We discuss the conclusion of Scarlet Heart Ryeo, the time travel romance Korean Drama series.
Scarlet Heart Ryeo Ending Recap – Eternity
We made it! Fate and time-travel have never been benevolent or trustworthy things in Goryeo. A reckoning comes as the Scarlet Heart Ryeo ending reminds us that though life is brief, love never dies.
Hae-Soo is still heartbroken over Chae-Ryung’s death. She blames 9th Prince for using her friend and warns him he’ll pay for it one day.
The poverty and mistreatment of the people from Baekje, her former nation, troubles 13th Prince’s lover, Woo-Hee. The King (4th Prince) is forced to make 13th Prince prove his loyalty to the throne by leading soldiers to Baekje. 13th Prince remains optimistic despite his lack of military training and promises Woo-hee to marry her when he returns.
But before he leaves, Woo-hee dies by jumping off a castle wall in front of him. This devastates him and Hae-soo.13th Prince grows distant from the King.
Elsewhere, the 8th Prince gives the King a hawk for a gift. But when the cover lifts, he’s shocked to see the caged bird is lifeless. The King smiles. He has framed him. He orders 8th Prince’s execution for giving him a symbol of treason.
Hae-Soo begs the King for 8th Prince’s life. He reluctantly agrees to exile him to his house. Yeon-Hwa, who decided to not help her brother in hopes of having 4th Prince’s heir, blames Hae-Soo for turning 8th Prince into what he is. She swears that he changed after Hae-Soo warned him not to trust the 4th Prince.
Meanwhile, 14th Prince gives the King a document from the previous (evil 3rd Prince) King, who promised marriage for Hae-Soo and 14th Prince. The King is irate. Later on, Hae-soo tells the King that she wants it – simply because she can’t stand the constant death in the palace anymore.
Yeon-Hwa gets 8th Prince to tell the King about his and Hae-Soo’s former relationship, hoping that the King will get rid of her. Enraged, the King accuses Hae-Soo of deceiving him and tells her to leave the palace with 14th Prince. 13th Prince and 8th Prince are the only ones to see her off.
In 14th Prince’s house, Hae-Soo lives quietly. A doctor tells her she’s growing weaker because she’s pregnant. Meanwhile, the King spies on the couple and mistakes their laughter for marital joy. He orders the palace to keep out any news of the couple.
After Hae-Soo’s daughter is born, her health worsens. She writes several letters to the King, but he thinks the letters are from 14th Prince, and he tosses them aside. Hae-Soo is saddened, thinking that the King no longer loves her. Hae-Soo pleads with 14th Prince to protect her daughter and keep her away from palace life. She peacefully dies in 14th Prince’s arms while sitting in the garden.
The King learns of her death and realizes the letters were from her. He’s beside himself and shows up at 14th Prince’s house, crying her name. The King takes her ashes away from 14th Prince. 13th Prince realizes that 14th Prince was in love with Hae-Soo and weeps as he hugs him.
The Scarlet Heart Ryeo Ending
The Scarlet Heart Ryeo ending finally comes. First up, the 9th Prince is executed. Meanwhile, the King remains distant from the queen, Yeon-Hwa, and their son.
A few years later, the King sees 14th Prince with his daughter. He demands to know who she is and then sees Hae-Soo’s hairpin in the girl’s hair. 14th Prince begs the King not to take her to the palace as this was Hae-Soo’s last wish. The King surprises 14th Prince by instead asking him to visit the palace often with the girl.
More years roll by. 8th Prince passes away. And, ultimately, the astrologer Ji-Mong is the last to leave the King. He tells him that he believes Hae-Soo was from a different world.
Hae-Soo wakes up in the present time in her house. She wonders at her dream and the tears on her face. We learn that she was in a coma for a year from almost drowning.
While selling make-up, Hae-Soo has intense memories of her “dream.” Later on, she visits a museum and sees a bunch of paintings – all from her dream. Weeping, she realizes it was all real. She cries over a portrait of 4th Prince.
In the past, 4th Prince, now entirely without friends in the palace, stares at an eclipse in the sky. He thinks to himself: “If we’re not from the same world, I’ll find you. My Soo.”
The last scene is a flashback to when Hae-Soo and 4th Prince were together in the palace. They happily stroll about in nature together, and 4th Prince gives a tired Hae-Soo a piggyback ride home.
Thoughts and Feels:
Man, that was heartbreaking.
I have to admit that I knew it was coming, but honestly, I had hoped that with a new version, we would’ve had a different, ahem happier, ending. Understandably, the heart of the novel and original C-drama is a tragedy; the separation of a couple that loved each other dearly but couldn’t be together.
But why was the ending so rushed? They pre-produced the show, and they had plenty of time to edit. And by rushed, I don’t mean they tried to cover so many topics… Instead, they covered them so briefly and even confusingly to the point where I had no idea why anything was happening.
Many of the show’s big climactic points seemed like the writer hastily crossed off a checklist of plot points from the novel. There were no smooth transitions, instead just jumping from here to there, with confusing flashbacks and a lack of fluidity.
Again, this has been a problem that Scarlet Heart Ryeo has struggled with since the beginning. I don’t know whether to blame the directing or the editing, though I feel both are at fault for the constant time jumps, flashbacks, lack of fluidity, and an insane amount of close up shots. I’m still laughing that the director had no idea how to use the zoom on a camera.
The episode’s confusion is perhaps best summed up with my bewilderment over 13th Prince and his lover, Woo-Hee. Why the director didn’t think to show a buildup of Woo-Hee’s suicidal thoughts is beyond me! Literally, in one scene, she’s happy with Baek-Ah and talking about marriage, and then the next scene, she’s killing herself because her people are suffering. The logic is missing, though.
Why does she want to die? How will that help her people? If she’s ashamed of loving a Goryeo prince (since her people suffer from the Goryeo people), then why doesn’t she just leave him?
And why did she tell him that she didn’t want him to see her die like this – if she was going to jump off the castle wall where he was watching?!! If she seriously didn’t want him to see her die, she could’ve waited for him to leave for Baekje! There are so many unanswered questions in these last few episodes. And that’s just about the side characters.
Thinking about the fallout between Hae-Soo and 4th Prince, I admit that I initially understood why Hae-Soo wanted to leave the 4th Prince. Not because he was evil for executing Chae-Ryung (though Hae-Soo also seemed to imply that, sigh), but there would be no peace in the palace – and she couldn’t stand to see people die and suffer all the time. Not to mention, she now had to contend with another woman for 4th Prince, and her health was deteriorating.
Sadly, Hae-Soo didn’t verbally stress those things as much as the audience probably needed to hear. So it felt like she left him because he slayed Chae-Ryung, who was technically a killer. Heck, she could’ve been angry that he hadn’t told her about it before killing Chae-Ryung, yet she never mentions it.
On top of that, Hae-Soo didn’t seem consistent on even Chae-Ryung’s passing. After all, she blamed 9th Prince for it, but teased and smiled at 8th Prince at their final parting, totally forgetting that he also caused her death and the Crown Prince’s death.
Then there was 4th Prince’s rage over Hae-Soo and 8th Prince’s former romance. I wish they would’ve clarified more of his feelings on the matter because I was so confused! Was he angry because she never told him? Or because 8th Prince was his archenemy? Did he genuinely think she still loved 8th Prince? A scene with him really explaining why he was so angry that he threw her out of the palace would’ve helped.
Furthermore, Hae-Soo’s daughter could’ve been a big part of the story, but instead was tacked almost as an afterthought. It was distracting knowing that her daughter would grow up motherless (and probably never knowing 4th Prince was her real dad).
It also confused me about the ending, since Hae-Soo wept over the paintings (which hilariously were of scenes that no one would’ve known about much less painted) yet never mentioned her daughter. I mean, yes, it was only a minute-long scene, and she was most likely thinking of her daughter but still! This is also a confusing twist from the original story where Hae-Soo has a miscarriage in the palace, which leads to further (and a more believable) emotional separation between Hae-Soo and 4th Prince.
Also, the original story doesn’t leave a poor child out in limbo land with no parents. At least 14th Prince clearly loved her as a father, so I’m not too angry. But I was a little annoyed to see that 4th Prince refused to see his son that he had with Yeon-Hwa! I know that he has no love for Yeon-Hwa, but it’s still his son! Did he forget what it felt like to be abandoned his whole life by his mother? I think the writers were afraid of showing that 4th Prince had moved on from Hae-Soo, but I think they could’ve found a way to balance it.
Seriously, there are so many things that the ending could’ve done better. I thought the catalyst of Chae-Ryung’s death should’ve been darker. Instead of making Chae-Ryung some girl who loved 9th Prince and did whatever he bid without regrets (or so her letter says), she could’ve been forced to help him. I wouldn’t have considered 4th Prince super evil or without the right to execute her, and this would’ve given Hae-Soo a more substantial reason to be upset.
Looking at the story as a whole, Scarlet Heart Ryeo was an unabashed romance with a hero that was difficult not to root for. Lee Joon-Ki was fabulous as the tortured, angsty, and romantic 4th Prince. I honestly think his character would’ve been unlikable without Lee Joon-Ki’s natural acting and ability to make the 4th Prince’s pathos seem bigger than his wolf-like violence and sometimes controlling attitude.
Hae-Soo was sometimes a contradiction to me; I loved her for her compassion, strength, and selflessness. Other times, I was wearied by her depressing stares, inability to take action, and forgiveness of one person’s evil only to detest someone else who had done the same thing. I enjoyed actress IU playing the heroine Hae-Soo, though, yes, she doesn’t have the acting ability that Lee Joon-Ki has. Still, she has a sweet little innocence that was fun to see onscreen.
Though the Scarlet Heart Ryeo ending left us with no happy ending, I took 4th Prince’s last words to heart. In my headcanon, Hae-Soo and 4th Prince are like Prince Charming and Snow White in Once Upon A Time. Time, fate, circumstances can only separate them briefly. Like Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With The Wind, 4th Prince holds on to an impossible hope – that he’ll find Hae-Soo somewhere in the future.
Perhaps he did. Maybe as the last scene ended, he raced into the museum where Hae-Soo was and embraced her. He had only happened to walk by, but it hit him as soon as he saw her. It wasn’t a dream. All of it had been real! They could then have a daughter and son (reincarnations of their kids back from Goryeo) and live happily with Hae-Soo working as a makeup artist and 4th Prince working at a nature preserve where he takes care of wolves.
Yep. That’s how it ends in my book, folks! I’m thankful I enjoyed this wild, dramatic, and sweeping story of time travel and romance in ancient Goryeo! May the next show we watch be just as sweeping and romantic – minus all the tragedy and confusion!
UPDATE: Scarlet Heart Ryeo is currently not available to stream. You can buy it on DVD.
What did you think about the Scarlet Heart Ryeo Ending? Are you heartbroken over the finale as well? Sound off below…
Photos: Dramafever and SBS