Rooftop Prince Eps 1-4

Source: SBS.co.kr

Of all the Spring K-dramas airing at the moment, Rooftop Prince was the one that interested me the most because of its promise of time-travel hijinks and hilarity. But what really convinced me to give it a go was this picture of Han Ji-min throwing Yoochun a dirty look as he lounges imperiously beside her:
So what we have is a hoity-toity Joseon royal who gets schooled in the ways of the (modern) world by a pint-sized woman and eventually falls in love with her?

SOLD.

Now that I’m all caught up with the first four episodes, here’s a summary of my feelings:

LOVE:  Watching the Joseon foursome acclimatise to their modern-day surroundings and seeing Park Ha get the upper hand over Lee Gak.

Can’t Stand: Se-na. More on this below.

Meh: the writing which, for me, is this drama’s weakest link.

Conceptually speaking, the murder mystery at the heart of the story adds a novel angle to what would otherwise just have been the trendy love child of Les Visiteurs and Kate & Leopold. In the hands of a more accomplished scriptwriter and director, this would have been a much better drama in terms of its pacing (I’m probably in the minority here but I didn’t like the way the writer sped through the plot in the first episode) and story and character development. Right now, the humour in this drama owes a lot to the chemistry that the J4 boys have with one another and Han Ji-min. Every time the story shifts its attention elsewhere, it loses its energy and my attention. While I’m curious about how the crown princess (assuming that it is her and not someone else) ended up in the lake, I don’t really care that she’s dead. The same thing can be said about the chaebol family. I could not care less about their succession politics and I think this points to a flaw in the storytelling process. Flawed and conflicted villains can often make for interesting character studies but this is not the the case in Rooftop Prince owing to its heavy-handed treatment of the characters.

Broad Strokes for All the Folks

As adorable as the Prince and his entourage may be (and I do think they are the best thing about this drama), they are merely functioning as stock characters right now. You have Man-bo the Brain, Chi-san the Fabulous, Yong-sul the Muscle-head and Lee Gak the Arrogant Supreme Ruler-who’s-actually-not-that-horrid-once-you-get-to-know-him. Or if you’re lazy and cannot be asked to remember their names, you can just address them by the colour of their track suits as Park Ha does. There’s very little going on beneath the surface and this is even more obvious where the rest of the main characters are concerned.

In Park Ha (Han Ji-min), you have the standard-issue plucky heroine who always finds a way to bounce back from adversity with her chirpy disposition intact. There’s nothing wrong with being hardworking and optimistic but heroines of this ilk tend to be so trusting and good-natured that even when they’ve been cheated several times by the same person whose hatred of them can be felt by a blind person 50 miles away, they continue to give said person the benefit of the doubt. Watching them can be very aggravating because there are only so many times they can get duped before you start wishing you could reach into your computer screen and give them a good shake.

Depending on your threshold of tolerance, Park Ha can test the limits of your patience in episode 1. However I feel that this is due to the way the scenes have been written rather than the way Han Ji-min plays her character. I do find her likable when she’s interacting with the boys and bossing Lee Gak around. I only wish that she’d display more of this fire when dealing with her backstabbing, status-hungry step-sister Se-na, who I want to bitch-slap into next week.

I’d be inclined to be more sympathetic if Se-na had a greater sense of agency and wasn’t motivated simply by petty emotions. That is not the case here. She hates her step-sister for no discernible reason other than the fact that she is jealous of her existence; she is ashamed of her mother’s working class status; she is basically a character whose traits have been culled from all the bitchy secondary female leads of K-dramas past. I have no idea what the writer is trying to achieve here but if he’s trying to hammer home the fact that She. Is. Evil., someone should tell him that he’s made his point loud and clear.

Who wants to bet that she’ll dump Tae-moo for Lee Gak when she finds out that the latter is a prince? And speaking of Tae-mu, while I have a soft spot for Lee Tae-sung, something tells me that he is going to be that guy who’s destined to come off second best in everything he does. The poor schmuck. Making his life even suckier is the fact that he’s stuck in a family of losers. I don’t blame his grandmother for wanting to hand over the reins of the company to Tae-yong instead because have you seen what a buffoon Tae-moo’s father is? I would rather give my money to charity than leave it to him.

Right now, the only character showing any signs of change is Lee Gak but that is to be expected because this whole escapade is a journey of personal growth for him. Being in the 21st century is literally forcing him out of his comfort zone and opening his eyes to situations that he would otherwise not have noticed. I like that it is also forcing him to use his brain, which is probably a little rusty from lack of use. That said, while there are plenty of cute moments such as his discovery of candy floss and yoghurt drinks, I don’t think the script is doing anything other than skimming the surface of this transformation. Hopefully, this will change once his plan kicks into gear.

What Next?: Random Speculations

One thing that this drama has going for it is that no one really knows how it’s going to pan out right now. There’s a lot of mileage that it can mine from various plot threads:

  • assuming that Park Ha, Se-na and Tae-yong are the reincarnation of their Joseon counterparts, what bearing, if any, are their actions going to have on the past?
  • Where is Tae-yong? I’m not convinced that he is dead because his body hasn’t been found yet. On a separate note, I find it laughable that Tae-mu (or rather, the scriptwriter) thinks he can abandon a yacht in the middle of the sea without anyone tracing it back to him.
  • When is Lee Gak going to realise that he is in love with the wrong woman? I saw the trailer for episode 5 and OMG, I just want to wring Se-na’s neck. Speaking of which, I would also like to wring the scriptwriter’s neck for making Park Ha’s parents so blind in episode 1. Look, Se-na has hated Park Ha’s guts since Day 1. She has a) allowed her to cook noodles on her own knowing that the younger girl would hurt herself and b) tried to frame her for shoplifting on more than one occasion. Both parents know this and yet they continue to trust Se-na to look after her stepsister. *facepalm* If I had been the father, she would have been the first person I’d have questioned following Park Ha’s disappearance.
  • Like I said earlier, I am not particularly bothered by the princess’s death. However I am curious to know if Bu Yong had a role to play in it though I wouldn’t fault her if she had pushed her sister into the water in the heat of the moment. Hwa Yong tends to elicit that kind of a response in people.

The fact that this drama runs for 20 episodes makes me wary because the writing isn’t exactly the best in its class. I won’t be surprised if it runs out of steam and trips on its own ambitions. For now though I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and see how the story develops over the course of the next four episodes. I’m quite happy to eat my words but for that to happen, this writer has got to pull up his socks.

Related post: Half-time Report: Rooftop Prince Eps 5-9

Advertisements

10 comments

  1. Chinguuuuuu! You actually watched Rooftop Prince, not for Park Yoochun I presume, but for the awesome time travel scenario?! I’m asking your permission to post a link on the soompi RtP thread back to this post so that other Rooftopers can be elucidated on the finer aspects of the kdrama aside from the obvious funnies & pretties!?

    I love your insight that Crown Prince Lee Gak’s time travel to the future is actually a journey of personal growth, after all he is the future King of Joseon in training. I find that a highly probable scenario, his spiritual journey of sorts, not just to unravel the mystery of the Crown Princess’ untimely demise but for his own metamorphosis just like the butterfly emerges from the iccky caterpillar after cocooning for a time.
    In crossing the threshhold 300 years into the future to 21st century, Seoul, our hero Lee Gak’s adventure runs the gamut of experiences while interacting with normal ordinary people, taking on the role of a chaebol heir which is kinda similar to his role as Crown Prince in the distant past and hopefully in the process find out the true meaning of love aside from the loved one being “pretty”. All these experiences will hopefully help him when he returns to his rightful place in history in Joseon as the King. Wae? Why? Because based on my fearless prediction, Lee Gak journeys to the future to correct the mistakes of the past and I fastforward to Ep 20 where Lee Gak is back in Joseon as Crown Prince/King with his rightful destined love Park Ha or her Joseon counterpart Bu Yong.

    I agree with your impressions about the characters in the drama. Necessary Evil in the form of Sena (the actress here is the weakest link in the drama) Taemu, & Taemu’s father act as a foil to the goodness represented by Lee Gak & Park Ha. And what is a kdrama, fantasy, romance or makjang without the evil trope.

    I tend to overlook some of the weaknesses of the writers in presenting the storyline and the fuzzy editing. I usually do not over analyze a drama but just enjoy the fun ride.Surprisingly, I find myself actually looking for the deeper meaning behind the laughter with this drama, as many viewers do.I wonder at times if the hilarious scenes of the Joseon F4 trying to fit into the 21st century is not interspersed throughout the drama, will the series fall flat on its face.

    I watch this mainly for Yoochun and to destress. Its amazing how Micky’s acting range has really surfaced after SKKS and the trainwreck that was Ms. Ripley’s. Han Ji Min whom I last watched on Capital Scandal where I was rooting for the second leads, has amazingly brought the spunky perky Park Ha to life. I can’t imagine anyone else essaying this role.With the Joseon 4 & Park Ha, I find the perfect example or archetypes of the hero/heroine in Lee Gak/ Park Ha, the multitasking brainiac-Song Man Bo, the warrior-Woo Yong Sul & the all around professional- eunuch Do Chi San.

    I’m in for the ride with this drama, screw the ratings, though Ep 6 catapulted the drama into the lead with a slight margin over the other Wednesday/Thursday dramas The King 2 Hearts and Equator Man.

    Don’t get me started on The King 2 Hearts, cause I am hopelessly enamored with this dark comedy romance fantasy too.

    1. Haha. You know, I didn’t have a problem with Yoochun in SKKS. He was no Laurence Olivier but I didn’t think he was as horrible as so many people made him out to be, and I found him rather cute as LSJ. So yes, I tuned in to Rooftop Prince mainly for the time travel hijinks but I was also curious to know how Yoochun would fare in his third drama.

      Sure, link away — thanks for asking! :)

      Because based on my fearless prediction, Lee Gak journeys to the future to correct the mistakes of the past and I fastforward to Ep 20 where Lee Gak is back in Joseon as Crown Prince/King with his rightful destined love Park Ha or her Joseon counterpart Bu Yong.

      Well, this is the thing that I’m curious about. If Lee Gak falls in love with Park Ha, what effect will it have on the past? She may be the reincarnation of Bu Yong but they are still two separate individuals and I just can’t see him returning to the past and switching his affections to BY just because they share the same features.

      Lee Gak’s adventure runs the gamut of experiences while interacting with normal ordinary people, taking on the role of a chaebol heir which is kinda similar to his role as Crown Prince in the distant past

      Hahahaha. Lee Gak is friggin lucky he was reincarnated as a chaebol instead of a farmer living in the boondocks of Korea. I’d like to see him lording it over everyone while shoveling manure.

      Necessary Evil in the form of Sena (the actress here is the weakest link in the drama) Taemu, & Taemu’s father act as a foil to the goodness represented by Lee Gak & Park Ha.

      The thing with Se-na is that she is a one-dimensional villain. It doesn’t help that Jung Yumi isn’t my favourite actress. She made me facepalm my way through A Thousand Days’ Promise and she’s causing my blood pressure to spike here. Maybe her third role will be a charm?

      Anyway, even though episode 6 tries to show that her conscience isn’t dead, I find it difficult to sympathise with the character because the whole set-up feels artificial to me. I don’t see why I should sympathise with her just because she hesitated before running away. A complex character, for me, would be someone like Chae-young in What’s Up or Lee Dong-wook’s housekeeper in Wild Romance. They’re conflicted individuals whose motivations extend beyond petty jealousy. This is going off topic but I’ve always liked the way Chae-young’s character was written. Doo-ri had lots of fans because she was a likable heroine but Chae-young had more layers to her. She was conniving and manipulative but also very self-aware and smart. I will write about this in more detail one day but let me just add that it’s not my intention to beat you on the head with this, chingu. Feel free to disagree with me!

      Don’t get me started on The King 2 Hearts, cause I am hopelessly enamored with this dark comedy romance fantasy too.

      Lee Seung-gi does nothing for me but I hear that Jo Jung-suk is F-I-N-E. How true is this? XD

      1. Gurl, Lee Seung-gi does nothing to me too. Skipped all his dramas since Shining Inheritance. Everyone is fawning about his chemistry with Ha Ji won but I still think Jo In sung as Prince turned King would have been perfect. But Jo Jung suk is FINE! You can feel his charisma oozing during the episodes he is in. His drama persona here is the complete opposite of Stand Up! I love the story though, its got romance and suspense woven into a tight knot, except for the John Mayer character who is soo obnoxious.

      2. I know I’m going to be shot for saying this but I’ve never understood Ha Ji-won’s appeal. Maybe it’s because I’ve never watched Damo or Hwang Jin Yi but I wasn’t enamored of her performance in Secret Garden and in King2Hearts, I’m just like, ‘OMG girl, please just punch the ass already.’ I get what they’re trying to do with the character and I appreciate women who are tough yet feminine but I’m just not sold on how that’s coming across in K2H. Maybe I need to give it two more episodes?

        But I’m glad to know JJS has gotten your thumbs up :D I love characters like Shi-kyung. Chivalry may be dead for other women but not for me…

  2. Get ready to be lynched by crazed Ha Ji Won fangurls chingu for the blasphemy, while I dive under a rock to escape. I don’t understand her appeal either though I have watched What happened in Bali, Damo & Hwang Ji ni. Loved all the dramas esp WHIB cause of Jo In Sung, but not her performance either. Nor do I fathom the appeal of Secret Garden?! Give K2H a chance. I’m watching for the thrilla & JJS’s character’s robotic appeal & gallantry.

    1. LOL. Well, it’s not like I hate her. It’s more like I’m indifferent? But my mom is a fan though.

      Hai, hai. I will give K2H another chance…after I finish Jin — now that is how you tell a story!

    2. I’m gatecrashing this discussion. Ellély, watch Damo and Hwang Jin I now! I beg of you. If your feelings for Ha Ji Won don’t flip to love afterwards, then… we might not be able to continue to be friends, lol.

      In all seriousness, I think she is a brilliant actress who tends to have chemistry with all her male leads.That said, I haven’t watched Secret Garden nor King 2 Hearts (mainly avoiding it for the lead actors— I like Hyun Bin & Lee Seung Gi, I’m just concerned they are no match for HJW~~)

      I want to add that I also thought HJW was brilliant in What Happened In Bali (darn, everything about the whole series was brilliant!)— I remember her character being indecisive and quite frankly a little conceited and selfish, but she managed to make you accept her flaws.

      Anyways, back to the topic of the post! I know I am a milion years behind the rest of the world but I’ve only just recently finished watching Sungkyunkwan Scandal, and naturally Rooftop Prince is one of the series I am out looking for now. I was thinking surely Micky Yoochun in another Joseon quartet + time travelling could only spell positives, right? And I like Han Ji Min too, so your early thoughts on the show are a little worrying.

      Not that I want you to choke by any means but as you said in your last line, I do hope the writers will find a way to make you eat your own words, lol. Will be eager to see how the series pans out.

      1. I’m gatecrashing this discussion. Ellély, watch Damo and Hwang Jin I now! I beg of you. If your feelings for Ha Ji Won don’t flip to love afterwards, then… we might not be able to continue to be friends, lol.

        Ah, I see we have a major HJW fan in the house. I’ve heard lots of good things about her performance in Damo and Hwang Jin I, and I’ve been meaning to watch the latter for some time now, so I’m sure every one will know if/when the switch does point to ‘LOVE’. LOL.

        I haven’t watched Secret Garden nor King 2 Hearts (mainly avoiding it for the lead actors— I like Hyun Bin & Lee Seung Gi, I’m just concerned they are no match for HJW~~)

        Well, it isn’t that I dislike HJW; it’s just that I didn’t like the way the characters were written in Secret Garden and K2H. Also, the latter bored me so much I dropped it after episode 3 but I know lots of people loved the drama so don’t take my word as gospel. I don’t know but I just feel she’s been typecast as a Korean Buffy or Lara Croft — and I have extremely mixed feelings about such characters.

        Not that I want you to choke by any means but as you said in your last line, I do hope the writers will find a way to make you eat your own words, lol. Will be eager to see how the series pans out.

        *Ahem* I will leave it to you to form your own opinions about Rooftop Prince but let me just put it this way: I did not end up eating my words. ;p

  3. Nice post. I enjoy watching this series. I have been wondering how it would be possible for Lee Gak and Park Ha to be together. You raised a great point when you said that he would likely not be able to switch his affections to BuYoung after loving Park Ha. I think the cleanest way to do this would be to reset time if the murder is solved and the future is fixed–this way, everyone who has been wronged can obtain justice and be with their destined loves. Otherwise, I don’t see how else this could work with only 2 episodes left. I also don’t see the point of letting Lee Gak going through this profound journey without it paying off in some way.

    1. Hey there, Mandy. I’m glad this drama is working out for you. I have, as I mentioned in my other RP post, had to stop watching it because it was giving me a major case of heartburn. But please don’t let my feelings get in the way of your enjoyment of the drama :)

      I have no idea how this whole drama is going to resolve itself. The recaps just leave me scratching my head and at this point, all I want to know is how Se-na is going to get her comeuppance. It had better be good, is all I’m saying.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s