The Moon That Embraces the Sun, episodes 9 to 12
It’s bad if my favorite scene in the last four episodes is this one, right?
So, it took me quicker to fall out of love with this show than it did for me to fall in love. Last time I wrote about Moon, I didn’t feel that I was being entirely fair because we had only gotten into the meat of the adult story for three episodes and thus maybe I was speaking negatively too early, but now that we’re done with 12 episodes, I’m afraid my hesitation and disappointment have settled in and solidified. I’m praying that they don’t extend this drama another 4 episodes, because I’m too close to checking out as it is.
The thing that’s bugging me most at this point in the drama is how simplistic the story is, with the already little we get of it.
Like I said last time, romance isn’t enough to sustain a story, and the dramas that have been the biggest failures in the recent past were the ones that hinged alone on the getting together of two people (Lie to Me, Spy Myung-wol). If the extension never sees the light of day, that means that we’re already past the halfway point of the story, yet even now I don’t see how the central conflict is gripping enough to warrant us to hang on to the remainder of the drama.
We know that the King feels traumatized by Yeon-woo’s early death, and that he’s suspicious of its circumstances. But the way the story and the characters are designed tell us that he’ll find out and get his happy ending anyway. The King being the king (and also being the protagonist) leaves little sense of danger in all his scheming. Because at the end of the day, who’s going to challenge a king for finding out what he wants to find out? He’s the fucking King. On top of that, Hwon is a shrewd and assertive king, so basically he’s the Mary Sue of Chosun kings. Can somebody get my Fanfiction.net account up and running already?
My doubt and hysterical condescension would be mitigated if Moon had better written villains, but alas, it does not. Every single villain is a caricature of evil. Every sticky spot conjured up by our villains resolves itself nicely. The ante must be upped to prevent problems from being overly simplistic and easy to fix. There’s nothing at stake except for a hilarious non-entity of King Hwon not wanting to bed Queen Bo-kyung, because really? Really? That’s our only point of contention right now?
Audiences also love the push-and-pull of a tentative attraction between parties who are unwilling to admit their attraction for each other, but I find that the interest between Hwon and Wol as it is is pretty weak, which affects how much I care about their plight of getting together.
Hwon and Wol’s connection is something weakened by Han Ga-in’s acting. I admit that she was serviceable earlier on in the story when it was less involved, but now that Hwon’s attraction is more than a stirring, we need Wol’s attraction to be stronger than a stirring too, and Han Ga-in is unconvincing at this point. She’s just so blank and damn inexpressive. And then more than that, it feels like Kim Soo-hyun constantly has to overcompensate in their scenes together, and I almost want to tell him to use his indoor voice when exchanging dialogue with Han Ga-in.
With that said, Kim Soo-hyun continues to be a massive ball of energy in all his scenes. He’s feral and assertive, and can deliver a portrayal both obvious and subtle. His Hwon is without a doubt the most complex character, which is a shame because that renders the rest of the characters largely ineffectual and irrelevant. The scenes in which Hwon is not present are a pain to get through, so much so that I actively do something else while those scenes play.
It also pains me to say that Jung Il-woo’s acting is wasted on Yang-myung, a character a lot more interesting in his youth. From what I’ve been told, Yang-myung is barely mentioned in the book, so the drama writers have made a conscious decision to deviate from the original source by inflating the importance of his character in the drama. It’s a waste mostly because the love triangle is not written in a way that is convincing at all, seeing as all of Yang-myung’s energy will be for naught.
This sageuk has little going for it, and it’s a shame because its immense popularity doesn’t feel congruent at all to the quality of writing, acting, or production.