Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey
The King: Eternal Monarch returns this week after a single episode last week with a really strong but also narratively conflicted episode. For a long time it looks like the series was gearing up for a time paradox – what happens in the past has always and will always influence the future – but alas that’s not the case given the ending we receive here. Still, there’s a lot of neat little Easter Eggs that are thrown in and make sense now in the context of what we’ve seen and it certainly makes for an enthralling watch.
Episode 14 of The King: Eternal Monarch begins with Shin-Jae stepping into the hospital ward and finding his doppelganger lying with a face mask on. However, the nurse tending to him arrives and tells Shin-Jae that she was told to inform a family member to “answer the phone” when they arrive.
In Korea, Luna poisons the King and tells him she’s after the whip but thankfully Jo-Young arrives and manages to tend to him before its too late. However, Luna slips out before Jo-Young can stop her, just as paramedics arrive to rush him to hospital. Given it was Luna who poisoned Lee-Gon, Tae-Eul isn’t allowed to go in and visit him; after all, Jo-Young can’t be certainly she’s not Luna. Instead, Tae-Eul phones Eun-Sup and tells him to ring the minute she returns home. Understanding that this “she” refers to Tae-Eul’s doppelganger, he hangs up and remains vigilant.
Lee Lim meanwhile, charges through the bamboo forest and contemplates just how Lee Gon was able to jump back through time and stop him. On the other side, Lee Gon stands before that very same portal and the two walk through into the world between worlds. Lee Lim is surrounded by floating photographs on his side – something he’s been using to blackmail those to his cause- while Lee Gon has red balloons. They both cross at the same time and hurry over, just as a picture of Tae-Eul fades from existence and in its place, a flower blooms in that strange world – just as Lee Gon told her that would never happen.
They both jump back 1 hour before coup that saw King fall at Lee Lim’s blade. Lee Lim sees himself and tells him he’s here to save him. It turns out, this was always destined to happen and he tasks the past Lee Lim to kill the crown prince and in doing so, he’ll show a shortcut back to whence he came. Lee Lim scoffs though, turning his nose up at the proposition and double crossing himself, slashing future Lee Lim across the throat and killing him. When he bends down to grab the other half of the flute, it disintegrates in his hands.
The incident in the palace continues to play out much like it did before, as Lee Gon races in and kills all the guards. Lee Lim watches in shock as he realizes his older self was correct. They retreat just as they were always supposed to and Lee Gon drops Tae-Eul’s ID card. On the way out the palace, Lee Gon reveals himself to Ok-Nam and tells her he’s following his destiny – just as she always advised.
Outside, snow falls to the ground as Lee Gon makes quick work of the guards and continues on to follow the spatters of blood to Seung-Heon who happens to be waiting by the gate. It’s here Lee-Gon realizes this man was the one who helped Lee Lim escape to Korea.
Back in our present timeline, Tae-Eul rings the King but Jo-Young picks up the phone, revealing that he’s gone. At the same time, Shin-Jae heads into prison to talk to his Father, unveiling the truth that he was switched with the alternate version of himself at Lee Lim’s command. Now understanding that he’s actually from Corea, Shin-Jae finds himself lost and confused over what to do next. Eventually he makes his choice, and decides to rush Hyeon-Min to the hospital.
Meanwhile, Lee-Gon jumps back through the portal but finds himself struggling to get back to the present time. In order to get back to his own time period, Lee Gon realizes he needs to spend 4 months in the alternate place between worlds. Before he does though, in 1994 he rings through to the police and reveals that Eun-Ho, Seong-Jae, Ji-Hun and Jeong-Hye are in trouble. As he hurries off, Lee-Gon runs into a 5 year old Tae-Eul and tells her he’ll find a way back to her.
Back in the present, Tae-Eul continues to water her plants hopefully, wondering just why they’re not blooming. Gyeong-Ran from Forensics rings and reveals something strange she’s uncovered – that very same recording from 1994 of the King. They suspect he’s the one responsible for the deaths but given this has changed her memories, Tae-Eul finally understands why she can remember him from her past now.
After narrowly escaping a sabotaged building, which blows into a fiery inferno, the Police Officers scramble to learn what’s happening while Koo rings her Mother and tells her to make sure she mentions she had mackerel when she rings again. When Koo hangs up, she grabs the phone stuffed in the drawer and starts talking about the flute too, contemplating just what it means.
Tae-Eul meanwhile finds more memories come flooding back, this time on Election Day 2016 when Lee Gon rung her and requested to speak. Instead of giving her an ID card, he puts a hairband on her wrist and tells her that when they meet again, he hopes she’ll be friendlier.
As Tae-Eul watches in the phone-booth, writing appears as Lee Gon writes out a date and time. “Wait for me just a little bit, I’m almost there.” Lee Gon then goes on to meet Jo-Young in Corea. At the same time, Luna is jumping through time and runs away in the rabbit costume; she was the one dressed as the white rabbit who the King chased all along and ends up with a card in her hand.
Back in the present, Tae-Eul watches Luna from afar as she adopts her life and hangs out with Na-Ri and Tae-Eul’s father. As they lock eyes, Tae-El sets to work confronting her doppelganger. As they stand face to face in the alleyway, Luna promises to kill her and proceeds to stab Tae-Eul in the stomach. As she falls to a crumpled heap on the ground, Luna walks away back inside the house, leaving our heroine to tend to her wounds and struggling to call for back-up.
With time seemingly rewriting itself now, Tae-Eul meets Lee Gon in Korea on Maximus just as before but this time she hugs the King who’s confused over just how Tae-Eul seems to know who he is, which is where the episode ends.
In essence, The King: Eternal Monarch’s latest episode is a drama of two halves. The first is almost perfect, showing all those fragments from time we’ve missed and managing to add some lovely details to what we’ve seen over the previous episodes. From Ok-Nam being aware of who Lee Gon was and just why she was interested in him fulfilling his destiny all this time, to Lee-Gon’s various jumps through the portal, these work really well to round out this sci-fi tale.
At the same time, the second half of this episode appears to start sliding down a very different path as Lee Gon rewrites history in his bid to desperately get back to Tae-Eul. The rewriting of memories and messing with different versions of Tae-Eul is bound to open a can of worms and it’s something that’s particularly problematic for a lot of characters here. While Lee Lim’s ending is poetically ironic and definitely the right way to kill him off, it also begs the question as to why he wasn’t prepared for this better if it’s always happened. Wouldn’t Lee Lim be wise to his own arrogance?
Even worse though is Lee Gon’s meddling through time and changing his destiny. We’ve seen that he was destined to have Tae-Eul look deeper into his past to set this chain of events off, all of which stemming from her untrustworthy nature when he arrives in Korea. If she knows who he is, wouldn’t it change the future? The whole point of her going to Corea originally was so he can prove his theory right about two worlds and without that, or with a wiser Tae-Eul, it’s debatable about how you could even have these two versions of Lee-Gon running around.
Still, the soundtrack is on-point and as a romantic tale of two lovers caught in different periods of time, The King: Eternal Monarch does an excellent job capturing that and it makes for quite the enjoyable watch. Despite its time travel issues, this drama continues to deliver the goods and hopefully we’ll receive more conclusive answers tomorrow over what the repercussions are (if any!) for Lee Gon changing the future.