Well here we are guys. After 15 episodes of theories, time jumps and shocking twists and turns it all comes down to this final 75 minute episode. Although some will undoubtedly be left disappointed with the way this one ends, personally the main theme of two people trying to find each other through time and find their place is this world is beautifully realized and does a great job capturing this. While it looked like the show would go the bittersweet route and end things with time reset, we actually receive a pretty conclusive and satisfying ending for our protagonists.
While some of the time jumping and individual moments are needlessly confusing, at least we didn’t receive an anticlimactic ending like Memories Of The Alhambra. Instead, there’s enough here to make for a satisfying journey that’s rewarded with a decent ending for most of the characters we’ve been following over the weeks.
The season finale of The King: Eternal Monarch begins with Shin-Jae slumping against the side of the wall following Tae-Eul’s rejection. He thinks back to all those moments they spent together and struggles to prevent tears welling up. Lee Lim meanwhile, finds himself caught at gunpoint by Tae-Eul who forces him to walk into the portal to Corea.
Meanwhile, Jo-Young and Lee-Gon make it to the Kingdom of Corea in 1994, the night of the treason. Jo-Young snaps the neck of the traitorous gate-keeper as Lee Gon tells him he’s going to kill Lee Lim. After giving his faithful companion one final order, Lee Gon charges toward the palace with the Four Tiger Sword.
In the portal between worlds, Tae-Eul keeps Lee Lim held up at gunpoint until Lee Gon has completed his mission and killed the past Lee Lim in the throne room; a ploy to prevent all of this from happening.
In the throne room, the pivotal moment plays out just as foretold as the glass shatters and Lee Gon enters. Only…this time he enters without a mask and with Jo-Young by his side. With both of them together, they charge into the throne room and kill the guards with ease in a slick, orchestrated move. Unfortunately, Jo-Young is injured in the process and passes out by the side as guards rush in and tend to the injured young King.
As Lee Gon and Tae-Eul start to change destiny, the fragments of the flute dissolve and fade away. Without Gon’s side of the flute it means he’s stuck in Corea and given Lim’s side of it fades too, he’s now stuck with Tae-Eul in the world between worlds.
Back in Korea, Shin-Jae shows his Mother that world’s version of him and she breaks down in tears, sobbing and desperate for him to bring the real Shin-Jae back. Only, as he walks away she rushes after him and throws her arms around the heartbroken boy, calling him her son.
Back in 1994 at the palace, the past Lee Lim is stopped by Gon before he can enter the portal at the bamboo forest. Only, as Lee Lim tells Tae-Eul in the portal between worlds if he’s actually stopped in the past then he wouldn’t be standing there. Only, we’ve seen across the previous few episodes that isn’t how time works in this show.
As flowers start blooming in Tae-Eul’s house and the balloons shake and move, time unfreezes in that realm and Lee Lim is hit in the chest with several bullets from Tae-Eul’s gun. The power of the flute has caused this to occur and the chain reaction sees the photos wither and die too. The final act of this sees Lee Gon behading Lee Lim as he’s killed in cold blood.
As soon as this happens, the yo-yo child comments that his toy has broken as we shift to several scenes of him as a child and teenager, watching from the wings in both Corea and Korea as the different events over the season have played out while he makes sure the balance is kept intact. With time now rewritten, Lee Gon’s scar fades away too and this means time will flow differently. As we cut to different shared memories between worlds, it all fades away as time is reset.
All those moments Lee Lim interfered with time are undone, including Hyeon-Min’s Mum finally turning her life around, Ji-Hun living and his Uncle still confined to a wheelchair. Seo-Hyung stops Luna from stealing money and instead, her Mother shows compassion and invites the girl in for food.
Tae-Eul meanwhile, wakes up in Korea during April 25th. Only, she still has her memories intact of Lee Gon and Shin-Jae. In this world though, neither of those people exist. As she wanders the streets and tries to make sense of what’s happening, to add insult to injury a grown Ji-Hun walks past in his naval outfit but obviously doesn’t recognize her given it’s the wrong version of Gon. Meanwhile, Lee Gon jumps through multiple worlds to try and find his version of Tae-Eul, including visiting one version of her that’s drunk and recently married and another reconciling differences with her Mum.
In the Republic of Korea 2021 Na-Ri phones Tae-Eul and tells her a man is there looking to sell a horse; that man happens to be Lee Gon. As the two finally embrace after all this time, we learn that Lee Gon went back to save Jo-Young before jumping through every doorway in a bid to find her. As the two look at one another, Lee Gon tells her he loves her deeply and she tells him she loves him too.
In Corea 2022 time seems to have course-corrected itself. Hyeon-Min is still alive and in the police force while Luna is now working as a police officer. She visits an imprisoned Koo who happens to be the half-sister of Luna. Where Koo’s mother took her under her wing as a child, it looks like she may have adopted Luna and straightened her out. Koo bemoans her luck though and ironically suggests she should have become the Prime Minister instead.
As it turns out, the King and Tae-Eul have been meeting secretly every weekend away from their current lives to catch up on missed time, jumping through the portals together to different periods while being careful not to jump into their counterparts. One of the worlds they visit Lee Gon is actually a tyrant and they’re forced to leave quickly before anyone recognizes them.
After meeting Lee Gon’s Uncle in another time, Tae-Eul hopes they end up in the Joseon period while Lee Gon cheekily shows some leaves and shrugs, “You never know, we might end up in THAT time period,” hinting naughtily at prehistoric times which Tae-Eul certainly doesn’t take too kindly.
The next time period sees Eun-Sup finally happy, looking suave and dating Na-Ri. Lee-Gon calls him the unbreakable sword and as he walks away, Eun-Sup shakes his head and calls him insane.
Midway through jumping between worlds, in Corea Jo-Young notices Lee-Gon has gone and is stopped by the Royal Guard. Lee-Gon grabs Tae-Eul who happens to be with him and hides his lover under his robe to make sure no one sees her. In his room though, Ok-Nam arrives prompting Gon to hide Tae-Eul under the face mask in a hilarious scene. The comedy continues not long after when Tae-Eul tries to hide evidence of her being in this world, heading to the camera footage and narrating footage of Jo-Young with a clear secret as he passes a note to Seung-A.
As the duo return to their daily lives, Prime Minister Mo makes office as the Prime Minister in Corea while Tae-Eul continues to work as an officer in Korea. Time is seemingly saved now and the duo continue to live their separate, parallel lives, meeting at the weekend and jumping through time periods together. As the scene fades, the duo walk away with fragmented scenes of them holding hands and growing old.
If there’s one blemish on this series it comes from the slightly hazy rules regarding jumping through time and how Lee Lim needed to be killed twice (or three times if you count the previous episode). Beyond this though, the love story that dominates this Korean drama has been really well written and the way Gon finds Tae-Eul after all that time is a beautiful way to end their epic journey over the weeks. There’s hints of Hotel Del Luna too in the manner this plays out and that reunion between the two when they finally meet again is certainly heart-wrenching. Unlike the bittersweet, tear-jerking ending to Luna, Eternal Monarch by comparison is pretty uplifting, ending things on a really poetic note.
It looks like Tae-Eul and Lee Gon will live out their lives happily but to be honest, the possibility of a second season could still show up if the duo mess around with one of the parallel universes or end up stuck there. What would happen if the pair arrive back in tyrant Lee Gon’s world and have to hide from the guards? What if they did end up in the Joseon period but were outed as enemies of the state? There’s lots of possibilities but to be honest there’s enough here to round out a conclusive finish and take to what we’ve been given in a self-contained 16 episode structure in true k-drama fashion.
It won’t be for everyone and some will be a little disappointed but personally the way this finishes offers up the perfect end to this tale. With most of the big plot points explained, it’s only small plot holes that are easy to look past in the wake of this tale. The King: Eternal Monarch has been a wonderful Korean drama and certainly one of the better offerings this year.