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.
These two plot points are brought up solely to destroy Prince Seon's existing plan. Not that this was ever much of a plan in the first place, since Dae-mok didn't really seem to care about it and indeed, has managed to work it into his larger conspiracy. Considering how bad Prince Seon is at all this cloak and dagger stuff I'm left wondering whether the general's offer to destroy Dae-mok with the army is still open.
In a way it's impressive. No matter how many characters with wildly conflicting motives there are, no matter how badly they communicate, no matter how everyone is always working under incomplete inaccurate information, the main characters can always be relied upon to interpret erratic events exactly the way Dae-mok wants them to and Dae-mok's own assumptions are always one hundred percent correct. That's how "Ruler: Master of the Mask" ends up killing off one of my favorite characters- who I've never actually mentioned by name since his role in the story is fairly ancillary.
It's easy to get hung up on the implausibilites of Dae-mok's plan because we never get to see his thought process. The reason "Ruler: Master of the Mask" is scripted like this is so that we're surprised when Dae-mok wins again, but without better context everything just comes as very contrived. Plot twists work best when we're expecting a different twist to defeat expectations. But the expectations in "Ruler: Master of the Mask" are so poorly defined there's nothing for the plot twist to defeat.
Consider how the exposure of a spy mucking up the actions of the main heroes would have been so, so much more satisfying if we had any inkling there was a spy in the first place. I was under the impression from the revelation of Queen Mother Joongjeon's role in previous poisonings that this was her department, yet the bad guy ends up being someone who...doesn't even work for her? Huh? And when did this person have sole access to the antidote?
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 27-28"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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