A RAGTAG CAST OF CHARACTERS
A royal physician, Choi Won (Lee Dong Wook), is mistakenly accused of poisoning King Joong Jung and killing a fellow royal physician. On top of that, he faces the risk of losing his daughter, Rang (Kim Yoo Bin), from a fatal disease only he can cure and goes on the run in order to find evidence proving his innocence.
Also working in the royal court assisting the physicians is Hong Da In (Song Ji Hyo). When she learns of his innocence, she makes the decision to help him and his ailing daughter.
Although the premise of the plot didn’t grab me from the get-go, I really wanted to watch Song Ji Hyo in a drama again. My only other reference was Crime Squad and well… while I liked her character, I didn’t love that drama. Plus, I’m more familiar with her from her movies and Running Man, naturally. Song Ji Hyo doesn’t often take as much risk on the small screen. Her characters are worlds apart from her variety personality and her quirkier roles on the big screen. Hong Da In doesn’t seem to be much of a departure from her other small screen roles.
Similarly, I also enjoy watching Lee Dong Wook. He’s quite adept at the corny humor and dry deliveries. I don’t really think drama is his strong suit as a genre but he does deliver when he needs to.
I was especially touched by the scenes with his daughter, Rang, but it may be the fact that I find Kim Yoo Bin so endearing and cute. She’s clearly given a bigger role here and she performs exceedingly well but she was so adorable in The Princess’ Man and her performances does deserve to be briefly checked out in Crime Squad (again!). She’s already a veteran.
Having said that, I don’t think Lee Dong Wook nor Song Ji Hyo really took the lead in this drama the way they should have. In fact there were many times where I felt Choi Won and Hong Da In take a back seat in the drama and rather the supporting characters added a colorful touch that lead the story in its rightful direction.
I was really looking forward to the loveline between Lee Dong Wook and Song Ji Hyo’s characters but since the writers felt that the drama was more about the story happening to them, my interest waned a bit in that arena. Instead, I really liked the loveline between Eigeumbu investigator Lee Jung Hwan (Song Jong Ho) and Choi Woo Young (Kang Byul).
Geo Chil (Lee Won Jong), So Baek (Yoon Jin Yi), Im Kkuk Jung (Kwon Hyun Sang) were also instrumental in helping Choi Won and in turn helping Crown Prince Lee Ho (Lim Seulong). I especially loved the Tarzan and… female Tarzan relationship between Im Kkuk Jung and So Baek. Their dialogue was primitively succinct and direct.
Although I thought the conclusion of So Baek’s story was abrupt. It might have been believable in the scheme of the storyline but I was hoping she would walked away giving a knowing wink to Rang to indicate she was fine. A sign that she was choosing to moving on instead of fate forcing her. Despite that, even though both characters I’ve seen Yoon Jin Yi play so far have been on the dimwitted side, I really like that she chose this role which was very different from her last. So Baek gave her the opportunity to try out a Chungcheong dialect even if it wasn’t much of a stretch on Yoon Jin Yi’s part. She hails from Daejeon so that’s really her neck of the woods.
As for Lim Seulong, not having seen him anything before, I was intrigued because of the big role he was given. It took me awhile to warm up to his stiff acting and while he did grow on me, Lim Seulong isn’t able to control all the subtle nuances of acting just yet. There is room for improvement and I believe he can get there. He’s just not there yet.
Although Prince Lee Ho’s half brother, Grand Prince Kyung Won (played by Seo Dong Hyun) is another story. He’s quite adept with the role he was given. He may not have all the subtleties down yet but I was quite impressed with his acting throughout the drama. From his suffocating relationship with his mother, Queen Munjeong (Park Ji Young), to discovering the horrible truth of her true nature, you can slowly see him transform from a place of respect to a place of fear. That boy was in serious need of a social worker. I guess his half brother will have to do.
Finally, I really loved the cinematography of the drama. It had a very painterly and cinematic feel and I was surprised to find how consistent it was throughout the drama. Usually, a sageuk drama starts off with beautiful cinematography but levels out to a normalized shooting mode as the drama goes on due to the live shooting. Either this drama paced its filming out very well or the color correction really worked its magic in post. To me, it looked like both the camera team and the color correction team worked as team to produce these results.
The drama isn’t perfect. Choi Won and Hong Da In should have been at the forefront more often as they often felt like secondary characters at times. While the story is told in a traditional way, there are a lot of angles to this story that are all being juggled in the air simultaneously. Within each of these stories there are characters that you want to root for and some nice twists along the way. The pacing of the drama is good and overall I was satisfied with its ending as well.