Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Drama Short: Queen In-hyun’s Man (2012) Review

Queen In-hyun's Man poster

Grade: A
What it’s about
A magical talisman saves the life of a Confucian scholar by sending him to the modern world, where he meets a no-name actress who happens to be playing his queen in a sageuk. Time travel hijinks and love ensue.

Initial impression
The female lead is 72 different kinds of stupid. As expected, though, I couldn’t love Ji Hyun Woo more as the male lead. He looks like an alien giant in the sageuk garb, but whatever role he’s playing always seems to be drawing on this deep well of inner stillness. I like his vibe so much, it makes me wax quasi-poetic, even. As of episode 3 this show needs fewer ditz escapades and more couple time.

Final verdict
A beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, high-tension romance with a time-travel twist. Good, but for me at least frustratingly far from great: The harebrained female lead’s rehabilitation was too little and too late; the time traveler’s acclimation to the modern world was disingenuously angst (and awe) free, and the talisman McGuffin didn’t hold water the way it should have. On the other hand, it is a compelling love story between two well-matched actors with great chemistry, and the script’s approach to romance is refreshingly novel for a Kdrama—there are no piggyback rides here, just thoughtful conversations. It’s actually shocking how unique this relationship is, considering that it’s built from the interaction between two standard drama tropes: the strong, silent Joseon scholar and the air-headed modern career girl.  (Read more about the end or see my full drama review for this show.) 

Stray thoughts
• Why is it that this drama, which is close to perfect, offends my inner feminist more than other shows with even more painful gender politics? If the female lead says she’s stupid one more time, I’m out.

• Is it wrong that my favorite thing about this show is watching the Korean commercials nobody bothered to cut out in the middle? It’s a fun drama, but I’m really in it for the shots of Lee Sun Gyun from Coffee Prince drinking his iced tea or whatever.

• Do they have the plan B pill in Korea? Because if so, you should have totally added it to your shopping list. Would the child of a time traveler like the male lead live if its dad died or skipped time? We saw what happened to the dead guy from an earlier episode—he (and his blood) turned to dust and disappeared. What would happen if half their baby’s genetic material aged 300 years in a second?

• Episode 15: Well, I guess I now really know all the highs and lows of being a Kdrama fanatic—including refreshing a website every fifteen minutes for two hours, hoping against hope that the subtitles I’m waiting for will suddenly appear.


  1. *squeal* My love for this drama has no bounds, as far as I can tell. :) Even just reading this drama short, I relived a bit of the high I went through live-watching this drama. Ahh, QIHM, I love you so.

    You're definitely spot-on on JHW "drawing on this deep well of inner stillness." What a phrase. Can I steal that for my list of future hubby qualities?

    I didn't find Hee-jin quite as annoying. That could be due to my love for YIN unni.

    And the real-life romance in Yoo In-na's Man? Ahh, I'm mush.

    Okay, I need to stop now.

    1. I, too, include deep wells of inner stillness on the list of dream man qualifications. Bizarrely, after I wrote that about the QIhM male lead I started reading the Dramabeans recaps of the show, only to discover that they too had marveled at the stillness in his acting. So I guess I wasn't hallucinating—for some actors "stillness" might translate as being robotic, but for Ji Hyun Woo it reads as depth. I love him always.

      I like the real-life romance thing, too, and try to beat back any cynicism about the whole thing. They're so cute together...and anyone who's seen a single Korean dramas know that Korean girls really do dig public pronouncements of love.

  2. Finished!!! Phew.. Hours of my life spent on this drama.. probably the fast I've ever finished anything. Almost one of the first times in recent memory where I was visibly upset and biting my nails hoping against hope that the next episodes' events wouldn't make me want to kill myself. I think I need a break to not think about QIHM for a while.. then I'll come back and evaluate.

    1. One of the things I love about these cable dramas is that they're so short and easy (not to mention tempting) to marathon =X

      It sounds as if you liked QIhM...my relationship with the show is a roller coaster—one minute I remember nothing but the good parts (the goose-bumpy end! the book-loving male lead! the swoony love) and the next minute I remember nothing but the bad parts (the goldfish-brained heroine! the rushed, telegraphic storytelling! the reductive characterizations of all and sundry!). No matter which part of the ride I'm on, QIhM is probably number two on my list of 2012 favorites. (I fully expect Big to steal that spot by the time it's done airing, though.)

    2. I'm curious as to what my expectations would have been, had I not known that something singularly dramatic and/or devastating was going to happen by ep 15. Knowing that, and that everyone watching was mostly okay definitely influenced my entire viewing pleasure. By the end of ep 15 I was more of the "Hmph.. ok.. that sucks.. but.. wait for it..." variety.

      I definitely agree that this the best thing I've watched in recent months (that was dramatic in nature - Pasta I do not judge objectively; that was just pure fun). It was also one of the most exciting rides I've had in a verrry long time. I don't think it quite blew my mind like some of my earlier-watched dramas, but having no real idea whatsoever about how it would end, that is always a novelty in kdramaland.

      As for the goldfish-brained heroine - I did agree she started off badly. I personally never really considered the actress as leading lady material (after her run in Secret Garden and Greatest Love). But hairbrainedness aside, she really grew on me. As for quiet book loving man - he did the Gong Yoo effect on me: who is this? he's not that handsome... omg.. wow... shivers... love forever. (No disrespect to GY.. he is still #1).

  3. If you loved Kim Inhyn Men you would love Moon Embracing the Sun
    I havent seen that drama in your review yet but it truly the best
    korean historical drama Ive watched. Its go a great and strong plot
    that does not weaver.