King 2 Hearts: First Impressions

I had high hopes for this drama, and I’m really glad it delivered. I’m like the above photo – hesitant about the looming kiss, but I’m satisfied it happens in the end. (Ha Ji Won doesn’t get that kiss, but oh well!) There were a few pitfalls and issues I had to get past, but after I did, things became smooth sailing for me. What really sells the drama is the story, and Lee Seung Gi‘s character. Everything else just adorns him.

I watched the first 6 episodes before writing this. Let’s just say, once I started, it was hard to stop and write a review.

 

Premise is simple: the spare to the throne, Lee Jae Ha (Lee Seung Gi) would much rather goof around than be a responsible royal, especially since he has such an upstanding older brother like Lee Jae Kang (Lee Sung Min). (I’m sure that youngest sister Jae Shin (Lee Yoon Ji) thinks the same thing, except instead of goofing off she just performs at rock concerts.) However, he ends up being part of the North-South Korea team for the World Officer Championships, and is teamed up with Eun Shi Kyung (Jo! Jung! Suk!) and Kim Hang Ah (Ha Ji Won), among others.

(Side note: I love how the royal siblings in real life all have Lee as the last name. Destined, no? Haha.)

 

They all have difficulty trusting each other, and Jae Ha is a complete jackass and prankster to all his North Korea teammates during their six months of training. However, with every difficulty, there are shining moments when you actually see his heart and his inner strength. Jae Ha very nearly disbands the team when he makes a shocking move that shows just how much he distrusts North Koreans, but thankfully he has enough of a conscience to rectify his mistake. If it’s not because he feels guilty towards the North Koreans, it’s certainly because he feels guilty towards his brother, whom he loves so much.

 

When the training for the WOC ends, the media frenzy surrounding Jae Ha and Hang Ah don’t die out. Instead, they intensify with rumors of their engagement. Jae Ha tries to create a drama out of nothing, manipulating Hang Ah’s feelings and the media’s thirst for drama by admitting that they are in love (when they’re not) and stating that they are engaged (when they are not). What ensues is a complicated game of “I love him/her but I’m actually lying, but I’m actually really lying to myself because I do love him/her.”

The Plot

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how the plot was going to go. It didn’t really feel solid until perhaps the fourth to fifth episode. I thought it was going to be just one awkward situation after another between the North and South, until a real foe started emerging: John Mayer/Kim Bong Goo (Yoon Je Moon). (I cracked up when I thought that the singer of “Your Body is a Wonderland” was the enemy. Aaaaaanywayyyyss….) His storyline is actually the one that feels the most out of place, but I know he will solidify as an enemy in the coming episodes. The idea of the WOC didn’t feel solid for me, because I thought it was just a gimmick that would last a few episodes. There is no way this drama could be all about the WOC…could it?

Since I thought it was just a gimmick, I figured I didn’t have to pay attention to any of it. Boy was I wrong. The training for the WOC helped solidify the camaraderie that the soldiers would later have, and gave an opportunity to show off Jae Ha as a person. I think those episodes made me understand who he was completely, so that later on when he changed, I could understand why. I can also now see how the WOC will play a larger role in the drama. It’s the first step in unification, and it is the foundation for a lot of upcoming strife between the Koreas and John Mayer’s organization, Club M. It is also the perfect place where everyone could get their biases out in the open, and I enjoy watching people getting over their prejudices. Also, if the competition does come to fruition onscreen (meaning, we actually see them all participate in this), then I will feel like the first five episodes paid off in a more fulfilling way; not only did we see the characters’ personalities, but we also got to see them act upon the skills they learned.

By episode 6 however, I started to get really excited in the most shallow of ways. Jae Ha and Hang Ah were coming to face their feelings for each other. The Koreas were in a bit of a mess behind-the-scenes, trying to orchestrate the perfect marriage for Jae Ha, but to the rest of the world, it sounded like a fairy tale come true – or a nightmare come true for those heavily biased against North Korea. I love arranged marriages for drama characters!

The Characters

I’m going to be blunt: Ha Ji Won’s accent pisses me off, and made me hate her character. Actually, it’s more like she has this weird way of speaking the North Korean dialect that is so much more different from her other costars, and it makes her sound like a complete ditz. Now, if this were intentional (to juxtapose her tough nature with her innocent way of talking), I think it works – but it still makes her a ditz. If this were unintentional, then it just means Ha Ji Won can’t speak in accents, and can only sound like a Korean Valley Girl. Her accent threw me off so much because it clashes so much with her supposed tomboyish personality. I couldn’t believe in her character for quite a while.

I eventually got used to her accent, but it doesn’t make me like her any better. Yes, she may be a soldier who’s known nothing but beating guys up and best ways to assassinate someone. But it’s not really an excuse for her to not understand a single thing about guys, and to sound like an idiot. Also – if you’ve lived with Jae Ha int he same room and saw all of his tricks first hand, wouldn’t you realize he was fooling you later on?!

As for Lee Seung Gi’s character, I actually LOVE HIM. Yes, Lee Seung Gi may be typecasted into that spoiled brat role, but he does a better job of it here. Jae Ha continually shows shades of something deeper within him, and Lee Seung Gi does a great job in conveying it with each episode. We keep seeing how foolish he is, and how much of a cad he is, but then he defuses the tension, or solves a situation (not so diplomatically) that earns him the respect of his comrades. One of his best moments is when Hang Ah points a gun at him in episode 4, and he goes to the bathroom for some time to think. His hands start shaking – which shows another side of him we never see. This continual growth makes it more believable that he’s going to change by the end of the series, because we know there’s more to him than meets the eye, and it just needs to completely crack through.

What’s also great is that I am fooled every time he acts sincere. Because we see his cracks of sincerity, I start wondering when he is being true, and when he’s just acting. It’s great that I am constantly on my toes with his character, and this is a testament to the writing, and to Lee Seung Gi.

 

My next favorite character is Jo Jung Suk’s Eun Shi Kyung. First of all, I LOVE THIS ACTOR – he hasn’t failed me so far! I think I’ll just watch anything with him. His character confused me a little because he started off so daring and strong, as if he didn’t care that Jae Ha was a prince. But later on he became so submissive. I thought Shi Kyung was going to be a foe in later episodes – a rival in love or power. I’m glad he isn’t, but that also means I’m expecting a bromance! If I’m going to try to resolve Shi Kyung’s moments of aloofness towards the prince, and complete subservience, I’m going to say that Shi Kyung thinks he understands the prince, but the prince always does something that surprises him.

Lee Yoon Ji is becoming the favorite go-to princess, I feel. She’s got the “awesome sister/princess” role down pat, and I love that she’s moonlighting as a rockstar. I want her and Shi Kyung to end up together.

Verdict: I can’t wait for more episodes! If anything, this series knows how to bring out the tensions between the north and south through the people. Peninsula tried to be broad about the north and south tensions, but didn’t really touch the heart of the matter: how do North and South Koreans view each other? King 2 Hearts is the opposite: it shows how people react to the label “commie,” and it highlights differences between their lifestyles. I don’t think it gets too preachy at all, and doesn’t extol one Korea’s society over another. If anything, we haven’t seen anything good about South Korea just yet (except for SNSD and Jang Dong Gun, heh).

So for a drama about the North and South, this is it for me!

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6 comments

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  1. D 14 April, 2012 at 00:56 Reply

    I’m going to be blunt: Ha Ji Won’s accent pisses me off, and made me hate her character. Actually, it’s more like she has this weird way of speaking the North Korean dialect that is so much more different from her other costars, and it makes her sound like a complete ditz. Now, if this were intentional (to juxtapose her tough nature with her innocent way of talking) I think it works – but it still makes her a ditz. If this were unintentional, then it just means Ha Ji Won can’t speak in accents, and can only sound like a Korean Valley Girl. Her accent threw me off so much because it clashes so much with her supposed tomboyish personality.
    THIS
    Now I’ve watched Ha Ji Won in 4 films and 1 drama, always liking her but never loving her performances…till this one and I love her character and her performance here…but then her accent comes along and its complete emotional chaos for me…especially when she’s trying to act cutesy….i wouldn’t mind the cutesy by itself…i’ve got used to because of all the kdramas I’ve seen till now,,,but WITH the accent it’s, like my very own personal brand of kryptonite…i go from loving her for being so badass, strong and sweet to…”OMG why is she doing that, I’m feeling embarrassed for her”
    sigh…I may not be making a lot of sense..lol
    Overall, though…I love this drama…it’s my current kdrama crack
    also keep some tissues handy for the next few episodes

  2. chillinducky 14 April, 2012 at 01:38 Reply

    Have to agree about Ha Ji Won’s accent / cutesy voice. Not feeling it. =/

    I was hoping to see more badass Hang Ah, as in the one in the bathroom that threatened Lee Seung Gi’s character, perhaps there’ll be more scenes that will show that side of her character in the future episodes.

    Hopefully the rest of the drama continues as well as it’s been going so far!

  3. wanne 14 April, 2012 at 08:31 Reply

    Omg, I love your review! You nailed almost everything I feel about this drama that I couldnt manage to say. So, thank you!

    Jae-ha’s character is really fascinating. I’m so glad Seunggi accepts this role when other actors all turned it down. While his character here has similarities with his previous roles, there’s just a lot of depth in Jaeha and damn, is he turning the hot here?! and his chemistry with Jiwon is amazing. And there was not a time when I think he got overshadowed by the other great experienced casts, which says a lot about his acting.

    For the writing, I agree with everything you said. I just cant find words to explain but the characterization, the portrayal of North-South relationship are just awesome. .

    Cant wait to see more episodes as well!

  4. melon 14 April, 2012 at 12:20 Reply

    My fav scene is when they were running and singing on the treadmill! I don’t like her accent as well. Is that true NK people speak like that? but I love her tomboyish personality rather than her too feminine/girly side. I hope there will be a fighting scene when Hang Ah will kick the evil girl ass! hahaha

  5. ebya 17 July, 2012 at 04:04 Reply

    I am about to watch the dram and your review helps me to get excited and not only because i love Lee Seung Gi and Ha Ji Won…

  6. ginger2827 31 October, 2012 at 14:32 Reply

    Hi! I’ve already finished watched this drama this is so fantastic ! its amazing I can’t move anymore!!! and two leads roles was so great to act I love oppa! and ms. Ha Ji Won !!!!

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