Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 11 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 12 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 13 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 14 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 15 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 16 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 17 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 18 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 19 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 20 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
There have been a fair few historical k-dramas released this year. It’s always tough for a newcomer to break into this crowded field, especially given how many amazing titles already occupy this space. Where Lovers of the Red Sky faltered, The King’s Affection exceeds. Now, the show does take a while to find its dancing shoes, but when it does, this one signs out with one heck of a coda.
The story here takes place deep in the Joseon period with the birth of royal twins. This is an ominous sign and when the princess gives birth, an order is sent to kill her daughter. To save the girl’s life, Dam-I is shipped out the palace after faking her death.
Fast forward a few years and Dam-I’s brother is killed. In order to prevent the crown from collapsing completely, Dam-I adopts her brother’s identity of Lee Hwi, who eventually rises up to the position of Crown Prince.
In order to keep her secret, Hwi is told too keep her emotions in check and not get too close to anyone. That’s easier said than done though when she grows closer to her teacher, Ji-Un. He comes from a noble family and is both good looking and smart. As the pair start to grow closer together, the show blends romance, drama and action for the rest of its run-time.
As I said before, The King’s Affection does take a while for all these pieces to actually align. The opening 6 or 7 episodes essentially dabble in Hwi’s ascension to the throne and how she deals with meddlesome family members and foreign envoys. It’s still enjoyable but this doesn’t quite sync with the romance.
Around the midway point of this 20 episode drama, The King’s Affection does become a lot more focused. Some of this comes from the ever-growing threat of Ji-Un’s father, Seok-Jo. He is a constant thorn in Hwi’s side, given he’s the one who killed her brother. This plot thread is helped along by another involving Hwi’s bodyguard Ga-On.
The latter parts of this season is really where everything picks up, featuring some last gasp flurries of action and beautifully written romance. It helps that Park Eun-Bin is fantastic in her role of Hwi. Much like her lead role in Do You Like Brahms, she’s incredibly easy To empathize with and she brings a great combination of heart, steely-eyed determination and tenacity to this role.
The supporting characters here are equally appealing, with Ga-On’s performance from k-pop-turned-k-drama star Choi Byung-Chan doing a great job given he has barely any lines. His facial expressions and mannerisms are enough to really get behind his story and sell the emotions he’s portraying.
That’s not to discredit the other supporting characters though, who are all just as appealing to watch – especially Ji-un who goes through quite the journey across this season.
If there’s one gripe though alongside the early-season plot threads it comes from the soundtrack. Watching this every week isn’t a problem but during a binge-session the same few tracks and instrumentals show up all the time. The opening song is a bit overkill and at times I can’t help but feel that a bit of variety on the music front would have really helped this one.
Despite that though, The King’s Affection is a thoroughly enjoyable and well-written drama. It’s essentially a combination of Tale of Nokdu and Crowned Clown, blended in with a light flurry of action and originality. Sure it’s a little contrived in parts and perhaps a tad melodramatic, but despite that King’s Affection is easily one of this year’s best historical dramas.
Verdict - 8/10