Two Weeks: the review

two weeks photo twoweeks_zps672aa130.jpgTwo Weeks
air date: 8.7.2013 through 9.26.2013
number of episodes: 16
I watched it: live! surviving all the heart-stopping cliffhangers. barely.

In a nutshell: The opening episode sets it all up. A man (Jang Tae-san), wrongly accused of murder, goes on the run, desperate to survive the next two weeks so he can safely donate his bone marrow to the dying daughter he’s just learned he has. His race to stay alive, stay out of custody, and arrive for the scheduled surgery creates an intense pace that doesn’t ease until the final episode. In addition, the low state Tae-san starts in (gangster, gambler, hustler, drunk) creates a very steep climb to redemption and fatherhood. The story hurtles relentlessly forward with only a few overly-convenient coincidences occurring along the way. But since those moments more serve the redemption tale than the survival tale, they’re easy to accept. On the whole, every victory is hard earned and Tae-san’s journey is an easy one to get behind. This is an exciting and emotionally engaging watch.

The Excitement: The clearly stated stakes drive the pace which drives the narrative. If Tae-san dies his young daughter dies as well; if he’s captured, he will die. Each episode covers a day. By using the classic narrative technique of the ticking clock, the viewer is aware of when Tae-san last ate, when he last slept, day14 photo day14_zps7ccf075e.jpghow exhausted and filthy and hungry he is at any given moment. Which means that what would otherwise seem like small victories (finding food, a safe place to sleep, an opportunity to bathe, shoes) become highly important.

But survival isn’t the only driving need in this drama. As the days tick past, Tae-san begins to change as well. He starts off purely reactionary. Things happen to him and the tension comes from his desperate fight to stay just one step in front of his pursuers. But, as Tae-san begins to come into his own, to wake up, he becomes more and more proactive and the game board changes accordingly. clothes photo clothes_zps79737177.jpgIt’s a well managed progression that keeps the characters moving forward, rather than spinning in tension-killing ruts.

There are some moments of extreme coincidence in which Tae-san runs into exactly the right sort of person to further his emotional and psychological growth. It’s an unsubtle reminder that this is redemption tale, too! It’s not all action and adventure! But those moments are played with such low-key honesty it’s easy to wave off the plot-manipulation and enjoy the human scene unfolding in front of you.

The Emotion: And that all comes down to Lee Jun-ki. Jang Tae-san is a dangerous sort of character to play. Going through extreme emotional states, almost literally facing off against the world (or at least the whole of S. Korea) it’d be very, very easy for an actor to slide into histrionics and furniture chewing, fool photo fool_zps8769a9e5.jpgcrashing through scenes with epic expressions of despair and righteousness.

Lee Jun-ki doesn’t do that. Instead he turns Jang Tae-san into the steadying heart of the drama. Starting off as a beaten down fool, he gives us brief flashes of Tae-san’s intelligence and self-disgust, hinting at something hiding beneath the amused resignation. When things start coming at Tae-san with increasing speed and intensity, Lee Jun-ki gives us fear and resentment. Tae-san has settled into numbness and waking up is uncomfortable, even painful. By allowing the “real” Tae-san to be so hidden from the world, and even himself, there’s room for palpable growth as circumstances force him to escape the cocoon he’s wrapped himself in and finally fight for something.

Assisting Lee Jun-ki’s stellar acting, the drama uses two motifs to help tease out the inner Tae-san. The first does not, unfortunately, stick around for very long. Tae-san is a movie buff and we see clips of old action/adventure movies as he figures his way out of various sticky spots. It was a fun way to see Tae-san pushing his rusty mind back into action as he uses their inspiration in inventive ways. daddydaughtereight photo daddydaughter_zps4d405f69.jpgBut, after the first handful of episodes, the movie-clips cease. Fortunately, Tae-san’s inventiveness does not.

The other motif carries all the way through and it is both delightful and heart wrenching. Tae-san’s daughter becomes his imaginary sounding board, popping up when he’s at his lowest, asking questions that prompt him to work through an issue or come to a decision. It could be sickeningly sweet, but two things keep it in the compelling and insightful range. First, imaginary Soo-jin’s knowledge is limited to what Tae-san knows — if she points something out it’s clearly Tae-san reminding himself of something. Second, imaginary Soo-jin is nothing like the real Soo-jin. (Lee Chae-mi does an admirable job in keeping the two characters distinct and separate.) She’s grave, and watchful far beyond her years, and not always complimentary towards Tae-san.

Once again, Lee Jun-ki teases out all the emotional truths to be had in those scenes. Tae-san is a man alone, struggling with inner-demons he’d spent years avoiding. And Lee Jun-ki plays it that way — egoless and exposed, not hiding behind sentimentality. bow photo bow_zps03cdbdb7.jpgWhich means  the moments of emotional growth stand out in stark contrast and Tae-san’s strengthening confidence in himself become something to cheer for.

There’s a strong supporting cast helping to keep the extraordinary events grounded. (The chameleon-like Kim So-yun, as a Prosecutor with personal ties to the case, is another stand-out. Her character begins at an emotionally challenging height, but Kim So-yun manages to express the grief and guilt and rage her character is feeling without getting mired down in it.) But it’s Lee Jun-ki who set the tone and makes us care about Tae-san and the journey he’s on.

In Conclusion: Two Weeks is an exciting drama with more depth than you’d expect — and more heart. It’s not perfectly told — there are a few narrative tricks and coincidences — but it’s definitely entertaining. goal photo goal_zps2aa297d1.jpgThe plot never gets sluggish or bogged down (a rare enough occurrence to be noteworthy), and the ending is satisfying without being too neat or cloying. Lee Jun-ki’s performance is worth the price of admission alone, but the story is a whole lot of fun as well. The two weeks will fly by before you’re ready to let it go.

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12 thoughts on “Two Weeks: the review

  1. Ahhh! So good to know that you loved this, and that Lee Jun Ki was great in this! 😀 I love Lee Jun Ki, and feel that he’s at his best when he’s a little restrained in his acting choices. Sounds like he did nicely in that department in Two Weeks, and I’m so looking to checking this out! Lee Jun Ki as action man on the run and tortured-conflicted daddy in one sounds way awesome.

    Also! Lovely review, as always. You rawk, Truffle Betsy! ❤

    • Yay! Thanks, Kfangurl! 😀

      I totally agree with you about Lee Jun-ki. I think it’s “goofy” acting that can do him in, so this role was perfect since, even when Tae-san was being an idiot, there always needed to be this inner sadness grounding him. With that said though, I think he was really pushing himself to make Tae-san as grounded and believable and real as possible. I think he outdid himself — which was really cool to see. 🙂

      I never felt like LJK didn’t fully believe the situation he was in. Which meant even when I was rolling my eyes a little thinking, “oh, of course he runs across this sort of person,” I’d get pulled right into the scene — because LJK played it so real, not at all like he was checking redemption-points of a list — if that makes sense.

      But! It’s mainly a really fun action drama with exciting cliffhangers and such. Swinging so hard behind the hero was just a very sweet bonus. 😀

      • Oh yes. LJK definitely has a tendency to go hammy sometimes, especially in the goofier types of moments/roles. When he’s reined in a little, though, he’s fantastic. Which is why it’s SO great to hear that he outdid himself in Two Weeks! I LOVED his restrained delivery in Arang, and wondered if he could sustain that sort of style. Sounds like he did – and then some! 😀

        Now, when oh when will I get to watching this, amid the myriad of stuff I wanna see? *shuffles drama plate intently*

        • He definitely maintained the restraint — even kicked it up a notch, I’d say in that he didn’t have the formality of a Joseon era lord to hold him back.

          Ah, the difficulties of arranging the drama plate… I usually plan it out very logically. Then throw logic out the window and go with my gut. 😉 The nice thing about a full plate is you can better pick and choose to suit your mood.

  2. I wasn’t expecting you to write a review of this show at this point, but it was really well written! Glad you brought up the point about the movie references disappearing midway through the show, I had forgotten all about it. I wish they had kept it consistent. I guess the writer ran out of movie ideas because one can only watch so many shows, haha!

    I agree with you that LJK seems to overact in comedic roles. Now that you mention it, I feel kind of worried about him taking on a rom-com for his next project. So far, he has been very impressive and has shown great improvement in his two shows after his army enlistment, so I wonder if this improvement in acting will extend to comedy too. Hmm :/

    • Hee! Okay, my first response was, “Yeah, this was pretty fast!” and then I realized, “Wait a minute, Betsy, on average with the rest of the world, this is actually pretty slow.” 😀 I really am slow about getting my official, formal reviews done and out. For one, I need to give myself space to digest a story and make sure my initial feelings stick. I can get very caught up in the emotions of a story and overlook flaws that start to bug me as that initial emotional rush dies down. Plus, it takes me several days to write a review (very unlike a “reaction” which usually takes a few hours at most) because I want to make sure I cover all the important bits but also not spoil anything. Which means my procrastination powers kick in. 😉

      The good thing is the lack of movie clips didn’t ruin the drama. The bad thing is — they were fun! So it was sad to see them go. But yeah, I suspect it was running out of ideas and maybe space, too.

      I will be very interested to see LJK in a more comedic role now. I feel like he’s developed more discipline (Tae-san really could have been played hammy and over-emotional, but he didn’t fall into that trap) and I’d love to see that translate into the humor side of things, too. So for the sake of him pushing his abilities, I’m rooting for him! 😀

  3. Well, as you know, me and Two Weeks didn’t hit it off but I did enjoy reading all your ‘squee’ posts about it. 🙂

    I think military service did LJK a world of good as he is now really trying to reign in his tendency to overact. He is a bit lacking in the technique department still. Imho, he is one of those actors who in large part go by their gut instinct and emotion, which doesn’t always come out right if the acting is not grounded enough. A good director who knows his/her stuff is a big help, of course.

    • I agree that LJK is an emotional/gut actor, but I think he’s been developing his discipline. Which is very cool because, as you say, when he’s grounded he’s really, really good. 🙂 This is the best I’ve seen him in a drama (not that I’ve seen all his dramas — “The Time Between Dog and Wolf” is still languishing on my to-be-watched list) and it was a role that called for strong restraint to be played well. I definitely give props to the director, but I’m pleased for LJK, too. I hope he continues this trend. 🙂 (He was amazing in The King and the Clown, but I think that was a case of the director having him on a very tight leash. I’m hoping he’s figured out how to manage himself, if that makes sense.)

  4. Nice review!!

    Loved Two Weeks despite some flaws regarding thriller as a genre but the drama has so much heart…Lee Jun Ki did a fabulous job! His scenes with his daughter were awesome 🙂

    One technical qn: what is the advantage of using photo bucket over directly inserting the pics??

    • Thanks! 😀 I adored the father-daughter scenes. ♥ Both the real ones and the imaginary. And I loved, loved, loved how very different they were from each other. I give everyone involved (actors and director and writer and all) so many props for that.

      I use photo bucket because I had an account there before I started a WordPress blog. I’ve continued to use it because I can organize my pics into files (I sort them by dramas) so they’re easy to find. I don’t think WordPress has that organizational ability (or at least, if they do, I haven’t figured out how to do it). I don’t keep the pics on my computer because of space. Which is probably an old-fashioned way of thinking (there is so much more storage space now, especially with the cloud) but there you are. 😉

      So, for me, it’s all about organization really.

  5. *adds to my ever-growing To Watch list* (sweating while I’m at it because damn, this list is getting long but your review, as always, is so well-written and convincing!)

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