageuk streets, but here, the streets are modern, as are the commoners. It’s an interesting and intriguing contrast.
And I think this is a good part of why this show captured Korea’s imagination as well. That what-if, if there was still a royal family in modern Korea.
Interestingly, I also found that I didn’t find the plotting scenes as tiresome as before.
Now, with a better understanding of sageuk norms, the palace politics, about who people believe to be the rightful heir to the throne, and the collusion to restore that perceived rightful heir to his throne, actually felt more organic to the story to me than before.
In defense of Show’s slow stretches, the developments therein actually feel quite sageuk-esque. Instead of dismissing Show as slow and melodramatic, it’s actually quite possible to reason that this is part of its sageuk nature.
On a mild tangent, a rather big Aha! moment for me in episode 22, is all the talk around Chae Kyung’s exile.
In previous watches, I hadn’t realized that Chae Kyung’s exile was meant to be permanent. But this time, I understood that the dialogue is really about deposing her as Crown Princess, after which she would never again be allowed to enter the palace.
It’s true that later on in the show, this changes to become a “temporary” sort of thing, where Chae Kyung is to leave for a season. While this does take away the sting of permanence, Chae Kyung’s season away could well go on for years.
After all, Yul and his mother had spent 14 years away, before finally coming back to Korea. This does give some perspective to all the sobbing and crying that accompanied Chae Kyung’s departure.
LOST – AND FOUND – IN TRANSLATION
Another advantage to rewatching Goong at this point in time, is that I now understand a lot more Korean, compared to when I first watched the show.
I discovered that certain scenes hadn’t been translated very accurately, and my new understanding of the dialogue actually brought on brand new squees. Eee! How fun!
Here are the key scenes where I found new things to squee about. 🙂
[SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]
1. Shin’s return from Thailand
In episode 10, Shin comes back from Thailand and Chae Kyung protests and cries that he shouldn’t come near her or she’ll kill him, and that he’s a selfish and a revolting person.
Shin then pulls her in for a hug, and the subs translates what he says as, “I see. I think next time we have to go together.”
What Shin REALLY said was, “This won’t do. Next time it’d be better for us to go together.” Squee! “This won’t do” = It won’t do to have Chae Kyung so upset, which is SO different from “I see,” and which says so much about what Shin feels. Eee!
2. Shin searching for Chae Kyung
In episode 14, Shin seeks out Hyo Rin to ask her if she’s seen Chae Kyung, who’s missing.
Hyo Rin gets upset that Shin looks so worried over Chae Kyung, and asks if he’s really that worried about her.
Shin replies, “I am worried.” And then Hyo Rin has the gall to then say, “Do you have to make a face that looks like you would die worrying about that girl? And in front of me too?”
The subs translate Shin’s response as “She is the Crown Princess, my wife as well.”
What Shin REALLY said was, “BEFORE she is the Crown Princess, she is my wife.” Eee!! What a big difference!
I mean, Shin actually articulates that Chae Kyung is important to him primarily because she is his wife; the fact that she’s the Crown Princess is secondary. It’s also the reason that he’s worried. Ahh!! ❤️
3. Screensaver love
This one’s a minor-ish thing, but it made me squee anyway.
In the beginning of episode 19, when both Chae Kyung and Shin are brooding after their quarrel at Yul’s birthday party, there’s a quick shot of Shin’s laptop next to him as he broods. I never knew it before, but his screensaver reads “Shin Chae Kyung.” Eee!
THIS is why I like revisiting older dramas, now that I understand more Korean. So much can be lost in translation, literally. Subs really are so important, aren’t they?
All these little things that were lost in translation really made this feel like a new drama to me, almost. I mean, new squees from an old drama that I’d seen multiple times – who’d have thunk it? 😀
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING
The ending of Goong is a funny thing, in that my responses to it has evolved over time.
The first time I watched the ending, I’d felt underwhelmed. I’d wanted more romantic intensity in Shin’s and Chae Kyung’s reunion in Macau; the same kind of emotional heft that we’d seen when they’d hugged each other goodbye (that scene made me cry, seriously).
On subsequent watches, I’d felt like the ending made more sense, in that because Shin and Chae Kyung had been apart for a while, the awkwardness and tentativeness around each other made sense.
This time, though, while I still feel like the awkwardness made sense, I also felt like it was overdone, and I also felt that the episode was too drawn-out, and Macau felt like PPL, for the first time.
Still, I really appreciate the central message, which is that Shin and Chae Kyung choose each other, all over again.
Hyo Rin’s earlier belief, that Shin wouldn’t be married or want to be married to Chae Kyung if he’s not the Crown Prince, is proved wrong at the end of the drama. He isn’t succeeding the throne anymore, but he still chooses Chae Kyung.
Which is perhaps even better than if he’d remained as Crown Prince and chosen her. It shows us that even with the obligation of the Crown taken out of the picture, Shin still chooses Chae Kyung. How pure is that, right?
At the same time, we’ve seen that the ability to live freely is very close to Chae Kyung’s heart.
In episode 14, when she’d taken her runaway afternoon, it was less about her reaction to the photos of Shin with Hyo Rin, and more about revisiting and reconsidering the world in which she used to live freely, before she became Crown Princess.
This is ultimately an important lens through which to view the finale, because now, Chae Kyung has been given the freedom that she’d craved, and yet, she still chooses Shin, all over again.
In that sense, even though I found the execution rather clunky, I genuinely love the message of the finale.
That Shin and Chae Kyung choose each other all over again, this time without pressure of a royal promise between their grandfathers, but powered by their love for each other.
They choose each other, simply as a man and a woman who want to spend the rest of their lives together, and I dig that, very, very much indeed. ❤️
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Cute and full of heart, despite its melodramatic streaks.
FINAL GRADE: B+
For a more extended taste, here’s a 15-minute cut of the same episode, which sets up what it’s like having teenage royalty at high school. Click CC for the subs:
Here’re just a few favorite scenes, for those of you who’d like to relive the Goong magic. Just click CC for the subs.
Episode 7, trance-like backhug:
Episode 13, forced-to-share-a-room, Not-Quite-A-Royal-Consummation scene:
Episode 16, beach scene:
WHERE TO WATCH:
GETTING AROUND GEO-RESTRICTIONS
If you’re geo-restricted, a VPN service would help you get around that. Not only does it provide online safety, it also gives you access to lots of great geo-restricted content.
I personally use NordVPN. You can find my review of NordVPN here.
You can use my affiliate link (here!) to enjoy up to 60% * off, with prices starting as low as US$3.29 per month.
* This used to say 73%, but because NordVPN’s changed the way it calculates the discount, it now says 60%. BUT, it’s the same great price, starting from US$3.29 a month!
An article on why it’s not illegal to use a VPN to access legal streaming content can be found here.