The mirrors and its different meanings in “The King: Eternal Monarch”

If you look at the poster above, you will notice the presence of three important characters: the king Lee Gon, the lieutnant Jeong Tae Eul and a huge mirror. The latter even occupies a bigger place than the two main leads indicating first the existence of a parallel world. Secondly, it also manifests the huge role the mirror will play in this story. Here, the mirror is actually the reflection from water and not a simple mirror made by humans. Therefore it means that the existence of two worlds is a natural phenomenon. It is not created by humans, the latter are just inhabitants in these worlds. Furthermore when we look at the reflection, the onlookers can notice the duplication of Lee Gon and Jeong Tae Eul. And this is not a coincidence: it announces that Lee Gon and Jeong Tae Eul will interact in both worlds. The director and writer could have used the doppelgangers, Ji Hun and Luna, in this poster underlining the idea that both have “adversaries” but it didn’t happen. From my point of view, the writer is already displaying the roles that the king and the detective will play in order to keep the balance of the two worlds.

Since mirrors reflect light, this object is often associated to illumination, wisdom and truth. In a mirror, the beholder can see his own self (the truth), how he or she appears, like in this following scene.

episode 7: The Prime Minister Goo Seo Ryung

On the surface the mirror here serves a purpose: she is about to choose her clothes for a certain event. She needs to judge herself if the clothes fit her and are suited for the event. Striking is that in this scene, Goo Seo Ryung catches the attention of the viewers due to the color of her dress contrasting so much to the background: red versus blue and white. Furthermore, there is only the reflection of the Prime Minister in the mirror, we can not see the stylist and her secretary in it. I could even add that the duplication of Goo Seo Ryung illustrates her confidence and charisma. She is not afraid to stand out which is also confirmed during the conversation. She rejects all the clothes because her stylist chose rather conservative clothes.

But a mirror symbolizes vanity as well, as the spectator wants to confirm his or her own beauty and attraction. And this scene illustrates Goo Seo Ryung’s vanity too. It even outlines her egocentrism. She is only looking at herself and not at the stylist. That’s why a mirror can be a source of danger which is presented in the myth of Narcissus.

Narcissus, the son of a river god and a nymph, was walking by a pond, when he decided to drink some water. The moment he saw his own reflection, he fell in love with it and kept staring at it until he died. It was his punishment from the goddess Nemesis because he kept rejecting suitors which caused the death of a female admirer. At the same time, the mirror in this myth is also linked to desire and wish that can not be fulfilled. Narcissus can never really touch himself, as soon as he tries to grasp the water, his own reflection disappears. Furthermore Narcissus can never feel the love and the warmth from his own reflection, since it comes from water. Therefore we can connect a mirror to futility too.

In the work “Faust” written by the famous author Goethe, Mephistopheles brings Faust to a witch who owns a magical mirror. In there, he doesn’t see his own reflection but “Gretchen”, the future love interest of Faust. Just like in the myth of Narcissus, the mirror here reflects Faust’s desire. He wishes to meet the young woman, however there is more to it. The mirror is here used as a temptation, since Mephistopheles, the personification of the devil, wants to get his soul. In exchange for youth and love, Faust agrees. It was as if Faust was seeing his own future with Gretchen. In other words, a mirror can be associated to the future.

As conclusion, a mirror can be linked to qualities (illumination, wisdom and truth) and negative aspects (vanity, futility, unfulfilled desire and temptation). Equally, this object is a symbol of physical and spiritual reflection. It represents the threshold between conscious and unconscious mind. In the scene above, the Prime Minister wants to shine and appear as an attractive and confident woman (conscious mind). Coexistent, she unveils her true personality: her self-centeredness and her vanity (unconscious mind).

But now let’s take a closer look to the utilization of mirrors in this k-drama. First, we can see the presence of a mirror, when Lee Gon is about to enter Republic of Korea, the parallel world. Here, it is introduced as a magical tool, even as a portal to enter another world.

episode 1

The mirror as magical tool has a long tradition. I could mention “Snow white and the 7 dwarfs” or even a more recent story “Harry Potter”. In the first story, the mirror speaks to the Queen and tells her the truth: Snow White is now more beautiful than her. It was as if this item was a living object, since it speaks and can even make its own judgement. In the past, the queen used to be the most beautiful woman in the world, now it is Snow White. The mirror has changed his assessment and adapted to the new situation. Then in “Harry Potter”, Mirror of eriseD serves to show what a person desires the most. In the 7th book, Harry Potter uses a fragment of a mirror in order to call for help, as he is imprisoned by Bellatrix. Dobby answers to his call. This magical tool is here connected to desire, danger and signal for help. Striking is that in the picture above, the mirror implies danger as well, since it is fractured. Lee Gon can only go through the mirror, since it is broken. Just like the mirror in Snow white and the 7 Dwarfs, the mirror seems to be a living object as the mirror appears on his own (Lee Gon doesn’t summon it) and it even breaks on its own.

At the same time, this mirror is in fact the physical threshold between the conscious and unconscious mind. While people from one world are rich or healthy, they live an opposite life in the parallel world. Luna is abandoned and has no family hence her biggest wish would be to have a family and a father, to be recognized. Whereas the CEO and his son from HG Group in Republic of Corea are powerful and famous, their doppelgangers in MOC are weak und rather common. Besides, I could name another example: while Myeong NaRi doesn’t fancy Jo Eun Sub, it is the opposite in Monarchy of Corea. That’s why I come to the conclusion that there is a balance between these two world. The conscious mind in one world is the unconscious mind in the other world and the reverse. The temptation and desires are never revealed to the world, until Lee Lim appears.

And this is the reason why Lee Rim is so dangerous as he acts as the devil, similar to Mephistopheles. He lets people see their own reflection and appeals to their unconscious and inner desires. We should consider pictures taken from the doppelgangers as a transformed reflection. He only allows them to see what they want to see. Let us forget that a mirror consists of glass and in a camera, there is a lens constituted by glass as well. In a different scene, the Prime Minister sees her doppelganger in the screen.

Or it could be the opposite… Goo Seo Ryung is seen by her doppelganger. While the latter is an average woman, Goo Seo Ryung appears rich and influential which could be a temptation for her doppelganger. Our strong politician gets scared at her own image, although she didn’t react the same in the scene mentioned above. The shock came because she didn’t even recognize herself. She had the impression to see a ghost as the doppelganger’s image is transparent. Actually, we don’t know about the origin of this phenomenon. Is Lee Rim behind this or not? In my opinion, I doubt it as Lee Gon is not a god. It could be a warning as it becomes clear during the episode 8 that Lee Rim is trying to lure her to Republic of Korea. It looks like someone is already working against Lee Lim in order to keep the balance between the two worlds. If she came to ROK, she could become the future president of the country, something she can never achieve in Monarchy of Corea. Lee Rim thinks that she is trying to seduce Lee Gon because she is attracted to his powerful situation. In a republic, she wouldn’t even need Lee Gon at all. But from my point of view, he forgets that the Prime Minister is above all a woman. Remember the scene with the clothes: she never wanted to give up on her femininity. She is definitely interested in Lee Gon the man and not just the king.

In this scene, you will notice that Goo Seo Ryung’s doppelganger is holding a mug. And in a different scene, we witnessed a weird phenomenon. Jo Young and Jo Eun Sub were both holding a drink, the former had a mug of hot coffee, while the other was holding a mug of iced tea. In that particular scene, both dropped their drinks as they felt a strange sensation. Jo Young was surprised because his coffee felt so cold, whereas Eun Sub got burnt by the ice tea. It was, as if their drinks had been exchanged. Due to the scene with Goo Seo Ryung, I came to realize that the Prime Minister, Eun Sub and Jo Young had all something in common: water and mirror. All three (Eun Sub, Jo Young and the doppelganger) were holding drinks, which is linked to water. Actually, the reason why I have been connecting mirror to water isn’t  just because of the myth of Narcissus. Actually, I kept thinking about the following scene from the movie Matrix

The Matrix

Notice in this scene, the mirror gives the impression to be a magical tool. It was, as if it was alive (just like in TK:EM). Then it transforms into a liquid, it looks almost like water, and at the same time, the mirrors serves as a portal as well. Neo is able to pass from one world (dream) to another world (reality), although Neo is confused, if this reality is true as it doesn’t feel and look real at all, rather mysterious and magical.

But let’s go back to our k-drama. Since the mirror is fractured each time someone goes through the passage, we have to imagine that each time something was leaked from one world to the other, hence water and mirrors haven been affected by the opening of the passage. In other words, reflecting items like screen or water in a drink leak reflections or sensation from the other world.

Then I also think that the moving from one world to another has also affected both worlds. Remember that the people are supposed to live the opposite of their life from one world to the other. So they are not supposed to do the same thing, actually the opposite. Yet, in both scene (ES-JY and the scene with the Prime Minister), their doppelgangers were doing the exact same thing:

– YJ/ES were about to drink something

– GSR was sitting in front of her screen just like the other

The more people are going from one world to the other, the more people will do the same thing than their doppelgangers. I hope, this is understandable. 

Finally this scene from Matrix can explain why ES and JY could feel the temperature from the other drink… Neo is touching the mirror and I would even say, he is eaten by the mirror the moment he touches it with his finger. Water is well known as the best current conductor, hence it means that sensations can be transferred through water.

Like I mentioned above, the reflection in the screen could be a warning, a signal of a danger. And this meaning is even more visible in the following scene, when the lieutnant JTE sees Luna in her rear-view mirror.

episode 1

Remember that the function of a rear-view mirror is to alert the driver of potential danger. Besides, Luna as a source of thread is even reinforced with Luna’s gaze. She looks at JTE with a certain animosity.

In another scene, the detective Kang Shin Jae is looking at his own reflection in a pool of blood.

episode 7

And this is no coincidence. This single taking is referring to Shin Jae’s past. His life in ROK is linked to the death of his surrogate. We discover much later that his doppelganger was in a coma for one year. Even the mother declares to him that she considers his recovery as a miracle. It becomes clear that Lee Lim has lured the father by giving him the hope that he could get a healthy son as the mother from ROK has no idea about the switch. But for that miracle, the adoptive parents paid a huge price: their company went bankrupt and the father even landed in jail. Seeing his own reflection in the pool of blood triggers something in the detective therefore while he is trying to sleep, a souvenir resurfaced, the moment he woke up at the hospital.

But this doesn’t stop here. In another scene, Shin Jae visits the ashes of Ji Hun and here again, he sees his own reflection in the picture.

episode 8

What caught my attention is that in this taking, the detective is almost translucent. Here again, the connection between his reflection and the face of Ji Hun jogs a memory: he remembers the funeral ceremony held by the infant Lee Gon who resembles Ji Hun. Concerning Shin Jae, the writer used the mirror in order to reminisce the past, something he had buried deep inside. As conclusion, the mirror helps to see the future (see above Faust) but also to discover or remember the past.

Finally, in the last episode, we see our villain Lee Lim walking to the shop of The Prime Minister’s mother where he left an umbrella behind. Here, his reflection comes from a puddle.

episode 8

Interesting is that

– the director used a puddle which I associate to dirt and failure, as we know the expression “step into a puddle”

– his head is shown upside down. It was as if the antagonist is trying to bring chaos to the world as there is this expression to bring the world upside down.

– He isn’t even looking at his own reflection. He doesn’t pay attention to his surrounding. He is blind, since he is obsessed with his own plan. People might have wondered why the camera zoomed here but after reading this interpretation, you can sense that this taking could be a prophecy of Lee Lim’s failure. Let us not forget that I suspect that there is something else or someone else working against Lee Lim. In this scene, we can see that the mirror serves as a spiritual reflection and as such, it foreshadows the consequences of Lee Lim’s actions. He is doomed to failure and he should fear the retribution of the gods.

Then in the episode 13, the mirror plays a huge part in the discovery of the savior’s identity.

image.png

In this scene, the mirror has an important purpose. It makes Lee Gon realize that he traveled in the past and saved himself. He had already imagined that a time travel was possible. In the same episode, he had told his girlfriend: “If there’s a time axis in there as well as a space axis, then it’ll be possible”. By looking at the mirror, he discovered his future self acting in the past. He only got aware of it, the moment he identified the woman as Luna and saw his own reflection in the mirror. That’s when he realizes that he is wearing the same clothes than the mysterious savior. It was as if the mirror allowed him to see his own past but at the same time his own future. At some point, he will travel to the past.

Then next to him, there is Luna, his enemy but since she looks like Jeong Tae Eul, we have to wonder if JTE will stand by his side, when he travels back in the past. Let us not forget that she is the one who had the cellphone with the inscription: Back to the future. On the other hand, we shouldn’t forget that Luna was the one who stole JTE’s cellphone. Since the cellphone is in her hands, she could travel back to the past as well. Luna wished, she had grown up differently, so maybe Lee Gon help her to change her fate so that when she travels back to the future, she can die in peace, as her time is limited. 

Feel free to comment or push the button “like” if you enjoy reading this analysis.

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