It's the end for King Jeongjong, as the former Prince Yo melts down over...his mom I guess? I'm really not being sarcastic when I discuss how the elder brother has just straight up stolen his younger brother's character arc. It's kind of hard to feel sorry for King Jeongjong, though, when up until now he's just done explicitly evil stuff in pursuit of the throne and it's only now all of a sudden that the guy's starting to question why this was such a big priority.
I have a similar difficult time understanding Empress Yoon's character. Her hatred of Prince So at this point simply doesn't make any sense. Empress Yoon doesn't even make any kind of apparent effort to negotiate for actual political powers, the woman just decides that she hates her son and that's all the motivation she needs. How can we be so far along in this drama with so little idea of what the characters' actual goals are?
Even Soo falls in to this trap. Her relevance here has nothing to do with anything Soo has done up to this point, but rather simply her being well-positioned near King Jeongjong for the sake of listening to his crazy rants. Soo's scenes could be replaced by any random courtly lady and they would make about as much sense. Prince So's undying love to Soo comes off as inexplicable. The montages involving the newly crowned King Gwangjong are just plain silly.
Meanwhile, poor Prince Wook had his own special role in the royal intrigues and then the whole succession crisis happens without him. Faint praise though this may be, I suppose this succession crisis does make slightly more logical sense than the last one, since Prince So was at least in good standing with the previous King. Although I still can't make any sense of people showing up at the palace in full military dress and claiming there was a peaceful transition.
There are so many basic logical problems in "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo", though, that I could just go on and on about them indefinitely while always coming back to the same point. "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" is not a good drama. It's weirdly rushed. Everything just happens too fast. And yet at the same time it feels like we're only just now getting to what seems like it should be the most important part- how Prince So will rule as King Gwangjong with Soo's influence.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo" Episode 17"
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