Hi! I’ve known about this drama for a long time obviously, but I thought I’d never watch it because I had low expectations. Well, I was right for the most part so I wasn’t severely disappointed. There are some great things about it so it wasn’t a total waste of time. Let’s explore the world of Scarlet Heart Ryeo 🙂
I’m going spoiler-free for the first part and later I’ll discuss everything for those who’ve watched it.
My Rating: 2/5
Betrayed by her best friend and boyfriend, homeless IU is running from debt. Stopping by a lake, she wishes she could just disappear. She jumps into the lake to save a little boy but ends up as Hae Soo in Goryeo. She’s the cousin of a prince’s wife and lives with the couple outside the palace. Now, it’s unclear whether it’s a journey to a previous lifetime or simple time travel. It’s something in between. The plot doesn’t follow the natural rules of time travel or reincarnation. That’s confusing but, okay. Now, two things can happen: 1. She can change the past 2. She can be the catalyst for things turning out they way they did.
Basically, there’s a tyrant king of Goryeo famous for killing off all his brothers on his way to the throne, naturally. Typical monarchy. Hae soo lives during the time that king has not ascended to the throne. However, the current ruling family (the one that established the Goryeo dynasty) makes it clear that the next king will be that tyrant. Gradually, Hae Soo befriends the princes and wants to avoid the bloodshed she remembers from her history lessons.
The real question is, who’s the future tyrant? This gets answered quite early creating the biggest flaw in the plot: predictability. Hae Soo becomes a pawn in the bloody game for power at the palace. Things go from bad to ugly to plain ridiculous concluding at an obvious point.
What I liked
- The budget! You can tell right away that you’re going to get quality sets and wardrobes which is pretty important for historical dramas.
- The star cast ❤ I’m not sure how popular these actors were at that time. Now, they’re well known and much loved. Besides, we have IU, Baekhyun and Seohyun ❤
- The styling is awesome. It totally adds to the value of the drama. I think it’s the first time I noticed the differences in arts and culture between Joseon and Goryeo periods.
- The locations are beautiful ❤ The cinematography wasn’t phenomenal (which I anticipate in historical dramas) but it was still good enough to capture the beauty of the sets and locations.
- The visuals 😉
- The villains ❤
- Th OST ❤
What I disliked
- The super predictable plot. This is a plot focused drama but they reveal everything early on. There is very little mystery left and the execution of the plot isn’t fantastic either. Overall, it suffers from weak writing.
- The romantic relationships are extremely unhealthy for the most part. I don’t recommend teenagers watch this and assume that’s what love is. Spoiler alert: Love is not about abusing your partner and ignoring their consent 24/7.
- The abuse of animals which no one objects to. That poor horse didn’t have to die like that. Yeah, killing animals doesn’t make you a tough guy. Same with the bird later on.
- The MCs other than the villains are pretty weak and vague.
- There are some immoral things normalized which I personally object to.
Who do I recommend it to?
If you’re a fan of the cast, definitely watch it. It is enjoyable for fans unless you can’t see your faves get hurt, in which case you might want to skip certain scenes. I don’t think it’s fabulous as a historical drama but if you’re interested in ancient Korean culture, give it a go 🙂 If you’re looking for a well written drama then steer clear of it. If you’re expecting amazing acting, it’s not ideal. That being said, the villains are brilliantly written and they all acted well. I think any flaws in the acting of the others has more to do with the writers than their actual talent.
Let’s meet the characters now!
Our heroine is one messy character. Honestly, she’s been so abused by the writers just for the sake of the plot. She literally seems to suffer from split personality disorder. Hae Soo is one of those brave foolish idealistic people who gather pity everywhere they go. Living at the palace does teach her more about reality though in case she forgot how she ended up penniless and brokenhearted at that lake in the present. That’s the main problem with her. She doesn’t learn her lessons at all. She just keeps banging her head against a cement wall hoping it break. That’s how she ends up in the middle of mess after mess. The mature side of her does exist but it rarely makes an appearance. Her optimism helps her adjust to bad situations and make the most of them. She’s also talented and hardworking. I wanted to add that she’s quick to accept blame anyone throws at her. She may have been a catalyst for some events but she’s not responsible for the disgusting actions of others. People need to stop with that shit!
I can be pretty sarcastic about him but the truth is that he genuinely suffered from childhood all the way to his death. It explains a lot of his behavior but it doesn’t excuse any of it. He’s delicious but not enough for me to forget common human decency. He’s smart, capable, farsighted, patient and strong. Lots to admire, right? He’s also as selfish and immature as a 3 year old. Inside, he’s still that little boy scarred by his mother and denied any love. His forced isolation and formidable reputation makes it hard for him to gather allies though he’s dying to prove his worth to his parents. He does think of the greater good later on but his typical ego issues strike now and again. I’m sure others also thought of Zuko when they saw him 😀
I’ve hated him since the first episode. If you’ve read A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, Wook is Tamlin. He pretends to be someone he’s not and literally everyone eats up that shit. He cheats on his wife and then vehemently denies marrying a second wife in front of her. I knew his grief was genuine after his wife’s death but I still wondered if he would develop some sense of shame. Nope, never happened! He’s the mastermind behind overthrowing king after king but in the end, he’s only imprisoned and even Hae Soo is still buddies with him. Like WTF? I liked his acting though.
He’s one of the villains but still a pawn in the political game played by his mother. I loved him! He’s such a clear well defined character. I never had any doubts about him. Watching him come apart at the end was amazing! He was perfect for this character. Remorseless and single minded, all he wants is to please his mother who’s only using him to gain power. I felt pity for him. He’s a scene stealer for sure ❤
A stereotypical character, Baek A is clearly the most handsome and gentlest of the princes. He’s extremely naive when it comes to family and love. He knows how scary the palace is but he never studies politics or the art of warfare properly. This makes him the weakest. He’s loyalty to Wang So is admirable and he’s probably the most likable of the bunch. I would like him more if he didn’t come off as irresponsible and burdensome. If he’d just been sharper, he could have been more of an asset and made a difference.
Adorable puppy had me going UwU at every scene. He was selfish, mean and immature at times but he’s a nice kid. I felt like Baekhyun had saved up a whole month’s worth of aegyo for each cute shot ❤ You will be missed Eun-ah!
Now, here is a prince who definitely made a difference in all the right places. His prejudice towards Wang So and blind loyalty to his mother were his downfall. This also prevented him from making good choices and picking rash decisions instead. I wish he’d had more confrontations with his mother and brothers. He just seemed to look away when his loved ones mistreated someone and avoided talking things out like a rational adult.
Railukatta through and through, Wang Won is smartest no doubt. He pulls the strings from a safe distance and never puts himself in harm’s way. The result is that he’s not that visible which is beneficial when things go to hell. He does have his loyalties but they exist purely because of his desire for power. His conscience remains dead until the end but it doesn’t really matter by that point.
My favorite character! I have a thing for flawless bitches 😀 She’s perfect right down to her deceptive twin dimples. Who could have guessed that a vile demoness lay beyond such an innocent exterior? She represents the injustice against women during Goryeo era not just by the palace inhabitants but also with her own hands. Yeon Hwa is no scared-y cat. She may act all submissive and obedient but she fights for herself using her cunning and position. The funny thing is that Yeon Hwa is not selfish. Her motivation is her family that’s struggling to maintain rank among the nobles. She wants to save her mother from indignity and preserve the future generations of her family. She even goes as far as betraying her brother and threatening the queen. She’s one bad bitch and I couldn’t get enough of her ❤
What a basic bitch! I enjoyed her but she wasn’t quite as interesting as Yeon Hwa. I loved when Yeon Hwa outsmarted her. She gets the award for Worst Mother Ever. I think she’s one of the most selfish and shameless characters in this drama. Queen Yoo is good old power hungry ajhumma who assumes she’ll always get what she wants. Got news for her, you won’t! 😛
Queen Hwang Bo
Meh! I didn’t like her character honestly. She was basic and predictable to the point of being boring. She’s a weak person and lets people down. She’s just there to give reactions when things go wrong.
Being the princess of a fallen people is a huge burden on a young woman but she carries out her duties with pride. Her true loyalty always lies with her people but it was nice to see Woo Hee find true friends and even love at a time when she’d lost everything. She’s smart, brave and resourceful not to mention super pretty ❤ She’s an enjoyable character but I don’t really understand why she had to commit suicide to make a point. I think the writers just killed all her potential no pun intended.
What a loser! If he’d made better choices with his family this whole mess could have been avoided. While, we’re at it, Wang Moo was totally useless. Like father like son. I’m not going to talk about him separately.
You know romantic people make the worst choices because they’re the farthest from reality. In my opinion, she was never sincere with Hae Soo and sacrificed everything for her one-sided love (even the well being of her beloved family) for a man who never deserved it in the first place. She’s a good actress though and I like her in other roles.
I love a woman who’s smart, brave, resourceful and decisive ❤ She’s my favorite character after Yeon Hwa. Lady Oh has been through the naive romantic phase of her life and learned her lessons well. She’s sincere which is something rare among the characters of this drama. She doesn’t even hesitate to selflessly give up her life.
I have mixed feelings about her so I didn’t pity her much. It was cool to see females like Soon Duk and Woo Hee who’re skilled in martial arts and don’t bend in front of men. Soon Duk is stereotypical but that is what the plot demanded of her. I’ll talk more about the romance later.
Whew! There are some secondary characters I missed but it’s okay 😀
I will be talking about the most prominent romances. I know there were several ships.
Wang So & Hae Soo
I know this was the most popular ship. It was an ansgty historical drama so yeah it was super old school. The problem is that I don’t enjoy romanticized abuse in any form. I know Wang So is so tough and doesn’t give a shit about anyone but did he have to prove it by throwing her down like that just when he’d “saved” her (from his own reckless riding on a horse he himself needlessly kills later if I haven’t mixed up horses)? Not admirable. I enjoy a character with different sides but why did the writers expect us to ship him with the heroine? He doesn’t love Hae Soo. She’s one of the few people who can tolerate him. He’s obsessed with her and extremely possessive of her. He’s a very selfish lover who doesn’t put his partners needs before his when she’s clearly the weaker one. He is an entitled jerk most of the time who doesn’t care about consent either. Oh bhai, she doesn’t want to kiss you. Fuck off! He could have won her heart but noooooo!! “You’re my person” smh. Remember when I (and everyone else in the drama) called Hae Soo a fool? She just loves being the victim and then ends up wanting to run away when shit hits the fan. You know how people keep saying that you don’t choose the one you fall in love with? That’s bullshit, kids. Don’t let it fool you. You decide who you love and who stays in your life.
Wang Wook & Hae Soo
Why does this ship even exist? How does a complete pig like Wang Wook get the love of not one but two lovely ladies? How does he deserve to be the second lead? How does he deserve the “let’s be friends” thing from Hae Soo in the end even after all the shit he’s pulled? Why was he even allowed to live after overthrowing the king and killing his brothers? He’s the ultimate sweet talker who’ll act all dignified to gain people’s trust and then use you in every way possible while you kiss their feet for the pain they give you. Beware! These kind of snakes are the deadliest. He’s married to a woman who’s madly in love with him but lusts after a pretty confused girl who falls into his lap by accident. He just can’t keep it in his pants. His wife is dying but he doesn’t have an ounce of shame getting physical with her cousin. Hae Soo first meets him in a very vulnerable state. She admires him for his fake nice image and all the favors he does for her never suspecting what a snake he really is. Hae Soo even blames herself for the “big change” in him. No sweetie, that was just the snake finally shedding his skin. It’s despicable that he claims to do it all because she’s his wife’s cousin *pukes*. He goes on to protest when his wife tells him to get married. Can he sink any lower? Ugh. That’s not love, children. He’s the horny ajhussi you should never accept sweets from.
Baek A & Woo Hee
They’re a pretty cute couple. They are sincere to each other as well. Baek A is such a keeper ❤ The guy doesn’t care about power or position even though he’s a prince and it’s his duty to marry a woman whose family would contribute to the power of the throne. He goes out of his way to make her feel comfortable and gives her the respect every partner deserves. His fault lies in trusting her completely. This is what strains and ultimately breaks their relationship: the lack of honesty. It wasn’t fair of Woo Hee to drag Baek A along when she knew that he’d never be her number one priority. He does everything possible to make her happy yet she lies about everything except her feelings for him. It’s sweet to see people from enemy households find love but like, really Woo Hee? What was she expecting?
Wang Eun & Soon Duk
I don’t know how people felt about this ship so do let me know 🙂 As for me, they could have been beautiful together and they were adorable in some parts. Like I mentioned before, Soon Duk wasn’t smart about it leading to their main conflict. She claims to love him since childhood but she doesn’t place his happiness before her own. If she cared about him she wouldn’t have forced him into marriage just to possess him. They could easily have gotten married later once she’d won his heart. Wang Eun’s puppy love for Hae Soo would have faded eventually but Soon Duk was impatient and immature. She’s a skilled soldier but certainly untrained in the art of relationships. A little more guidance from her father would have been appreciated.
Wang Jung and Hae Soo made a cute pair as friends with the possibility of something more. I liked how selfless Wang Jung was with her even going as far to offer her an escape and never taking advantage of her vulnerable state. I wish he’d gone a step further and tried to patch things up with Wang So for her sake. Naturally, I couldn’t expect that from an angsty historical romance that depended on coincidences to get the plot going. I’ve already talked about Wang Won and Chae Ryung. What a disaster! I’ve ranted about Wang Wook’s marriage to Madam Hae as well. Lady Oh and King Wanggun were on another level of toxic altogether. King Wanggun certainly takes the prize for worst boyfriend and husband (and father) ever.
I was happy with the ending unlike most people probably because I couldn’t stand the awful Hae Soo-Wang So ship. He deserved what he got and Hae Soo *sighs* learned to be grateful for industrialization. Overall, Scarlet Heart Ryeo is not that bad but not that good either. I see many people recommending it to newbies but I wouldn’t. The writing is just meh and there are far better historical dramas.