Finally, around the halfway mark, The King: Eternal Monarch is catching up to its hype. The plot is thickening, the writing is picking up pace, and the stakes are rising. This episode was much anticipated because the preview showed Jo Young (Woo Do-hwan) finally meeting his doppelganger Jo Eun-seob. Woo’s character seems to be a clear fan favorite, largely due to his stunning personality-switch from the uptight Jo Young to the quirky Eun-seob, and also, in part because his characters are the only source of humor in an otherwise complex plot. The meeting lived up to its hype and instantly became one of the most amusing scenes in this episode.
This episode has Lee Gon (Lee Min-ho) realizing that the time-freeze he experiences is not a side-effect but a rule of traveling between the parallel worlds. This can both be an advantage and a liability—Gon will now know when his uncle crosses from one world to another and vice versa, but he won’t know which world he traveled to. Gon intends to use this knowledge to hunt down his uncle and makes Jo Young stay in the Republic of Korea for this purpose. I have a feeling that Jo Young and Eun-seob will team up, which will make them the funniest bad guy-catching duo K-dramas have ever seen. I’m rooting for this!
Another great dynamic in the show is Tae-eul’s (Kim Go-eun) bond with Shin-jae (Kim Kyung-nam). The two have been friends since high school, and Tae-eul basically taught Shin-jae how to fight. Even though she seems oblivious of Shin-jae’s feelings for her, he’s still a pretty important part of her life. Their easy chemistry as friends and colleagues almost makes me miss my best friend, but then I remember that this is a drama, and anything too pure in a drama is bound to meet an unpleasant end. I won’t pray that this friendship doesn’t run into trouble because let’s be honest, we know it will, but I hope this duo makes it to the end in one-piece.
If nothing else, this show has got its references on point—Tae-eul’s phone case being Back to the Future-themed made me chuckle. What a clever way to allude to the show’s concept! I love that Tae-eul has largely been in detective mode for the last couple of episodes—after watching her become a clueless damsel in Gon’s world, it’s nice to see her in her element. With another murder on her hands that looks like it’s connected to Lee Rim again, I’m excited to see what her investigation unearths. She has already learned that the last victim, Lee Sang-do, was a part of the Kingdom of Corea.
Meanwhile, Lee Rim (Lee Jung-jin) continues with his mission to build armies from both worlds. It seems that he invokes loyalty by making people indebted to him because he believes that someone owing him their life is what does the trick. But he’s not just recruiting random people—he’s killing those with influence and wealth, making their counterparts replace them, thus not only controlling said doppelganger but also gaining more power. It reminds me of the rule in chess that, when a pawn reaches the other side of the board, allows the players to turn it into any powerful piece they want. Similarly, evil uncle here seems to be collecting pawns and turning them into powerful tools to win the game, metaphorically speaking.
In the beginning of this episode, we see Lee Rim collecting pictures of Tae-eul and Shin-jae, so he’s either planning to recruit them or wants to use them to get to Gon. He also has his eye on Prime Minister Goo Seo-ryung (Jung Eun-chae), which I have suspected for a while now. Seo-ryung is an important figure in the Kingdom of Corea, her authority next only to the King. If Lee Rim is able to successfully bring him to his side, he will have gained a strong card in his deck. As for where Seo-ryung’s loyalties lie – one can’t be sure. She definitely craves power and authority, which makes her susceptible to Lee Rim’s sinister plans, but she has also proved that she takes her job seriously and has moral integrity.
One of the most awaited characters of the show is finally properly introduced to us in this episode, and I couldn’t be more hyped. Tae-eul’s doppelganger Luna steps out of the prison and into the plot to spice things up. She is welcomed by the most unexpected person ever—Goo Seo-ryung herself. Now that Luna is out in the streets again, I’m curious to see where her character will lead us. It’s obvious that she forms a major puzzle piece; she, after all, is the rabbit that led Gon to the parallel world. I can’t wait to see how Kim Go-eun acts out Luna and Tae-eul, who seem so different from each other, at the same time. Viewers have expressed disappointment with Kim’s character in this show being too similar to Ji Eun-tak from Goblin, so I hope Luna gives us the kind of hard-hitting acting fans are craving from a powerhouse like her.
At long last, Myeong Na-ri (Kim Yong-ji) finally confirms the theory that many fans have expounded upon—that because the universe seeks balance, objects from the past and future, which are essentially just one object, cannot exist simultaneously. In one way or another, the universe will find a way to eliminate the existence of one of them. We are now presented with an unspoken war between the doppelgangers—who among each of the counterparts will survive in the end? Will they be able to defy their fate and save both versions of themselves? This isn’t just a survival contest anymore—it has literally turned into a thrilling race, with the entire universe as the arena. Time to sit tight and buckle up, because the upcoming episodes are about to get busy.