THE SHORT VERDICT:
Show’s draw is more about its characters and their relationships, as well as our OTP’s (One True Pairing) slow-burn romance. The court politics really is just set-dressing.
The downside is that the court politics is also the thing that drives our story forward, so Show can’t ever leave it behind for too long.
The upside, however, is that our key characters really do tend to grow on you in a solid way, and Show teases out the growth of characters and the progression of their relationships, in a manner that feels natural and believable, for the most part.
Jung Il Woo shows depth even in his character’s quiet melancholy, and Kwon Yu Ri is absolutely regal as our Princess who gets accidentally bossamed by our male lead.
Show has its fair share of flaws, but I thought the gentle, heartfelt romance between our OTP made it worthwhile.
THE LONG VERDICT:
I actually really liked this show, right away.
I’d dragged my feet about clicking play on this one, because sageuks do generally tend to be rather onerous if they aren’t fusion, and this show’s posters make it look like quite a serious, heavy sort of drama. I guess I just didn’t find the premise all that appealing either.
HOWEVER. After actually clicking play, I found myself fully engaged within mere minutes. Not even halfway through the first episode, I had the feeling that I would enjoy this one, and quite well, too. Very impressive.
I’m a little disappointed that I felt relatively less engaged in our last couple of episodes, but overall, I still found this a worthwhile spend of my drama hours.
OST PART 6: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
As a general rule, I found the music pleasant and immersive, and as a whole, I did feel that the music helped to lift my watch experience.
In terms of the track that I found most evocative, though, it’d have to be Track 6, Song of Ba Woo. It’s so poignant, with just the right touch of melancholy.
Here it is, in case you’d like to listen to it while reading the review. Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a couple of things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of this show:
1. Loosely speaking, Show kinda-sorta reminds me of Chuno, in that our story is related to the court, but our main players are mostly not physically within in the court.
Rather, our main player is a ruffian who lives by his wits, just like our slave hunters in Chuno were ruffians who lived by their wits.
2. Honestly, I feel that the main draw of this show, is the main love story. It’s a bit of a slow burn, but if you like love stories with subtlety and emotional depth, hang in there, because it does come.
3. Despite our main characters not living in the palace, there are still court politics in this show, and those politics ramp up as we get deeper into our story.
That can feel like a bit of a drag, but, you don’t really have to pay close attention to the political details, because it’s all just a structure on which Show hangs the goings-on of our main characters. You might also wish to judiciously employ the use of your FF button, if the court politics really wear on you.
4. Show has spots of levity in it, which were a mixed bag for me (more on that later), but which do help to lighten the overall tone of the show.
STUFF I LIKED
Because Show is longer than average (20 episodes instead of the more typical 16 episodes), there are just too many little moments of significance, to reasonably cover in a single review.
Therefore, I will be selecting only what I feel are the most important episode highlights to include in the spoiler sections.
Jung Il Woo as Ba Woo / Dae Seok
I loved Jung Il Woo way back when he did The Return Of Iljimae, but haven’t loved any of his projects that I’ve checked out in the last several years. So color me very pleased indeed, that I found myself loving him in this, right away.
I didn’t immediately take to the brand of scruff Show gives Ba Woo, but I have to say that Ba Woo really grew on me, as a character.
I love that the more we get to know Ba Woo, the clearer it becomes, that he’s a deeply caring, decent sort of guy, who also happens to be highly intelligent. Every time Ba Woo’s smarts – or loyalty – came to the rescue, I found myself feeling quite thrilled.
Also, Jung Il Woo plays Ba Woo with a lovely amount of depth in his gaze, so much so that I found myself melting into a puddle, sometimes.
E2. This episode, I feel so much depth in Ba Woo’s expressions, particularly as he contemplates the terrible situation that the Princess (Kwon Yu Ri) is in.
I could argue that he’s also contemplating the terrible situation that he himself is in, now that he has a Princess in his care, who’s supposed to be dead. But, the vibe that I get, is that he’s more perturbed by her situation, and that amid the layers of emotion that he’s experiencing, there is compassion.
I mean, he’d hesitated a long beat, to tell her what he’d seen when he’d tried to take her back to where he’d found her. It literally looked like he felt bad for her, and saddened for her, that she would be rejected thus, by her husband’s family.
Certainly, it’s not all peachy, since Ba Woo literally tries to kill the Princess, and then tries to sell her to a traveling dance troupe, where she would more than likely have been forced into prostitution. He deserved that slap that the Princess gave him.
But, I get that it was a big decision to make, on Ba Woo’s part, because he could put himself and his son in grave danger, by associating with the Princess.
Sure, he could take her back to the palace, but then he would almost certainly be apprehended for having the Princess in his custody to begin with. And, he did steal her from her father-in-law’s house.
In a manner of speaking, he had to choose between the Princess’s life, and his and his son’s safety. So I understand why it was a struggle for him.
I think it does speak to his decent core nature, that he’d be unable to go through with the transaction in the end, knowing what would happen to the Princess.
And it does say something about him, that he would ultimately make the choice to take the Princess back to the palace, even though that means a great risk to him and Cha Dol.
Thereafter, I appreciate how Ba Woo continues to help the Princess, despite his own reservations, and his strong desire to just stay out of things.
Thank goodness for little Cha Dol (Ko Dong Ha), who helpfully provides the push that Ba Woo needs, so that he’ll be someone that the Princess can depend on, even for a while.
E4. For all of Ba Woo’s prickly bluster, he really does care about the Princess, in spite of himself, and the way he jumps into the water after her – even though it is, admittedly, a risk to his own life – is one great example.
His rough words say one thing, but his actions tend to say another; I guess that’s why they say actions speak louder than words.
There’s true terror in Ba Woo’s eyes, as he crouches on the top of the cliff, and processes the fact that the Princess has jumped off it, into the water below.
At the heart of it all, I feel that Ba Woo’s a good person, and if the Princess were to have died because he had declined to have anything to do with her and she’d had nowhere else to go, I believe that this would have weighed on his conscience in a very big way, for a very long time.
And even though Ba Woo says things to Cha Dol that sound harsh, the truth is, his heart is tender towards that little munchkin.
When he tells Cha Dol not to cry, and Cha Dol actually makes an effort to stop his tears, you can tell from Ba Woo’s eyes, that he’s melting on the inside, for this kid who’s working so hard to be brave. I love these glimpses of tenderness, from Ba Woo.
Also, Ba Woo is kind. The way he spots the hairpin on a passerby, and buys it off her, so that the Princess will have a hairpin to use, is very thoughtful. And the fact that it seems like a spontaneous afterthought reinforces my belief that Ba Woo’s a very decent person, underneath his prickly shell.
E6. It’s a significant reveal – though hardly surprising by sageuk standards – that Left State Councilor had killed Ba Woo’s family.
This definitely has echoes of other sageuks that have gone before. However, that doesn’t make Ba Woo’s horror any less important.
Jung Il Woo’s delivery of the scene where Ba Woo sees the Left State Councilor’s face, and can barely stay still, as Dae Yeob holds him back, is really affecting to witness. The wounds, full pain and sorrow, still feel fresh, in this moment. Really well done.
E16. I am SO glad that Ba Woo and Dae Yeob manage to find a way out of their very sticky situation, and I’m impressed that because of Ba Woo’s wits, they are not only released, but they are released with fresh clothes, horses, gifts, and a strategic letter meant for the King’s eyes.
I have to admit that I wasn’t super invested in the mechanics of all of this, but I did like the idea, that Ba Woo’s ability to think shrewdly, actually puts the Left State Councilor in a difficult position with the King – and this actually leads to Ba Woo enjoying the King’s favor.
It’s quite trippy to think that the King had sent Ba Woo off on what was effectively a death mission, and Ba Woo manages to come back alive (and in glory, too!), with strategic steps accomplished on behalf of the King, which the King himself hasn’t been able to take on his own. Our Ba Woo really is a man or many talents.
I kinda loved that scene where a tipsy Ba Woo mumbles all kind of honest ramblings while sitting with the King. It’s all so irreverent, and yet the King indulges him. I liked seeing Ba Woo enjoy this much favor.
Even Commander Jung seems to have grown somewhat fond of Ba Woo, judging from the King’s own assessment.
In particular, I like what Ba Woo says in reply, when the King asks Ba Woo what he would have done, if he were king, “I am a small-minded man, so rather than the stability of the country, or the greater cause, what is mine, and my people are more precious to me. If I can’t even protect my own family, what use would I be as a king?”
Ba Woo may not have meant it that way, but to my ears, this is a direct lesson to the King, who failed to protect his own daughter, in favor of his political interests. Here is Ba Woo, technically a nobody, who has a better grasp of what’s truly important, than the King himself.
Kwon Yu Ri as The Princess / Soo Kyung
In my opinion, Yu Ri does a beautiful job as our widowed princess. The way Soo Kyung carries herself is so dignified and regal, and that gracefulness feels like it’s natural and coming from within, rather than put on for show. Yu Ri makes her come across as a real deal princess.
In terms of characterization, our Princess is kind, patient and humble, even while infusing her words and actions with a wisdom and dignity that befits royalty.
The circumstance that our Princess finds herself in is a highly unusual one. Where before she’d been well-protected and safe, she suddenly finds herself in a situation where she needs to fend for her very life.
Our Princess’s journey is not an easy one, and it’s drawn-out enough to feel like a slow burn, but I did enjoy being able to witness her growth over the course of our story.
What I really like, is the fact that even though the Princess learns new things and challenges herself over the various narrative arcs, she never loses the essence of herself. The way that she manages to change, and yet, still stay the same, appealed to me very much.
E5. I thought it was pretty cool that Show gave us some background on the Princess’s younger days with Dae Yeob (Shin Hyun Soo), thus filling us in, not only on their friendship, but also, on her kickass archery skills.
I do love that even now, when she comes to, she doesn’t hesitate to pick up a bow and arrow, to defend against the attacker that’s advancing towards her.
This glimpse of courage and badassery from our Princess, especially after all the decorum and restraint that we’ve seen from her thus far, was very refreshing indeed.
E14. As we’d guessed, Ba Woo’s mom (Jung Kyung Soon) leans into her Mean Mother-in-law persona and gives Soo Kyung a hard time while Ba Woo’s gone, and, as always, Soo Kyung remains steady and gracious, even in the face of unfair accusations.
She’s got such a patient and magnanimous heart.
It’s a miracle that Soo Kyung maintains her composure through it all, but that’s exactly what separates Soo Kyung from Birth Mom (Son Sung Yoon). Soo Kyung sincerely worries for Ba Woo’s safety, and she’s too worried about him, to actually care about the household politics that she finds herself ensnared in.
Ba Woo and Soo Kyung together
I find it very interesting, that there are viewers who feel underwhelmed by the OTP connection in this show, with some even feeling like there are no sparks between our OTP.
I’m gonna hafta say, I am not in that camp. 😅
The burgeoning connection between Ba Woo and our Princess, was THE thing that captured my heart the most, during my watch.
Sure, it’s not in the vein of big love declarations paired with grand love ballads and fireworks, but there is so much charm, I feel, in the small organic beats that indicate to us, with increasing clarity, that these two people care very, very deeply about each other.
There are so, so many moments sprinkled through our story, where we get little hints and indications of this burgeoning connection; I just don’t think it’s practical to name them all, in this review. In this following spoiler section, I highlight just the major OTP milestones that I found most lovely and affecting.
E8. I like seeing how Ba Woo really is personally invested in rescuing the Princess.
Even though he denies it vehemently when Chun Bae (Lee Joon Hyuk) questions him about it, Ba Woo definitely is doing this because he genuinely cares about the Princess’s wellbeing, and not just because he feels responsible for having bossamed her into this situation in the first place.
I’d had an inkling of this before, but it’s becoming clearer, that the burgeoning connection between Ba Woo and the Princess, is portrayed in a very understated manner. It’s not announced with fairy lights and big love ballads, but that connection is definitely there, and it’s definitely growing.
That intent, slightly tearful look in Ba Woo’s eyes, as he gazes into the Princess’s eyes, and asks her if she wants to live, feels so invested and personal, and the way she responds to him, feels raw and honest as well.
Ba Woo and the Princess might be on reflexively bickering terms, but it’s clear to see that they care about each other more than they’d like to admit.
When the Princess quotes Ba Woo’s curt words back to him, about not caring about whether the other person lives or dies, I feel that it’s sort of like a peeved lover’s instinct talking.
When Ba Woo reacts with rough words, and says that, fine, they’ll just not care about whether the other person lives or dies, the next time, it does seem to unsettle the Princess, a little bit.
And, I will say that even though Ba Woo reacts with rough words, his eyes say otherwise. His gaze is too involved and too concerned, to match with his words. It’s.. kinda sweet?
Plus, there’s the thing where the Princess doesn’t deny it, when Court Lady Jo (Shin Dong Mi) tests the waters, and says that she – unlike the Princess – has no one to whom she will show her wrists. It feels like a hint of a shadow of a confession that our Princess does kinda-sorta like Ba Woo.
Actions really do speak louder than words. The fact that Ba Woo reveals his true identity to Kim Ja Jeom (Yang Hyun Min), in order to get Kim Ja Jeom to cooperate with him and protect the Princess, is a Huge Deal.
After all, Ba Woo’s supposed to be dead. He is undertaking some kind of risk, in revealing himself to Kim Ja Jeom, in order to make his point, that the Left State Councilor would have accused Kim Ja Jeom for treason, if he’d found the Princess at his home.
What an OTP milestone, that we get a confession of sorts from our Princess, that she basically can’t stop thinking about Ba Woo, even though she doesn’t say those words exactly.
“The words you say, the things you do.. each one of them just came to my mind. What do you want me to do with that?” The tears glistening in her eyes, combined with the touch of helplessness in her gentle voice, tells Ba Woo all that he needs to know.
I love that as the realization sinks in, Ba Woo’s first instinct is to step forward, and hold her close. It’s an understated moment, but burgeoning with all of the feels. I like it a lot. Moar, please!
E10. I really do appreciate the Princess’s desire to share Ba Woo’s burden. She’s clearly worried about Ba Woo, but feels unable to get through to him.
I love the heart behind the words that she asks Chun Bae to relay to Ba Woo:
“..tell him that family is not only people who eat together but people who put their strength together when times are hard. If he thinks of us as family, he shouldn’t work so hard by himself but let us worry about it together. Please tell him that.”
That earnest desire to share Ba Woo’s burdens, so that he won’t face them all alone, is so empathetic. I love it. But it does take Ba Woo quite a while, to come around the idea of sharing his burdens.
I can see why Ba Woo would react so strongly against the books, though, when he first discovers that that is what the Princess is doing. Not only is it undignified for the Princess to do this, it also makes Ba Woo look bad, because he sees himself as being responsible for providing for their little hodgepodge family.
Add on all the stress that Ba Woo’s been facing with regards to his mother and sister’s capture, and it’s not even that surprising, that he would lose his cool over this.
I really do appreciate how Ba Woo comes around, though. The way he shows his remorse and change of heart, by transcribing a whole bunch of the books, through the night, is practical, effective, and so him.
What I love even more, is how our Princess understands his heart, the moment she sees the books.
It’s so great so see that she knows just how to get through to Ba Woo as well, with the way she stands outside his door, silently, until she sees him poke that hole through the paper on the door, and then mouths her thanks. Aw. It’s so sweet, seriously.
It’s too bad that the Left State Councilor (Lee Jae Yong) ramps up his effort to capture Ba Woo, and puts up wanted posters of him everywhere. Sigh. That’s just making things even more difficult for Ba Woo.
What I do love is, through all of the stress and hardship, our Princess instinctively knows how to offer Ba Woo refuge and rest, in her company. The way she just silently sits with him, so that they can admire the moon together – and so that he can just simply be, and know that he has someone by his side – is quietly touching.
And, it works, too, because the next morning, Ba Woo says that he had the best night’s sleep that he’s gotten, in a while. Aw.
Whatever plan that Ba Woo had, of using that stolen letter that basically confirms the Left State Councilor’s treasonous intentions, appears to be for naught, since he gets thrown into prison for the books. Argh. Although I get that Dae Yeob’s doing this to protect the Princess, I kinda hate that Dae Yeob does all this, knowing that he’s putting the wrong person in jail.
The only silver lining to this, is that the desperation of the moment, brings both Ba Woo’s and the Princess’s feelings to the surface. The way she calls out his name, for the first time, with such despair and anguish, says so much about how she feels about him.
And the way he keeps looking back at her, says everything too, about how he feels about her.
Our Princess is so brave, to even attempt to enter the police station in order to maybe see Dae Yeob, &/or find a way to help Ba Woo. I’m glad that she overhears Dae Yeob’s conversation with Ba Woo, and therefore realizes Ba Woo’s true identity, because it’s important context that I think she should know.
Of course, it would have been better if Ba Woo had told her about it himself, but because it’s a dangerous secret, I can understand why he would have kept it to himself.
I love how smart and empathetic our Princess is, to understand right away the implications of her discovery, and how this background information had informed so many of Ba Woo’s outbursts and angsty actions in the past.
I love how deeply she cries for him; this is exactly what she’d wanted to do in the beginning of the episode – she is sharing his burden.
The scene that gets me most in the heart, is when our Princess goes to see Ba Woo, in his holding cell.
The way she drops her outer coat the moment she catches sight of him; the way she falls to her knees, in tears; the way he rushes to her, asking if she’s alright; the way she reaches for his hands.
The way he fights back tears as she apologizes; the way she reaches for his cheek, with so much feeling; the way he melts into a sobbing puddle at her touch; the way he reaches for her cheek; the way he cries into her hands. It’s so much, and it’s all so heartfelt and so raw. AUGH.
There’s so much quiet desperation and deep, tender care, as they cling to each other, and gaze at each other through their tears. 😭💔
I also love the gentle promises they make each other, still grasping onto each other’s hands through the prison bars, after they’ve dried their tears. He asks that she doesn’t come back to the police station again, and she asks that he stay alive, no matter what, until they meet again.
Such seemingly simple requests, which carry within them, so many difficulties. And yet, they make those promises, because they know that this is what is needed, in order to put the other person’s heart at ease.
E12. I love that scene at the beach, where Ba Woo and the Princess talk. Specifically, I am completely verklempt at the way Ba Woo gazes at the Princess. There is so much wistfulness, longing and poignant yearning in his eyes, as he looks upon her.
It’s the best kind of heartachey goodness; the way he just can’t help but leak emotion from his eyes, at the thought that they will have to be apart now, just as they’ve confirmed their feelings for each other.
I appreciate the Princess’s supportive, self-sacrificing sort of attitude, in that, she’s understanding of the fact that they have no choice but to be apart, because of the way things have developed.
She’s quick to put Ba Woo first, and her own needs and feelings second, and I can’t help but love her for that. I do get the sense from her, that she would be willing to part from him for good, if that’s what it takes, to keep him safe.
There is so much emotion in the way Ba Woo pulls her into a hug and holds her close. I love that even though they don’t know what the future holds for them, or whether they will have to be apart for good, they are not denying their love for each other.
I also love that Ba Woo asks her name, so that he can think of her as her given name, rather than a title that she’s rejected, feels personal.
And, I also love that Ba Woo’s thinking of Soo Kyung, even as he apologizes, “I’m sorry. For going out first into the sun alone. I won’t leave you in the shade for long.”
My heart is full, y’all. He’s promising to bring her into the sun with him, even though it appears practically impossible, given the circumstances. The care, the consideration, the tenderness. I melt. ❤️
E13. This episode, I most enjoyed the little moments of coziness and closeness between Ba Woo and Soo Kyung. I loved the little scene of her helping him to get dressed for his first day on the job; there is such a quiet warmth in the way they look at each other, and there is such a strong sense of gentle affection, in the way she handles his clothes.
(Also, gosh, Ba Woo does look quite dashing in that military uniform, doesn’t he? 🤩)
I also love that it’s Soo Kyung’s quick thinking, and bold investigation, that gives Ba Woo the breakthrough that he needs, in terms of finding dirt on the Left State Councilor.
I did very much enjoy the multi-step, multi-pronged plan that they put in place, to corner the fabric merchant and get evidence of the left police chief’s backing, of the smuggling that’s been going on.
My favorite moment out of all this, is the scene of Soo Kyung and Ba Woo talking, as the flower petals fall around them, and Ba Woo tells Soo Kyung that she’s the most beautiful woman in all 8 provinces of Joseon – at least, in his eyes. Awww. Melt.
That is the sweetest, most romantic thing we’ve heard him say, and it’s so perfect. And then, I know they rush home because Mother wouldn’t be happy with Soo Kyung if she knew Soo Kyung had gone out, but I find the sight of them running home together, so cute.
In this moment, I feel like they almost look like teenagers. 🤩
I hate that the Left State Councilor gets his way, and Ba Woo gets sent off on a dangerous mission, which is just an excuse for the Left State Councilor to have him killed.
However, I appreciate the raw and honest note of vulnerability we get, as Soo Kyung beseeches Ba Woo not to go. Yes, it’s because it’s dangerous and the Left State Councilor is clearly out for his life, but embedded in her plea, are her own feelings.
This isn’t just about Ba Woo not dying; this is also about Soo Kyung herself not wanting to lose Ba Woo, and I love that her love for him comes across so clearly.
The morning Ba Woo’s due to leave, the emotion between them is so thick and so palpable; I’m stunned that there are viewers who feel that this OTP has no chemistry.
I feel the wistfulness on both sides, so acutely. She doesn’t want him to go and put himself in danger; he doesn’t want to leave her on her own. The tears in their eyes and the ache in their hearts, all expressed in that one single embrace, as Soo Kyung weeps on Ba Woo’s shoulder.
Oof. It’s hard to see them be parted like this.
E16. Ba Woo’s reunion with Soo Kyung is as beautiful and heartfelt, as it is low-key. It’s so perfect, the way they just silently look at each other for a while, drinking in the sight of each other, with tears in their eyes.
He apologizes; she remarks, tears falling, he looks exhausted. She sympathizes that it must have been a tough journey; he smiles that it wasn’t; she thanks him for keeping his promise to stay alive; he tells her that she was the reason he could come back alive.
Augh. I find it so touching, that Ba Woo’s first thought is for Soo Kyung, and Soo Kyung’s first thought is for him.
And then, finally, the embrace; so gentle, and so heartfelt, and so full of relief and joy. AUGH. I love it. This reunion is just so perfectly gentle and quiet and raw. ❤️
E18. The biggest highlight for me, this episode, is hands-down the progression of our OTP relationship. Thanks to mother-in-law giving Soo Kyung that push, we get a frank conversation between Soo Kyung and Ba Woo, who might have skirted it delicately for an indefinite period of time, otherwise.
I kinda love that Soo Kyung’s all ready to take things to the next level, and it’s Ba Woo who hesitates, and then explaining that he’s trying to protect her, goes out to prepare that simple wedding altar.
There’s just so much burgeoning emotion in that scene, as they look upon each other, and as Ba Woo makes his halting marriage proposal, “The only thing I can give you is … my heart. Even if that is all … can you still stay with me? I want you to be my real wife.”
Soo Kyung’s tears in response feel so.. profound, like a desire, long kept secret, is now set free. “If I may be so bold… I want to live with you forever.”
Augh. That’s so poetic, and respectful, and I love that she owns her desire to be with Ba Woo like this. 😍
Their wedding ceremony may be barebones and stripped down, but the emotion between them is so large and so present, that it more than makes up for it.
And, I do love the subtle, matter-of-fact way Show treats their wedding night, by just showing us their shoes, carefully placed outside the same door.
Shin Dong Mi as Court Lady Jo
I loved Shin Dong Mi as Court Lady Jo. 🤩
Shin Dong Mi plays Court Lady Jo in such a heartfelt, down-to-earth manner, and moves easily between Court Lady Jo’s comedic moments, and her more raw, tearful, anguished moments. Such versatility, and it all looks so effortless as well!
The thing that really struck me about Court Lady Jo, is how she’s forced to send her family members away, to a place that even she herself doesn’t know about, for their safety and hers. She doesn’t show it much, but her heartbreak around this is very deep. I feel for her pain, and admire her for her fortitude, at the same time.
In episode 7, when she tells our Princess that she doesn’t know where her family members are, it feels like such a high price to pay for being involved with the royal family.
It’s true that there is some comfort in knowing that her ignorance of their whereabouts contributes towards their safety, but it’s still such an isolating sort of thought, that she is alone in the world, for all intents and purposes, and does not even know where to look for her family, if she wanted to find them. 💔
And yet, she does this without hesitation, out of love for and loyalty to the Princess. That’s so profound, honestly.
Chun Bae and Court Lady Jo together
At around the episode 5 mark, Chun Bae starts to let on that he’s sweet on Court Lady Jo, even though she basically blusters, on default, that she’ll have none of it.
It’s cute and amusing, and makes for some great spots of levity – and of course, this pair is so cute together that I couldn’t help rooting for them to get together, despite Court Lady Jo’s vehement protests.
Hands-down, my favorite scene of these two, is this one, from episode 17.
E17. After all the time they’ve been on sore terms, it’s really sweet to see that Chun Bae has actually been searching for her mother and sister, because he knows how worried she’s been, for their safety.
What a relief, that he’s actually found them, and has even sent them some money. And how thoughtful of Court Lady Jo, to prepare a memorial table for Chun Bae’s father, because she remembered that that day was his father’s death anniversary.
That totally breaks down all the walls between them, with these gestures that speak so much understanding and compassion. The tears that they both shed – relief and gratitude on Court Lady Jo’s side, and guilt and gratefulness on Chun Bae’s side – bring them together in such a vulnerable, emotional way.
I love that they share a conversation over drinks – and how brave of Chun Bae, to bite the bullet, and just ask her to live with him, just like that.
Also, it’s so recklessly brave of him, to say that he doesn’t care if he has to receive a hundred lashes, for taking a court lady as his wife.
Maybe that’s why Court Lady Jo grabs him and kisses him – so that he won’t have time to change his mind? 😆
Our makeshift family together
The idea of found family is strong in this show, and any time our story gives space for this theme to breathe a little, I found myself enjoying my watch extra.
E4. The teething issues that our little makeshift family go through, in settling into their new life in the mountains, is really quite wholesome.
Ba Woo trying to find normal, decent work; Cha Dol cleaning; the Princess learning about regular everyday things like laundry and cooking. It’s slice-of-life goodness, and I wouldn’t mind more of this, honestly.
At this point, the conflicts feel sufficient for my taste: the Princess getting upset that Cha Dol’s getting involved in his father’s thieving ways, then feeling regret, when she realizes that Ba Woo had done a Hong Gil Dong sort of thing, by robbing the worst nobleman around; the Princess going out to find work.
Ba Woo and Cha Dol running around looking for her, because they’re worried about her; Ba Woo and the Princess squabbling over whether she ought to let Cha Dol address her as “Mom;” the little makeshift family having fun together during market day.
This is totally up my alley, and I could watch them figure out their new lives, and come to know one another better, for hours.
E9. The whole arc, of our little gang going to Chun Bae’s hometown Jemulpo, and getting a house, and settling down together, is really quite earthy and charming.
It reminds me of the last time Ba Woo, Cha Dol and the Princess got a house to live in, together. All the similar settling down beats are just as enjoyable to me, and this time, it’s with the added amusement of Chun Bae making Court Lady Jo out to be his wife, while pointing out the Princess as Ba Woo’s wife.
I like the pretty picture he paints! 😅
E12. I’m glad that the King (Kim Tae Woo) manages to restore Ba Woo’s family to their noble status, and I’m touched to see that Ba Woo’s first thought, upon his release from prison, is to head home to see his family.
And when he says that, he’s not referring to his mother and sister, who are separately released and taken care of; he’s referring to Cha Dol and the rest of his hodgepodge household, which, importantly, includes the Princess. I love that.
When Ba Woo and Dae Yeob work together
Ba Woo and Dae Yeob are set up more as enemies than friends, because of the context around them. However, there are moments between them, that make me think that in a different time and place, these two might have been friends.
Although it’s stronger in my head than in my heart, ie, I didn’t feel it so much during my watch, I did really like the idea of Ba Woo and Dae Yeob working together, instead of against each other.
E5. I do appreciate that Ba Woo and Dae Yeob work together to save the Princess. Watching them put aside their differences, both equally desperate to save the Princess, helped me to realize that they both want the same thing; their ideology differs in the details.
That’s often so true, in disagreements between people. We often want the same big thing; we just can’t help fighting over the details.
E13. I’m very relieved, of course, that Ba Woo survives the “accidental” shooting, and it is a nice touch, that when Dae Yeob sees how determined Ba Woo is, to complete the military exam, he actually helps him by guiding him verbally while Ba Woo aims to make his last shot.
This is a really heartwarming moment of humanity; in this moment, their grudges are put aside, and it feels so pure.
E15. Ba Woo goes through a lot of trouble this episode, and at this moment, I still have no idea how he’s going to get out of this mess alive, and return to Hanyang in one piece.
However, I like the idea that he and Dae Yeob are working together, at least for the time being. I would much rather watch them fight side by side against a common enemy, than see them at each other’s throats for their families’ grudges.
Also, there’s the thing where they each literally take turns telling the other, to get out alive, while using themselves as leverage. And, there’s the thing where Dae Yeob even takes a bullet for Ba Woo, when he sees that Ba Woo is in danger.
For all the angry blustering that these two tend to do at each other, it’s this wordless brotherhood that makes me root for them to overcome their family grudges.
E17. I do rather like the scene where Dae Yeob visits Ba Woo and tells him that he will take care of matters relating to his father, because he can’t trust the King.
That’s a bold thing to say, especially to another royal subject, and this tells me that he’s speaking honestly with Ba Woo. And, the fact that Ba Woo can tell Dae Yeob that he doesn’t trust the King either, makes this moment feel reciprocally trusting.
E18. This episode, I do feel a little wistful at the friendship that could’ve been, between Ba Woo and Dae Yeob.
The way Dae Yeob and Ba Woo talk about Dae Yeob’s failed attempt to stop his father’s treacherous plans, and the way Ba Woo talks about his dream, where they were friends, reminds me of how these two had met, and had enjoyed each other’s company, once upon a time.
Soo Kyung and Court Lady Jo together
I just loved the bond between our Princess and Court Lady Jo.
Even though they are technically master and servant, the love between them is so strong and so palpable; they feel like legit family, to my eyes.
They are so invested in each others’ wellbeing; they literally cry tears of joy or sorrow, with the other, without a second thought. I’m so glad that Court Lady Jo is there with our Princess, through all of the trials and tribulations, as well as the joys and sorrows.
I loved these two together, so much. ❤️
So Hee Jung as Royal Consort Mom
We don’t get a lot of screen time with Royal Consort Mom, but man, does So Hee Jung make every screen second count. Every time Royal Consort Mom appeared on my screen, I felt myself loving her more.
By the time I reached the end of my watch, I was convinced that we should have had much more screen time with Royal Consort Mom; she’s just that awesome. 🤩
E13. I really feel for Royal Consort Mom, who gets the spotlight for a bit, this episode. It’s so sad to see her so worn down with grief, completely in the dark to the fact that her daughter is actually alive. For her wellbeing and sanity, I’m glad that Court Lady Jo thinks to send her a secret letter from Soo Kyung.
Shout-out to So Hee Jung, who plays our Royal Consort. Her grief and anguish is so palpable, as she cries on her own, and also, when she confronts the King. Really well done, I felt.
E14. The meeting between Soo Kyung and her mother is such a raw, poignant gem of a scene. I love how, in this scene, I don’t see a Royal Consort and a Princess; all I see is a mother, finally, painfully reunited with her long-lost daughter. Augh.
So much genuine, fervent emotion, given voice in such heartbreaking sobs. It’s such a bittersweet reunion, because it’s something that they’ve both longed for, for such a long time, and yet, it has to be so fleeting. This feels almost cruel, that mother and daughter are forced to part, so soon after meeting again. 💔
Lee Joon Hyuk as Chun Bae
I really enjoyed having Lee Joon Hyuk as Ba Woo’s partner in crime, because he makes a great sidekick.
Of course he’d be the type of partner to lie to Ba Woo about just how much money they’re getting for each job that they do; I’m not even surprised by this. But I can’t even be mad at him, because he’s just that kind of amusing weasel.
More importantly, the more we get to know Chun Bae, the clearer it becomes, that beneath his annoying weasely ways, he really does care a great deal.
Here are just a couple of Chun Bae highlights that I enjoyed extra.
E7. It’s really heartwarming, that Chun Bae stays so matter-of-fact, even as he processes everything that he’s just learned about Ba Woo’s noble past.
I think it says a lot about Chun Bae, that even this big reveal doesn’t change the way he sees or relates to Ba Woo.
E8. I did really enjoy the beat, where our little group escapes in that group of chattering ladies, right under the Left State Councilor’s nose. How smart of Chun Bae to think of this! He’s really so scrappy, and so creative in his scrappiness.
Ko Dong Ha as Cha Dol
Even though Ko Dong Ha’s delivery of Cha Dol leans a little on the stilted and exaggerated side of things, Cha Dol manages to endear himself to me as a character, almost on cuteness and concept alone.
I don’t know what it is; I just don’t really mind, that he’s not an amazing child actor. Just the idea that Cha Dol is so attached to our Princess, and so fiercely protective of her, is enough to satisfy me. 🥰
E2. I must say that I am really enjoying the bond that’s forming between the Princess and Cha Dol. He’s really glomming onto her like a little duckling, and she has such grace and compassion towards him, especially when she realizes that he’s lost his mother.
The way she talks to him, and plays with him, is so instinctively motherly. I’m already rooting for Cha Dol to get his wish, that she’d be his mother, ha.
E4. Cha Dol is our little MVP, honestly, because he’s the one that’s managing to extract decisions and promises from our adults, that they wouldn’t have given, if not for his cajoling and pleading, and those big puppy eyes.
Because of Cha Dol, the Princess promises not to try to take her life again, which is huge. It’s also because of Cha Dol, that Ba Woo later promises not to say such rough and unkind things to the Princess again.
Honestly, I don’t know if Ba Woo and the Princess would be able to get along much at all, if not for Cha Dol being present to chaperone their interactions.
E16. I love-love-love Cha Dol’s reunion with Ba Woo, and their father-son bonding time, as Ba Woo lets Cha Dol sleep with him, like old times. Aw. The way Cha Dol’s face lights up at the sight of Dad, is just so precious. ❤️
Son Sung Yoon as Cha Dol’s birth mom [SPOILERS]
At the episode 14 mark, Cha Dol’s birth mom (Son Sung Yoon) shows up, and as might be expected, she’s a big ol’ basket of trouble, that you just can’t help but love to hate.
To my eyes, she manages to be annoying yet entertaining at the same time.
I think it’s in the way Son Sung Yoon delivers her, and I think it also has something to do with the anticipation of the moment when all her lies and airs come crashing down on her.
While she’s swanning around and doing her thing, I’m just watching with some amusement, while mentally rubbing my hands in anticipation of the moment when Ba Woo finally comes home. Plus, it tickles me that I just saw Son Sung Yoon as a professor, in My Roommate is a Gumiho.
While Ba Woo’s away, Birth Mom really gives Soo Kyung a hard time, and y’know, I’d hate her more, if I didn’t find her rather entertaining.
To be clear, I hate that she lords it over Soo Kyung so aggressively, and treats both Soo Kyung and Court Lady Jo as if they are worth less than the dirt under her feet. I just.. find her entertaining, while she does her thing, which is why she’s in this section.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
Show’s idea of levity
Show takes pains to inject some lighthearted moments into our narrative, in order to balance things out. Some of these moments worked better for me than others, which is why this is sitting in this section.
Stuff I liked
E1. I was very amused by Ra Mi Ran’s cameo as a widow getting the bossam treatment, and I couldn’t help but feel amused at her character’s whole shy lady act, because she’s clearly not actually that shy, if she’s prepared a little bundle of stuff and new shoes to take with her, on her ride to her new life.
I found this very cute.
E9. Court Lady Jo and our Princess get all goggle-eyed and breathless looking at an example of erotica, for education purposes. That was pretty funny to me.
Stuff I didn’t like
E5. I’m not much into the arc of Ba Woo and the Princess going undercover to trick rich concubines into buying completely made-up “wife certificates,” though I appreciate that they end up using the funds to help the poor and needy.
It’s just.. their act is so fake that it’s pretty awkward to watch, and there’s always the possibility of them being caught, hanging in the air. Ack.
Shin Hyun Soo as Dae Yeob
I have some fondness for Shin Hyun Soo from his turn as Sunbae in Age Of Youth Season 1, but I gotta say, Dae Yeob as a character is mostly pretty frustrating. Even my pre-existing fondness for him didn’t take me very far.
Basically, Dae Yeob is a well-meaning character, but his never-ending schtick is his yearning for the Princess, and every time he kinda seems to be playing a useful part in keeping the Princess safe, he goes and mucks it up in the end.
I had hoped that this wasn’t going to be what defined him as a character, but.. that hope was short-lived.
There are so many instances of Dae Yeob essentially being an idiot because of his love for the Princess, that I’m sure it would be too aggravating to list them all. Here are just an initial handful, to give a flavor for the character.
E5. Dae Yeob strikes me kind of shortsighted and naive, in this respect. He acknowledges Ba Woo’s protest, that the Princess will likely die if Dae Yeob takes her away, but his response is all, “I’ll die with her!” which is such cold comfort, really. 🙄
I’d been a little fond of Dae Yeob from the beginning, because he’d come across as such a good-hearted, caring young man. But this exchange on the cliff, is causing him to lose his shine in my eyes, and fast.
Dae Yeob means well, in swearing that he’ll die with her if necessary, but.. how about choosing a path where she won’t be almost guaranteed a death sentence?
E6. This episode, his fussy ways at the hut are uncalled for in such circumstances, and his idea of approaching the King with the special pardon token is naive and foolhardy.
I suppose he’s too young and too inexperienced to realize that the King isn’t to be trusted, but I still can’t help sighing at the fact that Dae Yeob, in his efforts to save the Princess, has probably put her in more danger.
E7. When Dae Yeob runs into Ba Woo and keeps stopping him to demand that Ba Woo tell him exactly where the Princess is, right now, when Ba Woo’s actually in the midst of trying to follow the Princess, who’s in the hands of the slave hunters, I really wanted to throttle Dae Yeob. He really has no idea how to read the room, does he?
He doesn’t clue in whatsoever, that Ba Woo is in a rush, and that that rush might have something to do with the Princess.
Sigh. Dae Yeob. He means well, but he really is proving himself to be a slow-witted stick in the mud.
E8. Y’know, after everything that Aunt (Myung Se Bin) says to Dae Yeob, about letting the Princess stay alive in his heart only, and allowing her to disappear from the gaze of the world, I’d imagined that Dae Yeob would actually see the reason in her words.
But, no. Even though Aunt’s spelled it out for him, that seeking out the Princess would only put her in danger, Dae Yeob just can’t seem to leave it alone.
He’s really like a dog with a bone; he just can’t let go of the idea, that he can’t live without her, and that he needs to see the Princess before him, with his own eyes, and guard her personally, even though he hasn’t proven himself very good at the guarding bit.
He’s so reckless and thoughtless, I just want to throttle him, on behalf of everyone in his orbit. I mean, not only is he endangering the Princess and everyone who’s with her, he’s also putting his own family at risk. And he throws all caution to the wind, just because he can’t get a grip on his own feelings?
That honestly doesn’t reflect very well on his strength of character at all.
E8. This episode, we learn that the Princess and Dae Yeob had actually been in love, and that she’d once begged him to run away with her, when the King had betrothed her to Dae Yeob’s older brother instead of him, and he’d refused.
It’s laughable that after all this time, he’d come and tell her now, that he’ll do what she’d asked then. I’m sorry, did he think that the Princess’s heart would still be in the same place, waiting for him, after all this time? Even after she’d become his sister-in-law??
I’m glad that the Princess literally “divorces” Dae Yeob, to make her point, even though they’d never actually been married.
Ba Woo’s mother and sister [SPOILERS]
I’m glad that Ba Woo is reunited with his mother and sister Yeon Ok (Kim Ju Young), but because they both struck me as rather sketchily developed, I’ve got them in this section.
Plus, there’s the thing where Mom gives Soo Kyung a hard time, because she’d believed Soo Kyung to be a commoner and therefore not a suitable wife for a reinstated noble like Ba Woo. I didn’t think very well of her for that, although I could understand why she might think that way.
In the end, I’m glad that Soo Kyung wins over both Mom and Yeon Ok, and I’m also pleased to see Mom being extra kind to Soo Kyung, later in our story, but I just.. never really felt much for them, as characters.
Kim Tae Woo as the King [SPOILERS]
For the record, I do think that Kim Tae Woo did a good job of portraying our King, in that I could feel the King’s exasperation and vexation at his circumstances, and his desperation to get rid of the Left State Councilor.
However, I just could not get over how consistently the King made the conscious decision to give up on the Princess, ie, have her killed, each time he found himself in a position to make a choice.
He’d moan about how painful and difficult things were, for him, and sometimes, he’d try to protect the Princess for a while, but that never lasted. It just blows my mind, that someone would be able to choose the death of their child, over and over again, for their own personal gain.
In fact, there are times when the King is literally giving orders to hasten the Princess’s death. It’s mind-boggling and utterly sickening, to me.
The reason I’ve got the King in this section, is basically because I understand Show’s need for dramatic tension, and how that dramatic tension demands some nasty people to do some nasty things.
The King does do some not terrible things from time to time in our story, but overall, I’m gonna hafta park him here, because he literally orders the death of his own daughter, several different times – and then has the gall to act pitiful about it.
Lee Jae Yong as the Left State Councilor
The Left State Councilor is in this section for pretty much the same reason as our King. Show needed a villain, and he fulfilled the need very well.
Lee Jae Yong’s got a way with expressions, that just makes you want to punch him. In that sense, I found him a very effective villain, heh.
While the Left State Councilor’s thirst for power, and the implied underground power that he wields, leans rather hyperbolic, I didn’t actually mind a caricature of a villain.
After all, I was never that interested in the palace politics anyway. 😅
Song Seon Mi as Court Lady Kim [SPOILERS]
Song Seon Mi plays Court Lady Kim with an ambivalence that really works for this character.
Court Lady Kim is a master manipulator, and often successfully nudges even the King, in the direction which she deems most useful for herself. Plus, she appears to be quite fearless too, like in episode 8, when she puts her life on the line and asks the King to kill her, while he’s in the fit of anger.
That’s a ballsy woman right there; she’s willing to gamble with her life, if need be.
And in episode 9, she pledges never-ending allegiance to the King, but at the same time, she cooperates with the Left State Councilor’s demand, in order to save her own skin – and then she tells the King that once he’s made a deal with the Left State Councilor, he ought to quickly stab him in the back.
Truly spoken like one who should never, ever be trusted. 😏
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Chu Yeon Gyu as Won Yeob
I put our main villains in the “Okay section,” but I couldn’t resist putting the Left State Councilor’s son Won Yeob in this section, because, well.. Won Yeob is basically a cockroach who will not go away.
Not only that, he’s not a very smart cockroach either. Chu Yeon Gyu, the actor who plays Won Yeob, is just too good at being annoying; the kind of annoying that you associate with a pesky fly, except that this fly happens to be extra ugly, and he’s venomous too. 😆
Here is just one personal lowlight and one personal highlight of my experience with this character.
E14. I hate that Won Yeob defends his killing of Chil Seong (Han Song Ho) as getting rid of an insect. Also, it’s annoying that the first thing Won Yeob thinks about, when the King collapses, is whether he’ll be able to get his position back.
That’s hardly a priority, even for the Left State Councilor and all his evil intent, right? I’m surprised that the Left State Councilor’s been so patient in grooming him for so long, given that he’s really quite limited and dim.
E17. I kinda love the fact that Won Yeob apparently had no idea about Dae Yeob’s birth secret, and therefore has to go from, “Kill him!! Keeel him!,” to awkwardly getting on his knees before Dae Yeob, alongside his father. Tee hee. I am inordinately tickled and gratified by this. 😂
The recycling of court politics
Like I alluded to earlier in this review, the court politics basically gets put on a rinse-and-repeat sort of cycle, and it becomes clearer, the deeper you get into the story.
I have to confess I was never really into all the political machinations that our people of the court engage in. I knew that these were structurally important to our story, but I was really not super interested in who was threatening whom with what, and for what gains.
This was all a bit of a necessary evil, from where I was sitting. 😅 Plus, it just felt like these characters were spending so much time trying to one-up one another, that they’d hardly have any time to actually do a decent job of ruling the country. I was not impressed by this.
Logic stretches [SPOILERS]
I did notice a handful of logic stretches over the course of my watch. Here they are, for the record:
E2. I do wonder how so many men can be out there, looking for the Princess, to kill her, when it’s supposed to be such a huge secret, that she’s alive.
E13. For the record, I think that Ba Woo’s recovery from the gunshot wound is treated quite unbelievably.
I mean, he’s up and about, and at work, and basically running around and doing all sorts of things, before they make reference to his wound again, towards the end of the episode. I know he’s tough, but this is stretching it, I feel.
E16. I thought the whole thing with the Monk (Yoo Soon Woong) offering to take Birth Mom with him was pretty out there; most likely this was designed purely to galvanize Birth Mom into running away – right into the Left State Councilor’s lair.
E17. The whole way that the Left State Councilor’s men jump the fence at Ba Woo’s house at night, puzzles me. Isn’t the house supposed to be heavily guarded?
Is Show trying to tell me that the guards go home at night, and there’s no night shift, leaving the house unguarded during the most vulnerable time? This strikes me as quite a weird omission?
E18. I find it intriguing, that the Left State Councilor’s treated Dae Yeob quite harshly, and even sent him out to on a death mission, not that long ago, even though Dae Yeob’s essentially a secret weapon that the Left State Councilor has been keeping for such a time as this.
I’m trying to rationalize that perhaps the Left State Councilor had been anxious enough to have Ba Woo dead, that he didn’t mind giving his secret weapon, &/or he never had much faith in his secret weapon anyway, since Dae Yeob’s never been cooperative or supportive of the Left State Councilor’s schemes.
However, I do think that it’s more likely a weakness in the writing, than either of these.
The Left State Councilor would have never sent Dae Yeob out there to die, and look so disgusted at Dae Yeob for having the audacity to come back alive, if he’d actually had thoughts of possibly using Dae Yeon as a puppet king, right?
THEMES / IDEAS
Here are just a few themes that come to mind, when I consider this show:
1. Family are the people who share your burdens with you; not necessarily the ones who are related by blood to you.
2. Patience, endurance and trust as an expression of love.
3. Sometimes, a negative event can be a blessing in disguise.
4. Love and family, beyond the borders of social class.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
Not gonna lie; this episode, I felt like Show would’ve done better at 16 episodes instead of 20. We basically have the same political machinations stretched out, in just a slightly different sort of formation.
We are still at an impasse between the King and the Left State Councilor, and we are still angsting over Soo Kyung’s safety, while she is still being used as a pawn between the two men. It’s.. tiring, really.
And I’m saying that as a mere viewer. Imagine how tiring it must be for Soo Kyung, being tossed around like this!
As always, though, it’s the sweet and enduring love between our OTP, that keeps everything grounded for me.
I love that moment when Ba Woo and Soo Kyung are reunited. First, that moment of tamped down surprise, relief and delight, when they run into each other in the throne room, and then can’t take their eyes off each other – until Commander Jung clears his throat to remind them to get ahold of themselves, heh.
This was very cute, I thought.
And then, there’s the moment when they are reunited properly, when Ba Woo is taken by Commander Jung, to visit Soo Kyung in the room where she’s waiting.
Augh. The way they home in on each other, to hug it out, feels so instinctive and.. urgent. And the looks in their eyes, as they gaze upon each other, so full of tenderness and love.
It’s beautiful, and in this moment, I feel like it was worth watching the extended recycling of political machinations, just for these two.
The other thing I loved about Soo Kyung being back in the palace, is the fact that this allows her to see her mother again. Their reunion chat, where they talk about her being married, is so lovely.
I love how Mom takes so much comfort and joy in the fact that Soo Kyung is now married to Ba Woo, and I love how she delights in the fact that her daughter smiles so happily, at the mere mention of her husband.
It’s so warm and familial, and that’s felt like such a sorely missing element, in both of their lives. This moment feels extra precious, because of that.
While I do find Dae Yeob a generally frustrating character, I appreciate that this episode, he is clearly trying to do what he feels is best, not only for Soo Kyung, but for his mother as well.
I don’t know how wise it is, for him to burn that handkerchief, though, since instead of using that to blackmail the Left State Councilor, which would have failed and resulted in his and his mother’s deaths, he could have used it to help the Western faction unseat his uncle?
But then again, maybe he doesn’t want to have any hand in taking down his own uncle, and that’s why he burned it. 🤔
I am soo mad at Court Lady Kim for handing Soo Kyung over to the Left State Councilor, so I love-love-love that when she starts trying to justify herself to Royal Consort Mom, Mom not only tells her to shut up, but slaps her soundly too.
That was satisfying to witness, I hafta admit. I know it doesn’t solve the problem of Soo Kyung being in the Left State Councilor’s hands, but I’m just happy that somebody’s ready and willing to tell it to Court Lady Kim as it is; that she’s overstepped her boundaries and it is not welcome, thankyouverymuch.
I’m also proud of Royal Consort Mom, for telling the King just what a dishonorable husband and father he is, and that he can keep his throne and be really happy with it, thanks and goodbye, forever and ever into eternity.
Gosh, I love this woman. Why have we not had more of her on our screens, this whole time? 🤩
Meanwhile, it looks like the Left State Councilor’s poised to use Soo Kyung as leverage, to get Dae Yeob to do his bidding.
Ah, Dae Yeob. Will you even survive our finale, if only to be set free from the curse of your one-sided love for the Princess, and having that dogged love being used against you?
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Not gonna lie; I generally liked where we landed, at the end of our story, but boy, was this finale a bit of a drag. I have to confess that I zoned out more than a little, while watching this final episode. I think I was just really, really ready to put this one to bed, you guys. 😅
I’m not surprised at all, really, that Dae Yeob doesn’t survive our finale. He cares too much about Soo Kyung, to not get involved in protecting and saving her, but he’s not hardhearted enough, to kill the man whom he’d believed to be his father, for so long.
And of course, the Left State Councilor has too much self-preservation in him, to allow Dae Yeob to live, if he won’t comply with his treasonous plans.
Sigh. My brain feels bad for Dae Yeob, but I have to confess that in my heart, I felt quite indifferent about his death, despite Ba Woo’s and Soo Kyung’s anguished tears at his demise – almost like this was basically the only outcome available to him, as a character.
Also, in principle, I’m glad that Soo Kyung gives Ba Woo her blessings, in staging a coup, in order to stop the Left State Councilor’s treacherous plans.
However, I must confess that I had little interest in the coup itself – which is where most of our dramatic tension comes from, in this final hour.
What can I say? I just was never that interested in the court politics driving our story; I was in this for the characters and their relationships, from the very beginning.
For me personally, my dramatic tension this episode, came from moments like Soo Kyung formally thanking Court Lady Jo, for having brought her up and taken care of her, all these years.
Oof. That was a quietly emotional moment, especially since, at this point, Soo Kyung’s convinced that there is simply no way for her to continue to stay with Ba Woo, once the coup is successful.
I also don’t know how much I believe that the King and the Left State Councilor separately have moments of regret, this episode. It just feels too convenient, y’know?
Like, I’m sure if we’d had 4 more episodes to go, for example (which thank goodness we don’t 😅), they’d surely just grit their teeth and stick to their guns, like they always have.
I don’t really buy that Royal Consort Mom’s words would have left a deep enough impression on the King, to make him reconsider his attachment to his throne, nor that Dae Yeob’s death would be enough, to make the Left State Councilor feel bereft.
However, I’m just glad that the coup is successful, so that we don’t have to watch our plot cycle in place anymore, and I’m also glad that Ba Woo’s title is reinstated. Of course, I’m also glad that Ba Woo gets to Soo Kyung in time, before she takes vows to become a Buddhist nun. (Thank goodness. Otherwise, I would’ve been very mad! 😅)
Sure, I have niggling questions about how Ba Woo and Soo Kyung are going to live out their lives in peace, if Ba Woo has a noble title to live up to, but at this point, I honestly don’t care. I’m just glad that our OTP is together, at last, and are walking off into the sunset together.
..That’s how they live happily ever after – or so my brain insists. 😉
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Rather repetitive on the court intrigue, but the characters and their relationships make this one worthwhile.
FINAL GRADE: B+
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out this show on Viki here.
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The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Bossam, is Yumi’s Cells. I’ve taken an initial look, and it’s a lot more fun and entertaining than I’d first expected! I’m already looking forward to more episodes of this.
If you’d like to join me on the journey, you can find my Patreon page here. You can also read more about all the whats, whys, and hows of helping this blog here. Thanks for all of your support, it really means a lot to me. ❤️
Wonderful review! I have this one on my list after hearing quite a few good things about it. The court politics is definitely a concern for me, but the story, characters, and romance sounds like something I would like 🙂
@BE @everyone – CHUNO!
I dropped Bossam after about 8 episodes. There were a variety of reasons. The first is show’s basic premise. Watching simultaneously with Youth of May, it was really driven home to me, because close to contemporary not distant past, how staggeringly frightening it must be to be kidnapped by bossam. There is something so skizzy about the idea a woman would fall in love with her kidnapper, don’t care if it happened a long time ago. She might equally fear men in her court situation, given the lethal tendencies of all involved, but I do have a real problem with this old trope. In Chuno, it was done with humor, and in a very unlikely situation–who knew that artist would be so, ummm, virile, when he seems so servile, which gave the situation is comedic effect. But here it is run straight with the proviso, our male lead is a good guy, even if because of the oppressive realities of the day for fellows such as him, living as he does, outside the law, he makes a living of kidnapping women to sell off to rich lonely old nobles to marry.
Secondly, I really found the kid annoying. I have been a single parent, and believe me, my daughters love me to bits, and I would have never put up with that little whiner. I would have mercilessly teased the poor kid right on out of that bad habit. Pinching his armpit just enough to be annoying, not enough to really hurt, till he stopped, seems suitable to me.
Finally, I do not know how it proceeded, and I do know many liked the maid in waiting and the otp chemistry, but for me it was one sageuk cliche piled upon the other. It took place roughly in the same era of Chuno, and it was in places quite imitative, to its own disfavor, of same. One can say of course that shows do not have to break new ground to be good watches, but I just felt it was so heavy handedly done from the evil Left State Minister to the diving off the cliff to the rapscallion ML pal that after awhile for me, ho hum.
Sageuks offer the opportunity to be really interesting meditations on politics, class, and gender, along with having a flavor particular to Korean epic story telling, that can include wonderful comedic as well as dramatic scenes. For me, Bossam seemed like it was simply going through the motions, and I wanted, here it is beez, to shout CHUNO!!! to everyone while watching this.
Oh, I have been waiting for your review of Bossam, Thank you for another marvelous essay. Going to agree with your B+ grade and most of your main points.
Trimming this show to 16 episodes would have improved it immensely, as would a reduction in political intrigue. But how to have a sageuk without old men in beards?
The little found family was the main joy, as was the slow, beautiful growth of our OTP. Like you, I don’t want to overthink the ending and will just be satisfied imagining that our little wandering band is together and able to proceed with life in peace. I’ve enjoyed this show more than any other this year.
A good, balanced review, as always.
I also think this would have done better at a shorter length; would have allowed the real strength of show–its interpersonal and found family relationships–to really “pop” without diverting to court politics and falling back on so many “princess in peril” plot drivers.
Kwon Yuri was a real revelation here for me; she seemingly effortlessly projected a calm, graceful, noble lady vibe that really worked well for her character.
@Trent, your description of Kwon Yuri resonates with me. When I think of the highlights of the show, her depiction of the princess is one of them. Complete elegance. Her style seems well-suited to sageuks.
This is one of my favorite dramas of the year so far, despite its flaws. It was refreshing to see a second chance romance in a sageuk. I do agree that the court politics was a little too much, especially in the later episodes. On the other hand, you are right to say that the court politics drives the story. The characters and their relationships did indeed make this drama a special watch.
Ba Woo and the Princess are my favorite drama couple of the year so far. The “Ba Woo-yah!” scene is a classic!
I think B+ is a fair grade for Bossam. I would even suggest a B. I LOVED the OTP. And their sidekicks. And Cha Dol, whom I found adorable. Oh, and the first wife. And the music. All the rest were indifferent at best (poor Dae Yeob) or really, really annoying (the King, Lady Kim, Left State Chancellor + idiotic son, practically everyone in the palace). The show would be so much better if it was like 12 episodes long (not even 16…). Still, I recommend everyone to watch a few episodes, and if you find that the OTP works for you, then go ahead!
@Natalia, I’d agree with your suggestion of a B rating. I appreciated the things you did, as well as the rather gentle tone of most of the drama. But I had less tolerance than some, of the repetitive schemes and the add-on story lines introduced in the last quarter. I’m always a little more disappointed by shows that miss the potential I see, vs. those that create little expectations to start with. I can understand, why others might have a different perspective overall, though. I gusti sono gusti!
I loved this show, too. The relationships were just so strong, well observed and believable – viewing for grownups, I felt. The faces and getups felt fresh to me, too with all the emotions so present. I think expression was prioritised over visual flattery. Even just reading your review, kfangirl, I reexperienced some of the feels.
I’d like to put in a good word for Dae Yeob, though: he might have been annoying in some instances, but I felt he was a really tragic character. The way he’s shown, he never experienced any parental or brotherly affection but always felt a barely tolerated stranger in what he thought was his family. I guess the princess was the first and only person who treated him with warmth and attention, and he never got over that. Hence also the feeling he’s much younger = more immature than the others. Visually I found nothing to complain about. Shin Hyun Soo is in my opinion one of the few who look “right” and attractive in a hanbok and (!) gat, let alone in the red combat garb.
It was so convincing how the characters lived in their time, wore the garb, followed the customs. The interactions between Ba Woo and his son were absolutely believable. The various couple interactions, exchanging looks etc. were so true to life, we were actually howling with laughter sometimes. Great fun and will surely be due for a rewatch sometime.
I 😍 this show! Jung Il Woo can really do no wrong in my book. I liked this show from the beginning too. The ost still haunts me in my dreams. I’d recommend it to anyone.