We have stepped into double-digit episodes, and it’s looking like we will finally have the answers to the questions this show keeps throwing at us. Since the second half began, The King: Eternal Monarch has been releasing one intense episode after another with each episode’s ending even more thrilling than the last. Like everyone else watching the show, I too have been looking forward to each week’s release.
This episode begins with Tae-eul (Kim Go-eun) confronting Shin-jae (Kim Kyung-nam), who seems set on running away from the truth that he is in fact from the Kingdom of Corea and not originally from the Republic of Korea. He finds this reality difficult to accept and keeps rejecting it. Eventually, as the episode progresses, Shin-jae learns to slowly acknowledge the truth, and together with Tae-eul and Jo Yeong (Woo Do-hwan), embarks on a mission to hunt Lee Gon’s subordinates who stole their doppelgangers’ lives. This new trio is definitely exciting to watch out for, given all three of them are skilled in combat and quick-witted.
Meanwhile, just a quick catch-up on the new developments — after an intense showdown between Lee Gon’s (Lee Min-ho) and Lee Rim’s (Lee Jung-jin) sides, Jo Eun-seob, who is posing as Captain Jo Yeong, gets injured. Luna (Kim Go-eun), on the other hand, makes a brief appearance again after being missing from the last episode. We find out that she is terminally ill, and that Lee Gon has ordered a search party for her. Lee Rim encounters the boy with the yoyo in the bookstore, and in the boy’s hands is King Arthur, which strengthens the theory that this series might be more inspired by King Arthur than Alice in Wonderland.
Prime Minister Goo Seo-ryung (Jung Eun-chae) is still unwittingly involving herself in this conflict using her ex-husband’s connections, unaware of the much bigger trouble coming her way. Sadly, we say goodbye to Prince Buyeong in this episode, who becomes the first casualty on Lee Gon’s side. Now that Lee Rim has made the first move by killing the elder prince, I’m sure his death serve as the trigger to bring out Gon’s aggressiveness in this war.
A welcome surprise in this episode was the little bit of improvement we got to see in the chemistry between Gon and Tae-eul. Not enough to make me root for them yet, but a little improvement still counts as an improvement. Gon’s unspoken farewell to Tae-eul felt like watching the farewell scene from Goblin. It was shot in the same way, with Tae-eul being left alone, sobbing. It was as if we were seeing Ji Eun-tak all over again – when Kim Shin drew the sword from his chest and began to disappear.
Even the flowers that Lee Gon gave to Tae-eul were nostalgic because Kim Shin gives Eun-tak buckwheat flowers too. Except, it looks like Gon’s bouquet is made of Azaleas, which are known to symbolize deep and powerful emotions. While Kim Shin’s buckwheat flowers signified love, I wonder if Lee Gon’s Azaleas display his deep longing to return to something, or in this case, to someone. The flowers have to mean something.
The show has made references to Korean poet Kim So-wol several times in the past episodes. Head Court Lady Noh Ok-nam, in the early minutes of the episode, recited some lines from Kim So-wol’s poem collection The Azaleas (1925). His works are known for their poignant meanings, and the poem Lady Ok-nam recited talks about Azalea flowers being a symbol of parting lovers. In this case, Lee Gon, torn between his responsibility as the King and his love for Tae-eul, decides to choose his obligation to his country before his personal feelings.
Judging from next episode’s preview, it looks like after Gon and Tae-eul parted, Tae-eul might have attempted to follow him to his world, as seen in her desperate attempt to reach Lee Gon through a payphone. “Look for me when you get this message,” she says, with a bruised face and bloodied hands, which could mean that she bumped into trouble along the way. I hope this means that the next episode will focus on the romance, as Lee Gon tries to save Ta-eul.
My only gripe is that the timelines in the show are difficult to understand, as the show has been jumping from year to year. The first episode shows Lee Rim being interrogated in the year 2020, the King’s assassination happens in 1994 with a mystery man from the future, the rest of the 9 episodes take place in 2019, and now, episode 9 reveals footage from the year 2022. I get that the show is all about multiple timelines and time-traveling but it’s becoming troublesome to navigate so many of them.
More and more The King: Eternal Monarch theories are emerging online, with everyone from K-drama fans on social media to blogs and YouTube channels guessing what will happen next. It’s no surprise, given how detailed the writing on this show is. There are endless possibilities and theories, and so many new references in each episode that there could be a million endings to this series. Although it does take a while to process all the new information, it is so satisfying when everything clicks into place. The show is running full steam ahead towards the climax, and with its steady progression, fans are on the edge of their seats, including yours truly.