[HanCinema’s Drama Review] “Ruler: Master of the Mask” Episodes 17-18
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[HanCinema’s Drama Review] “Ruler: Master of the Mask” Episodes 17-18

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.

Meanwhile, Ga-eun doesn’t even seem to know who Dae-mok is. The more I see of Ga-eun the less I want to see of her. It’s just, she’s so incredibly clueless about everything. Up until now I was willing to chalk up her prosopagnosia to dramatic license, but then in episode eighteen Dae-mok’s ability to recognize Prince Seon is a serious plot point, when he saw far less of Prince Seon than Ga-eun ever did. Ga-eun is incredibly useless.

Really. The big dramatic cliffhanger this time hinges upon Ga-eun taking an essentially passive role in the palace. For reasons that are unclear to me the Queen Mother Joongjeon (played by Kim Seon-kyeong) thinks that Ga-eun is the lynchpin that will allow the other Seon to effectively strike back against Dae-mok. Also, let’s take a moment to ponder the absurdity of Dae-mok possibly recognizing Prince Seon, but Prince Seon’s own grandmother not knowing or caring about the difference.

Mind, I can accept even tacit absurdity in a plot so long as it manages to be engaging elsehwere. But the romantic conflict is so genuinely dull even the production team loses interest in it, as we briefly transition to a plot about a young girl who escaped from a work camp. Then, right when that story is about to get interesting, it’s back to the endless romantic angst and tragic pathos. “Ruler: Master of the Mask” has replayed this trick so often that it’s lost all effectiveness.

Which again, is why I’m so keen on whatever it is Hwa-goon is doing at the moment. Where all the other main characters frequently come off as whiny, Hwa-goon simply bites her lip, endures whatever physical and mental pain Dae-mok can dish out, muffles the tears, and staggers off to face the next challenge. Prince Seon would have died several times by now if not for Hwa-goon. I can’t think of anything Ga-eun has done that even remotely compares in the heroism department.

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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Ruler: Master of the Mask