Once again a drama that didn’t get rave reviews on release (I even heard it was a bit of flop). I can’t speak for anyone else but I thoroughly loved it, and may even call it one of my all time favourites.
It is true the plot got into a little bit of repetitive territory towards the end (poisoned twice in a row anyone?) and there were definitely a few loose ends that were left unaddressed by the finale, but even so, I would still say this drama is so far away from being a flop that it makes me quite sad to hear anyone say so.
I am a huge fan of Lee Min Ho and am always excited to check out a drama in which he stars, but his character here was a nice surprise, and I enjoyed seeing Min Ho’s understated and constrained way of acting out Choi Young’s wounded past and closed up nature. I thought he was really great in this role and Choi Young has turned into one of my favourite drama male leads.
The first episode of this drama was so much fun.
It was amusing and interesting and even had the added benefit of actually making you wonder what it would really be like to travel to the future and how incredibly alien everything might look. I loved seeing Choi Young navigating his way across a busy street filled with deadly traffic (urged on by advice from a friendly but confused monk) and the way he marches into a plastic surgery convention, just emanating confidence and power in his position as a warrior among all the tiny modern people who just cannot deal with him, was just comedy gold.
And also a little surreal.
And then with no warning at all, the comedy is gone and everything turns deadly as Choi Young, without any hesitation whatsoever, slashes straight into a dude’s throat just as an experiment to test the heroine Eun Soo’s medical skills.
A man from a more brutal world indeed.
This same theme, of the past being a more brutal world, is something that runs through this entire drama and it is almost as big of a plot point as the main storyline.
The idea of a woman traveling back into the past and being forced to come to terms with its crueler nature was very interesting to me. To add to her confusion Eun Soo also finds herself falling in love with a man who is essentially a trained killer, a man whom she sees covered in other people’s blood on more than one occasion, and it is through that act of falling in love that she is forced to accept this new world for what it is, and come to terms with her position within it.
The main male lead, Choi Young, is a hard man and a soldier, and thus is capable of making and following through on some truly terrifying choices, for instance the killing of a young boy rather than the alternative of watching him suffer until death.
These decisions, and in fact even the action of killing at all, absolutely horrify Eun Soo, a woman as yet unprepared to face such hard truths about the time she has found herself in. For her, having previously enjoyed a life spent in a modern world which has never readied her for such violence and cruelty, Choi Young is a very difficult person to understand or accept.
But even though he is harsh, humorless and deeply wounded by his past in a way that means he almost sleepwalks through life, Choi Young is also a good man and this is something that Eun Soo can clearly see . And for Choi Young, it is only through his interactions with Eun Soo, and also his friendship with the new king, that causes him to finally wake up and find the meaning behind living again.
One of my favourite scenes takes place towards the end of the drama when Eun Soo is trying to convince Choi Young to let her stay in his time even though it is possible she may die (from the second poisoning… sigh).
By this point they have already confessed their love to each other and Eun Soo is explaining to him why it is that she cannot go back to her own time:
‘I’ll live. I’ll live in my room. I’ll see people whose faces I don’t know. I’ll say things I don’t mean all day. And then at night I’ll return to my empty room.
As I fall asleep, I’ll call out, “Are you there?” I know there won’t be an answer. And then I’ll wake up in the morning, and live another day just like that. Like a person who’s already dead.
Do you not know what living like that is like? You do know, because you’ll live the same way.’
This scene was so touching for me and really stayed in my mind long after I watched it. It affected me in such a way that I started thinking how truly numbing it would be to still live on after losing what you love.
It is a scene that really evokes such hopeless sadness and grief and shows in such a clear way how much meeting Choi Young has changed Eun Soo’s life. Not only has she changed inside herself, but her goals and hopes have altered as well, as she has now centered and focused herself and her future around one person instead of a dream of material wealth or career climbing.
So although this drama has lots of evil baddies, time traveling twists and political push & pull in its plot line, I still think the love story is the absolute core of the drama and is the reason that I tuned in every week. It was watching Choi Young and Eun Soo’s romance evolve and grow into a deep solid love that made me adore this drama and brought it into my top favourites list.
One scene that is a lovely testament to how much Eun Soo grows in her love for Choi Young is the point that they are separated by time (literally) in the final episode of the drama. When she does finally find a way back to her own modern world she turns right around and walks back into the portal, with never a moments hesitation on whether or not she should stay and try to live a normal life after all that has happened.
I love the idea that even though she has no clue if the portal will bring her back to the time she wants or that even if it did Choi Young would still be alive, she still doesn’t hesitate for a second. She loves him enough to know that living without him would not really be living but just existing, and she knows that as long as she keeps looking there is still hope.
And it is that faith, faith that she belongs with him and faith that he is still waiting for her, that finally brings her home to him.
Sigh … so romantic.
Tell me your thoughts??? Do you love this drama??
Lee Evie is an author of historical fiction set in old Korea, during the Joseon dynasty.
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