The King: Eternal Monarch: Episode 14
It’s time for our hero to revisit his traumatic past and play his part in a pivotal moment. He and his traitorous uncle race to turn their versions of events into reality, gambling everything on this move. When it’s all said and done, will it be worth it?
While Shin-jae searches one of the rooms, Tae-eul calls to let him know she found Eun-ah’s body. The beeping of a life support machine triggers his memory of waking up hooked to a similar machine. Shin-jae drops his phone in shock. His alternate lies comatose in one of the beds. Oh, snap.
In the kingdom, Ok-nam worries about Gon while an artist drones on about the insanely bright portrait of Gon he painted. Her worry is on point because, in the republic, Luna is searching a poisoned Gon for the flute.
Yeong returns, forcing Luna to flee empty handed. He prioritizes Gon and doesn’t pursue her. Instead, he calls Tae-eul who calls Moon-shik’s wife for help since Gon is undocumented and can’t go to the hospital.
At the care center, Shin-jae is surprised to see Lee Sang-do’s wife working as a nurse. Her husband’s “friend” paid off their debt and got her the job. Noting Shin-jae’s resemblance (that’s an understatement) to the patient, she assumes he’s family. She was told to inform the family member who comes to visit that someone will call.
Tae-eul arrives at the clinic while Yeong is still waiting for news. They’re told Gon was poisoned but will be okay. Tae-eul promises to explain later, so Moon-shik’s wife agrees to keep this quiet, even from her husband.
Yeong stops Tae-eul from going into Gon’s room since he can’t be sure she isn’t Luna. (Better late than never.) Tae-eul calls Eun-seob to tell him he should take the twins and go stay with her dad. If anyone looking like her shows up, he’s to contact her straight away. By the time Yeong steps back into the hallway, Tae-eul is gone.
Meanwhile, Rim is in the bamboo forest, contemplating how Gon managed to find the specific point in time to ruin his plan. A flute sounds, and in the clinic, Gon wakes. The first thing he asks is if Tae-eul knows, and he guesses Yeong was harsh with her.
Yeong insists they should return to Corea, but Gon wants to hear what it was Yeong wanted to say before the poisoning. Yeong thinks of Jung-hye but fibs he doesn’t remember. Gon lets it slide and informs him he’s leaving. He tasks Yeong with protecting Tae-eul.
Gon reveals that he was the one who saved his child self, and today is the day. He’s hearing the same flute sounds he heard that night. Gon dons his stealth outfit from Tae-eul and heads to the gate.
In the bamboo forest, he and Rim stand on opposite sides of the gate but can’t see each other. They enter the between place simultaneously. Rim’s is filled with floating photos while Gon’s is filled with balloons for some reason. As they reach the halfway point, they hear the flute sound and realize the other must be near.
They each sprint to the opposite gate. A picture of Tae-eul floats away and disintegrates (her lily seed sprouts where it touched) as yo-yo kid narrates that, when the flute is made whole inside the gate, the “axes for time and space” form. It then has the handy function of taking you to the exact moment in time in which you hope to save yourself.
Yo-yo kid explains to Jung-hye that both Gon and Rim were taken to that same night because Gon wanted to save both worlds while Rim wanted to save himself from failure. Rim approaches his 1994 self who gets his confirmation that the legend of the magic flute is real.
With that out of the way, Rim instructs him to change course and kill Gon first so he can’t stop the coup. In an odd turn, 1994 Rim condescendingly starts mocking 2020 Rim for his failure and notes that age doesn’t always bring wisdom. So now he’s insulting all versions of himself, I guess.
He then whips out 2020 Rim’s sword and slits 2020 Rim’s throat because it’s his coup and his flute, dammit. 1994 Rim greedily grabs the bloodied flute half, but it disintegrates in his hand. Enraged, he begins hacking at 2020 Rim’s body with the sword. Geez.
Yo-yo kid continues story time with Jung-hye and narrates that Rim failed his mission and instead created the monster he became. When Jung-hye asks who yo-yo kid is, they give the familiar response about warning people and defeating the enemy. But this time, yo-yo kid adds: “I also want to save myself and become whole.” Ooh, is the kid the flute? That’s an odd sentence to write.
Jung-hye asks what happens to Gon, and yo-yo kid responds he’s following his destiny. The kid asks rhetorically if he’ll return safely or get lost along the way. Because the flute is powerless when halved.
And now we return to the violent events of that night where everything proceeds exactly as before. Once Rim and his men clear out, Gon crouches beside the body of his father and gently closes his father’s eyes. He then moves to his own little body and checks his pulse. As before, little Gon grabs Tae-eul’s ID.
On his way out, Gon runs into Ok-nam. He knows she won’t believe him, but he’s the king. She’s outraged by this claim. He uncovers his face and says he’s indebted to her. Like she said, he’s following his destiny. With tears in his eyes, he asks her to let him go, and she does.
Gon notices bloodstains outside and whirls as guards come up behind him. He names the traitors with Rim, but the guards don’t trust him. He gets them to lower their guns by holding one of the men at gunpoint. Gon then follows the bloodstains that lead him to … Prince Bu-yeong’s son. Gon realizes he’s the one who helped Rim escape and shoots him in the leg.
In the republic, Tae-eul finds Gon’s room empty. Yeong picks up his phone and relays Gon’s message that he’s sorry about leaving without saying goodbye. She drops to the ground and cries.
Shin-jae visits his father in prison after asking his mother if he used to run a care center. Ooh. “You’re the one who turned Kang Hyun-min into Kang Shin-jae, aren’t you?” His father’s eyes widen, and he guesses that Shin-jae met “that man.”
Shin-jae puts together that Rim made the switch in exchange for the care center and its morgue. His father impatiently asks if Shin-jae is going “there.” What about him? Shin-jae takes a shuddering breath and asks for the full story.
His father explains that Shin-jae wasn’t going to wake up, and his mother was devastated. Rim showed him Hyun-min’s picture and offered to buy the care center with Hyun-min as a bonus. Wow. Sounding desperate, his father tells Shin-jae to ask Rim to visit him just once. Later, Shin-jae watches his mother from a distance, recalling her words that he’s her “miracle child.”
Meanwhile, Gon travels back and forth through the gate but is trapped in 1994 no matter which world he enters. He realizes that he needs both flute halves to travel through time. Without it, he’ll have to wait out the 26 years (about four months in the between place).
In the republic, Gon recalls that it’s around the time his alternate and his family will die. Using a payphone, he calls the police with a tip, but it’s too late – Ji-hoon died that morning. Gon stands alone in the field he and Tae-eul once visited. The flute half partially disintegrates in his hand.
He goes to Tae-eul’s place and runs into little Tae-eul outside. The white bow in her hair suggests her mother must’ve just passed. She asks who he is, and he honestly replies he’s someone from another time on his way back to her. Little Tae-eul has an epiphany and decides he must be a kidnapper. Ha.
Gon chuckles that her personality hasn’t changed a bit. A woman comes up to Tae-eul protectively. Gon claims he’s an acquaintance of Instructor Jung’s and gives his condolences. He strokes little Tae-eul’s hair and leaves.
In 2020, Tae-eul waters her seeds that refuse to sprout and wonders why Gon isn’t returning. Kyung-ran calls and plays Gon’s report to the cops from 1994 that suddenly appeared. He’s the suspect in the family’s deaths.
A new memory of meeting Gon in 1994 surfaces for Tae-eul. Everything clicks and she realizes he must’ve gotten stuck in the past after returning to the night of the coup. She cries as she imagines him standing in front of her.
Elsewhere, Shin-jae and his psychiatrist sit beside his alternate in an ambulance. She takes the situation in stride, recognizing that everything he told her was real. When she asks which is Shin-jae and which is Hyun-min, he says he’s trying to figure that out.
The following day, Tae-eul and her team start digging into the care center. After multiple all-nighters, the exhausted team finally finds an address and heads to Jung-hye’s apartment. But Rim’s people have already moved Jung-hye, cleared out and rigged the place to blow. Thankfully, Tae-eul smells the gas, and they escape just in time.
Pregnant lady from Corea breaks a bottle over her abusive partner’s head and flees the house. Rim’s “manager” is waiting outside and offers her the chance to get her life back. What is she willing to do for that chance? The woman drops to her knees, willing to do anything.
In the kingdom, Seo-ryung’s mom calls and assures her she’s doing well at her sister’s. Her mom’s voice breaks slightly as she asks if Seo-ryung is okay. Seo-ryung cryptically instructs her to say she had mackerel for dinner if she asks and promises to call again. (Is someone finally using codewords?)
Seo-ryung thinks of the last time she saw Gon and is sure he recognized the mark on her neck. Why can only he and Rim access the gates? Seo-ryung doesn’t see why she can’t have the flute, too. Uh-oh.
In the republic, Tae-eul melancholically roams the bamboo forest. She stares at the payphone, reminiscing about her and Gon’s last dramatic reunion in this forest. Tae-eul leaves some change, presumably in case Gon returns and needs to call, and wonders if Gon is almost back yet.
Out of nowhere, Tae-eul exclaims, “Election day!” We flash back to 2016. The whole gang is gathered for a meal. Oddly, everyone keeps getting a call from the same number. Shin-jae finally decides to answer, and it’s Gon’s voice on the line.
He asks Shin-jae to pass the phone to Tae-eul beside him. Tae-eul spots Gon in the payphone booth across the street. Rather than take the call, she marches over to him. She recognizes him as the man she met when she was little.
Tae-eul is startled to see nothing about him has changed from his outfit to his face. He notes the outfit was a gift from her while his face is a gift to her. Pfft. She informs him she’ll need to see his ID and searches for a hair tie. Gon silently slips one on her wrist, to her surprise.
He looks toward the restaurant, happy to see everyone gathered together. Tae-eul asks how he knew her name. Even though he was prepared for her not recognizing him, it’s still hard. Gon came so he could be a part of her memories and encourages the future her to stay strong and wait for him.
Gon claims they’ll meet again. Referencing their first meeting in her world, he asks her to be a little nicer this time and make more time for him. He can’t come often since the cracks in the flute are deepening. After a long look, he says goodbye and leaves.
In the present, Tae-eul cries at the realization that he came to see her. As she watches in shock, words are etched into the phone booth: “Wait for me a little longer. I’m almost there.”
Yeong is having the same memory insertion situation. He remembers Gon coming to him on the day of the rowing competition and asking for a key card to the stables. He sticks it in the pocket of a rabbit hoodie which he then drapes over a bench.
Gon tells Yeong that he’ll one day be stranded in the Republic of Korea and instructs him to find Jung-hye. He speculates she’s what Yeong had wanted to talk to him about over drinks that day. Gon knows he won’t trust Tae-eul at that time, so he should reach out to Shin-jae instead.
When Yeong asks if he’s met Tae-eul, Gon claims he’s on his way to her now. He can’t miss a single moment, or he won’t be able to meet her. Later, Luna races through the streets and finds the key card in her pocket.
In the republic, Eun-seob calls Tae-eul when he sees Luna go into a supermarket with her dad and Na-ri. Tae-eul tells him to follow her. On the way home, the incessant bickering between Tae-eul’s dad and Na-ri makes Luna laugh. They stare in confusion as she wonders aloud if Jung Tae-eul gets to listen to this all the time. She smiles as they comment that she’s losing it.
Luna turns and sees Tae-eul watching her. Tae-eul clenches her fist when Luna calls out to her dad and Na-ri. The alternates meet in an alley, and Luna reminds Tae-eul she warned her she’d die if they met. Then, she rushes Tae-eul and stabs her in the gut.
Luna has experienced loss every day of her life, and now it’s Tae-eul’s turn. She yanks the knife out and pushes Tae-eul off her. There are tears in her eyes as she walks away.
Tae-eul manages to call the police and request backup before dropping the phone. The memory of her first meeting with Gon surfaces, but it’s different. This time, she recognizes him. Crying, the current Tae-eul pleads with herself to hug him.
In her new memory, Tae-eul notes with surprise that Gon really did show up like he said he would. Gon is confused that she seems to know him. Tae-eul narrates that there are no coincidences when fate is involved, but you inevitably realize it’s meaning too late.
Eyes misty, Tae-eul tells him she’ll regret not doing this and, in a reversal of their original meeting, throws her arms around him.
Wait a minute, so Rim just took himself out of the equation? I expected some big confrontation between Rim and Gon, and instead we get an unhinged dude offing himself so he doesn’t have to share the glory with … himself. Now it feels like all Gon and Tae-eul’s work trying to stop him was in vain since they could’ve just sat and waited for him to stop himself. Of course, this is assuming that he actually is dead and gone now. The timeline manipulation stuff is being used all willy-nilly, so it wouldn’t shock me if there were some convenient mechanism that allows for him to still exist or something. Because how convenient was it that the flute just happens to take you to when you need to save yourself? Maybe it would’ve made sense had there been some set up for the nature of the flute and how that particular power fits in. As it stands, that’s some deus ex machina magic right there.
I had a hard time connecting with Gon’s tragic predicament this hour because I kept trying to make sense of all the timeline stuff. Creating a realistic or, at least, logical time travel scenario is always tricky. Strictly speaking, only the person manipulating the timeline should have memories of the original timeline. The only reason I can come up with to explain why Tae-eul and Yeong would now have both sets of memories is that whoever has used the gate retains their old memories. But that’s a logical stretch since they only traveled through worlds and not through time. And that’s not even getting into the fact that Gon supposedly went around making all the things that happened come to pass. If that’s the case, no one’s memories should be altered because that’s what happened in the first place. Then again, I don’t think a thorough exploration of the ramifications of time travel is what they were going for here.
One thing I wish had been made a little clearer is how time is passing for Gon. If 26 years equals 4 months in the between place, how long is he gone for in 2020? And now I’m having flashbacks to math word problems *Shudders*. Time wouldn’t just stop for everyone else while he galivants through space and time, but it might not move linearly at the same pace in both timelines either. Here’s hoping they clear it up in the final episodes.
And then we have Luna still wreaking havoc. I can’t figure out if she was truly trying to kill Tae-eul or not. If so, wouldn’t she have taken her phone so she couldn’t call for help? That seems like a rookie mistake someone like Luna wouldn’t make. She seemed torn about it, so maybe she was sort of leaving Tae-eul’s death up to fate. I haven’t fully decided how I feel about Luna as a character. She’s pitiful but also kind of murderous. I mean, we got that scene of her softening, laughing and enjoying the normality of Tae-eul’s life, immediately followed by her committing a brutal stabbing. Girl needs some therapy. Thanks to Shin-jae, there is one psychiatrist who has some experience with a very niche clientele. And let’s face it, everyone’s gonna need therapy when this is all over. Possibly excepting Eun-seob who seems unusually well adjusted, handling things like a boss.
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