Lovers of the Red Sky -- Episodes 1 & 2: When Magic Encounters Fate
The visuals, color palette, and costumes are stunning. Lovers of the Red Sky is creative, imaginative, and bewitching in its fairytale-like storytelling and cinematography, especially in its depiction of good and evil -- the bright golden protector of good and black redness of evil -- brilliantly done. What seizes most about this drama is how it draws its storytelling from the mythical Grandmother Samsin (Moon Sook), the triple goddess of death, birth, and balance. What was even more mystical is how the prologue fates Hong Chun Ki (Kim Yoo Jung) and Ha Ram (Ahn Hyo Seop) even before their birth.
But every myth has some sort of philosophical legitimacy, and the ever present evil greed is front and center with our story in how a bloodthirsty demon overtakes the body of King Young Jong (Jeon Gook Hwan), reeking havoc, chaos throughout the kingdom. To break the cycle and ensure a peaceful reign for his son, Sung Jo (Jo Sung Ha), the king orders a sealing ritual to eternally banish the evil spirit and seal its power in his portrait. The ritual is successful, but as the demon is sealed, it curses the nation and those involved in the ritual to a life of devastation, and it.
Every resolution comes with a price, such is life. So, it made sense that those who cast the sealing spell, especially painter Hong Eun Oh (Choi Kwang Il), Taoist priest Han Sang Jin (Han Sang Jin), and King Young Jong, would absorb the energy of evil. But that their children Hong Chun Ki, Ha Ram, and Grand Prince Joo Hyang (Kwak Shi Yang) bear the curse of their parents is what makes this story endearing. And what makes it regrettable though is that painter Hong Eun Oh and priest Han Sang Jin's children, were the sacrifice from birth to adulthood, and are forced to suffer the evil the sealing ritual brought out through fear, jealousy, hate, greed within the palace walls, but in the Grand Prince the most.
I commend the scriptwriter, director, editor and actors for a job well done, especially in how the story transforms as the Chun Ki gains her sight, while Ha Ram loses his sight in a human rain-invoking sacrifice for his ability to spring water that ends the nine-year famine and drought. I love how the events of the story unfold, transitioning from the past to the present, following Hong Chun Ki and Ha Ram’s journeys. But especially how Ha Ram became a renowned mystic red-eyed astronomer and trusted advisor to the king, while hiding another side of him, as masked Il Wol Sung, head of Wol Sung Dang, an intelligence gathering organization, one he created to uncover the truth behind the loss of his sight and his parents' death, and take revenge against the royal family, who he believes caused the unfortunate events that take place in his life from birth.
As for Chun Ki, after regaining her sight, she grows up to become a gifted painter accepted to the most prestigious art college in the land, but is doomed to a life of poverty with her father, Hong Eun Oh, the once revered royal painter who now lives a cursed life. Despite having grown up in challenging circumstances, Chun Ki works diligently as an art forger to support her father’s medical expenses. As she decides to quit the illegal life of forgeries after having gained enough money, she is conned by her art broker and forced to be on the run. And it's when she first encounters Ha Ram when she asks him to hide in his palanquin, trying to evade her pursuers.
The emotions and magical connection this coincidental meeting evokes in both of them is beyond mesmerizing, but it's what it awakens in Ha Ram that is even more intriguing. Seeing him transform as the purity and goodness in her touches the evil lurking in him, the demon both his father and Chun Ki's so desperately fought to seal was heartbreakingly and unexpectedly awing. I was sure the demon had overtaken the Grand Prince to realize it was in Ha Ram this whole time was unpredictable, to say the least. And it quickly becomes clear that Chun Ki holds the key to breaking the curse that looms heavy over them. Hopefully they can work together to that end as they discover their fates. Watch episodes 1 & 2 here.