Premiere Watch: The King: Eternal Monarch
Time slot: Friday & Saturday
Genre: Fantasy, romance, historical
Episode count: 16 (70-minute episodes)
Possibly the most anticipated drama of the year so far, The King: Eternal Monarch is set to premiere later this week. You don’t need me to tell you that this is not only Kim Eun-sook’s latest creation, but that it’s also Lee Min-ho’s first project after his military service. The budget is huge, the stakes are high, but if you can believe it, the buzz is even higher.
The King: Eternal Monarch tells the story of two parallel worlds. One world is a modern-day Korea with the Korean Empire still in existence (and Lee Min-ho as the eponymous king), while the other world is South Korea as we know it today. We’ve seen our fair share of dramas that explore what a present-day Korean monarchy would or could look like, and they’ve ranged broadly in the kinds of stories they’ve told, so I’m curious where The King will land. But it’s the parallel universe aspect that intrigues me the most here — a devil opens the door between our worlds, and here’s betting that our characters get thrown into some serious havoc because of it.
Lee Min-ho’s role as the king sounds fairly standard. He’s the epitome of a regal monarch, but he’s also prickly, sensitive, and obsessive (yep, sounds like a Lee Min-ho role to me!). He also has a penchant for escaping from the palace (with his shadow/guard Woo Do-hwan in tow). There’s a bit of history that makes this setup even more dramarific, though, because as a child he not only endured a trauma because of his father’s assassination, but he just might have already crossed that barrier into the other world. Hmm, a persnickety king with a taste for adventure can only need one thing… a heroine to match.
That’s where Kim Go-eun’s character comes in. She exists in the “real world” South Korea as a crime-fighting detective who’s tough, protective, and dogged about bringing criminals to justice. The two meet when the door between their worlds is opened, and it looks like they have to join forces to close it.
Where things get complicated is that Kim Go-eun also exists in the Korean Empire reality, but here, to contrast her crime-fighting detective, she actually plays a criminal. Woo Do-hwan also exists in both realities — in one as an imperial guard, and in the other as a public service worker. These dichotomies are very much on purpose, and set up a ton of storytelling potential — I’m pretty sure the drama will have some fun playing with these doppelgängers. Rounding out the cast is the Korean Empire’s prime minister Jung Eun-chae (who gets entangled with the king), and Kim Kyung-nam (a major crimes detective with an unrequited crush on Kim Go-eun).
Whether you’re chomping at the bit for this drama’s premiere, or burrowing under the covers to protect yourself from the takeover, it’s a pretty safe bet that The King: Eternal Monarch is going to be important in the annals of dramaland. Will it be important like Heirs is important, or will it be more of a Mr. Sunshine situation? I’ll see you on Friday — let’s find out.
- Lee Min-ho and Jung Eun-chae get close in stills from The King: Eternal Monarch
- Lee Min-ho is a commanding presence in The King: Eternal Monarch
- Woo Do-hwan signs on for The King: Eternal Ruler with Kim Go-eun, Lee Min-ho
- Kim Go-eun makes drama comeback in The King: Eternal Ruler with Lee Min-ho
- Lee Min-ho reunites with star writer Kim Eun-sook for sci-fi romance