I was in the mood for something historical, having recently re-watched a couple of my favourite episodes of Sungkyunkwan Scandal, and the 24 episodes of Faith (2012) was on my shortlist. It sounded interesting, and so I decided to check it out (I swear I didn’t know it was a Lee Min Ho drama until I started watching it, honest!)
What’s it about?
King Gongmin (Ryu Deok Hwan) is returning to Goryea to become the next ruler with his wife, Princess Nogoog (Park Se Young), and the Wuldalchi; highly trained soldiers captained by the infamous Choi Young (Lee Min Ho). However, the Princesses’s throat is cut when the group is attacked by enemies, and Jang Bin (Phillip Lee), the highly skilled doctor of the group, states he is unable to save her. Desperate, the King sends Choi Young through “Heaven’s Gate”, a mysterious portal that lands him in modern-day Seoul. The first doctor he finds is cosmetic surgeon Yoo Eun Soo (Kim Hee Seon); stubborn, materialistic, and straightforward, she is kidnapped by Choi Young, and dragged back in time. She succeeds in saving the Princess’s life, but Choi Young breaks his promise of sending her back, blocking her entrance to the portal. Eun Soo is horrified as she watches it close, realising that she is stuck in the fourteenth century.
Faith is one of the catch-all dramas that pulls on many different genres to produce something to have a popular appeal. And it’s a drama that does this quite well. Of course, you have all the political manipulation and tension you’d expect in a historic drama (more on that later), but you also have the action scenes from Choi Young and the Wuldalchi as they protect the royal couple and Eun Soo, plenty of romance, and also a healthy dose of comedy. I think the series balances between all aspects really well, making Faith a very entertaining watch.
Secondly, I was really impressed with a lot of the characters (and the actors who portrayed them) in this series. Starting with our mains, Lee Min Ho is the perfect choice for the moody warrior Choi Young. He’s got the screen presence that we all know and love, and pulls off the character’s epic lines and scenes with ease. I feel like if another actor had taken on the role, these aspects would have fallen flat or been corny. Kim Hee Seon did a really good job of bringing Eun Soo to life. I liked that Eun Soo was so straight-forward, loud, and funny, despite being in a time period when she should have acted “seen and not heard”. It shows that her character wasn’t going to let something small like time-travel compromise who she is! I also have to give a special shout out to Park Se Young as Princess Nogoog. I think she portrayed the young queen perfectly with the kind of emotional subtlety you’d expect to see of an actor with many more years of experience. I also really love a good villain, [MINOR SPOILER/] and Park Yoon Jae as Prince Deokheung [\MINOR SPOILER] (the villain) was really, really excellent. I haven’t seen a villain as intelligent and interesting as him for a very long time, and I was really surprised by the character. Definitely up there as a favourite villain! Finally, the host of side characters, but especially the Wuldalchi, really bring the series to like with their various personalities and interactions.
Finally, I really like the mix of myth, fantasy, and history thrown together in this series. The only other historic drama I’ve seen was set in later Joseon era (18th century), so the setting in Goryea (14th century) was something very different. Here, we see Goryea fighting for its independence from (what later becomes) China, and I think this uncertainty of the nation’s future means that all characters are already in a difficult spot. As much as I hate politics in real life, they play out very well in this series, with plenty of twists and turns. I also liked the mix of myth, fantasy, and history throughout the series. I think there was a good balance between the three, retaining some historical accuracy but keeping things interesting with a new twist.
As much as I’ve praised Eun Soo’s character above, I also have a lot to criticise. For a surgeon, a seemingly prestigious surgeon, she sure is stupid. This is a problem with dramas relying too much on the damsel in distress female lead, and it clearly shows in this series. Now I don’t mind her issues with adjusting to Goryea (and honestly, who can blame her for trying to figure out what to do after being flung so far into the past), and her materialistic streak is all apart of her character. However, I really hate that her character is compromised in certain situations so that she can be saved. My favourite parts of the series were when her and Choi Young worked together, not when he was saving her from the consequences of a stupid decision she made. While we’re on characters, actually, let’s have a quick look at Dr. Jang. Without spoiling to much, I know that there were real-life issues going on here, but I still feel that this character was meant to be much more important. In the first two episodes it’s clear that he’s more than just the royal doctor, and it’s hinted that there’s some serious back story to his character, but he then sort of fizzles off into a side character. I was looking forward to discovery more about him, but left feeling extremely disappointed.
The second criticism I have against this series… well, I guess it’s one that I have against anything involving time-travel in general. It hurts my head. I followed everything throughout the series until we get to the last couple of episodes and everything is tied up… but sort of not really? I feel that there was a major plot hole in the end (see below) and there were implications, that, if they had been addressed correctly, could have changed the direction of the series, and made it much more interesting. The ending also felt a little anti-climatic (in terms of the “baddies” that we’ve been dealing with) as the drama rushed to focus on Choi Young and Eun Soo’s love. I can’t explain these criticisms any further without major spoilers, so if you intend to check out this series, continue onto the conclusion section of this post, and don’t read the following spoilers.
[MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD]
Alright, let’s get straight into this plot hole business. It gets established early on in the series that Eun Soo has travelled to further into the past (i.e. a time period before Goryea) before her “current” travel to Goryea. Past Eun Soo leaves current Eun Soo tips about what to do and not do to keep history on course and save those she loves. Some of the instructions she leaves suggest that “Past Eun Soo” was in Goryea at a point in which Choi Young was killed. From there, she travelled further into the past and left her future self information about not letting him die for when she travels into Goryea for the first time. I’m not sure how much sense that makes, but the take away message is this: Eun Soo has travelled to Goryea on at least one other occasion from her “current” excursion there. Keep this in mind. One of the other clues Past Eun Soo leaves is how to calculate when the time portal opens. Current Eun Soo is so desperate to get to the time portal in the series because it wasn’t going to open again for another 60 years afterwards. Now, I would assume that the time portal opening is the “same” amongst all time periods that it connects to (past, Goryea, current times); i.e. you can potentially travel through the three time periods when the portal is open. Past Eun Soo, at the point in which she’s known as Hwa Ta, goes into the time portal that brings her back to Choi Young a few years after she first leaves Goryea. Where did this time portal come from because I didn’t think there was going to be one for sixty years?! How can she create time portals left, right, and centre to travel through at the plot’s convenience to make the Goryea trip at least twice?! Or am I thinking about this wrong? Do the time portals only work in certain directions, so the one Eun Soo uses to get from distant past to Goryea wouldn’t allow her to get from Goryea to the future (i.e. her main focus during the series)? Is her “Faith” in returning to Choi Young meant to explain these random portals popping up? Did she calculate them wrong in the beginning (but she seemed to know where they are)? Would it have been too hard to explain this in the series? This is why time travel hurts my head.
Secondly, [STILL MAJOR SPOILERS] if it is the case that Eun Soo made the Goryea trip on multiple occasions (remember, we’ve established that by the end of the series she’s done this journey at least twice), wouldn’t her attempt(s) to survive in Goryea without screwing up history and her attempt(s) to get back to Choi Young be so much more interesting to focus on rather than, oh, I don’t know, her getting poisoned a second time?! Honestly, I was just about ready to get give up on the series when that happened. It makes Eun Soo look stupid and it’s just infuriating to watch when we could have something with much more substance to enjoy! [END OF ALL SPOILERS]
Story: 6/10. A really fun mix of everything, but some bad plot decisions leave you feeling sour.
Characters: 8.5/10. A lot of the characters are well thought out and developed, although this is compromised in a couple of moments. However, a great drama villain makes up for it all.
Faith is certainly not the best drama I’ve seen, but it is definitely enjoyable. Although I have issues with some of the characters and plot decisions, I really loved the characters and the mixed bag of different genres kept me entertained throughout. If you like the first two to three episodes, you can be reassured to stick with it. Overall I give it a 7/10.