The King Eternal Monarch Finale Review

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The King Eternal Monarch delivers an emotionally satisfying finale, with Lee Gon and Tae-Eul emerging victorious against both Lee Lims, resulting in the fates of all the key characters in Corea and Korea being rewritten, mostly for the better. While logical inconsistencies still abound and the show largely undelivered on its premise, I really did enjoy the finale.

As Lee Gon returns to the night of the treason for the third time, he voices over, “I hoped everything would unfold exactly the same as it did that night. 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”.

Indeed, many things are different about his third return to Corea in 1994. Firstly, Lee Gon is no longer hiding his identity as the King. He is proudly wearing his royal garb. Secondly, the four tiger sword is with him, once again symbolising him fully embracing 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 in the portal. All three of them – Lee Gon, Yeong and Tae-Eul – are embracing their fate bravely.

He manages to intervene in the treason much earlier, thus saving his younger self and keeping the Manpasikjeok intact. As Yeong is with him, Lee Gon is able to leave his younger self safely in his care, while he runs off in pursuit of Lee Lim. He manages to stop Lee Lim just before he enters the gate, and delivers the rightful punishment to Lee Lim of beheading him. Similarly, Tae-eul manages to shoot and kill Lee Lim in the portal.

As a whole, the demise and death of Lee Lim has ultimately been anti-climatic. There was so much build-up early in the series about him building up his army, getting ready for a battle with Lee Gon. However, ever since the big battle in Episode 12, we have hardly seen his army in action. Furthermore, he has not decisive steps to secure victory for himself. His plan with Seo-Ryung came to naught and him killing himself when he returned to Corea ultimately also effectively made him less threatening. Lee Lim has been one of the biggest disappointments of the series.

However, while Lee Lim’s final moments were disappointing, I like how we finally see the boy with the Yo-yo again. He has a certain enigmatic charm about him as he says, “I thought this would break, but it sprouted instead. The door will close and only the memories will remain. Should I break it or just let it be?”

The red string refers to the thread of eternal love between Lee Gon and Tae-Eul. With Lee Lim being killed, he thought that the red string that ties both Lee Gon and Tae-Eul would break and that their memories of each other would be erased. However, the boy must have decided not to break it and keep it intact, so that the both of them would find each other again. This hints that Tae-Eul has a bigger role in the grand scheme of things, and perhaps, it is her fate to be the Queen. I believe Tae-Eul also retains her memories of Lee Gon because she was in the portal, where the whole reset between both worlds was happening, thus escaping the reset.

For the rest of the episode, we see the fates of our different characters in a world without Lee Lim’s interference. Ji-Hun lives and his uncle remains in a wheel chair. Hyeon-min’s mum is stopped by Prince Buyeong and turns her life around. A young Luna is stopped by Seo-Ryung’s mum from stealing and is eventually taken in by the family. She becomes a police officer who works together with Hyeon-min. Eun-Seob is equally successful and has gotten together with Na Ri.

Tae-Eul returns to the world of Korea on April 25, 2020, and she still retains her memories of Lee Gon and Shin-jae. However, the world she returns to is different and Lee Gon and Shin-jae are not in her life. This is where the mood of the episode changes and it becomes more light-hearted and funny as we see Lee Gon traversing different universes, opening all the doors as he had promised, to find Tae-eul. He finds many different versions of ‘her’ as a soldier, a naval officer, and even a drunk bride.

He eventually finds her a year later in 2021 and they are finally reunited and spend their weekends together, doing all the things that Tae-eul wanted to do before, like travel, take photos, watch movies and grow old together. It’s a sweet and cheery way to end the series with plenty of laughs and fun moments that ultimately brings everything together in a hopeful way for our protagonists.

As a series, The King Eternal Monarch was an engaging and thought-provoking one, that lent itself to so much analysis on so many levels. Whether people like it or not, we cannot deny that this show has sparked off so much debate and discussion about its rules, the storyline, the characters, symbolism and the literary references.

I felt the show faltered because it did not always play fair with the viewers. With parallel universes, it’s already confusing enough, yet at the start, we were never quite sure which world we were in. Furthermore, there were moments when the sequence of events were not clear. Scenes were sometimes presented in a ‘chopped up’ manner, with us only returning to it half an episode later to realise what happened in the end.

Towards the end, the rules governing time travel became inconsistent and played more towards Lee Gon’s advantage. Of course, this could easily be explained as the boy in the yoyo (i.e. destiny) favouring Lee Gon as he wanted to restore the balance of things. However, it is less satisfying because it ultimately made Lee Lim a very ineffective villain. The flute, which was meant to give Lee Gon control over the universes and time, just became a means of going on dates.

The characters also did not particularly stand out in this series, except for Yeong, Eun Seob and Shinjae. The other characters, including our protagonists, did not leave much of an impression. There is a lot of focus on about Lee Gon and Tae-eul embracing their destiny. However, even though their destinies were tough, they never really struggled with embracing it. In terms of the cast, I would say Kim Go Eun shone more than Lee Min Ho, whose performance was mostly one-note (he was much better as Joon Jae in Legend of the Blue Sea). Kim Go Eun was able to play both Luna and Tae-Eul so effectively that you could tell from one look which one was which even before they spoke. Woo do Hwan was also fantastic as Eun-seob and Yeong.

With all that being said, I have to give props to Kim Eun Sok for once again presenting us with a very original and ambitious story-line that attempted to bring history together with fantasy. It was an enjoyable series that was dense in meaning and constructed in a way that often made viewers want to find out more and exchange theories. This is the type of show that you can discuss with fans for hours, because there’s so much to unpack. While there are aspects I was disappointed with, I am definitely looking forward to her next series.

The King Eternal Monarch Episode 15: Review

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As the show reaches its end, the cracks in the show are also starting to show. It’s still enjoyable enough for me to follow, but the weight of bringing together parallel universes, time travel, doppelgangers has become a burden that’s too heavy to bear. In spite of many questions that linger in my mind, there are still many touching and meaningful moments that keep me interested in what happens in the end.

The most touching moment for me was the parting between Eun Seob and Yeong. I’ve always enjoyed scenes with both characters and they play off each other so well whenever they are together, that I did tear when hugged each other. Unlike the other doppelgangers who have been antagonistic to each other, both Yeong and Eun Seob have become like brothers to each other, helping each other to protect what is precious to them. Having to take on Yeong’s position has brought out the heroism and selflessness in Eun Seob without having him lose his fun and cheerful personality.

Another character whose journey continues to be deep and meaningful is Shin Jae, and in this episode, we finally gets to meet his mum at the same spot where they first met Lee Rim at the bridge when he was still young. He meets her not to get an apology from her – he meets her so that he can wake up from this ‘bad dream’. He tells her then that he’s abandoning her this time; for the first time, finally, he has some agency to decide how to confront this reality of his confused identity and parenthood. After drifting around for twenty over years, uncertain of who is he or where he belongs, he now knows. Even though the answer is not a happy one, he finally has one. I believe it’s this certainty and decision that also makes him ready to sacrifice his life for Lee Gon, and confess his love for Tae-Eul. Shin Jae’s story is the type of story I wish we had more of in the show, with such profound emotional and psychological impact.

Part of me thinks that this is not the last encounter we will see between Shin Jae and his mother. Given how things are building up towards the finale, I foresee one of our dear characters – be it Yeong, Shin Jae, Tae-Eul or Lee Gon – will have to be sacrificed in this big battle, and somehow I have a feeling Shin Jae will not survive our finale.

However, as to what that big conclusion will be, I’m still not sure. While that can be a good thing in some shows as it creates in suspense, for TKEM, the uncertainty of the ending is due to confusion. At this point, it’s not just the time travelling that’s confusing, but also certain characters’ motivations and decisions become less clear.

For example, in this episode, once the magic flute becomes whole, Lee Gon can no longer go back to that moment because he no longer hears the music. However, at that moment, he has Lee Rim right beside him, along with both Yeong and Shin Jae. It seems like he was already intending to travel back at that point. Why doesn’t he just split the flute and then get one of them to follow Lee Rim, while the other follows him? Also, why is Lee Rim so hell-bent on controlling the universe and eternity – what does he ultimately want to achieve out of that?

I’m also wondering Tae-Eul’s decision in allowing Luna (who has just stabbed her a few days ago to get her organs and poisoned Lee Gon) to stay with her dad in the world of Korea. Luna has not done a very convincing job of being Tae-Eul at all, and how could Tae-Eul even imagine that she would be a suitable replacement? Am I missing something? Was there a scene where Luna did something to win over Tae-Eul’s trust – because at this point, this is all bewildering to me.

Similarly, Seo-Ryung’s character is also a big disappointment for me. Having claimed that she wants to get the flute in Episode 14, she does nothing in Episode 15 except to threaten Lee Rim. We are one episode away from the series ending and we have no idea what her bigger plan is and how she intends to achieve it.

Putting aside all the confusion, the episode did give us plenty of sweet and meaningful moments between Lee Gon and Tae-Eul. It’s kind of bitter-sweet that even though Lee Gon visited Tae-Eul at different points of time in the past, that ultimately did not change where they are now in 2020. Yes, they did spend more time together, and she did go to his parallel universe quicker, while also accepting her fate quickly. However, tragedy ironically came earlier and fate didn’t change. Fate did not change, because Lee Gon was not ultimately trying to change it as he moved through time.

Unlike Lee Rim, Lee Gon is not intent on disrupting the order of the world and challenging fate. He certainly could have warned Tae-Eul of what was going to happen, since he did get to see her when it was Election Day and Lee Rim was already present. However, he knows his destiny and he knows that if he attempts to change anything along the way, it might result in more disaster.

We later learn in a conversation with Shin Jae about what Lee Gon has decided to do. He wants to go back in time again and kill Lee Rim straightaway at his moment of anger, rather than focus on saving his younger-self. By doing so, Lee Rim would not have been able to wreak havoc on both the worlds of Corea and Korea. That would definitely be a game-changer, but would it be so simple? Does that necessarily mean that Lee Gon and Tae-Eul would never meet again? Let’s hope that the finale gives us some satisfactory answers in this aspect.

The King Eternal Monarch Episode 9

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The King Eternal Monarch (TKEM)’s ninth episode develops the mythology of the show further, dropping some fascinating clues along the way. Without further ado, let’s get into the key events of this episode.

  1. Lee Gon and Tae-Eul working together across universes

The episode starts with Tae-eul bringing Gon to locate Song Jeong-hye as she believes he’d like to meet her. She expresses a genuine desire to help him, but also a sense of loss as she feels helpless dealing with the scale of pain that Gon must have gone through. Gon assures her that a face is just a ‘symbol of a person’ – it does not represent a person. Even if Song Jeong-hye has the same face in Korea, she is not his mother. Or is she? Was she also swopped across the worlds?

Gon makes a comment about how Tae-Eul’s world is still flat – perhaps contrasting the flow of time in Korea, as Tae-eul sees time as something linear from past to present, whereas for Gon, time functions as something more cyclical. Given his ability to move across worlds and experience time stops, we know time works in a more complicated manner for him.

While Tae-Eul helps Gon to ‘see’ his mother in Korea, we also see Gon helping Tae-Eul regarding the case of Lee Sang Do, who was found dead in the car trunk in Episode 2. She believes the answer can be found in his world. Immediately, Gon remembers seeing him in Corea, in the stables.

Ever since the last episode, Gon has realised that Lee Rim has been moving many people across both universes and thus he decides to leave Yeong here to protect the world of Corea and for him to capture Lee Rim.

As their lives get intertwined further, we discover another mystery as Gon reviews video clips and sees something that bewilders him at Haesong Book Store on 27 May 2022. We have the boy once again playing with the yo yo, which was alluded to earlier in Episode 8 as symbolising fate intervening to restore balance. The boy certainly plays a crucial role in determining the fate of our characters as we was also the one who caused Tae-Eul to drop her police badge. What is also mysterious is that Tae-eul was not wearing that outfit on that date (was it not Tae-Eul but Luna instead in that scene?). The mystery thickens and we can only wait to find out what actually happened.

I’m not fully sold on the romance between our OTP, but I’m liking how their relationship across worlds and across time is unfolding. It has been hinted at already, but we know at some point, Tae-Eul will have to make a choice about whether to abandon the world of Korea to join Gon in Corea. It will be a difficult choice to make for sure, but certainly, it’s not just a choice about love, but about the continuation of the eternal monarchy in that world of Corea.

2. Confrontation between Lee Gon and Lee Rim

As Lee Gon takes on Lee Rim in this episode, he goes into full battle mode and I’m loving it. We see his authoritative side come out fully in the first encounter over the phone as he reads the poem on the Four Tiger Sword, clearly warning Lee Rim of the power bestowed upon himself as king.

I really like how the show takes us through Lee Gon’s thought process as he attempts to solve this mystery and understand the parallel universes. He initially asks to review all video footage of where he has been and look out for a man who should be in his 70s. However, he starts to piece together how the portal stops one from aging and realises that Lee Rim used it to make himself immortal.

The show certainly knows how to build up towards its dramatic moments and that showdown towards the end was powerfully done as the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Lee Min Ho did a fantastic job with his delivery of that final “Lee Lim” at the end – so full of authority, power, aggression, anger – conveyed through his voice and his eyes. Truly amazing work there.

3. Lee Rim’s big plan unfolds further

I thought this deserves a separate point on its own, though related to the confrontation. As a villain, Lee Rim is pure evil and thus far we have seen his actions to be well-planned and well orchestrated, but in this episode, we learn that his plan with Shin Jae did not go as planned. He calls Shin Jae the wrong move he made and Tae-Eul, the move he has not made yet.

I found this very interesting, though I was disappointed we did not find out more in this episode. Based on what we have seen, we know Shin Jae is still very attached to the previous world and possibly blames Lee Gon for the death of his mum in the world of Corea. He still retains that memory very strongly of the day when he lost his mum and was brought over to Korea by Lee Rim. I’m hoping we get more back story into subsequent encounters between Lee Rim and Shin Jae – what was Lee Rim’s plan for Shin Jae and how did it all go wrong?

As for Tae-Eul, we already know he’s asked to locate Luna, so we know that there’s a bigger plan in store for her. Did Lee Rim already know from the outset that she was going to be Gon’s love interest? Was he aware that the person who appeared in the first episode was holding her police badge? I am sure Lee Rim is going to up his game, now that he knows his nephew is aware of his plan. Let’s hope he takes more concrete action soon as the show would definitely become more engaging if the action is further ramped up.

I’m also curious to know his bigger plan with Seo-Ryung – why is he approaching Seo-Ryung’s mother? Why is he sending her the newspapers – what does he want her to do? Is he pushing her to marry Gon quickly, so that Tae-Eul does not take on the throne of the Queen?

4. Yeong and Eun-Sop swop roles

Woo Do-Hwan continues to shine in this episode, providing much needed comic relief as he is able to play the role of Eun-Seob acting as Yeong so well. The way he immediately puts on his game face in Corea whenever someone else is present is just hilarious. Yeong acting as Eun-Seob is also fun and it was cute to see Na-Ri saying that Yeong’s hair was strange and that he was not as charming as Eun-Seob. The humour comes so naturally and is not forced at all, giving the show much-needed lightness in the midst of all the heavy-going events.

Final thoughts

While I’m liking the story and the intricately-crafted script, the execution of the show can certainly be improved.

Having watched so many K-dramas and product placements, this is the first show where I feel the placements hamper the show greatly and sometimes make the actors/actresses seem like they are in an advertisement. From start to end, we are bombarded with so many cheesy lines from Paris Baguette bread not needing jam, to the delivery app remembering Lee’s order and then to the kimchi tasting so good. It’s so poorly and obviously done.

Secondly, I do find that the big pieces of the story work well, but when it comes to plotting the episode, somehow the flow seems a little off at times and there’s a lack of energy in the show. The show is fascinating to analyse and there is so much to put together, but the experience of watching it is not as enjoyable as it could be. I do feel that we can afford to be given more answers as there are several pieces that have stalled, for example, Shin Jae’s story line.

With all that being said, I’m still enjoying the mysteries of the worlds created and how our characters are being built up. I am looking forward to tonight’s installment and hoping we get many more answers!