KDrama Review: The King: Eternal Monarch (Episode 1 - First & Second Rewatch Insights)

April 19, 2020

Lee FREAKIN' Minho is back in the drama scene! Anyone who's into the Korean drama world knows this guy (duh). He's one of the most handsome kdrama guys out there. πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’— I sure did miss watching him in a drama. I didn't watch his other recent dramas because I don't know, the plot of the story just did not interest me. I remember watching up to episode two of The Heirs and just decided to abort it because it felt like it's Boys over Flowers again (of which I also dropped mid-way 😣). I also didn't get to watch Legend of the Blue Sea because I presumed that the story is too clichΓ© (but who am I to judge that drama given that I didn't really watch it... it just gave me a bad first impression, and I didn't give it a chance to redeem itself). Anyway I'm getting too caught with myself about my past issues with Lee Minho 였빠, so let's go straight to the main topic of this post - it's all about his new Netflix drama series entitled The King: Eternal Monarch.

Aside from the plot, what usually pulls me more to watch a drama is the cast. When I am familiar with the actors, I get curious about the drama. So this one is actually a double combo: it's a given that I like Lee Minho. And now he gets partnered with Kim Go-eun, the leading lady of the highly successful Goblin drama. I super liked her character and acting there, so I was immediately sold to watch this drama the moment I learned of it. The first episode dropped on Netflix this week and of course I watched it! Let's get onto my review points for the pilot episode!

Spoilers alert! Read at your own risk.

First-Watch Review:
πŸŽ₯The first episode of any Kdrama has a "make it or break it" attitude. I imagine the whole production team placing their best foot forward for their masterpiece-to-be. It sure was obvious with this drama. The whole episode felt like a trailer of a movie, and because this is an hour-long video, things got too saturated and exhausting for me. I think the first episode spent too much time focusing on the effects and the shots rather than the flow of narrating the story. Establishing the back story took too long for me. I was already midway of the episode and I still couldn't make out the whole point and who's who and why things were happening that way. It didn't help that the story involved parallel worlds and characters travelling from one dimension to another. It kind of got confusing for me in some parts. Thankfully because of some hints in the dialogue and the outfits of some characters, I discovered that hey so he's the 'Unbreakable Sword' kid, and oh so Lee Min Ho is the grown up crown prince, etc etc.

☯ It's an interesting take to reimagine Korea (stylized as Corea, in a parallel universe alongside the real-world Korea) reigned with monarchy in modern times. At first I thought the captions were misspelled, but when I saw labels of buildings and airplanes, I realized that yup, it really is spelled with a C. Initially, it was confusing for me to see characters in traditional Korean clothing usually seen in historical dramas, this time standing against a background of modern buildings. At least for me this is a new approach so I'm happy with this fresh concept in my Kdrama experience.

⏳What will you do if you saw your other self in a parallel universe? The last thing you would do is kill your other self, right?! Well I guess that thinking logic doesn't apply in this drama. Based on what happened to the characters, I think the law that applies to this drama universe is that if someone dies in one world, his other self gets to live in the parallel one. Well we'll see if my theory is correct in the next episodes to come. Also, it's so creepy (and trippy) to imagine seeing yourself as a ghost figure. It really twisted my mind.

πŸ‘¨πŸ‘¨I smell some bromance brewing between some characters. Some scenes in the drama got me thinking "am I watching a BL (boys' love) drama by mistake?"

🀡In contrast, there were scenes wherein I was reminded of how charismatic and handsome Lee Min Ho is. Let's just say my favorite scenes so far are: him horseback-riding (in slow motion omg), boat-racing (those muscular arms!), and standing against the mirror in that bathroom scene. I'm so ready to see more of Lee Min Ho! πŸ’“

πŸ’ƒThere were too many characters being introduced, and at this point it's not clear who they are. But I could already sense which of them are the villains. LOL.

πŸ°πŸ•‘I found it fascinating that there are references to the Alice in Wonderland fairytale in the drama. I'm currently following the Clear Card arc of Cardcaptor Sakura and the story of Alice plays a big part in the story. I wonder how the tale of that curious girl would play in this drama? By the way, I predict that that black bunny jacket will be a merch of this drama.

πŸŽπŸ‘¨πŸ‘©When our two main characters finally meet each other, Lee Min Ho's character hug Kim Go-eun. And on cue, a romantic ballad song plays in the background. I was like wtf there's something that's not right in this setup. It's not even a romantic hug! I don't know, I didn't feel any chemistry between them, maybe because I knew romance still not exists between them.

Episode Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Sorry Lee Minho, but the first episode is just meh. I'm giving this rating based on the plot. But if we base it on his handsomeness, I would, without a doubt, grant five stars. 😍

[EDIT: 05/26/2020] Second-Watch Review (with Latest Episode Released: EP12)
I am writing this one carrying the knowledge of all episodes 1-12 plus all the fan theories that I have read on Reddit and Facebook.

My Additional Observations/Theories/Commentaries:
  • The Drama Intro. The intro of this drama had never been so interesting until now. I agree with the theory that that yellow tree is located in the "lightning bridge dimension". It is most likely that that is the tree that grew from the seeds that JTE scattered there. I initially thought those lilac flowers that LG brought to JTE in EP10 came from that tree, but they were of different colors.The three landmarks being shown in the intro sure has some relevance. I also believe the theory that the other two are portals between the worlds also. I just can't figure out as of now which landmark the first two are.
  • Origins of the Manpashikjeok. Lee Lim narrates himself the origins of the legendary flute (I already forgot that that scene existed. Apparently JTE and KJS get to arrest Lee Lim). Lee Lim is born on February 1951. King Sinmun received the bamboo flute during the spring of the year 682. King Sinmun ruled the Silla dynasty. He received the flute from the dragon king of the East Sea. The flute is being revealed every 20 years to wish peace to the world.
  • The For-Glorious-Occasion Outfit of the King. It is just some split-second scene, but Lee Gon is seen wearing that same outfit from EP10 ending. He is in the bamboo forest riding Maximus, and is looking somberly at the portal. I believe this is the moment that leads to the EP10 ending. I think at that point he is contemplating deeply whether he would cross the portal this time... for the last time maybe. The time it takes for the world to stop grows longer and longer so maybe he is thinking of the consequences if he passes the portal this time.
  • Lee Lim's statement: "It was the weak who created god" before he killed his half-brother king, stuck well with me. It is somewhat true, because only in our weakest moments do we search for a god.
  •  Lee Lim and Lee Gon both dripped their blood on the flute. Would that have a significance? I noticed shots that specially focused on Lee Lim's hand gripping the flute as his blood dripped onto it, and also at young Lee Gon's neck as Lee Lim pierced him with half of the flute.
  • Lee Gon's Savior. I squinted hard on each frame that the savior appeared. I am now 100% sure that that person is a man (based on body built, stature, and hands). Initially, my theory is that it is KJS, but now I have two additional culprits: Lee Gon himself or Jo Young (based on the eyes).
  • PM Koo's mother had some split-second cameo during the scene where the news about Lee Gon's mourning was shown in the wet market tv screens. I could feel she would have some important roles in the future.
  • Apparently, Lee Lim first discovered the portal in the bamboo forest.
  • It ws 1994 when Lee Lim first stepped on RoK. News about the Seongsu bridge collapse graced the newspapers and electronic billboards at that time.
  • Apparently, Lee Lim killed the doppelgangers of his half-brother King, Lee Gon, and himself in RoK.
  • Lee Lim was wearing that silver ring, which he later placed on his dead doppelganger and brought it with him to KoC, where a guy found his corpse in the river.
  • RoK half-brother King's body was cremated, as per her husband's request. The woman that has Lee Gon's mother's face is the one being kept alive by Lee Lim (up until EP 12). I am not sure why he is keeping her alive.There's no mention about the queen in KoC. What happened to her? Is there a connection there?
  • I am amazed by the makeup of Lady Noh and of Prince Lee Jong-In. They really looked younger during this episode.
  • Lee Lim returned to one of his followers after 10 years. The passing of time was represented by that rotating scene with the sky rapidly showing days and nights while the follower was plying the field.
  • When Lee Gon is first introduced as an adult, random things were focused for split seconds around his room, and this includes the glorious-occasion outfit, and the whip. I really think that outfit will have big role in the story. It was amusing to see Lee Gon's room again, especially the bed... 'cause we know what takes place there eventually. xD
  • The security staff that body-checked PM Koo is the same woman that killed her roommate in RoK in EP7..
  • It's a joy to watch Lee Minho ride the horse again. xD
  • The first episode is actually already filled with lots of bromance moments between Lee Gon and Jo Young. Is mainstream Korean drama testing the waters for BL content?
  • Just as Lee Gon and Jo Young leaves the room, the camera pans down to a case box, which I assume where the sword was located. But the case is empty. I wonder what that meant. As what I am learning from this drama, those split-second camera shots do have significant meanings/roles in the overall story.
  • TIL, Lewis Carroll is a Mathematician.
  • In the rowing event, some of the audience were carrying red balloons. Eventually, we see a red balloon in the portal gateway. I see a connection here.
  • Lee Gon looks at JTE's ID while in his study. He inspects the backside of the ID and sees the issue date of 11.11.2019. And then the shot for a split second goes to the calendar/date/time display on Lee Gon's table that says it's still October. He is an intelligent man, a great mathematician too, and for sure he did not overlook that information. Lee Gon always knew JTE is from the future.
  • It was amusing to see the police team doing some undercover in costume (guard and delivery guy). And oh, JTE can really kick! Does Kim Go eun really know some taekwando?
  • The statements of those three criminals, that the police gang were trying to arrest, echo that of a recent dream I had (which I plan to post on the blog eventually). I understand them and believe them when they said that they really had no idea about that dead body in their car.
  • The police gang talking about needing a recruit made me chuckle. Oh if you only knew how great your new recruit will be.
  • It was Luna who led Lee Gon to the bamboo forest. I think this is a very important piece of info. 
  • I believe JTE really saw Luna in her car (it was not a hallucination). Luna was able to disappear fast because time stopped during that time. I think Luna can walk through time, just like how Lee Gon and Lee Lim experiences it. I just don't know how and why.
  • The Gwanghwamun statue is always being shown, even for split seconds... and we know this is a relevant indicator whether the current character is in RoK or KoC in future episodes.
  • Knowing how the story unfolds so far, that hug in the beginning was everything. I felt all the emotions.
JTE - Jung Tae Eul
KJS - Kang Shin Jae
RoK - Republic of Korea
KoC - Kingdom of Corea

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