“Grand Prince” Finale Delivers Closure Along With Plenty Of Action And Tragedy
After weeks of schemes, heartbreaks, and betrayals, TV Chosun’s “Grand Prince” has finally drawn to a close. We knew that Prince Jin Yang (Joo Sang Wook) was not going to give up the throne without a fight, and we were not disappointed by the ensuing action and drama in the finale, which capped off “Grand Prince” with plenty of emotion-packed scenes, as well as a bit of lighthearted fun. To find out our thoughts on the finale, read on!
Warning: this article contains spoilers for “Grand Prince” Episodes 19 and 20.
Plans were finally put into action as Prince Hwi (Yoon Shi Yoon) led the plot to overthrow Jin Yang and reinstate the rightful heir to the throne. And after weeks of watching our heroes endure misfortune after misfortune with frustrating passivity, we were glad to see them take matters into their own hands and stir up some trouble (and battles!) of their own in the final episodes.
Finally, the badass rebels we’ve been waiting for.
It was especially gratifying to watch characters be proactive because of the drama’s tendency to over-promise and under-deliver on the action: for many episodes now, our heroes have been vowing at length to get revenge and set things right, without making much progress in the way of actually doing so. But the finale made good on these promises by serving us plenty of fights and political maneuvers to satisfy our craving.
What “Grand Prince” sometimes lacked in plot movement, it made up for in the attention it devoted to its characters, pointing to the writers’ choice to emphasize the skilled cast of actors over the action of the plot. The drama was driven by intense, emotion-filled conversations between characters — which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially in the hands of such convincing actors as Yoon Shi Yoon and Joo Sang Wook. Some of the richest moments of “Grand Prince” were played out on the actors’ faces, like when Prince Jin Yang tearfully confronted his mother for her neglect of him:
The emotional range of the actors in “Grand Prince” is incredible and persuasive, and often breathtaking to watch. But relying on a cast to carry a drama has its perils, and one of these is the tendency of “Grand Prince” to get bogged down in melodramatic dialogue and rehash the same tearful conversations over and over again, which only lessened their effect and made the middle stretch of the drama feel stagnant at times.
Thankfully, the final week delved into deeper levels of these conversations, offering interesting new insights into the characters. This was especially true of Prince Jin Yang, whose emotional development stole the show throughout the final episodes. We both dislike and empathize with the elder Grand Prince throughout the drama, but we gain the clearest understanding of him in the finale. This is a man who was neglected by his mother and whose siblings were always favored over him; a man who has never received love, and who simply wants to feel like he deserves something of his own — namely, the woman that his more coddled brother loves.
And while he does some horrible things throughout the course of the drama, we still feel bad for Jin Yang, which is a testament to Joo Sang Wook’s acting prowess in bringing these different dimensions of the character to life. Jin Yang is an especially interesting foil to his brother, Hwi, who grew from a happy childhood to become a rather overly idealistic and naive young prince in comparison to Jin Yang’s constant need to struggle:
And while the two Grand Princes start off at opposite ends of this spectrum of security and trust at the beginning of the drama, they ultimately both end up closer to the middle, and therefore are more similar to each other by the end. Hwi has become far less trusting and has plotted a rebellion of his own, while Jin Yang essentially admits to seeing the error of his greed.
Heartbreakingly, Jin Yang finally realizes that his mother’s mistreatment of him was not actually a reflection of her feelings about him, and with his last breath, the prince accepts that he really was loved — and capable of loving in return — all along.
While these kinds of dramatic and emotionally-charged scenes were the backbone of “Grand Prince,” some of the best moments of the finale were when the drama was at its most subtle. These scenes featured supporting characters, like when Gi Teuk (Jae Ho) gave a private, heartbreaking farewell to Roo Shi Gae (Son Ji Hyun), affectionately calling her “fool,” one of her favorite phrases, in her own language.
Also powerful was Cho Yo Kyung’s (Choo Soo Hyun) stoic observation of her revenge on Na Gyeom (Ryu Hyoyoung), which highlighted the calm, patient strength that allowed the gisaeng to both aid and survive all of the political upheaval.
The supporting cast was phenomenal throughout “Grand Prince,” and when the middle section of the drama bordered on repetitive – with Hwi and Ja Hyeon (Jin Se Yeon) declaring and re-declaring their love and Jin Yang angrily brandishing his power – the real, raw scenes between secondary characters were a breath of fresh air:
Because ultimately, “Grand Prince” came down to characters’ choices: the Queen Dowager chose the post of queen over motherhood, but the young queen would rather be a mother. Hwi chooses to support the royal family, while Jin Yang sought the throne, thereby tearing the family apart. In both cases, either burden is massive to shoulder, yet every character faces similar decisions and their consequences. Ja Hyeon, however, emerges from the drama relatively unscathed: both her family and love life are intact, which is surprising given how many times she chose loyalty to Hwi over her family and even actively put her family at risk with some of her actions to protect Hwi.
Indeed, Ja Hyeon is a bit puzzling as a female lead overall. She’s spunky, she has a kind heart, and she wants to be helpful… but after she acts so selfishly towards her family and gets in the way of Hwi’s plans more often than helps them along, it’s difficult to find her entirely likable. Not every female K-drama lead needs to be an archetypal “strong female character,” but Ja Hyeon’s flaws are even more glaring because she is presented in contrast to Roo Shi Gae, whose quirks and general badassery made her easily one of the most likable characters in “Grand Prince.”
She scoffed at ladylike manners, she swung swords and shot arrows at men, and she made us wonder why Hwi would pass up such an impressively competent (and beautiful!) woman. This points to a larger problem in the drama’s portrayal of Hwi and Ja Hyeon’s relationship, which lost some credibility during the middle stretch of “Grand Prince.” This is likely a result of how quickly their romance developed at the start of the drama: the short amount of time that they spent and the few good memories that they made together were not a strong enough foundation for us to truly buy into their continued dedication to each other through the years of separations, fake deaths, and trials that their relationship endured.
However, the finale dispels most doubts about their relationship by reminding us at the end why we liked them together so much in the first place, as the two return to the lighthearted teasing and fun that made their romance so magnetic and adorably appealing to viewers at the outset of the drama.
All in all, the “Grand Prince” finale gave us a healthy dose of catharsis with all characters getting a fitting, if not necessarily deserved, ending. The drama comes almost entirely full circle, leaving off at a point that feels comfortingly similar to the happier days of its earlier episodes. There’s something incredibly satisfying about following characters whose worlds have been turned entirely upside down as they rise to the challenge, battle hardships, and ultimately emerge with the same everyday happiness they had at the outset, but with renewed appreciation and immense personal growth. And this journey is what ultimately makes “Grand Prince” so worthwhile.
Hey Soompiers, what did you think of the “Grand Prince” finale? Let us know in the comments!
hgordon stays up way too late on weeknights marathoning K-dramas and trying to keep up with the latest K-pop releases.