Why Scarlet Heart Ryeo is a frustrating,brilliant,complex and wonderful tragedy you will never get over in your lifetime ( probably)


Incase you haven’t watched the drama: Spoiler Alert!

Wang So and Hae Soo relationship 

The crux of this period ,fantasy and self-titled epic romance drama.The main reason this drama has manage to pull off a spinoff and gain  recognition was primarily because it was based on a popular Chinese Drama Bu Bu Jing Xin , that was based on a bestselling novel by Tong Hua. It dealt with themes of transmigration and history and was broadly centred around an epic ill- fated romance, in which the soul of 21st century girl travels back in time and finds itself in the body of a noble women in 17th century China. Thus begins her fateful romances with two of the princes of the Qing dynasty, one whom goes on to become the future Yongzheng Emperor. As it suggests from the get go, this was a romance that was never meant to be. Because, despite its themes of time and reincarnation at its core , its relationships eventually come down to be defined by its difference in time and perception. Because, no matter how romantic and idealistic it may seem to have many princes fighting over you, at the end of the day, the reality proves to be harsher than imagination.

 While I had mentioned that a good remake can be defined by how it  sets itself apart from the original, there's more to it than setting and timeline. A good remake can also set itself apart through its intention and motive, and that its what sets this Korean version apart from the Chinese original: It has a completely different motive when compared to the original. While the Chinese version focused extensively on character development, the happenings of Qing dynasty place life while asking the crucial question of the possibility of a modern women surviving it, its Korean counterpart focuses on the romance and how palace politics played into it. The romance , set in Goryeo, is the motive of the Korean Version, and its developed slowly and cruelly, so that it becomes easier for circumstances to drive them apart and morph them into unlikable version of themselves, thus ending in the resulting tragedy. It was obvious that it was done that way to specifically ensure the viewers never get over the tragic ending and continue to pointlessly ponder on the prospect of what could have been for our lead couple for months. Yeah, I see you boo… As expected, the romance is brief yet poignant , and it takes sufficient time and space to properly develop.  And that it was makes it makes it so memorable and by far, one of my favourites.

 I've always hated relationships that barely take time to develop and proceed with barely any conflicts and easily reach a happy ending.  There's always a lack of character progress or conflict there. A good romance always focuses on the slow build up of the characters, they're developing feelings for each other and eventually how they deal with their problems, contrasting personalities and world view when they get together. One of the things that bother me most about this drama is that its very fast paced , and recklessly edited. Thus in order to fit all elements of the story, it has whole lot of time slips and cuts, scenes quickly move from one plot point to another, and a lot of the time, there's confusion over certain character actions or improper establishment of their psyche or motives. And that impacts our main otp's story as well. Hence, this analysis is going to rely largely on my interpretation of it, since I can't give a concise explanation of all their motives and actions.So lets start from the first time they meet. And it happens to be the most obvious unrealistic meeting that's set to establish their hinted romance, in the most cliched , excessively heroic and overtly saucy setting that only ever happens in Dramas. I love it. I guess this is what makes it such a Kdrama in the first place, though its cliche, it works as it set itself apart and creates obvious suspense and tension. Before meeting him , we see her chasing another possible time traveller, when she gets caught up in a commotion caused by a certain  'Wolf dog ' and was about fall off a road and bam : This happens








Straight out of a bad romance novel as one might put it(cr:feeding my procrastination), but intense and exciting nonetheless.  As one might expect , this is also set out to foreshadow and establish the dynamic of this relationship. The lonely, demonic "wolf dog," takes on a demure , confused maiden, at least that what it might seem like to the viewer at first glance. One of the other problems I have in this  drama (Yes, there are so many) there's different contrast between its first six episodes and the remaining fourteen. Our protagonist spends the first six episodes in the house of the eighth prince, a.k.a the man she develops feelings for in the beginning. As a modern woman stuck in an  era that is that thousands of years previous to her own, she obviously has not gotten used to it and is still processing it's functioning. A time-travel jet lag as one user on Tumblr put it (cr:feeding my procrastination). She is still obviously naive and oblivious to her current surroundings , because she goes as far as beating up a prince, arguing with a prince, sneaking into a royal bath and finally randomly chase men she sees on streets for her own motives. All  of this would've gotten her killed if it were a real setting , but since it's a Kdrama with a creative license, the characters usually look the other way. Most of this drama viewers seem to agree that these actions make her look stupid, and to an extent , I agree. And it's precisely what makes her behave so recklessly at the first few episodes, as she is fully yet to register the fact that she really is living in a completely different era, thus she appears to always clumsy and not so level headed in the first few episodes.

As for our main lead, one look at him is enough to say what exactly the show is going for.
The dashing anti-hero who is feared and easily misunderstood.The dynamic on this character can be said to be modelled around the popular "bad boy" persona in so many romance novels and fan fictions. His Chinese counterpart Yinzhen, on the other hand, while may not be the quintessential "bad boy," his characterisation is modelled around the usual "aloof and cold"male lead, which in the story is a technique he uses to hide his true ambitions. What sets his Korean version apart is the fact, unlike him, he is emotionally Un-restrained.  Like every other character in his archetype, he's had a  rough and intense childhood, beginning from the fact his faced was scarred by his mother during an argument with his father, thus making him unworthy of being a prince, thus he was sent to be adopted by a powerful clan who tried to kill him at every chance. Violence, right from the beginning is always hinted to be a part of his nature, I mean , literally at his introduction, we see him killing of a horse to send out a terrifying message that he's cutting of ties with the clan holding him hostage. Violence and killing seems to be his answer to everything, His only vulnerabilities for the moment seems to be the scar on his face, which always covers with a phantom of the opera-esque mask and his desperation to gain his family's acceptance. 

At first when they meet, it's no surprising that they do not see eye to eye. He sees as her as someone who is bothersome and nosy, as she always happens to appear where he's at, and he always happens to threaten her with violence and death. It's clear that both of them are not set to spark right away. At the beginning , they are caught up in different pursuits.Him , with leaving his past behind and settling down in the palace and her dealing with the time travel and her infatuation with the eight prince, who also happens her cousin's husband (beat that).About her infatuation with the eight Prince, there are many theories to it, I personally believe that her infatuation occurs as she is fresh from heartbreak and looking for a place to secure and  refresh her emotions, a the kind and charming eight prince draws her fancy. A user on Tumblr called him to be a  "rebound guy," and to a degree, I second that statement. But her blossoming romance with him sets the stage for her character nature , which will be detrimental towards her romance with the lead. Since the beginning, its established that she is someone who is selfless and prioritises honest monogamous relationship. Her backstory in modern times proves as testament to that. We see her put effort into a relationship that's barely developed and stick to it for so long, just because she promised him her trust. She obviously as a person from modern times , detests polygamy and would want to settle down in peace with the man she loves. This affects, her romance with our lead in various, frustrating ways.


The first time they connect, happens to be, well, another confrontation. At this point they've had so many run-ins and encounters, but they've managed to connect in none of those situation as they always seem to be at odds with each other, and clashing with their strong personalities. But this time, she decides to be more empathetic to his cause than before.Probably because she sees him in his worst state and is very bewildered and confused, but it affects him nonetheless.He's there, covered in fresh blood after killing people for his mother who only rebuffs him and calls him a beast.I guess his relationship with his mother is a great indicator of his attitude towards love, as he is loyal and desperate for her affection even after she casts him away.He takes out his frustration on a stone shrines mothers built for their children , causing a scene.He's at his most vulnerable and she is sympathetic to to his plight for the first time.I suppose this adds to the symbolism of him being a “dog”,as he is fiercely loyal. He threatens and tells her he has killed people and she unfazed, asks why and enquires about his injury.  And this is when they have their first moment.

                                                (photo cr:krysyuy)
He tells her to leave and she sates that she understands him.  This what draws him to her in the first place, her empathy. Soon his attitude towards her changes and he starts treating her better and starts being more open with her. They start to bond, in a friendly manner and start expressing their concerns with each other , and share a lot of adorable moments.


  

But their friendship doesn't get be convenient as they both eventually follow the path that they are intent on accomplishing. He moves into the palace as per his wish and she spends her time with her cousin in the eight prince residence. Eventually her sick cousin dies, and gives her blessing for her and the eight prince. For her, now there is guilt and loss and she starts to question her purpose in Goryeo. That is until, politics of the era strikes her eventually. Soon, she gets forcefully pushed into a sudden marriage with the king by her uncles, who are possibly vying the throne.All the princes and Wang So try to save her from this marriage but they are powerless against the King, causing Soo to take matters into her own hands, like literally. She also does this because she does not want the princes to be punished on her behalf. She literally cuts her own wrist to save herself from this fate , stating that a woman with a scar cannot marry the King. 

 

It should be noted that this something that  though this will eventually get to her in the end, it states her core belief: That she would rather cut her own wrist than just be one of the King's many women and is willing to go that far to save herself, and the people she loves.And he too, goes all out on saving  her , stating reasons such as how much he hates seeing people controlled by others, obviously fully unaware of his growing feelings for her yet. This sets the stage for the politics, relationships and basically her start in the palace which is bound to be her slow undoing.

The reactions to her actions seem to set the stage for further plot direction. The man she is currently with sees her scar as a failure of his own actions and the lead we supposed to root for her is angered at her for going too far and having to deal with the consequences (cr:whispering melodies). It's obvious who's set up to be the better man, but soon we, discover he is not free from flaws as well. Her actions don't go unnoticed this time, and she is revoked from her noble lady status to a court lady. It also becomes clear that this drama has changed its course,from a sweet harem drama with dashing princes to a drama that is set to explore the poltical intrigue of its time.

We see the relationship between the princes and see our lead try to fit with the palace politics. And of course , we see the friendship between our two leads blossom.    


(Photo cr:Krysyuy)

Soon, we also get some insight into his backstory and his perspective and flaws. We see that he secretly learnt martial arts from a Grand General and we see him still justify his killings when questioned, reminding us, that his violence is not something he will  deny. But as the episodes progress, we see a deeper flaw hidden underneath. Most assume its the mask, but underneath a mask and his lies a deep vulnerability, the need for acceptance and understanding.We see him made to remove the mask in the birthday day party of one of his siblings as it happens to be the "gift" requested of him. And he removes the mask anyway, knowing he's to be ridiculed.Most of the reactions are of course, disgust or aversion. But she, of course, keeps on looking. There's pity in her eyes and he hates it. Probably because she sees right through his weakness, and it frustrates him.And this eventually shows what is fatal flaw eventually is : his rigid pride and his ability to hold on to anger for long. While it works in the political sense, it is bound to affect his personal relationships.

Especially, we see him express his anger and ignore her for long for reasons he himself cannot understand. And its frustrating because we see her put soo much effort into it and get punished because of it. It insn't until his failure at the rain ritual, at which he's hit with stones and mud because of his mask. It's been hinted that Hae Soo is good with makeup right from the beginning, but we see the extent she is skilled at makeup, but the extent of her skill exceed expectations, as she literally uses her modern expertise to create foundation to conceal his scar, which finally  gives a glimpse of minute intimate moments between the two.I should also mention, that it was such a vulnerable moment for him to let her touch his face like that and apply makeup, as his scar has always represented his pain and misery, and the fact he’s allowing her this credibility, proves that he has let her into his walls and truly trusts her. And it’s an important moment for him, as he finally feels the acceptance he craved for long.Hence, he finally admits his feeling for her and declares that from now on he will never let her go.


                                                                                                                                                                   
                                           




She doesn't think about it much and makes her way to the rain ritual and watch her achieves efforts pay off as the people don't throw stones at him anymore and he evidently achieves rainfall the ritual hopes to achieve, and in everyone's eyes, becomes a hero. But that's when things start to get shaky as she finally gets a vision of his future. This is a trait she possess for only certain parts of the show and there's a supernatural element to it, which the show never delves into. And that vision changes things, because now she understands her purpose in travelling back in time.


Though her history knowledge of Goryeo is limited, she vaguely remembers a bloody monarch, only now she realises that its been him all along. By covering his scar, she has set the stage for him to become the bloody king that history remembers. She's startled to a great extent and she finally understands her purpose in Goryeo. She tries to dismiss the vision, until she gets another vision of him killing his own brother and laughing. It's  this is the universe's way of testing or warning her, and it doesn't sit well with her. In fact, it startles her so much that in a moment of sheer panic and desperation, she warns the eighth prince (her current boyfriend) against our lead, and this too, will eventually prove to be an end to the cause.

Now, the warning was important element of the original story. In the Chinese adaptation, the Protagonist knows exactly what she is doing and she even goes as far as to give a list of names that might help the eight prince, she just doesn't think it through.In the Korean version, there seems to be no motivation , only fear. This obviously affects things on a large scale. It finally sets the stage for the political rivalry that the show has been hinting for, while aligning it with the romantic rivalry at once. It also pushes the ruthless political undercurrents at play for the throne to the surface. At first everything seems to be going great, but under the facade, there are devious forces at play.

Meanwhile, she is still recovering from the shock of her visions.And this, causes her to be wary of him On the other spectrum, he has interpreted her actions towards him as romantic, and presumes them to be in a relationship (cr:overthinkidgkdrama). This obviously leads to miscommunication and when he approaches her later in the episode, weary after a dysfunctional family dinner, she pushes him away and tells him to go away .This surprises him and eventually causes him to do this ,out of desperation.

As usual,I don’t condone the forced kiss trope.But in this case I just have to understand, because at the end of the day he’s a man of his era which proceeds us by thousand years, and it would be truly stupid of me to judge him by modern standards and expect non-chauvinistic behaviour from him.Besides the scene in the original is much worse,as it’s suggest the lead’s possessiveness more than anything else. I’m glad that, like the original this doesn’t cause her to waver but instead causes her to realise the depth of his affection for her and realise how desperate he really is for her affection.She sets things straight and says she loves another man,but this doesn’t cause him waver as well, as he boldly states he can kill any man as long as he’s not his favourite brother.Thus ,shemore than anything else. keeps the identity of her current boyfriend from him  ;another domino that would push them towards their end.

The eighth prince, on the other side is finally comes to terms with the competition, for both Soo and the throne, while the lead, pursues her relentlessly, despite her initial rejections of him. And the eighth prince, with growing awareness of the leads finally plans on marrying her, which causes his power hungry sister to implicate Hae Soo in a plot to assassinate the Crown Prince.

I've mentioned before that he's extreme in his affection and actions and love. In my opinion it's simply  a part of his character and approach towards love in general ,not something he pushes himself to do.For him, love is defined in extremes, specifically extreme loyalty and devotion. Regardless, people on the internet are hellbent on hailing his character as this epic , selfless and  heroic boyfriend. While that may be true, it's again as I put it before, its very extreme.

   We see him drink poison to save her from her get caught in the assassination plot. For once I’m glad this doesn’t move her heart, as it would’ve been one messed up romance if it did, since self-destruction is never a healthy way to prove your love.But her grave concern for well being suggests something else: That she has been harbouring feelings for him that even she doesn’t want to admit. 

 He survives because his body is trained to intake poison, but she, however gets accused of poisoning, gets tortured and another court lady she seriously loves as mother take up the blame and get sentenced to death. This eventually turns the stage for our otp (FINALLY) as her current lover is forced to turn his back on her due to his sister's involvement, and for the first time we see the roles reversed, as the lead pleads with the king for the court lady's life and concerned about her well-being. Now , she is the one being vulnerable and he's the one sheltering her. It's a defining moment because it finally makes her see him in a different light, as taking her side in the rain,literally equates to going  against the king. And he does that, so effortlessly and it provides her comfort as her loved on turns his back on her. This forced her to acknowledge her growing feelings for him even more.




This is obviously not free of repercussions, as he gets sent on "secret mission" by the King to Jin and she gets demoted to water maid, facing bullying while doing harsh labour. The eight prince, powerless and pissed at how things turned out, finally gives into his ambition for the throne, and he now claims to do it all for her sake. Meanwhile,her feelings for the fourth prince keeps growing, but she doesn't acknowledge them , mainly because she now knows his destiny of becoming King. When he finally returns from his mission, he goes all out on seeking her out, promising to help and even offering marriage and divorce her for her freedom, as all he currently cares about is her happiness. She denies him, of course , as she very well knows that this will affect his trajectory of becoming King.


Her feelings for him finally surface after she breaks up with the eighth prince. She finally ends his relationship with him after she learns of his desire to become king and his intention to go as far as to kill the lead in the process. Her words to him are clear and cutting 
  "You say you are doing this for me. You are fooling yourself".

The drama cuts to two years later, in the reign of a new king, and she is reinstated as a court lady. There's still that push and pull after two years,and the leads still haven't committed themselves fully yet, which I am content with, as it doesn't skip into the romance easily and still gives it time to develop. He's still holding out hope for him and she still hasn't given a clear sign, but it obvious they both like each other and she is obviously over her ex.

We finally get to see how they would work out as a couple (like , finally).

Well, to begin with they do bicker, tease and joke around with each other. More importantly, they listen and communicate well. They still confide in each other very well and there still the sexual tension that looms large,but remains undeterred.
                         


We see that put to the test when he's eventually forced into a marriage with his niece( actual historical fact)in a bid to protect the current king, and thus set the first hurdle for them as a couple :communication. What's interesting to me is how chooses to withhold information than tell her , stating that he does not want to make excuses.While it seems noble compared to the eighth prince, its still not right, as he leaves her confused and hanging for too long.Blogger lillyroots4love,writes its an indicator of his pride and his immature attitude towards his relationship, as its reminiscent of teenage boy and I agree. If not, this is a great indicator of his pride, given that he'd rather set her free than admit his mistakes also suggests insecurity at his part.

He puts it off for as long as possible and she hears it from others, and he only explains it when he's burdened and burnt by jealousy, which forces him to confront his feelings. They finally reach a deal, that no matter what they should always be honest with each other. And they finally, have their first Kiss (SWOON) :
                            

But the test of their relationship comes when the current king is overthrown, and new , more tyrannical king comes into the picture. He plans on killing anyone who poses a threat to his rule, and that involves killing of a brother whose family was loyal to the previous King. With the eighth prince's advice, he orders So to kill his brother, stating that he's a "dog talented in killing family members". The prince in question and his wife come to running to Soo for help, and she hides him, from the King and from So. She hides them from So partly because of her visions that she sees him in which he kills them. Most of the fandom loves to hate on her for not trusting him enough, and the only question I have for them is, how convenient is that ?  For now, from Soo's perspective the most logical thing would be to not trust him. She has Jimong's advice, Court Lady Oh's warning , supernatural visions, historical knowledge and betrayal of two former lovers that cause her  to not place her blind trust in him,but the fact that she still does, only proves that she has fallen for him completely. But the problem is she takes her time and is quite late with her trust.
Lillyroots4love write that for Hae Soo, in Bradelyn terms, her strength, selflessness  and willingness to help others is her very fatal flaw. And this characteristic, makes her seem untrustworthy and indecisive and comparatively "weak". But it's what influences her journey in Goryeo the most, and this what proves to be both the source of strength and dismay. It's what causes her to hide the prince in her quarters, and it's what eventually gets them caught in the end. And while Wang So eventually comes to his brother's aid, he's too late and as per his brother's request, kills him quickly and ends his life, once again, force to claim and seem like the wolf-dog that he is:



Ironically, this is what pushes him on the path to be king, as he just wants to be done with the senseless killings at this point. And to do that, he needs the help of a general , who in order to gain his trust, tells him throw someone away. 'Throwing people away" has always been his father's foremost political standpoint, as he believes that a ruler should be able to throw people away for the sake of the nation. And without hesitation, he breaks up with her. However, throughout the drama he never admits it, not even to himself. He states her mistrust in him and how it lead to him killing his brother as the reason, but it's much more than that,he breaks up with her because she is a liability he could never afford and he never admits it to her of course. And he just, leaves without a word for three years. And she, just keeps waiting for him , like a fool.

She traces the lines of a poem he's given her , longing and awaiting his return as wordlessly traces the lines in the poem he gave her.

And when he does return, he is about as cold and unforgiving as he can push himself to be and she keeps chasing after him ruthlessly. It isn't until, he saves her life once again, that she gets the confirmation she requires.


Which causes her to risk her life and seek him out. She finds him injured and nurses him back to health, and when he finally wakes, she asks him if she still loves him and tells him to answer honestly, since they are not in the palace anymore.


He finally Kisses her and they reunite, consummating their relationship.








Their happiness is short lived as he finally confesses his greed for the throne and plan to stage a coup. He doesn't confess that he left her for the throne, and even though she hates it, she decides to support him anyway. So he finally becomes the King he was destined to be and they are happy for a while. However, his legitimacy to the throne is in question , and since the previous rulers, did not consolidate Kingship properly , he has to get through this shaky situation all by himself. And the only easy and viable option, is of course through marraige.And Hae Soo, doesn't fit the bill. Because how in the world can a woman who once cut her wrist to escape marriage from the king , can be allowed to marry the King again? To be fair, would she be even okay with it?


And this , affects the relationship in so many ways. But it affects their open and honest communication the most, which is what leads to the deteriorations of their relationship the most as OverthinkingKdrama puts it. Her ex-boyfriend, obviously jealous that is she is choosing him for the very thing that she left him for, plots to marry his sister to him as queen. And though they are both steadfast at the beginning, not giving in, Soo finally realises her place and gives in , once again foregoing her grounded views against polygamy for him.And he ends up marrying the sister of her ex-boyfriend. (Also his sister, cuz history is wild af)

This infuriates him and most importantly, tugs at his pride as he has to break another promise to her, and this finally unleashes the ruthless side he has been taming all along. I guess this is what makes him similar to his Chinese counterpart,as they both turn out to be “ruthless rulers” in the end.

Meanwhile, Soo is kept stuck at her pretty little room. She can't work anymore and can only see whoever be permits here to.She is just reduced to The King's woman whose sole purpose is to provide him comfort, she states that she is fine, but her face easily gives her away.

As I mentioned above this eventually causes them morph into the most unlikable version of themselves. It's been delivered that Wang So had a tragic childhood and had a horrendous relationship with his family, we finally get to see how this plays out.


Soon we see him take vengeance on his mother for casting him out. His brother who opposes him gets exiled, and his mother calls for him , but he uses his power to ban his mother from seeing him so “she could see only him”. It was startling to see how this changes the dynamic of the main relationship, as it’s finally established that all the power has gotten into his head ,since he simply does not listen.It was sad to see her try to stop him,partly because of her morals,partly because of her love for him.But he never listens and the way he warns her against her future actions makes current reality clearer:While they may have been lovers before, but now they solely king and subject.In the Chinese Version one of the princes says a similar line “We may have been brothers before, before, but  now he is king and I am his subject”.While it’s a painful acknowledgment of reality,it is also determining factor of the end .


His mother eventually dies and he gets angry at her and grows cold and distant.We see him become a conniving yet brilliant politician as king ,finally taking back  power and putting the court in its place.And now in all his conniving glory,he makes a decision that could be only interpreted as Tactful but naive. 




He literally beats her best friend like a dog and makes it a warning to others.And he has good reasons for it. In his defence ,she is responsible for poisoning the late king and spying on her, and that is why this is precisely a tactful move as a ruler.Naive because, she happens to be the best friend of the woman he loves ,who is very unaware of her actions.Telling her that she was a spy right after beating her to death, does not spare him from looking like a villain and it shows how little he understands her convictions, as she values human relationships above anything else.

From Soo’s perspective,the death was not just the betrayal of one ,but two people.Its one thing to process the information that the person you loved killed your “little sister” but it’s another thing to process the information that the same little sister has been spying on you all along all at once.There’s no rational way to process this,and her being in denial and choosing to forgive her actually suits her personality while making sense.But this eventually forces her to confront the reality she’s been denying all along : There’s no way she can tether herself to the same place that has bullied and tortured her ,killed her loved ones, made her broken and lonely just because her lover is the king.She can’t forget it and she can’t trust anyone,and she is just going to be broken if she stays. Hence,she immediately makes the decision to leave the palace.

 One of my favourite part of this romance is how they take turns mirroring each other’s state of mind and actions.Because we currently see him being the one in denial ,stubborn that he can have both love and the world . He shuts her down and stubbornly declares she cannot leave him.In my opinion,he does this because he understands her and knows she has good reasons to leave.His paranoia and insecurity sweeps in ,and for her, all her hate, frustrations and gets pushed  forward .We see her become cold and calculating,something we’d never thought would happen.She pushes for leaving the palace ruthlessly going as far to agree to marriage with someone else and stating that she hates him sometimes ,thus, morphing into the villain no one expected her to become.

In the end her ex-boyfriend is the one break them apart and all he does is confess their previous relationship.This causes him to steep into depths of Paranoia as he now believes that she has never loved and always had her previous lover in her heart.In my opinionopinion,this,this proves his trust isn’t that deep either. He ends it with the most cutting words ,with the authoritative vocabulary only an emperor would use (cr.: Ruizaio) 
“From now on, I will never see you again”

Most of the fandom loves deriding Soo and blaming her for the way things ended,but in my opinion, things only ended that way because both of them are fault.It's very easy to place blame,but in reality, issues only get solved when there's understanding from both sides. One of my favourite parts about Hae Soo's character is she is very empathetic , given that she is someone who would rather understand than simply just hate. I will go as far to argue, that she is very strong because of this, as it's simply not easy being that empathetic and understanding. And Wang So,though he hasn’t realised it, he eventually fell for her because of it. At the end of the day, they separated because of their own flaws and decisions as much as the circumstance.She left him because she was stubborn and didn’t want to cause trouble and he left her because his jealousy and insecurity got the best of him. And that is why it’s such an engaging  romance   ,because breaking up due to a personality clash proves its human more than anything else.

Throughout the show there’s been this question of power going along with love.Can someone be able to handle both?  I believe this is the answer both the shows and the novel was trying to answer, however the Korean version is more steadfast in handling this.Right from the first King’s policy of “throwing people away”  and the way the main relationship ended proves testament to the fact that it can’t.Because no matter how hard he tries , to there’s no way he could balance being an all authoritative King and remain the same passionate lover he was before and there is no way a 21 century woman will be all right being a passive, “kept” woman of the King. She can either leave or learn the treacherous game of politics,and hence she chooses to leave.And that’s another reason why I like the Korean version better ,as the heroine actually understands the consequences of her actions (her warning,which caused the eighth. Prince to be wary of her current lover)  ,realises the role she played in politics and leaves before things could get worse.

 And thus,the tragedy ensues. I think the biggest lie they ever told each other is that they could throw each other away. Because as soon as they separate,  it devastates them to the maximum.Interestingly,I’ve recently read Freud’s theories on love and I can’t help but notice how much this applies to the romance at hand.Without much notice,they have internalised parts  of themselves on to each other so much  themselves that they mirror and influence each other deeply.In a very literal sense ,they don’t realise how much they mean and matter to each other until after they left each other.Especially her ,who says things would’ve been better if she hadn’t met him at all,as she wouldn’t have thrown him away if she did not  love him.It’s quite tragic ,watching her realise that the best thing she could do to help him as King is leave.


 But soon,we discover that is not the only reason she left as we discover that she is pregnant,and that she knew about it. So,the reason for her coldness in the breakup was much more than a selfish plea for  herself and it’s frustrating because ,it would be a breath of fresh air to see her do something for herself for once.He still obviously not over her ,so he spies on her and her “husband” ,gets jealous and misunderstands their marriage to be consummated and he eventually stops hearing about them.Soon she gives birth to a healthy baby girl.(somehow she manages to do it ,by imagining him by her side😭).     


She’s at the brink of death,and soon she realises that she really is on the path of leaving him all alone.She sends him  lots of letters ,but her husband notices that her handwriting is too similar to the King (courtesy of tracing his poem too many times) and puts it in an envelope under his name ,which causes the King to think it’s from him and throw it aside.

She holds it together and tirelessly waits for him to come ,but she eventually dies ,thinking he has fallen out of love with her and that he hates her .Her only last request is for her daughter to be taken care of and not let into the palace.

Soon the news of her demise reaches the King and he is shaken .Only then does he realise that the letters were from her.He finally reads them to his great dismay.
Her last letter to him is as poignant as ever.
“Do you still think that you don’t have my whole heart and resent me? I am always worried that I may have left you with hatred instead of love, not allowing you to rest in peace.”

“I came to realise that the opposite of loving is not hating, but leaving. I’m afraid that you may think that I left you and that you left me. I yearn for you so much, but I can’t be near you. I hope and wait to see you again inside these fences, I’ll be waiting for you… every day.”
   
He breaks apart ,finally realises the depth of her affection for him.But he also realises that she is gone ,and that by default, he’s the one who technically left her and that he has hurt her as much as she has hurt him.Theres, of course no logical way to process this ,and now he’s the one in denial .

He rushes to her house, calling out, and when he does ,he finds her urn and the realisation hits him.That she really is dead.

(Photo cr: Krysyuy)

He takes her ashes away with him and he remembers their moments together.

What’s remarkable about this separation is how it’s laced with ironies. He left her because he thought she didn’t love him enough ,but the truth is she loved him more than anyone else,and anyone but him could see it.And for her,though she did love him, she wasn’t loyal to him or as open with her feelings as she was with her former lover. In my opinion,I think this was the sole determining factor of their tragedy,their impeccable off - timing, as they both were always a little too late with their understanding or trust.In its core ,it comes down to their different perceptions and expectations of love. For him love is extreme and something that just stays,but for her, love is understanding and acceptance, as for her loving meant understanding the man she loves and eventually coming into acceptance of him. Though this might not be heroic or epic as Wang So’s display of love, its still a great feat,as coming into acceptance of his character is pretty much going against all 21 century definition of a good man. She expected that from him ,but he only understood her character and came into acceptance with it after her death.Another irony is, it seems to me everyone she was close with understood her character better than he ever did,as having different type of close bonds with people is just her nature.Again,He only understood the true nature of her character after her death.

Many fans still hold it that her leaving him meant she did not love him enough .But I will argue against that ,because if she hadn’t left ,he wouldn’t know how much she loved him,as she would have remained just as lonely and paranoid which would only cause her to spew frustration and hatred.Eventually ,her Ill health would’ve gotten her , she would’ve died and he would’ve blamed himself.The palace caused them into morph into unlikable versions of themselves and it would’ve remained that way.

At the end ,her love letters and the child she left behind are true testaments of her love for him.And though it may seem like it’s tragic for Wang So to not acknowledge or raise the child himself ,it's the best decision because if he were to acknowledge the child ,the child would be in danger and he would be in a precarious position as King ,as he would have to worry about the safety of the child now and it would just deflect from his duties as King , causing him to be more paranoid.What Soo did in the end was the perfect sacrifice,as it saved his position as King and gave their child safety and happiness,as she is raised by a doting adoptive father ,away from palace politics.And even Wang So understands this and makes the same decision for their child (cr:feeding my procrastination). He even lifts off the exile of the brother for selflessly raising his daughter as his own, proving how far he’s grown ,from a violent prince to a wise King whose capable of forgiveness.

All this is a result of his relationship with Hae Soo ,as he has learnt these virtues from her and internalised her character and thinking into himself.As  the years pass by, he uses his power to enact laws like emancipation of slaves and setting up examinations for political posts (which is backed up by historical accuracy). In a very literal sense ,his entire reign and the laws he implemented can be interpreted as a love letter to her ,surpassing time.

Soon she wakes up and barley remembers her time in Goryeo and tries to get on with her life in Morden day Seoul.

But she eventually remembers her time when she stumbles into a Goryeo gallery dedicated to his reign ,and it just happens to be filled with paintings of her time in Goryeo. Another creative licence choice,but I suppose it was Wang So trying to get his message across time :That he loved her wherever she is.

She states that she is sorry that left him alone .To me ,this is just Another key characteristic of her empathetic character as she is sympathetic others suffering than her own and its proves that wherever they are they will  always be a part of each other, as their souls have intertwined.

It then cuts to Wang So , looking lonely and defeated at the palace. He hears news that the eighth prince died and is saddened more,and he finally utters the word “fleeting life”.For me this ,surprisingly is my favourite part of the series as it represents why I love his character.Though he’s had a rough start and toxic childhood ,he never projects his pain onto others , and though he takes his time, he eventually realises his sad fate is partly the result of his own flaws and choices and he accepts it.This is great progress for his character and it shows how far he’s developed from the violent ,emotionally stunted man he once was. And there’s nothing I love more than proper character progress. He finally unmasks himself and vows to find Soo wherever she is .Does he find her? Its left to open interpretation.

Which takes me to the question that this  whole post is aimed at: Why is this necessarily a good romance ? How can this be a good romance if it has such a tragic ending that nearly destroyed the heroine into pieces? To which my answer would be ,this was a romance that was never meant to be from the get go and it solely depended on how much the leads involved are coming into terms with their differences in time and perception.The question was basically,can they accept each other regardless and continue to love each other despite circumstances? In this version ,this is made clear ,especially towards the end.Though late ,they both accepted each other flaws and imperfections combined and continued to love each other and respect each other’s decisions in life.This is far better and comparatively much healthier than the Chinese Version,whose leads eventually separated due to differences in thought and inability to respect each other’s decisions and in a very literal sense,their love for each other broke them apart. Here, however , it influences them for the better.Even her, though she is broken,her tragedy begins with herself as she will be miserable wherever she’s at,if she is too focused on saving others than herself.And we do get see her become mature, even calculating and even vicious, proving us it’s herself who’s been the cause of her tragedy all along.At the end of the day it can be denied that they make sense and that have helped each other grow and mature.

Besides,it does fit into my category of good romance as it’s a journey of how these two leads overcome obstacles,differences in thought, perceptions and personalities and contrasting worldview. In fact , if I am to quote Blogger lillyroots4love again,while love can be acceptance and loyalty, love also needs freedom to thrive and be nurtured.

And that is why this is precisely a good tragedy ,because at the end of the day, they do make sense. Though their separation might not be purely circumstantial like being stuck on a sinking ship (yes ,that was a titanic reference) , you cannot deny the fact that was the it was the dark , twisted politics of that era that creeped its way in and turned their deep love for each other into venom.True tragedy is the fact that the very things that bought them together eventually tore them apart, proving how dire and deeply dangerous their love really was. And while their tragedy might be the result of what seems to be the pettiest case of miscommunication in drama history,it was also very much a result of their wishful thinking. And we can’t really blame them for it, because that’s what proves to us , that they are very much each other’s “soulmate” and that they're longing transcends time. The fact they couldn’t get together after trying for so long just because “destiny” is sad , tragic and well, it hurts.

One could easily understand why this has been labelled the drama no one ever gets over in a lifetime after watching it , and even more,after analysing it.At the end of the analysis, I’m very much marvelled at how simple of a love story this really is ,if you take away history and politics, as it all came down to timing,proper communication,acceptance and freedom at the end. I guess that’s why stories like Pride and Prejudice prove to be a timeless classic ,because essentially ,all romances can be stripped down to communication and understanding.

While analysing this drama , I have realised what makes it so unique is its treatment of its characters ,because it takes two characters, bases them on cliches and gives them a fair ,realistic treatment.The selfless heroine,who is usually set as an example and is rewarded in most stories loses herself and her love because she puts others before herself. The quintessential bad boy, though he isn’t rid of his violence or his devious behaviour,eventually comes into terms with his own flaws and with time ,evolves into a mature ,wise King. 

Hence , this is why it has proven to be a good drama ,despite it reckless editing and fast pacing,because at its core it’s a story of characters and power, and the way it causes them plunge into the darkest depths of themselves , and that is why it makes such an interesting show for me.


In conclusion, I can forgive the show runners for most of the faults easily found in this show ,because they have managed to create an epic romance filled with  convincing characters and realistic treatment to the era its set in.But the only thing I can’t seem to digest is how much they glaringly enjoy rubbing salt into our fresh wounds. 
Take the ending scene for example:





A random snippet from their happy times, proving that they can be happy and that they were. Even though the drama proved that they can’t cuz ,well circumstance. In conclusion,this scene alone causes me to re-examine the point of true tragedy this drama I’ve been trying to pinpoint,and after deliberation, I’ve reached it.The true tragedy is not the fate of the main couple but us, the drama fans as we are so desperate for a happy ending ,broken by the emotions of the drama that we are so painfully desperate for any hint of a reconciliation that they throw in our way. I’m sure that is the show runners intention ,as it’s a widely known fact that there’s a deleted scene involving reconciliation that they deliberately cut out.One could argue , that the main point of the tragedy is that Soo chose So despite the warning signs and few happy moments are what makes it worthwhile, but no, I believe if that were the case,then  the lovers should come into acceptance of their separation, like La La Land or Casablanca.The show makes it clear that  both refuse to move on, but never show if their efforts and longing paid off, while even hinting at it. I’m sure the reason the ending is open to  is get on board with the tragedy and impact it’s viewers emotionally,so that it’s  not another cliche show with a cliche ending. As expected  ,their efforts seem to have paid off  as it’s pretty much an established fact that those who watch this drama will never get over it in their lifetime.And if they get to obsessed , they are bound to lose ,time and energy watching and probably assessing it like me. The only thing you can do to avoid this tragic fate is warn others, so if anyone who’s read this post hasn’t watched the drama ,be careful and please interpret this drama analysis  as one giant warning sign , if you can.

And as for the attitude of of the show runners , it’s quite Ballsy.Thats all I will say for now .

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