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The_K2_(더_케이투) (1)


This is one of those shows that I caught some time after its original run. I’ve liked Ji Chang-work as an actor since Healer but for one reason or another his drama choices haven’t always aligned with my interests or the timing hasn’t been right for viewing. I was also leery of getting on board with K2 for some time because I had read rather mixed reviews from around the web. So I was surprised, especially once I got past the first episode, by how much I actually enjoyed it overall. No doubt it has its flaws (nutty stuff happens) but as far as makjangs go, it's a slick piece of work.


The premise of the show falls along these lines: A soldier of fortune while working  in Iraq not only loses the woman he loves but is later framed for her death. He does a runner and eventually returns to South Korea a fugitive. Not long after he arrives home he becomes embroiled with the head of a prestigious security company and her politician husband. After a series of encounters, he agrees to becoming a key member of her security detail in exchange for information that could help him clear his name.


It’s not a bad show. Quite good for the most part, in fact. There are even flashes of brilliance sprinkled about particularly in the first half. What seemed particularly enjoyable to me was the political theatre on display for public consumption and the behind-the-scenes wrangling that flew in the face of what the rest of the world was allowed to see. All of that was masterfully written and performed by seasoned veterans of the screen. In the most tangible ways, the machiavellian seniors dominate the story’s landscape with their machinations and under the table shenanigans. Their world is their playground to do what they will, consequences be damned. But nothing good lasts forever even for powerful baddies when in walks Kim Je-ha (Ji Chang-wook), the former mercenary who inadvertently upsets the good o'l applecart.


An argument perhaps can be made that the show is limited by its needs to stay true to its fairytale template. Choi Yoo-jin (Song Yoon-a) the CEO of JJS Security is a somewhat sympathetic even if dubious Maleficent figure with her state of the art AI, Mirror. Je-ha is the princely figure who is called upon to slay not one but several dragons to protect the innocent and vulnerable Anna (Yoona) who has been kept imprisoned by stepmother Yoo-jin, in the manner of many Brothers Grimm heroines since her own mother's untimely death. Her largely ineffectual father, Jang Se-joon (Cho Seong-ha) intentionally tethers himself to his wife's apron strings as his keeps his eye on the Blue House. Anna's survival is possible because of a pact between Se-joon and Yoo-jin who have a love-hate relationship kept hidden from public view.


Still, The K2 is unabashedly a moralizing screed of the old adage... power corrupts... absolute power corrupts absolutely. The role of the eponymous protagonist is to cut through the facade and expose the rot festering within the unhappy marriage between Big Business and Big Government as personified in the sham union between Se-joon and Yoo-jin. Only Je-ha can do this because he is above the fray, untouched by the machinations and ultimately incorruptible. Rather than good vs evil, it is all about love triumphing over corruption. 


It's not all serious. There's humour to be enjoyed mainly from the support acts especially from Je-ha's colleagues at JJS Security. They first regard him with a mix of suspicion and over admiration (from one female in particular) but come to appreciate his professionalism and authenticity over time. 


The cast ranges from stellar to adequate. There's no doubt that Song Yoon-a gave a superb performance as the multifaceted, fleshed out powerbroker who craves genuine affection but because of upbringing and other circumstances, defaults to wielding power for self-preservation and empire building. The thing about amassing raw power though is that over time it does something horrifying to the soul. It's clear that the intrusion of Je-ha into her consciousness has a powerful effect on her. He brings an authenticity that is unfamiliar in much of her interactions. In other words, he works his charm. Although the role is no great stretch for Ji Chang-wook, he has fun with it and is wonderful in the action scenes. K2 is a veritable bulwark like his mountainous namesake. Immutable and unshakeable. An unblemished archetype of the Hero. Yoona is adequate as the simple-minded Anna. I don't object to her or their romance or their chemistry  in the way others have. It was inoffensively cute. I imagine after leading a cloistered existence, one is ill-equipped to deal with the big bad ugly world out there. In her, Je-ha finds someone else after the manner of his lost love that he can protect and love.


Much as I admired Song Yoon-a's performance, I didn't fall in love with Yoo-jin even while she did elicit some sympathy for being unloved. She always had agency and ability which she quite cruelly denied her own stepdaughter. She played in that world like the best of them and built her empire with soiled hands. The skilled manipulator made her bed and slept in it. For a while there she was the queen of her domain.


Will I watch it again? I re-watched large portions of it when I stumbled across it on Netflix. It's hard to say. Perhaps on a rainy day when the mood calls for it. It also depends on whether one has a penchant for action adventure political theatre littered with fairytale archetypes.


Plot: 8

Storytelling: 9

Cast / Acting: 8.5

Production Values: 9

Rewatch Value: 7.5

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"Love is not an affectionate feeling but a steady wish for the loved person's good as far as it can be obtained." -- CS Lewis.

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Thanks for this review! It didn't pass the first 4 episode test for me, despite my love for Ji Chang Wook after Healer. And to be honest, a lot of it had to do with the romance with Anna which was telegraphed way in advance, and felt more like a perfunctory "hey, we need a romance in here, what can we squeeze in" kind of thing. I did catch a couple of episodes further on during it's run, pulled by my affection and admiration for JCW, but it wasn't enough to keep me from cringing too hard at the scenes with Anna. I don't know that I was rooting for a JeHa-YooJin hook up or anything, but thought that their scenes had palpable chemistry in a way that was lacking in the official romance. Actually, if Anna had been a younger girl with a Man on Fire kind of relationship with Je Ha, I may have actually enjoyed it better, especially if they had cast a good child actress.


Anyway, your review gives me pause to maybe give this another run at it with a fast forward button in hand. But, I may wait for a rainy day. :smile:

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@stroppyse Yeah, I've noticed that it was quite a divisive show. People seem to either love it or be indifferent.  And as you say, there's the Anna factor that seems to be a bone of contention.

For some reason I found her generally inoffensive despite some of her later antics but maybe because I have daughters. ;)

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Currently Watching: Queen of Tears, In Blossom


"Love is not an affectionate feeling but a steady wish for the loved person's good as far as it can be obtained." -- CS Lewis.

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1 hour ago, 40somethingahjumma said:

For some reason I found her generally inoffensive despite some of her later antics but maybe because I have daughters. ;)


No daughters, so I can't really empathize with that. I just wish Anna had been a more vibrant character, I suppose. As it is, the romance really felt as if it was just JH protecting her all the time and a bit perfunctory at that. Definitely did not feel like a meeting of kindred souls or partners in life.


However, I should cut this drama some slack on the romantic front since it's billing itself as an action and political intrigue drama rather than as a romance. And, you make a good case to watch it in those lights.

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