First Impression: Moonshine

Welcome to the age of illegal spirits. Rice is scare so the king has banned all production, distribution, and consumption of alcohol. We all know how that goes: the rich keep drinking and the poor keep starving. What’s surprising is our male lead (Yoo Seung Ho) is on the side of righteousness with a proper stick up his butt, but all he needs is an independent moonshine dealer to help him loosen up. Kang Ro Seo (Lee Hye Ri) has bills to pay and her late father’s recipe for rice wine is just what she needs to free herself of debt. Throw in a hot Crown Prince who loves his wine, and a maiden with sticky fingers, and we’re in for a fun ride.

A Comedic Delight

Lee Hye Ri is on a roll. She’s found what works for her and is once again playing a character with lots of physical comedy and a bright smile. Kang Ro Seo bears the burden of paying for her brother’s state exam. She does odd jobs (even digging through manure for a ring) to get enough cash to send him for the test. He’s gullible and ends up losing a large sum of money trying to gamble his way into enough cash to bribe someone for high test results. After learning how much money she can make selling moonshine, she sets out with her delicious goods and ends up being chased several times by our upright inspector.

Drama Geek: I like that her character is smart and resourceful. She doesn’t let Nam Young order her around and has long ago said goodbye to her noble pride. I feel bad that her brother can’t get his act together and stop making trouble for both of them. Aside from the funny moments, she seems to have evened out in the more serious scenes as well. I’m really enjoying her a lot in this.

Kdrama Jen: I agree! She is really hitting the comedic timing. She is a bit over-the-top in some scenes, but it works for her character. I have also been impressed by her ability to offer some nuance in the quieter scenes. I feel like we are really seeing her grow as an actress.

Lighten Up, Buttercup

Yoo Seung Ho’s smile is hiding for most of the first few episodes. He grumps his way around town, clucking his tongue at all the debauchery. He’s grown up being told he is the future of his family and must walk the righteous path. The king hates that the top three winners of the state exam are from influential families, so he tests them once more on the day they’re pronounced winners. Each of the men who placed in the test is served an alcoholic beverage from the king. It is a tough spot to be in. Denying something the king gives you could be seen as hugely disrespectful, but the law is NO Alcohol. Nam Young is the only one brave enough to say no, and he goes from fourth place winner to the only winner. So, his entire platform as an official is supporting the king and doing what is right no matter what.

Drama Geek: I make fun of his character, but he’s a hoot to watch getting so flustered. I didn’t even mention how he is with women. He just can’t seem to handle close contact. He was raised in the country and hasn’t frequented gibangs, apparently. I know he’ll eventually have a rude awakening when the people supporting him turn out to be corrupt and only out for themselves, but it’s a character progression I will enjoy watching from this actor.

Kdrama Jen: Yoo Seung Ho is part of the Kdrama Jen Menagerie, so I started watching for him. I am staying because his straight-laced and sober (pun intended) character is the perfect counter to our booze-brewing leading lady. There is potential here for some fun chemistry.

Crown Prince of Cheekiness

What better way to offset an upright inspector than put him up against a Crown Prince who loves his drink and takes a special liking to the girl who provides the tastiest beverage in town? Byeon Woo Seok stole viewers’ hearts in Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency and then Record of Youth. His wink has everyone swooning and tripping over themselves, except Ro Seo, who really only cares about his jade bead payments. The Crown Prince does have some substance behind that smile, which he hides because of the painful memories of his older brother being poisoned. He became Crown Prince after his brother’s death and the rumor mill blames his mother for the death.

Drama Geek: It’ll be interesting to see how the King and Crown Prince pan out. So far the politics are the side story, but we have a possible evil mastermind grooming our male lead. Choi Won Young is an amazing actor and I’m always excited to see what he brings to a part. I’m pretty sure our Crown Prince will have to butt heads with his character eventually.

Kdrama Jen: I admit it. I have a touch of SLS (Second Lead Syndrome). I mean, can we just talk about that saucy WINK? I am surprised she hasn’t swooned right into his lap! (Episode four has his long locks down in the rain and I totally sighed with happiness.)

Always a Fan girl

One of the best things about a historical drama is the prospect of fight scenes. So far, we have warring moonshine factions. The cities aren’t dry — they’re actually kept pretty wet by one main supplier who makes some pretty awful alcohol, but they’re the sole supplier so they dictate the price. They’re mostly brutal thugs, but there have been a few scenes where some fancy rooftop footwork caught my eye. Add our Crown Prince and his fighting skills with a fan and you have my kind of choreography.

Drama Geek: We are HUGE supporters of fans for weapons here on the blog. I might have squealed when the Crown Prince pulled his out in combat. Both members of our OTP know their way around a bow and arrow and they’ve used that for some skinship moments already.

Kdrama Jen: I am a literal fan girl through and through! I actually have no idea if fan fights are a truly historically accurate thing or not, but I don’t care. There is something so elegant and heart-pounding about fan fight in hanbok. I am a definite fan of the fans!

Fun for Now

The show has a really light feel to the first few episodes. There’s comedy and romance in the air. We even have the possibility of sismance and bromance to come with our love square. Han Yae Jin (Kang Mi Na) rounds out the four as a nobleman’s daughter who has sticky fingers and meets Ro Seo during her latest heist. The girls come to a mutual agreement to not tell anyone of their illegal activities and a sort of kinship is born. Nam Young’s servant and Kang Ro Seo’s brother live together with our OTP in their rented house. Nam Young is having his sense of classicism tested, along with his sense of duty to the crown. It all makes for an enjoyable watch that could get serious eventually, but it’s nice to just relax and have a laugh.

Drama Geek: I found it interesting that everyone but our male lead seems okay rubbing elbows with the lower classes. Even the Crown Prince is more relaxed in this than he is. The second lead girl had her head turned by the CP, so I don’t think we’ll need to worry about her falling for Nam Young, and I could see the CP getting over his interest in Ro Seo quickly. I don’t mind love triangles, but I prefer when we have two couples we can cheer for.

Kdrama Jen: I think it does add to the dynamic that there seem to be some class issues happening but in unexpected places. It’s also an interesting aspect that one of the goals of selling alcohol is so the friend of Ro Seo can pay for higher status.

Final Thoughts

It’s always nice to see Yoo Seung Ho in hanbok. His smile lights up the screen and his tears tug at your heart. Lee Hye Ri has been a wonderful surprise lately, and she just keeps bringing the laughs and spunk to her characters. The OTP have decent chemistry so far that’s fueled by romantic cinematography and sweeping music. They’ve both failed in the chemistry department with various leads, so we’ll have to keep an eye on their chemistry and see how it goes. Will we keep watching?

Drama Geek: If the light feels continues and the story stays interesting, I’m here for the duration. I’ve completed several historical and historic light dramas this year and I think I’ve found my groove with them. I take the sad, true to history dramas for what they are (looks to Red Sleeve’s awesomeness) and delight in the lighter dramas that give us handsome boys in hanbok and a good laugh.

Kdrama Jen: I also hope we keep this light and playful feeling. With all the serial killer and zombie shows on my list (not that I am complaining), it is nice to have something a little fluffy and fun. I am also really feeling the urge to make my own rice wine. I don’t even drink, but I find the process fascinating! I am planning to keep pushing play and smiling at flirty characters in hanbok!

Until the Next Drink,

Drama Geek & Kdrama Jen

Dramas With a Side of Kimchi

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