I was never fond of historical shows, give me any and I would fall asleep halfway through. I am not one who extensively follows K-Dramas. In fact, Scarlet Heart Ryeo was one that I would have never watched if not for Seo Joo Hyun’s Instagram. Yes yes, I admit I watched it because I was a fan of her, even if she was just a supporting cast.

I am aware that this drama is a remake of the Chinese’s Scarlet Heart (2011). I understand that the Chinese’s one is 35 episodes long while Ryeo is only 20 episodes long. Let’s see if Ryeo can still deliver with a shorter running time.

Moving on,  I would advise potential viewers to at least have some basic knowledge of The Goryeo Dynasty  (which I will cover very briefly) or else you may be severely confused as I was.

What you may want to know

  • The drama covers 4 Kings, as mentioned in the foreword of every episode.
  • King Taejo is followed by Hyejong, Jeongjong and finally Gwangjong.
  • The King relies heavily on powerful families for support. Without them, the King can easily fall should they decide to start a coup. That is why the King had so many children.
  • Hence, Most of the Princes are from different families although they share the same father.

Review (TL;DR)

Plot – 3/10

Not enough episodes – would have been better developed if there were more episodes like the original Chinese one had.
Full of holes; could be fixed if it had a better ending in my opinion.

Acting – 6.5/10

Some characters were lacking especially IU’s Hae Soo, she just kinda went dead shortly after Taejo’s arc. Lee Joong-Gi and Hong Jong-Hyun definitely saved the day with their fearsome 4th Prince So and evil 3rd Price Wang Yo respectively, not to mention Park Ji-Young and Kang Han-Na who portrayed Queen Dowager Yoo and the scheming Yeon Hwa beautifully.

Emotion – 8/10

Very emotion invoking. Makes you think about your existence in the world..just kidding. Been awhile since I was reduced to tears. This show clearly knows how to push your buttons.

Eye Candy – 11/10

Do you even need any explanation??

OST – 10/10

Eargasm. Probably one of the best K-OST album out there. You can listen to it here

Overall – 5/10

You either love it, hate it or both. For me, it’s both.
Would I watch it again? Only if I wanna kill time.

Should you watch it? Not the best drama you can watch, but worth a shot.

Review (The long one)


My expectations coming into this drama were high. After all, this was one of the most anticipated drama for 2016. However, Scarlet Heart Ryeo was a RYEO let down (aha). Seriously. Even with the extensive cast of Lee Ji Eun (IU), Baek Hyun, Seo Hyun, Lee Joong Gi etc… no matter how good they acted or looked, they could not save the doomed plot.

It was all fine up till King Taejo’s death. Each character was developed very well and the relationship between Hae Soo (IU) and the Princes was established very well. I looked forward to how the plot would unfold. Alas, the scriptwriter did not grab hold of the opportunity they gave themselves. The plot felt very rushed and forced after that, up to the point where it was somewhat too ridiculous at some scenes, scenes that no sane person on Earth would cause. I believe that it was because of the short 20 episode series instead of the 35 the original Chinese version had. What seemed like a promising drama ended in catastrophe.

I felt that in this series, there was too much focus on the characters’ development and relationships, which technically is not a bad thing. It invoked quite a fair bit of emotional bonds between the audience and the characters and worked to some extent, as I took one too many trips down the feels lane.

However, in the course of this, the protagonist’s character was also crucially and sadly not adequately developed. There were also plenty of “missing plots” that left us with more questions. “How did this happen” or “Why is she suddenly like this?” constantly ran through my mind as I watched this show. It also leaves you wondering what exactly happened for Hae Soo to change so drastically from a bubbly practical lady to a depressed and delusional girl. Moreover, there were many characters and scenes I felt that should not have been included, which only held up the development of the plot and protagonist.

I had to take a break from watching just because it was too ridiculous for me. The final straw for me was the ending. I endured for the ending hoping that the scriptwriter had played it right. It would have been a satisfying drama to suffer through if they did. My hopes were shattered as I only managed a “that’s it? WTF” when the credit screen rolled. I am one who cares more about the plot than the acting, so this was the deal breaker for me. Why even include the time slip if you’re going to give us such a shitty ending?

Well on the upside.. you get to see the good-looking cast. IU has definitely caught my attention now (ahem).

I’d say that the OST is one of the important conditions for a drama to succeed and the OST department did a good job in that aspect. They fit well into the show and I really enjoyed listening to it. I can’t choose which is my favorite because they are all that good. With the exception of “Will be back” by Sunhae Im which peaked at 88th on the Gaon Chart, the rest of the tracks all peaked at 50th or below, with “For You” by Chen, Baekhyun and Xiuming peaking at number 5 on the chart. I highly recommend you to listen to it.

In conclusion, Scarlet Heart Ryeo had a great ambition of cramming 4 Kings worth of action into 20 episodes. Unfortunately, its focus on developing each and every character extensively given it’s shorter run time ultimately failed to put emphasis on the real protagonist. What seemed like a promising show for the first half, totally disappointed in the second. With too many plot holes and very forced scenes, I can only recommend this drama to fans who are able to withstand a bad-tasting plot for their favorite star. I certainly did.

Directed by: Kim Kyu-Tae

Written by: Jo Yoon-Young

Based on: Bu Bu Jing Xin by Tong Hua

Starring: Lee Joon-Gi, Lee Ji-Eun (IU), Kang Ha-Neul, Hong Jong-Hyun

Number of episodes: 20 + 2 specials