By: Caroline Frost · November 16, 2016
Former mercenary Kim Je-Ha (Ji Chang-Wook) is hired as a bodyguard for Choi Yoo-Jin (Song Yoon-Ah), who will do anything to ensure her husband wins the presidential elections.
Straighten your back. And raise your head. Your enemies are watching.
I'd been waiting for this drama with mixed feelings. Although I like neither Yoona nor Cho Seong-Ha, whose character I had really disliked in the disappointing Neighborhood Hero, Ji Chang-Wook's talent and an obviously action-oriented storyline hinted at potential. Given, however, the long string of disappointments spearheaded by overhyped shows such as Descendants of the Sun and Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, which promised to be exciting and ended up boring me to tears, I didn't dare let myself get my hopes up.
The surprise, for once, lays with the lead actress. Ji Chang-Wook's performance, although not his best, was still expected, and so it's Song Yoon-Ah, who plays the fantastic Choi Yoo-Jin, who shines in The K2. Her performance was incredible: the slightest twist of her expressions is worth more than a thousand words, and she manages to convey a multitude of emotions with heartwrenching depth and accuracy, be it tearful hysteria, euphoric laughter, helpless rage or disbelieving turmoil. Never before have I been so impressed, so touched by a lead actress' performance; Song Yoon-Ah does a wonderful job of conveying the complex character of a woman both lonely and cruel, unhappy and strong as steel, and, in the end, so deeply tragic it's plain impossible to remain indifferent.
Her relationship with Ji Chang-Wook's Je-Ha is another strong asset of the show: both characters carry deep wounds that will probably never heal. They're not good people, but they both possess formidable strength, although different in nature, which leads them to acknowledge each other as a soulmate and an equal in a world where few measure up to their own power. Their undeniable chemistry turns their scenes together into a moment of depth and beauty the audience will no doubt revel in.
The second lead, Go Anna, was interpreted by SNSD singer Im Yoona, a casting choice which alarmed a good number of fans prior to the pilot's airing date. While she's certainly improved as an actress, Yoona isn't up to her costars' level, and remains the weak link of the show. It's not all due to her acting abilities, however, but also to the character she plays, who takes a very long time to really become part of the narrative. Even after she truly turns into a main character, however, Anna remains extremely locked in a cozy cocoon of tearful self-pity, and her storyline also remains erratic enough that, instead of helping anyone, she keeps tripping up people left and right.
On another note, her romance with Je-Ha is hardly believable as they have nothing in common, and everything in their respective pasts leads me to the conclusion that they “fell in love” for all the wrong reasons, and their relationship can't last. A constant victim of both the circumstances and the people around her, Anna is also pretty quickly turned into a Mary Sue, which is of course awfully boring. For someone who spent the past ten years locked up in a room secluded from the world, she's too nice, too kind, too sweet and elegant, and her mental issues fade away far too fast, barely affecting her interactions with the people around her.
In fact, The K2 would have been perfect had Anna not been part of it, because she's plain too weak to live around strong characters such as Choi Yoo-Jin and Kim Je-Ha. Even Jang Se-Joon, played by Cho Seong-Ha and whose screen time is very short compared to the former two, is a strong player in himself. The scenes he shares with his wife are brimming with tension as they match each other blow for blow.
Furthermore, Jang Se-Joon, as one of the most difficult characters to read in this show, is a good example of one of The K2's strengths: no one, apart from boring Mary Sue-Anna, is all black or white. Je-Ha himself certainly is no choir boy, and Choi Yoo-Jin, who could have very easily been turned into an evil bitch “just because,” is just as gray as he is, if not even more so.
Besides well-rounded, complex characters and relationships, the action scenes stand as The K2's main strength. Ji Chang-Wook had mentioned during a press conference how exhausting the shooting was, even joking—or so I hope—that this would be his last action drama, but his efforts really paid off, and the sheer quality of the action scenes is astounding.
Finally, a fast-paced plot and a soundtrack based on choirs sometimes menacing, sometimes powerful, award this excellent show an elegance and intelligence that make it an absolute must-watch.
Title: The K2
Country: South Korea
Starring: Ji Chang-Wook, Song Yoon-Ah, Cho Seong-Ha, Im Yoona
Aired: 09/23/2016 au 11/12/2016
Number of episodes: 16
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Romance, Action/Martial Arts.
My Grade: ★★★★★