Official Synopsis: A prince from the Joseon era, Yi Gak (JYJ‘s Yoochun), along with his entourage, which includes Song Man Bo (Lee Min Ho), Do Chi San (Choi Woo Shik) and Woo Young Sul (Jung Seok Won), are catapulted 300 years into the future. As he attempts to investigate the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the princess he loved, he unexpectedly finds himself in the city of Seoul in the year 2012, where he comes across a woman who looks exactly like his beloved crown princess…
Ratings: Although MBC‘s ‘The King 2 Hearts‘ (starring Lee Seung Gi and Ha Ji Won) is still the king of the drama ratings with a high 16.5% rating, ‘Rooftop Prince’ poses a challenge to the ratings throne. With SBS‘ ‘Rooftop Prince’ riding an increasing rating trend with a current rating of 11.2%, the rankings of the dramas are likely to shift. Meanwhile, KBS’s ‘The Equator Man‘ (starring ZE:A‘s Siwan, Uhm Tae Woong, Lee Jun Hyuk) is still in last place with an 8.1% rating.
Recap of Ep. 1: The royal court announces the search for the prince’s wife, Bu Young (the double of present day Park Ha played by Han Ji Min) who is chosen as the family’s representative over her older sister Hwa Young (the double of the present day Se Na Jung Yumi). Although Hwa Young becomes increasingly jealous, she still helps her younger sister prepare for the competition only to accidentally drop a heating pan on Bu Young’s face, scarring her and barring her path to becoming princess. Hwa Young then becomes Lee Gak’s wife and princess.
Crown Princess Hwa Young’s dead body is found floating in a lake, and Crown Prince Yi Gak is gripped with pain and sorrow by the loss. While the rest of the royal court believes the death was just a suicide, the Prince staunchly stands by his belief that the Princess was murdered. Creating a team consisting of a scholar, an eavesdropper, and a warrior, the Prince discovers that the Princess had accidentally eaten cyanide, and attempts to hunt down the person who had seen the Princess go to the lake. However, the team is attacked and jump across cliffs in order to escape, only to be transported 300 years into the future…
Meanwhile, in the 21st century, Se Na and Park Ha become stepsisters. Se Na doesn’t seem to like Park Ha much as she treats her badly, even abandoning Park Ha in a truck and ignoring the younger sister’s cries for help. Park Ha ends up in America about twenty years later with memory loss caused by a car accident. After many years of searching for her father, she finally discovers his identity, only to be told he had died. Park Ha goes to Korea to pay her respects and meet her stepmother and stepsister, Se Na.
Back in America, Tae Young, the doppelganger of Yi Gak, is enjoying the sights of New York and meets up with his half-cousin, Tae Mu (Lee Tae Sung). Tae Mu urges Tae Young to return to Korea as his grandmother plans to leave the company to Tae Young despite his lack of interest in the business. The men begin to argue fiercely and exchange fists, ending in Tae Mu punching Tae Young off the ship. Throwing Tae Young’s cellphone off board, Tae Mu announces to Tae Young’s distressed grandmother that he has gone missing.
Recap of Ep. 2: Meanwhile, the prince and his entourage are disconcerted as they find themselves in Seoul 2012. Park Ha is shocked to see four men in her room and tries to send them off by leaving them at the palace only only to find the group at her home again. After realizing that the men are actually from the Joseon period, she helps them get accustomed to modern times while using them as laborers to help pay off the damage cost they had rendered. Introducing them to public transportation, toilets, toothbrushes, cars, Park Ha helps the four men assimilate a little at a time to modern life.
When Park Ha takes up a job to move furniture for Tae Young’s grandmother, Prince Yi Gak enters Tae Young’s room and is startled to see a photo of Tae Young, a doppelganger of himself. Tae Young’s grandmother enters the room and is delighted to finally find Tae Young, telling a shocked Tae Mu about her discovery.
Recap of Ep. 3: Prince Yi Gak tries to wrestle himself out of the grandmother’s grip and denies any relation with Tae Young. Tae Mu is insulted by Prince Yi Gak’s pompous tone, which is exacerbated by his traditional style of speech, and he grabs Yi Gak’s shirt. Yi Gak calls for his men, who create a mess in the house as they help escort the Prince out of the house. Tae Young’s grandmother is convinced that he is her grandson and orders her secretary, Se Na, to contact Yi Gak, worrying Tae Mu.
Park Ha tries to educate the prince and his attendants about the subtle details of 21st century life in Korea, including a more modern way of speaking. She finds new clothes and shoes for the men, and realizes later that there was one lesson missing in her teaching: how to use a modern bathroom. After fitting the boys in their new clothes, Park Ha orders them to work and offers to bring the Prince to the palace when he stubbornly refuses to join the others.
Upon arriving at the palace, Prince Yi Gak recalls the princess’ floating dead body, and begins to cry. Park Ha cheers him up, and then drags Yi Gak to another job. Park Ha introduces Yi Gak to an amusement park where he discovers his sweet tooth after tasting cotton candy.
When Tae Young’s grandmother finally contacts Yi Gak through Park Ha, Tae Mu is relieved that Yi Gak poses no threat in revealing Tae Mu’s hand in Tae Young’s death, and the grandmother is forced to acknowledge that Yi Gak is simply a look-alike of her actual grandson. While Tae Young heads out, he catches sight of scantily clad women in bikinis. His wonder at the women in the fashion show is interrupted as he catches sight of Se Na. He runs up to hug her only to be dragged away by security guards.
[Note : This post reflects the opinions of the author, and not necessarily those of allkpop.]
The antics of the prince and his entourage as they attempt to reconcile themselves with 2012 Korea made tears fall down my face and my ribs crack from laughing. The awe and amazement of the Joseon royal court at the trivial details of modern life are not only amusing and comical, but support the fantasy element of time travel well. The integration of the more cultural and historical aspects of the Joseon era into the culture of Korea in 2012 brings a flair of ingenuity with amusing situations. The three men waiting for Prince Yi Gak to begin eating before starting themselves, bowing down to King Sejong on the ten dollar bill, and Prince Yi Gak’s indignant response to Park Ha’s offer to bring them to the Gyeongbok Palace are a couple snapshots of the hilarity of the series.
What succeeds is the weaving and the shift of tone in the story: the hilarious, comedic tone of the men adjusting to 2012 and the somber tone of Prince Yi Gak searching for his love. The comedic elements don’t interfere with the more sentimental moments, but rather enters and eases its way into the right, sweet spot like when Prince Yi Gak was crying for his princess at the lake and Park Ha transforms that moment of sorrow into hilarity by blackmailing Prince Yi Gak with his tears. Equilibrium with a more contemplative tone is achieved through the core plot of murder and familial relationships. The interludes of “entertainment” nicely pave the two parallel tracks of conflict and situational humor.
The character development of Tae Mo and Se Ha however, regretfully has gaping holes, making the two characters come off as one-dimensional evil antagonists. Although the two are alike in that they never intended to murder Tae Young or abandon Park Ha, the plot fails to explain why the two characters developed their evil intentions. There was no exposition of the jealousy and friction between Se Ha-Park Ha and Tae Young-Tae Mo so viewers’ attachment to the relationships may fall short.
Although the chemistry between Yoochun and Han Ji Min is full of sparks, the Hwa Young twist creates an interesting conflict. Though we see that Yi Gak truly loves his princess, there is a little hint of doubt about whether Yi Gak truly loved Hwa Young or Bu Young. Bu Young is the one who embroiders the blanket that Yi Gak truly loves and Yi Gak playfully teases her with riddles, suggesting a possible change of heart. It brings into question who will win Yi Gak’s heart: Park Ha or her double, Bu Young.
‘Rooftop Prince’ is one of the more intricate dramas I’ve watched with four different set of characters. I hope the writers will manage to seamlessly tie all the doppelgangers and time parallels without dropping any details or conflicts into the wastebin. From what I’ve seen so far, it seems like the writers might be able to do just that.