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Series / Moon Lovers

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If we had met in another world and at another time, I was thinking how great that would have been.

Moon Lovers (달의 연인 - 보보경심 려, Dar-ui yeon-in - Bobogyeongsim Ryeo, also known as Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo) is a 2016 Korean adaptation of the 2011 Chinese drama Scarlet Heart. It stars Lee Joon-gi, Lee Ji-eun, and Kang Ha-neul.

The story follows the 25-year-old woman, Go Ha Jin, who mysteriously gets swept into the water after saving a little kid. She then is transported back to the Goryeo Era, in the body of Hae Soo. After some consideration, she decides to live as Hae Soo, trying to start over.

She gets tangled up in the lives of the Wang family princes, due to her cousin being married to one of them, and ends up forming a strong bond with most of them. As a result, she also gets involved in their schemes and conflicts as well as a love triangle that will bring her the greatest of pains and joys.

The drama aired from August to November, with 20 episodes released and 2 specials that are yet to be announced formally when will they air.

Moon Lovers contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Wang So was a victim of it, receiving horrible treatment from his 'adoptives' in Shinju. His biological mother Queen Yoo isn't much better; when he was a child she threatened to kill him during an argument with Taejo.
    • Wang Mu plans to send his young daughter off to Khitan to be a hostage and to marry a complete stranger. He only agrees to let her stay in Goryeo by forcing Wang So (her uncle) to marry her.
  • Accidental Pervert: While looking for Ha-jin Wang Eun accidentally sees Chae-ryung undressing. Then it stops being accidental when he stays and continues to watch until Chae-ryung sees him.
  • Alternate History: Wang So and his family are based on real people, but it's safe to say there were no time-travellers involved in Wang So becoming king.
  • Anyone Can Die: Yup. By the end of the series, Hae Soo passes away and half of the princes are killed off along with other people in the palace.
  • Ambition Is Evil: A lot of the heartbreak that occurs in the drama takes place partly thanks to the greed of several characters that leads them to have little to no consideration of the damage they could cause to others on their quest for power, such as Yo, Queen Yoo, Won, Wook, Yeon Hwa and So who all end up regretting something in the end.
  • Arranged Marriage: Lots of them, first you have one between Hae Soo and the King (that she managed to get out of), then the one between Soon Deok and the 10th prince, then there are several mentions of the King arranging his children's marriages and how important these are to keep and gain political power.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Wang So gets one in episode seventeen.
  • Awful Wedded Life: King Taejo and Queen Yoo. You know a marriage is a disaster when the husband announces he's going to marry another woman right after his oldest son's death, and the wife's reaction is to threaten to kill their younger son.
  • Babies Ever After: Played with. Ha-jin gives birth to Wang So's baby after she marries Wang Jeong. She dies shortly afterwards, leaving Wang Jeong to raise her daughter alone.
  • Berserk Button: Wang So doesn't react well to people seeing his scars. He nearly chokes Ha-jin when she sees them.
  • Betty and Veronica: Hae Soo and Yeon-Hwa, respectively, for So's Archie.
  • Big Little Brother: Baek-ah is taller than Wang So.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Oh boy, where to start. Mommy Issues, Parental Favoritism, Royal Inbreeding, fratricide... you name it, they have it all.
  • Blood from the Mouth:
    • Myung-hee's illness makes her cough up blood.
    • Wang So coughs up blood after drinking poison.
  • Blunt "Yes": Wang Eun asks if Ha-jin really thinks he'd spy on a servant.
    Ha-jin: Yes, I do.
  • Break the Cutie: Goryeo is definitely not a gentle or kind place, especially for people who have little to no ambition for power. Hae Soo learns this the hard way.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: The Wangs are a-okay with incest to say the least. Yeon-Hwa was not-so-secretly involved with Yo, later married So. Both are her half-brothers. Also there's this seemingly innocent scene where Baek Ah meets his little niece in the garden. It's a foreshadowing - when the girl grows up they'll become lovers and have a son.
  • Cain and Abel: Wang Yo and Wang So. To a lesser degree, Wang Yo and all of his brothers except Won and (sometimes) Wook.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: Being a Reverse Harem drama this is justified and even expected.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Ha Jin was something of a make-up expert, working as a saleswoman. Then she ended up in Goryeo, where it wasn't all that easy to make. In the first episodes, where she made her own concoctions from scratch, it was viewed more of a hobby, an activity to pass the time, but later on it becomes instrumental when she uses her skills to cover the scar on Wang So's face, giving him the strength to perform an important ritual that would boost his status as prince.
  • Cool Mask: Wang So wears one to hide the scars Queen Yoo gave him.
  • Crapsack World: The setting is Goryeo in the 10th century so you can be damn sure that a lot of the characters will suffer from the views and constrictions of the era, especially if they're not Genre Savvy enough.
  • Cry Laughing: Wang So does this when he confronts his mother in episode four, and again after killing Wang Eun.
  • Decoy Getaway: Wang Eun puts on Ha-jin's cloak to help her escape Hae Soo's relatives.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • More than once it's mentioned that killing is a perfectly logical and necessary choice one has to make in order to survive in that time.
    • Polygamy and Brother–Sister Incest are normal in the royal family. Yeon-hwa has an affair with one of her half-brothers then later marries another, and no one bats an eyelid at this.
    • Wang So has to agree to marry his niece (who's just a child) to stop her father sending her off to Khitan. He isn't happy with the situation... because it drives a wedge between him and the woman he actually wants to marry, not because of the incest or the girl's age.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Ha-jin dies in Wang Jeong's arms.
  • Downer Ending: Very much. By the end, only 4 of the 8 princes are alive and the friction between the ones that survived has separated them almost completely. Hae Soo passed away and So is married to Yeon Hwa but he doesn't trust her or even their own son. In the present, Ha Jin has managed to get back on her feet after a year in a coma, blissfully unaware of the heartbreak she lived as Hae Soo only for a chance encounter to reawaken her memories and it ends with her remembering all that happened and crying broken-hearted over the fact that she no longer can be by So's side
  • The Evil Prince: A few of them qualify, especially Yo who makes little effort to hide his manipulative side and how much he wants the throne for himself.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: After her accident, Hae Soo speaks and acts in a manner that contrasts sharply with how a lady is expected to behave. Many believe is due to the incident affecting both her memory and mind but is actually because she's Ha Jin.
  • Forced Miscarriage: Queen Yoo tricked Lady Oh into drinking tea laced with a drug that forced her to miscarry.
  • Future Slang: Ha-jin confuses everyone with her use of modern phrases. When she tells Wang Wook she doesn't want any hand-outs he asks what hand-outs are.
  • Generation Xerox: King Taejo/Queen Yoo/Lady Oh and Gwangjong/Queen Daemok/Hae Soo. The same story basically played out twice.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Queen Yoo doesn't shy away from using manipulation or underhanded tricks to get her way.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Played With. While at that time it wasn't rare for a person to have scars on their bodies, especially if they were warriors, Wang So was ostracized because of the scar on his face and he actively tried to hide it away, afraid of other people's reaction. There's also the fact that while in a man it wouldn't be considered strange, if a woman had a scar then she would probably be cast aside. This is best exemplified when Hae Soo scars herself in a desperate attempt to avoid an arranged marriage with King Taejo, because it was believed that a future queen should not have any scars on her body, even though the King admits that he himself has several on his.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: All over the place, on both men and women. Take this costume of Ha-jin's, for example.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Wang So performs (a thankfully non-fatal) one when he drinks poison meant for Wang Mu.
    • Lady Oh pretends she tried to poison Wang Mu to save Hae Soo from execution. Taejo knows she's lying but he goes along with her story anyway.
  • Historical Beauty Update: No portraits survive of the real Wang So and his brothers, but it's safe to assume none of them were half as good-looking as their actors here.
  • Historical Domain Character: Wang So, Wang Wook, Wang Mu, Wang Yo, and several other characters are based on real people.
  • I Have No Son!: Queen Yoo tells Wang So he's not her son, he's the son of the Kangs in Shinju.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Wang Eun gets shot in the chest with an arrow, thanks to Wang Yo.
  • Jerkass:
    • In a flashback Taejo tells Queen Yoo that he's marrying another woman right after the death of their oldest son.
    • Queen Yoo threatened to kill Wang So, her own son, when he was just a child.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Oh Dear Lord. Let's see, the 4th, 8th, 10th and 14th princes were all in love with Hae Soo. The 8th prince was the only one she loved back at the beginning, however, he was married to her beloved cousin, Lady Hae, who was actually supportive of their relationship because she was dying. In turn, the 13th prince had been in love with Lady Hae but could do nothing because he was of a lower status and she truly loved her husband. Meanwhile, the 8th prince's full sister, Yeon Hwa, was courted by the 3rd prince but she was more interested in the 4th prince, with whom Hae Soo will later fall in love. Then, the 10th prince had to marry Soon Deok, the General's daughter, who had been in love with him since childhood but he was still a bit heartbroken over the fact that Hae Soo always saw him as a brother and nothing else. Finally, after the 8th prince fell in disgrace with the 3rd dying and 4th having to marry Yeon Hwa as a political move, the 14th prince marries Hae Soo but even though he loved her and she cared for him greatly, she never stopped loving the 4th prince so, even though he "won" her hand, he never had her heart In short, it was a mess.
  • Kill the Cutie: Wang Eun is the most cheerful and innocent of the princes. Naturally he's one of the first to die, in especially horrifying circumstances.
  • Landing in Someone's Bathtub: After time-travelling Ha-jin ends up in the princes' bath/swimming pool while several of the princes are there.
  • Love Hurts: And how. The drama could easily change its name to this.
  • Love Will Lead You Back
  • Meet Cute: Ha-jin and Wang So's first meeting is a subversion. Ha-jin almost falls off a bridge, so Wang So grabs her and pulls her onto his horse. It looks like a Meet Cute... and then he gets tired of her clinging to him and shoves her off.
  • Mercy Kill: Wang Eun begs Wang So to kill him when he's fatally injured. Wang So does.
  • Mood Whiplash: Wang So visits his mother, she doesn't want to see him and is very dismissive of him, he walks out... and finds three of his brothers were eavesdropping.
  • Narnia Time: While Ha Jin lived as Hae Soo for almost 20 years, in the present she was in a coma following her accident for only a year
  • Never My Fault: Several of the characters fail to own up to their mistakes, or blame others for it.
  • Our Time Travel Is Different: There's no clear explanation about how or why Ha Jin's soul travelled to the past and entered the body of Hae Soo, but it's implied that they both "died" roughly at the same time in similar circumstances.
  • Outdoor Bath Peeping: Inverted and played with. Ha-jin arrives in Goryeo in the princes' bath/swimming pool. They assume she was spying on them, and she can't exactly explain that she's a time-traveller who ended up in a very inconvenient place.
  • Outliving One's Offspring:
    • King Taejo and Queen Yoo outlive their oldest son, who died when Wang So was a child. Queen Yoo also outlives her son Wang Yo.
    • Soo-kyung outlives his daughter Soon-deok.
  • Princeling Rivalry: Between several of the princes, mainly Wang Yo with Wang Mu and Wang So. Even the princes who aren't fighting for the throne get dragged into the rivalry, with fatal results for some of them.
  • Reverse Harem: The female protagonist is surrounded by 6 princes, excluding the main two princes.
  • Royally Screwed Up: You know the royal family is a mess when Yeon-hwa wants to marry her half-brother and no one bats an eyelid.
    • In a flashback King Taejo announces he's going to marry another woman right after his son's death. Queen Yoo tries to stop him by threatening to kill Wang So, and even that doesn't make Taejo change his mind.
    • Wang Wook poisons his half-brother Wang Mu. The poison takes such a severe toll on Mu's sanity that he decides to send his young daughter off to Khitan, then forces Wang So — her uncle — to marry her instead.
    • Wang Yo kills two of his half-brothers and his sister-in-law. Then he suffers a Sanity Slippage and becomes convinced their ghosts are haunting him.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: King Taejo, Crown Prince Mu, Wang So, Woo Hee, heck even Wang Yo, they all have plans and don't sit idly waiting for them to happen, actively pursuing their goals. Now, whether these are good or bad plans...
  • Sadistic Choice: Wang Yo gives Wang So one. Either he hunts down and kills Wang Eun, or Wang Yo kills Baek-ah, Ji-mong and Ha-jin.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • Wang Mu becomes paranoid and irrational towards the end of his life. Unknown to everyone it's because Wook is poisoning him.
    • Wang Yo becomes increasingly crazy after usurping the throne and killing two of his brothers.
  • Scars Are Forever: Queen Yoo cut Wang So's face when he was a child. Years later his face is still scarred, so he wears a mask to hide the scars.
  • Secretly Dying: Lady Oh is dying of stomach cancer.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Heartbreakingly so. Hae Soo knows of the painful end some of the princes will have, including the one who will cause it, and while she tries to prevent it, she ends up setting in motion the events that would lead to that tragedy.
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • Most of the princes are shirtless during the bathing scene in episode one.
    • Wang So is shirtless when Ha-jin stumbles upon him bathing in episode two.
  • Sibling Murder:
    • Wang Yo shoves Wang Mu into the water and watches as he drowns.
    • Wang Eun is fatally injured by Wang Yo. He begs Wang So to kill him, but people who don't know what happened assume Wang So murdered him.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Sometimes Played for Laughs with some of the antics involving the youngest of princes but, other times, the rivalry wasn't all that lighthearted as was the case of Yo with the Crown Prince and with So.
  • Sibling Team: So got along better with Mu and Baek Ah, being the ones he would help the most and in turn they supported him. Yo, on the other hand, worked closely with Wook and Won, helping him in his schemes.
  • Sibling Triangle: Yo/Yeon-hwa/So is a much more literal Sibling Triangle than most. Yeon-hwa is obsessed with So while Yo wants to marry Yeon-hwa.
  • Snow Means Death: It's snowing when Myung-hee dies.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Not only the case of Hae Soo and Wang So, but also that of Baek Ah and Woo Hee and of King Taejo with Court Lady Oh.
  • Taking the Bullet: Soon-deok jumps in front of a sword meant for Wang Eun.
  • Time Travel: As stated before, Go Ha Jin, a woman of the 21st century ends up living in Goryeo in the last decades of the 10th century.
  • Time-Travel Romance: Ha-jin with Wang So and most of his brothers.
  • Together in Death: Wang Eun and Soon-deok die within minutes of each other.
  • Tongue Trauma: The assassins had their tongues cut out.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Some of the characters were more than willing to sacrifice their happiness (and even their lives) to protect their loved ones, this refers mainly to Lady Hae and Court Lady Oh who gave up everything.
  • The Usurper: Wang Yo becomes king by marching his army into the palace and killing the rightful king.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Wang Yo goes through one shortly before his death when Queen Yoo tries to make him abdicate.
  • We Can Rule Together: Yo offers this to Yeon Hwa in hopes that she accepts his marriage proposal.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Queen Yoo holds a knife at Wang So's throat and threatens to kill him if Taejo marries another woman. Wang So is just a child at the time (and also Queen Yoo's son).
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Ha-jin/Hae-soo's attempts to change history only cause the events she was trying to stop.