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Review: 'The King's Affection' Episodes 1 and 2

Updated: Oct 17, 2021

Coming from the perspective of someone who has never read The King's Affection manhwa by Lee So-young, this review includes only remarkable elements in the series so far, a short recap, and some spoilers.

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Park Eun-bin and Rowoon

Contrary to what was shown on the series' teasers where the scenes were playful and lighthearted, the first few minutes of the pilot episode are actually pretty dark. The King's Affection immediately goes head-on wasting no time to show the conflict: the birth of twins into the royal family. As it is considered taboo, only the young prince should be kept alive as the future head of Joseon, and the other half be discarded.

The evening rain adds to the dark atmosphere all these scenes were shot in. The first episode is a grand showcase of how desperate the king is to ward off the bad omen they believe that a twin son and daughter will bring about. The Crown Princess and mother of twins (Han Chae-ah) is visibly distressed about the situation as she is compelled by the men around her to agree to the murder of her daughter. This should come as no surprise as Korean society used to be heavily influenced by the teachings of Confucianism for centuries, where women were expected to be meek and obedient to men and seen as inferior to them. But a quick, genius attempt to conceal the secret that her daughter is still alive and a skeptic among the king's henchmen (Bae Soo-bin) led to the circumstances in the series. This situation firmly establishes the connection between the past events and the characters' present lives.

Choi Myung-bin

Years later, the twins meet within close proximity of the palace, the girl being a court maid named Dam-i and the boy as the young prince Yi-hwi (both portrayed by child actress Choi Myung-bin) immediately recognizing their uncanny resemblance. The young prince informs his mother, the Crown Princess, about a court maid who looks exactly like him. Suddenly, the past comes catching up to her like a predator in the night. The turn of events is depicted well in the series just at a time when things already seem to be peaceful. Adding fuel to the fire is the young prince's naughtiness to switch places with the court maid without anyone knowing except for a young eunuch (Kim Geon). One thing led to another, and Prince Yi-hwi dies in Dam-i's stead, while Dam-i becomes stuck in the guise of the young prince. With this, the court maid starts carrying the burden of becoming the future king and the secret that lies in it. The budding romance between Dam-i and young aspiring scholar Jung Ji-un (Ko Woo-rim) also comes to a halt when the court maid suddenly disappears.

Park Eun-bin as Yi-hwi

In Episode 2, Dam-i as Yi-hwi grows up to be an ill-tempered prince and also has the feminine touch that is obvious at most times. Park Eun-bin portrays the grown-up Yi-hwi with grit and the air of arrogance around her, which is effective in such a role that has been tormented inside for many years. Meanwhile, actor Rowoon is introduced as adult Jung Ji-un, a smart and quick-footed physician. The casting was accurate appearance-wise, with the young actors who do resemble their adult versions.

Rowoon as Jung Ji-woon

Park Eun-bin as Dam-i

The quality of the production stays consistent in both episodes, as evident in cinematography and costume. Only perhaps in its screenplay, some people are only there as a plot device to suit where the story is going. The deceit of Prince Yi-hwi's teacher is not delved into although it stirs the story and creates a conflict. Jung Seok-jo (Bae Soo-bin) kills a young court maid, Dam-i's friend, in a seemingly public place where the only witnesses are JungJi-Un and Dam-i, which is hard to imagine given that people are round and about in light of day. There is also a lack of strong justification for Dam-i's grieving when the Crown Princess dies despite being the one to put her in misery. Even before her death, Dam-i was already taught by the latter to never forgive and keep on living, even if it is just for the sake of resentment. The mother-and-daughter relationship seems forced without a strong bond between them when there could have been a chance for the Crown Princess to make it up to the child with more gentleness. But all this does not greatly affect the overall caliber of The King's Affection.

While it is not really overused, the plot of The King's Affection is also certainly not unique, but the show made it special and thrilling to anticipate what will happen to Prince Yi-hwi's future and restrictions on love. After all, the secret can only go so far within the walls of the palace.

Overall rating: 7/10

The King's Affection airs every Monday and Tuesday at 21:30 on KBS2 and streams on Netflix.
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