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.
Meanwhile, Ga-eun decides to take revenge on the king through a really stupid plan that comes right out of a video game and works because the palace guards are not terribly competent. We already knew that, of course, considering that Dae-mok's private army can apparently waltz in there whenever they please, kill whoever they want, and face no ill consequences. Anyway, the other Seon reacts to this situation by agonizing over whether or not he should take his mask off.
The more I see of "Ruler: Master of the Mask", the more I appreciate how Hwa-goon is the only particularly interesting character here, and I'm sad she's not the actual lead. We find out that Hwa-goon still has some sort of relationship with Dae-mok's goons, and quite a bit of complex panning is required on her part to create plausible situations that will allow all people involved to think she's on their side. I'm hoping that over the timeskip Hwa-goon found a better goal than "marry Prince Seon" because her intelligence is wasted on a motivation that trite.
Especially since we know she can't achieve it, Ga-eun being the actual female lead. For some reason. One minute Ga-eun's the important head of a community with serious responsibilites and the next she's willing to put them all at risk over an ill-advised assassination attempt. Ga-eun is just a very fickle character, and makes Prince Seon feel fickle by transitive property because why is he so dedicated to her anyway? They barely know each other.
Although Ga-eun's real problem is just that she's not a very good dresser. Compared to Hwa-goon anyway, who always has the coolest clothes for every possible occasion. If there's any aspect in "Ruler: Master of the Mask" that deserves unambiguous praise, it's the wardrobe department. The outfits are distinct, yet fit in well with the background. Even Prince Seon's ponytail manages to look cool without being overly loud.
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, L, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 13-14"
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