Heartfelt, Romantic Sageuks: Filling The Void After “River Where The Moon Rises”
Looking for a drama that can fill the void after “River Where the Moon Rises”? Missing Na In Woo and Kim So Hyun’s incredible chemistry? Though there’s nothing exactly like this poignant epic of an assassin princess and her mountain man, if you enjoyed the historical setting, the grand sweeping scale of the conflicts, the palace intrigue, and the romance, then you’ll love these shows:
“The Great Doctor” takes post-Goguryeo to what is now Goryeo. King Gongmin (Ryu Deok Hwan) sits upon the throne and laments his inability to help his people because his evil advisor (Yoo Oh Sung) holds all the strings. Sound familiar?
The king has a love-hate relationship with his wife, Princess Nogook (Park Se Young), whom he loves but is also his political enemy because she’s a Yuan princess. However, when his wife is injured in a political assassination, King Gongmin sends his best general Choi Young (Lee Min Ho) to find a doctor who can save her. Through a twist of fate, Choi Young goes through a portal to the modern world, and finds Yoo Eun Soo (the amazing Kim Hee Sun), a plastic surgeon. He thinks he’s in heaven. (Haha!) He drags poor Eunsoo to Goryeo, where she’s thrown into this world of political intrigue where everyone thinks she’s a divine healer!
Why you’ll love it: This drama sports a truly epic cast. In addition to the heavyweights mentioned, we have Yoon Kyun Sang, Sung Hoon, and the always wonderful Kim Mi Kyung who really bring this world to life. This is a longer drama at 24 episodes so it spends time fleshing out the world and making the characters feel lived in, as “River Where the Moon Rises” also did. Lee Min Ho turns in one of his best performances as a very restrained general who feels deeply. And who also has insane fighting skills.
He also has superpowers (really). He quite literally can shoot lightning out of him, which comes in handy because the bad guys have a few powers of their own. But best of all is the romance between the very modern Eun Soo and the extremely stoic Choi Young. It’s as deep and enduring as Pyeonggang and On Dal’s and is also built on a solid foundation like the latter’s. Lots to love here!
Start watching “The Great Doctor”:
“The Tale of Nokdu” is beloved by sageuk fans for the amazing romance between Jeon Nok Du (Jang Dong Yoon) and Dong Dong Ju (Kim So Hyun). Nok Du lives a peaceful life on an island with his father and brother when they’re attacked by female assassins. Determined to find out who’s targeting his family, Nok Du follows one of the assassins to Joseon’s capital where he bumps into Dong Ju, who’s dressed like a man to avoid attention. They hate each other on sight. However, Nok Du discovers that the assassins’ trail leads to an all-female village of widows. Only women can enter because the village is strictly guarded by a trio of no-nonsense women. So Nok Du dresses as a woman and through a twist of fate somehow becomes Dong Ju’s adopted mother!
Why you’ll love this: It’s the crack drama fans dream of! There’s crossdressing hijinks, assassins, and political intrigue. Dong Ju is a skilled bowyer, and there’s someone she plans on killing so the show isn’t afraid to venture into darker territory. But what keeps it grounded are the amazing female friendships, and the sweet romance between prickly Dong Ju and Nok Du (who’s a very sweet guy) is one to watch! He’s blown away by her from the start, and she is very unimpressed, which always makes for great fun.
Plus there’s this legendary moment:
And too many cute moments to cute! It’s definitely a must-watch.
Start the “Tale of Nokdu”:
“Ruler: Master of the Mask”
Here’s another Kim So Hyun drama because she sure knows how to pick them! Lee Sun, the Crown Prince of Joseon, is born during a turbulent time. A secret organization called Pyunsoohwe aims to control Joseon’s water supply and has the King, Lee Sun’s father, on a tight leash. To protect his son, the king orders that Lee Sun wear a mask for the rest of his life and tells everyone that Lee Sun has a horrible disfiguring illness. But as Lee Sun grows up, he starts to wonder why he has to wear the mask and what the outside world looks like, so he sneaks away from the Palace to meet someone who can tell him the truth. But things go awry and Lee Sun is saved by Han Ga Eun (Kim So Hyun) who ends up paying a terrible price for doing so because of Pyunsoohwe. Lee Sun conceals his identity and sets out to destroy the organization from within. But Pyunsoohwe has spies everywhere, and when Lee Sun meets a water deliverer also named Lee Sun (Kim Myung Soo), Pyunsoohwe sees the opportunity for a switcheroo of kings.
Why you’ll love it: This drama has everything – assassinations, death, and protagonists conspiring to oust an evil organization. There are some truly memorable characters like Gon (Kim Seo Kyung)
Plus there are plenty of cute moments to make up for the darkness. Take Ga Eun and Lee Sun’s first meeting for one, where she saves him. It’s absolutely worth watching!
Another Joseon romance! In “Love in the Moonlight,” Hong Ra On (Kim Yoo Jung) dresses as a man and earns a living by providing dating advice and writing love letters for men to get the women of their dreams. The story begins when a client asks her to meet the woman he loves in person and impress her. Ra On’s low on money and high in debt, so she agrees, but the woman turns out to be a man! Crown Prince Hyomyeong (Park Bo Gum) is wary of the person who’s been professing love to his sister so he comes to the meeting instead of her and is very unimpressed by Ra On, whom he thinks is a fraud. Ra On has no idea and tries to bluff her way out but they immediately get on each other’s bad side. Ra On even leaves him in a pit! One thing leads to another and Ra On is roped into becoming a palace eunuch, but she later finds out that the Prince she’s serving is the same guy she left in a pit!
Why you’ll love it: Park Bo Gum and Kim Yoo Jung both have magnetic presences onscreen and this drama is no different. There are plenty of sweet moments, and the palace intrigue is less heavy, making this a breezy, satisfying watch.
In addition to all this eye candy, there’s the magnificent beauty that is Kwak Dong Yeon in Joseon garb.
This man needs a lead role in a sageuk now. Look at that presence and charisma. Phew!
Start watching “Love in the Moonlight”:
“The Crowned Clown” honestly keeps you on the edge of your seat. In the tumultuous kingdom of Joseon, the ruthless king Lee Hun (Yeo Jin Goo) rules all. Half-mad and reliant on drugs, he’s as vicious as a king can get, but is plagued with his own doubts and insecurities because of repeated assassination attempts on him since he was a child. The king’s loyal advisor Lee Kyu (Kim Sang Kyung) sadly watches over him. Lee Kyu is furious when he happens upon a troupe of clowns mocking the king. The person portraying the king is a clown named Ha Sun (Yeo Jin Goo), who happens to look exactly like the king. So when the king falls ill and needs to recover away from the royal court, Lee Kyu decides to bring Ha Sun in as his replacement to avoid suspicion and so any attempt on the king’s life would get Ha Sun instead of the real king.
However, as Ha Sun takes the throne and begins to fool the royal court into believing he’s the king, he begins to fall for Lee Hun’s beautiful Queen Yoo So Woon (Lee Se Young), who has no idea that this isn’t her husband! As Ha Sun realizes the extent of his power and tries to make Joseon a better place, the two kings, real and fake, battle over empires and love.
Why you’ll love it: Yeo Jin Goo is famed as a brilliant actor and it’s easy to see why. He differentiates Ha Sun’s innocence and conviction with Lee Hun’s bitterness and madness so well. It’s an incredible performance.
But that’s not all! The romance between the Queen and Ha Sun is a beautiful slow burn. Ha Sun’s ignorance of palace etiquette makes for some hilarious moments as he tries to pursue the woman who’s technically his Queen. This is a gem of a show that’s worth the hype!
Start watching “The Crowned Clown”:
Hey Soompiers! Which of these shows do you want to see most? If you’ve already seen some of them, which ones are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
Shalini_A is a long time Asian-drama addict. When not watching dramas, she works as a lawyer, fangirls over Ji Sung, and attempts to write the greatest fantasy romance of all time. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and feel free to ask her anything!