Secret Door: The Good, the Bad, and the Acceptable Ones

I would be lying to myself if I said that Secret Door was not my most anticipated drama of the year. Everything about it screamed potential ground-breaking series on the paper: the network (SBS!), the screenwriter (her past works included Hwang Jin-yi and The Immortal Yi Sun-shin!), the director (he worked behind Sign, Ghost, and The Suspicious Housekeeper!), and not to forget, the star-studded cast. But then, the drama suffered low ratings despite the hype surrounding it before it premiered. One can argue that ratings aren’t what they used to represent but there are reasons why the drama turned up being underwhelming than what was expected.

The Back Story

Secret Door is based on a problematic father and son relationship in the history of Joseon and the father, someone who is supposed to protect his child, ended up ordering his own son’s death. Crown Prince Sado’s death put a dent in Yeongjo’s track record of the longest reigning king in Joseon’s history and the death, or political assassination as some people address it, was not without exaggeration and hyperbole attached to the story behind it. Discussing the matter was taboo during Yeongjo’s reign and to avoid people from talking about the incident, plus preserving his father’s honour, Sado’s son Yi San pleaded for Yeongjo to erase all the records prior to Sado’s death. Although the matter was not discussed widely when Yeongjo was alive, nothing could stop people from talking, thus many versions of the events leading to the incident existed, including Sado being a victim in the political machinations of the fighting factions. This prompted Lady Hyegyeong, Sado’s wife, to write a detailed record of Sado’s life from her point of view, tracing how his unhealthy relationship with his father led him to his downfall and ultimately, his demise.

Although Lady Hyegyeong’s memoirs receive mixed response from the historians (since they can be viewed both as priceless documentation of historical events and exaggerated account of those events), her version of Sado’s life adds another layer to the prince’s story and describes the heir’s life from the point of view of someone close to him. The political conflicts, the problematic relationship of the dysfunctional father and son, the illness, and the hints of romance from the history provide a nice balance for a good drama, with right way of brewing the conflicts in the plot lines. Thus, there are many ways how the history can be reinterpreted, but Secret Door might have done a bad move in incorporating the history into the drama.

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Where did it go wrong?

The drama started off with the focus on a top-secret-but-not-so-secret document known as The Great Reunification Document, an oath and a physical pact signed by the members of Noron party and co-signed by the reluctant Yeongjo, then the Crown Brother. The oath was a way for Noron to validate their action of killing the sickly Gyeongjong, for the sake of the betterment of the country. Yeongjo was cornered into signing the pact (kill or be killed!) and he rose to the throne as the next king after his half-brother’s death.Β  Although he made it as the king of the country, he was not in total control as Noron held immense power in the court, using Yeongjo’s connection with the previous king’s death through the pact. Yeongjo made it his secret priority to locate the document in order for it to be destroyed and his dedication to see it vanish from this world was to the point that he burned down the entire Secretariat’s Building, losing all the precious documents in possession.

The document was fictional, and this was where the plot started to face some problems. The oath was only known to certain Noron members and Yeongjo himself, but the effect from letting it known to the entire world was something that was hard to understand. In history, Yeongjo was under the suspicion of killing his brother for the throne and there were several uprisings organized by the weaker party Soron, but the attempts were crushed by Yeongjo with the help of his court. Secret Door tried to incorporate the pact into the plot but somehow, the document held little effect and in fact did not deserve the attention and focus it received in the first half of the story.

The big question was to what extent the secret document would cause problems for Yeongjo and the country, should the content was exposed to public? Yeongjo was obsessed with finding and destroying it, but there was no depiction or whatsoever about the power of the document. He was so worried that it might cause him to lose the throne, yet there was no proof of the magnitude of possible destruction that could be caused by the document. The whole thing felt like it was just happening in Yeongjo’s mind, because he was too scared of losing his power. Plus, the emphasis was only on the document instead of the content of the document, something that became a disadvantage to the plot.

Everyone in the drama was so focused on getting their hands on the document and the race extended for a few episodes, which should be utilized to delve into the subject matter in the document, that was Gyeongjong’s death. But alas, the subject was barely touched, with several exceptions: Yeongjo gloating in front of Gyeongjong’s portrait and Yi Seon (Sado)’s short attempt to investigate the matter, for example. There was no attempt to show the importance of the event and how it was tied to Yeongjo: did he really kill his stepbrother? Based on Yeongjo’s reaction, he did, but the drama should have shown the connection, instead of treating it as common knowledge among the fans. Dramas should be able to illustrate the points necessary to the plot instead of ignoring it with the excuse that it was something everyone knows. There are two instances where the viewers lose interest in dramas: either the dramas treat the viewers as dumb by giving out too much clues or being stingy with important clues as they assume that the viewers are aware of them.

The character descriptions on the official website featured some characters associated with the event that happened as a result of the secret document’s content but they had little, or no chance at all, in making their appearances due to the over-emphasis on the document. Even with the sole focus on the oath, it held little, or dare I say no effect at all, to the whole story, except for causing a number of lives to be lost as a result of being associated with the oath. It was not clear whether the document was planned to have a bigger impact, especially on Yi Seon, since he finally found out that his righteous father was not that noble after all. Yi Seon seemed unfazed and did not undergo major changes, even after losing his best friend in the ordeal.

The Bad

I actually think that it was not that bad, but it was not good either. There were so many possibilities for Yi Seon’s character to be developed and in the hands of Lee Je-hoon, he could even go down the worst route, that was a completely insane Sado. But then, the character was only wrapped in a bubble wrap, presenting him as a righteous man, from the beginning until the end. It was a both bad and good move, but I will talk about it later. I was roped into believing that the younger Yi Seon had the fire in his eyes and the potential to go south (not that south since he was alluded to go crazy in the latter years of his life after showing symptoms of mental illness) if the situation called for it. The phrase in the title – Uigwe’s Murder Case – had so much possibilities to be executed in the drama: the serial murders could happen because of the oath at first but later, it could take place since Sado started to kill people out of rage, but the fire and the potential rage of Yi Seon died down as the episode count increased.

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It was like dangling a carrot before the viewers before snatching it away, and the same thing happened to another character, Seo Ji-dam. The character was promoted as a lady detective who worked with Yi Seon to investigate the serial murder case involving his best friend and Kim Yoo-jung was chosen to star in the first adult role for her. However, another problem ensued when Ji-dam was hinted to be Bing-ae, the object of Sado’s affection according to Lady Hyegyeong’s memoirs. That was enough for divided opinions among the viewers, with the age gap of the actors being the reason of debate. Lee Je-hoon is 30 playing 20, while Kim Yoo-jung was playing a girl her age, 15. It would be uncomfortable for Kim Yoo-jung to act out more daring scenes should the script called for it, thus she was suddenly reduced to a childhood version of the character and Yoon So-hee took over as the adult Ji-dam in the second half of the drama. But then, the change was actually unnecessary and Ji-dam ended up being no more than a supporting character. It seemed like everything was done haphazardly without proper planning and almost erratic. “The actress is too young? Change her with an older actress! No more comments requesting love lines? Let’s nix the romance!” Then what’s the use of including the character as the main one?

The secret document, the murder cases, and the purge of Soron party were pivotal to the changes in Yi Seon after the time jump in the second half of Secret Door. Looking at the big picture, the secret document did have a significant role, in which it contributed to the latter two. Together, these three contributed to the subtle changes in Yi Seon. He was initially a Crown Prince living in his own ideal bubble despite being a regent for six years. He came off as a little too ideal for a future king and also too fearless. He was too daring in his acts and it won’t be too much of a surprise if he was viewed as reckless. After witnessing how the citizens lost their lives without the noblemen blinking an eye, Yi Seon changed into a compassionate prince even at the cost of losing his crown and status. This was where the bad and good move made its appearance. By making him an extremely softhearted man, some viewed him as being too ideal and senseless, just like how the noblemen and the Royal Family saw Yi Seon as. On the other hand, his kind self, who put his people before his own life, touched the hearts of some viewers, just like how the commoners reacted to his actions.

The Good

The were a lot of good things about this drama and I cannot deny it, since the good things were what made me stick through and thin with the drama until the end. The cast is one of the best things, because Secret Door secured a star-studded cast for both the main lineup and the supporting characters. Han Suk-kyu and Lee Je-hoon previously worked together for the movie My Paparoti. This might have something to do with them being in a production together before, but I noticed that Yi Seon’s movement and way of talking resembled Yeongjo a bit. Lee Je-hoon probably had the understanding of how Han Suk-kyu would bring his character to life and he brought Yeongjo’s influence into his portrayal of Yi Seon. Although the father and the son were very different from each other, it was easy to believe that they were somehow related by blood. These two characters and the actors themselves are very interesting subjects for character studies.

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The character Yeongjo here was different from the portrayals of the king before. Erratic and obsessed with the throne, sometimes Yeongjo appeared like a maniac. If not, how to explain his tendency to lash out on others and even drawing the knife in front of his retainers’ faces whenever they seemed to be threatening him? Han Suk-kyu brought no trace of the kind and friendly Sejong in his previous drama; instead, he played the multifaceted Yeongjo a little too well that it was hard to decipher his true emotions when he showed any, other than his wrath. It would be scary to see him in his angry mode, but the king was actually more terrifying when he did nothing at all, because that meant he was in deep thinking, ready to strike his opponents. It was an ongoing question for me throughout the series, whether Yeongjo was a friend or a fiend to Yi Seon. His initial reactions suggested that he might not mind after all to lose his only son, although he would have to encounter the same thing as his stepbrother, who was forced to accept the heir chosen by the ruling party.

But then, Yeongjo in the drama was not as ruthless as what Lady Hyegyeong suggested through her writings. Despite his tendencies to scold Yi Seon when the latter tried to come against him, Yeongjo was a nurturing father. This was hinted in several scenes, in which Yeongjo affectionately taught his son how to play the political games like a future king should. He wanted to hand over the throne to Yi Seon naturally (meaning after his death) and wished that his son would quit fooling off with the commoners and butting heads with the already-angry Noron. Yeongjo did threaten Yi Seon a few times, a move that might seem ruthless to some, but towards the end, it was visible how much he treasured Yi Seon. He was willing to get married to a new queen 51 years younger than him so that Yi Seon would not have any future rival for the throne. He tried to spare Yi Seon’s life by suggesting for the Crown Prince to be deposed, but he was driven into a corner and forced to give up on his own son’s life. His reign, although a long one, did not seem to be a happy one for him.

Yeongjo was neither good nor bad, and so was Yi Seon. His character was a reckless and erratic at one glance, though with less emotions compared to his father, but he was also a man with inner conflicts at hand. The prince was frustrating to reason with at first, but once the story followed his journey closely, it was hard to ignore the reason why he chose the difficult route, siding with the lowly commoners with his own life at stake. It was not blind and reckless of him; instead, it was his overly compassionate self that made it difficult for him to ignore the plight of his people. He could had waited until he became the king, but he could not stop thinking about the hardships his people had to endure while he waited calmly in his palace until Yeongjo’s death for him to take over the throne. If Yeongjo was quite selfish, Yi Seon was very selfless.

It wasn’t until the end that Yi Seon realized the magnitude of the damage of his selfless act. While he did prove himself to be a capable ruler to his people, he unintentionally jeopardized the safety of people around him, including his immediate family members. His tunnel vision made him lacking in the filial piety department, where he failed to serve his father (and even died before him!) and became a bad example for his own son, Yi San. Yi Seon took the difficult route, sacrificing himself in order to save Yi San. He knew he put his family in a dangerous spot and paid it with an expensive price that was his own life. Jusr like Yeongjo, he was someone who I wanted to hate but his actions made it hard not to love him.

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Park Eun-bin was the blooming flower among the male cast. Although the drama moved towards the male-centric politics plot, her Princess Hyegyeong character was beautifully written despite having shorter screen time compared to others. She came off as a ruthless and cold wife of Yi Seon, but the revelation of her layered character and the subtle emotions at play made Hyegyeong a character you would want to root for. She was commanding and more level-headed compared to Yi Seon, not to mention that she could pull the strings and made things work in her favour if she wanted to, as demonstrated in several scenes. I did not mind the lack of romance because hey, Yi Seon was already busy running here and there helping his people and it would be quite a stretch to include his love life! But Hyegyeong’s one-sided love was kind of sad to watch. From the iron lady whose purpose(s) of her life was to assist her husband as the future queen, she was willing to give up her position just to see her son Yi San become the next king. She was like the female version Yeongjo, of course being less temperamental. No wonder her father tried to imagine what could have happened if she was born a baby boy, because she could achieve so much more.

Chae Je-gong, played by Choi Won-young, was a character on the good side and he was bound to be loved rather than hated. He stayed true to his character, being Yi Seon’s faithful man from the start until the end. He followed the Crown Prince around when Yi Seon was trying to investigate the murder but he also knew when to interfere and offer his advice to the prince. His frankness and his loyalty towards Yi Seon made it hard for him to reject the offer from Yeongjo and he ended up being Yeongjo’s right hand man in the effort to save his master. That did not mean his loyalty changed and he continued to persuade the prince into reducing his dangerous activities, a gesture that made him someone who nagged a lot at Yi Seon. Advisor Chae’s conflicted self was apparent when he learned Yi Seon’s risky acts but he could not say no, because he knew Yi Seon’s reasons to commit such actions. Maybe if there was a title for him, it could be Loyal Chae.

The supporting characters were engaging and they were fun to hate and love. Na Chul-joo (Kim Min-jong), Kim Sung-ik (Son Byung-ho), Min Baek-sang (Uhm Hyo-sub), Kim Taek (Kim Chang-wan), Park Moon-su (Lee Won-jong), Hong Bong-han (Kim Myung-gook), Hong Gye-hee (Jang Hyun-sung). Kim Sang-ro (Kim Ha-gyun), Lee Jong-sung (Jeon Guk-hwan), and Kang Pil-jae (Kim Tae-hoon), just to name a few. They are the familiar faces seen in various dramas but their experience made their appearances, though short, meaningful and contributed to the whole plot. Some of them got a proper closure (even bloody ones) but several of them disappeared into the thin air.

The Acceptable

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Facts distortion issues seem like normal occurrences for historical dramas but Secret Door actually fared well in the department, probably due to the ‘playing on the safe side’ practice. Most of the plot stayed as close as possible to the historical facts when it came to the real events. Creative liberties were made use in creating the characters, for instance omitting the unnecessary ones as practiced by many of the historical dramas before this. The fictional parts mainly lied in the character of the commoners. Although the cause Yi Seon worked tirelessly to the point of being framed as raising a rebel group was just a fictional twist but the way it contributed to his downfall just like in the history was commendable, not to mention the effect it had on Yeongjo and Yi Seon’s relationship: although it ended badly in other people’s eyes, these two had reached a mutual agreement and sending Yi Seon to the afterlife was the best choice for them, and for everyone involved.

One of the things I really liked was the epilogue. Yi Seon did lost the fight because he died early but his dream was realized through his son, Yi San. To be exact, Crown Prince Sado’s dream lived on, both literally and figuratively. It could had been better with other possibilities of the middle plots but for this one, it could not be better. Yi Seon’s ardent wish and the world he imagined was shown to us, and I could not be more grateful for that.

I really liked Secret Door but the potential it had made me feel regretful over what it could have been, but there is no use of crying over what had been done. The story was decent and I was still relieved that it did not go down the unimaginable route. It was an enjoyable ride despite some bumps here and there and for the record, I did cry a few times while watching the series. It was a good indicator that the drama got to me emotionally and I was overall satisfied, except for the few things I mentioned above.

Last but not least, the million-Won question: where did you think the Secret Door was?

(Photos from ONE TV Asia)

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35 thoughts on “Secret Door: The Good, the Bad, and the Acceptable Ones

    1. Yes, she was the concubine. They hinted at the romance but chose to disregard it even after changing the actress. They seemed to have lack of planning and just chose what would be the most plausible route for them. They should have stick with the original plan if they’re going to stay true to the promo materials and the early plot lines.

  1. I believe the Secret Door either was talking about inner thoughts, Sado’s secret room that led to his downfall, or The Noron’s room were they meant. I agree with what you said though. It does seem like to me the writers made mostly every one responsible for his death. Sado- his fearless and doing things that was considered reckless. LH- she telling her father about that library and helping Queen Jeongsun to become the Queen. Yi San- was used as the main reason for Sado to step in that rice chest. The Norons including Queen Jeongsun- did things to influence the King Yeongjo to kill his own son. Their political moves. King Yeongjo- choose Joseon over his own son. Believed his own son was destroying Joseon. Na chul doo & Bing Ae- trying to kill the King and they were friends of Sado. So it made it seem like Sado raised traitors.

    Watching this drama made me realize how crazy those days were. It seems weird a library=rebellion/traitors. Great write up. I wish I could read LH’s memoirs.

    1. I took care of everything πŸ˜‰

      Everyone is responsible for Sado’s death.
      This! Every person around him contributed to his death and it was ironic that the people he tried to protect ended up being the reasons for his death.

      The accusation of rebellion and supporting traitors probably came from the cancelled attack on Yeongjo and the secret soldiers raised by Chul-joo. The people joining the study were just victims in the whole ordeal and they ended up dead. Not sure if giving the traitor’s son a chance to study was counted as supporting traitors too, but it was complicated back then. Even a mere rumour could cost a family their lives and also their descendants’ future.

      The memoirs is available online πŸ˜‰

      1. Hello! Thank you for posting about Secret Door πŸ™‚ I have been dying to know the hows and whys of the finale since DB dropped the recaps 😦 and I’m glad to have a rough idea now, beyond what history tells me!

        Also, may I ask if you have the link to the memoirs, hopefully the English translated version? I have had little luck finding it!

        Thank you so much πŸ™‚

        1. You’re welcome! Glad to be of help somehow for the fans of Secret Door πŸ˜‰

          I lost the link but I still have the PDF file. I’ll send it to your email. Is that okay with you?

        2. I just watched the drama and currently in the middle of the story. I was intrigued by the Prince Sado related story line, but I was afraid that it would not turn out to be a good adaptation, hence I ended up being here, reading reviews before I continue!

          I have been searching for the memoirs as well, I found the book but it’s too expensive. (I couldn’t afford it just for fun reading, unfortunately)
          I wonder if you can share the PDF file (if you still have it)?

          p/s: I don’t even know if you would still read this after 2 years!
          But I would like to thank you in advance.

  2. Adding this here because I really like the answers regarding the Secret Door, with some parts omitted. Taken from http://www.reddit.com/r/KDRAMA/comments/2owvar/secret_door_ep_23_24final_episodes/

    life-finds-a-way

    
    [..] So what does the title actually mean?
    Secret Door? or Secret Door?
    Whose secrets? The King and his accession? The Prince and his dreams? The politics and schemes and whispers?
    Which door?
    The physical door the King saw? The Prince's door to his library? Or the intangible door to the characters' lives that was thrown open for us?
    

    anfield456

    
    So what does the title actually mean?
    
    This is a good question. All the options you mentioned could fit the meaning behind the title. If we take the final scene into consideration, the "door" would be King Jeongjo, who tries to bring honor to his deceased father and the "secret" is the Gyujanggak, the two story pavillion which was normally used a library, but also used by King Jeongjo and his disciples as a place to work on the political reforms that were initiated by Crown Prince Sado.
    
    These are just some of my thoughts that came up when watching the final episode. Since the ending is open-ended, it leads to all types of interpretations. Also, given the lack of background information provided by the writer in regards to the conflicts in this time period, the writer does expect the viewer to be well-informed about Joseon history and, specifically, about the death of Crown Prince Sado. So that may explain why the drama title has a relatively vague meaning.
    
  3. Hye-gyong my goddess ❀
    Miss Eun Bin did well here. Waiting for her next project! With Mr Yoo Seung Ho?
    I prefer Lee Je Hoon in movies. He always become restricted in dramas. He fares better on big screen to me. Next – λͺ…탐정 홍길동. ν™”μ΄νŒ… 였빠!

    1. Park Eun-bin is a revelation to me here but it’s no surprise, considering that this is her 10th time acting in a sageuk. She can be a historical drama prowess if she polishes herself well.

      This is actually my first drama with Lee Je-hoon and I only saw him in movies before. Although Fashion King received mixed (and mostly negative) reviews, I am tempted to check it out because of a review that made me see the whole picture from a different point of view..

      1. Thank you for the review. I’m considering watching this drama after Fashion King πŸ™‚ I think I will give it a try πŸ™‚
        btw did you finally watch Fashion King ? It’s not a good drama but I really loved LJH in it πŸ™‚

        1. I haven’t ^^; I always go to his movies when I feel like watching his previous works, but maybe I should make some time for FK..not only for LJH, but also for YAI hehehe

  4. dear, it’s been a while~!
    You’re still the sageuk addict like before, eh? πŸ˜€ I can feel your love for the series reading this post. I should give it a try when I have some time.

  5. I’m thinking of dropping the drama (before even starting!) but then I remember Han Suk-gyu and Lee Je-hoon. This isn’t good. The few reviews I’ve seen shows that it wasn’t as good as the cast could be, which kind of sucked. I only got through the first two episodes before thinking this can get boring and tedious. And I suppose that’s why a lot of sageuks don’t work for me a lot of times because they focus a lot on external conflicts instead of playing around with the inner demons of each characters which are aplenty. I’m a bit gutted but I think Secret Door will be put to rest.

    1. I agree with you that most of the historical dramas can be heavy on the political aspects but here, I kind off feel..cheated (is that a correct word to describe the feeling?), because of the two actors. They are capable of portraying the inner turmoils of the characters, yet the focus on other aspects restricted them from doing so. The drama is promoted to be a reinterpretation of the conflict between the father and the son, but the plot mainly stressed on the politics and relies very little on the emotions of the characters, which only prevailed towards the end of the series.

      If you can’t stand the long political discussion and the constant wailings of the ministers, this might not be the drama for you. We can’t turn back the time, so let’s just enjoy My Paparoti to see them in action…for the nth time. Hehehe! The making of videos I found on youtube made me feel better πŸ˜‰

  6. I can’t help but wonder if Secret Door decided to drop the plot line of Sado’s madness, because of Yoo Ah In’s Sado (2015). I noticed in the early episodes, Sado’s intense anger had manifested in hallucination, in particular his violent hallucination of confronting Minister Hong at the end of E04, and when he imagined of confronting his father regarding the secret document. With the secret document burned, Sado’s hallucinations kinda disappeared altogether. Maybe the descending-to-madness plot fits a movie better than drama.

    I find it kinda ironic but funny, that the Sado/Hyegyeong couple ended up being nominated for Best Couple Awards in the upcoming SBS Drama Awards couple, instead of the original Sado/Ji-dam couple that the writer was hinting at. I supposed, all of it is due to the sort of love-hate relationship between wonderfully layered character of Lady Hyegyeong (played wonderfully by Park Eun Bin – she actually made me paid attention to her performance during the entire run of Secret Door, I wasn’t really interested with her acting in Operation Proposal, staring at Yoo Seung Ho instead) and the occasional volatile character of Sado (Lee Je Hoon made me swoon with his flawless acting).

    Anyhow, with this end .. I’m moving to The King’s Face, another saeguk I’m currently interested. Though I’m enjoying the humour and action scenes more than the politics, and most important the Sherlock-like face reading scenes.

    1. It’s possible too, considering that the drama might want to diverge from the norm of Sado’s portrayal. We still don’t have much info about the movie but perhaps, the drama might had been better by infusing Sado’s anger into the plot.

      Sado-Hyegyeong (or LJH-PEB) had wonderful chemistry from the get-go. I still remember myself swooning when they argued. Sado did care about Hyegyeong, even if the drama couldn’t portray much of it towards the later episodes and Hyegyeong was a great character all around: people might see her as a harsh consort at first, but the hints of her undying loyalty and love towards her family gained her the love from the viewers. Of course, it’s all credit to the actress Park Eun-bin, whose portrayal of Hyegyeong is surely going to be remembered as one of the most engaging Joseon royal consorts portrayed in dramas. I’m still bummed that Lee Je-hoon’s potential didn’t get to be utilized to its full, but he made me care about his Sado.

      I’m also watching King’s Face and one thing I really like about it is the face reading motif weaved seamlessly into the plot. I think sageuk nowadays like to introduce new motifs into the history background to make it more interesting, but most of them tend to abandon the motifs when they reach the mid-point of the plot. I hope King’s Face will continue to use the face reading feature, because it’s really fascinating! ^^

      1. I definitely agree with the face reading motif weaved seamlessly into the plot. Also, I noticed that King’s Face sort of doesn’t take itself too seriously. In the sense that they doesn’t seem to let the decreasing ratings bother them. Despite King’s Face being a saeguk, the way the drama being executed has a modern-feel to it. Especially in the E09, during the gambling scene between Gwanghae and the corrupt minister.

        I really hope they don’t drastically change the plot in fit the need to increase ratings, unlike some dramas. King’s Face has gotten way more interesting, now that the Imjin War is approaching and I can’t wait to see how face reading is utilised during the crisis.

        Despite the several (glaring) hiccups in Secret Door, I seriously do enjoy watching this drama. Although the next time I re-watch it, I’m just going to enjoy the stellar acting from all the leads (HSK, LJH, PEB, & etc) and the stunning period costume – thanks to several of your posts, I can now enjoy and appreciate the intricate history behind clothing.

        Speaking of period clothing, another saeguk staring Han Seok Kyu as a royal tailor will be screening soon. Honestly, that man is so riveting in any of his saeguk performances. Hopefully, we’ll get more information on the royal clothing or we can just admire the awesome clothing instead.

        It’s a pleasure of being able to discuss various aspects on saeguks, I look forward to more thought-provoking posts and discussion with you. Thanks.

        1. Although I really hope that the screenwriter won’t be pressured into changing his/her story to raise the ratings, we can’t deny that the broadcasters are companies with revenues at stakes after all. Those dramas themselves are not simply works of art but rather investments with risks. King’s Face is good so far and I hope they can carry through with the original storyline!

          I have my complaints about Secret Door but it is undeniably a good work from its writer. I rooted for the characters, especially Sado. Each time when he was defeated by the bad guys, I had to remind myself that it was not a story of him winning; in fact, the drama was about his slow downfall. It was a good watching experience. Waiting for the movie Sado!

          It is kinds strange to see Han Suk-kyu not being a king in The Royal Tailor but he carries his character well, as always. So many reasons to check out the movie too!

          I’m enjoying the discussion with you too πŸ˜‰ Hope to see you around, friend! ^^v

  7. Dear, I’m amazed by your long-winded, detailed review on this drama. I was bummed when dramabeans dropped this from their recap, but it’s understandable because the drama lost its focus towards the end, and part of me was dissatisfied with the unnecessary actress swap. This is also the first drama I’ve seen of Lee Je Hoon and he’s gotten my attention for his potrayal of Yi Seon, looking forward to see more of him on small screen. His chemistry with Han Suk Kyu drew me into watching the drama, I watched them on ‘My Paparotti’ and I think they’re the first male to male pairing that I grew liking.

    1. I have so many things to say, probably because I was quite disappointed with the drama, since it had so much potential but chose to go the safe route at every twists and turns. At least the cast was nailing it, and discovering good actors and actresses can be a good outcome too from watching this drama!

      Lee Je Hoon is ❀ and so are the rest of the cast! πŸ˜‰

      1. Did you study Eng lit.? Because you write so well, and I’m constantly wowed as I read your past posts. They’re so detailed and structured in a way writers do, you can write novel!

        1. Nope, I studied Engineering at my uni ^^;

          Here’s a confession: I truly hate writing notes during my school days but I have a book to organize the things I’m going to blog about =.=’ That’s one of my ways of blogging..and I know it’s kind of weird, but I’m not that obsessed with organizing things. Heeee~ I don’t think I can write a novel, because I’m terrible at providing decent endings to my stories. Hmmm

        2. That’s a great way to blog! Because it’s structural and easy to be understood, plus the in-depth explanations you provide is like wikipedia to others. It’s really uplifting to see people blogging in details of what should have, could have, and would have happened in a drama. I hate writing notes either, I remember resenting my history teacher for making me wrote 2 pages worth of flow chart notes. I’ve been finding motivation to rewrite and finish my fanfic from 4 years ago (the only one I dared to publish and boldly dropped, everytime I get a fan subscription I feel really guilty, it’s like leading people on and leave ’em behind.) I keep reading posts here and there to lift up my mood to write to no avail, I get discouraged by the slightest thing, and I remember dropping the fanfic because a fan told me I had troubles with grammar! And then I realized I have limited vocabs too! Haha. Maybe it’s because we’re living in a culture where so many languages can be used in daily life, I think my languages get mixed up and I find it hard to express myself in a single language (what an excuse!). Yeah so, I just realized I keep rambling nonstop. Sorry, heh.

        3. LOL I HATE writing History notes although I love the subject, because I’d rather read the text book than my own notes!

          Awww don’t be discouraged like that, dear! /bear hugs/ It’s definitely a bit difficult for us in Malaysia to be oh-so-perfect in English because it’s still our second language, and just like what you mentioned, we use a wide variety of languages in our daily life! I use dialect when I talk with my family too. Vocabs and grammar are things that we can improve through many ways, and I can say that keeping this blog helps me immensely with those πŸ™‚ Keep reading, keep writing, and keep improving ourselves!

          Pssst how about writing short drabbles and then combine them to make a series of fanfic? πŸ˜€

        4. Yeah, I’ll definitely try that sometime, inatead of rambling without a point or direction. Thanks for the talk & encouragement!

  8. Thx for ur review. Love to read it.
    I enjoy watching Secret Door, i dun know much about korean history.

    LJH looks so gorgeous in all crown prince’s robes. His face..his smile…melted me!!!

    I love every scenes between father and son. It is very heart wrenching father and son relationship. Both actors did so well. Made me cry like a baby many times.

    Love both from my paparotti, they have undeniable chemistry.

    My dearest, Lee Je Hoon keeps fighting! U r the best actor!! So taleted also have nice and cheerful personality.

    U should watch Fashion King..lee je hoon is only good thing in that drama. Haha His acting keeps me watch it til the end.

  9. Hi! New fan of Lee Je Hoon over here πŸ™‚ Loving the review you wrote! I am catching up on all his dramas and movies at the moment. As of now, I’ve only managed to watch Signal (this is my first drama of him, got really curious about this smiley, handsome guy with amazing acting ability and why did I just notice him now??), Just Friends, Secret Door and Bleak Night. And boy, what have I missed these years with him on board K-entertainment industry? T-T Definitely running a marathon of his works now.

    Much more than for the low ratings of Secret Door, my heart is shattered and hurt for Yi Sun. Everytime, EVERYBODY tried to break his fragile heart, I can feel my heart is breaking to see his sad and tortured eyes. I wanna run to the screen and go inside it to grab him and pull him to the happy lalaland where his dream would come true and unfold upon his eyes, so I can see his genuinely happy smile and put his heart in peace (of course not before I hug him tightly once I jump into the screen LOL). It’s very difficult to watch it knowing the history and how his battle will end. Crying my heart out with his questions to his father-in-law on whether the king has found a way to save Yi San. Oh my heart….

    And on to My Paparotti now eyes fixed on screen grab popcorn Hope this one will cure my heavy heart of letting him go in Secret Door. πŸ™‚

    1. Hi to fellow LJH fan! ^o^

      Better late than never when it comes to discovering talents, especially in the vast world of K-entertainment πŸ˜‰

      Yi Sun was definitely the most tragic victim in the whole fiasco, both in this drama and the history γ…œγ…œ My Paparotti is one touching movie about finding the path to dreams. I’m sure you’ll love him even more through the movie ❀

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