3 Reasons To Watch Quirky Historical Rom-Com K-Drama

A bright and haughty young man named Shim Jung Woo (Rowoon) aces the civil service exam, becoming the youngest person ever to do so. However, his dreams of entering the government are thwarted when the royal princess sets sights on him, and the king asks his hand in marriage for his daughter. And misfortune strikes him when his bride dies right in the middle of the wedding festivities. Widowed and unable to remarry again, Jung Woo is the ultimate grouch of the kingdom. He’s a royal secret inspector who for the past eight years since his disastrous wedding keeps making appeals to enter the government service. Despite the princely status bestowed on him, he has adjectives like resentful and grumpy prefixed to his name because of his stubborn and cocky nature. Jung Woo finally finds himself an opportunity to turn his fortune around. He has been assigned the task of marrying off the three Maeng sisters, who are well past the marriageable age. If he succeeds in doing so, the king promises him a position in the government.

In the meantime, a sprightly young widow named Jung Soon Deok (Cho Yi Hyun) leads a double life as a matchmaker and is regarded as one of the best in Hanyang City. Soon Deok, who despite her heartache, believes in love and finding the right match for young couples by just reading their body language and aura. Jung Woo, who has already had a few unpleasant exchanges with the peppy Soon Deok, asks her to help him in the mission. But as the two matchmakers get set on their task, Cupid has other plans in store. Will the awkward and perpetually unhappy Jung Woo find his match in Soon Deok? Or will this forbidden romance between the widowed couple start a fire that cannot be extinguished?

The Matchmakers” has lots going for it, with a quirky narrative, oodles of humor, and Rowoon’s charisma. Here are three reasons why should this drama be on your watch list.

A quirky and interesting premise

We have seen several period rom-coms, but this one comes with an interesting twist. A widow who is a matchmaker aligns with a widower to find the town’s so-called ageing spinsters their suitable match. Though Jung Woo, whose bride mysteriously dies even before the completion of the wedding rituals, has been branded as a widower, he is unable to remarry. He is resentful of the same, and though he keeps making constant appeals to be able to work, he also wants his marriage to be annulled.

Soon Deok is a widow with a son and is more or less resigned to her fate. Although she and Jung Woo make an unlikely duo, being the opposite of each other in every possible way, they are quite the match. He is sharp, a disciplinarian, and a taskmaster as well. She is quick-witted, magnanimous, and impulsive. While he even gets scared of a farm dog, she on the other hand has no qualms in climbing up walls. Their palpable chemistry is a giveaway of what is likely to follow, at a time when widow remarriage was not only abhorred, but there was also a prohibition on the remarriage of widows. Dare someone even venture that way, it spelled death. “The Matchmakers” is satirical as it questions the same.

The drama makes a sociocultural statement on the institution of marriage as well. At a time when marriages were more or less seen as political or family alliances than being a matter of choice between couples, does anyone have the right to make personal decisions? “The Matchmakers” is light-hearted fare but takes itself seriously with its progressive storyline.

The sassy women of Joseon

Whether it is a young widow who moonlights as a matchmaker, a young woman who writes raunchy adult novels under a pseudonym, or the three sisters who despite societal norms prefer being unmarried than settling for less, one cannot help but admire the spunk and spirit of these ladies of Hanyang. The mothers or wives are chief decision-makers in family matters but also subtly exercise their influence on men, which can even impact the politics of the land. The ladies in their own way are all set to slam the patriarchy.

Cho Yi Hyun’s Soon Deok is especially admirable—she is spunky with a sunny and engaging personality. Even though she misses her dead husband, Soon Deok is the eternal romantic who believes in love and wants those around her to find their perfect match. Well aware that being a widow translates as her being bound to household chores and looking after her in-laws and son, she lives her dream of being a matchmaker. She is nowhere cynical and empowers other women around her, from her sister-in-law to encouraging Sam Soon (Jung Bo Min), who disguises herself as a man to write popular adult novels. She stands for what she believes in but is also an empath who feels for those around her.

As women way past a certain age were deemed unworthy of finding a suitable prospect, the fierce Maeng sisters show that for them being single is a matter of personal choice. Their mother chides Jung Woo and ticks him off, saying she’d rather have her daughter look after her then become a slave to a stranger and his family. It is refreshing to see not only a strong female lead but also the strength of character in the rest of the female cast, who despite their positions are unwilling to compromise.

The charm of Rowoon as Jung Woo

The overconfident yet awkward, pompous, and prickly Jung Woo grows on you. You cannot help but feel sorry for him. He is a victim of circumstances who has been denied what he aspired for in life. He has been forced into a marriage against his wishes and has had to forgo his dreams of being a civil servant. It’s interesting to note, since usually in shows and popular narratives, the women are the ones who have to compromise on their future and ambitions. This time around, we see the same circumstances through the lens of a man, who has been compelled by his family to marry for political gain. His widowed status and being a member of the royal family further seals his fate, and he is desperate to break away from the shadows of the palace walls.

As a widower who is assigned as a secret royal inspector with just superficial authoritative status, Jung Woo is sullen, cantankerous, and has a knack for rubbing everyone the wrong way. A stickler for discipline, he inwardly laments his single status if he is not ticking people off. But when he is assigned his task to marry off the Maeng sisters, he tries to also get down to finding out about his wife’s mysterious death and finds himself devoted to the cause.

Rowoon has come a long way as an actor, and “The Matchmakers” proves his versatility and growth as a performer. He gets his comedic timing on point, and his straight-faced dry wit and bumbling ways are fun to say the least. Even when Jung Woo is annoying and painful to everyone around him, you get his frustration. A hilarious moment is when he gets embarrassed and excited while reading the adult novel “The Madame’s Private Life.” Rowoon’s body language and expressions not only get every aspect of his character right, but his uninhibited performance is on point. And his chemistry with Cho Yi Hyun is natural as it grows from irritation to admiration and fondness.

Start watching “The Matchmakers”:

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Puja Talwar is a Soompi writer with a strong Yang Yang and Lee Junho bias. A long time K-drama fan, she loves devising alternate scenarios to the narratives. She has interviewed Lee Min HoGong YooCha Eun Woo, and Ji Chang Wook to name a few. You can follow her on @puja_talwar7 on Instagram.

Currently watching: The Matchmakers

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