MLSHR is among a small number of k-dramas that have left a deep impression on me, yet it's also a drama I'd hesitate to recommend to people at large. There are a couple of reasons: (1) The extent to which you'll enjoy this drama depends on whether you value IDEAS or EXECUTION. If you're the second kind of viewer, this show may drive you mad. The general consensus is that Scarlet Heart: Ryeo had a great story that was screwed up by messy editing/directing/pacing etc. and not enough space to tell it (20 episodes compared to the original 35-ep C-drama). I'm very sympathetic to this assessment. However, I'm also the kind of viewer who will forgive a lot of flubbed execution for a really good idea, which this drama has in spades. Scarlet Heart Ryeo is above all an *ambitious* drama, probably excessively so. The upshot is that it has possibly the most uneven execution and post-production editing ever committed... but at the same time some of the most complex and compelling character arcs I've come across in kdrama. It's not for nothing that the show has drawn such an unusual amount of discussion and fannish activity, especially internationally. (MLSHR was poorly received in Korea, but it is/was a certified international sensation, the first ever kdrama to make Tumblr trends, etc.) (2) My other "disclaimer" for MLSHR is that it has a deeply cynical and subversive approach to romance. If you're looking for a fairytale where love conquers all, this is not the show for you. If you're looking for a classic tale of star-crossed lovers foiled by evil external forces... this is still not the show for you. If, on the other hand, you're the sort to appreciate tragic missed opportunities of love driven by bad timing and fatal ***character flaws***, then Scarlet Heart: Ryeo is the Greek tragedy of your dreams (and/or nightmares). In a market saturated with wannabe Pride & Prejudices, Scarlet Heart Ryeo is out here being a totally unapologetic Wuthering Heights, which is pretty gutsy for a YA reverse-harem premise. (To be fair, they were working off of the Chinese novel, but they *could* have made it more public-friendly.) Here's the bottom line: This drama is an acquired taste. If you're not a fan of tragedy or bloodbaths, if you need your female characters to be ~empowered~ and save the day, if you prefer people in love to be functional and communicate well — look elsewhere. However, if you enjoy nonstop political scheming and backstabbing, majority-villain ensembles (including both male leads, arguably), and romantic narratives that reject relationship = identity myths, Scarlet Heart Ryeo is probably up your dark and twisted alley.
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