The King: Eternal Monarch is playing out a mystery game with clues hidden everywhere in the story. Scenes that were confusing in the initial episodes are starting to make sense, while new revelations are adding layers of meanings to the plot. Now that we know people from the two worlds have been swapped, it’s difficult to know if anyone really is who they are claiming to be. Our list of people we can trust is getting shorter as we progress.
This episode revealed that Lee Rim (Lee Jung-jin) has been using the ability to travel between the two worlds to swap a lot of people, including his subordinates who helped with the assassination of Lee Gon’s father. The scene of Lee Gon (Lee Min-ho) and Jo Young (Woo Do-hwan) walking into a restaurant only to have the owner instinctively call Gon ‘Your Highness’ proves that Lee Rim has his people in the Republic of Korea, blending in with others. His spies also seem to have infiltrated the royal palace, as is evident with Jang Yeon-ji’s (Ha Seung-ri) arc, who murdered her roommate in the republic, and whose doppelganger is a royal palace guard.
The most shocking revelation in this episode is the truth about Kang Shin-jae (Kim Kyung-nam), who turns out to be from the Kingdom of Corea. He seems to be swapped and brought to the Republic as a child, seemingly because of a deal with Lee Rim by his mother, who turns out to be his spy in the palace. Presumably, in exchange for this information, Lee Rim keeps an eye on Shin-jae in Korea and lets his mother know he’s doing well. I wonder if Shin-jae is related to Gon or Lee Rim, or if he’s simply being used as a pawn. But even if he’s not, Shin-jae’s character has been elevated from the third wheel between our leads to a major player in the game. I’m equal parts curious and terrified about what he does with the truth about himself.
Thanks to Shin-jae’s childhood memories of Gon as the young King, it is Gon who figures out that he’s been swapped, and this will serve as an advantage in ensuring that he trusts the people around him selectively. With Gon now aware that these identity-swapping incidents are not random but carefully planned by his uncle, I wonder what his next plan of action will be. Will the star-crossed uncle and nephew race against each other, with Lee Rim planting his men around Gon and Gon trying to outsmart him? After the revelation Gon tells Shin-jae, “You are the reason why I must return to my world.” Is there anyone he already suspects? Questions, questions.
We get lots more of Kim Go-eun as Luna in this episode, and it is so satisfying to watch her dominate the screen within five minutes of her first appearance. She plays the role of the deadly street fighter with aplomb, indulging in violence with a cold-bloodedness that gave me chills. But since Lee Rim has discovered Tae-eul’s connection with Gon, I expect him to come looking for Luna and involve her in his plans pretty soon. I have a feeling that Luna and Tae-eul might be pitted against each other in the finale, which will be a wild action scene, considering Tae-eul is a black belter in Taekwondo while Luna is a dangerous street fighter.
I’m also curious about the boy with the yoyo, who we’ve seen only a few times over the course of eight episodes. He shows up right after Tae-eul wonders who might be keeping the balance of the universe, and has a connection with Luna too. Judging by Kim Eun-sook’s previous fantasy dramas, makes me suspect that he’s an important figure in the story, maybe not even entirely human, especially because of his toy of choice—a yoyo, which is all about balance. Given Kim Eun-sook’s penchant for introducing minor characters that majorly impact the plot, I will be keeping an eye out for the yoyo boy.
Goo Seo-ryung’s (Jung Eun-chae) interactions with her mother point to an upcoming disaster in our favorite prime minister’s life. Her mother’s warning to “be careful not to lose anything” sounded way too much like foreshadowing. With Lee Rim sending Seo-ryung a newspaper clipping with with her counterpart’s face on it, I’m even more worried. This clearly looks like an attempt to blackmail, though what exactly he wants her for remains to be seen. Seo-ryung’s mother has also figured out who Lee Rim is, after discovering an old picture of the Royal Family with Lee Rim’s in it, which does not bode well for her character’s fate.
This show does not have many humorous moments, but the few we do get are all thanks to Woo do-hwan. We finally see Jo Young in action, pretending to be Eun-seob. His performance is so refreshing that against my better judgment, I am rooting for both his counterparts. While Eun-seob is adorable, Jo Young’s chemistry and loyalty to Lee Gon is undeniable, even when Gon’s disregard for the acting like a king irritates Jo Young to no end. Despite being written as sidekicks, the characters have now evolved to have almost as big a presence as our leads. (And fandom, if I’m being honest.)
I must say, Kim Eun-sook really loves abrupt kiss/confession scenes. Tae-eul professing her love for Gon came out of nowhere and didn’t leave much of an impression on me. The excessive ad placement is also getting uncomfortable to watch, especially with the actors going as far as to describe the product. While it’s entirely normal for dramas to go overboard with product placements, this episode felt watching a commercial at times. Aside from that, I have no complaints from this episode. The story is now progressing fast, with more questions to keep track of with each episode. It just keeps getting more and more exciting, and at this point in the story, I’m fully engrossed.