Welcome back! By now you know the drill: two entries about baseball and then a breather, that is another chapter of my K-List, a sports-free zone established to acknowledge that good TV series can be found outside the US and UK, focused on my personal favorites coming from South Korea.

As the summer fades away, or at least the torrid July-August stretch I define summer to be, I tend to get nostalgic: baseball season is coming to an end and so many great players are on their last games before hanging their cleats, therefore I scour their careers and look at some of their best highlights to remind myself the time those old rugged men where young up and coming prospects.

The same goes for my series’ choices: as of now I’m in a long run of recovering past K-Dramas, early 2010s so nothing too far back, and in particular those series where young talented actors proved their mettle to then become Hallyu stars in our present. All the big names, from Lee Min Ho to Son Ye Jin, were just pretty faces without a resume once, still there’s a reason they made it so far and that’s what I want to look for.

Oh, Korean actors also don’t age until they are 50 so there’s that.

Nevertheless let’s jump right into this entry, one that goes almost 10 years in reverse to a 2013 MBC production by the name of 2 Weeks.

  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Action

Strengths

  • Stay alive

Reading the storyline you know all you need to get into this one: it’s a redemption tale, a bad man without a future that has a shot at being somewhat good. With that also come a number of unknown enemies, risks and choices to make, the plot of your standard Bruce Willis movie.

And one of the good ones, on the first half that is: eps 1–10 this is nothing short of a masterpiece, a lesson in character development that uses action and crime in a wise way, throwing all kinds of situations to our ML such that he has to survive the night day in and day out, no matter what.

While the premise is sketchy, the execution is not: it’s not like our protagonist, an empty, corrupted and shallow shell of a man, becomes Mother Theresa as he is given a surprising fatherhood, he is what he is so he struggles, makes horrible things and is morally dubious to say the least, but he does it with a purpose.

In his long and convoluted escape from a hell he can’t see nor knows, he learns so many things about what was wrong with him to begin with that, when he comes back in apparent safety, he has finally grown into the adult he was supposed to be from years, and that is all thanks to the people he meets and the decisions he takes on a newfound perspective, one that asks him to be alive instead of simply allowing him to be so.

2 Weeks gives its best when moving its main piece all around the chessboard, reminding us that time is not nearly enough to grow up, but that is people, situations and choices to be made that raise a person.

  • Somewhere between good and bad

Sometimes talent is well hidden, a glimpse of greatness to come that only the best scouts can foresee, secure and cultivate to a successful career. Others a generational talent shows up and everyone can see it, a slam dunk prospect that is bound to be, not a possibility rather a certainty, and that is Lee Joon Gi’s case.

Nowadays LJG is one of the best in the business, if not the best: a copious amount of accolades, a decorated career that has a lot of pages still to be written, a mise en scene that is unique in both visuals and skills. Known as “Korea’s flower boy” for his feminine features, he started off in that role and in sageuks, historical dramas. 2 Weeks is his first crime/action, moreso his first “real” character, not a Joseon scholar nor a beautiful bad boy in school, and what a coming out party: his ML rendition of a guy in the good/evil borderline is so effective it has become his niche, a feat he retained on other successful dramas such as Lawless Lawyer and The Flower of Evil.

A lot has to do with his face, one that stings and ammaliates at the same time: his sharp eyes peer right through the screen giving him a dangerous yet captivating look; his small face only helps in showing up a smile that is able to be both cold, freezing your soul on the spot, and warmer than the sun in these dog days here in Italy, so that he has an unusual wide range of expressions and an uncanny ability in presenting a complete array of emotions.

That comes in handy for such a divided ML: in his bad side he’s shady, deploying his sly smirk and eagle eyes as to look the part of a man that has lost his way in bad habits and has no intention of giving them up; when he starts to see the light at the end of such dark of a tunnel his smirk evolves into a flashing smile and his eyes are now quiet and comforting.

The same can be said for the other outstanding presence in this drama, our FL in Park Ha Sun. Not nearly as celebrated as LJG, albeit a known performer in Korea thanks to her role in High Kick, she shows up big time in a difficult role: as the ML’s ex girlfriend, and mother of his daughter, she has to rely on him to save her, with the small caveat that the man she once loved has become a petty criminal and now she has moved on from him.

Balancing her promising life, involving a new boyfriend in the detective SML (and her irl husband…wouldn’t you know), and her past younger days with the ML, their daughter and her illness, something that only the bad guy can deal with, requires to thread with her emotions carefully, and she does it well.

At first she hesitates to ask the ML’s help and has so many doubts, rightfully so, that she almost loses all hopes but as he persists his existence for their daughter she starts to see him in a different light, helping him and even forgiving him in the end as he turned out to have made wrong choices for the right reasons from the beginning. This softening relationship between the leads, and the ups and downs with the SML, are perfectly portrayed in her demeanor with the ML, the distance she keeps and the tone of her voice, so harsh as they meet again, so gentle when they rekindle.

Leads can bury a great drama or elevate a bad one, here they just make a good one much better, a job well done on their part.

Weaknesses

  • On the skid

If the first 10 eps are masterful, the next 6 are ordinary if not underwhelming: as our ML’s journey to nowhere comes to an end, a comeback that still doesn’t leave him out of harm’s range, the series loses a ton of pace, a drastic change of rythm that makes the writing at fault.

Obviously the guy couldn’t run away forever, that would have been ridicolous and even worse than this, but going from a restless mad dash to a static hide and seek creates such an imbalance in the drama’s structure that the two parts are too easy to differentiate and compare, with the second coming up short.

The action halting to a close puts more focus, and pressure, on all the conspiracies behind our ML’s disgrace and the whole behind the scenes made of gangsters, businessmen and corrupted policemen turns out to be not that enticing, lacking originality and being simply too complicated for the series to deal with in a short amount of screentime.

All things come to a good end though…right? Not exactly!

  • Don’t call it just yet

In my career as a TV series’ spectator nothing hurts more than an open ending, a not-said that leaves you so many questions no one will ever answer and a sense that all you’ve watched has been for naught.

2 Weeks doesn’t go that far, but it also leaves a lot to desire: not taking a clear direction, not giving a full reprieve nor condemning the ML but keeping him somewhat honest is passable, although lacking considering his whole odissey, from the slums he started in to the place he came to in the end. I’d have gone for a classic happy ending, guy gets the girl and the daughter, to the promised land they go, fade, the end.

That would have been a tad forgiving for the man but he paid his due in full effect and the limbo he seems to have chosen sounds like a punishment for all parties involved, from his own to the FL and the daughter and heck, even the SML.

But that’s just me being a romantic, you do yours.

Score: 8/10

2 Weeks is the definition of “old but gold”: it shows its age both visually and in technical aspects, althought direction is great and action coreographies are top notch, but it passes the test of time with sounding marks as the message comes through loud and clear and the acting is even better than what we’re used to these days.

A couple of well meshed leads, with a rising star in Lee Joon Gi that is now one of the greats and a kind and beautiful FL you ought to root for in Park Ha Sun, good chemistry and secondaries up to the task, notably Kim So Yeon as SFL, the acting is the driving force along with an amazing first half, one that doesn’t allow you to catch a breath and changes your perspective of the ML.

While the plot falters a bit, to an ending that is not a proper nor definite one, 2 Weeks deserves a spot in everyone’s watchlist as a classic of the redemption genre, an opera that shows how it’s not about how you start, rather how you end your road. There’s always time to change for the better, even for the worst ones.

That said that’s all for me today, I’ll see you in another couple of entries, a new pause in that shelter called K-List. Until then, strive to be good!

Italian baseball stathead. I’ll write about MLB, Nippon Professional Baseball and Korean dramas/shows. A lot of graphs, Astros related content and references.