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[Movie] The King’s Affection season 1, episode 1 recap – the beginning of atypical Palace romance

This recap of the Netflix K-Drama series The King’s Affection season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers.

Let’s welcome another K-Drama that lands on Netflix, The King’s Affection! Directed by Song Hyun Wook who was previously known for UndercoverGraceful Friends, and Be MelancholicThe King’s Affection is ready to steal the hearts of the audience with its unique and one-of-a-kind palace romance. It’s a saeguk (historical) drama with a cross-dressing theme.

[Movie] The King’s Affection Season 1 Episode 1 (Korean Drama)

[Movie] The King’s Affection Season 1 Episode 1 (Korean Drama)

Written by Han Hee-Jung, who also writes Clean For PassionThe King’s Affection starts promising and leaves a great impression! The drama casts Park Eun-Bin and SF9‘s Rowoon as the main leads. We don’t get to see them until the second episode. But don’t worry, the child actors did a marvelous job portraying the younger counterparts of their characters! I always enjoy watching historical drama due to the deep and intriguing plot, so I am excited to start my recap journey with this one. 

The King’s Affection season 1, episode 1 recap

The King’s Affection season 1, episode 1 starts with a mother’s affection with the pain of laboring but also the joy of hearing the first cry of your baby. After successfully giving birth to her first son, an unexpected twist happens. The Queen gives birth to another child, but this time… it’s a daughter. The birth of the twins is considered an ominous sign to the Palace. After knowing the information, the King orders the palace to kill the daughter.

“How can a crown prince share a womb with a girl?” ask the King. Of course, the Queen fights for her daughter’s life; she even demands his royal highness saves her, not because of the King’s order but because it’s his daughter. “Being born as a girl should not be the reason for her to die,” she says. From his gaze, we can see that the Royal Highness is also battling a dilemma since it’s also his daughter that we’re talking about. But power and control win him over. It’s a brutal, heavy sword scene, and grouchy.

To save her precious daughter, The Queen puts a needle on her baby’s neck to stop her pulse for a while to fool the Royal Highness and the Royal Inspectors. For a moment, the baby stopped breathing. After they pass the trial, The Queen and the people quickly take the needle out. The baby begins to cry again in pain. Due to this, her pulse is getting weaker so The Queen quickly sends the baby to the doctor and orders her trusted guardian to send her far away from the Palace. 

The beginning of the twist of fate

The entire episode is all about the childhood story of Lee Hwi’s backstory and her encounter with Ji-Woon. A few years later, the twin son lives as the crown prince inside the palace with the name of Lee Hwi. He is quick-witted and intelligent. While the twin daughter is living as a low-life under the name of “Dam-i. At that time, she luckily passes the audition as the court maid lady. Fate brings the twins together again as they encounter one another at the Palace. They are both bewildered upon seeing each other’s faces without knowing the cruel reality that binds them together. Lee Hwi shares his encounter with Dam-i with the Queen which brings chills to her entire body. 

After their first encounter, Lee Hwi loses one of his most trusted Masters, Hwang-Gil, whom he describes as a father to him. To meet him again, he calls Dam-i to switch places with him. They unexpectedly become an ally. He uses their advantages to sneak out of the palace to meet the Master, while Dam-i is enjoying the delicious cakes at his palace. But, things get pretty tense since Lee Hwi leaves her with no manual book on how to face the Royal Highness that comes to visit his room. Dam-i and Eunnuch go into panic mode when her father, The Royal Highness, asks about her favorite sentences from the book of Zuo Zhuan. To avoid the crisis, Da-Mi reverses the question back to his father, asking what sentences he likes from the book. He answers with, “The benevolent shall not worry, the wise will not be cajoled, and the brave will not be afraid.”

Dam-i is fascinated by her father whom she has not yet acknowledged after hearing the sentences and straight-up complimenting him, resulting in an awkward yet endearing moment of the father and daughter. If only misogyny did not exist back in the day. 

The first encounter

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Ji-Woo is the son of the head of the investigator officer. He is excitingly attending the palace for the banquet. His father smiles proudly while saying that he will also serve the King within the walls when he is ready. Later, Dam-i, who is walking with tons of laundry, catches his attention. After seeing she is dropping one of the blue cloths, he immediately goes to pick it up and rushes to give it back. He loses track of her but eventually finds her in the backyard of the palace. Loving the scenery and the butterflies that describe the fluttering encounter. The story moves at a fast pace, by this time, Ji-Woon is already seen in love at first sight upon seeing Dam-i sitting while reciting each word from the book of Zuo Zhuan. Her father’s favorite sentences.

He later approaches her and is amazed by the fact that a low-lady like her read the kinds of stuff that only noblemen read. Long story short, after unintentionally throwing Dam-i’s book into the pond, Ji-Woon stops her from going into the pond to take the soaked book. So instead of one of them, why don’t we have the two of them accidentally fall into the pond to make it romantic? Ji-Woon, who doesn’t know how to swim, drowns while Dam-i saves him. Due to his unconsciousness, Dam-i gives him a kiss or technically CPR to save him. And it works, not only to regain his consciousness but also igniting the flames in his heart.

After their first encounter, Ji-Woon’s spirit lights up. He begins to train his balance and sword skill which delight his father. To make it up for Dam-i’s book, he transcribed the book of Zhou Zhen and even added notes for her to make it easy to read. The next day, he gives her the book and says that it’s a “copy” that he finds in the library instead. He can deceive Dam-i, but not Lee Hwi. He later jokes around about the palace romance between them. 

The agony of the Mother

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After the Queen found out about Dam-i ‘s presence, she orders her people to escort Dam-i to her palace. Unfortunately, Ji-Woon’s father sees them and begins to grow suspicious towards the Queen. In the Queen’s palace, Dam-i had no idea that she is facing her mother. The Queen notices the marks on her right neck. The marks linger after they attempt to protect her by stopping her pulse back then. She got emotional and helplessly hides the truth behind the curtain.

The Queen asked about how she lives and ends up in the Palace. Dam-i explains that there’s a fire in the forest and the monk dies. She lives as a stray cat until a kind lady takes her and helps her get the spot as a court maid. “Do you resent your parent that abandoned you?” asks the Queen. Dam-i calmly answers that she doesn’t have a family, to begin with, so she doesn’t understand the feeling of missing someone nor resentment. The Queen finally opens the curtain and asks her to move closer to her as he cries watching her daughter for the first time after that horrific night when she was born. 

The flower has bloomed

It’s the time of the Festival and all the court maids are excitedly leaving the palace gate to enjoy their holiday. Dam-i has no one to come home to, but later her face lights up when she sees Ji-Woon adorably wait for her at the gate of the palace. The two spend the entire festival together as the spark ignites between them. The moon finally shines upon them as they float their wish lantern to the river. Before going back, Ji-Woon gives Dam-i a gift: A meaningful name that means lotus, Yeon-Seon. Dam-i is touched by the gift and she promises to give him the next time they meet. It’s a dice with words: “Stay, and Wait.” 

After reaching the palace’s gate, Ji-Woon’s father caught them walking home together. He is bewildered by the similarity of Dam-i and Lee Hwi. He asks Ji-Woon about Dam-i. After seeing her face once again, Ji-Woon’s father suddenly receives an epiphany. He begins to connect all the dots and strongly suspects Dam-i as the twin daughter that the Queen hides.

The next day, The Queen is watching Dam-i from afar with a longing. She quickly orders her people to escort Dam-i out from the palace as soon as possible because it’s dangerous for the twins to be in the same place. Before she realizes it, her father is standing in front of him and hears everything. The next thing we know is that he chokes the Queen for covering up the death of her twin daughter and violating the King’s order. She promises that she’ll send Dam-i to Yanjing and make her life as a ghost. Her father threats to kill Dam-i.

The ending

The thrilling moment continues. So many things happen at the same time. Ji-Woon’s father is searching for Da-Mi inside the court maid’s place. The lady informs him that Da-Mi is chosen as one of the court maids to help out at the banquet for the elderly. The scene shift to Da-Mi walking in lines with the court maid but later separates herself and runs throughout the crowd. Meanwhile, Ji-Woon is waiting at the bridge where both of them promise each other to meet. On the other side, the beheading penalty of Lee Hwi’s master is happening in the town. One of Queen’s people notices Da-Mi in the crowd and quickly saves him from Ji-Woon’s father, only to find out that the girl is Lee-Hwi disguising himself to gives his master a final goodbye which sadly interrupts. 

The days before, Lee Hwi demands Da-Mi to switch places with him again because he wants to see his Master’s for the last time. Da-Mi has no choice but to obey his order. But things do not go as they plan to be. Since Ji-Woon’s father has been targetting Da-Mi and he has mistaken Lee Hwi as his target since he dresses like her. Lee-Hwi asks the guard who is the one he is targeting and he bets on Da-Mi. He demands an explanation why would they want Dam-i ‘s death but they’re running out of time. Lee Hwi runs away with a horse as the two guards go on a sword duel. Ji-Woon’s father knocks him out and chases after Lee-Hwi.

Not knowing the truth, he shoots an arrow into his horse where Lee Hwi falls. He’s aiming for his arrow at the palace guard, but quickly changes his arrow to Lee Hwi instead and shoots him. Meanwhile, Dam-i anxiously waits for Lee Hwi to come since she has a date to attend with Ji-Woon. Eunuch leaves her alone because he needs to transfer to the office of Eunuch. Dam-i becomes impatient and uses her chance to sneak herself outside the palace. She drops the dice and it rolls to the ground. Right under the King’s feet, with a word “Longing.” And that’s a wrap for the first episode of The King’s Affection!

For the first episode, The King’s Affection is charming and radiates affection. It’s ironic how Lee Hwi will never know that Dam-i is his twin sister. Plus, he has to die in vain (or maybe, not?) On the other side, things will only become more complicated for Dam-i, as this marks the beginning of her bittersweet story of living under someone’s identity and carrying the guilt. I can’t wait to see how the story is unfolding!

What did you think of The King’s Affection season 1, episode 1? Comment below. 

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