scarred heart: so

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What a horrible ending. I didn’t need my tissues at all. Lee Jun Ki IS Scarlet Heart: Ryeo – the brave heart and soul of this incredibly messy, confusing, inconsistent drama. A stellar turn in the form of a flawless, mind-blowing performance as the complicated but addictive Wang So. With the conclusion of this drama, he has stolen a huge chunk of my heart. I’m going to suffer from major withdrawal symptoms…what’s life without a sexy-as-hell Lee Jun Ki a.k.a 4th Prince to kick start my week???

Soo arrives at Jung’s place and when he extends a hand to help her up, she is reminded of So doing a similar thing long time ago. Jung divulges that So would not allow them a marriage ceremony so he had to make do. He tells her that though he used marriage to help her escape the palace, he doesn’t expect more than friendship from her. He happily informs her that her quarters is far away from the main house so it isn’t noisy – and pretty near where he resides. He invites her to come over and hang out anytime. Ha. He is super cute. He returns her hairpin and adorably thanks her for saying the magic words. When he leaves, Soo longingly examines her boxful of the same poem written by So.

Anyway, Soo and Jung lead a fairly happy, peaceful life. Jung notes that the king has sent spies and pretends to act all lovey dovey with Soo. Anyway, Soo is weak and Jung insists on calling the court physician, who has since retired. Soo is reluctant but we know why later when the physician declares she is pregnant. He couldn’t detect the baby’s pulse earlier when he examined her in the palace…and Soo calmly replies because it was too early then. So she knew she was pregnant when she left the palace. Soo beseeches the physician to help her keep the baby and Jung orders the physician to stay until the baby is born.

So receives reports from his spies who claim that Soo and Jung are acting like a couple. He roars that Baek Ah had told him Soo and Jung were just friends but they ain’t acting that way. Ji Mong reminds him that Soo has always being a friendly person and friendly with the princes, and the type that gets along with men very well. HA. Ji Mong almost makes Soo sound like a unrepentant flirt here. But So’s anger isn’t assuaged.

Soo is busy drawing the princes’ faces on stones when her heart starts to play up again. Jung quickly carries her into the room, not knowing that So is watching them.

Soo rests in her room and Jung takes up residence on her couch, Goryeo-era style. When she tries to send him back to his room, Jung tells her not to pour cold water over his first night together with his wife. Awwww. They reminisce about old times and start laughing. So hears their laughter from outside and the light in the room dims. He mistakenly thinks they are sleeping together.

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So returns to the palace and orders Ji Mong to halt all reports of Jung and Soo – he doesn’t want to hear of them any longer. Soo and So go on with their lives, both imaging the other by their side. The editing is confusing here but it’s the last episode so I’ll let it go.

Soo gives birth to a healthy baby girl but at the cost of her health. Jung instructs the midwife to take it as the child was stillborn and warns her to keep her mouth shut. Soo implores Jung not to send her daughter to the palace under any circumstance. She hands him a letter and asks him to send it to So. Jung asks whether she wants So to see the child; So replies she wants to see So.

Jung is about to send the letter when he realises that Soo’s handwriting is very similar to So’s. Thinking it may cause confusion and suspicion, he puts her letter into another envelope and writes his name instead. Soo gradually gets weaker and weaker, but keeps writing letters to So.

Back in the palace, So throws Soo’s latest letter onto a pile of unopened letters, all from her. So gripes that Jung is stubborn to keep writing to him. Meanwhile, Soo is waiting for So to visit her, looking like death. She tells Jung that So would come if he reads her message and Jung doesn’t have the heart to tell her that So isn’t coming.

Jung informs her that he has hired musicians from Songak to perform for them. The musicians sing the song that purportedly caused the king to fall in love with a palace maid. It is the song that Soo sang at Eun’s birthday. It dawns on Soo that So isn’t ever going to visit her and she reminds Jung of his vow long ago that her life was akin to his life. She makes him promise to look after her daughter and never to send her to the palace.

Jung wonders whether she will recognise him in her next life – Soo answers that she won’t remember him or anything else. She’ll forget everything. She wants to forget everyone and everything. She breathes her last and Jung cradles her in sorrow.

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So hears of Soo’s death and wonders wildly whether Soo hates him so much that she died to spite him. Ji Mong tells him that Soo wrote many times to him but he didn’t read the letters. So grabs one letter and opens it – inside the envelope is another with Soo’s writing. So reads the letter… which is nowhere CLOSE to the Chinese version which was heartbreaking. Soo’s letter is as confusing and shallow as the woman herself – though she ends up declaring she always loved So. She loved him from the moment he sheltered her from the rain and when he took the arrow for her.

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Damn. The letter is so crappy and lame compared to the original that I can’t even. I don’t even know why the letter moves So to tears – maybe the Chinese version teleported across to him. But Soo did make one comment that I thought which described So perfectly – she said he was warm, but cold. He is ruthless.

Anyway, he races to see Soo. Jung is staring at Soo’s urn, when Baek Ah appears. Jung hands him a letter from Soo just as So barges in like a madman. He sees the urn and loses it. He blames Jung for using another envelope to hold Soo’s letters – he thought the letters were from Jung. Jung relates that he had to do that because Soo’s writing was exactly like So’s and may cause trouble.

Jung blames So for not visiting Soo sooner. Didn’t his spies tell him that Soo was ill and dying? Baek Ah defends So, barking that the spies instead reported that Soo and Jung were acting all intimate and even shared a room. Jung belatedly realises that he is partly to blame as to why So didn’t visit Soo.

So picks up Soo’s urn and Jung argues that he should be the one who should keep the urn since he is Soo’s husband. So growls that though Soo married Jung, she is still his person. Baek Ah shouts over them, urging Jung to consider who Soo would really want to be with. That stops Jung and So leaves. Jung takes out So’s comb and it hits Baek Ah that Jung was in love with Soo all along. He hugs his younger brother, calling him a fool.

So choses their favourite hangout as Soo’s resting place.

Some years later.

Won is ordered to be executed via poison for committing treason. Baek Ah delivers to him Chae Ryung’s last letter to Soo. He reads it and exhibits some semblance of regret. Whatever, writer-nim.

Cut to Baek Ah visiting Wook and seeing a little girl whose name is “Bok Soon” – the fake name Woo Hee had given herself. She is also wearing Woo Hee’s pendant and claims she always had it. EH? So Baek Ah thought she was Wook’s daughter at first but so… is the girl his???? WTH? I’m officially perplexed with the writer.

Wook comes along and is all aged and sickly. Wook says he hears that Baek Ah is now a nomad, travelling all over. He asks Baek Ah how So is doing and Baek Ah wryly notes that Wook is still interested in politics. Wook replies that he is simply curious to know what kind of king So is and whether he would be known as the most powerful king ever. Baek Ah asks whether he still misses Soo – and Wook smiles wistfully that maybe he does.

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Yeon Hwa marches into the throne room and demands to know why So won’t attend his son’s birthday. So remarks that she spoils her son too much. Yeon Hwa notes that So has already killed two of his nephews and treats his son like a political rival. So answers staunchly that he knows that Yeon Hwa and her son would scheme to overthrow him someday – that’s why.

Yeon Hwa accuses So of missing Soo still and doing things in her memory – Soo once said everyone was equal, thus So has ordered all slaves to be freed and introduced state exams. So retorts that even if what Yeon Hwa is saying is true, she can’t do anything about it.

So visits Soo’s resting place and lo and behold, a little girl bumps into him, reacting like how Soo did when she bumped into him all those years ago. Jung comes along and is flustered when he sees the girl with So. So needlessly comments that Jung broke exile again – Jung quickly says he only did so because it is Soo’s death anniversary.

Anyway, judging by the girl’s age, So knows that she can’t be Jung’s daughter. He knows she belongs to him. He orders Jung to leave but he can’t take the child with him. Jung drops to his knees, blurting out that Soo’s last wish was that their daughter to never the palace as it was a scary, lonely place.

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In defeated tone, So announces that Jung is no longer in exile and invites him to visit the palace often. I guess it is a win-win situation since Jung gets to keep the girl out of the palace and So would still get to see her.

It is Ji Mong’s turn to leave So. And they have yet another confusing conversation which infers that Ji Mong had romantic feelings for Moo? Because after telling So that Soo might be from another world and he shouldn’t pine for her, the astronomer goes on to beseech So not to be like him and love someone you cannot have. So… he loved Moo in that way? ARGH.

So turns to study the darkening sky and that moon wormhole appears. And we get flashbacks…

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And cut to Soo in modern time, waking up from a dream, crying. Soo – now Ha Jin but I’ll keep calling her Soo – wonders why she keeps dreaming about the same thing… and wonders why she is crying. Such an abrupt cut from past to present – way too jarring.

Soo is working at an exhibition for Goryeo cosmetics – HA! – and grumbles to her colleague that she keeps dreaming of a man with a scarred face. The cosmetics include Soo’s soaps made at Damiwon. Her colleague reminds her that she nearly drowned one year ago. Soo spots the reincarnated Ji Mong and finds him familiar. So he isn’t some homeless guy now?

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Modern Ji Mong comes over to her and seems to know who she is. He informs her that her surname “Ko” was known as “Hae” in historical times. He comments that things will come full circle. Soo explains to him that the serum she is promoting contains rose oil….and suddenly recalls Baek Ah giving her Bulgarian rose oil to make her products. Shaken, she picks up the BB cream and her mind flashes back to the time where she applied her homemade BB to cover So’s scar. HAHAHAHA. This is hilarious though I know this scene is supposed to be significant. Soo almost collapses and her colleague advises her to take a rest.

Cut to Soo visiting a Goryeo folk art exhibition. The editing is HORRIBLE. Does this take place on a different day or the same day, just that Soo changed out of her uniform? I’m guessing the art and cosmetic exhibition is all part one of big Goryeo exhibition?

Anyway, she slowly surveys the pictures. I assume some of the art belongs to Baek Ah? Heh. Everything starts to come back to her as she looks at the different pictures depicting all the memorable events she experienced in Goryeo, realising everything wasn’t a dream.

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She comes across So’s portrait… and all their sweet moments flash through her mind. She remembers everything now and reads the description of King Gwangjong – the description mentions his birth name “So”; states he freed slaves and introduced state exams; was a powerful king but known for his bloodthirsty tendencies.

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Soo breaks down and apologises not being able to help him – DID SHE EVEN TRY IN THE FIRST PLACE? All she did was flit between the princes and dissing So whenever he did something she didn’t agree with. ARGH.

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She spots the picture of So standing all alone in front of the palace and cries that she is sorry for leaving him all alone. EH? She is many centuries too late.

The picture morphs into life and we are back to Goryeo times. Baek Ah appears and informs So that Wook has passed away. So is visibly upset. Baek Ah comments that no one else for him to visit, so he is leaving again. I kinda hope that Baek Ah visits So occasionally in between his travels … and I think he does. I would like to think that he did and brought comfort to So. Baek Ah leaves and So is virtually all alone. He cynically repeats his father’s last word: “futile”. He recalls how he once told Soo that his life would not futile because he had her…

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He looks around and swears that he find Soo no matter what… even if she is from another world. He rubs away his makeup to reveal his scar….

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And we end with a memory of Soo and So in happier times.

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ARGHHHHHH. I HATE THE ENDING. It is NOT a happy ending – it is just a BAD ending. Plus all that back-and-forth between the different time periods did not help at all. It was so meaningless! Why didn’t they show the reincarnation and rob us of a gorgeous Lee Jun Ki in modern attire? I would rather they just stopped at the point where So rubbed away his scar. It would have been more impactful as a conclusion since his scar was the catalyst that set everything in motion.

Did they axe the reincarnation part because the Chinese media authority forbids such elements? I’m guessing they didn’t film the reincarnation scene at all. If they did, I’m pretty sure SBS would have included it into the Director’s cut a.k.a the Korean version. Unless they weren’t allowed to change the ending. I still feel cheated that there wasn’t a reincarnated So…

Anyway, the last episode failed tremendously at all the important scenes. Soo’s letter was horribly shallow which didn’t qualify and justify So’s inconsolable grief. Thus, I wasn’t moved at all and failed to connect to his show of mourning though Lee Jun Ki cried beautifully. The writer failed to emphasis how incredibly meaningful that Soo practised her writing to look like So’s – it was a representation of her deep love and yearning for him.

I thought Jung was likeable in his episode, despite the fact that he unwittingly caused So to misunderstand Soo. Soo was right to marry him – because he is the only one who can love her freely. He faithfully kept his word to the end and ensured her daughter did not enter the palace. I appreciate his single-mindedness here.

One aspect that I thought the Korean version did better was the museum scene, where the paintings depicted all the significant scenes in the drama and slowly unlocked So’s memory. It was a nice touch until Soo bawled that she was sorry she didn’t help So to attain a more peaceful moniker in history, and bawled even more when she apologised to So for leaving him all alone. Soo just came across lacking sincerity – her tears grated on my nerves.

This really should have been a 24- or 30-parter rather than cramming everything into 20 episodes.

When all is said and done… I don’t think anyone will refute the opinion that Lee Jun Ki was Scarlet Heart: Ryeo in every essence and aspect of the drama. He was absolutely charismatic, riveting in every scene – electrifying, awesome, fantastic, marvelous, peerless, magnetic… not to mention in-your-face, drop-dead gorgeous. The twenty episodes were a collective SWOON FEST of his memserising, emotive almond-shaped eyes and chiselled jawline. And such immaculate hair, too. He has never been so formidable or commanding, has never owned a role so unapologetically. He carried the entire drama from start to finish, never faltering and bewilderingly consistent until the last second. He exhibited the raw edginess and heartrending vulnerability that I fell in love with in King and the Clown. I swear unhinged wildness suits him to the core.

Bring on the bad-ass roles, please.

I shall just call the drama “Ryeo” in this last review. Ryeo was similar to the original version yet so different. Some differences were good; some were just bad. I won’t go into the detail on the bad and good, but the overwhelming consensus is that the writing and editing left a lot to be desired. Plus all that useless time jumps and needless sideline romances and sub-plots.

I didn’t like Liu Shi Shi much in the Chinese version but IU takes the cake as Soo. Not only was the character written like a fickle teenage girl with no clue to the meaning of true love, IU hammered the nail home with her one-dimensional performance. I didn’t watch her previous works but I had no idea she was that… wooden. That one deer-in-the-headlights stare accompanied her from modern Seoul to historical Goryeo, through sadness, fright, adoration, anger, happiness… all the feelings were encapsulated into that one nerveless stare. Her lackluster performance was made more obvious when up against Lee Jun Ki who was emoting on tap and a steady Kang Ha Neul. Heck, I think even Nam Joo Hyuk did a better job at turning on the feelings than her.

Worse than IU’s performance was the fact that the OTP romance never felt soulful or deep, like the Chinese version. The problem with IU is that she failed to present the best and most chemistry with Lee Jun Ki – she had about equal chemistry with him, Ji Soo, Nam Joo Hyuk and Baek Hyun. Thus, it felt and appeared as if she liked all the princes the same.

It takes two hands to clap – Lee Jun Ki was perfect as the terribly flawed 4th Prince but IU could not match up to him in any form. Her stiltedness and lack of sizzling chemistry with Lee Jun Ki only made it worse. She had better rapport with Kang Ha Neul, thus I actually enjoyed the few scenes where Soo and Wook were blissfully in love. Her scenes with Lee Jun Ki were woeful, their kisses more robotic than romantic.

I believe even with bad writing, if a capable actress was cast, she would have found a way to breathe life and sense into a poorly developed character. IU could not and did not.

And Soo. GAH. One of the worst heroines ever. Totally blind even with those huge eyes. Don’t understand her, can’t understand her, never want to understand her. All her excuses, all her reasoning, all her decisions left me scratching my head. Again, because 4th Prince was so complex and layered, her lack of substance and thought stood out like an angry sore thumb. Her indecision and idiocy in the last few episodes were painful to watch – I just wanted her to leave the palace and leave my poor So in peace. He would be so much better off with a woman who truly understood and treasured him, and didn’t sulk or drop him like a stone each time he made a decision she didn’t like.

The Princes. HMMMM. Kang Ha Neul was fine and relatable as Wook, Hong Jong Hyun’s acting became better after he lost the eyeliner, Ji Soo was surprisingly awful (except in the last episode) and awkward (what’s with the horrid hair and clumsy gait???), Baek Hyun was too cutesy (though he did well in his death scene) and Nam Joo Hyuk wasn’t too bad. Maybe because Joo Hyukie had many of scenes with Lee Jun Ki and fed off his awesomeness. He had great chemistry with his hyung-nim, too. The actors who took on Moo and Won were serviceable, though forgettable. The costumes were beautiful though, especially Lee Jun Ki and Nam Joo Hyuk. Both were coiffed to perfection, and Lee Jun Ki was impossibly gorgeous throughout.

That leads me to the wonderful bromance between So and Baek Ah. I didn’t think much of it in the Chinese version but here, it was done with such heartfelt charm. Kudos to Lee Jun Ki and Nam Joo Hyuk for pulling it off. If there is anything sincere and worth rooting for in this drama, it is the unwavering trust, loyalty, respect, love and affection they have for each other. They understood each other implicitly and explicitly.

Baek Ah didn’t agree with all the decisions So made as king, but he understood and reasoned why So had to do such. He might have been upset with So with regard to Woo Hee’s death, but he ultimately understood why So made that call. Baek Ah supported So from the early days and never let him down. He trusted his older brother unconditionally, which can’t be said of Soo. So’s love and care for his faithful younger bro were so sweet and touching, too. I personally think So and Baek Ah were the best written characters – I’ll pretend Baek Ah’ s meaningless romance with Woo Hee never happened. URGH.

SO. SIGH. SO. Loved him to pieces and such an intriguing diversion from the original 4th Prince. I loved his darkness and vulnerability, his turbulent emotions, his ruthless consistency… and the fact he loved and hated with passion. Because Soo was just so… passionless and boring. But so more than made up for it. His character was well developed throughout, his feelings for Soo relatable, his love for his mother and the other princes heart-breaking even as they detested or betrayed him in the end… the scene where he had to kill Eun… oomph.

My final comment for this drama?

LEE JUN KI, DAEBAK.

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