Incoming long post that turned into an essay about my recently finished drama: Goodbye My Princess. My relationship with this drama was complicated. It was both beautiful and frustrating – gorgeously shot and acted, but also full of hopelessness. As a fan of romance dramas, it became increasingly clear throughout the show that I had to put aside my inherent want of a happy OTP – or really any OTP at all. I went into Goodbye My Princess knowing that it was a tragedy, but not really knowing WHY it was one.

The ML of Goodbye My Princess, Chengyin, is a conundrum. He begins the show aware that he is a pawn in the play that is palace politics, but nevertheless remains happy, satisfied with his position as the 5th prince, and has a good relationship with his older brother, the Crown Prince. Of course, all that changes when his brother is killed and he learns The Secrets of His Past that throw him into the middle of these power plays and seed his thirst for revenge. Typically with such a setup, I would expect to root for our ML as he breaks free of his life as a pawn and, of course, finds love along the way. However, that is simply not the story Goodbye My Princess was going to tell. Instead, the show gives us his simultaneously climb up the imperial ladder along with the utter destruction of both his own and our charming FL’s happiness.

In the first arc of the drama, Chengyin believes he can have it all. He has fallen in love with the FL Xiaofeng, yet seeks to destroy her family as they had destroyed his in the past. He manipulates Xiaofeng, and his betrayal ultimately leads to the death of her mother and grandfather – throwing the two literally into the River of Oblivion (i.e. yes, amnesia) to erase the pain of their love. With the memories gone, it is to their misfortune that they will meet again and marry one another as the new Crown Prince and Princess Consort. We see that Chengyin falls once again for the princess, and yet he is forced to treat her with coldness in order to prevent her from becoming involved in the ever scheming palace that is a constant threat to both of their lives. And here is where we start to see the true downfall of the Crown Prince at his own hands. He is horrible to Xiaofeng. Of course we see that all his actions have a reason, but he cannot quite be forgiven (props to the actor for making us almost want to though). We start to see that we shouldn’t be wanting these two together. We see Chengyin struggle with what he must do, but then we see how even his good intentions ultimately harm Xiaofeng. Ironically, she is no damsel but rather smart, strong, and capable. Had Xiaofeng not been kept in the dark and the two worked together, there may have been a happy ending.

Now it wouldn’t be a drama if the FL didn’t fall in love with the ML in return due to some small moments of affection and a lingering sense of their past, and Xiaofeng is actually able to forgive Chengyin for killing her family as she understands it was a military move between two warring states. However, when Xiaofeng regains her memories, what was once forgiven can no longer be so, for what truly hurt her was that Chengyin did all these things KNOWING it would cause her immense pain and went through with it anyway. Now it’s her turn to treat him with coldness, and we see now that Chengyin can no longer truly distinguish between his cold play-acting for her safety and being downright cruel to her. Chengyin’s actions eventually go beyond the point of no return, and even when it is finally, finally safe to admit his love openly to Xiaofeng, she can no longer accept him. And here’s the thing: SHE SHOULDN’T. In true tragedy form, we end in death, but not for our ML. His tragedy may just be worse. He has gained all the power he could ever want, but he is left to live his years in emptiness. An emptiness entirely of his own doing.

tl;dr – Did I enjoy GMP? Yes. Was it an easy watch? No. I really need the two leads to do a happy romance together, because despite it all, they had amazing chemistry (I just need to be able to root for them, okay?)