The good news is, Two Weeks is awesome! The first two episodes had me on the edge of my seat and the time just flew by. The bad news is… Two Weeks is awesome! I’ve been totally spoiled by marathoning and I can tell the week-long wait between episodes is going to play havoc on my nerves.
Spoilers through episode 2 below…
Right off the bat I’m glad to say that the story structure and tone is different enough from Heartless City that I’ll not be making comparisons. (Erm… Other than right now.) I was a tiny bit worried, since they’re both dark, gritty, cops and robbers dramas. But they’re only related by the broadest of strokes. Heartless City was all shadows and uncertainty and slow-pulsing glamour. Whereas Two Weeks is tightly wound, brightly lit edginess. (One is an elegant bar at midnight: mood-lit and sexy, a husky-voiced singer breaking your heart with her song. The other is the harsh light of day: sunlight picking out the vomit-stained carpet and the overflowing ashtrays and the rips in the fabric of the dirty pleather-lined booths.)
Our hero, Jang Tae-san, when we meet him, is a full on loser. A gambler — who regularly loses and is fine with being treated like the table’s fool. A prostitute — who protests but takes the money and pretty much drinks himself into compliance. And a pawn-shop manager (his respectable day-job) who drifts through his work with little to no ambition or interest.
(I call him a manager because it seems like he’s got a boss who can send him on errands. But he’s also called the owner so… I might be misunderstanding the whole gang hierarchy.) Suffice it to say, Tae-san is part of a gang and is in a weird position where he’s in a place of respect — he’s called “hyungnim” by most everyone around him — but he isn’t actually respected. Which he seems to both understand and just purely not care about.
And that’s where Lee Jun-ki pinged me. Because his character is definitely just drifting through life, disconnected and not caring. He’s given up and he knows it (and I know it — which could lead to my not caring about the character or his story), but it niggles. You can see that it niggles in the little twitches of humiliation that flicker across his face right before he turns the humiliation into a joke that he uses to shake it off and let it go.
(The drama itself was incredibly smart by starting off with a music-video style prologue of the scene where Tae-san’s in the police van and a weeping woman driving a porsche passes him (in the slow-mo of important passing) and starts off a chain reaction that leads to the crash we’ve seen in all the pre-release stills and posters. So we watch Tae-san’s current languor knowing a crisis is just ’round the bend.)
And then we meet his ex. And it gets worse. She has a daughter, the daughter is dying, the daughter needs a bone-marrow donor, the daughter is his. His ex, Seo In-hye, is very unhappy about letting him know the child exists and is very unhappy about having to ask him for anything. And he confirms her low expectations by asking incredulously (even a little angrily), “You had the child?”
And, wow. New low found. Especially when we get the flashback of a young Tae-san physically pushing a sobbing and protesting In-hye into the operating room (to, I assume, have an abortion). At this point I completely understood why In-hye cut off all contact with him, told her daughter that her birth father is dead, and wants as little interaction as possible with Tae-san. Heck, I applauded her decision. Breaking free of Tae-san seemed like the best and healthiest choice In-hye could have made — for her and her daughter.
But if Tae-san has been sleep-walking through life, numb to the filth settling around him — this news, and new responsibility, begins to wake him up. He’s a match (of course) and a date is set for the operation to donate his bone-marrow in two weeks. (Hey! Just like the name of this cartoon!) And — crucially — he meets his daughter.
Seo Soo-jin is an adorable little moppet, of course. But she’s got a maturity about her. For one, she’s somehow figured out that her birth-dad isn’t dead and has an old photo squirreled away of Tae-san and In-hye from their happier days. So when Tae-san peeks into the pediatric section of the hospital, she recognizes him, calls him dad (which freaks him out completely and has him thinking she calls every man dad which piles on the guilt) and then gives him a tiny little bride-gorilla doll making him pinky promise to return it to her at a later date. (I think it’s her way of getting him to promise to see her again. She’s a clever one.)
When the crisis hits — dead woman, murder weapon in his hand, everything arranged perfectly to make him seem the murderer — the little doll becomes a symbol for him, a totem almost — that pushes him to not just take what life is handing him, but actually fight back. I suspect Tae-san’s waking up for the sake of his daughter will be the driving theme of his character’s growth.
Tae-san struck me, in the beginning, as a bit of an idiot. But I’ve begun to suspect he’s not stupid — might even be clever — and has just forced himself to not think to better numb himself to his circumstances. I’m very eager to see what Tae-san is like when he’s fully operational.
And that’s just Tae-san. The villains he’s up against seem gratifyingly challenging. Not so much his gang-boss. He’s cunning but emotional and that leads to mistakes. (The murder was a huge, emotionally driven, mistake.) But his partner is dangerously intelligent. On the surface she’s a humble, hard-working, salt of the earth type politician. Underneath she’s an ice-cold… drug dealer? I think? Anyway, she’s an underworld boss pulling in all kinds of dirty money. And she didn’t achieve all that, and keep it so secret, by being stupid. She’s the villain to watch out for.
Then there’s the Prosecutor, Park Jae-kyung, — all earnest doggedness — who’s been secretly building a dossier on the two bad-guys. It was her informant, Mi-sook, who got murdered. It was her sobbing (over Mi-sook’s death) while driving her porsche that caused the traffic accident that set Tae-san free. And I strongly suspect it will be her who early hooks up with Tae-san to put the pieces together and take the bad-guys down.
The cops, lead by In-hye’s fiancé, Seung-woo, were frustratingly certain of Tae-san’s guilt. Not that I fully blame them. They don’t know they’re in a conspiracy story and the evidence was pretty clearcut. But Jae-kyung has a bigger picture — so I have high expectations of her sliding the pieces into proper place.
(And while I’m on this tangent: it was a police scene that created the biggest story-wobble, in my nitpicking opinion. There was a bit where the rookie cop gets nauseous over Mi-sook’s body and it’s played for laughs complete with funny music. I think the music was a touch too far. We knew Mi-sook, and I liked her, so her body wasn’t impersonal. I get that the police have a certain amount of gallows-humor and the bit felt real character-wise. But it wasn’t a time for easy viewer-laughter so the musical nudge felt pushy and a bit tasteless.)
So we have a sleep-walking loser who finally has reason to wakeup and fight. We have a highly motivated Prosecutor who is on his side — though neither of them know it. We have a smart but possibly rigid cop who might refuse to see the truth until it’s too late (jury’s still out on that one). And we have an intelligent, cold villain who will not be easy meat. Basically, the game is afoot and it promises to be a doozy.