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Ruler–Master of the Mask: Episodes 1-2

We had dual premieres this Wednesday, with MBC launching its romantic historical melodrama Ruler–Master of the Mask against SBS’s brand-new Suspicious Partner and KBS’s mid-series Mystery Queen. It was Ruler that emerged the winner of the initial ratings clash, bumping Mystery Queen into second, with Suspicious Partner in third.

What was unusual about the premieres was that the broadcasters put into motion something they’ve been talking about for a while, which is mid-episode commercial breaks (which cable stations have already been doing for a while). You wouldn’t think it would be such a big deal to interrupt a show halfway through to play a minute or two of commercials, but MBC and SBS actually did the odd thing of making the commercial break particularly conspicuous, and divided their premiere episodes into “Part 1” and “Part 2” and even reported ratings separately for each half. So Ruler took first place with 9.7% ratings for Episode 1’s Part 1, and 11.6% for Part 2. KBS continued reporting a single number for Mystery Queen (8.7%), but SBS joined the party by reporting Suspicious Partner as two parts, with Episode 1’s Part 1 netting 6.3% and Part 2 drawing a 6.8%.

For that reason, we’re updating our recap titles to reflect the numbering change. Note that this doesn’t actually change the content we’re getting, or how much of it will air; it’s just that now we’ll be getting 40 half-hour “episodes” rather than 20 that are hourlong. For the record, I think subdividing episodes into multiple parts is needlessly complicated and silly. But hey, I don’t call the shots. Moreover, I cite these numbers out of interest, but don’t really place too much stock on them as signifiers of a drama’s value, since I do hear good things about both rival shows and intend to catch them at some point.

 
FIRST EPISODE RECAP

The opening chryon describes the secret organization called Pyunsoohwe, which pre-existed the Joseon Dynasty and was composed of the architects and engineers of society, who have been wielding power from behind the scenes.

It’s Pyunsoohwe’s leader, DAE-MOK (Heo Joon-ho), whose voice explains the process for treating a flower with venom. The petals absorb poison, and are rolled into pills—and once a person starts to eat them, they must continue to be eaten once a month, to prevent the poison from being let loose in the body.

Dae-mok explains this all at an initiation ceremony held in a dimly lit cave. Holding out a dish containing one poisonous pill, he asks the new member whether he will join Pyunsoohwe. Well, that’s one way of ensuring that your top-secret members of your top-secret organization don’t step a toe out of line.

The new member looks unnerved to hear of the heart-stabbing pain that will strike if he misses taking his monthly dose, but he grabs the dish and demands a promise first: “That once the hunt is over, you will not kill the hunting dog.”

The man takes the pill, and immediately starts to choke and gasp while his vision blurs. Dae-mok asks the man to identify himself: He is Lee Yoon, also known as Prince Geumnyeong.

Through Prince Geumnyeong’s hallucinatory eyes, we see the masked and hooded members of the group, who ask for his vow of secrecy. The prince swears, and then a hooded man jabs him in the neck three times with a small dagger, drawing blood.

As Prince Geumnyeong swears his loyalty to keep Pyunsoohwe’s secrets, the palace is infiltrated by men in black, who storm inside and make their way to the defenseless king. The descend upon him, swords drawn.

At the same time, Dae-mok holds out a blade and informs the prince that from now on, Pyunsoohwe will be his shield and weapon. Dae-mok adds one grave reminder: “One day, you will have to pay a price for that.”

In the palace, the king is stabbed through the chest. In the cave, Prince Geumnyeong vows to pay whatever price is necessary. He roars, “I must become the ruler of Joseon!”

Ten years later.

Dae-mok presides over a Pyunsoohwe gathering, and is handed a letter. It’s the same letter that is also being presented to the king (formerly Prince Geumnyeong), which conveys the reading of the new prince’s fate.

The “dragon” (prince) is fated to meet “water,” and if he is able to ascend the throne, he will be a good king. However, his heroic disposition also invites danger, and if he does not take the throne at the right time, the “water may dry up” and the dragon will be buried in dirt. In short, although his future could hold greatness, if the prince is unable to overcome this bad fortune, he is fated to die young.

This ominous reading has the king upset, and we see that his pregnant royal consort is currently in the early stages of labor. An advisor hurriedly reassures the king that the hour of the prince’s birth is the most critical part of the fortune. If the prince is born between 9 and 11 in the evening, he will become water to his people and be a ruler who will save them. But if he misses that window, he will die young.

The consort struggles to withhold delivery until the evening hours, and everyone in the palace is on tenterhooks as they monitor the passing time. Dae-mok smirks to his followers that it would be quite the sad fate for a prince to die young just because he was born at the wrong time.

The minutes tick down, and the king finally sighs in relief when the gong sounds the hour. A nurse rushes in to announce the birth of a prince, and an advisor starts to say that the fortune is open to interpretation (I presume because the birth cut it so close to the hour). The king cuts him off, however, announcing that his son will be a good ruler.

Dae-mok receives word that the prince was born at the fated hour, and his followers sigh in disappointment. Dae-mok remains calm, though, and says merely that he will use the prince as collateral in order to secure water.

The king cradles his infant son and tells him that he’ll make sure that the boy will be different from himself: “Not a scarecrow, not a puppet, but a true king. I will make it so you will be a true ruler of this nation.”

He thanks the baby’s mother, Royal Consort Lee, for birthing a pillar of the nation, and decides to raise her status with a renamed one.

When the king reads a message from Pyunsoohwe demanding control over the nation’s water supply, he shakes with rage at Dae-mok’s audacity. However, he’s advised that fighting could put the prince in danger.

The king’s ire is cut short by sharp chest pains, and his aide hurries to take out the poisonous pill included in the message and feed it to the king. His pains subside, and the king orders security increased around the prince.

The king’s reaction is reported back to Dae-mok, who orders that a gift be sent to the newborn prince.

Royal Consort Lee is visited by the queen, who thanks her for birthing the heir that she couldn’t provide. The queen informs her of the upcoming rite where the king will write the prince’s name in tiger’s blood—and then, we see a shifty-looking court lady swap out a blood-stained jar for another.

That swapped blood is used to make ink that is then applied to the baby’s skin when the king christens him with his name: Sun, which signifies comfort for the nation’s people and a ray of hope in their darkness.

Moments later, the baby starts to cry in distress, and the ink on his back reddens his skin before fading. The royal physician is called, and regretfully informs the king and consort that the baby appears to have been poisoned.

A leading intellectual is called from Sungkyunkwan, WOO BO (Park Chul-min), who informs them that they must hurry to find the antidote. The poisoners will likely have it, and they must administer the antidote quickly before the baby dies.

A seething king seeks out Dae-mok, knowing that this is related to Pyunsoohwe’s demand to control the water. The king attempts to strike a compromise to allow the organization some control in exchange for the antidote. But Dae-mok wants full control, and says he wishes no harm to the prince, who will have a place with them in the future.

Dae-mok holds out a vial containing the antidote, but first demands full control over a bureau that will soon be created that manages the water supply—and also that the young prince join Pyunsoohwe.

So at court, when one of Dae-mok’s cronies proposes the idea to establish the Water Bureau and entrust it to Pyunsoohwe, the king reluctantly gives his approval. Immediately afterward, he rushes to the baby with the antidote, only to be told that it’s too late. The baby’s mother sobs holding the body, and Woo Bo thinks it futile when the king forces the antidote down the baby’s throat.

But after a few moments, the baby stirs, and breath returns to his body. And curiously enough, the letters that had faded from the baby’s back now return, which Woo Bo explains as a reaction of the poison to the antidote. The prince has developed an immune response to the poison, and in the future if he comes into contact with it again, the letters will flash. This is no science I know, but I’m not a top Joseon thinker, so let’s roll with it.

The king rejoices, believing that the heavens have protected his son.

Meanwhile, Dae-mok announces triumphantly to his followers that Pyunsoohwe now controls the Water Bureau, and that they will establish many branches throughout the nation, each of which will be headed by a Pyunsoohwe member.

The king decides to shut down the prince’s separate palace to strengthen security around him, knowing that Pyunsoohwe will attempt to force the prince to join them. And once that happens, it won’t matter if the prince wants to be a good king, because he will be nothing more than a puppet. The king vows to find a way to save him from that fate.

To that end, the king decides that nobody can know the prince’s true face outside of three people: the king, Royal Consort Lee, and the king’s faithful aide, Commander Lee. If anyone else sees the prince’s face, they will be killed.

The Water Bureau quickly establishes itself as a convenient source of water, hiring peasants to deliver directly to customers at a cheap price. Moreover, they buy out wells that don’t dry up during droughts, which means that soon, they will be the only source of water for the people. The king fumes at how thoroughly Pyunsoohwe has claimed a monopoly.

As for young Crown Prince Sun, rumors have been carefully spread suggesting that his face was ravaged by disease, and more importantly, Pyunsoohwe believes that story, thinking it a side effect of the poison. So for now, Sun’s identity is safe.

On one occasion, a eunuch is spotted sneaking a peek at the young prince as he is bathed, and Commander Lee cuts him down. They can’t risk anybody getting away knowing the truth.

The king voices his hope of Prince Sun one day being able to throw off Pyunsoohwe’s shackles to be a good king. He places a metal mask over the boy’s face…

…and that mask eventually becomes synonymous with the prince, as we see fourteen years later, as a comedy troupe parodies the situation in the village. The performers make all sorts of speculations as to what the prince really looks like, and why.

Meanwhile, young court ladies gossip about the secret room in a palace building that nobody is allowed to enter. It reportedly contains the prince’s greenhouse, and rumor has it that nobody who entered it was allowed to live.

At that, the prince’s eunuch chides the girls, who scatter quickly. Prince Sun appears then and instructs the eunuch to let them go, reminding the eunuch that he had a more important task to perform.

The eunuch looks around shiftily, sidles up close to Sun, and shows him a glimpse of the books stashed in his robes. Sun smiles.

It’s only when he’s safe within his secret greenhouse that Sun goes without his mask, and as he reads through the books, he confirms that there’s no account of his ailment in the royal medical records. There is, however, mention of a physician, Woo Shim, who tried to make a name for himself and let a non-physician examine the prince, which got him dismissed.

Back in his royal garb and mask, Sun takes a walk with the king, who informs him of his plans to hold a princess selection to find Sun’s future bride. Sun asks with an edge to his voice, “Will the crown princess be allowed to see my face? Or must she live a solitary life forever, never knowing her own husband’s face?”

Sun pleads with his father for the real explanation of why he is forced to wear the mask, and asks him not to blame it on an illness. He declares that he’s sick of lies and grabs the mask, ready to pull it off.

The king gasps in shock, but before Sun can do anything, every single person in the vicinity drops to the ground and bows their head low. Commander Lee draws his sword in warning, but it seems unnecessary—people have long since learned that seeing the prince’s face equals death.

Sun looks around in defeat and asks, “If I take off this mask, will another person die?” The king sticks to his old line: “I told you that you have an illness. When your illness is cured, then I will let you remove that mask.” It’s as unsatisfying an answer as ever, and Sun chokes back angry tears.

He retreats to his greenhouse, and perks up when his eunuch drops by with another book delivery. Sun flips through to find the entry describing the physician Woo Shim, as well as the Sungkyunkwan intellectual Woo Bo, who both visited the prince when his illness grew critical.

Prince Sun seeks out his old teacher, disguising it as a friendly visit while fishing for information about Woo Bo. His teacher had studied under the man at Sungkyunkwan, and Sun prods for information, confirming that Woo Bo had expertise in many fields, including medicine.

A young woman arrives in a sedan chair at the palace, joining her father in a visit with the queen. She’s KIM HWA-GOON (Yoon So-hee), and she seems to find the meeting boring and sits back idly as the others discuss the upcoming princess selection. The men are eager to have a girl from their clan selected, to solidify their own power base within the palace, but the queen just says that it will be up to the king.

The queen smiles upon Hwa-goon despite her sullen demeanor, asking how she’d feel about being selected as princess. Hwa-goon retorts that she has no interest in nonsense like being crown princess, speaking rather rudely. The queen takes it well, calling Hwa-goon honest rather than the bratty I’d use, and offers her a tour of the palace. (Hwa-goon’s father tries to warn her with laser-eyes to behave herself, though she doesn’t seem to heed him.)

As she’s shown around, Hwa-goon pauses to look at the prince’s off-limits building, and asks what would happen if she went inside. The court lady gasps that she ought not entertain those thoughts, so Hwa-goon just invents an excuse to send the lady off in search of her purse.

Hwa-goon slips inside the gate easily, which frankly seems like awful security for such a vulnerable location. She enters the greenhouse and sees the prince’s robes hanging on a stand—and then freezes at Sun’s voice, which asks, “What do you think?”

But Sun sits with his back to her, not having seen her at all—he’s talking to his mask like it’s a buddy, which is terribly sad in a funny sort of way. Sun mulls over Woo Bo’s place in this mystery, sure that the man knows the truth of his supposed illness.

Sun decides that Woo Bo may be persuaded into telling him the truth, and gets up like a man on a mission… and comes face to face with Hwa-goon.

Sun freezes in shock to have someone see his bare face, but Hwa-goon just points to some flowers and orders him to move them into a pot for her. You’re awfully bossy for a guest who’s trespassing, missy. When Sun doesn’t respond, she talks down to him like he’s a lowly servant, and if I’m supposed to like this girl, they’re doing a terrible job of making that happen.

Just then, Sun’s eunuch calls from outside the door and starts to enter the greenhouse. Panicking, Sun grabs Hwa-goon and darts around the corner, where he hides from his eunuch and claps a hand over her mouth.

Hwa-goon reaches into her sleeve for the tiny dagger tucked there, and pricks Sun’s neck with the tip. He flinches as a drop of blood appears, but doesn’t let go of his grasp, staring with such intensity that Hwa-goon finds it unnerving.

Seeing no sign of Sun, the eunuch heads back out to look for him. Sun relaxes, and Hwa-goon shoves him back and hurries out of the building. Immediately, the two guards standing outside the door turn their swords on her, demanding to know who she is.

Sun, now masked, rounds the corner as though he’s just arrived, and demands to know if this girl was in his greenhouse. He holds a sword to her neck, telling her that anybody who goes inside without his permission will have to face death.

The queen arrives with her entourage in tow, and steps in to smooth things over, saying that Hwa-goon came to the palace as her guest and simply lost her way. Sun tells Hwa-goon that he’ll let this go for the queen’s sake, but warns her in a hard voice to not go talking about what she saw in his building.

The queen ushers Hwa-goon away, and Sun breathes a sigh of relief. But he doesn’t see that Hwa-goon catches a glimpse of the drop of blood on his neck and realizes that he was the unmasked man inside the greenhouse.

Moreover, the memory of their intense encounter has her blushing giddily later that night. Thinking of the small injury she inflicted, she takes out her small dagger and holds it up to her own neck, marking the same spot with a dot of blood. Okay, she has a strange idea of what constitutes romantic. Should we be worried?

Hwa-goon is called in to speak with her grandfather, who turns out to be Dae-mok. He asks about her visit with the queen, and when she mentions the queen’s interest in the princess selection, Dae-mok guesses that she expressed her utter lack of interest. But to his surprise, now Hwa-goon states that she does want to be the princess after all.

Turning stern, Dae-mok sets a teacup before her and reminds her of the lesson he’s always telling her: If the cup is the Joseon nation, the water represents the people, and the tea leaves are the king. “We must hold this cup in our hands,” Dae-mok says, “not become the leaves floating in it.”

She knows the lesson well, but asks if she can’t be princess anyway. Dae-mok wonders at her sudden interest in a mask-wearing prince, and she replies that it’s possible that he’s not really disfigured, and that those are just rumors. Dae-mok asks if she’s seen the prince’s face, but Hwa-goon denies it, saying that she was merely curious.

Dae-mok accepts Hwa-goon’s answer, but after she leaves, he sends for his personal bodyguard, Gon. It’s Gon who watches carefully from a rooftop as Commander Lee arrives at a house, seemingly on secret assignment.

Commander Lee meets with a young, well-dressed young man and asks for his name. The young man declares, “I am this nation’s crown prince, Lee Sun.”

That night, Commander Lee reports back to the king that the young man has been prepped to stand in for the crown prince. The king advises Commander Lee to be alert for movement from Pyunsoohwe.

Gon reports to Dae-mok that the king’s commander is hiding a young man, and is told to find out who that young man is.

Sun pokes around in the library late that night until he finds the book he’s looking for—a one-of-a-kind book only housed here in the palace. He’s taking a leaf out of his old teacher’s book, having heard the story about Woo Bo loving to read about medicine, and how Sun’s teacher could get him to answer any question if he first presented him with an interesting book.

As Sun leaves, he notices a small cylinder tucked into a flowerpot—the kind of canisters used by Pyunsoohwe to deliver messages and poison pills. Sun starts to open the container, only to have the king march in angrily and scold him for being here without permission. The king snatches the cylinder out of Sun’s hand and blusters at him, not giving Sun a chance to explain himself.

The next day, a royal entourage sets out to participate in a ritual praying for rain, with peasants bowing on the sidelines as they pass. But the king can hear the murmurings of the people as the procession passes, and their comments on the prince’s disfigurement.

Sun is keenly aware of the stares and whispers pointed his way, some even blaming him for the extended drought, saying that it’s a punishment from the heavens. Sun grits his teeth through it all.

Sun maintains his composure as he and his father arrive at the royal ancestral shrine where they’ll be staying, but the minute he’s alone with his eunuch, he orders him to swap clothing. The eunuch cowers fearfully as Sun pulls off his mask and hands it to him, desperate to avoid catching a glimpse of the prince’s face. Sun just tells the eunuch to keep his eyes closed to avoid being killed, and puts the mask over his face for him.

Dae-mok gathers his Pyunsoohwe followers and informs him that the king is hiding a young man named Lee Sun. They wonder if the king has kept the prince’s face a secret all these years as a tactic against them, and decide that they must recruit Prince Sun to their organization as soon as possible.

Dae-mok starts strategizing, ordering one crony to ensure that the prince can’t escape from the ancestral shrine. Others are ordered to watch the king closely and find out what his plan is. The goal is to bring the prince to Dae-mok by any means necessary.

Wearing his eunuch’s robes, Sun slips outside and maneuvers his way around the palace guards milling around. Sun manages to jump the wall at a less-guarded point, where he discards the eunuch’s robe, having dressed in a plainer set of clothes underneath. Off he goes in search of Woo Bo and, presumably, answers about his own mysterious illness.

The king returns to his quarters to find a new note from Pyunsoohwe declaring their intent to initiate the prince soon. He’s stricken with fear, worrying that Pyunsoohwe has caught wind of his plans. Commander Lee assures him that it’s unlikely, given how few people know, but the king suggests hastening their own plans.

The king drops by to see Sun, only to find the scared eunuch dressed in the prince’s robes, trembling and muttering nonstop, “I did not see. I did not see. I did not see the prince’s face.”

Snatching off the mask, the king sees that it’s not Sun. The eunuch can only cry that he knows nothing and saw nothing.

The next morning, Sun sets out into the bustling marketplace, and his first instinct is to hide his face from sight. But he’s treated like any other normal commoner, with no fingers or whispers pointed his way.

Outside of town, a young lady gathers flowers on a hillside. A peasant woman comes to her in a panic, asking for her help in tending to a sick boy. The young woman is HAN GA-EUN (Kim So-hyun), and she appears to know a thing or two about healing, pinpointing the cause as eating a poisonous plant. Ga-eun assures the mother that the boy will be fine with some medicine and even offers to buy it, knowing the poor woman can’t.

Sun cautiously makes his way through the crowded village, unused to this freedom but learning to enjoy it. He browses the wares, pets puppies, and even attracts the notice of flirtatious gisaengs. At one point, he crosses paths with Ga-eun, though neither takes notice of the other.

At one of the local Water Bureaus, an angry boss lectures his water deliverers on the graveness of stealing his water, and offers a reward for the capture of thieves. And if people cause trouble because they think water prices are too high, he instructs his men to simply kill them.

Throughout this speech, one of the water bearers grits his teeth, and afterward his father pulls him aside to tell him to bite his tongue and not cause trouble, no matter what he feels. The young man is named Lee Sun (L), and he tells his father to worry about himself first.

Prince Sun’s good mood takes a nosedive when he turns a corner into the slummy part of town, and he sees starving and sick commoners huddled in the streets. The miserable sight fills him with shock.

Peasant Sun takes up his post at a heavily guarded well and starts doling out water buckets to the customers. Prince Sun approaches carrying a sick boy on his back, and before anybody can stop him, the boy grabs a bowl and gulps down the water.

Peasant Sun demands payment, and Prince Sun is surprised to hear that water is even for sale, not to mention its exorbitant price. Peasant Sun just tells him to pay up or go elsewhere, but that sparks tempers in an already disgruntled crowd, who start cursing Peasant Sun as “butcher bastard” and blaming him for the high prices. (Butchers were looked down on as the lowest of the low.)

One man grabs Peasant Sun and throws him to the ground, and others join in on kicking him while he’s down. The prince tries to intervene, but can’t do much to stop the brewing melee.

Peasant Sun calls his attackers cowards for taking out their anger on him, which provokes them even more. The situation escalates until finally a crowd of men charges the well to fill their buckets freely.

Prince Sun yells ineffectually for them to stop, and wonders to himself how people could fight over “just water.” Hearing that, Peasant Sun shoots him a sharp look.

That’s when the Water Bureau boss comes riding in with backup, and people scatter. The boss lines up his bow and arrow, and lets loose—hitting Prince Sun squarely in the chest with his arrow.

Or at least, it lands in the bundle slung around Sun’s neck, which stops the arrow from piercing skin. Getting up, Sun runs from the scene, and the boss chases on foot.

Ga-eun buys medicine for the sick boy and sends it back with his mother, just as shouts sound down the street. She sees Prince Sun racing through the crowd in her direction, with men hot in pursuit screaming to shoot him.

As he races by, Sun stumbles into a bystander, then falls backward right into Ga-eun’s arms.

 
COMMENTS

Historical note: This drama is presenting itself as historical fiction, but appears to be very loosely incorporating facts and personages around the time of Crown Prince Sado and King Yeongjo. (Projects involving these figures include Yi San, Sado, and Secret Door.) The drama is taking care not to make this an official connection, changing key facts to remain in the realm of fiction, but there are clear parallels, and not purely out of coincidence.

Such as: Yoo Seung-ho’s character is named Lee Sun, as Sado was named. His mother is Yeongbin Consort Lee, as was Sado’s mother. The character’s father is portrayed as a king desperate to cast off the political strings to which he is beholden, and is complicit in the murder of his older brother, the previous king—this reflects the life of King Yeongjo, who was hamstrung by the Noron political faction and who ascended to the throne after the untimely death of his brother, Gyeongjong, whom he was suspected to have killed. On the other hand, this drama’s king is named Lee Yoon, which was not Yeongjo’s name, and I don’t expect him to rule for fifty years. It appears this drama’s Sun will take the throne, which Sado never did.

So I take that we are meant to understand the rough time period and political climate, without seeing Ruler as a representation of real history. (Which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned, because I’m not sure I could stand that tragic, grisly fate for Yoo Seung-ho; it was bad enough to inflict it on Lee Je-hoon and Yoo Ah-in!) I find it a smart move, too, because it avoids the pitfalls of basing a story on a real character and then ignoring key facts (ahem, Moonlight Drawn By Clouds), while still being able to transfer some of the gravitas of the real history into this fictional setup. For instance, Yoo Seung-ho is not playing Crown Prince Sado, but there’s enough of an association that it evokes a pang of wistfulness and fear of tragedy striking him (without also having to work around making him married, or a murderer). I like this kind of ambiguity, because they’re not going all willy-nilly with history, but they’re not tying their hands from the outset, either.

I also like that the drama plays with an open interpretation regarding Sun’s birth—the characters have accepted that Sun was born into a fortunate fate, but the show has absolutely left open the possibility that he was born early, which keeps us guessing as to what kind of ending is in store for him.

As a premiere episode, I thought Ruler quick-paced in a good way, not least because keeping plot moving keeps you engrossed in the story without having enough time to think, “Wait a minute… but…” And there were definitely a few moments in this episode where I had those thoughts, but brushed them aside because Yoo Seung-ho is so damn compelling and I just wanted more of his plaintive emotions and expressive eyes. He really sells the lonely, sheltered prince character well, and I totally buy into every aspect of his emotions. There are characters I’m not quite as sold on, but where our hero is concerned, I’m fully onboard, and I have a feeling that is going to carry us a long way.

I’m not so sure the poison addiction thing makes sense to me (you poison someone… and they have to keep taking poison… so that they don’t get poisoned… but the moment they stop taking poison they’ll succumb to poison?) and the burning tattoo made me think of a less-carefully-plotted Mirror of the Witch, but in the big picture they’re minor points that don’t alter the overall arc for me. I sort of hate the Hwa-goon character right off the bat, largely because she seems snotty, and it made me angry that she got to be the first person to see the prince’s face and live. But I (1) anticipate major character change for her down the line, and (2) don’t have to like her because I have Kim So-hyun, so that concern is taken care of.

I don’t think this will be a seamless sageuk experience given that I can kind of see little cracks already, but I think it still has potential to be fast-moving, compelling, and addictive. Mostly, I see this as a drama that will be carried by the performances and character development, with Prince Sun’s aching isolation at the heart of the show, bolstered by his growth as his eyes are opened to the suffering around him, as well as Peasant Sun’s frustration at being branded with his low birth. We’ve barely gotten to know Ga-eun, but with a major transformation and revenge arc headed her way, I think I can expect this conflicted romance to twist me up in a really good way.

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I thought they aired 2 episodes of both dramas already and we won't be getting anything today. Phewww, that's a good news!

Now, off to read!!

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IT was sooo good I am super duper keen for this~!!! *screams* I can already feel all the heartache that is coming our way though....

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Dramafever is out with 4 episodes. This show moves like a good Charles Dickens novel. I get the feeling the writers are a big fan of Charles Dickens.

http://asianwiki.com/Ruler:_Master_of_the_Mask

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Bhahaha I can see that XD

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Ikr!? Me too! I was like, "aw man! I'm gonna have to wait one whole week to see these puppies together???" So glad that's not the case!

The mid ep cut was actually pretty appropriately dramatic. Ha.

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I know! I was like, why do we have two episodes? And I searched DB for some info but got nothing.

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I'm more sad that the usual encoding teams choose to not merge or just take out the commercials and leave it as one single episode like they do with the other dramas on the same timeslot...Kills the whole pace and feels having now two parts of 30/25 min along 40 now episodes as many name them episodes rather than parts

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I agree. I hate this whole 2 part thing. I liked it when it was one whole episode. Now, do I have to call episode 2 as ep 3? Sighhhh...I have a headache already. #hatemaths#

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Can someone explain to me why they split the episodes? I don't understand what's going and I can't seem to find article that explains it either

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@chana500 There's an explanation by javabeans at the beginning of the recap.

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Yoo seung-ho's performance was spectacular... And he has this magnetic screen presence that leaves you wanting more...

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I love the Crown Prince's expressive eyes, especially when he was with the would be crown princess in the greenhouse. His eyes showed so much desperation not to be given away.

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Yesss those eyes!

But I think it was more to save her from being killed than out if desperation to not be given away. She, obviously, didn't know that.
He should've just called out to the guards! Hehehe. *This woman has seen my face! Off with her head.*

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THAT'S another way to not have to see her acting... 😬🤐🙈💃🏻

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Hahaha. That's why I suggested it;)

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Those deep emotive eyes makes me dive in the pool of feels. Yoo Seung Ho.. 😍

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😍 i know.
I am totally ready to cry with him.

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Oh hi! I liked the premiere but not as much as I would have wanted to. I did like that we are made to feel the importance of the stakes right off the bat but I suppose because my expectations were so high, I kept losing momentum while watching. Also, the fact that MBC decided to split the episode into 2 parts threw me off.
I don't mind Yoon So-hee's actingnlike everyone else seems to, mostly because she hasn't really done much in the drama. BTW, am I the only one hoping that even though she's starting to fall for the real prince, she gets attached to the replacement in the mask and before she knows it, falls for Myungsoo instead. I so do not need a love triangle in this drama.
One more thing, why do people never learn that Fausting out is always going to be a bad idea?

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Oh, and thanks for the recap.

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Same for me! I hate love triangle in dramas so I hope L and Yoon So Hee fall for each other latter!

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Oooh that's a great idea. It'll be interesting if Hwa-gun and Peasant Sun fall for each other instead.

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i don't think she'll fall in love with the replacement however she'll be the one who knows that the prince behind the mask has been swapped because peasant prince doesn't have the mark behind his ear

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I feel this drama will stay top of the rating till it finishes. Hoping for great success for Yoo Seung Ho and rest of the cast.

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Oooooh. I am so relieved. Was terrified that Prince Sun would actually go the path of Sado because thinking that Seung-Ho would meet that grisly fate had been giving me nightmares. Might I also love that Kim So-Hyun looks absolutely radiant and now I want more interactions between our leads. Give me all the fluff before the tragedy commences please.

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Yes to the fluff! Give us lots of adorable before you tear our hearts! And yes, she looks so beautiful here!

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yay!! @javabeans is recapping this! am excited..haha...i enjoyed the first episode and it was also fast-paced...yup the poison thing was so unexpected and i was like WTF but that's okay..yoo seung ho is good here and surprisingly for now L is too...its that second lead actress that's the only serious mistake i have seen so far in the drama and i hope she gets better..haha...Am just surprised that we have a queen who doesn't seem jealous or wicked of the concubine and the crown prince( altho i remember her as the same actress in jang ok jung..where she was the queen dowager and yoo ah in's mother and she was wicked af)..it so hard to find good queen in historical dramas these days...anyhow..i will be watching the next episode and hopefully it doesn't disappoint.

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Yi San's queen was the same way. The queen's main role is to provide heirs to the throne. King's have concubines in order to provide heirs to the throne in case the queen is unable to.
Technically all concubines' children belongs to the queen.

Queen Inwon is another good example. If it wasn't for her support, Dong Yi's son Yeongjo (Sado's father) may not have been king.

The over the top jealous queens over a concubine's child is usually exaggerated in dramas.

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The over top jealous queens are not needed in this drama so thank God there was none so far. Because we will get it later when 2 ladies fall in love with the Prince -we jave enough for one lady with her jealousy. Unless if this is war of concubines and queen in the palace, the jealousy definitely need to play a part!

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I was so glad they left out the jealous Queen bit, but I have to admit I was a little thrown off cause I assumed the Queen was the one behind the poisoning.

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Well, she would be Queen Jeongseong if this was based on history. She was older than the king and she also didn't have any children.
Prince Sado mourned her death which meant that they had a good relationship.

I think she is genuine and is relieved that finally Joseon has an heir to the throne.
On the other hand this is a drama. We'd never know what the writer would do with her character since this is loosely based on some historical figures and events.

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Yea, I thought so too! I mean, she said she was getting her servants prepare for the Prince's naming? And then immediately we see the shifty lady changing the jar.

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that is the doing of Dae Mok to threaten the King

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Oh. I was en route yesterday and completely forgot about it until I read the recap. Off to watch now.

Thank you for the recap!

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YSH see the prince first, felt in love first, introduce first. KSH was the last 5 minutes of the show, quite odd as she is the lead. KSH play the perfect girl, quite similar to KYJ in Moon Sun. The act on the street is quite similar with MDBC, the first half an hour make me think of MOTW. Maybe saeguk just all start the same way.

I was watching life both. SP was fun, NJH did a good job while Ruler was mostly politics until very last part. I remember the first episode of Rebel was amazing. I think the director here is trying a different approach.

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I love how the two leads were first introduced to the audience, one in a garden full of colorful flowers, the other among the pink flowers. I am still not warming up to the second female lead yet, but maybe with more episodes, I will.

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That's not even the two leads though but instead the male lead and 2nd female lead , the female lead was Kim So Hyun who appeared toward the end for about 5 minutes *I hate you Ruler*

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I wanted to see more of her first episode too.

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KSH

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I liked the first episode, i rarely watch without subs but I couldn't wait for the subs yesterday, so I watched it as soon as it was out. I hope the ratings goes up more.

I am so proud of Kim So Hyun she did an impressive performance in those few minutes she appeared in.

The only thing that was out of place is Yoon Seo Hee's character she was bad her tone was awkward not compatible with saguek, i am also pissed that she has to see the prince face first, I hope she improve later.

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Looks like she doesn't work on her voice modulation. Her tone is so out of place. It's noticeable since everyone is good in their saguek speech.

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And she even has experience did sageuk before. Surprisingly L even did better than her. When I saw her, I was thinking is this girl seriously do her acting or not? She didnt seem to give full efforts for this role. If only she knows how many talented actressess yearning for her role..

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Its just the first episode so I really hope this is not how it will be until the end for her. *Pleaseeeee*

I read alot of articles regarding L's effort to get into this role. The PD mentioned how many times he rejected him but he keeps auditioning for multliple times. It'smaybe his determination that makes the PD go for him despite the oppositions from his co-workers. Seeing how much effort he put into it, I'm somehow relieved that he'll definitely work on it to deliver his best. But my question is why is everyone only talking about L and So Hee is out of the question? Lol. I've only seen her on Queen of the Ring. Her character is not compelling enough to have me focus on her and her 2D portrayal makes it even worse. 😣

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I think because L is an idol so many attention is for him? Netizens even criticised So Hee. She is probably the weakest link among the four. I saw her few times before. She basically just the same, no improvement or maybe very little.

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Aww,my poor baby Myungsoo, I've always loved him whenever I've seen him even with his awful pronunciation and tone in She's So Lovable but I'm glad he worked on himself for this role. It kinda reminds me of Ahn Joong-hee in Father Is Strange who keeps auditioning for the same role but kept getting rejected because he's such a terrible actor. I personally haven't noticed anything wrong with Yoon So-hee's acting just yet, so I don't have any problem with her.

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and to add on to your point:
Even in the scene where she sneaks into the garden and finds out that the guy she just scolded is THE prince, she still had no change in facial expression. I would expect someone in her position to have a look of utter shock followed by realization of what she had just done/witnessed. I've seen Yoon So yee act in several dramas and honestly the only emotion I've seen her execute well is the "B****/jealous" face.

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I agree. I dont want to be so cruel, but if they decides to change with better actress maybe I will support it.

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Yes! L was surprisingly OKAY. I felt so bad for him when the angry mob of men kept kicking him--hard! I was like, "yes!" when he fought back. Good for you, Peasant Sun!

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I agree. Boy is still a little bit green but as long as they've got Ga-Eun and crown prince together on my screen I will forgive the whole world :X :D :X

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@maskros Haha, yeah, like So-hee, I noticed the tiny little smiles creeping up in the corners of L's mouth during his scenes, but I can tell he's trying hard and I appreciate that because he's not off-putting like *coughs*So-hee*coughs*. Like I said, he's okay, and I'm gonna have some faith in him!

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@chingu I agree. I also think it's his character. We can already feel sympathy for him and his family. And that makes it easy for us to root for him. Plus, we can see that he's trying hard to put everything into the character. So that's a big plus in my book...unlike someone who's stuck up and has offered us nothing to make us like him.

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*her

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The queen is not jealous because the concubine would not be recognized as Lee Sun's mother by law though she has given birth to a crown prince. This is because after the fiasco with Jang Huibin who supposedly cursed the queen consort to death to take her place, her husband Sukjong (Yeongjo's father and Prince Sado's grandfather) made a law that concubines could not be promoted to queen consorts even after giving birth to a successor.

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yes now please air all subway commercials during the break between two episodes and never IN the drama please!

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This is a period drama. There can't be any subway PPL here. Hhaha

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i meant for suspicious partner or any other drama that might follow the same system

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*gasps*

Now that you mentioned it, I'm so worried that it would appear in JCW's drama. Subway seems to love him so much... Good Lord, please no more K2 ppl silliness.

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*laughs nervously* you can never be too sure! I'm sure they'll find a way one day! Maaaaarrrrrrk my words! Heh.

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Sssssh...don't bring up Subway! Lest they make it the antidote

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Omg

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HAHAHAHAHAHAA. This comment is gold!

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This comment is pure gold.

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Yeah, if they are really pulling this commercial break thing, then I better not notice any more blatant ppl during the actual episode. When there's so much ppl that you notice it constantly, it really takes away from the drama as a whole. Still, not sure this "intermission" concept they have going is the best idea...

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The thg is cable inserts ghe adverts but they dont split the episode and call it 2 eps. This suddeb change is confusing. Now there's 2 episodes of 32mins in a night. The only interesting bit is finding out rating is higher in the first part or second part.

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The first episode wasn't as mind-blowing as I expected it would be, but I'll put the critique on the writing, directing and editing more than anything else.
I'm still hyped because of KSH. Am I also the only one who finds it a surprise (a neutral one at that) that they introduce the second female lead before the female lead? That's quite a change from the usual approach we have had for Kdramas. Anyway, I wasn't impressed with So Hee in Queen of the Ring and I haven't been impressed with her here, but I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and wait until we're more than half-way through the drama.
I'm hoping to see more of KSH tonight. I'm also hoping the drama will only get better with every episode. At the very least, I know some of the cast, both lead and supporting, will not disappoint, and I'm glad and grateful for that.

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I didn't like that the second female lead saw the crown prince first, and he's maskless at that. I was a little put off by that, but I hope the future episodes will show better character growth for her.

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Trust me I was having second-hand jealousy here too lol but I guess the show purposed that so that the second lead girl actually fell for the crown prince as a person rather than for his political position, which gave a sympathetic side to her (she even made it clear to the Queen that she could care less about the CP - before she met him ofc). I've been bored to death with how Kdramas often portrait the second female leads as nasty, jealous and all kind of ugly (personality-wise) so having one that strays away from that path is a much welcome change.

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I was bothered by the fact we saw second lead first but then Crown Prince didnt give her much attention and by the ending he met Ga Eun and in the preview he asking if Ga Eun had a fiance. Then i was forgave that we met second lead first.

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Me too, didn't love the pilot as much as I hoped I would. I liked the immediacy of the story but I felt somewhat disconnected with the transitions and the fact that they put an intermission in such an inconvenient place threw me off.

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Yeah I was sort of expecting a Moon-Sun kid version level, honestly. However having watched both leads in sageuks I trust them completely so I'll keep watching while hoping the drama will get engaging as time goes on. I'd appreciate a drama that has a lot to offer later but steadily until the end more than one that has amazing pilot but soon loses its momentum.

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Ahhhhh. It's here! It's here! Thanks for the speedy recap!
Before the positive stuff...this:
"...and it made me angry that she got to be the first person to see the prince’s face..."
YES! This is what irritated me the most! Why did he have to see her face first!? I knew he wasn't going to go starry-eyed for her...but it still didn't make me like the fact that he saw her first...instead of Ga-eun. Maybe I'm being childish? #relaxkimsohyunishere#

Positives:
Where do I start?
My favourite scene was when Sun first left the palace grounds and woke up in the village. His complete enthrallment at his surroundings, and his smileeeee omg when he brushed shoulders with his people. It was sooo sweet. It was his first time seeing that. After being locked away for all his life...with attendants standing at least a metre away from him, this discovery itself must have made him forget that he was a crown prince! Because he was never allowed this exposure, his delight at seeing everything made it all the more heartwarming.
So excited for next ep and more interaction wit Ga-eun!! :D

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Oh hey, your comment got posted! And with TWO "It's here!" Haha.

I honestly didn't think much of Hwa-goon seeing Prince Sun w/o his mask on until jb pointed it out and then I felt kinda petty, too, but let's just say our mantra: "Relax, Kim So-hyun (and Yoo Seung-ho) is here."

I loved that village scene of Prince Sun exploring life outside the palace, too! He was so cute being amazed at everything he came across. I loved it when he was initially freaking out because he was out bare-faced and even covered his face because he realized he's not wearing his mask! Haha, so cute. I just want more of that, please--more Prince Sun as a normie and yes, more more more interactions with Ga-eun, who's already so cute.

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LOL! You saw that too? Oopsie. I should have waited...my bad. Sorry guys...just don't read one of them;)

LOVE the mantra. They are both here. No need to panic about spoiled, haughty second lead.

Yea, I loved that scene. He just seemed ready to bolt in that scene because he thought everyone was going to die if they saw his face. The expressions were spot on when he took in his surroundings and the people. His eyes sparkled with wonder and amazement. That was just beautiful. And did I mention those eyes...

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Yep! I think I was reading one of your fan wall posts and you mentioned it? Not sure... but yay, it got posted! No worries, though.

We can't waste our panicky hearts on second leads! Oh no--not when we've got a tragic love bound to happen down the road! THEN we panic.

The fact that he's been living his life seeing who knows how many people getting killed just because they saw his bare face... sadness. The part when he threatened to take his mask off while he was talking to the king and everyone just FLIPPED, I literally gasped and then felt so bad for him because he's so conflicted and he doesn't know what to do. It's so sad. He's so good. Yes, those eyes of his are just so damn expressive and GOOD. HE'S beautiful. Hee.

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Yep, it was on my wall hehe.

Hear, hear. No time to waste on second leads. Totally agree. I'm already panicking for our leads!

Yes, that scene! It was so sad to see him wanting to break free and yet unable to do so. Talk about imprisonment for life. I can't imagine walking around in my own home wearing a mask 23/7 (hehe, he does take it off in his greenhouse).

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I couldn’t wait so I watched with my phone and I’m now mixing the queen and the concubine. So the concubine was with the baby when he was poisoned and then later washing the child when they decided about the mask? So she and not the queen knows the face of the prince? And the queen is ok with not knowing?

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Yes, the concubine was with the baby (who is her son) when he was poisoned. And yes, she knows her son's face. The Queen, however, has been fooled along with everyone else, that the prince has some sort of illness and that's why he has to cover his face. She probably believes this and is no hurry to find out the truth. Because she doesn't know there is more to the story behind the mask.

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Great, thanks! Maybe it will be important who knows the princes true face so i'll need that information later :)

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Your welcome!

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Ahaha, I love the last scene - reversed damsel in distress!

I like how fast-paced it is for the first episode, instead of going through lead's childhood for longer time. I am already liking the show, but that's maybe because of YSH. :P And, of course, KSH. I can see that Sun has easy-going personality despite solemnness when being looked upon as Crown Prince. (reminds me of PBG's role in MDBC)

Can't wait to see how the story of Crown Prince running away goes, and more of KSH!

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I am liking no childhood part too. If they include childhood, childhood actors steals the spotlight and adult actors felt weaker than kid actors sometimes.

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While what you pointed out might be true for other actors and actresses I won't be worried any time soon if KSH, KYJ, YJG and YSH play the adult part :D. Like, I have complete trust in them haha :D

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I'm watching all Wed-Thu dramas and I'm so glad they have different genres so I don't have to choose what's better. Gosh, Yoo Seung Ho is so handsome and has oozing charisma. I liked the premiere except for the part that Yoon SoHee was the first outsider to see the face of the real prince. Well maybe it was made this way so that she will fall for the prince and aim for political power. I guess Kim So Hyun won't know that he is the real prince for a long period of time..

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I was so excited for this and praying that it would be good and I'm glad that the first episode didn't disappoint! This is only my second Yoo Seung-hoo drama but I love him, he brought so much to his Lee Sun and it's only the first episode, I can't wait for more of his expressive eyes!

It was sad to see that the first thing he did when he was around people without his mask is to cover it with his hands! It must be frustrating for him to live all of these years imprisoned in that mask and not be given a good reason as to why he should!

Like Javabeans, I hated bratty Hwa-goon, even if she had no interest to be the crown-princess, she should've at least shown some respect to the queen, I mean, she is the Queen!!

And I loved the end scene and the reversed roles, it's usually the girl falling in the guy's arms so it was really good seeing Sun falling in Ga-eun's arms instead!

Thank you Javabeans for the recap.

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Yes! I loved his expressive eyes too. They seem to speak volumes of his feelings at that moment in time. I am looking forward to more of his expressive eyes in the future episodes.

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Ahhhhh. It's here! Thanks for the speedy recap!
Before the positive stuff...this:
"...and it made me angry that she got to be the first person to see the prince’s face..."
This is what irritated me the most! Why did he have to see her face first? I knew he wasn't going to go starry-eyed for her...but it still didn't make me like the fact that he saw her first...instead of Ga-eun. Maybe I'm being childish? #relaxkimsohyunishere#

Positives:
Where do I start?
My favourite scene was when Sun first left the palace grounds and woke up in the village. His complete enthrallment at his surroundings, and his smileeeee omg when he brushed shoulders with his people. It was sooo sweet. It was his first time seeing that. After being locked away for all his life...with attendants standing at least a metre away from him, this discovery itself must have made him forget that he was a crown prince! Because he was never allowed this exposure, his delight at seeing everything made it all the more heartwarming.
So excited for next ep and more interaction wit Ga-eun!! :D

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Yay, it posted. It was awaiting moderation before. And yes, I panicked...a little. lol. Just tried re-posting.

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Rather than being irritated that he saw her first, it's the fact that she saw his face and now knows he is the prince that got me angry! She's the one who's getting all giddy thinking about him and I'm afraid that later she might use her grandfathor to get him!

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She totally is going to use her grandfather for Sun, isn't she? She will probably try to separate Sun and Ga-eun later on in the series. Sigghhhh. What I wouldn't give for it to go down a different path...

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LOL even I had the same thought.. when the second lead saw the prince's face first, I was like " NOOOO Stay away from Ga-Eun's man" :D

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I know! It would have been better if he had his mask on.

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" NOOOO Stay away from Ga-Eun's man"

Hahahahaha, thanks!

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The two episodes were absolutely compelling! I swear, I was in shock when the second episode just flew by. What seemed like 10 minutes was actually an hour! So excited and pleased that I'll be watching more of this drama today.

I'm so glad that Javabeans touched on the historical aspects of this drama in her recap. I admit to feeling plain confused, cause when I looked it up on wiki, it referenced crown prince Sado who was put to death in a rice chest and I couldn't bear that tragic fate for YSH. So I looked up other Crown Prince Lee Suns on wiki and it referenced two other ones who actually became kings, ruled successfully and were acknowledged as great rulers, so those facts comforted me immensely. Maybe YSH's king is mirrored after those 2? One of them had a queen whose character greatly resembles Hwa goon's character and a Princess consort that KSH's character could be mirrored after. Either way, I'm pretty excited about how things will work out.

Dramafever advertised the drama as the next big saguek to break all records, but I doubt this will be another METS, it's more likely to pull in decent numbers and hover around the 20 percent mark at its peak.

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Sure time flies so fast when you're enjoying a show.
I'm eargerly anticipating that hero-falls-on-the-heroine's-arms scene and the after moments. I'm so hyped all throught out the prior sequence then unfortunately, it froze right at that most anticipated moment.. *jaw dropped* no show, you can't do this to my poor heart.. Now I can't imagine how worse the succeeding cliffhanger will be.

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I like the crown prince's easy going demeanor too, especially when he smiled at the gisaengs. So cute. I love the last part where he falls into the female lead's arms too. Can't wait for Episode 2 or 3!

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This was a good first episode! Making me curious enough to watch more mainly cos I want to see our OTP to meet and interact :P Yoo Seung Ho is awesome here with his soulful eyes and being cheerful even when he had been isolated from the outside world so much that he talks to his mask as a person.. Although the science in this drama is taking a serious hit :D

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I detected a strong parallellism between this fictitional story and another but true story when they showed the poppy* field and then the poison looking like opium,an addictive 'drug' controlled by Westerners (Opium Wars) which eventually led to the downfall of mighty China.Here the controlling force is the Pyunsohwee and they control 'water'.

*poppy (papaver rhoeas) and papaver somniferum from which opium is extracted belong to the same family.

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I was totally thinking opium but back in Goryeo with Shin Don's version of Empress Ki.

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So that's why the poison works more like a drug that when it gets into your system, you need to take it regularly from then on.

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Yes. The whole poison thing works a little if you call it a warped version of opium addiction. It's poison (if you take too much) and nasty withdrawal if you stop.

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Yay! Finally, the waiting game is over.
Thank you @javabeans for the recap and the historical note that saves me time from searching. I like how the show incorporate bits of historical facts just enough not to take us out of the fictitious context

The backstory of why he must wear a mask is laid out quickly which makes us ahead of Prince Sun's search for answer instead of finding it out with him.

Yoo Seung Ho's portrayal of such character is spot on. He's lonely, confused and hurting having to hear people's malicious interpretation of his situation when even he himself, seeks for reasons. He's talking to his mask like a human is both funny and sad. Why they didn't give him a friend? Where is the always present bestfriend/best swordman in fusion sageuk? 😂

And He's is such a cute (handsome) puppy when he finally got to wander around without the mask. My heart is so happy seeing his warm smiles *Awwww*.

I want him to be outside the palace for an episode or two. I hope he spends lots of time with Ga Eun (and fell in love) before going back because we'll never know when will Ga Eun's father will be executed. Seeing how much of the teasers are already shown, I think the execution is not so far away.. :(

Episode one and I already got to connect with our hero (Yoo Seung Ho doesn't disappoints!) and I hope I'll be on board our ship by next episode . More Ga Eun on the please? Let us take a (long?) break from Hwa Goon. We need to console ourselves from her being the first one to enter Prince's greenhouse, seeing his face and forget her annoying behavior. She also got so much screentime in the first episode for a second lead so I think that's enough for this week's pilot.

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Yes, he is so cute! How big was his smile when the gisaengs couldn't take their eyes off of him, haha!

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Haha! Prince, you know, you need not to ask if you're handsome 😂

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I know its only episode 1 and they needed to introduce the back story but I missed Kim So-hyun in this episode. I kept thinking "when is she going to come up?" I also agree with Javabeans I didnt like that Hwa-Goon got to see Sun's face before Ga-Eun. But so far so good... specially our masked prince.... SO GOOD.

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Me too, me too! My sister was always wondering aloud about where she is and when she's gonna show up, and I'm just like, "just waiiiiiittttttt!!" I think I even said "they're saving the best for last." Haha. The little bits we saw of her was already amazing, so I can't wait to see more of her in the next ep!

Oh, I was so surprised she actually saw his face! It was the first time I screamed watching ep 1. Lol. I don't like it, either. It's only the first ep, and she already knows his secret. I hate that it's her and not Ga-eun, to make our lives (and our puppies' lives) a little easier for the impending heartbreak!

Our OG masked prince. <333 so so good!

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Alas! Thank YOU, javabeans, for the recap!

Woo~ I'm lovin' it so far. I definitely felt the fast-paced movement of the plot in just the first ep, but it all flowed smoothly and left me wanting more. Yay for ep 2 today!

I already love Prince Sun! He's so adorable. That whole part where he's exploring life outside the palace with no guise of being the royal prince was lovely. It was so cute and funny how he went from oohing and ahhing at everyone and everything to freaking out and covering his face when he met a man's eyes, all like, "Oh noes! You can't see my face!" But the guy's just like, "Dude, move." Lol! So funny. Oh, and how much did I love that puppy Yoo Seung-ho WAS PETTING A PUPPY!?! Ha, I'm pretty sure he even nudged a little girl aside to squeeze his way in to pet the pup, too. Man, I could use a couple more eps of him exploring life outside the palace and have him follow Ga-eun around, to her annoyance, probably. I need more of these two, Show! How dare you tease me!

Yoon So-hee is... lacking, that's for sure. Y'know, I actually liked her and her character the moment I saw her on screen because she seemed like a sassy girl with a 'tude, but she's strong, and I always appreciate a strong girl-power character. When she told the queen she didn't wanna be a princess, I was like, "Well, damn. Okay, you do you, girl!" And then she became crazy and stabbed herself in the neck to match w/ the Prince, so... yes, to answer your question jb, we SHOULD be worried. I'm very worried. Also, idk if I can forgive her for almost smiling that entire scene where her life was at stake. I cringe at the screencap above, too, because you can SEE it! She did this more than once when it definitely didn't feel right and appropriate, so I can only surmise that she's still lacking in the emoting department and can only HOPE she gets better... or we see less of her and MORE PUPPIES (So-hyun and Seung-ho)! Just like jb said, I'm not really worried about her when I have So-hyun here, BUT I really really hope they don't make her character forefront by having her up her game in marrying Prince Sun. I can totally see that happening, but I'll complain when Show gets there... but hopefully not!

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Yes to more more more Sun and Ga Eun outside the palace! 😍

Agree with javabeans that Hwa Goon is sassy but bratty. I can't with her lack of respect towards the queen. I like that she's honest and decides on how own accord which shows that she can't be manipulated and there's high chance of her, not completely turning to the dark side. Her character have a lot to offer. I may not be rooting for her romance with the Prince but for her development as one of the female protagonist

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Yeah, Hwa-goon has a lot of potential, it's Yoon So-hee, the actress playing her that I'm worried about... sigh. Let's just hope for the best.

I liked that she chose to hide Prince Sun's secret from her grandpa because it reassures me that at least for now, she can be trusted and is on Sun's side. But of course, it's because she's already(!) fallen for him and is most likely gonna step up her princess game, which meh. I liked her better when she wasn't interested in becoming a princess. Curse you, Yoo Seung-ho for being such eye candy! I don't like that gramps has super keen senses and now he's onto Prince Sun, though... Run, Sun, run!!! Right into Ga-eun's arms! Haha.

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Yeah, Not telling her grandpa anything about the prince is the only right thing she did in this episode. pfft. She's totally smitten by him. Who wouldn't? the prince you expects to be disfigured turns out to be so handsome & even saved you from being headless. Dae Mok is a clever character, just exactly how I expects him to be. Ga Eun, please quickly stole our Prince's heart! We want our OTP moments before anything else.

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thanks for the recap!

Seungho just gets to you when you see him. 2 episodes in, and I'm sold with this drama, which rarely happens to me when it involves Sagueks. Can Sohee just fall for Myungsoo? I'm not such a fan of love squares.

I hope I get to survive this drama. *fingers crossed*

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'I’m not so sure the poison addiction thing makes sense to me (you poison someone… and they have to keep taking poison… so that they don’t get poisoned… but the moment they stop taking poison they’ll succumb to poison?'

I have actually seen this plot point in like 2 mangas, in one basically in the girl's food a small amount of poison was given everyday such that it became part of her bloodstream, and bodily fluids eg sweat and saliva (she was used to be a poisonous weapon such that when she kisses someone she could kill them) and when she stopped eating the poison the poison would take over

I think the idea works like a drug, your body becomes so used to it such that in its absence the body will suffer from withdrawals

It works if you shut off the scientific thinking and appreciate the interesting plot point haha

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I think the idea works like a drug, your body becomes so used to it such that in its absence the body will suffer from withdrawals

This was totally what I was thinking during the poison thingy. They're trying to make the poison a part of his system and when he resists it, his body suffer from wanting more of it.

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LOL i thought I was the only one found it is odd that we got lesser of Kim So Hyun in this epi, compared to second female lead. I dont want to get ahead with presumptions, but it could be some hints what will happen later. Maybe the purpose to make second female lead saw Crown Prince's unmasked face first because the writernim knows that no one will ship them. 😆 L did quite a good job, i am more worry to see Yoon Soo Hee and her not serious acting here. Her character is one thing, her acting isnt helping either. Just be better girl.

I cannot wait to see more of Kim So Hyun next epi!

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#bringusKimSoHyun

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I was really engrossed in the ep(s), I like how the stakes feel high and even when the leads aren't on screen I don't feel the need to skip until they are. I can already feel the angsty romance but I love angst and I think YSH and KSH are gonna do great. Also L improved a lot, really happy about that, hopefully he keeps it up. Hopefully the drama will only get better, this on my watch list now

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Wait what? Were Korean dramas always airing episodes straight without commercial breaks in between or am I misunderstanding something

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Yes, no break for terrestrial channels (kbs, mbc, sbs) before , unlike cable, we can notice some scenes repeated meaning that there is break in between.

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Holy c**p. Well, that helps explain all the PPL.

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"I find it a smart move, too, because it avoids the pitfalls of basing a story on a real character and then ignoring key facts (ahem, Moonlight Drawn By Clouds), while still being able to transfer some of the gravitas of the real history into this fictional setup."

and ahem.....Saimdang.

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yass! its here.
I dont think this was a perfect start to the drama but it has potentials. and honestly how did YSH get the second lead's position? like in every drama she plays the same "i'm pretty and bratty" role so i havent seen any progress in her acting since the let's eat 1 days. And like JB said it really annoyed me that SHE was the first one to see his face but then again at the end of the day, she's not the lead so i guess its okay.
A bit sad that KSH only had a short airtime in this episode hopefully we'll get to see more of her in the next episode.

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I was confused with her expressions when she burst out of the greenhouse. I wasn't really sure how to make of her facial expressions. Were she scared, confused, regretful or annoyed now that she got into trouble? I've actually got the impression that she was annoyed that she was caught by the guards and that the prince was out threatening her than anything. Her facial expression was like 'Okay, I went into the greenhouse, so what? You're all bothering me by not allowing me to have my way.'

But she did the giddy part quite well, though, enough to make my blood boil because I was having second-hand jealousy for my Ga-Eun XD.

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Exactly! She didn't look scared/regretful at all. This is like IU and her wide eyes all over again lol

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No no, I WISH she looked annoyed. At least that would've been understandable and somewhat appropriate (for her character). She looked downright AMUSED. Like, what!? Gurl.

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I mean, it makes SENSE that she was all of the things you mentioned (scared, confused, regretful, annoyed), but she wasn't. At least she didn't look it. I wouldn't be surprised if she was probably TRYING to convey some sort of afraid/worried/shocked/etc. kind of look, but that damn smile kept creeping up at the weirdest moments! I know it's not fair to compare, but friggin' Yoo Seung-ho showed more EMOTION with a friggin' MASK covering 90% OF HIS FACE!

Okay, rant over. For now.

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You're right. My bad she didn't look annoyed. I should have written 'sulky' instead. She looks sulky to me because she doesn't have her way. All through the interactions with the queen and the prince she is awkward and out of place, it feels like she doesn't know how to portray her character at that moment.
Granted, it is indeed a difficult moment to portray since her character is supposed to be strong-headed, a little bit spoilt, and has lots of sass (at least it is what I deduct from the [i]lines[/i] rather than Soo Hee's acting) and it's quite difficult to show how a stubborn girl experiences fear from the trouble she's caused. However, So Hee only managed to look sulky, which was why she didn't fit in with the rest of the scene. No matter how pampered Hwa Gun is and no matter how little rip she gives the royal family (since her grandpa didn't respect them either) she was born in that freaking time and is old enough to know what punishment she will face if she provokes a royal. Even the baddie ministers in other sageuks (and probably her grandpa too) know that much not to be on the royal family's bad side especially when they still haven't got all the power they need.

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So, I went into this drama because I love Kim So-hyun playing feisty female lead characters. This is my first time watching Yoo Seung Ho and already, I love him! He's not traditionally good looking for me but there is something so attractive about his face and his eyes -- omo! Very expressive! Gosh, I sure am adding a lot of early 20's actors in my to-watch list lately (Kim Min Jae and Lee Seowon, squee!).

Anyway, I think the drama is interesting -- not liking the 2nd female lead though. She looks like a sullen kid and there is something off about the way she speaks. Hope she improves or at least, grows on me.

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It's always a pleasure to have Yoo Seung-ho on my screen so I was pleased to see the first episode was pretty good. The whole evil secret organization will more than likely irk my nerves later on but so far the plot seems interesting. I can't wait for episode 2 because more Kim So-hyun (there wasn't enough of her in this episode for me) and even better than that? Kim So-hyun and Yoo Seung-ho on screen TOGETHER.

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Those red flowers at the beginning sure looked to me like poppies - which would make sense that the poison becomes addicting if attached to opium. Once a month eating the stuff to cause addiction isn't quite accurate but the withdrawal from suddenly NOT eating it could mirror physical calamity. Whatever - I'll roll with it. Those first opening images looked treated by PhotoShop - the colors were SO saturated. LOL

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The hair of Yoon So Hee and KSH is competely different from everyone else. I know its not about history but it feels like two different eras.

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I know, right? So Hee's hair strikes me as more goryeo than joseon...

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At best, it's fusion goryeo. I just find it ridiculous.

Maybe they wanted to give her a different image from the usual Joseon noble girl getup but the styling and So Hee's acting is making her stick out like a sore thumb.

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YSH probably a time traveler from goryeo to joseon.. I dont understand her hair and clothes as well.

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I dunno why but she reminds me of the Blue Power Ranger.

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Well I don't know if it is out of the place but I like her style! For now, it is the only thing that I like about her! I remember when I saw KSH poster, I wished that she instead had that style!

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Its not how she looks but its about history correct. All the ladies got the correct hairstyle while these two girls just got the style of their own. Even complete fiction like Moon Sun got the correct hairstyle.

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Aaahh, I'm so glad you're back Javabeans!! I realized after reading this recap that I really missed you! I always crave for your comments and I was particulary happy when you said "This is no science I know, but I’m not a top Joseon thinker, so let’s roll with it" because it was exactly what I thought at this moment! .. To best honest, I stayed late at night yesterday just to see who were going to recap RMTM and because I so badly wanted Heads to do it... You know I love you all but I have a soft spot for her because I feel connected to her when she is reccaping a drama (cheesy I know but I don't know how to put otherwise lol). Nevertheless I am still satisfied!!
Sorry for my bad english beanies! Hope that you enjoyed this first episode as much as I did! ^^

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The recap is here! I was analyzing the drama with @ravennightstar and @joyee on the former's fan wall because we couldn't contain our excitement after watching the first two episodes 😄. Thank you @javabeans, I know now that recaps for this drama will be super fast and awesome!

I really like this premiere. It was so intense that I got quite breathless.

I don't know my history and I'm a saeguk noob. But when I heard the King, Consort and Prince's names, I found them familiar(goes to show how many dramas and movies were made about Prince Sado). Now that @javabeans has explained it, I agree that it's a brilliant idea. At least we can hope for a good ending for our Prince!

I've been critical of Yoo Seung Ho's performance in Remember- Son's War but he is absolutely wonderful in this. His expressive eyes conveyed all the emotions effortlessly although his face was behind the mask. In the scene where he, Hwa Goon and the Queen were outside the greenhouse, he was emoting heaps more than Yoon So Hee.

I was so swept by the drama that I didn't notice any plot holes. The only thing that marred my enjoyment was Yoon So Hee. Granted, her character was annoying but her acting made it worse. Not many actresses can carry the part of a bratty girl well. If the objective is to make us hate the character, I'd say they certainly did the job.

I like my secondary characters to make us empathize with them. Although I doubt there can be any strong case of SLS with a pairing like Yoo Seung Ho and Kim So Hyun, they should at least do better than this.

Hopefully So Hee improves or her role is not that significant. L wasn't bad. I hope he will be decent because his role is also not small.

By the way, did anyone think it's a good thing that the Prince developed immunity to the poison. If I didn't catch wrongly, Woo Bo said that he is now immune to any poison. Doesn't this mean that the Pyunsoohwe cannot use their poison to hold him ransom?

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On the poison yes I think he is now immune to any poison based on my understanding what Woo Bo's said.

Seeing that she was the first one met and saw Crown Prince's face, I think So Hee is holding important role as well that we can only hope her acting improves a lot in the future.

YSH in Remember was not bad, but that role probably a little too heavy for him and the writing probably not really good too. I didnt finish it because it was so sad and heart wrenching.

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I am trying not to be too negative but I don't see how she's going to improve. Perhaps when her story takes a more heart wrenching turn, she will do better.

Agree that it was more the writing and directing which did not serve his character well in Remember. It was my first time watching him other than his movie hit as a child actor in The Way Home.

No matter how unfavorable my opinion is of an actor, I am the happiest when proven wrong.

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Yas. I also remembered Woo Bo saying that he's now immune to any poison or was he only pertaining to the same poison? (sometimes, varying trans could be confusing) because yeah, it means he's now also immune to the poison he needs to take to become part of the org but I doubt Dae Mok will give such antidote. Its a foolish decision since it all came from them after all. Well, Let's see..

I've got big issues with Yoon So Hee. And it's such a shame if she doesn't improve especially if this show turns out to be a very good one. Weak spporting characters dulls the whole story no matter how much the main leads shine on their roles. I want my watching experience to be wholesome ( because its my dream OTP!) and I certainly hate her if she'll mess up big time *noooooooo*

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@outofthisworld Hi there Chingu!
Yes, we did, didn't we? That was a fun convo! Looking forward to more.

I loved episode 1. But episode 2 just completely took my breath away. Will discuss it later...

Back to ep 1, you're right. That's what I was confused with too. So Lee Sun cannot be poisoned? That's a good thing...right?
#nofunnybusiness,Show#

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I like that they haven't been tied down to a specific historical storyline, which is what I fear most with sageuk dramas - I've just finished Scarlet Heart Ryeo and haven't recovered yet. So while this drama may have references to actual history, I'm glad they're not following the 'creative license to history route' like with ML.

The set-up looks promising so far, and Myungsoo has given a better performance than his previous dramas already - watching to see how he will grow as an actor from this! I have high hopes for this show overall, may the drama gods not disappoint!!

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As I was reading JB comment about the Show not following real events, I knew Moonlight would be mention xD I just remembered how bummed she was with the ending.

I'm not sure I can handle the melodramatic turn in the coming events but for YSH and KSH! I will endure!

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My heart really ached seeing the Crown Prince reactions when he finally got out and went into the town and even more when he saw the reality and state his people are...

L indeed got better,i see he worked on his way of delivering the words,his intonation,in the past that was part of his problem...he is indeed more natural than before...A big thumbs up in my book...

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The show just started and I'm already in love with it. Can't wait for the next episode tonight. Work can't get done fast enough for me here.

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I think my Korean historical knowledge upgraded thank's to this sageuk lol

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