A gender bender historical about a modern man’s soul stuck in the past.
Jang Bong Hwan (Choi Jin Hyuk) is a highly acclaimed Chef at the Blue House, serving politicians and the President of South Korea. Being the youngest Chef ever to hold such a title, Jang Bong relishes in his success and playboy persona without a care or worry in the world. However, falling into a swimming pool one night results in his soul being transported back to Joseon, trapped in the body of Queen Cheorin (Shin Hye Sun). Jang Bong desperately tries to escape from the marriage obligations of a Queen and the life of a royal lady to the shock of those around Cheorin.
King Cheoljong (Kim Jung Hyun) is the ruling monarch known throughout history as a womanizer and alcoholic yet he isn’t like this at all to Jang Bong’s surprise. The King’s gentle and quiet disposition hides his ambition for change caused by the strain of uneven power within the court which sways in favour of the Grand Queen Dowager. With his Queen acting out of turn, Cheoljong begins to open up to the idea that Cheorin may not be a pawn of the Andong Kim Clan, known to openly support the Grand Queen Dowager who has personal familial ties to the clan. Instead, Cheoljong considers the possibility of Cheorin aiding him to reclaim his throne, love and hate thrown into the mix.
Based on the highly popular C-drama, Go Princess Go 太子妃升职记 this Korean remake brings in the essence of a gender swap with solid sageuk elements and some riotous moments that are sure to get you laughing. Overall, the comedic aspects, specifically of a man having to walk a mile in women’s shoes is probably what is most similar to the original source material but everything else has been tailored to fit the features of a standard sageuk.
Political change, love rivalry, and questions circulating around Cheorin’s fall into a lake within the palace as a potential murder or suicide, are all parts of the series that deal with more serious sageuk matter. I do however, find this tiresome at times since Shin Hye Sun’s performance outshines her costars and leaves a lasting impression with her take on being a “man.” The comedy and lightheartedness of the drama trumps the heavier substance; we’re used to this in almost every historical drama so what sets the series apart is the gender bender.
The antics of a female Casanova are fully thrown at us, Cheorin a.k.a Jang Bong struggling to capture the hearts of court ladies whilst confined in the body of a Queen who was known to be rigid and condescending. Waking up to be an antitypical Cheorin, Jang Bong quite literally wrecks havoc and turns the royal kitchen into his own little playground for fun. None of the brilliant comedy scenes could have been made possible if Shin Hye Sun didn’t have the amazing grasp of her character as she does. I’m convinced she’s observed Choi Jin Hyuk’s scenes within the drama and his performance as an actor overall, since she’s quite literally nailed his little quirks and traits. Shin Hye Sun is carrying the series, her male lead secondary to her presence onscreen…I said what I said. Her dance to BlackPink threw everything and everyone out the door!
That’s not to say that Kim Jung Hyun is doing a feeble job, since Cheoljong is more stoicism than comedy gold, although he does have his moments that create a synergy alongside Cheorin’s fatuous behaviour…the “no-touch” rule a fun little issue between them. The tension between the two characters will also leave you at a standstill, speaking volumes about the chemistry the lead actors have. There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Cheoljong and the drama is making an effort to bring in some historical relevancy amidst the fantasy, especially in regards to character relationships and the royal court in general. That being the case, we might have to be more patient when it comes to the revelations of his character since he isn’t an open book.
The pacing of the show is steady, providing information as each episode progresses and would fall into a similar category as most historical series almost like Saimdang: Memoir of Colours or even Faith. It’s not intensive or fast-paced despite having a beginning that cuts Jang Bong’s real existence short since so much of what we know of Jang Bong is revealed through his time spent in Joseon that it would have been almost a loss to discover more about his character in the present, with his own body. What I’m driving at is that the audience might have to exercise some patience with the story but will be rewarded for it, evident from how popular and well received the drama is thus far.
As the queen of dramas, Shin Hye Sun returns to the small screen as a Queen that is bound to make you laugh and ensnare you with manly charm. Along with a solid cast of seasoned actors and familiar faces, Mr. Queen marks the return of sageuks reigning on weekly drama charts.
Release Date: December 12, 2020 (Eng Sub available on Viki)