The casts of this drama are truly moons and suns. Talk about a stellar cast. The Moon Embracing the Sun is a 2012 Korean period-fantasy drama directed by Kim Do-hoon and Lee Seong-jun.
The film stars Kim Soo Hyun, Han Ga In, Jing Il Woo, Kim Yoo Jung, Kin So Hyun, Im Siwan, and Yeo Jin Goo, etc. as the leads. The drama is set in the Joseon dynasty and narrates the love between Lee Hwon and Yeon Woo, a smart and kind girl born with a noble fate, their separation, and eventual reconciliation.
The drama aired on MBC in the year 2012 and received success and popularity. The drama won many awards, including the award for best actor and best drama at the 48th Baeksang Arts Awards. It also received a rating of 42.2%.
Recap and Review of The Moon Embracing the Sun
The series begins with the murder of the half-brother of the King of Joseon at the command of Queen Dowager. This is witnessed by a shaman Ari who is also hunted down. She is briefly saved by
Crown Prince Lee Hwon and Yeon Woo, the daughter of the King’s most trusted man, meet in the palace for the first time, coincidentally. They get into an argument as Yeon Woo misunderstands him as a thief. Later instead of revealing his true identity, he somehow manages to convince her by revealing that he is going to meet this brother.
After their meeting, Yeon Woo comes to find out that he is the Crown Prince. We are also introduced to Prince Yangmyung( Lee Hwon’s half-brother whom he wanted to go to meet that day). Yangmyung is actually in love with Yeon-woo too. But she does not reciprocate his feelings, and soon she falls in love with Lee Hwon.
Prince Yangmyung gets treated differently than his brother because he is the son of a concubine. It gets revealed that he was indifferent to Yangmyung because he did not want any harm to come to him, similar to what happened to his half-brother.
Lady Yoon Bo Kyung is the daughter of Lord Yoon Dae-Hyung, who is a greedy man trying to make his family powerful. Lady Yoon is a sly and mean girl, quite contrary to Yeon Woo, and this can be seen in the way she treats Seol, Yeon Woo’s personal maid.
After some troubles, Yeon Woo is selected as the crown princess, but the happiness doesn’t last long as Yeon Woo catches a mysterious illness caused by the curse Nok Young (the Chief Shaman of the royal Place) put on her. She eventually “dies,” completely breaking the Crown Prince, who is not even allowed to go to her funeral.
We later get to know that Yeon Woo is saved by Nok Young because of a promise she gave to her friend and fellow shaman, Ari. But destiny takes its own, and Lee Hwon, who is the King now, and Yeon Woo, who is now Shaman Wol, without any of her early memories, meet once again.
The importance of the Title.
The Title of the drama is very important. Sometimes people tend to give abstract titles to their work, but the Title of this drama is apt and encompasses one of the major plot points of the drama. The Moon that embraces the sun is the Title and comes from the hairpin that the crown prince gifts Yeon Woo.
The Title, like the hairpin, is not just a representative of their love but also of their fate that will cause both of the immense pain. The Hairpin is beautiful; at first, I thought it would hold some other value, like helping the King confirm that Shaman Wol is indeed Yeon woo his first and only love. But it actually just serves as a reminder of the love they shared for the King and for Yeon Woo, a past she doesn’t remember.
The Transition from Children to Adults
Watching period dramas made me feel really bad for the royal children, their innocent lives are uselessly thrown into political warfare to gain power. They become nothing but mere toys for the elders to use as they please and discard when they are no longer needed. They are like figures in the game of Chess.
We all knew the Yeon woo was not going to die; we all knew that the chief shaman was too good of a person to do that. But, alas! Memory loss, aka the favorite trope of all melodramas, make an appearance once again. But her disappearance serves as a mechanism to initiate the transition from children to adults.
The change of crown prince to King takes place in episode 6, the shift was beautiful, and I really liked that scene. The crown Prince Lee Hwon smiles at the light rain as it reminds him of Yeon Woo, and the camera pans away slowly and then shows King Lee Hwon enjoying the light rain. This scene is the first sign of the undying love King Lee Hwon has for his former betrothed, Yeon Woo.
The choice of Yeo Jin Goo as young Lee Hwon and Kim Soo Hyun as adult Lee Hwon was perfect, in my opinion. Even though they don’t share similar facial features, their acting smoothly blends with each other, so it was easier to believe he was Lee Hwon grown up. Yeo Jin Goo perfectly showed the subtle yet noticeable change in Lee Hwon after Yeon Woo’s death, and Kim Soo Hyun continued it perfectly.
But to be honest, I was more impressed by the casting of the younger version of the characters than the adult version, the number of awards Kim Soo-Hyun received shows he did a good job, and I feel the same. But the same cannot be said about the rest of the cast.
For starters, though they are grown up, the lead characters, like the King and his fellows, are only 21 to 27. But the casts look much older than the intended age. I do understand that showing the depth of the characters in such a complicated scenario needs seasoned actors, but I did not think the acting of many of the adult versions of the characters, except Kim Soo Hyun, was great.
Meanwhile, child actors Kim So Hyun, Kim Yoo Jung, Yeo Jin-goo, and Jun ji hee all portrayed their characters really well. And I felt it was unfair to them that the older version did not have the same charisma as them. The acting of Kim Min-Seo as the Queen was impressive and on par with Kim So Hyun’s impressive performance as the young lady Yoon.
Almost all the characters had similarities to their younger self when they grew up, even though the acting was not on par, except for Yeon-woo. Out of all the transitions from children to adults, I was more disappointed in Yoon-woo’s character growth. Though she lost her memories, I did not feel like she was the same person at all. This was very disappointing because she is the main lead.
The chemistry between the main leads, both young and old, was good. But it was really weird for me to even ship Yeon-woo and Yangmyung when they were young because she was just a child.
Even worse is the case of Lord Heo Yeom and Princess Minhwa. I couldn’t digest that relationship even when they became adults. But, a little reminder that this is a period drama. This actually was quite normal in the past.
The Palace Politics and the Plot.
The greed for power is the only thing that has remained constant since the beginning of life. The greed to be powerful by Grand Royal Queen Dowager and Yoon Dae-Hyung is the catalyst for all the tragedies that unfold in the drama.
The children and low ranks merely become the sacrificial lambs for the war between the already powerful ones for more power. But the villain’s motive and their actions here seem more cowardly rather than evil or cruel.
The acting of the villains was great. I think it was the way the motives and characters were written that affected the villains’ aura in the drama. The plot of the drama was not great, and it was a very basic plot that dragged on for twenty episodes. The first half was great, but the latter parts were cliche and redundant.
The writer also decided to solve the conflicts with too many deaths, which is pretty common in period dramas, but here it again felt forced and out of place. There was just too many unnecessary death for my liking.
I was impressed with the drama in the first half, but after episode 14, it became too predictable and boring for me. The drama and the characters did not really develop the way I expected them to. Based on my opinion, this drama is a good watch turned into an average watch.
Our Rating: ⭐ (3.3/5).