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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" Episode 15

2016/10/11 | Permalink

Now that he's become King Jengjong, the royalist formerly known as Prince Yo immediately makes a point of taking out all potential threats to his rule. Which in all fairness sounds pretty reasonable. Consider that the last two kings fell victim to assassination attempts largely because they weren't paying careful attention to immediate domestic threats. Granted that threat was Prince Yo himself, but even so, he's clearly not a very popular guy right now.

"Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" feels a tad slanderous, in this way, to the first three kings of Goryeo. The first two came off as incompetent, and now the third one is explicitly evil. Yet in spite of this, all three have somehow managed to maintain the loyalty of the military. Well, except the third one kind of because Soo-kyeong was never a fan of Prince Yo. But even though he's the only general we've ever seen Soo-kyeong is apparently in a minority position when it comes to the new boss.

Although Soo-kyeong's real relevance in the plot is through Soon-deok, whose romance with Prince Eun finally comes to fruition. It should be noted that at this point Soon-deok and Prince Eun have been married somewhere between two and four years (it's unclear because the procession of time is so vague), so that they have not had any conversation like this to date is, well, rather silly. Their scenes do at least manage to be cute though.

All the same, so much of "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" is so unavoidably silly it's hard to take anything that happens in the story very seriously. Which is a shame because Soo has finally landed an essential role in the royal intrigues, taking an active part in information gathering, planning, and hopefully, actual execution of whatever the final objective ends up being. Even if Soo is not necessarily competent or logical in these actions, the fact that she's trying goes a long way.

It's probably not going to be enough though. One of the major existential problems with "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" is that Goryeo itself as a concept is not especially well-defined. It's difficult to get invested in the royal intrigues when anyone who ever gets anywhere near the throne is either moderately stupid or explicitly evil. Way back during the whole rain ritual, there was decent discussion of the role a monarch must play for his subjects. But now? It just doesn't seem to matter.

Review by William Schwartz

"Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" is directed by Kim Kyoo-tae, written by Jo Yoon-yeong and features Lee Joon-gi, IU, Kang Ha-neul, Hong Jong-hyun, Nam Joo-hyuk, Baekhyun and Ji Soo.

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