Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 11 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 12 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 13 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 14 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 15 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 16 – | Review Score – 4/5
Under the Queen’s Umbrella is a gripping, well-written period drama. It’s a show with a great understanding of character and uses that to propel its lead cast into a really solid story. It’s far from perfect; the supporting cast are a bit underdeveloped and there are some archetypal players, along with tropey segments, but on the whole this series works well and is gripping throughout.
The story takes place deep in the heart of the Joseon period, with dedicated mother and current queen, Hwa-Ryeong, struggling to control her sons, who are as unwieldy and chaotic as the schemes the Queen Dowager is concocting. When the Crown Prince suddenly falls ill, foul play is suspected and Hwa-Ryeong and her eldest son, Seongnam, set out to find who’s responsible. At the same time, the palace holds a competition for a new Crown Prince but only one can prevail.
Dark forces stir in the palace though and as previously mentioned, the Queen Dowager sits right at the heart of this. She’s cunning and deceiving, determined to steamroll over anyone who stands in her way, desperate to keep her tyrannical stranglehold over the Kingdom. Part of this comes in the form of using Prince Bogeom and Prince Uiseong, two potential candidates to the Crown Prince role, to keep her puppet master place intact.
For the most part, the show does well to keep things interesting, but while the rivalry between the Queen and the Queen Dowager serves as the beating heart of this series, the sons by her side don’t get quite such a triumphant role.
While Seongnam and, to an extent, Muan, get compelling arcs, the others – including Gyeseong who has a surprising secret – are almost forgotten about for large periods of the show’s run. That’s a real shame too because Hwa-Ryeong in particular is such a well written character, holding virtuous and balanced opinions and showing both vulnerability and strong feminine energy.
There’s no messing about with making Hwa-Ryeong act like a man here like so many Hollywood productions do nowadays; this is the perfect archetype for inspiring female protagonists. She’s played to perfection too by Kim Hye-Soo and I really wouldn’t be surprised if this show gets the nod for some Baeksang Awards next year.
While the show does tend to sag a little in the middle, for the most part Under The Queen’s Umbrella does a decent job of keeping you entertained, with lots of palace scheming, plenty of drama and some surprising twists toward the end too.
Aesthetically, there are some beautiful shots in this, including a particularly show-stopping sunset. The costuming is also on point too, and it’s backed up by a decent soundtrack. It’s nowhere near the heights of something like Twenty Five Twenty One, but sonically, it’s a decent inclusion all the same.
Under The Queen’s Umbrella does falter a little with how it writes the supporting characters as I said, and its romance doesn’t quite hit the right notes, but that’s easy to overlook with such a solid hook. Under the Queen’s Umbrella is one of the best period dramas this year and easily in the running for one of the best K-dramas of 2022 too.
Verdict - 8/10