Hwarang‘s plotline may have dragged from Episodes 4 to 10, but it certainly picked up in Episodes 11 and 12. Without focusing too much on the love triangle of Ji Dwi, Sun Woo, and Ah Ro, this Korean drama’s potential is shining through with the complications presented from numerous villains.
First, there’s Queen Jiso, who seems to go by a “kill or be killed” motto. Up to now, her intentions are unclear about why she doesn’t want to declare Sam Maek Jong as King Jinheung. Does she really just think that the young king is not ready to lead yet, or does she just want to stay in power longer?
Her backstory with Ah Ro’s father is interesting and makes her human, but her cold solution to kill whoever gets in her way makes her detestable. The fact that she has no real confidante is sad, though, and the fact that she sees only one perspective with all her decisions makes her pitiable. She can’t even trust her own daughter, Princess Sookmyung, to know who the real king is. It seems the only person she trusts is her past love, An Ji Gong, whose wife and son had been killed on her orders.
The cold Princess Sookmyung’s character could still go the other way. When she was first introduced, she exuded confidence and independence and didn’t seem sickly at all. Her inclusion in the Hwarang house has impressed the warriors as she proved she’s not a fragile princess. She is even colder than her mother, though, and her growing interest in Sun Woo could go either way. Princess Sookmyung could eventually learn how to be human if they would get to spend more time with each other, or she could get vindictive because Ah Ro gets more attention from both Sun Woo and Ji Dw; both of whom she suspects could be the king, and by tradition, her future husband.
On the other hand, Ah Ro was so interesting during the first few episodes, but she became a crybaby when she began to be tormented with forbidden feelings for her supposed brother. She became more annoying when she found out that the man posing as Sun Woo isn’t really her brother, periodically throwing tantrums and bawling with the slightest provocation. In Episode 12, she redeemed herself when she stood up to the princess and proved that she’s not some lame pushover.
Then there’s Park Young Sil, one of the elders in the Queen’s council, who is hell bent on taking her down and putting his own ward, Ban Ryu, on the throne. He is a typical untrustworthy official whose actions are all calculated for his own gain. Whenever the Queen makes her devious plans, she is easy to hate. But whenever Young Sil comes into the picture, the Queen turns into a protagonist who only wants what’s best for Sam Maek Jong.
Meanwhile, Hwarang master Wi Hwa Kong’s intentions are still shady because it doesn’t feel like he is on the Queen’s side. It seems that his reason for agreeing to form the Hwarang is that he has subversive plans of his own because initially, he had refused to follow the Queen’s orders. Or could fans just be having a hangover from Ma Dae Young of The Legend of the Blue Sea, also played by Sung Dong Il? It sounds far-fetched, but one cannot help but remember Dae Young during the Josea era every time Hwa Kong observes his Hwarang warriors. It always seems like he has an evil plan.
There’s also a lot of character development for Ji Dwi (also known as King Jinheung). For someone who has not been exposed that much to the ways of the world, his upbringing and outlook are impressive. He is not the typical brat characteristic of most royals. He is not cold like his mother, but he knows when to stand up to her when the need calls for it. His interactions with Sun Woo and Ah Ro are teaching him about friendship and love. In the end, his training inside the Hwarang house might turn him into a great king.
On the other hand, the main protagonist, Sun Woo (aka Moo Myung), is also developing into a better character. From being a savage who knows only violence as the solution to protecting his loved ones, he is now learning how to pick his battles while in the Hwarang house. His and Ji Dwi’s relationship will prove to be a test of character for both of them. They might be after the same woman, but they each have their own secret objectives for being a Hwarang. All this while, it seems they might end up being sworn brothers.
Episode 12 became a pivotal moment in the drama as the search for King Jinheung is now in full swing in the Hwarang house. It was also good that it didn’t dwell too much on the love triangle angle of Sun Woo, Ah Ro, and Ji Dwi, as this arc got very boring in the past episodes. Fans from Reddit observed that Ah Ro’s needy character is unnecessary in the drama, noting that the Hwarang warriors by themselves already have more interesting stories to tell. If the rest of the episodes play out well without milking the love angle too much, this drama could end up finishing with good ratings.
According to AGB Nielsen Korea, Episode 12 ranked 10.5 (nationwide) and 10.2 (Seoul), jumping from the previous week’s 12th place to this week’s fifth place. Hwarang is led by Korean heartthrobs Park Seo Joon, Park Hyung Sik, Minho, Do Ji Han, Jo Yoon Woo and Kim Taehyung.
[Featured Image by KBS]