Hey friends, I’m back with another Lee Joon Gi drama special! I conducted a twitter poll back in late November asking you which Lee Joon Gi drama you wanted me to re-watch and review during my winter break! There were four choices: Two Weeks, Joseon Gunman, Arang and the Magistrate, and Scholar Who Walks the Night. It was a very tight race, and for a while the votes were so evenly spread, I thought we’d never have a winner! However, in the end, Two Weeks turned out to be the champion by a slim margin. Thank you to everyone who participated in the polling process. If you want to be a part of future polls, feel free to follow me on twitter! I usually put up polls when it comes to choosing movies, or when I need help choosing between a few dramas. I’m always making some sort of mischief on there, even when I’m not active here, so please don’t hesitate to reach out. And now, without further delay, I present you with my review of Two Weeks!
[Be Forewarned: Spoilers Below].
Praiseworthy Performances: I thought Lee Joon Gi did an outstanding job showcasing a wide range of genuine emotion that really pulled me in as a viewer and elicited my empathy. I know that’s coming from a girl whose blog has his face plastered all over the front of it (not to mention a thorough log devoted entirely to his crocs), but at least hear me out when I say that I was able to buy into his transition from sleazy, awkward, out-of-touch dad into desperate, responsible, and devoted father. What’s great about Lee Joon Gi is that he’s never afraid to go all in and get very gritty with his roles. He commits 100 percent. While with some actors I tend to have trouble separating the actor from the character, I never have this issue with Lee Joon Gi. He is truly a chameleon. Whenever I watch him on screen, he has fully transformed into his character without any remnants of Lee Joon Gi the person intruding on the performance and distracting me from the role at hand. Here he was very raw and believable as a young father on the run, most especially in his meetings with Lee Chae Mi’s character, Soo Jin. It was clear that he put his whole heart and soul into the performance, even going the extra mile when filming his own action scenes. I was genuinely moved by his performance, and I don’t think I’ve ever rooted so hard for a dad in my life (okay, maybe I rooted just as much for Swe Dol in Iljimae: The Phantom Thief, but you get the point)!
Aside from being one of the cutest children I’ve ever seen in my life Lee Chae Mi certainly did justice to the character of Soo Jin. I give this little girl a lot of credit for playing a pretty morbid role. It takes a certain level of maturity to pull a character like that off, and I thought she was very delightful to watch on screen. There was a certain cheekiness to Soo Jin that I felt came through nicely in Lee Chae Mi’s thoughtful expressions and twinkling eyes. Particularly helpful was the plethora of gestures she used to communicate Soo Jin’s feelings. Lee Chae Mi had no trouble making body language a large part of the role, whether it was giddily kicking her feet up in the air to signal Soo Jin’s excitement of conversing with her father over the phone, or leaning in with a hand curved around the side of her mouth to whisper a heartfelt “happy birthday” to her father. Another competent performance came from veteran actor Cheon Ho Jin. I’m a fan of Cheon Ho Jin for many reasons; one being that he has the power to make a supporting role feel just as important as a leading role. Mr. Han surely played a key role in helping Tae San, but his screen time was fairly limited compared to most characters. You know an actor has successfully made an impact when a relatively small role easily becomes a favorite within the bunch. Mr. Han was one of those favorites for me. The chemistry Cheon Ho Jin exuded with Lee Joon Gi was natural, enjoyable and believable. Their characters often partook in a good banter, and it was very clear by the actors’ gestures and facial expressions that they were perfectly in sync.
Fantastic Character Development & Compelling Themes: The show focuses on quite a few themes including fatherhood, motherhood, redemption, forgiveness, and responsibility. Fatherhood impacts many of the characters, if not all. We have Seungwoo (a pseudo-father of Soo Jin), Tae San (her biological father), Tae San’s own father being absent from his life, Mr. Han as the biological father of Assassin Kim, Mr. Moon, who grew up without a loving father and acts as a (very bad) pseudo-father to Assassin Kim, Jo Seo Hee, who is raising her disabled son without a father in the picture, and finally, Jaekyung, who lost her beloved father. You can see the tangled mess of absent fathers, bad fathers, good fathers, and lost fathers that make up the intricate relationships between the show’s characters. All of them are shaped and molded by the experiences with or of fatherhood that they’ve had. A great moment that I feel encompasses the crux of Tae San’s dilemma as a father takes place midway through the show. The narrative juxtaposes two scenes, one with In Hye, and one with Tae San. The first is a sweet scene between In Hye and Soo Jin, where In Hye showcases understanding for Soo Jin’s curiosity about her father, admits her mistake in never discussing him, and reveals her wrongful misunderstanding of his past actions. Viewers see that Tae san actually does love his daughter and has always wanted to be there for her, especially now more than ever, but couldn’t due to circumstances out of his control. Then we see Tae San as a child having the same curiosity about his own missing father, but his mother answers him with rage, annoyance, and disgust, telling him he has no father and that his father hates him. She views Tae San as a huge burden that she has to carry alone, unlike In Hye who has never acted that way with Soo Jin despite her hardships. Tae san is able to confront and hash out some of these child hood traumas in his imaginary discussions with Soo Jin. He feels regretful that he has put Soo Jin in a similar position of having to wonder and long for her father. He feels he has become just like his own father, which is why he doesn’t feel he deserves Soo Jin’s love. For those reasons, he is constantly expressing his amazement and gratitude whenever his child smiles back and warmly embraces him. I really love the way his imaginary interactions with Soo Jin and her doll, Ting Ting, became the ultimate source of Tae San’s strength and endurance. It was really powerful to watch him shift from being helpless and at his wit’s end to confident and determined, all because the passion and love for his daughter fueled a burning fire within him to fight.
In a similar vein, motherhood is also reflected upon in this drama. First we have In Hye, who I would say is a fantastic mother. She fought tooth and nail to protect her daughter, did everything she could to find a way to save her, and never harbored any malice or resentment toward Soo Jin despite the harsh circumstances they were forced to live in. Even when they are homeless, In Hye treats Soo Jin with love. She views Soo Jin as the light of her life, and never takes any of her anger out on her child with violence, contempt or hostility. She is very much the opposite of Tae San’s Mother, who clearly viewed him as a burden, a curse, a responsibility that she no longer had the will nor energy to take on. She verbally abused him, destroyed his self-esteem and personhood, and abandoned him when life became too overwhelming for her. I’m not saying her suicide was disgraceful. Living as a single mother is incredibly difficult, and I don’t seek to undermine the strenuousness that entails. However, I do fault her for the poor and wretched treatment of her child. The final mother is Jo Seo Hee, who actually, is very devoted to her son, so much so, that she goes to extreme lengths to be able to escape and live in luxury with him in a foreign country. To her son, Jo Seo Hee was an angel. However, to the world, and all of the people she exploited, murdered, and betrayed, she was a demon. The only time Jo Seo Hee ever shows a lick of raw emotion, is in the interrogation room when she is forced to watch a video of her son showing a picture he drew of her dawning angel wings.
Redemption is another obvious theme, that is not limited to Tae San, but also Mr. Han and Seung Woo. Tae San’s story of growth and fatherhood is the heart and soul of this drama. The flashbacks illustrating his pure and naive character before he was cornered and blackmailed by Mr. Moon were a nice touch. What makes the drama so captivating is our front row seat to his evolution into a mature man who takes responsibility for his actions. It’s almost as if he’s being brought from death back to life as he becomes touched and also educated on what In Hye and Soo Jin have been through. Each obstacle he faces forces him to cultivate a new appreciation and understanding of life. Watching him undergo this change is so satisfying and rewarding. A nice scene that really jumpstarts his turnaround is the birth scene, where he helps a pregnant woman whose husband is away on military duty, while he’s on the run. This was a clever mix of comedy and emotion. The laughs about Tae San’s innocence and hesitation to help a complete stranger give birth are soon replaced by a touching moment where Tae San begins to realize the hardships In Hye must have gone through while giving birth alone. He also realizes the beauty of fatherhood and having a child. As he looks at the baby boy with wonder, he realizes the gift he’s been missing out on. Afterword, the joy in taking care of the baby and feeding the woman seaweed soup is written all over his face. His regret is obvious, as these are all the things he wishes he had been there to do for In Hye.
A large part of Tae San’s maturity comes from his willingness to take responsibility for his actions and make amends for them without the expectation of forgiveness. Tae San never chides In Hye for not listening or hearing out his story, or for never asking the real reason behind his actions before making judgements. He also never asks anyone for their forgiveness. He owns his faults, and goes to great lengths to save his daughter, not because he thinks he will gain forgiveness or some other benefit from it, but because he feels this is what he owes his family, whom he had left to fend for themselves (even though part of it was out of his control) all those years ago. He is very much like his mentor, Mr. Han, who lives a simple life and chooses to assist Tae San after being destroyed by Mr. Moon years ago. Mr. Han never seeks forgiveness either, acknowledges his faults, and strives to live a better life as a way to repent for his past. I think Tae San models a lot of this same behavior. Even after he’s earned In Hye’s forgiveness, he doesn’t hold her to it, and even tells her she’s forgiven him too quickly out of emotional gratitude for saving their daughter. Tae San decides that his life still needs improving, and that he must work harder to become a father that In Hye and Soo Jin can truly depend on and be proud of. Hence why he takes off on a journey of soul-searching instead of immediately settling back down with them and living as a family. I must add a few words for Seungwoo, who made some mistakes along the way as well, but did his best to make up for them. Seungwoo makes the same mistake as Tae San by falling into Mr. Moon’s trap, and betraying In Hye and Tae San in a move that he believes will save his daughter. I like that he freely owns up to this, not only to In Hye, but to Tae San as well. He also lets his resentment go once he has experienced a small chunk of Tae San’s predicament for himself. It takes a lot to admit when you’re wrong, especially when you make the wrong move after priding yourself on your good nature. However, when it was time to show up to the plate, Seungwoo did, and that makes him a redeeming character as well. Tae San, Mr. Han, and Seungwoo all take responsibility for their faults, while our villains, Mr. Moon and Jo Seo Hee, refuse to do so, even when they are forced to.
Heartwarming Moments: There were many stirring moments scattered throughout the drama that really tugged at the heartstrings and I would argue that these were the moments that made the drama so poignant. Each of these moments was fulfilling and cathartic in a different way. My favorite scene in the entire drama (though there are quite a few honorable mentions) takes place in episode fourteen. This is the moment where Tae San really gets to visit his daughter face to face in the hospital without having to lie about who he is. I love how Tae San practices smiling and exhibits nervousness. He’s already seen his daughter a few times, but this is their first official meeting as father and daughter. He wants to make a good impression. Similarly, Soo Jin wears the little bow tie hair pin that she knows was from dad. They are both so cute. Soo Jin tells dad she was such a good listener and knew not to trust Mr. Moon because dad had said he wouldn’t be able to see her until the 26th and told her to ONLY go with mom for radiation. Tae San tells her she’s so smart and that she will do well in school when she goes back. Soo Jin wishes him a happy birthday and shows him a birthday card she drew thanking him for bringing her into this world. Of course, Tae San chokes up and struggles to smile through his tears of joy and gratitude. He is clearly and deeply moved by his daughter’s actions. She tells him to smile. He does so, and in a voice over expresses his amazement that his beautiful child is smiling back at him. He is elated. It’s the most touching interaction to witness on screen (aside from their meeting after the transplant is completed), and is acted to absolute perfection by Joon Gi and Chae Mi. You can really feel the sincere emotion radiating from Lee Joon Gi, and of course his eyes are able to express so much with just the slightest alterations and movements. It’s a poignant and gratifying reunion to witness. The most touching part is the sheer joy, awe, and wonder on each of their faces. It’s the moment they’ve been waiting for, and it clearly surpasses their expectations.
Solid Soundtrack: I loved, loved, loved the Two Weeks opening title track. It packed a powerful punch and was very well suited for an action drama. It perfectly represented the overall tone of the show. Another simple and gentle track, “I Am Your Father” was often used alongside dialogue scenes shared between Tae San and Soo Jin. It was delicate and light with just enough feeling of melancholy to enhance the precious moments they spent together. “Lost Memories” was another track with a soft touch that I enjoyed. Great usage of piano, string instruments and minimalism to evoke emotion. My favorite track would have to be “Two Weeks Memories (Orchestra Version)” because I always love intricate and tension filled orchestral pieces, and this one gets the job done well. You can feel the build up and the pressure mounting in the best way possible. Both classical and electric instruments are used, creating a nice balance. There are two other versions, “Two Weeks Memories (soft version)” which more so relies on piano and woodwind instruments that create a far less intense and more sorrowful piece, and “Two Weeks Memories (tension version)” which still takes soft piano, but mixes it with string and percussion instruments to create a deeper, ominous sound that comes to a sudden and dark end. “Chase of Maze” is as thrilling as the title makes out. This was another favorite of mine, and helped up the energy whenever a scene of desperation or danger played out. Excellent blend of instruments that evolve as the song progresses. “Launch” makes drums and cellos the stars of the track which work very much to the song’s advantage. A perfect track which invokes peril and anxiety. “Mountain and Sun” is yet another subtle, quiet, but eloquent piece that was best suited for more emotional and heart wrenching scenes shared between Soo Jin and her parents, or In Hye and Tae San. Once again, piano drives this piece, making it wistful yet appealing. My second favorite track from the album would have to be “Plans,” with some other favorites being “Very Dangerous” and “Who is There.” All three of these tracks were magnificent in making the scenes even more nail-biting than they already were.
Satisfying Conclusion: Some will disagree, but I was grateful for the ending we were given. Could they have made it a Hollywood happy ending? Sure. However, that wouldn’t have been very realistic considering the circumstances. If anything, I was surprised that they let all of our favorite characters live to see another day. First we see the villains go to jail, and we even manage to witness a deformed Mr. Moon get his corn stolen in prison. If that’s not justice, I’m not sure what is. The scene depicting Jaekyung’s memorial of her friend Mi Sook is a touching one, but also sorrowful, as Jaekyung looks incredibly empty now that her life’s purpose has been fulfilled. Moving on to our main couple, it’s important to keep in mind that this whole traumatic journey took place over the short course of two weeks. It would be pretty unreasonable if Tae San and In Hye were suddenly in each other’s arms proclaiming their rekindled love for each other and living under one roof after all of the very morbid and exhausting trials and tribulations they were just put through. Not to mention they hadn’t been in contact for years, and In Hye had been homeless with Soo Jin for a significant period of time because of Tae San’s decision to go to prison without explaining the situation to her. While In Hye ends up forgiving Tae San, I think Tae San’s decision to give her space and time to process everything that’s occurred up until that point was a smart and respectable one. I’m glad the pair reach an understanding for each other. Tae San has no qualms about In Hye’s prior uninformed judgements about him, and In Hye showcases empathy and forgiveness toward Tae San’s difficult past decisions that she now knows had all been made in an effort to protect her. And of course, Soo Jin harbors no hard feelings for her father’s longterm absence, and immediately embraces him as dad. Because Seungwoo does the noble thing by backing off and giving In Hye the space she needs as well, I think it’s pretty clear that the trio (Tae San, In Hye, and Soo Jin) will one day live as a proper family, once everyone is done healing, and after Tae San has taken some time to reflect, re-establish and evolve into the type of father he knows Soo Jin needs, and the type of man In Hye can depend on.
Inconsistent Performances: Park Ha Sun certainly won me over when it came to being the devoted mother desperate to protect her child. Park Ha Sun made it very clear through her portrayal of Seo In Hye, that So Jin was the light of her life, the most important and valuable gift that she had been given. I bought into this part of her character entirely, because she was magnificent at exuding an aura of motherly love. My problems with her performance arose in certain scenes where great emotional depth was required of her. Often times, she looked stiff or constipated in her crying scenes. Other times it looked like she was smiling while she was trying to cry. Even more awkward, was the occasional blend of the two, where she unfortunately made it too obvious that she was trying extremely hard to squeeze out the tears. I’m not saying that she didn’t have a single good crying scene, because that wouldn’t be true. There were several scenes of emotional turmoil where I really felt she delivered, particularly when she would get worried or really worked up, or contrastingly when she would share tender moments with Soo Jin while juggling an array of terrifying thoughts in her head. My main issue lies in the fact that she was very inconsistent in this role. Sometimes she looked incredibly believable, while in other instances, she came across as extremely unnatural. Though I had some frustrations about her performance, I still found Park Ha Sun mostly palatable nonetheless.
I have very similar sentiments about Kim So Yeon as Park Jae Kyung. Kim So Yeon certainly shined in some moments, my favorites being when she went off the charts wild and really let loose. Once again, I had no trouble connecting with her character’s anguish and drive to take down two deplorable villains. However, there were a lot of underwhelming moments mixed in that really detracted from her overall performance. Like Park Ha Sun, Kim So Yeon had that super awkward crying thing going on and suffered from inconsistent delivery. Just the way she tried to contort her face alone was incredibly difficult to look at without feeling the need to cringe. She put in great effort, I’ll give her that, but it just wasn’t working at times. Her go-to seemed to be this pouty, wide eyed, glossy stare of disbelief that she would pull out in almost every situation whether it be sorrow, disbelief, desperation, anger, you name it. Had she had recycled this look a lot less, and tried to rely more on the same rawness she used in some of her more successful scenes, I think I could have enjoyed her performance a lot more than I did. I actually thought the actress playing the younger version of her character (Jo Jung Eun), though we only saw her in a few short scenes, did a much better job conveying sorrowful emotion than Kim So Yeon did. All in all, I don’t think she was disastrous, I just felt it could have been better.
I wouldn’t say Kim Hye Ok did a terrible job, but there were many facets to her performance that just didn’t click for me. Everything about her character felt very cartoonish, and not in a good way. Unlike Mr. Moon (played by Jo Min Ki), who came across as vicious, intimidating and ruthless, Jo Seo Hee appeared to be very much a caricature of the villain she was intended to be. This problem stemmed from both the writing and the way Kim Hye Ok tended to deliver her lines. Her intonations were often stilted, whiney, and increasingly exaggerated, as if I were watching a spoof. Everything from her body language to her diction emanated parody. It didn’t help that her character was also given more of the laughable and farcical gestures, such as listening to opera in satin robes while enjoying gourmet food with lavish, golden utensils or dancing alone in her nightgown in the wee hours of the mourning while listening to classical music. Since Mr. Moon was never showcased engaging in absurd activities like these, he was able to be taken a lot more seriously. He came across as a real mobster, while Jo Seo Hee, indeed money hungry and luxurious, felt way too over the top to be accepted. There have been much more successful efforts in creating female villains like her (a more recent example being the character of Cha Moon Sook from Lawless Lawyer). Jo Seo Hee lacked a balance between realism and satire that I feel Jo Min Ki’s character, and other characters from dramas with similar ideas, have exhibited.
DRASTIC Suspense of Belief Required: I’ll cut right to the chase. A TON of nonsense happens in this drama which, quite frankly, must be overlooked if you want to have any hopes of appreciating the story. This flaw is probably the show’s biggest achilles heel, but if you can prepare yourself for it and watch the show having accepted this fate, it can be an extremely valuable watch. The problem is just working up the stamina to withstand the absurdity of it all. What do I mean by nonsense? I mean a slew of situations or outcomes that would be virtually impossible to achieve in the real world, which is the same world this drama is intending to portray. Let me provide you with some examples. There are many scattered throughout the drama, but I’ll only pick a handful, because it’s not too hard to figure out the ludicrousness of them all. To start, I’ll just remind people of the fact that this entire story takes place over a span of two weeks. Our main man Tae San gets shot not too far into this two week period, but is somehow back on his feet within a few days of only having had herbal treatment and antibiotics to cure his gunshot wound. In a scene later on, they show the scar almost completely healed before the two weeks is even up. I’m no doctor, but I am intelligent enough to know that a gunshot wound of that nature cannot heal that quickly, with that type of limited treatment, within such a limited timeframe when considering all the movement and running around he was doing (which most likely would have led to the reopening of his wound had this not been fiction).
But, let’s move on to bigger and better blunders, like the hospital fiasco in episode thirteen where an ENTIRE HOSPITAL is drugged unconscious because every single solitary employee in the building decided to accept a drink from a complete stranger. You’re trying to tell me that there wasn’t even one mere individual in the bunch that wasn’t thirsty or smart enough not to take a drink from just anyone off the street? Not to mention that in every hospital I’ve been to (which is many), visitors can’t just waltz on in and give out food. There’s hospital security for a reason my friends. The best part about this one is the fact that pretty much no one noticed that a whole hospital had ceased functioning. What about all the patients who need critical care? What about the visitors? How did no one call 911 or find it strange that all the employees were asleep? What happens to all the patients on life support when they cut the power and generator? The list of questions goes on, but it’s time to reveal the next pick. I’ve touched on Tae San’s supernatural abilities to be running, jumping and climbing hours after receiving a gunshot wound to the shoulder, but Assassin Kim is another invincible power that needs to be addressed. Literally nothing could take this man down. I feel like he could have been flattened by a steamroller and still stood up seconds later without a single scratch to show for it. For example, the tunnel scene that’s shared between Assassin Kim and Tae San looked incredibly goofy. Half of the maneuvers Assassin Kim was able to make in the first place were not humanly possible, even when years of training are put into consideration. He also manages to recover from wounds and injuries in record time, making him a completely unrealistic character.
Frustrating Police Work: Two Weeks certainly isn’t the first drama to showcase Korea’s love for incorporating “Keystone cops” into almost every crime related show to air on television, and it certainly won’t be the last. Unfortunately, the level of police buffoonery happening in Two Weeks took things way too far. A line was crossed, my friends. A line was crossed. So much so, to the point where it was almost insulting. One can only take so much lunacy. There’s a breaking point, and this show induced too many close calls of me threatening to angrily hurl my laptop against the nearest wall. Did it ruin the entire show? No. It just wouldn’t be right for me to send you on your merry way without giving you fair warning about the anger management classes you might need to be signing up for after experiencing these blunders for yourself. All jesting aside, a lot of these scenes were truly unforgivable mistakes on the writer’s part, which is why I feel the need to harp on the subject. Others were the usual fair share of “dumb and dumber” moments a viewer experiences when watching any Korean cop show. I decry these bits because they diminish the drama’s overall quality. Had just some of these gaffes been omitted, the show wouldn’t have been half as frustrating to sit through. It might seem like small beans, but trust me when I say that eliminating botched scenes like these can sometimes be the difference between what makes or breaks a drama’s narrative.
For me the worst scenes to sit through were scenes of police incompetence. They were always ten steps behind the bad guys. It took them forever to figure out there was a mole amongst them. I’m glad they end up using this to their advantage, but they easily could have caught on to this earlier and prevented a lot of shit from happening. Moreover, they made hundreds of plans, and failed to complete a single one of them properly. Even their very last plan goes awry, and Tae San ends up having to solve the problem himself by going after Mr. Moon alone. What made my blood boil beyond belief was a scene where Seungwoo and a ton of other police officers only had to catch ONE MAN, and they couldn’t even manage to do that when they already had him surrounded and trapped in a building flooded with officers. Other blunders included the fact that this crew of trained officers couldn’t have made it any more obvious when they were on covert missions. The wires they were wearing were hardly subtle and practically screamed, “I’m an undercover officer!!!” There were also some campier scenes that I think could have been shot and directed a bit differently, or left out entirely. Take the scene where Jaekyung pretended to channel her inner Jo Seo Hee in order to get an idea of what the woman might be thinking. In said scene, Jaekyung suddenly ends up bursting out into a dialogue while using what is supposed to be her best Jo Seo Hee voice in order to decipher the criminal’s motivations. I understand the concept and intent, but it came across as awfully corny and ridiculous. It would have been better to film this as voiceover, where the dialogue takes place in Jaekyung’s imagination.
Two Weeks is not without flaws, but its consistent, suspenseful narrative full of touching moments is enough to keep anyone entertained and on the edge of their seat. Tae San’s redemption arc and father-daughter interactions are what make this show worthy of your time. Aside from some unrealistic situations and frustrating police work, Two Weeks boasts an exciting story with well developed characters that viewers can easily invest in. The story is cleverly aligned so that the episodes match up to the countdown, making it an intense, emotional, and valuable ride. If you’re looking for a nail-biting action drama that delivers in all the areas that count, Two Weeks is not to be missed. It’s a drama that I can come back to time and time again, and still manage to feel anxious about, despite already knowing what’s going to happen. And of course, if you’re a Lee Joon Gi fan like me, this is an absolute must see!
Did you watch Two Weeks? What did you think of the drama? If you haven’t already, you can check out the preview for it here.