Mr. Queen: Episodes 11-12 Open Thread
A festival and banquet occupy the court this week, but there’s more than mere pomp and circumstance going on. Each player has their own agenda, and while some prove victorious, others are blindsided by their opponents. In other words, just another day at the royal court.
EPISODES 11-12 WEECAP
We open our episodes this week catching up with our characters: Hwa-jin has shared the infamous ledger with the queen dowager, Cheoljong is tickled over his new dictionary, and our queen is complaining that she feels like she’s made of legos — some pieces of her are So-yong, and others are Bong-hwan.
Our queen attempts to distract herself from her reality with the concubines, and she has a little too much fun choosing them, bathing with them, and playing with them. No one finds this strange — but then again, everything this new So-yong does is a bit strange.
The real action, though, is the goings on at Dano (or Surit-nal), a traditional holiday that the court is preparing to celebrate. Though a lot of what we see at the festival is a bit non sequitur (or in the words of the grand queen dowager, “staged and boring”), it also plays hosts to several important moments.
The first of those is between Hwa-jin and So-yong. Hwa-jin has been nursing her enmity, and it’s grown as her jealousy has grown. When her handmaid’s body is found (and points to the Kim family side of things), that enmity only increases. Though she is still pretending to be kind and doe-eyed around the king, she’s actually scheming behind his back. And about to murder So-yong.
The ladies’ hunt event, a part of the festival, starts off hilarious and has this almost gaudy feel to it, but it ends at a very high pitch. That’s something Mr. Queen is quite good at: taking these moments it has been playing for comedy, and then suddenly turning them serious. And that’s exactly what happens during the hunt, when So-yong comes face to face with Hwa-jin and her metal arrowhead. No one is around to see this take place. Will Hwa-jin shoot?
The second big event of the festival is the fan-fight between Cheoljong and Byung-in, and this high-stakes fight is intercut with the scenes from the ladies’ hunt in a way that builds a tense and exciting cliffhanger. Mr. Queen is also very good at cliffhangers.
The fight between Cheoljong and Byung-in is important primarily because it’s a bit of a dare — not many know that Cheoljong is actually not a lump, but actually an amazing fighter. But after this face-off with Byung-in — well, the cat is out of the bag.
It’s a fantastically shot fight scene, and in between all the great choreography and the competitive emotions on display, it ends with two important things happening. First, that thanks to the fan that covers Cheoljong’s face just so, Byung-in has a eureka moment and realizes that it was Cheoljong that night (at the beginning of the drama) who tried to kill his beloved So-yong. Second, not only are Cheoljong’s skills out there on display, but he wins the fight with Byung-in, who is left more defeated than ever. (As a proud member of Team Byung-in, my heart sank here.)
Fights and face-offs out of the way (and no, Hwa-jin didn’t shoot So-yong with the metal arrow but with the painted cotton-tipped one) — there’s even more festival to be had. And more drama.
As ever, So-yong finds herself in the kitchen saving the day once again as she creates the many courses for the festival banquet (and the dishes are as full of puns and modernity as ever). Though the kitchen scenes are mostly for the fun and comedy, there is also some mischief afoot. Actually a lot. Actually, there are so many treasonous and evil-doing people around the court, I’m surprised our body count is as low is it is thus far.
The final event of the banquet holds the biggest reveal, and the biggest bang (pun intended). Though Cheoljong seemed to be holding his own all day, and gained some respect with (So-yong’s) banquet feast, it all falls apart at the end.
The malicious KIM JWA-GEUN (KIM TAE-WOO) publicly exposes the king’s Royal Guard members as criminals and outlaws, but more than the actuality of what was going on in this scene, it was Kim Jung-hyun’s performance that really sold it all. In the space of this one scene, he goes from carefully-hidden shock, to vengeful screaming, to sheer surrender. All while remaining kingly and almost austere. Tears fall from his face, but that’s the only window we have to the torment that’s going on inside.
Furthermore, when Cheoljong ascends to the altar to light incense and pray for the good of the nation, we get an equally arresting scene. It’s careful and deliberate. Cheoljong slowly bows and rises; the incense he lit burns down. And as the ash hits the sand that it’s been propped in, we see that it’s not sand after all: it’s gunpowder. A huge explosion sends Cheoljong tearing through the air, and the whole court is in chaos. So-yong runs to him on impulse, but is held back by Byung-in. And that’s our cliffhanger. Like I said, they do them quite well!
For all the slowness of the court politics plot, we actually do get some important reveals — and out front attacks — this week. I’m hoping that Cheoljong and his reign survive this attack, and who knows how much more fuel this will add to the fire. Good thing Bong-hwan is around to set everyone to rights.
PS: If you’re also watching True Beauty with me, it bears noting that this is certainly the week for our heroes to sustain bodily harm — and not only that, but to be flung through the air as a consequence of it. It’s not easy being a hero.
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