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.
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 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.
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.
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?