Recently, the Korean movie industry has taken great strides to break away from the stereotype that it is only great for its romantic movies and series. The year 2022 witnessed stellar performances in different genres by both veteran and newbie actors alike. One drama series that stood out was Under the Queen’s umbrella.
This historical drama written by Park Ba Ra, has a plot that can be termed as overdone; the quest to sit on the throne. However, what stands out about it is the exploration of themes that have been overlooked for years either because of their controversial nature or because the Korean society deems them too sensitive to be discussed on a public platform.
The queen played by Kim Hye Soo is a tenacious character who is a breath of fresh air from the usually docile and subservient protagonist. From the first scene, viewers can see how she is an atypical queen whose interest in her children goes beyond merely preparing them for the throne.
One theme that is prevalent throughout the drama is motherhood. The producers use the dynamics of a mother’s relationship with her children to highlight issues like choosing personal ambitions over family, goals, and suicide. There are no limits to what a mother would do to see her children come out on top. This is evident through the crimes and cheap tricks the consorts resort to in order to be mothers to the crown prince.
The relationship between the Queen Dowager and The Queen is fascinating. Both women rose to royalty from lowly backgrounds, yet for Queen Dowager, the queen represents everything she would have been if she had chosen to do things the right way. As a result of this resentment, she makes it her mission to pull down the queen and her sons by any means necessary. And for this woman, the means certainly justify the end.
At the beginning of the drama, the grand princes are nonchalant towards the affair of the kingdom. But when tragedy strikes, they realize that ascending the throne may be the only way to keep their head and ambition must take the forefront. However, they are not alone in their determination to become heirs and must also contend with the sons of the King’s concubines who would stoop to dangerous depths to change their status.
Another common theme is ambition. The drama shows the antagonists forming unlikely alliances and having to make certain compromises to advance their goals. This shows that in politics, there are no friends or enemies, only allies. We see characters bend the knee just to accomplish their desires and discard them once the goal changes.
One thing Korean dramas are known for is their original television soundtracks and Under the queen’s umbrella was no exception. Every episode featured riveting music from Korean artists such as Elaine and ID: Earth. These songs helped to shape and heighten emotional responses to certain scenes in the drama.
The casting directors of this drama efficiently cast individuals that fully embody the characters assigned to them. The actors and actresses became one with their roles and it was almost impossible to imagine that it wasn’t their reality. Every appearance, cameo or not was pivotal to driving the plot.
The entire plot of the drama was however built on the theme of revenge; which is one that viewers certainly did not see coming. This element of surprise almost felt like the writer made a last-minute decision and made a random character the principal villain.
It is quite disconcerting that the writer of the drama had to wait for several episodes before fully shaping some characters and their purpose. As a viewer, it was hard to understand why there were so many princes or keep track of them much less understand their backstories without feeling overwhelmed. The use of flashbacks to advance the plot and fill in some plot holes happened so quickly that one had to rewatch certain scenes multiple times just to understand how they fit in.
Happy endings are relative and only belong in fairytales. If there is one thing viewers have come to realize, it is that not every morally grey or inherently bad character has a redemption arc. The drama ends with death, confrontations, and closure for certain characters while others are left to wallow in the consequences of their actions.