Open Thread: The Princess’s Man Episodes 7 & 8

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Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! It’s another eventful week for our characters! I feel like this screenshot sums up our OTP relationship pretty well, for where they’re at, which is why it’s headlining our post today.

SOME IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTS, before we begin:

ZERO SPOILER POLICY

1. We will be adopting a ZERO SPOILER POLICY for this Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point.

The spoiler tags don’t work in email notifications, therefore, please take note that WE WILL NOT BE USING SPOILER TAGS FOR THIS OPEN THREAD. 

ANY AND ALL SPOILERS WILL BE REDACTED to protect first-time viewers in our midst (although, I’d appreciate it if you would save me the trouble of having to redact spoilers, heh 😅).

This includes, but is not limited to, how characters &/or relationships develop, later in the show.

We need to protect the innocent! 😉

SPOILER ZONE

2. HOWEVER!! If you’d like to discuss spoilers from a rewatcher’s point of view, I’ve created a SPOILER ZONE for you, where you can discuss all the spoilers you’d like, without the need for spoiler warnings. You can find it here!

Without further ado, here are my reactions to this set of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️

My thoughts

Episode 7

It occurs to me that this is a very pivotal, defining episode for our characters.

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I feel like by the time we hit the last few minutes of this episodes, loyalties and directions, for at least a few key characters, are redefined, and will have lasting impact not only on our story, but on their lives.

At the end of our last episode, it didn’t quite connect in my head until afterwards, that Kim Jong Seo standing up to Su Yang like that, as Second State Councilor, is THE thing that causes Su Yang to decide that Kim Jong Seo’s just asking to be killed – which actually links us directly to where we’d started our story, with Kim Jong Seo’s assassination.

Somehow, this makes the moment echo with even more foreboding, perhaps because we already know that Su Yang’s not just making an empty threat.

That lends a sharp undercurrent of bittersweetness to the interactions between Seung Yu and Se Ryeong.

As they embark on their love relationship, and smile at each other with affection and hope, we already know that this thing between their fathers is much bigger than either of them could imagine.

Which leads me to Se Ryeong’s lies to Seung Yu.

It is admittedly hard to watch her lie to Seung Yu, particularly since Seung Yu’s coming to bare his heart to her, saying that he doesn’t want to deny his feelings anymore.

It almost feels like she’s slapping him in the face, metaphorically speaking, by lying to him, when he’s finally being truthful to her.

BUT, I can see why she’s lying. Her father’s warned her that if anyone is to find out that the person who’d been out and about with Seung Yu had been her and not Princess Gyeong Hye, their entire family’s lives would be in danger.

And of course Se Ryeong wouldn’t want to risk the lives of her family members. That’s why she lies.

With that in mind, it does help her lies go down more easily, because I can believe that without this restriction that’s been put in place by her father, she would have told Seung Yu the truth without hesitation.

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At the same time, though, reality is starting to bear down on Se Ryeong, with everyone – from Yeo Ri, to her mother, to her father – reminding her that she’s due to marry Myeon.

Yeah, that’s not a great situation for anyone; not Se Ryeong, not Seung Yu, and certainly not Myeon.

Especially not with the bloodthirsty “party” that Su Yang and his crew are preparing to throw, for Kim Jong Seo and everyone who’s aligned with him, eep.

On that note, I can actually see why Myeon would feel almost compelled to align himself with Su Yang.

Not only does he bristle at the sight of Kim Jong Seo warning his father not to associate with Su Yang, he hears from Su Yang that if he doesn’t fight back, his father will lose his life – and what son could bear the thought of his father being killed, right?

So, when things are laid out like that for Myeon, I can see why he would choose his father over Seung Yu. He doesn’t want to kill Seung Yu or Seung Yu’s father, but when it comes down to it, he would be willing to do so, it if meant protecting his own father.

It’s still sad, though, to see the cracks start to show, in his friendship with Seung Yu and Jong.

Up to this point, when they’d managed to keep politics out of their friendship, they’d been the best of buds. But now that it’s becoming impossible to avoid the implications of their fathers’ political involvement, the strain among them is starting to show.

Aw. That is sad, honestly.

And of course, there’s the thing where Myeon’s attracted to Se Ryeong and has started to think of her as his future wife. Of course he would feel territorial and happy about Se Ryeong spending time with Seung Yu, and of course he would bristle at Seung Yu for doing so.

That said, despite the bittersweet undercurrents threading through our OTP interactions, it’s still nice to see them spend some carefree romantic time together.

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Sitting by the river and enjoying the sunshine; going through a “lesson” so that they can exchange words of poetry; exchanging shy, happy looks as they hold hands for the first time; Seung Yu stealing a kiss, when Se Ryeong lowers the fan which he’s given her.

It’s all very sweet and wholesome, really.

Another thing I found sweet and wholesome, is Jong’s effort to give Gyeong Hye that pair of rings, for her birthday.

I feel sad for him that Gyeong Hye doesn’t treat him as her husband, and I find it extra touching, that he’s being so loving towards her, despite her cold treatment of him.

I’m hoping that his gesture, of wanting to give her the rings that his mother had saved for her daughter-in-law, would perhaps give Gyeong Hye pause, and cause her to maybe think of him in a kinder, more welcoming sort of light.

I’m also somewhat heartened that when Se Ryeong visits Gyeong Hye on her birthday, there appears to be an element of healing and reconciliation in their relationship, with Gyeong Hye eating the treats that Se Ryeong’s brought for her.

However, with Su Yang getting ready to execute his plan to.. well, execute the people who stand between him and the throne, I do have my doubts as to how much this relationship will be able to truly heal.

And it looks like Su Yang is prepared to be ruthless in his quest – even if it means using Se Ryeong and her relationship with Seung Yu.

I have to confess to being quite horrified, as we see Su Yang promise Se Ryeong that he will talk to Kim Jong Seo again, about her relationship with Seung Yu, and Se Ryeong tell him that she’s so glad that he’s her father – because, based on the context, we can just TELL, that he plans to use this purely as an excuse to visit Kim Jong Seo, in order to kill him. Yikes.

That’s really cruel, isn’t it, to use his daughter’s love relationship in this manner?

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Although, I can already hear in my head, how Su Yang would defend his actions, where he’d probably say that these petty love relationships are nothing when compared to matters of the nation.

I feel bad for Se Ryeong, when she overhears her parents talk about this, specifically about her father’s plan to kill Seung Yu – for her sake, no less.

What a world-tilting moment this must be for Se Ryeong.

She’s been under the impression that her father was going to try to make a way for her to marry Seung Yu, and now, she’s suddenly apprised of the truth, that in reality, her father’s literally planning to kill him instead.

I can already guess that Se Ryeong’s not just going to sit by and do nothing about this, but at the same time, I can’t help wondering what she CAN do, given her limited power and influence..?

Episode 8

Well, so I was right?

Meaning, Se Ryeong doesn’t sit by and do nothing, despite her limited power and influence, and yet, it doesn’t appear to have actually accomplished anything.

But, you can’t fault her for not trying, I’ll say that.

Also, like I’d mentioned, this is a world-tilting piece of information for Se Ryeong, who’s always believed her father to be a good person who wouldn’t go around killing other people.

I appreciate that Show gives Se Ryeong the space to wrestle with her disbelief, because that is something that goes towards making her feel real.

Also, I have to say that for all of Se Ryeong’s limited options, she does make it quite far.

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I was actually pretty impressed that she manages to make it to Kim Jong Seo’s house, and even gets invited inside.

If Yeo Ri hadn’t shown up and basically kidnapped her to take her back home, she would have succeeded in telling Kim Jong Seo about Su Yang’s murderous plans.

Grargh. So close, yet so far, isn’t it?

Between Myeon and Seung Yu, I feel that my sympathies are more with Seung Yu, because he’s the one who takes a step back, to reach a compromise with Myeon, despite the news that Myeon is due to marry Su Yang’s daughter – thus putting their families on opposite sides of the political divide.

Even so, Seung Yu sends word to Myeon, that he would be happy to be Myeon’s escort, on Myeon’s wedding day.

That’s a big concession, isn’t it?

And in the face of that, Myeon still chooses to kill him.

I mean, yes, it’s to protect his family, so it’s not like Myeon’s not in a difficult position at all. It’s just.. it feels so heartless, doesn’t it, for him to still make that choice to kill Seung Yu, even after Seung Yu’s made a peace gesture in his favor?

So, while I do feel for Myeon to some extent, because of his distinct inner conflict, his ultimate choice still lands cold, to me.

In the midst of all this tension, there’s a small bright spark for me, and that’s in the potential budding of a real relationship between Jong and Gyeong Hye.

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The way he praises her in front of her brother the King, and says that her harsh words are as beautiful as the singing sounds of a bird – with such an affectionate look on his face, no less – makes me think that Gyeong Hye’s going to soften towards him, in spite of herself.

After all, she even smiles in response, when he says that, and that’s the most relaxed and happy I’ve seen her, in a long time.

I like the idea of Gyeong Hye falling for her earnest husband, and I’m hopeful that the other goings-on in our story world won’t get in the way of that happening, but.. I also have a feeling that I’m asking for too much? 😅

In the meantime, Se Ryeong’s cover story, that she’s a court lady, lines up perfectly with Su Yang’s story, which he uses to seek an audience with Kim Jong Seo.

Argh. It’s frustrating – and somewhat eerie, actually – to see that an untruth can be used to mimic the truth, so convincingly.

On a tangent, for anyone who’s wondering, I thought it would be useful to mention that the reason Seung Yu could face death for wanting to marry a court lady – even one who has supposedly left the palace – is that all court ladies are considered to be the King’s women.

Whether the King actually ever chooses to give a court lady his attentions, is irrelevant.

They are his women in principle, and therefore no other man may romance or marry a court lady, and that is something that applies for life, so even a court lady who’s left the palace is not free to marry.

This is why it’s such a serious matter, that Seung Yu is revealed to be in a relationship with a court lady, and that’s why Kim Jong Seo agrees to meet Su Yang in the dead of night – because this is a serious matter that should be kept under wraps, for Seung Yu’s safety.

Man, it’s really hard to watch Su Yang and his crew take steps to assassinate Kim Jong Seo, from hiding weapons under the palanquin, to having Su Yang’s righthand man Un keeping a literal ball and chain in his sleeve. 😬

On the one hand, I’m relieved that Se Ryeong manages to get Seung Yu out of his house, by sending him that message written in her blood, but on the other hand, I can’t help wishing that the message could have been something more useful?

Ok, to be fair, it’s not like she had a lot of time (or fabric!), to write out the whole story, and it’s true that what she wrote – her fake name and her fake place of residence – does get Seung Yu out of harm’s way.

BUT. That’s only temporary, as we soon see, and it’s not long before he leaves the temple – because he doesn’t find her there, duh – and finds his father and brother at home, felled by Su Yang’s sword (in a manner of speaking).

As far as I’m concerned, this doesn’t put Seung Yu out of harm’s way in any real way, and it’s obvious that he’s not going to sit still and do nothing either, not when his father and brother have been attacked like this.

It looks like we are reaaally close to arriving at the point in our story where Show had first opened, and I am legitimately curious to see where Show is going to take us next, because.. where could we go from here, while keeping our OTP safe..? 😬

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Snow Flower
Snow Flower
1 month ago

Argh indeed! Poor Se Ryeong did try her best. And poor Seung You still does not know her true identity.
I am wondering if Kim Jong Seo was really planning to kill Prince SuYang and his family?

Leslie
Leslie
1 month ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Se Ryeong kind of, sort of did her best, but I felt mounting frustration that she just didn’t spit out her identity to Seung Yu. It felt selfish to me, to withhold information that she knew could powerfully impact Seung Yu’s perception of her, and their situation. I will try to roll with her youth, and their generation’s general obliviousness to the seriousness of their parents’ animosity for each other, and the stakes at hand. For now I’m just giving them a rather quiet “fighting”, though.

Last edited 1 month ago by Leslie
Snow Flower
Snow Flower
1 month ago
Reply to  Leslie

This is a K drama, so the important information has to be revealed in a shocking cliffhanger.

Leslie
Leslie
1 month ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

😂😂 I can’t believe I forgot that rule. My bad.

uyen
1 month ago

I still keep thinking that if Se Ryeong’s sister wasn’t an eavesdropper with a big mouth, the two diff pairings might have ended up okay? I can see Seung Yu and Princess getting along, and Myeon and Se Ryeong also might’ve been a fine couple on their own too. Tragedy. But hey, I guess the heart wants what it wants?

I was holding out for a redemption arc for Myeon and am actually most interested in his arc because he has a lot of conflicting loyalties here. At first, I thought that Myeon’s dad was only pretending to be on Su Yang’s side. I was not super convinced by his dad’s quick turn to Prince Su Yang’s side, given his reputation as someone meticulous and fairly loyal, that’s why the King appointed him in the first place to the committee.

I was hoping that Myeon’s dad was putting on a scheme to learn more about Su Yang’s plans, but sadly that seems not to be the case. I’m a bit surprised though at his logic — does he really think Su Yang can be controlled, or is that him just trying to justify things to himself? He seemed to shift after Su Yang latched onto Myeon, so I’m guessing he does see Su Yang as a dangerous threat and I suppose if you have a scheming/powerful guy on one hand and a young teen on the other, you’ll gravitate towards who you think is stronger. These people are These people are DIABOLICAL though, the way Prince Su Yang just tightens the noose around Myeon and his dad’s neck with that casual suggestion to have Myeon bring the King to the Princess’s house.

It’s interesting how power is used in these diff relationships. Se Ryeong’s mom condones Su Yang’s scheming because of this idea that Kim Jong Seo has more power to destroy their family (am also very curious about how much Mom buys into the power grab and how much she’s been brainwashed that it’s to protect the family). Myeon starts hating the idea that his dad is threatened by Kim Jong Seo’s power. When in reality, Su Yang also has his own power he’s been wielding.

I also find the contrasts between the fathers interesting. One father is moved to emotion but able to understand his son (at least he seems more empathetic). Another father is also moved to emotion but uses his daughter’s love for his selfish reasons. 

While I yelled “noooo” as they dragged Se Ryeong away from Seung Yu’s house, I also understand that if her maid Yeo Rim hadn’t found her, a bunch of the maids/servants probably could’ve died or suffered another way because of her actions. Which I guess is what partially annoys me sometimes where our girl doesn’t think things through, but again, I see it that she’s quite young and likely we’ll see these next eps as key periods of growth for her.

I’m completely dreading when Seung Yu finds out the whole truth. When I saw the white cloth with her fake name and how he ran after her, I thought (in my viewer lens having full info), she’s making him leave his dad when his dad needs him?? That’s going to make him feel so much guilt and add to his resentment when he learns the truth. She’s saving him but damning him in the process!! 😭

Alexandra
Alexandra
1 month ago
Reply to  uyen

I I don’t think Se Ryeong and Myeon would have made a great couple even if her sister wasn’t an eavesdropper. It obvious for me that their values are opposed: Se Ryeong is only heart, she is loyal and is willing to sacrifice herself for someone else, but Myeon is cunning and deceitful and always choses himself over others. They would have been utterly unhappy together. As for the princess and Seung Yu, they might have worked although the princess is far more reserved, and we see that Seung Yu was charmed by Se Ryong’s daringness and bravery. 

uyen
1 month ago
Reply to  Alexandra

@Alexandra, that’s a good point about their very conflicting values. I have a diff take on Myeon though, that I don’t see him as inherently deceitful but I thought he did have a bit of pause/inner turmoil that hit a peak when he saw his dad being threatened.

I feel like Myeon is more rigid/duty bound and it happens that he feels duty towards his dad who chose a particular side, and also this sense of responsibility to Se Ryeong’s family given that in his mind she is set to be his wife. We know Su Yang is pretty manipulative, but I’m also thinking that from Myeon and his dad’s view, they’re faced with a young teen on the throne who is pretty much still a child and is backed by a fairly older man and who knows when he might die (sorry sounds mean but Kim Jong Seo does seem kinda old) v. a very cunning slightly younger man who might actually pull off a coup through his tactics and cunning. It’s not honorable or right, but when they’re targeted by Su Yang who invites them to dinner, it’s when Myeon’s dad’s wheels start turning a little bit to the side that seems like it might be more stable.

But going back to the pairings, I feel like Myeon gravitates towards people like Jong and Seung Yu, who are more free-spirited so I can see him being attracted to Se Ryeong. Se Ryeong’s pretty loving and I just feel like if she hadn’t gotten entangled into learning about her dad’s scheming through her knowing Seung Yu, she could’ve been pretty insulated from the politics (then again perhaps she would’ve found out via her bond with Princess). I think there is something both of them could have bonded over wrestling with their parents’ choices (for Myeon, I really do think there was a bit of coming to terms of his friends v. family).

For Princess and Seung Yu, given Princess’s little trick on her old tutor at the beginning, I think you’re right that she is more reserved but she has some spunk. Seung Yu seems like he’s had less responsibility as the younger sibling and now that he’s stepping into greater responsibility, I think he could have been drawn to Princess’s dedication towards caring for her brother — now at least they both have a strong sense of obligation towards their families.

I think for me I see Se Ryeong and Seung Yu’s attraction to each other, but there is a little bit missing for me on them knowing each other on a deeper level, perhaps because Se Ryeong has had to lie to him so much.

You are totally right though that I simplified the scenarios bc either way we still have Su Yang trying to take over the throne, and that creates a whole mess of entanglements in all these relationships!

We also have so many more eps to go, so will see how these relationships evolve.

Trent
1 month ago

Things are just getting a little too heavy here — we’re at the political assassinations stage already, for pete’s sake! — and it’s only a third of the way through!

At the opening section of ep. 7, I confess I just kept thinking to myself, “so how do they think this is going to end?” I mean, I know The Youth are famous for their inability/unwillingness to look a few steps ahead, but seriously, can’t they at least try to game this out a bit? Does Se-ryeong honestly think her boy isn’t going to find out her real name, probably sooner rather than later? I know I’m guilty of being overly pessimistic, in general as well as here in particular, but how exactly do our kids imagine this working out?

And that’s without them realizing they’re on opposing sides of the great conflict, by the way. How does Seung-yu imagine his oh-so-upright Confucian high-official father is going to roll over and let him marry a non-noble lady, not to mention a court lady (which as you note, is de facto “married” to the king (we saw this in greater detail in The Red Sleeve))? Does he have some muddled idea that he will take her as concubine or second wife? (I’m hazy myself on Joseon-era marital customs among the yangban; in dynastic China, a second wife or concubine set below the first wife would be a possibility). How’s he think that’s going to go over with his lady love (since we are focusing — rightly so, this is a romance, after all, I’m not criticizing per se — so much on personal love feelings and all)? Ditto, more or less for Se-ryeong, who actually knows the identity of her love object. She must be doing some powerful sublimating of her rational thought processes….

Which leads me into me next complaint observation. This show is referred to here and there as a “Joseon Romeo and Juliet,” and of course I can see why; star-crossed lovers who are on opposite sides of deadly familial conflict. But the similarities just means I have the same beef with this as I do with R&J, to wit: some spectacular language aside — truly, some of Shakespeare’s best, IMO — at heart R&J is about a couple of too-young hormonal kids ready to burn the world down because they’ve got a bad case of the hot pants for each other. I’m being overly flip, I know, but more seriously, it’s always been tough for me to buy the gravity of their mutual devotion…and you kind of have to for the story to work at all.

And we’re facing a bit of the same problem here (although not as much, I don’t think, not yet at least). Our OTP has spent a couple illicit horse rides, a walk-and-a-swing, and a bit of time making gooey eyes at each other by the side of the stream…all of which is great, but has it forged enough of a connection that they’re ready to go to any length for each other in the face of not only explicit family prohibition but actual danger to both themselves and others? Obviously so, according to the show, but it is…an issue.

Well. To walk that back just a bit, I am honestly not trying to be critical here; this is more commentary on where I’m coming from watching these developments. I am finding the show compelling to watch still, and of course MCW continues to draw the eye, and I’m finding our ML to be more interesting and decent as well, so that’s good. I confess I am curious where we’re headed for the back two-thirds now that we’ve already got the major conflict coming to a head and an (attempted) assassination on the board.

uyen
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

I do feel that both of our characters have grown up pretty sheltered (our first impression of Seung Yu is this carefree nobleman hanging out with gisaengs by night and scholar by day, and Se Ryeong’s happily trying to ride horses), so it’s not totally surprising to me that they have a very ideal view that they can end up happily ever after. It also helps that they are pretty removed from their parents’ political plans, which is deliberate by the parents.

I don’t feel like OTP completely understands the gravity of the situation until now with D e a t h on the line. Even when their parents are warning them away from each other, a few eps ago an engagement was being proposed (at least from Se Ryeong’s POV), so for them not knowing the behind the scenes of the power dynamics, I can see how that’s hard to let go of. Re: Seung Yu’s POV of her being a court lady, again, I can imagine he likely has this very idealistic view of love from literature and stuff.

I also have no idea what’s ahead!! I actually thought this was the standard 16 eps so when I found out it was 24….I only see angst ahead 👀 I knew it’s a bad sign when we get cuteness in the early eps! 🤣

Trent
1 month ago
Reply to  uyen

It’s a good point, that both of our main characters are pretty sheltered and thus it’s reasonable to think they might not really understand the consequences at stake here. Although I feel that’s more of an excuse for Se-ryeung, who feels a bit younger and also is probably more actually cloistered just by virtue of her gender. I think Seung-yu should have a wee bit more of a clue, maybe?

It is borne out in our opening deceit which gets things rolling; Se-ryeung and the princess just see it as an essentially harmless little game, but we soon see just how deadly the consequences can become from their little game.

Elaine
Elaine
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

Hi Trent, actually I can buy that they would throw their parents’ warnings to the wind, cos that’s what teens do! Precisely because their parents forbid it, it becomes all they want. “Our parents just don’t understand” is a common refrain. We as the viewers can see the bigger picture and “greater good” and lives that will be lost if they continue, but to them, their romantic object of affection is their whole world.

I know rationally all they’ve had are some cute outings together, does it make sense that they become “us against the world”? Well, if they had been left to their own devices (i.e. without Joseon moralism tut-tutting on single men and women being alone together, without the family tragedy looming), if their affections did not become more grounded on solid roots then it may have petered out as puppy love is wont to do. But precisely because of those outside pressures, this sharpens the savour of their love and need to be with each other does it not? And at the moment Se Ryeong is just trying her darnedest to save his life, not even running away with him or asking him to choose her instead of his family (although she indirectly does that with her message, oh dear).

Trent
1 month ago
Reply to  Elaine

Elaine — yeah, that’s a good point about teen psychology in general. It’s very much true that there’s that dominant strain of “if the adults (in general) and my parents (in particular) are for it, I’M AGAINST IT, even if it’s damaging and self-defeating, SO THERE” (ask me how I know..). It’s just…frustrating to see, I guess.

Alexandra
Alexandra
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

Does Se-ryeong honestly think her boy isn’t going to find out her real name, probably sooner rather than later?

Well, she still has faith in her father, and she is trying to convince him to cancel her current engagement and marry her with Seung Yu. And evil cunning father lets her believe that he will. So, I don’t blame her too much, in ep. 7 she’s probably thinking that all will be well if her plans work.

And that’s without them realizing they’re on opposing sides of the great conflict, by the way. How does Seung-yu imagine his oh-so-upright Confucian high-official father is going to roll over and let him marry a non-noble lady, not to mention a court lady?

Well, in show’s defence, she is not actually a court lady, so we need not trouble ourselves with this subtle question 🙂 Or we might just believe that Seung Yu’s father is that kind of loving father who will actually try to find a solution to his beloved son’s desire. Since Seung Yu choses to confide in him, we might roll with it. It is obvious that father Kim is presented as being more human that prince Su Yang, although he is a tough political cookie for him.

…but has it forged enough of a connection that they’re ready to go to any length for each other in the face of not only explicit family prohibition but actual danger to both themselves and others?

This is a legitimate question, and I’m more inclined to believe in Se-ryeong’s feelings because I know for a fact that a woman can become more easily attached to an appealing person, even though her family opposes and particularly if she was very sheltered before that. I think we will soon see that her feelings are more profound. And don’t forget, Seung Yu put his life on the line for her when he refused to expose her in court and she also did it when he was being hunted down by the so called robbers. That is ground for a strong bond.
 
I’m maybe a bit more doubtful about Seung Yu’s feelings, as he is presented to us as a well-known gibang visitor, so we can assume he is well acquainted with women… However, a strong opposition can in fact strengthen a liaison and as I mentioned they have been through some difficult things already. Plus, he is a scholar, detached from politics and also a little immature.

Se-ryeung and the princess just see it as an essentially harmless little game, but we soon see just how deadly the consequences can become from their little game.

I also disagree with this. Yes, it was a game, yes it had terrible consequences, but even if they didn’t play that game, Su Yang would have made his number and he would have prevented the marriage of the princess to Seung Yu. Su Yang is dead set to kill the Kim family and we see how resourceful he is: if a plan fails he comes back with another.
So, I see Se Ryeung’s encounter with Seung Yu not as a fatal one that put them both in danger, but as a blessed one that will save Seung Yu more than once. Because he is still immature, if it hadn’t been for this encounter, he would have been dead meat. So, I don’t believe he chooses her over his family, I consider that he’s not capable to protect his family at this point and he can only save himself (although he is not aware of his limitations). Does it make any sense?