Wow, Netflix has been absolutely killing it recently with these high quality kdrama to stream.
From Itaewon Class, to Extracurricular, to now The King: Eternal Monarch. Even masterpiece “oldies” like Age of Youth (Hello, My Twenties!) and Signal are currently available. If they add Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo I might just die.
What’s a girl to do with so many great things to watch right now? Oh that’s right, lock herself in her room to binge watch and not post for a month. Then decide to write about every single show she’s watched during that time over a span of two days with little to no sleep.
Because every once in a while, this seems to be what I fall back on.
All of that aside, today I wanted to talk about The King: Eternal Monarch. I meant to make this into a mid-season review covering episodes 1-8, but here we are approaching episode 13 so…it seems I am a bit late on that front.
Nonetheless, let us soldier on and theorize together about what exactly is going on in TKEM. Also, this may be formatted a bit differently than my other posts. I began writing this around episode 9 and have since updated what I wrote to correspond with new plot information.
I am essentially just going to focus on certain topics of interest similar to a bullet point format. I hope that is okay with everyone! ☺
So, let’s begin.
What’s the deal with Kang Sin Jae and his family fortune?
I cannot even lie, Sin Jae isn’t my favorite character. He is gloomy, ill-tempered, and does nothing but eat ice pops and mope around. I know that he has an identity crisis, and is originally from the Kingdom of Corea. At this time, it has not been specified how he got to the Republic of Korea.
All we know so far:
- During the beginning of the series, Sin Jae seemed to recognize the KOC sigil during the Lee Lim interrogation.
- Sin Jae again recognizes the KOC sigil on Maximus’ saddle. He questions Lee Gon about it, and gets no answers.
- Constantly visits his old home from the time his family was wealthy.
- Sees a psychologist about the discrepancies in his memories.
- Has nightmares, and cannot sleep well.
- Bottles everything up inside, despite wanting to know the truth. An internal struggle of sorts? Ex 1: Sin Jae asks Tae Eul if she believes in Lee Gon, and that the KOC is real. Tae Eul tries to open a dialogue and Sin Jae immediately dismisses it and essentially calls her crazy.
- Visits ROK Lee Gon’s grave, encounters ROK LG’s mother. Has flashbacks about his own past, and remembers the KOC sigil and hearing Lee Gon cry.
- Ex 2: Sin Jae confronts Lee Gon and Jo Yeong to inquire about their identities after snooping around The King’s hotel room. The two have a talk and Sin Jae takes in the identity revelation before denying it once more. I guess he storms off and leaves, subsequently taking time off from work.
- Sin Jae remembers being very sick (in a coma), and encountering Lee Lim on the street after his true ROC mother abandons him on the street.
- Sin Jae has a memory of looking in the mirror and comparing himself to his counterpart’s parent’s photo in a picture frame. Maybe this is after he awoke from the coma?
So, what on earth does this all mean? I may have missed a few details but, my own theory is that Sin Jae’s true KOC mother was blackmailed or ‘persuaded’ to leave her child unguarded for a time. This evidenced by Lee Lim’s comment about Sin Jae being a “poor move” or something to that effect.
(In the scene during which he learns of Tae Eul and decides to convert Luna to his side).
Sin Jae’s ROK parents were contacted by Lee Lim. In exchange for an exorbitant amount of money, they would receive a boy who looked just like theirs that died. This is how Lee Lim acquired his seed money before recruiting and seeking out his flunkies and their doppelgangers.
The ROK Kang’s were happy to have ‘their’ son back, but fell on hard times.
The father was either set up and framed, or really committed crimes to gain wealth. With her husband gone, his mother took up gambling to support her son, but then got hooked and now cannot stop.
(Ex: Sin Jae repeatedly telling her to stop, arresting her in the hopes it would be a wake up call, etc.)
Sin Jae’s true mother took a job in the palace under false pretense. She aided Lee Lim in his murder of Uncle Buyeong and was either trying to poison herself or another member of the royal household before succumbing to… poison? Herself.
Lee Lim had Sin Jae tailed and the photos are sent to his real mother a world away.
Is this incentive for her to keep going? Is her treason just to regain the son she abandoned years ago?
What are your theories on Sin Jae and his mother?
Why do only certain characters have the lightening scars and marks?
We finally got more information regarding this last episode. It seems those who have crossed worlds and killed their doppelgangers bear scars of their misdeeds.
Maybe Lee Gon is afflicted with scars because his doppelgänger was taken before his time? Or, it’s possibly a yet unknown side effect of wielding the broken Manpasikjeok.
Did Lady Noh somehow leave the Republic of Korea before the war?
In Episode 12, Lady Noh took Tae Eul into her room for a private chat. She spoke of her life up until that point, and forbade Tae Eul from asking questions about what she was about to share.
Lady Noh then asked about the Korean War that tore the Republic of Korea apart.
- Lady Noh was just reading the book of poems Lee Gon brought home from a parallel universe trip.
- Lady Noh escaped the ROK before the war broke out.
- Someone else had possession of Manpasikjeok,
- Or…there are other ways to cross between worlds and time-travel.
What do you think?
Who is Yo-Yo Boy?
Yo-Yo Boy seems to be some sort of deity. The yo-yo has the Red String of Fate, and he can dwell in both worlds.
- When Lee Gon was reviewing footage of Tae Eul from the future (2022) in front of a bookstore in her world, for a moment Yo-Yo Boy makes eye contact with Lee Gon. When he goes to review the footage once more to confirm what just happened, it is gone.
- The deity knows Luna, and is the keeper of her possessions (holding the keys to Luna’s car and inferred belongings). Before going to steal Tae Eul’s life, Luna questions the boy on whether or not she would be punished for her poor actions. After receiving an answer, Luna then asks who taught him to thread a yo-yo string, because it looks like it is about to unravel. – This could be interpreted as the realities bleeding together and becoming chaotic.
- Na Ri (our lore keeper and expositing barista) has cases of déjà vu when her doppelgänger and Eun Sup are together. Along with Yo-Yo Boy, she helps to explain what is happening in the universe and its laws.
Finally, (there’s probably more, but…) Yo-Yo Boy saves Tae Eul when she is kidnapped. Judging by the purple-ish foggy background that should have been blue skies outside the warehouse door, he stops time. Or, brings them both into another realm to speak.
Actually, applying universal laws…it makes more sense that the realm Yo-Yo Boy brought them to passes time more slowly than both the KOC and the ROK. If Yo-Yo Boy is a deity and controls fate, time and/or destiny, it would be easier to just open a portal or ‘doorway’ to Tae Eul’s current timeline to help, and then escape when necessary.
What is your opinion on this one?
I have a little story: I have actually seen my own doppelgänger before.
It was years ago, when I was still in college. I had to commute there daily on the train, and was on my way back home after a long day. I wasn’t sleepy though, actually painfully wide awake.
My feet hurt and because the car I was in (and the entire rush hour train for that matter) was overcrowded, I stood the whole time right by the train car doors.
Looking out the window, I listened to music and just thought about my day.
There is a huge station about twenty minutes out from the city and there are a multitude of tracks. Oft times, trains pass by simultaneously at this particular point during the ride without stopping for one another. I loved looking into the train windows that passed by. Glimpsing other commuters, taking peeks into their lives.
Once in a while, someone would be doing the same. We’d make eye contact despite the distance, smile or wave at one another and then start laughing.
But that day, something was different.
As the train closest to us rolled by, I saw a girl who looked exactly like me in another train car. She was sitting down by the window, reading a book. Her clothes were different from mine, but everything else was the same. The hair, the hair color, etc.
She even had on a turquoise and silver button down shirt I favored wearing.
I pressed my hand against the glass in shock, instantly believing it was a bad omen. I wanted so badly for her to look up and sense the tension I felt, but she didn’t. The train just rolled on toward the downward rail going into the tunnel we had just came up from.
After that, I looked up ‘what does it mean if you see your doppelganger?’ on my phone and the search results confirmed my suspicions.
Walking home that day, and frankly for a while after that – I was very cautious. In the end, nothing happened. Although creepily enough, I don’t really remember my past.
Certain things or events others remember clearly are now hazy to me. I’ve written about this before, but I feel like the old me was a different person.
The déjà vu I frequently experienced is now but almost gone. But, there are still other memories. Memories that are not mine.
Maybe my doppelgänger got a hold of me, stole my memories and is now living my life. Or, we merged.
I know from the tone of this story you probably think I’m joking but I’m actually completely serious.
Lastly, Lee Min Ho’s image and the typical roles he takes.
I’m glad Lee Min Ho is breaking free from his typical cookie-cutter roles. I.E. the tortured rich kid who just wants to find love, drive expensive sports cars, travel to international locations and wear designer clothes while fighting for the woman he loves.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but when you’ve essentially been playing the same character for years…it gets boring. And please, don’t get me wrong – I actually really like Lee Min Ho as an actor.
Boys Over Flowers was one of the first kdrama series I watched and it’s what got me into kdrama in the long run. As a sort of homage, I usually watch anything Lee Min Ho is in. I haven’t seen them all, but I have watched The Legend of the Blue Sea (my mom loved that one) and The Heirs. I tried watching City Hunter but just couldn’t get into it.
I’m so glad Writer Kim is adding so many plot twists and absolute role-reversals. It has exceeded my expectations.
In the beginning of this series (and until a few episodes ago) I totally thought King Lee Gon was a wimp. A soft, scarred King who hung out with two very old people and was afraid to do anything. When Lee Lim had the audacity to stroll into the Kingdom of Corea during the NYE celebrations I was pissed. I was SO SURE the King would just take Lee Lim and his goons out right there and then.
Then, after Prince Buyeong, who had been portrayed as slightly shady the entire time due to his silence and solemn penance when certain topics were brought up was murdered, I was certain Lee Gon would do something.
I was slightly disappointed when he just fell apart into a crying, blubbering mess. I rolled my eyes when he came to see Tae Eul and offered her flowers.
Given the current revelations though that scene might not have even happened yet in their collective timeline.
Anyway, the point is I wasn’t expecting much from him. So when his overbearing greedy cousin was cleaning out his late father’s study while talking shit to the King, I wasn’t surprised when Lee Gon handled the confrontation coolly.
However, I was surprised when he actually enacted a special law to behead a fugitive. His no good cousin was surprised when he actually enacted a special law to behead a fugitive.
Lee Lim, the no good textbook evil uncle with zero positive character development regarding his motive other than:
he is a jilted royal bastard,
wanted to be king,
and found a legend about a magic flute that can change the world and went with it;
killing everything on his path to greatness and achieving godhood – was surprised when Lee Gon actually enacted a special law to behead a fugitive.
Sadly, I actually agreed with Lee Lim when he made comments suggesting he didn’t think Lee Gon actually had it in him to be so brutal. One of two current miscalculations Lee Lim has made. Not including bringing Sin Jae to the ROK, but rather believing Lee Gon would fall apart after seeing “the woman who shares (his) mother’s face”.
Lee Gon started the series arguably weak, while Tae Eul and Sin Jae were portrayed as no-nonsense, hard-ass cops. That is…until they had to fight that gang of criminals.
Where…Lee Gon…beat them all with a single riding crop.
Only for Tae Eul to devolve from a spunky, intuitive detective to a woman who cries at the drop of a dime, stares wistfully out the dojo windows and googles how to grow a plant.
Admittedly, she has been through a lot in a short period of time. The events she experienced would take a toll on anyone. Tae Eul also confessed that she was pretending to be okay, but really wasn’t. So…there’s that, I guess.
This is not a criticism of her character or the actress, but rather…just where her storyline is going at this point in time.
Sin Jae thinks he is so tough but got beat up in a high school flashback and had to be saved my Tae Eul. Then, Sin Jae acquired many scars during the battle with the criminal gang where Lee Gon used his riding crop.
The hot head even almost gets beat up by Lee Lim’s right hand man – an old man. The detective breaks glass in a rage, thinks up a scheme to indict the mystery assailant on criminal charges, but doesn’t have the foresight to notice the assailant would probably take the broken glass and cut him with it in defense.
But, I’ve gone on long enough.
What do you think?
Is The King: Eternal Monarch heading toward a happy ending? Will Tae Eul become the Queen of the Kingdom of Corea? (provided Minister Koo doesn’t murder her first…)
Are Yeong and Eun Sup truly the best thing about this series?
Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more Kdrama theories and reviews!
☆ In Asian Spaces