Sitting down to write this review, I feel completely conflicted. Not because this drama isn’t fantastic (because it totally is) but because it’s also terrible and wonderful and amazing and awful and it makes you feel so many things and sometimes it’s wonderful and sometimes it hurts and sometimes you cry and sometimes you laugh and other times you swoon and all of the time you wonder how you’re ever going to find a way to go back to “normal” life because you know this drama has completely ruined you for all of eternity, in both the best and worse ways possible. Yeah… That pretty much sums up all of my feelings for Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo.
So what kind of drama makes a semi-sane zombie get so emotional that she opens her review with a massive run-on sentence? The incredibly addictive kind, that’s what! The kind of drama that sucks you in with its stunning cinematography, beautiful sets, gorgeous costumes and epic score and then keeps you captive with a story that inspires the imagination and stirs the heart. It’s the kind of drama that touches your heart and stirs emotions buried so far down inside of you that you’d forgotten you even knew how to feel. It’s the kind of drama that makes you feel alive and glad that you are even when you’re sitting there, bawling your eyes out. It’s the kind of drama that pulls you so far in, you forget about life and all of its problems while you’re watching it and when it’s over, you feel as if you’ve just been separated from a most beloved friend. In short, it’s the type of drama that can only be defined as crack: pure, unadulterated, highly addictive, can’t-get-enough-of-it, must-have-more-right-now, give-it-to-me-or-I’m-gonna-die, drama crack.
I wish there were a better way to describe to you what it’s been like, watching this drama over the last 10 weeks or so. But there’s really not. The wait for each new episode was insanely painful. The days between episodes dragged on for ages. Mondays and Tuesdays became the longest days in the history of the world and the hours spent watching this drama never felt long enough. Every episode was over way sooner than it should have been and the cravings for more could never be satisfied by anything but the next episode.
To find a drama this addictive is really a rare thing for me. Usually I can enjoy a drama without feeling like my whole life has been consumed by it, but with Moon Lovers, this wasn’t the case. There was just something about it that drew me in and refused to let me go. I’m not really even sure what that was because from a critic’s perspective this drama was so severely flawed, it was almost too painful to watch. The story itself isn’t anything too mind-blowing as a girl going back in time and falling in love isn’t a new concept, by any means, but it certainly kept me entertained. As the story progressed, spotting plot-holes became something of a past-time for me, as a lot of them were pretty major. However, I was so invested in the drama as a whole, that I was more than willing to overlook them. (Who cares about plot-holes when I can swoon over Lee Joon Ki for hours on end!?!) However I do have to admit (though it pains me to do so) that this drama suffered quite a lot from incredibly poor pacing and a deplorable lack of character development. Characters who should have been interesting and complex often came across as boring and pointless. Relationships that should have been deep and meaningful oftentimes felt shallow and unsatisfying, particularly that between the OTP. As much as I loved both Hae Soo (IU) and Prince So (Lee Joon Ki), I really feel that we missed out on a lot of the depth in their relationship, simply because the pacing of the drama was so very off. (Thank you random time jumps!)
That being said, there was still so much to love about this drama. Lee Joon Ki did an amazing job with the character of Goryeo’s 4th Prince, Wang So. With the entire drama revolving around his character, he had an incredible responsibility to bear and he bore it well. As Raine and I said in our Rage Against the K-Drama Machine, the entire drama really did rest on the shoulders of Lee Joon Ki and I have to say, he stepped up to the challenge and carried this drama very, very well. Of course props have to be given to the rest of the cast as well. IU made for a lovable enough leading lady, at least until the script forced her to lose all sense and gumption and turned her into an insipid coward. (Thank goodness those rather painful Hae Soo moments were the exception to her character, rather than the norm!) I do have to admit that a part of me wonders what Hae Soo would have been like, had she been played by a more experienced actor. Would I feel differently about her if she’d been portrayed differently? I can’t really say. But I think a part of me will always wonder, “What if…” Moving on… Kang Ha Neul did a great job of both winning hearts and breaking them as Prince Wang Wook. While this most beloved prince wavered between good and evil, Hong Jong Hyun as Wang Yo, Yoon Sun Woo as Wang Won, and Kang Han Na as Yeon Hwa were all very committed to their roles, portraying rather well, the many different levels of evil that ran rampant at that particular period of history. Conversely, Nam Joo Hyuk as Baek Ah, Kim Ji Soo as Wang Jung, and Baekhyun as Wang Eun all did a commendable job portraying various levels of sweetness. It’s hard to say that every actor lived up to my expectations for each character but they all did a fine enough job to make me love certain characters with all of my heart and hate others with every fiber of my being.
With so many characters to develop and such a massive timeline to contend with (the entire timeline of the drama stretched for well over a decade), it’s easy to see where Moon Lovers went wrong. There was simply far too much content to try to cram it into 20 episodes. If this drama had been given the time it needed to really flesh out characters and progress in a manner that didn’t make you want to flip all the tables, I think this drama would have performed much better than it did, ratings wise. That being said, even if this drama had been given 50 episodes I still find myself wondering whether or not those extra episodes really be enough to fix all of this drama’s flaws. In all honesty, I’m not 100% convinced that it would. Sure, there would have been more time to flesh out characters, fill in plot-holes, and adjust the pacing but even then, with all of the discontinuity caused by editing and such (I’m lookin’ at you, all you scenes deleted for overseas viewers!), I’m not sure extra episodes would have been enough to solve all of this drama’s problems. *sigh*
Despite all of its flaws, I’ve chosen to feature Moon Lovers as my Drama of the Month, if for no other reason than this is one of those dramas you just really ought to experience for yourself. There’s just something about it that’s undeniably addictive. The simple truth of the matter is, even though you’re probably going to end up ugly crying through parts of it and even though you’re mostly likely going to walk away from it feeling like a hollow shell of a once normal human being, you’re still going find yourself looking back over the whole thing with an odd sense of fondness. Don’t ask me why, that’s just what this drama does to you. It makes you laugh and cry and swoon and scream and curse and cheer and… and… AUGH! (Can you see why I’m so conflicted!?!)
I know there are a lot of you out there who have already watched this drama and honestly, I want to know your thoughts on it. Did you see the flaws in it I saw? Were there other areas of the drama that brought you either joy and/or pain? What is your overall impression of this drama? Did you like it or not so much? You know I always love hearing from you and I especially love talking dramas, so be sure to let me know what you’re thinking in the comments below!