The 20-episode series starring Lee Seung-Gi and Ha Ji-won has finally come to an end this week. And I cried buckets. But not because of the main leads.
WARNING: Do not continue with this post unless you've completed the series or you really, REALLY, do not mind major spoilers. If you are not in that category, let me redirect you to the introductory post instead. Considered you've been warned. Cool?
What I'm about to do now is generally recapping some of my most favorite or memorable scenes. There will be A LOT of screen caps. This drama is pretty pretty pretty, to say the least. I wish I could put a lot more because there are just so many scenes that I like, especially during the training, but alas, I cannot for that would take me days.
Also worth to mention are the soundtracks, which are plain awesome. They tug at my heartstrings, emphasize the moments and make everything all the more beautiful and poignant.
The King 2Hearts starts off really funny and charming as the romance front progresses between our main leads South Korean Prince Lee Jae-ha and Officer Kim Hang-ah of North Korea. He is an immature young prince and also a self-proclaimed trash. She is rather naive when it comes to men, and is always played for a fool by Lee Jae-ha. In short, Lee Jae-ha is quite a jerk to her. But her heart has fallen for him so early in the game which causes Hang-ah to have one heartbreak after another because of Lee Jae-ha's selfishness and stupid male pride. She is a tough officer but a woman all the same. You make her cry so many times, young prince, and scream in frustration too.
Their courtship is one of the interesting ones I've seen in a korean drama in a while. Maybe because the stakes are higher. We are talking about possible outcomes like war or no-war situations here, and whether their union can create a bridge between two nations that have long been separated by their ideological difference. The major credit however goes to Kim Hang-ah's character. It's not unusual in drama land that the woman falls for the man first. Or to be exact, it's normally the woman who shows her feelings first. We know that the man is interested too, but he just DOESN'T WANT to admit it. So heroines always at the losing end, because the ones who confess first are losers, or more at risk of facing rejections etcetera etcetera. But Hang-ah is a tough cookie. She may shed tears and feel betrayed so many times, but she's not one to back down without a fight. Sometimes, Lee Jae-ha just have to have a taste of his own medicine.
It's interesting watching their own petty revenge being carried out. They both play hard-to-get while it's quite clear to their families and friends that love is in the air. But the situation is not so simple for there's national outcry over their marriage scandal. The South Koreans are holding demonstrations against the news, which putting his brother the King in a delicate situation, since it is his intention to join the two nations by marriage.
Lee Jae-ha does not like complicated situations and prefers to have the easy way out. He likes Hang-ah, but is not ready to take that major step in the name of unification. He does not thing it's a risk worth taking. The major obstacle in their relationship is the lack of trust, especially on Lee Jae-ha's side. He does have problem trusting people besides family members and the old chief secretary who's been serving the family for decades. Add that to the fact that he's expected to consider marriage with an enemy is a little above and beyond for him. She threatened to kill him multiple times, and he himself almost killed her once, for crying out loud. However, in order to calm the people down without having himself or the King look bad because of the rumors, he makes this grand gesture of giving a public declaration of his deep love towards Kim Hang-ah, but only to admit that he's being selfish and thus seeks the poeple's forgiveness. Kim Hang-ah, while rendered speechless, knows that his declaration is a complete sham.
What's good about the romance portion is that the does-he/she-likes-me-or-not does not drag for long. After a little bit of push-and-pull, they admitted their feelings quite readily. The focus then is about building trust, testing it, losing it, and finding it again. The journey is not easy - Lee Jae-ha needs some growing up, keeps making mistakes and finally he is forced to put the blame on Hang-ah after his brother is murdered (after which he succeeds his brother as the King), so they kick her to the curb - I pity Hang-ah so much throughout. She even suffers miscarriage when she doesn't even aware she's pregnant.
When the news reach Lee Jae-ha, it serves as a wake-up call. He begins to realize just how much she means to him, and how awful he's been treating her. Instead of shying away out of guilt, he finally decides that he can't live without her and crosses that border to reach out to the love of his life.
Kim Hang-ah is a woman who loves a man, but she doesn't want to be with him as a wallflower. She wants to be on equal footing, take charge and walk hand-in-hand forward. And Lee Jae-ha is giving her just that, which is mighty fine. Once they've overcome their trust problem, there are no more secrets. He treats her as his partner and ally, not merely his woman, or a damsel-in-distress, because she's not, and honestly speaking, she's more kick-ass than he is anyway. He gets rescued more often than she needs rescuing. So you really must treat her right, big boy!
Another element that I love in this series is the friendship and the bromance. My face lights up every time the Korean WOC team members share a scene. They are just so cute together. Awkward at first, but warm up to each other by the end of their training session, and continue to recognize that bond one way or another. Their volatile relationships at first create many problems, and sometimes things get blown out of proportions then everything becomes about North versus South. The most ridiculous of all would be an outbreak caused by the girl group SNSD. I heard that those girls drive soldiers crazy. I don't think I'm digging that, but in the context of this series, it is nonsensical and ridiculous that it becomes plain hilarious. At the end of the day, what's more important is that they manage to put aside their differences and learn to have faith in the bond they've created, which is really heartwarming.
Out of the WOC team members, the major supporting character is Eun Shi-kyung (of What's Up?, where he's a must-watch), a frustrating soldier who always goes by the book. He's from the South and later is personally appointed by Lee Jae-ha to be a royal guard. His personal royal guard. I believe he's doing it out of petty revenge. Lee Jae-ha is a person who holds grudges. Eun Shi-kyung once scared him to death when he pointed a gun at him when they first met. Then he actually dared to give the Prince speeches as a way of reprimanding him of his unacceptable behavior. Most importantly, Shi-kyung just doesn't get the signs! Lee Jae-ha is always frustrated that Shi Kyung keeps misinterpreting his double message, which lands him into trouble all the time. Sometimes I suspect that Eun Shi-kyung is just playing dumb on purpose. Or maybe not. As a punishment, he's keeping him by his side to train him so he can understand his every whims. It's funny.
One other reasons that he's 'torturing' Shi-kyung is because of Hang-ah. While he keeps denying his feelings for her, it's obvious that he's crazy jealous at how friendly the both of them are to each other. To make things worse, Hang-ah seems to respond more positively to Shi-kyung than to himself. You can't really blame the girl when you are behaving like an as* while the other party is such a gentleman. But Lee Jae-ha, who is self-absorbed and quite a narcissist just can't accept it. Why Shi-kyung, and not him? All the while, Hang-ah only has feeling for him so his revenge on Shi-kyung is really unnecessary, but I'm OK with it because that means more bromance. Haha.
Over time, their friendship grows and Shi-kyung becomes his strength. When Lee Jae-ha becomes King, Shi-kyung continues to be his pillar of support, always believing, always keeping faith. He is the very reason Jae-ha keeps getting back up after every fall. For Shi-kyung, his duty to Lee Jae-ha comes first, above everything else. Even when his father, the chief secretary tells him to pursue something better than serving a good-for-nothing King, he remains by the King's side and proves his loyalty over and over again.
He does have a little bit of a complex though. He is a little scared of his father and always feels like he can never lives up to his expectation. I wonder if that's one of the reasons why he is so dedicated to Lee Jae-ha, because Jae-ha is someone who depends on him and makes him feel worthy. His attitude towards his own self-worthiness also creates a barrier between him and Princess Lee Jae-shin, Jae-ha's little sister. They first meet when he is appointed to escort the princess back to the palace from the airport (she's back from overseas for a vacation at home). The princess slips away before the escort team reaches the airport, and they tracks her location to a club where a female singer is performing. The singer actually mocks the princess, which turns his royal guard instinct on and he instructs his team to investigate her. It turns out that the singer is the princess herself. She is initially mistreated due to her slanderous behavior towards the princess, thus her first impression of him is similar to her brother's, that he's so rigid and so frustrating.
However, the princess seems to take a liking towards him, but he remains emotionless and cold despite her attempts at being friendly. We can see however that he does seem attracted to this cheerful and carefree person, who's a complete opposite of himself. But she's a princess and he's a mere soldier that he doesn't even dare thinking of anything more than that.
During the accident that murdered her big brother Lee Jae-kang, she is seriously injured and becomes physically paralyzed from waist down. She is a key to solving the murder case, but is unable to contribute as she is traumatized and loses memory of the accident. Also, from being a confident, cheerful and independent person, she completely changes 180 degrees. She becomes needy, self-centered, and afraid of being around unfamiliar faces. She also becomes victim of multiple attacks from John Mayer's Club M. During this trying period of her life, Shi-kyung has been a constant presence that keeps her going.
She confesses her feeling for him (the girls on this show are really straight-forward and honest about their feelings), but he doesn't acknowledge it. He even accuses her of seeing him as a toy that she will get rid of when she's bored with him. She finds him interesting because they are so different and that her interest will fade away soon enough. It kills her inside, not because of his accusation, but because she thinks it's his way of rejecting her. That she is invalid and not worthy of him. He assures her that it's not because of that, but he offers her no other explanation, which really is NOT reassuring at all.
Towards the end of the series, Shi-kyung finally finds out about his father's involvement in the murder of the late King, and the follow-ups to cover his dirty tracks. Jae-ha tries to keep it a secret from Shi-kyung by making himself a jerk when he pompously informs Shi-kyung that the reason he fires the father is because he is old and backwards. But Shi-kyung's instinct is telling him that there's more to it. It floors him when the truth comes out. The father who keeps reprimanding him to remain upright has done the unimaginable.
Jae-shin on the other hand, is finally ready to face her own demon, and the truth floors ME. No wonder she loses that memory. It's a defense mechanism, I suppose. But man, the truth has got to hurt. Her very own hand was responsible for the murder of the late King and Queen. Not that it would save them if she didn't do it because the real killers would just proceed with the plan anyway. But to think that in a moment of weakness she had consciously chose to save herself, the guilt must have been eating at her.
The revelation breaks everyone's heart. Jae-shin is filled with shame and guilt. She's broken. Her cries reaches out to Shi-kyung who's been patiently waiting outside the room. He must have felt partly responsible since the chain of her sufferings all started with his own's father's slip-of-the-tongue.
Jae-ha is doubly devastated. Hang-ah is still missing after being kidnapped by John Mayer, and now the truth about his brother and sister has come out into the open. He realizes that he must step up his action and go all out coz that's the only way he can continue living.
All these big revelations came when the series already at Episode 17. Three episodes left, should be enough for a satisfying ending. However, I regret to say that so much time was spent on a useless setup to get John Mayer behind bars. My biggest disappointment ever is the killing of my favorite character Eun Shi-kyung. I'm sure a lot of people are invested in his character and wish for his happy ending after all that he's been through for the royal family. But no, the writers must think his death would make greater impact to viewers. It sure does, but what follows after his death is such a bummer.
One of the most touching scenes ever in the series for me is Jae-shin's in the aftermath. The video letter from Shi-kyung is a killer. This, is where I cry buckets. It sucks he dies, but it does make for a most heart-wrenching love confession ever.
The war is stopped, they got married, and suddenly there's no obstacle to prosecute John Mayer. I was pretty much jaded by this time. Why on earth can a John Mayer control the world? Answer: Corrupt officials.
Time jump to four years later. New presidential election. Another round of WOC. Meeting of old friends. Remembering Eun Shi-kyung, each in his/her own way. Another bucket of tears from me.
Four years since the marriage, and Lee Jae-ha is still doing his best to make his people accept Hang-ah. They have a son now. So cute. And their love remains strong. Hurray to that!
And because I'm loving this couple, just one last shot. A parting kiss.