You're Beautiful meets Boys Over Flowers in 1790 Joseon. My review could very well end here, and you'd get the gist. Nevertheless, a simple comparison would be unfair towards this drama and decisively too flattering towards the other two. There are at least 3 reasons to prefer Sungkyunkwan Scandal (after 4 years I've finally learnt to write this title) to other gender/bender, flowery boys scenarios: 1. The female heroine is intelligent! How refreshing. Not only she has a well working brain, but she doesn't let anyone trample all over her. Her goal in life is more edifying than simply get the guy. In this sense, SKK is way more modern than many K-dramas set in today Asia. 2. Directly related to the above, the flower boys are actually nice people! They overcome prejudice, value friendship and don't go around grabbing the girl's wrist at every turn. 3. Everyone is MUCH better dressed. I'd say colours and costumes are a huge part of this drama's charm. This said, the drama is not flawless. I believe its main weakness lies in the way conflicts are resolved. While highly interesting and thought-provoking issues are raised - gender equality, homosexuality, eastern vs. western philosophy (Confucius vs. Socrates), the power of knowledge and others, they aren't in any way resolved and at times are very superficially concluded. Mind you, not that a tv-show could ever give us the answers to such essential questions, but even in the enclosed world of the narration some plot threads should have had a conclusion but didn't. We are left to wonder when and how the packet has been so prettily wrapped. Also, the pace is uneven. The drama is somehow divided in groups of episodes, each developing and in a way closing: the entrance, the tournament, the scandal, the treasure hunt etc. The love story is charming in the beginning, drags in the middle and gets very charming again by the end. I wish they had shortened the angst - which works very well for the male lead who's facing a true conflict, but makes the female suddenly annoying - and given more space to their delightful romantic banter. Even the ending could have been better elaborated and conclusive, had they cut short on the middle anguish. All in all, however, this is a lovely, funny, feel-good watch. The acting is fine enough, since it has no pretence of greatness. Don't expect stellar performances, they are all a little stony at times, but they look young and pretty, so one is ready to forgive them. Not surprisingly, my very favourite character here - Yeorim - is also the best acted one. I've sit through the whole drama waiting to see what he would say next and what new outfit he would wear. Music is, for me, the true sore spot. I appreciated the insertion of modern rhythm on a period setting because the drama is meant to be "timeless". The instrumental pieces are nice, albeit forgettable. The "lover song", on the other hand, got so much on my nerves, my watching partner and I retorted to muting the sound whenever it played (and it played every single time our lovey-dovey pair was together). Have you ever tried watching a kiss in complete silence? Well, don't try: it's terribly awkward, proof that the right music makes up for 50% of the emotion. Since we couldn't have romance+music at the same time, we hummed a tune ourselves. This review comes after a second watch. I had seen this drama back in 2011, but was distracted by other things at the time and basically couldn't remember a thing. Watching it in good company was a funny and entertaining experience I am ready to recommend.
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