One of the comments made by my drama-watching aunt after she finished the first episode of Kim Eun-sook’s latest offering The King: Eternal Monarch (더 킹: 영워의 군주) starring Lee Min-ho, Kim Go-eun etc. was “It was confusing?!”. Considering that it’s just the pilot episode, it’s understandable but I was slightly intrigued about it. I can think of several shows with the time travel concept but the parallel universe is quite rare in kdramas. It’s still early into the story, hence I’m keeping all the possibilities open for now. But then, where’s the fun in watching something without all the conspiracy theories? Please keep in mind that there are spoilers in these notes of mine, and I’m trying to abstain myself from reading the detailed character descriptions so that I can watch without being too spoiled 😝
WEEK 6 (EPISODES 11 – 12)
- Lots of new info this week, aren’t they? Lee Rim is sure one resourceful man, for he manages to track down Luna almost immediately and is quick to offer her the prospect of having a family she has never known all her life. He knows how to tackle someone’s heart and mind really well, and that makes him a very formidable enemy.
- We can be sure that the flower-bearing Lee Gon in his imperial regalia last week was indeed a version(?) of him in the future. He has hinted that he will go to the end of the world and open every door he can find just to see her. I still think that it is (or was? or will be?) another version of Lee Gon who saved his younger self.
- I said it below, and I will say it again: the flower seed Tae-eul bought is indeed magic/surprise/resurrection lily.
- The Yoyo boy has spoken! He has admitted that he is a single entity who goes back and forth between the worlds, but what is exactly his real identity? A god? A lesser god? Or a deity? He could be the God of Thunder, Dragon King, or the God of Matchmaking. Lots of questions remain: what is with the yoyo? Was he the one who controls the weather and the thunder? How does the red thread fit into the whole situation…and Luna? Also, Tae-eul’s blue lanyard is still giving me this uneasy feeling…maybe it’s just me.
- Lee Rim is slowly approaching Sin-jae…and I can’t help but wonder what is his deal this time. Is he planning to negotiate something with Sin-jae?
- Prince Buyeong was a wise man until the end (ㅠ.ㅠ) I really like how he describes the word unmyeong: steps taken (運) and life (命) risked are what make up fate (運命).
- Was that really Eun-ah that Tae-eul met? The order of events happening is still vague, but it seems that it was the last time Eun-ah was seen alive…before Seo-ryeong went for sightseeing under the guise of being Eun-ah. Seo-ryeong would never stay calm if she was in the Empire when the news of Gon announcing his Empress was spread, but she was the last person to find out about it. No matter how cooped out she was in the few days, it was so unlike her….unless she was focusing on something more interesting, like a journey to a parallel world? She looked a bit nervous in front of Yeong and was too nonchalant to see someone being shot in front of her, for someone who doesn’t see guns every day. Very suspicious, indeed.
- That got me thinking if Lee Rim and Seo-ryeong reached their agreement in the deal prior to Tae-eul’s kidnapping and switching.
- The frozen time: Lee Gon finally figured out the duration of the frozen time, so it was nice to know that they had gotten longer. The drama didn’t really show how the duration was not the same, hence it’s great to have the numbers laid out. Perhaps, the first two “freezes” could be regarded as negligible since they were too short to be noticed, but I can’t help but wonder who made the first and second journey. It takes two to tango, and in this case, two parallel travelers to notice each other’s movement through the time freeze. Lee Rim first noticed Lee Gon’s crossover when the freeze took a significant duration of 25 seconds, and it continued from there. I can assume that the missed time (not shaded) might have taken place when one of them was sleeping. It might seem far away just yet, but the hours will only grow longer with each leap made between the worlds by either Lee Rim or Lee Gon.
- On Euler’s number: I found articles about Euler’s Identity, saying that the equality is “the most beautiful equation”; a mystical “mathematical proof for the existence of God.” The equation itself bears five most important symbols of mathematics in one single equation: 0 and 1 are numbers which are constants; e is the constant Euler number; π (pi) is also another constant; and i the imaginary number that is defined as √(-1) or square root negative one. Remember when Lee Gon said that Tae-eul is like the special 0? The other symbols might also be assigned to someone…
- More and more people are seeing flashes of their doppelgangers, and Na-ri said that it could be a form of deja vu which allows people to see their alternate selves in parallel worlds. Deja vu is defined as the feeling of having experienced the same situation before. And then Yeong also get shot like Eun-sup, as if the drama trying to affirm their statement…but to think of it, it was supposed to be Yeong, so the world tried to find its balance?
- Tae-eul guessed that the whip Lee Gon carried with him all the time was the key to the door of parallel worlds and it’s something to worry about when Lee Gon only had one of that, while Lee Rim probably had few pieces of the flute cut and hidden in the many umbrellas he had at home.
- When I thought that the traitor bookkeeper was going to die, Lee Rim now had the upper hand when he planned for his loyal subject to be transported to the Republic with him, leaving the temporary Secretary Yoo to take the bullet (literally) for the team. Still, it looks like his days won’t be getting any calmer with Luna around. Girl is like an unpredictable ticking bomb, and I hope she will slowly drive Lee Rim crazy.
- The thunder/lightning scar!! The side effect of the travel has gotten to almost everyone who has crossed over through the portal, except for Tae-eul and Sin-jae (as for now). My theory is that both Luna and Tae-eul are still alive and well, hence the lack of so-called ‘cursed’ lightning/thunder scar on her. As for Sin-jae, his Republic counterpart died of natural causes and his travel was made involuntarily, so he has no reason to be punished with the scar. The others are burning from the scar including Lee Gon, so it might be linked to the alternate versions’ death because of the crossover made through the portal. Even if Lee Gon didn’t kill Ji-hun himself, the scar probably served as a reminder for him to restore the balance of both worlds.
- Court Lady Noh dropped the bomb at the end. Wow, so the reason she was so fascinated with Kim So-wol’s poetry was because of the yearning for her hometown….in today’s Republic of Korea.
week 5 (episodes 9 – 10)
- They are starting to work together for the case, including Sin-jae! I’m so glad that Sin-jae needs his time to collect his thoughts, but he knows that the issue needs a proper closure…and the only way is to help the investigation related to the murder cases. The details might be vague and easy to miss, but now that they have a hunch of what is going on behind it, they are getting closer to the person who started all this: Lee Rim.
- Lee Gon chose not to tell the details about the how the travel works, not even to Yeong and Tae-eul. A smart move there for now, because knowing as much as him won’t bid well for people around him. But then, I just realized that Lee Rim had two umbrellas with him: he left one of it at the fish shop of Seo-ryeong’s mother, while walking around and traveling back and forth just fine with another umbrella. I might be mistaken about it, but if he did break the other half of the flute to produce a backup, then he might not be easily defeated.
- Seeing how Seo-ryeong is open to “negotiate” with the person who sent her the mysterious newspaper, will we get to see her teaming up with Lee Rim and Luna?
- The mystery behind Luna’s easy release from the prison is solved: she is terminally ill.
- Lee Gon learns a lot about the parallel worlds and only now realizes that Lee Rim is using the place between the flowing time to maintain his youthful look. Assuming that 1 day inside there equals to 2 months (roughly 60 days) outside, then he would only need to stay there for 2 months for 10 years to pass by in reality. This is also the reason why he adjusts his watch whenever he is back in the Republic. Lee Gon has also tried this himself, staying there for few hours and days have passed by outside. The balloons also multiply in number there…or did he made Eun-sup carry a bunch of balloons from the Republic the other time they traveled to the Empire?
- The point of entrance and exit for Lee Rim are still shrouded in mystery. I’m still wondering how they are going to explain entering the portal from Busan in the Empire and then arriving at Seoul in the Republic….
- How does the time travel fit into this narrative, then? Will he be able to go back to the past and also travel to the future? Because that Lee Gon who came bearing flowers for Tae-eul doesn’t seem to be the same Gon in the present…and his choice of words too is suspicious. Instead of the usual 세계 or world when he talks about the parallel worlds, he uses 우주 or universe when describing his journey that time, stating that he crossed the universe for her.
- The CCTV recording from the future features the bookstore frequently visited by Lee Rim and where the Yoyo boy always hangs out. The current name is Eosu Bookstore, but Lee Gon has noted that the name on the board is Haesong Bookstore.
- The Yoyo boy is also seen reading a book about King Arthur while engaging in a conversation with Lee Rim. Which book of King Arthur is he reading, though?
- 相思花 – The flower that Tae-eul bought in Episode 6 while she was in the Empire and also the seeds she scattered in the place that stood between time was surprise lily. Also known as resurrection lily and magic lily, the flower blooms unexpectedly, just like the name suggests. Despite the flower language of lily being death, birth, or resurrection, surprise lily is called 상사화, and the word 상사(相思) means to think and remember; to yearn and miss each other.
- The flower Lee Gon brings with him when he meets Tae-eul is most probably azaleas, the same flower which become the titular poem for Kim So-wol’s sole poetry collection. While the flower bears the language of self-love and first love, the poetry entitled Azalea by Kim So-wol tells the story of a woman talking to a lover who is about to leave her behind.
Week 4 (episodes 7 – 8)
- Lee Gon becomes more confident in his theory about Lee Rim’s treason: that his half-uncle only had eyes on the flute Manpasikjeok and wanted to rule over both worlds, not just the Empire. Lee Rim’s modus operandi is also made clearer, with the replacement and transportation between the two worlds go both ways: he’s putting his band of traitors from the Empire in safe (and even higher) positions in the Republic, while selling the temptation of climbing through the social class for the Republic people to replace their more noble doppelgangers in the Empire…which mostly linger around (and even near) to Lee Gon himself. A smart move indeed, because those Republic origins will surely swear their loyalty to Lee Rim, whom they regarded as their saviors. Lee Gon also gets to confirm it himself that the number of people who had been transported by Lee Rim is actually more than what he imagined. Gosh, I had goosebumps all over my body when that restaurant owner had his knee-jerk reaction, accidentally showing respects to Lee Gon as his Emperor…it’s just straight up creepy to have someone recognizing you in a world where you aren’t supposed to be known!
- Lee Rim has been using the care center where his doppelganger used to stay as his operational headquarters. He probably thought that no one will be able to see through his acts and get away with everything effortlessly…
- Lee Rim is definitely approaching Seo-ryeong with the intention of letting her know about her doppelganger…while Seo-ryeong has met Luna herself, confirming it with her own eyes that Luna was not the traveler she saw with Lee Gon. Man, I’m feeling uneasy over this…
- Seo-ryeong is now seeing flashes of her doppelganger too, presumably when the glitch between the two worlds happen…just like how Tae-eul saw her Luna’s reflection on the mirror and Eun-sup feeling the pain from the hot coffee that Yeong held.
- Na-ri’s doppelganger theory has been haunting me ever since I saw the preview, and the superstition has always been on the bad side with regard to doppelgangers. There are various beliefs from the West that seeing your doppelganger means one, or worse both, of you will die. She’s right about the balance needed in this world, so having two of the same thing in one place might not be the best situation to be in. The worst case is to have the weaker one being defeated and killed by the stronger one.
- It’s now official: the Yoyo kid in front of the secret bookstore (named Eosu Bookstore) has a connection to Luna, just like how his Republic counterpart is connected to Tae-eul. The Republic kid was the one who caused Tae-eul’s old ID card to fall into the storm drain,while the Yoyo kid in the Empire is the safe keeper of Luna’s key.
- Tae-eul’s ID card that was in Lee Gon’s possession didn’t just disappear into thin air just because Tae-eul appeared there in the Empire with her newly made one; it was stolen by the palace mole, who turns out to be Sin-jae’s mother in the Empire.
- Man, Sin-jae was indeed from the Empire…..the symbol he saw was not from any of the murder cases but from his own childhood memories, which he thought to be a weird thing and caused him to be distraught over the years. (ㅠㅠ) Maybe his mother in the Empire thought he is living well from the photos sent to her, but only if she knew what he had to go through all this while…..
WEEK 3 (EPISODES 5 – 6)
- We learned about Lee Gon’s effort to learn more about the parallel universe and the ‘constant space’ that lies between the two worlds, but I’m a bit bummed that it’s done offscreen. Everything including time does not flow there, and he uses Euler’s number to measure it. We’ll see how it changes, though, with the seeds planted by Tae-eul there, and the balloon possibly popping out all of a sudden.
- We get a rough idea on what exactly Lee Rim is doing this week, as we are given more insight on his modus operandi: he targets people who are struggling in the Republic and gives them an ultimatum in turning their lives around, but the price includes them having to kill their doppelganger in order to take over the better lives of the doppelgangers.
- The thunder/lightning scar is also seen on Lee Rim, but his scar placement is much more visible and…straight up menacing. So, both Lee Gon and Lee Rim possess the scar, probably as a side effect of being the owners of key to the door of parallel universe. But why does it flare up when there is lightning? Does it hurt Lee Rim too, or has he learned to live while withstanding the pain?
- I thought that Lee Rim’s next target would be Prince Buyeong, but it turns out that he’s focusing on Sin-jae and has started hanging out around the place Sin-jae frequents. At this rate, he’s bound to run into Lee Gon very, very soon…
WEEK 2 (EPISODES 3 – 4)
- Lots of new details about the journey between the parallel universes, thanks to Lee Rim. It turns out that he did not bring his Kingdom henchman to cross over to the Republic; instead, Lee Rim went to find the Republic version of him and made him his new henchman. Smart move there.
- I went to rewatch the first episode, only to realize that there is another important factor which enables the opening of the portal: blood of the owner. Both Lee Rim and Lee Gon’s blood was shed on that night as they held the flute in their hands. Is this a ritual that requires one’s blood for him to see the unseen, hence the requirement for the owner to be present together with the flute for the portal to appear?
- Time stops when someone crosses over, but is the journey really that linear? Lee Rim is seen adjusting his watch when he returns to the Republic from the Kingdom, so there might be time discrepancies between the two worlds.
- What is the meaning behind Lee Gon’s thunder scar on his back? It’s highly possible that it’s the side effect of using the portal, but it only appears when there is roaring thunder…is it a coincidence, or is the thunder a call for Lee Gon to go to the other world?
- The mole inside the palace might be the palace tea lady, since she is seen entering the bookshop which belongs to Lee Rim’s henchman. It’s giving me goosebumps to realize that the lady is also Sin-jae’s mother in the Republic…please protect hyungnim at all cost!
- There are also recurring appearance of certain plants, like bamboo, ginkgo tree, and the mysterious flower seal of Kingdom of Corea. While bamboo is the essence of the flute, ginkgo tree and the luscious yellow leaves of it during autumn isn’t that closely related to the flute, yet it makes frequent appearance here and there in the story. Both the Republic and the Kingdom had the trees featured in the background, as if enhancing the symbolic meaning of longevity behind the relentless tree.
- As for the flower seal of Kingdom of Corea, what kind of flower could it be? Is it a plum flower, which was the emblem of Joseon royal family clan, or a camellia flower? Camellia is also the official flower of the modern day Busan.
- As for the symbols(?):
- Plus (+) for Gon
- Minus (-) for PM Gu
- Zero (0) for Tae-eul
- Equal (=) for Jo Yeong/ Eun-sup?
- I’m sure Lee Rim isn’t killing people aimlessly without any planning or direction, so could it be that he’s targeting the royal relatives, including those who are related to Prince Buyeong, Lee Jong-in? That voice record which Tae-eul listened to also mentioned a certain Professor Lee Jong-in….
- Book of the week:- Azaleas: Selected Poems of Kim So-wol.
WEEK 1 (EPISODES 1 – 2)
- It’s been proven through Prince Imperial Geum, Lee Rim (Lee Jung-jin) from the Kingdom, that the parallel universe has no effect on each other, from how he remains unharmed after killing the Republic version of himself. Also, the Republic version of Lee Ho (Kwon Yul) is still alive while his Kingdom version has already passed away. It’s still unclear where Lee Gon’s mother is at when the regicide happens in the Kingdom, but in the Republic, she is still alive and well until 2019.
- The flute, the portal, and the Imperial family in both Kingdom and Republic versions are entwined with bamboo; perhaps, the bamboo wind chime hanging by the door of the Lees’ house in Republic holds a thin connection to the flute.
- Mechanism of the portal: The flute seems to make a sound when the portal opens, calling its owner or the person possessing it. Those who know about the portal might be made aware of any cross over made through it when the time momentarily stops flowing in front of their eyes. Living things other than the flute’s owner can also cross over the portal, possibly together with the owner, as proven by Lee Rim’s henchman and Lee Gon’s Maximus.
- The information obtained by Jung Tae-eul (Kim Go-eun) in the Republic about Lee Rim, as seen in the beginning of Episode 1, probably came from the Kingdom, seeing how he is called by his own name and the date of death recorded on the document is his. The year is probably 2020 when interrogation occurs.
- Tae-eul’s ID card: 2019 version features her straight hair untied in the photo, and this is the one in her possession at the moment of the drama. 2020 version (aka the one from the future) has her hair tied, and this is the card in Lee Gon’s hand after he took it from his saviour in 1994.
- It’s safe to assume for now that both Lee Rim and Lee Gon are transported by the portal from the capital of the Kingdom in Busan to the capital of the Republic in Seoul. So far, the cross over seems to be linear, in the way that they depart and arrive on the same date in both universes.
- Important dates:
- 28.10.1987: Lee Ji-hoon’s birthday (Lee Gon’s Republic version)
- 27.05.1990: Tae-eul’s birthday
- 08.12.1994: Lee Ho’s death; Lee Rim’s first cross over to the Republic
- 24.05.1995: Lee Rim’s ‘death’
- 10.09.2019: Lee Gon’s first cross over to the Republic
- 11.11.2019: Tae-eul’s ID issuance date
- Lee Rim seems to cross over frequently back and forth, between the Kingdom and the Republic, and that contributes to his youthful physique. He is also seen among the audience of the Charity Rowing Competition, attended by Lee Gon.
- Book of the week:- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.