Before I watched “Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth,” I was looking forward to seeing how the romance between Dog Bird (Park Seo-Joon) and Ah-Ro (Go Ara) played out. But after the finale, I realized that what stuck with me wasn’t their tepid relationship, but that of the young men who formed a relationship — which at times was adversarial, but also based on friendship, honor and righteous morals.
In other words, I was all about the poet warrior youth’s bromance.
Since we are just days away from the January 26th theatrical premiere of “BTS World Tour: Love Yourself in Seoul,” now is a great time to re-examine the role that BTS’ Kim Tae-Hyung (aka V) played in this K-Drama. Why? Because he was the first Bangtan Boy to make his acting debut, but mostly because his role played an integral part in moving along some of the most dramatic aspects of the series.
I’ll be honest: As much as I like BTS, I wasn’t expecting much from V’s acting skills. When filming began on the 20-part Korean series, V was still just 20 years old and a fledgling actor. Yes, he’s handsome and he clearly knows how to emote in the group’s music videos.
But could he hold his own, especially against powerhouses such as Park Seo-Joon and veteran actor (and one of my favorites) Sung Dong-Il?
During the initial few moments of his debut, it was difficult to gauge his abilities. He didn’t have much to do but act young and cute. But as the series progressed, V fleshed out the role of Suk Han-Sung, the air-headed aristocrat who was expected to carry the responsibilities of his tony family on his slender shoulders. He wanted to study arts, flirt with girls and spend time with his beloved stepbrother, Dan-Se. But their family treats the latter like dirt, because he is a “half breed.”
The Silla kingdom’s reliance on the bone rank system (골품제도) was designed to keep the poor at the bottom of the social ladder and elevate those who were lucky enough to be born into aristocratic families to the top. Watching the difference in how Han-Sung and Dan-Se (played by Kim Hyun-Joon) are treated was eye-opening and heartbreaking. When Han-Sung fails to live up to their grandfather’s strenuous standards, Dan-Se is beaten, rather than the younger chosen child.
It’s not lost on Han-Sung that his brother is his superior in every way — academically and physically — except for the fact that his mother wasn’t an aristocrat.
The two share a tragic relationship that I wish was explored more in this series. The dynamic between V and Kim Hyun-Joon was so compelling.
Beautifully-filmed, “Hwarang” is an uneven drama, but it’s worth watching for the camaraderie not only between V and Kim, but also the other actors/singers who round out this series. SHINee’s Choi Min-Ho is dashingly handsome as the aggressive Soo-Ho. And Park Hyung-Sik (ZE:A and ZE:A Five) is charming as the young man who is expected to ascend to the throne.
An added bonus to “Hwarang” is the infectiously catchy duet “It’s Definitely You” by V and his BTS bandmate Jin (Kim Seok-Jin).
And guess what? All the “Hwarang” episodes are free on KOCOWA.
Bangtan Boys Bonus: KOCOWA also offers a lot of fun BTS content, like this “Running Man” episode. RM (then known as Rap Monster), Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook more than hold their own against the incorrigible cast members in a quest to transport the most boxes of ramen. Trust me. You have to see it to believe it. Fighting!
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