I…..am at loss for words. Like, how is it possible that The King: Eternal Monarch is written by Kim Eun Sook. I have watched EVERY SINGLE drama she has written and I’m not even talking about her recent year trendy hits like Goblin, Descendants of the Sun, Heirs and Secret Garden. She wrote my all time favorite K-drama City Hall, and I loved loved loved On Air (sniffles Park Yong Ha!). On Air is one of her most underrated K-dramas and probably her most personal, Song Yoon Ah played basically Kim Eun Sook as a fictional drama screenwriter and now I’m wondering if the real Kim Eun Sook has that many young screenwriters doing her heavy lifting that once they left she’s churning out superficial, disjointed, and emotionally devoid drama like The King which remains totally flat in delivery in episode 5.
Episode 5 could and should change the course of the drama, it brought female lead Jung Tae Eul to the Kingdom of Korea and removed all reasons for her blustery disbelief. And yet we spend an entire episode of her still insisting none of what she is experiencing is true in the most annoying ways (aiming a gun at the King, wandering around Seoul asking cops if they remember her, and calling to ask stupid questions), I have never wanted to bitch slap a female lead this much, and also double up with the same slap to the one-dimensional second female lead. Sure Kim Go Eun is acting like she’s never ever acted before (she sucks here) but her character is fundamentally the bigger problem. Lee Min Ho is fine, he’s just a beautiful King and that’s all he is and that should be enough normally other than there is nothing else or no one else to like in this drama so if all we have is a blank sheet then it’s even glaring that there is nothing here. It’s like the Emperor has no Clothes and the ratings drop to 7.6% and 8.6% on SBS reflect what the South Korean viewers think as well.
The laziness in the writing of this drama coupled with the heavy-handed directing continues to be a one-two punch of fail. The ending of episode 4 showed the two leads riding pell mell through the bamboo forest and then jumping through the portal and instantaneously landing on the other world. That was hammered home by the female lead closing her eyes and opening it in the other side. Then in episode 5 we see they actually meandered through a rainbow hued walkway that connects the two worlds so why bother with the dramatic feint earlier.
The same goes with most of the interactions in this drama, it doesn’t need to be there to move the story forward. Kim Gon has a country to rule and a throne to protect, and hopefully find a woman he loves to marry and make babies. His antagonist uncle is a threat to all three. That’s a conflict. Jung Tae Eul and her persistent refusal to entertain that Gon is a King from a parallel world is fine until she willingly went with him to his world and then got more than enough proof within the first 5 minutes that he was telling the truth and there were things she cannot explain but also cannot deny. That we spent an entire episode with her trying to disprove him STILL is beyond frustrating, and if we cut out every scene of her trying to do so the drama would still move forward and make sense, hence bad writing.
Let’s not forget there was a kiss in episode 5 that probably deserves a place in the pantheon of Dead Fish kisses in K-dramas. Kim Go Eun looks like she’s screaming “I forgot the take the laundry down and it’s raining outside oh no!” or “When is this going to end, I want to start the next episode of Tiger King” or “I’m firing my agent when I finish filming because this is not what I signed up for when my film career took off!” or “PD-nim, is this the expression I’m supposed to be making, I’m doing what you told me to but it make no sense because this dude even if he’s crazy is super hot so I should at least be okay with with a surprise peck”.