Cinderella and Four Knights Review
Nutshell Summary: Cinderella and Four Knights is a 2016 Korean drama about a Cinderella like young woman, Eun Ha Won (Park So Dam), who is hired by a grandfather to encourage bonding between his disparate grandsons (aka the Four Knights); Kang Ji Woon (Jung Il Woo), Kang Hyun Min (Ahn Jae Hyeon), and Kang Seo Woo (Lee Jung Shin). Also in the mix is Assistant Lee aka Lee Yoon Sung (Choi Min). Along the way Cinderella finds love with her Prince Charming and friendship with the other Knights.
1. Easy, breezy story. This cotton candy show did not have a complicated or particularly well executed plot but it featured the likable core characters consistently.
2. Appealing core characters. Cinderella was a positive heroine and the four Knights were good guys. The Knights lived in the same house but didn’t interact much, each in their own bubble. Cinderella gave the Knights a kick start to grow and bond together. I liked each of these characters individually and looked forward to each of them finding their own happiness.
3. Likable leading couple. Cinderella and her Prince Charming took a while to admit they had more than friendship on their mind. But once they did, they relationship bloosomed and their smiles lit up the screen.
1. Simple story with uneven pacing. The series was based on two volume novel by Baek Myo. I was curious about the strength of the two volume novel’s story. One review described the story as “straightforward, lightweight, simple, interesting” which leads me to believe that the spirit of the two volume novel was accurately portrayed in the series. The two volume novel should have provided the series writers, Min Ji Eun and Won Young Sil, a blueprint. But they had issues filling each episode with sufficient forward progress in the plot. Some episodes dragged and some episodes were in balance. This series was pre-produced which should have given the writers an edge. The prevailing wisdom about pre-produced dramas is that the writing and production quality improve given the leisurely filming schedule. All the characters’ behavior skewed towards a more junior story. The two volume novel was categorized as young adult which was the way the series felt. Several early plot points were ignored then quickly dealt leaving the viewer feeling like the writer just ticked a box rather than fully exploring the potential. The story’s emotional impact was surface level which matched the easy vibe of this series.
The Characters that worked for me:
1. Cinderella, Eun Ha Won (Park So Dam). She was a bit more than a typical perky kdrama heroine. Ha Won was on-screen more than any other character. It was crucial that Ha Won have an emotional connection with all the other characters. The actress, Park So Dam, had chemistry in spades with everyone. This is my second time seeing Park So Dam in a series. She carried the load for this kdrama. The amount of diaglogue she had versus any other character must have been 2 to 1. Park So Dam’s portrayal established the rapport, humanity and likability to what could have been a cardboard kdrama heroine. Her chemistry with love interest Jung Il Woo was rock solid.
2. Prince Charming, Kang Ji Woon (Jung Il Woo). I was drawn to this series by Jung Il Woo. It had been awhile since I’d seen Jung Il Woo in a kdrama. I wondered if he still had the magic touch. The answer is yes. He brought a sense of honor and intensity to Ji Woon. He had been wronged by his grandfather and had a chip on his shoulder. Ji Woon struggled to come to terms with his new family situation. Through it all he tried to be fair in his dealings with others. Ji Woon had a need to save damsels in distress. That was irksome when he applied it to damsels I didn’t want him to save. His chemistry with Park So Dam was engaging. I liked this couple. I’m a sucker for smiles and loved his darling lop-sided smile.
3. Kang Hyun Min (Ahn Jae Hyeon). In the first part of the series this character was my favorite. Hyun Min was unapologetically self-centered and shallow. His chemistry with Ha Won (Cinderella) was so good, you had to wonder if he wasn’t the right man for her. But his past came back to haunt him and mired him in depression for multiple episodes. The writers did him no favors during the depression segment of the series. In the end, the issues were resolved leaving this character a path to happiness.
4. Kang Seo Woo (Lee Jung Shin). He was the nice Knight. He had less family baggage and therefore he was happier than his cousins. He had an easy friendship with Ha Won (Cinderella). The writers did not fully developed this character, so the potential of this character remained untapped. But he was a friend to all.
5. Assistant Lee aka Lee Yoon Sung (Choi Min). Initially I wasn’t sure who the fourth knight was, but then it was glaringly apparent that it was a Assistant Lee. Though not related by blood, Assistant Lee was interesting in his own right. The writers waited to to reveal this character’s back story. If they’d started sooner, they could have made this character more fully rounded. As it was, he was the strong, quiet, no nonsense knight.
Characters that missed the mark
1. Everyone else. Park Hye Ji (second lead), Cinderella’s father, Cinderella’s stepmother, Cinderella’s sister, Grandfather’s wife, etc. were irritating or borderline ridiculous, and did not enhance the drama as much as they should. Cinderella’s family was particularly mean to her, which she easily forgave, but I could not. I personally wanted to throttle Park Hye Ji and jettison her to Paris. In the end she evolved to a degree but I found her unlikable for 95% of the series.
Do I recommend this series? Answer me this…Are you a Jung Il Woo or Park So Dam fan? Then you’ll enjoy seeing both of these actors highlighted. Are you looking for a fluffy story with likeable core characters? Then this series could work for you.
The OST was released in 2 volumes. Volume 1 had the 12 primary vocal songs. Volume 2 had 29 instrumental tracks. See dramawiki for details. My favorite is song is “My Romeo” by Jessi. The playlist is embedded below or check it out via the link.
1. For You by BTOB
2. My Romeo by Jessi
3. Confession by SinB of GFRIEND feat. Shi Jin
4. When I Can Meet You Again by Green Cacao feat. Mone
5. Without You by Yoon Bo M of Apink
6. I Believe by Younha
7. You Pour A Star by Dick Punks
8. Only One by Zia
9. Way To Look For Love by CNU of B1A4
10. For You (Ballad ver.) by BTOB
11. Confession by Lee Jung Shin
12. You Pour A Star by Lee Jung Shin