It’s always a thrill to see new actors I support to finally land their debut lead role. And so, I went and watched Queen: Love and War without anything but my placard of support for Kim Min-kyu. And boy, I was surprised.
A Familiar Plot
If you’ve watched other Korean period dramas involving a young king, then you’ll definitely be familiar with their selection process. The story of this series revolved around the Joseon tradition. The series also contained a revenge plot and extreme greedy politicking with some prophetic dreams added up for spice.
It was a simple love story between Kang Eun-bo (Jin Se-yun) and King Lee Kyung (Kim Min-kyu) but filled with multifarious hurdles.
The Royal Family and Its Complicated Kingdom
Kim Min-kyu plays Lee Kyung a handsome and idealist Joseon king who genuinely wanted to reign for his people. But just like every good-hearted leader in the sageuk world, he was surrounded by power-hungry people – ministers and even his mom! [SPOILER ALERT] He died in the first episode. As someone, who didn’t watch any teasers nor read any news about this series, I was shocked watching that premiere episode. But it was indeed a set-up for Min-kyu’s character. The assassination attempt was what led him to have some prophetic dreams. These dreams helped him solved the murder case of Eun-bo’s twin sister and other problems in his kingdom.
To be honest, I needed some adjustment period before I got used to seeing Min-kyu in the Joseon period. I think his previous roles were still stuck in my head and I couldn’t fully be attached to his new persona. But soon I was gushing over him in the red robe and his strong stares to his evil ministers.
Jin Se-yeon, on the other hand, was truly one consistent actress who seamlessly jump from one role to another. She was a standout in this series, especially during tearjerker scenes. If there was one flaw in her character, it would be the way she was used in the final episodes. Eun-bo was an independent character from the get-go but she became a bait in the last battle. I think it was a bit out of character. She wasn’t a damsel in distress type but that was what she became in the end. Anyway, this street-smart queen remains my favorite character in this series.
Speaking of characters, the cast ensemble for this series was a bit mediocre. I saw veteran actors and actresses in their line-up but they weren’t fully utilized. They have Jung Ae-ri, Lee Jae-yong, Son Byung-ho, and Eom Hyo-seop in the series but I think their characters lacked some depth that these experienced stars could have easily handled.
The second leads Lee Jae-hwa (Do Sang-woo) and Jo Young-ji (Lee Yeol-eum) had their shining moments but they are still blossoming talents. Good thing Wal (Lee Si-un) and Eunuch Hwang (An Se-ha) were effective in their role of giving comic relief in this quite serious drama series.
I was looking for an intense sageuk drama and that was what Queen: Love and War gave me. It fulfilled my dramatic K-series cravings throughout its run. Although I think they should have gone with fewer conflicts. I sometimes felt the troubles they gave the main leads were too much. They could have focus on one major conflict and played other plot bombs along the way. I think they were aiming for a complex storyline but some parts of it felt like a mess. Nonetheless, it could be forgiven as they didn’t leave any loose ends as they wrapped up the series. If one would give this series a try, one should be prepared to be with this ill-fated couple and cheer for them even if their journey seems to be hopeless. The script could have been refined a little but this series is made for those seeking a melodramatic period drama.