The Cursed Painting
Episode 1 of Lovers of the Red Sky begins with a fantastical history lesson about a being called Ma Wang which caused chaos across the world before having its essence contained within a painting.
Now, this Ma Wang helped the abdicated king Yeongjong to conquer the world. Afraid of Ma Wang’s increasing lust for bloodshed, Yeongjong passes the throne to his son, Sungjo. With Yeongjong off the throne, a ritual is held to try and stave off the demonic presence lurking inside him.
While this is ongoing, a woman gives birth to a child out in the open, praying with the Goddess Samshin to protect the babe. Unfortunately, she dies of blood loss, leaving the baby alone and at the mercy of a pack of ravenous wolves. That is, until a strange golden butterfly shows and snatches up the baby.
Transforming into a wise old woman, we soon learn that this is Samshin, who helps ward off the wolves and take this child, Cheon Ki, with her.
Back at the palace, the ritual gets underway. Yeongjeong is tied up to a chair while the royal portrait is hung before him. With a sword drawn and incantations read, a strange blue light guides disgusting black smoke across to the royal portrait. Only, the smoke manifests itself into Ma Wang itself, the God of Death.
With all hope lost, Samshin appears once more to save the royal guards and banish the beast back into the painting whence it came. Unfortunately it curses them with famine and drought, promising all their ancestors will be lost and will never paint again. The consequences of this curse ripple across to Cheon Ki too, who’s now blinded.
Samshin gets around that though by promising to grant a partner who can help overcome her tragedy; a baby boy called Ha Ram who’s destined for great things.
With the fate of the world resting on two innocent children, Ma Wang gone and the painting kept secure, we jump forward 9 years later into the ninth year of King Seongjo’s reign. As foreseen, there’s a pretty nasty drought and famine that’s gripped the nation and the Dan Dynasty is not doing too well.
Blind Cheon-Ki is bullied by the other kids, who call her disgusting and cursed. As the royal guards arrive, they realize Eun Oh is looking after Cheon-Ki. While Eun-Ho catches up with Ha-Ram’s guardian, the kids head outside together. Cheon-Ki takes the inquisitive child to the Baekyu Painters Society, where she encourages him to close his eyes and heighten his other senses.
Speaking of which, the pair eventually head out to the market, where Samshin is disguised as a simple street vendor. She smiles warmly at Ha Ram and Cheon-Ki meeting, as King Sungjo realizes that Ha Ram has the power of water. In fact, our Head Shaman – upon hearing this – suggests a human sacrifice in time for the rain ritual. Although King Sungjo refuses, it’s clear there’s still a lot of issues there.
As day turns to night, Ha Ram and Cheon-Ki discuss stars before the former gives Cheon-Ki a precious handkerchief to help wrap her injured leg. This act of kindness is followed up by Cheon-Ki reaching out to touch Ha-Ram’s face, kissing him lightly and making a promise to pick peaches the following day.
Well, the next day arrives and it’s time for the rain ritual. All the big players are there, including Crown Prince Yi Kang, who just so happens to be Seongjo’s eldest son. Greetings are short-lived though, given the town’s drought, but it doesn’t stop Yi-Kang heading into the royal chambers to take a look around at all the ancestral paintings. This, of course, also includes our cursed image which is kept locked up.
The crown prince stupidly opens up the locks just as the ritual gets underway. Entranced, he burns the painting, with the spirit lying within promising to be with him. Well, this seems to be the work of our head shaman, who continues to pray to the heavens as lightning crackles, storm clouds swell and Ma Wang is released from its cage.
Ma Wang swirls around Ha Ram, dropping both children into the water. This seems to be the human sacrifice mentioned before, and as both appear to drown. As they do, the heavens open and bless the land with water. But there’s another problem.
The Crown Prince is overcome with jealousy, believing the land belongs to him. As he clenches his fists in rage,the spirit of Ma Wang tries to head into Ha-Ram’s body. Only, Samshin appears as a butterfly and takes Ha-Ram’s eyes as a way of blinding the creature hidden within. As a result, Cheon-Ki ends up with sight for the first time in her life. She alone has the destiny to save Ha-Ram and the country.
Inexplicably, both children are saved from drowning while the Head Shaman is arrested for her part to play in all this. However, the prophecy is still in place and in the future, everything will find its rightful place… or will it?
The Episode Review
Wow, what a great first episode! Lovers of the Red Sky has an awful lot of information to take in across 75 minutes but it certainly makes the most of its runtime, delivering a poetic self-contained prologue to a much bigger story to come.
The beginning and end of this episode were suitably epic while the early relationship between Ha-Ram and Cheon-Ki immediately setting the scene for a much larger and more epic romance to follow. Both child actors are great in this and you really get a feel for their growing relationship over time.
Given this is a historical drama, the ideas surrounding politics and fantasy actually blend really well and the world-building has been excellent so far.
The ending certainly leaves lots unresolved though and it’ll be interesting to see exactly where this one is likely to go next. Given the scale and epic scale of the first chapter, this one looks like it could be a really promising entry on the k drama calendar.
|Expect A Full Season Write-Up When This Season Concludes!|