Scarlet Heart: Ryeo
Synopsis: Lee Joon Ki (Arang and the Magistrate) and Lee “IU” Ji Eun (Dream High) star in a dangerous romance across time in what sure to be one of the biggest historical epics of the year. Hae Soo (IU) is a 21st century woman who gets caught in a solar eclipse and is transported to the Goryeo Dynasty, which ruled Korea from the 10th century for nearly 500 years. Suddenly, Hae Soo finds herself in the royal palace, where she comes across Fourth Prince Wang So (Lee Joon Ki). A man as feared as he is handsome, Wang So is based on the real-life fourth king of the Goryeo Dynasty and makes others tremble but wins over Hae Soo’s heart. However, he is not the only one in the palace with eyes on the throne, and a political battle of deception, secrecy and lies ensues between Wang So and all the other princes. Adding to the drama are Eighth Prince Wang Wook (Heirs star Kang Ha Neul), who is less than willing to wait in line behind seven other members of the royal family, and Third Prince Wang Yo (Beloved alum Hong Jong Hyun), whose right to the crown actually precedes Wang So’s.
If you enjoy watching beautiful people in beautiful costumes falling in love and having their lives ruined one step at a time until there’s nothing left but sadness and death, then Scarlet Heart: Ryeo is perfect for you. When I started this show, I felt like I was promised lots of pretty people in a palace wearing pretty costumes and having a little bit of romance, a little bit of politics, maybe a love triangle here and there, maybe someone was going to die (cause hey that happens occasionally in historical shows), but surely there would be at least a satisfying ending.
Ok, so it’s really hard for me to order my thoughts for this show because I have SO MANY FEELS about it, so this might be a little rambling (how unusual for me).
Lee Jun Ki as 4th Prince Wang So will capture your heart and make you root for 4th Prince all the way as he tries very hard to protect what is precious to him (Hae Soo) while also trying to keep his crazy and evil brothers from killing everyone and ruining the kingdom. He doesn’t want to be king, but he will take the throne to keep those he cares about safe. Jun Ki’s acting is absolutely incredible. His eyes communicate so much in every shot, and I loved getting to watch his excellent work. Not to mention he’s rather pretty to look at, and all those up close camera shots the director loved gave us plenty of opportunity to enjoy his gorgeous face.
IU as Hae Soo is beautiful and spunky and adorable. She’s completely lovable throughout the entire series (ok, maybe episode 19 she made some HUGE mistakes, I’m still trying to forgive her), and while she doesn’t know how to handle living in Goryeo (since she’s from the 21st century and travels back in time), she does her best to adapt and to support 4th Prince through his bloody ascension to the throne. She was a really interesting character, because she used what she remembered of history to try and change things for the better (and we all know how that usually turns out). Of course, history doesn’t always remember things in the ways they really happened…
Nam Joo Hyuk as Baek Ah is TOO PRECIOUS FOR THIS WORLD. I loved 13th Prince from Day 1 and every time I posted about Scarlet Heart on Social Media, I would include #SaveBaekAh. Love the artist prince! Charming and adorable and unwavering. One of the few characters who never stabbed anyone in the back.
I can’t leave out 10th Prince, who is adorable and funny and childlike and OH MY GOODNESS BREAK MY HEART. I’m telling you, this show will have you crying buckets. Then there’s 8th Prince who is just…ugh…there aren’t really words. I liked him for the first ten episodes or so, and then he was dead to me.
And then there’s Won. Nobody likes Won. Nobody knows why Won made it to the last episode alive when so many others didn’t. Won would’ve been first on my hit list if I were 4th Prince. NOBODY LIKES YOU WON WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?
So obviously there are lots of pretty people in this show. Here’s the full main cast, altogether. This family has great genes apparently.
This cast was massive and there are so many more major characters I could name and say both good and bad things about, but I guess the main point is that everyone is beautiful and surprisingly, everyone was excellent in their respective parts.
So, I won’t lie, I was mostly here for Wang So and Hae Soo’s romance. And they were epic. They were beautiful. They made me cry. THEY ALSO HAPPEN TO HAVE THE WORST ENDING EVER WRITTEN.
The ending is the reason I didn’t give this show 5 full stars. It was very dissatisfying. There are rumors (as of November 2016) of a possible second season, or an extra episode or even just an alternate ending. Hopefully by the time this review is posted, some of my pain will be eased by at the very least an alternate ending where SOMEONE is happy. Because right now, do you know who is happy? NO ONE. NO ONE IS HAPPY.
So if you haven’t seen this show, this review probably told you almost nothing except that Scarlet Heart: Ryeo is full of beautiful people that all get terrible endings. Which is accurate. Should you watch it? YES YOU SHOULD BECAUSE IT’S AMAZING. But it will annihilate your feelings and make you wish you’d never heard of it.
In Conclusion: Scarlet Heart: Ryeo is a fascinating plot line which involves a girl from the future being sent back in time and trying to change history. She falls in love along the way, making her more invested in changing the future. The cinematography, acting, costumes, fight choreography, sets, soundtrack are all gorgeous, and definitely were worth coming back for week after week. There’s loads of political intrigue, backstabbing, intense fight scenes, assassinations, romance, and heartbreak, led by a noble and lovable hero and heroine, who fight for justice and love even though they are constantly thwarted by evildoers and greedy men. Truly a beautiful story, with a heartbreaking finish.
Highly recommended if you love historical tragedies.
Content: Violence (quite a bit, actually), executions, suicide, kissing.