Episode 1 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 9 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 10 -| Review Score – 5/5
Episode 11 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 12 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 13 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 14 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 15 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 16 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Shows involving time travel are always tricky to pull off correctly. From plot holes and convoluted lore to stories rife for contrivances and confusion, The King: Eternal Monarch begins with a fair amount of confusion before righting itself and becoming something wholly engrossing and highly enjoyable. Between parallel worlds and a love story anchoring everything together, this hugely popular Korean drama is helped by a returning Lee Min-Ho who fronts this sci-fi series and helps add a lot of charisma.
The story itself revolves around two parallel worlds; the Republic of Korea as we know it and the Kingdom of Corea. In Corea, the King is killed by his Uncle, Lee Lim, while his son Lee Gon faces certain death at his hands. Thankfully, a mysterious cloaked figure approaches and saves him from his fate, fighting through the guards and forcing this man to flee. The only remnant left behind is an ID card for a woman named Tae-Eul.
From here, we cut forward in time as we follow a grown Lee Gon, sporting a scar from his Uncle’s attack and leading the Kingdom of Corea. When he discovers a portal leading to another world, and two ends of a flute that cause this to happen, what follows is a portal-hopping journey between both worlds in a bid to save time itself from collapsing. With Lee Lim alive and formulating a plot to change the world, the story soon complicates matters by the inclusion of both versions of the same character from Korea and Corea, sometimes switching sides or meeting their alter-selves.
All of this builds up to the climactic fight to change destiny while establishing some time travel lore along the way. Only, this does change and bend to suit the plot more toward the end. Without giving too much away, the ideas presented during the series hint that what happened in the past will always happen; a cyclical series of events that are impossible to change. Only, this isn’t the case and fate does change toward the end as our characters set out to right the wrongs and change the course of history.
Anchoring all of this together is the love story between Tae-Eul and Lee Gon. The duo begin with a pretty frosty reception and not much chemistry but as the season progresses, they do grow into their roles and have a lot more affection together. The rare instances of comedy are well-implemented and the series does a good job capturing this during opportune moments. Ultimately it’s the supporting cast that really shine here though and all the actors do an excellent job portraying two alternate versions of themselves. Woo Do-Hwan portrays the cool-headed King’s guard Jo-Young and the wacky Eun-Sup wonderfully and the scenes they share together are excellent.
Stylistically, the series does have trouble from time to time distinguishing between the two different worlds and the editing does the show no favours when deciphering whether we’re in Corea or Korea. Thankfully, most of the action does take place within the Palace in Corea so it’s not too much of an issue but it is worth bearing in mind.
The soundtrack is decent too and the different themes capture the emotions felt throughout the series nicely (we’ve reviewed that separately so won’t go into too much detail here.) Visually, the show does well to add some light special effects and some of the dissolving and time freezing are naturally implemented into the show.
The King: Eternal Monarch is a wonderful Korean drama that perfectly portrays its love story centre stage while adding enough twists and turns along the way to make for a highly enjoyable watch. As a binge-watch however, Eternal Monarch does feel like it may be quite a heavy one to plough through in one go – especially given the 75 minute run-time for each episode. As a show to digest and take your time with, this is well worth watching. It may not be the best K-drama of the year, but it is certainly a challenger for that throne and definitely a must-watch for 2020.