Drama Reactions & Reviews
Warrior Baek Dong-soo: First Impressions
by | July 5, 2011 | 86 Comments

Crap. It’s good. What to do? There just aren’t enough hours in a day for all these dramas!

Fusion action historical drama Warrior Baek Dong-soo premiered on Monday to 10.1% ratings (with Baby-Faced Beauty in the lead at 14.2% and Ripley close behind at 12.9%). This was one we were keeping an eye on because the premise is so cool—two young warriors trained together, one to protect the king and one to kill him—but stayed cautious about because this kind of drama is all in the execution.

Happy to report, it’s definitely slick. It’s epic in a good way, and though it begins as all sageuks do—with the fateful birth of the hero, the journey to that point is actually quite gripping. I don’t know that it’s grabbed me heart and soul yet, but it’s a classic origin story of a hero, made well with cool effects, heart-pounding music, good acting, and an emotionally centered narrative. All in all, a very strong opening.

It definitely takes the let’s-start-in-the-middle-of-the-action thing to the hilt, with no sense of easing us into the universe. But once we get past the flashy intro and settle into the story, it feels more organic as the epic fated birth of future warrior Baek Dong-soo begins to unfold.

It does one thing I hate, which is introduce a million characters via chyron (names, titles onscreen) which I know is commonplace in sageuks, but I still hate it. Because it’s lazy writing, to forgo introducing people in a way that we will understand, via context clues, dialogue, unique setup. I don’t mind being helped along if things are confusing, but I dislike being introduced to every character this way, as a crutch and a substitute for character intros. But once we get past the first ten minutes there’s a little less of that and we settle into the plot with fewer interruptions.

The first episode totally belongs to Jeon Gwang-ryul, who usually plays Evil Father in every k-drama ever, but here he’s the big hero, a righteous swordsman with a heart of gold. He’s delightfully badass but also a law-abiding warrior who is loyal to the king. With the death of his brother in arms, he becomes surrogate father to the unborn Baek Dong-soo.

Leading the opposition is dark warrior Choi Min-soo, who is channeling some Jack Sparrow, that’s for sure. He’s constantly drunk, all swagger and mystery, but equally hardcore when it comes to the sword. His epic battle with Jeon Gwang-ryul can only be described as Badass Vs. Badass-er. I hope there’s at least one of these every week.

I have no idea if Ji Chang-wook and Yoo Seung-ho will be able to carry the same weight and heroic badassery as the adult leads, but the drama’s stylish enough that I trust it’ll pull through on that front. I do like that they’re young enough to play both the teenage and adult versions of their characters, so I’m hoping we’ll see the main leads faster than we would in other sageuks. Sometimes other shows spend weeks with child actors, and as good as they might be, it leaves us chomping at the bit for the stars to take to the stage.

At its core, this is a stylized action drama—it’s blood, guts, and glory—so if you’re squeamish about chopped off limbs and flying knives, this isn’t the show for you. But it’s stylish and well-made (aka high-budget), which is sometimes the make-or-break thing for sageuks, at least for me anyway.

The verdict: I like. As soon as my DeLorean on backorder comes in, I’ll get right on the recaps. Sigh. If anyone out there either (a) wants to school me with their own recaps of Baek Dong-soo; or (b) owns a DeLorean I can borrow, hit me up. We might be able to deal.


86 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. nickky

    any idea where can I watch this???

    • 1.1 faan

      You can download it from here in 720p: http://www.holdenpage.net/?p=6018

      Use JDownloader so you don’t have to manually download each piece: http://jdownloader.org/

      > Crap. It’s good. What to do? There just aren’t enough hours in a day for all these dramas!

      Just do what I do – save it for later. There will no doubt be dry spells when there are no good dramas to see, NTM you’ll be able to watch it at your own pace instead of sitting around in anticipation of the next episode.

    • 1.2 ...

      if u can read chinese subs, tudou, yoku or any of the chinese streaming websites

    • 1.3 Kiara

      Episode 1 Eng sub http://www.kimchidramas.net/2011/07/warrior-baek-dong-soo-episode-1.html

    • 1.4 Rita

      You can watch it here for free

  2. blokkoms

    Yay! Been waiting for this… Thanks gf!

  3. stratosphere

    Sounds cool… haven’t watched a sageuk before, but maybe now is the time to start 🙂 Thanks for the first impression!

  4. m_s

    how many eps will this be?
    i’m getting panda eyes..

    • 4.1 Kiara

      16 episodes yet to be confirmed. Which means if it does well there will be more.

      • 4.1.1 Trina

        according to dramawiki.. it is 24 episodes… not 16 episodes…

        • Kiara

          I just checked dramawiki and it says TBA on number of episodes like most sites.

          • koreandrama.org

            No i think trina is right about 24. Koreandrama.org is pretty accurate usually and it says 24 but i hope for more i love these types of dramas.

  5. WitchyMage

    Thank you for your “first impressions”. I was interested in watching and following this drama and now think I might give it a go. ♥

  6. Nokcha

    Just saw a Delorean last weekend in L.A. Gullwings and all…Was going to skip this, but you’ve made it sound at least worthwhile checking out.

  7. QuaTrang

    I see that Holden’s page has the download link (http://www.holdenpage.net/) but I have no idea where to find the subs.

    http://www.darksmurfsub.com/forum/ might pick it up though, as it was on the second spot for their “wanted to be subbed” list (first spot belongs to Poseidon, which might not be aired). So, check it out!!!

    • 7.1 QuaTrang

      Just got a confirmation that DarkSmurf will pick up this subbing project!!!

  8. mskololia

    I kept monitoring this one to see how the subbing would pan out. It’s not looking so good. Sheesh!

    • 8.1 Kiara

      If only Mrs Korea would do sageuk recaps for Dramabeans.

  9. Alvina

    I absolutely love Ji Chang-wook (who looks a wee bit like LTS, “duckie” in the screen cap) so I’m hoping this’ll be his big role…

    Saeguk’s are always so beautiful and this one has an interesting first episode… I like.

  10. 10 saali


  11. 11 Kiara

    Woot I havent seen it yet but I like what I read so far. Add to must see list. Damn this summer is going to be busy. Thank you GF.

  12. 12 Raine

    Been waiting for this 🙂 Haven’t watched a nice saguek in a while, hope this one does the trick. And it’s something to keep me busy while waiting for CH too haha

    • 12.1 Ani

      Let me just say, right out of left field, that you have an awesome name. I have a friend who’s name is Lorraine (Raine for short) and gets mad when we spell her name as “Rain” without the E. She… scares people. HAHAHA. But is really loyal to friends and family… Uh, yeah, random.

      So to get back on topic…. Awesome reference to Back to the Future there gf. And I wish my hair was THAT pretty. Geez. I feel like I need to get into Martial Arts now or Kendo or Free running or parkour. *sigh* Living vicariously… through kdramas. X/

  13. 13 kellie

    You’ve made me wanna. It’s the “mature” actors. They sound great. There was a cute story the other day about Choi Min-soo at the show’s press briefing. Why did you take the role? “For the money.” Complained he had to stand in the rain under a tree for two hours. He looked at the director then and said, “Admit it. It was hard!” Jeon Kwang-ryul looked uncomfortable/amused, then complimented Choi on being a lively asset to the set. Go, guys. lol

  14. 14 Akosirhenz

    i don’t have the luxury of time to watch it.
    i can’t afford to fail any subject this time. T T

    • 14.1 cookie

      awww :<
      Don't worry dear, i'll be sure to watch each episode twice just for you ;o

      • 14.1.1 idoahjummasonly

        I willl also watch twice incase u fail & still dun have time

  15. 15 come2noona

    Wow. Thanks GF! This looks and sounds awesome. I am such a sucker for costumes and beautiful landscapes. Definitely on my “to watch” list!! The screen cap with the hawk… so cool!

  16. 16 zgznoona

    viki had it last night when I went to bed but this morning the channel is n longer there. 🙁 That’s what I hate baout viki…

    • 16.1 JJ

      me too, that’s why i don’t even visit viki site these days!

    • 16.2 Trina

      it is there….. but as of now due to copyright issue.. it is qualified contributor only….

  17. 17 supah

    Aww, thank you!
    I really liked the first episode and get this; I cried, three times!
    I say the main PD is all heart, and to those foohs who were snarking about how this show would lack substance… Well… Like… They never watched Sung Ji-roo’s cameo appearance in OB-GYN. There.
    But can’t say I’m not loving a little of the undercutting darker tones brought forth by the Yaksha PD. Hee…
    (Kinda hated on the latter show but just a wee bit of it will keep things tasteful, right?)

    I definitely agree, as much as I was eagerly watching this for Choi Min-soo, this episode belonged to Jeon Gwang-ryul, he was breathtaking. That fight between the two was the epitome of badassery. I say bring it! Bring forth all the Sandglass paralells. Briiiing!

    Simply cannot wait for Yeo Jin-gu and Nam Ji-hyun to appear now.
    Also anticipating Shin Hyun-bin, in some shots she actually looks like Kim So-yeon. Or is it just me? Still she seems promising. Hopefully.

    • 17.1 wootwoot

      I’m pretty excited to see the youngsters 🙂 I love nam ji hyun’s liveliness onscreen 🙂

      • 17.1.1 supah

        No sign of her in the second episode though. But hurrah for Yeo Jin-gu.
        About 60% of why I tuned in in the first instance is for those two young actors, I was expecting a good 8 or so episodes with them. But seeing it’s a 24 episode series that might not happen now, still… if the childhood portion is unnecessarily sped up and we get less than two episodes with them I will… go ahead and dropkick this show. Right then and there.

        The second episode unearthed some of the show’s flaws. The directing seemed a little weak in spots, especially during transitional scenes, and overall it’s feeling a little confined. As long as its momentary and won’t be representative of its entire run, we can easily let such things slide. (But seriously, if you’re all ‘big-budget and stuff please tell me you’ll scale out a little.)
        The writing is pretty decent even if it is sticking to a conventional (manhwa-origin) sageuk format, there are these surprisingly humane little moments which are really moving.

        But forget everything else, everyone else is fine in terms of acting but Park Gun-tae who is playing little Yeo-woon (Yoo Seung-ho) is making me feel the ‘angst’ and the latter word is an offensive word in my book. A good writer never writes it and a good actor will NEVER let you see it. Never.
        My main issue with Yoo Seung-ho is that he ‘angsts’ and here his kid version is y’know ‘angsty’. That’s like… bad.
        Yeo Jin-gu my little love, show that other kid how it’s done (and have a scene or two with Choi Min-soo – for goodness sake). <3

        • Kiara

          Ahh love that kid (Yeo Jin-gu) ever since he played the young Hodong in Jamung Go. He was the best thing for me in that series and the shirtless General Wang Hol lol.
          Sadly I dropped it like a hot potatoe after QSD aired.

  18. 18 yong in

    too many dramas on my hands right now. i think i’ll just do a marathon of this later.

  19. 19 Ladymoonstone143

    Thanks for your impression this GF. I watched the raw and am very very interested. I just have to be patient waiting for the eng sub. I hope the younger actors will deliver because the older ones looks so natural with the sword fighting…sooo cool to watch.

  20. 20 kirara

    I was going to watch this yesterday but I was holding off to see whether you were going to recap this girlfriday. Good thing I waited, because you are saying that its good to watch. I guess now I can just watch ep 1 and 2 together.

    I agree with you that there’s too many dramas in a day/week. hard to stick to one and keep going. I wish I was a korean speaker then I’d be able to help, but sadly I can’t provide much help.

    Keep up the good work. Thanks for this post! 🙂

  21. 21 atriniriggie

    I want to watch this…..
    Viki.com had it last night and this morning they took it down…. crossing my fingers they put it back up.
    So if any one knows where we can watch in with Eng Subs
    Please shear !!!!

    • 21.1 QuaTrang

      I replied to this at #7 post!

  22. 22 Keiki55

    Can’t wait to watch this one haven’t a good hostorical drama in such a long time….drama fever get on board….

    • 22.1 cookie


      Great historical drama right there ;3

  23. 23 Daniela

    NOOOOOOO! and YAAAAAAAAY! Another good drama? Sigh. I have enough time to watch it, until I return to school, but that means more hours in front of my laptop and I have have to reduce them instead of increase them.
    I put some dramas on hold I was expecting to catch on them, some day this week.
    But I love sword fights and this kind of bad ass characters. And the story sounds heroic enough to watch. Usually my taste is the same as Dramabeans, so I will wait for the subtitles and keep an eye on this one. I’m not fan of sageuk, I’ve only watched one and it was a fusion, I think, but let see.

    Thank you for the first impressions!

  24. 24 cookie

    “As soon as my DeLorean on backorder comes in, I’ll get right on the recaps.”


    OMG this was so funny i almost soiled myself :<
    You do mean the time traveling version right? ;D
    I mean a regular DeLorean is all cool and stuff but… the one most useful to you would be the one that can jump through time 😀

    • 24.1 Alvina

      oh Back to the Future 😀

    • 24.2 Carinne

      GF, look up Arthur Bach in Manhattan. I know he has what you’re looking for. I hear he’s very generous with his wealth.

  25. 25 Linda165

    Sigh! When will I be able to sleep again 8 hours a night?

    English subs @ Viki are almost done for the first episode, but I’m afraid is not licensed yet, so only viki’s qualify contributors can watch it now.

    • 25.1 Trina

      it is 70% done… ^^ for first episode…

  26. 26 cathy

    I will watch this drama ,thanks .

  27. 27 bananajam

    You made me interested, and now I’m sitting here waiting for episodes 1&2 to finish downloading. ;~~~;
    My mother already hates me for watching too many dramas– *sobs*

  28. 28 Stephanie

    Thank you for the First Impressions. I knew you guys didn’t like quantity over quality so I was hesitant when I sent you the suggestion on doing it.

    Or it could have been one of the drama gods telling you to do it. Cus you prolly have too much mail to have seen mine.

  29. 29 Stephanie

    Oh my goodness!!! If you start watching this, at one point you will be watching 4 dramas a day! – Spy Myungwol, Miss Ripley, Warrior Baek Dong Soo and I need Romance, which either you or dramabeans had good impressions of.

  30. 30 swui

    Oh goodie….I was hoping this would be good cos I totally want to watch some sageuks now…
    gonna hunt for the vids now…thank god most of the dramas I’m watching are either finished or finishing so I can afford to start a new one…lol

  31. 31 Unnursvana

    Need to find subs for this now! so many dramas to watch. Thank god I am on a summer holiday.

  32. 32 nonski

    Thanks Girlfriday for this wonderful first impressions…

    i think this drama is very good even just basing on the screencaps here and mostly because you had said it will be good.

    for those asking where to dl, i get my raws from asiancinema.

    Darksmurfsub will sub this drama, check it out here:

  33. 33 Dara

    *doing happy dance*
    Sooooo happy, please recap this one, pretty please.

    Most bloggers do not pick Sageuk cuz the hard dialogs. I watched 1-2 eps and fell in love, the cinematography, the executions, the fighting scenes WOW! The set up was so good for our hero. If the journey is great, I can accept sad/bittersweet ending too.

    Thanks GF, please please!

  34. 34 Bluefyre

    Thanks! Will definitely watch or give a try anwyway when I have time!

    I just smile at myself because before Sungkyunkwan Scandal, I wouldn’t have given sageuks any time of day, now I’m actively looking for some I can watch. LOL. Great job, SKKS!

  35. 35 Trina

    Just saw episode 2 raw link… Crap.. it is really good… we see the adults in episode 3 from the preview of it…

  36. 36 skelly

    Saw the picture come up and thought, “It’s the king! Is he fighting Jumong?” LOL, he was fantastic in that show (husband and I were riveted for all 2, 347 episodes… so I am sure he will be great in this one.

  37. 37 crazedlu

    furreak! i don’t normally have a thing for sageuks, but lately, i’ve been itching for something epic. and that fight scene at the beginning + the jack sparrow persona totally drew me in. sageuks always take too long getting to the lead characters though, so i’m waiting for them. but this is good set up. i like that this sageuk is a fusion. good, intense electric guitar music for the action scenes. haha.

  38. 38 B.m

    Looking forward … :d

  39. 39 JJ

    thnx for first impression…i’m looking f/ward to this drama coz of two young stars ji chang & yoo ?? i’m bad with names! i also like the adult actor who was in baker king as kim takgu’s father, he’s hot though he’s in his mid 40s i guess! quite handsome actor he is!

    thnx & i hope this gets to be uploaded in other sites coz i can nvr watched on viki these days unless you’re a contributor! 🙁

  40. 40 hazel

    PLease please recap this drama! i’m really interested, but have a hard time understanding old Korean 🙁

  41. 41 78446

    Anyone know if WithS2 is subbing this? Because they’re really good at subbing sageuks. Darksmurfs is okay but I don’t think they quite get the nuances of a really archaic language. Some events and places either get mistranslated or they don’t bother translating it at all. I’m really high maintenance when it comes to sageuks (with trendies, I get what I’m given) and I really wanna watch this . . .

    • 41.1 nonski

      you should try checking it out on darksmurf…

      i don’t think they are irresponsible to the point of “Some events and places either get mistranslated or they don’t bother translating it at all.”.

      • 41.1.1 78446

        Oh, I didn’t mean to offend Darksmurfs. It’s a great site and they’re still the fastest subbing group around. And I didn’t mean to say they were irresponsible. It’s just that in particularly difficult scenes in sageuks (The Duo is one I can think of), the names, events or places that the characters mention are sometimes still in phonetic Chinese, instead of Joseon-speak. I understand that Joseon language is particularly hard, even for native Korean speakers so I don’t really blame Darksmurf if the subs are not pitch-perfect. However, as I am neither Korean, nor do I have any understanding of Korean language or history, I find sageuks to be a particular challenge and I tend to be picky as to the English subtitles because otherwise, I won’t be able to appreciate the story. I apologize if what I said was offensive to the hardworking translators of Darksmurf. Your work is always appreciated, even by strange nuts like me.

    • 41.2 DynamiteJ

      WithS2 saeguk subtitles? Then we’ll need subtitles for the subtitles. No thank you.

      • 41.2.1 Kiara

        Lol it depends on who is subbing. You’ll need a dictionary when MrX is subbing but I find Mrs Korea’s subs a lot easier to understand.

        • DynamiteJ

          I thought she retired, though? So either you’re getting machine-translated subs, or anarchic ones.

  42. 42 asianromance

    what a dilemma! I loved great fight scenes, but am super squeamish abt gore. I can’t decide whether to start it or not!

    thank you, girlfriday, for your first impressions!

  43. 43 han

    I would be very happy if you would pick this one to recap.

  44. 44 kizura

    hahaha … I also think the same thing, we need more hours to watch all these good dramas. first, I never miss saeguk, second I am falling for Seung-Ho. And reading your crazy adorable comment is like a pouring topping on top of ice cream. yummy .. delicious .. keep it coming. it’s very hot in LA now, some ice cream could really help.

  45. 45 JCWfan

    i just watched epis 1 on epidrama dot org & it’s good start tho i hvnt seen the lead actors i think this epis would show of their childhood etc. glad for jichang wook ssi for having a drama starting with a hi note already! yeyyy

    thnx DB & all connected to this site, you guys are awesome!

  46. 46 Kaizer002

    I will surely love this series!

    Please do visit our site: http://s13.zetaboards.com/kpophermes/index/

    here, you can download many asian dramas (Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Singaporean, & Taiwanese)

    Thank you

  47. 47 creesteenaa

    please do recaps for this! at least for the beginning~

  48. 48 Pyoungsang

    Have to try to check this one out. Watching King Gwanggaetoe the Great at the moment (which no one here seem to be following here, which is too bad because it’s pretty good if conventional. It’s a pretty old fashion sageuk, not even a sign of fusion anywhere! ) People, don’t be ungrateful to MisterX… it’s a lot of work!! Especially sagueks. Luckily, if you watch enough sageuk, you’ll get used to the old style speech and vocabulary. I just hope the young kids can measure up to the likes of Jeon Gwang-Ryul and Choi Min-Soo. I don’t really have much hope for that to be honest.

  49. 49 LeeLa

    Just watched the four episodes available. Well, that’s just a fantastic drama as I see it now!! :))
    The plot is really enjoyable, and the actors are as talentful as possible. I’m just quite anxious about the love quatuor, because I don’t want it to become as irritating as in Iljimae. (Jin Ju I’m by your side! kk)
    So, don’t hesitate to watch it!! You won’t be disappointed.

    I’m not sure there’s gonna be recaps for Warrior Baek Dong Soo, because I’m pretty sure period dramas are really tiring to recap. Anyway I hope girlfriday and javabeans will love this drama^^.

  50. 50 hululu

    T^T this drama was so awesome when woon and dong soo were best friends! Now it sucks because:

    1. no one understands woon and his pain! growing up, dong soo had all those people who love him and support him whereas woon had no one but an abusive father. can you blame him for having a twisted view about life and fate? instead of someone understanding his pain, people in the drama are condemning him and setting out to kill him, and he has to deal with all of this silently, alone.

    2. the map girl is at best lacklustre. she doesn’t possess any admirable skills or traits. i think the drama tried to give her one when they introduced the ginseng trade, but the simplicity of it, her reliance on others’ work, and the other’s OMG AMAZING! reactions annoyed me even more. >< i don't understand why both dong soo and woon like her… for me, their bromance is the most valuable! at first i thought woon only protected her and treated her specially because she was special to dong soo, sort of like a sister-in-law kind of thing, but he actually likes her and dwells on her. to me, that is not cool at all. all i want for his character is to be cool. evil, but principled. i want to respect him, but the way his character's written is making it really hard.

    3. what's with the three year time gap in which dong soo is being taught martial arts by the greatest swordsman alive while woon is sitting there doing nothing, alone? for there to be an epic showdown at the end, shouldn't both of them train? Cheon should've taken woon with him, so that he could've made progress too. now, i can just see dong soo kicking woon's butt in the next episode. not fun at all. i want them to be equal and mutually respectful, but i can predict that dong soo is going to own for the rest of the series. i guess he is the main character so it isn't unexpected; i guess i just want them both to be equally cool.

    sorry about my rant; i know that many people have different views and i respect them. maybe it's because this is the first time i've sympathized more with the bad character? yoo seung ho's influence perhaps.

    • 50.1 Noor-Ehsan

      Well..it is well said taste differ..for me yoo seung ho is a complete zero..I think he gets role because of his girlish face..for he just don’t make me feel any emotions not even hate..lol. Apart from that it is a so so drama which is easily wathchable thoough it never threatens to come to the height of other good sageuk. Often in these cases, the secondary characters tend to glow and this is completely true and it is these rare moments when these characters take centre stage that made it enjoyable for me. Finally, I definitely recommend this drama ..though there are plenty much better out there.

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