First Impression: River Where The Moon Rises

Drama Profile

Title: River Where The Moon Rises
Main Cast: Kim So-hyun, Ji Soo (Episodes 1-6), Na In-woo, Lee Ji-hoon, Choi Yu-hwa
Writer: Han Ji-hoon (Woman of 9.9 Billion)
PD: Yoon Seong-sik (King Maker: The Change of Destiny)
Timeslot: Monday and Tuesday / 21:30H
Network: KBS
Episodes: 20
Genre: Historical

Plot Synopsis: 

Based on the 2010 novel Princess Pyeonggang, the series follows the story of Goguryeo Princess Pyeonggang and her ambitious dream of becoming the first female ruler of Goguryeo. Due to betrayal and conspiracy, Pyeonggang ended up losing her memory and was raised and trained in the assassin group Cheonjubang, who targets corrupt nobles. On her way to the capital, she met a seemingly harmless and silly forest dweller On Dal. Little did she know that On Dal is the son of Sunno General On Hyeop and the person who helped her escape death in the past. 

Major trope: Loss of identity, Epic, Forgotten First Meeting

Maknae’s Impression:

Kim So-hyun is back in another sageuk drama. This time she took on a role she has never done before – a mother. River Where The Moon Rises started with a stolen prologue style where we saw Princess Pyeonggang in the midst of an intense battle and then finding wounded On Dal in the end. It seems to be a sneak peek of the epic battle we might see in the climactic and most probably dramatic episodes of the series. But for the most part of the premiere week, the series has established Pyeonggang and On Dal’s past. 

Kim So-hyun has also played the character of Queen Yeon, the Queen of Goguryeo and mother of the young Princess Pyeonggang (Heo Jung-eun) during the first episode. As I’ve said earlier, this is the first time I’ve seen her in this kind of role so there is some kind of a ‘lag time’ before I was really convinced she is a young Queen and a mother of two. My mind changed as soon as the scenes with Kim So-hyun and Kang Ha-neul started rolling.

Kang Ha-neul has made a special participation in the series and played the role of On Dal’s father and Sunno General On Hyeop. Queen Yeon trusted him and was in the middle of convincing him to take a stand against the other evil tribe leaders when they were ambushed by the evil plotting of Gyeru Tribe General Go Won-pyo (Lee Hae-young) and Royal Consort Jin Bi (Wang Bit-na). A stand-off then ensued and lives were sacrificed. Yep, both On Hyeop and Queen Yeon died in that wicked scheming. And I wish I could actually describe how histrionic those scenes are. It made me wished Ha-neul’s character is a permanent cast in the series instead of a special role. Let’s just wish there’ll be more flashbacks in the next episodes.

After the background story was established, we finally met the present-day Pyeonggang who now lives as Yeom Ga-jin, a member of the assassin group Cheonjubang. She apparently lost her memories but she has nightmares about it. In an attempt to cut ties with the group, Ga-jin takes-off on her final mission: assassinate the King of Goguryeo. 

At this part, I kind of understand now why So-hyun had to play Queen Yeon herself. They will most probably use the resemblance to connect Ga-jin to her real identity, Pyeonggang. This is a risky thing to do but Kim So-hyun has pulled it off. She exudes a certain degree of roguishness when she played Ga-jin as compared to the refined yet brave movements of Queen Yeon. This project really showed how So-hyun has evolved from a child actress to a teen hallyu star and into the versatile actress that she is today.

There are no really big surprises in the premiere. Most of the scenes were what I was expecting based on the given storyline and character descriptions. So to be honest, I still have reservations about this series. I still have questions on whether they’ll be able to make the characters more compelling in the next episodes. But this series – with its grandiose sets and costumes and cinematic frames – definitely has the potential to be an epic tale. That is if they played their cards rights (aka fully utilize their great cast and come up with a great retelling of their original material).

Image credit: KBS

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