Sunday, July 17, 2016

TV REVIEW | K Drama | Queen In-Hyun's Man (2012)

This show people. THIS. SHOW.  I don't think I can talk about it coherently  - all that may come out is gushy nonsense interspersed with squeals of delight.  So, to get the ball rolling a random stream of consciousness list:

1) This is definitely the best K drama I have ever seen - almost perfect.  Of course I have to admit, before you get too impressed, that it is only the fifth one I've watched, ha ha, so it's at the top of a very short list BUT I can't imagine anything surpassing it.  Honestly if there is a better drama of this type (I think I'd categorize as romantic comedy) point me to it now!

2) Kim. Boong. Do.  The best lead male character ever. know...of the 5 K Dramas I've watched.  But seriously he is pretty darn perfect. 

3) Ji Hyun Woo  - the actor who plays Kim Boong Do is seriously my type looks-wise (no idea about his personality, you'll be shocked to know we haven't met).  Not sure how much a role this plays in #2 but there is definitely some correlation.

4) The lead characters'/actors' chemistry is seriously off the chart.  

5) The Kissing.  OMG The Kissing.

6) The combo of historic and modern is brilliant and is used SO well to tell a lovely complete tale.

7) I was a little irritated after watching episode 12 which seemed to wrap everything up so nicely.  How on earth were they going to drag things out for another 4 episodes?  The answer?  Really damn awesomely.  I ended up really liking every episode of the entire run and felt none of them were wasted.

Despite the fact that I am now distracted by all the kissing GIFs, I will move on and try to write some coherent thoughts on the drama.  This drama is 16 episodes long. 


First of all, what's the story?  Kim Boong Do is a noblemen in the late 1600s (Joseon era) of Korea.  The King has set aside his wife the Queen (yup, the one in the title) because of the machinations of some (well one in particular) corrupt minsters.  Through this kerfuffle all of Kim Boong Do's family is killed - Mother, Father, Wife, Child - despite the fact that the king refers to Boong Do as his best friend.  Not sure how one remains friends with someone who has caused the death of your family but ...whatever...Boong Do blames the minister and sets about for revenge and to reinstate the Queen back at court.  Alongside him are his humble servants (slaves) or ex-servants, a somewhat feckless guy but more importantly a beautiful gisaeng, Yoon Wol, who holds a serious torch for Boong Do.  Knowing what he is up against and worrying about him, she has the Buddhist monks make a talisman for him that is meant to protect his life.  And it does, by shooting him 300 years into the future whenever his life is threatened.  The first person he meets in the future and who eventually becomes his guide to the modern world is an actress named Choi Hee Jin.

Hee Jin is an up and coming new actress who has gotten her first break playing Queen In Hyun in a historic drama focused on all the events Kim Boong Do is living.  She is trying to navigate her new fame with the help of her friend and manager Jo Soo Kyung and also trying to avoid getting entangled with her ex boyfriend who is a famous actor and is playing the king in the drama.  She is initially confused but intrigued by her encounters with Kim Boong Do and quickly believes that he is a time traveler and also becomes quickly smitten with him.  Boong Do is a little slower to fall, probably because he has a lot going on what with all the time travel and avenging of his family, but he eventually does and drama, oh so deliciously, ensues.  


Of course I have to start with Kim Boong Do.  All of the dramas I have watched thus far have for the most part featured the same kind of male lead character.  They're rich and arrogant and self-absorbed though deep down we know they are honorable good men. The whole point of these dramas is that these men learn to care for someone more than they care about themselves and become supportive, respectful and awesome though perhaps still a little arrogant. If they were in a romance novel they'd be the classic Alpha males. The lead female characters are in a position of weakness and steadily gain power and independence.  

Queen In Hyun's Man doesn't follow this formula.  Kim Boong Do is rich and certainly very confident and he knows how to boss people about - he's a nobleman after all - but he's also very respectful and understanding of others from the very beginning.  The show further humbles him by its very nature - Kim Boong Do is thrust into a world he cannot begin to understand and in which he is basically a child and at least initially wholly dependent on Hee Jin.  He is not resentful of being reliant on her but is instead deeply grateful and curious about everything.  And he quickly begins to learn on his own because he is incredibly smart and clever.  His cleverness is the source of many of the dramas best moments as he puzzles things out and figures out fantastical ways to outwit his enemies.  The world of political scheming and treachery have also made him intuitive and able to read people - their motives and the emotions behind their words.  This helps him to survive in the dangerous world he lives in and it has the dreamy side effect of making him a very thoughtful lover and friend.  To top things off, he's good with words and completely genuine  - there is no bluster or artifice about him  and it's these character traits that draw Hee Jin in and lead to her teasing him that he is player.  

One of my favorite things about him also is that he has a cheeky and adorable sense of humor.  Probably my two most favorite scenes in the drama are when he whips out this humor to slyly tease Hee Jin (the car scene in episode 8 and when he admits that maybe he IS a player in episode 11).   And despite all the horrible things that have happened to him in his life, he is completely open to the wonder of the new world he finds himself in. He's got an adventurous and playful spirit which responds strongly to Hee Jin's impulsiveness and "passionate" nature.   He also never dis-respects her or is impatient with her even when she does some immature and annoying things.  He knows why she is acting that way and wouldn't dream of de-meaning or begrudging her feelings. Sigh...... As you can tell I am seriously in love with this character and we haven't even gotten to the fact that he's a martial arts bad ass melon farmer AND a big goofy nerd.  Or how quirkily and boyishly handsome he is or that he's got eyes that smile.  And a super dreamy voice. Yup, I've got it real bad, lol.

And I shouldn't forget Hee Jin.  While much of my love for this drama is concentrated on the character of Kim Boong Do, Hee Jin is also a well developed and interesting character and she is played to perfection by actress Yoo In Na.  Seriously, a really stunning performance.  I fully loved the character and she had all my loyalty even though on the surface she is not the type of character to earn my sympathy.  She's pretty, successful, impulsive and not all that interested in learning and books.  She has a wall-sized portrait of herself hanging in her apartment and she boasts that she is famous because she's so pretty.  Despite all that she's incredibly loveable.  She's kind-hearted and generous, transparent with her feelings, adventurous and has enough self-respect not to let herself get sucked in by her obnoxious, though very handsome and famous, ex-boyfriend.  As mentioned above she does occasionally act a little immature and annoying but it is always with good and understandable intent.  Her chemistry with Kim Boong Do is seriously intense.

That chemistry between the leads is what I think makes this drama truly awesome. The scenes between them sparkle and feel completely natural  - like you are really watching two people fall in love.  Which you may actually be since the two actors did date at some point for an indeterminate length of time after or during the filming (reports are confusing, at least to me).  They feel so right together that I didn't even once 'ship Boong Do with his servant Yoon Wol, who has had a hard life with few advantages and has loved him unrequited for years so much so that she is the reason he can travel in time.  She is the type of character I would usually root for in a romance but nope, it had to be Hee Jin. Never any doubt. Did I mention the kissing?  The chemistry is helped along by a really soaringly romantic original sound track.  The lovers have two theme songs:

1. Their theme song for their happier more romantic moments:  I'm coming to see (Or meet) you by Deok Hwan (non-spoilery link)  And for a video that does a great job showcasing the chemistry between these two ... (But has spoilers)
2. Their theme music for when they are separated and sad and longing: Same Sky, Different Time by Joo Hee (NOTE:  the video with this may be a little spoilery so if you haven't watched the drama I would just open in a different window and just listen and not watch.

So this is a romance, plain and simple, and it succeeds so so well in this department but it ain't no slouch in the overall plot department either.  The writing of the show is really great with plenty of suspense and nuances.  The overall tone of the drama is light though there are of course many emotional twists and turns and I will admit to tears in the last few episodes.  There's some lovely parallels between the historic and modern-day story that are fun to pick apart and serve to strengthen the characterizations.  

In the Joseon era, Boong Do is looking for revenge but is more trying to set things right by championing the Queen who has been bullied by one of the King's consorts and pushed into exile by corrupt political machinations in the court.  In the modern day story line, Hee Jin is trying to navigate her place in Korea's new "royalty" (it's drama stars) and she is being bullied by her co-stars.  The two "Queens" are in very similar positions so it's not surprising that Boong Do feels the need to champion Hee Jin even as he falls in love with her.  There are so many connected themes and plot points that occur early on and than pay off or re-appear in surprising and interesting ways later on.  It's thoughtfully and smartly plotted down to the last minute of episode 16.  Perfection, really.  

And then there's the time travel which can be tricky to pull off.  Boong Do's adaptation to the modern world is done really well and is a blast to watch while he at first must rely on the somewhat unreliable Hee Jin to orient him.  
“When I listen to you, it seems as though the reason for everything in this world is to enable kisses. What kind of lustful world is this?”  HEE!
Because he's so smart and curious, he starts to reason things out himself and this is equally fun to watch.  It's clear how he uses the skills he had to develop in his much more treacherous time of origin to help him adjust relatively quickly to modern times. 

The mechanism of travel is also dramatic and interesting and ends up playing a major part in the story on several different levels.  The talisman is powerful but also unpredictable and fragile.  The show does not shy away from investigating the ramifications of messing around with time but it is also not a slave to it.  It's the perfect mix.  There is some controversy about the resolution at the end but I for one thought it made perfect sense (as long as we're accepting the concept of magic to begin with:) and was a lovely and well-prepared ending.  

FINAL VERDICT:  Grade A, 9.5 out of 10 Stars, All the loves and hearts.

This is a well-written and plotted romantic-comedy-fantasy that is bound to give your heart some flutters with the chemistry of its lead couple and the well chosen actors that play them.  Watch it. Now.  You won't be sorry.  Unless you hate romance.  In which case, K Dramas probably aren't your thing so....

Don't just take my word for it!:

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