Tuesday, March 27, 2012

K-Drama Review: Rooftop Prince, Episodes 1-2

Read episode reviews for:

Rooftop Prince--Episodes 3-4
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 5-6
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 7-8
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 9-10
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 11-12
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 13-14
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 15-16
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 17-18
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 19-20, Finale

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 1-2

It's nearly impossible to describe or recap Rooftop Prince because of its mindblowing fusion of historical-modern-time-travel-romantic-comedy-murder-mystery, but I love a challenge, so let's take a look.

In the Joseon era of Korea, Crown Prince Yi Gak's wife, the royal princess, is found floating in a lake. The prince is overwhelmed with sadness.

The show then does a brief flip back into the past, 20 years ago, when Yi Gak was a child. As a kid, he said he wanted a beautiful wife. Nearby, a powerful family has two daughters who could be princess candidates--sophisticated big sis Hwayoung (about 12) and joyful little sis Booyoung (about 7). But though Big Sis has her heart set on becoming a princess, Dad decides to send the baby sister as a princess candidate instead. Cue Big sis weeping buckets.

Now timeskip to the 1980's, where Big Sis and Lil' Sis have modern-day doppelgangers called Park Ha and Sena. Lil' Sis and Big Sis are part of a strained stepfamily relationship. Big Sis Sena takes things too far when she tells the little kid to take a nap in a MOVING VAN and then lets her be carted away in said van, which is leaving Seoul and headed for BUSAN, which is clear across the country. We have moved beyond reasonable frustration and sibling rivalry into blatant psychopathery. I could punch Sena in the face right now.

Back to the Child-Past, where Big Sis Hwayoung "accidentally" trips and burns Booyoung with an iron until her face scars. Because Hwayoung is still beautiful, she gets to marry the prince while Booyoung stays at home and wears a veil to hide her scar. If there weren't a distinct air of pure weirdness to all of this, it would be too much to bear.

Flip forward to Adult-Past, still in the Joseon era. Booyoung is grown up and still wearing a veil while doing embroidery, but Big Sis Hwayoung passes Booyoung's beautiful embroidery off as her own. But Hwayoung can't really even communicate with her own husband, though he loves her, because she's essentially worthless--not proficient in either the intellectual or domestic arts while Booyoung has studied scholarly poetry and can exchange intellectual dialogue with her brother-in-law, the crown prince Yi Gak. Suddenly, I'm kind of okay with Hwayoung being found floating in the lake, and I feel so guilty for not feeling guilty.

Husband, Wife, and Veiled Sister-In-Law, Out for a Garden Stroll.

And now we move to Adult-Present, around 2010. Rich guy Taeyong should be running his family's company, but he doesn't want the responsibility. His illegitimate cousin Taemu arrives to bring him back to Korea, but Taeyong falls off a boat and presumably, drowns. Taemu acts like the accident never happened, because this means he can now inherit the family business. Family betrayal is an ongoing theme with Rooftop Prince, I see. Taemu arrives back in Korea after having accidentally-on-purpose killed his cousin, and it's revealed that he's dating a grown-up Sena. Cold-blooded schemers are drawn together, I guess.

In the past, prince Yi Gak wants to hunt down his wife's killer, because he's certain her death was not an accident. Yi Gak puts together a serious team of investigators (Like CSI: Joseon-Era Korea), but due to some random time-travelling, the four guys materialize inside grown-up Park Ha's apartment in 2012 Korea, which freaks everyone out nicely. Hilarity ensues, and the hilarity is a jillion times better than the darker part of the drama. Park Ha bosses the historical guys around, but she's also kind to them, and things are about to get more complicated because Yi Gak gets discovered by the family of his own deceased doppelganger, Taeyong.

Things I Loved:

1. Yoochun's acting. Yoochun is famous for being a memeber of the Korean boy bands DBSK and then JYJ. I knew he'd been in a few dramas before, but I truly didn't expect much from Micky Yoochun on the acting side, because a lot of K-pop singers really don't do well with the transition to acting. Not so with Yoochun! As the prince, his grief over his wife's death is very real, and in his comedic role, he plays it with such miffed seriousness, it's hilarious. In other words, when it comes to acting, Yoochun really brings his A-game.

Can Do More Than Sing.

2. Child actors. What is it with the kids in K-dramas? They're all totally convincing. Their emotions seem real, even the youngest ones seem to be bringing some depth to their performances, and they are so. So. SO cute.

Seriously, So Cute It's Almost Painful to Watch.

3. Humor. The Joseon guys coming into the present is hilarious because they are all adorably bumbling. The guys beam into Park Ha's apartment, but leave and wind up in prison due to misunderstandings. Since the police don't know what to do with these cosplaying delinquents, they drop them back off at Park Ha's apartment! They are her problem now, so she takes the situation in hand by putting the fantastic four into color-coded tracksuits and getting them to work for her, to pay for the property they've damaged in her apartment. She also introduces them to conveniences like flushing toilets and microwaves.

Discovering the Magic of the Stovetop.


 1. Too many time periods. It is honestly very confusing to have scenes of Kid-Past and Adult-Past in Joseon, plus Kid-Present and Adult-Present in New York and Korea. That's four distinct time settings! And everyone has a doppelganger in the other world, some of which are dead and most of which are related to each other? Man. My head is spinning.

2. No parental intervention. If Hwayoung and Booyoung's parents in the past weren't so idiotic, they would have known that it's a bad idea to set up a rivalry between your superficial, ambitious elder daughter, and your naive, helpless younger daughter. You don't pit a Slytherin against a Hufflepuff is all I'm saying.

3. Too dark. I'm just not into the murder plots at all. If this show weren't so funny, I would have skipped out on all the evil sibling drama.


Mood-appropriate songs: "L-O-V-E" by Nat King Cole plays in a modern scene when stepparents announce to their children that they are in love and getting married. "Alone Again, Naturally" by Gilbert O'Sullivan hilariously plays while Sena tells Park Ha that she doesn't want to be her sister anymore--it's darkly funny because Park Ha has been abandoned by everyone in her life and is now getting rejection on top of rejection.

Sibling Relationships Will Destroy You: Are there any good siblings or quasi-siblings in this show? Hwayoung disfigures her sister, Sena abandons her step-sis, Taemu covers up Taeyong's death and doesn't try to rescue him...yeesh. Schemers, the whole lot of them.

You Can Almost Hear the Wheels Turning in Her Head.

Cultural Observances:

New Words: Booyoung calls her dad "Abonim" which is more formal than the regular word for father, "aboji" which is in turn more formal than "appa," the casual word for "dad". "Insa" is "greeting". "Yeogiyo" is "over here!" and is used to call waiters or waitresses in restaurants. "Mun" is "door". "Saramdeul" is "people".

I also think that the Joseon fantastic four must be using a lot of old-timey phrasing, too, because Korean words that I should be understanding are going over my head--it's like watching a Jane Austen film if you're not used to Ye Olde British Vocabulary.

Watch Episode 1 of Rooftop Prince here at DramaFever

Episode Evaluations:

Huh. What a strange show, and how very contradictory it is! I despised the meanness of the sibling-villains, but then I nearly died laughing at the sight of a Joseon-era prince standing under an awning by a modern 7-11, just to escape the rain. Basically, the ultra dark format of Episode 1 lost me entirely, while the light fluffiness of Episode 2 won me over entirely. Oh, please, let's totally forget about the mystery plots and just stick with Park Ha and the baffled historical guys in 2012?  If we focus more on the funny and less on the pain, Rooftop Prince will turn out fine.


  1. I died reading this. (From laughter.)
    I agreed 100%! The first episode, I probably had a WTF face the entire time... and then comes episode 2 and I laughed like crazy from it. The face the one guy made when she told him what the toilet was for. oye. This seems *knock on wood* like it may be a pretty good show!
    And I agree with the past language & present language. When the cop said "okay, if you want to play this game..." and starts using former Korean phrasing.
    Aye. I can't wait for episode 3. And for them to do something with their hair! (And hopefully their clothes.)
    This is how I think it'll end: I don't believe Taeyong is really dead. I believe he'll come back, fall in love with Park Ha. Present Big Sis & Yi Gak will fall in love and instead of him staying in the present, I believe she'll go back to the past with him.
    Basically I enjoy coming up with ridiculous ending that will probably not happen. But who knows... this is a ridiculous(ly good) show! hehe.

    예이! :)

    1. Shanise, I love your theories! I'm not convinced that Taeyong's dead, either. It would certainly make the story better if he was still around to make things more complicated.

      This thing is so doggone funny, I hope it stays true to episode 2 so that I can stick with it for its duration! I want to watch the whole show if it'll just stay good...

    2. Okay. My theory has changed. Bak Ha goes back to NY, finds Taeyong, she tells him what's happening, but he doesn't want to go back & they fall in love. Meanwhile crazy pants Se Na begins falling for Lee Gak.
      And I think Taemoo's doppleganger from the past was the one who killed the princess.
      And done with my crazy assumptions. lol.

  2. Hilarious! Those kids really are too cute and I was appalled at Joseon-Sena burning adorable Joseon-Bak Ha :( I don't even have a theory of how this is going to end. It is overwhelming.

    I watched Sungkyunkwan Scandal which also had Yoochun in it and he was AMAZING. In this drama "miffed" is the perfect word to describe his character xD I love these Episode Reviews.

    1. Most of my theories have been totally defeated and it's only episode 6! But I'm still loving the show. I ship Yi Gak/Park Ha pretty hard. :-)

  3. i can more agree with your definition : mindblowing fusion of historical-modern-time-travel-romantic-comedy-murder-mystery....!! ^^

    thanks for share ur mind and idea... its so refreshing.

    1. You're welcome! I really enjoy this show and its crazy mix of different genres. It's romantic, exciting, AND very funny.

  4. I just started watching this and agree, it sure is a weird mix of genres, time periods and what-have-you! The most confusing part is that the dopplegangers are not related in the same manner in the past/present. The girls were actually sisters in the past but in the present they are not blood relations, for example.

    The potential for romantic entanglements is almost endless, we may even have two versions of the same guy vying for the same girl. Bound to get confusing down the road, I bet!

    I actually loved the darker aspects of the series, I am all for that kind of thing but the comedy is amazing. The guys bowing down to the bill was beyond hilarious.

    I think the burning incident was an accident. Hwa-Young may not be the nicest person ever but she does seem to trip. Odds are we'll find out more about it.

    I liked that the main girl is not a Mary Sue. At first I was afraid she'd turn out to be one of those sweet, hardworking, too nice girls that serves to make the villains come across as even worse (and vice versa) but fortunately the way she bosses the guys elevates her to the status of an actual person.

    One thing I found odd, the main girl is supposed to have been in the States for quite a while (was she adopted after the shipped-over-to-Busan bit?) but she can hardly speak English at all.

    1. You'll really love the comedy in the upcoming episdoes! The hilarity with the Joseon guys just doesn't let up, and it's not the same old gags, either--there's always some new thing going on with them.

      I was happy with Park Ha as a heroine, too. It would be so easy for someone as badly treated as she is to have been a perfect, pure, pitiable damsel for our hero to save. But nope! She's very take-charge. :-)

      Yeah, they barely address the fact that Park Ha has spent almost her entire life in America...and yet seems 100% Korean, from language to cultural habits. And they never do say who adopted her, nor does she have any contact with her adoptive parents. Plot hole!

  5. Hi! RTP is currently being shown in the Philippines and has been dubbed in Filipino. I've always enjoyed watching shows with historical plots. But this is more interesting because of the time travel thing. So I'd really expect this to be super funny if you'd bring 18th century guys to the 21st century. But I think there will always be a plothole whenever time travel is involved. I don't want to ruin my enjoyment from watching the show by overanalyzing the loopholes here and there.

    Anyway, I've read your reviews on the final episode. Can't help it!!! I'm just sad that Yi Gak couldn't be with Bak Ha in the end. She fell in love with Yi Gak and not with Tae Yong. :-( Well, I don't have a clue how to make that happen if Yi Gak really needed to go back to Joseon to solve the murder. But I still would have wanted Bak Ha and Yi Gak, BODY AND SOUL, to be together in the end.

    Your reviews are so insightful and makes for a fun and refreshing read. I especially like your comment about pitting a Slytherin against a Hufflepuff! :-)