IN A NUTSHELL (a slightly opinionated summary of the story):
BBoy meets Girl. BBoy falls in love with Girl. BBoy wants to marry Girl. Girl loves BBoy enough to agree to marry him. Girl crosses paths with MBoy. MBoy falls in love with Girl but holds back because he knows about BBoy. The wedding is about to start but BBoy disappears. Girl starts to have feelings for MBoy. BBoy becomes King.
And that’s only the first two episodes.
Ma Hun is MBoy, the leader of the most famous matchmaking agency in Joeson, called Flower Crew. His friends, Do Jun and Go Young-so, are his go-to guys for information on the couples and other interesting tidbits under the sun; and fashion, particularly, wedding attire, accessories and makeup; respectively. Kim Su (who becomes King Lee Su) is BBoy, who grew up as the son of a blacksmith, who happens to be a former commandant in the King’s Guard, some 20 years ago. Gaettong is the Girl, a slave who was somehow saved by Kim Su and his “father”, and whose main mission in life is to find her brother from whom she was separated at a young age.
When Kim Su disappears on the day of his wedding to Gaettong, nobody knows where he is or how to find him. Gaettong has nowhere to stay as Mr. Kim has also disappeared, so Ma Hun comes to her rescue and brings her to live in the Flower Crew headquarters. Then, to avoid calling attention to her low status and to gain a little foothold in society, she becomes an apprentice matchmaker, requiring her to dress like a proper woman. One night, King Lee Su escapes the palace and shows up at the Flower Crew headquarters and meets Gaettong there. He does not tell her the truth about his royal lineage but expresses hope that she will continue to wait for him. An encounter with an ultra-high class and haughty noblewoman, Kang Ji-hwa, and the discovery of her brother, who became dumb due to being badly beaten by the slave handlers, causes Gaettong to want to become a noblewoman, and she asks Ma Hun and the other matchmakers to train her.
Ma Hun, his love for Gaettong growing everyday, refuses at first, because he thinks she is doing it to marry King Lee Su. Meanwhile, King Lee Su studies and learns the goings-on and politics of being King, under the (unwelcome) tutelage of Councilor Ma Bong-deok (Ma Hun’s father) and the Queen Mother (the old King’s widow). His “father”, the blacksmith turned back into Commandant, also guides him secretly. We also discover that Kang Ji-hwa is the daughter of Councilor Kang Mong-gu, and has caught the eye and heart of Do Jun, who pursues her relentlessly. However, it seems that even Go Young-so has a dark past that can be used as blackmail. In an unexpected turn of events, the two councilor fathers – Ma and Kang – stage a revolt against King Lee Su but fail to guarantee the loyalty of all their minions (i.e. Ma Hun) and the mutiny is neutralized quickly.
In the end, Gaettong finally comes clean about her pretensions and her feelings. She can only choose one, after all.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Be true to yourself at all times. Know where your loyalties lie and stick to them. Keep your family close and your enemies closer so that no one can say anything against you. Love conquers all!
MALE LEAD(S): Kim Min-jae, Seo Ji-hoon
FEMALE LEAD(S): Gong Seung-yeon
GENRE: Historical, Romance, Comedy
MY SCORE: 8/10
WHAT LED ME TO IT?
- Who was I following? n/a
- What had I just watched? Goblin
- IF COMPLETED, how many times? ———- 1 ———-
- If I’ve watched it more than three times, chances are it’s one of my Top 10 Favorites!
WHAT DID I LIKE ABOUT IT?
- It is a light, romantic comedy that will make you feel kilig and sad and kilig again.
- It’s a historical romance – with straightforward feelings and emotions, and the only thing keeping the couple from getting together immediately is their respect for the third person (if any). I also love their traditional costumes, the hanbok.
- Both Ma Hun (a. Kim Min-jae) and Gaettong (a. Gong Seung-yeon) have faces that are easy on the eyes. I’d seen both before in Goblin (Kim Min-jae was the young king) and in My Only Love Song (another sweet but somewhat lacking historical romance).
- Despite what Ma Hun saw when his older brother died, how the couple turned against each other in time of desperation, he still became a matchmaker, and a good one at that.
- Both King Lee Su (a. Seo Ji-hoon) and Do Jun (a. Byeon Woo-seok) were true to their loves all the way to the end.
- Kang Ji-hwa (a. Ko Won-hee) probably had the most dramatic transformation of all the characters – from being an arrogant woman of nobility to a humble daughter of a traitor.
- Choi Jin-hyuk played a cameo in Ep 5!
WHAT DID I NOT LIKE ABOUT IT?
- The Netflix synopsis was misleading (“When a peasant suddenly becomes king and is unable to wed his first love, he turns to Joseon’s top matchmakers to transform her into a noblewoman.”) and I came to watch the series thinking it was about the experiences of a low-class woman on her journey to becoming a noblewoman against her will.
- King Lee Su should have been given a new love interest in the end as well.
- Korean Series are known for their flashbacks, however, I think the writers/director forgot to put them in in the beginning and ended up stuffing whatever they could in the last few episodes.
- After betraying his friends and Gaettong, all Go Young-so (a. Park Ji-hoon) got was a cold shoulder from the latter, and then all was forgiven. Well, on hindsight, I’m like that sometimes.
QUESTIONS THAT AROSE REGARDING STORY, CONTINUITY AND OTHER DETAILS:
- There is not enough background on the Royal Family issues such as:
- Why did the old King have to hide his Queen and baby son for 20 years?
- Why was the Crown Prince in exile in Qing and why was he allowed to return so suddenly, only to be killed by the rebels?
- Who was Prince Younhu and why hadn’t he been around either?
- How did Do Jun meet Ma Hun and become one of the matchmakers?
- Why does Go Young-so call the other two matchmakers his “sisters”?
- How did Go Young-so transition from being a shy, dirty slave to an over-confident clean, perfume-addict matchmaker?
WILL I RECOMMEND IT? YES. The story itself was set in the “present” and as long as you take it with a grain of salt (no or few questions asked), you will enjoy it like I did.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert in film or Korean culture. In fact, I only started watching KDrama in 2016 and have just 49 completed shows under my belt. My writings are my own opinion and not the opinion of the majority. I enjoy shows that a lot of people don’t seem to like, and I dislike a lot of shows that are tagged as “Must Watch”. There are exceptions, of course. My point is, don’t bash the commentator.