Hwarang: The Poet Warrior is a drama based on the Silla Kingdom of Korea. According to their history, Hwarang was a group also known as Flowering Knights, composed of elite male youth well versed in the arts and culture. As in the present Korean drama, the knights known as Hwarang were trained to strengthen the Silla kingdom, but were more known for their use of make-up and cosmetic decorations, and not necessarily for military purposes. On the other hand, the K-drama from KBS2 gives the impression that Hwarang was formed to protect the faceless king, and to unite the three kingdoms.
The ongoing drama isn’t faring very well with viewers, compared to top grossers Goblin, The Legend of the Blue Sea, and Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim. Ratings as of Episode 10 has placed Hwarang on 12th spot by AGB Nielson, both nationwide and in Seoul alone. The plot has a lot of potential if only it would focus more on the Hwarang knights than on the love triangle of Ah Ro, Master Ji Dwi, and Moo Myung or Sun Woo.
For one thing, the Hwarang are supposed to protect the faceless king, but the only fighting and action showcased are the guys’ petty fights. Often they would just be seen walking around the Hwarang house looking pretty in their uniforms.
Another flaw is the love story, where Ah Ro seems to be attracted more to who she thinks is her brother. Although Episode 9 and 10 finally revealed his real identity, it looks like the storyline is still going in the direction of Ah Ro and Moo Myung (Sun Woo) ending up together. On the other hand, the faceless king, Sam Maek Jong, disguised as Master Ji Dwi is hell bent on protecting her, but she doesn’t seem to feel any attraction towards him. It looks like Park Hyung Sik would lose the lady to the main lead again, in yet another second lead syndrome — a K-drama’s tried and tested formula.
Princess Sook Myung’s introduction promises to stir excitement in the Hwarang house, especially during her first encounter with Moo Myung. If only filming of this drama hasn’t wrapped up, the team could have changed the outcome of the story based on fans’ reception. The princess and Moo Myung’s pairing promises good chemistry, so does the king and Ah Ro’s happy ending. After all, if fairytale formulas are anything to go by, royalty always ends up with a commoner.
Meanwhile, there is the king’s bracelet that Moo Myung always wears since he cut it off from Ji Dwi’s arm. The Hwarang’s sleeves are loose, hasn’t anybody noticed him wearing it yet? It appears that only Ji Dwi has seen it, and he has made no attempts to get it back, even while knowing it is the sigil of the king. With Master Young Sil eager to know who the king is, discovering the bracelet in Episode 11 might lead him to the wrong person.
The appearance of Hwi Kyung Kong, who was supposed to be king, seems to imply that he might be Moo Myung’s real father. It could be that the reluctant Hwarang might have a shot to the throne. This might give Ah Ro her fairytale ending with a king after all. But the development of the story is too slow, seeing as it is already half way through.
One of the fairly good parts is the blossoming love story between Ban Ryu and Soo Ho Rang’s sister. With Soo-yeon seeming to soften the often rebellious Ban Ryu who needs to have his anger issues checked, surely his and Soo ho’s rivalry would come to an end.
Another fun part is the comedic and loyal assistant of Master Ji Dwi, who on last night’s episode managed to get a spot in the Hwarang house to be able to serve the king more closely. His interactions with Ji Dwi are often endearing and heartfelt.
In addition, it looks like the drama would also be touching on homosexuality with the growing friendship between the beautiful Yeo Wool Rang and the youthful Han Sung. This would be a unique angle for a K-drama, but might be a controversial one if pursued, as the story isn’t set in modern times.
Catch Hwarang on KBS2 every Monday and Tuesday.