Today, I thought I’d share my episode 1 & 2 notes on Under The Queen’s Umbrella, because I’m liking it quite a lot more than I’d originally expected to, and I was wondering if you’d like to join me? 🤗
These are my episode 1 & 2 notes, exactly as they appear on Patreon, ie, without screenshots (I’m saving those for the actual review).
I hope you all enjoy, and I hope you’ll consider joining us over on Patreon, for the rest of the discussions! ❤️
E1. Well, color me very pleasantly surprised.
I honestly hadn’t been suuper interested in this one when it was first announced, because the premise just didn’t grab me all that much, to be brutally honest.
HOWEVER. Show is proving to be so much more than I’d expected, and right away too.
Immediately, I feel engaged and interested, and I found myself glued to my screen through the entire episode, even though it’s a long-ish one, at 1 hour 15 minutes.
Mainly, I feel that Show is much more accessible and engaging than I’d expected, or imagined possible, given the premise, and this is a Really Good Thing.
In my head, this story was very likely going to be full of politics, and therefore quite dry, in the watch experience.
I am so happy to be proven wrong, in my estimation of Show.
It’s true that there are politics, but, 1, the politics are more to do with the women of the inner court, rather than with the ministers themselves, and 2, Show’s treatment of said politics, is much more personal than I’d expected, which in turn helps to make it more accessible.
It’s true that there are many characters to get to know, and it’s also true that right now, I still mostly don’t know the names of our characters, and I’m completely confused about which prince is which, about 75% of the time.
The fact that the princes are often dressed in the same clothes, as they attend Jonghak, doesn’t help either. 😅
However, I also feel like given some time, this will all get straightened out in my head, quite naturally.
Importantly, the more important characters from the sprawling cast are already taking shape in my head, so after just this first episode, I’m already getting a sense of who might be a potential threat to our titular Queen.
Speaking of whom, this role feels custom-made for Kim Hye Soo.
In my head, Kim Hye Soo almost always plays steely, fierce characters with lashings of fragility and vulnerability under the surface (at least, that’s the impression I get from the shows I’ve seen her in), and that translates really well to the character Queen Im, I feel like.
It’s quite refreshing and different to see a Queen rush around the palace grounds, trying to keep her sons in check, when most other Queens I’ve seen in sageuks appear to be all measured gentility at all times.
It’s also a welcome change, to have a Queen whose default setting seems to be frankness, and I do love how candid she is with her attending court ladies, Court Lady Shin in particular.
The way she talks with Court Lady Shin, often in confidence, with Court Lady Shin offering her own insights and perspectives, gives me the impression that they are almost like friends, even though they are officially master and servant.
Additionally, the way she mothers her sons gives me the impression that she really does care about them; they aren’t just chess pieces to her, in the game of palace politics.
She wants them to not get into trouble, and not get sick, as much as possible. And, she doesn’t want them to miss school, either. That feels quite universal, when I look at it that way.
And it also feels quite universal, the way she gets so exasperated with her younger sons, and then takes comfort in the fact that her eldest, the Crown Prince, is such a role model of a sunshine boy.
On that note, I am pleased to have Bae In Hyuk on my screen as our Crown Prince, because I have a growing soft spot for him.
At the same time, because it was announced that his role in this is more of a special appearance, I already know to not get too attached to his Crown Prince.
A special appearance as Crown Prince means that this Crown Prince is going to leave our story world soonish, one way or another.
At first, before starting the show, I’d assumed that the Crown Prince might get killed by someone else angling to place their son in his seat, but now, I see that the Crown Prince is ill, and that’s quite probably the reason he’s going to leave our story, sniffle.
Even so, that’s not preventing the scheming from happening, and as we see this episode, our Queen Dowager (Kim Hae Sook has such a great withering stare!) is very likely already getting her ducks in a row, in order to put some other prince, who is to her liking, in the Crown Prince’s soon-to-be empty seat.
Perhaps it’s because Show presents Queen Im as such a universally relatable mother with relatable motherly concerns and protective instincts, the Queen Dowager’s attitude towards the Crown Prince’s seat feels particularly cold.
However, when I think about it in a more logical, detached sort of manner, I definitely see that the Queen Dowager’s take on the matter makes a good amount of sense.
What I mean is, our Crown Prince’s chances of survival are murky at best, and so, while I understand Queen Im’s fierce motherly instinct to protect him and absolutely not entertain the thought that he might die, I also see that the Queen Dowager’s approach is better for succession planning purposes.
Because, if Queen Im had her way, there would be no suitable prince-in-waiting to take the seat of the Crown Prince, should the Crown Prince not survive his illness, and that is not great for the nation.
THAT SAID. I have to concede that the Queen Dowager, while making a good amount of sense in this, definitely comes across as shady and manipulative.
To her, this isn’t just about prudent succession planning; this is personal.
First of all, there’s the thing where the Queen Dowager makes sure to send the physician who’d treated the previous Crown Prince of the same condition, out of the capital, so that he’s unavailable to treat our current Crown Prince.
That isn’t about succession planning; that’s about clearing the way for succession planning, on purpose. 😬
It’s actually really disturbing to think that the Queen Dowager is scheming to allow her grandson to die, so that she can put someone else in his place.
Also, when Queen Im reminds her that the Crown Prince, whose potential death she speaks of so coldly, is her own grandson, the Queen Dowager says, “I worry more about the future of my son’s nation and my palace (emphasis mine) than I worry about him.”
That use of the phrase “my palace” definitely gives me the impression that the Queen Dowager isn’t approaching this in any detached, for-the-greater-good sort of way.
She’s absolutely in this to consolidate her own personal power as well, and that definitely makes her feel like a dark presence, in our story world.
Plus, there’s the way she instructs her court lady to distribute those King-grooming books to the various concubines who had come to see her, but with specific instructions to make it seem like each court lady is the only recipient of the precious manuscript.
This makes it feel like our Queen Dowager is staging her own Joseon-style survival game show, where the players don’t even know that they’re on said game show. 😅
It’s definitely got dysfunctional tones to it, but I have to say, that undercurrent of dysfunction and darkness actually adds to my interest to see what’s going to happen next.
However, at the heart of it, it is Queen Im’s heart for her sons – well, specifically the Crown Prince, at this point – that is the stronger force drawing me into our story.
The way Queen Im goes to see the deposed Queen Yoon, to beg her on her knees, for advice on how to protect her son, is really poignant.
What I really like, in all of this, is that all of Queen Im’s efforts and desires to protect the Crown Prince, doesn’t feel like a political move to secure her own position in the palace.
Instead, it absolutely lands as a mother sincerely wanting to protect her son and keep him from harm, and because of that, I am rooting for her to succeed, with my whole heart.
E2. We are on an excellent trajectory, because I feel like with this second episode, this drama world is really coming together nicely in my head, and I feel just as invested in our Queen’s challenges – if not more.
For one thing, the Queen Dowager’s intentions become more tangible, this episode, and the vibe I get, that this Very Personal Agenda of hers, has just as much to do with getting rid of the Queen, as it has to do with putting someone of her choosing, in the seat of the Crown Prince.
This is the feeling I get, based on the conversation that she has at the top of the episode, with Consort Hwang, where she expresses regret that Consort Hwang had not been selected as Queen, because the late King had deliberately chosen someone from a family with no roots.
That’s our Queen, and the Queen Dowager expressing that regret, and asking Consort Hwang how she feels about the seat of the Crown Prince for her son, while the current Crown Prince is still alive, absolutely smells of a whole lotta dark scheming.
And, there’s how the Queen Dowager speaks in code, about that sickly tree, to Consort Hwang, and how they agree that the sickly tree ought to be pulled up by the roots.
Gah. It’s chilling, how Show overlays scenes of the sickly Crown Prince, over this conversation, so that we are clear, of what this coded conversation is really about. 😬
With the context that ex-Queen Yoon gives Queen Im, it’s quickly coming together in my head, that the Queen Dowager had systematically gotten rid of Queen Yoon, along with all her sons, including the then-Crown Prince, and then had continued to eliminate the Grand Princes, even after they’d left the palace.
Plus, there’s the thing where ex-Queen Yoon talks about how Crown Prince Taein had not appeared to have died from his illness – the very same illness from which our current Crown Prince is suffering.
..Which means that the Queen Dowager must have had him killed by other means, and then blamed it on his illness. Which means that our current Crown Prince is in danger of the very same thing happening to him.
That is utterly horrifying, isn’t it?
And if the Queen Dowager is setting similar sights on Queen Im and the current Crown Prince – and she absolutely appears to be – then Queen Im doesn’t only need to preserve the Crown Prince’s life; she needs to protect her other sons, as well as herself.
Because, if she’s not careful, the way ex-Queen Yoon puts it, Queen Im may end up not just losing the Crown Prince, but all her sons, and her own life as well.
This makes the task ahead of Queen Im land with even more urgency and poignance.
To her, this is not about retaining position and power; this is about survival. And as a mother, she’s absolutely determined to do everything necessary, to keep her sons alive.
There’s definitely an undercurrent of irony and pathos in the fact that her sons have no idea that their mother is fighting for their survival.
They just want to continue coasting along like they always have, and find it uncomfortable and inconvenient, that their mother is suddenly showing such a strong interest in their studies.
Part of me wants Queen Im to take Court Lady Shin’s advice, and tell the Grand Princes the truth, because that would certainly get their attention, focus and cooperation.
Surely if they know that their lives on the line, they’d buckle down right away. As it is right now, getting them to cooperate is akin to what it must be like to herd a bunch of cats, yes? 😅
But, Queen Im has a point, that even if the Grand Princes are careful, it’s very likely that their words and actions would give the game away, even if it’s out of concern for their brother.
This episode, seeing how much the other concubines are spying on the people around them, including Queen Im and the Grand Princes, it does seem like a prudent decision, to not reveal the Crown Prince’s condition to his brothers.
The question for Queen Im now, is, how does she get her laidback sons to cooperate, without telling them that they are fighting for their lives?
That’s a tough one, particularly when we see what they’re up against.
Right now, it seems like being appointed the Crown Prince’s cohort, is the first step towards survival, because then at least, the prince who is appointed as cohort, would have some credibility and perceived worth.
It doesn’t ensure survival, certainly, not when we have the Queen Dowager being so confident of all the various tricks that she has up her sleeve, but it’s at least a step in the right direction – the other direction being declared delinquent and getting expelled from Jonghak.
I’m also starting to get a better sense of some of the princes in our story, and off the top of my head, I just want to say that I really dislike Prince Uiseong, right away.
I know he has a lot of dissatisfaction in the belief that he is the rightful Crown Prince, but that doesn’t justify his snide treatment of everyone, the Grand Princes in particular.
He’s downright rude and nasty, and I honestly want to see him fail at his quest to become Crown Prince, and it would be nice if he failed hard, honestly.
As for Prince Gyeseong, Show had me going for a while there, with his secret.
I think it’s in the way that Yoo Seon Ho is playing him; there’s just something a little unfocused about his eyes, that makes him look like he’s maybe not all there – at least to my eyes.
Because of that, I half thought that perhaps he was into some drug or occult thing, and that’s perhaps why there’s this slightly unfocused quality about his gaze, sometimes.
But no, he just likes to crossdress, which is a lot more harmless, certainly, but which could definitely still be used against him, in the race to become cohort – and eventually Crown Prince.
It’s a dog-eat-dog world in the palace, especially when it comes to any kind of race that has to do with the throne, and therefore, I would classify Prince Gyeseong’s secret as a potentially deadly one, because someone could well use this to eliminate him, somehow.
I believe that’s why Queen Im sobs so much, upon learning his secret.
She’s shown herself as a loving mother who doesn’t seem to want much more from her sons than for them to stay alive, so I don’t get the sense that she’s judging him for this.
The sense that I get, is that she realizes that this puts him in a great deal of danger, and she’s not sure how to keep him safe, going forward.
The tears that Queen Im sheds alone, mirrored by the tears that Queen Yoon had shed alone, in the same place, really brings out the poignant, lonely nature of the role of Queen.
She can’t cry openly, because that would make her vulnerable to attack from those who want nothing more than to see her go down, and yet, her tears have to fall somewhere, because her heart is so pained, on behalf of her children. 💔
That does make my heart go out to her, a great deal.
I’m glad that she has Court Lady Shin to confide in, even though Court Lady Shin cautions her against sharing her secrets with her.
The way Queen Im insists that she needs Court Lady Shin, feels so raw and urgent; it really feels like Court Lady Shin is Queen Im’s only lifeline, in the cold, scary world of the palace.
It seems like our Crown Prince might have a sense of his own mortality, judging from the way he asks to see Seongnam, and asks him to be there for the rest of the Grand Princes, as well as his own son, if / when he isn’t around.
That whole thing carries such a sense of pathos to me, because the Crown Prince is so young, and should have such a bright future ahead of him, and yet, here he is, making arrangements in the event of his passing. 😭
I do love the way he asks Seongnam to be his cohort, saying that he misses him, brother to brother.
That feels so much more human and warm, compared to everyone else’s reasons for applying to be the Crown Prince’s cohort.
The fact that Seongnam rushes to apply, when he originally hadn’t planned to apply, shows just how much this brotherly bond means to him, and I’m really hoping that Seongnam gets selected, just so that these two brothers will have more time together, before the inevitable. 💔
(Inevitable purely because we know that Bae In Hyuk’s role is an extended cameo, not because the story has informed us otherwise.)
I honestly love that while the other concubines all engage scholars to tutor their sons, Queen Im takes it upon herself to read the texts, and come up with test questions for her sons.
And I also love that she declares to Court Lady Shin, that the reason she’d been selected as Queen, was because her capabilities were better than everyone else’s. YES, I do love a badass champion Queen! 🤩
Now I want her guidelines and test questions to be even better than the ones that the other concubines have paid for. 😁
As we end off our episode, a spying Consort Ko has found out Gyeseong’s secret, and I just hope that Queen Im comes out in Mama Bear mode real quick, to protect her baby, before he gets hurt. 😬
*This show is being covered on the Early Access (US$5) Tier on Patreon*
To view episode 1 & 2 notes in Patreon, along with everyone’s comments, you can go here!
Episodes 7 & 8 notes will be out on Thursday, 24 November 2022! I hope you’ll consider joining us!
It’ll be a way to have fun, and support me at the same time? ❤️
PS: For more information on what the Patreon experience is like, you might like to check out my Patreon update post for November, which you can find here!