The latest science-fiction drama, The King: Eternal Monarch, centered around the notion of a parallel universe was a highly-anticipated film prior to its broadcast.
Fans were thrilled as it was lead actor Lee Min-ho’s first production after his military discharge last April. Since the theme of a parallel universe was a terrain unexplored by other dramas to date, expectant viewers yearned to find out what the series had in store.
It was apparent that the series was aimed at becoming the next drama of the year looking at the actors, writer and budget.
The series was the brainchild of renowned writer Kim Eun-sook. She previously worked with both Lee Min-ho and Kim Go-eun in The Heirs and Guardian: The Lonely and Great God respectively.
These high hopes proved to be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it did propel ratings to a sky high of approximately 10% for the first two episodes. But the numbers subsequently took a dive from the broadcast of episode 3.
Controversies centering the drama was another reason why it did not gain traction. Korean views caught on to the fact that the architecture in the fictional world of the Korean Empire resembled that of Japanese temples, at a time when Korean-Japanese relations were uneasy.
Another one relating to gender stereotyping added fuel to the fire. The drama received advisory warnings from the Korea Communications Standards (KCS) because of two lines.
“Bras without wires can’t support the chest,” says Prime Minister Koo, played by Jung Eun-chae. “Men need to wear less and move around lots,” Myeong Seung-ah remarked during the boat race scene.
- Slow-paced plot
The slow-pacing of the series in its first five episodes could be another reason why it is currently struggling. Seems like viewers preferred a quicker lead-in.
Marketed as the writer’s next masterpiece, the production team may have thought that viewers were going to patiently plod along the first few episodes. Those were mainly packed with filler scenes and character introductions, which served little purpose to develop the narrative.
- Product placements
The number of sponsors the series received was a testament to their vast production budget. However, these product placements were just in-your-face and in some cases a hard sell.
From food and beverage, beauty to food delivery brands, the drama had it all. Intentional effort was made to weave in these brands to the final script, such as how the king Lee Gon, did not have fried chicken back in the Kingdom of Corea.
- Sophisticated plot, but difficult to digest
The concept of a parallel universe, a Physics quantum mechanics theory, piqued the interest of viewers initially. But the plot was soon perplexing and left the viewers to fill the gaps for themselves.
Deep thought was necessary to make one go “ohh…” to why that scene was included, and why things happened the way it did.
Nevertheless, episode 10 of the series, broadcasted yesterday (17 May) increased the ratings to 8%.
Leaving us hopeful of what the series will bring in the subsequent episodes, could this be a turning point?