[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 39-40 Final 2017/07/13,
Because Prince Seon and his allies were completely incompetent at trying to solve the poison issue on their own, Hwa-goon's dad pops out of nowhere and just gives them the formula for the antidote on one condition. It should come as little surprise that even in his final dramatic victorious moment, Prince Seon manages to find a way to screw things up in this regard. No matter how simple the task, Prince Seon is just not up to the job,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" 37-38 2017/07/12,
I knew from the last cliffhanger that the final stretch "Ruler: Master of the Mask" was going to be irredeemably stupid. So when Prince Seon and the other Seon have to go into this really complicated stretch of rules lawyering to suss out who the real king is supposed to be I wasn't surprised. Nor was I particularly angry. Mostly I just felt sort of downtrodden, that a political culture complicated enough to require several dozen ministers has no legal culture to determine royal legitimacy,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 35-36 2017/07/06,
As expected, Prince Seon's plan to stop Dae-mok is less than inspiring. First he has to spend a lot of time running around trying to convince other characters to help him, while Dae-mok has the much simpler plan of just having the other Seon take the mask off. Incidentally, Dae-mok is awfully satisfied with his own brilliance, considering how much of his infrastructure Hwa-goon destroyed simply by starting a fire,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 33-34 2017/07/05,
Prince Seon has finally achieved a goal in that he has destroyed Dae-mok's slave labor / poison production / prison / mass grave facility. Well, technically Hwa-goon destroyed it, Prince Seon just released the slaves. Another task where he was failing before Hwa-goon showed up. Alas, by assisting Prince Seon in such an explicit manner, Hwa-goon has finally crossed the line from ambiguity to Dae-mok's clear enemy. And in a Prince Seon inspired moment of incompetence, she makes no effort to escape before Dae-mok shows up,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 31-32 2017/06/29,
The opening scene of episode thirty-one features characters musing about how Prince Seon was their one great hope, and how dare anyone besmirch the man's good name. How or why Prince Seon is supposed to be the platonic ideal of a good monarch has never been clear to me, considering how the man fails at nearly every task he attempts, no matter how basic. And as if to emphasize this point, we cut from that to Prince Seon lying not quite dead in the middle of nowhere,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 29-30 2017/06/28,
So apparently Hwa-goon's bodyguard Gon (played by Kim Seo-kyung) isn't actually dead. I assumed that he was, considering that the last time we saw him the man had collapsed in a bloody unmoving slump on the floor. But ah, this is "Ruler: Master of the Mask" with characters so tough they won't die even if you kill them..! Actually no, it's just that the only way the production team knows how to produce an emotional reaction is through cheap kills, which inevitably have to be reversed since characters have to be alive in order for the plot to move forward,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 27-28 2017/06/22,
A lot of my confusion with "Ruler: Master of the Mask" comes from how I keep assuming stuff is happening off-screen. I thought, maybe during one of those romantic backdrops, that Ga-eun learned of Prince Seon's true identity. Literally every other single character in the drama already knows by now. But apparently not. I also figured that the other Seon had already drank the antidote on account of how he's not visibly sick anymore. Again, apparently not,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 25-26 2017/06/21,
In a peculiar plot twist, it turns out that Queen Mother Joongjeon is not, in fact, completely crazy, and there was an actual coherent plan behind last episode's mass poisoning. Although even after the specifics are explained the plan still doesn't make very much sense. Why, it's almost as if the mass poisoning was a screenwriting device specifically contrived to end episode twenty-four on a shocking cliffhanger,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 23-24 2017/06/15,
When Queen Mother Joongjeon's true role in the overall plot was revealed last episode, I was hoping that we would see some guiding principles toward a long term goal. Instead, Queen Mother Joongjeon's schemes become increasingly bizarre. Even Dae-mok is standing off at the sidelines, a little bewildered but ultimately fairly indifferent as to her actions. There's no obvious way anything Queen Mother Joongjeon is doing could hurt Dae-mok, after all,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 21-22 2017/06/14,
The entirity of episode twenty-one consists of a stupid plan that once again manages to throw Prince Seon into mortal danger while his allies are none the wiser. This storyline does, sort of, achieve its purpose of making Ga-eun do something helpful for once. Although really, I'd have been a lot more impressed if she had sniffed out the plot and taken action before the absolute last minute. Aside from the general incomprehensibility of the scheme, Ga-eun was in a perfect position to see what was going on,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 19-20 2017/06/08,
This time around the genre roulette falls on palace intrigue. Unfortunately this is a bad genre to focus on temporarily, because palace intrigues are only interesting as a slow burn, watching various characters come up with complicated plots to humiliate each other. Here, no character has a clearly enough defined goal for their role in the palace intrigue to be terribly interesting. At one point derisive laughter substitutes for the far more satisfying subtle humiliation that really makes a palace intrigue stand out,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 17-18 2017/06/07,
So apparently Hwa-goon has been on the outs with Dae-mok for the past five years. But to save Prince Seon, Hwa-goon is willing to make the sneaky sacrifice of joining Dae-mok's cult. This is why I like Hwa-goon. She's smart. The real reason Hwa-goon wants back into the organization is to protect Prince Seon from the inside, but phrased this way, Dae-mok is led to believe that this is actually a compromise on her part, and remains unaware of Hwa-goon's bigger plan,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 15-16 2017/06/01,
Through a complicated bit of sleight of hand, Prince Seon and friends manage to achieve an important victory over Dae-mok. Because they got his...stuff, that Dae-mok was going to use to do...things. Normally I try not to overthink inherently meaningless MacGuffin devices, but the stakes in "Ruler: Master of the Mask" are so poorly defined I can only even figure out that Prince Seon's team won because of their smug victory expressions,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 13-14 2017/05/31,
It took me a minute to remember why, exactly, Prince Seon and Hwa-goon were skulking about in the middle of the night trying to steal something. That's because this whole subplot is nestled inside another subplot, the one about the merchant expedition, and even that quickly manages to turn into another subplot as Cheong-eun runs into Moo-ha (played by Bae Yoo-ram), an old ally with an exceptionally good memory. A pity that's about his only useful skill,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 11-12 2017/05/25,
The opening swordfight gives the impression that "Ruler: Master of the Mask" has decided to be an action swashbuckler about Prince Seon fighting for justice against a corrupt regime. Instead, we get a story arc about international trade with Japan. When I saw that Prince Seon had a whole gang of confederates I was sure he was going to, I don't know, steal the tax money or something. But no, he just approaches Hwa-goon to ask for a loan,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 9-10 2017/05/24,
I used to think that Dae-mok was smart, but his plan for maintaining power after murdering the royal family is...disappointing. And also accidentally hilarious. The other Seon does not look, sound, or act like the real Prince Seon. He couldn't fool Dae-mok for a single scene even when the unexpected help of a false witness. Yet apparently, the other Seon is now the lynchpin upon which all of Dae-mok's evil schemes rest,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 5-6 2017/05/17,
Cheong-eun (played by Shin Hyun-soo) is, to date, the only ally Prince Seon has with any appreciable combat skills. This is put to use immediately, as Cheong-eun has to help Prince Seon fight his way out of last episode's cliffhanger. The ensuing chase, while not making the best logistical sense is very tense and action-packed. The real shocker, though, is how a confrontation between the King's men and an organized crime gang ends with King Yoon telling his own people to back off,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 3-4 2017/05/11,
Ga-eun (played by Kim So-hyun) is the young woman who kept getting all those dramatic camera shots in the second episode, even though at the time we had no idea who she was. Here, we quickly discover that Ga-eun is a kind woman, who assumes on general principle that anybody being chased after by armed men is probably innocent. This turns out to be a pretty reasonable assumption considering that by the end of the fourth episode...alas, the other Seon (played by L) is not so lucky as the handsome prince who shares his moniker,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 1-2 2017/05/10,
Dae-mok (played by Heo Joon-ho) is the grand wizard of a massive conspiracy. Dae-mok is not literally a wizard, he just seems like one because of his mastery of spooky hallucinogens and a massive spy network capable of making these creepy physical effects pop up out of nowhere. So when Yoon (played by Kim Myung-soo) makes a deal with Dae-mok to become King, out of sheer paranoia, Yoon ends up forcing his son Seon (played by Yoo Seung-ho) to wear a mask, murdering anyone who sees Seon's face. Then Dae-mok's granddaughter Hwa-goon (played by Yoon So-hee) enters the picture and-,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Three Color Fantasy - Queen of the Ring" Episodes 5-6 2017/03/23,
Now that the magical powers of the ring have been exposed, Nan-hee can not in good conscience use it anymore. Even so, she rather inevitably has to give it a final go if only to give Se-geon the special present she ordered, and then just do her best to drop out of Se-geon's life for good. Predictably this does not go as planned, and the fifth episode closes out rather ominously with a major confrontation between the four main characters over what, in truth, attractiveness really is,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Three Color Fantasy - Queen of the Ring" Episodes 1-2 2017/03/09,
Nan-hee (played by Kim Seul-gi) is a college student with a problem. She's unattractive. By which I mean, she is not a tall model, which is a kind of arbitrary standard. Nan-hee has a great personality after all. No really, she's quite feisty and driven to succeed. It's just, her only apparent goal at the moment is to be conventionally attractive. But as it happens, Nan-hee's mother Je-hwa (played by Hwang Jung-min-I) is in possession of a magical ring that can enchant a single man into thinking she's the most beautiful woman in the world,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Door" Episode 18 2014/11/27,
This episode was a little awkward, but it was full of wonderful stuff all the same. The episodic format of the plot is working for now. It gives episode long examples of how hard Seon tries to do right by his people and change the system, and how mightily the system fights back. Yoon So-hee continues to be as effective as a piece of corrugated cardboard while Kim Min-jong finally gets to step up and really add to the plot texture. The greatest thing about Seon is that he has the innate ability to sweep others up in his passion, including those who are against him, like his father,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Door" Episode 15 2014/11/14,
Seon is back in the political arena with plans to change Joseon for the better. But those he faces are ready for him and they are much more experienced. Another formerly friendly face has now turned into that of an enemy and now the prince has fewer true allies than ever before. It's an engaging episode that mimics the fast-paced rhythm of the very first episode. It shoves us into the scary world of politics along with Seon who really doesn't know what hit him. While Seon is very clever and he is well-prepared, Minister Kim has the advantage of experience and no moral shackles,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Door" Episode 14 2014/11/14,
The inevitable time jump has happened and it has brought about some interesting changes for our Prince, his goals, and the king's desperate desire to keep his crown. Since the political slaughter and the revocation of the prince's governing powers, Seon has become more keen, more determined, and more wily. This change is mirrored in everyone, the sad effect of tragedy. The most interest change is in Seon,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 16 Final 2014/03/13,
The drama dedicates most of its energy this time to resolving the crisis with Jin-hee- which isn't really that much of a crisis so the seriousness is a bit off-putting. It would seem that for all the hullabaloo about the danger posed, there's not really much here that's terribly interesting. Waiting for this plot point to resolve is rather tiring, even if at this point it's the only thing that could reasonably be called a narrative direction anymore.
Then that's all settled with and "Let's Eat" moves in to what has to be the most extended epilogue I've ever seen,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 15 2014/03/06,
Well, the question of the point this drama has been getting at has been clearly resolved. Within the first few minutes of this episode the ending is more or less clearly established. I mean, it's possible that writer Lim Soo-mi will pull another screwball out at that last minute, but I kind of doubt it. The big strength of "Let's Eat" has always been its ability to mess around with us in the moment, not get overly witty with the overall narrative thrust.
And there are definitely some good moments here. There's the brief but memorable evil team-up, which looks so outrageously staged I'm surprised Soo-kyeong even falls for it,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 14 2014/02/27,
There's a sudden tonal shift in the first segment of this episode, as "Let's Eat" tries to be something akin to a horror story. It feels a bit weird, considering that for the most part this drama is a comedy so to all of a sudden have characters in serious physical danger is, well, a little off-putting. Don't we get enough paranoia in the actual scary shows? Especially since that guy's crazy face is just plain frightening, especially if the lights are out.
Then we get to the punchline. Yes, there is somehow a punchline that turns all of those preceding events into a comedic farce,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 13 2014/02/20,
I don't know how this drama is able to do such a good job consistently escalating awkward situations. Oh wait yes I do. Since when has anything become less awkward after a love confession? Sure there's the big romantic scene, the adulation, the culmination of a dozen episodes worth of sexual tension- but that stuff's not real. It's a desperately wishful fantasy. Thank you "Let's Eat" for crushing my spirits, giving a hard reminder of why people avoid making love confessions in the first place.
There's gotta be something else here to hook on to,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 12 2014/02/13,
Somehow I had failed to notice that Valentine's Day was this week. Thank goodness "Let's Eat" was here to remind me of all those wonderful emotions we associate with Valentine's Day. Like, the fear of rejection, the sense of crippling loneliness, the realization that you're going to have hurt peoples' feelings or everything is just going to continue to be weird and awkward. Oh wait, love? Valentine's Day is supposed to be about love? Gee, could have fooled me.
There's a real dark touch to this episode. At first I was kind of annoyed because Jin-I and Do-yeon are still engaging in their game of petty romantic one-upsmanship, but it quickly became clear that was the point,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 11 2014/02/06,
At the beginning of this episode we almost instantaneously get the idea that Soo-kyeong is a changed woman. She's just so bright and happy and cheerful and why is she wearing that ribbon in her hair she's not a child. And this is immediately questioned as being a bad thing. I love the sheer agitation in Soo-kyeong's attitude when the possibility that she's romantically interested in Dae-yeong is brought up.
I also love that the drama actually goes to the trouble of addressing this point, to the extent that Soo-kyeong is worried about what she has become,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 10 2014/01/30,
This drama is hitting the perfect blend of comedy, forward progress, and effective characterization. "Let's Eat" also benefits a lot from just being so self-aware. Note how Dae-yeong goes into one of his ridiculous food speeches on a regular predictable basis. This time he does one on a topic only tangentially related to food. And the other characters have started to notice when he's about to get into speech mode and react accordingly.
The music deserves special mention. It really sells the food porn- makes it seem somehow majestic and noble when in reality I just remind myself- this is food. It's not that amazing,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 9 2014/01/23,
Like the title card says, this episode is all about Soo-kyeong's mother. On a basic level we're just taking a look into Soo-kyeong's psyche. A lot of the habits that we've seen so far as being quintessentially Soo-kyeong appear to be inherited. Soo-kyeong's mother is similarly hostile to the people around her, interpreting mild irrelevant actions as enmity. So naturally she responds in kind.
This creates an interesting dynamic with Soo-kyeong, as she appears to simultaneously be emulating and rebelling against her mother by refusing to emphasize the things in life that mom thinks are important,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 8 2014/01/16,
Hak-Moon seems to be on a mission to do everything possible to sabotage any hope he has of ever scoring a relationship with Soo-Kyeong. It's hard to make any other sense of his actions. Yeah, you saw her a couple of times with this other guy. But she's not going to like him less or you more because of an increase in stressful aggrandizing behavior in her life. Does this guy even have a plan?
Well of course not. That's because Hak-Moon's kind of dumb. Most people are, honestly, which is a big part of how the humor in "Let's Eat" is able to ring so true,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 7 2014/01/09,
This episode answers the essential question- what exactly does Soo-Kyeong's life look like without the influence of Dae-Yeong? The answer...pretty pointless actually. As usual, she's stressed out and resorts to angry munching to vent out her stress. But in terms of the actual good stuff, the actual good food, it turns out that making bad with Dae-Young has substantially limited her access to it. Soo-Kyeong knows she's messed up- if not on the empathetic level, then certainly in terms of direct benefit.
The other people in her life make a poor substitute for a quality meal. We start out with Hak-Moon trying to pull off a Pretty Woman montage,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 6 2014/01/02,
Soo-Kyeong discovers an essential bit of information that puts Dae-Young's entire character into question, and the rather unconvincing way he addresses her complaints only seems to bring credence to the idea that he is, in fact, that guy who keeps running around smacking women on the head. This isn't something she just sits on either- Soo-Kyeong makes a direct effort to find the truth when she finds Dae-Young's response lacking.
And then...the drama just sort of subtly points out that maybe Dae-Young isn't a violent thug,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 5 2013/12/26,
I'm beginning to get impatient with the lack of progress in the actual storyline. For the most part "Let's Eat" continues to ride on its strengths. If you were hoping for more food porn this time around, don't worry, that shows up pretty much immediately. Jin-I appears to have discovered the secret that will make Soo-Kyeong do basically anything- just present the woman with food and she almost immediately starts salivating.
The trouble is that we already knew all this already. The episode writ-large just retreads the same basic jokes and set-ups of character-based humor,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 4 2013/12/19,
There's pretty much no plot progress this episode. Everything that could possibly shed some light on what the deal is with Dae-Yeong playing the knockout game ends up turning into a false start. The lack of progress on this front is a bit annoying, since it's the closest "Let's Eat" has to an actual plotline. Everything else is, for the most part, just character-based jokes along the same lines we've already seen.
We do get some relevant backstory about the history of Hak-Moon's interactions with Soo-Kyeong. I'm kind of amazed that he's known her for this long and yet still hasn't grasped the fact that she will do basically anything for food,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 3 2013/12/12,
I really like the attitude this drama takes toward Soo-Kyeong's misanthropic demeanor. A more typical narrative would be about Soo-Kyeong learning the joys of friendship. And sure, we get the occasional moment where she's glad to have met certain people in her life. But for the most part, Soo-Kyeong's interactions justify her attitude. It seems like Soo-Kyeong can hardly go a minute in her moments relaxing alone before some people-related crisis comes in and disrupts everything.
It was only this episode that I realized that co-worker Hak-Moon (played by Sim Hyeong-tak) is actually supposed to be a potential love interest. That's how effective "Let's Eat" is at portraying events from Soo-Kyeong's point of view,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 2 2013/12/05,
We still seem to be in the process of getting to know the characters, so not too much exciting happens over the course of this episode. Soo-Kyeong has a dog that seems to be a lot more trouble than it's worth, managing to find ways to start trouble if Soo-Kyeong turns her back for even a minute. Jin-I (played by Yoon So-hee) is continuously bright, bubbly, and naive. To some people that might be cute, but it's easy to see why Soo-Kyeong is rather wary of her new neighbor. And Dae-Yeong (played by Yoo Doo-Joon) is possibly an axe murderer.
I'm getting the impression that this last bit is the twist that's supposed to make the context of this drama, because this part of his characterization is just so bizarrely out of nowhere that it's actually pretty easy to understand why no red flags are running up for Soo-Kyeong and Jin-I,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Let's Eat" Episode 1 2013/11/28,
The first important thing to know about this drama is that there's a lot of food porn. I was confused when it started because I thought I was watching a coffee commercial. Then actual characters show up. People who do not seem to actually like other people very much, but looove food. Lee Soo-kyung (played by...Lee Soo-kyung?) seems to have little interest in men except as a vehicle to gain better social access to better quality food.
Soo-Kyeong isn't exactly the most sympathetic woman. Her social life is low quality, but the main culprit for it seems to be her own bad attitude, as well as the fact that she clearly likes food more than she does people,...More
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