‘Solo Leveling’ Ending Explained & Finale Recap: What Is Shadow Monarch?

After a tense and action-packed penultimate episode, which saw Sung Jinwoo facing his most formidable adversary yet, the season finale of Solo Leveling goes a step further to mark an epic conclusion to the first season’s storyline. The power fantasy theme reaches its peak as Jinwoo undergoes a power-up transformation much like major Shounen protagonists, which imbues him with powers beyond his wildest imagination. 


Previously, through raiding numerous C-rank dungeons, Jinwoo had reached level 40 of his Hunter skillset, which resulted in the system offering him a particular ‘Job Change Quest’. Oblivious to the nature of the quest, as Jinwoo decided to participate in it, he realized that, until the completion of the quest, he would not be able to use external assistance like reviving or health restoration. In a royal court resembling a dungeon, Jinwoo got attacked by numerous armored knights, assassins, and mages, and after defeating them, he came into conflict with Knight Commander Igris the Bloodred. Facing the most formidable opponent in his Hunter career, Jinwoo at times felt his life flashing in front of his eyes as Igris’ fearsome skills almost ended his life. However, Jinwoo persevered, and with a bit of luck and close combat skills, he was able to slay Igris at the end. His misery is far from over, as a survival timer starts right after the incident as hordes of armored knights start pouring in through multiple portals. After losing the teleportation stone while battling them, Jinwoo has no chance to escape either. The final conflict of the quest brings Jinwoo close to death, and he is forced to engage in an introspective conversation with his old self. 

Spoilers Ahead


Did Jinwoo Survive The Assault Of The Horde?

As Solo Leveling‘s final episode begins, Jinwoo is shown to be fighting against ever-increasing numbers of armored knights. With unshakable determination at his disposal, Jinwoo continues fighting barehanded till his knuckles bleed, as even with his low health, mana, and growing fatigue, he is positive that he will emerge victorious at the end. Before the system gave him a second chance during the Kartenon temple incident, he used to be one of the weakest Hunters, so he had an idea of what it was like to be at the bottom. But despite that, his willingness to grow stronger has motivated him throughout, which is why he has been able to come such a long way—beating all odds along the way. Jinwoo knows he can survive. 

However, a physically and mentally exhausted Jinwoo suddenly gets shackled in by his own self-doubt as memories of people humiliating and pitying his old, weaker self flood his mind. Eventually, Jinwoo’s old self comes to the surface and mocks his continual efforts at self-improvement. While all this happens, in his absent-minded state, Jinwoo continues to get thrashed by the knights, getting beaten into a bloody pulp. Jinwoo’s old self insinuates that all his efforts have once again brought him to the verge of death, as he believes that no matter how much physically stronger he might have gotten, mentally he is still the scared, pitiful Hunter who has forgotten his true place. Before Jinwoo can retaliate, a notification arrives from the virtual log, which issues a penalty for Jinwoo for missing his daily quests. Which means he will be moved to the penalty quest when he is moments away from dying—almost as if the system wants Jinwoo to survive when he isn’t able to do so on his own. Jinwoo’s old self bids him farewell, and just before the deathblow of a knight is about to hit Jinwoo, he gets transported to the penalty quest. Thanking his stars for the timely escape, Jinwoo finally replenishes his mana level and decreases his fatigue state. However, with health dropping to a critically low stage, the only way Jinwoo can restore it is by leveling up more, and the penalty quest presents magic beasts as adversaries whom Jinwoo slays with relative ease, increasing his level and restoring his health in the process. 


Was Jinwoo Able To Complete The ‘Job Change Quest’?

The scene alternatively moves to the conversation between Korean Hunters Association Chairman Go and surveillance chief Woo Jinchul as they discuss the Jeju Island raid tragedy, which claimed the lives of a number of Hunters, and the prospect of an upcoming raid on the island by S-ranked Hunters. Go emphasizes the importance of sharpening one’s combat skills, as unless Hunters go through a second awakening, they cannot increase their strength to take on the ever-increasing adversaries. The guildmaster of the Hunters Guild, Choi Jong-In, leads the latest raid on Jeju Island, and he is accompanied by a pack of S-ranked hunters like him. Choi had lost his dear compatriots in previous raids, and the survivor’s guilt still haunts him to this day, which is why he thanks Chairman Go for arranging the necessary means to conduct another raid at Jeju Island, as Choi wants to avenge his fallen comrades. 

The scene moves to show the system taking Jinwoo back to the ‘Job Change Quest’ dungeon; now with his vitals back to normalcy and with a new weapon at his disposal, Jinwoo slaughters hordes of enemies with ease. He notices the mages to be responsible for the ever-increasing numbers of knights, and he quickly eliminates the majority of them, which decreases the number of adversaries. The remaining mages create a giant golem out of the fallen knights, but even that monstrosity isn’t able to stop Jinwoo, who finally decimates all the present enemies inside the dungeon. With a four-hour gauntlet run in the timer, Jinwoo has managed to complete the quest at long last. 


What Is Shadow Monarch?

With the successful completion of the quest, Jinwoo is given the option of changing his combat status from assassin to a hidden class necromancer. However, Jinwoo is conflicted after realizing that the proposed designation is contrary to his mostly physical style of combat, as being a necromancer demands sorcery and intellect skill upgrades. He also realizes that the name of the quest might suggest he has a choice, but the system has arranged the change on its own, without taking Jinwoo’s choice into consideration. Jinwoo convinces himself to accept the change by considering the fact that he can use the summoning skill as a necromancer all the while fighting in his usual style, and as he levels up, his summoning skills will upgrade as well. 

As Jinwoo accepts the change, a number of other additional conditions are seen to be fulfilled in the virtual log, and in a flashy, turbulent transformation sequence, Jinwoo is imbued with new powers. Jinwoo is surprised to see that, as a necromancer, he has already elevated to Shadow Monarch status, with stronger summoning skills. Guided by the directions of the virtual log, Jinwoo assigns the command ‘Arise’ to use his summoning skills, and all the vanquished knights are seen to be emerging in their shadow form at Jinwoo’s command. Jinwoo decides to use his skill to resurrect the strongest adversary he has faced and slain, Bloodred Igris. Initially, Jinwoo fails to awaken Igris due to his high level, but eventually, as he communicates with him as if he is speaking with a person and asks for his assistance, he is able to awaken Igris. The shadow form of the knight commander pledges loyalty to Jinwoo along with his knights, and the finale comes to an end. 

Solo Leveling‘s finale has raised a number of questions for the upcoming season, the chief one of which is why the system wants Jinwoo to get stronger in the first place. The Shadow Monarch title is more than a decorated rank in the world governed by the system, and without spoiling much from the source material, we can state that it indicates a much primeval role in the Solo Leveling universe, which now has been entrusted to Sung Jinwoo. Eventually Jinwoo will need to join the Hunters of the world to tackle the overarching crisis, and it remains to be seen whether the system’s guidance becomes a detrimental issue in that context. Jinwoo’s newfound abilities will come in handy in his struggle to survive, not only against threats that are mystical in nature but also against humans—other Hunters as well—who might not take much of a liking to his meteoric rise. 

Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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