The Crowned Clown Final Review

N.B. I have not seen the movie. This is a critique of the show alone.

The premise of this show is the story of a Clown who became King. That is what they wanted to tell. They wanted, I think, to tell the story of someone from a lower class who is better at serving the people of a nation than those who have been corrupted in power; they wanted to tell the story of what it would be like to put someone like a Clown on the throne, and what it would be like for a Clown to fall in love with a Queen.
Which sounds all well good. And even I would be interested, and was interested, in seeing what this story looks like.
The makers of this show (and I assume the movie) decided to show that story by means of a doppelganger plot. That is, a Clown, who is the spitting image of the King, becomes king.
But this show decided to ignore one crucial part of this premise.
The doppelganger part.
For a doppelganger Clown to become King, the King must already exist as a character.
The King, all his loves, fears, weaknesses and strengths, his idiosyncrasies, his handwriting, his tone of voice, he as a person, already has to exist before the Clown can pretend to be him.

And this show started out like that. It showed the King, as a character. It showed his relationships. His weaknesses. His fears. It showed his past. He existed as a fully fledged character.
The problem is, is that the show did not actually want to tell the story of the King AND the Clown. They just wanted to show the Clown as King.
So after the preliminary introductions, they used Yi Heon as a plot device, to get the Clown into the Kingโ€™s position and then they abandoned the King. The Clown is King? That’s all we need, they said. The King comes back later, as a cameo and as an excuse for conflict but we will kill him off because he’s really not important to the Clown’s story now; he’s in the way. And nobody likes him anyway, right?

He is important.
The Clown cannot be King if there is no pre-existing King for him to pretend to be. And if there is a pre-existing King for him to be then who that king IS (or was) is very, very important.
Because everything the Clown does under pretense as the King, will be seen by the other characters, as being done by the King.

Think about this, initially only Haksan, Jo, and the Monk knew the Clown was pretending to be the King. That means, that everybody else in the entire canon palace world of this show, thinks, the Clown, is a KING they alreadyknow.

This showโ€™s single and greatest flaw, therefore, is ignoring the consequences of the King as a pre-existing character as determined by the premise of the show itself.

Because there were no consequences for the King as a pre-existing character. There almost were- with the Queen almost committing suicide out of guilt, Shin almost exposing the Clown as a fake, and Ha Seon finding out Haksan killed the king.
But none of that had any real stakes.
Letโ€™s break this down.

The Queen- The Clown saved the Queen, thus the Queen forgave him, and then also abandoned the King as a pre existing character. She showed no remorse for him being gone after that point. It was like he was never her childhood friend or first love, it was like her past husband never existed once the Clown declared his love for her. The King? That relationship? Gone. Poof. There are of course all the issues with adultery and what shouldโ€™ve been her reaction given the historical context and even arguments about who was the better husband for her, but none of that is really that important or relevant because on a basic writing level, her character, after trying to commit suicide promptly forgot, or acted like the King as a character never existed and was never important. This is a Absurd. And OOC*.
*(Out of Character: not a logical decision for the character to make based on how they have acted previously).

Shin- Shin and the Queen Dowager eventually find out, or well, guess that the Clown is not the real King. However instead of this being a huge and important plot point, and an opportunity for properly developed conflict and climax, this is practically swept under the rug. The Clown manages to fluke his way out of the accusations (without anyone on his side dying), and then the Villains lead a rebellion that is entirely unsuccessful and was executed without intelligence so that the Good Guys (lol) can win very easily and eliminate all threats, in the space of about 20 minutes, as if the last fifteen episodes of well, drama, mean absolutely nothing.
And then the Clown and his Queen live happily ever after, after the Clown suddenly abdicates after having a COMPLETE change in behaviour and personality I might add, that nobody frakking realises. Because whoever Yi Heon was, according to the makers of this show, no longer matters. Absolutely no repercussions, to the King even existing, let alone the Clown taking the throne and the King dying.
(~You know, itโ€™s kind of paradoxical.
Nobody found out the King died because the Clown is the King. And nobody found out the Clown wasnโ€™t the King because the King is dead. And the King only died because the King was a plot device and the King was only a plot device because this show, and itโ€™s writers, are frakking stupid.~)
Why would I want to watch something when there are no stakes for a plot that should have all the stakes? And Haksan dying- so what. He didnโ€™t die for any plot related reasons. Or well he did but not the important ones. He essentially died so that no one could ever actually prove the Clown as fake. Once again sweeping this fact under the rug.

Speaking of Haksan- Haksan killed the king. Whatever you want to argue the reason for this was, and whatever you want to argue the reason for Ha Seon blithely forgiving him for this was, does not matter.
For all the aforementioned reasons. Let me say it again. A character as significant and prominent as the King, doesnโ€™t even have to be on screen for anything that happens to him to be very important to how your plot plays out if you want your plot to make sense.
So what happens, when you kill him, and, moral implications aside, there are no consequences to this, is that your plot doesnโ€™t frakking make sense.
And all conflict and tension that should exist because of a Clown being a fake King on a throne and surrounded by people that want to kill him, goes away. And it becomes very boring to watch. Because the show you THOUGHT you were getting, the doppelganger plot with the tension and juxtaposition created by that, is actually a different show altogether. One that is like a wolf trying to be a sheep and telling everyone that it is a sheep, when itโ€™s actually still a wolf.

Honestly, itโ€™s not even the underlying moral issues that are never addressed by this show, although sure they annoy me on a personal level, and I have argued about them till Kingdom come; itโ€™s that a core ingredient for plot and character was just IGNORED in order for them to try and push the story they wanted to tell. And thatโ€™s really poor writing.
Itโ€™s not even just that, itโ€™s poorly constructed as a concept, let alone a written piece.

If you want to tell a story about a Clown being King, do NOT make that ENTIRE premise hinge on a single character and then treat him as a plot device!
Do not base it on a doppelganger trope, only to IGNORE the implications and potential and importance of that doppelganger trope. Donโ€™t base it on a doppelganger trope at all if youโ€™re going to do that!
And your flimsy attempts at trying to justify this by saying that Ha Seon was better than Yi Heon and would never succumb to what Yi Heon did, mean nothing if you refuse to develop Yi Heon as a character!
Why even give us Yi Heon as a character with a backstory to begin with if youโ€™re just going to do that to him. What was the point? To show how good and righteous the Clown was? But I donโ€™t know the Clown. He had no backstory. He only existed to play the King and become the King, at the expense of the King.

I said this in episode 8, and I will say it again. I am mad they reduced the King, Yi Heon, to nothing, when he was in my opinion the most interesting, and the most important character. I am mad, salty, disappointed, call it what you will, at the mistreatment of the King as a written and constructed character. This is not his fault; he is not a real person. He can only be as abusive or violent or lost or addicted to drugs as his writing allows. Whether or not he was a lost cause because of his addictions, whether or not he was a bad husband or a bad King, is not relevant. He never had a chance to be anything other than a plot device that was promptly forgotten.
And he shouldโ€™ve been. Because the show wouldโ€™ve been more interesting, and wouldโ€™ve made more sense if he had been treated as his necessary pre-existing character, and therefore storytelling cornerstone, (and Jingooโ€™s acting) deserved and required.


    I haven’t watched TCC, but for anyone inrerested in reading I would suggest the book Double Star by Robert Heinlein as the most perfect doppleganger story ever told.


      The Prisoner of Zenda is also quite interesting once you get your teeth into it, although I wouldn’t recommend for Beanies where English is a second language 😂


        Why wouldn’t you?

        I haven’t read PoZ but I know the story and I actually think that the beginning of the Double Star story has been inspired by it.


          It’s a classic, so the language is difficult at times. 😔

          Really? It was inspired by it?


            Oh right. I’m actually much better at reading classic English than writing or speaking it. 😁

            No! I didn’t mean I know for a fact that it was actually inspired by it. That is just my own feeling. The starting point of the premise is very similar. But not the rest of it.


    Thank you for this. Haven’t had time to be on DB much these days but from snippets, I see a lot of rants on this show. In a nutshell, your post helped me see what went wrong.

    I dropped this show very early on despite wanting to watch Jin Goo so much. I just didn’t like it much somehow. One of the things that bothered me then was the feeling that romance would play a big role whereas it wasn’t so in the movie version. I thought it would end up one of those romantic stories masquerading as a saeguk. Even at that point, what I was most interested in was the real King, how the Clown’s journey to being a king and conflicts thereafter.

    We need a solid saeguk soon. The last one I saw was Six Flying Dragons.


      You’re welcome. I’ve been sitting on this thought for several episodes, wanted to save it for the final, since I think pretty much all issues with the show, even the romance (shoehorned to me at times too), stem from this one place. All it would’ve taken was a different angle of approach. The story they wanted to tell needed a different premise entirely, and the premise they chose would’ve made for a very different show if they’d stuck to it.

      I guess I am fortunate that I still have SFD and TWDR to watch haha. In fact, I was going to watch the latter after I’d finished this!


      I didn’t think it was terrible. I think it’s just a different direction (the point when they killed the king). If you can’t get past that, I can see why the show would feel off.

      On the other hand, I am in shock and love at the king’s death. Because coming from a nation that’s in turmoil right now, it’s plenty vile to me what the king was doing and how his cowardly decisions made the people suffer again and again, even as he lets his best men do his dirty work AND struggle to fight back the tide of corruption. He beat Secretary Lee down and killed his hope. That is a terrible thing to have to happen to you. I didn’t want to watch 8 more episodes of the evil king making mistakes and throwing the country to the dogs while we wait for him to redeem himself.

      I have so many feels about the political part of this show, but at the same time, I don’t find the romance galling. It’s not a Dong Yi or Dae Jang Geum or TWDR or 6FD. It’s just a sageuk with a side of sweetness. I’d say it is closer to the well-executed Seven Day Queen.

      TL;DR The Crowned Clown is not an epic but it has moments of greatness which, coming from The Sageuk Drought of 2018, is a decent historical to start 2019 with.


    This is what happens when you kill off the most dynamic character in a story.


    @mary I’m not sure what’s happening but it keeps cutting off the bottom part of this post when I click read more or permalink? That wasn’t happening last night but now for me at least @pakalanapikake‘s tag and the conclusion has disappeared.


    I was interested in TCC only to watch the tension and conflict that would induce between the king and the clown, the character growth the king would make and I really wanted it to make sense
    A bullet has been dodged , thanks @sicarius 💛💜