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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" Episode 16


The last we saw of Prince Eun and Soon-deok they were in a no-win certain-to-die situation. This has not improved as Soo's prophecy predictably comes to pass, and for the rest of the runtime everyone just mopes around about this all upset. While I liked Prince Eun and Soon-deok well enough, it's a little off-putting how in death they are apparently far more important as characters than they ever were in life. I'm still a little lost as to how they ended up becoming the lynchpin to Prince Yo's final ascension to power as King Jeongjong.

For that matter, there's shockingly little foreshadowing of how King Jeongjong loses power. He quite literally just steals Prince So's motivation. Which is logical, to a fair extent, given how both men share the same mother. Even so it's a bit grating how Prince So's path to the throne comes, not because of anything the man himself does, but rather because the situational politics always align in such a way that nobody hates Prince So even though he's the guy that ends up doing all the dirty work.

"Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" has just constantly had this generally baffling quality, though. We're always hitting these big climaxes with very little exposition explaining how the characters managed to get to this point. Another timeskip once again shows that Soo is...still working in the palace, once again somewhat more mature than we saw after the last timeskip. Yet still she lacks obvious motivation.

It's especially perplexing how Soo's being a time traveler never has any apparent influence on the story. That was what really stuck out to me in the whole "happy times" montages of her relationship with Prince Eun. Before Soo at least had a personality that was out of place in Goryeo. Now she's just a normal courtly person who for some reason is involved in a romantic intrigue with Prince So.

Folly though it may be to hope for a serious change in style at this point, here's what I'd really like to see in "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo"- less reaction and more action. One character apparently became this big badass military general over the timeskip. That sounds much, much more interesting than the story we get here that's just rehashing stuff we already know with no apparent variation. "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" insists, for reasons I can't fathom, on having most of the potentially interesting scenes happen off-camera.

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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