A highly anticipated drama finally premiered. Is it really worth the hype?
Title: The King: Eternal Monarch
Main Cast: Lee Min-ho, Kim Go-eun, Woo Do-hwan, Jung Eun-chae, and Lee Jung-jin
Writer: Kim Eun-sook (previous series: Mr. Sunshine, Goblin, Descendants of the Sun, The Heirs)
PD: Baek Sang-hoon (previous series: Love in the Moonlight; Descendants of the Sun)
Timeslot: Friday and Saturday / 22:00
Network: SBS / Netflix
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Plot Synopsis: Kingdom of Corea reigning King Lee Gon traveled to a parallel world in order to find the person who saved him from the murderous hands of his traitor uncle Lee Lim. There he encountered detective Jung Tae-eul, who he believes is the answer to his mysterious savior.
Major trope: Alternate Universe / Multiverse
I already had high hopes with this drama based on the story elements they said they will be using. You can’t blame me since they have a modern monarch, parallel universe (my excitement went from 5 to 500 after knowing this premise), and of course, romance. These are my personal beloved tropes and Kim Eun-sook decided to use it all at once. Saying this series definitely delivered would be an understatement. From the cinematography to its intense storytelling, the pilot episode unabashedly pulled me into its world. The credit really goes to the set-up written by Kim Eun-sook. She truly knows how to create a believable fictional world with a detailed background and interesting characters. Of course, the production team led by PD Baek Sang-hoon has also successfully brought into life Eun-sook’s vision for this drama.
The character introductions felt a bit short as the premiere episode was focused on showing the difference between the two worlds: The Kingdom of Corea and the Republic of Korea. But I think it was enough to build the air of mystery around them.
(Side note: I love that Lee Min-ho’s character is a mathematician and he easily concluded that he was in a parallel universe since he’s familiar with the theory.)
My two issues, though, for this series would probably be the possible ending and the two main leads. Remnants of Lee Min-ho and Kim Go-eun’s past characters are still there but I think they’ll manage to shake it off once the story went into full gear. I also think the pilot episode was darker than what I have expected but I think things would get lighter in the in-between episodes leading up to the series ending. Although I love Kim Eun-sook’s world-building skills, she kind of makes their endings overly dramatic (fight me but I still think Descendants of the Sun’s ending was too much). But watching the pilot episode makes me think that she already has a solid ending to work on. And since this is a fantasy series, some theatrics could be forgiven.
To answer my introductory question, yes it definitely deserves the attention it gets. Even if you don’t like fairytale-ish overly romanticized stories, the production alone was worth giving this series a try. It is a drama perfectly made for escapism. But for those who preferred much more realistic storytelling, this might not end up in your list of favorite dramas but you’ll surely be missing out if you decided to skip this one out.