Hilarious, ridiculous, and comically absurd, Royal Secret Agent is all kinds of funny. Set in the Joseon period, the story revolves around the King’s secret royal inspectors, who serve as his eyes and ears to listen to people’s cries for justice and punish corrupt officials. Kim Myung-soo (Welcome) takes on a new role as a civil officer-turned-secret agent while Kwon Na-ra (Itaewon Class) portrays a courtesan whose beauty is a deadly weapon. The first episode recorded a flat 5 percent TV ratings.
The good, the bad, and the royal secret agent
The first episode opens with a mysterious man pulling a wagon of chests filled with precious rocks from the minefield for a town official. While inspecting the gold stones, the mysterious man calls for an ambush and introduces himself as the Head of the Office of Special Advisors Park Cheol-gyu (Kim Seung-soo, Kingmaker: The Change of Destiny), who is also a royal secret agent of the King (Hwang Dong-joo, Liver or Die). As both parties clash, Cheol-gyu finds himself face to face with an equally skilled assassin and dies in the process.
Sung Yi-gyum has no luck in gambling
Kim Myung-soo’s character Sung Yi-gyum is smart and good at his job, and he even topped the civil worker exams. But his one flaw out of a long list is his addiction to gambling, although he sure has no luck on his side at all. He has the bearing of a Lord, an assistant advisor in the Office of Special Advisors, but his position sometimes get in the way of his perspectives. His one servant, Park Chun-sam (Lee Yi-kyung, Welcome to Waikiki 2), is his loyal lackey who may be small-minded but is willing to follow his master to the ends of the earth.
Hong Da-in is Joseon’s very own Cleopatra
Kwon Na-ra sure knows how to make an entrance with her character Hong Da-in. Clad in graceful hanbok as the courtesan Hong-lang, she becomes the epitome of every Joseon man’s fantasy, which explains why Yi-gyum became smitten the very first moment he laid his eyes on her. As Joseon’s version of Cleopatra, she can make men dance at the palm of her hands, including Yi-gyum, although she hates his guts so much. She is also a secret informant of the Chief Royal Secretary Jang Tae-sung (Ahn Nae-sang, Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol), one of the King’s loyal officers. She is then assigned to accompany Yi-gyum in his journey, which, I would assume, is the start of a nonstop bickering sessions and banters between the two characters.
When an agent falls, another rises
After the death of Park Cheol-gyu, the Palace court goes into session to abolish the system of the royal secret agents, which the King strongly defies. As Cheol-gyu dies with an unfinished mission, the search for a new agent begins. But this soon becomes a problem for Tae-sung, who is in charged of selecting the agents, as there are no more eligible men in Joseon befitting the qualities of the King’s most trusted soldiers. On one unfortunate night, he comes across Yi-gyum gambling and jails him. As punishment, Yi-gyum becomes a royal secret agent for the King.
A journey begins anew
To officially mark Yi-gyum as a royal secret agent, the King himself visits him in jail. Puzzled, Yi-gyum asks the King who he is. I swear I could hear the crickets in awkward silence. This will probably go down in sageuk history as one of the dumbest and funniest moments where an official does not recognize his King. I mentally slapped my head for the secondhand embarrassment I got from this scene alone.
Together with Chun-sam and Da-in, Yi-gyum sets off in his new journey as a royal secret agent, which will begin in the second episode. Quirky, entertaining, and at times, made-me-hold-my-breath-for-the-suspense-and-thrill, Royal Secret Agent is a rollercoaster ride of emotions that leans more on the comedic side, especially with Yi-gyum’s overbearing but harmless personality. I am looking forward to all the laughs from this trio—Joseon’s peculiar investigative team.