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Seven Day Queen: Episode 1

And finally we have the last of the spring historical dramas, KBS’s royal love story Seven Day Queen, which premiered today. It’s a lovely, contemplative drama with a strong conflict from the opening minute, and the assured directing makes it really easy to get swept up in the life-and-death stakes. If they can keep this up, it may just fill the hole that Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People left behind for me, and end up becoming my favorite sageuk of the current crop. Fingers crossed.

Ratings-wise, Seven Day Queen hardly made a dent against current ratings leader Ruler–Master of the Mask, which held the lead at 13.6%. Queen premiered in last place with 6.9%, and Suspicious Partner recorded 9.3%.

 
BACKGROUND NOTES

This story takes place during the reign of Yeonsangun (Lee Yung), famous tyrant king of Joseon who reigned from 1494 to 1506, and was responsible for bloody purges of scholars who opposed him and squandering the nation’s resources on lavish entertainment and sport.

His half-brother Grand Prince Jinseong (Lee Yeok) was a direct descendant of their father King Seongjong and next in line for the throne, and when Yeonsangun was deposed in a coup, his brother Yeok became the eleventh king of Joseon (posthumously known as King Jungjong).

The drama focuses on Jungjong’s first wife, Lady Shin, posthumously known as Queen Dangyeong. Her father was Yeonsangun’s brother-in-law, and therefore opposed to Jungjong’s enthronement; when he led a failed coup attempt against Jungjong, his daughter was deposed and exiled from the palace after having been queen for just seven days. It was the shortest reign of any queen in Joseon history.

Legend has it that Jungjong looked out at a mountain in her direction every day after she left, and when Lady Shin heard of this, she placed her favorite skirt on a boulder on the mountain face to let him know that she was thinking of him too.

 
EPISODE 1 RECAP

1506, the first year of Jungjong’s reign. A woman is escorted away from the palace, looking pale and defeated, as though she might be walking to her death. Villagers look on in a mix of pity and scorn, wondering how someone couldn’t manage to stay queen for even ten days.

This is SHIN CHAE-KYUNG (Park Min-young), or Lady Shin, the former queen of Joseon. As she walks solemnly ahead, she flashes back to what must have been days or even moments before:

She discovered her father and mother lying in pools of blood, brutally killed. Dressed in her royal robes, she approached the king, LEE YEOK (Yeon Woo-jin), who ran to embrace her tenderly.

She cried in his arms, then pulled out a dagger. She braced herself to thrust the dagger into his back, tears streaming down her face. But she stopped in midair…

Yeok clenched her arm and pulled away, looking heartbroken. Chae-kyung said, trembling, “I should have killed you.”

Tears fell from his eyes, and then we fade back to the present, where the deposed queen arrives at the gallows to be hanged. She looks overhead at a bird flying by and thinks to herself, “If I am reborn, I will never meet you, your majesty.”

We go back seven years earlier, to the fifth year of Yeonsangun’s reign.

Chae-kyung’s father SHIN SU-GEUN (Jang Hyun-sung) narrates that the king has secured royal power against his political opponents (1498 was the year of the first purge of scholars who vocally opposed him). But soon after, a severe drought plagued the land, and people blamed the king’s lack of virtue as the cause.

As he narrates, we see the king, YEONSANGUN, or LEE YUNG (Lee Dong-gun), being dressed for a royal prayer ceremony. As he reaches the courtyard, the king looks up at the blazing sun.

Elsewhere, his half-brother Yeok (Grand Prince Jinseong) makes the same gesture while standing up on a tree limb, to the horror of his eunuchs and ladies in waiting. They urge him to come down, but it’s not until two boys arrive with a stone jar that Yeok leaps down.

He peers into the jar eagerly, which is filled with water and a couple of salamanders. Yeok asks for the tree branch and ceremonial water… and then proceeds to perform his own mock prayer ceremony for rain.

This is the scene that Yeonsangun and his entourage come upon, and from the sharp look on his face, Yeonsangun doesn’t seem amused at the prince playing like he’s the king.

Yeok is the last to notice him and mistakenly starts to greet him as “hyungnim,” remembering halfway to address him properly as the king. Yeonsangun tells Yeok to keep playing his games, and though Yeok tries to protest that he’s not playing, it falls on deaf ears.

Yeonsangun holds court out in the sweltering heat that day, purposely ignoring each of the ministers and making them literally sweat. It’s clear that they all fear him and that he wields absolute power over his court, as he tells them to suffer and feel the same pain that the people do, and orders them not to move a muscle until they solve this drought.

He leaves them all outdoors and later meets with three men inside: Chief Royal Secretary IM SA-HONG, who is the head of the Sogyeokseo, the Taoist rites department (the chief royal secretary is a very high government position, not just any old royal secretary); Minister of the Left Shin Su-geun, who is Chae-kyung’s father; and PARK WON-JONG, a deputy commander of the military headquarters.

It’s Deputy Commander Park who suggests that the king ought to have his brother married, and though Yeonsangun doesn’t seem pleased by the idea, he realizes that Yeok is of age to marry and asks Minister Shin to become Yeok’s father-in-law.

Yeonsangun says he’s heard about the daughter Minister Shin has hidden away, having refused countless marriage offers his family has received. Yeonsangun says with a smirk, “You wouldn’t refuse a marriage offer from the king, would you?” Minister Shin gulps.

His young daughter Chae-kyung, meanwhile, is busy whistling at a donkey in an attempt to coax the poop out of it. This seems like an odd treatment for constipation, but it works like a charm. She gives the farmers instructions on how to use the donkey poop effectively as fertilizer, and the villagers bow to her in gratitude.

Chae-kyung calls a young peasant girl her friend, but after she’s gone, the girl’s mother reminds her that she can’t really consider herself friends with a noble young lady—they must always address her respectfully.

The girl insists that they’re friends, and says that Mom herself called Chae-kyung an ugly duckling who was abandoned by her family to live in this rural village with just a nanny to look after her, and that she’s someone they ought to pity and be kind to.

They don’t realize that Chae-kyung has returned because she forgot something, and has overheard them talking about her. She trudges home in a dour mood, only to be further disappointed by her father’s letter, replying that she can’t come to Hanyang like she asked.

Chae-kyung wails to her nanny, asking why she was even born if they were just going to stow her away in this backwoods village. Nanny has no answer, and awkwardly changes the subject while surreptitiously handing the servant a letter to send back to Chae-kyung’s father.

Back in Hanyang, Chae-kyung’s mother is aghast to hear of the proposed royal marriage for their daughter, when they took such pains to hide her away for this exact reason. Minister Shin doesn’t look any happier about it himself.

Chae-kyung’s soon-to-be husband Yeok is currently being chastised for his little salamander rain ceremony by his mother, QUEEN DOWAGER JASUN (who was King Seongjong’s third wife and is Yeonsangun’s stepmother). Yeok knows the drill: He isn’t supposed to do anything, or see anything, or hear anything.

But he just wanted to do something to help his brother, and help the people, he argues. The queen dowager says that’s the king’s job, not his, and tells him to pick up a needle and thread and embroider something if he really wants to give the king a gift.

Yeok stomps off in a snit, though he turns contemplative when he looks out at a courtyard and remembers being loved by his big brother when they were younger. In the flashback, when Yeonsangun was the crown prince, he had picked up little Yeok and kissed him on the forehead, hugging him with genuine affection.

At the same time, Yeonsangun arrives on the bridge where Yeok was performing his rain ceremony earlier, and it brings up a memory for him as well: The moment he’d come upon their father King Seongjong teaching Yeok that very ritual, without him. He remembers watching them jealously as their father picked up Yeok and praised him proudly.

In the present, Yeonsangun notes with a smirk that Yeok has grown a lot, and then he kicks over the jar of salamanders out of spite.

In a last-ditch effort to get to Hanyang, Chae-kyung boards a small boat dressed as a boy. She’s run away from home, and her nanny belatedly discovers that Chae-kyung has disappeared along with the letter she was planning to send to Minister Shin.

In Hanyang, Yeok pouts and refuses to play with his two buddies, who easily cajole him out of his funk by showing him the racy novel they got their hands on. Yeok is eager to take a peek, so his friends play keep-away with the book, and it ends up flying into the air.

Yeok shoves them out of the way and dives head-first for the book… and crashes noggin-to-noggin right into Chae-kyung, sending them both to the ground. Her first impression of him isn’t very good, seeing as how he refuses to apologize for knocking into her, and then she catches a glimpse of his naughty book.

She manages to grab it first, to his ire, but he isn’t one to lose a fight and says she’s overreacting when they just fell while playing (he of course thinks she’s a boy). “You don’t have any friends, do you?” he taunts, and snatches the book right out of her hands. The three friends skip away in glee, chanting that they’re going to see something fun.

Chae-kyung mutters that they’re a couple of gangsters, though her curiosity is piqued when she hears that fun is about to be had.

It turns out that their idea of fun is sneaking a peek at women bathing in the river, and when Chae-kyung sneaks up behind them to witness the scene, she bellows loudly so that the women can hear her.

They scream and throw rocks at the boys, who in turn chase after Chae-kyung for ruining their fun. Yeok is livid and runs after her, and when he gets close, he leaps to tackle her to the ground, sending them both tumbling down the hill.

They land in each other’s arms, and Chae-kyung’s eyes flutter at the sudden proximity. They look at one another for a beat, and then a bird flies overhead and happens to drop a poop right on Chae-kyung’s cheek. Ew.

Instinctively, she wipes it off and then wipes her hand… on Yeok. Pffft. It takes him a moment to process what she just did, and then he lets out this screeeeeeeam of horror.

She kicks him off the small ledge and goes running, and when Yeok’s friends rescue him, he yells in a rage, “Catch that bird poop!”

She’s fast enough to hide under a boulder before he can catch up to her, and when Yeok yells into the ravine that they’ll meet again because this isn’t over, she mutters to herself that she’d be crazy to see him again.

At the Taoist rites department, close advisor Secretary Im warns Yeonsangun that giving his brother-in-law Shin Su-geun such power through a royal marriage might make him a dangerous foe, if he were to become ambitious. (Interestingly, in this scene Secretary Im refers to Shin Su-geun as the chief royal secretary, and he himself is in a lower position, so they must change ranks later.)

Secretary Im warns the king that having the justification to back up ambition could easily lead to treason, and reminds him of the dying wishes of the late king. He hands Yeonsangun a letter that indicates that his father King Seongjong left behind a secret will.

Flashback to five years ago. Seongjong was on his deathbed when officials urged him to leave behind a will naming Grand Prince Jinseong as his successor. Seongjong called Yeonsangun to his bedside and told him to relinquish the throne to his brother when he came of age: “That child must become king. You… will ruin Joseon.” Ouuuuch. I mean, he was right, but damn.

In the present, Yeonsangun fumes thinking that his father thought him so untrustworthy that he would leave behind a secret will. He asks why Yeok was always favored over him, thinking that it’s because his own mother was deposed, and wonders why he has to worry about a little child.

In the marketplace, Yeok grins when he finds Chae-kyung shopping for gifts, and when he sees her reaching for a clay salamander, he grabs it first. She gapes thinking he followed her all the way here, and the shopkeeper quickly hides the other salamanders and starts hiking up the price since it’s clear they’re going to fight over it.

They go back and forth raising the price like it’s an auction, and Chae-kyung insists that she’s going to buy it as a present for the king. She says she’s the king’s niece, which prompts Yeok to counter that he’s the king’s little brother, and she scoffs, “If you’re the king’s brother, then I’m the queen of Joseon!” Ha.

They’re so busy arguing that they don’t notice another boy sneaking up to steal Chae-kyung’s letter and purse. Yeok is faster to pay and walks away with the salamander, pleased that he got his revenge on Bird Poop and bought a gift for the king at the same time. Chae-kyung belatedly realizes that she’s been pickpocketed, and assumes that stealing her stuff was Yeok’s true motive all this time.

Yeok catches up to his friends and pathetically feigns a limp in order to be carried the rest of the way home. His buddies grumble but they do it anyway, and they’re back to horseplay and laughter in no time.

They turn a corner and run into the king’s entourage, and Yeok’s friends quickly drop to their knees. Yeonsangun sneers at Yeok and notes that around here, he seems to be the king. Yow, them’s fightin’ words.

Yeok quickly counters that he’s just a neighborhood boss, not a king, but Yeonsangun turns his attention on the two friends with this bloodthirsty look in his eyes. He asks if they’d die for their king, which they readily affirm. But then he asks if he and Yeok were both trapped inside a burning house, which of them they’d rescue first.

The boys hesitate, but they’re smart enough to answer that they would save the king first. But when they add that they would then return to the burning house to also save Yeok even if they died trying, Yeonsangun twists their words to mean that they’d dutifully rescue the king, but the one they’d die for is Yeok.

Yeok realizes that this is getting serious and gets down on his knees before the king to defend his friends. But Yeonsangun goes so far as to call it treason, and tells Yeok that if he wants to save his friends’ lives, he’ll have to beat him. He gives Yeok his horse and says that if he can arrive at the palace first, he’ll let Yeok and his friends live. Uhh… why does this seem like a lose-lose proposition?

Yeonsangun gives no warning and takes off on another horse first, and his friends have to scream at Yeok to snap out of it and hurry towards the palace. They tell him to take the shortcut to bypass the marketplace, and Yeok rides for his life, literally.

As they both race through the streets, Yeonsangun thinks back to his father’s dying decree for him to give up the throne to Yeok, and he says to himself, “I can’t give it to him! Tell me to die instead! This is all I have to call mine in this world! How can you take even this away from me?”

The shortcut gives Yeok the advantage, but of course he runs right into Chae-kyung at the worst possible moment, and one whistle from her makes his horse stop in its tracks and toss him off. She thinks he’s a gangster who stole her money and stands in his way, so he pushes her off to get back on his horse.

It’s then that he notices Yeonsangun riding in their direction, headed straight for Chae-kyung and clearly not about to slow down for her sake. She’s going to get trampled, so Yeok dives to get her out of the way just in time. As expected, the move costs him the race.

When Yeok reaches the palace, Yeonsangun draws his sword, prepared to take Yeok’s life in payment. Yeok asks to know the reason he must die, promising to die dutifully if he could just be made to understand why. Yeonsangun just asks why he shouldn’t kill him, and Yeok answers that he’s the king’s brother, which Yeonsangun says is reason number one why he must die.

Yeok defends himself vehemently, but Yeonsangun just finds his confidence insolent. When his friends are brought there, though, Yeok bows his head and says he was wrong, and pleads for them to be spared. The king agrees to spare the friends, and then raises his sword to strike at Yeok, who squeezes his eyes shut and waits for his death…

Yeonsangun hesitates for a beat, remembering how much he loved his little brother when they were young. At that moment, Yeok’s mother the queen dowager arrives and nearly faints, and Yeonsangun lowers his sword.

He looks down at Yeok and muses that the root of his unwavering confidence was the queen dowager and the king, who were always behind him. But Yeok replies that it’s not them, but his brother: “Because the king of this nation, my brother, loves and adores me. That is why I am this confident.” Augh, why can’t you just love each other?

Outside the palace, Chae-kyung sits on a stoop with a heavy sigh. She thinks back to Yeok stealing her money and then saving her from being trampled, and decides that he’s half-nice, half-punk.

The queen dowager tends to Yeok’s wounds and says that Yeonsangun is showing his true colors now that Yeok is old enough to be married. Yeok doesn’t see why getting married should threaten the king, but his mother points out that if a direct descendant of the late king were to marry into a powerful political family, he could use that power to make a play for the throne.

Ever the innocent, Yeok thinks that’s absurd, but his mother warns him that if today has taught him anything, it’s that his brother is the one person he should be wary of. Unfortunately, Yeonsangun has chosen that exact moment to arrive just outside the door with a peace offering of medicines.

His face hardens to hear the queen dowager say that you only need to look at Joseon’s history to see that brothers and nephews kill each other over this power, and that Yeonsangun is no different, and isn’t even Yeok’s full-blood brother at that. She says that marriage is the only way to protect Yeok now.

Yeonsangun interrupts them and announces that Yeok will marry the daughter of Shin Su-geun, the king’s brother-in-law who would have no reason to betray him. He orders Yeok to go live quietly in the countryside and bear no children, and not let the sound of his breathing ever escape the walls of that house.

If he does that, Yeonsangun offers, he’ll spare Yeok’s life. Yeok asks why he has to live that way, adding that he trusts the king. Yeonsangun answers simply that he doesn’t trust Yeok, and tells him to prove his loyalty by dying and being reborn as one of his citizens, and preferably a woman at that.

Once the king leaves, the queen dowager points out that this just proves her right, though Yeok still argues that she doesn’t know his brother like he does. Yeok says he fell off a horse today but barely has a few scratches, and that’s because he learned horse riding from his brother. He asks if the king really does intend to kill him, why wasn’t he killed when he was much younger, when it would’ve been so much easier?

Yeonsangun says he can’t breathe in this palace, filled with people who don’t trust him, and his consort JANG NOK-SOO (Sohn Eun-seo) reminds him that he still has her. She suggests that he sneak out of the palace for a while in an officer’s uniform, and helps him change out of his clothes.

The king escapes the palace on horseback, and Chae-kyung catches a glimpse as he rides past her and recognizes the horse as the one Yeok rode in on. She assumes he’s a gangster too, and chases after him.

Yeok is determined to change the king’s mind and insists on playing him a song. Nok-soo just pretends that the king is resting and lets Yeok play to an empty room, thinking to herself that something so childish would never move someone as ambitious as Yeonsangun.

As he plays, Yeok thinks, “Hyungnim, no matter what anyone says, the fact that I am alive right now is proof that you love me.”

Chae-kyung is nothing if not dogged, and she follows the horse’s tracks all the way into the woods, where she finds Yeonsangun bathing alone in the river. Thinking she’s a threat, he throws a robe over her head and readies his sword to attack.

But she just flails in the water and then looks up at him… and is stunned speechless by his bare abs glistening in the moonlight. HA.

He demands to know who she is and what is the meaning of that look in her eyes, but all she does is dunk her head underwater and hold her breath to hide. So he just leans down and waits for her to run out of air, after which she pops back up, putting them face to face.

 
COMMENTS

What a great opening sequence that was, to give us a glimpse of the devastation that we know is ahead for our characters. Right away we addressed the way the love story played out in history, and set the context and the stakes for our two lovers, destined to become political enemies. I remember how effective this kind of opening was in Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People, where we spent most of the series on our way back to that opening sequence, driven by the narrative curiosity of how two lovers ended up there, and wanting to know how they’d make it out alive and together. The future seems bleak for the deposed queen, but that opener also puts me firmly on her side, and feeling the massive weight of what it means for her to marry into royalty.

I also appreciate seeing our two leads together for just a moment, because the promise of their chemistry is going to keep me hanging in there through the childhood backstory. The teenagers are cute and I actually like their light, youthful meet-cute (little Yeok is pretty adorable), but the opening sequence made me want to skip right ahead to the tears and the tragedy, which is a thing I never thought I’d say. I know we’re only at the start, but this is a story that’s really utilizing its historical “spoilers,” yunno, facts, in an effective way to drive our curiosity about how it’s going to reconcile its ending with history.

I expected Lee Dong-gun to be very good as Yeonsangun, but he totally stole the show today. I like this this portrayal of Yeonsangun a great deal, because he’s actually kind of relatable and sad and charismatic, while also being frightening and unhinged. There’s so much going on with that one character already—his conflicting love for his brother, his debilitating insecurity, and his need for validation. The motivation for his growing jealousy and accompanying suspicion was done so well over the course of the episode, and I can already tell that the brotherly love story will be treated with a lot of care.

I believe that Yeonsangun doesn’t want to kill his brother; that moment when Yeok said he was confident because of his brother’s love, it was so sincere and it seemed to genuinely call up his hyung’s affections. I love that it’s not a one-sided love, and that their childhood memories are genuinely happy for both of them. It’s ultimately what will make their rift sadder, but knowing that a tiny part of Yeonsangun might actually be sending his brother away to protect him out of love is totally making me sympathetic to a crazy despot. Maybe Yeonsangun was just misunderstood, okay? Kidding!

So far the royal conflict between the brothers is more gripping than the present-day love story, but I found it hilarious that the two teenagers couldn’t possibly hate each other more at this point, when they’re about to be married any day now. It’s a cute setup, and imagining them as husband and wife just makes me giggle because they’re both so childish and stubborn, and he’s spoiled on top of it all. Their newlywed diaries are going to be entertaining. I like where we leave things at the end of the first episode, with a solid conflict and a sense that the story knows where it’s going. This makes me feel safe about getting invested in these characters’ lives, because if the emotional payoff is there, I’ll come along for the ride, however tragic the outcome might seem.

 
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hesitant to start this because I know it's tragic and sad... any reasons why I should continue watching? Sure, the set up is beautiful, but the ending is inevitable.

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If you're not into tragedy, then you shouldn't force yourself to watch this.

As for me, I'm in this for the beautiful execution. I tend to stay away from melos and tragedies, but this drama just looks so beautiful I have to at least check it out.

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i'm going to get my heart broken i know but it is so worth it. i love, love the young actress playing the queen.

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I'm approaching this the same way as you but tried anyway and wasn't sorry. It was very upbeat in the first episode. This is likely an unpopular idea but because she historically is exiled (not hanged I don't think?) I can't help but hope she'll meet some dynamic gorgeous peasant 3/4 of the way through and goes off to raise horses with him after exile. One never knows!

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...and that gorgeous peasant have to be handsomer and charmer than YWJ and LDG? Hmmm, who could be the cameo in the ending? JCW would be best option. They could re-enact their wonderful chemistry they had in Healer again here. In sageuk garb and setting no less... ^^

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Orrrrrr... JCW and LMH both show up in action-hero mode but get caught up in petty bickering about who gets to save her. Coming to her senses, she uses her last breath to whistle to YWJ's horse. Standing on its back she slips the noose off herself and rides into the sunset -- free and victorious.

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Same here... I'm short on time as well but I liked the first episode so I will probably just stick to the recaps.

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If I can't have the best of both worlds, I would prefer an awesome story which has a sad ending then a lousy one which ends happily.

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That's the great thing about having the recaps. You can have the best of both worlds.

Watch the story as far as you feel comfortable. But if it seems like an episode might break your heart, just read the recap in advance. Even if you decide to watch it, the recap takes the edge off. Spoilers can be good some times.

I'm with you in that I don't like tragic, angsty shows either. However that's mostly true when the tragedy and angst is manufactured by contrived coincidences or ridiculous choices being made by the characters. It's not so bad when the angst is the result of a character making choices that may be twisted, but are rational from the perspective of their unique psychological makeup. This first episode laid a solid foundation for that.

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am happy to see you recap @girlfriday !!! yup..i dont hate the king yet coz i see where he's coming from...am not saying jealousy is a good thing but at least..i am able to sympathize with him and also see his confusion...i think he loves his brother but seeing his brother get all the love from their father and himself being the son of a dethroned queen made him feel insecure...the more i watch him..the more i think he's just a man who needs love..lee dong gun is awesome by the way...he stole the show today!...the ending scene tho clicked so much with my romantic side that i suddenly wanted to ship chae kyung with the king..i don't know if it was the moonlight or the abs or the fact that the girl looked enchanted in the water while staring at a bare chested man with transparent white robes....when she forced herself into the water and came back again to meet his gaze more closely..i died..that scene felt like a scene out of a 18+ rated novel haha...even the king was puzzled at the way she was looking at him. maybe he thought she was a boy..haha..anyway i like this drama...am ready for the angst and all and am ready for any other eye-pleasing scenes the show has to offer..

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Omo I didn't expect the recap to be out so soon! I can't watch until my break later today.

There's a lot of positive buzz on Naver for last night's episode. I do hope the ratings increase.

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The first episode exceeded my expectation. It was really good IMHO and most are surprised a good way I guess judging from the comments in Naver

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Yeah. This drama didn't have much pre-airing buzz since the the leads aren't that popular and it's competing against the much-hyped Ruler. I do hope the good word of mouth helps with the ratings, like what happened with Fight My Way.

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Blah to Ruler. Yoo Seung-Ho is the only amazing thing about it. I'll have to check out this drama due to all the positive responses.

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Seriously the first episode was very good... u will never realized one hour has passing by..suddenly i shipped yeonsangun and shin chae kyung haha

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ahh..thank god! i thought i was crazy...that ending scene was just romantically perfect. haha

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That ending scene actually reminded me of a Chinese novel I love so much--Pillow Book. In the book, the girl was bathing and didn't realize a guy was in the same river, and worst, another guy was in proximity, so the first guy used his robes to cover the girl and I swooned. The ending scene does make me feel for a bit. But I'm hoping to swoon for the main OTP, not the crazy king.

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I did too! What a peculiar ending though. Why was that slotted in?

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Haha, that ending! Her going all moony-eyed over the ab galore was just too funny and the sudden shift in tone was a little unexpected, but I liked that it ended on a lighter note.

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Thanks for the recap, @girlfriday! I'm so excited that you recapped the first episode of this, don't tell anyone but you're my favorite. Hihi. I was planning to stay away from recap till I watch this, but I can't resist when you're recapping. The pilot seems solid enough and I'm loving Yeonsangun portrayal in this, his inner conflicts and turmoils. Gah, I can't wait to watch already! Will be back for more comments after I finish watching!

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Exceptionally well-done start to the series with great acting by Lee Dong-gun and fun hijinks with the kids. I totally agree with you girlfriday that starting with the hanging scene was a good call by the production. I'm looking for both upbeat and sad moments in this one. It's also kind of fun to compare everyone to their historical counterparts in Rebel. As well noticed a lot of the same actors from Rebel in this. I didn't want Rebel to end, so it felt like it hadn't ended after all! I was just going to dip my toe in for this one as I'm not usually up for tragedies but it was so well done I'm going to keep going for now.

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Thanks for the recap, girlfriday! I watched it raw and will rewatch with subtitles. Your play-by-play was dandy, and corroborated what I figured was happening.

It was interesting to see Lee Dong-gun's take on Yeonsangun after I thoroughly enjoyed Kim Ji-suk's sympathetic characterization of the tyrant in REBEL. At first blush, LDG's interpretation appears to be more ruthless, but there's plenty of time for nuances to emerge.

The drama got off to a solid start, and I'm looking forward to the next installment. ;-)

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Hi Pakalana! Here we are again, with a heroine who starts out facing death. If I was impressed by Chae Soo Bin's first appearance, Park Min Young blew me away (which I never thought I'd say as I have her in the 'very good' acting category but not the 'heart-shattering' one). She seemed so queenly! I have high hopes now for this drama and fingers crossed it will be the perfect follow-up to Rebel. Yay! Can Mori make a cameo appearance?

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If Mori appears in this drama, I will watch his parts. More Mori is the better. ❤ I decided to drop this after second epi, maybe it is just me that don't amaze with anything or anyone lol. Would pick up again to see how Yeon Woo Jin doing in this drama later.

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Oh and isn't it fun she's a Horse Whisperer!

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Honestly, this started off well. I'm bracing myself for the sad but well-executed dramas are are to find nowadays so you've gotta take what you get when they come, sad included.

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Thank you for the recap, @girlfriday ~~!!!
Whew!! Finally all the spring premieres are done! Now I can take a step back, take a beat, and look at all my choices and how I am going to drama-watching schedule and prioritize my dramas =)
Just by reading this recap (and not having watched the actual episode yet), I can tell that I'm going to like this Show!! It seems really smart, like Girlfriday said, to use the actual history of this time/era as the crutch for the plot line of this drama but at the same time, use creative licence to add flair and intrigue into it =) I'm a little confuzzled about the Royal Family Tree, but I'm sure I'll be able to figure it out as time goes by... Maybe I'm just confuzzled because I still can't wrap my head around the fact that royals used to "marry within the family", even if it meant incest (a la "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo") XD

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<3 <3 Love, love, loved the premiere!! Lee Dong-gun is going to break my heart I can tell. But only in the best way: thwarted bromance.

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1st episode and my heart already knotted, wrenched and twisted. Duh!

PMY played her character so mournfully beautiful. Only a glimpse of brokenhearted YWJ character but I could feel his love to her is deep. LDG, sigh, he did so well in playing the mean king who hid his pain and longing for love and recognition from his own father for so long. I feel their pains and their sad intertwined fate that bind them together. T.T

Love the drama. The active camera works is so good. Love it.

Thanks for the recap, GF!

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What a nice coincidence that Javabeans and girlfriday both started the recaps for a sageuk drama. <3

This was a lovely first episode, and I think I will watch more of this drama. I'm trying to come to term that Lee Dong Gun is going to be a villain....

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Excellent premiere. Cried at a few scenes, heart-pounding at another. I really hope the great production continues until the end. I want a good sageuk this second half of the year. Excited to see Lady Shin as an adult and her chemistry with the Prince, if any. Enjoyed the young characters' stories immensely though. It will be a tragic love story but I am up for it. I dropped Ruler with a Mask quite quick - 2nd episode in. I guess I really want to know how the production potrays the dethronement. Something to balance my Game of Thrones waiting time.

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I am loving the first episode and want to enjoy the light childish antics of the lovers before we get to the melo part. Emotional investment first before the show wrings your heart to the last drop when tragedy strikes. It makes it all the more painful you know. ???

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Interestingly, PMY is up against her two previous co-stars in the same time slot JCW (Healer) and YSH (Remember - Son's War)

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It's just first epi and Lee Dong Gun already give fanservice (his abs) lol. I can't really connect with the last scene and the OST seems to be a bit too modern or cheerful ahh I don't know. Nothing really drawn me to this drama yet, I think Lee Dong Gun did well for first epi. If this continue, viewers probably will draw more to his story rather than the main plot - seven days queen. In this kind of story, it is easier for the villain to steal the scenes and the main love story could become a bit plain. The execution is beautiful anyway. This will be an option for me, esp when we get more Yeon Woo Jin later. Not a very strong first ep that I will wait impatiently for next epi.

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Brooding shower scene, ala Joseon ;)

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I must say I enjoyed the first episode. There is less going for Yeok and Chae-kyung since the focus is clearly on exploring where Yeonsangsun comes from, so I'll be waiting for a few more eps for a more solid impression of all the main characters. As for now, I like the tone that the premier sets, and will remain cautiously optimistic. Here hoping the writing and directing will keep up their current form, or only get better.

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I just hope this is the drama to bring you back to the world of recapping till the (hopefully not bitter) end! I really miss the recaps from you and JB!

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Just by watching the intro scene of the first episode, I know that this show is going to destroy me. I have a love hate, relationship with tragedies. While they are sad they can also be beautiful if they are executed (no pun intended) correctly. I liked the first episode, and while I have a horrible record in finishing seuguks I will try to stick with this one. Thanks for the recap girlfriday :)

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I like how the drama was presented in retrospect, makes it easier for me to watch a perceived sad ending but who knows.... given the disclaimer at the start of episode 1, a pleasant surprise is still plausible

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You are right, the opening sequence was the perfect hook for us to continue to watch more, but what happened after was also very good. Lee Dong Gun stole the show, which shouldn't be a surprise, and the cute hate-love story of the childhood/teen portion was cute.

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All in all a very strong premiere. The directing is the best thing about this show. Like in Moonlight, the whole experience is elevated by an excellent directorial hand. The cinematography is captivating, the characters are vividly written and acted, and both dramatic and comedic parts form a seamless whole.

My only reservation is that I wanted to see more of Shin Chaegyeong, the titular Seven-Day Queen. But we have a lot of time for that in the coming episodes. Fingers crossed she gets the focus she deserves.

So yeah... I'm in. Wholeheartedly in. Good luck to us when the inevitable tragedy is in full swing.

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Aww... I just want them to have a happy ending. Don't you just hate it when you are up against history?

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Is historical fact considered a spoiler? Not sure but remove this if it is.

She lived in exile for 51 years after the coup. Show had usual disclaimer of it being a fiction based on history. So I won't be surprised if they fictionalized the interaction or show the couple's 'undying' love for each other even though they were separated.

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Well, there are folk stories of how Queen Dangyeong would hang a red skirt over a cliff face every morning as a sign of her undying love for Jungjong, so it won't be entirely fictional if they go that route.

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This is what i am waiting for. Screw finals!! The opening sequence got me good, I don't even know the characters yet but I feel for both the king and the queen. I am grateful for the glimpses of YEON WOO JIN and PARK MIN YOUNG but damnnnnnn LEE DONG GUN. Marked me both scared and turned on.

Teen Yeok tho. He is the same psycho kid in Lookout right??

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Hmmm... I trusted this show and i like what I'm seeing! How can i not be in love with lee dong gun? The actors playing the lead younger version are also cute! @girlfriday tanx for recapping this episode love ya comment! The last scene was soooo good!

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Hopefully this drama keeps exhibiting its beautiful execution and we get to see Park Min Young (MASSIVE fan of hers) shine both with beauty and talent. :)

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I don't want to set myself up for another disappointment so I am trying to temper my excitement here.

This might just be my saeguk crack! I don't know how to describe it but the execution and flow seems very good to me.

I am usually impatient to get over the childhood portion but the child actors here are very good. The young actress playing Chae Kyung may not have the classic beauty of Kim Yoo Jung or Kim So Hyun but she's very likable and cute. So is the young actor playing Yeok.

It's interesting to see another actor playing King Yeonsangun so quickly after being awed by Kim Ji Suk but Lee Dong Gun held his own.

Please continue to be good and may this drama get the ratings it deserves!

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Wait, does she actualle get hanged? Wasn't she the old deposed queen neighbour of Saimdang's?

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I suspect her husband will come through at the last minute and her execution will be downgraded to permanent exile.

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I'm in love with the beauty in this drama and the glimpse of Park Min Young at the start make me excited to meet her soon ❤

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I enjoyed the first episode which I found well paced and with a good balance of action and necessary scene setting. It was a good device to show us the adult actors and then take us back in time. I'm looking forward to episode two. Thanks for the speedy recap Girlfriday.

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PMY is about to die (in the opening scene) but how is she still so gorgeous? Also, is it wrong to ship her with both of them?

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Thanks for the recap. The only thing I wanted to say is that what makes the King frightening (to me) is that he will twist the meaning of your words, no matter what you say and how you say it. No one could do or say anything right in this episode, lol! I'm liking this drama so far and I know that the relationship between the brothers will cause me a lot of grief.

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You are right about the King twisting the meaning of words.

I was pondering all night why Lee Dong Gun's portrayal of King Yeonsangun frightens me more than Kim Ji Suk's. This might be it and there's more. I just can't pin point the differences at the moment.

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I will have to keep Rebel on my watch list. Would you mind me asking you if there was one aspect of Kim Ji Suk's portrayal that made the character particularly frightening? And the fact that you find Lee Donggun's Yeonsangun more frightening piques my interest. sighs If only I had the time to watch everything, lol!

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woops! I was trying italics for the first time and I guess I failed. Sorry about that :(.

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You have to close it with the backslash tag </i>

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I don't mind you asking, I am just not sure if I have the answers.

I never found Kim Ji Suk's Yeonsangun frightening. I even empathized with him because I could see why and how he descended into madness. He was deplorable but more mad than evil.

On a superficial level, Kim Ji Suk's Yeonsangun smiled a lot more although it became more and more of a crazed smile. Lee Dong Gun's is a lot more serious but even when he just half-smiles, he scares me already.

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It will be interesting to compare the two Yeonsangun's for those of us that have Rebel fresh in our minds... Fortunately I see them as complementing each other: in Rebel we saw Yi Yung's relationship with the people and his twisted idea of politics... now we get to see more of the inner workings of the palace and his family intrigue. I think that helps us access his emotions more, and what we find is scary.

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Thanks for your explanation :).

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hmmm ... how old is the heroine supposed to be ? because i have to admit that last scene left me kinda uncomfortable *oops*

Anyway, i really liked this first episode, even if it was a bit weird to see another actor play Yeonsangun so soon after Rebel Thief

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We feel uncomfortable because we are looking at it in present context. In that era, she's of marriageable age.

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I think it makes you uncomfortable because Dong Gun plays the youth version of himself, so no matter how young he looks on screen (kudos to the team - he does have very different vibe in the first ep versus in the teaser where he plays the older version of king Yeonsangun) the gap is very noticeable. If the child actor counterpart plays in that particular scene the age difference might not bother viewers as much.

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@outofthisworld : i think it's more the age gap between the characters (and the actors) that bothered me instead of her age. i don't think i would have been that much uncomfortable if the man in the scene had been (wayyyy) younger

@maskros / HyeMi : omg i hadn't realized until now that LDG was playing his younger self. i mean it IS obvious, i'm not blind XD, but i hadn't realized the age gap wasn't supposed to be that important between the characters. Yeok and Chae Kyung are more or less the same age, and the gap between child-Yeok and teen-Yeonsangun was only a few years so yeah ...
I didn't watch the teaser so i didn't know Yeonsangun would look "older" later
I'm feeling a little less uncomfortable now ^^

i think part of my discomfort is also the fact that they are trying to romanticize and sexyfy (is that a word ?) Yeonsangun because ... well ... Yeonsangun ...

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@chouc
The two royal siblings were supposed to be 12 years apart, so I think they purposefully let LDG play the youth version because he's supposed to be in his twenties now. I myself don't have problem with the age gap because I tend to distinguish between acting and real life, but I do understand people who may find it irksome. 12-year gap is a lot, so it is natural if you find it uncomfortable. I also understand why the younger/child counterpart of LDG couldn't play in that scene, because he looks too young to be in his 20s and then the age gap wouldn't be that distinctive or realistic.
I do think they're trying to romanticise Yeonsangun, since it's been suggested/ hinted in the synopsis. The unfortunate thing is they're trying to stay faithful to history as far as the characters' ages are concerned, while setting up foundation for the romance which would kick start very soon, that's why we end up being in this situation.

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i agree, the younger counterpart of LDG couldn't possibly play the 20's version of Yeonsangun. Choosing another actor for the 20's part would have been less confusing/uncomfortable though XD

I initially thought the age gap between Chae Kyung and Yeonsangun was 20-ish years (like the actors irl), so i'll take that 12 year gap ^^ .
And while i always have some reservations when we have a minor/adult pairing (be it the characters or the actors), sometimes it works for me (Let's Fight Ghost), and sometimes it doesn't (Mirror of the Witch)
I'll wait for PMY before deciding what to think about the Chae Kyung/Yeonsangun relationship.

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Yes, it would have made it less uncomfortable, but I personally don't think picking another younger actor would keep the growth for the King seamless.

Actually I don't think teen Chae Kyung would see King Yeonsangun in a romantic light, and as far as I can see from the preview PMY will have screen time next ep so I guess if they insert Yeonsangun in the love triangle at all it might be when PMY takes over the role. Hopefully it will make it less bothersome for many viewers.

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As soon as my holidays get over, I'm gonna marathon through this one. With sets of hankerchiefs at hand and food, lots of food to survive the tragedy.

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Only by the premise I can figure out it is a similar story to Lady Jane Grey, who was a Nine Days' Queen in England in 1553. I wonder if the Koreans are copying the british History ;)

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This actually happened in Korea's history with the characters' actual names down to the actual date of events.

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I'm really curious of how the story would turn out. I think it would be a tragedy

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I rarely ever comment... But WOW, I never would've thought that we would be able to enjoy two sageuks -- Rebel and now Seven Days -- featuring a richly complex Yeonsangun this spring. Rebel was SO GOOD at portraying Yeonsangun, Nok Soo, and everyone around them, and it seems like Seven Days will be following suit too. This is such a nice change of pace from a couple years ago when we all had to settle for the lackluster sageuks like Secret Door and Sado, the movie. (Not mention more recently with Scarlet Heart: Ryeo etc). Korean History is filled with interesting characters like Crown Prince Sado, Gwanghaegun, Yeonsangun, and Gwangjong of Goryeo.... So it's just so awesome when drama writers decide to flesh them out as people.... It's so refreshing to see them come to life as complex people who struggle with emotions, relationships, and other issues on screen. (And yes, I know they were all considered to be "baddies/crazies" in history ;) ) Hopefully, Rebel and Seven Days have started a new trend!

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Ooh, compelling pilot! Plenty of stuff going on and I love the tragic opening which illustrated the title. I also love that the show chose to highlight Yeonsangun's crack and slow descend to madness, interwoven with his past and his fears. I was rather touched by the hint of affection Yeonsangun has for Yeok, despite hating him for his direct threat to the throne. Aww, why can't bromance ever be uncomplicated?

On the other hand, I must admit I'm feeling slightly conflicted by the ending scene. I know Chae-kyung is still a teen, and Yeonsangun is well...crazy, I'm not supposed to be rooting or swooning over their scenes, but I feel like the setup, the mood, the music were leading me to that direction. I'm hoping the main OTP can win me over in the next few episodes because I ain't boarding that second lead ship.

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I used to love the childhood/teen portion of sageuks but the child actors these days aren't half as good in sageuks as the 90s group with the exception of Heo Jung-eun and Nam Da-reum...

Maybe I'm too picky but this genre used to have the best child actors in the industry and I'm still following them.

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What do you think about Kim Sae Ron? I find her performance good in Mirror of the Witch, but I admittedly haven't watched that many sageuks either.

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I think Kim Sae-ron did a good job in "Mirror..." if you take away the romance or whatever you call that relationship she had with the main lead.
It would've been more comfortable and believable with someone closer to her age like Yeo Jin-gu (can someone clone him already?) or the younger Lee Min-ho.
Sae-ron had chemistry with the much older Won-bin in "The Man From Nowhere" but it wasn't a romantic relationship.

Kim Sae-ron and the main child actors from "Queen's Classroom" are all talented especially Seo Shin-ae (18), Kim Hyang-gi <3 (16), Lee Young-yoo (18) and the adorable Bo-geun Cheon (14).

Jin Ji-hee (18) is very good in sageuks. Most of the 18 year olds are not very active (busy) with school except for Kim So-hyun and Kim Yoo-jung.

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Of all the names you mentioned I'm only familiar with Min-ho 93 *sweats nervously* haha. I'm just kind of disappointed that Min-ho 93 didn't get that many major roles. Didn't he say he wanted to act with KJY again after Moon-Sun? Or so I heard?

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KYJ* because I can't spell to save my life lol.

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He did :). I'd love it when she gets much older, at least over 20.

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And hopefully in a sageuk, yes please dramagod.

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I wasn't planning to watch this but I turned on the TV and it was on and I watched it anyway. This will probably gonna be a crying fest drama. But if it's made to be like the princess' man level then I'm pretty sure my tears won't be a waste lol

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Yes, wasted tears are the worst :). Let's hope that the angst is purposeful and that the dreaded noble idiocy does not wheedle its way into the show. LOL

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I wasn't expecting much from this drama but the first episode was quite amazing. I don't mind if it will be a tragedy in the end as long as we still get some fun parts along the ride.

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I loved every minute of it! But this episode was so intense that I had to pause every now and then!

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I don't get how chaekyung's father is king yeonsangun's brother in law. Anyone mind to explain to me? ?

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I guess the Queen (king's wife) is chaekyung's dad's sister?

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The Queen is indeed Chae-kyung's aunt, her dad's sister.

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Holy moly. Lee Donggun scared the hell out of me. I'm still getting the shivers hours after I've watched it and now reading the recap.

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This is a good start especially the first few scenes...yes, as everyone is saying, this is inevitably a tragic and sad ending, but I am for the long haul because of my love for PMY and YWJ. Props to LDG I agree with you girlfriday, he stole this episode.

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Ahhh I really want to know that SCK whistling ;( anyone knows from what song..?

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Thanks for the recap!! Love it!
Btw, any body knows the backsound in ep 1 when SCG walked to the gallows?

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