Moonshine: Episodes 1-2 Open Thread
Our latest sageuk is set in an era of prohibition, and our leads are instantly at odds with each other. While one abides and upholds the laws with an annoying sense of self righteousness, the other directly defies them and starts an illegal bootlegging business. Thus, the stage is set for another hate-to-love romance.
EPISODES 1-2 WEECAP
In a refreshing change of pace, Moonshine skips any childhood connection backstory that — more often than not — claims the premiere week of many romance sageuks. Instead, we jump right into the present, ten years after the king issued prohibition laws, and are introduced to KANG RO-SEO (Hyeri).
She’s a strong, tree-chopping noble lady who has fallen on hard financial times, and much like her modern-day drama counterparts, she has taken on several odd jobs — literally digging through a pile of shit — to try and pay off her family’s debt. She also gets little to no help from her wannabe scholar brother, who only adds to their debt when he hears he can bribe his way into a passing score on the state exam.
So when our leads meet for the first time, it’s only natural that willful Ro-seo clashes with NAM YOUNG (Yoo Seung-ho), a by-the-books country scholar who also happens to possess some badass archery skills. He’s fresh off the boat and in Hanyang to take the civil servants exam, and he’s determined to score in the top three in order to secure a position that will put him on the path to become a high ranking official. Unfortunately, the examination is rife with nepotism, and Young comes in fourth place.
His well-meaning servant CHOON-GAE (Kim Ki-bang) tries to console him by assuring him his score is still honorable given the circumstances, but our Boy Scout hates the constant reminder of his failure and can’t hide his sour-puss face at the ceremony honoring his passing exam score.
Given that the exam question from the previous day was about strengthening prohibition laws, Young is suspicious when they’re offered alcohol as part of the ceremony. He hesitates to drink and correctly deduces that the King (Jung Sung-il) and Chief Royal Secretary LEE SHI-HEUM (Choi Won-young) had one final test, a plot to weed out those from the Jo and Yeon families who wish to control the royal court. Those who drank from their cups failed, and as a result Young is the only one who passes the exam.
While an embarrassed first-place — And single! Don’t forget single! — Young is paraded through town on the back of an expensive rented horse, Ro-seo follows her brother’s creditor to a speakeasy, where she meets the disguised Crown Prince LEE PYO (Byun Woo-seok) who has snuck out of the palace for a drink in defiance of his own father’s prohibition laws.
They bond over their shared distaste for the establishment’s low quality booze, but two men at a nearby table anger Pyo when they accuse his mother of murdering his beloved older half-brother, the former Crown Prince SUNGHYUN (Park Eun-seok). Itching to kick their asses, Pyo is quick to defend Ro-seo when they start harassing her, but after the drunk men are ejected from the establishment, prohibition officers raid the illegal distillery.
Pyo and Ro-seo make their escape, but Ro-seo risks stopping on her way out to steal the speakeasy’s profits. Running ahead of her, Pyo stumbles across Young and asks nicely to borrow his horse. When Young refuses, Pyo uses his He-man strength to unsaddle Young and toss him into the street. In true Dramaland fashion, Young lands on top of Ro-seo, causing her ill gotten gains to spill onto the street.
Given that the disguised prince just stole his pricey horse, Young is in no mood to deal with our feisty heroine, but she’s equally pissed that her recent windfall is now gone and quickly puts him in his place when he tries to scold her for not acting like a proper noble lady. They part ways, and their second impression of each other is no better than their first.
Back at the palace, the king doubts the crown prince’s ability to one day manage the corrupt royal court, so Shi-heum suggests that they increase the severity of the prohibition laws, which would distract members of the court from coveting the throne. The next day, the king reiterates that alcohol production wastes too much rice, but because people continue to circumvent his prohibition laws, he’s expanding the Prohibition Bureau and dishing out harsher punishments for offenders.
But it’s too late for Ro-seo, who has realized that there is a lot of money to be made in bootlegging. She uses the knowledge she learned from her father to begin brewing her own alcohol. Unfortunately, the new subletter her brother found to help fund the interest rates on their debt is none other than Young, and our first-place scholar and rule-sticker is an inspector. Ro-seo realizes her already risky business has just become even more dangerous and enlists the assistance of her servant friend CHUN-GEUM (Seo Ye-hwa) to help move her product.
Things aren’t going so smoothly for Young either. His earlier scuffle with the crown prince has earned him an enemy, and Pyo convinces one of the other prohibition investigators to haze Young into quitting. A bet is made, and Young agrees to quit if he is unable to arrest five alcohol distributors, which are apparently harder to locate than either the distillers or consumers.
Young proves he isn’t just book smart, though, and uses Choon-gae to tap into the servants’ network and identify the people supplying the nobles with alcohol. His pettiness level peaks when, much to his fellow investigators’ annoyance, he posts a public scoreboard and ticks off each of his arrests.
Meanwhile, Ro-seo has started brewing and storing her alcohol in an abandoned apothecary, but she also has the rather ingenious idea to sell her booze directly to the consumer via a mobile cart, which will make it harder for the police to arrest her and shut down her business. She quickly gains a favorable reputation among the locals, but her popularity also puts her business on Young’s radar.
He comes close to locating her cart, but Pyo, who has trouble sleeping without having a nightcap, shows up first and fights off some thugs giving Ro-seo trouble. The only evidence Young finds at the scene is a jade bead Pyo dropped during his scuffle because our heroine and her posse have already safely escaped. They’re off sharing a celebratory drink under some cherry blossom trees, and the scene would be downright romantic if Chun-geum wasn’t there acting like an awkward third-wheel.
Ro-seo arrives home late, shortly after Young, who is still outside examining the jade bead he found. He spots a flower petal in her hair and reaches for it. Ro-seo freezes, but not because she’s flustered by the romantic touch. She’s doing her best to hide her matching jade bead — payment from Pyo — that fell on the ground. He advises her to not stay out so late.
But of course, she ignores his advice, and Ro-seo begins raking in money as business booms. Unfortunately, the high quality of her alcohol attracts the unwanted attention of another bootlegger wishing to monopolize the market with his watered down liquor. He’s shady and will clearly not play nice, but before he can go after her, Young and the other prohibition enforcers corner Ro-seo and Geon-geum. Our lady bootleggers run away, splitting up when they hit an intersection, but Young is on Ro-seo’s heels. They scuffle, and he quickly subdues her and pins her against a wall. As cherry blossom petals fall around them, he gazes into her eyes and is struck with a sense of familiarity. He slowly reaches to remove her mask and…
Roll credits. It’s obviously too soon for Young to find out Ro-seo’s identity, so I think it’s safe to say that something will prevent him from removing her mask next week. Then again, maybe he will find out. The plot has surprise me with how fast it’s move so far, which made for an entertaining premiere week, but it does leave me worrying that this drama will burn out too fast, too soon. I guess only time will tell!
- Premiere Watch: Moonshine, The One and Only, The Silent Sea
- Yoo Seung-ho and Hyeri’s love is tested in new promos for When Flowers Bloom, I Think of the Moon
- Rebelling against prohibition in new promos for When Flowers Bloom, I Think of the Moon
- Script reading for KBS’s fusion sageuk When Flowers Bloom, I Think of the Moon
- Byun Woo-seok, Kang Mina joining Yoo Seung-ho and Hyeri in new sageuk