Healer: Mid-season thoughts 

This is a truly solid series all round.

While one can argue that the storylines of Jung-Hoo, Young-Shin and Moon-ho intertwine too neatly, the writing of this show is precisely so solid because it melds the stories of three lives and their histories so artfully and meaning. Their backstory centres around a photograph of five individuals and remains largely a mystery that is unveiled bit by bit, to add the right amount of understanding of present day events and emotional weight to our characters’ predicament.

At the mid way point of the series, we’ve had plenty of revelations and our characters have progressed significantly in their relationships but there is still a lot to keep us intrigued and engaged, especially now that Moon-ho has discovered the identity of Healer. The pacing of the series is top notch as it steadily advances the different storylines simultaneously within each episode.

It’s in its character work that the show truly excels too. We have three very fascinating, complex characters who are competent in their own fields, yet also display vulnerabilities arising from their past. The star of the show really is Yoo Ji-tae who plays the role of Moon-ho with such maturity, confidence and subtlety. In his professional role as a reporter, he’s suave, sharp and shrewd, yet when exploring the past, he displays much tender-heartedness and remorse, especially when relating to Myung-hee. His interactions with his brother Moon-Sik are layered and tense, a mixture of contempt, anger and mystery. Clearly Moon-Sik is the “villain” of the show, yet we are also privy to the guilt that entraps him as well as his entanglement with Elder from the past.

Ji Chang Wook and Park Min Young put up very strong performances too. Their romance is cute, quirky, fun to watch and ultimately convincing because they have also been given a lot of quality material to work with. Their romance functions as a natural extension of their own personal search for identity, family and ultimately a place in this world. After watching this show, I realise Ji Chang Wook has really been shortchanged in K2, where he plays an action hero who’s relatively straightforward in terms of characterisation and motivations. In this series, he arguably plays three roles – Bong-So, Healer and Jung Hoo and he switches amongst the roles with such aplomb it’s almost amazing. There are scenes where he switches between Bong-so and Healer “mode” and it’s all done through his eyes and facial expression.

In terms of the romance, we see it developing through the interplay of two sets of interactions between Young-Shin and Bong-So as well as her and Healer. With Bong-So, Young-Shin finds a confidant and someone whom she can just talk for hours with. With Healer, she finds a protector – someone who’s always watching out for her and will put himself in danger for her sake. The dual roles that Jung Hoo takes on also adds such an interesting dimension to their interactions, more so in recent episodes where we see him almost deciding to shed his “Healer” identity for a more public one. I really liked the scene where Bong So brought Young shin to his secret place on top of a building and confessed his feelings for her. His reaction to Young Shin’s rejection of him due to her feelings for Healer points to bigger decisions he needs to make. In that scene, he switches to “Healer” mode when he tells he can live as she wants to. It’s truly to the credit of the show that it can balance such weighty moments with light-hearted fun as the scene ends off with cute bantering between them as Young Shin asks Bong-So when he started liking her. I also liked their recent movie date “together”. While they are seated apart, there’s such connectedness between them and that holding of hands at the last moment was just beautiful. I like that Young shin does not go on a pursuit of Healer’s identity, but plays by his rules and respects his need to keep his identity a secret.

Besides getting all the big pieces done well, the show also handles the so-called smaller areas well. It has a fascinating ensemble of supporting cast, who are sufficiently fleshed out to make you care for them. My favorites have to be Min Ja and Teacher who are so quirky and entertaining to watch. Young-Shin’s father is also hilarious in how protective he is over Young-Shin. Another area would be the music for the series. I often find the music in Korea drama over-bearing and it’s almost as if they are on cue to tell you how you should be feeling in a particular scene. However, for Healer, this is not the case and most of the tunes are subtle enough to gently complement the emotions on screen.

As icing on the cake, watching this series also makes one feel happy and positive. I know that sounds trite, but it’s true! There are many solid dramas out there, but their viewing experience differs – some may be solid because they make you feel a sense of intrigue and suspense (e.g. Signal); others may you feel amazed and blow your mind because of the plot twists (e.g. W Two Worlds). However, for Healer, there’s such as bubbly, lively energy to the series that makes it so likeable and relatable. It’s such a joy to watch this show, which is really a huge plus point. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the series unfolds and from what I’ve seen so far, I’m confident it’s going to be great!

K2 Episode 12 

K2 finally delivers an episode that packs a punch! That was a really, really good episode!

I’ve been thinking a little about why I am still following this show, given that I generally lack patience with TV shows. I realize it’s because the premise set out within the first two episodes involving a political power struggle intertwined with a mysterious family murder story was sufficiently engaging. The character dynamics were energetic and highly charged and there was so much going on beneath the surface that I was intrigued.

This episode comes a bit too late, but it hopefully points to a very satisfying ending for K2 and even a possible redemption storyline for Yoo Jin who is really the only character many of us care about now. I have to admit that I’d always believed that she definitely had a hand in Anna’s mother’s death and certainly this has been the show’s driving narrative. There has been no reason for us to doubt that given how vicious we’ve seen Yoo Jin to be and everything she says to Jang Se Joon. However, as we learn towards the end of this episode, that is certainly not the case.

I started to suspect something was amiss when we got that all too convenient back story scene of Yoo Jin murdering Anna’s mother which led me to believe the past couldn’t be that straightforward. Just as Je Ha told Anna, Yoo Jin wouldn’t dirty her hands like this and leave a trail behind. Turned out there’s more than meets the eye and Yoo Jin is trying to protect someone. While this is a fascinating turn of events, I really hope the writer has something well planned that will add greater dimension to the character dynamics and ultimately end the show with a bang.

For an episode of K2, this was a very plot heavy one with so much happening and deception at so many levels that it was exciting to watch. The scenes between Je Ha and Anna were brief but they certainly were more meaningful than most of their previous interactions as they finally pointed out potential tensions in their relationship when it comes to loyalties and truth. Yes, their relationship is not just body guard and protected, just as the make up artist mentioned, but it’s also more than just lovers. Because of the position they both hold within this political struggle, there is so much more at stake and I wish the show would just play that up more so that the love story doesn’t seem so divorced from what’s the main storyline of the show.

That ending – Wow! Yoo Jin had very thing planned all along aad it was satisfying to see the shocked looks from literally everyone. Well, except for Se Joon, who realizes he has been thrown under the bus. Well, about time anyway. That subtle smile that emerges on Yoo Jin’s face at the end is so perfectly executed. Song Yoon Ah really really puts on a masterful performance in this series that she has become the real star of the show for many. Perhaps this is the start of her breaking free from the clutches of Se Joon once and for all, but this certainly sets things up well for the next 4 episodes and for the first time, I can genuinely say I can’t wait to see what happens next!

K2 Episode 11

That was disappointing.

All the supposed danger we thought K2 would be in fizzled out within the first 15 minutes and just like that, victory has taken out of Assemblyman Park’s hands. It isn’t the first time that a threat established in a previous episode turns out to have little impact at all in the next episode. If anything, it puts Se Joon back in an advantageous position in presidential race again but honestly at this point I hardly care anymore and am not really rooting for him to win, especially after he slapped Yoo Jin.

Speaking of the slapping scene, that scene really confirmed how ultimately useless Se Joon is. And if we were earlier supposed to feel any compassion for him, it certainly disappeared completely with that scene. He’s really been getting the short end of the stick recently and the writers don’t quite seem to know what to do with him.

We’ve been seeing more lately of Yoo Jin as a victim and how she’s also been manipulated and used. However I really wish the show would stop tantalizing us and just tell us already what happened during Anna’s mother’s death rather than dropping hints here and there. It’s hard to tell where the show is really going with Yoo Jin and whether a redemption arc is on the cards for her. She’s clearly a character that’s been fleshed out the most, even more than Je Ha and Anna and while I can’t say I am rooting for her, I do hope the writers do something meaningful with her character.

Turning to our romance storyline, I appreciated that we went beyond cuteness in tonight’s episode and Anna asked Je Ha to talk more about his past. While I understand that Raniya’s death and his subsequent framing is central to his life story and a pivotal moment in his life, surely there’s no need to keep returning it and milking all the sympathy points dry from that episode. Can’t we be shown more of Je Ha’s back story? Why did he join the Special Forces? Any key events that happened there? How did he run away to Spain? Why so? How about his own parents – which the show has been very silent about?

A similar thing can be said about Anna, whose back story never goes beyond the death of her mum. How about what happened in Spain? More scenes of her interactions with Se Joon when she was a child? And that report of her mother’s death… why didn’t she do more with it after reading it? How exactly is she pursuing the truth after finding out more? We need more to feel truly invested in these characters and the romance. I’d prefer more of these character focused scenes as opposed to the JSS scenes that we got too much of in this episode.

At the end of this episode, Yoo Jin and Chief Kim have something up their sleeve and my suspicion is that it’s going to involve Sung Won and Anna. The show has generally portrayed Yoo Jin as competent and intelligent so there’s hope that something of significance will happen in the next episode.

K2 Episode 10

Ok, that was decent.

The show gains some momentum this week with the Presidential race moving ahead and Assemblyman Park proving that he’s a worthy opponent. I appreciate that a more intricate web of relationships, intentions and manipulation is being built now with Sung won being thrown into the mix and Chief Kim’s unflinching loyalty to protect Madam at all cost.

I really really loved the TV interview scene which was so tense and layered. There are so many battles going on in the show and the most fascinating ones are the psychological ones and here we see Anna taking on Yoo Jin and really emerging from her shell. It was great to see power slowly slipping away from Yoo Jin during the scene and her strong front gradually cracking under pressure.

It’s such a pity that we haven’t really gotten more back story into the relationship between Yoo Jin and Anna. In fact, most of what we know was revealed in episode 2 and their subsequent interactions merely confirmed the hatred between them. I am concurrently catching up on Ji Chang Wook’s previous drama which is the highly rated Healer and that show is a perfect example of how to do back stories so well. In K2, the back stories are so simply used for emotional effect and don’t add significantly to our understanding of present day relationships. Also, the back stories are very event focused (e.g. Anna’s mother’s death, Raniya’s death) and not relationship focused.

The lack of complexity in back stories also applies to the character work for this show which has thus far been mostly flat. Je Ha is simply the undefeatable hero out for revenge. That trajectory hasn’t changed much and perhaps there isn’t very much to work with as well. Anna is the damsel in distress who’s emerged from her shell and Yoo Jin is the power hungry villain. So in this episode we did see Yoo Jin display some compassion for Je Ha but it doesn’t go far and is most likely because he’s saved her countless times, casting her also as another damsel in distress though in a different way. In fact, Se Joon’s absence in the past few episodes has made Yoo Jin’s character less fascinating.

As for our love story, Je Ha and anna’s interactions are cute and sweet but it’s honestly a little bland. I get why Anna likes Je Ha but why is he falling for her? It really did seem like more of an infatuation when he watched her through the video screens. Perhaps now he’s falling for her because he sees her growing in strength and confidence but Je Ha has been painted mostly as a lone warrior, contented simply with carrying out his missions and then retreating into his shell. So what has changed? No idea.

Well, at least things are now moving along and there’s some sense that Se Joon’s presidential campaign may be in jeopardy so the stakes have been raised. I do have some hope too that the character interactions will become slightly more complex because of the deal Je Ha has cut with Yoo Jin that no harm must come on Anna and in return he will ensure Anna doesn’t threaten the Presidential race. Not sure how Anna feels about that and how that gels with Sung won’s intentions for her. That has some potential for good story telling.

Amidst all my issues with the show, I do see things gradually being pulled together to build towards something bigger. 6 more episodes to go and a lot can be done! Here’s hoping things improve and the show ends with a bang.

K2 Episodes 7 to 9

Now that the show has toned down on its action sequences and fight scenes, the faults in its writing and structuring are becoming even more obvious.

One fault of the show is that it only seems to be able to tackle one storyline at a time. For a while we were focusing on Yoo Jin and Je Ha’s developing “relationship” and the storyline of Anna stalled. And now we’re focusing on Anna and the other storylines have just stalled, especially since we’ve seen so little of Je Soon in the past two episodes that I almost forgot the Presidential race was going on. The interactions between Yoo Jin and Je Ha have become so bland.

The second fault is that storylines don’t intertwine in a very intriguing manner. In fact, building one storyline seems to compromise the other. For example, the latest developments of the Anna storyline seem to make me wonder why there was so much need to keep her hidden in the first place. With her being so openly exposed on social media, surely it’d only be a matter of time that her relationship with Je Soon is exposed. Furthermore it makes Yoo Jin’s decision to bring her back to Korea seem like a really dumb one, for someone who’s been thus far shown to be very shrewd and sharp. Also, given that Je Soon persists in his philandering ways and almost every opportunity offered, what exactly would be so scandalous about exposing Anna? We still have little information about what happened to her mum beyond what we can actually deduce from the first episode.

We’re half way through the season and it seems like it has taken ages to get to where we are now. One can only hope that the storyline moves along more swiftly and the stakes are raised once again.

In the meantime, K2 remains enjoyable because of the hard work put in by the actors and their chemistry. I have to admit that Anna and Je Ha’s love story isn’t the most compelling as it seems to fall into the damsel in distress archetype; yet it’s still cute and heartwarming to watch because there’s so much chemistry between Ji Chang Wook and Yoona.

The K2: Style over Substance 

Shifting to a new country has put a pause to my reviews of W Two Worlds – hope to resume and complete the last 6 episodes. Have now started on the K2 and wanted to jot down some quick thoughts on it.

If I could summarize my views on the show thus far in one phrase, it would be “style over substance”, which also seems to be the general sentiment about it.

The cinematography for the series is nothing short of amazing – it’s one of the most visually stunning shows I’ve ever watched. The first episode pulls all the stops with intense and swift fight sequences that take place in a Barcelona subway station, within a high rise building and at the break of dawn at Je Ha’s hideout. The car chase scene in Episode 3 is one of the most heart stopping ones I’ve ever watched, including those in Hollywood movies. The most recent scene of Je Ha accompanying Yoo Jin out of the family meeting with an umbrella was also beautifully shot. The cast is excellent – am especially impressed with Song Yun-ah’s portrayal of the ice queen Yoo Jin. There’s just such intensity and maturity in her performance that the energy on screen is just crackling in every scene that she’s in.

However, beneath the shine on the surface, there’s really not much going on. The plot has really been crawling over the past six episodes. Sure, for the first episode I could kind of let it go, but even at the fifth episode, we didn’t get get any insights into the backstory between Anna and Yoo Jin and why the resentment between them is so strong. We get little insights into Je Ha’s back story but it comes just as tidbits in each episode, in between overly lengthy fight sequences that get tiresome eventually.

We know a Presidential election is coming up, which sounds like a big thing – but really, what is at stake for our characters? Why is it so important for Anna to be kept hidden, given that Assemblyman Jang is still continuing his philandering ways and isn’t exactly very subtle about it? How does this whole matter affect Je Ha, if at all?

In terms of relationships, there’s been little progress made too. At this point, Je Ha and Anna have interacted predominantly through a video screen and they are supposed to be the star couple of the series! I would rather we get more quality interaction between our protagonists instead of all the silliness at the JSS headquarters. We really need to see more beneath the surface of the main characters and understand their dynamics, their backgrounds and their motivations – at this point, I am not particularly invested in any of them and that includes Je Ha too.

Let’s hope things pick up from Episode 7 onwards, but even if they don’t, the K2 will probably be one of those guilty pleasure shows that’s fun and sufficiently engaging to keep you watching till the end.