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King’s Face: Episode 1

What a solid and stylish premiere for King’s Face, KBS’s latest addition to the sparse Wednesday-Thursday lineup. With solid directing and an intriguing setup based on the idea that you can judge a book by its cover, there’s no shortage of conflict to mine here and plenty of promise for the future. After all, what matters most isn’t what’s on the inside, but what’s on the outside, right? (“Waitaminute,” said mothers everywhere.)

Future recaps are still up in the air, but as far as numbers went, King’s Face pulled in last with a premiere of 7.1%. Mr. Back has been in first place since its premiere but dropped to 11.2%, while Pinocchio took second place with 9.4%, threatening to give Back a run for its money.

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Taeyang – “Eyes, Nose, Lips” [ Download ]

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EPISODE 1 RECAP

We open on a chaotic scene as ministers of Joseon gather in protest outside the quarters of KING SEONJO (Lee Sung-jae), asking him to rescind his order to have the crown prince dethroned.

While the crown princess’ son is torn from her arms and attendants of the court are cut down in cold blood, PRINCE GWANGHAE (Seo In-gook) stands in front all the portraits of the kings who came before.

He focuses specifically on King Sejong’s portrait as he takes note of how his features were harmonious, signifying the peaceful era that would come about during his rule. “His is truly the face of a king,” Gwanghae thinks.

It’s 1608, the forty-first—and final—year of King Seonjo’s reign. Gwanghae is wanted for treason, and though the ministers outside question the king’s command, Seonjo coldly quells the protest by killing one of the more outspoken ministers.

Moments before royal guards would come to surround him with their swords drawn, Gwanghae looks up at the wall of kings and asks, “Do I truly have the face of someone not meant to be king?”

Gwanghae’s voice narrates a shot of a book hidden beneath the statue of a dragon. In it is written, “If a ruler without the ideal facial features becomes king, the people will starve. The royal servants will listen only to their own voices. The whole country will fall into chaos and face a great calamity. The one with the face of a king must become the king of Joseon.”

Rewind to the year 1589, the twenty-second year of King Seonjo’s reign. He wakes from a nightmare/memory of his childhood, where the court’s face reader had foretold that he would bring disaster to the nation if he were to become king, citing his unsuitable features and the Yongahn Biseo, the secret book of physiognomy that’s been handed down since Joseon was founded.

But when the ailing king suddenly died—leaving Seonjo was next in line for the throne—the face reader wielded a sword on the then-prince Seonjo, prepared to kill him for the good of the country.

In the present, King Seonjo is taken to a village suffering from an outbreak of the plague. Those who aren’t burning in mass graves are vomiting blood, but Seonjo surprises his attendants when he takes the hand of a man who collapses at his feet.

“Do not worry,” Seonjo tells the sick man. “I will save you. I will not leave my people in despair.” One of the villagers calls him out for lying—how is he supposed to save them when he can’t even feed them?

Their starvation comes as news to Seonjo, who sets to rectify it by opening the palace’s food storage to the people. Okay, there’s got to be a gimmick here.

And there is, since we see Seonjo’s true face once he’s not having to put on a show in front of his citizens. He asks that those villagers who stood up to him be taught a lesson. In secret.

He made the face reader who tried to kill him pay for his crime all those years ago as well, since we see Seonjo Lite presiding over the would-be assassin’s torture.

Even with his eyes gouged out, the face reader had prophesied that Seonjo’s pointed chin would stab the hearts and minds of the people. Even then, his words were less of a condemnation and more of a warning, which Seonjo still remembers vividly.

We meet a younger and less burdened Prince Gwanghae as he punks his eunuch IM YOUNG-SHIN during his acupuncture session, being performed not by a doctor, but by one of the court face readers.

Gwanghae has full faith in his abilities even if Eunuch Im doesn’t, since a face reader would know the pressure points of the face better than a plain ole doctor. Nice to see someone with a sense of humor up in here.

The face reader named GO SAN performing the acupuncture is called to meet with Seonjo, who claims he only hired Reader Go due to his claim that a woman existed capable of changing the dark fate Seonjo’s face is doomed to bring about.

Seonjo gives Reader Go one month to find that woman so he can make her his consort, or else. It’s on his orders that Gwanghae has been getting his face poked and prodded every day, because Seonjo is convinced that the only way he can coexist with his son, whom he sees as competition.

That night, Gwanghae sneaks into the royal library to read a book on physiognomy, all while checking what the text says against the features he sees in the mirror.

Everything about his face points to good fortune, which only makes him more upset—he knows that his father is trying to use acupuncture to change his face. He just doesn’t know why.

After killing the royal guards posted outside the library, their assassins use their uniforms as a disguise to enter. When Gwanghae confronts the two intruders, they draw their swords against him.

Gwanghae drops to his knees to plead for his life, and uses the moment the assassins are temporarily caught off guard to engage them in a fight. He’s no stranger to martial arts, that’s for sure, and uses his skills as well as his environment to fend off his attackers.

Whether he’s employing books as blade blockers or his own fists, Gwanghae darts and dives between the two, knowing when to strike and when to dodge in a pretty nifty action sequence.

But he gets no answers from the assassins even after downing one with a solid kick, since they turn tail and run.

Gwanghae pursues them through the palace, overtaking one with a flying leap that sends them both rolling to the ground. He doesn’t blink twice when the assassin pulls a Joseon switchblade on him, and subdues him by twisting his arm.

Only then does he see a tattoo of five dots on the man’s arm, right before the royal army arrives. The assassin uses the distraction to gain the upper hand, and swings behind Gwanghae so he can hold a knife to his throat and use him as a human shield against all the soldiers with arrows at the ready.

King Seonjo arrives, and orders the soldiers to shoot regardless of the fact that his son could get hurt. The soldiers still can’t, so Seonjo takes a bow and arrow and aims it right at Gwanghae, who looks heartbroken and scared.

Then Seonjo lets the arrow fly… right past Gwanghae’s head and into the assassin’s hand, just moments before he could plunge his blade into the prince’s neck.

Gwanghae manages to stand and have an oddly small-talk conversation with his stern father afterward, only to collapse again the second Seonjo turns his back.

After he recovers, he finds his father heading the torture of the captured assassin. The assassin finally confesses that he broke into the library to steal the Yongahn Biseo in order to prove that Seonjo’s face is not that of a king.

He claims to have been sent by the future king of Joseon, the one who’ll save their country from the plague and starvation caused by a king who should never have taken the throne.

Seonjo doesn’t like the sound of that, so he uses his guard’s sword to cut the man down. From his unseen vantage point, Gwanghae is able to witness this as well as the murder of every guard present for the torture. All done under his father’s order.

Just when it seems like Gwanghae escaped unnoticed, he comes face to face with his father. They retire to the royal steam room (I know!) to have a chat about what Gwanghae did or didn’t see—Seonjo seems to know his son was in the room and that he’s lying, but Gwanghae sticks to his story regardless.

Seonjo brings up Gwanghae’s departed mother, who may have been only a concubine, but one he claims to have truly favored. He knows his son is just saying things he wants to hear as he thinks to himself that the only way Gwanghae can go on to find his destiny is if he lives as unassumingly as a stone.

If only he could read Gwanghae’s unthreatening, non-confrontational thoughts: “Father, please do not worry. I will live only as your vassal.”

Gwanghae wants to catch the remaining thief because the one who died mentioned that they were looking for the Yongahn Biseo, the secret book he was searching the library for as well.

In the hopes that he’ll have the answers Gwanghae seeks, he copies the tattoo pattern he saw on the man’s arm so that he and Eunuch Im (both in disguise) can ask around to see if anyone recognizes it.

It’s on that hunt that Gwanghae becomes distracted and momentarily entranced by a beautiful young scholar. He can’t take his eyes away, probably because it’s KIM GA-HEE (Jo Yoon-hee) disguised as a man.

Gwanghae draws a huge crowd in the square by setting himself up to be a renowned face reader, getting them hook, line, and sinker when he uses Eunuch Im as a plant to convince them of his authenticity.

Soon everyone is scrambling for a reading, but Gwanghae doesn’t want their money. He brandishes the copied tattoo and claims that he’ll only give a reading to whoever knows what it means. (Bystander: “Five dots!”)

Ga-hee, who’s been watching the entire exchange with interest, finally speaks up to say she knows the answer. But she won’t give it away for free—she’ll tell him after he gives her a reading.

Gwanghae finds himself unsettled when she comes near, but reads her features all the same. The only problem is that he sucks at face reading, so in an effort to point out something accurate, he resorts to pointing out totally obvious details anyone could see.

She presses him to tell her about her nose or lips, but looking there has Gwanghae all aflutter. Luckily (or unluckily), he doesn’t have the time to prove he’s a hack when the assembly is broken up by a band of club-wielding men.

Gwanghae does the smart thing and runs for it, leading his pursuers on a merry chase through the bustling streets of the capital. He narrowly avoids being caught when Ga-hee yanks him into a storehouse.

She tells him that he was targeted by the gang that runs the marketplace because he didn’t pay them to set up shop there, which makes sense, even if Gwanghae thought he could skirt their notice because he wasn’t charging for his services.

Ga-hee scoffs. “So you pretended to be a face reader and used the constellation as bait?” Gwanghae fires back that she shouldn’t have humiliated him in front of everyone if she knew—… wait, what did she say about a constellation?

She huffs that at least she (well, technically he right now) wasn’t lying when she said she knew the mark. It’s the King’s Constellation, she claims. The four outward dots represent the four guardians who protect the king in the center.

Gwanghae is so happy he grabs her hand, causing Ga-hee to uncomfortably wriggle herself away from his grasp and his quick-fire questions about what else she knows.

Now that his deadline has been shortened to a month, Reader Go uses a gibang to find young, virginal women for him to read—which I realize sounds sinister, but the inspections simply involve him inspecting each girl’s face.

He’ll know who’s meant to be the king’s consort when he sees her, but after a year of searching, he hasn’t been able to find a girl “like the moon shining through the clouds on a dark night.” That’s when a figure in the crowd catches his rapt attention—it’s Ga-hee.

He scrambles to follow her, but stops in confusion when he realizes that he just saw the face he’s been searching for all this time… on a boy.

At the next court assembly, Ministers LEE SAN-HAE (Ahn Suk-hwan) and YOO SEUNG manage to rub Seonjo the wrong way when their only concern about last night’s library break-in is the possibility that Gwanghae could’ve gotten hurt.

Seonjo doesn’t like that they’re so concerned for his son, which he interprets to be their preference for Gwanghae as a royal replacement. If they like him so much, they can just marry make Gwanghae the crown prince, and Seonjo will step down so they can have the king they really want.

Instead, all the ministers grovel until Seonjo’s anger is soothed. But what he orders next causes a few uncomfortable glances: He wants to hold a ritual to pray for rain to ease the droughts causing starvation amongst his people, and needs young sons from every minister for the production.

Word of the king’s “offer” to give the throne to the crown prince makes its rounds through the palace, particularly to LADY KIM (Kim Gyu-ri), the highest-ranking consort of the king’s, second only to the queen.

She finds the story amusing when Minister Lee tells it to her, and knows instantly that the king said what he did only to test their loyalty. He didn’t think about stepping down even for a moment.

QUEEN UIIN (Im Ji-eun) believes the same, though she has a harder time convincing Gwanghae’s elder brother PRINCE IMHAE of that fact. All he heard was that the king wants to pass on the throne to whoever’s installed as crown prince, and feels that it’s his birthright to have that position.

The way he’s acting is exactly the way Lady Kim predicted he’d act, knowing Prince Imhae’s penchant for being impatient and dim. She lets Minister Lee wonder aloud about why thieves would’ve broken into the library of all places, before adding that she finds it curious that Gwanghae just so happened to be in the library at the same time.

Meanwhile, Ga-hee is in for an unwelcome surprise when Gwanghae and Eunuch Im show up at the soup kitchen where she volunteers(?). He thinks she has an astronomical chart for her to have known about the King’s Constellation, even though she’s told him before that she doesn’t have one.

Their zippy interlude is interrupted when the patrons back away from a man convulsing on the ground, fearful that it’s the plague. Gwanghae is the only one unafraid to help the man, convinced that it can’t be the plague because the symptoms don’t match.

He makes sure the man sees a doctor, and is proven right when Ga-hee reports that his body went into shock when he ate after an extended period of starvation.

Which means Gwanghae helped save the man’s life, as much as she’s reluctant to admit it. Gwanghae all but preens before he asks her for a reward—how about that astronomical chart?

Turns out that Ga-hee had the chart on her the whole time, though she only lets him see it after he tells her that he saw the constellation tattoo on the arm of a thief who broke into his house.

She’s evasive and uncomfortable when he asks her about who drew such a detailed map of the stars, and only says yes to him borrowing it in order to get him out of her yard when she’s warned that her father’s coming.

Unfortunately for her, her father catches her trying to sneak Gwanghae out. Though they only see each other briefly, they recognize each other for being the prince and a minister of the court, respectively.

It comes as a surprise when her father takes her to task not because she’s dressed as a man, but because she was acting too much like a woman around Gwanghae.

Any femininity on her part is strictly forbidden because of her “destiny,” but Ga-hee corrects her father from thinking that she’s disguising herself because she’s afraid of whatever dark fate lies in store for her—she’s doing it out of guilt for her late brother, who died because of her.

“So please don’t worry,” she tells her father resolutely. “The time will come when I will completely forget I am a woman and live as a man down to my very bones.” This appeases her father, but doesn’t mean she can lower her guard when she has to go to the palace for the king’s rain ritual.

Her father then reveals that the man she was playing shovin’ buddies with is none other than Prince Gwanghae, and warns her not to let him recognize her. And, above all, to not get exposed as a woman.

The stern warning not to be recognized gains a little more context when Ga-hee sighs over a jade pendant she’s kept with her. “It’s a relief that the prince completely forgot about me. But, I… cannot forget him. Even though I’m living as a man…”

Cue a flashback to Ga-hee as a grief-stricken young girl reeling in the wake of her brother’s death—a death she felt directly responsible for since he caught the plague from her while tending to her sickbed.

She’d gone to the temple to beg the Buddha to let her meet with her departed brother just so she could tell him something she didn’t in life, crying that she’s not at all grateful to be the one who lived.

Unbeknownst to her, Gwanghae was in the same temple, and was so moved by her heartfelt pleas that he hid behind the statue and pretended to speak to her as the Buddha. “Your brother says for you not to cry,” he said. “Since he can hear all the things you say, now you may tell him what you wish to say.”

Poor Ga-hee wanted so badly to believe it was the Buddha speaking to her that she relayed her message: “Tell my brother that I’m sorry. That I won’t forget him… that I am truly thankful.” Aw.

Gwanghae, still using his official voice, answered, “Your brother wants me to tell you that he is thankful you are alive.” Awwwww.

Afterward, Gwanghae met her face-to-face to give her the jade pendant. “When I am not beside you, this star will protect you,” he says, referencing the simple etching in the stone. “I will make sure to come back and meet you again. So, make sure to wait for me.”

Ga-hee holds the pendant in the present and sighs that Gwanghae is still the same as he was all those years ago, because he’s still a liar. Then she thinks back to when a temple monk warned her of her fate if she were to continue living as a woman, which is why she now has to live as a man.

Cue an almost uncomfortably long bath-and-breast-binding scene in preparation for the rain ritual, where Ga-hee is lucky to be one of many identically-dressed boys enacting the elaborate ceremony.

They’re soon joined by King Seonjo and the princes, all decked out in their finest ceremonial robes, there to lead the formal prayers. To complete the ritual, all the boys have to empty their pitchers of water into a giant ceramic bowl, which inevitably takes place right in front of the princes.

Ga-hee grows flustered when Gwanghae recognizes her from the market and sends her an enormous grin—but in her effort to just hurry up and empty her pitcher to escape his gaze, Ga-hee bumps into another boy, who bumps into the bowl…

…Which goes crashing to the ground. Ohhhh noooo. There is literally nothing worse she could have done at this ceremony aside from setting the king’s robes on fire.

All eyes inevitably fall on her, including Reader Go’s. Hers is the face he saw on the street, the one that’s oh-so-perfectly detailed in every way King Seonjo’s is lacking. Hers is the face that will change Seonjo’s unfortunate features into those of a king.

 
COMMENTS

Solid stuff. I wasn’t quite sure what we’d get out of a production that had an injunction filed against it before it even aired, but the end result was actually pretty good. Though I admit the whole plagiarism debacle concerning KBS and The Face Reader movie still baffles me, because it’s either pure, coincidental happenstance that King’s Face bears resemblance to that movie, OR that the people behind the show are frauds and could not be bothered to give a shit even if they had free shits to give.

The second scenario is what I’d guess to be the more likely one, though that doesn’t quite gel with the overall polish of this episode, which clearly took a lot of time, money, and effort from everyone involved. Whether or not this specific story is authentic to the storyteller or vaguely inspired by a recent blockbuster hit is up for grabs (it really isn’t), and regardless of what it is, I’m impressed by the tenacity of this production to make sure that this story—the one we’ve just seen an hour of—gets told.

So, that’s where I’ll leave the behind the scenes drama unless it comes up later to haunt the actual drama. And since I haven’t even seen the movie that did or didn’t inspire this show, I was able to view this first outing on its own merits as an introduction to the core world and characters it’s asking us to invest in (or not, no pressure) for another twenty-three hours. When it comes to sageuks of this length too, it’s usually fair to give them the first four episodes just to set the table, which all goes to say that this hour did exactly what it needed to do and then some.

But the directing is so far where the show really excels, which I’m happy to see from the director of two completely different shows I had completely different opinions on—Bridal Mask and You’re The Best, Lee Soon-shin—because he clearly did not lose his knack for shooting intense movement. That seems like a superfluous thing to focus on in an episode with so much to offer, but you’ll either already know this or will have to trust me when I say that it is NOT easy to find good action scenes in sageuk. I probably wouldn’t have even mentioned them had they been just baseline competent, but they were awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I’m going to hold off on wondering whether Gwanghae’s freakishly good skill in martial arts is something that’ll be incorporated properly into his character or whether it’ll just be something he does sometimes because he can.

The face reading mythology—while seemingly being an idea on which the whole show is predicated upon—I can honestly take or leave at this point. Maybe it’s just fatigue from trying to figure out why everyone in a universe where face reading is a thing can’t think of literally anything else to talk about. Which I know is also very important and as impossible to remove from the scope of the show as the metaphor in The Moon That Embraces The Sun. It’s kind of one of those things that we just have to buy because it’s built into the title, and hopefully also one of those things that’ll fade into the greater fabric of the story as time goes on rather than being a gimmicky patch glued to the outside.

In that vein, I think there’s a lot of good places to go with the historical context, since I’ve always found Gwanghae somewhat of a tragic figure—an image likely cultivated from the multiple dramas and movies depicting him as such. (Okay, and maybe also history, but who needs that?) Since we already got a taste of the conflict to come in the beginning, it’s clear that the father-son drama isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, nor will it be getting any better for the two of them. At the very least I hope for some nuance when it comes to Seonjo’s somewhat despicable nature, even though we can point to him saving his son’s life as proof that there’s a father in there. Somewhere.

As for the romance, it’ll have to prove why it needed to incorporate a childhood romance into a relationship that was well on its way to developing organically, even if the flashback scene in the temple was diabetes-inducing levels of sweet. Even though childhood backstories will never find a friend in me, what Gwanghae did was not only really, really adorable, but also a good indicator of character. Then again, in a world where one is born with their face and the accompanying personality traits arbitrarily assigned to them, does Gwanghae even need to try, or can he just keep coasting by with only his dashing good looks?

 
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Thanks for the recap! Off to read! Ok (not great) so far.

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thanks for the recap heads :) I'm not usually the audience for these sagueks unless they're really fusion-y like Hong Gil Dong and Arang & the Magistrate, but I had to watch it for SIG :) at least the first episode. I'm not sure if I'll actually watch it all since there are so many dramas out there right now that I have to prioritize.

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I'm definitely getting Moon Embracing Sun vibes from this series but for the time being, I'm in serious lie with this show.
the metaphor, though...
"Which I know is also very important and as impossible to remove from the scope of the show as the metaphor in The Moon That Embraces The Sun."

And we know how annoying that metaphor became. Great stuff! Please continue to be good, Show.

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Where is evil Shin Sung-rok?

I feel for the safety of these people in funny costumes... Will he spike their drinks and paralyse them if they don't co-operate with his requests? Or use money to manipulate them and get them to do what he wants, and if they try to lie to him, it won't be a problem cause he's a...

FACE READER!

OOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH

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Woah. This was my first reaction when I started reading this recap. That's some swift writing skills. As swift as the action scenes of this drama. Midway, I was just applauding. You have a penchant for smart humor. Nice recap!

That said, I have to say that I am not disappointed by the drama. I did see the Face Reader and to me, the movie and the drama just feels like two different stories from different eras, and the whole physiognomy thing is just as common a denominator as the costume is.

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thanx for pointing out.."the movie n the drama just feels like 2 different stories from 2 different eras, n the whole physiognomy thing is just as common a denominator as the costume is" ..very well said.

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I agree, love reading your recaps Heads! Always end up watching the sageuks you recap since Tree haha haven't seen this yet but saw Face Reader and wasn't much impressed, thought the concept was underutilized there so curious to see what they do with it here!

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I really really like the action scenes in this drama but I have to admit that it doesn't leave me wanting more. Its too fast-paced and can be a little confusing for me (especially ep 2). Buuuuut im still gonna watch it for SIG, just saw the BTS for his action scene and dayummmm.

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Yeah same, I don't think it's fast paced but the characters just don't seem REAL to me. I've watched both episodes already and yeah it's already very fast paced (what happens at the end of episode 2 I expected to happen at the end of episode 8 or something :P)

BUT Seo Inguk is like the chemistry king. He hasn't been in a drama where he doesn't have chemistry with the lead actress...ever. Even in No Breathing, I rooted for him and Yuri, even though I hated that movie. Seriously, I don't know what's with this guy but he got chemi~~

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Yeah. Definitely a chemistry King. He definitely has rapor with most of his leads. Considering I read a lot of comments about Jo Yoon Hee, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were actually nice to watch together.

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hate No Breathing? why? i wonder bcoz for me that movie is great..love SIG n LJS n Yuri there..except the ending, i really love to see who won the olympic medal. huhu..i do rooted for SIG n Yuri but couldnt complaint more, i just love how they present romance relationship there, bcoz i blieve that the movie is more about the boys n swimming..huhu

about chemistry thing..i do agree with u. he always show great chemistry with his co-star..applaud for him..

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Heads, thanks for the recap, (even though i haven't read it yet). Will watch it this weekend.

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Seo In Guk<3 reply 1997 and High school king left great impressions on me. it's so strange seeing him in something else except a uniform or suit.
saguek dramas aren't really my thing but i'll check it out just for him...
and the steam room... really? O_O

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Wasn't going to watch this, although I've loved LSJ's and SIG's acting in previous dramas, but reading this great recap has me intrigued! Thank you, HeadsNo2!

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I'm so glad you're recapping this!! I've inmy seen the first episode and I've seen/read none if the related face reader materials. I am not entirely sure my thoughts on this since it's only episide one but it's got potential. I also agree that the action sequence was a big thumbs up. More like a movie than a drama. I also understand why SIG keeps getting injured though!

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Another major Gaksital reunion in this drama, lol (seriously, how many actors did anyone recognize? For example, did anyone recognize the village-hot-head-turned-Lee Kangto/Gaksital-fanboy in this drama?)!

While not immediately sold to it, I will continue watching this drama. I kind of rolled my eyes at certain elements (yes, that breast-binding scene, I'm looking at you. How often has that been used in cross-dressing dramas?). Likewise, while face-reading is central to the story, I don't think it has to be hammered into our heads every hour and every minute (one can assume that every-day life focused on a variety of things, not just face reading). Hopefully, this show won't do that. And I am hoping that this show will give us a complex plot with complex characters.

I know some of the basic history, but does anyone know of any good resources to help understand the political context as well as the relationship between Seonjo and Gwanghae? Thanks :)!

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On a side note, I'm liking Seo Inguk's performance so far :).

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me too. I just was smiling so widely for him. So happy he's stretching his acting chops.

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:)

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me three..haha..love SIG acting. i was like WOWWW how good he is.. give him any role, n im pretty sure that he can do it all so naturally..

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Thanks for the recap. Haven't watched the episode yet but reading this and having seen the movie it seems to have set itself apart reasonably well. I'm still on the fence though; depends on where the metaphor and romance takes us. Otherwise, I will not say no to a good dramatization of an interesting history. *Adds to watch list*

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“The time will come when I will completely forget I am a woman and live as a man down to my very bones.” - Damn, that takes balls (pun intended). I like this girl.

Thanks for the recap! I'm enjoying this so far! I've seen the first 2 eps and, I have to say, even though I don't love childhood/first love separations etc., I actually just really like the lead's interactions, both as children and adults, so I'm willing to overlook it. Seo in-gook is wonderful and I'm liking Jo Yoon-hee as well.

I do think things are a bit fast-paced, but I've been able to follow along fairly easily and I do enjoy the world that's being set up. Hopefully, next week it'll settle into that world with more ease. This one definitely has a lot of potential. You get the sense that it knows what story it wants to tell and that's never a bad thing. Looking forward to more!

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Yeah, super fast. Though I think the pace added to my interest in the drama in a refreshing way. Although I'm not yet in for the drama hook, line, and sinker, I am curious to see what they'll do with the remaining 22 episodes now that they seem to have laid out a lot of the plot ingredients so quickly and this early too. What I do need now is an empathy to the plight of the characters. I could care less about all the others, but I'd need to feel Ga Hee and Gwanghae's inner conflict and Seonjo's insecurities. Inner conflict seems to be the theme for the characters in this drama and I'd like to get on board with them. Acting-wise, I have no complaints so far. Just praises. And ovaries vibrating for SIG. (But that's a bias perspective) LOL

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I liked the first episode, but since I'm watching so many dramas right now I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep up with this one. -_-'
Side note: Eyes, Nose, Lips! Hands down my favourite kpop song~ <3

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Thanks for the recap.

First, i am so "proud" of Seo In Guk. Is that the right word? Sageuk-acting is pretty difficult and he's nailing it.

Second, the voice of King Seono! BEAUTIFUL!

Thirdly, who knew I wanted a cross-dressing drama!

Fourthly, ah these mysterious lost books of Sageuk history. Gumiho lost books, kings' face reading books, all kindsof books with cosmic mythology to learn.

Fifthly, the subtle fusion: sauna? soup kitchen?

I am soooooooooo going to like this.

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plus 1..
i am sooooo going to like this..

first..sooooo proud of sig

second..am always love lsj voice, plus his evil face (gu family book)

third..im sold. that girl look pretty georgeous

forth..couldn't agree more

fifth..joseon sauna. very first time..

HeadsNo2..thanks for the recap..

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Yes, a beautiful voice is always a good thing. But I hope that his character will be well-developed; his character was too one-note in Gu Family Book. So here's hoping to a good voice and a good (rather, complex evil/complex villain) character

I'm not immediately in love with this show, but I will be hopeful :).

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right now the actor who plays King Cheonjo --prince Sado's dad-- is totally nailing the insecure king persona. This guy has to be super good to catch up with that performance. But that voice...wow! that voice. I think i've found another ahjussi actor i can crush on.

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Yes. :)

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haha..u know what, i notice LSJ (ur new ahjussi crush) bcoz of SIG. he really know how to throw his good voice in every line very well, plus his superb acting WOWWW.. give him award already, he really deserve it!

another WOWWW for SIG of course..haha..my bias. love their bromance

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Will wait and see if I will watch this drama. Not sure I can take another doomed king vs prince tale. In history, Ga Hee eventually becomes one of the "King's women". Imagine the melo in the triangular relationship of Seonjo, Gwanghae and Ga Hee.

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I could care less about the silly face stuff, but SIG is just SO adorable and engaging as the prince! He just seems like an all around sweet guy, kind of a rarity in sageuk, and I don't think I want to stick around and watch his cheerful spirit get smashed into smithereens by all the heart break :(. Also not sold on the weird three way romance, but we'll see how it plays out. Idk, I'll probably watch until the angst level is too much for me to take, just so I can watch sweet SIG for as long as possible :3

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You're born a prince, a crown prince So without a doubt you will be King.
Then the royal face reader said No
No you can't be e one.
Had him killed and Now you are a King.
e prophecy seems right but hey he tries his best to be the good King but ill luck.
Very sad indeed Wish heaven is favourable towards him but e Lord (we know) works in a mysterious way. Even the face reader (movie) can't read that the son will die at an early age

Lee Sun Jae as King Seonjo = superb acting
I'm having love pity hate relation with King -
love - his determination to be King
pity - to be misunderstood by all
hate - cruelty, well which King
doesn't.
but my bias is still SIG .... XD

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Not sure if I am going to start watching another sageuk drama. But gotta say from the screencaps jo yoon hee actually pulls it off cross dressing as a boy. She actually looks like a flower boy unlike most actresses who just look unconvincing when crossdressing and you wonder how in dramaland no one realizes it.

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She kind of reminds me of Song Joong-ki from certain angles. I had paused the screen and when I came back to it, I thought it was him for a second.

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"If they like him so much, they can just (marry) make Gwanghae the crown prince..."

Ha! Clever, HeadsNo2, bringing me back to my childhood "if you like it so much, why don't you marry it?" Giggle.

Beyond your silliness, thanks for an excellent recap. I really hope (fingers crossed) that you'll be able to recap the entire series. I like the pace, Lee Sung Jae is nailing it, and yes, it's definitely a Gatiskal reunion! Hey there, Abe!

I love Seo In Guk's acting, and yes, he IS the chemistry king. I remember reading his comments about his chemistry with Jung Eun Ji in Answer Me 1997--he knew that he had to have close relationships with the cast and her to really sell the coupling, so worked really hard to build that. You can see it in a lot of BTW for 97 too. And I heard the same thing about High School King...that he and Lee Ha Na got along really well. I'm sure he worked at that, and again, you can see the result.

I am so impressed with his natural intuition as an actor, and having the acting chops to pull this off, all while maintaining that SIG charm. He's fantastic.

Lee Sung Jae I've loved for a while...he's charming and can really act in a variety of roles. Definitely underrated. I just saw an interview where he said he wanted to make King Seonjo a bit more sympathetic and conflicted. Definitely makes that happen.

I know that this is uphill fight for the drama to maintain viewership when it's up again Pinocchio and Mr. Baek...sageuks can be hard to watch especially against lighter fare with popular actors. But this has a nice zippy feel, yes, great action scenes (had to laugh with some of Prince Gwanghae's moves...reminded me of SIG on Mamma Mia!), and I already feel the chemistry with Jo Yoon-hee. She is doing great; love the smirk on her face in that picture.

Please, please keep recapping!

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please keep recapping..thumb up..

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Seo In Gook in royal garb!!!

So in I've got weekly dose of Lee Jong Suk, Kim Young Kwang, Park Min Woo, Shin Sung Rok, Lee Sang Yoon, Kang Ha Neul, Shi Wan, Joo Won and now ... Seo In Gook

Thank Heavens!

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I like the little details which demonstrate Gwanghae's desire for his father's love and loyalty to Seonjo as King. The way Gwanghae's face just lit up in the sauna when Seonjo called him by his personal name (Hon). And in the interrogation scene, as the intruder makes his claims that Seonjo shouldn't be King, Gwanghae appears outraged & clearly protective of his father - only to be shocked by Seonjo's ruthless killing moments later.

After rewatching the scene where Gwanghae is held hostage, I noticed that Seonjo only released the arrow after the assailant had released his hold on Gwanghae. My interpretation is that Seonjo ordered the guards to disregard Gwanghae's safety to save him - he probably made the order knowing that if the assailant saw no value in holding Gwanghae hostage, he would release his hold and attempt some other means of escape. And it played out just as Seonjo intended. Adds to the general sense that at this point there's some love for his son.

I thought the opening scenes were well placed. Gwanghae actually wants to be King, Seonjo is prepared to completely dispose of his son, Gahee is at Seonjo's feet serving him and agreeing with his decision, and SSR (who once fought for a different state of affairs) silently watches - now in service to Seonjo as a face reader. Should be interesting to see how we get from 1589 to 1608.

Biggest surprise after watching episodes 1 and 2 is the pace - the plot moves so much faster than expected. This actually makes me want to watch on just to see how this works out (or doesn't) in the grander scheme of things.

Lee Sungjae is solid as a rock, with all the force of a veteran actor. Seo in guk is doing great too. There are a few moments in ep 1 where slips out of sageuk tone but it's not significant enough to mar the watching experience. Also badass action bts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDwsho1aiYc&list=UUHVsFjUcyCCm--p0HFzxWuQ

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+1 thanks for your little details analysis! actually i was waiting for someone to interpret about the hate-love relationship between seonjo and gwanghae.

it's truly sad when he looks agile while fighting with the intruders yet confidently said he's fine and ordered the soldier to shoot the intruder, but when the king himself asked the soldier to shoot, gwanghae's face immediately changed - looks unbelief, heartbroken and fear.

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I watched the Face Reader movie. Based on this recap, i think only the idea that it is important to have a king's face is the same. The story and plot doesnt seem to be the same.
I really like Seo In Gook in Reply 1997, so I think i'll be watching this to see how it goes.

Thanks for the recap Headno2!

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Thanks for the recap! I too feel a Moon Embraces the Sun vibe (which I love), plus Sungkyunkwan Scandal which I dropped 3/4 in to the drama. Unfortunately I can't even finish one episode. Was tuned in when there were action sequences because I love serious SIG. All the best though to the fans! The controversy made me want to watch the 2013 movie.

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What is it with the trending father-son conflict? King Seonjo reminds me so much of King Yeongjo. Out of all the cross dressing female in dramas, I think Jo Yoon Hee looks most convincing as a boy. Can't wait to watch this drama out of all my long list of 'to watch dramas'.

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i totally agree that she is the most convincing as a boy. in fact, i thought that she is a boy at first. ^^"

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Watched the episode, read the recap but will probably drop this one..

Just didn't find ep 1 compelling enough, esp. with so many other good shows to watch (ahem pinocchio)

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So, where are the recaps for the rest of the drama?
I can't search of anything on google because nothing shows up! Does no one but me like this drama? wth?

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i wish this recap would continue too! the show falters in its own self-awareness of its 'cool' moments (i.e. certain scenes are given overwrought heights of melodrama), and the writers seem to facilitate too much between using the face reader concept very seriously (when gwanghae uses it) or using it to show king seonjo's obsession and reliance on face reading which subverts his ability to rule.

Nevertheless SIG is incredible in this show, the seonjo-gwanghae relationship is g8 and shin sung rock's morally dubious character all pushes me to continue watching. The series is also well shot! unfortunately it doesn't seem that a lot of people will be tuning in to this show :(

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Does anyone know the name of the young actress who played Ga Hee as a child? She is not listed on any cast sites. Thanks if anyone still reading this site for any answer.

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