First Impressions on The Princess’s Man with Moon Chae Won and Park Shi Hoo

The Summer of the sageuk is fully underway now that The Princess’s Man premiered this week on KBS Wed-Thurs, with Gye Bak joining the party next Mon-Tues for MBC opposite Warrior Baek Dong Soo on SBS. I’m a bit conflicted about TPM after watching two episodes, so I might as well share some first impressions at this point.

I’ll probably keep watching, but it’s doesn’t suck me in the same way Chuno and The Duo did after two episodes. TPM has plenty for everyone, and with a solid 10% premiere ratings, it’ll probably own the Wed-Thurs slot in a few weeks after City Hunter wraps up. That’s great news for Park Shi Hoo and Moon Chae Won, this being their first time headlining a sageuk.

My biggest expectation going into this drama was for the breathtaking visuals. TPM is using the same high-tech Red One Camera that was first used in Chuno, but sadly the visuals don’t have the same lustre and impressive field of range. PD Kim Jung Min simply doesn’t have the technical bravado as PD Kwang Jung Hwan of Chuno, so the camera isn’t used to its full advantage. The sets and costume design in TPM are gorgeous, but in two episodes haven’t come alive yet.

Except for the glorious and dramatic opening scene in episode 1, the rest of the time PD Kim films the drama like he’s doing a court intrigue sageuk. When the action moves outside the walls and corridors of the palace, it doesn’t take flight the way it could and should. I’m hoping the PD’s vision expands as the drama story takes off.

The opening score is also too florid for my tastes. We don’t need swirling opera to tell me this is an epic love of Shakespearean proportions, even if it is. To be fair, in the quieter scenes, the music calms the heck down and is just lovely. I heard complaints that the score is too modern for a sageuk, which I do concur with, but find that it could work if used judiciously and not bombastically.

The acting is decent all around, without any actor making too much of an impression on me either way. The veterans are solid (not surprising), and the four younger leads are just getting comfortable into their characters. I think Park Shi Hoo and Moon Chae Won have good chemistry off-the-bat, which bodes well since their star-crossed love story will anchor this drama.

After two episodes, I finally understand what the title means. The Princess’s Man actually refers to Park Shi Hoo’s Kim Seung Yoo character in relation to both female leads. Hong Soo Hyun plays Princess Kyung Hye, the daughter of King Munjung. Moon Chae Won is Lee Se Ryung, Princess Kyung Hye’s cousin. Se Ryung’s father is Grand Prince Suyang, the younger brother of the current King Munjung. So in the beginning of the drama, Kyung Hye is the titular Princess while Se Ryung is simply an aristocratic noble lady and first cousin to the Princess.

One day, Se Ryung is told by her maid that her father is looking to affiance her to Kim Seung Yoo, the youngest son of Kim Jong Seo, the Right Minister and the most power official in court. This would be a great strategic alliance keeping two factions in line, making the most powerful noble (Se Ryung’s father) into family with the most powerful official (Kim Seung Yoo’s father).

Se Ryung goes to visit her cousin the Princess in the palace. When Princess Kyung Hye chafes at yet another day listening to laborious princess education lessons and Se Ryung overhears that Kim Seung Yoo will be Princess Kyung Hye’s new tutor, Se Ryung offers to change places with Princess Kyung Hye. The Princess can sneak outside the palace for a change and avoid boring lessons, while Se Ryung confesses that Kim Seung Yoo is her fiancée and she would like to secretly meet him.

The two cousins change places and therein set in motion their intertwined fates with Kim Seung Yoo. Both Kim Seung Yoo and Se Ryung are intrigued by each other during the lesson, but while Se Ryung knows his real identity, Kim Seung Yoo believes Se Ryung to be Princess Kyung Hye. During this time, the nobles and the court officials are angling for power in deciding who shall select Princess Kyung Hye’s groom (i.e. the Prince Consort).

King Munjung happens to meet Kim Seung Yoo while he is tutoring the princess, while Se Ryung hides behind a screen hoping the deception will not be discovered by the King. The King takes a fancy to Kim Seung Yoo and announces before a shocked gathering of all the nobles and officials that he has decided who Princess Kyung Hye shall wed.

He decrees that it shall be Kim Seung Yoo, the second son of Right Minister Kim Jong Seo. The entire court freezes in shock – Grand Prince Suyang looks at the Right Minister like he just stabbed him in the back, while the Right Minister is as confused as everyone as to why the King suddenly is bestowing such honor on his flaky second son.

All this happens by the end of the first episode, as does Kim Seung Yoo performing an act of derring do and saving Se Ryung from a runaway horse that is about to fly off a cliff. It’s clear that Se Ryung likes Kim Seung Yoo, who she thinks is her fiancée. Kim Seung Yoo thinks the girl before him is Princess Kyung Hye, and he’s about to be told that he’s going to marry the real Princess Kyung Hye. The Princess is about to find out that her fiancée is Kim Seung Yoo, and she knows her cousin Se Ryung thinks he’s her fiancée and has been meeting with him in secret. Oh what a tangled web of complications before the first episode is even done.

I foresee that before the drama hits the midway mark, based on real Korean history, King Mujung will die from illness leaving a very young prince to take the throne. This will allow Grand Prince Suyang to organize a coup and become King Sejo. This means Se Ryung will become Princess Se Ryung for real in the latter half of the drama, while Princess Kyung Hye will lose her title. At which point, The Princess’s Man will refer to Kim Seung Yoo’s relation to now-Princess Se Ryung, whose father will have had to order the death of the Right Minister and his faction (who are loyalists to King Munjung’s line) in order to gain power.

So the Romeo and Juliet bent to the story is that Se Ryung’s father will have ordered the death of Kim Seung Yoo’s father in order to gain the throne. It’s not really a spoiler to say that the drama starts with the death of Kim Jong Seo and the escape of Kim Seung Yoo from certain death. Kim Seung Yoo will find himself an outlaw, having been affianced to one Princess but in love with another woman, who will then become a real Princess. So how will the lovebirds reconcile their forbidden love? I foresee lots and lots of tears, sweat, and blood before it all ends.

I found the first two episodes of TPM rather slick and a bit soulless, like a well-oiled drama machine but lacking in sincerity of storytelling. The only scene that was impressive was the opening five minutes before the flashback to one year earlier. Everything after that felt orchestrated, unfurling at a steady stream of plot A to B to C. I found some of the contrivances a bit unbelievable, such as how does Se Ryung, a noble daughter of the Grand Prince, keep sneaking out of the house to go horseback riding or exploring and how she and Kim Seung Yoo keep running into each other.

But these are really minor quibbles, because if TPM can quickly get to the meat of the story, I foresee this drama to be a potentially solid sageuk, with rich political intrigue, heavy emotional stakes, and thrilling confrontations. At 24-episodes, TPM is just the perfect sageuk length I like, just long enough to develop the story with patience but not so long as to drag out all the conflicts or manufacture more. I like TPM enough to keep watching, but it’s not a home run right out of the gate. Nevertheless, it has potential, and that’s always a reassuring sign for any drama.

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First Impressions on The Princess’s Man with Moon Chae Won and Park Shi Hoo — 22 Comments

  1. I am so glad I can always count on you to have the latest update and reviews!
    Thank you my all K drama all the time awesome and brilliant reporter!

  2. Do yout think it will have a happy ending? Or the you know “What-really-happen” ending? Like I said, I do stay away from sageuks because of the lack of an happy ending, but I’ve just recently fell in love with PSH and I wanna watch him moooooore. But I just cant do that if the ending is not happy. I refuse.

    • sageuk = tragedy = sad ending + someone will die
      romcom = happy ending
      and we already know that it’s a romeo & juliet story also make a stock of tissues!
      thanks for the review, it is helpful: I watched it but really can’t understand anything

    • lol you’re too funny. I love PSH too! watched Prosecutor Princess, How to Meet a Perfect Neighbor, Iljimae n find him a good actor n a hottie. curious n will be watching this sageuk now that Okoala gave her interesting impressions about it.

      • Thanks guys. I guess I knew but I was just hoooooping! Heheheh. @Ep, at least your watching it.
        Sorry to say I wont be watching. I soo miss PSH too, gah. Just when I found him. But after tristan & isolde, Cherie, and countless other sad movies, I wont voluntarily watch anymore sad old movies/shows.

  3. I was hoping you’d recap this.. I tried watching it live/RAW but it was tough to understand what was going on! Recaps would really help!!! =)
    though i’m really watching this for Park Shi Hoo….. not so much the story itself! haha..

    • Oh, me too! Was really hoping someone…anyone… would recap this.

      Thanks for your thoughts on this ockoala. Hope you enjoy it more as it goes along. I don’t watch a lot of sagueks, (definitely more into the trendies), but I was really looking forward to this one and also A Tree With Deep Roots.

      As for the OST, isn’t this considered a fusion saguek, along the lines of Chuno? I thought the Chuno OST had a few songs that were more “modern”, but they really worked well.

  4. Maybe I’ll wait a couple of episodes before I jump into this one. I usually don’t particularly enjoy the first couple of episodes while the story gets going, and prefer to jump into the middle of things at about episode 5 and go back and watch the early ones if I like the story enough. Does that make me weird? Haha it works for me, anyway. But I’m really rooting for this drama to be good, since I totally adore Park Shi-hoo, and I think he and Moon Chae-won look great together.

    • I do that too, because if the first ep fail to grab my attention, I would start at ep 5 or later and then go watch the first ep again.

      But if one of my favorites, actor or actress, I do try to watch the first ep.

      I did watch the first two ep raw and i like it thus far. I really like PSY and MCW.

      I, too was hoping you would recap this drama too but how about Warrior Baek Dong … ?? Thanks for your unbias opinion.

  5. oh dear am not really in the mood for more tears… oh well, will just play it by ear then, may be wait until more episodes are subbed…anyway, thanks madame K for this… as usual, your input is highly appreciated…

  6. I like TPM so far….it’s a more traditional love story…albeit a likely to be tragic one. I didn’t find it too slick, nothing spectacular (I actually thought Chuno overdid the slick…that was what I call all slick and no heart imo). On the contrary I thought it could do better…but bearing in mind most of the scenes so far involves mostly talking, I suppose they couldn’t do much.

    However I do wonder about the plot, thus far a lot has been happening in 2 epi, but I wonder if there’ll be enough to sustain 24episodes…I was surprised they didn’t start with child actors LOL because I was thinking it’s the norm in KDramas…EVERY single sageuk I saw has a tragic childhood story LOL….It’s a nice change but I sure hope it doesn’t get real draggy if they don’t have enough material later…. Even though this is gonna be a melo…I was a little disappointed the scenes between the OPT weren’t cute enough…they were ok…just rather forgettable…is all.

    This is the first new kdrama I pick up after the craziness of live-watching GL, BFB and CYHMH and since I’ve decided to live-watch TPM, here’s hoping it doesn’t disappoint…too much. Next on my list to live-watch is Scent of a Woman. Also considering WBDS to make it 3 dramas a week lol.

  7. Thanks for the recap, I was trying to find someone who would recap the drama, please tell me you’re going to continue

  8. Thanks for the recap, now I really understood what was going on in the first 2 episodes! I just love the chemistry btw the 2 leads, they are the reason why i’m watching this as tragic story w/bloody scenes is not my cup of tea ^^

  9. Thanks so much for your recap. I only watched the raw version and thought it was an awesome drama even though I didn’t know what was going on. Now that I know what’s actually going on from you recap, I love it even more. Historical/romance/tearjerkers are one of my favorite genres, so I have high hopes for this. This will also help me get over my City Hunter withdrawals (when it finishes next week). If you continue your recaps of TPM, I’ll definitely check it out as they are extremely interesting and helpful.

  10. Thanks for sharing your first impressions on Princess’s Man !!! I love Park Shi Hoo and he’s so charming & endearing with Moon Chae Won!!! The other leads are acting well too! I really enjoy this drama and seriously hoping that you’d continue recapping Princess’s Man. Please Please Please? I believe TPM’s recap is very much anticipated by all of us and your time and effort are greatly appreciated!!! Pleasssseeeeeeeeee

  11. Thank you for writing a review on the drama. At first I wasn’t sure if I should watch TPM or not since it is a historical drama (the reason i don’t watch historical kdrama is because it hard to understand & its hard to keep up with all the character appearing in the story) But after watching the first two episode I got to say I am in love with it and want more. I hope to read more of your review on TPM in the future.

  12. i watched four episode of this and just fell in love with Park Shi Hoo and Moon Chae Won. They just click. I don’t really watch historical dramas because its too confusing at times, but gonna give this one a try.

  13. I agree the setup was quite contrived, but I have a feeling they were trying to stabilize initial characterizations and get to the meat of the story. I think how you described it was very accurate and quite astute! I also think your predictions are well-founded. Your writing style is fun to read as well!

    Now my turn to quibble! MUAHAHA! (Yay, my master’s degree is good for something…..)

    I do want to ask why you dislike the opening (musical) thematic material. The Celtic flavor often seen in such dramatic scenes was quite fitting, I thought. It was a bit out of tune on the soloist’s part and I wonder how the producer’s let her get away with that!!! Seriously woman, use your diaphragm for those high notes!

    Anyway, time to ‘quibble’ about this opening theme. (I’m on episode 3 and it has come back again and it reminded me about this post you made.) Forgive me for getting up on my soapbox, but this is the only thing I actually feel qualified to discuss — as I don’t speak Korean or know particularly much about Korean history! The theme is not operatic in style and is in a style affixed to film scores. It’s a mashup of intense orchestral writing (heavy on strings) and ethereal voices that are not operatic but rather reflect the quality found in boy choirs. The clear, open throat singing and very thickly textured orchestral parts are prevalent in many films from 2000 to now. (Think LOTR, HP, Bourne trilogy.) (If you listen to older films, the textures are SOOOO much thinner. And what I mean by that is there are not as many instruments in the orchestras, there aren’t as many instruments playing at the same time, and the sounds each individual instrument is making are not as full-bodied.)

    I said all this to disagree with the fact that it was too intense for the opening scenes. When you are familiar with heavy opera as I am (Wagner, Puccini, huge chorus’ and such), this intro seems actually a bit light, especially with all the rests in the vocal parts. I think it makes for an intense, but not overwhelming, musical opening. I think it punctuates the action very nicely.

    I know whether or not liking how music accompanies a scene is completely opinionated. I also understand the non-classiacly trained K-drama watcher is also not kept apprised of the most recent definitions of opera. But I just HAD to say something because if it had been actual opera, I would’ve agreed.

    *steps down from her snooty, classical music soapbox*

    Keep writing such lovely reviews! I really enjoy your site. I found it through an open forum on DB.

  14. Ms. Koala, I chimed in really late, 3 years later after the drama was aired. But I’m compelled to add a comment because I’m not sure if you finished the whole series or not. I had similar feeling about the first 2 episodes and I wasn’t quite impressed by the introductory plot. But I moved on with the remaining episodes and am glad I did. TPM is the best Saguek I’ve watched so far (I’ve not watched Chuno yet). It’s not flawless, specifically the 2nd half of the series have many frustrating plots. But in general, the cast were great and the the storyline was well scripted. Park Si Hoo had great chemistry with Moon Cha Hwa and their love story was told in a very compelling way. I just love this drama. Park Si Hoo was definitely awesome in TPM.

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