Following yesterday’s dramatic cliffhanger, The King: Eternal Monarch returns in a big way with an action-packed 70 minutes that help to flesh out more of this world and give some crucial screen-time to Lee Lim himself. Lee Jung-Jin plays this cold and calculated man to perfection and he steals every scene he’s in. As we start to approach the business end of this drama now, Eternal Monarch is really starting to come into its own and this world-hopping drama ends on quite the dramatic note, along with hints that time travel is starting to come into this now, as predicted weeks ago when time froze.
Episode 10 of The King: Eternal Monarch begins in Korea as Shin-Jae talks to a therapist about his situation. As he does, we cut back to see Tae-Eul and Shin-Jae together eating at a food stall and talking about Corea. She discusses Sang-Do still being alive and the doppelgangers. As they continue to eat, she eventually asks him for help but he walks away, refusing to entertain the notion of there being a second world.
Instead, Tae-Eul walks to the portal and greets Lee-Gon as he heads back through from the other side. As he does, she sees the balloon fly away (symbolic to what happens later on, which we’ll discuss at the end!) and throws her arms around him, embracing Lee Gon tightly. With Lunar New Year on the way, Tae-Eul speaks to Jo-Young about his situation, explaining how Eun-Sup is also probably having a tough time. Back home, his siblings raise suspicions around how “cool” Eun-Sup suddenly is and as they leave, he comments on how inquisitive they are.
In Corea, Lee Gon returns in time for the Lunar New Year celebrations, quizzing the staff over what day it is, and wishes everyone a Happy New Year. With a year left of Koo’s term, she works hard to try and win over Lee Gon by asking Ok-Nam how she can woo him. She remains tight-lipped though and not long after, Eun-Sup receives a call and it brings him to the police station with the King.
It’s here they’re shown information about Luna before turning their attention to Gi-Hwan, the man Lee Gon captured and threw in the palace dungeon last episode. Only, it turns out he took his own life and is registered as dead. That means the man Lee Gon’s captured is actually his counterpart from Korea.
After finding this out and watching the lanterns starting to fall, Lee Gon races off to the portal as everything freezes around him. Inquiring with the guards, he finds out that Lee Lim hasn’t passed through the portal either way meaning he must be using a different location to jump worlds. At a guess, it seems like he’s using the bookstore but for now, that remains a mystery.
Realizing he’s missing a crucial part of this puzzle, Lee Gon calls the guards back to the Palace before racing into town where we catch up with the scenes from the previous episode; Lee Gon comes face to face with the traitor Lee Lim.
Before seeing their showdown, we cut back in time and see more of their conversation on the phone, with Lee Lim challenging him to meet. This catches us up to the present as Lee Lim’s followers hold several bystanders up at knife-point. Lee Gon tells his men to hold their fire but Lee Lim’s men don’t do the same. Eun-Sup spots the bullet and sacrifices himself to prevent the King from being shot, taking the bullet himself.
As Lee Gon controls the situation and calls the guards to care for the injured, Lee Gon tries to awaken Eun-Sup. In the aftermath of the shoot-out, Lee Lim starts to trend on social media and it brings Koo into thinking the rumours of him being alive are true. As word of this gets round to the coffee shop the Prince is visiting, he learns about the King being shot at and races back. Thankfully, Eun-Sup’s bulletproof vest prevents there being a more serious injury to him beyond a few bruises.
Back at the palace, Koo phones through and speaks to Lee Gon about the possibility of Lee Lim still being alive. Realizing this could be made out to be a political scandal, Lee Gon instead decides to spin the story that this was simply Lee Lim’s followers conducting an act of terrorism. Given the state of panic gripping the kingdom, Lee Gon tells Secretary Mo to call a press conference to quell any concerns.
In Korea, Jo-Young and Tae-Eul visit Yeon-Ji in prison and ask who gave her the phone. She acts shifty though and refuses to meet their gaze. It’s enough for the duo to realize they may be onto something. Later that evening, Shin-Jae and Tae-Eul sit together and discuss Corea, including all the differences there compared to here. As they keep talking, Shin-Jae opens up and we learn more about him, including his intuition that he knew Lee Gon’s name before he told them, meaning he’s starting to understand where he’s really from.
In the aftermath of this, Tae-Eul heads back to the hotel room and greets Jo-Young with food. As they discuss Lee Lim and traveling back and forth between worlds, Jo-Young asks whether she’ll be able to handle the worlds being separated forever and Lee-Gon moving on and marrying the Queen just like tradition expects. It’s something she clearly hadn’t thought about before and the revelation certainly gets her thinking.
Back in Corea, a blood-stained Lee Lim arrives in the palace and confronts the Prince. He promises to choke his nephew and take Manpasiljok for himself but before he goes, he kills the Prince and leaves him in a heap on the ground.
Secretary Mo returns to the King’s chambers and breaks the bad news to him about the Prince. While the funeral takes place, we’re graced with a hard cut to Korea as we see Lee Gon greeting Tae-Eul one more time with a bouquet of flowers and saying his goodbyes. Before he goes, he tells her he loves her deeply – something he had difficulty saying earlier in the season. As he walks away from her after their fated kiss, Tae-Eul is left with the flowers and falls to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably, which is where the episode ends.
There’s a lot of unanswered questions here, including who the boy with the yo-yo is (I’m wagering a guess that it’s Shin-Jae) and Lee Gon’s different appearances but one thing seems almost certain – Lee Gon is jumping through time and we may be experiencing a different Lee Gon every time he’s jumping through the portal.
The red balloon floating away is certainly interesting, perhaps even symbolic to Lee Gon “letting go” of Tae-Eul in Korea at the end of the episode. It seems likely that the Lee Gon at the end is one that’s already time travelled and it backs up the earlier scenes with Ok-Nam when he asked whether he “made it back in time” and what the date was.
Much like Netflix’s German mind-bender Dark, The King: Eternal Monarch feels like a show that’s set up for a binge-watch. There are so many little hints dotted through the episodes that time travel is involved (the “white rabbit” being chased, the mystery man/woman in the throne room etc.) that trying to remember all of this each week is pretty difficult.
Thankfully, we’re starting to reach the business end of the series now and it seems likely that everything is going to start slotting into place soon. Some of the subplots have still gone unexplained (Lee Lim’s motive with the dopplegangers being switched being one of them) but there’s enough here to make for an entertaining watch nonetheless. Roll on next week’s set of episodes!