Personal Reflections

A few weeks ago, I read an article on TIME about bibliotherapy, where instead of diagnosing patients with medication, there are bibliotherapists who suggest certain books to patients to help them with issues they are facing.

When reading that article, the first thought that came to mind that certainly there could be ‘drama-therapy’ too, where therapists diagnose their patients to watch certain dramas with similar ends in mind. I’ve certainly found this to be a strength of k-dramas, which generally have a positive view of the world and are geared towards celebrating the good in life. While I generally take a more objective perspective in my reviews, this entry will be more personal and reflective. The dramas I’ve been following lately have provoked much thought on certain issues:

Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim

As the storyline develops, it’s clear that the series is keen to portray Dong Joo as a medical professional who’s done well in his examinations and is in all senses a good doctor. However, the way he treats his patients is largely professional and distant. He is chided by Master Kim, an experienced doctor, as being “insincere”, which we also clearly see being played out as his focus is on building his specialisation, career advancement and seeing each patient as a case, rather than relating to them as a life to be saved.

Viewing Dong-Joo led me to also think about my own professional role as an educator, where I may also have committed similar “errors” as Dong-Joo in being overly distant and “professional” in discharging of my duties. Instead of imbuing more humanity in my role, I’ve seen every situation faced in terms of issues to be resolved and the best way to do things. I’ve thought about educators which I looked up to and I realise that one thing that characterises them is their heart for education and students, not so much their intellect. This also reminded me of what I read from Parker Palmer years ago, that teaching is the only job that demands so much from within us, from our inner selves. I’ve thus been thinking about how I can be a more ‘human’ professional when I return.

The K2

Viewing the storyline of Yoo Jin’s downfall is a good reminder of the importance of decisions and choices. When she speaks of her decision to ignore Anna’s mum’s plea for help, she says she “obeyed the commands of the devil within me”. Her choice at that moment led to her descent into evil for the rest of her life, a choice that bothered her all the way till death.

Cliched as it may sound, we are constantly making choices to obey certain “voices”, whether it’s that of our conscience, or that of what the world demands of us. As a Christian, it’s a choice between God’s word and the devil. While we may not have faced as pivotal decisions as Yoojin that pertain to murder, we do make choices everyday about whether to listen to God or to the devil. It may be a choice of whether to bless someone or stay in our comfort zone, or whether to share the gospel with others or to stay silent. As these choices ultimately determine whether a person comes to believe in Christ, we can say these are “life or death” choices as well. Yoo Jin’s downfall also revealed that we should never downplay any decision that we make, no matter how small they are. The wrong path is often a result not just of one huge, bad decision, but a series of small, wrong decisions.

My Wife is Having an Affair This week

This has to be the most powerful drama I’ve watched in a while and the forums certainly reflect this. While k-drama forums are usually platforms for fangirling or criticism of the plot or characterisation, the forums discussing this show have been intensely personal, with forum users sharing their personal stories of marriage, adultery, forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s been a very different experience as forum users debate over the possibility of marriage after an affair and the challenges of marriage.

Viewing the marriage of Hyun-Woo and Soo-Yeon makes it clear that their marriage was afflicted by communication issues, even before Soo-Yeon cheated on her husband. The affair itself wasn’t the problem of the marriage; the problem was the marriage itself which had suffered from neglect over the years.

This is an important truth that all married couples need to take note of, especially as kids come along. The interactions between Hyun-Woo and Soo-Yeon had been reduced to discussions over picking up the kid and child-care arrangements. We don’t get a single conversation between them about their days, their feelings and their challenges. It’s a marriage that has grown cold over the years. It’s led me to reflect on my own marriage, that even in the midst of tending to two kids, it’s important to focus on my relationship with my wife and never to let the marriage grow cold.

This drama would certainly be one worth using for ‘drama-therapy’, to help couples facing difficulties reflect on their marriage. Of course, there would need to be someone to help focus on the key issues but that’s no different from a book, which is also subject to different interpretations. Who knows, perhaps “drama-therapy” would one day be an established field of treatment as well? 🙂

The K2 Episode 16: Finale

In my review of episode 14, I mentioned all I hoped for was that Choi Yoo Jin’s story got a satisfactory ending. In that aspect, the finale certainly surpassed my expectations by delivering a semblance of a redemption arc that was heartbreaking and touching. It even brought tears to my eyes (and my wife’s too – LOL!).

This was far from a perfect finale, but I’m only going to elaborate on the two most glaring faults. The most severe fault was that Subway product placement segment, which was even worse than the one in episode 14 because it ended with so, so cheesily with Jeha saying “I love this place!”. Yikes! This will go down in the history of K-drama was the worst product placement ever. Kudos to Ji Chang Wook for even being able to pull off that line with a straight face.

Besides that, I really disliked the way Anna was portrayed in the past two episodes, which is a fault that has plagued her characterisation throughout the entire series. In this episode, she’s repeatedly being used the hostage and always so helpless and needy, continually calling upon Je Ha to reecue her. She barely does anything to save herself, except for kicking aside the hard disk. What happened to the courageous, resourceful and determined girl who was able to escape from the monastery repeatedly in episode 1? If she’s supposed to be one of the lead protagonists, shouldn’t the writer at least have given us more to admire her for? Up till the end, I was still hoping for her to do something mildly heroic, but we had nothing. Such a disappointment, really.

Coming back to what I liked about the finale, we finally got answers about what happened to Ume Hye Rin. This was very long overdue, but at least, it’s convincing and frames Yoo Jin’s descent into evil meaningfully. We learn that it was Yoo Jin’s father who is responsible for Hye Rin’s death, assigning one of his men to kill her in spite of Yoo Jin begging him not to do so. Yoo Jin wanted to save Hye Rin, but she was too late. She could have saved Hye Rin by calling 911, but she chose not to. She was aware that Anna was being held Master and behind the door but could not bear to look back and face Anna. Following that, she decided to tell Joon that she had killed Hye Rin, so that she could retain her hold over him. In fact she believed that she had killed Hye Rin because she had turned coldly away from her when she begged her to save her. While that story doesn’t redeem her from all the evil she does, it certainly provides a plausible explanation. I did wish though that we got more backstory into how she made the decision to send Anna to a monastery in Spain.

Leading from that, we have a quiet moment of acceptance as Anna continues to hold Se Joon’s tie to keep Yoo Jin’s wound from bleeding further even after Yoo Jin tells her she can stop doing so because she is her enemy. I appreciated that it was not overplayed and Yoo Jin did not go to the extent of asking for forgiveness, which would have been out of character. I also liked that her final decision to stay in Cloud 9 did not become over-glorifed as a sacrifice for the safety of all, but was a decision she made because she was tired of all the power struggles and preferred to end it all. While there was little interaction between her and Je Ha in this episode, his desperate plea for her to leave, crying out ‘Damn it!’ when she refused and then running to the bomb to see whether he could defuse it really spoke volumes about how he genuinely wanted to save Yoo Jin.

What we get a lot of in the finale is interaction between Se Joon and Yoo Jin. The scene of her apologizing to him was really so powerful and moving. She admits to not killing Hye Rin and that she was stupid for ever thinking that she had to prove to anyone she was happy. She apologises to Se Joon for having subjected him to a life of pretense. Although we don’t see him actually accepting her apology, that acceptance is shown through him finally passing the thumb drive to her and even more so by his final act of staying with her. I was really impressed by Se Joon’s final act of pulling the bomb into the glass chamber of Cloud 9 and holding Yoo Jin in his arms. It was a great moment of redemption. I’ve never thought much of him throughout, but this was a truly heroic and touching moment that redeems him in my eyes. All Yoo Jin’s efforts to bring him to where he is today were not in vain, as she finally, just minutes before her death, gets to experiences genuine love. Yoo Jin and Se Joon have had a very complex dynamic throughout the show, simultaneously loathing yet needing each other, and it was a nice resolution to their storyline.

Song Yoo-na puts in yet another masterful performance throughout the episode. It was so compelling to see her cold, hard exterior gradually soften, as she apologises to Se Joon, then reveals the truth to Anna and finally decides to end it all in Cloud 9. Even as her exterior cracks, she remains stoic, trying hard to prevent herself from breaking down completely. Her line just before dying about how Se Joon and her almost seem like a happy couple is delivered with a genuine, lingering smile that we’ve never seen from her, and it was so heartbreaking. Song Yoo-na has really taken the character of Choi Yoo Jin and elevated it to a whole new level; she will truly be one of Korean drama’s most remembered villains.

Besides Yoo Jin’s story, the plotting of this final episode was decent enough and the growing sense of danger was sufficiently convincing with Sung Won pulling out a gun, then Park Gwan Soo cutting off the energy supply and communication lines. While I certainly do not condone murder, I was glad that Chief Kim did not die and got her revenge on Sung Won. She has certainly been one of the more compelling characters throughout and I’ve always admired her for her loyalty and never doubted her competence.

As for Je Ha, I’m pretty sure nobody expected he would die, so there was no suspense at all regarding his fate. Unfortunately though, he did not have many strong character moments in the finale and was mainly the hero who saves the day. His whole Blackstone storyline was resolved so neatly, with him confessing the truth about Blackstone to the ICC and Park Gwan-So being forced to commit suicide. Je Ha and Anna do get a cute, laughter-inducing moment as he asks her why she pressed the button so quickly as he wanted to do it together with her. It was endearing indeed, but there really hasn’t been enough throughout the entire series for us to become truly invested in their relationship.

Ultimately, the K2 was a series that had an interesting premise, but failed to develop a substantial storyline or to flesh out its main characters. Even as a satire or commentary on politics, the show did not fully succeed as most of the characters were so one-dimensional and their competence varied based on what was needed to advance the plot. As the series progressed, my expectations gradually decreased and based on my lowered expectations, the finale more than delivered. In the grand scheme of k-drams, a drama that ends well is certainly better than one that starts off well. I’m glad the series is finally over and I’ll definitely be on the look out for Song Yoo-na’s next drama series.

The K2 Episode 14: The Yoo-jin Show

Image result for the k2 song yun ah

Once again, it seems like the tables are turned against Yoo Jin and finally, Sung-won has infiltrated Cloud 9 with what seems like a rather potent weapon. However, at this point in the story, I’ve lost interest in the presidential race and the schemings pertaining to JB Group. I’m more keen to see how the more personal drama between Yoo Jin and Je Ha pans out, because this has been the most fascinating relationshp of the show thus far and we do get some interesting dynamics here.

It’s undeniable that Song Yun-ah is the star of this entire series and she puts in an amazing performance in this episode, playing Yoo Jin with such complexity and sensitivity. We see in this episode that she’s clearly concerned about Je Ha, and that goes beyond his utility to her as a security guard. She’s not one who’s lavish with her praise, but in this episode, she says “Good job” twice to those who’ve assisted in ensuring Je Ha is safe and alive.

I really enjoyed her performance in her scene with Anna, when Anna relents and calls her “mom” in a desperate attempt for her to see Je Ha. Yoo Jin’s facial expression says so much. Her cold exterior almost cracks and her eyes get watery, but she never goes so far as to cry. Being called “mum” touches her heart as it’s a feeling that’s so new to her, not having had her own children or anyone use such an term of endearment with her. She turns back and hugs Anna in such an exaggerated, dramatic manner, as a means to hide what she truly feels inside. It seems almost as a denial of her own feelings to those around her and more importantly, to herself. When she finally agrees to let Anna see Je Ha, her facial expression changes and we see her “game-on”, scheming face as she then realises that letting Anna see Je-Ha is advantageous to her desire to get Anna to leave. It’s really a masterful performance as we see Song Yun-ah seamlessly display such a range of emotions.

I haven’t spoken about Chief Secretary Kim previously, but I really think Shin Dong-mi deserves a mention. She doesn’t say much throughout the episode, but her facial expressions and body language are so telling. She quietly supports and acts as a pillar of strength to Madam during the scene above, steadily moving ahead even when Yoo Jin pauses after Anna calls her mum. When Yoo Jin shows sign of crumbling, Chief Kim’s face darkens and shows genuine concern. While Yoo Jin tends to Je Ha’s recovery, Chief Kim looks on intently, and you can see her worry about Madam being too concerned about Je Ha. In a world with such shifting alliances, Chief Kim proves herself to be unflinchingly loyal and genuinely concerned and protective over Madam. It’s truly refreshing and something that has been consistently built up throughout the series. One has to wonder what the backstory between them is and why Chief Kim is so loyal to Madam, but as we already know, the writer is not keen on going deep or back, so we’ll just have to be content with what we have.

Back to Yoo Jin, I also appreciated the interaction between her and Jeha at the end of the episode. Song Yoon-ah, on the other hand, truly excels as we see her crumble even further when she realises that Jeha did not steal the thumb drive for her but to turn on her. When she realises that, she mentions that she thought he was her “friend” and this continues builds on what we’ve seen in her scene with Anna about her desire for some genuine human connection and possibly even love. Given that she had earlier said that love was a privilege both her and Jeha could not afford, it was heartbreaking to hear her say that she thought Je Ha was her “friend”. She’s so broken that she doesn’t even bother to get Jeha to tell her where the thumbdrive is. I certainly won’t go as far to say that she loves him (is she even capable of that?) but as the only person who has ever watched out for her and saved her, he certainly has a special place in her heart. Jeha might be right in saying that she wanted to coddle him like another slave of hers, but from what we’ve seen, we know that there’s more than that.

In terms of performances, we know Ji Chang Wook is capable of so much more after seeing Healer, but unfortunately his performances in The K2 are all so straightforward, either displaying strong-willed resolve with most other characters, or vulnerability and tenderness with Anna. I really hoped he had more opportunity to display his acting prowess, just as he did in Healer. He was also partly disadvantaged by a weak script in the first place, which really did not provide much backstory to him with little insight into his past, his motivations and what makes him tick.

Right now for me, the only way for the series to end satisfactorily is to bring the Jeha and Yoojin storyline to a meaningful resolution. As we enter the last two episodes, this will be the focus of my reviews and unless the show makes serious narrative missteps, I’ll not be highlighting those. In light of that, I’m keen to see what happens next when Sung-won enters Cloud 9.

The K2 Episode 13

This episode was really a mixed bag. My biggest issue with it though was why the writer chose to introduce the Kumar-gate scandal when the show already has so much on its plate to handle. How long do the writers intend to delay the revelation of what exactly happened with Anna’s mother and what Yoo Jin’s role in it was? Putting that aside, let me start off first with what I liked in this episode.

I liked seeing how Sung-won’s plan fell apart because Chief Kim had planted the false witness and he literally fell into her trap. He was getting so smug in the previous episode that it was annoying. Seeing Yoo Jin regain control was strangely satisfying, because she’s ultimately the villain of the series. However, since she’s the only character whom the writers seem keen to fully flesh out, we also tend to be on her side when she faces off with all her opponents in both the business and political world.

I also liked how Yoo Jin used Mirror as a means to gain entry into Je Ha’s mind and motivations. What she said about the naming of “Mirror” was brilliant, where the questions you asked Mirror reflected who you were. It also leads us to realise that Je Ha did not ask Mirror anything about Yoo Jin or Anna’s mother; perhaps not because he doesn’t care about them, but he is likely aware that Yoo Jin can track all the questions that he asks. I hope Je Ha has a more elaborate scheme up his sleeves, because it would be disappointing to see Je Ha become yet another victim of Yoo Jin’s scheming – which leads me to several issues I have with the show.

While Yoo Jin’s victory felt satisfying, it seems to me that in order to show how scheming and intelligent Yoo Jin is, all the characters around her have to be naive and useless. It’s understandable that Anna fell for the “false-witness” trick, but certainly Sung-won, who has known his sister for so long, would have suspected something when the truth was literally delivered on a platter. In my review of episode 12, it seemed like he was being built up as a credible opponent to her, but what happens here? Upon realising that he fell into her trap, he simply backs down and pulls away from Anna. He tries to lead Yoo Jin into confesing her role in Anna’s mum’s death and recording it, but that’s just such a lame trick. Should he be responding and thinking about what he can do next? I really wish he displayed more fighting spirit in persisting in his battle against Yoo Jin. It’s the same with Park Gwan-soo who started off as a worthy opponent in early episodes, but has really shown himself to be increasingly useless and now spends his time just laughing a lot.

The next issue I have is with Yoo Jin’s characterisation. While the recent episodes have certainly provided more depth to her, we certainly don’t get that much beyond returning to the same incident of Anna’s mother’s murder time and time again. Certainly there’s more that led to her current state besides that incident? Or was that the turning point where she decided she needed to get ruthless to get ahead? We need to  understand how that incident fits into the story of her life. I’ve spoken about my issues with the show’s character work at length previously, so I won’t flog a dead horse. At this point, it’s quite clear that the series going to do muchh more and understandably so, with three episodes left, the priority would certainly be to tie up the narrative loose ends.

My final issue then is with the Kumar-gate story, which seems like too neat of a way to bring the series’ key storylines to a somewhat satisfactory ending. If what Je He said is true, the revelation of Kumar-gate will bring Se Joon his political victory, allow him to redeem himself as a dad and also set him free from Yoo Jin’s clutches. This would also then lead to Anna being free and Je Ha can then move on with her. That certainly seems a bit too easy and while I’m certain that there will be some complications subsequently, I felt the show should have worked on developing existing plotlines. The execution of it was also rather flat and it introduced a new character whom we have little interest in.

Nonetheless, with only three episodes left and the show’s largely disappointing work in terms of character development, my only hope now is that it can tie up its narrative loose ends in a satisfying manner.

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.

W Two Worlds Episode 10: A world controlled by the villain

Through a disastrous turn of events, we get to see how W will turn out when the villain is in the author’s seat and it’s certainly a dark, dark world.

The episode begins back in Seong Moo’s home where he starts to give the villain a face. Things start to go wrong and get creepy when we see him picking up the picture of Goya’s painting of Saturn devouring his son and tearing it up. Suddenly the tablet glows and the villain taunts the dad and eventually pulls him into the screen, declaring that he will no longer be subject to the dad’s control and the roles will be reversed now. So dad draws him a gun and lots of bullets.

We return to last week’s scenes of the serial shooting in the studio and the villain’s lines to Kang Chul on how he loves his face have deeper meaning this time round because we know what has happened. We then switch over to the hospital scenes where Kang Chul requests for Yeon Joo’s assistance to help an injured woman. Someone notices that she’s not wearing the right doctor’s coat so she makes a run for it.

We get a series of scenes after that with Yeon Joo scrounging around the hospital, trying desperately to find food. She then proceeds to Soo Hee’s place which she still remembers the door code for and that’s where she’s discovered by Kang Chul. Pressed for the truth about her identity, she tells him a story about how her husband disappeared. Somewhat intrigued by her story, Kang Chul decides not to hand her over to the police but to keep her with him so he can find out more.

The villain then decides to collaborate with Assemblyman Han in framing Kang Chul by creating a voice recording of a quarrel between him and his dad and also by killing Ajusshi. Upon being accused, Chul makes a run for it but gets shot in the stomach, managing to muster up enough energy to make it to the car and drive away with Yeon Joo. She eventually takes over the driving and gets him some medical supplies, where she finds out that Kang Chul has been accused of murder. This leads to her realisation that something is amiss and she immediately gets Kang Chul to a safe location while she returns back to the real world to make sure that their separation was not in vain.

What a crazy, unexpected turn of events! I was expecting that the happy ending would not come so easy, but I certainly did not envision how things would go bad so quickly for Kang Chul. I am still wondering why Seong Moo seems to have so little control over the characters he created – surely as their creator, there should be more of a struggle for power rather than him simply becoming a robot that mindlessly follows orders? The constant allusion to Goya’s painting seems to suggest that the writer wants us to see the extent of damage that can happen when the author becomes “devoured”.

Once again, Kim Eui Sung’s stellar acting shines through as the villain with a face is even creepier and more menacing than the villain without a face! What I liked about the episode and the series as a whole is that it’s filled with characters who are constantly thinking, making decisions and moving ahead to gain an advantage to outsmart each other or to make the best of a situation.

The killer could have just killed Chul again to end off the story but that wouldn’t work in light of the ending that Seong Moo had planned. So he decides to use his new found control to turn things around and create evidence that will implicate Chul. He then decides to protect himself even further by working together with Assemblyman Han since he knows that Assemblyman Han might eventually kill him.

Yeon Joo also displays similar quick thinking in navigating this world now without her protagonist status. She becomes the heroine once again as she saves Kang Chul and brings him to a hiding place. She realizes that treating his wound within the comic book world would only be a stop gap measure and to truly save him, she needs to leave the comic book world so she kisses him and leaves. The dream reset may have caused Kang Chul to forget Yeon Joo and reset their relationship to zero, but what this episode shows us is that destiny will always bring both of them back together and Yeon Joo will once again save his life.

Taking the analogy further with the story of Saturn devouring his son, the myth goes that after realizing that his sons will overthrow him, Saturn ate his first two sons immediately after they were born. His wife Ops decided to put a stop to this and for her third son, Jupiter, she hid him away and saved his life. Kang Chul is the creation of both Yeon Joo and Seong Moo. After seeing her dad’s attempts to kill Kang Chul, she not only saves his life also inadvertently tries save him from the entrapment of the revenge thriller by “hiding” him away in her version of W as a romance having a happy ending. At this point it’s almost impossible to see how that happy ending can come about but having seen how the plot develops in such an unexpected get convincing manner, I have no doubt that the writer knows what she’s doing.

After thoughts [posted 12 hours after]

In my previous posts, I spoke about how what appears in the manhwa is an abridged version of what we see happening in each episode and there could be scenes that happened out of reader’s eyes. If that’s the case, then how much of what was happening to Seong Moo were the readers privy to?Specifically, were the scenes of the villain asking Dad to kill Ajusshi and then drawing a gun in Kang Chul’s hand also part of the manhwa? 
When I first viewed the episode, I assumed the answer was yes and that manhwa readers knew everything that was happening. However, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense that the answer is no. If readers saw all that was happening, they would know Kang Chul was being framed, which would still keep him as the hero of the comic and therefore he should not be fading out. What is more likely therefore is that the villain selected scenes to appear in the manhwa that would discredit him as the hero, thus causing him to fade away.

In the world of the comic, a character’s ultimate destruction comes not through death, but through him or her losing his purpose and identity,  which isn’t too different from the real world actually.