I started my K-drama journey on a sageuk, years and years ago. A good and proper sageuk, all 55-episodes that was Seodongyo full of slow and meaningful developments interspersed with cliffhanger episode endings and plenty of meat to keep me hooked. I haven’t seen one of those in years, and it’s a shame. I mean, Jumong was 81-episodes long and I was riveted through the entire series, it can’t be that people’s attention spans are that nonexistent anymore. I bring this up because I feel River Where the Moon Rises could have worked as a true long form sageuk, with 10-episodes devoted to backstory of the Gorguyeo tribal conflicts and the kids stories, then another 10-episodes with Ga Jin being an assassin before returning to the palace and regaining her identity. You get my drift, this drama felt like the cliffs notes version and while there are flashes of brilliances it’s fleeting and a good story isn’t just a paragraph or a chapter that captivates. I do appreciate how the cast and crew tried so darn hard to make it work, every scene is a labor of love and the acting is solid all around. Nothing to write home about much like how this drama will stack up post-airing, but I do think it positions Kim So Hyun to really dig deep whenever she’s ready for a true test of her ability and mettle. She’s ready for a Queen Seondeok or Empress Ki challenge, stepping into the shoes of amazing sunbaes like Ha Ji Won and Lee Yo Won and many more who have been bedrocks of the Korean sageuk drama tradition. Please don’t let that tradition die out in the world of Snapchats and Tiktok videos, long form art should be appreciated and preserved and I truly appreciate what River tried to do but alas didn’t plan out thoughtfully enough to accomplish.