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An Honest Review Of 'The King: Eternal Monarch'

Some people want a light and enjoyable escape from the real world—and this show definitely is not it.
PHOTO: The King: Eternal Monarch/SBS/Netflix
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The Long Plot, Sans Spoilers

The story starts off one winter night in 1994 in the Kingdom of Corea, a world where there is no North and South Korea, but a ruling monarchy keeping the country whole. On this night, Lee Lim (Lee Jung Jin) carries out his plan to kill the king, his half-brother, and his eight-year-old son, Prince Lee Gon, for him to be in possession of the mystical flute called the Manpasikjeok that holds the power to cross parallel worlds and travel through time.

Lee Lim, along with his band of traitorous followers, stages a coup inside the palace and attacks the king and prince. Lee Lim is successful in murdering the king, but when he comes face to face with Lee Gon, a mysterious figure bursts into the palace hall, fires at Lee Lim and his followers, and ends up saving the young prince. When the traitors flee, the shooter also swiftly makes his exit but leaves behind an identification card belonging to a certain Detective Jung Tae Eul. Here's the catch: It's dated in the year 2019. And as for the Manpasikjeok? It was split in half during Lee Lim and Lee Gon's confrontation, with them keeping one piece each.

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25 years later, Lee Gon (Lee Min Ho), now in his early 30s and the king of the Kingdom of Corea, continues to search for answers to his tragic past. One night in 2019, he is able to use the power of his half of the Manpasikjeok and crosses worlds into the Republic of Korea. As a twist of fate, the first person he sees in this new world is the woman on the ID, Detective Jung Tae Eul (Kim Go Eun).

The Short, Honest Plot

Two parallel worlds + a complex storyline + a compelling cast = an unforgettable viewing experience!

The Cast And Where You Last Saw Them

Lee Min Ho as Emperor Lee Gon

The King: Eternal Monarch served as the Hallyu heartthrob's comeback drama after getting discharged from the military. His other notable dramas include Legend Of The Blue Sea (2016) and The Heirs (2013).

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Kim Go Eun as Detective Jung Tae Eul and Luna

Can you believe this is only Kim Go Eun's third drama? The other two are Goblin and Cheese In The Trap, both shown in 2016.

Woo Do Hwan as Jo Young and Jo Eun Seob

Curious to watch more of this 27-year-old breakout star's previous dramas? Try out Mad Dog (2017) and The Great Seducer aka Tempted (2018) for starters!

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Jung Eun Chae as Prime Minister Gu Seo Ryeong

Jung Eun Chae may have started out in modeling but she's also been busy with acting in the last few years. Check her out in the supernatural drama The Guest (2018) and the historical action film The Great Battle (2018).

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Kim Kyung Nam as Detective Kang Shin Jae

31-year-old actor Kim Kyung Nam has a variety of drama titles to his acting credits: 2019's Special Labor Inspector and 2017's Prison Playbook.

Lee Jung Jin as Lee Lim

The seasoned actor has been acting on TV since the '90s! Better check out his more recent dramas The K2 (2016) and Temptation (2014).

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Did You Know?

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What My Friend Thinks:

"In the beginning, I was skeptical about the drama because I wasn't a fan of the fantasy genre when it comes to my K-dramas. But with each episode having unexpected twists and turns, I found myself getting hooked more and more. Lee Min Ho and Kim Go Gun did good jobs but Woo Do Hwan playing both the stoic Young and the playful Eun Seob was definitely my favorite. I find myself crushing on Jung Eun Chae too! I'm sad I didn't get to see a royal wedding (I was really looking forward to it), but Gon crossing universes just to find Tae Eul again is good enough for me." —Rap

What I Think:

I came into watching The King: Eternal Monarch being a fan of neither Lee Min Ho nor Kim Go Eun, and I think that really worked in my favor in appreciating the drama without expecting too much. I grew up reading fantasy novels so the genre has a special place in my heart, but I never opened myself up to watching fantasy K-dramas until The King. Watching the first episode kept me at the edge of my seat and I was utterly blown away by the gripping storyline and the ace cinematography, but what I wasn't so sure of was the two leads. I knew they were accomplished actors in their own right, but something seemed to be off about the way their characters' arcs came together. Was it the lack of chemistry between the actors? Or the way their characters were written? I couldn't put my finger on what exactly was bugging me. But unlike a lot of other people I know who dropped the drama after a few eps, I wanted to trudge on and give them a chance. And I am so, so glad I did! What made no sense in the first half of the drama was explained in the second halfand this doesn't just apply to the two leads but also goes for small yet significant details scattered all throughout the drama. It was like a huge puzzle that I needed to solve with me theorizing and dissecting each episode. I understand why this drama isn't for everyone. Some people want a light and enjoyable escape from the real worldand this show definitely is not it. It wasn't like your regular 'ol rom-com drama that followed "the formula" where you could easily predict what happens next. No. The King kept me guessing until the very last episode. And I absolutely LOVED the experience.

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For sure The King had its flaws: the overkill in sponsored products (I found them endearing at first but eventually rolled my eyes at every appearance of those damned LED face masks!) and the plot holes and rushed story arcs (which I have to attribute to the story being limited by the 16-episode formatThe King needed MORE episodes!). But, for me, I can overlook these because the drama was smart and ambitious. It's commendable that screenwriter Kim Eun Sook aspired to attract a wider audience by choosing to veer away from tried and tested drama tropes.

When I finished the drama, I found myself becoming a fan of the lead actors: Lee Min Ho, who finally broke from his pretty boy acting and matured into an intelligent actor with gravitas; and Kim Go Eun, who could play any role in the world and make it her own! But just like most The King fans, it was a joy to watch Woo Do Hwan shine brighter than anyone in the drama. Him playing the two polarizing roles of Jo Young and Eun Seob was like watching two totally different actors on screen. He just has this special charm and charisma and warmth and, god, does he deserve to be the leading man in his next drama!

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Who I'd Recommend It To:

  • Fans of fantasy and sci-fi!
  • Fans of Lee Min Ho and Kim Go Eunyou must not miss this!
  • People who want a break from the regular K-drama formula.
  • Those who want to use their ~minds~ while watching the drama.
  • Everyone who hasn't seen Woo Do Hwan on screen.

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