THE SHORT VERDICT:
I really, really liked this.
Don’t be put off by the political nature of the premise. I’m not into political stories myself, but I found this easy to like.
It’s got a robust story, lots of great acting, a fast pace, a compelling conflict, strong character growth, chemistry between the leads and a strong romance.
This lent itself to back-to-back episodes, and I finished it very quickly. And I plan to revisit it for more.
THE LONG VERDICT:
In the beginning, I wasn’t head over heels in love with the show, but I enjoyed it quite well, and I found it entertaining. The chemistry between Lee Seung Gi and Ha Ji Won is pretty good right off the bat.
In the earlier episodes, there are more scenes that are played for laughs, and I thought the show was a dark comedy.
But then things shifted so that Jae Ha our hero (Lee Seung Gi) could become the titular king.
I felt sort of wiped out from watching that stretch of the drama, but not in a bad way. The wiped out feeling was due in part to the story going through some really sad but necessary developments.
I kept hoping that they wouldn’t let the elder brother die, but he did die, and I was sorry to see his character go. He was such a benign and kindly character, not just as a king, but as a hyung.
I mean, I kind of always suspected that the elder brother wasn’t the titular king and therefore would probably have to either step down or die so that Lee Seung Gi’s character would be able to step up and become the titular king, but it was still sad to see him go.
This is also the first time I’ve enjoyed Lee Sung Min so much in a role, which added to my reluctance to see his character die.
The accompanying developments kind of put you through the wringer, with Jae Ha having to cope with having to take on the role of king, all while trying to come to terms with his brother’s sudden death. And his sister’s paralysis. Oof.
Like so many before me, I am actually very impressed with Lee Seung Gi’s delivery. It’s literally the best I’ve seen from him in any drama.
I guess there’s something about playing royalty that not only ups your cool factor, but forces your scope to open wide.
Lee Seung Gi’s character goes from being a selfish, petty and weak prince to becoming a passionate, committed and courageous king. He is intense and believable every step of the way. I went from being fairly indifferent to him as an actor, to actually liking him in this role.
On the romantic front, I have to say that Lee Seung Gi and Ha Ji Won have very good chemistry. The age difference doesn’t make a difference. They sell it, and they sell it well.
A big bonus is that Lee Seung Gi did a fabulous job kissing Ha Ji Won. Ok, she had fish lips again, but this was in keeping with her character, so I’ll let it slide. More importantly, Lee Seung Gi managed to make the kiss look sensuous in spite of her fish lips, so big points to him for that. A good leading man needs to know how to kiss his leading lady, and kiss her well 😉
I have to say, even though Lee Seung Gi did really, really well, my favorite character by far is Eun Shi Kyung, played by Jo Jung Suk.
He makes Eun Shi Kyung so whole. In his delivery, he makes Eun Shi Kyung a nuanced, faceted character who is earnest, honest, awkward, brave, gallant, bashful, upright and extremely likable. He was someone that I constantly wanted to root for.
I loved his romance with Jae Shin (Lee Yoon Ji). They are one of my favorite parts of the show.
[MAJOR SPOILER ALERT]
I am most wistful about saying goodbye to his character, and yes, I really wish his character hadn’t been killed off.
It was a twist, yes, but I really would have preferred to do without the twist and have him live, and continue to be with the princess and become her prince consort.
But I can see what the writers were trying to do there, and it did make Shi Kyung the character so much more wistful & bittersweet that he stuck with me the most after the drama had ended.
[END MAJOR SPOILER]
I am so impressed with Jo Jung Suk, and I really really want to see him work his magic in other roles. He is So. Good.
I somehow don’t want to call him an amazing actor, though he is obviously excellent, because it basically feels like he becomes the character; it feels like he’s not even acting, so to call it acting seems to take away something from the magic.
In the end, The King 2 Hearts is a show that somehow lends itself to back-to-back episodes. Perhaps this way, it helps to sustain the reality of the fictional world, and the fast pace at which it turns.
There are other great performances from Lee Seung Gi and Ha Ji Won and the rest of the cast. And I have a strong affection for Young Bae’s character too, whom I found adorable.
And Lee Seung Gi has proved that he is very good at making a good kiss happen even with an actress who continually does fish lips. That was quite a feat.
But in terms of stickiness factor, that goes to Jo Jung Suk’s Eun Shi Kyung alone.
I will revisit this drama again, just for him. Lee Seung Gi’s excellent performance will be a big bonus of course. But Eun Shi Kyung’s the one who’s calling me back.
Jo Jung Suk, please do more dramas. I’ll be watching for sure.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Worth clearing your schedule for.
FINAL GRADE: A