HWARANG EPISODE 5
"Oh, us? We're just hanging around..."
The young king, Moo Myung, and Ah Ro are at the mercy of Scar, the gambler from Episode 1. Clubbed over the head and tied up, the young men effect a daring escape, aided by an unseen archer. Afterwards, the induction ceremony proceeds, uninterrupted by the sudden arrival of the two youths. Ah Ro sets to work repairing Moo Myung's robe. There's a parade, which Jinheung refuses to participate in because of his pride. Minister Park, who has been plotting against the Queen using Scar as one of his agents, foments trouble by recruiting his own army of boys who are jealous of the Hwarang. Then comes the final task, where the Hwarang are to consume mass quantities of strong alcohol, and then find out which room they have by drawing random lots, and whom they're rooming with. They're also told they can fight for the choice of room and roommate. Obviously, this precipitates fights and culminates in a hazing ritual for Moo Myung. He's initially beaten, but sobers up quickly and gives his attackers the beat down. All the fights eventually die down, and they head off to bed.
This wasn't as well put together as the other episodes. There were several times where I could see convenient places to end it, and that's not a good thing. I'm not sure how they could tie things together better -- maybe with music? I was pleased that the show wasn't going to just end right there because I enjoy watching it, but as things seemed to be winding to an end, there was another scene right around the bend.
When you party too hardy on New Year's Eve
Go Ara's acting is meh. I think it's a combination of ability and the script, but she gets on my nerves most of the time. I don't want it to be a boys' club, don't get me wrong, but there's just something off about her portrayal. I want a strong, capable woman, but what we end up with is someone who is uncertain, timid in some cases, and given to bouts of crying. The crying is rather unconvincing, too, which further aggravates me. What I'd like is maybe have Moo Myung train her to defend herself, which I think would go a long way in validating her character. At least she'd have something to do besides being the damsel in distress.
I do like the comedic moments here -- it stops the show from taking itself so seriously. There's still danger but little things (like Minister Park burning himself on a candle) just make this show. I think also the comedy prevents us from thinking too hard about the drama. In a sageuk, life sucks. A lot. And here, there seems to be little trouble from the vagaries of everyday life, and Mak Moon seems to be the only one who paid the price for being a commoner. Otherwise, justice seems to be non-existent and given to the individual who can best stand up for himself. It's different from things like 'Scarlet Heart: Ryeo,' where they seemed to slaughter denizens -- even nobles -- willy nilly.
"I hope I didn't see what I thought I saw..."
I think one of the issues I have with 'Hwarang' is that it's very light on the drama, and immersion is almost non-existent. I watch it, and I thrill at the combat, I snicker at the funny parts, and it's otherwise unremarkable. It's not bad, but it's not terribly good, either. And therein lies its problem. It constantly tosses you out of the drama with actions or set pieces that shouldn't exist. And while it's the most accessible drama I've seen in a while, and very easy to watch, I don't see it keeping a sustainable level of interest. The cliffhangers are what keep people watching, and there really wasn't one in this installment (though I suppose the profusion of idols might keep some of you glued to your screens). I could predict a loss of episodes, but I'm not sure how that works now that many dramas are fully filmed by the time the series starts.
Ultimately, it's in that middle state. It's not bad enough to give it a bad score, but it doesn't merit all that high of a score either. Things that I do like include some of the subplots, such as the agents that are trying to engineer the Queen's downfall. I also like the rivalries that they've set up between the boys. What I don't like is that the conversation seems to be surface level, and there's not been a turn of phrase or anything that really grabs me. I'm hoping now that the boys have been thrown together that we can get some genuine bromance banter going, but I'm not holding my breath. If I do that, I'll pass out before this drama can really find its footing.