One of the most anticipated face-offs in The King: Eternal Monarch is finally here—Lee Gon (Lee Min-ho) and Lee Rim (Lee Jung-jin) have come face-to-face. This is their first official confrontation since the day Lee Rim tried to kill Gon with the sharp edge of the fabled flute manpasikjeok, 25 years ago. Gon shockingly discovers that since assassinating his father, his uncle has not aged a day. Now that the pawns have assembled, the officials are in place, and the kings have finally come out for a showdown, The King: Eternal Monarch is about to get VERY thrilling.
In terms of plot progression, not much happened in this episode aside from the build-up to the inevitable clash between Gon and Lee Rim. We now know that Gon is looking for his mother’s counterpart in the Republic, and Shin-jae (Kim Kyung-nam), after discovering his true identity, is having a tough time dealing with it. While Shin-jae’s reveal was shocking, Lee Sang-do’s turned out to be disappointing. I expected him to be a significant character considering he was the focal point of Tae-eul’s (Kim Go-eun) investigation for nine episodes, but he turned out to be just a horse groomer. Bummer. I was so sure a major reveal was coming our way. But if everything happened as viewers predicted, shows would cease to be interesting.
Despite the slow pace, this episode is not only one of my favorites yet, but incredibly intriguing too – full of fascinating revelations. Like Gon using Jo Young’s laptop only to come across a video of Tae-eul dated two years into the future — May 27, 2022. This leads us to the possibility that aside from traveling to the past, our characters can travel to the future too. Or, the current timeline in the series is someone’s past. If that is the case, Lee Rim might not be delaying aging by spending time in the bridge between the two worlds, as Gon currently seems to believe. His uncle could just as easily have traveled from the future, and what we think is his present might just be his past that he is trying to change. Wow. I’m dizzy but in the best way.
So many possibilities, and so many theories that I’m unsure of. But one thing is certain – the boy with the yoyo is definitely a key figure in the story. He is just the kind of supernatural presence Kim Eun-sook loves to scatter in her dramas – the kind of presence one doesn’t think much of and who ends up holding all the answers. The yoyo toy is probably symbolic of time, and as the owner of the object, the boy seems to be the entity who checks the balance of the universe. In all the past episodes, the boy is seen releasing the yoyo and pulling it back, which seems like way too much of a coincidence to not mean anything.
Woo Do-hwan keeps being half the reason I look forward to every new episode. Jo Young’s transformation to Jo Eun-seob, and vice versa, as the two take each other’s places in the two worlds is amusing. This time, his character made several references, from the Game of Thrones’ “Winter is coming” to likening Gon to the Avengers‘ Tony Stark. Another classic reference that Woo Do-hwan’s character has been repeatedly making is of the famous medieval legend King Arthur, but aside from the sword and the title, I’m not seeing any similarities to the plot yet. Crossing all my fingers that Woo’s character does not meet King Arthur’s tragic end. The only questions we have now are these – how did Jo Young’s laptop have a footage from the future? Is Jo Young aware of it? Or if he is unaware, how and where did the footage come from?
Speaking of peculiar characters, is anybody else suspicious of Prime Minister Goo’s white-haired advisor? The man isn’t given much screentime, but whenever he makes an appearance, he has a dangerous aura that makes everyone uneasy. I wonder if he’s some kind of double agent or spy character. He gives off the vibe that he knows everything— a total insider, which would make him both a dangerous enemy and a valuable ally. Even his meager appearances don’t feel like a coincidence though. It’s like the writer is making sure he appears from time to time for the viewers to remember him but not focus on him, in order to cash in on the element of surprise. Like the lone firefly in the drama Hotel Del Luna (2019).
Surprisingly, despite some pretty significant developments in the story, this episode recorded a decline in viewership ratings—its lowest yet, in fact. The second half of this show is definitely taking off—with dynamic characters, sufficient storyline progression, big reveals, and brewing tension – I’m still not sold on the romance. The romantic chemistry between our leads is sorely lacking and it feels like not enough time and development was devoted to Gon and Tae-eul’s connection. It’s difficult to root for their love because it happened all of a sudden. Aside from the failed chemistry, however, I’m really liking the series now and am glad I pushed through. We still have the second half to go, and the tension is making the wait for every episode more difficult than the last.