I’ve been in a bit of a slump so I haven’t been posting on here as much, but don’t fret – I’ve still been keeping up with my dramas (or least with ‘The Forbidden Marriage.’ I may or may not write a follow-up post of my thoughts about ‘Alchemy of Souls Season 2’ and ‘The Interest of Love’). I’m glad that ‘The Forbidden Marriage’ turned out to still be an entertaining watch even as things got more serious and dramatic throughout the show. The drama started off humorous, silly, and comedic and then amped up the drama as new stories, sub-plots, and characters were introduced. Through it all, the drama proved to be a fun watch and I’m glad that it delivered in the end.
As I continued to watch the new episodes each week, I realized what my primary concern with the drama was: each episode was entertaining and good in its own way but felt disconnected as a whole. The drama was a lot more fast paced than I would have liked and I would have preferred that the drama slowed down by focusing on just a few of the sub-plots instead of doing something different each episode. For example, the first few episodes focused on the Crown Princess’s murder mystery and her death then episode 6 transitioned to So-rang getting held hostage and then episode 7 was about So-rang getting kidnapped and then there was also the section about the newly discovered village and then the last few episodes finally focused on the selection process of the Queen. Individually, each episode was fun to watch because there was something different, but when you stepped back and reflected on how each episode was related to one another, it didn’t feel as connected. It felt disjointed. The drama was distracted by so many sub-plots which again was entertaining and fun, but there lacked this consistency overall.
So despite me wishing that the drama chose to focus on only a few things instead of various aspects and stories, I think the drama was still well done in several ways. I was the biggest fan of the music and the cinematography/directing and even though there were multiple times throughout the show that seemed outdated or consisted of cheesy themes or tropes that were from the last decade, it was the editing and the filming that elevated the drama to be better than it should have been. There were also a few moments that really tugged at my heartstrings, in particular the scene of Court Lady Won leaving the palace in search of her husband and son. The farewell scene was such a tearjerker because of how supportive and important Court Lady Won was to So-rang, but also because of how impactful she was for Lee Heon. Gaaah, I was so close to crying when Lee Heon appeared to say his goodbyes to Court Lady Won and he thanked her for being like his mother. I’m such a sucker for anything familial or parental-like and this scene definitely got to me. In a way, the farewell was bittersweet because you wanted Court Lady Won to be able to go back out and do what she wanted to get done in her personal life, but you also were heartbroken at her leaving the palace because of just how much she meant to both So-rang and Lee Heon. This was such a great scene and it was an example of some of the magic that ‘The Forbidden Marriage’ possessed.
I also liked how the drama focused more on its characters towards the end of the show, in particular our female lead So-rang. We got a glimpse into her background story in the beginning and how she was originally hunted down to be killed by her stepmother, but it wasn’t really until the end that the drama gave us the ending to So-rang’s story. I love that So-rang took things into her own hands and that she was proactive in revealing the truth about her identity. I also loved that So-rang’s story was mixed into the concept of the marriage ban: So-rang revealed her name and real identity in front of the village residents PLUS the royal palace officials which then prompted Lee Heon to propose to So-rang, therefore, ending the marriage ban. It was a nice way to wrap up not only So-rang’s story but also the marriage ban and I think the drama was smart to combine those two into one. It sort of followed a ‘buy one get one free’ concept in that in by bringing insight into one story (So-rang) we also got progress on another story in the drama (the marriage ban).
I was always a fan and supporter of Lee Heon and So-rang from the very beginning so I was never a fan of the love triangle nor did I suffer any second male lead syndrome in this drama. If the drama wanted to be a little bit more serious and take itself a little bit more seriously, it could have given us a deeper look into how Lee Heon fell in love with So-rang and was able to overcome his grieving for the former Crown Princess. Regardless, I’m happy and satisfied with the outcome that we got of Lee Heon and So-rang and I loved that the two committed themselves to each other in front of everyone. I also wished the drama didn’t spend so much time on the love triangle as I enjoyed watching Shin-won with his new love interest and I wished we could have gotten more time to see them together.
Along those same lines, I wished we could have gotten to see more of So-rang as the Queen in the palace. I would have liked to see her adjust to her new position and situation and fulfill her responsibilities as the queen of Joseon. We got a few glimpses at the end of the impact and difference that she’s made not only on Lee Heon and his ability to rule as King, but also her impact on the country. It would have been nice to see more of that as it’s clear that So-rang was the catalyst and reason for a lot of the positive changes made to Joseon and that she’s made an impact as the queen. She started off as a scammer at first, but then transformed not only the people inside the palace but also outside of the palace through her journey. She was the hero that the country needed.
I liked witnessing how impactful and big So-rang was as the queen, but perhaps what I liked the most was the way she honored the former Crown Princess’s life. She met with the Crown Princess’s father and they both paid their respects at the Crown Princess’s burial. So-rang, in return, had her own way of helping the Crown Princess’s dad remember his daughter as well as showing her respect for the Crown Princess. This scene was in particular so moving to me because it was difficult for the dad to lose his child, but it was also clear that he never really received any closure as to what happened to his daughter. This scene also showcased the responsibility and maturity that So-rang possessed to do what was right and to not forget what happened in the past. She knew firsthand just how hurt and heartbroken Lee Heon was over the Crown Princess’s death and it was nice to see things come full circle once So-rang became the queen. So-rang initially found herself in the palace due to the situation involving the former Crown Princess. After becoming the Queen, she provided the Crown Princess’s dad with some closure, comfort, and support. That hole of missing his daughter will always be there, but he can also rest a little bit more peacefully knowing that his daughter will never be forgotten. His daughter lived an honorable life.
A part of me reflects on this drama and wonders what the drama could have been like if it chose to be a more serious drama instead. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed all the humor and comedy that the drama surrounded itself with and identified itself by. There were many times that I laughed at the characters and scenes and stories and I appreciate that this sageuk was different from a lot of historical dramas that I’ve seen. But there’s also the potential as to what this drama could have been because I actually quite liked the premise and the characters and the stories and the lessons that it conveyed. I actually liked the content that ‘The Forbidden Marriage’ worked with and maybe in an alternate universe, there’s a version of ‘The Forbidden Marriage’ that is a bit more of a traditional sageuk but still filled with just as much brightness and lightness and comedy as this one (it especially kills me because of just how amazing the directing and cinematography was in certain scenes throughout the drama!). Regardless, this version of the drama was great, but I think you could also make multiple versions of this drama that would have been just as enjoyable.
Overall, ‘The Forbidden Marriage’ was a nice and entertaining watch that was about love and marriage and relationships. But it was also about finding yourself and your identity and knowing who you are and never changing who you are. So-rang went through quite a journey herself, but she stayed strong through it all and stayed true to herself. Even with the change in names and therefore, persona and occupations, she knew who she was and she knew how to carry herself. It wasn’t easy, but she trusted herself. The same thing could be said about Lee Heon who suffered after the tragic death of his former lover. He was also doubtful about himself after that death and it lead him to reflect on his newfound feelings for So-rang and how he didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes or habits that he did in the past. There was also growth from him throughout the show as both a lover as well as a King. With the help of So-rang, he was able to learn how to become a better ruler for the good of both himself and his country.
In the end, marriage was no longer forbidden and the people of Joseon were free to love whoever they wanted to love. Through the example of So-rang and Lee Heon, maybe love does truly conquer all.