Mr. Queen (2020)
Title: Mr. Queen
Writer: Park Kye-ok, Choi A-il
Director: Yun Seong-sik
Mr. Queen Cast and Characters
Chae Seo-eun as Hong Yeon
Cha Chung-hwa as Court Lady Choi
Kim In-kwon as Royal Chef Man Bok
Mr. Queen Plot
Jang Bong-hwan, womanizer and Blue House chef, finds himself transported into the body of a Joseon queen, Kim So-yong.
Mr. Queen Ending Explained
Does Mr. Queen Have a Happy Ending?
Mr. Queen has a bittersweet ending.
Bong-hwan returns to his own body in the present, muscles intact and with his name and reputation restored. But he is alone and unable to say goodbye to his loved ones in Joseon and can only read about Cheoljong’s fate in the history books.
Cheoljong regains his throne, casts out his corrupt enemies, and his Queen and baby are alive and well. But he still feels a sense of loss with Bong-hwan gone despite not knowing exactly what he lost.
Does Bong-hwan Go Back?
After being shot by assassin Sal-soo, Bong-hwan is forced to return to his body in modern-day Seoul and wakes up from his coma.
What Happened to Bong-hwan?
Bong-hwan is shot by Minister Kim’s assassin as he and Cheoljong head to the hall to reclaim the throne. Bong-hwan is ripped away from Joseon before he can confirm Cheoljong is alive and wakes up in his body in the present day in the hospital.
To find out if Cheoljong survived, Bong-hwan runs away from the policemen in his hospital room and jumps out a window to escape. He runs to a bookstore where he reads about Cheoljong’s fate and legacy.
Not only did Bong-hwan help change Cheoljong’s past but his own. Bong-hwan’s actions as So-bong had implications for his life as Bong-hwan.
In Bong-hwan’s new past, he is still a renowned chef but he is also a whistleblower fighting against corruption. He fixed the broken CCTV in the Blue House kitchen and handed over the footage to the media. In his new reality, Bong-hwan did not fall from grace and lose his career.
The detectives in his hospital room and chasing after him were protecting him, not trying to arrest him.
Mr. Queen ends with Bong-hwan alone watching Secretary Han get arrested on a big TV screen in Seoul.
Why Did Bong-hwan’s Soul End Up in Joseon?
Mr. Queen never explains why or how Bong-hwan’s soul finds itself in So-yong’s body.
The drama never confirms if Bong-hwan is a reincarnation of So-yong or offers any explanation for Bong-hwan’s adventures in Joseon.
What Happened to Cheoljong?
To protect So-bong and their unborn child, Cheoljong leaves the palace on a mission to suppress the Donghak uprising. The mission is a trap by the Andong Kims and Cheoljong is quickly cornered by Byeong-in and his soldiers. Cheoljong jumps off the cliff and into the sea to escape and is saved by Dam-hyang’s father, a Donghak rebel.
Team Cheoljong teams up with the rebels and Cheoljong and So-bong sneak back into the palace via food cart to stop the enthronement. On their way to the hall, Cheoljong is shot in the chest by Kim Jwa-geun’s minion, Sal-soo.
Luckily, Cheoljong is wearing a bulletproof vest and can get up and defeat Jwa-geun in a sword fight.
A bloody Cheoljong makes it to the hall to stop the enthronement ceremony and reclaims his throne.
Mr. Queen ends with Cheoljong rooting out the corruption in his court and banishing his enemies with his Queen and baby alive and well after a miscarriage scare. Despite having it all, he feels a sense of loss with the absence of Bong-hwan.
In the present, Bong-hwan and Cheoljong have successfully changed Cheoljong’s fate. Cheoljong is posthumously known as King Cheoljo and is renowned for being a reformist and benevolent ruler. He is no longer known as the dumb puppet king.
Sadly, Cheoljong still dies young and most of history remains unchanged.
What Happened to the Royal Baby?
So-yong almost loses the baby after being shot but both mother and baby ultimately survive.
Mr. Queen ends before So-yong gives birth so sadly we never get to see the royal baby.
Who Does Cheoljong End Up With?
At the end of Mr. Queen, Cheoljong ends up with Kim So-yong.
What Happened to Kim So-yong?
After So-bong is shot, Bong-hwan returns to his body in the present and the real Kim So-yong emerges. She was alive all along, her soul residing deep inside in her body.
So-yong’s gunshot wound is serious but not fatal and both So-yong and the royal baby survive.
After recovering from her near-miscarriage, So-yong exerts her power and takes control of the inner court from the Grand Queen Dowager. She has both the Grand Queen Dowager and Queen Dowager exiled.
So-yong also institutes several changes for the people including allowing court ladies to marry.
Kim So-yong is aware of Bong-hwan and acknowledges his departure. But she doesn’t talk about him to Cheoljong. Nor does she explain why she is different when he asks why she is speaking so formally to him.
What Happened to Kim Byeong-in?
After Cheoljong leaves the palace to suppress the bandits, Byeong-in follows to kill him as he promised to do to the Grand Queen Dowager. The two men fight and Byeong-in corners Cheoljong at a cliffside but Cheoljong jumps off the cliff before Byeong-in can kill him.
Byeong-in returns to the palace with a dead body he claims is Cheoljong and the Kim clan quickly prepares to enthrone a new puppet king.
Byeong-in locks down the palace and has a tense confrontation with So-bong who is running away from the palace to find Cheoljong. He is rejected once again and is shocked and angered when So-bong shoots an arrow at him.
It finally clicks for Byeong-in that So-bong is not the woman he loves, So-yong.
Byeong-in hunts down So-bong, Hong Yeon, and Court Lady Choi. Kim Byeong-in corners So-bong just as he did with Cheoljong but spares their life when he realizes So-bong has So-yong’s memories. The woman he loves is still there so Byeong-in turns against his men to protect So-bong.
Byeong-in is killed by his father Kim Gwa-jeun’s assassin protecting So-bong.
But before he dies, Byeong-in gives them the letter of treason signed by Cheoljong’s political enemies that would later help Cheoljong get rid of the corruption.
What Happened to Jo Hwa-jin?
After the Royal Baby announcement, Hwa-jin asks Cheoljong to depose her as they no longer have feelings for one another and she wants to leave the palace and live freely.
Initially, Cheoljong refuses to let her go but eventually gives the order giving Hwa-jin her freedom.
After being fired as Cheoljong’s Royal Consort, Hwa-jin apologizes to Prince Yeongpyeong for using his feelings to her benefit. Prince Yeongpyeong being a pathetic simp waves away her apology and says he’s glad to be used by her.
Hwa-jin returns to the palace after the presumed death of Cheoljong and is told by So-bong that he’s still alive. After leaving the palace, Hwa-jin hangs flyers all over the city proclaiming Cheoljong is alive and the Andong Kims are attempting a coup to enthrone a new king.
At the end of Mr. Queen, Hwa-jin is living happily outside the palace, free from the manipulation of the Jo clan.
What Happened to Prince Yeongpyeong?
Prince Yeongpyeong threatens the lives of So-bong and the royal baby as he blames them for his brother’s death.
He and Hong are imprisoned by Byeong-in while the Kim clan and their allies attempt a coup. Prince Yeongpyeong and Hong are given the royal seal by Kim Hwan and escape prison to help Cheoljong.
Prince Yeongpyeong kills Kim Jwa-geun’s assassin, Sal-soo, and heads to the Hall with Cheoljong to reclaim the throne.
Do Hwa-jin and Prince Yeongpyeong End Up Together?
Hwa-jin and Prince Yeongpyeong are together at the end of Mr. Queen.
Some time after Cheoljong and his allies reclaim the throne, Prince Yeongpyeong reconnects with Hwa-jin outside the palace.
What Happened to Hong Yeon?
Hong Yeon leaves the palace with So-bong and Court Lady Choi to find Cheoljong. She fights alongside the rebels to help Cheoljong reclaim the throne.
Mr. Queen ends with Hong Yeon alive and back at the palace by her Queen’s side.
It’s never revealed if Hong Yeon (or her descendants) bought land in Gangnam as advised by Bong-hwan.
Who Does Hong Yeon End Up With?
Hong Yeon does not end up with anyone.
Hong Yeon does not return Kim Hwan’s feelings and her crush on Hong remains unrequited.
What Happened to Court Lady Choi?
Court Lady Choi leaves the palace with Hong Yeon and So-bong to find Cheoljong. She fights alongside the rebels to help Cheoljong reclaim the throne.
Court Lady Choi survives the battle and returns to the palace by her Queen’s side.
What Happened to the Royal Chef Man-bok?
The Royal Chef Man-bok quits his job in the royal kitchen and leaves the palace to join Court Lady Choi and Team Cheoljong in the mountains and help him regain the throne.
He fights in the battle armed with his kitchen knives and survives.
Mr. Queen ends with the Royal Chef Man-bok back in the royal kitchen with Court Lady Choi by his side cooking ramen.
Do Court Lady Choi and Royal Chef End Up Together?
Yes, Court Lady Choi and the Royal Chef end up together at the end of Mr. Queen.
There is no proposal but the couple are free to marry as court ladies are now permitted to get married thanks to So-yong.
What Happened to Kim Hwan?
After returning to the palace, Bong-hwan reveals himself as Lee Seung-min to Kim Hwan and gives him the important mission of retrieving the royal seal.
Kim Hwan steals the royal seal and passes it to Chief Hong and Prince Yeongpyeong, preventing the enthronement ceremony from being completed and allowing Cheoljong to reclaim his throne.
At the end of Mr. Queen, Kim Hwan is awarded a government position by Cheoljong as a diplomat.
What Happened to Minister Kim Jwa-geun?
Kim Jwa-geun loses the final fight against Cheoljong but the King spares his life so he can pay for his crimes.
At the end of Mr. Queen, Former Minister Kim is exiled to live in disgrace.
What Happened to the Grand Queen Dowager?
The Grand Queen Dowager leverages the scandalous incest rumours about So-yong and Byeong-in and the paternity of the royal baby to oust Cheoljong from the palace.
In Cheoljong’s absence, the Grand Queen Dowager quickly regains her position and also brings back the corrupt ministers cast out by Cheoljong.
The Grand Queen Dowager Sunwon also puts into motion a plan to have Cheoljong killed and enthrone a young boy as a new puppet king to solidify her power.
However, the Grand Queen Dowager’s plan to install a new puppet king are unsuccessful as Cheoljong returns before the enthronement ceremony is completed.
Mr. Queen ends with the Grand Queen Dowager confined in her Hall before being exiled to the West Palace.
What Happened to Queen Dowager Jo?
To create chaos amongst the Kim clan, Queen Dowager Jo starts the rumour that the royal baby is not Cheoljong’s heir but a result of an incestuous affair between So-yong and Byeong-in.
The rumours prompt the Kim clan to mastermind a coup to kill Cheoljong and So-yong and replace Cheoljong with a new puppet king.
At the end of Mr. Queen, the Queen Dowager Jo is punished and exiled to the West Palace to live in insolation with her dead son’s portrait.
What Happened to So-yong’s father?
So-yong’s father is unharmed during the attempted coup because he follows his daughter’s advice to give away his wealth to the poor and is in turn protected.
He visits So-yong with an armful of presents for his unborn grandchild at the end of Mr. Queen.
Mr. Queen Ending Explained
I’ve watched a lot of kdramas and more often than not, I find myself disappointed in the ending. Many kdramas start strong only to lose steam near the end so now I just expect the finale to be a complete letdown and keep my expectations low.
Most dramas that involve some sort of time travel or body/soul swap don’t have a neatly wrapped happy ending.
So going into the final episode of Mr. Queen, I was fully prepared for a sad ending.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the worst ending I’ve ever watched in a kdrama.
Why is Mr. Queen’s ending so disappointing?
1. Bong-hwan is relegated to the sidelines in his own story
For 19½ episodes, Jang Bong-hwan is undeniably the protagonist of the show.
Bong-hwan adjusted to life as a woman in Joseon, went through gender and sexuality crises, found a family, and fell in love with King Cheoljong.
So-bong went all-in for Cheoljong. Their feelings for Cheoljong were so strong they were willing to risk their life and sacrifice everything. They wanted to stay in Joseon, and have a baby with the man they love despite knowing that history is not on their side and they’re basically doomed.
So-bong went through it during their time in Joseon. Multiple attempts made on their life, struggles with their gender and sexual identity, falling in love with their husband they initially hated, and getting pregnant.
Over time, So-bong accepted themselves in a female body, embraced their feelings for Cheoljong, and found a new family they would do anything for.
And it’s all cruelly ripped away.
Bong-hwan returns to his original body in the present. In Joseon, he grew as a person, learned how to love, and successfully changed history. But now he’s completely alone.
The entire Joseon experience had to be incredibly traumatizing for Bong-hwan but his thoughts and feelings aren’t explored in the finale at all.
How does he feel being back in a male body after fully accepting being in a female body? How does he feel about losing all his friends and the love of his life?
We don’t know!
Bong-hwan is pushed aside and in the end, his journey and growth were just the means to someone else’s happiness.
He goes from being the hero of the story to merely a stepping stone to So-yong and Cheoljong’s happily ever after.
2. So-yong goes from a background character to the protagonist
For most of the drama, Kim So-yong was in the background and existed mostly as a memory. Bong-hwan’s soul inhabited her body and gained some of her memories but So-yong herself was never actually an active participant in the story.
Not even as a voice speaking to So-bong to help guide them.
It was always So-bong calling the shots.
This makes So-yong’s return and immediate promotion to Female Lead so jarring. We know So-yong’s history and get glimpses of her in flashbacks but we don’t know her as we know So-bong.
If the writers wanted to make Mr. Queen about So-yong, why didn’t they let her be an active participant in the story alongside Bong-hwan?
Why not have So-yong and Bong-hwan take turns being in control?
Why not let So-yong have a voice?
But the writers didn’t put any effort into bringing her into the fold until 30 minutes into the finale. They didn’t even bother letting the audience get to know her.
They did not care about her.
So-yong swooping in last minute and taking So-bong’s place leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
So-bong is the one who did all the work and the one who risked their life and So-yong is the one who gets the happily ever after with Cheoljong?
So-bong and So-yong are two completely different people and we’re supposed to believe it’s a happy ending because the body is the same?
So-yong wasn’t brought back in the finale and presented as the new female lead because the writers cared about her character and her journey.
She was brought back as a convenient plot device to:
- Invalidate the relationship between So-bong and Cheoljong
- Give viewers a happy ending with a safe heterosexual couple
3. Cheolbong’s love story is completely abandoned
The love story between So-bong and Cheoljong (Cheolbong) is one of the most memorable in kdrama. Shin Hae-sun and Kim Jung-hyun have phenomenal chemistry, playing off one another perfectly as Cheolbong go from enemies to allies to lovers. Their relationship is the heart of the show so when Bong-hwan is replaced by So-yong in the finale, it’s jarring and the audience can immediately tell the difference. The chemistry isn’t the same.
Cheoljong fell in love with his strange queen who walks like a man, speaks rudely, cooks amazingly, and has endless knowledge about the future. Cheoljong did not fall in love with So-yong. He fell in love with the soul in her body: Bong-hwan.
Swapping out So-bong for So-yong destroys the love story the writers built up through the entire series from the very first episode. So-yong and Cheoljong may have had the typical childhood connection so many other kdrama couples have but the love story was never about them. Cheoljong never loved So-yong. So-bong is the one he loves but they’re gone now and Cheoljong doesn’t even know.
Despite Cheoljong not knowing that Bong-hwan’s soul has left So-yong’s body and the queen he loves is gone forever, he feels the loss. Deep down, he knows.
So-yong knows that Bong-hwan is gone but hasn’t told Cheoljong.
Is she going to spend the rest of her life pretending to be Bong-hwan?
Is So-yong going to feel like an imposter in her own body for the rest of her life?
The drama ends with Cheoljong and So-yong together embracing. Cheoljong jokingly asks So-yong “Why are you speaking so formally?” The queen he loves, So-bong, always spoke informally to him. So-yong just laughs in response.
This isn’t happily ever after.
The queen Cheoljong loves is gone.
The queen he’s with now is practically a stranger.
This is a nightmare.
The writers chose violence…and heterosexuality
So what changed in the last 30 minutes of the finale that made the writers
lose their minds drastically change the course of their story?
Bong-hwan is a man.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. The entire premise of the drama is a man is transported into the body of a woman from the Joseon era! Why would that be a problem in the finale?
Let me explain.
Before returning to his male body in the present, So-bong fully embraced being in a woman’s body, and accepted their feelings for their king and their pregnancy. Watching a man play out this storyline on screen is vastly different from watching a woman do it.
Although Bong-hwan (played by Choi Jin Hyuk) made appearances earlier in the drama, it was before So-bong fell in love with Cheoljong and had their sexuality crisis. It’s easy to deny and ignore the inherent queerness of So-bong (a man’s soul in a woman’s body) loving a man when Cheolbong are played by a man and woman. It’s a whole different story when that same character (Bong-hwan/So-bong) is played by a man.
The queer possibilities were endless with Cheolbong. I’ve seen people interpret Bong-hwan as genderqueer, genderfluid, gay, bisexual, and trans and Cheoljong as bisexual and pansexual and it’s amazing. If the story were to follow Bong-hwan now as it has been all along and he talks about his love for Cheoljong? Queer as hell.
Perhaps this made the writers uncomfortable so they undermined their own story because of homophobia. Homosexuality is a taboo in South Korea and homosexuality and gender identity are topics that are rarely explored in Korean dramas. The writers’ decision to cover up the queerness of Mr. Queen did it to make the ending palatable to certain parts of the audience.
By erasing Bong-hwan from his own story and replacing him with a woman, the writers made a mess of everything. But most of all, they ensured that there was no way to view the endgame love story as queer. They were able to cover up the queerness in the show and make an ending conforming perfectly to society’s heteronormative ideal. Insidious and homophobic!
Mr. Queen’s happy ending is actually a sad ending
I’ve watched over 100 Asian dramas and Mr. Queen has by far the worst ending.
Mr. Queen chose the most painfully straight ending, erasing the love story of So-bong and Cheoljong we watched for 19½ episodes.
Has any other kdrama ever completely dismantled their main couple like Mr. Queen did?!
I’ve never seen anything like it.
Mr. Queen had the opportunity to push boundaries and take a risk.
To tell the audience that love is not dictated by our gender or our bodies.
Who you are inside, your soul is what matters.
That’s the story they carefully crafted for 19½ episodes.
Instead, the writers chose to undermine their own work, erasing their hero and love story just to fit the heteronormative ideal.
By putting Cheoljong and So-yong together, the writers are telling their audience that the only acceptable form of romantic love is between a man and a woman.
That it’s not the inside (the soul) that counts but the outside (the body).
And that’s a damn shame.
What did you think of Mr. Queen?
Do you hate the ending as much as I do?