This is a white and black image of a man in a body of water in a wet T-shirt with their back towards the camera, signifying the sorrow in episodes 11 and 12 of "Mr. Queen".
Joshua Earle

“Please drag the queen down into the nightmare I am living in.”

If you watch a lot of historical Asian drama then at some point when watching, you were probably frustrated that the king had to prostrate themselves before their subjects. Or at least that’s typically my thinking when watching shows like Royal Nirvana, after the king continued to make mistake after mistake. Mr. Queen gives a deeper understanding of how important it is to be strategic and ruthless if you are to survive and thrive in that position.

As the show has been going on, King Cheoljong’s (Kim Jung-Hyun) fate has increasingly been made insecure. His life is so sad. Not only did the Grand Queen Dowager (Bae Jong-Ok) conspire against his entire family with Kim Jwa-Geun (Kim Tae-Woo), they debase and humiliate him every chance they get.

The soldering of all the contempt for Cheoljong led to his grand humiliation in episode twelve of Mr. Queen. How much can they really expect for him to quielty sustain until he revolts? Apparently, a lot!

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In previous episodes, Cheoljong tried to get his hands on a ledger from the Kim clan that would effectively put their positions on notice since it held accounts of criminality. But, somehow, Consort Jo Hwa-Jin (Seol In-A) discovered his secret and then handed the book over to the queen dowager (Jo Yeon-Hee).

“Please drag the queen down into the nightmare I am living in,” she pleaded.

This wasn’t great, because although the queen dowager and Cheoljong have similar objectives, she is reckless and ultimately always seems to compromise Cheoljong for her goals. So, obviously he would have liked the book himself, but Hwa-Jin believed that at the end of the day, since the ledger is a threat to the Kim clan, and by extension, Queen Kim So-Yong (Shin Hye-Sun), she would evnetually stand between his love and his penchant for change.

Of course, the identity of the person who holds the ledger is unknown to nearly everyone which means, Cheoljong is made a bait, leaving Kim Jwa-Geun and his adopted son Kim Byeong-In (Na In-Woo) an opening to target him. This meant ruining his banquet which was meant to be a declaration of Cheoljong’s strength and leadership. But he also wanted to use the banquet as an opportunity to do good by his people for the first time and shed his cowardly pretense — a major risk, since no one had discovered his real personality—for their greater good. His stance was firm but polarising.

“With the start of this banquet, we will start reducing the dishes in our meals. When the nation is in trouble, the king should reduce the number of dishes in his meals to share the pain of his people,” he said. Adding, “if you violate these terms, I will take it as you’re willing to accept the punishment.”

Unfortunately, his enemies were fastidious about ruining him. They went after his chef and team, and the food supply for the banquet, asking a man from the Han clan to poison their water. Then they went after his royal guards, and then finally him. Each time Cheoljong was almost able to dodge their attacks —with the help of Jang Bong-Hwan’s (Choi Jin-Hyuk)/ So Yong’s cooking skills. But even that couldn’t stop Kim Jwa-Geun from attacking him publicly and asking him to be a puppet king.

Interestingly, everyone stood by to watch as Cheoljong, faltered and then broke under pressure. Neither the queen dowager who was in possession of the ledger that would have changed the landscape of everything, nor Hwa-Jin who is supposedly protective and madly in love with him or even So Yong/ Bong-Hwan who had just learned incriminating evidence to use against Kim Jwa-Geun, said anything. Everybody paused in awe of his misery.

In clear despair and with tears falling down his face, Cheoljong muttered to himself, “nothing I do will make any difference.”

Yet, that wasn’t the worst of things for him. (As to be expected of Mr. Queen.) Just as Cheoljong was finishing up the banquet ceremony to pray for blessings for the country, there was an explosion. It seems lighting incense was the trigger and that someone, maybe the mysterious scared faced eunuch, switched out the ceremony powder for gun powder, as an attempt to kill Cheoljong.

He was visibly wounded as everyone stood by, horrified at what had just happened. So Yong attempted to reach out to help him but Byeong-In intercepted just in time. Only attendants could give him aid.

As the episode twelve closed, the mounting disappointment and frustrations of Cheoljong became more palpable and overwhelming, due entirely to Kim Jung-Hyun’s acting prowess by the way. But Cheoljong is a powerless king with no respect, no allies, and a terrible reputation. Who would listen to him?

It’s important to remember that everyone (the court) is against Cheoljong because he is asking them to sacrifice their lavish lifestyle for people they don’t know, or care about. And why should they? As we’ve learned so far in Mr. Queen, everyone is selfish so, it was naïve of him to expect compliance from these greedy people without offering anything in exchange. After all, isn’t that the world we inhabit now? Corrupt politicians rule every land, and since they are in the position of power to not care about the weak or disenfranchised, as has always been true throughout human history, they need a bigger incentive than the fear of punishment or an arbitrary concept of doing good to actually be good.

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