The King 2 Hearts: the Review

king2hearts photo 3133241070_1_2_cxLi754T_zpsf153fee5.jpgThe King 2 Hearts
air date: 3.21.2012 through 5.24.2012
number of eps: 20
I watched it: marathon

In a nutshell: It takes an interesting look at North-South relations by positing that South Korea still has a monarchy and then putting the king’s little brother, the crown prince, into a romantic tangle with a North Korean officer. And it takes an interesting look at Korea’s relations with the world by making the villain an international arms-dealer, just a chicken shy of total crazy, who’d really prefer the tension between the two Korea’s stay at near-boiling. So we had political-thriller meet romance meet good vs. evil and it was almost an epic win. It got a bit long though, doing some repetitive things (the army games in particular) then racing through a storyline I wished they’d spent more time on (the undercover bit). And then there were the foreign “actors”… In the end I was glad I watched it and I’d recommend it, but with the caution that there were some holes.

What was epic: I loved how matter-of-fact they were in creating a modern monarchy. It was handled with such realism I could easily see a new viewer of k-dramas having a moment where they think Korea still has a monarchy. Which meant we could forget the bells and whistles of that being a made-up thing and concentrate on the weight the king carries worrying about the constant threat his country faces.

In fact, the emotional relationships between the various characters were incredibly awesome. The king and his brother, Lee Jae-ha; Lee Jae-ha and the North Korean officer, Kim Hang-ah; her relationship with her men; Jae-ha’s with his body-guard; the body-guard with the princess… Frankly I could go on and on. Which means this was really an actor’s drama. king2hearts2 photo the_ki10_zps5325fdc2.jpgAnd it’s the actors that I adored.

I came for Ha Ji-won of Secret Garden fame and expected to be mildly amused by Lee Seung-ki doing his “boyishly-arrogant becomes boyishly-charming” thing. But he kind of blew me away here. I remember reading a Kaenu Reeves interview where he spoke of the director for A Walk in the Clouds (excellent movie) saying that before he’d played boys, but for this film he would play a man. It’s easy to imagine Lee Seung-ki being told the same thing. He started as a man using boyish charm as a mask and, as the drama progressed and he needed to put that mask aside, he became the man his country needed.

Of course, I have to mention Jo Jung-suk. Again. I’d spotted him in What’s Up?, but this was the (completely and totally different) role that shot him into household-buzz status. (And probably caused a lot of people to go back and check out What’s Up?) I could write paragraphs and paragraphs about what he brought to his character and in turn what that character brought to the characters around him… but that would be long and I’m lazy. I can say it was a disappointingly shortened storyline for his character that became part of…

What was epic-fail: The plot danced so close to perfect it killed me. The villain, the heroes, the sacrifices, the chess games — it was all stuff I eat up with a spoon. But it got a little sloppy and some motifs were given unnecessary repeats (the war-games: one game would have done and then have the rest be actual, “we need to work together or doooom!” stuff) while others felt more hurried (undercover agent: there was so much psychological meat there but it felt so rushed that surprises were over before I’d fully realized they’d sprung). There was a feeling the writers were making stuff up on the fly and this drama deserved better.

And then there were the foreign “actors”. They are always, always, always bad. So bad it becomes a lesson in how much effort actual acting takes. It’s almost something I’d handwave away as impossible to fix, like special effects in ’80’s scifi, but there were so many non-actors and they effectively handcuffed the villain, otherwise epically played by Yoon Je-moon. (Which was another reason the undercover story should have been longer. It’d have given Yoon Je-moon more time with fellow actors.) I know they were trying to show just how international their international villain was, but I wish they’d found another way.

But! With all that said, this merely kept King 2 Hearts from being as epic as it could have been. In the end, it was still a good watch.

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11 thoughts on “The King 2 Hearts: the Review

  1. I really enjoyed K2H myself! I was blown away by Lee Seung Gi. This show completely changed my opinion of him as an actor. And I was even more blown away by Jo Jung Suk. My goodness, watching him onscreen gave me shivers!

    Have to wholeheartedly agree about the foreign non-actors. They were epically BAD. I cringed every time a non-actor showed up and spoke terrible English and was all stilted in front of the camera. The show deserved better than that.

    • I was blown away by Lee Seung Gi. This show completely changed my opinion of him as an actor.

      Me too! Me too! I had never ever thought he was sexy before. Cute as a button? Sure. But sexy? No. But this drama changed my mind.

  2. LOL @foreign non actors πŸ˜€

    But this show is amazing….I already liked Lee Seung Gi. and this series added Jo jung Suk to my favorite list as well πŸ™‚

    • I wish the Korean tv-industry could figure out a good source of foreign actors who are actual actors. Like get some kind of pipeline where unknowns from various countries could get some experience under their belt. Or something. (Maybe as k-dramas become more internationally popular?)

  3. Happy Saturday @BetsyHP! πŸ™‚ Thanks for this post. I too liked this drama, though I only read the recaps because I chose instead to watch live the drama “Rooftop Prince”. [SPOILER ALERT BEGIN] The moving episode where Lee Jae-ha took over the monarchy after his brother’s death and the suspenseful episode where he deciphered the hidden message of his brother (or the villain – can’t recall?) were my favorites [SPOILER ALERT END]. Jo Jung-suk’s portrayal of the loyal soldier captured my admiration too. So I felt sad when [SPOILER ALERT BEGIN] his character suddenly died[SPOILER ALERT END].

    I like your idea of K-dramas employing real actors from other countries. If everything has gone global or done outsourcing, why not k-dramas? If China and Japan have produced dramas that hire the services of Korean experienced (and popular) actors, when will South Korea do the same? If k-drama just need actors who speak fluent English and act like soldiers, I’m sure there are many other countries with actors who can do that.

    Thanks again for continuing to write entertaining and informative posts about Korean dramas.

    P.S. Agree with you on “A Walk in the Clouds” movie. Aside from Keanu Reeves ;-), the song I’ll stand by You made the movie memorable for me…It made me want to own a wine vineyard. πŸ˜‰

    • Happy Saturday, bashful. πŸ™‚ There were some incredibly moving scenes and storylines throughout K2Hs — you’ve named some awesome ones.

      I think the challenge with foreign actors have a lot to do with work-visas and money and just the sheer logistics of bringing people in who may or may not work. It’s possible with movies where there’s more time on the front end (and probably more money? is my suspicion?) but I can understand why it’s been an issue for tv. But! If k-dramas become more popular so actors want to take the effort because they know their work will be seen… I’m not holding my breath it’ll happen anytime soon, but I hope. πŸ˜‰

      Vineyards suddenly seemed so romantic after “A Walk in the Clouds”! Which is a dangerous thought to have regarding anything having to do with farming. Is my thought. (Farming is work!)

  4. My name’s initials are actually K2H ha ha.

    After watching K2H which was highly recommended by another blogger my concerned comment is that the international people whether they were “good” or “bad” had terrible manners (bumbling and undiplomatic would be kind words to describe them) without any understanding of Asian values or protocol at all.

    I wonder if that was intentional by the writer(s)? Or maybe they have witnessed it too often to portray it as reality?

    • Hee! You could say this drama was made for you? πŸ˜‰

      Oh my gosh the Westerners! I remember just rolling my eyes through those scenes. But… I figure here in the States, sometimes our tv shows do horrible stereotypes of other countries, so it’s only fair that other countries would do the same. Plus, it was interesting (though a little uncomfortable, sometimes) to see how the US was perceived.

      The one thing I remember in particular (it’s been a while since I watched) was an American soldier patting Lee Kang-suk (the older, N.Korean soldier) on the head and that starting a fight. Which was ridiculous because it was written like that’s just something American’s do. Which, it isn’t at all and would be taken as a form of condescension here as well. But… I don’t know, maybe that’s happened before? Certainly it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a perception of the US being condescending, so…

      • The K2H’s writer(s) must have had many bad experiences with the Caucasian barbarians I guess. Or maybe it’s just to dramatise the ‘poor’ white folks.

        Go look for the UN ‘interference’ scenes. . .those were quite rude. And also that huge scene where the ‘paid’ diplomat just gave our girl a scant minute to present her case.

        • Ah, yes — that tickles my memory. I recall thinking, “Oh, this is how the writers view UN involvement in the North-South division of Korea.” I am far too ignorant on that matter to comment with anything like authority. But I could see there being a feeling of S. Korea being ignored and/or bullied by the UN and the US when it comes to South Korea’s interactions with North Korea.

          (This is an incredibly simplified view of things on my part, of course. And I was looking at it more thematically than anything. That this is how the writers felt overall rather than it pointing to a specific incident.)

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