Ruler: Master of the Mask proves to be worth watching! The historical drama surely piqued our interest with its jam-packed yet promising start. Here’s my review based on the episodes that aired in its first week.
But before anything else here’s the synopsis of the drama (copied directly from the link above):
The drama tells the story of Joseon Crown Prince Lee Sun who fights against an organization called Pyunsoo-hwe that has gained power and wealth through the privatization and monopolization of the water supply all over Joseon. For some reason, he has to hide behind a mask but still manages to bring hope for the people who suffer from all the injustices. He finds support from the woman he loves and becomes a true ruler.
The first two episodes are relatively fast-paced. The characters are already faced with crises and problems to solve. For instance, Crown Prince Lee Seon discovers the suffering of his subjects due to Pyunsoo-hwe’s absolute control over the nation’s water supply. Victimized by the same abusive monopoly, peasant Lee Seon loses his father and for a moment, his sanity, and seeks revenge himself. Aside from these early conflicts arising, the love story between Crown Prince Lee Seon and Han Ga-eun also developed pretty quickly. The prince immediately fell for Han Ga-eun after she saved him from Pyunsoo-hwe’s men. The prince even went as far as asking if she’s already betrothed. Although Han Ga-eun is a bit annoyed by the proud behavior of the prince, we can sense that she doesn’t totally hate the prince and is even sometimes swayed by his words and smiles.
How the series unfolded the meaning of its title was also quite fast. With just two episodes (or should I say 4 now due to the recent changes in MBC’s airing format?), the title was already explained and was well established— that even though Prince Lee Seon has to hide behind a mask, he is nonetheless a true ruler. It might have seemed that he uses the mask for his own protection but he eventually became its master and have used it well in order to more effectively help the people. Even though the story is fast-paced, we know that the drama still has a lot to reveal in the next episodes.
Characters are not flat but are very dynamic. They adapt and change as the story progresses. For example, Prince Lee Seon seems immature at first but becomes decisive and strong when he personally sees the suffering of the people outside the palace. Peasant Lee Seon also changed—he used to be obedient to his father and even to the rules instituted by Pyunsoo-hwe. When his mother is in dire need of water for she is about to give birth, Lee Seon tries to ask for emergency water from Pyunsoo-hwe but is rejected. He, along with Han Ga-eun and Prince Lee Seon, is not able to do anything and just accepts Pyunsoo-hwe’s merciless decision until his father arrives and secures a bucket of water. The organization later accused his father of stealing and killed him, causing peasant Lee Seon to seek revenge and aims aggressively to kill the Pyunsoo-hwe’s men involved.
Kim Hwa-gun is decided not to become the crown princess. Yes, we felt that. However, when she gets to meet the prince by accident, she fell in love right away. Captivated by the well-grounded principles and actions of Prince Lee Seon, she changes her mind and asks to be the crown princess. She even initially concealed the truth that she knows the face of the prince from her grandfather who greedily wants to know the prince’s look.
Meanwhile, the lead female character Han Ga-eun is very helpful to the needy especially to those around her. In fact, she met the prince since she helped him hide from the bad guys who were after him. She can’t tolerate injustice and wickedness and possess a noble heart which totally captivated our Prince Lee Seon. However, with the turn of events, we know that Han Ga-eun’s father will be put to death for helping the prince in his useless pursuit of justice. We can now feel how this miserable event will also change her character.
The story well reflects the society. Unlike some historical dramas which are more focused on the life within the palace or the struggle for power between royalties, Ruler: Master of the Mask is balanced between high and low levels of society. There’s the side of the ruler who wants prosperity and justice for his people and there’s also the side of the subjects (Peasant Lee Seon and Han Ga-eun along with others) who seek for justice and advancement themselves. Both parties are found with strength and weaknesses which could make an interesting story and plot.
Ruler: Master of the Mask airs on MBC every Wednesday and Thursday at 22:00 KST. The historical drama recorded impressive ratings for its first week, defeating that of SBS drama Suspicious Partner which airs at the same timeslot.
About the Author: Icygrey is a student finishing her master’s degree in Industrial Economics. She is an adventurous foodie who loves to try new flavors and new food in new places. Email her at [email protected]