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.
The actual ambitions of Dae-mok's evil schemes are a tad inconsistent. He had a good thing going with the water price gouging scheme. Water is something everyone needs, but very few people know about the capital costs necessary to procure it. Rather than just continue with that, Dae-mok uses his victory to unnecessarily antagonize the peasantry. At which point Ga-eun comes up with an equally silly and improbable plan to escape, which of course works. Although this is mostly because Dae-mok straight up forgets that the peasants exist for five years.
Oh yeah, the five year timeskip. I have to give "Ruler: Master of the Mask" this much credit- the pacing is still breakneck. By the time all these stupid plot points are exposited, they're already finished with and forgotten five minutes later. Instead of being an important central presence, Dae-mok is now just that bad guy on the vague periphery, and Prince Seon has to figure out a way to fight him without access to royal resources.
If that sounds like a completely different story than the one that was promised to us in the first episode, that's because it is. Even the mask is superfluous at this point. It was a royal order by the now deceased king, everyone thinks the real Prince Seon is dead so why is the other Seon still wearing it when nobody even knows what the real Prince Seon looks like anyway? I know the answer to this question is so that the real Prince Seon can eventually take the throne back, but in context, no explanation is even attempted.
Weirdly enough, I can live with that, because the implication we currently have is that Prince Seon and Cheong-eun are now normal citizens by day and heroic revolutionaries...also by day. Any time I try to analyze this drama the plot just looks sillier and sillier. Still, I'm a real sucker for these ridiculous cliffhangers, so I can accept these huge leaps in storytelling for the pulp fiction they are.
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 9-10"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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