THE SHORT VERDICT:
A stage swiftly set with strong stakes; a capable cast; deft execution. Two Weeks has all three and is one tense rollercoaster ride from start to finish.
Two Weeks has quite a few narrative pieces to juggle, what with life-and-death literally hanging in the balance, emotional baggage the size of a small country along for the ride, and a poignant, heartwrenching-heartwarming father-daughter relationship blossoming at its core through it all. Admirably, the show manages to deliver it all in a way that feels satisfying, well-paced and coherent through the very end.
The entire cast is pretty excellent, but the stand-out is Lee Jun Ki, who truly is mesmerizing as our resident fugitive daddy on the run, finally faced with a reason to live that is bigger than himself: his little girl.
Two Weeks OST – RUN
THE LONG VERDICT:
It’s my opinion that Two Weeks got less love than it deserved when it aired. Ratings started low in the single digits and although the numbers inched upwards fairly steadily through the show’s run, they never got much farther than 10%. Master’s Sun, which aired at the same time, was getting the largest piece of the ratings pie among the dramas airing in that time slot.
While I can see the rom-com, chem-tastic draw of Master’s Sun, I have to say that I think Two Weeks is the better-written, more cohesive, more engaging watch between the two.
Two Weeks boasts polished, dark, moody visuals with just the right amount of grit, and a nice interspersing of brightness and warm filters. Not only that, it’s got a well-conceived, subtly immersive and carefully employed OST, and a tightly-written narrative that manages to flesh out not only the multiple story threads, but ensures that character arcs are given room to breathe and develop. All that, while keeping a taut rein on a two week timeline wherein everything needs to be brought to a reasonable, satisfying conclusion.
This show does all of that, and does it with an admirably high degree of emotional engagement. What’s not to love?
NARRATIVE & PACING
Serious kudos to the writers for managing to pace everything so well and develop the multiple threads in a balanced and believable manner. From the initial set-up, to maintaining the sense of urgency all the way through to the end, the writers do a commendable job of keeping us as the audience informed, engaged and quite often, sitting stiffly on the edge of our seats, forgetting to breathe.
The writers manage to strike a strike a good balance, making the narrative challenging enough to make it exciting for the average viewer, without making it too difficult to follow. My brain felt appropriately engaged, without getting overwhelmed.
Even better than having my brain engaged, though, was having my heart pulled in too. That’s something that I have to give serious props to the show for, because there are some shows that get my brain juices flowing very well, but fail to engage me emotionally. (Nine comes to mind.) It wasn’t long into the show before Two Weeks’ characters had me completely by the heart, and that’s a very, very good thing indeed.
[SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]
The Central Conflict
Characters and the Narrative Fabric
I was particularly impressed with our first episode, which opens stylishly in the thick of the action of Operation Getaway. By the end of the hour, we have a feel for our characters, their backstories, and the tense 2 weeks ahead of us.
That’s some efficient and effective set-up, and pretty much right away, the stage is set. Stakeholders are identified, and we understand fairly quickly who’s who and why they’re in our story. Every character’s presence in the story makes sense, and no one character feels random as side characters sometimes do. We get a feel for every stakeholder’s goals and motivations, and how these all fit together or collide in the world that our story sets up.
Moon Il Suk’s (Jo Min Ki) need for a scapegoat for his rash murder of his lover Mi Sook (Im Se Mi). Tae San (Lee Jun Ki) being picked as said scapegoat. Jo Seo Hee’s (Kim Hye Ok) shady connection with Moon. Park Jae Kyung’s (Kim So Yeon) secret vendetta against Moon Il Suk and Jo Seo Hee. Seung Woo’s job as a detective, and his connection with In Hye (Park Ha Sun) and her daughter Soo Jin (Lee Chae Mi).
It’s a wide web of characters that our story introduces, and yet, it’s never overly confusing. They each get decent chunks of (sometimes interspersed) screentime, and as we get insight into their backstories and motivations and world views, the story’s fabric gets more and more textured and interesting.
One thing that stood out to me, is how our writers really aren’t afraid to move forward. In some dramas, there’s this feeling that the writers are dragging the story to fill up screen time, and we’re sometimes left frustrated, anticipating a plot development that feels 3 or 10 episodes too late. Not so with Two Weeks.
Our writers demonstrate often that they aren’t afraid to let things happen, and often before we’re expecting it too. Just halfway through the show, Tae San is so beaten up and bleeding so much, having been shot, no less, that I couldn’t help wondering how much more the poor guy could possibly take.
On top of all the immediate danger from various sources, for a good stretch, there was that added layer of tension: his gunshot wound wouldn’t get infected, would it?
Man Seok’s (Ahn Se Ha) death, Tae San getting shot, and the retrieval of the digital camera are just a few examples of events that I didn’t expect to happen so early in the story. What it does, is it forces more story out of our narrative.
With Tae San captured by Boss Moon as early as episode 7, we get added richness and possibility to the narrative. While it’s uncomfortable to watch Tae San being captured, it’s more realistic than having him literally be on the run for two full weeks. On top of realism, it gives us interactions between characters that provide us with added insight, while also forcing more creativity and tenacity from Tae San.
Another way the show switches things up is changing character perspectives. I like that in episode 9, Seung Woo, who heretofore had adamantly insisted on Tae San’s guilt, starts to approach things with new eyes and diligently tries to figure out the truth. Besides a good character arc, it also changes the dynamic between characters and the overall energy of the show. It switches things up and keeps the story interesting.
Flashbacks are also used to add dimension to our characters and even as we go on the run with Tae San in “real time,” we get to learn about the backstory through flashbacks.
All in all, intense goodness that can feel a bit much at times. Which is why I really rather liked the little scenes of Tae San getting inspiration from various spy movies that he’s seen. I thought it was a really nice touch, adding refreshing shots of levity to otherwise tense scenes.
Oh my heart, those cliffhangers. They often had me in Oh-no-what-can-Tae-San-possibly-do-now? mode, with Tae San literally backed into a corner and with nowhere to run.
At other times, the cliffhangers were more subtly foreboding. Like the one in episode 6 of Evil Moon smiling down at Soo Jin. Eek.
Perhaps what surprised me most were the cliffhangers where everything actually seemed ok. Like the one in episode 10 where Tae San’s got the digital camera in his hands, and smiles. There’s nothing to indicate that anything’s not ok, but there’s a definite underlying sense of foreboding anyway. Watching that ending, I couldn’t help feeling a deep sense of unease and dread building. Like, surely it couldn’t be this easy, right?
No matter how the show ended an episode, I felt like I was being kept on my toes. Nicely played, Show. Nicely played.
Two Weeks OST – Two Weeks Memories (Slow Ver.)
Tae San’s Development as a Character
I love that as the story around our central conflict continues, our writers also manage to give Tae San an excellent growth arc.
When we first meet Tae San, he appears to be the worst deadbeat jerk ever, who doesn’t appear to have a reason to live, who gets by on whatever he can, including his pretty face, and who (as we learn in flashback), even abandoned his pregnant girlfriend while pushing her into surgery for an abortion. Woah, right? That’s some dirtbag.
Yet, as our story progresses, Tae San’s transformation to sympathetic, determined hero who rises to his challenges and uses his brains and his balls is organic and believable, despite us working on a short 14-day timeline.
Serious props to the writers, and to Lee Jun Ki, for making it all so believable.
Our opinion of Tae San is shaped not only by events in the present and how he responds to them, but also, by timely and strategic revelations of his backstory via flashback. I mean, it’s hard to hate a guy who chose to go to jail in order to protect his girlfriend, even though he executed it in the worst way possible. And it’s hard too, not to feel sympathy for a guy who grew up thinking that his father hated him and that his mother didn’t care enough to stay alive.
At the same time, it’s hard not to root for the underdog as he fights tooth and nail to stay alive, not for his own sake, but for his daughter’s. It’s also hard to dislike a guy who is so hard on himself for how he’s lived his life, and continues to see himself as trash despite the good that he’s now doing.
With the evolving context of Tae San’s backstory continually getting fleshed out, plus Tae San’s increasing tenacity and courage in the present timeline, I found that I warmed to Tae San at double the speed.
Tae San’s Relationships
Another thing I really liked about our narrative is that while all the chaos and mayhem is going on, we also get to witness a distinct evolution in almost all of Tae San’s relationships.
As Tae San rises to the occasion and grows into his save-everyone-save-the-day hero shoes, and as he interacts with the people around him, his relationships with the people around him, and the way they see him also change.
- To Soo Jin, he goes from Concept Dad to Real Dad
- To In Hye, from jerk to hero
- To Moon Il Suk, he goes from an earthworm underfoot, to snake-like bastard (LOVE. THIS.)
- To Seung Woo & Jae Kyung, from hunted fugitive to respected ally
Importantly, is how Tae San finally sees his parents in a new light. From unfeeling, uncaring parents who abandoned him, he finally sees that they could have had their difficulties and reasons too.
And perhaps most important of all, is how Tae San’s relationship with himself evolves over the course of the show. He finally begins to see that he isn’t trash, and that he is someone who can be forgiven.
MY FAVORITE THINGS IN THIS DRAMA
Lee Jun Ki as Jang Tae San
Lee Jun Ki is easily my favorite thing in this drama.
As Tae San, he is believable, vulnerable and extremely engaging. I particularly love that Lee Jun Ki’s delivery of Tae San’s ricocheting emotions feels thoroughly raw and honest. Whether he is reeling in shock, doubled over with grief, or blazing fury from his eyes, Tae San feels completely real and three-dimensional.
Even in the beginning of the show when Tae San is portrayed as a complete douchebag, Lee Jun Ki’s nuanced delivery helps us to get a sense of the good heart that he’s got buried on the inside. As we spend time with Tae San in the shambles that his life has become, his self-loathing becomes increasingly clear even though he doesn’t explicitly get to say it.
Despite the extreme conditions and situations that Tae San finds himself in, we get the strong sense that he’s just an ordinary guy caught in extraordinary circumstances and rising to the occasion. He’s got no superhero powers, nor any special spy agent training. He’s just a guy having a really bad day. Well, make that 14 really bad days. That relatability is something that I feel the drama benefited a lot from. As I watched Tae San fight for his life, I felt like I was right there with him, cheering on a fellow human being not too different from myself, caught in an unusual web of circumstances.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Lee Jun Ki’s portrayal of Tae San, was the look in his eyes. Whatever Tae San was doing, Lee Jun Ki imbued his gaze with so much expression. As Tae San grew and evolved as a character, the way he walked and talked, the entire way he carried himself changed. But what struck me most, was how his previously deadened eyes came to fiery life, literally burning with determination and resolve.
And I hafta say, I do love smart, badass Tae San. So much intelligent, ballsy swag.
Two Weeks OST – I Am Your Father
Tae San & Soo Jin
This was the relationship for me, in this drama. More than any romantic relationship, this was the relationship that had me completely invested. I needed these two to bond, to overcome, to be together.
One of the most beautiful things about the father-daughter relationship between Tae San and Soo Jin, is that the love between them is completely unconditional and not dependent on history or context. He loves her simply because she’s his daughter, and she loves him simply coz he’s her daddy. It didn’t matter that they only met when she was 8 years old. It didn’t matter that he had been absent in her life for the past 8 years, and it didn’t matter that she had been absent in his. It didn’t matter what Tae San had done or hadn’t done. From the moment they each knew the other existed, they loved each other.
Another thing I totally love about this daddy-daughter duo is that she saves him as much as he saves her. He saves her by donating his bone marrow, but she saves him many times over.
First of all, she gives him motivation to live. From being a deadbeat who didn’t care whether he lived today or died tomorrow, Tae San becomes the father who tells his daughter, “I can’t die, not until your surgery.” Aw. That’s heartbreakingly sweet, to see him being a good dad, putting his daughter’s life above his own.
Secondly, she gives him a reason to clean up his life, to be the kind of dad she deserves. As early as episode 2, we hear Tae San’s thoughts in voiceover: “I was trash. I was born trash, and lived as trash. I never believed the heart that died when I sent In Hye away would beat again. Not until I met that little child. For once in my life, just once, I want to live as a person.”
Third and possibly most important of all, she gives him an unconditional love and acceptance that he’s never before experienced. And it’s just coz he’s dad. How liberating and empowering for Tae San, who’d been told by the world many times over that he’s worthless trash to the point that he firmly believes it himself, to have one single person in the world love him and be delighted in him, just because he’s him. Love it. So much.
Even though Tae San’s and Soo Jin’s love doesn’t require physical proximity in order to exist, I do like how the show builds in Soo Jin as Tae San’s subconscience, such that Tae San sees Soo Jin even when he’s not with her. I enjoyed all of the moments Tae San shares with imaginary Soo Jin, even as she talks him through some of his toughest times.
On a narrative level, I like how this device helps to sustain the connection between father and daughter even though he’s not physically able to be with her. It’s more for us than for Tae San; it’s so that we get to see them together and build their connection in our minds.
Much more than the moments Tae San shares with Imaginary Soo Jin, I loved the moments Tae San shared with real-life Soo Jin.
Hospital Sneak Visit
I love the sneak visit Tae San makes to the hospital in episode 6, where he and Soo Jin share an unspoken moment together.
As the lift doors open on Tae San, he catches a glimpse of Soo Jin in a wheelchair. In Hye is fussing over her coz she’s feeling unwell and has just thrown up. Tae San’s concern is written all over his face, but when Soo Jin looks up and sees her daddy, she gives him a sunny smile.
In Hye readies Soo Jin to be pushed back to the aseptic room, and Soo Jin asks to face her mother for the ride back.
We quickly see that it’s really so that Soo Jin can sneak an extra few moments to look at her daddy. Tae San watches In Hye’s retreating back as Soo Jin gets wheeled farther and farther away, and we can see the helplessness in his eyes, and his pain at seeing his daughter in pain.
Soo Jin peeks around her mother’s waist, though, to get one last look at daddy, and flashes him a secret smile and a silent wave. Tae San smiles and waves back, and you can just see him gathering up his resolve, for her sake.
Augh. Such a sweet moment, played out with such quiet sensitivity. Love.
I love the scene in episode 13 where Soo Jin sees In Hye’s second phone and finds Tae San’s number saved in it. Precocious as she is, Soo Jin doesn’t hesitate to pick up the phone and dial.
Tae San answers, thinking that it’s In Hye calling so late at night, and a little panicked that something might’ve gone wrong. Instead of In Hye’s voice, though, he hears Soo Jin’s tiny voice piping up on the other end, “Daddy? Hello. Are you Soo Jin’s daddy? No… I mean… Isn’t this Soo Jin’s daddy?” Tae San is at a loss for words and doesn’t answer. Soo Jin continues, “Hello? I’m Seo Soo Jin. Soo Jin’s dad…”
Finally Tae San calls out her name, “Soo Jin-ah.”
“Daddy? Are you my daddy?” Soo Jin asks. When Tae San answers “Yes,” Soo Jin breaks into a series of delighted exclamations of pure wonder, “Wow, wow!” And she chirps, “Did you make up with Mom? Did Mommy forgive you? In Mom’s phone, she has your number.”
Tae San worriedly asks where In Hye is, and Soo Jin tells him Mom is probably in the bathroom. Soo Jin then does the cutest little bow to formally greet Tae San, since the last time they’d met, he’d pretended he wasn’t her dad. Tae San apologizes, explaining that he hadn’t known that she knew him then, and that he had been flustered.
In her usual little adult way, Soo Jin assures him it’s ok, since Mom says everyone has a story he cannot tell others.
Tae San asks Soo Jin how she knew who he was, and Soo Jin plays coy, promising to tell him the answer when he comes to see her.
Tae San promises to come see her in 3 days, and Soo Jin whoops in wonder again, “Wow! That day is my surgery day.” She’s so excited that she kicks up her legs in the air in glee. So, so cute!
I love too, how Soo Jin covers her mouth in an effort to contain her delight when Tae San calls out her name.
“Soo Jin-ah.. When you get the radiation treatments, make sure to go only with your mom.” Soo Jin promises, and they agree to meet in 3 nights.
After the call, I love the tear that Tae San sheds, and the small smile that comes to his lips as he thinks about his daughter.
It’s been a particularly hard day for Tae San, who literally nearly lost his life to Teacher Kim (Song Jae Rim), and I love that we can see him gain strength and resolve from this conversation with Soo Jin.
This is one of the sweetest, most moving scenes in the whole series in my books. I love the idea of Soo Jin calling Tae San on In Hye’s phone and formally greeting her dad for the first time. So, so sweet and so moving too. It’s also probably just the thing to lift Tae San’s flagging spirits. Love.
Hello For Real
Basically any time that Tae San and Soo Jin spent time together, I melted into a puddle of goo, with heartstrings pulled taut and tears in my eyes.
When Soo Jin reaches out to hug Tae San; when Tae San holds her like she’s literally the most precious thing in his entire world; when he draws her close to himself while she sleeps. Augh. So much goodness, seriously.
Tae San & In Hye’s Relationship
This is one of the rare kdramas where romance isn’t the central focus. Often, it didn’t even feel like a key concern. When survival and safety are hanging over your heads in such a real way, romance naturally takes a backseat.
What I did appreciate about the drama’s treatment of Tae San’s and In Hye’s relationship was the very believable journey of understanding and forgiveness that this couple charted.
As the show reveal various flashbacks from both their points of view, we begin to understand how a couple who were so madly in love ended up estranged, with Tae San feeling only helpless regret, and In Hye, only bitterness.
The interactions between Tae San and In Hye were painted in realistic colors, given their context. In Hye’s hostility and distrust towards Tae San were perfectly understandable, given her experience and what she was given to understand.
As the drama progresses and as Tae San earns In Hye’s trust with his actions, and as truths slowly get unveiled, we witness In Hye softening towards Tae San. Like in episode 8, where In Hye promises Soo Jin to tell her who the “important person” is, after her surgery. That she plans to tell Soo Jin the truth about her dad is such a big step, considering how she’d originally wanted Tae San to disappear from their lives after the surgery.
Actions speak louder than words, and we see the deep care that these two have for each other resurfacing as they fight to protect and save each other. We see it in episode 10, when In Hye instinctively holds back Seung Woo from going after Tae San at the hospital. We see it in Tae San’s angry tears at himself immediately afterwards, that In Hye has been put in a difficult position because of him. And we see it in episode 11, when In Hye and Tae San literally fight hard to save each other from Teacher Kim.
Their journey towards forgiveness and restoration is written as a work in progress, which I find poignant and realistic at the same time.
Tae San & Jae Kyung’s Partnership
Among the various relationship turnarounds in this show, this is one of my favorites.
From being the hunter and the hunted, Tae San and Jae Kyung were excellent as allies, and as they worked together, it was particularly satisfying to see their respect for each other deepen and grow as they finally worked on the same side.
Mutual respect rawks so much, seriously.
Toeing the line between good and not so good
One big one which annoyed me was Tae San getting treated like a criminal no matter what he said. Investigators should know that there’s always a possibility of the suspect being framed, and this made the police look really prejudiced and inept. It also put a dent in the believability of the show, coz really, it’s hard to believe detectives are really this heartless and condemning, to completely ignore a suspect’s pleas that he’s been framed.
I get why the writers chose to go that way, though. If the police had given Tae San the benefit of the doubt and investigated further, we wouldn’t have the set-up necessary to put Tae San on the run. Or we could have it, after investigations failed, but that would take a longer time to get us into the thick of action having Tae San on the run. I don’t love it, but I can understand the writing choice.
Another thing that toed the line between good and not so good, was the heavy handed uses of flashbacks and mixing of timelines. Both are good storytelling devices. It’s just that they started to feel rather overused, by the time we hit the second half of the drama.
Here’s a quick list of logic and plot fails:
- E2. Seung Woo and his lackey poking around the crime scene without gloves while other people are wearing surgical gloves and lifting prints. Such an oversight, tsk.
- E3. Jae Kyung’s logic in convincing her boss to let her be in charge of Mi Sook’s case is completely lacking. So she won’t be able to breathe for the rest of her life. Is that really enough for the boss to relent, given her bad track record? Sigh. Dramaland and its lack of logic.
- E3. Why doesn’t Jae Kyung, who’s got such a vendetta against Moon and is convinced that it wasn’t Tae San who killed her father, not connect the dots that this might not be Tae San either? Especially since she’s already got Mi Sook connected to Guilty Moon? Sigh.
- E3. Congresswoman Jo’s secret mansion is such a stretch. Are we really supposed to believe that she built an underground secret tunnel, and there were no clues giving away that massive project? And everyone was paid off? Or, offed?
- E5. Tae San being pinned as the man behind Man Seok’s murder. Why doesn’t anyone among the investigators think about whether there was someone in the house before Man Seok arrived? I mean, it doesn’t take a genius to think of that.
- E8. A video recorded at the scene of Tae San’s escape? On the water? With a close-up of his face? AS IF. That’s a huge logic fail right there. Unless we’re supposed to believe that the onlookers that day managed to get a a close-up of Tae San while they were on the ship? Facepalm.
- E10. Seung Woo’s rash act of storming into Moon’s office to confront him. And his best idea to protect Soo Jin after that is to put Blundering Hoobae on the watch? Facepalm. I.. wouldn’t feel safe if I were him.
Stretches in believability are peppered throughout the show, but I did learn that if I shrugged these off, that there was still a lot of goodness to enjoy.
Still, let’s aim to do better next time on the believability front, ok, writer-nim?
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING
In the end, the show ended on a note that felt satisfying. There was enough closure for it to feel like these two weeks and its issues were properly laid to rest.
I love that we get enough time to see justice be served. I love the deep note of mutual respect between Tae San and Jae Kyung when we leave them. I love that Tae San’s name is fully cleared. And I definitely loved that we get to see some quality family time with Tae San, In Hye and Soo Jin.
At the same time, the show ends with enough openness for it to feel realistic yet hopeful.
It’s sad that Tae San plans to leave, but I understand why the writers did that. Everyone in our story needs time to heal and grow and get themselves together. I wish Tae San would do that with his family, but I guess I can buy that he needs alone time.
In that sense, the show ends on a fairly realistic yet happy note, and is true to the theme that surfaces and takes root over the course of 16 episodes: Don’t dwell in regrets & the past. Be grateful for the present. Look with hope to the future.
We see it in Chairman Han (Chun Ho Jin) and his son. We see it in Tae San and his life & family. They each choose not to dwell in regrets, and instead be grateful for the present, and look with hope to the future.
In the end, Tae San & his earnest journey towards redemption is lingering with me, and that really is the mark of a good drama.
On a final tangent, there’s a spin-off I’d seriously like to see: Han’s son making a new life after getting out of prison, using his cyborg-Terminator-like skills for good this time.
And with extended cameos (at the very least) by this very happy family:
C’mon now, Drama-Powers-That-Be, you know you wanna. ;)
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Enough thrills to keep you on the edge of your seat, and yet enough warmth and pathos to keep your heartstrings on their toes as well. Quite excellent indeed.
For those who haven’t seen the show, here’s the trailer:
A sweet spotlight on Tae San and Soo Jin, the hands-down star relationship of this drama: