*There are 2 versions of the drama, read the FAQ thread for more info*
When a total eclipse of the sun takes place, a 21st century woman, Go Ha Jin, is transported back in time to the Goryeo Dynasty of Korea. She wakes up in the body of 16-year-old Hae Soo, an aristocrat living with Lady Hae, her cousin who happens to be married to one of the sons of King Taejo.She soon befriends several of the princes, who find her carefree and exuberant attitude refreshing. Although she knows she should not get involved in palace intrigues over the succession to the throne, she inadvertently becomes a pawn in the struggle, as several of the Princes fall in love with her. ~~ Based on Chinese novel “Bu Bu Jing Xin” by Tong Hua.
Watch Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo Episodes Online
Cast & Credits
So yes, saying that I was excited for Moon Lovers was putting it very mildly. I was exhilarated. Ecstatic. A lot more words with an E. And they made us wait even longer by making it a pre-produced drama and waiting a whole year before it actually came out.
But the best part? It didn't disappoint one bit. I mean, after such high expectations, it is only natural to feel a little let-down just because of all the hype you've been experiencing. But Moon Lovers actually ended up surpassing all my expectations. The drama was perfect from the beginning till the end.
Coming to the plot, it was extremely well-paced. I mean, for dramas it is rare to find such consistently well-paced dramas. Sometimes the beginning is not that good and sometimes the plot dies down after ep 12-16. But here, you never feel like there is too much or too little. It is really hard to skip anything. You just don't want to. Another important fact is that because an older version is already out there, viewers are prepared for a possibly sad/tragic ending. Even if you come without knowing anything about the parent story, the vibe of the show itself whispers the possibility of an un-fairytale-like outcome. There is an intense and gloomy feeling in the show.
The characters are the strength of the drama. I mean, can we talk about the fourth Prince? He is going down in history as one of my favorite characters ever. Firstly, he is so sexy. I mean, you simply can't get enough of him. I have never really been into Lee Jun Ki before but after this, I plan to check out all his dramas. I have seen a couple of his shows but I never realized he was THIS good. The character of Wang So is so complex and so hard to deliver. And yet, Lee Jun Ki plays him so effortlessly, becoming one with the character. What is even more surprising is that he is such a cutie in real life (lol). I really don't know anyone more perfect for this role. I mean, Kang Ha Neul's character turned to the dark side too but it was nothing compared to Wang So. Wang So was simply..addictive!
Coming for Hae Soo. IU faced a lot of flack for her poor acting skills but I felt she was good in her role. I mean, she wasn't as good as Jun Ki or Ha Neul but she did really well. You could feel her transformation from a 21st century person to Goryeo lady to a woman with a lot of scarring experiences. In her previous works she has only done cutesy roles. I really enjoyed her work in this, she showed her versatility as a serious actor. The 13th Prince. He was gentle and kind and the most perfect friend. I loved his chemistry with Woo Hee. It was surprisingly great!
Wang Eun was a big baby but he was a sweetheart too. I wouldn't say Baek Hyun is a good actor but he was given an easy role and it was handled well. Ji Soo was a delight to watch! So far I have loved him in all his roles (I think I have watched everything he has starred in). The rest of the cast was really good too. My favorite among supporting characters was General Park. His acting was so on-point even though he only starred for a few episodes. I liked his daughter too. Ji Mong was a delight to watch. And court lady Oh Sang Goong, I loved her! I can really go on and on about the characters - the good ones and the bad ones, all did well. The acting was so good here, I just couldn't get enough of it. I cried with them and laughed with them.
The music. OH MAN, the music. I love each and every song. This hasn't happened to me since Dream High (I think). I really can't pick a song that I like more than the other.
I am definitely DEFINITELY rewatching this. I know for sure.
The biggest tragedy that comes out of this drama is that the Korean audience could not fully appreciate the perfection that this drama was. The ratings were so low there. Thankfully, it did well everywhere else and made up for it.
I'm having trouble coming up with things for this one. I think very often it's easy to overlook a drama's strong points because its flaws are so obvious. It is especially so for Moon Lovers. And so I'll acknowledge that this review perhaps isn't really that great of a reflection of the quality of the drama.
Firstly, I think the drama did a pretty good job in executing several parts of the story, particularly when the supporting characters die. I think that's partly due to the actors' portrayals, and partly because the writer seemed to have gotten his grip on at the right moments. It would have been great if the writing was more consistent throughout the drama. If the drama managed to relay such poignant emotions more frequently I wouldn't have felt as detached from the story. In any case, I think those scenes were possibly the most awesome scenes in the drama.
Next, Lee Jun-ki. I'm certainly biased, but I think he delivered his character well, especially during the more emotional scenes. I can't elaborate more since I don't want to spoil the story. I also appreciated his cleaned-up look after he became emperor. It was about a thousand times better than that side-swept fringe hairstyle. I'm not that fond of his acting as a "blood-thirsty" emperor however. I like how his expressions changed, but imo he overacted a little when trying to portray Wang So's darker side. I also think Hong Jong-hyun was pretty good in his role as well. All in all, I don't think the acting was deserving of all the criticisms it was subjected to. I won't deny that there are some jarring scenes here and there because of "not-so-great" acting, but on the whole it was pretty watchable as far as I'm concerned and the actors did improve.
Lastly, the romance. I don't think the chemistry was great. However, there were certain scenes which were really cute. I'm personally not a huge fan of lovelines actually, but people who like to watch romance scenes will like it. It's a pity that a couple of scenes were cut from the international version, and you have to scour the Internet to look for the SBS version.
I think they got the OST choices very, very wrong. I'm personally not a fan of rap songs, and I don't think rap songs have a place in a historical drama anyway. The music was really annoying in some of the scenes because of this. Also, the fact that there were English lyrics in a couple of others as well. However, I did give a high score to the music because:
1. The "dadada" song was really catchy, despite the fact that it's not very suitable for the drama.
2. I also liked My Love by Lee Hi and Wind by Jung Seung-hwan.
3. Im Sun-hye's Will Be Back was really really really good. Not something I'll listen to in my spare time, but I felt it added value to the drama.
And seeing how they phased out the more unsuitable songs towards the end, I'm alright with giving them a higher score.
Many people have also complained about the directing. I have to say, I was actually overwhelmed by it at the start. I loved the shot with Wang So riding away from the eclipse. It was beautiful. Till I realised that that's perhaps the only redeeming scene. A lot of close-ups were wholly unnecessary. I don't mind that the director likes to take close-up shots, but I think it should be done in moderation, and only when it's contributing to the drama. The poor directing and editing knocked a lot of points off this drama.
Also, this may seem like a minor point, but despite it being a high budget production they didn't invest a lot in calefares. I understand that they wanted to put focus on the main characters, but does it make sense that no one is on the streets when Wang So and Hae Soo snuck out? I thought a festival was supposed to be ongoing but there wasn't even a soul on the streets. It just seemed too "cold" because there were only the two of them.
The writing really let the drama down. I was actually looking forward to more political intrigues, a stronger heroine, better character development in general, and more cohesiveness.
I don't know what the writer was thinking of when he/she first starting conceptualising the characters. They had to dig into Kdrama tropes and hand Wang So a parent issue right at the start. Was that necessary? Was it necessary to give him a scar too? I think the writer was trying very hard to plant conflicts, but it didn't work to plan. And because of the scar, they made the female lead a cosmetics saleswoman. Not very useful in the ancient times. In fact (minor spoiler), it's was awkwardly hilarious that at the end they spoke about how Goryeo was very advanced in terms of cosmetics and tea culture. Riiiiiiight. Furthermore, Hae Soo wasn't the female lead I expected as well. I wanted a stronger, smarter, more independent female lead. Plus the fact that all the princes were crazy for love made them seem like really superficial characters. Personally, if your only motivation to fight for the throne is love, I absolutely will not love you. That's just too lame a reason.
Characters aside, I also have qualms about how they choose to leave out certain scenes. A lot of scenes were left to the viewers' imaginations, and that made the show really incoherent. At the very least they should have added in some of the more important scenes. How Wang So got the throne and all was pretty poorly thought out. The time skips weren't handled well as well (though the same can be said of the Chinese version). They were just there to advance the story so that the next scene can be played out, but the characters didn't really grow or change. Side plots such as the Baek-ah and Woo-hee story line was also choppy and they were given what I'd consider a slipshod ending that didn't make much sense.
The drama is just disappointing. I expected a lot from it, but I don't think the fact that it was a pre-production did anything for it, nor the fact that it was a high-budget production because that totally didn't show. I think it may be worth a look if you like any of the actors, but that's about it.