‘Splash Splash Love’ is a Refreshing Take on Fusion Sageuk
MBC’s latest mini-series “Splash Splash Love” premiered this month and concluded after a course of two episodes. Though the drama was short, it garnered a lot of attention, both locally and internationally – and for good reason. There were several factors as to why this drama was so special, despite the fact that it was another fusion sageuk (a period drama with a modern touch, most of the time involving some form of time travel) and had a pretty predictable storyline.
[Disclaimer: There are some spoilers ahead!]
As alluded to in the title, this drama had a lot to do with rain. Heroine Jang Dan Bi (played by Kim Seulgi) is a modern day high school student who wanted to escape her college aptitude tests desperately. When she discovered a magical puddle on a rainy day she decided to jump through it and found herself in the Joseon period, right in the middle of a three year drought. Ruler at the time, Lee Do (played by Beast’s Yoon Dojoon) is an enthusiastic and curious learner who was immediately attracted to Dan Bi, not because of her physical appearance but because of her knowledge from the future. Right from the get-go, the chemistry between these two leads was natural and extremely adorable; I thoroughly enjoyed their progression from having a master-servant relationship to becoming firm friends and finally passionate lovers. It wasn’t rushed despite the fact that this drama was only two episodes long, rather it was fast paced and well-developed. Both actors also acted very well together which made the watch very enjoyable because of how believable their romance was.
This drama was aplenty with K-drama cliches, but that doesn’t mean that it was boring or typical. It turned out to be very refreshing, because the drama kept adding fun twists to each cliche that it utilized. For example, for a good part of the drama Dan Bi was cosplaying as a male eunuch. While this cliche can be seen in several other dramas, both modern and period ones, it was a slightly different situation here. She didn’t intend to disguise herself at the start, rather it was her use of the term “go-sam” (in modern day context it means a high school senior but in a historical context it actually refers to eunuchs) in her self-introduction that led to this whole misunderstanding. While she did continue the cosplay after realising its benefits, the continued use of this pun served to inject humor in the storyline and created some hilarious scenes, especially between Dan Bi and Lee Do.
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Another cliche that appears very often in time travel dramas is the use of reincarnated characters, especially for the two main leads (think “Rooftop Prince”). This drama was no exception, as each modern character had its historical counterpart. The adorable part of it was that the historical characters shared the same characteristics and personality as their future selves, like Queen Sohun’s (Jin Ki Joo) love for midnight snacking and instant food. Although I enjoyed the parallels and found myself laughing because of them, I did get worried that this drama would give the romance a trashy ending by letting Dan Bi meet and fall in love with future Lee Do, just because he was also played by Dojoon. I got even more worried when they did reunite at the end of the drama and he said (in a swoony way, admittedly): “We’ve met before, a long time ago.”
I assumed immediately (as did Dan Bi, I’m guessing) that he meant during the Joseon period, but thankfully he clarified that he had actually met her on her way to school, at the first part of the drama. It was a twist that I didn’t expect but loved, simply because it defied K-drama norms and was something new.
That leads me to another point that I loved about the show, every minute of the show, every scene, no matter how insignificant it seemed turned out to be useful in the end. When I finished it I felt like I had just watched a movie rather than a drama because of how all the plot points fitted together. The writing was so tight that there was purpose in every event that occurred. For instance, a simple scene showing Dan Bi lying on the couch and watching an episode of “Mask Singer” could be used later on as evidence of her ability to recognise voices. For such a short drama it sure made full use of its time.
At the core of the drama it was the strong message that no matter how insignificant we may feel because of our bad grades or lack of talent, we still have a part to play in this world. Dan Bi was such an underachiever at school that she lost confidence in herself and her worth, but going back to the Joseon times and being able to share her knowledge with the king helped her to realise that she was valuable after all. Even when she failed, Lee Do was there to encourage her and help her to carry on.
The struggles that Dan Bi faced were so relatable even to people who weren’t students that it made this message all the more encouraging and inspiring, a big reason why this drama succeeded.
That being said, this show wasn’t perfect and there were many illogical plot lines which led to some confusion for me as I watched the drama. Yes, the entire premise of the show was absurd but there has to be some logic, especially between scenes. For one thing, there never was a “big reveal” for Dan Bi who had been masquerading as a male eunuch but all of a sudden all the characters in the show (including the court ministers) knew that she was actually a female and she was nominated to be a concubine. I’m sorry but what? From other historical dramas and the scant information that I know about the Joseon dynasty I’m pretty sure that there’s a penalty for intentionally deceiving the court, let alone the King. Even if we ignore the legislature, I was surprised at the lack of reaction from the ministers because what is the point of cosplaying if there are no stakes involved?
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Another problem I had with the plot was what happened one particular day, when Dan Bi escaped the city after an attempt made at her life. She literally spent the whole night out with the king at a beach, while the queen spent her whole night out at her childhood friend’s house. Even better, when she tried to go back to the palace, the gates were locked. For the queen. It’s simply crazy to imagine that when both rulers are out of the palace no one would be looking for them or even be alarmed. I mean, what are all the servants and soldiers for if not to keep the rulers safe?
At the end of it all however, “Splash Splash” Love never took itself seriously and this helped viewers to focus more on the heartfelt storyline rather than the sometimes gaping plot holes as we watched the drama. There were so many adorable moments that I enjoyed from this show (Lee Do reciting the times table was fantastic) that made me forget the parts I disliked about it and this makes it a winning drama in my books. I would tell you more, but I hope you’ll watch it yourself. I won’t spoil the magic for you!
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