three is not a crowd… when the trio strike a bittersweet chord

OMO. My heart. HURTS. The King Loves is such a lush, intricately woven story. I can sort of see where Song Ji Na is going with this – or at least how she is adapting the narrative from the original book which I have not read – and it both thrills and shatters my poor heart. Now I understand why Song Ji Na’s proteges had to relinquish the writing rights to her since this genuinely requires a seasoned hand (pen?) to breathe life into the trio of main characters and make the story work in an organic manner. I adore that friendship and loyalty form the bedrock of the story and romance somewhat developed along the way. It’s addictive. GO WATCH. Give it a go if you have the time. There is a possibility that you would hate it (the editing might irritate you to the highest order) but before you make up your mind to hate it…give it a go. HA.

All three main characters have won me over completely with Episode 7 and 8… that one tragic incident seven years ago has caused so much pain, guilt, fear, regret and anger that I shiver at the thought when the truth is revealed. And this time, I’m not too sure whether the truth is going to set any of these three free. Rather, it is going to inflict more torture, pain, agony…and oh gosh… the impending rage and heartbreak.

I’ll vent my complaints first – the editing is horrible. Secondly, the horrible editing is made worse by the fact that like Scarlet Heart, the international version and Korean version are again DIFFERENT. MBC!!! Which was why I was getting confused – scenes from an earlier episode suddenly popped up in a latter episode, and vice versa. I thought I was seeing things – and forgetting things. I’ve been watching and rewatching the episodes on different platforms, which was how I found out. For the sake of my sanity, I’ll comment based on the Korean version.

It’s killing me how Wang Rin and Wang Won keep standing up for each other, fiercely protecting the other, in the face of threat and accusation. Even when it comes to the point of sacrificing oneself. I can see how this pattern is going to repeat itself as they get more entangled into court politics and of course, Eun San. Eun San herself is also a pawn – and a very important one – in the game of court politics and to be honest, it would be a lot better if these three had never crossed paths. Wang Won and Wang Rin have enough on their hands as it is with their both sides of the families and opposing factions scheming like crazy, but Eun San had to barge in with her immmense wealth and lucrative identity … and the shared tragedy of seven years ago which have been haunting them through the years.

All three carry scars, guilt and regret from that day. Eun San rues disobeying her mother and choosing another route which ultimately led to the tragedy. She wished someone had been there to divert her path then. Wang Won knows he could have averted some bloodshed if he had called for help and reinforcement then. But so keen was he to see how skilled Eun San’s family bodyguards were that he did not. He thinks he was the one who indirectly caused Eun San’s current predicament. Wang Rin is aware that it was his older brother who planned the whole farce so that he could “save” Eun San, but he never said a word to Wang Won all these years. And now that Wang Rin is friends with Eun San, he is unwittingly caught in a more difficult position.

The drama does a good job of giving Eun San equal screen time with both men to develop her individual relationships with them, and sufficicent screen time for all three of them to bond together. And adequate purposeful screen time for the two male leads to show us how cemented is the friendship between Wang Won and Wang Rin to the point I believe that they love and respect each other deeply as friends.

The funny moments are endearing – when Wang Won stifled his amusement at Wang Rin’s hideous portrait of Eun San and Wang Rin genuinely thinking his drawing skills were on par. Even cuter was how Wang Won advised Eun San later to say Wang Rin’s drawings were “nice” if she ever saw them. Awwwww… these two boys. Wang Won’s bodyguards are great, a little dim sometimes, but adorable, which reminds me of Choi Young’s underlings in Faith.

Wang Won and Wang Rin bicker all the time over why one should NOT protect and defend the other in the face of danger, which really gets to me. They have the most ridiculous conversations yet all of them are poignant and just reiterating how much they value and care for each other.

Wang Rin is all ready to take the rap and keep his mouth shut at the cost of his life – refusing to lie, even at his older brother’s urging, that Wang Won was the one who ordered him to shoot arrows at the king. Wang Won intercepting quickly and announcing that he had discovered his arrows were missing before the hunt and had ordered Wang Rin to find the thief.

Wang Rin then gets mad that Wang Won insisted on taking his side at the risk of arousing the king’s suspicion. Wang Won already figured the king is suspicious so he didn’t see the point of diffusing that at the moment. I love how Wang Won coolly stood up to his mother, declaring blithely he was not king yet, shutting her rant that a king had no friends, only subjects and close subjects were usually the biggest traitors. Wang Rin does his one-man honest show and admits he did shoot Wang Won’s horse, which floors the latter. Let’s just say if he hadn’t shot the horse, Wang Won would definitely look like the culprit. Wang Rin made it look as if someone was attempting to assasinate both the king and the crown prince.

It was sweet how Wang Rin gently led his sister away so that Wang Won could have a chat with Eun San when she ended up at crossing their path again. I don’t know what happens in next week’s episodes that causes Eun San to be arrested, but I suspect Wang Rin claiming that Eun San is his woman was to prevent Wang Won from getting into deeper trouble with his mother and the court, and also to save Eun San. I mean being known as Wang Won’s woman in the current terse situation is akin to a death knell. Wang Rin is so, so unfailingly loyal and committed to Wang Won at this point that it is almost unbelievable. But Song Ji Na makes it plausible and believable by infusing his character with acute situational awareness, intelligence and a whimsical vulnerability and tenderness.

Eun San is growing on me – she is fun, spunky, sharp, brave, hardy, practical and off-kilter. Loveed how she plopped herself at the front door of Wang Rin’s house when he initially refused her entry. I laugh at how she seems to draw her own conclusions about everything and how she thinks that the two men are pretty much useless. But her jovial nature is underscored by the co-existing pain from seven years ago and her personal vendetta. Yoona’s portrayal of Eun San is decent enough and getting better with each episode. How crushed she would be if she knew that her new friends had involved in the untimely death of her mother.

Wang Won is such an enigma. He is clueless and gauche on some fronts, hopelessly vain and arrogant sometimes, and worries over the silliest things possible – yet we see his brillant, calculative, shrewdly discerning side when he handles his parents and ministers, and generally everyone else who isn’t part of his personal entourage.

It is bittersweet how much he wants to keep Eun San by his side just because she makes him laugh and smile. He is crushed by his guilt when he sees her cry in her sleep. His growing feelings for her are driven by the same guilt and fascination from seven years ago. He is also simple minded in many ways yet so incredibly cunning at the crack of a whip if need be.

He trusts Wang Rin implicitly and I wonder whether it is this implicit trust that will govern his actions and decisions later. It is as if he staunchly believes Wang Rin will eventually do the right, moral thing even if he is momentarily swayed or tempted, even if Wang Won himself is doing wrong outwardly. This may prompt him and give him unfair leeway to unleash his manipulative side to those who deserve it, even if it means looking bad in the eyes of his closest friend and the woman he loves. Even if it means betraying them…outwardly for their own good. Or it could totally swing the other way that he chooses to betray them to get them out the mess as he goes after his own ambitions.

GAH. I love how this drama provokes me to analyse the characters, and gets me all excited and apprehensive on how the story will unfold. I suspect it is going to heartbreaking in many ways – yet refreshing and rewarding because it is not just another love triangle and romance.

Fascinating…just fascinating… and ADDICTIVE.