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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 33-34

2017/07/05 | Permalink

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.

The conclusion to Hwa-goon's character arc is, unsurprisingly, pretty unsatisfying. Part of the problem is that even if Hwa-goon's gone, Gon is still around. And because Gon's character was defined entirely (albeit unclearly) by Hwa-goon, it's not clear what his motivation is anymore. If we'd ever seen Hwa-goon and Gon discuss, I don't know, ethics or something at some point, then he would at least inherit her ambiguity, which was the closest thing to interesting characterization "Ruler: Master of the Mask" ever had.

But then it's not like we get much focus on Gon anyway. Instead, it's Prince Seon having a crisis of confidence because of his supposed illegitimacy. Philosophically the questions he raises are kind of interesting. What is legitimacy anyway? Is the other Seon any more or less legitimate just because he's a fake? Let's recall that, as the acting king for the past five years, the other Seon's voice is the only anyone would recognize as the king's anyway.

Of course, Prince Seon's questions are pretty explicitly irrelevant when the goal is, or at least should be, to get rid of Dae-mok. How specifically Prince Seon's team accomplishes this goal is not all that important. And that there is the main thematic problem with "Ruler: Master of the Mask"- we were never on Prince Seon's side as much as we were against Dae-mok's. So all this stuff about being a proper king really has nothing to do with the story.

I mean, maybe it could have been slotted in if Prince Seon had ever been shown to have any useful skills to warrant his being king. It's pretty telling that the montage of Prince Seon's "accomplishments" just consists of his accidentally starting a riot and rejecting a military solution to the Dae-mok problem without coming up with a better one. Prince Seon has been fake killed in "Ruler: Master of the Mask" more than he has ever actually made any important decisions.

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.

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