K-Drama Premiere: “The Tale Of Nokdu” Fascinates With Lively Characters Hiding Perilous Secrets

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With a top notch creative team backing up The Tale of Nokdu, high expectations is inescapable for this KBS2 TV’s year-end offering.

Portraying the titular role, Jang Dong Yoon as Nokdu has left lingering impression on the opening chapters of The Tale of Nokdu. With period drama darling actress Kim So Hyun, the new series easily hooks the audience with its steady and lively storytelling.

Tale of Nokdu

Premiere Week Rating:

Flaunting a solid groundwork, it is not surprising that The Tale of Nokdu achieved high ratings on its first to fourth episodes. According to Nielsen Korea, it scored 5.6, 7.1, 6.5, and 8.3% on nationwide viewership rating.

Notably, the second half of the back-to-back episode format evidently peaks on a high note.

The Tale of Nokdu


Premiere Week Recap

Living in a secluded island, Nokdu only worries about petty things – like his marriage engagement to the young daughter of his martial arts teacher.

So, when a band of assassins wreak havoc wounding his brother and hurting his father, Nokdu ran after the escaping assassin to trace the lead villain who orchestrated the mysterious attack his family received.

While chasing after the limping assassin, he happens to be in the vicinity when a peasant challenged the King and his entourage. Receiving a stone throw, the King ordered the surrounding people to be questioned and imprisoned.

At the same time, Dong Joo, a gisaeng in training who went to Hanyang pretending to be a young master, peers with disdain at the sight of the King. Imagining an attack, her plan gets thwarted by Nokdu.

The two eventually land inside a prison as part of the crowd who caused disrespect towards the King. Wanting to escape the place, Dong Joo attempts to squeeze in her body, but gets trapped while doing so. Nokdu comes to her rescue after getting a force plea from her. Later at night, he even covers her with his robe when he senses her troubled sleep.

The Tale of Nokdu


Reunion at Widow’s Village

Nokdu’s teacher offers refuge to his hometown and they leave the island. Meanwhile, Nokdu settles to a village inhabited by widows to investigate the identity of the attackers. Soon enough, he stumbles on a clue that points to the mastermind.

It turns out that Nokdu’s father, Jung Yoon Jeo (Lee Sung Joon) has a past secret that led him to be in hiding with his two sons. He is apparently an old friend of King Gwanghae (Jung Joon Ho), who was declared dead and is a target of risky ploys by the King and his loyal retainers. Heo Yoon (Kim Tae Woo), a close friend of the King and Nokdu’s father, betrayed the King by not killing Yoon Jeo and lying that the King’s infant is dead.

Settled at the Widow’s village, Nokdu ends up sharing a room with Dong Joo. The latter does not recognize the young master she shared  a jail room before. Stubborn and feisty, she has gained an unrequited adoration with Cha Yul Moo (Kang Tae Oh), a son of a noble family.

Although at first bickering, the two develop furtive yet subconscious effort to help each other. When Nokdu realizes the ladies’ he is tracking are on a cryptic entourage at a nearby place, he follows but got found out. Chased by one of the lady assassins to the gisaeng house, Nokdu finds Dong Joon inside the dressing room.

The Tale of Nokdu


Nokdu’s Secret

Running out of a valid alibi, he tells her that he wants to cut her hair properly just as the assassin nears the room they were in. Nervous, Nokdu cuts her hair too short. Meanwhile, Heo Yoon meets the gisaeng house owner after receiving a news that a wanted man is in the place.

Noticing Nokdu’s growing stubble, Dong Joo reaches out to touch it. Evading her touch, Nokdu was pushed sprawled on the floor. When Dong Joo moves, she slips and leans her hand heavily on Nokdu’s crotch raising a painful and manly scream from him.

Feigning ignorance, Dong Joo already realizes he is not a woman. Dong Joo faces Nokdu ready to attack him with a pair of scissors.

Premiere Week Afterthoughts

What a spirited premiere! The Tale of Nokdu is sure reminiscent of the vibe of Love in the Moonlight, but the hinted fusion of historical elements, romance and humor appear to be more amusing.

I love the cross-dressing moments in The Tale of Nokdu. From their initial meeting, Dong Joo (Kim So Hyun) pretended as a man and met Nokdu (Jang Dong Yoon) in her male appearance. They meet again at Widow’s village and it was Nokdu disguised as a woman, but Dong Joo does not recognize him.

I can’t wait to see the aftermath of Dong Joo’s reaction as revealed in the waning seconds of the series. So far, the back stories presented for both characters yield interest, and so is the engaging pace of the narrative.

Since Just Dance, I have marked Jang Dong Yoon as one of the most promising young actors with a genuine flair for acting. Opposite talented actress Kim So Hyun, and with excellent support from Kang Tae Oh, this series might join my K-Drama favorites this year.

Definitely a must-watch weekly drama treat

Fawning on Nokdu as a man – and more so as a woman is inevitable. His interactions with Dong Joo seem to be drawing points of this series. Albeit receiving introductory ideas of its big picture, as well as, presenting staple historical drama elements; the humor and cheery moments of the premiere episodes sedate the expected heavy tones of the series. If it will be prolonged, then we will get a solid period series that would be worth following every week.

Expect political struggles and Royal family issues along the way. Adding to that, a love triangle is also in the horizon for the vivacious gisaeng trainee Dong Joo, Nokdu and Yul Moo.

The Tale of Nokdu airs on KBS2 TV every Monday and Tuesday.

Fans can watch it on VIU.

Image Credit: iMBC | KBS2 TV