First Impressions:

After weeks of promos and posters, our newest fusion sageuk is finally here, and it’s shaping up to be an instant favorite! “The Forbidden Marriage” has fun, wit, chemistry galore, and a whole lot of grief and love as the drama tackles one of the best questions for a gripping story: what happens when you find your happily-ever-after and it’s cruelly taken from you?

Here’s everything we loved about the premiere episodes and why this is sure to become an instant addition to your watchlist!

Warning: spoilers for episodes 1-2 below.

1. Yi Heon

Though So Rang (Park Ju Hyun) is the soul of this story, Yi Heon (Kim Young Dae) is quite literally the beating heart. The promos for the show made him come off as a coldhearted king who forbids marriage after the death of his wife, and that is precisely what the rest of Joseon believes. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Yi Heon is a man ravaged by grief who has all but been destroyed by it for the past seven years. Having found and married the love of his life Crown Princess Ahn Ja Yeon (Kim Min Ju), he spent his days trying all manner of flirtation to get her to shed some of her reserve around him. Though it’s clear that his wife loves him, she is reticent with her emotions in public, understanding better than Yi Heon that any show of affection could be used against both of them. She doesn’t want people to know that she’s his greatest weakness and warns him as such on what ends up being their last date.


The next time Yi Heon sees her, she’s hanging from the rafters of her room, having apparently taken her life. Yi Heon’s breakdown is painful to witness as he shoves ministers and maids aside to cradle his wife, refusing to believe that she ended her life. He’s certain that she was murdered, especially given her concerns that she would be his weakness. And by the reaction of the clearly evil Minister Jo Sung Gyun (Yang Dong Geun), who decrees that the Princess shall be considered a criminal who took her life, it’s clear that there was foul play in her death.

But Yi Heon’s hands are tied. Jo Sung Gyun is extremely powerful and all but runs the court with the support of various other ministers. When the marriage ban is proclaimed so that Yi Heon gets first pick at all remaining eligible women between the ages of 18 to 24, it isn’t because Yi Heon wants it but because he has no choice but to follow convention. Moreover, the ban has lasted for seven years (preventing eligible women of that age from getting married and criminalizing secret marriages), not because Yi Heon has been putting off marriage but because every candidate he selects is mysteriously killed just like his wife was: by hanging.


Our grieving king not only has to put up with people accusing him of being impotent—and secretly-married couples being thrown in prison in his name—but also with the fact that there is a murderer on the loose, trying to make it seem like he won’t get married. Perhaps it’s so the people revolt against him. Worse, he sees Princess Ja Yeon whenever he closes his eyes, her hanbok stained with blood. He can’t even enter the Princess’s quarters without hallucinating and collapsing. His grief is so realistic and almost awe-inspiring that it’s hard not to love a man who loved his wife so much. But it is time for him to join the world of the living, and in his case, that’s going to require plenty of (fraudulent) aid from the past.

2. So Rang

This girl is incredible and so easy to like that it’s no wonder she makes friends with Yi Heon and Lee Shin Won (Kim Woo Seok) immediately. So Rang is cunning but not too cunning, plucky but not without foresight, and has a massive heart and a big secret. She makes her living as a marital compatibility reader, which, in a country where marriage is forbidden, means that she reads people very well and knows the inside of a jail cell just as well. Having returned to Seoul after many years of wandering about Joseon, she immediately runs afoul of the law by matchmaking couples and is thrown in jail where she gets the brilliant idea of pretending to be possessed so that they let her out.

As part of the crew who captured her, when this reaches Yi Heon’s ears, his mind goes a different direction: surely someone who communicates with spirits could communicate with his dead wife. It’s worth noting that the initial idea isn’t So Rang’s. It’s actually Yi Heon’s. She just runs with it so she can get out of jail and suddenly transforms from rambunctious matchmaker to genteel noblewoman. But there’s something about the transformation that is eerie. For a moment, it’s truly like Ja Yeon has come back to live as she tearfully asks Yi Heon for forgiveness that she died first and asks him to let her go so that her spirit can stop wandering the earth, tied to his grief.

What’s so beautiful about this scene is that So Rang doesn’t mock Ja Yeon or Yi Heon. She’s truly sincere in every word she speaks, even more so as Yi Heon staggers toward her and begins to cry, begging her not to go. For the first time, she sees the king for who he is: a man broken by grief. And So Rang is incredibly kind with how she goes about trying to soothe it under the Princess’s guise. She’s so perceptive that she’s able to use every small detail to make the act believable, and Yi Heon is hooked. So Rang suddenly finds herself assigned as his personal palace maid to watch over him at all times.

She’s not super excited about it at first, but she quickly can’t bring herself to look away from Yi Heon’s grief. It truly helps that he’s such a good guy. He’s clearly kind and caring, and he adored his dead wife. So Rang is careful not to bring Ja Yeon out too often, or she risks being caught at the slightest slip, but she tries to help in other ways. She notices that Yi Heon’s fatigue comes from not eating or sleeping so she pretends that the Princess wants him to share his food with her. Watching her eat with gusto encourages Yi Heon to do the same, and before they know it, the bowls are all cleared. Next, when he can’t sleep, she arranges a bout of exercise: walks, and sparring with his friend Lee Shin Won, which tires Yi Heon enough to fall asleep soundly. She knows she’s scamming him by pretending to see and be possessed by Ja Yeon’s spirit, but she truly acts out of that big heart of hers.

It’s to the point that when Yi Heon pleads for her to bring out Ja Yeon one more time, she does and even cries herself when he sobs before her. That night, as she watches over him while he sleeps, she takes his hand to comfort him, and something in her seems to shake a little when he sleepily mumbles that her hand is the same size as his dead wife’s. The best part? So Rang is so good for him, even as a friend. She teases him, doesn’t let him get caught up in grief, and pulls him right out of it. The two are reaching the point of friendship quickly with crackling chemistry. There is just so much to love about how healthy this pair is for each other. But the competition is about to rear its head, and quite fiercely at that, because So Rang’s other suitor is already well in love with her. And he is Yi Heon’s best friend.

3. Lee Shin Won

After a powerhouse performance in “Military Prosecutor Doberman,” Kim Woo Seok returns to play the classic role of the King’s swordsman and head of a police unit. Like Yi Heon, he too has a void in his life because of a woman he loved. It isn’t his wife but rather the woman who was to be his wife Yi Hyeon Seon, the daughter of a wealthy noble family. Betrothed seven years ago, while Yi Heon’s wife was still alive, Shin Won had never met his bride-to-be and snuck into her home one night (in a non-creepy way) under the guise of a tradesperson, just so he could wander around her garden and perhaps catch a sight of her.

He saw her bratty, abusive half-sister Yi Hyeon Yi instead. Fearing that horrible person could be his bride, he was delighted upon glimpsing Hyeon Seon, who graciously gave away her belongings so Hyeon Yi would stop abusing a maid. It is then we find that Hyeon Seon is So RangHyeon Seon was equally excited to be married, and it’s adorable seeing the two of them sigh and wonder what marriage to each other would have been like. Only, on the day of the marriage, Shin Won is presented with Hyeon Yi, not Hyeon Seon. And when he voices his rage and is about to get answers, the marriage is cancelled because Ja Yeon has just died and the marriage ban has come into effect.

Shin Won spends seven years searching for what happened to Hyeon Seon and is shocked when she reappears before him as So Rang, clearly hiding something. Her foster dad Gwaeng Yi (Choi Duk Moon), who is also gay (and no big deal is made of that, which is so amazing), warns Shin Won not to press further if he notices that she’s keeping a secret, or she’ll run away. So Shin Won stays quiet even though he suspects that So Rang is his long-vanished beloved. The angst here is going to be delicious.

4. The chemistry

The chemistry between all three of our main characters is just too good. Yi Heon and Shin Won are healthy male characters without a hint of toxicity in their friendship. Yi Heon doesn’t use his status to force Shin Won to do as he says, and Shin Won respects Yi Heon and is saddened by his grief. So Rang is the boss in her relationship with Shin Won, leading him around by the ears, while he can’t help but smile while keeping up with her. They feel like longtime friends with a romantic past that didn’t exactly work out. On the other hand, So Rang and Yi Heon have amazing chemistry. Both in the “bickering friends” way and in this really lovely, tender manner where they understand grief.

And all three together? Kim Young Dae’s comedic timing remains spot on, Park Ju Hyun is just as brilliant with her megawatt smile, and Kim Woo Seok plays the straight man to these two idiots, haha.

But next week indicates that trouble might be coming their way because Jo Sung Gyun is about to notice the palace’s newest maid whom the king seems to rely on far too much. And Seo Woon Jung (Park Sun Young), Yi Hyeon Seon’s stepmother and the architect behind Yi Hyeon Seon’s disappearance seven years ago, hasn’t given up on destroying the girl who could ruin her schemes. With murder, grief, and so much love and longing, “The Forbidden Marriage” is definitely off to a rollicking start and promises to be the sageuk to watch this holiday season!

Check out the drama below!

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What did you think of the premiere episodes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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!

Currently Watching: Summer Strike,” “The Forbidden Marriage.”
Looking Forward to: “Island,” “The Interest of Love,” “Queen of the Scene,” “Black Knight,” and Ji Sung’s next drama.

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