[K-DRAMA] Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth (2016)

warning: may contain spoilers

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Hwarang: an elite group formed during Silla Dynasty..

Plot:

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Ji So served as the regent of Silla after King Beopheung died. Her son Sammaekjong can be proclaimed as king, but since he was too young, she kept her hidden from the public and away from enemies who want to kill her son. As Sammaekjong grew older, he becomes impatient and want to reveal his identity to the nation. Her mother, the queen didn’t allow it. Instead, she created a new elite group called Hwarang to pledge allegiance to the throne. As recruitments are being made, Queen Ji So did not realize that her own son Sammaekjong was among the elite group. Sammaekjong took the name of Kim Ji Dwi as his alias.

Meanwhile, Moo Myung and his friend are commoners who illegally went inside the capital to help seek for his friend’s family. While on the run, his friend got attacked and died, and he saw that the person who killed his friend was wearing a mysterious bracelet. He promised that he will seek revenge for his friend. Moo Myung eventually found his friend’s father, and the father then asked Moo Myung to pretend to be his son. Moo Myung then took the identity of Kim Sun Woo. Sun Woo has a sister named Ah Ro, but she wasn’t convinced that he is truly her brother. Sun Woo was also asked to join Hwarang. Will Moo Myung be able to find the assassin within the capital? And what ordeals await Sammaekjong as he pretends to be an ordinary citizen within the grounds of Hwarang House? And what will happen to Sun Woo when Ah Ro finds out the truth?

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Opinions:

I initially had high hopes for this drama because the poster looked so flowery. I heard that it’ll be the next Moon Lovers kind of thing with the flock of good-looking guys. I imagined this to be full of bromance and the lucky lead girl to be actually close to the guys. The first few episodes were quite interesting as we see the Hwarangs divided into rooms and learning different things. All these imaginations shattered as I realized how useless and shallow Ah Ro’s character is. I just didn’t understand her purpose in the story. Maybe act as a bait for the boys, and wait for them to save her? I wished she would take the time to talk to each of the main Hwarangs and learn more of their stories and thoughts. But most of the time, we see Ah Ro just watching from the sidelines. I think it’s a job for us viewers, and not for the lead girl. In most parts of the drama, she would always have her eyebrows scrunched feeling either sad, furious, or worried. Not to mention the Queen who has no aura of a queen at all. I couldn’t feel her as a queen and she looked so pale like a piece of blank paper. Her facial expressions didn’t look so scary or fierce to be a queen. One of the characters that I greatly despised. I wonder why she had to self-diss this show when in fact she herself didn’t do justice to the character. I also like Sung Dong Il as an actor, but his jokes and adlibs were a little too forced and just didn’t suit the vibe of the drama. Fishing in a pond? lol

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This drama is pre-produced which is a good and bad thing, but for me it’s good. I would think that given a lot of time, the staff and the people working behind would actually screen the show themselves to see if the drama is worth watching or not. The development of the story was just so bad. The little storylines that could’ve made the story interesting were shelved or reduced screen time, and thus adding more screen time to the main couple, which I think has an awkward relationship. Less romance, more action please. But the action scenes especially the ones wherein the characters were hit by arrows should be done more naturally. I mean most of them got shot straight into the heart, but they still survived? lol And the cliffhangers could be better. I wasn’t really looking forward to the next episode as there were few to no cliffhangers. I wished they chose better endings for each episode for us to anticipate. When Sun Woo collapsed from the horse, got hit by an arrow, and his fight with the Crown Prince would be better scenes to end the episodes, not putting them in the middle or before the ending. I wished they paid attention to these little small details knowing that it’s pre-produced, so they had more time to edit and think about it. A good lengthy 20 episode drama and this is all I got? No thanks.

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Nonetheless, I still liked the friendships that blossomed after the show. From behind the scenes, we can see how close these hwarangs are, and they still remain contact even after filming. The bromance scenes were highly enjoyable, and we want more! I like Park-Park bromance and Soo Ho and Ban Ryu bromance too. And also Ban Ryu’s relationship with Soo Ho’s sister. I think Ban Ryu’s inner conflict should be explained more in depth, but all in all my favorite scenes were the ones located in Hwarang House and them doing laundry by the stream.

Characters:

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Park Seo Joon as Moo Myung/ Kim Sun Woo — I really liked Seo Joon in She Was Pretty. That was the first time that I actually took notice of him and was excited upon hearing that he’ll do sageuk this time. I think this is his first ever historical drama and I’m not sure if he should do another one next time. He doesn’t really suit the hairstyle and I think even if the writer created a perfect character, he just seemed to be overshadowed by other actors. Sun Woo seemed to be well rounded, has great leadership skills, good in fighting,  born superhero (slashes of swords and hit by arrows several times won’t make you die) and just excels in everything, but I just couldn’t love or get into the character. No problems with Seo Joon’s acting though, but overall he seemed to be overshadowed in the show.

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Go Ara as Kim Ah-ro — I was looking forward to her acting here since she was quite good in both Reply 1994 and You’re All Surrounded. Those two were quite boyish roles and I think it suits her well. This time, she plays a girly damsel in distress character. At this point of writing, I still don’t know what’s the purpose of her role in this story. I’m confused whether the writer wants her to be used a bait for the guys or just an onlooker who had nothing to do. She was really one of the useless characters in the story. I just couldn’t feel her character at all since she’s always sad in the first half, and in the latter ones she’d be randomly shouting at one of the characters and channeling her inner Reply 1994 character. And what’s up with her eyebrows? I’m so disturbed with it that every time she shows a worried or sad face, she looked like an angry bird. No offense, but I think Go Ara can be good depending on the character, and Ah-ro doesn’t suit her at all. I hope she picks a better drama next time.

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Park Hyung Shik as Kim Ji Dwi/ King Jinheung — The only time that I saw his acting was in Heirs, but he really didn’t stood out there since there were too many good looking guys. In this drama, although there are many good looking guys too, I think his character stood out the most, at least in the first half of the drama. Kim Ji Dwi really showered love and affection for the lead girl. He’s really open in confessing his feelings for her. I’m just sad that they didn’t get happy moments leaving no chance for him at all. I can only pity his character love wise and political wise. He couldn’t really tell anyone that he’s the king. I’m dying in frustration with him. Hyung Shik turned out to be better than what I expected of him. I think his acting was also one of the best in the bunch. From an idol to now a full pledged actor, I’m happy that he has remained relevant and now even a lead actor level.

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Choi Min Ho as Kim Soo Ho — I actually liked Min Ho better as a supporting character rather than a lead guy. Not saying that he is bad, but I think his skills is still a supporting character level. I think his looks stands out too in this cast since he is really big eyed. I liked his bromance with Ban Ryu the most. It’s sad that they delved into getting him a romance with the queen instead which I think was unnecessary. Nonetheless, Min Ho was a great addition to the cast and I think his character suits him.

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Do Ji Han as Park Ban Ryu — No doubt, my favorite Hwarang! Actually, I was surprised when I first saw him here since I didn’t expect him to be included in the cast. The first and last time that I saw him was in the drama, Basketball wherein he was the lead guy. He has grown so much since then, and his features became sharper(?), but he’s really looking good. His distinct face just stands out from the flock of Hwarangs in the show. I love his little love line with Soo Ho’s sister. I think it was one of the things that I’m looking forward to the most, but sadly their story wasn’t fully developed. Also, his character has so much more to offer than just being a cold guy. Cold, but warm guy.. if you know what I mean 😉 I think his acting improved and I’m just happy for him that he’s now getting more recognition.

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BTS V Kim Tae Hyung as Suk Han Sung — Not a fan of BTS, but I think their songs are dope! I was thinking that they added an idol here to create buzz and that’s true for sure. I just thought that his role here is relatively small compared to what I was expecting. Obviously, they were trying to pull in non-K-drama watcher but K-pop fans into watching the show. Seeing that this is his debut in acting, I think he did well. I’m just not sure if he beat all of these Hwarangs in the looks department. I’d say he’s the cutest though. Overall, his performance was not bad as a rookie idol actor.

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Ending:

I thought that the ending was quite rushed. The King finally let go of Ah-ro to be with Sun Woo and my heart aches along with him. But, we’re down to a few minutes and we’re not sure what’ll happen to the King. I mean, he didn’t get the girl, I’m sure he’ll get the throne at least? For sure he did, if not, it’ll be too cruel for his character. Sun Woo is actually the son of Prince Hwi Kyung, and also a true bone, so he also has a right to get the throne. Sun Woo and the King decided to join hands together. And the rest of Hwarang will support the King. As for the other hopeful couple, Ban Ryu and Su Ho’s sister ended cutely, but we’ll never know if they got the approval of her father. I was expecting to see Su Ho’s reaction with the two of them together though. Park Young Shil was finally charged with treason and I really thought his portrayal was funny. I didn’t expect him to have a big role like this, what more a villain role. I know Kim Chang Wan as a talented and legendary musician, but I’m still not used to seeing him as an actor. His last expression when he lost was epic and funny at the same time. The queen also died as her servant kept on letting her drink tea with poison. I think a despicable queen like her is worthy of her death. Even if you all tell me she did it only to protect her son, I couldn’t feel any motherly love from her. A regretful death though is Han Sung’s. I didn’t expect him to die at all. I don’t think it was worth it, but I guess it’s meant to show that their grandfather finally let go of the “bone system” within their family. All in all, a predictable ending that could be wrapped up in a better way.

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Final Thoughts:

Hwarang was a much awaited drama with the star studded cast. Even with the promising actors and the buzz that it created, the plot and storyline failed to deliver even though it’s a pre-produced drama. Many plot holes and really slow writing, even the actors couldn’t save the show. I’m just glad it was over. It’s my first Silla Dynasty K-drama, and it was a lousy adaptation of the real story. If not for the actors, I think I’ll skip this drama. Watch for the actors and not for the story.

Rating: 5/10

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