HWARANG -- EPISODE 1
At last, after setbacks and delays, the drama 'Hwarang' is out! The story is set during the Silla Dynasty, 1,500 years ago. But even if you didn't know that, it would make no difference. More a fantasy than a proper saeguk, the drama focuses on the titular hwarang, a group of elite young knights gallivanting around the capital city of Seorabeol. They are as well known for their looks as they are for their fighting skills.
Our story starts with Moo Myung, otherwise known as "dog bird." He's from the lower classes, but is able to make fantastic leaps, seemingly flying. He projects an intensity that unsettles his foes. He's also highly eccentric -- a lot of fun to watch.
Park Seo Joon as Moo Myung
After running into trouble with some thugs, he and his friend Mak Moon sneak into the city. He gets into a game and gets his opponent in trouble for cheating. Mak Moon is not one of our flower knights, but he does have a mysterious past that he's trying to uncover.
Lee Kwang Soo as Mak Moon
In the city, Queen Ji So tasks a prisoner with finding royal bodyguards; each of them must be the children of officials. Meanwhile, Ah Ro, a fiery half-noble, delights in shocking crowds with scandalous, ribald tales. She also drinks the inventory of her employer for his refusal to pay back wages and stumbles right into the arms of Moo Myung.
Go Ara as Ah Ro
King Jinheung (the son of Ji So) has been in hiding and, once he enters the palace, is attacked by a novice assassin whom he dispatches.
Hyungsik as Sam Maek Jong/King Jinheung
Mak Moon follows Ah Ro, whom he believes to be wearing his necklace, to a decidedly modern-looking dance club. Ban Ryu arrives with his retinue, and Soo Ho arrives as well. Mak Moon is promptly discovered and beaten.
Minho as Soo Ho
Do Ji Han as Ban Ryu
It's obvious from their exchanges that Ban Ryu considers himself superior. Moo Myung arrives to save his friend and challenges all of them...
I like this. It's very light-hearted, despite some of the apparent danger and darkness. I could take issue with some of it, but there's not enough there to take issue with. I like the plot so far; it's pretty uncomplicated for all that. There's that, at least.
The introductions to our Flower Knights are a bit too easy, but at least they let us know who's who. Not all of them seem to appear in this episode, which I thought odd. But that's okay. I'll expect Episode 2 to give us a proper introduction.
The dance club...uh, what?
The acting was pretty good. With the intense scenes, you could feel the tension. Everyone was wound up tight, ready to explode. Say what you want about idols, some of the lines in this script seem like they were ready-made for them. I like how the pacing was pretty tight, too. There was very little filler, and it didn't drag at all (I can't say that about every drama).
The set design was interesting, despite the inaccuracies in the dresses particularly. But I submit they weren't going for accuracy. When you have what amounts to a disco where music is playing and the cool kids are hanging out, you're not going for realism. While that may turn some off, I think we're off to an awesome start. I can't wait to find out what happens next.