We all have that one thing that is our guilty pleasure, the thing we love but most people don’t really understand so they look at us funny or that we are too embarrassed to tell any living soul that we love it. I have a couple. Not that I’m super embarrassed about them, but they definitely fall under the ‘I don’t get it’ category when I explain it to others.
One, is otome (dating simulation games). I could go on and on about these but I won’t (another entry maybe, another time).
The other is K-pop/dramas. Korean shows, who knew? I mean, it makes perfect sense when added with all my other Asian-influenced loves. But I mean, ridiculously, I love these shows.
The one I was pretty much obsessed with for the last few months was Scarlet Heart Ryeo. This is actually a re-make of a series that originally aired in China (This series also titled Scarlet Heart is based on “Bu Bu Jing Xin”, a historical novel based on Chinese history). A historical drama set in ancient Goryeo (simplified version: modern day Korea), Scarlet Heart Ryeo tells the story of Hae Soo, or rather Go Ha Jin living as Hae Soo. Ha Jin is tranported back through time from present day and ‘replaces’ Hae Soo, a court lady to her sick cousin who happens to be wife to one of the Goryeo princes.
***Caution: Spoilers below!***
As Soo, she ends up falling in love with her cousin’s husband, Prince Wook. Her cousin however is dying and asks for Wook to take care of Soo (having been re-animated as Soo, Ha Jin is not exactly the same court lady she was before, possessing all of her modern memories and none of Soo’s, e.g., written language, court formalities, etc. This leads to trouble along the way). In the meantime, Prince So has returned from another province and Ha Jin recognizes him as a future ruler of Goryeo who is known for being a bloodthirsty king.
As Soo, Ha Jin treats everyone equally, including the several princes that live in the palace and that she interacts with. As per cliche rules, this makes several fall in love with her.
After much angst, several deaths, a couple bouts of torture, and 2 rebellions, Hae Soo ends up in love with and the lover of So, who has become the king of Goryeo. However, due to the strain of torture and the constant stress of living in the palace, she has developed a heart failure. In the end, Soo ends up dying. Ha Jin wakes up in the present day. We find out that she had apparently been in a coma for a year (presumably while she was living out Hae Soo’s life in ancient Goryeo) and has no memory now from Soo’s life except flashes in her dreams, from which she often wakes up crying for a reason she can’t understand.
She does eventually get her memories as Soo back which leads her to feel guilt and heartbreak over ‘abandoning’ So, something she’d promised not to do.
While the series apparently ends there, my personal hope/feeling, is that they left it open to possibly continue into a second season. The ending, while similar to the original Chinese incarnation of the series, does not end with quite the same cliffhanger. In the original Scarlet Heart the apparent reincarnation of the ‘true love’ interest appears and is recognized by the protagonist. However in Scarlet Heart Ryeo the ‘true love’ interest is only shown in the past sense of himself with no ‘reincarnation’ shown although his determination to find Soo is announced, even if she is from ‘another world’ as he’s been told.
Now apparently the original Scarlet Heart did get a sequel. Based on the summation, I don’t know that I want Scarlet Heart Ryeo to have that sequel. I’d like to have a second season, but I think I’d like it to deviate a bit. Granted, it would still probably end up running on a cliche.
I’d read other reviews where people said they just couldn’t like IU, the actress who played Ha Jin/Soo but I liked her. Certainly I didn’t feel like her acting was flat or detracted from the show (which was the most frequent complaint against her). My husband would always make fun of me because he’d come home and I’d be holding my tablet, sobbing like the dog had just died. The show had several ups and downs and since I wasn’t familiar at all with the Chinese one (which I was aware of about 3 episodes in but purposefully did not look at prior to finishing the entire series), I was constantly left waiting for the next episode, clutching my tablet and cursing. I have to say my favorite characters were easily Soon Deok (actress: Z. Hera), Baek Ha (actor: Nam Joo Hyuk) and Jung (actor: Ji Soo). (Seriously though, Jung was my fave but shhhhhh!) Overall, I felt the cast was quite strong, no character felt ‘flat’ to me as any character who got a name (essentially this was only those directly involved in the plot, very few background characters got names), also had a backstory and a personality. For instance, Soo ends up being betrayed by someone who she had come to consider not only a friend but like a sister. The betrayal isn’t just left there, it’s explained and the reasons behind it explored and compared to Soo’s own situation (turns out Soo was betrayed for the sake of her friend’s love).
Scarlet Heart Ryeo is only available in the U.S. on Dramafever (app available on iTunes and Google Play) and currently has a user rating of 4.7/5, a rating that I highly agree with.