It is high time that we start seeing women’s lives on screen with all their complications and nuances without buying into the arbitrary notions of likeability. On any other day, we wouldn’t have bothered to be so disappointed with a series whose feminism tries to gain patriarchal approval. But we were in a particular mood when we saw “Queenmaker.” Maybe because there have been too many movies and series that get it wrong, maybe because we had high hopes for this particular series, or maybe just because we want to hear the words on the screen and remember why art is such a great medium of communication. Maybe it was a bit of everything, and that is why, this time, our disappointment is a little too much. We are never going to get good content unless people realize that women’s power doesn’t stand on the same two feet as men’s. Until then, this is what we are served.
Why do Hwang Do Hee and Oh Kyung Sook join hands?
Let us make this clear right away. “Queenmaker,” with its primarily female cast, does not break any stereotypes and uses sexism as a tool instead of addressing how it disproportionately prevents women from realizing their ambitions. This takes us back to another series we watched a while back titled “Riches.” Not to compare gender politics with racial ones, but “Riches,” with its all-black cast, had a far more nuanced portrayal of how disproportionate their advantage is, despite wealth and privilege. A template like that should have been adopted for “Queenmaker.” But of course, why waste more disappointment on what could have been? Let us just get into what is.
Hwang Do Hee is known as the “fixer” of the Eunsang group, and she is responsible for clearing all the messes of the family. Any time a controversy happens, Do Hee makes it all go away. Basically, she is a PR mastermind and corporate strategist rolled into one who lives and breathes for Eunsang. She has recently fixed the assault scandal of one of the family’s daughters, Eun Chae Ryeong, by diverting the public’s attention to her fashion and by painting her as a victim of postpartum depression. Chae Ryeong is less than happy with the helpless image created of her, but there isn’t much she can do. However, when her husband apologizes on her behalf, she loses all her cool. Baek Jae Min is quite the smooth talker, and if we caught it right, he is a bit too flirty for his own good. But he is charming enough to know what to say and when to say it, and that is why his mother-in-law, the Chairwoman of Eunsang, realizes his political potential. Basically, Young Sim has illegally constructed a duty-free shop, and it is something of a dream realized for her. She wants Baek Jae Min to be the mayor so that they can function smoothly.
Meanwhile, Baek Jae Min tells Do Hee that he is being blackmailed by a woman, I Seul, with incorrect claims of sexual assault. He shows Do Hee messages proving that he is right. Do Hee, being the fixer of the family, meets the woman and tells her that her claims will never be proven due to her past when she worked in a bar. Do Hee believes that I Seul has been lying and tells her to leave. Later that day, when Do Hee is leaving the building, I Seul’s body falls from the roof onto her car. I Seul has committed suicide, and a cufflink rolls out of her hand. The previous day, Do Hee had come close to reprimanding I Seul for not checking the cufflinks on Jae Min’s outfit. This was that cufflink, which proved that I Seul had been telling the truth after all. She also leaves an email telling Do Hee everything that happened to her.
Racked by guilt, Do Hee goes to meet Jae Min and, on the pretext of checking the messages between him and I Seol, figures out that he had sent the messages on her behalf from his other phone. Jae Min is completely flippant, and he just tells Do Hee to do her job and keep protecting him. That day, Do Hee is at her wits’ end when she remembers that there is a more pressing matter: that of Oh Kyung Sook. She is a lawyer who has spent close to 80 days on the Eunsang Department Store rooftop, protesting the unfair dismissal of the staff. When Do Hee tried speaking with her, Kyung Sook threw some very unpleasant things at her.
The writer really played into the stereotype regarding emotional women here, and it was disgusting. But due to this incident, Do Hee had ordered for her to be killed. However, considering her new-found conscience, Do Hee races to protect Kyung Sook. But it is a little too late, as the assailants are already on the rooftop. Do Hee reaches there just in time, but the men refuse to stop. In an effort to protect Kyung Sook, Do Hee gets injured, and the former actually falls from the building, except that she doesn’t die but is simply hospitalized. When she wakes up, she finds that people are thinking that she jumped on purpose as a protest, and that has brought new popularity to her cause. This causes a publicity nightmare for Eunsang, and they can’t do anything about it since even Do Hee is hospitalized.
At this time, Jae Min steps in and tells the Chairwoman to rehire the workers as a show of good faith towards the upcoming election. The Chairwoman is not opposed to the idea, but she doesn’t like that Jae Min wants Do Hee to leave. When Do Hee does come back, she advises the Chairwoman not to let Jae Min hold office and refuses to follow her orders due to her new-found conscience. That is enough for her to be terminated. Do Hee loses her apartment and her car, all given to her by her company. But she finds that the Chairwoman has also stopped the treatment of her father, who is in need of a kidney transplant. We don’t know what Do Hee was expecting, but this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and she decided to destroy the Eunsang group.
The first thing she does is form a team with Kyung Sook. She takes some convincing, and when she hears of Jae Min’s womanizing ways, she even declares that she will run for the mayor’s office if she has to stop him. But Kyung Sook did not mean it when she said that. What solidifies her decision is an attack on Do Hee, which helps her realize exactly how evil the people are. She wants to build a better world where people like the Eunsang family can be kept in check, so she decides to run in the mayoral race.
The Mayoral Race
Looks like the mayoral race, as depicted in “Queenmaker,” was just a matter of who could sling more mud at the other. Seo Min Jung from the People’s Reform Party is in the running to be mayor and she is one of the strongest candidates. In a debate, Do Hee brings her ex-lover to ask her some political questions. This rattled her because not only had Min Jung been funding his life with the party’s money, but she was also not over him yet.
Min Jung retaliates by framing Kyung Sook with false charges of embezzlement. Do Hee is not able to respond in time because Carl Yoon, the kingmaker of Baek Jae Min, has kidnapped her father. But the tragedy escalates, and her father dies, though it was not intended. Meanwhile, Kyung Sook’s situation is only getting worse. She even decides to step back from the race if it means that the lives of a few could be saved. The person who had actually stolen the money had done so because she was poor and couldn’t afford to pay her children’s tuition. She tried to harm herself due to the false statement she had given that she did it on the instructions of Kyung Sook. When Min Jung comes to know of this, she suggests to Ma Joong Seok, her campaign manager, and Do Hee’s ex-husband that they should blame it on Do Hee and Kyung Sook. They should use this opportunity to turn the accusation of embezzlement into fact in the public’s mind. This is a little too much for Joong Seok, who has been pushed beyond tolerating Min Jung’s crass ways. Therefore, right when Kyung Sook is about to announce her resignation, he plays the audio clip of Min Jung saying the above things. It is a masterstroke that not only clears Kyung Sook’s name but also pushes Min Jung out of the race.
But the slander against Kyung Sook is far from over. This time, it is from Baek Jae Min. Kyung Sook’s son is arrested on charges of assault, which escalates in the media into charges of sexual assault from his school. But Do Hee and Kyung Sook discover that he had been pushed towards it by the other boys when they posted provocative photos of Kyung Sook on his social media. They were all being paid in-game coins to put on an act, provoking him. Once this truth comes out, people not only turn towards Kyung Sook but are also harsher on Jae Min, who is suspected of having spread these falsehoods.
But with all these attacks on Kyung Sook, her team finally retaliates by telling the media that Guk Ji Yeon, the woman who replaced Do Hee at Eunsang and is a pivotal part of Jae Min’s election campaign, is pregnant with his child. Jae Min denies it all, but when faced with some photographs that indicate an affair, he is pushed into a corner. Before things get out of hand, Ji Yeon faints from the stress of it all and is taken to a hospital. Though Jae Min assures her that he will take care of her, Ji Yeon is scared and gets a DNA test done. Knowing this, Jae Min decides to have her killed and frame it as a suicide so that he can say that she did so due to the slander caused by Do Hee and Kyung Sook. This trick even works to some extent.
‘Queenmaker’ Ending Explained: How Does Oh Kyung Sook Become The Mayor? Why Does Do Hee Turn Herself In?
During a debate, when Kyung Sook and Jae Min confront each other about this and that, they receive the news that Ji Yeon is dead. Jae Min is quick to blame Kyung Sook, who only says that they should wait before they jump to conclusions, and if it is actually proved that she is responsible, she will resign. While this is going on, Do Hee, upon suspecting some foul play, is following the car with the kidnapped Ji Yeon. It takes a scuffle, a night, and a lot of injuries, especially for Dong Joo, but they manage to rescue Ji Yeon. The next day, when she regains consciousness, Ji Yeon publicly admits to her affair, her pregnancy, and the fact that Jae Min tried to kill her. But that is not all. Kyung Sook also takes this chance to reveal the truth about I Seul. Do Hee had found it strange that all the CCTV footage of the building had been erased on the day of I Seul’s death.
When she got the CCTV recordings from the opposite building, she found that Jae Min was nonchalantly leaving the building right when I Seul had jumped to her death. This had alerted Do Hee to the fact that things went deeper than they seemed. When Ji Yeon comes to their side, she gives them the mobile and other belongings of I Seul that she had kept hidden this whole time to keep the truth under wraps. That mobile had a recording of the last conversation between I Seul and Jae Min. She had wanted him to publicly apologize to her, but he couldn’t get on board with it. In a fit of desperation, he had pushed her off the building, killing her. In the present day, Kyung Sook plays that recording on her YouTube channel, thus revealing the truth about Jae Min for the whole world to see. This is more than enough to ensure Kyung Sook’s victory, and she becomes the mayor of Seoul. As for Jae Min, he is devastated, not just because of his loss but because Do Hee finally tells him that it was Carl Yoon who pushed his father to suicide by framing him for corruption. As Jae Min is trying to drown his sorrows in alcohol, he is killed by an assassin sent by the Chairwoman, who has decided that she will not let him bring down the family with him. But despite everything, she still miscalculated Do Hee’s determination.
At the end of “Queenmaker,” during the welcome address of Kyung Sook, a reporter questions Do Hee about whether she secretly took funds from Eunsang for the campaign without telling Kyung Sook. Do Hee admits to it. Her only objective in taking the funds was to bring Eunsang under scrutiny. Do Hee goes to jail, sent off by a tearful Kyung Sook, but she leaves behind enough ammunition for her to use. Kyung Sook has an entire record of Eunsang’s shady dealings, and using that, she forces the Chairwoman to give 90% shares of the duty-free shop shares to the government, which essentially means giving away her money to the public. Do Hee has kept her word and destroyed Eunsang.
As for the others, Chae Ryeong knows that Jae Min was killed by her mother. She was the illegitimate daughter of the Chairwoman’s husband and has always carried that inferiority complex within her. But once the new developments kick in, her sister tells her that she is a good manager and should be the CEO of their logistics company. They need to put their wits together at the moment instead of their egos, and maybe, finally, the sisters can start finding some semblance of peace.
As for Carl Yoon, we are not sure what happened to him. Last we saw him, he was getting into his Ferrari, and his cigarette was burning a few feet away. Was it metaphorical of the fact that his time was coming to an end, or did it mean that his car blew up, killing him? We think it is open to interpretation. The latter possibility might be preferable from a storyline perspective, but we are inclined to believe the former is more likely, simply because the world has twisted sensibilities. As for Do Hee, she is quietly doing her time when she is approached by a man. He asks her whether she was responsible for Kyung Sook becoming the mayor, and from the looks of it, he has a new job for her.
Will There Be A Season 2?
The cliffhanger suggests that there might be a Season 2 of “Queenmaker” or that Do Hee is fine and will be out of jail in no time. That is a strictly okay ending to tiresomely average series. “Queenmaker” had scope, but it needed a more gutsy climate. In the absence of that, this is just another twelve hours of empty watch time. You can reduce that, however, by speeding it up in the settings. Trust us, that is the better way to watch this.