Everything from the cinematography to the fight choreography to the costumes to the shooting site -- breathtaking. If I am honest, I decided to watch The King's Affection, firstly because it's a sageuk, and secondly because of Rowan and Park Eun Bin, and the story at its opening does not fail me. I wasn't sure if I should be enraged at the king for considering his grandchildren abomination for being born twins and the steps they take, or laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Then I remind myself of the era and the deeply knitted beliefs that only made sense to them, and feel sad for the many lives lost for it. The cruelty, notwithstanding, there is beauty in this drama and the way the story is told.
While some aspects of this drama's story may be fictional, the negative connotation of twins in ancient Korea is straight from the pages of history. Even though same-gender twins were acceptable in Joseon (despite having a low survival rate), it wasn't the same with fraternal (different gender) twins. The belief at that time was that fraternal twins were husband and wife in a past life, whose feelings lingered, causing them to be born as twin brothers and sisters. Thus, despite being blood-related, the thought was that it was inappropriate to raise them together.
Since Joseon emphasized a patriarchal system, baby girls were given up. The most common and cruelest way was not to cut the umbilical cord after birth, cover the baby with its placenta, place a straw on top of it until it stopped breathing. There were, of course, other ways that included abandoning the baby for someone else to find, giving it to the temple, or other people to raise as their own.
In that sense, some elements of The King's Affection story remind me of Mirror of the Witch. Unlike the latter, this one is cruel with its carnage. Knowing the history of the time, it is only fitting that the choices the grandfather King, Crown Prince Ye Jong (Lee Pil Mo), and Han Ki-Jae, the crown princess' father, make come back to haunt them. Especially Han Ki-Jae as the maternal grandfather, who in a twist of fate or more like Karma orders the execution of his own grandchild, the one he was supposedly protecting nonetheless.
It's so true when they say there's a natural law of karma that vindictive people, who go out of their way to hurt others to satisfy their own greed with pay for it in unimaginable ways. And that both Han Ki-Jae and Jung Seok Jo, as his right hand man, may find their ends in their own offspring for the fate they created by their own actions. That the one person they both strove so hard to eliminate becomes the crown prince, is justice in action.
What a lonely life, living in a palace must be filled with lies, hate, jealousy, and schemes. I felt for Dam-i to be discarded, but then made to pretend to be someone she's not even if for her own sake seemed so cruelly callous. To have the burden on the child to safeguard everyone's life, blaming the times seems so absurd at this point. When I first read the premise of this drama, it mentioned that Ji Woon was set to follow in his father's footsteps, but something happened that made him choose a different path. I wondered what that thing could be, and now I know.
To brutally find out the truth, how traumatizing it must've been for Ji Woon to realize that the man he loved and admired was this terrible monster, and for
Dam-i to have witnessed it too. To know that she's living among the people who want her dead. What a reality check, that would change anyone for sure. The loss of innocence hurts more than anything. I admire the children in this drama, be it Ji Woon, Dam-i, Bok Dong, and even I-Wol, for having more courage and stronger morality than the adults. They could've learned a thing or two from them. As they say, some children are wiser than adults. On the bright side, Rowoon is definitely a sight for sore eyes.
Despite having to compete with Lovers of the Red Sky, I think The King's Affection more than lives up to its hype. The opening week episode is impressive. Full marks on the acting and directing, particularly Han Chae-Ah as the crown princess, were beyond impressive, but so is Bae Soo Bin as Jung Seok Jo in how brutally and precisely he fulfills the king's orders. Same goes for Choi Myung Bin, who plays the prince/princess -- fantastic talent, but then so were all the young actors. The King's Affection in its opener gives us so much interwoven heartache and pain awaits both Rowan and Park Eun Bin as they grow up that I'm already broken for them. But until then, I can tell I will enjoy this ride. Watch episode 1 & 2 here.