Overall Rating: A-
Subtitles: The subtitles were a bit of a struggle for this one. I’m not sure if it’s because it was a historical or because it wasn’t super popular so there was a smaller team working on it, but half the time I was interpreting the meaning of the subtitles for myself since the sentences often did not make sense on their own.
Brief Synopsis: In order to save the Queen during a tumultuous political moment, the General of the King’s guard crosses into what he believes is heaven (really modern day Seoul) to bring back a divine doctor to work miracles. That divine doctor is actually just a plastic surgeon who would very much like to not be trapped in a past timeline where everyone either wants to own her or kill her. Watch it on Viki here.
**Full show spoilers below the image. If you do not wish to be spoiled, do not proceed**
Ending Type: You get a happy ending but I wish they had given us about 1 more minute and shown the actual reunion. IDK.
Characters: At the helm of this ship we have our leads, Choi Young (Lee Min Ho) and Yoo Eun Soo (Kim Hee Seon). This is a Lee Min Ho role where he does not play a rich entitled jerkface who we fall in love with regardless, but instead he plays a talented General who is deeply committed to his king and kingdom, haunted by a tragic past, and guided by a unrivaled moral compass. It’s a classic hero role done very well– General Choi is a character you root for and trust in all situations. He’s an excellent lead even if he’s a bit serious and has a habit of sleeping like, way too much (which is hilarious). Eun Soo is a wonderful compliment/foil to the steadiness of his character, with her silly and impulsive nature. I did appreciate that she was also capable and smart and handled herself well in a lot of really intense situations that she could not possibly have had any preparation for (shockingly they don’t teach you how to deal with hostage negotiations in a past timeline in school). Both characters were distinct and consistent and brought life and gravitas to every scene they were in.
Our secondary leads, Princess (Queen though??) Nogoog (Park Se Young) and King Gongmin (Ryu Deok Hwan) stood out a bit less. While their storyline overall gave me good feels and the bromance between Choi Young and King Gongmin was top notch, both fell pretty flat to me as characters. Queen/Princess Nogoog was sweet and seemed to have a backbone but didn’t have an opportunity to show much emotional range. King Gongmin seemed like a pretty weak and useless character who luckily had someone like General Choi around to essentially guilt him into getting his crap together. He did grow as a character and became a good King, but it took him soooooo long and he was such a mess for most of it that it was hard for me to care about him as a person.
Ki Cheol (Yu Oh Seong) was actually a pretty cool villain. He did not start out super interesting (classic “I’m messing with things for power reasons” motive), but as the show progressed and his motives changed and he began to kind of unravel into this high strung, insane version of himself, hell bent on traveling to a new world in search of new arenas to dominate. He, two of his flunkies, and General Choi all had special spiritual powers (his was ice I think?) and that never got fully explained or really explored much but it did help explain why he and a handful of other people more or less had control of the whole area. I would have been more interested in his crew if I understood more about why the others followed him and what their motivation was.
Relationships: There are a couple worth talking about.
First, the Queen/Princess’s relationship (I don’t have the time to explore the intricacies of why and in which point in history the wife of the king was a queen or princess) with the Doctor (who went by “Doctor” more than Eun Soo) was actually a really sweet relationship. Two women with very different lives from very different time periods using the wisdom and power they each had in their own spheres to look after one another and protect one another–A+ female friendship.
The Queen/Princess and the King–this side romance gave me plenty of feels. Like at first I hated the stupid King for how poorly he treated his bride, especially since there was no reason for it. But he comes around eventually, realizes he’s a stupid jerkface, and begins to act accordingly. I thought the scenes where he was being forced to choose between country and the woman he loved were really moving, and the couple glimpses we get of their fledgling romance were cute as heck.
The King/General Choi–this was an excellent bromance. Watching the King learn to trust his general and the way the two interacted once they had established their shared goal and affection for one another was truly delightful. This show had a more serious tone, and both characters were pretty serious, so it lacked the humor that many K Drama bromances do but it certainly brought the feels in full force.
General Choi/Eun Soo–Our central romance here was sweet and overall very well done. I loved the build up because these two were not necessarily adversaries but it certainly wasn’t love at first sight. Like General Choi is the one who kidnapped the Doctor out of her world and brought her to the past which did not work out overly well for her. But he was also the person who swore to get her back home and who consistently showed up to protect her and to make good on his promise and that kind of loyalty and dependability is hard to find, folks. I loved her for him because she was clever and a little silly and generally just brought life to him and the rough and intense world he lived in, while also remaining capable on her own terms. I definitely got the feels related to to the two of them and appreciated the depth of their devotion to each other. Did it justify her leaving behind her entire world and everyone she knew and loved to be with him? Eh, jury’s out on that one. But I will admit that seeing the two of them reunited after her time jump fiascoes was a very satisfying conclusion.
High Points: Lee Min Ho in a very different role than I am used to seeing him in. I was really impressed and sad that this is not a show that comes up often when people are talking about him. The time travel lore and the consistency of that concept–yes yes good. All the positive friendships and relationships present–a big plus. The general handling of the Doctor’s experience of the past was also magnificent. In some ways this is the Korean version of Outlander and I thought Eun Soo, while a fundamentally different person than Claire, handled herself with a similar level of grace and cunning and general badassery.
Low Points: I think it lacked some humor. I remember there being some levity but my overall impression of the show was that it was very quiet and serious, and while I get why I think it lacked the gravitas to really be a melodrama so it ended up caught somewhere between a melodrama and a fun, exciting K Drama which makes it somewhat forgettable overall.
Final comments: I really enjoyed this show, though it was not masterful the way many shows I have watched recently are. I definitely recommend it though.