Drama Recaps
Mandate of Heaven: Episode 1
by | April 25, 2013 | 84 Comments

Mandate of Heaven is a drama I’ve been keeping my eye on; it seemed to have that mix of thriller, action, and drama that I’ve been missing from my dramas lately. What I didn’t count on was for it to have a sense of humor, too; the first episode, despite starting off in the thick of the fugitive plot, injects a stream of tongue-in-cheek humor and wit that I found really very refreshing. The directing is another strength, aided by—though not dependent on—the use of that gorgeous camera, while the writing team (relatively new on the scene with credits like Birth of the Rich and a few Drama Specials) manages to balance the tones deftly.

So far I’m a fan of the pacing, which juggles intensity with lightness, and the politics are well-woven into the plotline. They aren’t the focus of the show—Dad’s fight to cure his sick baby girl is—but they’re solidly established as driving factors. Furthermore, I appreciate how the historical backdrop is used to inform the drama without overshadowing it; there are certainly artistic liberties taken, but I feel like this is a show that is mindful of working with the known history and using it to its benefit.

We’re not certain of recapping yet, so for now this is a solo recap; we’ll be monitoring to see whether/when they’ll continue. If I just had more hours in a day…


Kwon Soon-kwan – “One More Time” [ Download ]

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A chase. The desaturated hues suggest we’re in a flashback (or a flash-forward) as a man clutches a young girl to his chest while running from the royal guard. He’s tired and bloodied, but keeps up the breakneck pace.

The pursuit takes them into the woods where the head officer draws back his bow and arrow, takes aim, and shoots. The arrow lands in our fugitive’s horse, and it goes down. So does he, landing on his bloody back, still cradling the girl to himself.

Looking desperate, the fugitive CHOI WON (Lee Dong-wook) nevertheless adopts a gentle tone as he tells his daughter RANG (Kim Yoo-bin) that they must separate. She shakes her head no, but he promises to come for her. Punctuating the urgency of the moment is the second arrow that flies toward him and lands in Won’s arm.

Dad musters a smile and assures her through gritted teeth that he’s fine. Rang fights tears and asks if holding Dad back will lead to his death, and he nods. So like a brave little trooper, she lets go and turns away.

Intercut between these scenes are glimpses of a woman painting in an elegant hand, smoothly, calmly. At one point her paper is splashed with red ink, bloody and bold. All we see of her are her regal dress, and the flash of a queenly headdress.

Won yanks the arrow out of his arm and resumes running, this time alone. More arrows fly at his head. For now they miss.

Finally he’s surrounded on a clifftop, his back to the edge as he shrinks away like a cornered feral animal.

Hidden under a rock, Rang sobs for her father. In her chambers, the queen surveys her drawing. And standing on the precipice, Won jumps.

His body hurtles toward the river that flows many, many feet below. Fade out.

When we come back, our world is in full color and the tone much brighter. Probably in the past. Today Rang watches other children playing in the water and decides she wants to join them, only to be stopped by a wall of kids. Their mothers don’t want them playing with Rang because she’s always sick, though she insists that she’s all better now—Daddy fixed her.

They scoff (“What, is your father Buddha?”) but she tells them proudly that her father is a highly respected state physician, and even treats the king. “You think he can’t fix me too?” Against such airtight logic as that, the other kids grudgingly accept her presence and Rang beams.

Until a hand darts out and holds her back. It’s disapproving Dad, who narrows his eyes at her. The kids gasp to hear that he did treat royalty, and ask if Rang can play with them now. Rang literally bats her eyes at him, begging him to say yes.

But he sighs no, “Our Rang-ie isn’t all better yet.” She pouts mightily in Dad’s direction.

Palace. In the medical wing, physicians and nurses line up at attention while our head doctor briefs her team about treating the king. “Where’s Da-in?” she asks.

Which is how we get our introduction to our heroine, HONG DA-IN (Song Ji-hyo), currently carrying out an autopsy of a young woman. She’s interrupted by news of the emergency, which sends her racing to intercept the head physician, named… Jang-geum? As in that Jang-geum? (I guess it is; the historical Jang-geum lived through the reign depicted here, King Jungjong’s. I wonder how she feels about being a drama’s tertiary character.)

Da-in shows Jang-geum the royal menu for today, which gives her the hunch that the king’s ailment is digestion related. (Side note: Did we have to have this particular ailment be our intro? It’s just that we’ve had a lot of “hernia” and “enema” and “constipation” and “indigestion” mentioned thus far.)

King Jungjong lies in pain in bed, with his wife QUEEN MUNJEONG (Park Ji-young) at his side. Jang-geum gives the acupuncturist the signal to begin his treatment, only to be interrupted by a young man who bursts in ordering them to stop.

This is Crown Prince LEE HO (Im Seul-ong), future King Injong and son of Jungjong, politically at odds with his stepmother Munjeong. He’s suspicious of the dangerous placement of the needle, and while the acupuncturist is said to be the best in the land, Lee Ho notes that his hand is shaking. The man is escorted out, and Da-in is instructed by the royal ministers in the room—from the queen’s faction—to call Physician Min.

Lee Ho objects. Bring Physician Choi instead. Clearly this is a political conflict, not merely a matter of looking out for daddy’s health. Queen Munjeong looks aggravated at the interference.

The others argue that Physician Choi is not skilled enough with the needle. But the crown prince holds fast and insists.

It’s Choi Won he means, and Da-in finds him in the city to bring him to the palace. Rang, still pouting over Daddy’s interference, runs off with a huffy glare as he’s called away.

Once in the royal bedchamber, it’s Won who protests—he doesn’t dare lay a finger on the king’s body. This just adds fodder for the hostilities to grow between the queen and prince, turning the doctor matter into a political battle.

As it turns out, Physician Min joins them at the last minute and handles the case, and crisis is averted.

Disgruntled Da-in complains to Jang-geum afterward, asking why they called such an poorly skilled, pathetic physician like Won. It’s a good thing today’s illness wasn’t a serious one, she adds.

Won sits dully by himself, lost in a flashback:

He recalls himself as a boy, crying to the young crown prince and begging Lee Ho to save his grandfather—if he does, Won promises to become a doctor and protect the prince forever. So clearly they were once good friends, and Lee Ho retains that old loyalty even now.

Physician Min is MIN DO-SAENG (Philip Choi), and he’s also good friends with our hero. Won thanks his buddy for saving him from an awkward situation, with a hint of forced jokiness that I’m beginning to suspect is Won’s primary defense mechanism.

Do-saeng is the serious one, and he wonders when the prince will stop calling for Won. Won agrees, calling it crazy, and reiterates that curing his daughter’s tuberculosis is his only priority.

Do-saeng reminds him that he’s a palace doctor with obligations to his post, and urges him to take on the position of being the crown prince’s personal physician. It must be the thing everyone wants, but Won’s got no time to think of anything but healing his daughter, and offers to recommend Do-saeng for the job.

Of course, standing right behind them is the crown prince.

Lee Ho tells Won that he could have treated his father today, and instructs him to take his official doctor’s position. Won replies that Do-saeng is skilled enough to handle the job alone, but Lee Ho says forcefully, “It is not that I do not trust Physician Min. It is that I need you.” Bromance heart-tug heyo!

Lee Ho relates the dream he had last night, wherein he saw Won’s grandfather, his former physician. Grandfather’s wish was for Lee Ho to become king safely, and he credits the man for being the reason he’s been able to last so long. The palace is so full of vultures awaiting any opportunity to take his life.

Won cuts him off: “In your dream, did you also happen to see my grandfather’s severed hand?” Yeeeouch. Okay, that’ll put a crimp in any bromantic overtures.

Lee Ho reels a bit, and starts to explain that long-ago incident, but Won puts that wall firmly back in place and asks the prince to pretend he doesn’t exist. He turns to go.

The prince stops him in his tracks with the name of a medical text (Geumgwe buyeongbang)—with that, Won could cure his daughter, couldn’t he? He offers to give it to him.

Won is mightily tempted, though he leaves without a word.

At home, a young lady, CHOI WOO-YOUNG (Kang Byul), is so preoccupied with her beauty regimen that she doesn’t realize that Rang has been out of sight for a while. She freaks out—her brother had ordered her to not let the girl out of her sight.

Won panics to hear that Rang has disappeared and tears through the town shouting her name. By the water he finds a ribbon, and he continues his hunt until he finds Rang sitting by a grave. Aw, Mom’s?

He’s worried about exposing her to the cold air and urges her to come home, but she’s a wee stubborn thing and refuses. He’s always feeding her medicine and sticking her with needles and not letting her play, and she’s tired of it: “I’m going to ask Mom to take me away. I’m just going to die!”

Frustrated, he fires back, “Fine, if that’s what you want then go to your mother!” He storms off and she cries after him, “Daddy I hate you!” But then her cries turn weak and she slumps to the ground, and Won races back to her side.

Rang wakes up while Won is administering more acupuncture needles, wrenches her hand away defiantly, and yanks out the ones already in her feet. Won’s father comes in to offer up his disapproving two cents, in typical gruff dad fashion. He clucks about Rang’s stubbornness (and for taking her mother’s life in childbirth), and also Won’s defiance of the prince’s wishes.

At least the women of the family step in, and sister Woo-young drags him away along with stepmom. Daddy Choi finishes off his tirade by threatening to disown Won if he refuses to marry this year.

And then, Rang coughs up blood. She looks up with scared eyes and says, “I don’t want to go to Mom! I don’t want to die!” He gathers her close as she cries that she’s scared of being sick. She says she lied and doesn’t hate him: “I don’t want to leave you! Even if I have to take needles every day, I want to live with you for a long, long time.” Oh, tears.

Won wipes her tears away and slaps on a smile: “You trust Daddy, right?” She nods, and they cry clutching each other.

That night as Won mulls over the prince’s offer, his apothecary father surprises him with a package of rare deer antlers, which have valuable medicinal properties. Despite all the grumbling and toughness, he really is a softy inside because his main purpose is to drop the hint that the sought-after medical book has made its way back to the royal library.

This news has Won excited the next day as he presides over a troop of young palace boys whose job it is to procure urine for medicinal purposes. Won literally has them lined up, bare-assed, and gives them the order to spray. Ha, and gross. He’s so eager to get book-hunting that he leaves them mid-pee.

It’s not on the shelves, though, and he thinks nothing of marching right up to Da-in, who’s reading here, and rifling through her stack. He grabs one book right out of her hands—accidental hand touch!—but no dice.

Worse yet, Da-in informs him that the book he wants has been banned; sure, it contains helpful medical knowledge, but it also contains drawings of naked women, and we can’t have that. In his frustration Won exclaims that his “entire body has been burning in anticipation” to get his hands on that book, which… totally didn’t come out right, HA.

He has to backtrack and say it wasn’t ’cause of the naked ladies, for realsies, but Da-in has already pegged him for a weirdo. She offers up a barbed comment about some of his past failings, and how that medical book isn’t going to do him any good—she can recommend him an introductory text “for your level.” Ooh, burn.

It’s a blow to his pride, sure, but he shakes it off. Bigger worries to think about, like finding that banned books library.

Queen Munjeong is a crafty woman, keeping vigilant for her moment to strike. She hears that the king has made “a big decision,” and thus when King Jungjong broaches the topic from his sickbed, she supposes he’s thinking of abdicating the throne. She urges him to pass the throne to the crown prince and focus on his health, playing her part of concerned wife to the hilt.

Queen Munjeong seems all onboard this abdication plan although the immediate effect is that it would put her out of power. Perhaps she thinks a new, young king would be within her power to control (or challenge), or perhaps she’s got something else up her sleeve.

On the other hand, Munjeong’s younger brother, Minister Yoon, is up in arms; he rants to a couple of conspirators in a secret meeting that night.

One of the cronies is a rich merchant who happens to be Da-in’s adoptive father, Jang Hong-dal. The other is the leader, the high-ranking Minister Kim Chi-yong. To lend mystery to the affair (or perhaps unintentional humor—potayto, potahto?), shadows of men line the edges of the room; they’re wearing masks and speak in hushed voices. The idea of Lee Ho ascending to the throne has everybody in fits, and there are calls to prevent it.

In a worst-case scenario, armies will have to be called in and blood shed, but there may be one way to prevent that. Minister Kim receives a mysterious vase from Da-in’s father, which he shows to Do-saeng, who reels to see the shriveled bird head inside. He recognizes what this means: poison. Not only that, it’s a particularly rare “poison of all poisons” that doesn’t leave a trace.

Do-saeng must have been groomed by Minister Kim for just this role, yet doesn’t quite have the heart for it and says he can’t do this. Minister Kim just replies that he’ll do it in the end.

Thus in the next meeting of the medical department, Minister Kim announces that Do-saeng will be taking a leave of absence. Do-saeng manages to surprise everyone by naming Won as replacement to take over the prince’s care , which doesn’t seem to have been part of the agreement.

Hilariously, though, Won is so preoccupied with his personal quest for the banned book that he hears nothing of the meeting. He looks up from his inner monologue to find everyone staring at him, and wonders, What?

He isn’t happy to get foisted on the job despite his best efforts, which apparently includes having commissioned a good-luck talisman written by a royal astrologer. He berates the guy for writing him a faulty charm, and the astrologer just says that he and the prince must be Fated To Be. Lol.

The guy unfortunately doesn’t know where the secret banned books library is, but suggests that Do-saeng ought to know—his father was a palace official in charge of repairs, and should be intimately familiar with all the buildings.

So Won sidles up to his buddy that night, and a comment about the prince’s good health has Do-saeng mentioning how Won used to swap chamber pots with the prince (hiding the prince’s loose stools), thus enabling the prince to escape scrutiny for his less-than-robust health. It’s a bit TMI, I suppose, but another sign of the genuine care they had for each other.

Won is surprised that Do-saeng knew about this, but Do-saeng adds that his grandfather had instructed him to be next in line if Won had any issues. He was literally… wait for it… the Number 2 Number 2. (Badum-ching!)

Won isn’t interested in talking about being the prince’s doctor and gets to his point: he needs to know about the banned books library. Do-saeng uses his urgency as leverage, though—if he tells him where it is, will he take on the position?

Do-saeng meets with his sweetheart that night, a court lady named Wol-ha. She’s the reason Minister Kim was so confident he’d cave, because she was bait: If Do-saeng got rid of the queen and prince, he’d be ensured of being with his honey, safely, forever. He reminds himself to think only of their promise to be together, not anything else.

Won sends word home that he won’t be in tonight, so his father sends sister Woo-young to the palace with a change of clothes. Or he would, but she’s busy beautifying, to Rang’s chagrin.

Lee Ho broods, reliving the horrible memory of the day Won’s grandfather had his hand cut off unjustly as a “punishment” for misdeeds. It had been a trumped-up charge, with him being made a sacrifice of political warfare. Lee Ho had been witness to the moment, as had been a distraught Won.

The recollection has Lee Ho in cold sweats, but he insists he’s fine. He instructs his officer to bring him that book from the banned library.

It’s the very same library Won is currently attempting to break into: He scales a wall and slips inside, acting per Do-saeng’s instructions, replete with the code to the primitive keypad entry.

Won exults to find the text just as the prince’s guard is let in. The library official obviously can’t locate the book, and as Won darts off the guard spots movement and gives chase. Uh-oh.

Elsewhere, Da-in is engaged in secret night activities of her own, offering up acupuncture treatment to a sickly palace girl. Aw, so she’s got a bleeding heart on top of that quick wit, sneaking the girl treatments on the sly.

Won runs through the palace grounds, and ducks into a dark building before he’s spotted. And then his hand… finds… something soft. Did he just grab Da-in’s ass?

He muffles her mouth, but she knocks over a book in her shock. The guard enters the room while the other two sweat in silence… only to be saved by a cat, which drops to the ground. The guard assumes that’s what he heard and leaves.

Won sees the sick girl, puts two and two together, and realizes why Da-in was reading in the library. He scolds her for it, though—a sick palace girl is to be sent out of the palace, and she’s actively covering it up and treating her. She counters that saving a life is more important, and points out that he’s just stolen that medical book. Ha, he just lost his moral high ground, didn’t he?

Furthermore, Da-in asks him to think of that palace girl as his daughter—how would he react then? That ensures his silence, at least for now.

As Da-in makes her way back, she passes by the gate where a guard is arguing with a tiny little girl who insists she’s just here to give this bundle to her father. Aw, she is adorable. Also, Auntie Woo-young is a lazy butt.

Da-in smiles to hear Rang call Won the best doctor in the whole palace. Then Rang sneaks by the guard and beelines for Da-in, taking cover in her skirts, which is too adorable. I’m pretty sure she bats her eyes, too.

So Da-in says she knows the girl and will take responsibility for her.

The plot to assassinate Lee Ho gets going as a hunchbacked minion is dispatched by Minister Yoon: Do the prince in tonight.

Won serves Lee Ho dutifully that evening, preparing his medicine for him despite clearly wishing to be anywhere else. Lee Ho muses on whether he may be drinking medicine or poison, but says he’ll accept what Won offers and drink it. And he does.

Now he reminds Won of his question about whether he saw his grandfather’s hand being cut off in his dreams. “Not only do I, I see it every single night. And do you think it’s only the hand? I see the bright red blood spattering in the yard, and hear the blood-curdling screams. I see your grandfather staring at me with those terrifying two eyes.”

The memory is vivid for Won, who tells him to stop, but Lee Ho continues, saying that he can’t stand by anymore and watch him wasting away his talents. Won vows that he will save his daughter’s life, and then leave the palace.

Da-in walks Rang inside, but another physician comes up with an urgent case, leaving Rang alone to get distracted by sparkly lights. She makes her way over to what turns out to be a fuse—lit by Minister Yoon’s hunchbacked minion.

At least the minion appears to have a conscience because he makes a move to grab the girl out of the way. But Da-in comes for her and ushers her away, just as the bomb blast goes off and sends the prince’s quarters into flames.

With the room burning around them, Won yells at the prince to escape. Lee Ho is strangely immobile and has to be dragged along, but then a wall falls and reveals Queen Munjeong, standing there eerily. She joins them in the room to say, “Ho, you will have to die.”


I wasn’t mixed about this premiere at all; I liked it and thought it a very good episode with a lot of strong qualities. It engaged me, made me laugh, and even wrung a tear; any show that can do that in the first hour means it’s tapped into an emotional connection and that’s something I don’t take for granted.

The characters are rich and show potential for some fantastic depth, particularly our secondary leads and antagonists. Not to play down our leads, but I’m used to leads being given meaty stuff to work through; it’s less often that we can chart a character treading down a path of villainy and promising to do so in a compelling and conflicted way. That’s my hope for Philip Choi, playing best friend Do-saeng; he appears to be principled, but as we see, he’s also weak and therefore corruptible. On the other hand, Won is the guy who appears to be flaky and irresponsible, but he’s our drama’s moral center, in stark contrast to his buddy. Him and Da-in, that is, since we can see her integrity from a mile away. I do enjoy that if she’s going to be a heroine who’s good and upright, she’s at least going to do it in a badass, witty way. Here’s where I think you have to credit the actress for giving her that bit of steel.

The queen and the faction of plotting ministers may display less moral gray areas (in that they’ll probably be outright baddies), but I think there’s potential to at least make them compelling baddies. I’d classify Queen Munjeong as a scheming, manipulative backstabber whom I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw, but there’s a dash of twisted about her that makes me take notice. It’s creepy and unnerving (like the way she bathes a subordinate, rather than the other way around), which is a lot more intriguing than straight-up evil. Plus, giving Da-in ties to the plotters’ faction adds an extra kick of interest.

It’s not a perfect show, though it sure looks like one from a purely visual standpoint; man is this drama gorgeous. I found a few moments veering toward the overly broad or comical, sometimes intentionally so and at other times not. I didn’t mind it (and in fact welcomed the humor), but it was definitely noticeable at times, and because the cinematography is so sleek and the introductory segment so dire and high-stakes, some of the slapsticky tendencies stuck out more than they would have in perhaps a differently executed show.

I do quite like Lee Dong-wook and find him hilarious, especially when he’s doing his derp face or landing right in the thick of a comic beat out of a serious one just a second before, but yeah, he could tone down some of his reactions. Song Ji-hyo I thought was good, and considering that I last saw idol star Im Seul-ong being silly and ridiculous in Personal Taste, he was solid here as the prince caught in the middle of a political crossfire. He could tone down some deliveries as well, but as with Lee Dong-wook I’m not worried about him; I trust that they’ll settle into their groove sooner than later.

In fact, my favorite thing thus far is the relationship, both past and present, between Won and Lee Ho. I have a soft spot for royal characters who are moral but weak, as it puts them in the unique position of possessing and lacking power—especially when you consider the hero, who then possesses and lacks power in exactly the reverse way. Put ’em together and you have a potent combination. But the trick is getting them to that place of mutual trust and brotherhood.

In this case the duo has some powerful baggage, and it takes them from one extreme to another. You get the sense they were the tightest friends as children, probably expecting to spend their entire lives together—Won as protector-doctor-friend, and Lee Ho as his sovereign and patient. Again, a great mix of contradictory power relationships. It’s a bromance that’s probably as close to true brotherly love as you can get it, if not for that great trauma and fracturing of trust.

The fact that Lee Ho clearly still holds Won dear just breaks my heart, and I’m just waiting for the turnaround in Won if/when he finally forgives. That in itself is a rich and dynamic throughline to explore—except, oh yeah, this drama also has the whole fugitive angle, with the “Joseon-era Ajusshi” premise to boot. You can’t accuse Mandate of Heaven of not doing shit, because it’s just overflowing with it. Honestly, this first episode was a monster; SO MUCH happened.

Right, the central premise—can’t leave that out! The daddy-daughter stuff is fantastic, buoyed by a warm chemistry between the actors, her precocious charm (and adorable hamster cheeks), and his ability to jump from gravity to joking at the drop of a hat. I love his tic of falling back on that mask of humor, which balances out his desperation in other moments.

Overall, I’m looking forward to seeing how the show progresses; there’s a lot of promising stuff here, and I’m ready for a show to really grab hold of my heart. Fingers crossed.


84 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. j

    Thanks so much for wonderful recap <3
    PLease continue to recap it 😡

    • 1.1 Chizzy girl

      yes please I want recaps for this drama..also Drama beans please continue the recap of JANG OK JUNG…that drama is so good..i really need feedback and need somewhere I can gush out my feelings …please continue recapping that drama

      • 1.1.1 Kiara

        Ten 2 would be awesome —> pick me pick me.

        • Deliane

          Definitely Special Affairs Team 10. Can’t wait for subbers to sub the series!!

          • Kiara

            I’m dying to watch it but I cant find subs :(.

      • 1.1.2 nomad

        JOJ is being recapped in koala’s playground, I think.

  2. Quiet Thought

    All of this plus the Korean election results, as well! Awesome!

  3. Ivoire

    Thank you!

    • 3.1 Ivoire

      Thank you again for the recap, JB!

      I watched it raw yesterday, and I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on. The actions/scenes and the music gave me some hints, but those don’t come close to a recap and to seeing the episode subbed. I am glad to know it (the show) is so rich with possibilities.

      Here, “Bromance heart-tug heyo!” Does anyone know/could tell me what “heyo” means/stands for? Thanks if anyone can explain.

      • 3.1.1 mommai

        Heyo is an interjection, and is a kind of casual “hello” of sorts, I guess. Sort of like you’re being surprised by something arriving or happening? I think that’s the best I can do for you…

      • 3.1.2 Ivoire

        Thanks, Mommai! I appreciate it. It helped…

  4. kakashi

    oh! I’m so looking forward to this one …. please be good, show, please be good!!!

    • 4.1 joooe

      yess, please be good!

      lee dong wok and song ji hyo looks good together!

  5. Penny

    Ohmygod I wasn’t expecting this recap at all!!! Moreover, this is not the time when you usually post your drama recaps. What a treat!! Thanks jb! Really, dramaland’s a much better place with you girls in it.

  6. putihlilac

    thanks for the recap.i dont think i’m going to watch this drama.

  7. Katherine

    Haven’t had the chance to check this out and was hoping that you guys would at least recap the first episode, just so I could get a vibe of what the show is about and just from the recap it’s self I really like the premise/foundation that has been shown.
    I honestly teared up from just reading about the scene between father and daughter where she doesn’t want to die and wants to stay with him for a long time.
    Lets hope the remainder of the drama continues along with the same pace and doesn’t let us down.

  8. Belle3005

    I must find time to fit this drama in my watching schedule! It looks pretty promising,I’d say. 😀

  9. LK

    I’m hoping you guys will continue recapping this drama!! It looks very promising!

  10. 10 snow_white

    I’m surprised to see a recap at this time..it’s usually in the mornings (well in my area) by javabeans..
    Thanks for the review 😀

  11. 11 Waiting

    As usual, I am “waiting” for the subs to be up because I don’t want to watch it raw. Can’t wait for the day when I understand enough of the language to just watch it out of the box.

    Not peeking at the recap…not peeking at the recap…

  12. 12 Heebummie

    Please make recaps for this drama!!! *begs*

  13. 13 swui

    I squeeze out some time for this despite rushing my thesis and I loved it too. Hope you girls will recap this. I think it’s got great potential.

  14. 14 kdwkyah

    thankyou javabeans for your recapping!
    but don’t overwork yourself!

  15. 15 ck1Oz

    Gosh that girl, her face. 🙂
    Might watch it just for her.

  16. 16 mika

    i had my eye on this drama too but could not decide whether to watch or not as i have too many dramas on my plate. thanks to jb, i will now watch this.

  17. 17 Peeps

    Yeah… seeing the grammatical errors and numerous repeated words in both this and the soon shin recaps, I’d say you need some sleep, or at least some more hours per day…

    As much as I believe we all love your recaps, we need you alive JB. So take care of yourself!! Spread out the recaps!! (Or delegate more to your minions. No more minions? Hire more. Heh heh.)

  18. 18 maldita

    And another drama seems to have found its way onto my ever-growing “must check out” list. 🙂

  19. 19 kumi

    Me and my bro have been waiting for this drama. Thanks!

  20. 20 정남

    Honestly I was a bit wary of a drama being Headlined by LDW and SJH, I love Ji Hyo to pieces but her leading a drama is kind of iffy territory but I definitely want to check it out now.

  21. 21 Kiara

    Thanks JB, this is a nice surprise. I love sageuks and there are 5 of them currently on but I cant seems to get into any of them except Cruel Palace. I’m passing on JoJ, GFB and KD. I’m usually hooked from the beginning but I’m not so sure about this one yet. Hope you’ll recap a few more.

  22. 22 Abbie

    I’ve been eagerly awaiting for this show to start. And I was not disappointed. Lee Dong-wook surprised me with his seriousness, because I’ve only ever seen him on Strong Heart. And on there, he was so silly and funny. I love seeing him be serious. And Kim Yoo-bin is just adorable. She’s so cute, and she just wrings my heart. Together, they are gold. And I’ve only seen Song Ji-hyo on Running Man, so it’s good to see her acting. She’s amazing. Can’t wait for more with her and Won and Rang.

    Now I’m not familiar with Korean history. What I’ve learned, I’ve learned from Dramabeans and watching Sageuks. So I’m wondering, did the queen in this actively oppose Lee Ho for real? Did she really do anything to kill him? Or is this just some liberties taken by the writers for conflict? And was Prince Lee Ho really so sick? It’s these types of questions I have while watching Sageuks, because I’m not Korean and don’t know the history.

    This show was a great first episode, and I wish it would be recapped, but you guys need you’re sleep. Still, I’m looking forward to watching this and seeing where it goes.

    Thanks for the recap, Javabeans!

    • 22.1 PPasun

      If you want more details, watch Yeonin Cheonha or Ladies of the Palace, an old drama about this evil queen mother and her sister-in-law plotting together to kill the prince so that her son could take the throne instead. It’s an excellent drama but way too serious and too long and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re a real history buff.

      Long story short, yes, this queen really wanted the prince dead. Some say he died after eating some rice cake the queen gave him, only 9 months after succeeding to the throne. Some also say that the prince was such a filial son that he essentially let her kill him. Afterwards, the queen was haunted so badly every night that she had to move her quarters from Gyeongbok to Changdeok Palace.

      What I’m watching out for is Dae Jang Geum as she lived the same time in history. And she was a nurse working in the palace. She’s gotta appear, right? Lol.

      • 22.1.1 anna

        Dae Jang Geum did appear in episode 1 as the head physician!

      • 22.1.2 YT629

        Yeah she did appear in ep 1. But her role was very minor. As is realistic as in history- her name was only mentioned a handful of times in the records as having fixed such and such illness of the king and being given a such and such reward. In actuality, Dae jang geum had very little connection to the politics of the time.

        I saw Yeoin Cheonha when it was airing years ago and I would say it’s more historically accurate in its depiction of the political factions at the time. Each was centered around a woman-the Queen or one of King Jungjong’s hoo goongs (concubines). It’s a fascinating time in history really. Queen Munjong, while known for being stern and authoritative, had an unstable position in the palace for many years as she had four daughters before giving birth to a son. Of course, in this male-heir driven Joseon society, only a son could guarantee your political future. Whereas many of the other hoo goongs like Kyung bin and Chang bin and Hee bin already had sons. And therein was the conflict. And amidst this was poor Seja, the son of the previous queen who had no mother or mother’s side family to politically protect him.

        At the time set in Mandate of Heaven, it seems Queen Munjeong already had a son, since King Jungjong’s old and ill. The seja will ascend to the throne, but rule for only 1 year. Although there are tales about Queen Munjeong poisoning him, I guess we’ll never know.

        • Rovi

          Oh, you saw “Women of the World” too? Oh goody. I feel like I’m the only one prattling all the time about it.

          Even though Jang-geum wasn’t at all mentioned (even during the time of Queen Janggyeong and her death) in the series, it’s okay. I miss PD Kim Jae-hyeong (may he rest in peace), and it’s by far my most favorite of his works (“King and I” was like blehh).

          That’s why it was called “Women of the World”: behind the men-centered Joseon politics are (scheming) women working and doing all the semi-dirty work. And it revolved around Queen Munjeong, Jeong Nan-jeong (older brother Yoon Won-hyeong’s concubine-turned-2nd wife), and Lady Park (Gyeongbin).

          I was wondering why Grand Prince Gyeongwon (Queen Munjeong’s only surviving son) is missing, though correctly he should be a kid by this time. And there was a Hall that was burned by Nan-jeong (dressed as a nain), right? Who was the resident there?

          Just like 2008’s “Hometown of Legends” ep.5, according to rumors Queen Munjeong poisoned Injong’s snack of rice cake, and Injong obeiently ate them, even as he knew his stepmother never really loved him. He died after only 9 months of rule.

      • 22.1.3 Rovi

        “Women of the World” is NOT that old…well, yeah, 12 years old, but NOT old-old!

        And Queen Munjeong’s not evil (even DJG’s Queen Munjeong requested Jang-geum to kill then-Crown Prince Injong with her skills), it’s just that she’s a woman of her times, using her brains and power to survive in the cut-throat politics of Joseon which was way beyond what the politics of Versailles would amount to; and just manipulated by her friend-turned-sister-in-law Jeong Nan-jeong (who murdered the Queen’s older brother’s legal wife, and *spoiler alert* even had her REAL father executed by poisoning; just a soul traumatized no thanks to her adoptive father’s evil wife and brood).

        And yes, very excellent (I love the wigs; most perfect wigs ever), and I think one of the examples of the then-waning golden age of saggeuks, since sageuk nowadays have no more narrators and don’t pay attention to detail and timing.

        And, yes, echoing 2008’s “Hometown of Legends” episode 5, accdg. to unofficial chronicles, Queen Munjeong poisoned her stepson’s rice cake, and Injong ate it despite. And Injong haunted her, that she moved the court to Changdeok Palace.

        • YT629

          Yeah, as much as I love some of the fusion sageuks that are out these days (Princess’ Man & Tree with Deep Roots) and some not so much (uh Moon Embracing the Sun, whatever happened to a logical plot?) I do sometimes miss the attention to historical detail and the look we get into the lives of people who actually lived in that time, their mentality, their attitude towards life, the social caste system, the royal family, politics, etc. that you only really get with a long running sageuk. But these days it’s really hard to find a sageuk like Yeoin Cheonha, which kind of read like a who’s who of korean veteran actors- Jun In hwa, Kang Soo Yeon, Lee Duk hwa, Do Ji Won, Park Sang min, Kim Jung eun. The acting was very good. Hmmnn, maybe I’ll try War of the Flowers again….

          • YT629

            Also, agree that the wigs always looked perfect. But they weigh a ton! I can’t imagine having to gracefully lift my head with like, 30 lbs on my head!

          • Kiara

            Lee Duk hwa is playing King Injo to perfection and you passed on it?. I think War of the Flowers has everything you are asking for. I was a little iffy with Kim Hyun Joo after the first episode but she is doing a lot better after 10 eps. I dont think we have seen her best yet but there is 40 more eps to go and I’m in it till the end.

            Give it a second try, you wont be disappointed.

          • Rovi

            Actually, “Women of the World” is based on Park Jong-hwa’s 1965 novel of the same name, though I don’t know if it really was in the plotline that Jeong Nan-jeong’s “real” father was not Jeong Yoon-gyeom, but Prince Pareung.

            Yes, the golden age of sageuk is long gone; the masterpieces were “Taejo Wang Geon”, “The Age of Warriors”, “Tears of the Dragon” & “King and Queen”…*sigh* PD Kim Jae-hyeong’s last work “King and I” was a disappointment, seriously…it’s like a collab with himself and PD Lee Byeong-heon gone wrong.

            I dunno which drama was truly the last of its kind. Lee Byeong-heon PD’s last one of that kind was “Dae Jang-geum”, since his recent works were kind of bleh. You can never find someone that can be regarded as a true sageuk.

            And yes, I loved the wigs there, so perfect. “Dae Jang-geum” wigs were truly horrific looking, just look and compare Queen Munjeong’s wig in “DJG” & “YICH” (and also the braid size). Maybe that’s why they foregone the wig by the last quarter of episode 151, I guess. XD

            And yes, I keep hearing “Cruel Palace” is good, and I’m downloading it…but unfortunately I’m waaaaaaaay behind download schedule, KBS World can be a headache with its delayed broadcast scheduling. XP

        • TS

          I’ve got to watch this one. It sounds amazing. I love court politics.

  23. 23 KDaddict

    Here is another sageuk with a political court power struggle as background. We already have Jang Ok Jung, Cruel Palace, Gu (Evil Lord vs General Lee Soon Shin, allied w Japanese pirates and impotent king respectively) and now this. I love sageuk and history, but am feeling a bit overwhelmed, by 4 of them all at once! Which one to drop? Hard Qn.

    • 23.1 ilikemangos

      lol one of my complaints of k-drama world.
      They like to come in batches. You never get a good mix of genres at once.. which is why i tire of a genre once the season is over.

    • 23.2 YT629

      Nope, you’ve missed two sageuks. There’s actually SIX sageuks out right now. Other than the ones you mentioned there’s the Great King’s dream (an 80 episode series about Kim Chun Chu of Shilla who unified the Korean peninsula) and Gu Am Huh Joon (a remake of the 1990s series Huh Joon)

      • 23.2.1 KDaddict

        I mentioned the 4 sageuks I’m watching. And that’s already a lot of political power struggle to stomach every week.
        The other 2 that you added I wouldn’t even consider. King’s Dream is too long, and has been beset w all kinds of production problems; Huh Joon somehow seems dry n uninteresting to me.

  24. 24 acejihyo

    Thanks for the recap. I do hope the recaps continue, if not only because I’ve been waiting for a show to pull me out from under this drama-lull we’re having here.

  25. 25 lala

    Anyone know why there is a banner on the bottom of every screen shots?! Is it election time?

    • 25.1 Rovi

      Yes, election of representatives to the Assembly…?

  26. 26 srkambbs

    Does anyone know if any group is subbing this?

  27. 27 dtp_jnr

    I’m still contemplating watching this drama cos of SJH…..she’s not really a good actress and she’s a lead, that right there is a turn off for me and dramas…So i’m planning on getting a firend that’s a huge LDW fan to watch it first and let me know if SJH is any good in this…..

    P.S: most I-fans love SJH due to RM and cos of that they mostly think she’s great but if you knew her as an actress b4 RM then you would be able to see the two different sides of her that i see (one’s a good entertainer the other is a not so up to par actress)

  28. 28 yammy

    thanks for the recap! I am, for one, would love it if you recap this series, as I am planning to watch it unless it becomes a total train wreck. Also, since it’s a historical drama, I wasn’t able to understand everything without english subs (which I’m pretty sure won’t be available for this drama) so I missed some crucial details like one of the plotting men was Da in’s foster daddy.

    I was pleasantly surprised by the comedic turns. I hope they will continue, but won’t be surprised if they are dropped (crossed fingers).

    Acting-wise, I was pleasantly surprised that SJH was solid; she seems to have improved since her last dramas/movies. It’s my first time watching Lee Dong wook (except in My Girl? is he in there?) and so that might be the reason, but he seemed a little over-the-top. for example, in the scene during which he was looking for his daughter, he had his hands up on his mouth on a typical “I’m calling for you” style, but I thought that was a bit unnatural. As for Seol Ong, the last time I saw was in Personal taste also (and his stint with rest of the 2am members on the “Appa where are we going” parody in SNL) so it was hard to take him seriously as a the prince. Rang was so cute, and delivered solid character, not just hi-i’m-a-cute-girl-with-chubby-cheeks-that-you-want-to-pinch.

    In whole, I agree, there is so much potential here, and I just hope they are realized (and JB recap the series).

  29. 29 Angeliam

    Damn the girl is from a frozen flower. I will pass this one despite my love for lee dong woo

    • 29.1 liz

      So silly… what is wrong she is from Frozen Flower ?

    • 29.2 Katherine

      What a shame, that automatically means you would skip watching Jo In Sung & Joo Jin Mo movies/dramas as well.

      I don’t get why people watch films similar to Frozen Flower, if they don’t have the mental capacity to realize that it was purely acting and nothing more.

  30. 30 AnotherFan

    Oh thank you so much for the update. I haven’t watched the first episode yet (I tend to wait till it’s ended and watch them in a gulp) but it sounds promising from your review.

    Please don’t overwork yourself and take care. We will understand if you can’t continue the recap on this but it will be soooo good if you do (which also provides a platform for us to rave/rant/bitch/drool) 🙂

  31. 31 lala

    i hope they get rid of the ugly thing on song ji hyo’s head. mong ji is so pretty regardless <3

  32. 32 panshel

    I think I’m going to watch this one for Mong Ji. Thanks for the first episode recap!

  33. 33 crosswire

    Its very interesting I stop watching Kdrama bec I think they lack a new and unique plots coz hello its been decades since Korean Dramas hit it Big and I bet they are scattering their brains out to find new and awesome stuff I saw alot of repeating plots and its dissapointing so I stop watching reading once in awhile here is ok for me but will see I might watch this one hopefully it doesnt fall to too many political bruhaha

  34. 34 Natalie

    Didn’t expect this to be so good and catching.

  35. 35 Mumu's Mom

    please continue to recap and thanks for your efforts

  36. 36 JC

    Thanks for the recap!
    I’m glad this drama seems to be starting out nicely–it stars two of my favourite actors in kdramaland, and so I was SO hoping it would be cool.
    I hope you guys will keep recapping it. ^^

  37. 37 Didi

    Daddy Dong wook is hot. That’s all I got to say.

  38. 38 Jango

    I hope the ratings go up. This drama is currently the best in it’s wed-thurs slot compared to “when a man loves” and that horrid lee min jung drama.

  39. 39 Stardust

    I recoiled from a medical sageuk idea after Horse doctor.. (yikes)… but this recap gave me hope… maybe I will start watching this after all hehehe

    Thanks so much for squeezing out the time for writing this for us! *MUACKS*

  40. 40 Quiet Thought

    Had to look this one over in the raw, for general observations . . .

    1) Korea seems to have an unlimited supply of unbelievably cute very young children who can handle dialogue. Like the British with slightly older children.

    2) All Korean actresses are taught the “I’m an evil skank” sneer in acting class so everyone can identify the evil female lead in Sagueks quickly.

    3) Song Ji Hyo has an incredibly soothing alto voice, even when she’s being shrill.

    4) Wookie’s range of expression isn’t that great, but it works quite well for him.

    5) If you cover Song Ji Hyo’s broad forehead, her eyes look twice as large.

    6) To a non-speaker of Korean, the biggest medical crisis in the first episode of ‘Mandate of Heaven’ might appear to be that gargantuan wig crushing the queen’s skull.

    7) Song Ji Hyo does more acting in the last scene of ‘Jackal is Coming’ then the director let her do in the entire movie and in the entire runs of ‘Goong’ and ‘Gyebaek’. If this director gives her something to do, she’ll act the hell out of this role, too.

  41. 41 damianna

    i teared up just by reading the part where he had to separate with his child. then i skipped to comment. cant wait to watch and come here again. i’m hoping you guys would continue recapping this. pwetty please….

  42. 42 b3an

    thnk u so much!!!! I hope u keep on recapping this drama!!! it looks like it has potential!!! 🙂

  43. 43 flour

    DB eonnis, thank you for this! but do you mind recapping JOJ too? i really like it 🙁 currently following JOJ and planning to follow this one kkkk.

  44. 44 Aoi

    Thanks for the recap! I’ve been looking out for how this drama is- now that the currently airing ones except Lee Soonshin have been doing poorly. At any rate, I hope you continue

  45. 45 Claudine

    I know she’s an actress playing the characters she is given but it still amuses me how Park Ji-young went from a household help (Romance Town, her last drama project) to a queen in this series.

    • 45.1 Rovi

      You’re not the only one.
      In “The Land” (2004) she played an ordinary village-woman married to a soon-criminal, and afterwards whored herself for money, and later became pregnant with Park Sang-won’s character.

    • 45.2 jomo

      Park Ji-young really impresses me. She doesn’t take a lot of roles, and chameleons herself well.
      I had to look her up to make sure she was the same lady as in Romance Town.
      Don’t forget her very complicated character in Who Are You? She brings these characters to life and I know it would be easier to just play same-same.

  46. 46 swui

    Episode 2 is solid as well, yes, I’m gonna enjoy this one.

  47. 47 Rovi

    BTW, JB, which “younger brother” of Queen Munjeong is that? Yoon Won-hyeong or Yoon Won-ro?

    The first time I read the recap I have a hunch it’s Yoon Won-hyeong, but then I remember in “Women of the World” Yoon Won-hyeong is Queen Munjeong’s older brother?

  48. 48 polka dots

    Really really hope this show will be recapped! It looks so good! *cross fingers*

  49. 49 graceface

    New favorite drama! The little daughter is SHO CUTE and she can act. Her tears, man. So sad. Theres so much going on that this drama feels really full, meaning you won’t get tired of it. And I just watched the second episode. Its just as good or maybe even better than the first. A new significant character, more precious daddy daughter moments, broken facades, more hilarity. Love IT! I would love for this to be recapped (more to see your comments on the episodes) but I know you guys have a lot on your plate…

  50. 50 Lady Seoul

    I’m glad you reviewed this. I’m interested in watching it now, especially because I kept seeing it after the drama I’m currently watching. Song Ji Hyo and the lovely little actress got me tied in as well. ^^

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