Hats off to Choi Kang-hee, who always manages to pull of quirky characters that manage to frustrate yet tug at my heartstrings. Like Hong-do in Heart-to-Heart, Seol-ok is dressed frumpily and totally unlike the typical Kdramas’ leading ladies. She’s also irritatingly dense to her own needs sometimes that I wanna jump in and shake her. It’s a nod to Choi Kang-hee’s acting skills to make me see beyond her baggy dresses, mismatched attire, and akimbo arms to the beautiful yet fragile character she tries to portray.
As of ep4, the case-of-the-day is generally mundane, and fairly clear cut. Though I do like the little twist at the end of the murder case, where the father-in-law knowingly dumps his still alive daughter-in-law into the river, turning his crime from corpse disposal to murder. The bigger purpose of the case-of-the day though, is to shed light on the bigger “Mystery” in Queen – our characters’ backgrounds.
For example, the resolution of the murder case in ep3 reflects a parallel between Seol-ok’s position in her in-laws’ household and the deceased wife. I believe Seol-ok sees the similarity too, from her passionate outburst at the aged father-in-law for his cruelties – for turning a blind eye to the physical abuse his daughter-in-law goes through, as well as murdering her eventually to cover his son’s crime. As Seol-ok points out, no matter how much devotion a daughter-in-law pours into her husband’s family, at the end of the day, she is still seen as an outsider and can be conveniently cast out as one.
But while Seol-ok (and us) reels from the harsh reality, another incident makes her recall the kindness her in-laws have shown her. It also throws Seol-ok’s willingness to place her in-laws’ needs before her own into perspective. Like the teenage boy who lost his mum, dad and grandpa in one day, Seol-ok once also lost her entire family. And Mdm Park, who was her mum’s friend, had kindly taken her in. Seol-ok may also have willingly gave up her chance for further education as a form of repayment to Mdm Park for fostering her (or Mdm Park had a hand in suggesting Seol-ok drops her studies). Whatever the case, Mdm Park’s generosity to take in a stranger turns the stereotype of the demanding mother-in-law around. It made me think that while she may be caustic and sometimes unappreciative, she does (and had) cared for Seol-ok as a daughter.
Similarly, Queen also suggests that Wan-seung is more than he seems. The similarity in the law firm’s name and Wan-seung’s surname did not go unnoticed by me. I suspected that Ha and Jeong, where smartly dressed Ji-won hails from, may be owned by Wan-seung’s dad. In other words, Wan-seung isn’t a lowly paid public servant, but comes from a rich family.
However, Ha and Jeong appears to be a law firm that has ties with the underground. Judging by how they are helping a drug trafficker escape the gallows and how they actually employed a bunch of burly men to kidnap Wan-seung for a forced engagement. Queen also teases us with Do-jang’s involvement in Ha and Jeong – he seems to know the law firm’s dirty secret and is using it to blackmail Lawyer Ha (aka Wan-seung’s dad). I suppose part of why Wan-seung is so eager to put Do-jang in jail is to force him to spill the beans on his corrupted daddy, as well as to disassociate himself from his daddy’s mobster business. I am not sure if Do-Jang or Lawyer Ha had some involvement in Wan-seung girlfriend’s death (or disappearance); at the moment, the narrative is sketchy about this. But they are guilty, it can explain Wan-seung’s hatred of his father.
Conversely, I also think the reason why Wan-seung and Team Leader Bae are not promoted is because they are too hung up on catching drug trafficker + blackmailer Do-jang. I bet Ha and Jeong, who has ties with corrupted police higher-ups, are the ones impeding the officers’ career paths. Poor Team Leader Bae then. I wonder if he knows his hotheaded team member is actually a family member of the law firm he dislikes. [kooriyuki: IMO it was really unexpected that Wan-seung is the son of Ha and Jeong.]