Sunday, April 8, 2012

K-Drama Review: Rooftop Prince, Episodes 5-6

Read episode reviews for:

Rooftop Prince--Episodes 1-2
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 3-4
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 5-6

Well, all of my guesses about the plot twist in the last episode were wrong, and I'm glad for that.

Time-travelling prince Yi Gak realizes that he is the doppelganger of the dead rich guy Taeyong, and Yi Gak decides to use this knowledge to his advantage. He impersonates Taeyong, and amnesia is the excuse that Taeyong's family makes to explain why the heir to the family corporation can't remember the last two years of his life.

Yi Gak's three historical sidekicks are still enjoying the marvels of modern shampoo and the wonders of squirt-bottle ketchup, but he rounds them up to meet his "family". Taeyong's CEO Grandma is weirded out by her amnesiac grandson's artsy friends, and the intersection of the two groups of people is totally hilarious, just as you start to think that there can't be any more historical-modern social gags to be had.

Yi Gak buys Park Ha's rooftop apartment, which she was about to lose, and all the guys get haircuts, modern suits and cellphones. Park Ha teaches the boys how to order coffee (just say "Americano!" and don't bother with any other details) and she also takes the opportunity to teach them about modern Korea's age hierarchy, which utterly subverts historical Korea's rank hierarchy. With glee, Park Ha determines that since she's a couple of years older than Yi Gak, he has to call her "noona" (older sister). Heh. The prince does not like that one bit, no he doesn't.

There's also a subplot with a guy who used to be an executive in Grandma's company, but who is now a lowly guard, but then he comes back to the company. I hope his subplot is going somewhere, because all it seems to do is take us away from other parts of the story we'd rather be seeing.

And Park Ha's real birth mom shows up, looking for her long-lost kid. Or maybe it's Sena's real birth mom? It's not clear yet, but at any rate, somebody's birth mother is back in the mix, and this could be a good thing or an awful thing, depending on which daughter she actually matches up with.

Meanwhile, our main pairing(?) of Yi Gak and Park Ha advances then retreats because Yi Gak is still hung up on Sena, the doppelganger of his dead wife. I hid my face in my hands when Yi Gak asked Park Ha a bunch of questions about what modern women liked, then used her tips on Sena. Grr. On a more chipper note, Park Ha's lost childhood memories come back to her and she remembers Sena for the two-faced, lying brat that she is. Yay!

Are You Utterly Confused, Yet?

Things I Loved:

1. Hugs. In episode 5, we get our first hug between Yi Gak and Park Ha! In American shows, a hug is kind of like, yanno, whatever, but in K-dramas, first hugs are a very big deal, so you start to appreciate them more. Actually, it's a twofer for hugs, because Yi Gak "saves" Park Ha from falling off a roof when he thinks she's trying to jump to her death, but she's only reaching for something she dropped...

Saves Damsels Who Only Appear to Be in Distress.

And then it happens again, later! The second incident occurs when Park Ha gets scared by a car horn and he catches her when she almost falls off the bench where they're sitting. But c'mon, now. How do you manage to fall off a such a low bench? Methinks there was some plotting behind this particular fall.

You Totally Planned This, Didn't You, Park Ha?

2. An End to Historical Hair. Ah, those giant mops of unruly hair were funny on the Fantastic Four for awhile, but all good things must come to an end. In these episodes, the guys learn that if they want to fit into the modern world, they have to say goodbye to their outdated locks. They even nervously pose for a pre-haircut photo, so their hair will be remembered after it's gone.

I'm Not Sad to See it Go.

3. Yi Gak. Such a great character. He's always watching Park Ha to see what her reactions to certain things will be. When Park Ha sees the guys' new haircuts and then when he shows her the workers renovating her rooftop apartment, it's like he's asking, are you proud? Do you like this? Do you approve? And unsurprisingly, she does approve. I love that he cares about her, even if this isn't romantic yet 'cause he's still hung up on Sena. 

Reasonably Proud of His Accomplishments.


1. Taemu. I used to like the idea of him as a middle-ground unintentional villain, but now he's just dull. I have no real impetus to watch scenes of him fretting over whether anyone will found out his secrets. This is your notice, Taemu: reform immediately or start being more villainous!

2. Yi Gak/ Sena. Every time our resident crown prince did something nice for the wicked stepsister, I cringed.


Can't Keep It Hidden: Both Sena and Taemu have massive, ugly secrets they're trying to hide, and they just can't keep 'em suppressed. Sena is trying to keep Park Ha away from herself at all costs, partly to keep her boyfriend from discovering her bourgeois step-sister and her own humble origins, and partly because she feels guilty for being the reason Park Ha was raised as an orphan.

Sena, Ruiner of Lives, Awaits Her Own Life-Ruining Moment.

Bad Family Exists, but Good Family Makes Up For It: Not all family relationships are evil. CEO Grandma is angelically good to her grandson, even when it's really just Yi Gak impersonating her grandson. Blood bonds aren't necessary either, because Park Ha is a good, dutiful daughter to her stepmom, even more so than Sena, who is stepmom's daughter by birth.

Meaningful Music: In a coffee shop scene, Park Ha goes to see Sena, the cruel sister who abandoned her. The song playing softly in the background is "Your Heart Will Lead You Home" by Kenny Loggins, which says:

"If you feel lost and on your own
And far from home
You're never alone, you know
Just think of your friends
The ones who care
They all will be waiting there
With love to share
And your heart will lead you home."

It totally applies to Park Ha's experience of being alone and abandoned, but eventually finding her own type of family and home. This song is originally from The Tigger Movie, so it's a Winnie the Pooh-related tune, plus it's naturally epic because it's by Kenny LOGGINS. Yacht rock for life! You know what, I'm just going to embed the song. Here's some Kenny Loggins for you. You're welcome.

Cultural Observances:

Hwaeshik: Park Ha teaches the guys how to deal with "hwaeshik"(meal outings/restaurant parties) at their new workplace. The after-work meal culture is big in Korea, but of course the boys get it all wrong when they are invited to a business lunch, which a more conservative affair than drinks and snacks after dinner. I laughed until I cried at this scene.

Banmal: Also known as informal or casual language, Park Ha starts speaking to Yi Gak in this shortened form of Korean in episode 5. It's totally sweet because you know from context that when she drops the honorifics when talking to him, it means that she considers him her buddy.

New Buddies Share Refreshments--Whipped Cream and Soju.

New words: When a bunch of people are exchanging annyeong-haseyo's (hello-how-are-you's), Yi Gak says something like "annyeong hanshimnika?" which is ultra formal, but it might also be archaic language from his own time period. He says "algaessumnida"("I understand") instead of "algesaeyo" to his grandmother, but I think that's just how anyone talks to their grandmother.

Episode Evaluations:

Rooftop Prince is still painfully funny. I'm caring less and less about Taemu/Sena and whether they get paid back for their sordid deeds, and more and more about Yi Gak and Park Ha and how they're going to work out--and they had better work out, or else. :-) I loved Park Ha's returned memories, because it seems like the plot could really pick up steam now that Park Ha knows what Sena has done.


  1. Tae Mu's habit of accidenty (or quasi so) causing harm to others is starting to stretch credibilty. Having managed to knock out his cousin and perhaps drowing him he then does the exact same thing to his cousin's lookalike with less drastic consequences, not content he still manages to run over Se Na's mother. It is a bit too much.

    I expected Park Ha's memories to return much later into the series but this may propel the following episodes into a more dramatic direction. I am fearful of the lost mother line as it can go extremely wrong. I fear that Park Ha will end up ever so rich and that the story will then invest more on the whole company angle that is not particularly interesting.

    You know, instead of turning the three Joseon guys into company employers our prince should have just make them work at a host club.

    As for Se Na, oddly enough I do not hate her entirely. Clearly what she did was despicable but she did not expect the car to have an accident. She is a strange one, clearly she feels regret over the bad things she does but she goes ahead and does them anyway. One thing I find odd, the way she treats Yi Gak. Given that he is impersonating the company's heir I expected her to be a lot more respectful if only for her own sake.

    1. I forgot about Taemu running over Sena's Mom! Yeesh, it's like going through life with a curse of almost-killing folks.

      I'm with you on the "lost mother" plotline. I have rarely, rarely seen birth secrets done right in k-dramas. They almost always end up making me groan at the cheesy revelations.

      Gyah! I love your idea! I would totally go to that host club and spend hours gossiping with Chisan.

      Sena's an odd duck. She's hard to fully understand.

    2. The phone is a bit strange. Why Tae Mu didn't simply smash it to pieces and drop the remains in say a garbage bin is beyond me. Instead he takes it to Se Na's place where he begins to destroy it only to later drop it in her mother's bag. Of course it will turn out to be important later so plot-wise it makes sense not to get rid of it but it strikes one as unlikely.

      For a second I thought Park Ha would confront Se Na by the river and punch her straight into the water. It seems to be a pattern in this series and Park Ha's past self apparently did drown Se Na's Joseon counterpart.

      And I am afraid that the haircuts may make things more confusing later on. I suspect Tae Yong will eventually return at which point it will be impossible to tell him apart from Yi Gak.

    3. That disappearing and reappearing incriminatign phone drove me nuts. Nuts, I say! Our villain is so inept. It's like he's bad at being bad.

      I really wanted Park Ha to give Sena more of an obvious comeuppance when she learned the truth. Maybe it's an unspoken heroine law that good girls can never retaliate against the baddies?

      Oh, the confusion is amplified beyond comprehension around episode 12. Just you wait! I had to take notes just to keep the plot straight at that point.