King 2 Hearts: A Review

I like this other set of Hong Sisters. Overall this series was well done and I enjoyed it for the most part. I think I grew disenchanted towards the end because there were only so many times Ha Ji Won and Lee Seung Gi could split up, but it didn’t make me love the series less. It just made me think, “Oh he re we go again – what will Jae Ha do next?”

I know this review is quite late, and honestly I only finished the series recently. Damn ye Drama Gods who like to steal time away from me!

For recaps, I’m sure no place but Dramabeans could do it better, so I won’t bother recapping/summarizing the series here. Instead, be forewarned that there WILL be spoilers. This is a review of the entire series. Review = spoilers. (In my world.)

To start off with, I have to say I didn’t get really invested in this series until maybe five to six episodes in. The main reason was because while I enjoyed Jae Ha’s interactions with his brother Jae Kang, I was also not amused with Hang Ah’s accent. Many people have told me that her accent is quite accurate for a North Korean, so I won’t bother saying that her accent is terrible. HOWEVER – the accent that she does put on makes her sound like a twelve-year-old, and I’m supposed to believe that she’s badass? That she’s an almost-30-year old soldier?

If anything – could Ha Ji Won just have dropped her voice register a couple of notches so that she wouldn’t have sounded so young? It didn’t really help me buy into her character. She already looks older than Lee Seung Gi, but sounding younger doesn’t make it any better. Thank goodness it got better as the series wore on – it’s probably because she had less of that lilt, and I probably got more used to it.

As for Lee Seung Gi, I felt he was pitch perfect in this role. He was at turns funny and charming, and then serious and pained. He was childish and smart. He wasn’t dumb at all, which made things more satisfying because I loved it when his enemies underestimated him. That was the entire point – to constantly be underestimated. Lee Seung Gi never fails us with his boyish charm, but he has the assurance and confidence of a man. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed him in any other role except maybe Shining Inheritance, but now I can even see how in Shining Inheritance it was like a first step for this role.

Once I was invested in all the characters, that’s when the drama kills off Jae Kang. Boy was I pissed. But then again, it had to happen because the story was about Jae Ha becoming king. There’s no other way for him to be king unless his older brother dies. I accepted that death and moved on.

Then the series became more and more political, while still maintaining the “heart” of the series. While at the core it was about Hang Ah and Jae Ha overcoming their differences and coming together (basically, reflecting the North and South Korean divide), it also added more realistic elements of the current political tensions in East Asia. Dramas like Spy Myung Wol and Peninsula seemed to have glazed over all of it; I’m actually quite annoyed that Peninsula totally glazed over the situation because it would have been a great vehicle for political melodrama. But at least King 2 Hearts addressed it, even if it wasn’t in depth. The drama wasn’t afraid to make other countries look bad. Americans are portrayed as assholes; the Chinese as selfish. It’s true that China has to keep their interests alive with having a communist nation such as North Korea at their borders. It’s true that U.S. needs South Korea to help push North Korea’s buttons (because technically the countries are still at war, and have reached a truce, but no peace treaty). And it’s brilliant that Lee Seung Gi uses these foreign channels and diplomacy to get the countries to do what he wants. Never mind that he’s the king; never mind that he has a woman he loves to save (although that’s usually the impetus) – those are not reasons for making his enemies listen to him. He will either give them assistance or take away their resources to get them to do what he wants.

That’s awesome.

What’s not awesome is that Bong Gu is pulling all the strings. I know money is power, but it’s still unbelievable that he’s the orchestrating everything.

While we’re on Bong Gu, I have to say that Yoon Je Moon is a brilliant actor. I saw him in Tree with Deep Roots and now here, and in both instances he’s played the “harmless villain” type – meek, innocent, quiet characters who (in Bong Gu’s case) may seem too juvenile to take seriously, and yet he’s like a devil reborn. Some of his expressions make me think, “I can’t take you seriously,” to “Holy crap, you’re evil” in just a second.

 

His henchmen were full of foreign actors that I honestly could not believe the drama kept them around for so long. But that’s what made it even better too, because rarely do I see foreign actors given such prominent roles in a drama. I don’t count Michael Blunck (Assorted Gems) or Julian Kang (High Kick series) because they spoke Korean for the most part in their dramas. (Or any other actor like them.) I mean, characters who consistently speak English the entire time, and are responded to in Korean. I think it was less weird with Daniel Henney because people spoke back to him in English in My Lovely Samsoon. Daniel Oh in My Sweet Spy was a little weird too, but he was a main character. It was a little weird at first, but I grew to like them – especially Bong Gu’s right hand Australian. Some say he was a bad actor; I say he was better than the girl who played Bong Bong – who is seriously trying too hard to be “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

The story was fairly interesting for the most part, especially as Bong Gu’s antics escalated and it became harder and harder for Hang Ah and Jae Ha to get married in peace. But what killed me were episodes 18 and 19. Finally we have Jo Jung Suk‘s Shi Kyung stepping up and giving Jae Shin the most beautifully backlit-by-the-sun kisses ever – second to Jun Matsumoto and Inoue Mao‘s kiss in Hana Yori Dango. And then we had his death, which was totally uncalled for. Why didn’t the stupid UN people see the gun Bong Gu was holding!? What purpose did Shi Kyung’s death serve?! 

 

Those two episodes felt like a culmination of everything, only to totally break me down and make me resist watching episode 20. (Why bother? Shi Kyung was dead!) It’s a testament to Jo Jung Suk and Lee Yoon Ji, both of whom had excellent chemistry and really stole all of their scenes wherever they were. They were the bright stars of this series, and I wish them a teary farewell!

I’ll send a separate letter to the Hong Sisters over why they must ruin the happiness of the only two characters that I’m sure anyone cared about.

 

Because of everything that happened, I felt that episode 20 was a little too anticlimactic. Really – you’re going to put us at the brink of war again? Really, you’re going to separate Hang Ah and Jae Ha again? Didn’t we do that enough times already? And then on top of that you have Hang Ah pointing a gun at Jae Ha – “I will kill him, then commit suicide.”

The final confrontation between Bong Gu and Jae Ha was not as juicy as I thought. I can understand why they faced off in jail, with Jae Ha looking at Bong Gu through the small window bars. But their entire conversation was underwhelming. Jae Ha’s last words sounded cheesy to me, whereas Bong Gu’s words were so epic and threatening (even though he’s really harmless behind bars). There’s an uneven-ness in superiority and acting that tempered the mood of the scene.

I will give one shoutout to my favorite character – aside from Jo Jung Suk, whom I plan to make my second ‘Mister’ of Jung Gyu Woon-ie and hubby Park Shi Hoo – and that is Hang Ah’s father. He is the one father who can bring tears to my eyes because it’s so obvious he loves his daughter so dearly. He does everything for his one treasure – country be damned! And that’s how I like my drama fathers to be. Of what I’ve seen so far in 2012, this father has my vote for Best Daddy of the Year.

Rating: 8/10. Sweet and filling – but beware, these kinds of snacks can leave you with a toothache too.

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