There is A LOT packed into what Kim Eun Sook wanted to do with The King: Eternal Monarch and I’m probably going to lay the majority of the blame for this drama being her first ratings flop on her above all the other problems. Sure there are directing lacks and acting inability to deliver depth and chemistry, but I cannot got for the life of me easily watch her drama which should be an easy watch. She is not writing a dissertation, and that is not her strength, she’s about the witty dialogue, the strong OTP chemistry in personality and overcoming conflict, and above all else a core reason to care about the events unfolding. None of that is happening in The King and the ratings from domestic viewers in South Korea reflect that disconnect, this episode 7 is the lowest ratings yet with 7.0% and 8.1%.
I’m someone who thought Heirs worked if taken as a subversive twist on Boys Before Flowers type tsundere plus makjang so never saw it as a true flop but this drama will have a hard time proving itself with only a little over half remaining. But narratively it’s the strongest episode since the first episode started off so promising, if we cut the middle episodes out the leads are finally just being adult and cute with each other (forget there isn’t a logical progression for them getting there) and the drama had the best comedic sequence so far with Woo Do Hwan‘s two dopplegangers Jo Yeong and Eun Seob finally milking the parallel universe built in hijinks to the max.
Episode 7 was on its own probably the strongest episode to date but sadly the viewers are gone and likely not coming back even if the production succeeds in the directorial Hail Mary. When the drama starts to work is when it’s clear where the earlier weaknesses are – the King is disjointed like many different dramas (and genres) happening and spliced together into the same episode so nothing works still. It’s an investigative drama, a fantasy yarn, a meet cute fate romance, a bromance, a birth secret makjang, a palace inheritance fight sageuk – every time the scene switches the mood changes with it and so there is never the sense of smooth development and continuity, just jump to jump to jump. But individually I can feel it especially the strongest element which is Lee Min Ho as Sherlock Holmes as King, impassive and implacable, strong and royal, protecting his Kingdom and satiating his intellectual curiosity if this was just about his “quest” to avenge and vanquish his enemy. But throwing it with a nonexistent romantic line interrupts his story line, and it also puts the plucky cop Kim Go Eun‘s Jung Tae Eul into a wonky spot as she is perfectly cool and interesting solo in her own world but comes across stubbornly frustrating when interacting with Lee Gon. Until this episode 7, they finally just act like intelligent and thoughtful adults but I can’t forget this came with prior 6 episodes of lack of emotional growth padding. Still they are here and it is nice because I’m finally not annoyed seeing them interacting anymore. I think the final 9 episodes should be worth watching for those like me who were so excited for this drama, confused as to why it’s not good (why why, it could have been so EPIC!) and wish to see it to conclusion.