Won (played by Im Si-wan) and Lin (played by Hong Jong-hyun) are brothers. Won is small, impulsive, and reckless. Lin is patient, thoughtful, and tall. For most of the first episode we get into a fairly complicated and beautifully choreographed backstory about how Won and Lin were witness to the tribulations of Eun-san (played by Yoona), a girl who was on the wrong end of a bunch of assassins.
To be honest I wasn’t totally that enamored with the first episode of “The King Loves” because while it looked cool, almost all of the action was being initiated by characters who lacked screen presence. The main important establishing storytelling it does is by showing off all those kickin’ rad Goryeo era costumes. As is usually the case for Goryeo dramas, all of the characters, even the women, are unusually aggressive, so no poking around with obscure court procedures here.
Which incidentally is why I liked the second episode of “The King Loves” quite a bit more than the first. Instead of being a generally passive victim, Eun-san instead takes the lead as the best Goryeo lacrosse player around. Straightaway we get great combative chemistry between her and Won, and even the game itself is a good metaphor for the physical conflict we’ve already seen. Technically it can be played in a way that is not violent, but Won and Eun-san make it violent just as a force of habit.
I also like how all three of the main characters, even Lin, are basically stupid teenagers who can barely be trusted to be alone by themselves for a few minutes without inspiring some sort of preposterous calamity. The entire incident at the bridge was hilarious as it was character-building and scary, because even knowing the dangers ahead of time, Woo and Eun-san just can’t bring themselves to stop engaging in petty fights long enough to achieve the simplest goals.
If nothing else I’m optimistic about “The King Loves” just for the novelty value. I can’t quite recall the last time I saw a historical drama, or any drama really, where the lead heroine was this proactive and willing to get her hands dirty. There’s also effective balance in showing how, even if the main characters aren’t all that smart just yet, the adults are, which implies that there is room for improvement when it comes to story arcs. That, or tragic misunderstanding brought on by political crisis. Either one works for me.
Review by William Schwartz
“The King Loves” is directed by Kim Sang-hyeob, written by Airborne, Song Ji-na and features Im Si-wan, Yoona, Hong Jong-hyun, Kim Jung-wook, Bang Jae-ho and Ki Do-hun.
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