“Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo” exists for the sole purpose to make the audience cry to the point of hysteria and yet unable to grieve properly.
However, introductions first. Moon Lovers is a 20 episode South Korean drama which aired in 2016 and gained immense popularity within a short time. The cast, visuals, music, storyline created such a beautiful drama that even now, after almost five years, the drama still steals the heart of many viewers. The drama, set in Goryeo Dynasty, was lead by Lee Joon-gi and IU.
The drama starts of as the main character, Go Ha-jIn, who is going through a hard time in life, tries to save a boy from drowning yet dies herself by drowning during an eclipse. Her soul travels back in time and takes the body of Hae Soo, in the year 941, in Goryeo Dynasty, during the rule of King Taejo. As Hae Soo was staying with Lady Hae Myung-hee, who was the wife of the 8th prince, Wang Wook, she gets pulled into the politics for the throne and the conflict among the princes.
In the beginning, Hae Soo’s days in Goryeo starts with a humorous tone. She is a 21st century woman in her soul and it shows in her actions. She is cheerful, views other people through her comparatively naive mindset and expects others to do so as well. She fails to understand the imperial power of the people she associates with and the political undercurrents which lead to many funny situations and her pure friendship with many of the princes.
However, as the story progresses, the heaviness sets in. The cousin who is almost like a mother to her, Lady Hae Myung-hee dies. Her death brings many subtle actions to the forefront. Such as, Hae Soo no longer feels guily about pursuing her cousin’s husband and becomes bolder, that Lady Hae Myung-hee felt that her marriage was forced on the 8th prince, that Hae Soo had effectively betrayed by reciprocating 8th prince feelings when her cousin was still alive or the fact Lady Myung-hee deserved better. In these, her lack of understanding and consideration is highlighted. A sad death of a good character brings the mood down considerably.
On the other side, Wand So is portrayed as a bloodthirsty and unruly prince. It becomes quickly clear that the misunderstanding of his character is mainly due to his mother and the scar she gave him which he hides behind a mask. In his arrival and his interaction with the others, his discomfort with his family and his own emotional vulnerability towards his family is clear. His contacts with Hae Soo is not distinctively romantic yet shows promise.
As the drama goes on, more characters are introduced. As Hae Soo tries to escape a marriage her clan made for her with the king, she scars herself and as a punishment is assigned under Court Lady Oh. As time goes on, she becomes a daughter like to Lady Oh who tries her best to teach Hae Soo the hierarcy of the palace and the consequence of defying them to best prepare Hae Soo for her survival. However, when Hae Soo is plotted against and is accused of poisoning the Crown Prince, she sacrifices herself to save Hae Soo. Court Lady Oh’s love for the king, her eventual succumb to imperial power, her miscarriage, her love and protection of Hae Soo, Wang Wook’s desertion of Hae Soo, her bloody image of torture, Wang So’s support towards her,the other princes’ heartbreak, kinh Taejo’s pain and finally, the nook around Court Lady Oh’s neck are enough to bring the hardest of audience to tears.
The darkness surrounding everyone descends further. Soon King Taejo dies due to sickness and the battle for the throne reaches it’s apex. The Crown Prince ascends the throne and becomes the king. Hae Soo is soon promoted to his personal court lady. However, his reign ends soon as he dies of mercury poisoning in the royal bath. Through his death, henceforth shown as the villain, third prince Wang Yo Ascends the throne. But his rise is bloody and other innocent characters dies. The innocent and childish tenth prince Wang Eun and his wife Park Soon-deok is killed by forcing Wang So to deal the final blow. Another beloved character’s death, the betrayal, the mistrust spreads through everyone.
Wang Yo does not manage to stay in power for long either. Guilt ridden and haunted by the ghosts of his beloved brother, he dies. For the better of the people and to change the world, Wang So ascends the throne. However, his rule is not steady due to the unease of the noble families. Under the manipulation of Queen Hwangbo, Wang Wook, YeonHwa and Ji Mong’s declaration to Hae Soo that she is not Wang So’s soulmate and that she cannot be queen, Hae Soo refuses to marry Wang So and Wang So marries and makes YeonHwa queen. It is found that Chae Ryung was a spy all along and was a reason for the death of Crown Prince, Prince Eun and his wife and a factor in Wang So not being able to marry Hae Soo. Wang So orders her death and that makes Hae Soo upset because she naively justifies her betrayal because of her love for the ninth prince, Wang Won. On the other hand, as Wang so banishes Wang Jung, Queen Yoo falls sick. As Hae Soo brings Wang Jung to the queen for her final moments, Wang so sees her actions to be against him and misunderstanding arises.
As things get gloomy on this side, Prince Baek’s fiance, the spy of Wang Yo, a foemer princess, is guilt ridden over her people and kills herself. Another love that is nipped before it can bloom properly.
When it comes to the relationship of our leads, Hae Soo firsts falls in love with eight prince who at that time is also her cousin’s wife. She reciprocates his love even while her mother-like cousin is alive and and justifies it as too innocent. However, when she realizes that he wants the throne and chooses his sister over hepling her, it is akin to betrayal. As her relationship takes a romantic turn with Wang So, Wang So declares his feelings but she doesn’t reciprocate mainly due to the bloody vision she gets of him. Her lack of trust in Wang So is partially at fault for Prince Eun’s death and Wang So breaks all ties to her due to this. However, two years later when Wang So saves her from an arrow shot by Wang Yo to test her usefulness as a means to control Wang So, they are once again thrown together. It is during this time they officially get together. As Wang So’s desire to get the throne is fulfilled, he turns in a darker version of him. Hae Soo becomes Lady Hae, but she has almost no purpose anymore other than to wait for Wang So. As her knee and her heart problem is diagnosed by the doctor, her life becomes more constricting. Wang So’s new personality change is also heavy on her heart along with his marriage with YeonHwa. This coupled with her hidden pregnancy, her fear of Wang So turning cruel, unhappiness over his actions made her want to leave the palace and she takes Wang Jung’s offer to let her leave. Wang Jung brings forth a decree made by King Taejo of his marriage with Hae Soo. That and Wang Wook’s revelation of his relationship with Hae Soo making him believe that she still likes Wook because she pleaded for him severs all relationship between her and Wang So and Wang so no longer wants anything to do with her.
In banishment with Wang Jung, Hae Soo gives birth to a girl. She writes many letters to Wang So however as they were in a envelop with Wang Jung’s handwriting, Wang So does not open them. She waits for him, but cannot wait long enough and succumbs to death from a frail heart. Wang So opens the letters on a whim and realizes that they were from her and she wrote that she was sorry to leave him. He learns of her death through this and is heartbroken.
In the final scenes Wang So realizes that Jung’s daughter is actually his. Ji Mong also indicates to him that Hae Soo was from another world. Wang So promises to find her there.
Through Hae Soo’s death, Go Ha-jin returns to her body in modern times. Though Go Ha-jin remembers her life in Goryeo, there is no indication given of her and Wang So’s reunion in modern time. Why was the production too stingy to give even this bit of relief??
Throughout the drama, not only the favorite characters died, the female lead died too. Not only did the main lead not get to have their happily ever after, the other romantic couples died as well. Prince Eun and his wife died, Court Lady Oh died, Prince Baek’s fiance Woo Hee died, even the male lead officially married someone else and the female lead died. A cheerful girl time traveled and in the end her personality was so smothered by the politics and tragedy that there was no life in her left. There wasn’t even any promise of reuniting in the modern times.
The whole drama was a overwhelm of emotions that goes from to humorous to misery and the ending does not leave much room for consolation. It is a drama designed to make one cry…..