Hwarang, KBS’ period drama that is filled to the brim with K-pop idols, has been struggling with its ratings since it debuted last December 2016. Competing with Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim, the current king of the Monday-Tuesday timeslot in South Korea, Hwarang‘s allure to viewers has appeared flimsy at best. With Episode 8 airing last Tuesday and the series approaching its midway mark next week, K-drama fans have apprehensively noted that Hwarang might end its run like fellow historical drama Moon Lovers, which ended on a fairly disappointing note.
K-drama fans have noted in Reddit forums that Hwarang Episodes 7 and 8, which aired this week, were relatively slow-paced. Though Korean dramas that air twice a week usually follow an odd-even scheme, where odd-numbered episodes have little plot development and even-numbered episodes feature more substance, Hwarang has so far been unable to fully balance the contents of its plot. Over the course of Episode 7, numerous viewers of the period drama remarked that the pace of the episode was just far too slow to be entertaining.
Hwarang Ep 8 somehow improved on the substance of the slow-paced Ep 7, but numerous viewers still remarked that the quality of the K-drama is not living up to its full potential. After all, not only is Hwarang star-studded, but its story is also partly based on an actual group of young men in the Silla Kingdom who became famous for their mastery of the arts, strong honor code and, interestingly, their physical beauty. So far, however, the K-drama has been relying on the tried and tested tropes of a love triangle, light humor, and its cast’s allure for the most part.
While the K-drama’s central story still revolves around the romance between main female lead Ah-Ro and Hwarang Moo Myung and future King Sam Maek Jong, the love story in the drama has, for the most part, failed to live up to fans’ expectations. In Reddit forums alone, K-drama fans remain divided on the chemistry of the three main leads, with some stating that Ah-Ro’s dynamic with Moo Myung and the future King appears bland at best.
Overall, fans have noted that there seems to be something missing from the three main characters in the K-drama. Whether the missing piece of Hwarang is the main characters’ acting ability or their experience on screen remains to be seen. This does not mean that the three main characters are not compelling, however. Ah-Ro, Moo Myung, and the future King Sam Maek Jong are all interesting characters on their own. When together, however, their dynamic just appears to be off. Whether this is due to the actors’ acting ability and inexperience remains to be seen, but the lack of chemistry among the leads has so far worked against Hwarang‘s favor.
Interestingly, however, the K-drama’s secondary couple, featuring Soo-Yeon and Ban Ryu Rang, has so far been received warmly by fans. Though the secondary couple has only been shown interacting in small doses over the course of Hwarang, their interactions have been lauded by fans to be extremely humorous and entertaining. If any, the chemistry between the two characters is definitely there, and though their relationship is still leagues away from being definitive, Soo-Yeon and Ban Ryu’s dynamic onscreen is quite undeniable.
While the plot of the K-drama has been dragging so far, the preview for Hwarang Ep 9 suggests that the plot would thicken next week. In the brief Ep 9 teaser, main female lead Ah-Ro was shown to be in trouble, seemingly after the evil (and quite immature) Queen had her kidnapped. The kidnapping trope is something that is very prevalent among K-dramas, and it is commonly utilized as a plot device in order to provide tension among the series’ two main male leads. While the official plot synopsis for Hwarang Ep 9 remains unreleased, fans are speculating that Moo Myung and Sam Maek Jong would most likely react to Ah-Ro’s kidnapping in a very significant manner, possibly resulting in an attempt by the men to rescue her.
Of course, for the whole kidnapping scenario to be effective enough to make the plot of Hwarang compelling, the main characters involved in the incident must have an effective dynamic. So far, this is one aspect that Hwarang has largely been weak at. With Episode 9 set for release next week, the fate of the K-drama, and its ratings for the next few weeks, would be on the main characters’ shoulders. Otherwise, as noted in a Korea Times report, Hwarang might end up becoming like fellow K-drama Moon Lovers, which relied on its cast’s star power a little bit too much, resulting in the series ending as a failure among fans and critics alike.
[Featured Image by Korean Broadcasting System]