Funny story, you guys. I actually never intended to watch Goong S, let alone finish it.
It all started a while ago, when I did my rewatch and review of Goong, and discovered to my delight that not only was there new squee to be had, given my better grasp of the Korean language, but even the palace politics were more interesting, given my sageuk exposure since first watching it years ago.
On Twitter, several friends wondered about whether there’d be a similar effect with Goong S, and sort of fun-challenged me to turn my now-better-informed eyes on this show, to see if any of that better insight was to be had with Goong’s spin-off.
I didn’t take the challenge seriously, especially since, during the height of my Goong obsession, I’d dipped my toes in for a bit, and, jarred by this show’s differences and similarities to Goong, had dropped it like a hot potato.
To think that now, 8 years later, I’ve not only gone back to give this a try, but have actually finished it! Past Me would be shocked, I tell ya. 😉
SO DID I LOVE IT?
See, that’s the thing. I don’t love it. In fact, there’s a whole list of stuff that I found lacking in this show. But, because I was in a very particular sort of mood, and needed this show to fill a very specific need, this worked for me. But more on that later.
I will say that this show was a lot easier to watch this time around, compared to the previous time that I’d tried to check this show out.
Back then, I was more familiar with the way American TV handled spin-offs. Like, how they’d take one character from a show and give that character his or her own show? I was sort of expecting that, I guess.
Given my completely inaccurate expectations and my big love for Goong, I was completely thrown by this show’s similar-but-not sort of flavor.
It felt like someone had stolen my favorite person and cloned him or her, and the cloning had gone very wrong and created a similar-looking monster with a completely different soul. 😛
This time around, though, I now understood much better what to expect with a spin-off season in k-dramaland. Essentially, this show is to Goong what Dream High 2 is to Dream High.. Similar concept, but completely different drama world populated by different characters.
First, let me give a quick overview of how this show stands, especially when compared to its cousin Goong.
THE GOONG S OVERVIEW
In principle, I do like the different point-of-view that we get in Goong S, in that it’s the prince who starts the show as a commoner and needs to get used to palace life, which is the direct opposite of the set-up in Goong, where it’s the princess who needs to adapt to palace life.
Another thing that’s different is that instead of a contract marriage sort of set-up, what we have is a budding romance between the prince and a palace maid.
Goong S manages to wedge itself in a weird space where it’s a lot campier than Goong, but also seems to take itself a lot more seriously than Goong.
I’m actually not sure what happened there. But Show starts off with lots of painfully campy “comedy” and then somewhere along the way, starts to lose that comic bent, and spends a great deal of time focused on palace politics instead.
The palace politics
To satisfy the curious, yes, the palace politics in this show do echo the kind of court machinations that you see in sageuks.
Sure, there’s a reigning Queen instead of a King in this show, but there’s plenty of angling for the throne by different camps, with matching scheming and sabotage to go with, and that’s definitely true to sageuk norms.
Sadly, the palace politics are very, very boring. Even sadder, the palace politics make up a very large chunk of this show’s focus.
Goong S is clearly less polished and less expensively produced than Goong. Everything – from clothing to accessories to sets – just looks and feels cheaper.
On a related note, the styling is also sometimes questionable. Like Kang Doo, who plays second male lead. He spends a big chunk of the show with hair that just looks bad.
Worse, Show positions him to be the cool prince. Unfortunately, instead of cool, it just looks like he’s always having a bad hair day, and has lost his styling products and his comb.
That just doesn’t look like cool hair in any era, amiright??
Oddly, this drama world feels more retro than Goong, which was made earlier. When watching Goong, it doesn’t feel or look very dated, even today, but the datedness of this show is quite obvious.
The acting by our main cast is generally raw and leans on the mechanical side. In particular, Se7en, who’s our central character, is an earnest but unnatural actor.
All series long, from the campy to the serious bits, I never found his delivery convincing nor anything near organic.
As our female lead and second male lead, Heo Yi Jae and Kang Doo are somewhat better with their deliveries compared to Se7en. Having said that, though, neither of them are actually good, delivering performances that range from serviceable at best, to mechanical and perfunctory at worst.
On the upside, it was quite novel seeing Park Shin Hye in an earlier role of her career, and playing the calculating second female lead, at that. Not only that, check out this bonus: Park Shin Hye being the aggressor in a kiss! Who’da thunk it??
I was rather tickled, and also a little bit impressed. The execution leaned rather awkward, yes, but I think maybe Shin Hye-sshi is better able to kiss than she’s been letting on in most of her more recent shows.
The chemistry among our leads isn’t anything to shout about, and our OTP in particular seemed to lack chemistry with each other. This meant that any OTP moments we got felt distinctly underwhelming. No feels here, from my experience.
WHY & HOW THIS SHOW WORKED FOR ME
Given how underwhelming this show sounds so far, you’re probably really curious about why I didn’t just drop it and be done with it, right?
See, after finishing – and savoring – my Goong rewatch, I actually found myself wanting more of that modern royalty sort of fantasy drama world. I wanted something Goong-esque, but I wasn’t ready for yet another rewatch (I’m gonna need more time before Watch #8, I think!).
Goong S fit the bill, since it served up exactly that modern royalty fantasy world that I felt in the mood for, and yet it felt fresh because it was a new story featuring new characters.
I used to be a little thrown by how the music in this show sounded very similar in style and tone to the music in Goong, in that it sounded like Goong, but wasn’t.
This time around, I soon got used to it, and even ended up really enjoying the music quite well. The music became one of my favorite things in this show, no lie. I didn’t even mind when, in the later episodes, some instrumentals from Goong were actually used.
For quite some time now, I’ve had the habit of having a drama nightcap right before bed.
There’s a very specific set of requirements for a show to fit as a drama nightcap. It can’t be too exciting nor too deep, otherwise it would keep me awake. It can’t be too boring either, of course.
Otherwise, why watch at all, right? There’s got to be at least something to keep me going.
Whaddya know, Goong S fit the bill quite nicely. I was rather surprised at how, once I got used to this show’s cheesiness, poor production values and not-great acting, I actually found it an easy and rather pleasant sort of drama nightcap.
It didn’t require me to think too much, the fantasy drama world was different enough to be interesting without being too complex as to demand brain power, and the music helped me to unwind quite nicely.
Yes, it’s true that this show got more and more boring as it got into its later episodes. The battle between the two princes over who would be named Crown Prince is stretched over many episodes, and this arc honestly didn’t interest me much at all.
Which means that Goong S started lulling me to sleep quite nicely, every single night! XD
Show kept it up all the way through to the finale too. I was having trouble sleeping that day, but the finale episode fixed that nicely. About 50 minutes into the episode’s 75 minutes, I was out like a light. Win!
Just goes to show that every drama probably does have its own unique value, eh? 😉
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Pretty decent drama nightcap. Not recommended for normal viewing, though.
FINAL GRADE: C+
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out this show on Viki here.
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I didnt like this drama either thats why I checked for reviews. I reckon the leads were quite boring and wasnt happy one of my favourite actresses played supporting role. The main reason I watched was Park Shin Hye..actually dropped it at ep 6 the 1st time..but managed to finish it 2nd time coz was curious to see how it ended…anyways..this drama didnt do justice to Park Shin Hyes awesome acting abilities…my grade D it would be an F if my PSH wasnt in the cast !!
Lol. Your Park Shin Hye love is strong! I’m impressed that you didn’t like this one, but pushed through all the way to the end, just for Park Shin Hye. She’d definitely feel touched by your loyalty! 😉 This is not a good drama by any means, but I managed to finish it just because I was in that very particular mood. I’m sure it must’ve been harder for you to get to the end, than it was for me! 😝
Hi, new reader here. I’ve tried to watch it, but not very interesting TV series sadly…maybe I will try it again in the future…anyway Heo Yi Jae is back to showbiz after her divorce! Sadly, it will be very difficult for her to find good projects, thanks to tens of talented young actresses that debut when she was on hiatus…
I hope you will keep posting kfangurl 🙂
Hi there rika, welcome to the blog! 🙂
Yes, I completely agree that Goong S isn’t a terribly interesting show. I’d say your drama hours would be much better spent elsewhere, really. I only went back to try this one again because of my very specific mood and purpose. I also agree with you that it won’t be easy for Heo Yi Jae to make her comeback. Given her long absence and her pretty average acting (from what I could tell in this show, anyway. I’ve only ever seen her in this show), it’s unlikely that she’ll land a plum role easily. But who knows, maybe her life experiences have added a depth to her acting that wasn’t there before? I’m always for second chances and new beginnings, so I wish her the best. 🙂
I agree in almost every point. I watched it right after watching GOONG so it was a major disappointment. Then of course I stepped back and tried to just see it on its own merits and not judge, it was alright. I totally agree c+. ✌🏻️
High five, Chris!! 😀 I first dipped my toes into Goong S after finishing Goong, and I was so disappointed and spooked by how similar-but-different it was, that I dropped it quick and decided I never wanted to watch it proper. Who knew, that I’d one day actually finish the whole thing?? I only really FF-ed one episode. It was a later one, and was terribly, terribly boring, even in my half-asleep state! XD It’s not terrible, but yeah, C+ is about the best I can rate it ^^
LOLOLOL! with the comment…”sleep-inducing drama”…it happens to me all the time! 😉 and i do want to try TOP’s latest web drama..haven’t read any yet but even with spoilers and negative review still want to give it a try…only for the love of charismatic TOP!….just don’t know if i will finish it tho’….i want to test how much i love this swagger!…i did finish Binnie’s Jekyll coz i do love Binnie no matter how terrible his drama was….now let me see how it does for TOP!.. 🙂 …
Well, given that you managed to finish Hyde, Jekyll & Me for Binnie, I conclude that your fangirl powers are very VERY strong, evez! In which case, I’m sure it won’t be a problem for you at all, to finish Secret Message for TOP. I mean, it’s a web drama, so the total run-time will be far less than what you sat through for Binnie. Which is why I’m SO SURE you’ll be able to do it! ^^ I plan to watch it too. For TOP. Coz TOP is so~ lovely to gaze at! XD
hehehehehehehe! 🙂 you got me there KFG!…;) he’s a rapper and his acting capability has somehow tested already but it’s so nice to see him doing something outside from his comfort zone…you wouldn’t believe he will sing an ost for his drama….excuse me for this post but being a fangirl in me can’t help me but share this mv from TOP’s web drama….he’s so adorable anyway! 😉
His voice is like rough velvet, seriously <3 It already sounds special when he's rapping or speaking, but it's so rare to hear him actually sing that this sounds extra unique! So low, with such a unique timbre, and with just enough of an edge. Thanks for posting, Evez! <3
for now, what i can say since i only watch 5 episodes of this is….and…, Se7en is only made for singing and dancing!lol!…i do love se7en when it comes to singing….dearly!…his voice suits the rnb genre. Sadly, acting is not for him, he’s not one those dols that can do both….Glad that TOP improved tho’!. another lol.. 🙂 …kidding aside, for the 5 episodes of watching it did not make my brain and my will to be excited and engaged more, i halt the watching and didn’t mind my to lend my friend the dvd which unfortunately never returned to me. The amazing part?…that was two years ago since the 5th episode and now you have the review…;)For now i guess, i just have to be contend with your quick review that resume and finish the drama. ;)…
Oh yes, I must agree with you evez.. Se7en just isn’t cut out for acting. I can tell you that his delivery of the role remained pretty consistent through the entire show, ie, it was what it was. He didn’t manage to get any better even in the later episodes. You could totally see him trying, though. Which is why I guess it’s a good thing he’s sticking with the singing & dancing instead! 😉 I honestly don’t think you’d be missing anything much, if you never finish this one. But, if you’re ever in need to a sleep-inducing drama nightcap, you know you can count on this one! XD
On the other hand, I must say I was very impressed with how much TOP improved with the acting. The first time I saw him in Iris, he was painful to watch. But then, he impressed me very much in 71: Into the Fire. I’m pretty excited to check out his new web drama, based on that. However, I’m now managing my expectations a bit, coz I just saw that Korean viewers have been rather disappointed with his performance in the episodes aired so far 😛
Wow, you just jolted my memory, kfangurl! Did I like it? Nope, not at all. Did I finish it? I sure did. Your grade is pretty generous. Mine is D+. But I salute Se7en for giving his all out on his one and only drama. Thankfully he realized acting is not his thing! *wipes sweat*. I better run before Se7en come and attacke me! Ack! *giggle*
Hehe! I think your grade is pretty accurate, actually!! If I’d managed to finish this on a regular sort of watch, I’d probably have graded it a D too. I think it’s only coz I was in a very specific Goong mood, and using this as a drama nightcap, that I’m rating it a C+. Coz truly, the plot is VERY boring, and Se7en really isn’t much of an actor. I liked the music though. Often, I found it lulling me to sleep quite nicely! XD
I’d give this a chance If I already didn’t love Hong Kong Palace dramas as a night cap. LOL. This one has always been a curio for me, don’t know if I’ll ever get to it though. But thanks for the flash review. I was trying to think where I saw Heo Yi Jae before. Then it hit me. She was “Little Kim Tae Hee” and played the cute lead in “Single Dad in Love” with Oh Ji Ho. I haven’t seen her in anything since. There’s a movie she did with TOP called “19-Nineteen” I’ve wanted to see. Other than that I know she dropped acting for her married/family life. She was pretty good.
No big loss if you never get to this one, my dear.. It fit a very specific need that I had, and for that, I don’t regret watching it. I just wouldn’t recommend it otherwise, especially not for normal viewing! XD
I’m not familiar with Heo Yi Jae, and this is the first time I’ve seen her in anything. She was ok, but I was far from impressed. Maybe it’s just this show.. everyone didn’t seem to be all that great with the delivery. I’m intrigued that she’s done a movie with TOP – I’ll keep an eye out for that one! Coz I do love me a bit of TOP 😉