Scarlet Heart Ryeo Episodes 1-2 Recap
I’m writing this recap after watching both of the first 2 episodes. This isn’t my normal “blog while I watch” recap.
EPISODE 1. Hae Soo (IU) is unhappy with her life. Her boyfriend dumped her for a friend and left her with debt. She sits by a lake and drinks soju to console herself. Next to her is a man who she shares the soju with. He tells her that her life can’t change easily. Now if she died and came back to life, then her life could truly change. She sees a boy in the lake that is struggling. She jumps in to save the boy. As the father pulls the boy into his boat, he tries to bring Hae Soo into the boat. But she slips down into the water. As she spirals down, a total eclipse of the sun takes place.
When Hae Soo wakes she’s in the royal bath (large pond) with a prince! I don’t know who was more surprised, Hae Soo or the prince. She has traveled back in time to the Goryeo era. She flees the bath and find her way to a public hot springs where her friend, Chae Ryung, is relieved to find her. Hae Soo doesn’t know who Chae Ryung is or who she is either. She faints.
When she wakes, she’s in the household of Madam Hae (Park Shi Eun), who is married to Prince Wang Wook (Kang Ha Neul). Unable to remember her past, she struggles to cope with her new reality.
Meanwhile, Fourth Prince Wang So (Lee Joon Gi), the family black sheep returns home to the palace. He wears a mask over his eye and reported to be violent. When he arrives at the palace, no one is welcoming or happy to see him. That includes his six brothers and one sister. In fact his mother refuses to see him, lying that she’s ill. We also learn that his mother was the one that disfigured Wang So’s eye area during a fight with the King where she threatened Wang So’s life if the King didn’t give her what she wanted. Yikes! Wang So has been bartered to broker a peace between kingdoms and he believes his is a hostage of the agreement.
Wang So’s father King Wanggun declares the heir, the Crown Prince Wang Mu will lead the upcoming spiritual festival. Wang Mu knows that forces are plotting against him and the spiritual festival may be when they strike. He asks Wang So to switch places with him at the festival so the attackers cannot hurt him (everyone are in masks so identity is easy to hide). In return, Wang So can have whatever his brother can grant him. Wang So wants to live at home and no longer be a hostage in the other kingdom.
Hae Soo does not hit it off with Princess Hwangbo Yeon Hwa, daughter of Queen Hwangbo, the King’s other wife. Yes, two wives, one King, a recipe for intrigue and backstabbing. She is comfortable with Prince Wang Wook, who is happily married but has a vibe with Hae Soo.
Hae Soo spots the man she shared the soju with. The man is astrologer Choi Ji Mong, chief adviser for King Wanggun (though Hae Soo does not know who the man is). She runs after him but loses him in the crowded road outside the palace.
Standing on the edge of the road, Hae Soo is unhappy she lost her connection to her former life. Wang So comes thundering down the road scattering people and their packages. Hae Soo is knocked to the edge of the road and about to teeter into the river, when Wang So sweeps her up into the saddles. They stare at each other as they gallop along the road. Terrific way to meet and a great ending to the first episode!
EPISODE 2. You’d think being swept up onto horseback would be wildly romantic. But that bubble is burst as Wang So dump Hae Soo onto the ground. She demands an apology surprising Wang So. Needless to say, he sneers and ride away.
The princes and princess all gather to share tea. Hae Soo does her best to not be noticed by Wang So (who she berated for rudeness), Princess Yeon Hwa (who dislikes her), Wang Eun (who she surprised in the royal bath), and Wang Wook (who has a vibe with her, but he’s married). When Wang Eun spots her she runs away.
Wang Eun follows Hae Soo but gets distracted peeping into a door hole and watching Chae Ryung dress. Hae Soo called him out and demands a apology. He refuses and starts to walk away. Hae Soo literally tackles him and they roll around on the ground. All the princes gather and watch the fight which ends with Hae Soo head butting the Wang Eun. Ouch! Hae Soo has moxy! Wang So stops her from hitting Wang Eun again. As Wang Eun makes to hit Hae Soo Wang Wook intervenes and stops his brother.
Hae Soo demands an apology from Wang So for his earlier behavior. He tells her if he apologize, then she must die. She runs to the safe haven of Madam Hae. Wang So can’t help but be impressed by Hae Soo’s moxie.
Wang So forces a visit with his mother Queen Yoo who is already entertaining evil Wang Yo and gossipy cute Wang Jung. Wang So realizes his mother lied about her illness but swallows his hurt with a mask of politness. But Queen Yoo pointedly tells Wang So to return and never return. She denies Wang So’s request to live in the palace. Wang So is forced to exit. Dreadful mothering on display, her favoritism was obvious, and hurting her son Wang So, didn’t matter. Couple that with the fact the Queen Yoo is the one that disfigured and banished Wang So, and she ranks soars up the “terrible mother” ranks.
Hae Soo decides to try and return to the present by going to the royal bath. Little does she know that Wang So is there so bathe. Wang So removes his mask. He is touchy about anyone seeing his scar. Turns out that Wang So has many scars on his body to he has been beaten and abused in the other kingdom. Hae Soo pops up in the bath just as Wang So enters the bath. They stare at each other stunned. Wang So can’t believe she’s there AND seeing him without his mask. Frankly the scar isn’t bad at all, but he’s sensitive about it. My heart went out to him at being exposed and the shame it caused him. Love the camera work in this scene. He orders her to erase the memory of him without the mask and she flees.
Hae Soo returns home to find Madam Hae, Wang Wook, Chae Ryung waiting outside and worried. Hae Soo decides to accept that she’s stuck in the past and make the best of it.
Needless to say Queen Yoo and Queen Hwangbo don’t like each other. But Queen Yoo is in the driver’s seat with the most offspring produced.
At the spiritual festival, all the princes gather and reenact the story of good over evil all while wearing masks. The Crown Prince Wang Mu is the lead. Everything goes well until ninjas attack. The princes gather around Wang Mu and a fight ensures. Wang Mu is cut on the arm horrifying the King. The princes gain the upper hand and the ninjas flee. The King is relieved to see that Wang So is injured not his beloved Wang Mu. The Queen is not happy that Wang So is hurt not Wang Mu. The King doesn’t even thank Wang So for his sacrifice. Wang So can’t catch a break with his father or mother!
Wang So pursues the ninja through the city. Hae Soo sees the pursuit and take off after them. Everyone ends up in the woods. We see that evil Wang Ho is the ninja leader. If you can believe it, he kills all his followers so they can’t identify him as the leader. That is harsh! Hae Soo sees all this and goes to find Wang So.
Hae Soo finds Wang So in fight with a ninja and just about to press for who the leader is. Hae Soo interrupts telling Want So she knows something important. She distracts both men and the ninja grabs Hae Soo and holds a sword to her throat. Hae Soo realizes that if the ninja kills her all hope of returning to her former life ends. She begs Wang So to help her. Wang So feigns indifference to whether or not the ninja kills Hae Soo. She takes matters into her own hands and bites the hand of the ninja. Go girl! A knife flies through the air and plunges into the ninja’s forehead killing him instantly. Ouch! We see Wang Wook arrive with his men. Wang So knows he won’t learn the identify of the leader now. Livid, he pulls Hae Soo up to her feet and yells that her interferance cost him the information he needed. He puts his sword to her. Wang Wook put his sword to Wang So. The two brother stare at each other. Wang Wook tells Wang So to let Hae Soo go. Wang So spins and gets a firm grip on Hae Soo locking swords with Wang Wook. The two brothers stare at each other. Wang So tells Wank Wook he doesn’t want to release Hae Soo. Bam, we’ve got a brother versus brother face off!
Mixing time travel and historical can be a recipe for a series success, and Scarlet Heart Ryeo looks promising. What did Scarlet Heart Ryeo offer in the first two episodes? A leading lady who time travels to Goryeo era, a misunderstood leading man, a gaggle of brothers, a King and Queen who aren’t sparkling examples of kindness, and an astrologer that probably holds the key to the time travel. Mix in martial arts, strong cinematography, and a solid story as the base and this series is off to an excellent start.
Production values were solid. I liked the cinematography that lingers on full face shots of the attractive cast. The martial arts is the “on wire” which is ridiculous but loads of fun to watch. The fight at the spiritual festival was well choreographed. The chase and show down in the woods had suspense and surprise. The director is Kim Kyu Tae, who produced It’s Ok, It’s Love which was recommended by guest commentators Jane Tilly and Prettysup in their Beautiful Mind reviews.
The story started out strong. The series is based on the Chinese novel “Bu Bu Jing Xin” by Tong Hua. The writer for the series is Jo Yoon Young whose last series was 2009’s Cinderella Man, which I have no seen, so I have no reference for this writer. The downside with any historical is that the body count can be high and heros often die. I can hope that the fusion of time travel and historical it may offer more latitude and longevity to the characters. I’ll say it now, I don’t want Wang So to die, but my experience with genre says he will likely die.
Hae Soo (IU) was the perfect mix of confusion and pluck when she was thrust into the Goryeo era palace. I’m a fan of IU. I last saw her in The Producers and she was one of the best things about that series. Imagine being despondent that your boyfriend left your for a friend and saddles you with debt. Then you get pulled through a time portal into Goryeo era. Your entry point is the royal bath with princes bathing! Your new identity is Hae Soo, friend of Madam Hae (Park Shi Eun), who is married to Prince Wang Wook. You try to return to the present, but your attempt doesn’t work. You decide you must make the best of it in the past. You meet a man, Prince Wang So, that you don’t shy away from and prejudge like everyone else. Is he your destiny?
You need a scorecard to keep all the princes straight. Four stood out to me: the fourth prince, the eighth prince, third prince and the crown prince.
Fourth Prince Wang So (Lee Joon Gi) drew me to him instantly. I am a sucker for a misunderstood lead. Used as a political chip by his parents he has lived apart from his family to forge an alliance between two kingdoms. He feels that he’s a prisoner forced to live away from his family. As he finds out living back with the family isn’t bliss either. His father, King Wanggun (Jo Min Gi), doesn’t care about him. Why? Because his mother dearest, dreadful Queen Yoo (Park Ji Young), threatened to kill Wang So to thwart the King. She took a knife to Wang So’s throat and ended up permanently scarring him in the process. She is cold and dismissive to Wang So. No, I do not like her. He wants to bond with his brothers but his reputation, his masked eye, his hard shell, make it impossible.
Third Prince Wang Yo (Hong Jong Hyun) reeks of evil. He does his mother’s bidding. Queen Yoo uses Wang Yo to execute her plans…like the one to kill the first in line of the throne, the Crown Prince. Wang Yo directed the evil ninjas to attack the Crown Prince, then killed them afterwords so he would not be exposed. That is cold!
Eight Prince Wang Wook (Kang Ha Neul) is married but seemed drawn to Hae Soo. He is kind to his wife but there was a vibe with Hae Soo. He seems like a nice guy but only time will tell.
Crown Prince Wang Mu (Kim San Ho) has a target on his back. He knows forces are out to kill him. He convinces Prince Wang So to impersonate him at the festival (everyone was wearing masks) to determine who is plotting against him. Little does he know that Queen Yoo and brother Prince Wang Yo are plotting his demise.
Fourteenth Prince Wang Jung (Ji Soo) is a favorite of Queen Yoo. I’m a fan of Ji Soo. This role is solid and makes him part of an ensemble. Wang Jung is personable and a gossip. He’s down on the power ladder.
Tenth Prince Wang Eun (Baekhyun) is the runt. He is young, short, and had the shock of finding Hae Soo in the royal, a large pond. When he peeped at a servant, Hae Soo spotted him in the act and demanded he apologize. He refused. They fought each other, more of a scrappy fight, not elegant in any way. His pride was bruised, along with his face, but the suggestion that Hae Soo may like him, changed his tune.
Thirteenth Prince Baek Ah (Nam Joo Hyuk) is nondescript at this point. He hangs with the lower princes, Wang Jung and Wang Eun.
Ninth Prince Wang Won (Yoon Sun Woo) is nondescript at this point. He seems to be a pretty flirty boy.
The first song of the OST, “For You” is sung by Baekhyun (who plays Prince Wang Eun), Chen, and Xiumin (EXO). Check it out via the embedded video below: