Synopsis. Haechi is a 24 (48 split) episode 2019 kdrama about the struggle for the throne. The best candidate is a prince with a commoner mother, but no one wants him to become the next King. Through dogged determination, a cadre of supporters, and events outside his control, he makes his bid for the throne.
What I liked.
Writing and Production. Writer Kim Yi Young crafted each episode chock full of events, surprises and cliffhangers that kept you coming back. This was my first drama by Writer Kim. It won’t be my last. If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage. Writer Kim’s interruption of this historical time was never boring. There was balance between Team Good and Team Evil. They both won some and they both lost some. Even better, some of them garnered each other’s respect and support. That isn’t a typical outcome. Team Evil was nuanced and not one note characters. Writer Kim made the myriad of political struggles interesting. Yes, you read that right. Political machinations were watchable. I appreciated the low body count, unusual for a historical drama. The production of the drama was also top notch. This was the first drama I’ve seen directed by Lee Yong Seok. He and his team delivered what felt like authentic windows into that historical time. Good writing and direction laid the foundation then the actors brought the drama to life.
Leading man Prince/King Yeoninggun Lee Geum (Jung Il Woo). I watched this drama for Jung Il Woo who I fell for watching 49 Days. Jung Il Woo completed his military service in November 2018 and Haechi was his “comeback drama”. I was pleased to see that he still has “it” – intensity, a darling crooked smile, vulnerability, and command of the screen. I couldn’t be more pleased to see Jung Il Woo shine in a series that provided a showcase for his talents. This is what I hope for every actor I follow – they act in a series with great writing, a capable director, complimentary actors, all that combine and create a quality kdrama.
Secondary leading man Dal Moon (Park Hoon). Dal Moon was the king of the streets. His deep connections were originally mined by Team Evil but he became a friend and avid supporter of Prince/King Yeoninggun. His secret Achilles heel, was his first love who scorned the simple life to become the evil prince’s concubine. She played him, but he couldn’t give up hope that one day she’d see the error of her ways. Park Hoon was the best looking actor in the cast with swarthy looks and a terrific smile when he flashed it.
Secondary leading man Park Moon Soo (Kwon Yool). Moon Soo was the moral compass for justice. He believed everyone, regardless of rank or station, had to abide by the rules and those that didn’t should be punished. Needless to say in the corrupt core of inspectors, Moon Soo wasn’t well liked by those in power. Moon Soo and Prince/King Yeoninggun had a rocky start but they soon saw the positives in each other. They trusted and respected each other. I could use that phrase “respected and trusted” to all those in Team Good. Moon Soo’s evolution was one of the better ones in the series, he grew, matured and came into his own as leader and stanch supporter of the King.
Secondary leading man Minister Min (Lee Kyoung-Young) . Originally part of Team Evil, Minister Min slowly grew to realize that Prince/King Yeoninggun was worthy of the throne. He surprised himself and his political party when he aided his former adversary. Minister Min was a true politician and jaded by his belief that politics would always win. King Yeoninggun proved through perseverance, smarts, and respecting everyone, that wasn’t true. The final scene between Minister Min and the King was touching and the personification of the hard earned “respect and trust” between the two men.
Secondary leading man Prince Milpoonggun Lee Tan (Jung Moon Sung). This evil Prince was a dreadful, angry, murderer that believed he was the rightful person to take the throne. But Writer Kim made him nuanced. When you saw behind the curtain to the unsure man that desperately wanted to fulfill his promise to his father that he would be King, you felt for him. He only wanted respect and the throne, nothing else mattered. He never gave up his quest. He was used by others to pursue their own agenda, but as long as he saw the dots connecting to get him to the throne, he was willing. Jung Moon Sung did a terrific job with this character and commanded the screen.
Message. This drama’s theme “never give up fighting for what you believe in” was clear and the mantra of our many characters (good and evil). Belief in yourself was another theme. Surrounding yourself with supportive people was another take away.
OST. This drama’s a mini two song OST. Check out the two vocal songs here.
1. Love Poem sung by Jung In
2. Story Conveyed By The Wind sung by Jun Woo Sung
What I didn’t like.
Minimal Romance. The romance in this drama was a side note, it could have been fleshed out more.
Would I recommend Haechi? Absolutely. This was a stellar series. I loved seeing Jung Il Woo shine in an outstanding drama surrounded by a bevy of actors that made this well written, directed series a winner.