Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth is a South Korean television series starring Park Seo-joon, Go Ara and Park Hyung-sik. It airs every Monday and Tuesday at 22:00 (KST) on KBS2, starting from December 19, 2016.
I felt that this show aired a bit too early, considering that Scarlet Heart was just over and this drama felt a lot like a light-hearted version of SHR. Even the poster is reminiscent of our female lead being surrounded by many good-looking men in ancient times. Thankfully, not every guy falls in love with her, and neither does our female lead find herself in the wrong era.
The cast is also very comfortable to watch, having seen most of them in various productions over the years. Park Seo Joon has had his fair share of popular rom-coms, Go Ara most fondly remembered for her hilarious role in Reply 1994, and Park Hyungsik widely recognized as a rising actor-dol. Notably, Taehyung (otherwise known by his stage name, V, as a member of BTS) also landed his first acting debut in Hwarang. It does, however, draw comparisons between him and Baekhyun (of EXO, from Scarlet Heart: Ryeo).
Cast – I’m a bit iffy about this one because although I really love the cast and felt that most of them were good, Go Ara was more of a hit-and-miss for me. She doesn’t have an excuse of being a rookie actress, having acted in so many other shows, yet her acting is very unconvincing at many times. When her character is overwhelmed by emotions, Go Ara tends to show the same pitiful expression over and over again. Even when her character (whom I also did not really like) tries to be strong and stands up against bullies, it feels very weak to the viewers.
The rest, however, are extremely lovely. Hyungsik, in particular, really worked the role as a son standing up to his mother, and a prince taking over a nation. His character is naturally burdened, and I think Hyungsik did a fantastic job in portraying all these emotions, be it bearing a huge and obvious crush on Kim Ah-ro (played by Go Ara), or trying to overcome his own insecurities to become king. It’s not easy, but Hyungsik did it so naturally that I was almost convinced he was really a king in real life, and that naturally puts him on the same level as legendary Lee Joon Gi.
Ending – This ended on a note that was SO MUCH BETTER than Scarlet Heart. Hands down. Towards the end of the drama, I was so afraid that it would turn out exactly like SHR and kill off my love for every character, but the Hwarang writers did a great job in setting everything straight. No one evolves into a power-crazy monster and starts plotting to kill their own friends / relatives etc., no one needs to steal the throne to get power and protect their loved ones. I think SHR has scarred me so badly that I now have a very bad impression of emperors, but Hwarang has helped to soothe a bit of the fear and distaste.
Although I was seriously hoping for a different love line, I guess one cannot have everything. If you read the comments online, you’ll realize that many netizens share my sentiment that Dog-bird / Sun Woo (played by Park Seo Joon) and Ah-ro are such a strange pairing…they’re better off being siblings, but then again, it’s a personal preference.
one of many cute moments our King and Ah-ro share together
Go Ara – Like I mentioned previously, she isn’t the best fit they could have gotten for this role. A better candidate I have in mind would most likely be Kim Go-eun – slightly plain, but tough and witty enough to handle all the guys in Hwarang.
Draggy plot – It took more than 10 episodes for people to finally figure out who the king was, and every time Dog-Bird / Sun-woo kept pretending to be someone he is not. I felt like I was wrapped in this plot of deceit and just waited every episode to see if someone will expose him. Instead, people take it to their advantage and the lies just keep spinning on and on everyday. It made the drama slow to watch at times that it was frustrating.
Arguably, this drama is not as ‘deep’ as Scarlet Heart with its lack of true conflict between many different people. However, it promises a good happy ending, and it delivered.
I would recommend this if you’re looking for something light to watch, or just need to find a drama to cure your Scarlet Heart woes. If you’re hoping this will be as mind-boggling and frustrating as SHR, you might be disappointed, and are better off just rewatching SHR to have your heart broken again.