With this episode, we focus on the love story between Tae-eul (Kim Go-eun) and Lee Gon (Lee Min-ho) as the plot attempts to highlight how deep their love for each other runs. While both lead actors did lack in the chemistry department, I believe the writers were still able to convey that love can transcend time and space through their relationship. Their romance is more on the mature, tragic side. Not Romeo and Juliet kind of tragic, but still tragic. The pairing got off to a rough start, but I can finally see the makings of a great love story and will give the show some points for romance. The scene with Luna stabbing Tae-eul and Gon finally arriving in 2020, just in time to take care of Tae-eul before he says goodbye to her one more time was especially touching.
A quick recap: as Lee Gon time travels to the future, he alters some events along the way, thus affecting the memories of those in the future—like meeting Tae-eul when she was five, and even his own memories. Goo Seo-ryung (Jung Eun-chae) discovers that the cost of failing at the task given by Lee Rim is her mother’s life. Lee Gon, on the other hand, appoints Prince Buyeong’s granddaughter as next in line for the throne, should something happen to him, but she ends up dying at Lee Rim’s hands. Kang Shin-jae (Kim Kyung-nam) finally meets his biological mother in the Kingdom of Corea, and confesses his love to Tae-eul. Tae-eul captures Luna, but sets her free on the condition that Luna take her place and protect her family while Tae-eul chases after Lee Gon.
The trajectory of Woo Do-hwan’s characters is probably the most heartbreaking next to Tae-eul and Lee Gon’s romance. As Jo Yeong says his goodbye to Jo Eun-seob, Eun-seob weeps while telling his doppelganger that he wants to see him again someday. Jo Yeong also smiles at the twins, something that the Captain of the Royal Guard is not known for because of his strict, uptight personality, which tells us that for the short period of time that he has lived as Eun-seob, he has learned to love Eun-seob’s family, which is double the heartbreak. Jo Yeong grew up in a broken family (his parents divorced) and has spent his whole life serving his country and his King. He has never experienced the familial love that Eun-seob has and judging by how he drops his stoic facade for the first time in the whole series and rushes to console Eun-seob, it’s obvious that he is grateful for getting to experience that. While Jo Yeong is very loyal to the King, this is the very first time that he has willingly opened his heart to someone. Hand me a tissue, please.
Now that both Lee Gon and Lee Rim (Lee Jung-jin) are time traveling, the timeline is constantly changing, and some of the scenes are much more confusing than all 14 episodes combined. Since Lee Rim 1.0 (the original Lee Rim we knew from the beginning) goes back in time to warn his past self Lee Rim 2.0 but gets killed by him, Lee Rim 2.0 now takes the reins and continues the story. But Lee Gon 1.0 (the original Lee Gon) did not kill his past self Lee Gon 2.0 and instead saved him, which means that Lee Gon 2.0 would have to grow up and experience everything again. Does that mean by the time Lee Gon 1.0 arrives in 2020 after time traveling to 1994, there will be two Lee Gons? This is very confusing.
Let’s talk about our main antagonist now, who never really stood out in the whole show. I’m just gonna go ahead and say it. The show RUINED Lee Rim. I cannot express how disappointed I am with the way his character played out. After gathering allies and assembling armies for 26 years, it was disappointing to see Lee Rim getting killed by his own self. I wasn’t expecting him to go all Game of Thrones and unleash a horde of loyal followers on Lee Gon but I sure was expecting more. Like a dramatic battle between him and Lee Gon. He did not even have decent character development as the main antagonist. The only things Lee Rim ever did during the whole show were stage a coup, transfer people between worlds, and walk around with his umbrella. And then he dies. Just like that.
In the past, I had wondered how Lee Rim was going to use Song Jung-hye against Lee Gon and was waiting to see where the character went. Imagine my surprise when she poisons herself. It’s like the writers didn’t know what else to do so with her so they just killed off the character. Lee Rim, Prime Minister Goo Seo-ryung, Song Jung-hye—all power characters that went to waste because of poor writing. Seo-ryung did not get a single scene to shine or even got close to completing her mission. After such a solid start in the first few episodes, all she ended up doing was walk around in heels.
Meanwhile, Kang Shin-jae finally meets his mother in the exact same place where she sold him to Lee Rim. He makes peace with her abandoning him when he was a child, and before leaving, announces, “This time, I’m the one abandoning you.” This scene reminded me of When The Camellia Blooms (2019), when Dong-baek confronts her mother in the same restaurant where they had their last meal before her mother abandoned her. Dong-baek also tells her mother that she’ll be one abandoning her this time.
Finally, we have Lee Gon sharing his plan with Shin-jae and saying his farewell to Head Court Lady Noh Ok-nam. On his way back to the past for the second time, Gon’s path is blocked by Jo Yeong, who tells Gon that he will follow him until the end. “Wherever you go, you can’t go alone. I will go with you, no matter where it is, no matter what battlefield it is. Even more so if it’s somewhere you can’t return home from,” Jo Yeong says. Until the end, Jo Yeong is unflinchingly loyal to his King, even when he knows he might never return to the life that he has now. He lays down his life for his King, and follows him inside the gate. Can I get one serving of Captain Jo Yeong’s loyalty to go, please?
Next week, we will be saying goodbye to The King: Eternal Monarch. Judging from what I’ve seen from the finale teaser, hearts will be breaking everywhere.
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