Episode 1 – | Review Score = 4/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score = 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score = 4/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score = 4.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score = 3.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score = 4/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score = 5/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score = 4/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score = 4/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score = 3.5/5
Episode 11 – | Review Score = 4.5/5
Episode 12 – | Review Score = 4.5/5
Episode 13 – | Review Score = 4.5/5
Episode 14 – | Review Score = 5/5
Episode 15 – | Review Score = 4/5
Episode 16 – | Review Score = 5/5
Set in the heart of Korea and split across sixteen 75 minute episodes, The Crowned Clown is a dramatic, politically charged series awash with tension, twists and turns. With a satisfying conclusion and impressive cinematography throughout, this Korean drama makes for quite the impressive showing.
Given the sheer number of characters, subplots and intricate political ties this series has I won’t write out the entire plot synopsis here but suffice to say it’s quite the rollercoaster ride. Set in Joseon, the Royal order is in a state of disorder following a number of uprisings among the unhappy populous. A power struggle for the throne ensues with the maniacal Lee Hun ruling with an iron fist while his mother, Queen Dowager, along with close advisor Sin Chi-Soo, plot to overthrow the King and snatch the throne for themselves.
When an entertainer arrives in town bearing the exact same face as the King, Lee Hun switches places with the pretender as a way of avoiding any assassination attempts. Unprepared and in over his head, with the help of both Eunuch Jo and the Royal Secretary, Ha Sun takes the throne and tries to navigate the murky waters of deceit and deception while avoiding being found out as an imposter.
This really forms the crux of drama here, with the series slowly evolving to include an element of romance as Ha Sun falls for one of the concubines in the West Palace, So Woon. This blend of romance, drama and politically charged tension works really well here and across the 16 episodes The Crowned Clown constantly outdoes itself, playing host to a number of plot twists and shocking revelations along the way. The finale is arguably the best episode here too and unlike Memories Of The Alhambra, closes out all the characters in a satisfying manner making the journey well worth taking.
When it comes to acting, Yeo Jin-Goo is easily the stand-out star here. The way he plays the dual role of Ha Sun and Lee Hun is done to perfection and even the subtle facial expressions and differences in walking and dialect are enough to distinguish between the two. The various stages of his emotional state and the overarching journey Ha Sun take are all reflected through his exquisite acting and it’ll certainly be a tough performance to beat this year.
Aesthetically, The Crowned Clown is a beautifully crafted show. The composition of scenes, lighting and general cinematography are beautiful and the various shots of Joseon are absolutely breathtaking. This is helped along by an amazing musical score too, full of orchestral violins and pulsating drums during some of the more tense moments. Say what you will about the story, on a technical level at least The Crowned Clown is one of the best looking dramas I’ve seen in quite some time.
Along with its gorgeous cinematography, The Crowned Clown has enough intrigue with its storyline to keep you watching until the end. While some of the episodes are a tad too long and repeat some of the content from the episode before, for the most part The Crowned Clown never really feels too long. The ending does wrap things up a little too quickly for my liking but given the extended run time and amount of good work put into the other episodes, these are minor points to say the least.
The Crowned Clown has been a thoroughly entertaining and well written series. Split across 16 episodes, this does make for quite the time sink but the journey itself is well worth taking. It’ll be a tough Korean drama to beat this year too and it’s a shame more people won’t get the chance to experience this one. Rich in history and full of great acting, The Crowned Clown is well worth investing some time into and so far, is the show to beat in 2019.
Verdict - 8.5/10