Episode 1 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 2/5
Episode 11 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 12 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 13 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 14 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 15 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 16 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 17 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 18 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 19 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 20 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
From the original and K-drama remake of 18 Again, through to Freaky Friday and the highly acclaimed Your Name, body swap tropes are nothing new in the world of entertainment. How then, does one create a unique and intriguing set-up that breaks this monotony in an exciting and vibrant way? Step forward, Mr Queen.
The latest tvN historical drama is a real firecracker of a show, dampened slightly by an ending that’s going to almost certainly divide the fanbase. However, the ride to get there is nothing short of brilliant and for that alone, Mr Queen is an easy one to recommend.
The story here follows an arrogant chef in present day Korea called Bong-Hwan. Working at the Blue House, he completely messes up a meal and looks set to pay the consequences for his nonchalant attitude. However, when Bong-Hwan falls out a hotel balcony and lands in the swimming pool below, he’s inexplicably whisked back to the Joseon period and straight into the body of a woman called So-Yong. To add further intrigue to the tale, she’s actually a future Queen and due to marry King Cheoljong.
With enemies all around, Bong-Hwan struggles to adopt to life as the Queen, with the Queen Dowager and Grand Queen Dowager both sharpening their knives ready to keep him in place every chance they get. As we soon find out, Cheoljong isn’t really a true King either, as his strings are pulled by the Grand Queen Dowager who orchestrates this jester court.
Corruption is rife, the villagers are close to revolting, and Bong-Hwan remains desperate to try and make it back home again. This is most certainly a turbulent period of Korean history.
What ensues is an intriguing and surprisingly funny tale as Bong-Hwan unceremoniously tries to live out life as the Queen, taking control of the royal kitchen and turning against her own clan as she starts to grow closer toward Cheoljong. These two storylines – Bong-Hwan trying to return home and the King and Queen figuring each other out – dominates large swathes of this show. Everything then builds up quite spectacularly into a flurry of action and resolution during the final episode.
That ending is going to be a big talking point among the K-drama community and interestingly, a double-bill of special episodes have been released to flesh out more of the past to explain what’s happening. While this does help, you’ll likely come away feeling a little conflicted over the way things are wrapped up.
Despite that though, Mr Queen is a real gem of a drama, with a surprisingly resolute balance between outright comedy and darker, tense drama. This series has a knack for turning things on a dime, with laugh out loud moments followed by genuine spikes of heightened tension. Such is the quality of the writing here, these never feel tonally jarring.
Along with the main conflict are various other subplots too, which dance around the main conflict of the show. Court Lady Choi, Bong-Hwan’s right-hand woman, has a bit of a love/hate affair with royal chef Man-Bok while a forbidden bromance between Kim-Hwan and Special Director Hong grows. This cleverly foreshadows a glimpse of where this story is going, leading to the pair actually becoming quite important to the way things are wrapped up at the end.
The real stars of the show though are Shin Hye-Sun and Kim Jung-Hyun, who both carry this drama through some of the slower segments. Their chemistry crackles and sparkles into life every time they share the screen and it’s a testament to their acting that they manage to adopt these roles so well.
Shin Hye-Sun in particular embodies the mannerisms, facial expressions and vocal tones to mirror Bong-Hwan’s persona almost to perfection. From his womanizing arrogance to something as simple as sitting at a table, every part of her performance is nothing short of outstanding and she deserves all the awards coming her way for this. That’s to take nothing away from Jung-Hyun though, who rides that wave of second-lead in Crash Landing On You straight into a confident and well written lead role as King Cheoljong.
With a solid soundtrack, some great visual cues and an excellent storyline, Mr Queen is easily one of the best Korean dramas of 2021. This blend of historical drama and comedy works perfectly, producing a very enjoyable show that’s an easy series to recommend. If you haven’t already, you should definitely check this one out.