I would have given this convoluted drama a lower rating if not for Im Si-wan who carried the whole story on his shoulders. He is such a great actor and gave a nuanced performance as Wang Won. Si-wan is the only reason to watch this drama, full stop.
A small praise should also go Im Yoona’s way. I thought she did well as Eun San, though her acting isn’t there yet. The rest of the main characters are a big let-down.
Wang Rin, the second lead, is just godawfully boring. He’s supposed to be this complex, clever and loyal man who falls for the girl with whom his best friend and prince is also in love. However, Hong Jhong Hyun just couldn’t give the portrayal needed for Wang Rin to be effective, convincing and ultimately likeable. Hong’s acting is plain and simple distractingly bad, I wonder whether the person responsible for casting him was drunk when they settled for this actor. Someone else would have done a better job as Rin, including any of the dozen or so actors who played the prince’s guards.
There are so many sub-plots and characters that didn’t live up to expectations too. For example, what happened to this morsel of an idea that one of the guards was in love with the Crown Princess, or that the assassin had a thing for the housemaid who stood in for Eun San? It’s as if the writer didn’t know what to do with them and there are a few of these ideas that just got waylaid, and they could’ve made the show more enjoyable.
Apart from Im Si-Wan’s Crown Prince, the only other thing I enjoyed about the drama was the queen mother. These two characters seem to be the only ones that are well developed, as whilst both have the capacity to love with all their hearts, each is still a flawed character who’s insecure about losing their power to enemies. In a way, they are outsiders even in their own court. And with all the powers accorded to their status, they will stop at nothing to protect it or seek revenge against those who wrong them and the ones they love. Spoiler: Won draws blood himself.
I’m still on the fence about Won choosing Rin’s sister as his Crown Princess and marrying her only to set her aside to pursue Eun San. Maybe that’s how they rolled back in the day, when marriages more often than not were simply strategic alliances.
The worst are the last few minutes when you thought it couldn’t get more awful, it still leaves you with a sucker punch to the gut.