It feels weird to think that it’s already been 3 weeks since the premiere of ‘Our Blooming Youth.’ It feels like the first episode just barely aired yesterday and yet here we are already with 6 episodes so far. And it wasn’t until I finished episode 6 that I came to realize: I’m liking this drama a little bit more with each passing episode.
I went away not completely certain as to how to feel about the drama tonally after the first two episodes and even still somewhat maintained those thoughts after episodes 3 and 4. However, episodes 5 and 6 were able to mesh both the serious and political tone from the first two episodes with the more comedic side from 3 and 4 in a way that made it all feel balanced and concise. I found myself enjoying the drama more and more with each episode and I like what the drama has set up so far.
With episodes 5 and 6, we watched as our characters went about solving the mystery case that plagued the country. Jae-yi and Seong-on ended up working together and collaborating to find the culprit behind the mysterious murders. I’ll speak upon that a little later and why I enjoyed their teamwork, but I’ll admit that I was a little sad that the mystery investigation concluded so soon. I actually found it exciting and fun to watch our characters solve the mystery using the clues and hints provided as well as using their brains and intelligence and problem-solving skills. I also liked that the case wasn’t too complicated or challenging to understand and that the investigation made sense as a whole. All the details into solving the case was simple and easy to comprehend and I understood how Jae-yi reached the conclusion that she did.
I wished there were more cases that Jae-yi could have solved because again, I just found the whole murder mystery investigation process fun and exciting to watch. We got to see Jae-yi do what she does best and had been doing for years; we got to watch her as she bounced off of other people’s ideas or theories and used it to solve the murder mystery. She was essentially a detective playing a pretend “eunuch” and I thought the mini-adventures that she went on with Myung-jin, Ga-ram, and Scholar Park (AKA Crown Prince Lee Hwan hahaha) was exciting. You got your primary group of characters involved and in on the action while also developing their bond and connection as a team. You got to witness your smart, strong, and competent female lead do her thing. You got to witness Jae-yi and Lee Hwan pick each other’s brains and communicate on the case and how it related back to their individual situations. And from watching Jae-yi be a detective, it then makes the transition to her solving the mystery behind her family’s deaths much more seamless. You know she’ll eventually be able to put the puzzle pieces together to discover the truth behind her family’s deaths because we saw her do it before. Overall, I really enjoyed this little warm-up murder case to what will eventually be the primary premise which is Jae-yi and Lee Hwan’s stories. I just wished it didn’t end so soon and if possible, the drama loop in another murder mystery case because it was fun to watch this first time around. It’s different from what you usually see in other sageuks.
Episode 6 answered any doubts or concerns that I might have had about this drama and it also solidified my like and fondness for it at the same time. The primary scene that sold it for me was the conversation between Jae-yi and Lee Hwan about Jae-yi’s dad who was also Lee Hwan’s master. She woke up from her coma after getting hit in a previous altercation and he took care of her all day and all night and applied medicine to her wound (Awww!! The prince that you are Lee Hwan!). This then lead to a conversation about where Lee Hwan learned medicine from in which he followed it up by answering that he learned it thanks to his master, Master Min (Jae-yi’s dad). This scene meant everything to me and I also think it was a great example of one of the drama’s strengths: the relationship development between Jae-yi and Lee Hwan. The drama has a magical way of developing their relationship in tidbits: gifting the apple as a reward, the night walks the two went on after spending a whole day together, the little conversations they have and the way they share information and thoughts to each other that they wouldn’t with anyone else. The drama had already done a decent job in building their relationship starting from their earlier interactions when Lee Hwan cried to Jae-yi that he would never kill his brother for the throne and that he cherished his brother. These thoughts and feelings and tears were probably never shared with anyone else up until that moment. The drama, ever since, has been able to capitalize on the interactions between Jae-yi and Lee Hwan.
It may seem so small at first, but these interactions and moments actually mean so much. Slowly but surely, the two characters are building trust while also learning more about the other person’s lives and experiences. They only get more curious because they want to learn more. Lee Hwan gave Jae-yi a chance to explain to him her side of the story on the day that her family got poisoned and murdered. Unlike what the records say, she did not kill her family. Her childhood friend Sim Yeong was not her lover. She was not the person behind it. The records contained false information. We clearly saw how wary and cautious Lee Hwan was of Jae-yi in the beginning and then we’ve also witnessed how she’s earned his trust over time to the point where he began to treat her much better. He maybe even favors her a little bit more and also enjoys her company. Of course, the ending to episode 6 could cause some issues and the possibility of returning back to square one, but episode 5 and 6 overall showed how Lee Hwan and Jae-yi were able to grow closer and bond.
This then brings me back to my original thought about the scene where they bonded over talking about Jae-yi’s dad who was Lee Hwan’s master. It actually didn’t register to me until this scene that we haven’t gotten many (or any?) scenes of Lee Hwan and Master Min together. It makes me wonder if we’ll ever get any scenes of the two together. Jae-yi knew how much her dad supported and believed in Lee Hwan. When Lee Hwan’s brother passed away, her dad was one of the only people who was on his side. Jae-yi and Lee Hwan have had conversations about her dad that has allowed them to bond every time, but I want to see even more. We saw how much of an impact and influence Jae-yi’s dad had on her over her lifetime, I would absolutely love to see the same with Lee Hwan and Master Min. It’s clear that he too had a huge impact on Lee Hwan’s life, it’d be such a shame if we never got any flashbacks or examples. Master Min and Lee Hwan showed loyalty and trust in each other. Master Min has also been a source of comfort for both Jae-yi and Lee Hwan. Lee Hwan never felt at peace with his brother’s death and all the noise surrounding it, but he learned through Jae-yi that his master always cared about him and was worried for him. Jae-yi clearly misses her father and learned through Lee Hwan’s memories and experiences how much he learned from his master as well as the type of person that her father was. I loved, loved, loved this scene from episode 6 and I also loved any previous scenes where the two conversed about Jae-yi’s dad. It’s obvious that these conversations about her dad are another way for the two to grow closer to each other and to bond.
Speaking of Jae-yi’s dad, it also didn’t hit me until that specific scene that Jae-yi never had the proper time to grieve or mourn over her family’s death. Up until this point, the drama hasn’t shown us much of Jae-yi crying or grieving because she was on the run from the very beginning so it wasn’t until she finally had some time to just breathe a little bit that she was able to slowly realize her new reality and the process the fact that her family is gone. She was busy finding ways to survive and fight and stay alive that she couldn’t even properly grieve. Jae-yi was hurting and she missed her family terribly, but she also couldn’t stay still because she needed to get going to solve the mystery behind their deaths. My heart aches for Jae-yi who lost her loved ones and people so dear to her, but who had to move forward quickly to survive. Hopefully, she’ll be able to seek justice for her family.
Things are also picking up within the palace with people now speculating on Jae-yi’s identity. There’s also the two eunuchs who can’t help but grow jealous of Lee Hwan’s bias towards Jae-yi, haha. I liked that things are just as busy outside of the palace with all the shenanigans between Myung-jin and Ga-ram who make a fun and wacky pair. The drama is great at balancing all the chaos happening both inside and outside of the palace so that you don’t feel as if things are too redundant or repetitive.
I was really hoping I wouldn’t suffer from any second male lead syndrome in this drama, but then episodes 5 and 6 picked things up between Jae-yi and Seong-on so the temptation was definitely threatening. Seong-on still holds onto the hope that Jae-yi is alive (since he’s not aware that she’s now Lee Hwan’s eunuch) and Jae-yi still remembers the moments leading up to what should have been their wedding/marriage. They haven’t forgotten about each other and what could have been and that’s what it makes it difficult to not feel anything for their relationship. Granted, Seong-on isn’t aware that his fiancee is actually in the palace with him, but I liked watching the scene of them working together in episode 5 to stop the Shaman from killing another innocent life. Even though he felt frustrated and insecure that he was going up against a mere “eunuch”, he put his ego and pride aside to save a life. He too sensed potential and intelligence in Jae-yi that he couldn’t deny. Then in episode 6, the two shared a few quiet moments together after ending up at the Shaman’s house at the same time to search for some clues and hints. Everything that happened during this specific scene was so telling and charming.
I think what complicates all of this even more is the fact that 1) Jae-yi is Seong-on’s fiancee which Lee Hwan knows and 2) Seong-on is Lee Hwan’s good friend. If the drama keeps up with the pace that it’s been treading, Lee Hwan will essentially fall in love with his friend’s fiancee which could be off-putting and icky to some. But that’s where things get complicated and difficult because the drama has been doing such a fine job in developing Lee Hwan and Jae-yi’s relationship. At the same time, there’s this quiet yearning that Seong-on and Jae-yi have for each other and them still holding onto the little pieces of what could have been their future together. It could be easy to get stuck in this limbo between both relationships. As I’m writing this out, heck, even I’m not completely sure myself where I stand in everything. I like watching Jae-yi and Lee Hwan spend time together because they share a few things in common and they understand each other in ways that no one else does. But then again, Jae-yi and Seong-on still reminisce about the past and her finding out that he hasn’t given up on her will only make her hold onto him and their history as well. The struggle is real.
So as you can clearly see and read, I’m enjoying this drama quite a bit and find that each episode surpasses the last one. I didn’t think it was possible at first, but then I would watch one episode and think it’s pretty good and then watch the next one right after only to be even more impressed. ‘Our Blooming Youth’ might have got off to a fast and bumpy start, but it’s learned to slow down and settle in once it established the premise and set-up. Now, the magic lies in the details and the subtleness of it all. I enjoyed the two latest episodes so much I even seriously contemplated on recapping this drama for a second (which doesn’t happen often so that means ‘Our Blooming Youth’ is doing something right! And also, if you’d like recaps to the drama, let me know in the comments. I’m seriously considering it, but I’m also still not sure..). The show has only managed to get better and better with each episode and I hope it maintains this momentum and intensity as it progresses. The stakes and risks will get higher and higher and the trust that the characters have in one another could break. We’re already starting to see little cracks in some relationships so far, just how devastating and detrimental could it get for our characters?