[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 39-40 Final 2017/07/13,
Because Prince Seon and his allies were completely incompetent at trying to solve the poison issue on their own, Hwa-goon's dad pops out of nowhere and just gives them the formula for the antidote on one condition. It should come as little surprise that even in his final dramatic victorious moment, Prince Seon manages to find a way to screw things up in this regard. No matter how simple the task, Prince Seon is just not up to the job,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" 37-38 2017/07/12,
I knew from the last cliffhanger that the final stretch "Ruler: Master of the Mask" was going to be irredeemably stupid. So when Prince Seon and the other Seon have to go into this really complicated stretch of rules lawyering to suss out who the real king is supposed to be I wasn't surprised. Nor was I particularly angry. Mostly I just felt sort of downtrodden, that a political culture complicated enough to require several dozen ministers has no legal culture to determine royal legitimacy,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 35-36 2017/07/06,
As expected, Prince Seon's plan to stop Dae-mok is less than inspiring. First he has to spend a lot of time running around trying to convince other characters to help him, while Dae-mok has the much simpler plan of just having the other Seon take the mask off. Incidentally, Dae-mok is awfully satisfied with his own brilliance, considering how much of his infrastructure Hwa-goon destroyed simply by starting a fire,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 33-34 2017/07/05,
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,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 31-32 2017/06/29,
The opening scene of episode thirty-one features characters musing about how Prince Seon was their one great hope, and how dare anyone besmirch the man's good name. How or why Prince Seon is supposed to be the platonic ideal of a good monarch has never been clear to me, considering how the man fails at nearly every task he attempts, no matter how basic. And as if to emphasize this point, we cut from that to Prince Seon lying not quite dead in the middle of nowhere,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 29-30 2017/06/28,
So apparently Hwa-goon's bodyguard Gon (played by Kim Seo-kyung) isn't actually dead. I assumed that he was, considering that the last time we saw him the man had collapsed in a bloody unmoving slump on the floor. But ah, this is "Ruler: Master of the Mask" with characters so tough they won't die even if you kill them..! Actually no, it's just that the only way the production team knows how to produce an emotional reaction is through cheap kills, which inevitably have to be reversed since characters have to be alive in order for the plot to move forward,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 27-28 2017/06/22,
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,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 25-26 2017/06/21,
In a peculiar plot twist, it turns out that Queen Mother Joongjeon is not, in fact, completely crazy, and there was an actual coherent plan behind last episode's mass poisoning. Although even after the specifics are explained the plan still doesn't make very much sense. Why, it's almost as if the mass poisoning was a screenwriting device specifically contrived to end episode twenty-four on a shocking cliffhanger,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 23-24 2017/06/15,
When Queen Mother Joongjeon's true role in the overall plot was revealed last episode, I was hoping that we would see some guiding principles toward a long term goal. Instead, Queen Mother Joongjeon's schemes become increasingly bizarre. Even Dae-mok is standing off at the sidelines, a little bewildered but ultimately fairly indifferent as to her actions. There's no obvious way anything Queen Mother Joongjeon is doing could hurt Dae-mok, after all,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 21-22 2017/06/14,
The entirity of episode twenty-one consists of a stupid plan that once again manages to throw Prince Seon into mortal danger while his allies are none the wiser. This storyline does, sort of, achieve its purpose of making Ga-eun do something helpful for once. Although really, I'd have been a lot more impressed if she had sniffed out the plot and taken action before the absolute last minute. Aside from the general incomprehensibility of the scheme, Ga-eun was in a perfect position to see what was going on,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 19-20 2017/06/08,
This time around the genre roulette falls on palace intrigue. Unfortunately this is a bad genre to focus on temporarily, because palace intrigues are only interesting as a slow burn, watching various characters come up with complicated plots to humiliate each other. Here, no character has a clearly enough defined goal for their role in the palace intrigue to be terribly interesting. At one point derisive laughter substitutes for the far more satisfying subtle humiliation that really makes a palace intrigue stand out,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 17-18 2017/06/07,
So apparently Hwa-goon has been on the outs with Dae-mok for the past five years. But to save Prince Seon, Hwa-goon is willing to make the sneaky sacrifice of joining Dae-mok's cult. This is why I like Hwa-goon. She's smart. The real reason Hwa-goon wants back into the organization is to protect Prince Seon from the inside, but phrased this way, Dae-mok is led to believe that this is actually a compromise on her part, and remains unaware of Hwa-goon's bigger plan,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 15-16 2017/06/01,
Through a complicated bit of sleight of hand, Prince Seon and friends manage to achieve an important victory over Dae-mok. Because they got his...stuff, that Dae-mok was going to use to do...things. Normally I try not to overthink inherently meaningless MacGuffin devices, but the stakes in "Ruler: Master of the Mask" are so poorly defined I can only even figure out that Prince Seon's team won because of their smug victory expressions,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 13-14 2017/05/31,
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,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 11-12 2017/05/25,
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,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 9-10 2017/05/24,
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,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 5-6 2017/05/17,
Cheong-eun (played by Shin Hyun-soo) is, to date, the only ally Prince Seon has with any appreciable combat skills. This is put to use immediately, as Cheong-eun has to help Prince Seon fight his way out of last episode's cliffhanger. The ensuing chase, while not making the best logistical sense is very tense and action-packed. The real shocker, though, is how a confrontation between the King's men and an organized crime gang ends with King Yoon telling his own people to back off,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 3-4 2017/05/11,
Ga-eun (played by Kim So-hyun) is the young woman who kept getting all those dramatic camera shots in the second episode, even though at the time we had no idea who she was. Here, we quickly discover that Ga-eun is a kind woman, who assumes on general principle that anybody being chased after by armed men is probably innocent. This turns out to be a pretty reasonable assumption considering that by the end of the fourth episode...alas, the other Seon (played by L) is not so lucky as the handsome prince who shares his moniker,...More
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 1-2 2017/05/10,
Dae-mok (played by Heo Joon-ho) is the grand wizard of a massive conspiracy. Dae-mok is not literally a wizard, he just seems like one because of his mastery of spooky hallucinogens and a massive spy network capable of making these creepy physical effects pop up out of nowhere. So when Yoon (played by Kim Myung-soo) makes a deal with Dae-mok to become King, out of sheer paranoia, Yoon ends up forcing his son Seon (played by Yoo Seung-ho) to wear a mask, murdering anyone who sees Seon's face. Then Dae-mok's granddaughter Hwa-goon (played by Yoon So-hee) enters the picture and-,...More
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