Story in a Nutshell
As one of the two Joseon kings without a temple name, artistic works regarding Gwanghaegun see a surge in numbers in recent years. This drama is a remake of a movie of the same title back in 2012, with Lee Byung-hun portraying Gwanghae and his doppelganger Ha Sun. Here, we have the talented Yeo Jin-goo taking on the same roles. Episode 1 is as intense as it can get, throwing the viewers deep into the chaotic world of Gwanghae as he ascends the throne.
Jang Hyuk does a cameo as Gwanghae’s father King Seonjo, as he unwillingly passes the throne to Gwanghae at his deathbed. As Gwanghae was born not to the queen but to a concubine, he knows fully well his legitimacy is highly challenged and Gwanghae lives in a world of total paranoia and anxiety. He is volatile and violent, but there are also glimpses of his vulnerability which Yeo Jin-goo portrays excellently.
His doppelganger Ha Sun is a part of a street performing group, which usually does parodies of the royal family. He was discovered for his uncanny resemblance to the king by one of Gwanghae’s ministers Lee Kyu (Kim Sang Kyung), and forcefully brought into the palace to begin his double life as Gwanghae’s standin.
To Watch or Not
This is an absolute yes without a doubt. This is undoubtly the best showcase for Yeo Jin-goo’s talent, and he DOES have some serious talent that probably puts some of the older actors/actresses, not to mention most of the idol actors/actresses to shame. His takes on both Gwanghae and Ha Sun are very distinct, and there is no mistaking which character he is portraying even when they share a scene. His eyes tell a lot about the character he is at that moment, and even though Gwanghae is unhinged one just can’t hate him because there’s this tiny glimpse of fear and anxiety in his eyes. And for Ha Sun, one just can’t help but root for him because of the innocence and courage in his eyes as well. It’s these subtleties that Yeo Jin-goo does so well, and he’s only 21!
Besides Yeo Jin-goo, the other talented ex-child actress Lee Se Young holds her ground just as well although there’s limited scenes of her in the role of Gwanghae’s queen, So Woon. Despite being thrown right into the times when Gwanghae is already mentally unstable, their first shared scene showed more than animosity between them. There’re hints of fear, longing and disappointment between this young husband and wife. Her defiant rejection of his advances is not one that’s just plain loathing or fear, but stems from feelings far more complicated. The portrayal would have fell flat in the hands of a lesser actress.
The story is fast-paced and engaging and I never had to glance at the clock to see how much time has passed. Given how good sageuks are hard to come by recently, both in terms of story and acting, Show is one that should not be missed, especially if you’re a sageuk fan. Even if you’re not, the standard of acting should have you mesmerized.