Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo Episodes 1-9

I believe that back in the day, one of the first Chinese dramas I covered (never finished, but still…) was Bu Bu Jing Xin (aka Scarlet Heart aka Startling By Each Step). I had actually started watching and covering Gong first which was another time travel drama taking place in the same era, but switched to BBJX – it was a lot better even though I do still like Gong. The drama was based on an online novel by Tong Hua. The story revolves around a modern woman who has her consciousness thrown back through time into a young girl’s body due to an unfortunate accident. Our leading lady Ruo Xi was aware of the history of the era and wanted to avoid what she knew was coming and return back to the present. Of course that didn’t happen and she remained in the past until she died and then returned to the present era. While living as Ruo Xi, she became entangled in the lives of Emperor Kang Xi’s sons. Love, betrayal…it’s all there, and this drama actually made me cry. I don’t cry…usually.

I guess it must have been popular enough for South Korea, 4-5 years later, to do it’s own version. Of course, you cannot compare the history part of the plots since one is taking place in China and the other in Korea. But since the Korean drama is taking a creative license to history, you get the overall same setup that was seen in the Chinese version.

Scarlet Heart RyeoI am watching this drama and mostly enjoying it. Yes, there is some “bad” acting, but at the same time when it comes to comedy, is it really bad acting or the overall overacting typically seen in comedies or comedic roles? EXO’s Baekhyun’s acting really does showcase 10th prince Wang Eun’s immaturity, so can you really complain? He did show some better acting effort with the past two episodes since Eun is forced to marry a general’s daughter against his will. There is room for improvement, and he can still learn. IU has received criticism for her acting. It’s neither very good nor very bad. Mostly average and decent enough to not make you cringe or turn off the TV.

The drama also stars Lee Joon Gi as 4th Prince Wang So, Kang Ha Neul as 8th Prince Wang Wook, Hong Jong Hyun as 3rd Prince Wang Yo, Nam Joo Hyuk as 13th Prince Baek-A, Ji Soo as 14th prince Wang Jung, Yoon Sun Woo as 9th Prince Wang Won, Kang Han Na as Hwangbo Yeon Hwa, Jin Ki Joo as Chae Ryung, SNSD’s Seohyun as Woo Hee, Z.Hera as Park Soon Duk, Kim San Ho as Crown Prince Wang Moo, Kim Sung Kyun as Choi Ji Mong, Jo Min Gi as King Wang Gun, Park Ji Young as Queen Yoo, Jung Kyung Soon as Queen Hwangbo, Woo Hee Jin as Court Lady Oh, Park Shi Eun, as Hae Myung Hee, Park Jung Hak as Wang Sik Ryum, Sung Dong Il as Park Soo Kyung, and Choi Byung Mo as Park Young Gyoo.

IU’s character nearly drowns while saving a young boy. When she wakes up, she has been transported back to Goryeo as Hae Soo, the younger cousin of 8th Prince’s wife Hae Myung Hee. She falls for the serious 8th Prince Wang Wook even though she tells herself she shouldn’t (it’s betraying Myung Hee, plus she doesn’t belong to that era). Of course, this drama wouldn’t be what it is without Hae Soo getting involved with all the princes. Eun develops a crush on her after she scolds and beats him, Jung adopts her as his sister when she rushes into danger to save him, Baek-A takes a shine to her after Myung Hee dies and Hae Soo shares some rather progressive thoughts with him, and Wang So takes a liking to her when she treats him like a real person and not a monster. I don’t have a problem with Soo getting mired into the royal family. My biggest problem is that there really isn’t enough time devoted to relationship development, so it doesn’t seem as believable how close she gets to certain brothers and various plot points in general don’t get enough development and explanation. This could be due to the fact this drama will only be 21 episodes, whereas the Chinese had 36, thus more time to develop certain things.

I must admit that I do like Hae Soo’s illiteracy, just because it rings true. She doesn’t get blasted in the past and all of a sudden know how to read the Chinese characters used in Goryeo. Since she only knows modern Hangeul, she is in a bind not being able to read the medicinal books and Wook’s love letter poem. And it’s interesting that she knows relatively little about history. She has an overall idea of the history. She knows a bit about the current King and recalls one of his sons becomes Gwangjong who kills his family and followers, but that’s it. She tries to make things work, but her modern ways always leak out.

The character of Soo can be dense, i.e. about So’s true feelings and Lady Oh’s ailment, but I had no real qualms with the character until episode 9. At the end of episode 8, Hae Soo figures out that So is destined to become the King and murder his family and followers. Once she recalls this bit of history, she’s immediately terrified and finally shows the fear that everyone else originally shows So (he’s known as the wolf-dog, by the way). Of course, when she goes to astrologer Ji Mong he tells her to not interfere (and she learns that he could be from the future, too and transported by a near death experience), but she is bound and determined to change fate (even Lady Oh said that isn’t possible since she couldn’t stop the man she loved from seeking the throne). One more nightmare and Soo is throwing that idea out the window without even trying. Seriously. Annoying. So approaches and she immediately starts belittling him and trying to get him out of the palace. After the horrible family meal So had just had (Queen Yoo and Yo try to do a warm family gathering to get So to kill Moo for Yo’s sake), shakes head. It was way too extreme and you could feel So’s pain and disbelief. Soo is an idiot. I wanted to slap some sense into her in that scene. It just made me very angry since it was such an extreme. She never showed fear, but usually just concern and curiosity. Plus, given So’s actions (while he has some crazy killer moments he’s mostly a cute little boy), there really was no reason to get like that – she literally had a panic attack over the knowledge Prince So is to become King Gwangjong. I just couldn’t put stock in that adverse reaction.

Previews show Wook getting all jealous and vengeful. Meh. Although, it was Ruo Xi’s warning that had some significance in the Chinese drama with 8th Prince and 4th Prince and in the Korean drama, Soo warns Wook about So more than once saying history can’t be changed. Of course, jealousy is going to make its way in between Wook and So over their love of Hae Soo. The Chinese drama has Ruo Xi try to change fate by getting 8th Prince to give up on the throne. When he doesn’t comply, she breaks their relationship. She later ends up falling for 4th Prince against all better judgement and I don’t think she ever tried to change his fate like she did 8th’s (probably because she knew it was impossible). In the Korean version, it doesn’t feel like Wook has any desire for the thrown (at least in the beginning and he tells his sister he’s looking for the place where he actually belongs) while in the Chinese drama, 8th Prince was always quietly working (as was 4th) with that ultimate goal in mind.

I absolutely hate Yeon Hwa. She’s just that vicious other woman who has nefarious schemes of her own. She wants power. Just like Yo wants power and Queen Yoo wants power. And…Yeon Hwa isn’t above marrying a brother to do it. I’ll never get over that royalty did do a lot of intermarrying (hence why so many royal bloodlines started developing genetic problems to boot, too narrow a gene pool). I don’t really get how she’s treated more as Wook’s sister (they’re full siblings with the same mother) than as the half sister of the other princes. She seems to like So who seemed to like her at the very beginning, but Soo’s ways turned his head, much to her dislike. Oh…I think she and Yo deserve each other. Yo is a poisonous man raised by the viper that is Queen Yoo. It’s amazing that 14th Jung is as innocent as he is given his family.

It’s interesting to note that in BBJX and Gong, 9th Prince had a temper (and was a scheming devil in BBJX) while Won is just a wishy washy prince in the Korean version who goes with the flow…and usually that means Yo. 10th and 14th princes are very innocent (10th was always very innocent in Chinese dramas while 14th had more depth). 13th Prince is a more colorful character with a bit more depth and his own love line developing. Of course it will be forbidden (a fallen princess), but nothing like the Chinese version where he falls for a woman of a lower class who was just an awesome woman in general. In this drama, So has a scar given to him on his mother. They culture is purported as one where having a scar automatically makes you a lesser person – even if you’re a prince. Thus Wook and So get very angry when Soo intentionally scars her arm to stop her marriage to the King. Oh…plus slitting her wrist could have killed her, so it wasn’t just all about creating a scar on her body. This, and being sent as a hostage to a family that belittled and beat him, give So a twisted personality with a hidden little boy side that can be so adorable.

Even though I am comparing the Chinese and Korean dramas, there is enough of a difference between them. Sure, there are times I go that’s not how it’s supposed to happen, but things need to be changed for culture, history, etc., so it’s not off putting. It’s definitely worth the watch even though there’s some weak acting at times, weak plot points, and more than likely a hugely depressing ending coming (they can’t change the awful ending, can they?). I can’t help but wish that IU’s Hae Soo was a bit more like Liu Shi Shi’s Ruo Xi, but oh well. Can’t have it all.

One comment

  • Bu Bu Jin Xin was the first mostly real (as in not comedy or wuxia) historical c-drama that I ever watched. It is a much deeper, day by day kind of story but I don’t think the K-drama version is all that bad either. It’s just – rushed – as you said. I like the nods to the original story – looks like Villainous 10th Prince in merely Toady 10th Prince in this show but he still has a little feeling for Hae Soo’s servant as in the original. 14th Prince has already promised to save Hae Soo’s life – as he does in the original. And 8th Prince has already turned from finding a peaceful future by himself to pushing for the throne because of what Hae Soo says to him (beware the 4th Prince) as in the original.

    The biggest change (which is probably its biggest blessing) is the very emotional acting of Lee Joon Ki. The first 4th Prince was cool and hidden – this prince is broken and emotionally bleeding behind his mask. He’s committed to Hae So now and all those horrible violent visions of the future – to me, those happen when Hae Soo is no longer there to rein him in. Although the original Ruoxi was a very strong character, IU’s acting doesn’t really matter in this version because Hae Soo is merely a reflection of the time and the princes. They all see her in different ways according to their personalities. I’m thinking 4th Prince will be putting her up on a pedestal and when she dies/leaves – he will fall apart.

    Keep updating your readers – I want to hear more of your opinions! Maybe, someday, about Goong . . . ?

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