I don’t think I’m alone in saying how excited I was to hear the news of Han Suk Kyu and Lee Je Hoon being casted in a drama together. The poster alone was so enticing and on point regarding the drama’s central conflict. However, I have to admit that I was expecting the plot to be a little different.
Basically the story is about Crown Prince Sado (Lee Je Hoon), also known as Lee Sun, and the fact his character ends up dying of suffocation after being stuffed into a rice chest ordered by his father, King Yeong Jo (Han Suk Kyu). The drama goes through events leading up to that. The fact that Sado dies isn’t really a spoiler but rather it’s like Titanic. This is the iceberg that’s looming over the whole plot.
Historically, Sado is painted as a figure that was crazy and perhaps deserved his death sentence. King Yeong Jo is often painted as a wise king. This drama takes that story and flips it around. What if Sado was the victim of a massive conspiracy?
I thought the drama would show us both sides of the story because it seems to me there’s two tales: the historical record and Sado’s perspective. I think a lot of viewers unfamiliar with Korean history would find the two stories compelling. However, the drama made the decision to go with the “fictional” tale and I say “fictional” because we’ll never really know what the true story is.
The drama’s plot is complicated and I admit that I had to watch the first episode like three times. I think once you understand all the chock full of information that’s pummeled at you in that first episode, the subsequent episodes is pretty easy to follow. However, it’s the acting that’s really capturing my interest. Hands down. I didn’t expect any less from these actors but I can’t help but be in awe of them.
Lee Je Hoon is an interesting hero. Since society is going to paint him as temperamental and crazy, we’re already seeing signs of how people might twist the truth in their favor. He’s got a temper. Every time he’s goes all red with rage, I just want to be like, ‘Woah, calm down.’ But it makes total sense for his character.
In front of his father, Lee Sun is this scared little boy who is eager to please but miserable that he’s unable to live up to his father’s standard. However, Lee Sun is cunning. He knows that something is going on and is determined to uncover the conspiracy. The unfortunate thing is that while he does have supporters, they’re all lying to him in some way. They aren’t lying to him to intentionally hurt him but they have a secret that they want to keep.
As for Han Suk Kyu, he is terrifying… in a good way. He’s such an authoritative figure that I can’t blame Lee Je Hoon for cowering a bit beneath him. If I were Lee Je Hoon, I don’t think I would even need to pretend in some of their scenes together. In his own way, I guess he does care for his son but he certainly doesn’t believe that Lee Sun is ready to rule. He’s knows the vultures are out there waiting to snatch him up. However, this week was the first time in the drama where we saw Yeong Jo showing a little kindness as he imparted some wisdom about ruling over the kingdom.
We know that Yeong Jo had been threatened to sign the secret document which would implicate his legitimacy to the throne but I also think this week was the first time we saw the other side of Yeong Jo.
When Yeong Jo was a mere prince, we could see how he’s not so confident in front of the other officials. His only ally seemed to be Park Moon Soo (Lee Won Jong). Yeong Jo wanted to create a fair and bipartisan government. It’s tall order to fill because even in present day we seem to have trouble with that. It’s clear that even though Yeong Jo doesn’t show that side to his son, he and Lee Sun are very similar.
In other scenes, Yeong Jo comes off quite mad. I love how even the cinematography follows suit by lighting Han Suk Kyu from underneath.
While he may have originally debuted as a musician, Kim Chang Wan is also an incredibly talented actor. In the role of Noron’s Kim Taek, he is depicted as the drama’s villain but instead of being the type to go off the rails, he’s eerily calm. With a condescending smile or even a slight tilt of the head, he’s so effective in commanding the scene. He’s the guy that has the king right under his thumb and he certainly knows how to hold it over the king.
Now that Lee Sun might have the key to unlock the puzzle left by the deceased Heo Jung Woon (Choi Jae Hwan), we shall see how his father will work to stop him. It’s interesting because it’s not that Yeong Jo doesn’t want to improve his current situation but it’s a Pandora’s Box. Once people gets wind of the conspiracy, Yeong Jo’s legacy will be threatened.