Edited by Seo Hae Lan
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
Recently, the trailer for the drama The Matchmakers garnered attention, particularly among people interested in traditional attire, praising the accuracy and beauty of the costumes featured. The screen grabs with detailed explanations of high-quality gats (traditional hats men wore), pink official robes, and hanboks made with fine silk using the traditional “flat cutting” method sparked widespread interest. The Matchmakers is a fusion historical drama that portrays the comedic efforts of a widowed man and a widowed woman teaming up to pair up those who haven’t married yet. The show, with its cute yet not-too-light storyline, distinct characters, and solid structure, offers a refreshing take on the genre.
Sim Jeong Woo (played by Rowoon), a top scholar, becomes a widower on his wedding day with a princess. But because of the restrictions on government services and remarriage for royal in-laws, he has no choice but to lead a life of solitary leisure. The king, sympathizing with Jeong Woo’s continuous pleas, tasks him with arranging marriages for the three daughters of the Maeng family, the three renowned spinsters, in exchange for nullifying his marriage. To succeed, Jeong Woo enlists the city’s most capable matchmaker. And this matchmaker is none other than Jeong Soon Deok (Cho Yi Hyun), the daughter-in-law of the first vice-premier, secretly working as a matchmaker. The unlikely duo, a frustrated royal son-in-law and a double-life-leading widow, combine forces for this matrimonial mission, but their plans and hearts seem to have other ideas.
The Matchmakers centers around the marital chaos involving Maeng’s three spinsters. Through Jeong Woo and Soon Deok, It explores the encounters and love of men and women seeking their “second fate” in a strict Confucian society of the Joseon era. The unfolding romances of the Maeng sisters, not going as planned by the two matchmakers, add an interesting twist. The narrative shows a good balance of romance and comedy, yet it’s not light or superficial. The reasons behind Jeong Woo and Soon Deok’s “marriage battle” are clear, reflecting the era’s emphasis on propriety and rationality. However, the strict social norms force them to suppress their feelings, setting the stage for a poignant romance fraught with challenges.
The charm of The Matchmakers lies in its well-defined characters. This doesn’t just refer to Jeong Woo, who’s smart but clumsy, or Soon Deok, who leads a secret double life. There are more than 40 characters introduced on the drama’s official website, and there are nearly 30 key characters every episode, yet their distinct traits make them instantly recognizable. Short interviews at the beginning of each episode help viewers understand the characters better. The characters are designed with distinctive traits, making it easy to remember them, even when they appear en masse. This enables viewers to follow the story effortlessly, and the character-driven plot and occasional twists add significant enjoyment.
What sets the drama apart, especially from other fusion historical dramas, are its visual elements, like costumes and makeup. The fit and silhouette of the “non-fusion” hanboks, rarely seen in recent Korean historical dramas, leave a strong impression even on viewers unfamiliar with fashion. The “young royal” fashion of Jeong Woo and the “noble lady” looks of Soon Deok highlight the beauty of hanbok and traditional attire. The direction and cinematography deserve attention too, with charming scenes like the aerial shot of Soon Deok during the first snowfall and the crowd circling around the two stone towers. These elements add depth to the story without feeling out of place.
Frankly, the show has been more entertaining than expected right from the first episode, making the current ratings the most disappointing aspect. It’s so adorable that I find myself wanting to spread the word, thinking, “‘I can’t be the only one enjoying this cuteness.” Curiosity abounds about how the story will unfold. Will their mission to marry off the Maeng sisters succeed? What will become of Jeong Woo and Soon Deok’s future as they fall for each other? As a viewer who has invested love and time in their love story, I eagerly anticipate a satisfying conclusion to their romance that seems impossible in a strict Confucian society. (7/10)
Editor Seo Hae Lan: I’m not picky and like all genres. I am in constant search of a balance between criticism and a fan’s heart.