Hola, you beautiful people! This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for literal months and finally it is up! I’m actually really proud of myself for accomplishing this feat because it was not easy, but I have done it, and I am proud of it.
Presenting to you, the first ever review of a kdrama I watched! This might get rambly, so please excuse me. I am working on a set format for these reviews, but till I figure it out, you get this! Huzzah!
The story starts way back in 2016, when my best friend got into k-dramas. Actually… I think it started way back in 2000, when Ekta Kapoor launched Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki & Kyuki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and changed the face of Indian television forever… At the same time, making it hugely a medium that was NOT enjoyed by the youth of the country.
Because, the lack of content in Indian media made us seek out other sources of entertainment that appealed more to us. So, yes. It started in 2000.
Anyway… Fast-forwarding to 2016 and my best friend watching her first k-drama. She watched a drama, I don’t even remember which now, and absolutely loved it. Post that, she started watching more and more of those. And, of course, being the best best friend that she is, told me to watch them as well. But, back then I was juggling a full time job while prepping for my final exams as an auditor, and then I was prepping for my B-School entrance exams, and then I was in B-School. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, I was short of time, and could never find it in me to start watching a k-drama no matter how much people around me praised them.
And then… Came COVID, and the lockdown. And I suddenly had time. By some stroke of luck, Netflix had just started putting out weekly episodes of The King : Eternal Monarch. With all that time on my hands, and a readily available k-drama that I wouldn’t have to binge, I thought it was the perfect time to start watching them. And, so… I did what you’re thinking. I started watching TKEM.
And… I ended up loving it! I’m probably very biased because it’s my first k-drama, but I did really love it, with all its faults and shortcomings. It was a breath of fresh air for me after years of watching Indian & American television.
TKEM follows the story of, you guessed it right, a king. Lee Gon is the King of The Kingdom of Corea, in a setting where there exists a parallel universe. He somehow ends up in The Republic of Korea, while he’s searching for his father’s murderer – his step uncle, who killed his father for the famed flute, manpasikjeok, which is said to give someone extraordinary powers. There, he meets Jeong Tae – Eul, a woman he’s been searching for since he was a young child, because she might have been the person who saved him from getting killed the night his father was murdered. And thus, begins their story. The other main/recurring characters in the story are – Lee Lim – the villain, Prime Minister Koo, Capt. Jo Yeong, Jo Eun Sup, Kang Shin – Jae, and Lady Noh.
This has such an amazing concept, and if executed properly, it would have been an absolutely beautiful show, but it did fall short on a lot aspects. Firstly, I think the climax was poorly written. Some of the things were inconsistent with what had been established previously, or weren’t explained properly, leaving the viewer with many questions. I felt that they spent a lot of time in unnecessary build up, and then in the aftermath. Both of these things could have been shortened to give more time to the actual plot, especially in the last episode, where they spent almost 70-80% of it with what happened after, and in the process sacrificed important parts of the climax. There were also a lot of plot holes. Like, A LOT.
One of the hugest problems I had with this was how Prime Minister Koo was made to be villainous just because she was ambitious. She was an amazing character, in my opinion, and had so much potential. But, it felt like they spent most of her screen time showing that she’s trying to seduce/strong-arm the King into marrying her when he is clearly not into her. They could have done so much with her character, added such a great layer to the story with it, but they wasted it away. In a way, she was just used to show how much better the actual love interest, Jeong Tae – Eul was. You shouldn’t have to put another character down to hype your main character up. That’s just sloppy writing.
One of the other issues I had was the pacing of the drama. The first 6-7 episodes were extremely slow. I was never able to watch the entire episode in one sitting. (That could have been because it was my first time watching a show in a language I don’t understand. The pace did not do any favours though.) Then, it seemed to pick up for a few episodes that kept me extremely engaged. But there was no movement towards the climax, and all of that was crammed in the last 2 episodes, which, as I already said, made it difficult to execute a proper ending.
But, that’s enough of the negative talk. Come to the stuff I liked. One of the best things about the show was definitely the relationship between Lee Gon & Jo Yeong. Yeong’s compassion towards Gon as a child translated so beautifully into his loyalty to his King when he became the head of security, and the King’s personal bodyguard. Gon trusted Yeong with his life, and his deepest secrets. He knew Yeong better than anyone else, understood how his brain worked, what the little twitches in his expression meant. All of it was shown so beautifully, and I became a fan of their relationship right at the start.
Apart from his relationship with Gon, Yeong’s equation with Jo Eun – Sup, his counterpart in Republic of Korea, was such an amazing journey. From being annoyed with his overactive and hyper presence to caring from him and his siblings unconditionally, Yeong came a long way with Eun – Sup. I loved the growth we saw there. Even his reluctant romance with Myeong Seung – ah, a staffer working at the Palace Public Relations Officer, was cute. I wish it had gotten more screen space because I was really invested in them, but we didn’t get that. We didn’t see the relationship develop, just a hint that they may be dating in the last episode, and we don’t know how they got there. Then, there was his bonding with Jeong Tae – Eul, which, I think for intents and purposes, was that of siblings who fight about everything, but when the time comes are always there for each other. They were, obviously, very wary of each other when they met, but as time passed, and they were forced to spend time together, their relationship grew. It was a very subtle growth that we saw in their equation, and I loved that. The nuances were brought out so well in their characters and it was amazing.
If I had to sum it up, I’d say that Jo Yeong is probably my most favourite character in the entire show.
Then, there’s Lee Gon, the main lead. I’ll just preface this by saying I adored Lee Min Ho. He’s really good looking, and I must say, his wardrobe in the show was… *chef’s kiss*. He was very layered, but not really flawed, I felt. It was weird to see such a character because I’ve never seen someone like that before, but it was fun in it’s own way, I guess. I really adored the familial relationships he shared with Lady Noh and Prince Buyeong, his parents for all intents and purposes who raised him after Lee Lim killed his father. It was heart-warming to see all their interactions and I really looked forward to them in every episode.
As discussed, his relationship with Jo Yeong was absolutely beautiful. His relationship with Jo Eun – Sup was a stark contrast to his relationship with Jo Yeong, in the sense that for Eun – Sup, Gon was not his King. And so, the way Eun – Sup behaved around him, and how Gon responded to that, was extremely different to how Yeong was. They were friends of a sort, I’d say. It was very clear that they both cared about each other.
The romance between Lee Gon & Jeong Tae – Eul was obviously very central to the show. It was insta love of sorts, and I’ve been warming up to the idea of it recently, so I didn’t find many issues with it. They were cute together and they were very domestic in some aspects, which I absolutely loved. Some of their scenes had me swooning a lot! Gon was the definition of soft boyfriend who would do anything for his girl.
It pricked me that in some ways, the romance took away from Tae’s character as an individual. Tae’s a cop. She’s an amazing cop. She’s smart. She’s resourceful. She has a good life with her father, her friends, and her job. And yet, in places, it felt like her entire world revolved around Gon. It was not a lot (according to me though I have seen people disagree with this saying that it was A WHOLE LOT), but in the few places it was projected as such which was iffy for me.
Which brings me to the not so love triangle, love triangle in the story. Tae’s friend and colleague, Kang Shin – Jae, has been in love with her for years, but he always knew she didn’t return his affections that way. I loved that there was no big show of this. It was just an established fact right from the start. When Tae began falling for Gon, Shin – Jae took it in stride, because he knew she’d fall for someone someday who wouldn’t be him. The whole thing was heart-breaking for me because Shin – Jae was such a good person and I wanted a happy ending for him too.
While I really loved Shin – Jae, there were times where I was confused as to why he was a part of the drama at all, especially at the start. His life and his issues seemed to have no connection to the main plot of the show, and while whatever was happening was interesting, I wasn’t really invested in it. But as the show progressed he grew on me, and then as the mystery surrounding him unraveled, he became someone who I *waited* to see on my screen.
The dynamics that really interested me the most was the one between Lee Gon & Lee Lim, the villain, and Gon’s uncle. Their scenes had a lot of tension and I was always on the edge of my seat, waiting to see who would outsmart the other this time. Lim’s motivations and his ambitions made him a cruel man, and that added a lot to his character. There was a point after which I was just thinking to just what extent he would go to get the throne, and the answer is : anywhere.
As a whole, I felt that this show had a great ensemble, but I wish that the cast had been utilized in a better way because all the supporting characters had so much potential and I wanted to see more of them. I was pretty invested in all their stories and that’s why I found it lacking that not enough attention or screen space was provided to these characters, though of course, watching Lee Min Ho grace my screen made up for it.
Despite its numerous plot holes, underutilization of characters, and sort of shoddy execution, I’m actually pretty glad that The King : Eternal Monarch was my first kdrama. It was beautiful in it’s own way and I absolutely loved watching it, even though it frustrated me a lot. I don’t really think it’s for everyone though. It will annoy you to watch this because of its plot holes, so be warned!
Content Warnings : Murder, Violence
Have you watched The King : Eternal Monarch? Who was your favourite character? What was your favourite scene? Also, since I am pretty new to k-dramas, I’d love for you to drop some recs! 😀
I’m so glad you started watching Kdramas!! I personally quite hated this one haha. Yes, it had good parts esp with the supporting characters but the plot hole and vilification of the PM annoyed me. I didn’t like The King or the main romance as well so.. it was doomed for me lol.
Good luck with future Kdramas! There are soo many good ones.
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hahaha i totally getchu! what i hated most was how they treated prime minister koo. that was the worst cause she was such an amazing character and they portrayed her in such a bad light and for what? just to show tae – eul was better and there were other ways to do that
and ofc all the plot holes, especially in the last episode left me reeling cause it was just lazy and sloppy to do that.
but i did enjoy it overall. since then, i’ve watched much better dramas and i see how this was lacking even more, but i still love it anyway *shrugs*
and i will definitely be asking you for more recs! 😀
AHHHHHH LOVELy! I skimmed a little ‘cos I haven’t finished watching the show BUT I do agree that it’s not for everyone. I did find myself getting a littttttle disinterested and feeling there were some plot holes, but I do want to finish watching it!
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it is definitely not for everyone! there’s a lot of plot inconsistencies in it which affects viewer experience, but as a kdrama amateur, i liked it :p
i hope you do finish it! it was a pretty decent watch overall!
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