I know, i know, this post has been long overdue, and i really have nothing but excuses to say since i caught up on and finished the series on its final week. Which was two months ago. But for this i had to rewatch the last five-six episodes to take screencaps and honestly, i just didn’t feel like it. I had to push myself for it this week, and i don’t think anybody still cares to read this but here’s my final post on Moonlight Drawn by Clouds.
After everything that has happened in 10 episodes, after the romance has fully bloomed, what’s left is Ra-on’s identity reveal as Hong Gyeong-nae’s daughter, the conspiracy to dethrone the crown prince, and separation angst. Because what is romance drama without some kind of noble idiocy? I initially thought it’s avoidable since they’ve promised to not give up on each other, also because Yeong is so smart it may not need to happen, but i guess it’s inevitable given their opposing principles — Yeong is trying to protect the throne while Gyeong-nae’s trying to take it over — despite their matching envisioned future world.
“The world I dream of is not different from the world you dream of. The only difference is how far they are from the present. Maybe we could find the way without bloodshed — the way we can walk together toward the world we dream of.”
We still got around two more lovey-dovey episodes before all the weary stuff started pouring in, which naturally took its toll on the drama’s watchability. I still thought the palace intrigue was interesting to a point (cuz where’s the fun in watching two people romancing each other for 18 episodes?) before it felt unnecessarily complex; there were too many political subplots — cat-and-mouse game over Ra-on, switched royal baby, dethroning schemes, murder attempts, the royal wedding, the rebel movement, etc — when it could have focused on say, two to three conflicts only. There were too many things going on that many ‘important’ events (the crown princess selection, for example) progressed off screen, and more and more developments were illogical and incoherent (e.g. ministers/Premier Kim returning after being removed/willingly step down from his post).
The blindsided breakup was no better. Initially, it was justified and i was glad that Moonlight didn’t keep them apart for too long. However, it soon became a laughing-stock, given the frequency of them running into each other, even after Ra-on insisted on staying away and Yeong agreed to it. These two weren’t the most candid couple in dramaland, but their trust and rapport were pretty awesome that i expected them to talk it out and brainstorm their way out of it. Or to at least separate on good terms, especially after Ra-on’s wish to say proper goodbye… alas. What we got was a super angsty one instead, with Ra-on brandishing a pocket knife at Yeong and scapegoating him and Yeong ending up tearing their couple bracelet with it. Even then, their paths continued to cross and they kept exchanging long stares, which i would have enjoyed had that horrendous scene not happened.
If anything, they could really use the break time to deal with the pressing issues on respective side — mainly Ra-on to clear her family’s name and Yeong to outwit his oppositions — instead of milking the angst then meeting them the next scene. I was hoping Ra-on could do something to help either the Rebels or Yeong, that my biggest peeve about her is her uselessness. She seemed fairly gutsy and competent at the outset that it’s frustrating to see her role reduced to nothing but an object. All she did for most of the show’s run was became the recipient of Yeong’s affection, got caught or kidnapped or held hostage, and got saved by one of the three musketeers. It happened over and over again i could only get mad at her for not learning. And all she did after calling it quits was crying over it i nearly lost all of my sympathies for her. Like, why is she so damn weak!?
The problem with prolonged moping was the drama’s main conflicts were neither fully developed nor resolved satisfactorily. At 18 episodes, you’d think they had enough time to plot it out, but like most of dramas, Moonlight didn’t. Case in point: Gyeong-nae’s treason. He was deemed dead for a decade but was captured the moment he was out to meet Ra-on’s mom. He was brought to the palace, tortured, and nearly executed, but following his escape, his grave crime and status were hardly mentioned — Ra-on’s crimes were pardoned, what about his? But well, it’s not as if the way Ra-on got away from hers wasn’t ridiculous — she wasn’t the one who found the late Queen’s letter yet treated as the hero for it. Speaking of the queen, turns out her death wasn’t related to the riot as i believed was the case all series long. I couldn’t fathom why Premier Kim needed to kill her though; his threat for her to step down on her own (just because she read a western book) seemed to work already.
The last major complaint i had was regarding the body count. Those who should’ve died didn’t and those who shouldn’t have did. I was happy that Ra-on’s mom was alive, and though having thoughts about it, i didn’t expect Gyeong-nae to return this late in the game. Besides, it’s quite absurd for the initiator to survive the revolution attempt and lay low to nobody’s knowledge. Next, Byung-yeon’s sacrifice, which i still can’t decide whether it’s done as his part of the rebel group or as the best way to save everyone. Him drawing his sword to Yeong’s neck was regretful regardless, but it was well-played that i felt cheated by his survival. I bawled so hard, you know! He’s gotten his moment and poignant send-off, after all.
But then there’s Yoon-sung’s sacrifice. If Byung-yeon’s was noble, Yoon-sung’s was stupid. Of all moments and ways to go down a hero, i can’t believe he chose to end his life his way. Granted, it was to save Ra-on (for the nth times), but it could’ve been more thought-out and tragic. Or believable. He faced a group of hired assassins before and walked out with only an injured palm, how could he not handle his own men? Also, what were the minions thinking, slashing their master’s grandson!? If he’s really supposed to die this way, Moonlight could’ve at least made him intercept the kidnapping attempt instead of having him come with them. The entire scene was so ridiculous i wasn’t even teary at his demise.
So yeah, maybe i was reluctant to write a follow-up post after episode 10 because the negatives have outweighed the positives. Me disappointed at a drama’s final third isn’t new, but i sincerely thought Moonlight could produce a satisfying conclusion. It wasn’t boring, but it did falter toward the finish line. It wasn’t a perfect drama; its flaws became more and more apparent and impossible to ignore in the latter half.
With beautiful cinematography and sweeping OSTs, it was fun while it lasted. But in retrospect, what sticks with me is how dazzling Park Bo-gum was — he completely owned the role — and how utterly disappointing a character Ra-on was. Too bad Kim Yoo-jung didn’t manage to do much with it — the writing’s to blame, not acting. Yoon-sung was a standard second-lead material though thankfully Ha-yeon wasn’t. I appreciate that she stayed a good person till the end despite the instances/chances for her to turn evil.
Many people groused about how Moonlight totally disregarded history by making Yeong a king. I for one was fine with it. The prophecy bit of him dying young, plus the reading on the figure he’s based on, did make me assume he would end up faking his death to stay true to history yet achieve a happy ending, but the show gave us a nice if confusing twist to justify the change. I don’t mind the ending, though i wonder if Gyeong-nae was thoroughly fine with leaving the leadership in his hands. Cuz if you ask me, what’s a better revolution than the crown prince uniting with the rebel’s daughter?
Director: Kim Sung-yoon
Production: KBS2, 2016
Cast: Park Bo-gum, Kim Yoo-jung, Jung Jin-young, Kwak Dong-yeon, Chae Soo-bin, Cheon Ho-jin
Genre: Romance, fusion period K-drama (18 Episodes)