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The Princess’s Man: Series review

Epic, moving, suspenseful, and superbly paced. If I were limited to only a handful of words, that’s how I’d describe The Princess’s Man, KBS’s romantic melodrama and premium sageuk from earlier this summer. Then again, I’ve never been good with brevity and I do have an open-ended word count available, so let’s cut to the chase and get right to it. Sit back and settle in; this may take a while…

SONG OF THE DAY

The Princess’s Man OST – “Destino (운명)” [ Download ]

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The Princess’s Man has been touted, more than anything, as a Joseon-era Romeo & Juliet story, but there’s another Shakespeare analogue that’s just as apt: Richard III. While the Romeo & Juliet comparison is certainly appropriate given the star-crossed-lovers premise, it almost does the drama a disservice in reducing the plot down to a simple idea when it’s really about so much more. There’s political intrigue that’s fast-changing and compelling — not a bunch of static discussions held around a round table for episodes on end — in addition to a central romance that has me fully invested on both sides, backed up not only by attraction and passion but also steadfast ideological integrities. That’s pretty rare, but it makes for such an engaging conflict that’ll have you on the edge of your seat, possibly biting fingernails.

A few misconceptions had me initially wary, but to clear one big one up off the bat: This drama is not depressing. There’s conflict and angst and romantic tension, but it’s not drawn out in a gloomy, mournful way. Some of the circumstances are tragic, inasmuch as any murder and betrayal can be tragic (and there’s lots of that here), but I’d characterize the tone of The Princess’s Man much more along the lines of gripping and sweeping and artfully suspenseful, rather than grim and dire. Also, addicting as hell. (Word of warning: You may want to download all the episodes before starting.)

Note: There will be spoilers. Not every plot point is discussed so those who still want to see it should be able to, if you don’t mind some spoiling. For those who’d like to keep the ending a mystery, though, I’ve separated out the ending discussion so you can skip that section.

 
THE HISTORY

One of the things this drama does so well is in creating its fictional world within the existing history. The drama’s narrative takes plenty of creative license with the details, and each episode is preceded by a huge honkin’ “We realize that history has been tweaked for entertainment purposes!” disclaimer, so don’t expect this show to hew strictly to facts. What it does is use a famous coup as the jumping-off point for its narrative, fictionalizing the central love story around the real-life political upheaval of the time. A number of characters in the older generation are real historical figures, but their children’s generation — our lead characters — is where the fiction takes over.

In that sense, if real-life history is like a map, then The Princess’s Man is like a sheer layer of fabric laid over the map featuring a complementary pattern. You can recognize the general outlines of the map through the top layer, giving us a peek at the truth while presenting fiction.

The central historical event on which this drama is based is the usurpation of the throne in 1453 by Grand Prince Suyang, posthumously known as Joseon’s seventh king, Sejo. Suyang was the second son of King Sejong the Great, whom you may recognize as the main character in the currently running sageuk, Tree With Deep Roots. At the time, Joseon was still a relatively new state, sixty years in, having taken over from the almost-500-year span of Goryeo before it.


Crafty Suyang, plotting against his brother King Munjong

Sejong had a number of children, but we’re primarily concerned with his eldest two sons. Firstborn Munjong sits on the throne at the drama’s outset, and next in line is his adolescent son and crown prince, Danjong. However, times of transition are particularly unstable when you’ve got (1) a weak king sitting on the throne, (2) a weak successor, and/or (3) an ambitious plotter in the wings wanting his own shot at the crown. In the case of Suyang, all three are true.

Munjong has only been king for two years and his son is still young and inexperienced. Suyang aspires to the throne himself… and the only way to achieve that in this day and age is to get rid of those who stand in your way. Thankfully, he’s not averse to a little bloodshed. Well, thankfully for him; the piles of bodies littering the ground in his wake might think a little differently.

Suyang commands quite a bit of political clout, but he’s not without obstacles. The biggest threat is Kim Jong-seo, the venerated government minister who has both the authority and the balls to stand up to Suyang when others cower and crumble. That threat will have to be neutralized.


The young lovers: Lee Se-ryung, Kim Seung-yoo

All the above is factually true, but what happens when you throw a (fictional) wrench into the works, by making Kim Jong-seo’s son fall in love with Suyang’s daughter? Things, to put it simply, get complicated.

Those of you familiar with British history may see where the Richard III comparisons come in. Richard III, you may recall, also aspired to a throne that wasn’t his. The younger brother to a king, Richard took up regency of his young nephew when his brother died and passed the crown to the child. He had the boy declared illegitimate, deposed him and locked him in the Tower of London with his brother, where the two Princes in the Tower later died.

This isn’t to say that the story of The Princess’s Man is inspired by Richard’s history or Shakespeare’s play, since chronologically speaking Suyang/Sejo came first. (Richard III was born the year before Suyang’s usurpation, in fact. Hm, must’ve been something in the water in that bloodthirsty 15th century.) It’s just for comparison purposes that I bring it up, since the Romeo & Juliet logline has overshadowed this other correlation.


Righteous Kim Jong-seo, teenaged King Danjong

 
THE STORY

At the drama’s outset, King Munjong is ailing in secret, and because he trusts his brother Suyang (acted by Kim Young-chul) about as far as he can throw him, he’s particularly worried about creating a stable political environment for his son to inherit.

That fear is well-founded, since Suyang is busy orchestrating political machinations. As a way to keep his enemy close, Suyang approaches his biggest rival, Kim Jong-seo (played by Lee Soon-jae), with the proposal to betroth their children: Suyang’s beloved daughter Se-ryung (Moon Chae-won) with Kim’s son Seung-yoo (Park Shi-hoo). Kim Jong-seo is wary of Suyang, suspicious of his motives, as well he should be.

The initial meeting between Se-ryung and Seung-yoo is well-crafted, in that it takes a simple circumstance and twists it and weaves it inextricably with the core of the plot: Se-ryung hears that Kim Seung-yoo is her potential future husband, so when she learns that he has been appointed the new tutor to her cousin, Princess Kyung-hye (Hong Soo-hyun, who’s electric), Se-ryung decides she wants a peek. The girls swap clothes and trade places for the day, and her first impression is not good: She finds Seung-yoo both pompous (he lectures her on edicts, such as how women ought to be men’s shadows) and profligate (he comes to the session bearing a lipstick mark on his cheek, remnants of a drunken night at a gisaeng establishment).

They both decide they don’t like each other, but it’s not long before their aversion turns to interest, then attraction. But things get complicated mighty quickly, and the initial lie about Se-ryung being the princess — made with such silly, light intent — soon spirals far out of control.

It’s an example of the well-constructed nature of the plot, because things in this drama don’t happen without reason, without consequence. Everything has an effect on something else. Their meeting is such a simple issue — including a simple lie — that grows and entangles so thoroughly that the conflict that it sets off becomes an impossibly knotted problem.

The complication? King Munjong hears about Suyang’s secret maneuverings and decides to cut off the threat at the knees — by announcing that he has picked Seung-yoo to marry Princess Kyung-hye. Potentially dangerous union averted.

Se-ryung doesn’t know this and continues to fall for Seung-yoo believing him to be her future husband… while Seung-yoo feels free to fall for Se-ryung, because he believes she’s the princess and therefore his future wife. They continue to meet (often by chance), and the attachment grows quite strong before anybody catches wind of it. Seung-yoo continues to believe she’s someone else, and every time she tries to reveal the truth, she’s prevented.

And while these two are falling in love, Suyang is busily plotting against Kim Jong-seo. Here’s one reason this drama goes beyond the standard Romeo and Juliet story, because we’re given a greater understanding of the enmity between sides, other than just being told that Montagues and Capulets have been sworn enemies for generations. By the time the plot is in full swing, it’s completely clear why the lovers cannot be, juxtaposed with that wistful feeling of “It could have all been so easy” — because given a different circumstance, they would have been married and been perfectly blissful. We feel even more for their plight because we witness the couple’s love and their parents’ strife simultaneously hurtling toward opposite extremes, giving us a growing sense of foreboding as the stakes keep getting upped, and upped, and upped.

For instance, Suyang first does damage to the Kims on a smaller level and forces Kim Jong-seo’s resignation, but that’s not enough. Kim is a formidable man, and he counters Suyang’s power plays so solidly that the only way for Suyang to succeed in his coup is for Kim Jong-seo to die. Also Seung-yoo.

Therefore, he assembles his conspirators with promises of richly rewarding them when he becomes king. One of his recruits is the police chief, Myun, who will play a key role in the coup… and who just happens to be Seung-yoo’s best friend. Myun does not take lightly the burden of killing Seung-yoo’s father — or Seung-yoo himself. However, he finds himself between a rock and a hard place, because if he chooses not to join Suyang, he will be opposing (and perhaps killing) his own father.

There’s one more thing to sway Myun to the dark side: Suyang promises to give him his daughter in marriage, and Myun has been coveting his friend’s sweetheart from afar — even as he knows that Seung-yoo doesn’t know who she really is, and refrains from telling him the truth.

The initial lie twists again when Seung-yoo finds out Se-ryung isn’t the princess, but then believes she’s a lowly orphaned court lady. His engagement to the princess has been called off and he even considers marrying Se-ryung anyway despite the class divide, and therefore it may seem frustrating for Se-ryung to keep her identity quiet. But the drama does a convincing job of explaining why she must keep quiet, so that you’re simultaneously yelling at your screen, “Just tell him! No, you can’t tell him!”

In a nutshell: If she reveals her identity, she endangers her family. What started off as a little girlish prank now takes on dire undertones, because this younger generation is unwittingly drawn in to the political intrigue of their parents’ generation. A girl swapping places with her cousin is innocent. But the daughter of Scheming Politician impersonating the Princess, and consorting with the Princess’s Fiance? Suddenly the issue takes on grave implications and you’re just one secret away from branding your family traitors.

Actual treason wasn’t necessary to be punished as such, since you could kill first, trump up charges later — one of the benefits of surviving to rewrite history. (Which was Suyang’s basic mantra in accusing his opposition of being traitors in order to be rid of them.) In these volatile times, an accused traitor not only forfeited his own life but also his family’s. How could she tell the truth and sentence her family to death?

Even so, heroines have their secret-keeping limits, and Se-ryung is well-written in this aspect. Just when you start to worry that she’s being stupidly noble, or creating bigger problems with her silence, she decides to step up and do the right thing. Case in point: Se-ryung believes her father to be good and noble, because he’s always been the doting father. She is blind to his dark side, but finally she can’t deny it when she overhears him talking of his plans to murder Kim Jong-seo’s family that night.

Her family already knows she’s in love with Seung-yoo and her first attempt to warn his family fails, so they keep her locked up so she won’t interfere. She’s forced think of an alternative and writes a note in her own blood to draw Seung-yoo out of his house, desperate to save at least him, if not his household.

When Suyang’s coup is launched (resulting in what is now known as the Six Martyred Ministers), the romance becomes doomed — because no matter how virtuous Se-ryung is, she’s still the daughter of the man who massacred Seung-yoo’s family. Some things you just don’t get over.

This is the same conclusion Seung-yoo draws when he finally discovers Se-ryung’s true identity, just moments before he attempts to kill her father. He has managed to survive thanks to Se-ryung’s interference, but he’s been badly wounded and left for dead. His feeling of betrayal is compounded because he believes Se-ryung used him all along, that she was being used by her father as a tool in killing his. He doesn’t know the extremes to which she has gone to save his life, defying her own family and risking her own safety, and even when she knows he hates her, her primary focus is to keep him alive. Even if they cannot be together, she is determined to keep him from being executed by her father.

One of the addictive elements of the drama is its artful pacing, and the way it manages to keep you on the edge of your seat. Se-ryung’s actions escalate in accordance with her father’s, and as he marches closer to the throne with more murders, she grows more daring in her attempts to save Seung-yoo. It’s one way that the character Se-ryung showcases a thoroughly modern type of courage and pluck, while operating within the framework of the times. She laments at one point, Why do I have no power? How can I save him? This forces Se-ryung to become creative, and it keeps us guessing, because we’re lamenting the same thing.

The drama backs its characters against stone walls with no obvious way out, keeping us guessing until it produces a solution. Se-ryung is only one person, and how will she be able to succeed against an army? After all, Suyang is hardly going to let a daughter, no matter how beloved, deter him from his lifelong ambitions.

Se-ryung finally does shock Suyang by wielding a sword to her throat and declaring that the moment she hears Seung-yoo has been executed, she will turn the blade on herself.

What I love about this moment is that despite the heightened drama of the action, Se-ryung is not doing this in a fit of histrionics. Nor is she bluffing to scare Dad into compliance. She’s dead serious, but not in the “If you kill my love, I’m just going to DIE!” way.

Rather, she is taking an ideological stance: Her father has shed copious amounts of blood and is no longer affected by death, so she will get through to him with one that does shake him. If he is directly responsible for killing his own daughter, that’s one death he won’t be able to shrug off and forget. This would finally be a death that matters to Suyang, and it’s here that the drama takes the dramatics of Romeo and Juliet’s double suicide and twists them effectively. This isn’t just blind love talking; it’s also a moral stance, a daughter’s last-ditch attempt to recover the father she knew to be upright and good.

She proves her point, Suyang backs off, and Seung-yoo is spared. But shifty Suyang manages to find a way to have his cake and eat it too: He sends Seung-yoo to be shipped to exile, thereby appeasing Se-ryung — and then orders the ship sunk. Seung-yoo is believed to be dead but escapes with a group of prisoners, and what ensues is a Count of Monte Cristo-an tale of revenge as Seung-yoo returns to the capital with a new mane of glory to match his new attitude — bitter, seething, vengeful — and sets out with one goal: Kill Suyang.

Speaking of whom: Another of the drama’s fortes is in its depiction of Suyang’s twisted but also very human psychology. The historical Suyang has an interesting duality in that his usurpation is viewed negatively, but his reign as king was marked by a number of positive advancements. (In the words of my mother: “We call him Suyang when talking about all the bad stuff he did, and Sejo when talking about the good stuff.”) As a drama villain, he’s a complex character who manages to be somewhat accessible even as he’s out killing, maiming, and overtaking. I wouldn’t go so far as to call him sympathetic, but there are flashes of humanity that make him interesting.

For instance, there’s a moment when Se-ryung tells her father that she’s proud to be his daughter. He beams with pride, even as he turns around and plots to use her as a tool in killing Kim Jong-seo. His love for his daughter is never enough to thwart his aims, but it does sour the victory. The more he takes through wrongful means, the more Se-ryung’s respect drops. The drama can’t entirely thwart history by giving Suyang the end he probably deserves — this ain’t Tarantino, after all — but it does show us that he paid a price.

In fact, even after Suyang has become king and gotten what he wants, his daughter’s reaction makes him second-guess himself and wonder if what he did was really so bad. It’s a laughable statement given the rivers of blood running through Hanyang, but poignant in how he arrives at that point.

One of the things I really love about The Princess’s Man is the character of Se-ryung, who demonstrates integrity and character that you don’t necessarily think she possesses at the outset. I don’t think Moon Chae-won was the best actress for this role, but her character won me over so much that I was able to overlook her horrible sageuk diction.

(To put the accent in comparable terms, think of a modern teenager, like, acting in like a total Shakespeare play and stuff. It’s jarring and completely takes me out of the moment, which is unfortunate, but ultimately the story sweeps you up in its thrall. Moon does improve as the series goes on, and while she never becomes good at sageuk-speak, at least it’s better than the early episodes where she’s outright terrible. In her favor are her facial expressions and demeanor, and she’s emotive and convincing particularly in the latter stages; it’s just that her speech is her big flaw. Kinda like Lina Lamont in Singin’ in the Rain.)

But back to Se-ryung: As the series progressed, I found myself increasingly impressed with her, especially given how she started out — cheery, naive, sheltered. The more corrupt her father becomes, the stronger her opposition to him grows. She’s not obnoxious, just firm. Other heroines may be smart or pure or sweet: This girl is pure guts, and I love that.

The drama’s depiction of all the characters’ growth is well-done, but particularly so with her. On one hand, you sort of want to weep for their loss of innocence, and yet it’s the tribulations that forge them into the strong, honorable people they eventually become. Even Seung-yoo begins the drama in relative frivolity, drinking and joking and content in his privilege. It’s the trials they face that prove their integrity underneath that initial soft exterior.

So I love that she’s bold and courageous. Thus the drama gives Se-ryung agency in a world where women had very little. She can’t wield a sword and fight, and she has no political power, but she picks her battles and refuses to compromise her values of honor. She takes a stand for what’s right and makes use of every tool in her power to help. It’s a tricky balance, because while we applaud heroines who fight for love and justice, it’s also hard to applaud a heroine who could actively fight against family, no matter how corrupted. It’s just not the Confucian way. Filial piety is paramount, over romantic love or personal desires.

So it’s to Se-ryung’s credit that she manages to make her disapproval crystal clear, yet without entirely disrespecting her parents. Even when her father becomes king, she rejects the title of princess, though not in a loud, theatrical display. For instance, in one scene she is about to be introduced as princess, but cuts off the speaker to introduce herself as Se-ryung, circumventing the title she cannot in good conscience take. People do call her princess and she learns to let that battle go eventually, but it’s meaningful when she tells her father — whom she continues to call Father rather than the term she is expected to use, for the king — that she will not recognize any princess in the land but Kyung-hee.

Speaking of whom, it would be remiss to ignore Princess Kyung-hee, who positively shines. Or rather, actress Hong Soo-hyun does, reinventing her lackluster earlier career with this one commanding role, equal parts pride and vulnerability.

Kyung-hee spends her days cooped up in the palace walls and has a fondness for collecting ornaments and accessories and caged birds, reflective of her own state in the gilded cage of a palace. And although her sisterly relationship with Se-ryung sours as Suyang begins his takeover, the series does a solid job in playing this out believably. Even though she accuses Se-ryung of being happy about Kyung-hee’s broken engagement to Seung-yoo, she’s not lashing out at Se-ryung out of jealousy or petty vindictiveness, but because she’s genuinely frustrated that Se-ryung refuses to see what everyone else does: That Suyang is out to usurp.

Another series highlight is Kyung-hee’s relationship with Jong (Lee Min-woo), the husband that is picked for her after Seung-yoo is rejected. Jong happens to be Seung-yoo’s best friend (along with that traitor Myun), and has a wonderfully gentle, playful nature. He’s thrilled to be marrying the princess, but she complies only out of duty to her father’s dying wishes and keeps Jong at arm’s length, a husband in name only. Given that their first encounter is unflattering to him (he’s being chased by debt collectors), Kyung-hee maintains a negative impression of him, and he patiently does what he can for her while respecting the boundaries she erects.

What’s beautiful about this relationship is that Jong never has a chance to prove that he would be a good husband to her, so he proves it by just being a good husband to her. It kills me, this gradual blossoming. He’s constant and faithful and always on her side, and by degrees Kyung-hee starts to see his good nature shining through. He doesn’t do things to earn her good favor, he just does them because he’s there for her and he loves her.

When she realizes her feelings and admits them, it’s framed in the context of him having become indispensable to her; perhaps she doesn’t know how or when it happened, but one day she looks around and realizes he’s always been there. In one of the drama’s most romantic moments (to me), Kyung-hee marks the shift in their relationship by calling him, for the first time, “husband.” Just as nomenclature is important to Se-ryung who deliberately avoids calling her father the word for king, Kyung-hee has called Jong by a formal term, and it’s not until she calls him the common word for husband that he truly becomes one to her.

Of course, part of the reason that love relationship is so strong is because their ideals are aligned. I love that The Princess’s Man does this with Kyung-hee and Jong, as well as Se-ryung and Seung-yoo. I confess I probably would have found it tedious after a number of episodes if all this drama were focused purely on the angst of the Romance That Cannot Be. There’s only so much pleading, “But I love him!” that you can take before it starts to grow wearying.

But the romance is inextricably tied into the fight for justice; Se-ryung is fighting to get Suyang to stop the killing as much as she fights to keep her love. When Suyang later accuses her of plotting against her own father (“And all for a man!”), she counters that she has never wished harm for her father, and merely wished for the bloody mayhem to stop, and for the return of the father she once knew.

Even with all this, though, our Romeo and Juliet are still at odds; she loves him, while he fights his love for her with reminders that he needs to avenge his family’s murders. At several points, he is urged to just take Se-ryung and run away, but he can’t give up on his work — especially when he is committed to the bigger fight to topple Suyang. It’s no longer just about personal vengeance, but a greater injustice.

It’s only after Se-ryung finally cuts ties with her father that this obstacle is removed. If she had disowned her father earlier on, aside from lacking material for a 24-episode drama, it would have seemed precipitate: Oh, you can cut out your father just for a man?, just as he accused. But the drama gradually intensifies Suyang’s moral descent until Se-ryung can’t be a part of this family any longer; it’s not romantic attachment driving her, but her own code of honor.

Only then can Seung-yoo accept Se-ryung without qualms, and they declare themselves married with an exchange of rings. When they tell each other that “we are one body now,” they refer to their unity of purpose as much as their marital state.

It’s because of their mismatched values (well, among other reasons) that Myun is doomed to forever stare at Se-ryung’s back. He’s willing to compromise his ideals in getting what he wants, whereas she would never abide that in him.

It’s significant that Myun sees her as an object to possess, and in fact what initially gets him to choose Suyang’s side is Suyang whispering into his ear like a devil on his shoulder, saying that Se-ryung is his promised bride and that he ought to consider her above his old friend. Suyang has cleverly reframed the issue in Myun’s mind: She isn’t your friend’s woman that you want for yourself, she’s yours and you need to protect your own. Ergo, join me and kill Seung-yoo. Even later in the series after it’s clear she’s committed herself whole-heartedly to Seung-yoo, and that she’d rather die alone than take a husband other than him, Myun growls at her, “You are mine.”

The drama offers an interesting examination into the nature of friendship with the trio of Seung-yoo, Jong, and Myun, with Jong being the most idealistic, Myun caving to seflish pragmatism, and Seung-yoo somewhere in between, though closer to Jong. I do appreciate that Myun isn’t an outright villain, however. Like Suyang, I never quite feel sympathetic toward him, but I see him more as a weak human than an evil one.

Despite what I said previously about Myun joining Suyang under duress, in the end it is his choice, no matter how he frames it for his own conscience. For instance, early on when the friends first start to take divergent ideological paths, there’s a moment when Seung-yoo suffers at the hands of the opposition. But he offers to put their fathers’ politics aside so as to relieve Myun from feeling guilty for his father’s role in it. When the situation is flipped, Myun can’t extend the same generosity of spirit.

Myun declares time and time again that he will kill Seung-yoo, especially as Se-ryung’s rejections of him grow colder, with such frequency that it’s almost funny (seriously, you should make it a drinking game). But in the end he can’t do it, on multiple occasions. I don’t think that excuses any of his decisions, because he was willing to contribute to Seung-yoo’s death even if he couldn’t deliver the deathblow, but it shows that he’s not actually content with his choices.

I appreciate that he’s conflicted about his choices, even as he goes and makes all the wrong ones, and you can see that he’s haunted by them. His old teacher urges him that it’s not too late to be a friend to Seung-yoo: “Be friends who save each other.” And in the end, he can at least do that much; it’s not full redemption, but gives complexity to his inner struggle. Which is why you can make an argument for Myun’s humanity, but not his nobility.

 

The Princess’s Man OST – “그리움 지고” (With Longing)
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THE ENDING AND RELATED COMMENTS

There’s a notion of equality running through the love story that I find deeply satisfying, because it’s a concept that evolves over the course of the series. In their first meeting, Seung-yoo smugly recites adages emphasizing that woman’s place is behind a man — her father, husband, then son. Ergo, she is his shadow. When he asks her to be his wife, he tells her that they’ll be each other’s shadows from now on.

After Seung-yoo becomes Dark Avenger Seung-yoo, he’s always on alert for danger and sleeps sitting up with a knife at the ready because there was nobody he could trust. Finally with Se-ryung back by his side, he confides, “If only I could lean against someone, I might sleep easily.” Se-ryung props his head on her shoulder, and he sleeps.

The equality theme extends into the horseback riding motif, which provides a nice bookend for the drama. One of their early encounters arises when Se-ryung — who dearly wants to ride despite being forbidden — sneaks out on a horse which bolts out of control. Seung-yoo saves her, and she asks him to teach her how to ride, because then she could ride safely. He tells her that when they marry, he’ll teach her how to ride, allowing her a freedom as his wife that she is denied by current social norms.

Horseback riding also offers, or betrays, personal intimacy. It’s why Se-ryung furiously denounces Myun the one time he loses his temper with her and forces her onto horseback with him. She hates the contact and dismounts at the first opportunity, and he finds himself shut even further out because of it. Later, when Seung-yoo is still furious at Se-ryung for the betrayal, he takes her away on horseback but is so rattled at the contact that he gets off and walks instead. Following their reconciliation, he takes her away again and wonders, “Why don’t you ask where we’re going?” Her reply: “It doesn’t matter.”

And finally, the ending: Seung-yoo is finally captured (because he didn’t kill Suyang when he had the chance), beaten half to death, and sentenced to execution. Se-ryung is devastated but honors his desire to die rather than renounce his beliefs, and finally her mother — who has watched her husband becoming ravaged by his rage and bloodlust — decides that she can’t lose another child and orders Seung-yoo declared dead. Se-ryung is reported to have committed suicide in response (another twist on the classic Shakespeare), and the two are carried outside the city as “corpses,” giving them the freedom to live in obscurity.

The beating leaves Seung-yoo blind, however, and when we see them a number of years later in the drama’s ending sequence, Se-ryung leads him to a field where he is ready to try riding a horse again. She asks if he’s afraid, and he answers no — because she’s there, guiding him.

My first reaction to the ending was one of disappointment, because it seemed such a waste to have Seung-yoo give up his resistance work when so much of the drama emphasized that he was committed till the end, that he would never compromise that in order to live easy. It goes against everything he and Jong stood for, and I felt it was a letdown. The more I reflect on it, the more at peace I am with the resolution, because Seung-yoo gets the chance to warn Suyang that killing him doesn’t matter — the resistance will come back, somebody will take his place, and Suyang will never rest easy. That much is true, because Suyang is haunted by ghosts for the rest of his days, unable to sleep or shake off the guilt that comes from killing your daughter in your greed. So when he sees — with the Queen’s intervention — that Seung-yoo and Se-ryung are alive and well after all these years, he gains a small measure of peace.

And, as Seung-yoo tells Se-ryung in the final scene: He may have lost his sight, but he regained his heart. Just as he lost his revenge, and regained her.

 

 
FINAL THOUGHTS

In almost every respect, The Princess’s Man delivers a solid, emotional, gripping storytelling punch. It’s got an epic score and a gorgeous visual appeal which, to my disappointment, fades a bit after 7 or 8 episodes (a camera switch?). The change isn’t a huge issue, but man, thinking of how the drama could’ve looked if it had maintained that level of cinematographic flair makes me a little bit sad at what could have been.

If I have to nitpick, I have to admit that the drama didn’t get me straight in the heart even though mentally I was completely engaged, which is why it doesn’t quite topple The Return of Iljimae as my top sageuk. But it did get my blood pumping and the story often swept me away, offering a welcome surprise — especially after expecting doom ‘n gloom. Often in sageuks I find that political dealings take up a lot of screentime without a lot of forward movement, but this drama gets going at a roaring pace and never lets up.

Plus, it’s got one of the most compelling romances I’ve seen in a while. This is something that’ll probably differ widely for various viewers, because people react so differently to various romantic pairings that there’s no predicting who will respond to what. But I find that in so many drama romances, I’m really onboard because of one side, one awesomely compelling character for whom I wish all happiness and success. So the other person is just along for the ride. In this drama, both sides were convincing and heartfelt. You’re pulling for them to find a way to make it work, even though you have no idea how it could possibly work. That’s some good writing.

All in all, this is a drama that delivered on its premise and then some, and probably ranks as one of my top picks of the year.

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Finally finished marathoning this series! I became a fan of Park Shi Hoo!

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what i like from this drama beside the epic romance between two leads or cute romance between jong and kyunghee is the tangled friendship between the characters. man, as much as i hate shinmyun character, i found him as the most pitiful, not to mention that he is deadly handsome as well >///< and those royal academy trio's friendship kinda makes me wonder what if sungkyunkwan scandal went further with their jalgeum quartet, make them "suffer" through these obstacles.

what touched me about their "friendship" is how shinmyun can't managed to kill seungyu after all, or how jong tried to save shinmyun when he plotted the scheme of killing suyang, or how shinmyun still asked forgiveness for jong from suyang. another "friendship" from our two princess is also touching. kyunghee never fails to amaze me, and while seryung is kinda annoyingly helpless at first, she managed to be someone who is lovable. i'm totally in love with her character.

i haven't watch TWDR, but reading from the comments here, i'm going to give it a try. thanks for your recap, javabeans! can't wait for end year recap, yay~ ^^

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This was a very solid drama indeed. Wasn't very intrigued when the first previews came out on KBS World. But I just flipped channels one night and voila, I was hooked. Very interesting premise and acting.

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You had a very thorough review and I enjoyed reading. However, like what one of the other readers mentioned, you didn't comment much on Park Shi Hoo. One cannot love the series without falling in love with the lead actor. I'm curious to know what your thoughts on him were as well.

Thanks,
-B

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kkk maybe she didn't comment much on Park Shi Hoo because he's already perfect ^^

ROFLL kidding.. but really. I just love him ... love love him...

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Thank you for this review.I have been waiting the review since this series broadcast in KBS World. I can 't wait the subtitle from Darksmurf every week to understand the stories. I love this drama very much, it make my heart almost stop breathing when saw the ending of each episode. Moon Chae Won & Park Shi Hoo can portray the character of LSR & KSY perfectly. Hope to hear good news from them soon. I hope those two will get the Best Actress, Actor & Couple from KBS Award.

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About halfway into the show, I realized that the Princess Man would be a masterpiece . . . if the story wasn't centered around Se Ryung, or if the story wasn't about the reign of King Sejo. Individually, each part works and is elegantly modulated, but together the mix of harlequin costume melodrama and horrific family cleansing undercut each other. The writer never really addresses the elephant in the closet: what makes daddy Sooyang tick? Instead, we get a narrative that is straight compartmentalization. Sooyang is a doting dad; Sooyang kills his own extended family; Sooyang has typical "I hate your boyfriend" fights; Sooyang puts his own nephew to death.

Se Ryung's storyline seems relatively trivial . . . except for the displays of masochism to create a confirmation with us that "her love matters." Bella!!! And it works in the way that Korean melodramas celebrate "pain made pretty." Se Ryung so eagerly sticks her neck out for Kim Seung Yoo's transferred rage that it's not a little erotic. Se Ryung's suicidal negotiation tactics, class self-subjugation, and general willingness to be a pretty human shield established her credibility as Se Ryung: THE Ride or Die Princess. Se Ryung is definitely no snitch, not even for her family. Kim Seung Yoo doesn't so much as fall in love with her again, as he's so impressed by her "Me and My Bitch" aspirations that he HAS to accept her. It's awesome, and Moon Chae Won take to this material so well that, in a sense, this is also her most relaxed performance ever (including the romantic comedy Take Care Of My Lady) She just seems so at home with the emotions of her character.

Park Shi Hoo's great here. He's dressed like Warrior Baek Dong Soo's Yeo Woon, but his grim determination is straight Maximus. He will have his revenge in this life or the next. Or maybe not. I've liked PSH since Iljimae. He is the rare beefcake that is truly comfortable in his own skin (unlike, say, Kwon Sang Woo.) It was as if, from the day he was born, he was built like Thor, like Tim Tebow, and his self assurance comes through in his scenes with Moon Chae Won and his character's personal anguish. Kim Seung Yoo works, not because he is complex, but because he is relatively simple. We know that, essentially, he is a man's man, and he will kill according to a noble code. He will smite down his Bro (and have his revenge). . . but he will insist on observing Bro Code to get there. It's just how KSY rolls.

I thought Kyung Hye/Jung Jong's storyline stole the show. And therein lied what I found was a brilliant, brilliant move by the writer. The Princess Man took the persecution/oppression narrative used in movies and dramas to tell the Japanese occupation of Korea, and applied it to the era of Soo Yang's reign (and the Six Martyred Ministers.) You have a uprooted aristrocracy. You have freedom fighters. You have friends who sell out friends. You have systematic, metronomic slaughter and a quasar of fear and dread. Above all, you have the subjugated depiction of one husband and wife struggling to find normalcy and moral decency . . . and failing. Their story is a survival story, a uprising story, a tragic story.

Both Lee Min Woo and Hong Song Hyun do absolutely great work here. If you watch enough Hong Song Hyun roles, you'll notice that she grimaces in every performance. That is her trick. Her Kyung Hye elevates that grimace into a blue-blooded anguish that vaguely recalls of Nicole Kidman, all stiff-upper-lip and severe, severe disappointment. Kyung Hee's loss seems bottomless, because her absolutely spot-on judgement is useless to her fate. When things couldn't be more horrible, it gets much worse for her. She comprehends her tragedy and endures. Some people lamented Kyung Hye not realizing what she had with Jung Jong earlier. But I argue that she eventually loved Jung Jong was her own personal victory against the persecution.

Jung Jong is the greatest character in the show, because he is the Everyman. He lacks fighting skill. He lacks royal authority. He lacks his teacher's far reaching wisdom. He wasn't even Kyung Hye's first choice. He's the man on the street, fighting on the occupation because the people he loves are being torn asunder it.

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Wow great comment there. Agree with everything you said! :)

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This was such a good drama. Park Shi-hoo and Moon Chae-won are so convincing as lovers. When I see her looking at him with complete and utter devotion with those big round eyes, and when I see him looking at her with those sad heavy-lidded eyes that look as if he’d been crying all night thinking about her, I just want to scream at the two of them to just kiss and run away to make beautiful babies and live happily together, haha. They got me with the fake-out at the end. I totally fell for it and cried my eyes out until I realized what happened. I don’t care if it doesn’t make sense. I’m just glad they get to be together.

And yes, I loved the mane, too!! What a gorgeous assassin.

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Just wanted to add that often times I would watch a drama and accept the couple they feature as THE couple, destined to be together, only because you're being told that that's what they are. But here, these actors play "the lovers" role so convincingly that you really feel the love between the two and how perfect they are for each other and why they should be together in spite of what happened between their families.

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I started watching this drama because of this series review and MAN! I love it! It's really awesome and I really love Moon Chae Won in this drama. Everything is just so beautifully acted and I felt like the Princess Kyung Hye really matured throughout the series.

P.S I love love this series review thing you did. It was really helpful in understanding some things in the drama and it was a big push in me starting this drama. I know that you're super busy with other drama recaps and life in general, but if you can, please do more of these! I love reading what you think about dramas. Thank you for doing this in the first place!! :)

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And also, just fell in love with all the actors in here. Myun, Jong, Seung Yoo, Kyung Hye, and Se Ryung. They're just amazing and I loved how the girls weren't the only ones crying. The guys also had their manly tears too. I've never been able to finish a saeguk, but I think that this "mini-saeguk" will get me started off just fine. I can't say enough about how awesome this drama is!

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Wow! It seems to be a good drama! Maybe I should watch this...

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some other notes in the history, and w/in the review:
-usurpation of the throne in 1453: Gyeyujeongnan in yeoksa speak...already discussed in "The King and I"...
-Suyang commands quite a bit of political clout: chief among them is Han Myeong-hwoe (Lee Hui-do, who I know is a veteran way back, but whenever I see his name, "Dae Jang-geum" just bites back with the name of "Choi Pan-sool"), a traditional character in both yeoksa & sageuks given a bad-going-to-villainous image... (an exception of the traditional portrayal is an 80's drama of the same name ("Han Myeong-hwoe") of the decade-long "500 Years of Joseon", played by Lee Deok-hwa)
-resulting in what is now known as the Six Martyred Ministers - those came WAY LATER, when Sejo is already king. The (ironical) fun note in it is that our funny and bumbling scholars/slash/corpse-stealers in "Tree With Deep Roots", Seong Sam-moon & Park Paeng-nyeon, are part of the reinstatement plot for Danjong...
-(Se-ryeong) rejects the title of princess - in yeoksa speak, Sejo had only one daughter, and it wasn't even Se-ryeong at all (Yi Se-seon, Princess Uisook; played by Seo Hye-jin in this drama). The drama did a good job in delineating the reason why Se-ryeong became an apocryphal daughter of Sejo, and why she wasn't even recorded in the Shillok

This is from Sejo's Wikipedia article, to which I've edited his family, from his Korean Wiki article: From the unofficial history (yasa 야사 野史), accurately from the "Geumgye Pildam" (금계필담 錦溪筆談; by Seo Yoo-yeong in 1873), but unable to confirm from the official Annals. In 1446 (Sejong's 28th year), the Annals recorded Grand Prince Suyang (as he was still known that time) as having "1 son & 2 daughters", but there was no record or possibility of her having existed then. According to said unofficial history, Se-ryeong is known as Yi Se-hee (이세희) (the name in Geumgye Pildam), Yi Se-jeong (이세정), the Princess Uiryeong (의령공주), and the Princess Uihwa (의화공주).

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This drama put me in a "There are no good dramas" funk for a couple of weeks. Still new to dramas and still feel this was the best I seen PSH was already a favorite but it introduced me to the real talent of MCW who I loved in Shining Inheritance (now that was acting!) I loved all of the characters and felt TPM really introduced me to sageuk dramas which I find I like those the best. I felt the ending was perfect and satisfying, especially after so many died that I cried profusely (Jong). This was one of my marathon watching dramas!

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I love this drama so freaking much! :) btw ppl, don't forget to vote for this awesome drama here http:koreandrama.org/?p=12003

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don't forget to vote okay :) http://www.koreandrama.org/?p=12003

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I finally read this. I've been hoarding this review until I finished writing my own thoughts. It's amazing how much you see and talk about. I see the bullet points of the drama, but you are able to talk about the big picture and how it ties together as well as the characters. So awesome! Thank you.

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Thanks. I finally watched this drama because your review. And I LOVED it!

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Loved this drama, loved the mane, loved the man! I can't believe I've never noticed him before. Thanks, Javabeans. If you had not reviewed this drama, I would never have set my eyes on it and him. He is amazing! I have been rewatching it as well as his other dramas I heard about but never bother to watch. Felt like I discovered gold, haha. Thanks again.

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I'm in love... like totally in love with this drama.. I love everything about it: the story, the cast, the music, just everything about it !!! and Park Shi Hoo is totally fit for the role !!! I just love him !!! He's so adorable in the first few episodes and then transformed into a hot, badass man at the end !!! I'm really impressed with him !!!!

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Currently watching this. :)
This is the first historical drama I've ever started-- usually I stick with the modern-time romances and whatnot, but I've heard such great things about this drama and it's been pretty compelling so far.
I really do love the main actress (saw her in Shining Inheritance) and her character, as well as the main actor. However, the history is a bit confusing for me :( but that isn't too big of a deal.
Wonderful drama so far and wonderful recap from javabeans, as always! :)

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Just finished watching after, what? 4 days I think. Couldn't stop. Replayed all my favorite scenes specially those of Se Ryung standing up to her parents.

I love Moon Chae-won more than Park Shi-hoo here, but I will definitely watch his recent dramas more than hers. I'm glad I'm not Korean so I didn't notice her bad sageuk diction. I agree that that would've distracted me if I'd known. Nevertheless, I love MCW's expressions and voice/tone.

Great secondary characters: Kyung-hee and Jong. Hong Soo-hyun was perfect. Every time she cries or tries not to, I tear up.

Also love the original Crown Prince. Would like to see more of him on dramas. He reminds me a lot of Kim Soo-hyun.

Really hated Se Ryung's mom from the beginning but she redeemed herself during the last episode.

Love the writing and directing. Wonderful soundtrack and beautiful score.

I'm giving it ★★★★★ or 10/10. It's my top 2 drama this year.

Waiting patiently for the DVD set so I could rewatch.

Thank you JB for the wonderful series review. I have a different interpretation though of one scene:

"Later, when Seung-yoo is still furious at Se-ryung for the betrayal, he takes her away on horseback but is so rattled at the contact that he gets off and walks instead."

I think Seung-yoo got off and walked, primarily because he noticed that Se-ryung was hurting. She hasn't completely healed from being shot with the arrow meant for him. Not that he wasn't rattled at the contact with her, but I don't see that as the main reason for his dismounting.

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I agree with you about the horseback scene. That's what I thought, too.

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hmm iunno how i feel abt the ending yet :/ i'm not really satisfied with it but i suppose it could have ended worse. definitely one of my favorite dramas of the year and definitely in my top five ^^ i'm a huge fan of revenge dramas xD plus anything with park si hoo is <3 and omj his hair! serious mane of glory hahah

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yeah i totally disagree abt the soundtrack. one song on there totally drove me nuts. it reminded me of a xmas song (carol of the bells) and i would get so distracted when they played it.

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I agree on the 'Destinio' song. I got supremely annoyed towards the end of the show, but it was definitely super effective at the beginning at setting the tone for the whole drama.

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I enjoyed the drama overall but I got so frustrated that the 'good' characters (team resistance) seemingly lacked a sense of alertness, considering the danger of their work. They would openly discuss 'secretive' plans in full view of the public/near their enemies & it was just sad watching their attempts being thwarted by their own incompetance & carelessness.

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So true, so true.

Don't forget the leave-rebellious-evidence-up-my-leave act. Honestly, what's wrong with good ol' memory.

Another strange quirk was Seung-roo being critisized by his teacher for basically acting selfishly, and not approaching the matter for the greater good. He was getting the job done! He was creating and sustaining fear in his enemies; which is more than I can say for the Rebel Team

I think the greatest mistake the Rebel Team made was to maintain anything Confucian about a political coup. They're about as compatible as dressing Darth Vader in pink spandex. Considering Chinese history had some rather notorious political coups to learn from, and that any respectable scholar should be acquainted with history, I fail to understand why the boys were so plainly ignorant.

They also could've done with a copy of The Prince.

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This was truly an amazing review. Thank you Javabeans.

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Aww. It loses the pretty cinematography after a while? I may be shallow but I watch dramas because of the pretty; second to the story. I'm still very early in the drama (7 episodes) so no judgment yet.

The drama definitely has one of the best music arrangement and soundtrack. It heightens every single scene's emotion coupled with the very very pretty cinematography (the inserts of slow motion scenes are used effectively, imo). This is a film I tell you. The production is definitely deserves applause.

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No you're not. I still prefer story over cinematography, but I can say that if a drama was to have a completely flawed cinematography, no matter how good the story is, I don't think I'll be able to continue watching it.
Let's say, if City Hunter or Prosecutor Princess's cinematography wasn't as great as it is, I don't think I'd marathon it in 3 days' time. lol

I thought I was the only who noticed the camera switch, because I'm one of those who get very picky about a drama's cinematography like mariolawpanda above. And I too was quite sad to find out that they decided to change the camera. Man. Imagine all those battle scenes and tear jerking scenes like the ones where myun died or when seungyoo strangled seryung but the latter hugged him in return being shot in such near perfection? wow, that would completely blew me away.

But that aside, for me, this drama is absolute perfection. I have never been a sageuk fan, heck, the only sageuk i have finished is SKKS scandal, you can kill me later but I somehow never developed an intense liking to it. But TPM is different in so many different ways that I couldn't stop reaching for the next episode and never seem to be able to stop ranting about the drama even weeks after I finished watching it.

The acting, the music, the directing and the writing has somehow blended into one inseparable union that managed to have a mind blowing, heart wrenching, eye catching, (insert more outrageous adjectives) effects on its viewers. (or maybe it is just me).

Thanks to TPM, I now am a sageuk fan. (i'm planning to marathon return of iljimae and TWDR lol), and an avid park shi hoo fan. man that guy is amazing. now i keep looking or his other works.

And I'm glad this drama received a really great response (what with the high ratings and the awards), it deserves to have so. though i still think it doesn't have the fandom it supposed to have. maybe the lack of 20-something eye candy slash male hottie? lol i can only hope for the drama to do well in baeksang. :)

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I agree with you, that this drama had a beautifully good story, with no plot holes.
I too noticed something was off with the camera switch, but it hadn't dawned on me that it was a camera switch until i read this. (im new to kdramas.)

what is a sageuk?

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If you do any re-watches, note flash-backs in later parts of the drama. Contrast in cinematography (particularly saturation) is obvious.

There weren't necessarily plot holes, but some parts of the story fabric were stretched for credibility.

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Excellent drama. We are watching this now after watching Tree with Deep Roots, which made it a great sequential drama. We did wonder, however, why the writing depicted in the drama was still Chinese not Hagul?? Afterall, this is supposed to occur just a few short years after the introduction of the alphabet to the common people.

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Does anyone know what happened to A Gang and Seung-yoo's sister in-law? I am guessing they're living with them, but the more I think about it, I am not sure. I found this to be one of the best k-drama's ever... the plot was perfect- airtight and wellthought out. There were two things that bothered me (one is the above question) second, is that everyone at the giseang house from Port Mapo (i think that's what it's called) thinks the couple's dead? I am not sure, they had to feel remorse about that... in a way i feel they had the right to know they were alive after doing so much for them.

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Also, I agree that revenge was not the right thing to do. At first, when I finished the series, i was like: What? After all that, Seung-yoo won't take revenge, wont put the kingdom on the right path? I actually didnt know that this story was based on true history back then. So, obviously it wasnt possible.
but only that, revenge would have really destroyed the couple and their love for each other. It wasn't a totally sad ending, but it certainly wasnt happy either. the fact seung-yoo lost his sight was totally unpredictable.

LAST QUESTION: the poem read at the end: "What is Love? I ask the world... "

Is that a real poem written- like, in the olden days? or was that made up by the script writer?

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It is a real poem (as a opposed to a 'fake' poem *tongue in cheek*). I don't remember the poet, but the poem is near immortalized by adaptations of Jin Yong's Return of the Condor Hero (as the poem was fairly central to the plot and music for it's adaptations).

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Ooouw...why series revew? Why not doing it for all series? I do enjoy reading your recaps very much. It companies me on whenever I go coz I read it on my mobile.

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Great insights Javabeans - as always. I follow, but mainly as a lurker. You've articulated many points better than the impressions that I had in my head.

2 points (maybe more - too late in the night to think of more), that I agree to disagree:

Regarding Princess Kyung-hee, the subtext does suggest "jealousy or petty vindictiveness". Not in a I'm-tearing-out-your-eyeballs kinda way, but more in a knee-jerk reaction to not being the centre of attention. If Kyung-hee was really all about the threat of Su-yang, I don't see the point of her needing to 'check out' Seung-yoo. Kyung-hee really didn't seem all that aware of Su-yang anyway - until the king was literally sick over it. In the scene when she blames Se-ryung's father's actions for her behaving the way she did, I saw it as nothing but as excuse (if not totally irrelevant).

It didn't help, later on, when it seemed like the whole gang was ganging up on Se-ryung; as if she single-handedly orchestrated everyone's tragedies. She was doing the best she could for everyone (including her father, in her own way), yet, everyone was using her as a scapegoat. Instead of examining why their political coups failed (namely due to whispering plans loudly OUTSIDE, retaining bribable compatriots, etc), it's point out character faults of the enemy and lash out at his daughter. No wonder they never won. Be surprised if they did.

The evolution of Kyung-hee and Se-ryung's relationship was very engaging. There were some phenomenally touching moments (yellow flowers from Queen's grave). It was a bit of a no-place-like-home moment when the ladies came full circle, and found themselves sitting together at the temple, one a mother, another a mother-to-be. Then of course ruined by the: 'Don't tell them about the child' because gee, I've just tooted it loud enough for everyone to hear anyway.

After reading your review, I took note of Seung-yoo and Se-ryung's riding scenes - all of them. I don't think that he was ever rattled by his intimacy on horse back with Se-ryung. While he was still Mr Moody, Seung-yoo got off the course in a sniff because he was at this destination, and then another time, because he knew that the jolt of horse riding was hurting her back.

Novel titbit: did anyone notice the SNAKE during the second time Se-ryung helps Seung-yoo's sister-in-law and adorable niece? Voldemort's pet was slithering diagonally down the tree, situated in the top right-hand corner of the scene. It's just before the open doorway to the room. I thought it was just an active stick at first, but the texture and movement suggests otherwise (right temp for it too; snakes being sunnyphilic).

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oh my god yes i saw that snake writing up the door frame! WTF?! i thought i was seeing things so much so that i didn't even pause and reply the scene but it stuck out in my mind so much that i thought 'wait, was that a snake climbing up the door frame?......noooo surely not' but holy crap i am not the only one that saw that!

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I've only reached half-way through the series so far (still waiting for the folks at WithS2 to kindly resume duty, but they're having a well-deserved break :) ).

I'm grateful for all the people who contributed to the topic of sageuk-speak in this thread, I was able to learn something very useful here ! I haven't learnt Korean so obviously I cannot really detect the shifts in speech-levels and all, but Se Ryung's manner of speaking did appear different to, say, Kyung Hee's (though I'd be unable to elaborate on what seemed different).

I love Suyang, the guy's so awesome, I don't really care whether he was a good or a bad king afterwards, Suyang is an ambitious guy who wanted his shot at getting absolute power, and not make compromises for it. I admire that in anyone, Suyang's also got the intellect to match his ambitions. That his daughter tried to get in his way and that he ultimately didn't waver only makes it more beautiful and put him in a better light. It shows he's more determined than ever and has that habit of just getting things done.

The drama itself is a brilliant piece of work so far, obviously the political backdrop sets the tone of the events, but how the story of our 2 love-birds is inter-twined to the whole thing and because of political factions fighting each-other : how it all ends up in rather grim fashion. I'd like to see how Kyung Hee's role evolves too : before she was kind of immature and oblivious to all things that happened in the palace but once she learnt of her father's condition, she starting waking up to reality. Hong Soo Hyun has been doing a fabulous job thus far, awesome acting and definitely feels like she's been a Princess all her life XD

I'm hoping to see a blood-thirsty and revenge-consumed Seung Yu, I mean after all that has happened the least I want to see is him killing off at least some of Suyang's men and minister friends, but I don't know what historical events took place and the drama does follow the main historical line of story, so I'll be looking forward to how things unfold.

As ever : thank you you lovely ladies of dramabeans, I love your work !

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Martyrdom, the suffering of death on account of adherence to a faith, or to any cause was well depicted in TPM. Love of a higher calling was so great that the paths taken by SR and SY in this drama became so real and justifiable which sometimes make me feel that these two characters are real and walking somewhere as we speak now.
I never could imagine how SR was finally put down to the lowest level as a slave but in reality soared high with her man instead.
When SY accepted her sacrifice to their cause, nothing in the world would ever break them apart forever.
The best drama and the deservingly best review for me.
I have always love watching MCW act. And with PSH, they reached a new height of almost perfection in their acting careers.(Top Excellence Awards by KBS in 2011)

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I love the princess man especially for moon chae won and park shi hoo! At first I did not like this pairing since I did not like either characters based on past performances, however, in this drama both impressed and changed my opinion about them. Each second was wonderful, moving, and beautiful. I was on my seat every moment and cannot believe that I finished it so fast. I must disagree with javabeans opinion of moon chae won being selected for the role of se-ryung. In fact if you were sold by her character so much it is in large part due to moon chae won. Anybody can act, but it takes a real special individual to go against the boundaries to the point where it transcends acting and make it seem like it is reality.

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Thank you so much for this very wonderful review... It helps a lot for someone like me who is not Korean but love the culture itself and is limited by the language barrier!!!..

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So in these types of sageuk dramas the main parts of the real Korean history MUST remain real even in fictional dramas? Why is that? I know it's historical fiction but still... Would it cause protests or something from the viewers? Do you think that if the ending did not have to keep the king alive, Seung-yoo would've gotten his revenge and it would've been a happier ending? What kind of revenge would you have liked?

[SPOILER] Frankly I was really disappointed in the ending when I thought they both died since I just can't accept unhappy endings no matter what so I was so relieved that they at least lived on to be happy. But the king should've lived in grief until he died miserably instead of even getting that chance of feeling happiness of seeing Se-ryung and Seung-yoo living together in the end with their daughter. Yes, I'm just that bitter.

I do agree that some historical dramas are often just about boring and repetitive political affairs but this one incorporates it into the story with such fast pace and romance that it worked so well! Overall, it was such a great drama! One of my all time favorite saeguk dramas!

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I am very satisfied with the ending, but I'm speaking here on an objective basis.

There would be no "happier ending" if Seung-yoo had gotten his revenge. No matter what the king did, in the end, it won't change the fact that her love/husband killed her father, and I don't see how Se-ryung can live with that. Knowing her and her personality as depicted in the drama, she still cared for her father. She'd have to live with guilt and sadness for the rest of her life and I don't see that as being happier than the ending we were given.

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i love every drama and i say hello for every actors

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i kurdsh and i look this drama really its verry amazing this drama very good just i hate fathers soryon

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I think this drama deserves way more attention than it gets.

Top 5 K-dramas for me. Everything was written, said, filmed so beautifully, and the plot was so believable it wasn't annoying tragic love all the way..

GF u r an awesome awesome K-Drama reviewer. Your insight knows no bounds. What we viewers think, u put it out so well in words and it makes a little glee role in my heart when I read what you write!

Cos, it speaks my mind. And how you noticed Moon Chae Won's speech (not so saeguk) and the changing emotions the writer was trying to portray, awesome.

Kudos and thanks!

Those of u who havent watched The Princess' Man, pls do.. its awesome!

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First time to comment here. I thoroughly enjoyed your review. You did a great job in pinning down the characters in the series, especially Se Ryung. It has been a long time that complex and more human-like characters graced my television screen, thanks to this series. I have not seen Return of Iljimae so I have nothing else to compare to The Princess' Man so I'd say this is my favorite sageuk series.

Like you, I also liked how they crafted the character of Se Ryung. Jang Geum, Seon Duk, and Dong Yi are among the most iconic female sageuk characters that I think were praised for being strong and intelligent characters. Much to the delight of feminists I believe (okay, that is a far-fetched assumption haha). But it is very rare that a very feminine (soft, caring, naive) character yet with a strong and steadfast conviction towards righteousness is created to lead a series/show. Moon Chae Won delivered a great performance for she was able to portray that duality in her character really well. I had no problem with the diction though because I'm not Korean so she's perfect for the role, at least for me.

I also like the symbol she played in the series. She lost the innocence and naivety she had at the beginning as the story progresses, but it remained crystal clear that she is the embodiment of hope and that I think is the reason why the show isn't as dire and depressing. It is like, she is the flicker of light that something good will happen in the end. She was not a corrupted character from the beginning and remained so till the end.

All in all, I really really REALLY enjoyed this show. There is a balanced of romance - which we really look forward to in watching Korean series - and intelligent screenwriting that kept us at the edge of our seat. The characters were rich and complex and the actors played them perfectly - from the seniors down to the young ones.

And I like the ending as well. It has been hinted from the latter episodes of the series that it is not revenge that could truly free Song Yeo (as hinted by Se Ryung and Suk Joo, with the "live to a far away place and have children, etc." sentiments) from his anger. The ending remained true to the philosophy it wanted to deliver so I am happy.

Sorry for the long comment. I just recently finished the series so I am doing some withdrawal. Ha ha ha.

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I really liked the ending. There was a point where I seriously was worried Seung Yoo would die so it was a relief that he didn't.

For me, the ending totally worked as I felt although there were lots of different bits leading up to the decision to give up his revenge and live quietly, the main moment where it hit me was when he was dying in the cell after being beaten up and he sees a vision of what the future could be, with Se Ryeong and his daughter.

I think it is a really powerful moment, because although it is the Queen that makes this future a possible option for him, it is still his choice to agree to it.

AND i thought in the end the fact that it is more important to him to be with his family and watch his daughter grow up then have a noble death was very romantic.

anyway....I really loved it. One of absolute favorite dramas ever.

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Watched this on your recommendation and loved it. The ending was not quite what I expected, but I have to say that I was really pleased with it. As the series went on, I more and more wanted Su Yang to be punished for his deeds, but I also didn't want Sung Yu to be the one to do it. Interestingly enough, I thought Su Yang's words, "how are you any different than me?" were a good question. And it is one that Sung Yu is already struggling with. He doesn't want to become a beast. Plus, I didn't want Se Reyong to have to deal with the fact that her husband killed her father. I mean no matter how much you love a guy, that would definitely put a damper on the relationship.

I also felt like there were some symbolic elements that helped to make the ending work well for me. For one thing, Sung Yu being blind. It made it realistic that he would give up his revenge because how would he kill Su Yang if he was blind? But also, he was metaphorically blind to his revenge. He literally and figuratively can no longer see Su Yang (even walks right by with a smile on his face) because he is happy with his love and family. Something much better in my book.
Also, I wanted Su Yang to be held accountable. And while he didn't die, to keep it historical. He was obviously dealing with mental anguish over having killed his daughter, but he was also literally wasting away from illness (also lost his son to illness). I feel like this is another figurative allusion to the fact that his soul is wasting away.
One last thing - interesting to watch this along side Gaksital, where the theme of do you hold to your ideology or do you stick around for your family is at the forefront.

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Now that I am revisiting the show, I have to say that Min Ji (Yeo Ri, Ser Yeong's maid) is one good actress. She's played the emotions really well and has great command of her character.

I hope to see her in bigger roles in the future...and that they won't waste her potentials because she sure have far far more talents to offer.

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The Princess' Man is my favorite korean drama of all times. I think it's one of the best I've ever watched. I like how there are two love stories in one drama. One sad, one happy. The drama can be rather depressing but the ending makes it worthwhile. All the actors, including the supporting ones acted really well. All except the young prince(princess Kyung Hye's brother). I think he needs to put more emotions into his character.

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a vibe of Winter Sonata on its ending! this will finally be shown in ny country!

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oh god, me too! I remembered WS when they said blindness! I was like "WHY?!!!!!", I just hated the ending of WS when they made him blind after all this drama that I hate it when I see it in any other kdrama

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I loved the whole drama except the ending...which killed it for me. What a cop out. Even if he were blind and couldn't physically fight, at least he could still lead the resistance with this leadership skills. And really, I don't think Suyang was remorseful at all...if he were he would have abdicated by the time he saw his daughter and her happy family.

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BTW, the 2nd OTP, Princess Kyung-hee and Jong had a better love story...pulled at my heartstrings more.

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i really really like the story of "the Princess's man" and i enjoy watching it...☺

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ur story is very untouchtable when one and both love its other......

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Anyone know what is the title song of this drama... I'm so captivated and can't stop rewinding it :D Plus I also like the visuals that go with it.......

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Nah. I hate Seung Yoo. Seryung is much better coz she did what she can and she tried to be loyal to the king as well as to the man she loves and her family. But Seung Yoo, his mistakes coz his family life and his niece/SIL's future. Also even he tried to do revenge all failed coz he couldn't concentrate hearing Seryung is pregnant. Really!! Anyway, I got feeling he put his own feeling in front of his duty to king and family. So totally different from Jumong, DJY and other heroes

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