[THOUGHTS]: Scarlet Heart Ryeo; Episodes 1—8

Hey everyone! Today I’m going to be talking about my thoughts on Scarlet Heart: Ryeo so far! I’ve been dedicated to this drama since it was first announced that Lee Jun Ki was cast, and now we’re almost at the half-way mark. I have not watched the Chinese version, so I have no clue how close this adaption is to the original but I definitely have some things to say about it.

First off, I was recently made aware of the fact that there have been multiple versions of several episodes floating around (supposedly known as SBS and International versions). Basically that means that some episodes have a few extra scenes than others and vice versa, which if you ask me …is a complete and total mess. It’s pretty disappointing that this could be happening when the drama has been entirely pre-produced. I mean, the least you could do is make sure that you’ve narrowed it down to one version so that everyone is viewing the same material. People already complained about the drama being somewhat confusing, and this type of debacle only adds an extra layer of befuddlement into the mix.

Also, some of the scenes they chose to leave out of particular episode versions have me bewildered as well. It’s like they took out the good material and replaced it with an array of sloppy clips that do nothing to propel or even clarify the plot. But enough about that; let’s talk about editing. I don’t know if it’s the curse of  Lee Jun Ki or what, but this poor guy has managed to be a part of every shoddily edited sageuk produced within the past three years (see alsoScholar Who Walks the Night). I’m not sure what’s going on since—like I mentioned above—this is an entirely pre-produced drama. Because of said fact, I was praying that this drama would be a work of art in comparison to Scholar, which suffered heavily from constant changes in the writing/producing team. But alas, we have a similar fate. I really don’t understand how they managed to create such a lousy and jarring disconnect between scenes in this drama. Many of the scenes don’t even feel like they have a set order; it’s almost like they threw it together in whatever sequence made them feel satisfied that day. No wonder viewers are confused. How are we supposed to understand what’s going on when you include 5 second blips of ‘almost romance’ crammed between a scene of political struggle and a lighthearted birthday surprise? Not to mention some of these clips come off as erroneous; a few times I felt like I was catching the tail end of what was supposed to be a longer scene containing meatier content, but was ultimately edited out.

I’m not going to comment too much on Baekhyun or IU‘s acting because it appears to be such a sensitive topic for some people. The only thing I will say is that everyone starts somewhere and sometimes that means the bottom of the rung. Personally I think IU’s acting is nothing to scream about either way. It’s not good, but it’s not agonizingly awful either. If I could watch Lee Yoo Bi in Scholar, surely I can stomach IU in Scarlet Heart (although I think Lee Yoo Bi is a tad better). As for Baekhyun, he’s exactly what I’d expect a first time actor to be; cringeworthy. But when has that ever stopped me? I watched Changmin in Paradise Ranch, and there is no such thing as a trial more satanic than that. Besides, look at Changmin now. He was a changed man in Scholar, and I’d argue that he pulled off that role very well. So basically, what I’m trying to say here is that everyone starts somewhere, and yeah Baekhyun’s doing a pretty awful job, but that means there’s nowhere to go but up moving forward.

And…I’m sorry to all of you Kang Haneul fans out there (myself included), but overall I have been a bit disappointed with his performance. That half glazed-half melancholic stare he’s been sporting for the past 8 episodes is getting a tad bit tired. The only point where I felt he really let go was the grieving scene where he cries for Myunghee. Otherwise, he just appears a bit stiff and lost in an empty gaze (usually directed at Hae Soo). It’s getting a bit boring if you ask me…but hey, I could still stare at him all day long.

But allow me to digress for a bit and move on to some positive comments…

Let’s start with something that I think we can all agree is the saving grace of this drama: Lee Jun Ki. I mean it when I say that he is killing this role, and he’s managing to do so with one eye. It makes me laugh to think he was worried about the mask hindering his ability to express emotion. (BOYYY. Quit.) I’m even going to be controversial here and say that the large range of expression/emotion that he has been able to convey while wearing a mask is more extensive than the entirety of the remaining cast put together (which is sad…).

Another strong point is the cinematography. There are some absolutely breathtaking scenes in this drama, from the princes’ masked choreographed festival scene in the earlier episodes, to the temple burning down, the view of the petal decorated lake and so on. I really think they are delivering in this aspect, which is a relief because it helps us forgive some of the drama’s flaws.

I also think some and I mean some of the music is really beautiful and fitting for the drama. I’m not talking about the cheesy pop OSTs you hear playing in the background during romance scenes. I’m talking about the intense and chilling cello and violin instrumentals they have signaling the building tension within certain scenes, the traditional chant music they have playing during the festival, and the hauntingly beautiful hymn that played during Myunghee’s death and respective funeral. These are some really smart and thoughtful uses of music to enhance the drama rather than take away from it. It’s really so important to get things like these right because the wrong music can really, really hurt a drama as we saw in Scholar.

In terms of the drama’s development so far, I think it’s progressing along fairly nicely. It has definitely maintained my interest, and each episode leaves me wanting more from the next. I think it’s paced pretty well; not too fast, not too slow. The past few episodes in particular are starting to build up nicely and I’m getting the sense that we are now on the verge of a new darker narrative, which I think will make for an interesting shift in tone and relationships. My hope is that the editing won’t continue to take away from the drama’s ability to make a strong impression. We’re definitely going to be getting a lot more of Wang So, which gives me hope. His character is definitely the most mysterious and interesting and whenever Jun Ki’s character is given the reigns I can count on a strong performance to distract from the unimpressive aspects of a drama.

Have you been enjoying Scarlet Heart: Ryeo? Let me know your thoughts!



  1. Well written post! Kdrama kisses mention in a recent post that the korean version with extra scenes was edited after the international version was released.
    I concur that LJK is the core of this drama and he is killing it. I have never seen this actor before. I am a fan now.
    KH has little to do since his character’s wife died. He is lovely to look at.
    The number of full face closeups is high. Thank goodness it is an attractive cast.
    I look forward to the second half of this series.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much!! Ah really? I don’t understand why they made them different, but as long as we get a hold of the extra scenes I suppose it will work out in the end. Kay mentioned that DramaFever was planning to release them, so that’s something to look forward to.

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying LJK! He’s my favorite actor, so I totally recommend his other dramas if you’re ever looking for things to watch.

      I agree, I feel like they haven’t given KH’s character much substance, which makes his job more difficult in terms of trying to make it more meaningful. But indeed he is handsome, which is good– because like you say, there are definitely a lot of up close shots… which would otherwise be unflattering if the cast wasn’t so gorgeous!

      I can’t wait to see how the second half plays out as well! I think it’s going to get more intense and heavy now that certain aspects of the plot have been established.

      Liked by 1 person

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