The Hunter Becomes The Hunted
After the dramatic events that transpired at the end of the last episode, The Crowned Clown returns this week, picking up where it left off with Ha Sun blinded by rage and revenge. The third episode of Crowned Clown sees some pretty big plot developments unravel but the most important occurs toward the end of the episode. The moment in question is a particularly telling one too, complicating Ha Sun’s resolve while powerful forces plot his demise in the background. A beautiful ending under the moonlit tranquility of the King’s gardens leaves many questions hanging over the show, and the faint glimmers of romance too, as a preview for the fourth episode looks set for all hell to break loose.
Before getting ahead of ourselves though, we begin the episode with Ha Sun inside the palace, determined to get his revenge on those responsible for Dal-Rae’s misfortunes. As the King’s ministers try their best to guide the erratic clown King, we catch a glimpse of the real King living in paranoid isolation. There’s a really interesting moment here with one of the advisors; a look of dreaded realization the the King may not be fit to return to duty anytime soon.
We don’t get long to dwell on this though, as we see Queen Dowager plotting her next move following the botched poison attempt last week. A particularly lively lunch involving her and Ha Sun results in the King storming out, raising more exasperation from So-Woon who asks him not to go out of his way to help her. As Ha Sun ponders her words in the palace, we return to the political scheming undermining the episode as the Left State Minister confronts Ha Sun and offers him an impossible choice. Following his decision to spare So-Woon’s father, the Minister demands he approve the replacement of the National Defence with three men hand-picked by the Minister himself. If he refuses, the people would no doubt question the King’s resolve and demand justice be done and his father-in-law killed. No pressure then.
While recovering from the shockwaves of this bombshell announcement, Prince Jin runs into Ha Sun while out on patrol and asks him about their upcoming hunting trip. After agreeing to come along, it turns out Ha Sun is a pretty decent archer, a gift he was born with. Deep in the Chinese forest, the army scatters as they try and hunt down a deer, leaving Ha Sun alone with Shin Yi Kyeom, the man responsible for the despicable acts against Dal-Rae. The aforementioned moment where Ha Sun’s character is called into question arrives and another botched assassination attempt on the King’s life sees all parties return to the Palace once more.
The episode ends with a little more scheming before a particularly heartwarming and beautiful moment between So-Woon and Ha Sun, as they share a tender moment on a bridge, watching the still water reflect their weary faces. It’s a great way to end the episode too, with a good pacing to the romance as it slowly builds between the two characters. So far it all feels very natural and respectful, borne out of the duties and feelings these two have for one another.
Every week I mention it but Yeo Jin-Goo’s acting is absolutely incredible here. His subtle facial expressions, mannerisms and ease at which he plays two roles – three if you count the flashback this week – are so well constructed and believable. The aforementioned flashback itself shows Ha Sun’s archery technique and there’s a cheeky, playful smile that emanates here lacking from our current hardened, tired Ha Sun in present time. While the rest of the cast do well in their roles, it’s ultimately Jin-Goo that really stands out.
Once again, the cinematography and production design of the show really stands out. The instrumental musical score in The Crowned Clown is one of the best parts of the show. There’s a real understanding of when to use the dramatic pieces of music and when to underline the snippets of comedy and this continuing musical presence is partly the reason The Crowned Clown is as dramatic as it winds up being.
Given the preview for the fourth episode, The Crowned Clown looks set to kick it up a gear and if this historical drama continues at this rate, we could be looking at an early contender for one of 2019’s brightest Korean dramas.