Ga-eun (played by Kim So-hyeon-I) is the young woman who kept getting all those dramatic camera shots in the second episode, even though at the time we had no idea who she was. Here, we quickly discover that Ga-eun is a kind woman, who assumes on general principle that anybody being chased after by armed men is probably innocent. This turns out to be a pretty reasonable assumption considering that by the end of the fourth episode…alas, the other Seon (played by L) is not so lucky as the handsome prince who shares his moniker.
From the perspective of our three main leads the third episode is fairly subdued. They all meet and share good times together, even if the other Seon clearly wants to beat Prince Seon up for the mess he caused during water distribution. It only slowly dawns upon Prince Seon just how dangerous it is for him to be outside the palace. Thanks to that stupid mask, there’s almost no one who can recognize him.
Except for Hwa-goon, who shows more villainous tendencies here. I rather like Hwa-goon as a character. We see how Hwa-goon is completely on board with her grandfather’s plan to terrorize the royal family into making his family even wealthier. But Hwa-goon’s infatuation with Prince Seon, shallow as it is, can only go so far in repressing these greater ambitions. Hwa-goon pulls her punches in expectation of a reward. Ga-eun, by contrast, is nice to everybody.
This is what helps inspire Prince Seon to try to make life better for his subjects. Unfortunately the problems in this version of Joseon are quite complex, involving official and unofficial legal arrangements that Prince Seon can’t tear down through the sheer force of regal charisma. It is being impressed upon Prince Seon rather quickly that given the lack of official support, he’s going to have to scrape together a coalition rather quickly of whatever potential allies happen to be physically nearby.
The scripting in “Ruler: Master of the Mask” remains a work of beauty. Even contrivances which initially seem to favor Prince Seon quickly turn disastrous because that’s how good Dae-mok’s massive spy network. I love how half the time Prince Seon is in mortal danger he can’t even process it. On some level, Prince Seon still thinks he’s in a romantic comedy. Those pretensions are no doubt dashed by the fourth episode cliffhanger, which really outdoes itself in the whole “whaaat!? we’re stopping here!?” department.
Review by William Schwartz
“Ruler: Master of the Mask” is directed by Noh Do-cheol & Park Won-gook, written by Jeong Hae-ri & Park Hye-jin-II, and features Yoo Seung-ho, Kim So-hyeon-I, L, Yoon So-hee, Heo Joon-ho and Park Chul-min.
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Ruler: Master of the Mask