Here is a review of the MBC drama “The Red Sleeve” first half!
MBC is on a slight upward trend this year with its content and “The Red Sleeve” has become its first mini-series in nearly three years to surpass the double digits in ratings.
In writing, the drama is about as typical as you’d expect from a historical setting but it retains the fun some MBC dramas used to have.
A lot of my friends have been urging me to see “The Red Sleeve,” I am personally not the biggest fan of historical content so I am always apprehensive about checking historical dramas, this is one of the dramas I don’t regret watching- as of yet.
Note: this is a subjective review. I will share my personal opinion while keeping in mind how others might perceive it. This is a spoiler review
Let me explain.
On paper, “The Red Sleeve” is about as typical as you’d expect from a Korean sageuk drama. It hits every beat almost all screenwriters have done in this context. When I read “The Red Sleeve” synopsis a while back, I was worried because the premise was so typical and overused. It still amazes me that such basic ideas that have been done so many times get repeated almost unchanged and not by taking lengthy time between similar projects but attempting the same with such a short span of time.
Regardless, “The Red Sleeve” shows what an interesting cast can do to elevate a project that would’ve otherwise had gone unnoticed.
The script- not at surface level
“The Red Sleeve” plot is typical and in that sense, it could easily become boring. The screenwriter doesn’t try to stray away too much from what you’d expect with historical dramas. However, the screenwriter applies subtle changes that enhance the story and makes it so irresistible. They may be subtle but they help elevate the story and make it unique.
The basic plot of a king who falls for a woman out of his reach and status screams Cinderella vibes, its a tale as old as time. The king underestimates her power and she ends up saving him a couple of times as he saves her too, plenty of times.
With that in mind, the basic plot isn’t anything to go by, but what screenwriter Jung Hae-Ri makes sure to remind us of is to not into jump into conclusions too fast. She excels at maintaining a balance between comedy and seriousness but not at the expense of each other, which isn’t easy to do, believe me.
In such type of scripts, cliches that follow include a set of supporting characters that are either black or white, but screenwriter Jung Hae-Ri doesn’t follow that path, instead, she layers the drama with supporting characters with ambiguous motivations, which not only humanizes the characters but also serves as a teaser because viewers wouldn’t know who to be wary of and who they should be rooting for.
The other thing I personally liked is how complicated the king’s character is, usually, figure characters tend to follow a typical trajectory but not this time. The king is deeply flawed but not entirely terrible either, he isn’t portrayed as a tyrant or as the weakest either. He approaches his subjects with compassion and wisdom. He acknowledges his past mistakes and wrongdoings and isn’t afraid of admitting them.
I liked the scene where he lashes out at Yi San and physically beat him because of the trauma he’s experienced due to his late son’s behavior and his fear of how his grandson might end up.
This is a great Segway to another point, Yi San’s father. The mysterious man who almost every character [regardless of their affiliation] agrees was terrible. I am so curious about his character, his motivations and how he died. On episode 8, we get a glimpse of why he went insane and it turns out to be a very heartbreaking tale.
Whoever cast these specific actors deserves a raise because they truly carry the drama. In areas where the script either falls flat or becomes a bit boring, the actors swoop in to save it with their charm and their dedication to their craft, a beautiful sight to see.
I missed Junho so much. He’s one of my top 5 fav idol-turned-actors, now you guys know I am not the biggest fan of idols becoming actors due to obvious reasons but every once and a while an idol surprises me and Junho is one of them.
In fact, I had no idea he was an idol until I saw a music video of his group that is called 2PM. I would have never guessed.
Junho commands respect with his performance, the dude is just… I can talk for hours about how perfect he is for the role. He’s funny when he needs to be and serious when he needs to be too. He approaches every scene with such seriousness, dedication and professionalism that you can’t help but gravitate towards him.
And I think not many people are paying attention to how good and talented Lee Se Young is.
Her ability to deliver long lines in difficult language with such conviction is beautiful, I was in awe of her performance. She’s criminally underrated and while Junho is definitely amazing, she’s just as good.
The rest of the cast is doing an amazing job down to the court ladies, the casting was done well. Kang Hoon also does an amazing job at appearing very menacing and ambiguous when he needs to be. I am still surprised why San hasn’t kicked him out yet but again, he’s also done things to warrant keeping him close.
It is very important to highlight just how much Junho and Lee Si Young suit each other, I had to talk about it. Their chemistry is off the charts and it helps a lot with the immersion in the story.
I didn’t expect them to share such amazing chemistry, they’re easily one of the best on-screen couples of a 2021 kdrama.
What to look out for the second half
With historical dramas, even the ones that begin as a comedy, things quickly take a bloody turn in the second half. Most who watch historical kdramas will probably say a similar thing.
I have read a couple of fans theories about what will happen and some say the story is based on true events, if what they say is correct and if the screenwriter plans on following that story, even to some degree, “The Red Sleeve” will have a heartbreaking ending.
With the prediction that it will end up getting bloody soon, it will be very interesting to see whether it can keep up the momentum it created for itself as it moves towards the second half. I think if it keeps up with its pace, the drama can break past the 15% mark.
My wish is for our couple to stay alive. I am almost certain that will happen but I know the screenwriter will tease us a couple of times. What I have been finding to be annoying slightly with the drama is the fact that Deok Im came close to death at least three times so far, the question is, how many more times will she come close to death?
So these are my thoughts on “The Red Sleeve”, so what about you guys? did you like the episodes? let me know what you thought in the comment section below.