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Arthdal Chronicles: Why is Song Joong-Ki’s comeback K-Drama touted as similar to Game of Thrones not living up to expectations?

Arthdal Chronicles
Song Joong-Ki, Jang Dong-Gun, and Kim Ji-Won star in the most expensive K-drama production ever made Arthdal Chronicles. Pic credit: Total Variety Network (tvN)

The second part of Arthdal Chronicles recently concluded. Despite all the hype, it didn’t live up to the expectations fans had for it.

The writing was on the wall that Arthdal Chronicles was going to underperform right after the premiere episode.

According to viewership ratings provided by both AGN Nielsen Korea and TNmS Media Korea, the first episode earned high single-digit viewership ratings for both the nation and Seoul.

Generally, this would be good news, but given how much money the studio pumped into the series — the most expensive K-drama production in history — some expected viewership ratings similar to Goblin or Reply 1988.

As a result, the stock for Studio Dragon, the production company behind Arthdal Chronicles, drastically dropped. This drop in the stock price happened right after the first episode aired.

As mentioned earlier, Arthdal Chronicles just finished its second part, but its viewership ratings never improved. The second part of the series had an episode that earned its lowest viewership rating yet at 5.767 percent for the nation.

Not one nationwide rating has been over seven percent.

The question is what happened to Arthdal Chronicles that caused it not to perform to expectations? What are the reasons it is not succeeding despite its high production costs and star power?

Below are some of the reasons we believe that Arthdal Chronicles did not meet expectations.

It is hyped as Game of Thrones when it is not!

A big reason why Arthdal Chronicles isn’t doing well can stem from comparisons to the American series Game of Thrones. Without getting into details about Game of Thrones, it is best to say Arthdal Chronicles is nowhere near Game of Thrones.

What makes Game of Thrones so good is not the raunchiness and violence, but the writing itself. We have George R.R. Martin to thank for that as Game of Thrones is based on his novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire.

His novels are genuine, smart, and compel readers to enjoy a story with a detailed and intricate plot featuring multidimensional characters they truly love or hate. Sadly, Arthdal Chronicles lacks that.

Characters are one-dimensional

In A Song of Ice and Fire, all the characters — whether protagonist or antagonist — are multidimensional. Not one person is purely good or purely evil.

In Arthdal Chronicles, it is way too easy to see which characters fit in either category. True, they may make a decision that might go against their overall personality, but it isn’t a life-changing decision.

The story is too simple

In A Song of Ice and Fire, numerous stories are going on that may be linked to each other somewhere down the line, but overall they are their own enclosed stories. This tactic helps fans keep up with the massive array of characters George R.R. Martin has created.

In Arthdal Chronicles, everything seems to work directly off the main plot centered on the character Tagon or dealing with the politics of Arthdal.

There should be a personal growth story, a preparing for political debate story, and many others that don’t have to rely solely on the main story.

Were Koreans even interested in Game of Thrones?

As mentioned earlier, the studio touted Arthdal Chronicles as the Korean version of Game of Thrones.

But how popular is Game of Thrones in South Korea?

According to numerous people on discussion forums at Korean news sites, the following for Game of Thrones in South Korea is very niche.

One forum member said that out of 25 students in his class, only three watched and are interested.

While Arthdal Chronicles claims to be the Korean Game of Thrones, it might be that many K-drama fans in Korea are not knowledgable about it. As a result, advertising and hype-building might not appeal to Koreans.

Arthdal Chronicles has one more part to air before it ends. We might see some improvement among fans in this third part simply because the plot comes together for a grand conclusion.

The series airs on the Total Variety Network (tvN) on Saturdays and Sundays at 9 p.m. KST. For those who don’t have access to Korean networks, especially those in the Americas, it is available through the streaming service Netflix.


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