The King Eternal Monarch’s 14th episode takes us back to the start as Lee Rim and Lee Gon travel back to that fateful night where Lee Rim stages the coup and then Lee Gon travels through time till the moment Tae-eul and him first meet at Gwanghaemoon.
The first half of the episode focuses on Lee Lim and Lee Gon as their future selves return to 1994 and we finally get some answer on how time travel happens. The boy with the yoyo explains to Song Jung-hye, “When the Manpasikjeok becomes one inside the gate, both the axes for time and space simultaneously form inside the gate. When the Manpasikjeok becomes whole, it takes you to the moment when you wish to save yourself “.
That moment is the same for both Lee Rim and Lee Gon – the night of the reason. Lee Gon goes back because he wants to save both words from Lee Rim, whereas Lee Rim wants to go back to “save his foolish self from failing the coup”.
The difference between the two is that Lee Rim fails in his mission to save himself. His 2020 self returns to the moment before his 1994 self starts the coup. He tells his 1994 self to kill the 8 year old Lee Gon first, because he is the one who ultimately stops the coup. However, his 1994 self refuses to believe it. Seeing that his 2020 self only has half the flute, his 1994 self decides not to trust him and kills him. Ultimately, Lee Rim’s pride is his own downfall and the 26 years of scheming to ensure he can finally go back in time to save himself ultimately fails. There must be more to his plan though, given how things continue to move in 2020 with Luna and the attempt to kill Jung-Hye.
While 2020 Lee Rim returned to a point of time where he could have changed his future, Lee Gon returns to a point of time which is too late to save his father, or to get the entire flute. The coup is stopped, but Lee Rim runs away once again. As Lee Gon leaves to pursue Lee Rim, he meets Ok-nam and he tells her that he is her King and that just as she advised, he is pursuing his destiny. This certainly explains much of Ok-nam’s behaviour in previous episodes.
When Lee Gon travels across worlds to Korea, he realises he is also too late to also save his ‘Korean’ self. With only half of the flute, he can only move across worlds and will therefore take four months to get back to the present time. The second half of the episode then focuses on Lee Gon moving through time, meeting Tae-Eul at key moments and also planting the seeds to possibly ensure he is more successful the next time he gets to travel back in time.
Since he cannot go back to meet Tae-Eul immediately in the present, he first goes back to her when she’s 5 and tells her 5-year old self that he’s on his way to her and that he will be back soon. Following that, he visits her again on the day of election day on 2016, telling her that she will meet him next at Gwanghaemoon. He asks her to give him more time then, as they do not have much time.
Besides just going through time to meet Tae-Eul, 2020 Lee Gon also puts in place other plans to set things in place for success. He returns to the day of the boat race, where he first ran after Luna. There, he meets Yeong and tells him not to hold back from telling him about Jung-hye in 2020. He also places a rabbit jacket on the bench with a key card to the palace. We then see Luna again running in the jacket, but this time, we see her touching her pocket and realising that she has the key card in her pocket.
As all this time travelling is going on, we get only one scene with Seo-Ryung in this episode where we learn that she has big plans to find the Manpasikjeok and use it to her benefit. This is definitely an interesting development, but this should really have happened much earlier.
As the episode reaches a close, we go back to present day 2020 and see that Eun-Soeb and Tae-eul are tailing Luna – who is shopping with Tae-Eul’s father and Na-Ri. This scene confused me because if this is supposed to be happening after last week’s events, then why would Tae-eul even allow Luna to be close to her family members again? Putting this aside, Tae-Eul follows Luna to a dark alley and is eventually stabbed by Luna – which leads us back to Tae-Eul and Lee Gon’s first meeting. This time round, Tae-Eul already knows who Lee Gon is, so she takes the first move and runs towards him and hugs him.
With only two episodes left, there’s still plenty of plot to cover. We know Lee Rim has started his plan once again since the coup failed. The difference this time round is that Lee Gon is moving also through time and making plans to circumvent Lee Rim’s plans. Certainly, Tae-Eul will not die, so what will happen once Lee Gon arrives in 2020? What are his plans then?
As the show draws to a close, my biggest gripe with the show is how the characters are mostly unfleshed out, with the exception of Shin Jae. He is the only character whose back story gets the most attention as he grapples with his identity of whether he is Shin Jae or Hyun-min. For the other characters, a lot of time is spent figuring out how to outdo each other rather than exploring the motivations and emotions felt by the characters. This show could certainly be so much more if we could relate and connect more with the characters.