In a nutshell: I weep for what could have been. Time-travel, mystic warriors, ancient kingdoms on the brink of destruction… this should have been all kinds of awesome. The expectations were huge because the writer and director* had created epics before. Epics that are still on drama-fans required watching lists. And then… something… just… fizzled. Eh, I shouldn’t say “something”; it was the directing. The directing was so bad even I noticed it. Which made the good acting and solid storyline almost painful. If only they’d had a competent captain, this drama could have easily sailed into drama-of-the-year lists. Instead it’s a warning. This is what happens when your director is the weak link.
So, how bad was bad? Emotional moments were swallowed up by too large screenshots or bad angles. Comedy bits occurred so far in the background you had to be looking for them to find them. Fight scenes were so badly edited they were either boring, or worse, embarrassing. There were times I was confused about where a person was or what door they should be coming in because of the way the continuity was shot. Gorgeous music abruptly stopped as we transitioned from one scene to another. And cool mystical stuff looked plain silly. (Which is always the danger of sci-fi or fantasy elements and why actors need directors they can trust.)
It must have been hugely frustrating to the actors to put in an emotional scene or do a quiet bit of subtle acting and see it get stymied by the directing. And it must have been frustrating for the writer to see her story not get told — not the way she meant, anyway. Especially since this sort of story-telling is so communal. I’m sure the writer is used to working with the director to flesh things out as they go, maybe bringing a slight change of focus as the actors settle into their roles. But I doubt that could have happened here. (I’m totally guessing, of course — I’ve not heard of any set-scandals. Yet.)
So, how good was good? That the show kept on in spite of everything, that the actors still committed to their roles, is part of what kept me watching. I felt like I couldn’t abandon them, weird as that might sound. Plus, with all that, the story was still interesting. I came to care for the characters and wanted to see them find their feet. I loved the way time-travel was handled and how our protagonist dealt with getting thrown into this bizarre world she had only a fuzzy sense of. (That she wasn’t a history expert was kind of awesome. Being from the future didn’t give her tons of manipulation room as is usually the trope.)
So I don’t really regret finishing the drama, but I wouldn’t recommend it, unfortunately. (And I’m a fan of Lee Min-ho, so that’s big words coming from me.)
*A theory I saw floated on Dramabeans is that the talented director took a backseat to a newbie director for reasons unknown. The sheer lack of talent shown (I mean, beyond lazy and into just plain wrong) makes this theory really, really viable in my book. (That, and DramaWiki listing a second director without a single credit to their name.)