Don’t Eat The Same Food Twice
The second episode of The Crowned Clown wastes no time picking up where it left off as we return to the throne room with Ha Sun and Lee Hun. After switching places, the real King takes off and leaves Ha Sun in his stead. With enemies all around and the inexperienced boy in way over his head, the second episode takes on a much more comedic tone for large stretches of the episode as Ha Sun desperately tries to fit in to his newfound role. The smiles and humour is replaced by shock and anger late on though as a major plot development shakes this innocent man to his core, promising a vengeful, angry Ha Sun going forward.
The opening 20 minutes or so of this episode are so far removed from the tone of the first episode, it almost seems unfathomable that this is the same show. These early segments see Ha Sun, with the help of the King’s trusted advisors, navigating a treacherous sea of politically dangerous waters. This results in some particularly amusing segments, including Ha Sun attempting to hide his emotions in public and visibly yawning during a lengthy speech. All of this builds toward a crucial moment where he first lays eyes on the Queen, So-Woon. After Lee Hun sentenced her father to death in the last episode, Ha Sun promises the Queen to reverse this decision, much to the disdain of his advisors. What follows is a crucial and defining moment in this story as word reaches the palace from none other than Lee Hun himself that So-Woon’s father is to be executed. Unfortunately, Ha Sun has other ideas and isn’t ready to break his promise just yet.
This decision to overturn Lee Hun’s wishes causes shockwaves to ripple throughout the palace as the various faces, including the villainous Left State Minister, begin to question the King’s motives and just what he knows that they don’t. Unbeknownst to them, Ha Sun’s affection toward So-Woon sets them both on a fated path as their romance begins to blossom. This leads to the final third of the episode where things take a very dark and shocking turn. After being warned that assassinations are a constant threat for the King, Ha Sun witnesses this firsthand, with the consequences causing him to flee the palace and return to his Clown troupe.
In doing so, things turn from bad to worse as Dal-Rae’s earlier run in with a shady individual bears a horrific truth for Ha Sun to deal with. To add salt to an open wound, it turns out this man has ties with the Left State Minister himself, Shin-Chi Soo. The final scenes of the episode see a bitter and angry Ha Sun return to the palace, confronting Lee Kyu about his fate and making a bold promise regarding his future.
Much like the first episode, The Crowned Clown packs an awful lot into its 85 minute run time but a combination of impressive camera work and excellent acting help this Korean historical drama really stand out. Yeo Jin-Goo is absolutely sublime in his role. The subtle mannerisms, the behaviour and even simple things like the walk or linguistic choices for dialogue combine to make for a tour de force in acting. It’s pulled off so well that even mild facial expressions can be used to distinguish the two characters. Thankfully, the rest of the cast are just as impressive in their roles with Kim Sang-Kyun playing his reserved mannerisms really well and So-Woon starting to assert herself as an equal for Ha Sun.
Despite a whole load of characterisation and plot development, The Crowned Clown never loses sight of its general aesthetic which remains beautifully presented. Some of the camera work and general composition is so well-developed here that it really brings the most out of every scene. All of this while serenading us with a wicked blend of classical chimes and string-heavy segments that help to raise the tension in every scene. It’s a great choice too and something that only further reinforces the work done with the overall design of the show.
The Crowned Clown is fast becoming a must-see drama in 2019. While the second episode introduces more humour and a playful side to the series during the first half, the second half kicks us back into the dark, dramatic underbelly of this Korean drama. A great use of colour and a terrific dual performance from Yeo Jin-Goo helps the show stand out too and the tantalizing ending we receive here bodes a really intriguing notion going forward.