One of the biggest problems facing The King: Eternal Monarch right now is its pacing. The first 5 episodes have so far delivered some pretty good characterisation but at the expense of a story that hasn’t really advanced all that much. With the halfway point of this Korean drama approaching, Eternal Monarch finally starts to step it up a gear, with some solid foundations for next week and a tense (albeit anticlimactic) showdown in Corea with rival military forces.
Episode 6 of The King: Eternal Monarch begins with Prime Minister Koo introducing herself to Tae-Eul. She dances around telling her her name though and instead calls herself a traveler. As Lee Gon takes his leave with her, Koo remains suspicious.
On his private jet, Lee Gon and Tae-Eul exchange words via their hands as Secretary Mo’s wide-eyed stare shows how scandalous this act is in Corea. When they land, Lee Gon cooks for Tae-Eul and they discuss his past involving Lee Lim and the scar inflicted by him on his neck; a constant reminder of his hell. As they sit down to eat, Lee Gon hands over Tae-Eul’s ID card he’s kept all this time.
A suspicious Captain Jo hands over the glass and fingerprint to one of his advisors, intending to check Tae-Eul on the system for matches. Before they can proceed however, both men receive a message from Koo to attend an urgent meeting by the NSC.
The Japanese Navy make a strategic military move and enter territorial waters. Given this is the third time they’ve done this and Koo has talked them down twice, they learn that this may not work out as effectively a third time. Koo summons the troops to mobilize and prepare for action while the Japanese ships sail toward Corean shores.
Back in the Republic Of Korea, Sin-Jae has flashbacks to the past where he was beaten down by 6 boys before Tae-Eul phoned the police and helped her. Exuding confidence, she beats one of the boys down with one kick and proceeds to help Sin-Jae, encouraging him to take up Taekwondo and learn to stick up for himself.
As Lee Gon prepares for the fight ahead, dressed in naval gear, Tae-Eul promises to wait for him as she heads back to the Republic and slots back into her role as a police investigator. Later Tae-Eul flashes back to her time during the world between worlds where she presents her pack of Imaginary Flowers and tries to make them grow.
In Corea, Lee Gon makes a strategic move and presses ahead with surrounding the Japanese vessel. The King’s flag is raised and with it, acknowledgement that the King himself is on the ship. He fires a warning shot at the Aegis and for now at least, things remain stabilized. The conflict however, feels like it’s far from over.
Back at the palace, Jo-Young learns there’s no match for Tae-Eul on the system and sets to work on the next stage of his plan. He searches through the CCTV footage and finds a match with Tae-Eul. He remains quiet in the presence of Lee Gon though, who’s called away by Prince Buyeong who presents him with the death certificate of the man that’s supposed to be Lee Lim… only it clearly isn’t Lee Lim and the Prince has been lying all this time. Lee Gon realizes that his rival is still alive.
Lee Lim shows up in Korea and orders coffee, which is given to him by none other than Na-Ri. He tells her a typhoon is coming and as he leaves, lightning crackles across the sky prompting his neck to spark with the same strange glow as Lee Gon’s has in the past.
Realizing that Lee Lim is going to be coming for the other half of the flute, Lee Gon jumps across to Korea again and stands waiting for Tae-Eul as she arrives at the Taekwondo Centre. She rushes toward him and throws her arms around him, thankful that she’s safe as the episode ends.
While the conflict with Japan in Corea adds a nice injection of pace for this K-drama, the resolution does feel a bit anticlimactic. However, this does help to set the foundation for a possible war on the horizon which I’d imagine will be used to push Koo into the forefront of the conflict and take the reigns in the wake of Lee Gon’s absence. Considering her popularity and disdain for Lee Gon are both growing given his affection for Tae-Eul, this could lead Corea into a war with Japan.
At the same time, we’ve got Lee Lim starting to plant his seeds by potentially switching characters between the two worlds and setting into motion his plan to get the flute from Lee Gon. There’s certainly a lot of moving pieces here and so far the drama hasn’t really moved them around in any significant way. Having said that, this does feel like the calm before the storm and potentially one of those dramas that suddenly explodes into action after so much characterisation early on.
Lee Gon and Tae-Eul are both starting to slot into their romanticized characters pretty well now and with lots of unanswered questions and an exciting preview of episode 7, The King: Eternal Monarch has all the ingredients to make for a thrilling second half of the season. Whether it can cook this up into a satisfying dish of spicy kimchi however, remains to be seen.