Mr. Queen: Episodes 17-18 Open Thread
In the tumultuous world of the Joseon court, one day you’re on top, and the next you’re at the mercy of your enemies, pushed to the edge of a cliff. Sometimes quite literally. As our court conflicts reach an all-new high, we’re looking at quite a lot of drama, heartbreak, and some sacrifices for the greater good.
EPISODES 17-18 WEECAP
Jang So-yong is in quite a funk over her pregnancy. Though the entire court is rejoicing (well, except for the antis), she’s understandably confused, overwhelmed, and experiencing her identity crisis all the more.
In contrast, Cheoljong is on top of the world with an heir on the way, a queen he loves and trusts, and the power in his hands to take back Joseon. Alas, the power-hungry evil doers in the court are not okay with this, and never seem to stop.
A rumor is quickly released in the palace, and it spreads like wildfire: So-yong’s baby is not Cheoljong’s – it’s Byung-in’s. We all know that’s bunk, but how do our king and queen try to prove it? Like a bunch of teenagers, carrying on with fake PDAs in public, trying to change the court’s collective perception.
It’s mostly for hijinks and comedy at this point, but actually the show makes a pretty sharp statement about rumor versus truth when the grand queen dowager declares that, “What everyone believes will become the truth.” However, this rumor turns out to be the least of our couple’s troubles, because deeper and darker games are afoot. Undermining the royal heir was only the beginning.
The queen dowager is scrambling for power with her clan, but it’s really the grand queen dowager that comes back like a boomerang. She negotiates with Byung-in, and quickly claws her way back into power. With the snap of her fingers, all the corrupt officials are back, and everything Cheoljong was working for is inverted. Talk about frustrating!
Why can’t Cheoljong fight back against this? Because he is in their crosshairs, in a serious way. Byung-in has linked him to the rebel uprising, imprisoned his loyal men, and forced Cheoljong to go on the run (under the ruse of quelling the uprising). For Cheoljong, it’s the only way to save So-yong and protect his child, so it’s an easy — though heavy — choice for him to make.
What was most interesting to me this week was this new side of Byung-in we are seeing. Every week this man gets worse. But what’s interesting about Byung-in is that he stills seems to be driven by his “love” for So-yong. He wants to protect her and her baby’s life with the same fervor Cheoljong does (or claims he does) — but because of where they stand on the political spectrum, this protection looks very different for each of them.
This dynamic changes a bit this week, though, when So-yong confronts Byung-in even more strongly than she did when spurning his affection. She boldly tells him she’s not the So-yong he loved in the past, and even questions why he didn’t pick up on how different she is now. This is interesting, because it seems to connect some dots that Byung-in was unable to on his own. If his beloved So-yong isn’t So-yong and there’s an imposter in her place… that imposter is an enemy.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Mr. Queen is so, so good at cliffhangers! And this week they were especially good, as the drama circled back to the same high-stakes moment for both of our leads, making for some nice, tight storytelling. And an exciting watch.
The first cliffhanger, at the end of Episode 17, is with Byung-in and Cheoljong facing off (again). They’re out of the palace, so the gloves are off, and they fight pretty fiercely. Cheoljong is soon over-powered, though, and facing death at Byung-in’s hands, he dives off the cliff into the sea instead.
Word of the king’s “death” quickly reaches the court, and again we see the swift power of information (or perhaps, misinformation) as it circulates and has some serious consequences. The grand queen dowager and her cronies are quick to declare the king dead and take over — but this is where So-yong reaches an interesting place in her trajectory.
She’s now not only fully embracing her pregnancy, but she’s fully committed to Cheoljong as well — i.e., quite in love. This shift was pretty inevitable, but also interesting because it’s mostly the reality of her new circumstances that help her accept her emotions. The news of Cheoljong’s death is enough to break her, but when she sneakily realizes it’s all a hoax, it’s her turn for some adventure.
And so, So-yong, Lady Choi, and Hong Yeon sneak out of the palace on a mission to find Cheoljong, save him, and restore the balance. This just might be my favorite plot direction of the entire drama — it’s a breath of fresh air to get out of the palace, and the rules of engagement are different and a welcomed change.
However, the women are not exactly a match for Byung-in and his men, and they’re pretty quickly located. Lady Choi bravely sacrifices herself for So-yong’s safety, and Hong Yeon soon does the same (I blindly refuse to believe they actually came to harm — don’t you dare, Show!). But even with their brave sacrifices, So-yong doesn’t get very far.
In a spine-chilling (and awesome!) moment, So-yong looks up from her hiding place only to see a truly evil-looking Byung-in staring down at her. Ahh! She tries to run away, but pretty soon finds herself in the exact same position Cheoljong was in at the end of the previous episode. Death by Byung-in’s sword, or a dive off the cliff into the sea?
It’s a great moment, and I’m excited to see where they take it. The confrontation between these two is exciting in and of itself, but even more so with Byung-in screaming about what she did to the “real” So-yong.
Also, let’s not forget the huge Episode 1 callback here: So-yong/Bong-hwan is about to dive into a huge body of water to escape oncoming demise. This can’t be a mere coincidence. Will it change something, trigger something, or reveal something? Will So-yong even jump, or will Byung-in have mercy? I don’t know! And please, no spoilers — not even a whisper — till we reach next week’s finale.
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