It’s been a while since i wrote a first impression on a Korean drama, isn’t it? I usually wait until the first four episodes before formulating my thoughts, but found myself having quite a lot to say about Cinderella and Four Knights after the opening week, so here it is~
I’ve been meaning to check it out for Jung Il-woo albeit not big on the plot. The first teaser i saw was dreamy though, which was pretty interesting. Such quality is still present in the episodes; something like soft filter is used to make the frames look ethereal, especially during the romantic scenes. The drama itself, however, is cheesier and cringier than anticipated that many likened to Boys Over Flowers. While both see rich guy poor girl in a Cinderella-type story, for me it’s more a revamp than a sequel or remake version of BOF.
Here, the Cinderella setting isn’t only a concept but is in its vein:
1) The heroine Eun Ha-won (Park So-dam) has stepmother/stepsister duo mistreating her when her father isn’t home.
2) She joins a ball granting her a princess time until midnight.
3) There’s a figurative glass slipper left behind as she takes her leave.
She is Cinderella in a way yet isn’t one as the plot begins to deviate from the classic tale right away:
1) Her family isn’t well off.
2) She didn’t meet prince charming inside the party; she’s hired to be the prince’s fiancée for the night. Heck, i don’t think Kang Hyun-min (Ahn Jae-hyun) is The Guy although he is the so-called crown prince and is arguably charming.
3) Her Cinderella’s root ends in the second hour as her father reveals she isn’t his biological child and chases her out of the house. Not only was that a horrible move, it was also a ridiculous one — why hating on her (only) so much when the stepsister isn’t his child either?
4) There’s no knight in the original but she has not one, not two, but FOUR knights here.
We could also already tick off many boxes from oh-so-familiar tropes:
1) Feisty female working a multitude of part-time jobs (Ha-won does 10!)? Check.
2) Varying degrees of jerky chaebols power-walking in a dramatic slow motion? Check.
3) Ugly-duckling-to-beautiful-swan transformation? Check.
4) Head-turning party? Check.
5) Birth secret(s)? Check.
6) Love square (which can easily turns into a polygon)? Check.
Did i miss anything?
As for the titular knights, three of whom are third-generation chaebol-cousins: Hyun-min the vain “playboy”, Ji-woon (Jung Il-woo) the rebellious “thug”, and Seo-woo (CNBLUE’s Lee Jung-shin) the “good-for-nothing” singer. Honestly, i can’t fathom why the maknae is labeled as such when he is a popular and successful artist, unless it’s because that isn’t a profession in line with the family business. But at least he’s working and earning his own keep unlike his spender Hyungs. Rounding up the number is Lee Yoon-sung (Choi Min), the assistant of their flamboyant Grandpa (Kim Yong-gun). It was a sorta random choice to include the assistant as the fourth knight, especially since the rest are technically princes, but let’s see how he lives up to the title.
Of the three heirs, only Hyun-min is in the household since the beginning; the other two were discovered and brought in later on. There’s a bad blood between him and Ji-woon, initially due to their personality, recently because of a girl, Park Hye-ji (APink’s Son Na-eun). Yup, you guess it: she likes Hyun-min and is liked by Ji-woon. Seo-woo is neither interested in the deep-rooted clash nor takes side (for now). He seems good-natured but Grandpa deems all cousins hard to curb. Upon noticing Ha-won’s no-nonsense and fearless attitude, he scouts her to be the house’s butler to bring the troublemakers together and become better humans. I loved it when she innocently mused that she sincerely thought chaebols were raised to be terrible individuals lest they’d become too philanthropists. What makes her qualify for the job and how she’s gonna carry out the tall order are the things we’ll figure out soon as she’s agreed to move into Sky House at the end of episode 2.
Despite his multiple marriages and much younger fifth wife, Grandpa appears to be quite sensible and humorous… until it’s revealed that he controls his grandchildren through money. He’s quick to cut off any financial support and (when that doesn’t faze Ji-woon) is willing to go further by buying those around them to back off. That’s how Ji-woon was stripped off of his old friends, and i sincerely hope that wasn’t the reason Ha-won was disowned by her father.
Seriously, some of the turns are so farcical which could have been written more subtly and less tackily given it’s fully pre-produced… or so i thought. Cinderella and Four Knights has a setup of fairytale-style romance and plot points of an utter makjang. To be fair, it isn’t as horrible as it sounds. I couldn’t say i liked it, but i didn’t hate it. While i won’t cover it regularly (…will i?), i will keep watching. Cuz it’s a pretty easy watch, provided you can stomach moderate amount of cheese, over-the-topness, and dramatic slow-mo. For me, it’s a guilty pleasure kind of show — it ain’t good, but i enjoyed it better than i thought i would.
Typical characterizations aside, i like Ha-won’s spunk and bravado. She’s quite meek at home yet isn’t mopey. She endures enough shit from her stepfamily and dares to point out their hypocrisy once the line is crossed. I also like Hyun-min (than Ji-woon who’s quite dull despite his hardships). He may be an ass to Hye-ji (who’s also incredibly dull) and changes flings as often as he changes clothes, yet possesses an interesting trait: he knows he’s cool, and the fact that he squirms at his own words is quite a sight, ha. In any other drama, it would be a no-brainer to predict they are the endgame, for various reasons, and they do share fascinating dynamics, but we know Jung Il-woo is the lead here. Well, it’ll probably be easier for Ha-won to connect with Ji-woon as both are lonely souls.
Nevertheless, everything happening in the opening week was all setup paving the way for the upcoming reverse harem. This theme is possibly a lot more common and prevalent in Japanese anime/dorama that i’m curious to see how it’s tackled here. Hopefully it won’t be all fluff and zero substance. Or you know, all angst and zero meaning. Cuz although it isn’t too late to impose the single rule in the contract — no dating is allowed in premise — how on earth Grandpa expects it to be adhered to when one of the inhabitants is a serial womanizer?