Episode 2 of Mr Queen begins with Bong-Hwan doing his best to fight off the King’s advances, eventually continuing to drink with him and hoping it doesn’t come down to consummating the marriage. When Cheoljong takes himself off to bed alone, Bong-Hwan scoffs and believes that the tabloids are wrong about him being sex-mad.
However, just in case he’s wrong, Bong-Hwan ties a granny knot around his gown. Eventually Bong-Hwan manages to fall asleep and starts snoring loudly.
When he awakens, King Cheoljong is gone but her granny knot has become untied. She convinces herself that she undid it in the night but still, the thought occurs to her that perhaps she may not have. Meanwhile, a flustered King Cheoljong returns to Huijeongjeon Hall looking weary after a bad dream.
Well, Bong-Hwan is weary too as he’s forced into meeting the Grand Queen Dowager. Only, he senses an opportunity and questions Court Lady Coi about this woman.
Bong-Hwan is interrupted when he sees Lady Hwa Jin whom he immediately takes a fancy too. Despite trying to act suave, he slips slightly before finding out that this woman may have been the one to push Kim So-Yong in the lake.
However, he has absolutely no shame and rushes up to her, asking the girl if they can be friends. Only, when she smiles it turns out Hwa-Jin believes she’s changing her tactics. When the King shows up, Bong-Hwan immediately becomes jealous of the concubine and King making goo-goo eyes at one another and leaves in a huff. When he’s gone, the King hands over a flower for Hwa-Jin
Despite picking the wrong Grand Queen Dowager, Bong-Hwan manages to recover quite smoothly. The conversation soon turns to marriage and making love, which Bong-Hwan mentions he’s very knowledgeable in.
After navigating this minefield, Bong-Hwan arrives with the King to Injeongjeon Hall. They both take their position on their respective thrones as we learn about the corrupt Kim clan in charge of the Royal Palace. Together, they were responsible for collecting taxes and plunging the country into misery.
Given the King is being used as a puppet here, the real ringleader is Jwa Geun who proposes moving the Queen’s father-in-law to a position of power. This position of power however, would include usurping Cheoljong’s own flesh and blood from this spot.
Wanting to be on the winner’s side (and not sure on the right answer), Bong-Hwan remains neutral and tells them all she’s only concerned about the King’s safety. With the Grand Queen calling the shots, eventually the King is forced to succumb to Jwa Geun’s request.
After court, the King talks to Bong-Hwan about their grand gesture the night before. This causes him to worry further about whether they really did make love or not.
Meanwhile, the Grand Queen Dowager and Jwa Heun discuss Bong-Hwan’s antics and agree she was off her game. However, they also want to find out exactly who pushed the Queen into the lake and aren’t so sure it was Hwa-Jin.
Speaking of which, Bong-Hwan does his best to try and woo Hwa-Jin later that day, unable to keep his composure around her. With the room clear, he asks whether he’s prone to lying but she tells him “he’s not like that”. Only, this confuses him more as he’s not sure exactly what she’s referring to.
In a flashback, we see the King heading out with a group of other hooded figures raiding and searching for something precious. Quite what that is remains to be seen, but the King manages to get away unscathed and without being caught.
As he sits and wonders whether “it” may be in the Tiger Den, Bong-Hwan shows up and asks about their evening. Cheoljong doesn’t give much away but does tell her that they “had a good time.”
Soon, he has more pressing matters to deal with in the form of etiquette lessons…which Bong-Hwan fails miserably. A memory bleeds through about Cheoljong though, something that seems to hint at him despising So-Yong. This means there’s no way they slept together. Bong-Hwan suddenly bolts upright and throws his fists in the air, realizing that he was right after all.
On the back of this, he asks the Grand Queen Dowager to fill the lake with water again but unfortunately she declines. That is, until Bong-Hwan compromises and promises to give her an heir if she fills the lake. Bong-Hwan immediately heads back and tells the King, as they set into motion their plan.
Determined to find out the truth, Bong-Hwan heads out dressed up as a male but despairs at the name given as a disguise. With a curfew set for 11pm, he heads out dressed as a scholar.
Just before he goes, Bong-Hwan finds out from Hong-Yeon that the previous Queen (the one before he took over her memories and body) was notorious for flogging all those who opposed her. Bong-Hwan thanks Hong-Yeon for her support and readies himself to head out.
With the plan set into motion, Jo Hwa-Jin is none too happy with the current arrangement for an heir. Only, as we cut back in time we see fragments of her with her hand out seemingly pushing Kim in the water. Now, the editing makes it look like this is what happened but the way she staggers forward seems to hide the real truth.
Armed with a map, Bong-Hwan heads out and finds himself accompanied by Kim-Hwan, one of Kim’s relatives. He manages to fool the guard long enough to karate chop his way into being alone.
Bong-Hwan shows up at the Kisaeng House and throws down a whole stack of coins, encouraging the girls to get involved in the festivities with him. Only, this extreme dancing and dancing causes Bong-Hwan to get a little too drunk and begins searching for the toilets. He shows up in the men’s room and realizes he doesn’t have his “dragon” anymore and berates the cruelty of God above.
Meanwhile, the King, Hyung-Nim and Hong all discuss the current power play going on at the palace and wonder whether they can find documents confirming the corruption held by the Kim clan. The King decides to add his father-in-law to the position in court but in doing so, use it as a distraction for what they’re really up to.
A drunk Bong-Hwan stumbles into the King’s room but suddenly hears the alarm bell ringing and hurries out. As he does, Hyung-Nim and Hong are convinced that this is the Queen in disguise, having been sent to spy on him. Despite pleading with the King not to let his emotions interfere, he heads out and confronts the Queen, holding Bong-Hwan up at sword-point.
The Episode Review
So Mr Queen finishes its first weekend on-air with the second highest ratings for a tvN drama since Mr Sunshine. And I can absolutely see why. The cast are fantastic in this and the fact that everyone is playing their roles straight apart from Shin Hye-Sun as Kim So-Yong is partly why this works as well as it does. That’s before mentioning the many awards she’s won too, showing what a versatile actress she is.
She definitely embodies Bong-Hwan’s arrogant and sleazy attitude perfect, with Mr Queen not shy about leaning into taboo topics along the way. For that alone, this series really deserves some props but the Joseon period history is just as enthralling as the comedy.
This delicate balance between court room backstabbing and political coups serves up a great backdrop for some genuinely funny moments. Whether it be Bong-Hwan wondering if he consummated the marriage or heading to the Kisaeng at the end, this drama really knows how to write comedy and it’s all the stronger for it.
The actual history is engaging too and that, coupled with the captivated storyline, makes for a really engaging and well written story. This could easily be one of the must-watch dramas of 2021…if it can sustain this level of tight writing. As we’ve seen from many K-dramas, that’s not always the case (hello Start-Up), but the cast, crew and writing talent on-board are enough to keep us hopeful that it can!