kooriyuki says to let me craft the First Impression for Mirror…I hope she doesn’t regret her decision, knowing full well my opinion of sageuks. (heh) [kooriyuki: And I told sab I usually suspend all disbelief while watching fantasy dramas. Hey, it’s fantasy! As long as it doesn’t end up like Moon Embracing the Sun (which is the vibes I got from Episode 1, but thankfully Mirror is set up way better than Moon/Sun) or Gu Family Book (which I’m totally reminded of, when the protectors of our poor Princess mention of A Book that they have to find to release the curse]
- Yoon Si-yoon (from The Prime Minister and I) as Heo-jun. Based on the blurb, he is the a famous traditional medicine doctor. But as of ep2, we haven’t really got any inkling on his background, other than he is desperate for money… and uses all sorts of trickery to earn them.
- Kim Sae-ron (from High School Love On) as Yeon-hee. She is a princess by birth, but carries a curse that will kill her twin brother (the Crown Prince) on their 17th birthday. Thus, evil witch, Hong-joo, orders her to be burnt days after she is born. Of cos Yeon-hee survives, but she lives out her childhood and teenage years trapped in the Black Forest.
- Yum Jung-ah as Hong-joo. Evil witch, and said to hate the Joseun empire so much that she wants to end it. She has already caused a previous King to die an early death sans a heir. However, she is powerful and specializes in black magic.
- Lee Sung-jae (from Warm and Cozy) as Choi Hyun-seo. A shamanic priest by training, he was ousted by his position in the Palace with the return of Hong-joo. Although told to murder baby Yoon-hee, he managed to save her and squirrel her into the Black Forest to live a life in hiding.
Dramabeans will likely recap this series (saw an icon under their recap listing), but here’s my (quite snarky) weecap of the debut eps.
In an age where IVF, and fertility treatments are unavailable, what can you do if you desperately need to get preggy? Well, one way would be to call in a witch and dabble in black magic. That’s exactly how the backstory went.
Queen Dowager Yoon (btw this Queen Dowager is the same one as in The Flower in Prison) is upset that Queen Shin and her young (almost adolescent) King Myeongjong are still without an heir after years of marriage. And that is after she made them do all sorts of sexy, kinky positions in bed, and have tons of priests and doctors tending to the royal couple coupling. She even suggests storming down into their bedroom to view their lovemaking and to “correct” their positions with the entire entourage if they STILL cannot get an heir. (wow…talk about a demanding mother-in-law. poor Queen Shin)
As a last resort, Dowager Yoon calls in Hong-joo (an ex-priestess in the Royal Court), who has been banished to the mountains cos of her dabbling in the forbidden dark arts. Hong-joo whips Queen Sim and discovers that she is barren (pls dun ask me why whipping someone half to death equates a fertility test, and why only one side of the equation gets whipped). Next course of action, get a young priestess to sleep with the King, and then use hocus-pocus to transfer the feotus(es) to Queen Sim’s womb. (even more medically advanced than IVF, if u ask me)
Only catch, the young priestess (Hae-ran) muz die in order to keep this naughty bizness a deep, dark secret. Hae-ran does get brutally murdered, but only after she cursed the Queen and her “adopted” fetuses — the Queen will have a pair of fraternal twins, and the boy will die on his 17th birthday (Hae-ran is a powerful shaman by birth, and methinks more powerful than Hong-joo…cos she can perform telekinesis under duress)
To break the curse (which for some reason lies on the poor baby girl [kooriyuki: because girls cannot inherit the throne, therefore girl must dieeee]), the Princess muz die. So Hong-joo enlists the reluctant help of Priest Hyun-seo (who can control fire at his whim) to burn the baby girl to death. (grrrr) He does — but somehow it is an act. Under orders from King Myeongjong, Hyun-seo saves the Princess.
17 years later, and Crown Prince Sunhwe approaches his birth (or death) day. He complains about having recurring nightmares where he sees a young girl who looks slightly similar to him, crying. Dowager and Queen are alarmed, but Hong-joo assures them that the curse had been broken.
Eh, not really. Yeon-hee (aka Princess Seori) stays in the Black Forest (nothing to do with the chocolate cake) where Hyun-seo has set several traps (including wild animals) to deter people from entering. Heo-jun, who earlier tricked a stupid nobleman in horse racing, is made to go into the Forest on a dare. He enters with his trustily cowardly sidekick, Dong-rae, to pick up a kite flying above the Forest.
After being chased around by a big
white pussycat white tiger, Heo-jun arrives at Yeon-hee’s cottage in the Forest. When he finally gets around to the idea that she isn’t a ghost, a demoness, a witch, or a whatever…he begins to pity her for her involuntary incarceration. (esp when he overhears Hyun-seo berating Yeon-hee for being curious about the wide, wide world beyond her fence)
Heo-jun isn’t the only one who sympathise (and fallen head over heels) with the innocent, sparkly-eyed Yeon-hee. Hyun-seo’s only son, Poong-yeon, visits Yeon-hee without his dad’s knowledge, juz to update her on the outside world and to gently woo her with gifts. He decides to help Yeon-hee jailbreak, in order to visit the neighbouring town’s lantern festival.
Meanwhile, Hyun-seo and his band of helpers are on the search to break the curse between Yeon-hee and the Crown Prince, in order to save Yeon-hee’s life and also the Joseun empire.
At least Mirror sets out on the premise that the narrative will be entirely fictional, and the use of actual historic figures are for artistic purposes. So snarkiness aside, Mirror‘s magical world makes “sense”. It doesn’t start out on making a logical, rational drama; rather, Mirror bases its narrative on the magical world where demons rule alongside witches.
And I mean that metaphorically too: there are demons (who appear as a bunch of smoke with an annoying child like laughter), and there are demons. Dowager Yoon makes the cut as Demon no. 1. Apparently, she was also involved in removing a previous King from the throne in order to put her son (or her personal puppet King) on the royal seat. Of cos, her borderline crazy demands for an heir earns her the Monster Mother-in-law title as well. Queen Sim, who initially starts off as being the pitiful daughter-in-law, unfortunately gets corrupted with her mother-in-law’s constant pressuring for an heir. She becomes Demon no. 2, coldly pimping innocent Hae-ran; cajoling the girl to subject herself to rape, juz so that Hae-ran can bear the royal heir(s).
At least one HUGE silver lining to Mirror is the guaranteed demise of Hong-joo, who I believe is pretending to obey Dowager Yoon et. al., but her ultimate goal is to usurp the entire empire for herself — if not, at least create enough chaos to keep herself entertained. As early as ep2, Hong-joo explains that it is “impossible” for Princess Seorin (Yeon-hee) to be alive, since their fates are intricately linked. If Yeon-hee is alive, Hong-joo will die (and vice versa). And yeah, we all know WHO is alive and kicking in the Black Forest…