Hi! It’s Annie!
I’m going to be honest, watching this show was a complete spur of the moment decision. When watching other K-dramas this one aways seemed to come up as suggested on Netflix afterwards. Of course, seeing it in my suggested that many times made me curious; but at the same time, this show was advertised as a reverse harem which is not necessarily in my wheelhouse. But after a quick search after I decided I didn’t want to leave romance drama world just yet, I thought the reviews made it look appealing enough and just took the chance. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show, ‘Cinderella and the Four Knights’ is about Eun Hawon, a girl who lives with her cruel stepmother and stepsister and works several jobs. After she accidentally becomes wrapped up in the lives of the grandsons of an incredibly wealthy man, he tasks her to live at the esteemed Hanuel House with his wealthy grandsons and teach them some manners. The only rule; no dating. Obviously. There will be SPOILERS ahead, so tread with caution if that sounded interesting to you. If you want to know my recommendation before reading further, I would say that unless that description truly grabbed you, this one is pretty skippable. Anyways, let’s get on to the review!
The Female Lead- Yes, I actually really did like the lead in this one. Firstly, the actress who plays Hawon is best known for her role in ‘Parasite’. So, of course, she’s an amazing actress. Every scene with this character felt believable. I think one of the things I liked most about her was her unfailing ability to hold her own. Whenever one of the grandsons did something she didn’t like, she was quick to make her discomfort known and also twisted a few arms. There was one moment where she had to be saved, but at the time she was being pinned down by several people so at least it was understandable and consistent with her shown abilities. But, in the nature of Cinderella, she is an eternal optimist and bases most of her decisions off of the kindest and most moral thing she can do in that situation. She doesn’t always make the right choice, but it’s always believable and understandable when she doesn’t and it’s nice to see a flawed character.
The Male Lead- Yes! Both the female and male leads were good in this! Jiwoon is a character that you feel for from the very beginning because of the circumstances of him getting rich. He suddenly finds out towards the beginning of the show that he is a part of a rich family who cast out his mother and suddenly want to reconnect with him. When he tries to refuse, for obvious reasons, his grandfather destroys his life bit by bit until he agrees to live at the Hanuel House. Because of this we actually have a character with a believable reason to brood! And he’s not always brooding either; though he acts very negatively towards his situation, he is always kind and even friendly to those who he doesn’t view as responsible for the pain he and his mother were put through. He is also not creepy at all and is just a very genuine guy when it comes to the relationship in this. Also, Jung Ilwoo is an amazing actor, but I think we all knew this too.
Reverse Harem- You probably weren’t expecting me to put this here, but I had to simply because this show doesn’t actually feel like a reverse harem. I know this may take away some of the intrigue for people who really like that kind of show, and there is nothing wrong with that! But because of my personal opinion, I liked that this show didn’t really run with the motive to make it like that. Of the four “knights”, only three of them are actually shown to have feelings for her. Hyunmin has feelings for Hawon at the very beginning of the show, but we quickly learn that he’s projecting his suppressed feelings for someone else onto her. He gets over this pretty quickly. Then there’s Seowoo, a pure innocent bean who just has the purest of crushes on her. And even though his feelings are genuine (he even writes a song), he also becomes aware pretty quickly that his feelings are unrequited. Hawon only ever has feelings for Jiwoon and that’s the only romantic relationship that is truly developed regarding Hawon. This also gives them much more time to develop this relationship into something believable.
The Romance- I had my issues, but they were always so cute together. This show makes sure that there’s just as much footage of them being goofy and laughing together as there is of anything else. Though they do break up a couple times, like most couples do in dramas, there’s always some sort of understandable reason that doesn’t involve them blowing up on each other over a misunderstanding. They even tease each other for being jealous rather than take a misunderstanding too seriously. They seem to trust each other as partners in the relationship, which is nice. Also, the kissing in this show didn’t look like a hostage situation! Yay!
One Sub-Plot Romance- Once again, I find myself liking only one of two sub-plot romances. I feel like this happens to me a lot when I’m watching dramas and I’m really not sure why. But this one was probably the least developed and I still found it adorable. Seowoo, the pure singer bean, is one of the most supportive characters in the series and it would have broken my heart to see him left with nothing but unrequited love at the end. Fortunately, Hawon’s best friend Jayeong is a fan of Seowoo, as he is an international pop sensation, and is always there to lend a helping hand when he needs one. Watching them together is adorable because there are several times in the series when Seowoo is down because of his feelings for Hawon, and Jayeong always makes it her mission to make him smile. I only wish we would have gotten more of this.
The Wake Up Calls:
The Romance- Yep, this is here too. As cute as this was sometimes, there were also some issues with the relationship between Hawon and Jiwoon. Firstly, there are several times where Hawon talks to Jiwoon about how much her mother’s death has effected her and he often responds with talking about his own experiences; but the dialogue is not natural in these scenes. So much so that it begins to feel like Jiwoon is trying to point out how much harder his situation is than Hawon’s, which I know isn’t the intention for most of these scenes. I also have an issue with so many dramas feeling like the characters need to have a further connection and then just randomly write in that the characters met once when they were children. They don’t need to know each other their entire lives to be a good couple. As long as they’re a good couple now, you don’t need to convince the audience that there’s more reasons for them to be together. It just makes the entire romance feel more cheesy and unrealistic. There also was the fact that after the huge buildup of them getting together, their relationship moved at the speed of light. I would have liked to see more of them getting to know each other and just enjoying themselves as a couple.
Sub-Plot Romance- The second sub-plot romance is between Hyunmin and Hyeji, another couple who have known each other since they were kids. The problem here was that I wasn’t a huge fan of either character. Hyunmin spent most of the series incredibly self involved with little character development. I actually found it so disappointing where the series ended with him, because I was just beginning to like him when the show ended. He was just starting to get character development! Hyeji was a character that I never liked. She was pretty manipulative from the start and often used Jiwoon’s early feelings for her in order to get closer to Hyunmin. There was even a point in time where she asked Jiwoon out right in front of Hyunmin to send Hyunmin a message. There was never a thought spared to how Jiwoon would feel in that situation. Also, Hyunmin’s change of ways isn’t explored in depth. It feels like it kind of just happens. It didn’t help that it felt like there wasn’t much chemistry here. This one didn’t work for me.
The Other Characters- The way this show treats some of the side characters is really inconsistent. The fourth “knight”, who is more of a bodyguard, is not a fully explored character and never seems to have a fully consistent personality. Though the show advertises him as part of the love plot line, that is not his purpose at all. Often it felt like his presence was completely unneeded. Even in the ending episode it depicts the three couples going on a picnic and him somewhere in the back third wheeling. Can you imagine third wheeling three couples? This poor guy. After the first couple episodes, Hawon’s stepmother and stepsister disappear from a lot of the show as well. Whenever they would show up again, my sister and I would look incredulously at each other and talk about how we forgot they were even characters in the show. Just figure that if the character isn’t part of one of the three romance plots, they probably aren’t developed or important aside from being a plot device. Except for the maid. She was amazing.
Cinderella- There are enough Cinderella references that you can see why the show is titled in the way that it is, but there are several times where the writers seem to feel that the audience isn’t getting it. Sometimes there are random Cinderella references that don’t make too much sense. I think they should have left it at the title and stopped trying to shove in more references.
The Hospital- I just have to say this because it really bugged me. What kind of shady hospital would do a life threatening surgery on a patient just because they insisted? I don’t think any hospital has ever allowed a perfectly healthy patient to give their liver to an unhealthy one with a surgery that has a high chance of killing them. What kind of shady hospital is this? Sorry, rant over.
The Pacing- I really think my biggest gripe with this show is that it moved so slowly. It felt like there were several filler episodes and then every once in a while you would get an episode where everything happened in it. It made the show feel much longer and sometimes even boring.
The Ending- This ending went out of it’s way to redeem every single character in the show for some reason. There’s such a thing as ending a show too perfectly, and the fact that every character (including the stepmother and stepsister) were just somehow nice at the end for no reason made the ending feel a bit cheap and unearned. Especially because the point here was to redeem them as quickly as possible rather than building up to their redemption. There was no build up, it just happened for the sake of a “perfect” ending. I love happy endings don’t get me wrong, but they are much more satisfying when they feel earned.
So, my verdict here is that there are much better shows to watch. I found myself bored through much of this show and stuck in character development no-man’s-land for almost all of the side plots. Some of the scenes with the main couple were cute and the actors were great, but in the end I really don’t think it was enough to save this show. Especially because there were chemistry problems between some of the actors. For it only being sixteen episodes, it feels like it took me forever to finish it. Which is definitely not a good sign considering how quickly I watched forty nine episodes of ‘Meteor Garden’ recently. There’s nothing super good or super bad I can say about this show. I just think it falls in the category of forgettable. But watching this show also made me realize how much I actually enjoyed watching ‘Boys Over Flowers’. The more time passes by, the more I think I underestimated that show.
See you across the pond!