Here we recap and discuss episodes 20 of The King 2 Hearts. Caution, spoilers below. Don’t read if you don’t want to know what happens.
Now that she’s found out about the situation, Hang Ah struggles against her guards as her dad brings her to the border. She screams that she doesn’t want to be separated from Jae Ha, but her dad then asks if it’s okay to be separated from him. After the last war, it took 35 years for family who were separated to see each other and there’s no reason to think otherwise for this one. He wants her to be happy, but while his spirit is willing to wait as long as it takes to meet her again, his body…not so much. If they separate now, the next time that Hang Ah sees him will be at his grave. Damn, talk about your parental guilt trips. If Hang Ah wants to stay, he’ll let her, but she’ll soon find out that South Korea and Jae Ha have turned their backs on the North.
Meanwhile, Jae Ha is furious about the Prime Minister ordering the increase to Defcon 3. After yelling at him about doing this without telling him, Jae Ha repeatedly tries to call Hang Ah on the phone. She eventually picks up and they talk about what they’re going to do about this mess. When Jae Ha tells her that North Korea has cut off all forms of communication with the South, Hang Ah whirls around to confirm this with her dad and is told of course they did, this is war. Jae Ha pleads with her to come back, but Hang Ah tells him that she’s going to go and do what she can to reopen those lines of communication so that they can try to stop the war.
Knowing the dangers ahead, Jae Ha is still against this idea, but Hang Ah is resolved to go through with this. She still wants to see her dad for a long time, and wants to see Jae Ha for a long time. In the ultimate dangling carrot for Jae Ha, she basically tells him that if he wants to see her again, he’ll stop the war. Right before she hangs up, Hang Ah tells him that she loves him and after composing herself for a moment, suddenly the weepy girl is gone and Special Forces soldier Kim Hang Ah is marching purposefully across the border. Jae Ha takes a moment to wipe his own tears away, but like Hang Ah, the heartbroken hero has been replaced with King Lee Jae Ha out to stop this damn war.
At whatever villa he’s hiding out in for the moment, Bong Gu is told by the stupid US Security Council director that he’s finally gotten what he’s wanted: the US military has agreed to bomb North Korea. Sigh. Jae Ha is working in office when Bong Gu calls him to gloat about it, though Jae Ha at first pretends like he doesn’t know who Bong Gu is just to needle him some more. Hah. He emails Jae Ha a copy of codenamed “Operation Morning Calm” and tells him that Jae Ha brought this on himself for bringing the case against him in the ICC and that everything that happens to his citizens now is his fault. Jae Ha, however, isn’t going to have any of this and tells Bong Gu that no, everyone that dies will be because of him instead. It doesn’t matter though because Jae Ha says that he’s definitely going to stop the war and put Bong Gu on trial no matter what. Afterwards, Jae Ha has Secretary Eun secretly confirm the validity of the report that Bong Gu sent him. He’s also forced to raise the security level to Defcon 2 as the US is pushing for this and at this point it’s more for show than anything since the US has control over their military now anyway.
Over in North Korea, Hang Ah is meeting with the Prime Minister. He praises her loyalty, but then reveals the reason that he called her here: he wants to know any and all intel she was able to gather and overhear during her time in the palace about the secret bunkers that will house the royal family. She stares at him like he’s an idiot and says that instead that they need to reopen the lines of communications with the South. When the Prime Minister accuses her of giving in to her womanly weaknesses, Hang Ah matter-of-factly says that if that was the case she’d be still in South Korea with the man she loves. This is true… At any rate, neither she nor the Prime Minister is caving in at this point.
As Jae Ha is watching a North Korean news report, Secretary Eun comes in and asks him how his speech is coming along. Jae Ha tells him he’s working on it right now, and Secretary Eun reminds him to be strong for the people. The basics of the speech are there: calling out the US for their stupid overreaction, telling the North to keep the peace, etc etc. When he starts to write what South Korea will do in the event of an attack, however, Jae Ha pauses and flashes back to some happier memories of his 60km run with Hang Ah as well as the night that he used her as a lap pillow. Though you can still it kills him to do so, he finishes off his speech by saying that if the South is attacked, they will repay the North with all necessary force.
Because he’s the one who suggested the whole reunification thing, though Hang Ah’s conversation with the Prime Minister didn’t help much either, her dad’s under some political pressure. Above all else, he’s a father and he’s determined to keep his daughter alive. To this end, he pulls out plane tickets and tells her to pick a destination where they can take asylum in and live out their days. Jae Ha can even come visit her from time to time. He remembers the speech that Jae Ha gave earlier though, and quickly changes his mind, saying that it’s better that Jae Ha not be able to find them. Hang Ah defends Jae Ha by saying that he has to stay that in his official statement, but all Hang Ah’s dad heard was that his daughter’s lover was intent on bombing them even though he knows Hang Ah’s there. He then accidentally reveals to Hang Ah that the North is preparing a pre-emptive strike. Erm…well shit.
Back at the palace, Jae Ha is going over the casualty projections with the South Korean general we saw during the WOC. Day one, they’d lose 200,000 soldiers and 1.5 million civilians; after a week, it would go up to 1 million soldiers and 5 million civilians. Of course since those numbers were from 1994, they can probably double them now. Yeah those numbers have to be vastly inflated unless North Korea sets off the nuke and the US decides to sit back and let them rain hellfire down on an ally.
Later in his room, Jae Ha is feeling the weight of all those potential losses and thinks about Jae Kang’s dream of reunification and Shi Kyung’s dying wish for him to never give up. He also thinks about Bong Gu telling him that the blood of those who die will be on his hands and Hang Ah’s plea to him to end the war so they can see each other again. At the same time, Hang Ah is thinking about Jae Ha telling her to trust him during the WOC and also to Jae Kang’s video asking them to work together to prevent war. Her musings are interrupted by a man dropping off a package for her without even introducing herself. She looks inside and finds another set of Jae Ha’s personally-made skincare products. Oh yeah and there’s also this little additional present of a printed copy of “Operation Morning Calm”.
Hang Ah quickly flips through the report and immediately goes to meet with the Prime Minister. She tells him that she knows the date of attack on North Korea and that she’ll only give him the date if he arranges for a secret meeting with the South to try to stop the war before it happens. The Prime Minister accuses her of doing this just so that she can see Jae Ha again at this secret meeting since she thinks that he’s going to be the South Korean representative. Because of this, he rejects Hang Ah’s proposal, but changes his mind when Hang Ah tells him that the scheduled date for their own attack on the South is after the American’s attack on them. When Hang Ah is adamant about only giving up the date after she returns from the meeting, he agrees to let her go, but he wants some proof of loyalty. He pulls out North Korea’s only copy of her engagement and tells her to rip it up. Hang Ah does so without hesitation and is glad her plan worked out until the Prime Minister also adds that he’ll be holding onto her dad until he gets the date of the attack.
And so the secret meeting has been arranged and sure enough we see Jae Ha walking to the meeting. Flanked by Dong Ha, he walks through the corridors of the chosen location and enters an empty room to wait for the North Korean representative. At that moment, the North Korean representative is busy calling her dad to make sure he’s okay. Though he’s probably lying out his ass, Hang Ah’s dad assures her that he’s in a position of power as well so the Prime Minister won’t really do anything to harm him. After he hangs up, we see Hang Ah’s dad walk into the Prime Minister’s office to watch the live feed of the meeting.
When Hang Ah walks in, Jae Ha happily greets her, but she coldly greets him and puts out her hand for him to shake. Jae Ha then sees the earpiece in Hang Ah’s ear and immediately understands what’s going on. They sit down to talk and Hang Ah immediately starts grilling Jae Ha on his intentions, hoping that he’ll earnestly answer and show that the South really means peace. Of course, because it’s Jae Ha, he doesn’t exactly follow the usual plan and instead asks those listening if they know about the attack in less than a week. The Prime Minister panics when he finds out and immediately orders a search for the documents to confirm this, but Hang Ah’s dad tells him it’s not necessary and pulls out the file from his coat.
Meanwhile, Hang Ah is none-too-pleased with Jae Ha for giving up her only leverage, but Jae Ha is just sitting there smiling at her. He flippantly asks her if she’s going to war on the 24th and says that of course she isn’t because they’re going to be married on that day. LOL, gotta love Jae Ha and his crazy crazy schemes. The Prime Minister immediately tells Hang Ah to get out of the room, but Jae Ha notices her react to the order and looks up at the cameras to tell those watching to talk to him directly instead of yelling at Hang Ah. The Prime Minister then pulls out a super-secret phone he kept in a box close by and calls the phone next to Jae Ha. He tells Jae Ha that the North wasn’t behind the attacks in Michigan, but Jae Ha points out that their threat to attack South Korea is just as bad. If the US attacks them, they’ll attack the South. If the South gets attack, they’ll hit back, and as a North Korean ally, China will probably enter the fray at this point. It’s pretty much a lose-lose situation.
Of course, the Prime Minister isn’t convinced that Jae Ha’s plan will do anything, asking if the US will just wish them well on their marriage and call off their attack. Jae Ha tells him that if they provide a united front for North and South, there’s no way the US can justifiably attack them anymore. To attack an ally of one of their allies on the date of a head of state’s wedding would be an international PR disaster of epic proportions. He’s not just marrying Hang Ah on that day, he’s marrying the North and the South. The Prime Minister tells Jae Ha that he’ll think about it and orders Hang Ah to leave, but Jae Ha has other ideas and hits the panic button next to him. Oh this can’t be good.
Upon hearing the alarm, soldiers from both sides rush in with guns drawn, including Dong Ha and Young Bae who face off against each other. Jae Ha then tells the Prime Minister that he has five minutes to decide or else just shoot him here since he figures he’ll be killed in the war anyway. He looks over at Young Bae and points to his forehead, telling him to make sure that his death is as quick and painless as possible. That’s just mean, poor Young Bae can’t handle this kind of pressure. Dong Ha not particularly liking where his is going either.
After the five minutes are up, the Prime Minister still hasn’t made his decision. Jae Ha takes his silence as war and orders Young Bae to shoot him since their leaders seem to want a war. Young Bae is extremely conflicted by this request and stutters out that he can’t do this as Dong Ha warns him not to make him shoot him first. Hang Ah then goes over and grabs Young Bae’s gun out of his hand and points it straight at Jae Ha herself. Uh…shit. In response, Dong Ha turns and points his gun at her instead.
She asks the Prime Minister if she should shoot and that she’ll do it even if it’s the man she loves because she doesn’t want to live without Jae Ha and is fine with following him in death. When Jae Ha looks up at her lovingly, she returns the look and tells him that she’ll be right behind him and cocks her gun. Fortunately, before Hang Ah can pull the trigger, the Prime Minister tells everyone to put down their weapons and agrees to Jae Ha’s terms. Everyone lets out sighs of relief and Jae Ha wraps Hang Ah in an embrace after taking the gun from her. I’d uh have put the safety back on though so there aren’t any unfortunate accidents.
While watching the North Korean news talk peacefully accepting the Americans’ attack, Bong Gu furiously demands that the US Security Council director attack the wedding instead now. However, because of the news, Congress and the US Military are hesitant to do so as they now lack a moral imperative to do so. He complains to Bong Gu that he’s going to lose his job over this anyway and hangs up on him. Right…
On the day of the wedding, which apparently is being held in the DMZ, Jae Ha is trying to cross the border, but is stopped by the American forces that are stationed at the DMZ. Fortunately, though, the Americans are outnumbered by the Korean soldiers, who move the barricade to allow their king to get to his wedding, saluting and offering congratulations as he drives by. At the same time, Hang Ah is smiling watching North and South Korean soldiers laughing together at the border as she prepares for the wedding. Her dad complains that the wedding isn’t as spectacular as the engagement party and wishes that her mother were here to see this. Hang Ah hugs her father and apologizes for being a troublemaker, but he tells her that all that matters to him is that she’s happy.
So once again, another of Jae Ha’s crazy plans works out in the end. Right before the wedding, Jae ha watches a broadcast of the US officially offering their congratulations and denying any plan of attack was ever in play. Hah. Jae Ha and Hang Ah meet each other right at the border and together they first go to the South and bow North and then vice versa. Now that they’re finally officially together, Jae Ha picks up Hang Ha and happily spins her around in celebration.
We now cut to the ICC and see Bong Gu has been sentenced to life in prison. Uh, so they let him out on bail, and he just waltzed back into court and custody because he thought he had a shot at winning the case? If you were going to do this, why let him out in the first place? Later, Jae Ha visits him in jail and Bong Gu tells him that he won in the end because with all the psychological trauma he caused him Jae Ha will always be anxious when he hears a siren and will amass more weapons in the future to prevent this feeling of weakness from happening again. Jae Ha tells him though that this experience gave him the confidence that he can stop this again in the future and thanks Bong Gu for it. Well, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right? He then turns around and walks away as Bong Gu screams at him that Club M will continue to attack them.
Cue the time warp and we jump ahead four years. Jae Ha enters his office to find Dong Ha, Young Bae waiting for him with the North Korean members of this year’s WOC team. Kang Seok finally makes his reappearance as well. Wonder what happened our resident Tiffany-loving, RPG-carrying soldier all this time. Maybe he was secretly trying to get her across to the North before war broke up. When Jae Ha asks about the female soldier for the team, Kang Seok tells him that she’ll be from the South this time. Never missing a chance to poke fun at Young Bae, Jae Ha leans in close and tells him how pretty the girls are in the South. Young Bae calmly says he already met her, causing Jae Ha to ask if he’s really seduced someone already. Dong Ha just scoffs and says that Young Bae’s so smitten with her that he can’t even train her properly. LOL.
After the new WOC team members leave, Jae Ha remarks that it’s been a long time since they’ve been together so they should go out for drinks. Of course, it’s Young Bae who points out that not ALL of them are there. Kang Seok says that they already visited Shi Kyung’s grave and pour alcohol on it so he’s probably drunk enough already, but Jae Ha retorts that it probably would have made him collapse. Hah, well at least they still talk about him even if they didn’t show the grief over his death.
We now see Jae Shin sitting on the same wall where she first sang to Shi Kyung. She tells someone on the phone that she’ll be able to make it to the concert on her own. After she hangs up, Jae Shin muses about not being to see the stars and we see that she has her parrot beside her. Speaking to it as it if was Shi Kyung, she tells it that she has a blind date tomorrow and wonders if she should go. When she turns to look at it, instead of the parrot we see Shi Kyung smiling at her. I freaking love this drama. He tells her that she should go and assures her that he’s not mad about it. She tells him that she can’t guarantee that she’ll only think of him for the rest of her life, and Shi Kyung just laughs and tells her not to do that. Instead though, Jae Shin tells him that he’ll always be with her like a shadow and they smile at each other one last time before the screen fades out and we see that she’s actually sitting at her wheelchair staring at the wall.
Later, Hang Ah is waiting for Jae Ha at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of a branch of the first bank that will serve both North and South Korea. He barely makes it in time and the two complete the ceremony and cameras flash wildly as people cheer on. Their son gets away from his babysitter and runs to greet his parents. Jae Ha laughs it off and says he takes has his mother’s athleticism, while the reporters all say that he has his dad’s looks. When her son calls out for Hang Ah using a North Korean accent, she quickly covers his mouth, but the damage is done. Hah.
This causes a huge controversy in the media as people are wondering if maybe the crown prince should study abroad for his education instead of being taught by his North Korean mother. Mom, which uh I guess is now Grandma, tells them to pay no attention to them and that it’ll blow over soon enough. She then turns to her grandson and asks her to call her as much. After his mom leaves, Jae Ha cracks up laughing and asks how he learned the word. Hang Ah says that she only mentioned to him once and coos proudly that he remembered it.
Of course, the problem isn’t so easily solved and Jae Ha decides to call a press conference over it. Secretary Eun is of like mind with his mom and says that they should just ignore it, but Jae Ha wants to do this to make everyone accept Hang Ah. Even if he has to do it person by person, he’ll make it happen. As he prepares with Hang Ah for the press conference, they joke about how if their son says it again they might have to go to war again. Considering what they’ve been through, they’ve earned the right to laugh about this. Jae Ha says that they stopped one war already, and Hang Ah replies that they can do it again as long as they don’t give up. The doors then open and they hold hands and confidently walk through them.
Finally done! For those few who actually read this recap, sorry about this recap being done so late. I know it’s a week after the series actually ended, but rewatching it to do this still evoked a lot of emotion for me. It’s been a long long time since I’ve been as emotionally invested in a drama like I was in this one, and I’m definitely glad for the comedies that I’ll be watching next as I don’t think I could take another heart-wrenching drama like this one.
That being said, there were two glaring missteps for me in this series. The first of which is the terrible job they did developing the bad guys. Bong Gu really didn’t present much of a villain by himself as really he was just manipulating countries to do his bidding under the guise of the, for some reason, all-powerful Club M. And even then, the country manipulation really didn’t come up until the very end. Early on, the crazy magician act really wasn’t scaring anyone. Even as he’s bribing officials left and right, they were pretty quick to turn their backs on him, to the point where I’m wondering why they were so afraid of him then in the first place. I understood the threat that they posed in the drama, but that’s more because a willing suspension of belief by regarding it as fact rather than have it developed in the plot.
The other mistake I felt the drama made was the piss-poor job they did handling Shi Kyung’s death. As I said in the episode 19 recap, releasing Bong Gu on bail really took a lot of the impact out of it and completely marginalized it. We all knew that he was going back to jail anyway; did it really serve the plot to have him released just to throw him back in jail? It’s not like he couldn’t have planned all he did from his cell. I was also very disappointed we didn’t get more grieving over his death by Jae Ha or Hang Ah. Instead, all we saw of them was them flirting about going on dates. Jae Shin at least we got to see her mourn last episode and this one to a certain extent, but all we got for Jae Ha was at the funeral. This is something you said you’d blame yourself for the rest of your life. At least make that show up somewhere. Even at the end, I really wanted a graveyard visit just to show that they still miss him. I wanted Jae Shin talking to Shi Kyung’s grave and having him come to life there. Or barring that, Jae Ha and the other WOC members go and have drinks with him at the gravesite.
Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to discuss all that this drama did right. I agree with Girlfriday over at Dramabeans that the cinematographer and lighting team deserve a medal or a parade or something about for the job then did here. There were so many scenes that could very well have been botched or shot otherwise and not bring out all the emotion that it did in me. Even something as simple as the scene with Shi Kyung standing in the light with his dad in the dark during their confrontation just made me think wow I wouldn’t have thought of that but damn good job. In every episode, I found myself saying that at least once or twice, which has never happened before in any drama. I also especially enjoyed every scene that Shi Kyung came back to life in. The music was also absolutely perfect for their respective scenes. Going in, I predicted that Taeyeon’s song “Missing You Like Crazy” would be my favorite, but that turned out to not be the case. Not to take away from the song at all, as I thought it was brilliantly used as Hang Ah’s theme song basically. My favorite song right now though is Lee Yoon Ji’s “First Love”, who played Jae Shin. Once again, as Jae Shin’s theme song it fit her scenes with Shi Kyung so well and though she’s not the greatest singer, you can hear the emotions that were put into the song and hearing it during the scenes really sucked you into it.
I can’t say enough about how good a job this cast did. I always thought that Lee Seung Gi was overrated as an actor going in since he’s pretty much been type-cast for his latest roles. However, the emotion he brought out in this drama made me change that opinion of him. Rather than the stuck up character that he normally plays, and like how he was at the beginning, you got to see his true range in his transformation into King Lee Jae Ha. Ha Ji Won, I actually hadn’t seen before but after just two episodes, she made me go on a chain-watching spree for Secret Garden. I’m pretty sure I watched the entire 20 episode series in the span of a week between episodes. She’s famous for being good at action and really throwing herself into roles so it’s no surprise to me at the amazing job she did balancing the vulnerable and slightly naive Hang Ah versus the rough and tumble Special Forces Hang Ah. I definitely fell in love with her character and she’s tops for me for actresses after this. Lee Sung Min as Jae Kang, Lee Young Ji and Jae Shin, Yoon Yeo Jung as Mom, all three of them did such a great job as a supporting cast that I was just as invested in their lives as I was the main characters. When Jae Kang was killed, I felt something in me die inside as well. When Jae Shin was happy or sad I felt that right along with her. When Mom was scolding her kids, I felt like I was getting scolded along with them.
Of course if you’re talking about acting jobs, you can’t leave out Jo Jung Suk as everyone’s favorite soldier Eun Shi Kyung. I was completely crushed when he died and the scenes with him and Jae Shin were probably my favorite, and the most heart wrenching for me. I’m not too proud to admit that these two brought tears to my darkened soul and it’s a testament to both their acting abilities that I was as emotionally invested as I was. My favorite scenes of the last two episodes probably were the ones where Shi Kyung came back to life and talked to Jae Shin. In some ways, his role was probably the hardest to play because it required a lot of very subtle acting. He had to express some pretty complete emotions with just the tenor of the voice and micro expressions in his face. Very rarely did he get to outright express anger or happiness and for a lesser actor those nuances that made Shi Kyung as impactful a character as he was could easily have been lost.
The clear strengths of this drama though were the witty dialogue and well-rounded plot development. I said in an earlier recap that it’s been a long time as well for me to see well executed banter between characters and this drama is one of only a handful that I think really accomplished this. You have to applaud the logical progression of both the characters and the plot and I never once thought to myself that I felt something was dragging or introduced for no reason, with the possible exception of the WOC. To me, every character was needed in this. Every action, every event served a purpose. For example, that bird that Shi Kyung gave Jae Shin could’ve been written out, but instead it became her memento of him. Kang Seok’s fanboying over SNSD’s Tiffany was used later by Dong Ha when he was trying to make him not seem so intimidating. Even something as mundane as setting a voice password ended up being the key to getting evidence against Bong Gu. Everything tied together so well and so vividly that for 2 hours a week, I felt like I was in a world where Lee Jae Ha was a king of Korea.
The character development was just as well done. Rather than take things for granted like you have to do in other dramas, you really got to explore the different facets of each character’s personality. You saw multiple instances of the simple-mindedness of Jae Kang as he went through with his grand plans. You saw Hang Ah’s soft side and understood where she was coming from whenever she did what she did. You saw the fire in Jae Shin until her accident and how much it affected her afterwards. Shi Kyung’s loyalty was proven again and again and also how much his love for Jae Shin was starting to change him. One of the best things about the character development as well was the family dynamic in the Lee Family. All three siblings and their Mom acted and felt like a real family. No bad apples, nobody trying to steal the throne, no angry mother for no reason. You could feel the affect that each character seemed to feel for each other, which shows just how good each were as actors as well as the chemistry that they seemed to exhibit right from the start.
I’m sad this drama is ending, but like I said earlier, I’m kind of glad it is because I don’t know how much more of this I can take haha. Had I gotten proper closure on Shi Kyung’s death, this would easily by my favorite drama of all time, but I guess it’ll have to settle for somewhere in the top five for now. For those that have been following these recaps, thanks for reading even though I didn’t always put them out on a regular schedule!