I love this special drama soooo….much that I can’t wait to blog about it — even though I have yet to finish it. (not my fault, i am waiting for the Naver loading and the subbing to be up…at the moment, it’s in Part 2 of story)
And pls do not ask me where to get English subs…I have zero idea. The Chinese subs can be found at Maplestage.
- Yoon Doo-joon (Let’s Eat 1/2) as King Lee-do (better known as King Sejong in his later life). In Love, he’s still a young king who is trying to gain independence and respect from his senior advisors and ministers (and they, as usual, take his age as a chance to try and “influence” him).
- Kim Seul-gil (from Oh My Ghostess!) as Jang Dan-bi. Your typical high-schooler in her final year, facing the typical stress of college exams. What is atypical about her is she somehow is granted the ability to time travel one rainy day.
- Jin Ki-joo as Queen So-hun and also modern day Seul (Dan-bi’s bff). Queen (or Consort) not by choice, So-hun is actually in love with her family’s long time male servant, Chea-jik. Similar to her modern day reincarnation, So-hun is kinda greedy and loves to sneak into the kitchen at night for snacks. She is manipulated by her father, a Minister, to gain favour with King Lee-do and bear his heir — ASAP.
- Ahn Hyo-seop as Chea-jik. Male servant in So-hun’s household, he now serves as an odd job labourer cum engineer under King Lee-do, who recognises his talent. Not only that, he can fight pretty well too.
Love starts off by introducing Dan-bi, and the stresses she face as a modern day high schooler soon-to-be taking her college exams. Her nemesis subject is Maths, and she gets ragged everyday by her Maths lecturer for not remembering simple mathematical formulae. Her single mum (a sageuk lover) nags her at home to study harder in order to have a “better life”. Faced with all these daily build-up of stressors, she has a minor breakdown on her college entrance exams day and runs off in the rain. In the playground where she normally hangs out to space off, she hears drum beats coming from a puddle. Curious, she dips her foot in to find that the “puddle” extends quite a way in. She makes the decision to jump in…
…and lands right smack into a large water urn in the middle of a prayer ceremony presided over by King Lee-do. It hasn’t rained in Joseun for 3 (?!) years, and traditionally, royalty (and their shamans) will pray for rain from the Heavens. Well, they did get “Rain” (“dan-bi” in Hangeul means “sweet rain”). Dan-bi naturally is shocked to find herself in this rather alien place, and King Lee-do (with his entire Court) is juz as perplexed to see a strange human popping out of nowhere. Hilariously, Dan-bi introduces herself as a “kou-sam” (aka final year high schooler)…but in Joseun times, the word sounds similar to “castrated male” (aka eunuch).
When she is captured, Dan-bi proves her usefulness by helping to solve a waterwheel problem using Pythagoras theorem. Impressed, King Lee-do decides to keep her (him?) at his side as a private tutor. Hilarity ensues on both sides, as Dan-bi (being a modern female), acts nothing like the girls (or men) in Joseun times; daring to look the King in his eyes, and finger smacking his forehead when he gets the multiplication table wrong. On the other end, King Lee-do (who goes through some of the weird stuff in Dan-bi’s haversack), mistakes a triangle kimbab as a bomb, and gets a bad tummy ache from gobbling down Dan-bi’s instant spicy deokbokki. Interestingly, Love implies that after tasting deokbokki, King Lee-do orders his kitchen to prepare it every meal (for Dan-bi). (though it’s the non-spice, sautéed type)
However, the past and present do have links as characters whom Dan-bi are familiar with in her modern life re-appear in the Joseun era. Her annoying Maths teacher is King Lee-do’s (annoying) personal eunuch. Her bff, Seul, becomes King Lee-do’s consort. I won’t technically call her So-hun a Queen yet, cos she hasn’t consummated her marriage…a fact which her Minister father is ragging her for it, and insisting she produces a heir to secure her — and his — position(s) asap. But more importantly, Dan-bi’s mum — in Joseun times, she is the Dowager (aka King Lee-do’s mum).
Although Dan-bi dresses herself in eunuch uniform day in and out, her mannerisms and King Lee-do’s closeness to her make quite a few suspect her true identity. King Lee-do isn’t exactly stupid either, he already guesses on several occasions that his “Kou-sam” (as he calls her) is a girl. More so, when So-hun’s plan to make King Lee-do ingest aphrodisiac goes very wrong and Dan-bi ends up eating it…and cuddling King Lee-do the entire night. The Court also senses the danger of Dan-bi’s influence as King Lee-do becomes more independent and resolute after her appearance.
So, in the fashion of Palace Intrigue, the various Ministers all try to connive ways to “get rid of” (aka murder) Dan-bi. Attempts to torture her or rip her apart with horses are thankfully stopped by King Lee-do, when she passes the Court’s “test” to create a clock that can tell the time without the sun. (pple in the past rely heavily on sundials) An assassination attempt was ordered by So-hun’s father, who orders Chea-jik to kill her while pretending to take her away. So-hun later learns that her father has “insured” himself further by ordering another bunch of assassins to murder BOTH Chea-jik and Dan-bi (if the former fails in his attempt).
Interestingly, So-hun rushes over to the commoner’s village to check on Chea-jik the moment she hears of her evil daddy’s plan, and we learn that the couple have grown up together (albeit with different statuses) in the same household. And it’s kinda obvious they do love each other, unfortunately, one’s a Queen-to-be and the other, a slave.
While Chea-jik + So-hun’s love story develops, we see an overlap with King Lee-do and Dan-bi’s, as the former finally recognises that he doesn’t “need” her for her talents, but for herself. He confesses his love when it starts raining, and he gets so worked up that Dan-bi will disappear. (she almost did, but went to check on that water clock invention…thankfully) Cue ridiculously cute scenes after, where the 2 continue to hole themselves up in the King’s study — on pretext of “working” (ahem…i didn’t know work involves so much kissing…). King Lee-do also starts to work on Hangeul, using Dan-bi as his muse.
Of cos, the King and his (not) eunuch’s behaviours do not go unnoticed for long. So-hun, whom Dan-bi has befriended, recommends to the Dowager to let Dan-bi enter the King’s harem. So, instead of getting a promotion to a Court Official, Dan-bi is (finally) dressed in a pretty hanbok. But when she learns of the change of plan, she balks… and runs. (ineffective, cos King Lee-do tracks her down, in his own palace…heh) He tells her that he will try to persuade his mum to reverse her decision, and assures her that he won’t force himself on her — but he can’t help teasing Dan-bi a little when he sees her all worked up at losing her virginity. (lol)
Unfortunately (or fortunately??) King Lee-do has to keep up “appearances” in front of the Court (who knows about the Dowager’s latest order), so Dan-bi has nowhere to go but hide in his room. After all, she’s supposedly the new concubine, so having her around in his bedroom all day won’t raise any eyebrows right? Only problem is, the poor girl can’t sleep knowing that the guy she likes is lying next to her…
The second morning, So-hun calls Dan-bi over — the Dowager wants to meet her. And that’s when Dan-bi (who is rather homesick for her mum), realises the Dowager looks exactly like her mum…
Update: Meeting the Dowager only resolves Dan-bi’s desire — to return home. (boo) She breaks the news to King Lee-do, who tried his best to entice her to stay, even showing her the Hangeul he has been working on in his private study. Dan-bi is touched, but apologetically returns the decorative hairpin King Lee-do has gifted to her. She cries that she needs to stop running away, and has to return to face her own set of problems. King Lee-do reluctantly agrees. He leaves a sobbing Dan-bi in his study…
…only to have Dan-bi attacked by a group of masked men. One of them knocks her unconscious and stabs her in the back with his sword. The assailants set fire to the study and flee. Elsewhere, So-hun hears of the latest plot to assassinate Dan-bi from her daddy and cries in protest. She tells Minister Daddy that she doesn’t mind Dan-bi taking her position, cos she is sick and tired of waiting in her cold antechambers for a man who clearly doesn’t love her. (aka she wants out) Daddy is shocked. So-hun runs to warn King Lee-do, who at the same time, hears of the fire in his study.
King Lee-do enters through the secret passageway that connects his bedroom with his study and manages to rescue Dan-bi. (she isn’t dead, her haversack and her thick History textbook saved her from the stab-in-the-back) The next morning, King Lee-do summons his Education Minister and minions, including Chea-jik, since the latter is in charge of the ammunition that were used in the arson the night before, for questioning. Education Minister starts to pontificate but is cut short when King Lee-do picks up his gun powder stained hands. Dan-bi who is listening behind also confirms the voice of the attacker she heard last night belongs to the Education Minister. Caught “black” handed, Education Minister pleads for leniency, claiming that Dan-bi is introducing “scary new ideas” that will cause a collapse in the social strata between the nobility and the commoners. King Lee-do interjects, and explains that he invented Hangeul to unite the social classes and not divide them. Education Minister lowers his head in shame. (note: evil Education Minister-turned-Assassin wasn’t executed. what a pity)
After all the excitement, it is really time for Dan-bi’s departure. The long awaited rain has finally come. King Lee-do sends her off, and kisses her for the last time before letting her slip into the pool of rain water. We also see the various characters whom she has influenced during her short stay ponder on their own life and dreams.
Back in the present (no time is lost between the time travel), Dan-bi rushes back to school to take her exams. Which, conveniently, happens to be a History exam (of the same period). (and who should be the invigilator but Education Minister, in modern form) After the papers, she returns home to hug her perplexed mum.
A few days (?) after, Dan-bi works part time in a convenience store, where Seul is again busy slurping ramyun. Seul notes that a new singer on the TV is kinda good looking (he is the modern Chea-jik, who after Dan-bi’s departure, took her advice and became a Court Musician). On her way home, it starts raining again. Dan-bi tries poking her foot into puddles, but they remain puddles.
Juz then, a man in a yellow umbrella approaches her and shelters her from the rain…guess who. Yep. King Lee-do — sans hanbok. Apparently, he has noticed Dan-bi a while back since they commute on the same bus daily. On the day where Dan-bi did her time travel, he was the one who helped picked up her textbooks and safe kept her yellow umbrella when the bus jerked to a stop. Cue: lovey-dovey gazes all around, and ending credits.
Love in total (across the 2-day airing) is probably only 2-3h max. And given the short timeframe, Love‘s narrative progresses at light speed. It’s a fairly easy and enjoyable watch, having all the elements of a good rom-com: cultural differences, delightful characters, and a lot of hilarious mix-ups (including the initial gender confusion). Of course, Kim Seul-gil and Yoon Doo-joon are also one of the reasons why I love Love that much.
We all know Kim Seul-gil can pull her weight in loveable, ditzy and batty female characters — exactly how Dan-bi is like. And Yoon Doo-joon can do both the comical and dark, brooding hero juz as well. The two share a sizzling on screen chemistry that is relaxed and natural.
I also like that Love doesn’t really have a crazy, power hungry, lovelorn second female bitch. So-hun has the potential to be one — in a proper 16eps + narrative, it may be possible she will morph into such a character. But at the moment (unless the last 1h changes things), she comes across as this innocent, hapless young girl, who has always been trapped by her family commitments (namely her power hungry Minister father). Like the modern Seul, she doesn’t really KNOW what to do with her life, mostly she juz follows whatever is “common” and whatever her family thinks is “best” for her.
When she meets Dan-bi, So-hun appears to begin to have other ideas. For once, her perspective changes — several scenes show her recent interest in the sky, the night stars, all representative of “broader” things in life. I won’t be surprised if her plan to make Dan-bi the favoured concubine is a way for her to escape her position, so that she can be with Chea-jik. (but to be removed from a position in those times is harder than she thinks…)
The only drawback to Love‘s short timeframe is the jerkiness of the narrative. Especially in the scenes where the Court suddenly decides Dan-bi is a threat and needs to be eliminated. Not much of the usual mechanisation happens (yunno, where the intrigue builds and builds…) and explanations are rather scanty. But that doesn’t mean you can’t catch the gist of what has happened. To a non-sageuk lover like me, I’m totally fine with it.