Karie the Maknae: So Kdrama Jen said I should watch a thing. I trusted her and watched the thing. And now we will banter about it while she makes my head spin with all the Korean names.
Kdrama Jen: Hey, I am simply trying to educate our Maknae. It’s not my fault they happened to cast both Kim So Hyun and Kim Soo Hyun in the same drama. But, seriously. What did you think? Moon Embracing the Sun is an absolute must-watch because you get to see so many of the current big name stars when they were just young foals galloping around dramaland.
Karie the Maknae: Ha! Oh the imagery! And those young foals did gallop. The older horses, not so much. It’s possible I’m extending the metaphor a little too far. I’ll explain in a minute.
I think if Romeo & Juliet and Howard’s End adopted a Korean baby, The Moon Embracing the Sun would be it. Does that analogy hold up? It’s slow-moving and full of rich, dramatic material. Very artistic.
The first five episodes were a fascinating watch because I *did* recognize so many faces. Kim So Hyun and Kim Yoo Jung caught my eye first. I had just finished watching Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, where Kim Yoo Jung had a leading role. And I’ve seen Kim So Hyun in so many dramas now! The young queen in Goblin, the younger Hye Sung in I Hear Your Voice, and now as the pianist in While You Were Sleeping. She has excellent range — she pulled off evil and manipulative very, very well in The Moon Embracing the Sun, a very different character from the others I’ve seen her play.
Apparently Lee Min Ho was in the younger cast too — but not THAT Lee Min Ho.
Kdrama Jen: Right. Someone should have told him to change his name to something that would not require him to constantly say, “No. I’m the other one, the one born in 1993.”
Karie the Maknae: HA! Poor boy. And then there was Kim SOO Hyun. This is my first time watching him in a drama and I thought he did an excellent job with the older crown prince/king. I lovedlovedLOVED that he was smart and didn’t let his ministers overrule him. I may have had a little PTSD from Moonlight Drawn by Clouds.
On the other hand, the nearly complete casting change threw me off for a LOT of the drama. I liked the younger versions better. Though there was one point when the king was reminiscing and the younger version of himself took him to task and gave him the whole shoulder-knock as he walked by — that was pretty cool and almost made the casting change worth it.
Kdrama Jen: I agree that they should have let Siwan stay on as the adult version of Teacher Heo.
Karie the Maknae: SiwOn was not in this, my dear sunbae….
Kdrama Jen: No, no, my eager maknae, I am referring to the lovely and talented Im Siwan from Misaeng–not the awesome and amazing Choi Siwon of Super Junior/She Was Pretty/King of Dramas fame. Wait. Misaeng is on this “list” you are keeping, right?
Karie the Maknae: My ever-growing list? Yes, yes it is. Ah, Im Siwan! He was good. I’m looking forward to watching more of his work. And with Choi Siwon’s comeback, I’m looking foward to watching more of *his* work too. So much Siwan/Siwon!!
SiwAn, SiwOn, LeviOsa, LeviosA, etc….
Kdrama Jen: And don’t forget to watch My Love From Another Star too to catch Kim Soo Hyun as the swoonworthy Do Min Joon!
Karie the Maknae: But not Kim So Hyun, because she’s not in that one . . . right?
Kdrama Jen: Ok. Don’t be mad; there IS a Kim Hyun-Soo in My Love From Another Star. She plays the younger version of the female lead (ducking!).
Karie the Maknae: *forehead slap* I am NEVER going to keep them straight.
Anyway. I loved the head eunuch, Hyun Sun. He was great comic relief without being cheesy. And all of our villains were well and properly evil. They were purely gunning for power. I never once felt sorry for them and was rather happy to see them taken out of the picture. My husband walked through the room at one point when I was watching the Queen break into hysterics and laughed at the fact that I was cheering for her to lose her mind. I was so tired of her.
Those last two episodes — what a bloodbath!! Not that I didn’t see that coming — with as corrupted as the court had become, there was no way to fix things without completely eliminating the perpetrators.
OH. And the battle of the shamans? That was interesting and made me think about the power of females in this drama. They were not helpless, it seemed to me. The continued fight for power was an interesting look into gender dynamics in Joseon politics — the king had to work with or against his ministers in an open court and sometimes felt his hands were tied. The Dowager Queen, on the other hand, moved freely behind the scenes, using resources that were denied to the king by the Confucian scholars. So, in reality, who wielded the most power, the men or the women?
Kdrama Jen: Ooh! Good point! And let’s not forget the original shaman and the protective mama who saved her life. It really was the women who set things into motion in this drama. I also loved that our young princess was super smart. There would be no plot movement without our ladies.
Karie the Maknae: Feminism in storytelling FTW. And it passed the Bechdel test several times, IIRC.
There were only two parts that made me cry (I don’t cry easily, so this is a big deal to me): Seol’s death and Woon talking to Yang Myung after he had died. These poor, lonely warriors — my heart broke right open for them. I really wanted the two of them to get married and make little warrior babies.
Kdrama Jen: I rarely cry while watching dramas, but I did get a little sniffly at those scenes too.
Karie the Maknae: So I’m trying to decide if I would watch it again. Maybe if you and I were hanging out in person I would, just to enjoy it together. It was heavy. It didn’t rip my heart out and stomp on it, like Scarlet Heart Ryeo did, but it did leave me wanting to reach through the screen and smack a few heads together. Also, the pace was slower than a sleepy snail moving through wet grass. A slow pace lends itself to art, and in this case, the emotion was the art, but some of us are rather uncultured and like things to move at a faster pace. That was my biggest struggle.
Kdrama Jen: It would definitely be more exciting if we could watch it together and shout at the screen in stereo. I think the plot did move slowly, but the action scenes were engaging and definitely not slug-like. Next time, though, let’s watch together and eat ramyun and have a slumber party!
Karie the Maknae: Yes, yes! Let’s do that, ramyun and shouting and sleeping in strange places, oh my!
We hope you had as much fun reading this review as we did writing it. Until next time, drama fans!
Karie the Maknae & Kdrama Jen
Dramas with a Side of Kimchi