Today, unlike other times that I’ve done this, I’m sharing my episode 1 and episode 2 notes on The Red Sleeve, mainly because I have to confess that I wasn’t super taken with the show in episode 1 – but fully came around to Show’s appeal (and Junho’s too! 🤩) in episode 2.
I’m 8 episodes in as I type this, and am enjoying the show – and Junho’s smolder! 😍 – very well indeed, and I was wondering if you’d like to join me? 🤗
These are my episode 1 and 2 notes, exactly as they appear on Patreon, ie, without screenshots (I’m saving those for the actual review). I hope you all enjoy, and I hope you’ll consider joining us over on Patreon, for the rest of the discussions! ❤️
Episode 1 notes:
E1. This is one instance where I feel like this first episode was solid, but also, that the entire thing was just an opening act, to get us to the actual story. As a result, even though I feel like I’ve watched a lot of happenings on my screen so far, it somehow also feels like I haven’t actually started the story proper yet. Does that make sense?
To be brutally honest, I found this opening episode just ok. It didn’t blow me away, nor did I feel extremely engaged (versus the opening episode of The King’s Affection, for example).
I’m sorry to say that in spite of Show’s painstaking efforts to lay the groundwork, I found this episode almost.. perfunctory? 🙊 Like, there are X number of things that need to be in place, in order for Event Y to happen, and these X number of things are trotted out, one after the other, in quick succession, so much so that we can basically see Event Y coming at us, from a good distance away.
When stuff shakes out this way, the most important thing is the delivery by the actors, and while I found our child actors solid, again, they didn’t blow me away. I do tend to generally give child actors a lot of leeway, because they are so young, after all, but maybe it’s just my mood; I found them just ok, even though our young prince does a solid job of some of his more difficult crying scenes, and our young court lady in training is nicely precocious.
It all just comes together as rather archetypical, to my eyes, unfortunately.
All that said, I consider this more or less par for the course, as a necessary set-up to our main story, which looks like it’s ready to kick off properly, with the time skip and our characters growing up, by the end of the episode.
I’ll also say that even though I found it rather perfunctory in writing, execution and delivery, Show does a solid job of telling us things that we need to know, in order to position us properly, for the Main Story.
Here’s a quick list of the story-specific things that I appreciated about this opening episode:
1. The young court ladies in training are a bright spot. I like the look of the sea of pink and blue, when they are gathered together, and I also like the youthful vibe that they bring to the palace, which is a very adult sort of setting.
2. I always find Jang Hye Jin a delight; I love her comic timing and expressiveness, so her Court Lady Seo was a highlight for me, just by virtue of the fact that she’s played by Jang Hye Jin.
3. A childhood connection between the OTP is basically par for the course in a story like this, so I did roll my eyes slightly, on principle. However, the execution of this was.. not bad, I felt. It did feel clichéd and predictable, but I liked the idea that Deok Im turned out to be a forthright, sensible yet sensitive source of support for Yi San, at a vulnerable moment in his life.
In particular, I liked Deok Im’s reframing of Crown Princess Young’s death for Yi San, because it causes his greatest regret, to become his source of comfort. Rather than thinking that the Crown Princess died never knowing how he feels, he now thinks of it as her finally knowing how he feels, because the dead know everything.
4. The scene of Deok Im sitting with the King, as he pays his respects to Crown Princess Young, is quite nice. I like the idea of the King’s gift of the book to Deok Im, but I thought the bit where he says to her, that her fate might follow in the footsteps of Crown Princess Young’s, rather heavy-handed. Like, we know this, Show, you don’t have to spell it out for us like this in big blinking lights. 😅
And here are a few story-specific things that gave me pause:
1. Court Lady Jo and her spiel to young Deok Im, about how it’s every court lady’s dream to die in the palace, struck me as pretty dysfunctional. I personally didn’t like this beat, even though I think it’s Show’s intention, to give us insight into Court Lady Jo and what makes her tick.
2. I feel like the idea that King Youngjo’s a little bit mad, like his son Sado had been, is a good one that is likely to drive our story forward. I just found the execution rather archetypical, and a touch hyperbolic. Like, ok, this king is supposed to be a little crazy; here are X number of events to demonstrate that.
3. I already don’t really like Deok Ro. Just the fact that he lies to Yi San about how the page in the book came to be torn, gives me pause. If he’s lying to Yi San at this young age for self-gain, isn’t it likely that he’s going to do more of that, on a bigger scale, once they grow up? I suppose this is by design, ie, that’s just how his character is designed, but yeah, I’m on guard against this character already.
4. I like Lee Se Young, but I have to confess that the extremely bright, run-everywhere sort of quality to her character, is throwing me somewhat. I think I prefer when Lee Se Young is more serious and restrained. 😅
All that said, even though the ending of the episode is completely clichéd, I liked that moment, just before the credits rolled. For one thing, Deok Im’s squarely in that more restrained space, and then, there’s the introduction of adult Yi San, which, in just 2 seconds of screen time, is working very well, for me.
I like Lee Jun Ho when he’s playing more serious, and Yi San is exactly that. I know it’s not much to go on, but I really like the sense of steady smolder that we’re getting from Yi San, in these last seconds. And this is the main reason I’m actually curious to keep watching this show, despite my just ok experience with this first episode.
If Lee Jun Ho as Yi San is going to be serving up this sort of moderate-to-intense level of smolder, I feel like I could very possibly roll with this. 😉
Episode 2 notes:
E2. Remember how I said I was just ok with episode 1, but expected to get into Show more, if Lee Jun Ho was allowed to serve up some consistent smolder? Muahahaha. The smolder is here, my friends, and I am here for it! 🤩😁
I mean, there is a sense of tropeyness running through this episode, but somehow, I found this episode very amusing and very enjoyable. And that smolder? Totally made everything more delicious, heh.
The way we are properly introduced to adult Yi San, with him so intent on the tiger hunt, is just the sort of thing to set me up for hearts in my eyes. He’s so focused, decisive and deliberate, as he goes about hunting down that elusive tiger. And, that look on his face, as his attendants put on his outer robe for him, is just so offhandedly smoldery, like, “I know I’m cool (and hot), and I don’t care.” Ha.
Also, I feel inexplicably tickled by the whole situation between Yi San and Deok Im, as she interacts with him, having no idea that he is the Crown Prince. His disgruntled expressions and shocked sputter make me laugh, and I find myself lapping up all the veiled identity hijinks with glee.
This episode, I find that Deok Im’s growing on me nicely, as in, I somehow find her less over-the-top now, compared to last episode, and I can’t quite figure out why, since she’s essentially the same. Maybe I’m more used to the tone that they’re going for with her.
Plus, I do think that Show’s gunning more for funny rather than cute, with the tone around Deok Im, and that’s landing for me very nicely. Lee Se Young’s got good comic timing, and I found myself giggling at the water scene, even though there was nothing particularly inventive about it. The execution just worked, for me.
I also like the detail, that Deok Im likes it when she gets to make a choice; that having control over various things in her life, brings her joy. This cognizance of hers, that she values personal agency, is a nice foundation on which to build her character. And perhaps because Show lays this out early, it feels like all the other, more lighthearted stuff layered on top of it, has a solid foundation of sorts, to stand on. Does that make sense?
Another detail that I liked, this episode, is the festival for the court ladies. It’s so carnival-like, and so festive. I like the idea that even though the court ladies dedicate their lives to serving in the palace, that they get time to have fun like this.
I gotta say, thanks to Deok Ro making that decision to claim the credit of tearing out the offending pages in the book all those years ago, I am viewing him with a decided amount of suspicion. Like when he offers to investigate the sender of the secret message for Yi San, I can’t help wondering if he’s the one who’d sent the message.
He does seem perfectly pleasant and gentlemanly on the surface, though, so it’s possible that I’ve misjudged him for a lone incident in his youth. We’ll have to see.
Yi San pretending to be Deok Ro in front of Deok Im amuses me more than it should, in the sense that the way it’s played isn’t all that surprising, and yet, I find myself giggling through most of it, like I’m seeing this sort of stuff for the first time. Very well played, Show.
I’m also suitably amused the running gag of Deok Im trying to write that apology letter, only to have Yi San – as himself – continually rejecting every iteration of it that she serves up. This is the sort of thing that gets funnier as it gets dragged out, and by the time Deok Im’s barely containing her frustration, even as she kneels before the Crown Prince, I’m thoroughly amused.
I have to confess that I’m somehow still not feeling the younger version of Yi San, there’s just something about the young actor’s performance that doesn’t quite ring true for me. However, I appreciate the note of pathos that we get in adult Yi San as a result, as he thinks back on that memory, of being rejected by his father.
The other side of Yi San that I appreciated seeing this episode, is his cheeky side. The amused smirk, as he realizes that the court lady prostrate before him, is none other than the audacious library maid who’d chased him out with a broom and thrown salt at him, is pretty great. His desire to haze her for it, lands cheeky to me, rather than malicious, and I was suitably tickled at the various lengths he goes to, to avoid speaking out loud in front of Deok Im, so as to conceal his identity.
I like that in the midst of the funny, Show takes time to have Deok Im actually help Yi San with finding that map, and tell him that she thinks he’s a great person. That moment feels guileless and genuine, and I can see how this affects Yi San.
This is likely a rare (perhaps the only?) occasion when someone tells him something positive about himself in a frank and unguarded manner, without taking his identity as the Crown Prince into account. I can see why that would be touching and important to him.
I’m curious as to why Yi San drags Deok Im out of the library, where he’s got her on night duty, and tells her that he needs her to read a book, to help him with his tiger hunt. What I want to know is, 1, how exactly does that help him with the tiger hunt, and 2, will this blow his cover with Deok Im?
*This show is being covered on the Early Access Plus (US$10) Tier on Patreon*
Episode 9 notes will be out on Thursday, 13 January 2022! I hope you’ll consider joining us!
It’ll be a way to have fun, and support me at the same time? ❤️
PS: For more information on what the Patreon experience is like, you might like to check out my Patreon update post for January, which you can find here!