“The King: Eternal Monarch” First Half Is Shockingly Disappointing- Episode 1 To 8 Review

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After a couple of weeks of consideration, I decided to publish a half-way review of “The King: Eternal Monarch.”

Today, I’m here to discuss the SBS series “The King: Eternal Monarch” first half. It’s going to be a minor spoiler-review that goes over the some main plot points and discuss the production overall.




I know the title is infuriating to some of you, but I hope you hear me out before you say anything. I don’t toss words around like that; I take the word ‘disappointing’ very seriously.

Note: I don’t mean any disrespect to the cast or the production team. These are merely my personal thoughts; please take it with a grain of salt.

If you follow my blog then you know I publish half-way reviews and reviews of each series once it’s done, at least for the ones I complete. I contemplated doing a review of “The King: Eternal Monarch” because Lee Min Ho fans resemble Kpop fans in terms of how little they understand what an opinion means (I also got death threats… so)

But after much consideration, I decided to do it. Currently, I am enjoying the series a lot more and I also plan to do a second-half review which is the reason I am doing one for the first half. I wanted it to be complete.




If I take a look at 2020, I think I can confidently say that SBS “The King: Eternal Monarch” was easily one of the most anticipated kdramas of the first half of 2020. “Itaewon Class” is also up there in terms of how much people hyped it up, but we’ve been hearing about “The King: Eternal Monarch” for close to a year. I published the first article about this drama in the summer of 2019.

In theory, “The King: Eternal Monarch” has everything going for it, a great cast, a legendary screenwriter, a terrific production company, and an enormous budget. The drama cost more than $20 million to make, it is considered one of the most expensive kdramas ever made.

No matter how much I’d like not to admit it, I had high high expectations of “The King: Eternal Monarch.” You can’t really blame me because as I said, it had everything going for it but it turned out to be such a shocking disappointment when it aired.

“The King: Eternal Monarch” has issues with its plot, its editing and its production. Even if you don’t pay close attention to details, you can notice these things. I don’t find issues with the actors’ performances and naturally won’t EVER attribute what happened to the series to their performances. I know they’re all doing well. Its other things that contributed to what we have here.

So let’s talk about each point and discuss why I labeled the first half disappointing.

The script

Kim Eun Sook is behind this drama, and I’ve seen almost all of her dramas over the past 20 years. She has a distinct writing method and combines cliché scenes with interesting scenes nicely. She usually casts the best of the best for her series which definitely helps. Her scripts have that classic core idea of a perfect prince in power and a struggling damsel in distress. But after 20 years, you can’t help but wonder, why can’t her scripts evolve with times?

I think the biggest problem with “The King: Eternal Monarch” is its script, aside from the controversies and editing mistakes, we could’ve overlooked that if the script had been crafted better.




I can’t believe the same woman who wrote “Mr. Sunshine” wrote this and if I didn’t know any better, I would certainly think whoever wrote this is about 5 years into their writing career.

The first half was boring simply put, it lacked that spark her dramas usually have and in comparison to her previous works, “The King: Eternal Monarch” stands out for being a lot of nothing.

The first episode is very confusing and dramatic but the rest of the 7 episodes are bland. I can sum up every single episode important details in a couple of sentences and that’s bad considering we’re talking about more than 8 hours’ worth of content.

There is a lot of exposition, a lot of flash backs and a lot of needless wandering around by the characters. Kim Eun Sook does a good job fleshing them out but the characters are the only thing that drives the plot forward for the first half.

Personally speaking, it felt like a long commercial to a drama that would start at episode 9, filled with lots of sparkly material that up close don’t amount to anything.

I think the reason why “The King: Eternal Monarch” lost its timing with the Korean audience is because of that. The screenwriter took way too long to start the series and by then, everyone who was watching just gave up. If there are better things to watch on TV, why would you watch something that looks like it’s about to start but never does?

There were also many cringy scenes mainly enacted by Lee Min Ho’s character where he goes around claiming he’s king in a different universe and threatening to behead people. If sane person saw him they’d report him and he would’ve been stuck in a psychiatric ward.

Fantasy doesn’t mean reality or critical thinking should go out the window. Kim Go Eun’s character is oddly mad at Lee Gon for the first couple of episodes for no apparent reason, yet she keeps hanging out around him instead of handing him to authorities.

There is also the poorly executed romance plot; I talked about it in great detail that you can read from here. But simply put, the romance between Lee Gon and Tae Eul makes no ounce of sense. Lee Gon’s obsession with her is never fully explored or explained, he just likes her out of the blue, and Tae Eul’s change of heart also makes no sense. She went from feeling disgusted and annoyed by him to liking him in a matter of 20 minutes after she teleports to the other world. It felt so forced and unnatural.

Lee Lim should’ve definitely had more scenes and there should’ve definitely been more obstacles introduced in the first half, there is almost none of that.

The way I see it is that Kim Eun Sook trusted we would be patient enough to withstand a lukewarm first half before picking things up in the second half and she couldn’t have been more wrong. Because the more people have high expectations from you, the heavier the price you pay if you disappoint them.




When you bring up that “The King: Eternal Monarch” has a difficult to understand plot, people call you dumb. I am not the type of person who needs people to dumb down things for me in order to understand but the plot is poorly constructed and the writer spends time on many side plots that it becomes distracting and confusing, not adding anything to build on the main plot but adding countless side-plots to only connect them towards the second half.

There are many kdramas that aren’t easy to understand but it doesn’t mean they’re confusing, there is an art to it and this drama has no idea how to begin to explain its plot to viewers which leads to frustration and thus terrible ratings.

The editing

I was originally thinking of writing an article dedicated to “The King: Eternal Monarch” editing in details but decided to just combine it with the first half review.

The editing is shockingly bad. Usually, I don’t have issues with the editing but I had lots of issues with this one. The biggest issue is that “The King: Eternal Monarch” doesn’t distinguish between the two parallel universes. There is no different shade or color palate, nothing and this is one of the reasons why the plot is so confusing.

Viewers are supposed to be able to tell which world is being discussed at all time because it’s the difference between taking it seriously and taking it lightly. The editing team makes no effort to get viewers to understand “The King: Eternal Monarch.” Despite countless complaints about this from netizens, the team doesn’t improve on it and continues to make it hard for us to understand the plot clearly.

There are also these drawn out scenes that make it so the main characters get to shine and it’s honestly overly used in this drama. There is so much effort put on trying to make the lead actors look so good that it ends up disrupting the plot.

It’s almost as if they’re trying to create that next “Goblin” fan-favorite scene, you can tell they’re trying so hard to immortalize certain scenes in fans’ memories.

The production

If you’ve been following “The King: Eternal Monarch,” then you know that the production has made too many mistakes and it has to do with Japan. If you don’t know, South Korea and Japan don’t share the best of relationship, and this dates back to the early 1900s when Japan took over Korea and caused a lot of pain for its people. (Read about comfort woman)

The production team made many mistakes and apologized for them. The issue is, “The King: Eternal Monarch” costs over $20 million to make, it means you have a lot of leeway to get things right and to top that off, they began filming in December of 2019, it’s not like they started two months ago.

The rushed poorly researched decisions production-wise definitely hurt “The King: Eternal Monarch.” Its so sad because its not the fault of the actors at all, they have no control over any of what I discussed.

There is also the issue with PPL that’s honestly borderline comical besides being distracting. As we go further, the PPL becomes more apparent (they did get hate for that as well) and distracting. It’s almost as if the drama was made to sell us things and when people feel like they’re being sold stuff instead of enjoying their time concentrating on the plot, you have an issue.

I don’t mind PPL, but “The King: Eternal Monarch” really takes it to another level of cringy. Kim Eun Sook also looks like she’s struggling to incorporate those PPLs to her script, because they stand out like a thorn and feel so out of place. There is also an art to this and I know you’re trying to fund this drama but it’s too much and poorly done.

There are a couple of scenes where I almost felt that Lee Min Ho was going to look me directly in the eye and beg to sell me a product. For an expensive production like this drama, you’d expect they’d be more selective about the products they share and how they share them but it honestly feels like they’re not even trying.


So these are my thoughts on “The King: Eternal Monarch.” I love the actors in this drama and I talk about it so much because I care, it’s not because I hate them. I am just surprised at how everything turned out.

Luckily for us, “The King: Eternal Monarch” second half definitely picked up the pace and I am now enjoying it a lot more. But seriously speaking, if it weren’t for Woo Do Hwan and Kim Kyung Nam, I wouldn’t have stuck around and I bet that’s the case for a lot of Lee Min Ho fans who continue to watch because its him.  

So what did you personally think of the first half of “The King: Eternal Monarch”? do you agree or disagree with me?

12 COMMENTS

  1. First of all well written!
    I’m not Korean but a LMH fan of course. My first and foremost reason to watch this is him. But then this grew in me.

    1. I think this is a fantastic story line. Complex and lot confusing at first but marvellous. In a regular drama you get to know and get close to 5 characters but here given the parallel concept, complexity doubles. And yes it is annoying unless you have time to rewatch, discuss in forums, read theories to figure out what you missed or what happened where. 100% agree with you, due to ‘not enough’ differentiation of 2 worlds, TKEM lost a considerable viewer % locally and might also be internationally. They should have been more creative at this.

    2. Being a non Korean, product promotion isn’t that annoying for me, as I have no idea about the brands. But they crossed the line when Jangmi showed that Kimchi packet, so artificial!!! Locally I can see it must have been very annoying but internationally not a biggy. But yeah, got conscious sometimes about product promotion, which could have been kept lowkey.

    3. Agree with over hyping lead characters. I mean LMH is of course exceptional with looks, but specially at the library scene in ep2, I wandered whether Korean girls go after crushing openly when they see someone handsome in public . Embedding such overhype reactions in the drama made it unnecessarily cheesy and too much focused on LMH alone. Damaging to the credibility of the drama, yes.

    4. Pacing, hmmm. Ep1 is good. Ep2 is slow. Ep2 ending is so poor. Ep3 very slow, boringly slow. Ep4 slow but ending made it so good to look forward to. Ep5 onwards I have no complaints over the pace, it is good from 5 onwards and sped things up little by little. So I disagree that TKEM is slow until Ep8 – NO. Pacing became better from Ep5 onwards but the confused audience due to, #1 point above, it became too late to attract them because for them ship already sailed. And I agree with bad post production mistakes, those mistakes just added fuel to the already disengaged audience to stay disengaged even further.

    5. Romance between 2 leads LMH and KGE I think is well portrayed. LG had a thing for JTE from the beginning but not otherway around. But if you keep yourself in JTE’s shoes, then you see why she fell for LG. But not all thinking behind were shown but if you relive the moments with this so called maniac King, and how her friends, colleagues including her father approves of this stranger, and how everything he said started coming to true one by one, then you understand how JTE developed affection for LG. So there is no chemistry issue at all for me. I have seen LMH work but never KGE work before. So it was a blank page for me for LMH and KGE love chemistry, I think they painted it beautifully. I don’t understand falling in love or chemistry concerns. I’m lucky and I enjoyed every bit of their encounters.

    So yeah in summary, the TKEM team could have done things bit differently to reach a wider mass and audience locally and internationally. It’s indeed sad TKEM doesn’t get the due recognition because of those poorly executed things. But life is not perfect .
    When life gives you lemon, make lemonade and enjoy. I certainly do! Wish everyone does the same, specially very critical Koreans – I genuinely am sad to see how they (sometimes) unfairly criticise this drama, a drama in my eyes has a fantastic story, yes with some poorly executed aspects. TKEM doesn’t deserve that much hatred because they have tried a LOT and created a beautiful drama after all.

  2. I totally agree with every single word. I found myself sleeping while watching. Chemistry off. Episodes keep dragging. Music line up sucks. Not the osts. Music lineup. The way they play background music. I saw them kissing and found it super odd. Woahh glad i stopped watching it after episode 04. Disappointed af.

  3. you literally said what was on my mind!!! the first half of the king was honestly soo boring but what kept me wanting to watch it was kim go eun there are so many characters there aren’t needed such as the prime minister or the head court lady.. and now that we’re on the second half of the drama (close to the ending) i’m afraid and anticipating how they’re going to nicely end this drama without rushing or forcing anything.

  4. Thanks for writing this. I’ve been perplexed the entire time I’ve been watching this series. How can the directing and production team get it this wrong? Did they not watch it themselves post-edit?? How can no one have noticed it wasn’t working before it went to air? Like you say, the main romantic relationship makes no sense. When Tae Eul cried because she missed Lee Gon I just starred blankly at the screen. Why? How? What happened to make you like him so much? Nothing. What’s with the constant chopping of scenes? There’s enough to take in already with two worlds and trying to work out when things happen. Do we really need flashbacks on top of that? I’m an LMH fan and though I don’t know much about Kim Eun Sook, I have unknowingly watched a few of her creations. You can tell writing is good when it can make your heart bleed with patriotism for a country that isn’t even yours! Mr Sunshine had me crying with nationalism and I’m not even Korean. Heirs had me completely invested in the characters and the Korean social caste system. Honestly I’m wondering if she got her students to write The King and just rubber stamped it with her name. It’s chalk and cheese. I’m sad for LMH that the project he chose as his return project has turned out such a mess. Hope he bounces back with a hit next time.

  5. I jst watched it because of lee min ho but the storyline was so boring and you really cant comprehend the story. Poor script, poor dialogue…. just a waste of time to watch the entire series.

  6. I just finished watching everything. I’m afraid I’ll have to agree with most things you’ve said. This isn’t what we were expecting. The lead characters did their best but the story was just so messed up and confusing. It only takes a patient person to complete it especially when you watch from episode 1-5. It started getting a little bit tensed from 6 but still,it’s just too entangled with too much twists and flash backs, well I’m glad it ended well !

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