Queenmaker – K-drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

The Great Fall

Episode 1 of Queenmaker begins with a big scandal circulating on the news. The Eunseung Group’s Director, Eun Chae-ryoung has been accused of physically assaulting her employee and driver. She’s due to arrive at the Prosecutor’s Office and will have to face the press.

Naturally, the Labor Union is out in force but up against them is a woman who knows how to turn public opinion and divert their attention away from the main crux of a scandalous situation.

Hwang Do-Hee is her name. She’s a general manager for the strategic planning team at Eunsung and this is a massive headache for her. Chae-ryoung is not an easy woman to work with, and public sentiment is that she should be arrested for her assault charges. We know this is true, given how she treats the hair and makeup stylists in the room, but Chae-ryoung keeps her cool outside and bows before the press, apologizing.

However, one of the reporters riles her up, pointing out that she has Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Just before she kicks off, one of the union workers throws an egg at her, breaking the press conference up.¬†As we soon find out, the egg-thrower was actually hired by Do-hee, knowing that Chae-ryoung would likely lose her cool in front of the press. She’s brought back inside and now has to face prosecutor Gi Joon-tae.

Do-hee refuses to shake his hand and is confident that he’s going to drop all the charges. Do-hee changes her tact and decides to make the prosecution look awful, with Chae-ryoung pumping milk in the interrogation room and claiming that she’s losing her hair as a result of all the stress.

Funnily enough, the attention diverted away from the main issues works a treat, and not only that but the fashion items she’s wearing start selling out online too, making it a win/win for Eunsung Group. At Eunsung HQ, Do-hee shows up and a plucky young guy appears in the main atrium holding Chae-ryoung’s shoe, the one that fell off outside during the press conference. He quizzes her over the workers’ rights lawyer, Oh Kyung-sook, who’s desperate to try and get retribution for the 500 workers that have been fired unjustly from the company.

This also reinforces what the public anger was toward at the start of the episode. Kyung-sook is currently organizing a rooftop strike and she’s up to day 78 now. Do-hee’s subordinates are not exactly happy about “unni’s” strategy, believing it’s a step too far. Do-hee overhears and she’s not happy, pointing out that they need to do whatever they can to protect Eunsung Group.

Thankfully, Do-hee may have met her match in Kyung-sook, who’s not only unorthodox but she does not back down from her righteous beliefs. Do-hee has been with the Eunsung Group for a while now, ever since 2008 when she was a new recruit. She has no connection to the executives, nor has she graduated from any major university. She has no skills but her unwavering desire to serve the Eunsung Group faithfully is enough to get the nod from the Chairwoman who gives Do-hee this position within the company.

In the morning, Chae-ryoung’s husband, Jae-min, lands and immediately shows to the press, giving a speech and vowing not to overlook the situation and do what he can with is wife by his side. He apologizes to the press for what’s taken place before driving with Do-hee. She’s anxious about his appearance, given he’s missing a cufflink and not wearing a necktie, but given the Chairwoman is the person who gave Do-hee her position, she’s determined to make a good impression.

Chae-ryoung suddenly shows up at the house and immediately lashes out at her husband. She smacks him in the head and curses him out for bowing and apologizing to the press. After flying off the handle, Chae-ryoung collapses on the floor, as the Chairwoman and Chae-young’s sister (who just nonchalantly continues to eat) watch on. Do-hee patches up Jae-min’s head wound and opens up to her, pointing out that they’re the only outsiders in this family and need to stick together.

Do-hee is immediately thrown back into the jaws of the lion again, as the Chairwoman tells her she needs to make sure Jae-min’s wound is not visible to the press and they protect this precarious situation before it gets worse. The Eunsung Group have a lot of money, so much so that they manage to (allegedly anyway) pay off the Mayor and get him to sign off the permits to agree for them to make a huge skyscraper that towers over everything else.

Whilst up there, the Chairwoman points out to Do-hee that the current Mayor is going to be replaced by Jae-min, which will make their lives so much easier. However, there’s the little subject of Oh Kyung-sook to contend with. Her protest is gaining traction, people even drop off a care package for her with water and food. She even has the red-soled heel as well, as it becomes clear that she’s aligned with that guy from the atrium earlier in the chapter. He promised Do-hee that things would go bad for her, and that much is especially true here.

Kyung-sook starts referring to Do-hee as “Toilet Hwang”, given she’s basically left to clean all the excrement from the company, and points out the wealth inequality infecting the city. This is a difficult situation for Do-hee to try and deal with, and she heads up to see Kyung-sook on the rooftop herself.

She tries to play the law, pointing out the number of laws the attorney has broken but she shrugs it off, pointing out that public sentiment and the way Eunsung Group have handled the workers far exceeds this building violation. The pair verbally spar, with Do-hee eventually telling her that she’s going to be fined 5.8 million won for everyday she stays up on the rooftop. Kyung-sook shrugs it off and continues with her mission, even going so far as to grab her toilet waste and throw it at Do-hee.

Realizing that she’s not going to come down quietly, Do-hee decides to use the “Chairperson’s Method” to finish this quickly before things turn ugly. Jae-min requests to talk before that happens though, and in a lavish bar the pair talk alone. Jae-min admits he thinks he’s being blackmailed, and this comes from messages from Secretary Han I-seul on his phone.

It looks like they’re about to have an affair, but when she requests to visit his room, he apparently refused. I-seul vows to make him pay for this and decides to join the MeToo movement and make claims that he’s abused her. Jae-min admits to Do-hee that he did have feelings for her but he never acted on them. In the morning, Chae-ryoung sits before Han I-seul and apologizes for scolding her the previous day.

Closing the blinds, Do-hee brings up Jae-min and I-seul tells her story of abuse. That is, until Do-hee shows off the messages and turns out she’s done her homework. I-seul used to work in a bar and make money off using her body.

Do-hee promises that this will come back and destroy her if she even thinks about bringing up this fabricated story about Jae-min. The only thing for it is for I-seul to resign. Immediately. I-seul drops to her knees and tries to apologize but it’s no good. Plus, Do-hee has bigger fish to fry.

This comes from the Mayor and finding material to get him taken out, which is her next job. However, the I-seul situation is resolved in the most drastic way possible. I-seul jumps off the roof of the building and lands on the car outside. Do-hee is shocked to see her, and in her hand happens to be Jae-min’s cufflink.

The Episode Review

Alas, the plot thickens. It could well be that I-seul was telling the truth and Jae-min really did force himself on her, especially given she has his cufflink. However, it could also be consensual too, but we’ll have to wait and see. Queenmaker’s first episode is a weird one in many ways because the Eunsung Group are not very nice people and represent the upper-echelons of society that only care about money and power.

It’s difficult to empathize with any of them, and Do-hee being stuck in the middles of this and working with them makes her a conflicting character to root for. However, the show does have an interesting hook and with 11 episodes in total, it could well be that Do-hee becomes disillusioned with working there and decides to work against them.

That Human Rights lawyer Kyung-sook is likely to be a big player here too and she could well have some fiery confrontations with Do-hee going forward!

Next Episode

You can read our full season review for Queenmaker here!


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