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.
That's what Hwa-goon has been up to the last five years. She's a merchant now. It's unclear whether she still works with Dae-mok. My guess is not, because her idea to become the Queen is a lot more viable now that Prince Seon has been replaced by a compliant puppet. Mostly. The other Seon has a brief angry scene where he gets morally indignant about legislation that hits a little close to home.
Sometimes the other Seon wears the mask and sometimes he does not. I think it depends on whether the scene is better served if we can see Kim Myung-soo emoting. Which is incomprehensible continuity-wise but whatever, it's as good a reason as any. The other Seon continues to not be very smart. It does not appear to have occurred to him that by exposing his face to a wide group of people, the other Seon could greatly reduce Dae-mok's leverage to simply conjure a replacement out of thin air.
He's not the only one. Apparently it has also not occurred to Ga-eun that literally anyone could be behind the mask at any time. Although I suppose that is the conceit we have to accept for "Ruler: Master of the Mask" to make any sense at all. This is a world with no concept of body doubles. Besides, maybe it's just a high quality mask. The one Prince Seon wears in the opening chase scene just falls off of its own dramatic accord.
Then again I could be here awhile on the whole absurdity topic. What's more ridiculous- Cheong-eun's ability to teleport, or his power to deflect several dozen arrows at once? What about the bright black outfits worn in daytime where they can easily be seen? Wait, how about this- was Prince Seon seriously expecting Hwa-goon to grant him the loan based solely on the power of his good looks? I mean yeah, he is played by Yoo Seung-ho, but still, why would anyone aside from Hwa-goon agree to a deal like that?
Review by William Schwartz
"Ruler: Master of the Mask" is directed by Noh Do-cheol & Park Won-gook, written by Jeong Hae-ri & Park Hye-jin-II, and features Yoo Seung-ho, Kim So-hyun, Kim Myung-soo, Yoon So-hee, Heo Joon-ho and Park Chul-min.
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 11-12"
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