Show is warm and well-intentioned at its core, and does deliver a good amount of poignance and feels, when it leans into this aspect of its personality.
At the same time, Show also has a melodramatic side, and while it is relevant to the story, and therefore necessary for Show to give it time in the spotlight, I do feel like Show goes a bit ham with it, especially in its late stretch.
That said, Show manages to end on a poignant, feel-good, thought-provoking note, despite some treacly tendencies, which is a solid accomplishment on its own.
Your mileage is likely to vary, given Show’s mixed reputation. (Hopefully, this review will help you figure out whether this one’s for you.)
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.
Set against the Gwangju Uprising of May 1980, our story is primed not to be an easy one, from the outset. However, Show does a fantastic job of bringing its story to life via our characters, their experiences, and their relationships.
I felt invested almost immediately, particularly in our OTP lead characters and their burgeoning connection, thanks to the thoughtful, tight writing, and also, the wonderful performances by Lee Do Hyun and Go Min Si, who are likable, sympathetic and so naturally easy to root for, both separately and together.
Although the OTP was my personal highlight, I also wanted to mention that our entire cast is strong, to the extent that the arcs of some more minor characters managed to be surprisingly affecting, even.
A rollercoaster of emotions that’s not easy by any means, but that’s completely worthwhile.