Before I start, can we just give a round of applause to writer Kim Eun Sook?👏🏻 How she comes up with these fantasy stories is just brilliant and I know I’m not the only one who is grateful for getting to watch her creations come to life on screen. The King: Eternal Monarch kdrama ruled with a gorgeous cinematography, had a royal line-up of characters, and bestowed a new tale of love and conflict that although at times felt inconsistent, this show merits a well-deserved praise.
At least for me, this kdrama didn’t top Goblin: The Lonely and Great God (I think this will still be her best show) but The King: Eternal Monarch still delivered a spellbinding and grandeur storyline that made me eager to watch. Kim Go Eun as Lieutenant Jeong Tae Eul, along with her other dopplegangers/parallel world identities, portrayed a more mature role that showed her growth from her last stint in Goblin. I can’t imagine any other actor portraying the regal yet lighthearted King Lee Gon but Lee Min Ho — his manner of speaking, his gaze on Tae Eul, and the subtle intensity his facial expressions give off when he is infuriated is just perfection! I did say in my recommendation post that their chemistry was kind of off for the first few episodes, but I’ve come to appreciate their romance.
I wasn’t planning on writing an ending explained post for this korean drama but the message that I got was such a relevant one, especially in these challenging times with the pandemic still hanging around, I just wanted to share my thoughts. If you have a different interpretation, please do let me know but I hope that my realization can uplift your spirits in some way as well✨
Rewriting the Past
Discovering that he could go back to the past, Lee Gon decided that he needed to kill Lee Lim on the night of the treason before he could travel to the Republic of Korea. Yeong accompanied him on his mission and they encountered a mishap where the flute (Manpasikjeok) was not halved so Lee Lim was able to acquire it as a whole. Yeong was able to save the King as a child but sustained some serious injuries. At the same time, Tae Eul was holding the Lee Lim in their time hostage, ready to kill him in the in between realm if Lee Gon failed to do so in the past.
Since Lee Lim of the past held the flute in its entirety, the half and half version that Lee Gon and Tae Eul possessed disappeared. The Lee Lim version with Tae Eul (I know, confusing right? Haha!) was ready to attack her but when she tried to pull the trigger on her gun again, the bullet successfully pierced his chest! Chasing after Lee Lim in the bamboo forest, Lee Gon was also able to successfully kill his uncle. Tae Eul’s memories disappearing once past Lee Lim died didn’t happen because I think she was inside the in between realm when his death happened. This spared her a memory reset that ought to have happened since technically the events that will lead Lee Gon to the other world won’t happen anymore.
Welcoming a New Present Future
If it wasn’t clear in the explanation above, it’s the time travel/parallel world aspect that gave me a bit of a headache in this kdrama, haha! This often leads to plot holes in my thinking but, let’s just enjoy the show and not think about it too much. With the other world never being accessed by Lee Lim, some things still fell into place in both worlds respectively while other fates unexpectedly coincided with each other. Let’s break down the final episode’s (Episode 16) fates per world:
Republic of Korea
Lee Gon’s version in this world, Lee Ji Hun, is alive and has taken on the path of a decorated soldier. Although she lost a friend in Sin Jae (Since he never crossed over to ROK), the real one is doing well as a successful CEO of a large company. Eun Sup works for the NIS and is in a relationship with Na Ri. Possessing the whole Manpasikjeok allowed Lee Gon to still travel across worlds so he was able to finally reunite with Tae Eul after countless tries of meeting other versions of her in alternate realities.
Kingdom of Corea
Our loyal and handsome bodyguard, Yeong, is still alive (Whew!) and he also has his memories intact of the other world. He also has the same younger twin siblings, Eun Bi and Kka Bi, now. Sin Jae or Kang Hyeon Min still became a cop and is also drawn to Tae Eul’s counterpart, Luna, who is also a cop. She grew up in a better environment as she crossed paths with Koo Seo Ryeong and her mom as a kid. I assumed they kind of adopted her into their family as Luna visits Seo Ryeong in jail (Mischievous until the end) and calls Luna’s new name as Koo Seo Gyeong. Secretary Mo rightfully became KOC’s Prime Minister.
A Universally Transcending Journey
This isn’t a solid, drama-free, ending for me as Kim Eun Sook has that capacity (As we learned from Goblin and Mr. Sunshine) to give a bittersweet feel to a main character’s love life. At first, I didn’t like The King: Eternal Monarch’s finale because it ended with Tae Eul and Lee Gon just meeting on weekends where they travelled and explored different timelines and worlds. They would then go back to their normal lives respectively on weekdays… this pattern continued as they grew old together. There was no mention of marriage, kids, or how they would tackle the dilemma of still being physically apart most of the time as they lived in 2 different worlds.
As I pondered for a few minutes though, I thought to myself: “So what if that’s the case?” Lee Gon is a King who has a responsibility to lead a nation while Tae Eul is a devoted cop and loving daughter — and they happily embraced this reality. No one pressured the other to give up his/her life and move to the other world as they respected each other’s individual aspirations. They were content in being able to spend time with each other when Lee Gon travels to the Republic of Korea.
I’m so used to the idea of a conventional happy ending that when I’m reminded that not everyone’s love story is the same, that a different path is sometimes what a particular couple wants and needs, it comforts me because not all decisions I make are what society expects me to make too. If they are happy with their set-up, why worry as an outsider? It’s not an easy path and I’m sure there were times when their trust and patience were challenged, but as long as they remained in the same page with their feelings, I am confident that Tae Eul and Lee Gon lived a fruitful life together👫🏻
Destiny is always viewed as a force that’s meant to happen to us no matter what actions we take. With The King: Eternal Monarch kdrama, I’d like to think that our efforts and desires can influence destiny to suit our choices. Yes, some things will probably occur no matter how much we try to avoid them, but with every action and decision we consciously make, the future will be what we make of it. Trust that the choices you make won’t lead you astray… fate will make sure of that✨