For a drama that claims to be an action thriller, the opening week of The K2 certainly delivers on that front.
There’s a hell of a lot of fighting and only a little bit of talking, so much so that it isn’t entirely wrong to say that all Ji Chang-wook did in the opening hour was fighting albeit intending to stay low, and all Im Yoona did was running barefooted and looking terrified. The talking portion was delivered by Song Yoon-ah, in what appears to be her continuous effort to assert/maintain her image as the devoted wife to a less-than-loyal man, Jo Sung-ha.
Already it looks like a dark twisted world The K2 is in. First off, there’s ambitious domineering Choi Yoo-jin who has her husband under her thumb by keeping his only child hidden away in a foreign country halfway around the world. Curiously, the father and daughter do not share the same surname: one is a Jang (Se-joon), the other is a Go (Anna). Despite the looming presidential election and his favorable candidacy, Se-joon cares not to keep a clean image and openly engages in an affair. Despite being exiled and neglected for years, Anna still strives to get under her ‘powerful’ father’s wings. Rounding out the main four characters is Kim Je-ha, the ex-special forces member who’s currently on the run. We have yet to actually learn his name, or the titular code name, but that’s the role Ji Chang-wook is training months for.
Obviously, there are a slew of secrets to unearth as well as backstories to reveal though i’m only interested in Je-ha’s — why the best soldier was dismissed, what prompted him to be on Interpol’s wanted list. We’ve shown a fragment of his worst nightmare, but i doubt that’s directly related to his bloodied and battered introductory self. The others’ may be pretty intriguing, but as you may have been aware by now, i’m hardly excited about all kinds of politics — familial in this case, and most likely political too — that i didn’t give them much attention.
Sure, i question Yoo-jin’s motive behind putting up with Se-joon’s reckless behavior and readily cleaning up after his mess if it isn’t due to love. Why clinging onto him when she is the chaebol heiress? What is he capable of when he isn’t even able to protect his own flesh? Then there’s of course the mystery behind the death of Anna’s mother. Does Anna blame herself for handing Mom the sleeping pills? Did people accuse her of killing her own mother? Why was she sent to a creepy monastery in faraway land?
On paper, The K2 contains enough elements to keep watchers hooked and intrigued; unfortunately, it didn’t work for me. Impressive stunts aside, the storytelling is lacking in many areas. It’s just starting, so there are plenty of room and time to connect the dots. Hopefully the scattered bits will converge at some point, because they’re too all over the place to spot the common thread.
The first week focused so much on action at the expense of plot and flow. The sequences were deft and intense, but when we got back-to-back brawling with little context and minimal narrative, i ended up questioning their purpose — are they giving us random fight scenes only to live up to the genre? And when they crammed so much of it this early in the game, i wonder how they’re gonna keep it up in later episodes, because people who are tuning in for the action will yearn for more, and significant decrease may come off as a disappointment. That said, it’s pretty clear that a lot of preparation and budget were poured into filming those scenes, a couple of which utilized time-slice photography* though i personally don’t think it’s used wisely, or in the ‘right’ moments.
(*Albeit dubbed the first in Korean drama, i recalled similar camera technique was used for a car drift scene in W, which was covered and explained in the special episode.)
If anything, i can now see why Ji Chang-wook called The K2 his last action project. I was ambivalent the first time i read the news since he’s so good and believable in them (thanks to his rigorous training and refusal to use body double), but after only two episodes, i’ve come to hate him in them for the aforementioned reasons. I feel like i’ve had enough of watching him struggle and in pain. This drama went overboard with the stunts i felt bad for him. No wonder he burned out quickly. Furthermore, i was zoning out during some of them, something that’s pretty rare for me.
For the sake of the actors, i wish Show would dial down the frequency and intensity since it’s borderline overkill. And the heavy-handed scoring too, please, since i’m already hating the choir-esque track. Not every dramatic scene requires a background music; neither is that the effective way to build suspense.
Well, i’m probably simply biased against the writer because of his last work, Yong-pal. The bait and switch still felt so real though i never looked back on that drama, particularly since the Yong-pal feels are pretty strong here — promising teasers, explosive beginning, underground hero, incapacitated and locked away heroine, power-hungry relative…
For the sake of my sanity — i waited nearly two years for Ji Chang-wook post-Healer! — i truly hope The K2 won’t crash and burn as quickly. How many fingers should i cross for that wish? Nevertheless, i’m actually not confident i’ll be sticking to it till the end. It has the potential to go very very wrong.