My feelings about this drama are very complicated. I was entertained, but frustrated. I was interested enough to watch, but I also felt like dropping it several times. Don't let the simple title fool you. This is a typical love story in some ways, and very unique in other ways. Now that it's over, I think I appreciate the whole story more, but some frustration still lingers. My major frustration is with the three leads. I loved them as a trio. Those moments were my favorite in the show for sure, and their friendship was also the source of many of the emotions I felt while watching. Still, from the very beginning the show is set up as a love triangle, and that's the part where I think this drama falls short. I'll give it credit for not being cliché, but it still didn't really work for me. The story centers around Im Shi Wan as Wang Won. It's Won's story, so it makes sense that he was the character I liked the most. I thought Shi Wan did a great job in all aspects. He was funny, he was clever, he was stubborn, he was impulsive... and I enjoyed watching his character navigate all of the palace drama without being passive. I think he did an awesome job. Hong Jong Hyun plays Wang Rin, his partner in bromance. Rin is the straight man, to Won's uninhibited personality, and their dynamic is awesome. I loved that we get to see the start of their friendship too. The show really explores the deepness of their friendship in a way that got me in the feels from the very beginning. It gets very complex, but their love throughout it all is the strongest story in the drama. Then lastly there is Im Yoon Ah as Eun San. I loved her character in some ways, but she was also the reason for most of my frustration. When she was being brave, impetuous, and independent, I loved her, and her camaraderie with the guys. However, when the obligatory love triangle comes into play, she spends far too much time looking like a deer in headlights. I won't speak too much about specifics, because which guy you root for is mostly about preference, but it really bothers me that by the end all the romance was still questionable. I thought maybe it was the writing, but I honestly think it's that she had trouble pulling off the romantic parts of the story. I've seen better actresses, Ha Ji Won for example, pull complicated love stories off, but I think where Yoona shined in action, comedy, and even some emotional scenes, she left much to be desired in the romance department. Cute moments with Won worked, because their banter was funny, but anything involving serious romance fell flat. I don't think she was bad, but I do think the role was a little out of her league in that respect. The rest of the cast was good. I loved Jang Young Nam and Oh Min Suk the most out of the supporting cast (both so good at being bad), but there were a lot of great performances. A few characters made no sense to me, but that wasn't the actor's fault, just weird writing. There are a lot of duplicitous characters to keep the story interesting. If you like ancient Joseon political drama, this story definitely has a lot of that to enjoy. If you're not a fan, you will probably get bored about halfway through. To be clear, this show is 40 episodes, but the episodes are 30 minutes, so really it's like watching a standard 20 episode drama. I thought the show started strong, and ended strong, but somewhere in the middle I began to stop caring. Still, for some reason I just couldn't quit watching. I think that's because of curiosity, and probably because I became attached to the characters, even when the shows seemed to drag. In those times it helped that the episodes were shorter than usual. Would I watch this again? I'm torn. If I did I would probably be tempted to skip too many scenes. There were a lot of great moments, and like the characters reminiscing, I would probably enjoy revisiting those moments again. Maybe it will feel different watching while knowing how it will all play out, but I think my main frustrations would remain. Overall, this is a good drama for sageuk fans who want a different kind of story. It is more bittersweet than completely tragic, and there are comedic moments too to add some balance. I think it's far from perfect, and gets messy in the middle, but it all ties together for a touching ending that made me boohoo cry, and smile through my tears. I never heard of the novel before watching, so I am curious what fans of the book thought. It's not the best or worst sageuk around, but if you're in the mood for something a little less typical, this may be exactly the kind of drama you are looking for.
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