Wow. This is unexpected. I thought it would be, yunno, light and fluffy in the beginning and then heavy and angsty towards the end. Nope! No siree! The heaviest first four episodes (divided into 8 parts of 30min each, silly) ever. The running theme is this: “You have a dad?” *kills* “You have one too?” *stabs* “Who’s next?”
Oh, I have a feeling there are more…
Quick and Dirty Breakdown of Episode 1-8 Story:
The time is Joseon. The man below is the current prince, he sells his freedom to a secret dark organization called Pyunsoohwe, led by leader Dae Mok (actor Heo Jun Ho), made up of elites from society and politics. He needs help to ascend the throne and the men will do it if he joins their society by taking the truth-telling poison elixir – that forces him to reveal his real name and true face. Every month, the members of said society need to take a pill of the poison to prevent them from dying from the stabbing pains. One way to keep everyone in check.
A bat cave to hold the initiation ceremony. Lol.
The prince-turned King welcomes his newborn son, Lee Sun (future Yoo Seung Ho). I swear this baby deserves a Baby Acting Award. He SMILES when his father King says he will inherit the throne and be a good King. So cute.
At last, the time to pay for the price is here. Dae Mok demands control over water supply by building water bureaus all over the country called Yangsucheong, each headed by his own Pyunsoohwe member. Moreover, the King will have no say because they are self-rule. Dae Mok’s bargaining chip? He’s poisoned baby Crown prince! The King has no choice but to give in. One advantage: Crown Prince is now immune to poison after being poisoned. Interesting.
14 years later, our Crown Prince is seen with a mask. Why? Because the King doesn’t want others (meaning the bad guys) to know his real face. If and when they demand the prince to join their organization, he could easily send in a fake prince. To the growing Prince, he’s been told his face is ravaged by the poison and hence he cannot let others see his face, other than the King, his biological mother, and the King’s royal guard, Commander Lee.
The poor lonely prince has his own greenhouse filled with flowers and plants, a place where he takes refuge and talks to his mask like it’s a person. Aww.
This is Hwa Goon (actress Yoon So Hee) and she’s here with her father greeting the Queen as one of the potential candidate for Crown Princess. She’s billed as the second female lead, grand daughter of Dae Mok. DUN DUN DUN!
Being haughty, there’s no place that’s off limits to her so she enters the forbidden greenhouse and comes face to face with the Crown Prince. He isn’t wearing a mask so she thinks he’s one of the workers but Prince Sun freaks out and to save her, he covers up her mouth when his eunuch enters the greenhouse. She doesn’t like being handled by a mere man and pricks his neck with a needle. And that is how she knows he’s the CROWN PRINCE when he sports his mask minutes later.
That night, we see her giggling in her room, making an identical spot on her neck. Ruh Roh. First sign of a psychotic lover? I wish they didn’t make her out that way! I love a bad boy, but I do love my bad girls too.
During the annual ceremony to pray for rain, our young prince escapes from his entourage and experiences his first time out of the palace. His first instinct is to cover up his face. Awww. You poor child.
And finally! Our female lead is introduced! She’s the magistrate Lord Han’s daughter, Han Ga Eun (actress Kim So Hyun). It’s interesting that our leads are introduced in the sea of flowers isn’t it? More importantly, it reveals their upbringing too, he’s protected in the greenhouse while she’s a bright color in the wild garden.
Our adorable prince playing with puppies. How could your dad hide that precious face beneath a mask for so long!
But the other side is not always greener because Prince Sun witnesses poverty and violence first hand.
This is our second male lead, also named Lee Sun (actor L [Kim Myung Soo]). He is of humble background and learns to read and write from our female lead, Ga Eun. His father is a water carrier for Yangsucheong.
Prince Sun brings a thirsty child to the water supplier and learns the hard way that water is not a free commodity to the people.
After unknowingly creating a scene, he runs for his life and falls right into Ga Eun’s arms.
She helps him by placing him into a paladin and having him play the old sick lady card. Lol. Afterwards, he hazily asks if he’s handsome, which breaks off Ga Eun’s own trance. Ha. He explains that nobody has looked this long at his face before.
Then naturally, he follows her. She doesn’t know why but he says he’s just walking his path.
Then he serenades her by letting her know he’s in possession of rare books because he’s from the Literature group, like a bookseller.
Peasant Sun cracks me up. Look at him below primping himself when Ga Eun compliments his intelligence and memorization skill.
But anyway, the real reason Prince Sun escapes from the rain ceremony is to look for a scholar named Woo Bo, hoping he would know the reason why the Crown Prince has to wear the mask since he’s the last person to treat the prince before he’s labeled critical. Conveniently, Woo Bo is Ga Eun’s teacher and she agrees to help him. But he’s disappointed by the raggedy appearance of the high and mighty Sungkyunkwan scholar who drinks and sleeps away his time.
Afterwards, our trio heads home, and Prince Sun has decided to stay at Ga Eun’s place while he finds answer to Woo Bo’s question: the rain has increased twice this year, yet the wells in this country are drier than last year, why is that?
On their way home, the kids are blessed with a scene surrounded by fireflies.
Awww Peasant Sun doesn’t dare to look at Ga Eun in the eyes.
But the Prince has no qualms enjoying her quiet, blossoming beauty upfront.
And Our Love Triangle begins.
Peasant Sun’s mother gives birth to a baby girl! Unfortunately, for the birthing process to happen, his father has to steal a pail of water from Yangsucheong and for that he will be punished.
Prince Sun chats with Ga Eun and admires her belief in fighting for freedom no matter what. He scoots closer and asks if she’s betrothed to anyone. GAHHH. So cute.
She doesn’t answer him directly and turns away shyly. He notes her pursed lips and I love how he observes her demeanor and breaks into a goofy grin. “So you’re not….That’s good.”
Peasant Sun’s father would have gotten away with stealing the water but Hwa Goon – wanting to flush out the Prince’s whereabouts, warns the leader to make an example of the water thief. Oh krap.
With the prince still missing, the King sends out the prince’s bodyguard to look for him. The body guard is Lee Chung Woon (actor Shin Hyun Soo) and he successfully guesses the Crown Prince’s identity from the sea of people (he doesn’t know the Prince’s real face either) by choosing the most immature and foolish-looking kid of the brunch. He tells that to the Crown prince. HAHHAHA. I love chu already.
Ga Eun’s father, Lord Han, is spurred into action by Prince Sun’s words: “Doing good deeds comes before the law!” So he escorts Peasant Sun’s father back to his own playground, protecting him from Yangsucheong’s punishment of hands-chopping. Crown prince shows up with his mask and jade pendant to prove his identity and frees the water carrier of his crime. Everyone rejoices, except this news is not what Dae Mok wants to hear….
Ga Eun explains to her new friend (reality: Crown prince) about the prince’s coolness in handling the situation.
He inwardly jumps up and down. So cute.
From a distance…. Hwa Goon clocks in their closeness. And our Love Rectangle begins. =D
This is so sad. Peasant Sun piggybacks his dad and tells him he can read and write anything he wants.
The more they smile, the harder the hit.
His dad is brutally killed moments later. An example for the rest of the villagers to heed: stay out of Yangsucheong’s business. Also, not even the crown prince could save you.
GAWD. A puppy himself, Prince Sun shelters Ga Eun from the horrible sight.
Prince Sun prevents Peasant Sun from taking revenge. He reveals his identity and promises to avenge for his father’s death.
The prince being admonished for jumping in and taking a jab for Chung Woon. As his royal body guard, there are fates worse than death, such as letting your prince die. Our puppy prince doesn’t register those words because he’s too busy catching on the meaning of Chung Woon’s words. He grins that Chung Woon is now officially his guard. HA. This bromance.
The King taking the mask off of his son and telling him the real reason why he must wear the mask at all costs. His survival was the key to Yangsucheong being created. Prince Sun breaks down because earlier he’s told Lord Han to investigate Yangsucheong aka Pyunsoohwe. And now because of his decision to “save” the people, he’s put Lord Han’s life on the line and Dae Mok orders Lord Han’s decapitation.
The King needs to protect Prince Sun and hence Lord Han has to die. This scene is heart-breaking, just listening to Prince Sun’s desperate pleas to save Lord Han….
To make matters worse, Dae Mok wants the Crown Prince to personally chop off Lord Han’s head. If not, the people he cares about will slowly die around him. Sun’s eunuch is the first to go. His last wish is to see the prince’s real face.
The prince gathers his eunuch into his arms, the weight of his death and many more to come, crashes on the prince’s shoulders, reminding him the responsibility for the people is real and heavy. Cleverly filmed to demonstrate the meaning.
Hwa Goon and her bodyguard Gon are watching from above. It’s the first tears she’s shed. She makes her bodyguard promise to protect the Prince as if he is her. If he dies, she dies.
The beheading moment. After crying through the night, Prince Sun faints from exhaustion. Chung Woon knows his prince won’t be able to kill Lord Han with his own hands so he takes the dirty task into his own hands. So sad. You poor boy!!
Peasant Sun volunteers to be a replacement for the prince. Prince Sun agrees, remembering Woo Bo’s words that he needs to see the problem from a different angle in order to solve it.
The Prince meeting with Dae Mok like a badass and inadvertently tipping off that he’s stronger than the rumors suggested. Gah. Not a good idea, puppy!
Prince Sun decides to escape for a while, he wants Ga Eun to come with him and see the person he will become. He promises to protect her from now on.
Oh the beautiful setting.
The King wants to rebel against Dae Mok and sends Peasant Sun in for the initiation ceremony. However, Dae Mok is smarter and figures it out. He turns the table around, marching into the palace, killing Prince Sun’s real mother and dragging fake prince like a rag doll into the King’s chamber.
In the most critical moment, Prince Sun appears and without his mask, screams FATHER. Oh krap. Dae Mok couldn’t be happier and tries to charge at the real prince but the King comes at him and is stabbed in the guts.
—– END ——
Kappy: Holy. That is a lot of ground they covered in the first four episodes, killing off three dads, and very interesting characters at that. Is anyone worried of where we are headed? I think a time skip is in order. The prince right now is as helpless as one can be, with his royal family ripped from him and having no where to turn, what is he going to do? This is an interesting dilemma because now the show has two options: slowing it down or being unpredictable, and it’s the latter that I like about the setup right now.
The other thing I like is the the strong villain of this show. Dae Mok is wicked scary. He’s not the usual villains who sit around the table with their Joseon hat on and fumes when things don’t go their way. Maybe the hat covers up their intelligence because Dae Mok wears no hat, which makes him appear unstable and the wild card of the bunch. He’s keenly cunning and gets what he wants, displayed effectively in the first four episodes.
Then they pit him against fourteen-year old Crown Prince and the battle field is unfairly skewed. I’m not upset at the prince’s idealistic and naive nature because we have spent four episodes being told by the closest people to him that he’s a protected flower in the greenhouse, literally and figuratively. He has to start there to begin his character arc and to me that is the perfect development for us to witness as he balances the battle field with age and harsh experiences under his belt. He has to be pushed to his breaking point, much like how Dae Mok’s past as a lowly, powerless man, with nothing to lose transformed him to the Wolf he is today. It’s a telling foreshadowing of the prince. He’s got everything to lose before, but now that he has nothing to lose and everything to gain, the fight is on! Might just be Dae Mok’s undoing by driving the prince out of the palace. Bad move.
As for our ladies. I’m little upset at the setup for both to be honest. Love at first sight is not my thing so Hwa Goon going down that route frustrates me a little. In wuxia, daughter of the bad guy is billed automatically as the female lead. LOL. Her character arc sounds tragic already and I can’t wait till the day I feel for her. I love bad girls. XD Kim So Hyun has very little to do so far and I hope the writer doesn’t forget about her acting abilities because she’s no damsel in distress! Give her moments to shine on her own, without being just the love interest for the prince.
Peasant Sun, Chung Woon, Gon are all interesting characters and I can’t wait to dive deeper into their psychology. Chung Woon might end up being my favorite character. He also has to confront Ga Eun for cutting off her dad’s head. If he falls for her too, then his fate is sealed. *pleasedon’tbreakmyheart* And looking at the situation, Peasant Sun is gonna be trapped as Dae Mok’s puppet King in the time Real Prince is training for battle. If he turns to the dark side….things get interesting and twisty. Oh, the bromance in this drama.