tvN‘s newest series, a once-a-week Sunday program called The Three Musketeers, debuted yesterday (August 17, 2014), and I’m ambivalent about the series after just one episode. For now, let’s just say that I’ll be tuning in again next week for Episode 2 for a better look at the series before making my final decision.
Shall we take a look at the source(s) 0f my ambivalence? 😉
The series begins as a frame narrative with a scholar 100 years into the “future” perusing a stack of books and discovering a forgotten manuscript about the tales of one Park Dal Hyang (Jung Yong Hwa). The scholar is told that no such person existed and that the book is most likely a work of fiction, but the scholar suspects that it is actually a factual record of a person who played a crucial role in history but one whose identity was erased or forgotten due to matters of national security. He’s so enthralled by the story of Park Dal Hyang that instead of going to sleep, he begins to transcribe a fresh new copy of the tale into the wee hours of the night…and thereby begins the fateful tale of how our Joseon D’Artagnan meets his Joseon Three Musketeers.
Much like the original story, our little country lad (22 years old in our story) travels to the nation’s capital, Han Yang, with only a letter of introduction from his father, a few coins from his mother, and a trusty but extremely old
nag horse, who is…wait for it…a shocking 22 years old itself! It’s twinsies with Dal Hyang. 🙂
Unforeseen event after unforeseen event prolongs Dal Hyang’s journey to take the entrance exam so that he can become one of the palace guards, and it takes him two months to travel from his modest home in the mountains to the bustling gates of Han Yang (ancient name for Seoul)…arriving just the night before his entrance exam.
Enduring yet another set of unexpected events–having to find housing because his father’s contact is away from home, getting victimized by street pickpockets and losing most of the money his mother gave him, paying ten times the amount for a shared room when his father had told him a night’s stay was only 1 yang (“yang” is the old currency), realizing his father had never been to Han Yang and lied to him, etc.–Dal Hyang suddenly finds himself in the company of the “Three Musketeers” as he gives chase to a band of paid thugs who go around beating up promising scholars so that they can’t take the palace exams.
Of course, Dal Hyang has no clue whose help he has requested, and the four men spend the next hour or so rounding up the thugs and turning them over to the local authorities. Noting the speed with which the authorities were called and dispatched, Dal Hyang asks for the names of his three helpers, but all that the finely dressed leader answers is that they are called, “Three Musketeers.” Pfffft. So dramatically answered. The leader then bids him good luck on his entrance exam tomorrow to join the palace guards.
Unfortunately for Dal Hyang, another letter he had kept well-tucked in his breast pocket slips out and wedges itself under the pommel of one of the three musketeers, who then shows it to his buddy, who ultimately shows it to the leader after the leader finishes his secret meeting. Oh yes, there’s a matter of national security that the “leader” is investigating.
The next thing we know, Dal Hyang is called in for questioning on “matters of national security.” The cause? The leader of the three musketeers wants to know how he has a love letter from the woman who is now the crown princess and has been for the past few years. Shocked, Dal Hyang reveals that he had vowed his heart and life to a young woman who had tarried in his village some five years ago for two months. During that time, they had fallen in love, and he had promised to succeed as a palace guard and marry her in five years when he came to Han Yang while she waited for him there.
Bemused, the leader calls for some wine. Instead of punishing the man for even harboring romantic thoughts of his wife, the leader finds himself in the unexpected role of comforter. Ha~!
Our crown prince, Seo Hyun (Lee Jin Wook), then visits his bride late at night and slowly relates to her the strange tale of this Park Dal Hyang. Of course, we can clearly see that their marriage and relationship is a distant one, and the prince asks his quiet wife as he leaves, “Whatever happened to the spunky young girl in the letter?”
We then flashback to what the prince, whose identity is hidden from Dal Hyang, tells him about the entrance exam: Dal Hyang is to pass the exam and thereby prove that he no longer harbors any feelings for the princess.
Whuh?! *rolls eyes at logic*
Otherwise, if he fails because he is heartbroken by news of her marriage, then the prince will hear of this and things may not go well for Dal Hyang…or for the princess.
O-M-G~! Can you tell already that the prince likes to tease? *rolls eyes again in mirth*
He motions for his two bodyguards to explain the character of the prince, and as his two guards elaborate on the “true” characteristics of a prince who can be “easily” consumed with jealousy, Seo Hyun shoots Heo Seung Po (Yang Dong Gun) a look at the “truthfulness” of the character description. LOL. Oh yeah, these three are already proving to be quite “interesting” characters.
For the sake of his first love’s safety then, Dal Hyang commits to doing well on his entrance exams.
And thus, our little Dal Hyang proves himself at the top of the candidate pool. 1st place in archery…
2nd place in spear-throwing…
1st place in long-distance archery…and so on.
At the end of the examination, out of the 250 candidates, Dal Hyang distinguishes himself and joins the elite group of 28 applicants to appear before the king himself.
Unfortunately, as Dal Hyang prepares for the final stage of competing before the king, the crown prince arrives late to the arena…
…and that’s when everything clicks for Dal Hyang. Sadly, he’s so stunned by his epiphany that he begins his portion of the exam in a complete daze and belatedly ends up shooting an arrow into the hind leg of a horse, wrecking utter havoc in the testing arena as the wounded horse goes crazy in pain.
And in the ensuing chaos and silence, Dal Hyang looks up to find the crown prince looking right at him…in full laughter.
The narrator concludes the episode with a portending comment that this third meeting between Dal Hyang and the Three Musketeers is a mild one in contrast to their future encounters with each other.
So given all the ruckus and fun, what was the cause of my ambivalence?
For the most part, it had to do with the beginning of the episode during which Dal Hyang receives “sage” advice–not really–from his tall-tale-telling father and gets waylaid and waylaid again from reaching his destination in a timely manner. When he does finally arrive in Han Yang, it’s only to meet more obstacles and such.
I know that beginnings can be slow–after all, one has to have a solid foundation for the rest of the story–and that this beginning is in sync with the original French story, but still…I had to tell myself to endure it until Dal Hyang meets up with the Three Musketeers.
And when he finally does meet them, the interactions weren’t as dynamic as I had hoped. The character of Seo Hyun (Joseon’s Athos) is probably the most compelling character for me. And no, it’s not just because the character is portrayed by Lee Jin Wook…although I confess Lee Jin Wook brings a certain charm to the character. 😉 My favorite character, Porthos (Heo Seung Po), hasn’t distinguished himself with comedic witticisms. *deep sigh* 🙁
More than anything else, though, the story and the characters have yet to snare me…the operative word being “yet.” Here’s hoping that next Sunday’s Episode 2 does a better job of hooking me in.
If you saw it, please leave a comment below. I’m curious to read what others thought of the debut episode.
Until next Sunday then…!