The King: Eternal Monarch (2020) Initial Impressions

When I saw the first trailers and stills for this it occurred to me that this was a something that could go very well or very badly. Something about it didn't sit right with me admittedly and despite being on Netflix I was reluctant to pick it up while it was airing.

Three episodes in and I have really mixed feelings about this one. My early conclusion is that the show doesn't really know what it wants to be. While the premise is good, there are so many elements at play and not only does it feel overcrowded and stuffed, there's no real coherence to all of these disparate aspects. The show gives lip service to the sci-fi side of things, then goes straight for the romance and love triangle like your average rom com with fish-out-of-water elements and then it's also a bad cop drama with cringey comedic relief. Moreover, there are large chunks of backstory in flashback that don't seem to fit well with present happenings. It feels like there are three or four stories doing their own things perhaps in search of a script. The direction, the pacing are all very problematic. Compared to Mystic Pop Up Bar and It's Okay Not to be Okay, where the storytelling is super tight and the juggling act has been a delight, this show lacks purpose.

Considering the production values, the set pieces and the money they obviously threw at this, it's not coming together for me. While I didn't mind the first episode, the second and third felt like filler. Very little of those two episodes make a lot of sense to me. I certainly didn't understand Lee Gon's motivations for someone who was stuck in a parallel universe. Little of it sat well with me. He acts like someone following a script more than someone who is lost in an unfamiliar setting. I for the most part was wondering what in the world is going on, not certain why I should care about most of these people in Corea or South Korea. If you're supposedly following the Alice in Wonderland trope like The Matrix does, for instance then there should be more exploration and confusion. And definitely more circumspection.

What's worse is I'm not really feeling or buying into the romance which I imagine is supposed to be fairly important. It's partly a case of too much too soon I imagine. Lee Min-ho is satisfactory as the titular character and suits the role because he has a quiet elegance that is needed here. However, Woo Do Hwan's dual role is probably the one I'm most enthused about.

I liked Kim Go-eun in Cheese in the Trap and her chemistry with Park Hae-jin there but here, I keep wondering if she isn't miscast at some level. It isn't just her chemistry with LMH either. So far I find her unconvincing as this badass female cop.

I may give this another episode or two before I decide "yay" or "nay".