Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo Review

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Nov 1, 2016
  • Overall 7.0
  • Story 5.5
  • Acting/Cast 7.0
  • Music 8.5
  • Rewatch Value 5.0

The Good:

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.

The Bad:

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 Ugly:

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.

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Comments (9)

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  • Reply
    QAS Nov 30, 2016 - edited

    Hi, anopinion! I loved reading your very eloquent, well-written and well-constructed review. Every sentiment or criticism that you expressed, was the very same conclusion that I came to, over the span of the drama. I think that the writer fabricated a superficial, diluted story to fill the time slot and length of the drama, and no one really took the time to critique the scripts, ahead of the preproduction phase. A fantasy historical drama really means a modern historical drama, which is nonsensical. The casting director and the costume designer did a very good job, but the director, writer and editor were in the "Cloud". Every time that the actor was six inches away from the camera lens and staring at, or speaking to the camera, I felt that he or she was in my living room again.

  • Reply
    Daniel Hobba Nov 24, 2016 - edited

    I agree to some extent. But tbh I really really enjoyed it from episode 1 to 13. The last 7 episodes were extremely disappointing. But still I'd say first 13 episodes are really amazing.

    Talking of IU she was pathetic in the first 10-12 episodes but after that she played her role really well.

    • Reply
      Otps4Life Jan 8, 2017

      I.U was not pathetic it was her character Hae Soo,huge difference-__- And I don't think she was pathetic at all.....Shit I don't even know how she lasted so long in Goryeo!!!! How would you feel if all of sudden out of no where you got this flashes,of a man you care deeply for,who turned dark and killed his brother's-.- Shit I would have probably ran far away from him xD......This is coming from a die hard SooSo fan.....I agree she did play her role extremely well,but she most certainly wasn't pathetic tho

    • Reply
      Eunha Mar 22, 2017

      I agree it started out great but then got annoying. I hated the noble idiot syndrome and time lapse . This would have been perfect if they had just 16 episodes instead of diluting the story.
      I was actually surprised that IU played the role well, I think the real problem is that the writer didn't take her character to full potential since after all she was from the future.

  • Reply
    Raincat Nov 11, 2016 - edited

    I m ok with opinion part, it is personal stuff but....

    - in history Wang So had family issues
    - he really had scar
    - and Goreyo was kinda advanced with cosmetics ( arheological finds, old scripts) and yes, men too in this era used make up.

    So it wasn't writers mistakes. Writing is very clever and smart, contains a lot real historical details.
    And HOW Wang So got throne was shown, maybe you skiped thous scenes.

    Time skips were handled well, audience doesnt need to watch hours of boring everyday life were nothing important to storyline happens, bc of this plot wasnt dragged and pace was good. Change in characters was shown in both - outside and inside....and this isnt opinion but what happened, there was changes in looks and attitude, in any way you got that people are now older and time has moved on.

    In drama there was a lot political intrigues but thous were so well written inside main storyline that audience sometimes even didnt notice that this is actually politics.
    But yes in general politics wasnt driving factor but characters - they made politics not vice versa.

    In summary i dont agree with you that writing was poor - original novel is very famous and added parts of Korean history were well melted in or vice versa if to be honest - novel part was well mixed into Korean history.

    For this review: 5/10
    It has some analyze and opinions but has some parts that might mislead people who havent seen drama. Still better than some reviews here

    • Reply
      martyfairy Dec 13, 2016

      Where did you read that the real Wang So had a scar?! I'm curious D:

    • Reply
      anopinion Dec 25, 2016

      In history, Gwangjong (Wang So) didn't have family issues. He is described in Goryeosa as being intellectually gifted from young and hence was much doted on by his father. There is also no historical evidence that he had a scar on his face. Indeed, there are records of cosmetics being used in the Goryeo era, but they were by no means "advanced". If you watch the ending of Moon Lovers, they showed facial masks in the Goryeo exhibition. That's just absolute bullshit.

      A short comment on the "political intrigues". They were very poorly contrived that I don't think they can be consider political intrigues. But it's not a strong suit of Kdramas anyway so I'm not complaining.

      I honestly don't expect my review to be well-received. I accept that there are differing opinions especially because a lot of people here are fans, but I think it's a stretch to think that the writing is good.

    • Reply
      Eunha Mar 22, 2017 - edited

      I think somewhere along the line they decided to just stretch the show under the disguise that they are adding "twists"and making an "intricate" plot.
      Don't get me wrong I did enjoy watching it and joon gi was amazing, and I was pleasantly surprised by IU. the problem was halfway in I lost interest, I wanted to see the princes and everyone but I just couldn't focus on the story. I watched a Chinese drama called princess wei young and I think what they did right was focus on the right scenes (like investigations and evidence)and not delve too much into side characters if you can't do it properly.

      And I wanted to say Raincat and Anopinion that it was interesting reading your critiques.

  • Reply
    cordobatango Nov 11, 2016

    Sorry I cannot agree with your criticism. To be honest, more than watching a drama to find its flaws or inconsistencies I value a drama that can move me, keep me hooked to the very end without giving up half way and, leave me with a good feeling of being satisfied with the result. From that perspective, I love this drama. If I do not give it a 10 is because I expect they will make a second part to continue the history.


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