The King Eternal Monarch Finale Recap & Analysis

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Although I’ve already written a review, this finale deserves more detailed treatment, so let’s dive in deep to see how it all finally comes together. This entry takes us through the entire episode, with analysis shared throughout. Please feel free to also offer your own theories and explanations in the comments!

We start off the episode with Luna, messaging Tae-Eul’s father that she will be home late as she has a stake-out. His support, concern and love is evident through the messages. This is the last scene we see of Luna in the current timeline and it is a bittersweet closure for her – because of Tae-Eul’s mission for her to care for her dad, Luna finally has a family and someone who cares for her, yet she’s not fully ready to embrace it. She will carry out her task to watch over Tae-Eul’s dad, but from afar, from a distance.

Shijae sits by himself, heart-broken as Tae-eul has decided to take Lee Lim through the portal even after his confession of love. He recalls all the wonderful memories he has of Tae-Eul.

Tae-Eul holds a gun to Lee Lim’s head. She looks back on her world as she hears the rustling of leaves in the bamboo forest, and then she tells Lee Lim to walk and they both enter the portal together. This is Tae-Eul deciding to be brave – it would be easier for her to wait in Korea for Lee Gon’s return. However, she decides to act, and be brave.

Back in Corea in 1994, on the night of the treason, Yeong twists the neck of Lee Gon’s traitor uncle. Lee Gon instructs him to stay at the gate to stop the traitors who will be arriving in 20 minutes. However, Yeong tells him he cannot let Lee Gon go to Cheonjongo alone. Even though this is Lee Gon’s last order to him, Yeong tells him that he must go to Cheongjongo – because it is his last chance to protect his king.

I hoped everything would unfold exactly the same as it did that night,” Lee Gon voices over, “At what point did things start to change?” Beautiful occasions are always simple. Tonight I’m not alone, we just haven’t reached our destination yet”. He places the four tiger sword at the gate, then runs into Cheongjongo with gun in his hand.

This third return to Corea in 1994 is different in so many ways. Firstly, Lee Gon is no longer hiding his identity. He is proudly wearing his royal garb. Secondly, the four tiger sword is with him, a symbol of him embracing fully his destiny. Lastly, and most importantly, he is not alone – Yeong is beside him, and Tae-Eul is partnering him to hold Lee Lim hostage. All three of them – Lee Gon, Yeong and Tae-Eul – are embracing their fate bravely.

In the portal, Tae-Eul continues to point the gun at Lee Lim. She takes his half of the flute from him. She plans to wait here in the portal, until Lee Gon completes his mission. If he fails, she will then shoot him. Lee Lim laughs at her plan and tells her all her memories of him will disappear if he succeeds. She responds that she’s heart-broken, but all those radiant memories are etched deep in her heart. She’s willing to take the risk, even though time is at a standstill in the portal, to give it a go and shoot him.

Back in Corea, young Lee Gon is holding the sword, ready to take a swipe at Lee Lim. Lee Lim orders his henchman to shoot young Lee Gon. Just at that moment, the glass ceiling shatters and young Lee Gon runs away while a glass shard hits Lee Lim’s hand, causing him to drop the flute intact. Lee Gon thus managed to intervene earlier this time round, even before the flute was broken. Yeong takes down many of Lee Lim’s henchmen but is shot in the chest. Lee Gon takes fire at Lee Lim, but Lee Lim uses one of his men to block the shots.

Lee Lim in Corea manages to get a hold on the whole flute, causing Lee Gon’s chest to ache and his half of the Manpasikjeok disintegrates. Back in the portal, the Manpasikjeok also disintegrates in Tae-Eul’s hands, and Lee Lim looks on, bewildered but realising that he must have obtained the whole flute. In the portal, Lee Lim tells Tae-Eul that if the flute is gone, that means his nephew cannot come back, and that Tae-Eul and him are stuck in the portal for eternity.

In Corea, Lee Lim runs off with the flute and Lee Gon chases after him, leaving young Lee Gon in Yeong’s care. He reaches the gate, but sees that Lee Lim has fled. He picks up his sword and gives chase.

Yeong holds young Lee Gon in his arms and smiles as he realises he is alive. Young Lee Gon moves his hand up to touch Yeong’s hand for comfort. As the Royal Guards arrive, Yeong places young Lee Gon on the floor and hides at the side. Yeong recalls how in the previous timeline, young Lee Gon told young Yeong that he was the Unbreakable Sword – he has finally fulfilled his destiny and vision. Yeong and Eun Sop have been the only so-called positive pair of doppelgangers in the series, which also explains why they are so close. They have been partners in fulfilling that destiny, as Eun Sop was the one who protected adult Lee Gon from the gunshot. As the scene closes, we get a shot of Yeong’s face against the snow falling in the light from the glass ceiling, a sign of God’s approval.

Back in Korea, Hyeon-min has brought Shinjae’s mum to the nursing home to see Shinjae in a coma. He tells her that there’s someting dad has been hiding from her, and she breaks down, hugging her son and apologising. She asks him when he found out and how long he was hiding it from her. She asks him what he will do about it. He has no reply for her, and walks away, dejected and alone once again.

However, just as he is walking away, he hears his mum calling him, “Sin-jae!”. He turns back and calls her, “Mom”. She gives him the tightest and warmest hug and tells him she should have given him a hug as it was not his fault. She apologises to him and tears roll down his eyes and he calls her mum. From being abandoned by her, he is now tightly and warmly embraced by her – Shin-jae and his mum got the reconciliation and closure that he needed, even before the reset happened. While it was the original plan for him to bring Lee Lim to the gate, it was never his battle to fight. This act of reconciliation with his mother was what truly took courage for Shin-Jae.

In the bamboo forest, Lee Lim is running towards the gate, with blood all over him. He turns around and sees the gate. “I was right after all,” he says, “this must be the door to another world.” Old Lee Gon appears behind him and slashes his shoulder, causing him to drop the flute. He lies down and wonders who this man is and why he has the Four Tiger Sword. Lee Gon declares that he is the king of Corea, and the rightful owner of the Sword, and the one who will carry out the capital punishment.

Back in the portal, Lee Lim says that the nephew must have failed because he’s alive and well. Tae-Eul decides to shoot him, but the bullet does no come out. Lee Lim laughs and calls her ‘foolishly hopeful’, running towards her. However, we see the plant that Tae-Eul has planted in Korea sprouting, and time starts to move in the portal. The bullet comes out and hits him in the chest. The balloons are moving, petals are falling down, lightning is streaking in the portal and all the photographs are disintegrating.

Tae-Eul has all this while been the one who is ‘foolishly hopeful’, even more so than Lee Gon, planting seeds in the portal and in Korea. Her final hope that the gun will shoot Lee Lim has paid off. While there’s a lot about fate and following fate, Tae-Eul is not someone who just sits around and allows fate to happen. She’s one who takes action in pursuit of who she believes she’s fated to be with – she took Lee Lim into the portal because she did not want Lee Gon to be alone. Her actions are rewarded.

“The sky bestows the heart upon us, and the ground helps the spirit. The sun and moon are formed, as the mountain and stream form, lighting strikes,” declares Lee Gon in the forest. Hearing this, Lee Lim realises that he is the Crown Prince, and that must be the power of the flute. Tragically, he realises the power is not meant to be his, and that it is the flute that causes his death.

“A sage is moved to defeat the evil of the mountains and streams. Wield it with deep thoughts and make things right.” These lines are voiced by Lee Gon’s father and ends off with him – claiming that as his own destiny. He beheads Lee Lim and we look up into the darkness amidst the bamboo trees – a visual contrast to the light shining down on Yeong earlier.

The boy with the yoyo makes his appearance again. “I thought this would break, but it sprouted instead. The door will close and only the memories will remain.” We see scenes of him appearing at different points and places in both Corea and Korea. “Should I break it or just let it be?” he asks. Fortune indeed favours the brave – Tae-Eul’s bravery in entering the portal and taking on Lee Lim means the thread is not broken as she is joined by Lee Gon in fate. Both of them take down Lee Lim at the same time. As she is in the portal, her memories are also retained.

In Corea, we see Lee Lim, dead on the ground while Lee Gon looks on, silently looking on. In the portal, Lee Lim also lies on the ground, while his body disintegrates (a nod to Goblin). Tae-Eul realises heartbreakingly that Lee Gon has achieved his mission, which means he will not be able to come back.

Fates begin to change and Lee Gon’s scar on his neck disappears. However, he remembers what Tae-eul says about how she will not remember him once their worlds start to flow differently. Indeed, all physical evidence of Lee Gon and Shin Jae disappear from both worlds.

Back in Korea in 1994, we see Ji-Hun’s uncle (Lee Lim’s doppelganger) is still alive and his mum decides to put him in a nursing home. Hyeon-min’s mum decides not to end her life, because of Prince Buyeong’s intervention. Prince Buyeong tells Hyeonmin that his name means “to shine like jade” and that he will be someone who shines like a jewel. He tells his mum to change her choice as it will determine the boy’s fate. He invites her to a cup of tea.

In Corea in 1999, Luna tries to steal money from Seo-Ryung’s mum. Seo-Ryung stops her and asks her mum to punish her. However, her mum responds with compassion and offers Luna some food. Both Hyeon-min and Luna find family and a new lease of life in this world, which ultimately shows that the destiny is benevolent and works things for the good. While Lee Lim tried to play god to offer these people better lives, his offers destroyed their lives and brought chaos to the world.

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In Korea on April 25 2020, Tae-eul finds herself back in the bamboo forest and only a week has passed. She makes a call and realises while that the world seemed unchanged, but some things had changed because of what happened. Lee Gon and Shinjae no longer exist. She was still a lieutenant, and tried to do something nice for her dad each month. However, she still lives everyday with the memories of Lee Gon intact. To make things worse, she sees that Ji-Hun on the streets, but he does not recognise her at all.

However, Lee Gon has not given up. He has indeed been opening doors to every universe to fulfil his promise to come and find her. We see Lee Gon finding many different versions of Tae-Eul in the different universes – one where she’s in the army, one where she’s a bride who just got married and one where she’s a naval officer. In all the worlds, she’s mostly protecting others.

Finally, in 2021, Na-Ri gives Tae-eul a call, telling her that there’s a horse and a guy outside the Taekwando Centre. She knows it’s him and immediately makes her way there. Indeed, it’s Lee Gon and he has finally found her.

[The reunion scene deserves recapping in its entirety.]

Lee Gon: You exist across every universe. You still don’t recognise me. But you… Why are you crying? You seemed happy in every world I saw you. It was the only thing that comforted me. But you… why do you look as though you recognise me? Why do you look as though you remember everything about me? (holds up her police tag) Is it you? Jeong Tae-eul? Is it really you? Yes?

Tae-Eul: You came? You really came for me?

Lee Gon looks shocked

Tae-Eul: You really came for me?

[He hugs her]

Lee Gon: Finally. I finally got to see you, Lieteuant Jeong Tae-Eul.

TE: What took you so long? I kept waiting for you. Every single day, I waited for you.

LG: After I slew the traitor, I had to go back and get Yeong. So I had to find my way back again, which meant I had to open every single door in ithe universe. That’s why it took me so long. And I didn’t think that you’d remember me, even if I did find you.

TE: Yet you still kept looking for me?

LG: Even if you forgot all about me, I still wanted to see you. I was going to tell you again if you had forgotten me that I am the King, of the Kingdom of Corea, and that my name, which is not supposed to be called, is Lee Gon. But how do you still remember me when the worlds flowed differently?

TE: Let’s forget that. I’ve also been through many things myself. Now, this.

LG: Do you still hate flowers?

TE: No, I like flowers, especially this flower.

LG: I realized I haven’t told you this. I love you. I am deeply in love with you.

TE: So this is how everything comes together. I love you too. I love you so much too.

It’s such a heartwarming and sweet reunion that contrasts with the heartbreaking separation that happened in Episode 10. In the scene in Episode 10, Lee Gon has come from the future and has to go off. He vanishes from her grasp after giving her the flowers. However, this time round, their timelines are aligned – and Lee Gon arrives in her present, and he is here to stay for good. The depth of their love is so evident through their eyes and the way they hug each other so tightly. There are so many wonderful parallels and links to scenes from previous episodes in this finale.

I found it interesting that Tae-Eul chooses not to let Lee Gon know that she was the one who took Lee Lim into the portal and killed him. She brushes it off and just says that she went through a lot. What is in the past is no longer important – she just wants to focus on the present and their future together.

While Lee Gon is the one with the flute and control over the universes and time, Tae-Eul has managed to go beyond the rules that govern the universe, through the favour she has found with the deities (represented by the boy). In an exchange between Luna and the boy, we know they both share a special relationship – she seems almost like a big sister to him.

In Corea, 2022, Yeong is complaining to Lee Gon about taking care of the twins and his parents are back together. The names of the twins are Eun-bi and Kka-bi. Lee Gon asks Yeong if he misses him, but Yeong says he’s ok and Eun-sup wouldn’t remember him. He passes him a folder which shows that Hyeonmin is now working the Haeundae Police Station.

We see Luna walking past the Haesong Book Store, in the same outfit that we earlier saw in the video clip which Lee Gon had. As she is walking, Hyeon-min calls her and he’s going to buy her something for her birthday. She runs into the bookstore to choose something. Luna also goes to visit Seo-Ryung in prison and we realise she has been arrested for stealing people’s tax money as an assemblywoman. The roles have reversed and her secretary is now the correctional officer overseeing her. Haha! Luna’s name is now Koo Seo-Gyeong, revealing that she has been adopted by Seo-Ryung’s mum.

Interestingly, in a world without Lee Lim, Seo-Ryung ends up in prison for her crimes as an assemblywoman. Lee Lim’s involvement in Seo-Ryung’s life must have gone even deeper than we thought and he might even have had a role to play in her rise to power as Prime Minister. It’s unfortunate this angle was never fully explored and never fully clear as well, about what the deal between the two of them was.

After reuniting, Tae-Eul and Lee Gon have been using the magic flute to take weekend trips on dates to different time periods. They first find out which year they are in so they will not run into their counterparts. In 2020, they are at Corea Universe and they go to a café where Prince Buyeong is at, and he gets to see Tae-Eul. Our playful king also packs some leaves in the suitcase, in case they end up in ‘that time period’. Ha!

Lee Gon also sees Sin-Jae in Korea in 1994, who runs off to save someone in an accident. He also visits Eun-sup in 2022, who works with NIS, has a driver’s license now and is together happily with Na-Ri.

In a very fun sequence, they return to that moment earlier in the series where Yeong was looking for him and Lee Gon appeared with Tae-Eul on Maximums. They take a way through the beach so nobody can see them, but Court Lady Noh meets them again. They decide they have to erase video footage of her appearance, and they realise that Yeong is passing a secret note to Seung-A. It’s really cute and funny.

Back in Korea, we see Jangmi has joined the police force and this time, he’s macho and competent. In the Kingdom of Corea, Lee Gon appoints his secretary as the new Prime Minister.

The episode ends both Tae-Eul and Lee Gon going to watch a movie, “Barefooted Youth”, hand in hand.

“No matter what kind of a door opens before us in life
And even if the moments we share make us sad at times
I wish to be able to love tirelessly
Just like that, we decided to love the fate that chose us.
Just for today, and only for today. And forever.”

The idea of ‘loving tirelessly’ is a fitting one to end the series. For both Lee Gon and Tae-Eul, their love required so much from them – waiting, travelling across universes, battling with Lee Lim’s forces and doppelgangers. Fate may have chosen them, but loving that fate requires them to take many actions to ensure that fate came to pass and was not obstructed by Lee Lim. With so much uncertainty and danger, they had decided earlier to just treasure each day they had, and they continue to take this approach as they grow old together.

TKEM’s finale is well-constructed and meaningfully pieced together, tying together stories and scenes from many earlier episodes. While the show may have been less consistent in the rules of time travel, it has definitely been detailed and attentive in telling the stories of the different lives involved. Kudos to the entire team for making this such a wonderful and engaging drama!


Hospital Playlist – Finale

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Hospital Playlist delivers a mega-finale of almost two hours long with medical cases and movements in all the love stories involving our five core members and their residents. Most of the developments pave the way for a second season (which has just been confirmed – YAY!) and it’s only Jeong-Won and Gyu-wool’s long-drawn “courtship” that gets a happy ending in this episode. While I felt the finale suffered a little in pacing due to the long length and way too many cases to follow, it was a heartwarming and heartfelt end to what has been a very enjoyable series.

One idea that tied many of our characters’ stories together in the finale was that of crossroads. Many of them are at decisive points in their lives, where they need to make critical decisions that will affect their professional lives, their love lives or both.

For Song-Hwa, she has already made that decision in Episode 11 on her own to move to Sokcho branch to rest and fix her neck problem. I always enjoy the confidence of her character, which comes from a position of moral clarity as she knows what is right and what needs to be done. Because of that, all her residents even line up to see her for advice above their research, about their love life or about work in general.

It is only with Ik-jun’s recent confessions of liking her that that she has been more tongue-tied lately, where her usual eloquence is replaced by an uncertain silence. She was similarly silent with Chi-hong’s awkward act of placing his hands on her shoulders last week, but that silence conveyed discomfort and unease. However, with Ik-Jun, I saw her silence revealing a sense of dilemma.

Throughout the series, Song-hwa has been so strongly independent and comfortable with spending time alone. What she’s struggling with also is admitting to her feelings and therefore becoming more vulnerable. I really liked the camera work in this scene – portraying both Ik-Jun and Song-Hwa as being at the ‘borders’ of the middle windowpane – they are clearly in separate spaces, but they are now in that in-between space, whether to move forward and be together, or to move out and therefore be separated again. What’s even more brilliant is that we can see Ik-Jun has moved more towards the centre, slightly away from the border, with his confession – whereas Song-hwa is at the border. My hope in Season 2 is for Song-hwa to agree to exploring the relationship and then seeing how they move from close friends to lovers.

While Song-hwa and Ik-Jun handle more personal cross-roads, we see both Jeong-won and Seok-hyeong struggling with bigger decisions. For Jeong-won, he finally makes about whether to take on priesthood and stay at the hospital. His friends, his parents and the hospital are all clear on what the better choice is. For him, it has been such a huge struggle as he sees priesthood as the best way to honour God. However, he has realised that staying in the hospital allows him to serve God and do good as much. As Song Hwa tells him, “Stay here and save more lives.” The episode certainly affirmed that with his tireless care of the girl for four days, and the whole family noticing and observing it.

Part of me was fearful that the show would go down the over-sentimental line of him struggling and then finally deciding when Gyu-wool cries in front of him. However, the show took a much better route by allowing Jeong-won to make that decision first, and then deciding that Gyu-wool was one of the first he wanted to tell, even before the other guy friends.

Yet in deciding to stay on, he is not abandoning God or his religion – and once again, I enjoy the camera-work and directing of the show as the rosary that Jeong-won carries on his wrist is often highlighted or zoomed in on at critical moments, an affirmation too that kindness and love comes from his desire and love for God.

Seok-hyung has similarly big decisions to make in this episode, both professionally and personally. Regarding the decision to take over his dad’s company, though he was placed in a dilemma, all along we knew what choice he would make. Him going through the thinking process also gave him clarity on what he wants in life and what he want.

As he tells his friends, “I don’t want to waste time. My time is too precious for that. I want to live doing the things I like and the things I want to do right now. That’s why I wanted to start a band. I used you guys.” His touching moment makes everyone silent and awkward, and this is broken by Ik-Jun when he says “As if”, and everyone laughs together. These wonderful friendship moments are what make this show shine.

While making the right choice professionally, Seok-hyung still wavers in his love life, not because he was hurt by his divorce, but because of how much he felt his ex-wife, Sin-hye, was hurt by him. He tells Ik-jun that he does not want Min-Ah to be hurt and that he asked her to date someone better, because his life is complicated. As a caring and loving friend, Ik-jun offers him a different perspective gently – “If you weren’t divorced and in this complicated situation, you would have dated Dr. Chu” and he advises Seok-hyung to open up himself to love again.

Seok-hyung thinks him and Min-ah are back to a professional relationship after he turned her down. However, it certainly is not. This is where the production of this show shines – as Seok-hwa voices over about how the friends differ in terms of how they like to eat, she and Jeong-won share that Seok-hyung loves eating ramyeon by himself while watching videos. However, we see him genuinely smiling even as Min-ah barges into his office with a drink and fishcakes and he enjoys eating together with her.

At the end of the finale, he is faced with a dilemma – whether to open himself up and agree to have dinner with Min-ah, or to protect himself and reject her. He decides to turn her down, and gets a call from Sin-hye. This is one storyline I’m keen to see in Season 2, because Seok-hyung obviously was very affected by this experience. What Season 1 hasn’t been so good at doing is to show us how our characters who have been hurt have healed emotionally. We are aware that there are characters like Ik-Sun, Ik-Jun, Seok-hyung who have experienced pain in their love life. With a second season, let’s hope the show can go more in depth to explore these areas.

And finally, we have Jun-Wan. While he’s professionally adept and makes good decisions, we see him this episode that Jae-hak, who has been under his mentorship, rises to the occasion and makes a critical decision to save the man with a punctured aorta. It is also Jae-hak that helps Jun-wan to make an important decision on the relationship to send Ik-sun a ring. It was endearing to see Jun-wan being so lost and uncertain.

He makes the decision to send her the ring. However, the package he has sent to her is returned. They are such a sweet and adorable couple that we really want the best for them, so let’s hope Season 2 explores them working out these issues in a mature and healthy manner.

The song “You to Me, Me to You” that ties the finale together is a fitting ensemble piece that celebrates how relationships of all sorts – friendship, colleagues, family, love – have been at the core of this wonderful show. While many questions remain unanswered at the end of this season, what we are left with is a comforting sense that these friends will always be there for each other and their friendship is definitely something I’m looking forward to enjoying once again in Season 2. Thank you Hospital Playlist for a wonderful journey. Ending off this review with the song that ends off this season.

Mystic Pop-Up Bar Episodes 1 & 2 Review

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JTBC’s first drama to air on a Wednesday-Thursday time-slot delves into the supernatural as it features a pop-up bar manned by three members, all of whom have supernatural abilities.

The female lead is Wol-Joo, played by Hwang Jung-eum, and she has the ability to enter people’s dreams and psyche to help them resolve their problems or inner turmoil. Playing her superior, Chief Gwi, is Choi Won-Young, who is there to keep her in check and to support her in her goal of helping 100,000 human beings. In the first episode, Wol-Joo and Chief Gwi come across Han Kang-bae (played by Yook Sung-Jae) who has the ability to make people pour out the truth and their deepest darkest secrets to him when he touches their hands. They see him as being extremely valuable in helping Wol-Joo identify those who need help and how to help them. Within the second episode, Kang-bae is recruited into their team and the trio are all ready to work towards the Wol-Joo’s goal of 100,000.

Woel-Joo certainly reminds us a lot of Jang Man Wol from Hotel Del Luna, especially her personality and also her sad past. However, this drama certainly isn’t a copy cat and has a clear and distinct tone as well as different rules from Hotel Del Luna. It’s a highly creative show which is able to blend humour and darker themes and moments very well. For now, the format of the show seems to follow a “case of the week” format, with each episode featuring a different human that the trio will help. The issues are certainly very real and dark, with the first two episodes exploring issues to do with workplace sexual harassment, jealousy, trauma and living with guilt. I thought the first episode was bolder than the second, with many scenes of the male superior harassing the female subordinate that made me very uncomfortable. The second episode dealt with a somewhat more familiar type of story, of hidden pasts and guilt.

However, even though the issues may be familiar, the ways in which they are explored are unique. Woel-Joo gives a special magic liquor to those that she wants to help, causing them to go into a deep sleep where she can then enter their dreams. From the first episode, we see that Mi-ran enters into a room where she can see her memories and Woel-Joo dealing with Mr Park. From that, Woel-Joo then gains strength to report Mr Park the next day.

After watching the first episode, I expected the second episode to follow roughly the same formula again, with Kang-Bae agreeing to help and then they go into someone’s dream and helps them. However, even in the second episode, the show starts to throw a wrench in how things happen and reveals even more fun and fascinating facts! Woel-Joo refuses to help the Ms Andong after Kang-Bae makes her reveal that she actually caused the death of her daughter’s, Eun-Su’s, real mum through spreading rumours. This makes Kang-bae resort to having to steal Woel-Joo’s liquor so he can help the Eun-Su. I really liked how the show was willing to already push the boundaries and show us what happens when someone unauthorised uses the liquor.

However, the show gets even more fun when the trio go in search of Eun-Su’s real father, because Ms Andong’s last wish before she died was for Eun-Su to meet him. They realise the father was traumatised after his wife’s death and now had amnesia. He blocked out all that happened back then, including the happy memories. While this is a very serious and tragic issue, the show explores this in such a fun, humorous manner while not trivialising it. The trio realises that they need to go deep down into the man’s psyche to unearth his memories and they literally walk down a deep, dark spiral staircase and reach a locked door, behind which his memories are stashed. It was both exciting and humorous to see them try to unlock the door, but Kang-bae saves the day as he recalls the man’s birthday. The visuals were over the top, with the collapsing pathway to the door, but it’s so crazy and fun.

If you can’t already tell, I love this show! Woel-Joo is so hilarious in her directness and her mannerisms, but we know she has a dark and painful past that will come to haunt her in the episodes to come. Hwang Jung-eum has such a manic energy about her and she’s so charismatic and confident. The character of Woel-Joo is very well written thus far and we know enough of her from each episode to sympathise with her and also yearn to find out more about what exactly her sins were in the past, that made her choose coming to earth instead of the Hell of Extinction.

The first two episodes have put the show off on a good footing by setting up the dynamics and providing so much laughs and excitement. I’m certainly looking forward to more visits to our Mystic Pop-up Bar!

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The World of the Married Special (Part 1 & 2)

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This is the first time I’ve actually watched an entire “Special” for a series, which shows how much I loved the series, but also how interesting this special was. I usually don’t enjoy watching it as I find it’s just a chance to rehash plot points and let the cast members sing praises of each other. While there was some of it this time round too, I appreciated too how the special allowed us to gain more insights into the characters and key moments.

Part 1

Part 1 focused mainly on walking us through key moments in the series and the actors/actresses personal responses to it. For a series with so many emotional moments, walking through the entire series within an hour was a quick and effective way to relive its intensity. When watching this, I remembered how the ending of Episode 1 just blew me away, so I went to rewatch the ending again just to experience that powerful moment when Sun Woo’s world just fell apart.

It’s not an understatement to say that the actors really put their all into the series and the emotions we felt as we watched them were so powerfully felt by them even on the set. And you must realise that when acting on set, there are so many distractions like cameras in your face, lights above you, as well as no score in the background which can detract from the emotional experience. Yet, you hear Han Soo Hee sharing that her hands were trembling and she felt like vomiting when she acted that scene where Sun Woo finally reveals all.

Kim Hee Aee also shares about the scene in the hospital, where she walks into the director’s room and sees In-Kyu as well as Tae Oh there. While she knew it was already written in the script, when she opened the door to the room, she was just taken aback by the toxic energy in the room

One actress that really impressed me during this special was Shim Eun Woo. Though less experienced than most of the cast members, from her interviews, you could really see how much she had brought to her character and how invested she was.

When talking about the scene after In-Kyu dies and she warns Sun Woo not to end up as her, Eun Woo tears up uncontrollably and says, “I think I felt really sorry for Sun Woo. If Hyun Seo’s character wasn’t in the story, Sun Woo wouldn’t have reflected on herself. I don’t think she would have looked back.”. As the episode ends, she calls this drama “the last and best present I got in my 20s”.

Part 2

I felt Part 2 was a whole lot of fun as it went into the technical details of the show, like the choice of Sun Woo’s home, how characters were framed in shots, costume choices and even the choice of art pieces. Some things we learn:

  • Sun Woo’s home only has one single shut window, which highlights the secrecy of their life – you can’t look in and you can’t figure out what’s going on. The house shows the stability and instability of married life.
  • The ‘title’ scene of each episode was a “spoiler” for what happens in the episode. There’s actually an image hidden in the title from a key scene in the show. The special only talks about four episodes, but you can find out from this site what the image is for all 16 episodes.
  • I loved how they illustrated the use of windows and their frames to show the fracturing of relationships. Like in the scene below:
  • There was also a segment where they talked about outfits and how Sun Woo and Da Kyung’s dressing starts to become similar after Da Kyung gets married, to show how their feelings become similar.
  • Even the choice of art pieces was intentional, like how this Mark Rothko’s art piece that he made after his divorce is in the background as Tae Oh is violent towards Sun Woo

After going into the technical details, there’s another segment where they speak of the young actors/actresses and how well they did (which I wasn’t quite keen on) and another segment where they interviewed 4 specialists on whether Tae Oh was guilty or not – and the conclusion was 3 Guilty – 1 Not Guilty. I learnt a new term called “habit strength” and get to hear interesting psychological perspectives on Tae Oh’s behaviour, like one who shared that he has actually 4 different egos and finds it difficult to reconcile them.

And we end off with brief interviews of the cast members where they all talk about how this show will linger on in their memory for a long time. I have no doubt at all of this – it will certainly linger in mine too. A jampacked two hours where we learn more about the characters, the technical details of the film, about psychology – a definite must-watch for all ardent fans of the show.

Announcing my first webinar!

Having written over 200 blog entries on k-drama, I have decided to launch a webinar very soon titled “Unlocking the Keys to K-drama” soon.

Drawing on my two Masters (one in Literature and the other in Teaching), the webinar will cover my comprehensive approach to analysing and appreciating dramas more. The course will cover popular dramas (like Goblin and The World of the Married), but also lesser-known but well-made ones.

Spaces are limited. If you are keen to appreciate k-dramas more deeply, click here.

 

 

 

 

 


 

The King Eternal Monarch Episode 12: Key Moments

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The King Eternal Monarch slows down in Episode 12, giving us much more OTP moments and some interesting revelations. There’s not much in terms of plot movement, but that is not a bad thing as we get more invested in our characters. Here were some key moments for me:

Court Lady Noh

The biggest revelation in this episode came like a punch at the end, in a quiet conversation between Tae-eul and Head Lady Noh.

She walks through her family history, telling Tae-eul that her name is Noh Ok-nam, her father is Noh Gi-seop, her mother is Shin Jeong-ae and her sister is Noh Yeong-nam. She was born in 1932, in Pyoksong of Hwanghae Province and she left her hometown at 17. Since then, she has not heard any news regarding her hometown for 67 years.

This opens up a huge storyline about what happened to Ok-Nam, why she came over to Corea and how that ties to the story of Lee Rim and Lee Gon’s parents. Of course, this also reveals that Lee Rim was not the first to travel across the universe and Head Lady Noh must be familiar with the use of the flute to travel across universes and its consequences. I am interested to see where this takes us.

Prime Minister Koo & The consequences of travelling

We were earlier led to believe that Lee Rim and Lee Gon were the only ones who experienced pain when there was lightning and thunder. However, in this episode, we see that it’s no longer just them, but also Lee Rim’s henchman. And not just them – but also Prime Minster Koo! This confirms that she was the one in the car that Yeong was chasing. And therefore that she too is somehow involved in Lee Rim’s bigger plans, as she drove away when Yeong was shot.

I’m still a little uncertain about Prime Minister Koo’s motivations and grand plans. Her scenes thus far have been brief and focused on her wanting to be married to Lee Gon – but why? We know in this episode that she is status-conscious and her term is running out soon. Once her term ends, she’ll be back to just being the daughter of a fish-monger. Yes, so we know she wants to marry him to continue having power and status. Why are these so important to her? Her character has not been fleshed out much and currently just seems like another chess piece in Lee Rim’s big plan.

There are many theories about why the pain from lightning and thunder only affect a few, but not others – like Shinjae, Tae-eul, Luna, Yeung or Eunseob. Right now, we can see that these are the four who have moved across the universe, but have not attempted to disrupt the order. They have not been involved in taking out anybody in the other universe and largely been there to maintain order. However, the pain also affects Gon. This points to the possibility that Gon may have also done some things to affect the order of both worlds, but this has not been shown to us yet.

Our OTP: Lee Gon and Tae-Eul

While I’m taking to them as a couple more, the timelines are getting wildly confusing. The scene where Lee Gon confesses his love to Tae-eul caused much confusion earlier as to whether it actually happened, given that he just disappeared. Thus far, we are led to believe that the confession and the flowers were given before the events in Episode 11 and 12.

Strangely, in this episode, Tae-eul says to Lee Gon after she’s first seen by the doctor that she was afraid that their moment in the bamboo forest would be their last. Okay, so that confession and flower-giving moment has not happened yet? However, later on, when Tae-eul is asked to choose her clothes, she sees the coat that Lee Gon is wearing being hung up and she remembers the moment he came to her with the flowers and confessed to her. If that’s a scene from the future, then why does Tae-eul remember it? Or was it a dream?

That point notwithstanding, I enjoyed their other interactions. Like mentioned before, Lee Min Ho and Kim Go Eun do have good chemistry and they are very natural and relaxed around each other. In terms of the writing, we see them getting to know each other more as they walked towards the church and took their first photograph together.

The time pauses are getting longer as we learnt in the previous episode. However, because these time pauses take Lee Gon away from Tae-Eul, he ends up feeling more lonely and a sense of loss during them. In this episode, as he is right next to Tae-eul, the reality of being forever in a time pause dawns upon him, which leads to him tearing.

Announcing my first webinar!

Having written over 200 blog entries, I have decided to launch a webinar very soon titled “Unlocking the Keys to K-drama” soon.

The webinar will cover my Genre, Characterisation, Technical Details approach using dramas like Healer, Queen In-hyun’s Man, Legend of the Blue Sea, Goblin, Suspicious Partner, Hotel Del Luna and The World of the Married. If you are interested to sign up, please indicate your interest by clicking this link and you will be placed on a mailing list to be notified once the webinar is up. Spaces will be limited since it is my first run. Thank you!

The King Eternal Monarch Episode 11

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The battle heats up in The King Eternal Monarch’s 11th installment, culminating in an no-holds barred battle between Lee Gon and Lee Rim’s forces. Let’s look at the key developments in this very meaty episode.

Lee Rim and Luna

Having done away with Prince Buyeong, Lee Rim now proceeds to move more of his plan ahead.

After Luna gets hit by a car, she finds herself in front of Lee Rim, who plays god again by offering her a new life in a parallel world. Not having a home or a family and constantly on the run, Luna is miserable and angry in the world of Corea. Given that she already has no place or sense of belonging in Corea, it is no surprise that Luna takes up the offer. Kim Go-Eun shines in this episode, playing two very different characters very convincingly. As Luna, she’s edgy, frustrated and raw.

Thus far, Lee Rim has co-opted people into his force are often those who are displaced – with no status in the world of Corea. This idea of movement across world works on two levels. Firstly, Lee Gon had referred to this in earlier episodes as illegal immigration, which is an apt metaphor. While moving to Korea gives them a better life, they continue to feel a sense of dislocation (as seen by Shin-jae) and have to hide and remain untraceable like Song Jung-hye who declares a fake address and gives cash to the undertaker so she cannot be traced.

On another level, it also works on the supernatural level as a form of reincarnation or rebirth. They are ‘born’ into a new world with a new name, new family, new destiny. Yet, they remain trapped because besides Shin Jae (who was moved against his will), they have made a pact with the devil, and are thus stuck in a path of misery and darkness.

Coming back to Luna, we see that things are not so straightforward as she also goes to meet the girl with the yo-yo, whom we’ve already established earlier represents some form of godly figure. He passes her a jack knife, but she asks him to keep it to “protect what belongs to [her]”. We later know that this knife is passed to Tae-Eul to help her to escape, as part of the girl’s attempt to restore the balance. I’m very fascinated to see what’s going on with Luna, what her bigger plan is.

Prime Minister Koo Seo-Ryung

I’m not really liking her character much thus far, because her intentions do not seem pure. Her smiling during the wake of Prince Buyeong also cemented my dislike for her.

Her storyline in relation to the parallel universes has not been so clear, but we are led to believe that Lee Rim is co-opting her into his plan and has been sending her newspapers from Korea. How would he tempt her into that world though, given that her life in the world of Corea is much better than Korea? However, in this episode, it seems like she has gone over to the world of Korea. The person that Tae-Eul meets on the street, who looks like her, may actually be her, because we see her going to a store later to purchase stilettos. The involvement of Seo-Ryung definitely has potential, but her storyline has been quite unclear so far. Given that Korea is a democracy, is Lee Rim co-opting her to rule the world of Korea, while he rules Corea? How would he convince her? I’m liking how Kim Eun Sok plots this series – we see enough each time to get interested, but we also know bigger pieces are moving which keep us asking questions.

Shin Jae

Shin Jae learns more about Lee Lim in this episode and Lee Lim sends his henchman to pass him a 2G phone. This leads to a scuffle, where we know that Shin Jae has an important part to play in this plan and cannot be killed – yet.

We know though that Lee Rim referred to Shin Jae previously as the plan that did not work out well – why is he approaching him yet again? Similarly, what could he possibly tempt Shin Jae with? On a separate note, I was disappointed that we saw so little of Yeong in this episode. Wasn’t his role in this world to help defend it from Lee Rim’s actions? He should have been more proactively defending both Shin Jae and Tae-Eul then, but in both instances, Yeong was not there to protect them.

Tae-Eul

In terms of the romance, the Tae-Eul we saw in this episode was vastly different from the weepy one that we saw in Episode 10. I much prefer her in this episode, but am also hoping the writing of the romance can be more consistent.

Once again, we go back to that conversation which seemed to have taken place when they went to look Song Jung-hye and what I liked was Tae-Eul being more assertive in this relationship, not just swooning or crying over Lee Gon. Firstly, she tells him that he never asked her to marry him, he just told her. Then, she tells him that she has decided just to live for each day, rather than think beyond that. Of course, Lee Gon responds that couples usually pledge their love for eternity, but for her, she has decided just to appreciate what they have for that day that they are together.

If this scene supposedly took place before Lee Gon went back to Corea, then why was Tae-Eul crying so much when she saw him in the forest or outside her flat last week? There seems to be some inconsistency there, but I like this version of Tae-Eul much better. While she still does not understand how the worlds work, she knows how to make the most of it. I like how assured she is around Lee Gon, yet we know she still loves him and misses him. While the love story isn’t written well, I feel that Kim Go Eun and Lee Min Ho really have great chemistry and their interactions are fun and sweet to watch.

I really like the character of Tae-Eul, because she is constantly on the move and always taking action, whether it is in the world of Korea or Corea. Once she is kidnapped in the world of Corea, Tae-Eul’s determination and quick-thinking really shine. After the girl with the yo-yo saves her, she breaks out, drives herself away, uses her limited bullets to derail a car, then walks all the way to Corea where she makes a pay-phone call to Lee Gon. She narrowly escapes from a speeding lorry and that is when Lee Gon comes sweeping in to save her. Lee Gon riding in and declaring she’s the Queen of Corea was indeed a majestic and heroic scene.

Lee Gon

And of course, we have to end with Lee Gon. I’m a little frustrated by how he still always seems to be one step behind Lee Lim, but I guess his uncle has had 25 years of scheming and universe-travelling ahead of him.

In the privacy of his home, he crumbles and breaks down over the loss of Prince Buyeong, but when facing his guards and those against him, he is authoritative, decisive and is unafraid of bloodshed. In the world of Corea, while there may be laws, the King’s word is final. While beheading is abolished, he sentences Lee Rim’s henchman to beheading, because of his silence.

The camera work for this scene is particularly powerful – with many shots where Lee Gon’s head takes centre-stage in the frame, and he is looking downwards, almost in a God-like manner, deciding on the fate of these criminals. (Yes, of course these head-shots also capture Lee Min Ho’s chiseled looks.)

Unlike Lee Rim who plays god to disrupt the order of the worlds, Lee Gon’s authority aims to restore law and order and he is willing to get his hands dirty to do this. Once the bookstore is discovered, he also wastes no time and leads his royal guards there to take it down and it’s a ruthless takedown. While most of Lee Rim’s henchmen at the bookstore are taken down, he also has another group of them at a shipyard – just how big is his army? And this leads to the final showdown that concludes the episode. Lee Gon is unafraid to get his hands dirty – he is not a king who leads from the back, but one who leads the charge in front and he gets blood splattered all over him while he engages in the fight.

While being willing to fight, we also participate in Lee Gon’s thought processes and it’s always fun to watch him piecing the mystery together by remembering what happened in the past, and then applying his knowledge of the Euclid number this round to calculate how long the time stops are.This time, he realises that at some point, the time pauses will last for an eternity. He must either work to ensure that does not happen, or somehow gain control over the time stops.

The battle for victory definitely cannot just be won through a physical fight. In order to win over Lee Rim, Lee Gon cannot just eradicate all his henchmen – Lee Gon needs to claim control over the universes and in order to do this, the flute and the sword definitely must come into play. Certainly, the yo yo boy must also be involved. I’m looking forward to how these elements and characters start to come together.

All in all, this was an engaging, exciting episode where the plot pieces moved forward while we also got interesting facts on the parallel universes. I’m hoping we see more of the flute or sword in upcoming episodes. And please bring back more of Yeong and Eun Soeb too!

Announcing my first webinar!

Having written over 200 blog entries, I have decided to launch a webinar very soon titled “Unlocking the Keys to K-drama” soon.

The webinar will cover my Genre, Characterisation, Technical Details approach using dramas like Healer, Queen In-hyun’s Man, Legend of the Blue Sea, Goblin, Suspicious Partner, Hotel Del Luna and The World of the Married. If you are interested to sign up, please indicate your interest by clicking this link and you will be placed on a mailing list to be notified once the webinar is up. Spaces will be limited since it is my first run. Thank you!