Final Review What The King Loves Did Right And Where It Missed The Mark

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Final Review: What The King Loves Did Right And Where It Missed The Mark
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Final Review: What The King Loves Did Right And Where It Missed The Mark

Weve reached the end of historical drama The King Loves, and its been quite a ride. The drama started out lighthearted and fun, and while it maintained notes of this until the very end, it also left me with a whole lot of bitter feelings ranging from dissatisfied to completely devastated. But along with this frustration, there was also a lot to love about The King Loves, so lets review.

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The backbone of the drama is the friendship between Crown Prince Won (Im Siwan) and Wang Rin (Hong Jong Hyun); this relationship is undoubtedly the best part of The King Loves. Won and Rin are often in bromance mode, playing off each other in delightfully adorable ways. But their friendship is also uniquely intense: Rin is the only person in the world that Won can rely on, and he treats the crown prince with unwavering loyalty and devotion.

[HanCinema's Drama Review]
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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episode 39-40 Final

Right up until the last minute, "The King Loves" is as contrived as ever. Because of course Prince Won and Prince Lin are the only two guys who can show up to stop Song-in from finishing her off. Of course one of themgets wounded on the way, forcing the other to confront Song-in on his own. The way they're acting one would think that Song-in was a trained assassin, not a random dignitary whose entire empire collapsed overnight because the queen made an unexpected visit to the king's personal chambers.

[HanCinema's Drama Review]
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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 1-2

Won (played by Im Si-wan) and Lin (played by Hong Jong-hyun) are brothers. Won is small, impulsive, and reckless. Lin is patient, thoughtful, and tall. For most of the first episode we get into a fairly complicated and beautifully choreographed backstory about how Won and Lin were witness to the tribulations of Eun-san (played by Yoona), a girl who was on the wrong end of a bunch of assassins.

To be honest I wasn't totally that enamored with the first episode of "The King Loves" because while it looked cool, almost all of the action was being initiated by characters who lacked screen presence. The main important establishing storytelling it does is by showing off all those kickin' rad Goryeo era costumes. As is usually the case for Goryeo dramas, all of the characters, even the women, are unusually aggressive, so no poking around with obscure court procedures here.

[HanCinema's Drama Review]
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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 3-4

The editing in "The King Loves" is very quickly starting to confuse me. Here I was thinking that we were just going to watch the three main leads deal with the whole bridge situation chronologically then for some bizarre reason the production team keeps jerking us around between events from before the bridge incident and after the bridge incident and other far away stuff that has nothing to do with the bridge incident and it's just, getting really hard to keep the story straight.

This is where I can see that "The King Loves" is clearly adapting itself from a novel, where introducing a large number of characters in an exceedingly complex plot can be done fairly economically. But the sheer level of exposition going on is the kind where I really kind of need a chart in front of me just to keep track of each character's known motivation. Which is harder than it sounds, since a lot of this motivation is for now being kept fairly intentionally vague.

[HanCinema's Drama Review]
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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 5-6

So it's not just my imagination- the opening crawl explaining the background of "The King Loves", with the threat of Mongol invasion, coupled with the increasingly aggressive character descriptions, make it pretty clear that even the production team has realized the content of this drama is incredibly dense. Unfortunately background alone doesn't really help explain motivation. That much is a pretty strong stickler, considering the bizarre series of events that closes out episode six.

I mean, don't get me wrong. That particular cliffhanger is well built up to. We're shown all of the relevant foreshadowing ahead of time. The main part that's missing is who contrived the situation that required Lin to use such a painstakingly specific skill in order to "solve" it. And more importantly why. While "The King Loves" may be great at looking dramatic, its urgency is hobbled by how every character action just begs more increrasingly complicated questions.