Hwang Seung Gi and Kim Soo Jin have directed the Korean period drama series, The Matchmakers, which showcases the strict rules and beliefs revolving around marriage in the old Korean culture. With easygoing characters, the plot of the drama is quite predictable, and we are able to predict the intentions of the characters almost instantly at the very beginning of the series. The ways of the matchmakers and the social stigma associated with them are also a major focus of the show. The drama is replete with royal politics, and the injustices that are faced by the widows. Despite being well-stocked with serious issues, the drama makes them all look light, with hints of comic relief added to each scene. Will Jeong Soon Deok be able to serve her life’s purpose as a good matchmaker? Will Shim Jeong Woo be able to go beyond the King’s rules marrying again? Let us find out!
Who Are Soon Deok And Jeong Woo?
The Matchmakers Episode 1 shows the capability of the matchmakers to be able to recognize the possibility of nuptial ties between people, almost instantly. Many powerful matchmakers ended up matching people in Silla without their knowledge, but their own marriages were known never to last as they ended up becoming widows themselves. Despite having a lot of power and wealth, the profession of matchmaking was looked down upon as a lowly job. We are introduced to Jeong Soon Deok, a 27-year-old widow of the son of the Left State Minister. She leads a double life as a peddler and an excellent matchmaker under the pseudonym of Yeojudaek, so that her family does not come to know of it.
The story then shifts to the life of Jeong Woo, a young scholar who held the first rank in a state exam and was appointed as a Deputy Mayor by the King at Pyeongyangbu. The princess, however, had taken a liking to him and decided to get married to him, despite his resentment. He knew that the prince could never take up the role of an official but was forced to get married in exchange for great wealth and a big house in Bukchon. Unfortunately, on the very day of marriage, the princess passed away even before the marriage was consummated, making him a widower. It was the rule of the state that the prince could not remarry or have concubines. After 8 years have passed, he is still shown to be living alone in Gyeongwoonjae. Later, the fates of Jeong Soon Deok and Jeong Woo intertwine to make the two fall for each other.
Why Did Shim Jeong Woo Use Marriage Prohibition As A Tactic?
The matchmakers discuss the marriage prohibition and say that it is temporary until a bride is chosen for the Crown Prince, who is Prince Jin Seong, the Left State minister’s nephew. As the Crown Prince has poor health, no suitable matches are available for him. It is known to everyone that he is to die soon and will leave his bride a widow forever. The court brings up the topic to the King that the temporary marriage prohibition in the country is causing harm to the bachelors as they are not able to marry, harming the young generation. The ministers come up with the story of a virgin spirit who killed herself for not being able to marry and is wreaking havoc on the state, causing famine. The King understands the intention of the court in not letting the Crown Prince get married and have an heir. The left-wing state minister is on the side of the second prince and is clearing the chances of him being ousted by another heir. The King is, however, determined to get the Crown Prince married.
The Queen gives the idea of seeking the help of Jeong Woo, as he has solutions for every problem. However, the King is reminded by his royal secretary that Jeong Woo is a part of the left minister’s Dongno party and played a part in not letting the Crown Prince get married. He also tells the King that Jeong Woo had woven the story of the virgin spirit affecting the state. This angers the King, but the secretary asks him to keep his calm and ask Jeong Woo’s help to get the Crown Prince married. He says that if Jeong Woo fails to get the job done, then that would affect the power of the Dongno party, making it easier for them to pull the party down eventually.
Did Jeong Soon Deok do justice to her reputation as a renowned matchmaker?
The renowned matchmaker Jeong Soon Deok, working under the pseudonym Yeojudaek, was revered around the state for her matchmaking capabilities. In one instance, she is seen manipulating the set marriage between Scholar Song’s daughter and the son of the Principal of Sungkyunkwan. She sees right through the fact that both of them were not perfect matches for each other, as the girl had been involved in another love affair and that her mother was only interested in the financial prosperity arising from the marriage. She was against any marriage that was not meant to last long. Her in-laws do not know of her profession as a matchmaker, and she only shares her secret with her sister-in-law, Ye-jin. She is seen sneaking secretly into the house when her mother-in-law comes to check in on her. She says that she had been tired of sewing clothes all day and was resting. The traditional values overlooked the importance of women in the fields of trading or matchmaking and wanted them to stick to household chores. She is also seen peddling adult fiction to widows across the town to bring back their sexual desires, as she understood their pains as a widow herself. Soon Deok, however, went against the traditional norms and chose the profession of her own interest. She explains to Ye-jin how matchmaking makes her happy.
How did the heartstrings of Soon Deok and Jeong Woo entangle?
Jeong Woo is seen strolling around in the market, and that is when he crashes into Soon Deok. It is evident that Jeong Woo falls for her almost instantly as their eyes meet. Later, when Jeong Woo goes to a bookseller to find a book, he comes across the adult fiction, ‘The Madam’s Private Life’ by Hwa Rok. The writer is supposedly a woman who is seen as friends with Soon Deok. As Jeong Woo goes through it, his resentful nature makes him want to report the book immediately. He comes across Soon Deok again at the bookstore, and she takes the book away from him, despite his insisting on reading it. He is seen to have sudden chest pains, and it is diagnosed that if his thoughts do not match his actions, he will face these pains. He again visits the bookstore and demands that he be given access to the book, and just when he sees Soon Deok again, he blushes and confesses his love to her. She is taken aback, and just then, the prince takes back his words, saying that he had come there to report the book and was not actually in love with her. Soon Deok thinks that the actions of the prince are weird, decides not to converse with him further, and goes out of the store.
What Happens in the End?
The men of the Royal Investigative Bureau take Jeong Woo captive as he walks out of the bookstore. He is presented in front of the King, who accuses him, saying that he has been constantly trying to break the royal laws. He had written several petitions to the King to annul his marriage and consider it invalid. The King said that it was against the law for princes to remarry and that Jeong Woo had been mocking royal traditions. He also says that Jeong Woo had been trying to manipulate the marriage of the Crown Prince for his own benefits. He asks his guards to give him poison to drink as a punishment for his deeds.
The Matchmakers Episode 1 becomes quite monotonous to watch in the first half, but in the later half, as the twists start getting revealed, we are made to contemplate the possible future events. The comic elements lighten the mood of the drama, not making it too heavy for the audience to bear. The narrative is well-woven, proving the scope for the development of several subplots in the next episodes. There are a lot of possibilities that could arise from these events. The actual motive of Jeong Woo is yet to be known to us. He appears to have a vile motive for not letting the Crown Prince have an heir and being strongly involved in royal politics, but my instincts say otherwise. There are sure to be other motives behind this act! We cannot really say for sure until we get to see the events of the next episode.