Read my first impressions of Scarlet Heart: Ryeo here.
Disclaimer: In a strict sense, this isn’t a scene-by-scene recap of the drama — it’s more of a thoughts/commentary/fangirling review thing. For a detailed explanation of the scenes and plots of each episode, consult Drama Beans; read all posts related to MLSHR here, then come and read up my thoughts. Oh, and spoiler alert.
- Name: Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, Scarlet Heart: Goryeo, Bobogyeongsim ryeo
- Length: 20 episodes
- Language: Korean
- Genre: Historical fantasy, time travel, saguek
- Airing: 1 episode on Monday & Tuesday each
- Based on the original Chinese novel Bu Bu Jing Xin by Tong Hua
The Cast Of Characters:
- Lee Joon Gi (Lee Jun Ki) as 4th Prince Wang So
- Lee Ji Eun (IU) as Ko Ha-jin/ Hae Soo
- Kang Ha Neul as 8th Prince Wang Wook
- Hong Jong-hyun as 3rd Prince Wang Yo
- Baekhyun as 10th Prince Wang Eun
How To Watch:
During a solar eclipse, 21st-century woman Ko Ha-jin (IU) is transported from a near-drowning incident to Korea’s Goryeo dynasty — specifically the princes’ royal bath. She assumes the role of 16-year-old noble lady Hae Soo.
The fourth prince Wang So (Lee Jun Ki) returns from Shinju to the royal palace, where he intends to stay and meets Hae Soo; romance ensues.
The Actual Recap (Ep 6-7)
It’s apparent that the two episodes of the week represent a major shift in the overall plot and tone — no longer is Scarlet Heart: Ryeo in its world-building stages. But as refreshing as increased action often is, its execution left viewers like me quite disjointed and discombobulation — yet still longing for more.
While the first five episodes generally focused on character development (of the main characters, anyway) — the relationship dynamics of most characters, a genuine feel for the setting, and the beginnings of hopefully a dynamic plot, the pace really picked up as Hae Soo’s world once again turns upside down.
Episode 6 was a really strangely paced episode which left me quite confused yet anticipating the next episode (which thankfully did not disappoint). So let’s start from the beginning: Lady Hae’s funeral.
Lady Hae — referred to by her actual name, Myung Hee, in several instances after her death — is ultimately who anchored our protagonist Ko Ha-jin to somewhat accepting her existence within Goryeo; similarly, its Lady Hae’s familial ties with 8th prince that allows Hae Soo to live so near the palace in the first place.
Yet now that she is dead, a major shift ripples throughout the entire story’s dynamics. For better or for worse, Lady Hae and her saintly ways will forever be missed. R.I.P.
Though we’re not quite sure exactly how much time has passed since Ha-jin first transported into Hae Soo‘s being, Myung Hee has basically come to be our protagonist’s maternal figure. It seems that Ha-jin has become closer to her elderly cousin — more so than the original Hae Soo, even.
And so through Lady Hae’s death, Hae Soo and 13th prince Baek Ah (apparently his name is also technically Wang Wook, but let’s just try to avoid confusion here) suddenly become close friends.
It’s not their friendship that I mind — in fact, it does make sense; as Lady Hae once observed, they both really are extremely alike. Both Hae Soo and Baek Ah long for freedom, never quite belong, and are, from the bottom of their hearts, extremely empathetic and genuinely kind-hearted beings — though both would take extreme measures for justice.
But for Baek Ah to go from anger and blame at Hae Soo for Lady Hae’s poor condition to a beautiful camaraderie, though completely expected, was far too sudden. Since the point of watching a multi-episode drama — almost a journey of sorts — is supposed to be for the experience and not really the final result or destination (which is generally quite predictable), it was a disappointing loss for the drama.
It turns out that there have been two versions of MLSHR in the air — the international version, or the subbed version that I personally watch, and the “SBS version”, which is what is aired in domestic South Korea. While this was apparently always the case — such as differences in background tracks (which is actually a bigger deal than most people tend to give credit for, what the heck) — episode 6 especially saw a lot of scenes cut out in the international version.
In the SBS version, there is a scene where Hae Soo and Baek Ah bond over Lady Hae’s death. But still . . .
MLSHR is my first-ever K-drama, so I don’t know if having multiple versions is supposed to be normal or something, but within my own posts realize that I watch whatever’s subbed
(but stalk forums enough to know what went missing. Shh . . . don’t tell.)
Baek Ah’s friendship with 4th prince Wang So is even more sudden; I genuinely enjoy watching them onscreen together and though unexpected, it works out quite nicely between the opposites. Besides, it’s best that Wang So make friends — I’m glad that they kept 4th prince and 13th prince’s friendship/alliance, which legit happened in Qing Dynasty history and was absolutely beautiful in BBJX.
However, it’s the same deal — I really wanted to see the process as opposed to the final result. In a deleted scene/ a scene only aired on the SBS version, Wang So defended Baek Ah from 3rd prince Wang Yo’s harsh bullying. Again, but still . . .
Speaking of Wang So and deleted scenes, there were a whole ton of them in episode 6, leaving viewers like me rather unsatisfied. But what was provided was gold. Although let’s be real — any scene with Lee Jun Ki’s Wang So is gold.
We receive continued snippets of Wang So finally receiving the life of a “normal” prince — though to be fair, none of the princes are nor can be truly “normal”; taking classes, partaking in royal games, and the like.
But he soon receives a visit from General Park Soo-hyung, who taught Wang So martial arts while in Shinju. The general views Wang So with decent respect and high regard, and even tells the emperor that Wang So would make a fine Crown Prince — if not for his scar.
Wang So returning to the palace from Shinju, if not just for a home, hints to other motives. The general warns him that the prince who stays in Songak kills his brothers — a brief flicker of hope, perhaps, ignites.
But just when the characters somewhat settle into their roles, it’s announced that Hae Soo is to be married.
It really isn’t supposed to be a big deal — Hae Soo is of age, Lady Hae is dead, and sooner or later a marriage has got to happen. Princess Yeonhwa, of course, is more than pleased. Hae Soo, on the other hand? I think it’s best to give a reminder to our protagonists to not wish for so many things.
However, this man Hae Soo is to marry is “60, and with many sons”, causing outrage amongst the princes. In a (comical? maybe) scene, the princes minus Crown Prince and 3rd prince Wang Yo assist Hae Soo in a ridiculous escape that suddenly makes the drama feel like Palace Jade Lockheart or even Go Princess Go.
Princess Yeonhwa and Hae Soo’s greedy cousins follow along Wang Wook and quickly catch up, only for them to reveal that it’s all a decoy — this “Hae Soo” is actually 10th prince Wang Eun.
On a separate path, Wang So rides with Hae Soo through the forest, with Baek Ah a respectable distance away. And then, of course, the content of the international version turns out to differ from that of the SBS version.
The two have a silently electrifying ride — though they’re unsure of the destination, they both mutually accept it — and Hae Soo turns her head back to gaze at Wang So, thinking:
I didn’t know you would help me too, Prince So
As if reading her thoughts — or having a silent conversation, he thinks, almost in reply:
In the international version:
It’s not because I like you
I just don’t want to see you live a life controlled by others
It’s really not worth living like that
It seems, perhaps, like a half-denial of sorts; that thinking the words “not because I like you” truly points to the last three? (Or it’s just my shipper’s heart.)
Yet in the SBS version:
I’m tired of seeing people’s lives being controlled by others
Something about that person being you bothers me even more
Which actually points to a completely different meaning — one would think that the scenes would at least be the same within the different versions.
But they run into the royal envoy, of all things; royal astronomer Choi Ji-mong reveals that this man who’s “60 and has many sons” is the frickin’ emperor. Hae Soo is to marry the emperor. What . . .
By then the other princes and Princess Yeonhwa have all gathered into a clearing of sorts. Everyone is disgusted at the notion, but for fear of their lives the other princes basically back away from trying to save Hae Soo.
Ironically, it’s Wang So — who was initially reluctant to help– who doesn’t give up; when Hae Soo first tries to leave, he pulls her back — though he’s defying the emperor’s orders.
Yet when Hae Soo does get down the horse, he tenderly catches her, helping her off — an extreme contrast with harshly throwing her off his horse back when they were strangers.
And even when Hae Soo does start to leave, he pulls her back:
It’s almost as if they share a form of telepathic communication; Wang So actually considers running off with her right there and then — however impossible it would be in reality. And it’s before he’s even come to terms with his feelings.
To save the lives of the princes, Hae Soo decides that she has no choice but to comply; she rides a “palanquin” — literally shaped like a box that might as well suffocate her — back to the palace to await her fate.
It’s really no fun for Hae Soo — she is forcibly stripped so they can check for any scars on her body because a king cannot marry anyone with any permanent scars. But the dynasty’s prejudice creates a flicker of hope for her.
Back in the palace, the princes try — mostly in vain — the beg the two Queens to try and sway the emperor’s opinion. But more ridiculous is that the emperor himself actually doesn’t know he’s marrying Hae Soo until right before — just that he’s marrying a woman of the Hae clan to strengthen his control over the country’s border.
He actually doesn’t really want to marry Hae Soo either, but it was already “too inconvenient to change”. >_<
To their credit, both 8th prince Wang Wook and 4th prince Wang So arrive right in front of the bedchamber, creating a clear juxtaposition between the two princes. While Wang Wook is on his knees, begging his father, Wang So actually comes up with a reasonable alternative to marrying Hae Soo and rationally tries to talk it out.
It’s strange, seeing Wang So — who is always seemingly reluctant to bother — as the only one who actually does things that legitimately helps.
Ultimately, however, it’s Hae Soo who must save herself — who must take matters into her own hands — literally.
Hearing the princes outside, she rushes out the chamber. There’s a crash, and Hae Soo uses a pottery shard to scar her own wrist — the only way to avoid a marriage to the emperor.
Even the emperor himself is impressed by Hae Soo’s bold — albeit desperate — fortitude, commenting that she’s “braver than a man” before storming off.
Shortly afterwards, Hae Soo faints, during which she has a strange vision — which prince murders all his brothers and ascends the throne?
When she comes to, Hae Soo is informed that she is to face impending punishment.
As I expressed in an earlier post, I’m not quite on board with the Wang Wook x Hae Soo ship — mostly because she doesn’t even act like her most natural self when around him. (And, okay, because the moment Wang So instinctively picked Hae Soo up and onto his horse my shipper’s heart has forever stayed there.)
Her relationship with Wang Wook is more of a crush or infatuation, causing her to feel the need to pretend, to act like what the real Hae Soo might act like. No longer does she giddily reassure him that it’ll all be cool for her because she’s talented, smart, and can adapt, nor does she have the guts to cuss in front of him. Instead, she finds herself helpless when with him — almost like a damsel in distress.
Wang Wook himself does care about Hae Soo’s well-being — he admits that he felt pathetic when he couldn’t do anything — but there’s just something that I can’t fully enjoy during their “romantic interactions”. Maybe it’s actually Wang So, maybe not.
One of the bigger things that bothered me was Wang Wook telling Hae Soo that he truly did love his late wife — only to say that he’ll repay Myung Hee through showing affection to her.
Another thing that bothers me is how Wang Wook is afraid of her scar — when he sees it, there’s a certain tension in the air as he covers it up.
Not going to lie — when I saw the still of Wang Wook shielding Hae Soo from the sun — even if it was only for an innocent few seconds — I plain freaked out because it just so happens to resemble a certain iconic scene (albeit in a different weather).
(That being said, if Hae Soo and Wang So don’t get a proper rain scene, I swear –)
For defying the emperor’s orders, Hae Soo is demoted to a court lady (ex. palace maid). Prior to her leave, she gazes at the princes, wondering which one is to be the Emperor Gwangjong, who supposedly murdered all his brothers. Her eyes fall on Wang Wook — Hae Soo herself is shocked at that — and later flit to Wang So (which wasn’t even shown in the international version).
Once Hae Soo becomes a court lady, her life completely changes.
Wang So is the first one to greet her, and he doesn’t sugar coat any of it for her.
While Hae Soo is excited to see him come visit and requests that he visit often, Wang So is pissed at her — but simultaneously purely concerned.
When Hae Soo is still ranting about how she’ll fit in, etc., he grabs her by the wrist and demands that she never do such a thing again. Though he says harsh words such as “I’ll never forgive you”, Wang So is clearly afraid of the harm that will come to Hae Soo. As someone who has lived with a scar, he knows of the harsh life — which he doesn’t want for her.
It was at “You stupid girl“, though, that I couldn’t anymore.
Aside from Lady Hae, Hae Soo clearly places most of her trust in Wang So — instead of saying surface-level statements such as “I thought I’d never see you again”, she quietly spills her own thoughts, confiding to him what she felt at the time.
He gives Hae Soo a brief tour of the palace, telling her that the royal palace is a dangerous place where she cannot trust anyone, even those closest to her.
“Everyone here is alone. That is one thing I know for certain.”
“I am not alone, so I’ll be alright.”
“You’re not alone?”
“You’re here, Your Highness. How am I alone?”
Then there’s that instance when Hae Soo, who is apparently impossible with watering plants, waters Wang So out of his nap.
She complains to him that she’s been unfairly treated and that she doesn’t have a “good boss”, although Wang So quickly justifies the reason for her punishment. Truth be told, while Hae Soo may be mature about some things, she’s still quite naive about her whole situation in the palace.
Wang So suggests that Hae Soo name plants — revealing to her one of his deepest secrets. For example, there’s a pine tree that he — holding a thumbs up (how?) — calls “Best”; another he calls “Fartie”.
“Are you making fun of me?” Hae Soo grumbles. Ironic, because “Soo” in hanja — “树” literally means “tree”. (Yes, my ability to read Chinese assists in watching a K-drama of all things.)
Once again, Wang So suddenly starts acting cute. Unfortunately, he ends up telling her about one of his most painful experiences — while stuck in a cave full of wolves — but is quick to change the mood and even gives her a forehead flick (finally some parallels <3).
In contrast, I felt myself watching in jealousy whenever Hae Soo had an interaction with Wang Wook. He did do some stereotypically cute things like suddenly pull her in.
But though he’s obviously a good flirt, it feels like he doesn’t really hold much responsibility for Hae Soo anymore.
He also gives Hae Soo a jade bracelet to cover up her scar; to others, it might be an indication of concern, but for me, it almost hints that he’s not willing to accept her scar.
But when Hae Soo looks up at the moon that night, she’s thinking about accepting her identity as Hae Soo — or at least a mix between Ko Ha-jin and Hae Soo.
Tenth-prince Wang Eun‘s birthday party is where things come crashing down, creating a much larger role in the plot of MLSHR than it did in BBJX.
Crown Prince Wang Mu convinces Lady Oh — Hae Soo’s “boss” — to let her take half the day off to help entertain Wang Eun. Though he’s drunk when she first sees him, he seemingly sobers up.
“Happy birthday” singing and chibi-fied tenth prince aside, however, the main focus of the scene is actually Wang So, who is standing and watching from the side.
But when Hae Soo is requested to sing another song, she sings one of friends and loneliness. It’s then when he acknowledges himself that he feels something for Hae Soo; scared at the thought, he quickly makes his leave.
. . . And I’m pretty sure Hae Soo herself saw him leave — a sad, concerned look briefly appeared on here face.
Wang So spends some time alone at the edge of a pond, trying and failing to skip stones. There, he flashbacks to the moments he had with Hae Soo — gazing at the snow with her, riding the horse with her, and, most importantly, her words to him:
You’re here, Your Highness. How am I alone?
When Baek Ah drags Wang So to the third round of Wang Eun’s birthday celebrations, he’s cutely flailing. Seeing Hae Soo smile at him, too, boosts his confidence as he attempts to restrain from beaming back.
Hae Soo praises Wang So, helping him look good — she says that fourth prince would try his best to do anything to find a good present for Wang Eun.
Unfortunately, the evil Wang Yo has other plans.
Wang Eun actually naively listens to Wang Yo’s suggestion and asks Wang So to take off his mask. I know that Wang Eun is the epitome of innocence and naivety, but this was just wrong — even if it was his birthday.
Hae Soo, who is unwittingly roped into getting Wang So to keep his promise, tries to speak up, only to get cut off. The damage is already done — Wang So’s expression immediately morphs into one of coldness and indifference.
Feeling as if he’s been betrayed, he takes off his mask through sheer pride and clenched teeth.
Of course, Lee Jun Ki does a stellar job portraying the intensity — and dare I say hotness — of the scene. The others’ reactions are as expected, but to him, it’s Hae Soo’s that matter the most.
Feeling betrayed, he looks coldly and accusingly at Hae Soo — only to be met with pure empathy and concern.
At this point, he is almost challenging Hae Soo — waiting for her gaze to waver. But it doesn’t, and he knows that none of it had to do with Hae Soo.
Utterly confused, Wang So quickly strides out of the room, with a concerned Hae Soo in tow.
I wish she didn’t tell Wang So that he had to go back so that tenth prince would get his chance to apologize and Wang So himself isn’t hearing any of it. But when Hae Soo’s body language betray her, so does his.
At that point, Wang So just can’t do it anymore. He demands that she look at him “properly”, leaving Hae Soo confused as well as concerned.
That look in your eyes
I hate it like crazy
I hate these types of semi-cliffhangers like crazy, too.
A lot of the disorientation resulted mostly from episode 6 — everything seemed to be happening all at once, with minimal breathing room in between. And, to be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of what the editors decided to include as “breathing room”.
In contrast, episode 7 was less distressing, although as intense and shocking as its predecessor. No longer are the characters within the safe abode near Songak, but, willingly or unwillingly, a part of the cunning mechanisms that embody the palace itself.
Still, the drama remains to be a strange fusion — for its perfectly executed moments, precise attention to detail and analytical symbols and imagery that paint a piece of art comparable to the likes of Legend of Zhen Huan, there are weirdly jarring cuts, cringy acting, and ridiculous fanservice that nearly scream Go Princess Go.
(Don’t get me wrong — Go Princess Go does have its merits and reasons for its huge popularity. But what was acceptable and giggled at there probably shouldn’t be a part of Scarlet Heart: Ryeo.)
I realize that Scarlet Heart: Ryeo is only 20 episodes long — in other words, a lot shorter than the C-dramas I’ve become accustomed to watching. If this were a Chinese production, I’m sure it there would be at least around 35 or so episodes (although episodes of C-dramas tend to shorter than the nearly hour-long episodes of MLSHR) because it seems that the producers edited out quite a lot of the scenes.
As disorienting as it was to watch, however, I’m ultimately glad that things have progressed so far . . . because I am too excited for what’s to come on Monday (or Tuesday)’s episode.