After the hype of the previous episode, this episode feels like a breather from all the excitement. We get some more revelations, and even more new mysteries to ponder. With so many characters crossing back and forth between the two worlds and a possible political uprising on the cards, the plot is starting to get messy. I would love for the story to focus on the side-arcs we already have going and not add more, but The King: Eternal Monarch seems to be on a mission to excite and confuse its viewers in equal measures.
Woo Do-hwan makes up for not being in the last episode with some significant scenes in this one. We get insight into his character in a scene with Kang Shin-jae (Kim Kyung-nam), when Jo Yeong (Woo Do-hwan) tells him that his loyalty to the king is not because of his job, but a choice he made as a child. “If that is [Lee Gon’s] destiny, I must follow him, whatever that battlefield may be.” He says this in a calm manner rather than an enthusiastic one, which tells us that he’s not trying to convince us of his loyalty to his king, but rather, stating his chosen path. This is one of the lines I dread the most— sometimes, it’s a foreshadowing of the supporting character’s tragic fate, and I’m crossing all my existent and nonexistent fingers that it doesn’t happen to Jo Yeong and Jo Eun-seob.
Luna (Kim Go-eun), meanwhile, has successfully infiltrated the Republic of Korea as Tae-eul. She has Tae-eul’s phone, which she uses to study Tae-eul’s life by going through her pictures, call logs, and search history. The burn marks of lightning and thunder are now appearing on others who have crossed over to different worlds. It’s not clear why some have the mark and some don’t, especially Tae-eul and Jo Yeong/Jo Eun-seob. Even Prime Minister Goo Seo-ryung (Jung Eun-chae) has the mark, and it was just her luck that her mark happened to appear in front of Gon (Lee Min-ho). It is still boggling my mind how she crossed over to the Republic with just a car and some money. Unless she is already an ally of Lee Rim (Lee Jung-jin)? But why would she ally with him at the risk of being charged with treason?
One area where the show seems to have failed is making the antagonists hateful enough. So far, both Seo-ryung and Lee Rim are not evil enough to make my blood boil and root for their downfall. Some shows have antagonists so wicked and cunning that their destruction is incredibly satisfying to watch. Sure, Lee Rim is creepy and has evil intentions, but with little to no insight into his villain origin story, he doesn’t seem as ‘wicked’ as the K-drama villains we usually love to hate. I don’t feel invested in watching him fall because there hasn’t been enough build-up around his character. One could say that he lacks a connection with the audience.
With Goo Seo-ryung too, I feel the same disconnect. She’s a woman drowning in ambition but doesn’t come off as a worthy rival for Tae-eul. I’m not sure if her character is intended to be the other woman who also chases after the male lead, but I miss the tension that a catty female antagonist introduces in a romance sub-plot. Seo-ryung ends up as a mediocre antagonist who shows up once in a while, making no significant contribution to the plot. With only four episodes to go, so I don’t think there is time for the antagonists to build more tension. I know they will meet their doom one way or the other – but I’m finding it difficult to care.
Gon and Tae-eul’s chemistry seems to have fizzled again after a brief surge in the previous episode. I’m feeling the tragedy, but not so much the romance – the kissing scenes have absolutely no sparks flying between the two. Kim Go-eun is consistently proving herself as an actress, but her and Lee Min-ho just don’t match as a lead couple. Ironically, I still feel that there’s more chemistry between Tae-eul and Shin-jae — the kind that leans more towards platonic love and makes you wish that even if they don’t end up together as lovers, you want them to be together forever.
A really intriguing scene in this episode is Tae-eul recognizing the jacket Gon wore when he gave her the Azaleas. He tells her that he wears it “at the most glorious moment,” and then proceeds to ask, “What flowers do you like?” This is confusing. Does he not remember giving her the flowers already? Or did the Gon with the Azaleas come from the future? Back then, Tae-eul had remarked that it took him a while to come back, to which he had said, “Because I had to come from far away.” I wonder now, if that “far away” meant the future.
When Tae-eul brings up the possibility of the pathway between their worlds closing, Gon assures her, “If that door closes, I’ll open all doors in the universe, and I’ll come to you.” The flowers he gives her – Azaleas – also symbolize the deep longing to return to something (or someone). Previously, it had seemed as if Gon was choosing his kingdom over Tae-eul and giving her flowers as a parting gift. Now, I think that might have been too simplistic considering Gon’s narcissistic and confident personality. Choosing between the kingdom and Tae-eul when he could have both is probably the last thing he’ll do. Is it just me or are things beginning to make sense now?
The biggest revelation of this episode was the Head Court Lady Noh Ok-nam (Kim Young-ok) revealing that she is originally from the Republic of Korea. Over the past episodes, we heard her read Kim Sowol’s poems, which Gon brought back from his first visit to the Republic. This episode revealed that the reason she was so fond of the poems was that she recognized the poet from her childhood. Of all people in Gon’s proximity I suspected to be from the Republic, Lady Ok-nam was the last.
I have trust issues now— first, it was Shin-jae, now it’s Lady Ok-nam, I won’t be surprised if Jang-mi (Kang Hong-seok) steps up and tells us he’s from the Kingdom of Corea. But one thing is for sure – no one in this show can be trusted anymore. The plot twists are appearing one by one. From now on, it looks like we are all going to have to play the guessing game with every characters’ real identity.
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