[What Mary Thinks] Our Blooming Youth: Episodes 1-2

Woo hoo hoo! I didn’t realize how much I missed watching Park Hyung-sik on my small screen and how much I missed watching Park Hyung-sik on my small screen in a sageuk until I saw the teaser for this drama and then proceeded to watch episodes 1 and 2. As expected, Park Hyung-sik did not disappoint in his newest drama ‘Our Blooming Youth’ also starring Jeon So-nee (When My Love Blooms). I’m not one to usually watch teasers to a drama and I rather just wait until the first week of the premiere to watch the actual episodes itself. But ‘Our Blooming Youth’ was an exception due to my love for Park Hyung-sik as well as my interest in the director and writer duo behind the drama. Since this was the same director who worked on ‘100 Days My Prince‘, I knew the drama – if anything – was at least going to look good. The writer behind this drama also worked on other projects like ‘Romance is a Bonus Book’ which I quite enjoyed myself so I was satisfied going into this drama. After finishing the first two episodes that aired this week, I have to say: I’m optimistic.

‘Our Blooming Youth’ wasn’t the most beautiful or interesting drama with its first two episodes, but I liked what the drama set up so far in terms of its promising premise and the multi-dimensional characters. Park Hyung-sik plays Crown Prince Lee Hwan who’s rumored to have allegedly killed his older brother in order to ascend onto the throne which he vehemently denies. Meanwhile, Jeon So-nee’s character, Min Jae-yi, navigates through a complex and confusing tragedy where her family is murdered and she’s alleged to have been the one behind the deaths — something she also vehemently denies. The paths of our two leads cross and they might just be the answer to solving the other person’s mystery.

Since the drama is a sageuk, there’s the usual traits that you might be accustomed to seeing in these settings including political figures who despise the Crown Prince and plot secretive ways to overthrow him. In this case, Crown Prince Lee Hwan has been haunted by a “ghost letter” – a letter mysteriously sent to him that includes a curse for allegedly murdering his own brother for the throne. Jae-yi assumes her family’s murder has something to do with Crown Prince Lee Hwan so she’s determined to figure out the correlation between the Crown Prince and her family.

Earlier I mentioned that I finished the first two episodes ending on a hopeful note. I say this because I like how significant and central both of our leads are to the overall story. This drama can’t just focus on Crown Prince Lee Hwan since he’s also somehow related to Jae-yi’s family murders; the drama can’t focus just on Jae-yi since the Crown Prince might have something to do with the tragedy. Therefore, our male and female lead will need each other and will need to work together in order to figure out the situations in their respective lives. Often times, there are too many dramas that focus on the male lead who suffers a traumatic childhood event that’s carried into their adulthood and then he somehow encounters the female lead and they fall in love. These types of dramas fail to dive deeply into the female lead’s character arc and story. I remain hopeful in that I don’t anticipate ‘Our Blooming Youth’ to follow that same trajectory. I hope that the drama will continue to shed light on both Crown Prince Lee Hwan as well as Jae-yi in order to reveal the truth behind both of their stories. It seems as if it could be the same person who’s behind both mysteries and the drama has already set up a potential villain, but obviously there’s still a whole lot more to unpack.

The drama has so much potential and I really hope that the show will be able to maintain its special ability to add layers to our lead characters. Crown Prince Lee Hwan has trust issues with not only himself but also with others around him as he’s aware that those in the Royal Palace don’t trust him as the Crown Prince. They doubt his ability to take reign and they don’t believe that he has what it takes to get the job done and they even come up with ways to drag him down (such as spreading rumors about his right hand isn’t functioning due to being poisoned or hosting a hunting ceremony to test the use of his right hand). Meanwhile, Jae-yi is attempting to gain and earn the trust of the Crown Prince as she believes he sent her and her family a letter requesting that her father solve the mystery behind the “ghost letter.” Our male lead doesn’t trust anybody (rightfully so); our female lead yearns to earn the trust of our male lead. Our male lead face allegations of having killed his brother which he denies; our female lead faces allegations of poisoning and murdering her family which she also strongly denies. There’s only been two episodes out so we don’t have that much so far between Lee Hwan and Jae-yi, but it’ll be interesting to watch how she eventually develops that trust and rapport with the Crown Prince after seeing how hostile and cold he is to her. Maybe the two will realize that they have a lot more in common than they thought which should aid the two in becoming closer.

On the more technical side of production and things related to the drama, I really enjoyed some of the camerawork as well as the cinematography. The first few minutes of the first episode alone was chilling as we watched Lee Hwan hunt alone in the woods. I also have to admit that I might have thoroughly enjoyed just a tad bit too much any of the scenes where the “ghost letter” appeared in front of Lee Hwan. It felt like a horror movie with these particular scenes and Lee Hwan’s petrified reaction to seeing the letter show up a countless amount of times anywhere and everywhere he went gave me goosebumps.

While I was a fan of the directing and camerawork, I have to admit that I was not the biggest fan of the use of music in the drama. It also didn’t help that I pretty much noticed it right away within the first 10-15 minutes of the first episode. In almost pretty much every scene, there was a song playing in the background which turned out to be sort of irritating in the end. I get what the drama is trying to do by playing music as it wants to build up suspense and intensity with every passing scene, but not every scene needs music. As I progressed into the first episode, it actually got more and more jarring. It stood out to me in a negative way and I couldn’t help but feel like it was off-putting.

Music is one of those things where it should be used sparingly, creatively, and wisely. You don’t want to overdo it with your music (whether it’s an actual OST track or instrumental background songs) because the more you overdo it, the less impactful and effective it is. And sometimes, some scenes are just meant to be in silence. Some scenes where two individuals are talking and having a dialogue does not need to be accompanied with music. Silence isn’t always a bad thing and sometimes, silence can actually be a helpful thing. You don’t always need something playing in the background in a scene, especially if it involves a conversation or dialogue. I think the drama learned to tone it down a bit in the second half of the second episode so the show took about an episode and a half to settle in. Hopefully, the drama improves on this aspect of the show because I don’t want it to be one of those things that heavily influences my opinion on the show later on.

With all of this being said, I’m just glad to see Park Hyung-sik on the small screen again. While watching the drama, I recalled how the last drama of his that I watched was ‘Happiness’ which.. I didn’t have the greatest memories of but only stuck through for him. Based off of what we’ve seen so far in two episodes, I hope (and doubt) ‘Our Blooming Youth’ doesn’t turn into the type of show where I dread it but only watch for Park Hyung-sik. I actually like seeing him in this drama because it’s a little different from past characters that we’ve seen him portray. Here, he plays 1) the Crown Prince (we are truly so blessed to see him in a historical drama playing a prince!!) and 2) a Crown Prince who’s cold, cruel, doubtful, and stern. It felt so unfamiliar watching the way he treated and acted towards Jae-yi in episode 2 because it’s so not like the characters who Park Hyung-sik have played in the past. But I also like that we’re getting to see a different side to his acting that he definitely had hidden up his sleeves.

There was actually a scene in episode two where Lee Hwan talked about his deceased brother for a bit and he emphasized to Jae-yi how he never killed his brother. With tears in his eyes, he pleaded,

Why would I kill my own flesh and blood? My brother was like a tree I could not climb. He was my friend and my teacher. So I have never, not even for a second, desired to take his place.

This scene gave me goosebumps because of Park Hyung-sik’s acting. It was phenomenal! It was also a scene in which he expressed his honest and true thoughts to Jae-yi — somebody who he had just met for the first time earlier that day. And yet he already shared an honest and raw sentiment with her that we have yet to see him share with anyone else. Truly phenomenal all around.

Another small note I’d like to make on the acting side includes the appearance by Kim Ki-doo and Lee Min-ji who also acted together in ‘100 Days My Prince.’ I squealed at the sight of the two and it came as no surprise that they’re in this drama given that they’ve worked with the same director before. I love these small little details and connections between the 2 dramas so far, is it too much to be hopeful for maybe a D.O. or Nam Ji-hyun cameo in the future? Pretty please?

Overall, I definitely still have to give ‘Our Blooming Youth’ a few more episodes to really establish and solidify how I feel about the drama. I can’t say with 100% confidence that I like everything so far (because I don’t) or that I think the drama will turn out to be a solid strong show (because I don’t just yet). Unlike ‘Crash Course in Romance’ which I knew I really liked after finishing the first two episodes or ‘Kokdu: Season of Deity‘ which I knew I definitely did not like after finishing the first episode, I’m still uncertain as to how I feel about ‘Our Blooming Youth’ so far. I can’t say that I completely lean on the ‘Crash Course in Romance’ end of the spectrum, but I’m also definitely not on the ‘Kokdu’ side of the spectrum since I actually managed to complete the first two episodes to this drama at least.

However, I remain optimistic that the show will know what it’s doing and will be able to stay on track with its primary focus which is the relationship between Lee Hwan and Jae-yi. Yes, there will be politics and drama and maybe more deaths and then more politics involved in the upcoming episodes, but I hope none of these things overshadow what should be the main focus of this drama which is our female and male lead. Here’s to staying hopeful and to hoping ‘Our Blooming Youth’ blooms in the future.

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