Tae-Eul In Wonderland
The King: Eternal Monarch has, so far at least, struggled to hit those same heights the opening chapter achieved so effortlessly. There’s certainly a lot to like about this though and the slow burn mystery and teasing glimpses of sci-fi elements certainly piques enough interest to stick around with this one. Having said that though, this episode essentially works to deepen Tae-Eul’s character and begins to drip feed information at Lee Lim’s plan, leaving enough open for tomorrow’s episode following the cliffhanger ending.
Episode 5 of The King: Eternal Monarch begins in the Republic Of Korea with Shin-Jae learning that Maximus and Lee Gon have now gone. After this brief introduction, we cut across to Corea where Jo-Young rings through to Ok-Nam and tells her that Lee Gon has returned. As she looks at the Four Tiger Sword, Lee Gon welcomes Tae-Eul to his world. He also shows her a strange gateway where time passes differently. For now though this remains a mystery, as Lee Gon takes her back to the palace.
On the way, an altercation outside involving Jo-Young sees him recognize her as Tae-Eul, and they take her across the water to the palace. While the King attends his duties, Tae-Eul is tended to by Na-Ri. Only, in this universe she’s known as Meung Seung-A. Although she still has the same straight forward mannerisms, Tae-Eul finds herself in over her head and tries to learn more about this world, calling herself an illegal migrant.
Jo-Young arrives soon after and requests her thumb print. He outright asks just who she is and questions whether she’s the one who caused the scars on Lee Gon’s shoulder to materialize. This is the first time Tae-Eul has heard about this of course, and she looks surprised when he asks.
Leaving the room, Lee Gon coolly arrives with a plate full of food and dismisses his advisors. She demands he try the food first given she’s like Alice In Wonderland but when he refuses, she wolfs it down until Ok-Nam arrives and escorts her to her room. One that’s the furthest away from Lee Gon’s of course.
Given strict instructions by Ok-Nam, Tae-Eul tries to settle in but struggles to acclimatize to this strange new world. The King figures out what room she’s in and he settles in with her, sitting against the bed and talking about this world. When the conversation turns to dating, Lee Gon kisses her tenderly but she simply stares at him, unmoving.
In the morning, the King heads back to her room and suggests they leave without the court lady knowing… only Ok-Nam happens to be in the room and she berates him for his naivety. Armed with a disguise for her to wear, the King does his rounds, hitting a basketball in the hoop and discussing math to a room full of eager listeners.
The King is forced to head off alone without his security detail though, straight to a crash site, while Lee Lim meets with a poor woman and tells her she needs to kill her own self in Corea to take a better life for herself. That poor woman presumably has familial ties to Congressman Park in Corea, with the implication he’s planting decoys there, but for now this is very much in the realm of guesswork and speculation.
Tae-Eul continues to explore Corea, heading to the police station and exploring her old hang-out spots. The King eventually calls Jo-Young to go and gather her, bringing Tae-Eul to him. It turns out Tae-Eul was looking for her Mum all this time but before she can elaborate further, Prime Minister Koo arrives with news. As she greets them both, she outstretches her hand and introduces herself to Tae-Eul.
While Lee Lim’s motive is certainly intriguing, his frustratingly limited amount of time on-screen right now is a bit of a shame. His character is severely under-utilized here and while the romance between Tae-Eul and Lee Gon is given time to grow and manifest in a pretty organic way, as a sci-fi drama this one feels a little too slow. Exploring Corea is such a trip though and seeing the subtle changes in Korea is one of the stand-outs of this episode, doing well to keep things engaging while the actual plot line starts to grow a bit lethargic.
With plenty of promise and the foundations set here for a dramatic second half to follow, let’s hope tomorrow’s episode picks up the pace a bit.