Where do I start?
I was going to stop watching this drama after episode 2, because it was so wacky and crazy and over the top, but somehow, I found myself continuing to watch episode after episode, because Hyuk was just so magnetic and compelling. Even that early, the writer had started messing with my head. I hated him one minute, fell in love with him the next. I was like Oh Sunny, swooning over him and his charm and his dashing looks...I remember the round shades and the black umbrella and him so dapper and stiff it was just laughable, and the fake pretence, the false romance being played out to an adoring public captured not only the hearts of reel life but mine as well. It was just so terribly romantic, and when he was having his pretend romance with Sunny, it was as if I was watching a drama within a drama, and I would hurt each time he made a grimace, or rolled his eyes to show his disdain and contempt for her.
I was prepared to hate Hyuk though after his physical abuse of her, and his plans to murder her. It was horrifying to watch a murderous protagonist and it was sickening how he was blatantly carrying on an affair with another woman right under her nose.
And then the writer produced her trump card: suddenly, Hyuk starts to waver in his feelings for Sunny. I think that it started with the ball kicking contest. It was that moment that my heart melted - he smiled watching her antics, a quick, secret smile, snuffed out the next instant, so swift, so fleeting, that I thought that I had imagined it. And then, the next episode, and the next, and the next started a new shift: he falls deeper and deeper for her and struggles with his own feelings of shock that he could fall for someone as crude and "easy" as Oh Sunny. I was fascinated and enthralled. I wanted to see more of this new Hyuk. And I started to root for the impossible - a romance between the heroine and the villain. Something strange was happening: I was rooting for the villain, and it wasn't only me: comments left online echoed my thoughts- "Am I crazy? Why do I like Hyuk so much? Who do I want them to end up together?"
The final episode crushed me. I was sobbing from start to finish. I didn't want Hyuk to die. I was rooting for him as he swathed himself in bandages and took on the persona of The Invisible Man, I cried when he looked so sad at Woo bin's death - I was crying when they said that Woo bin had hugged the bomb, and that was just a great line, and wonderful script writing, when you know that it wasn't even Choi Jin hyuk but an anonymous actor, and you still find yourself welling up with tears. I cried the most at his dying scene, and Jang Nara, as usual, is best at crying scenes. Her voice is just so raw and agonized it makes you hurt so much. He says, I love you, and she's screaming, Don't you dare die on me, you hear, don't you dare die now, you've got to wake up and beg me to forgive you, you've got to wake up don't you dare die now, and I'm crying so hard that I can't even see the screen anymore.
Did she love Woo bin? I think she did, she was grateful to him, and he was always there for her. I think the writer abandoned the love line between her and Woo bin, but it was definitely there, from the smile on her lips as she looked at the twinkling stars on her window, to the red scarf warm around her neck. She had feelings for him, and they were building up, but the writer decided to switch to Hyuk and his conflict instead.
Did she love Hyuk? I think a part of that old love still lingered, even though she would die than admit it - you don't love someone for ten years and just forget it like that. She loved him and he hurt her so badly that she hated him after that. She cried in the end because she was moved by what he did: sacrificing himself and destroying the Imperial Family for her. I think that old love still lingered somewhere beneath the scars, buried beneath the pain and the hurt. She would not have cried like an animal in pain if she had not loved him, she would not have wept alone in the silent room that was Hyuk's if she had not cared for him. I think that she loved him in the beginning, she hated him in the middle, and a little of that old love rekindled and came back to life in the end, like embers of a fire: a wind stirs, and the embers come back to life. Perhaps she would have learnt to slowly love him back all over again if he had lived. But he died, and we'll never know.
I'm still not sure what will happen to my Hyuk in my fanfic since it's early days here.
You can read Chapter 11: The Emperor's Women