War is declared. And even though you really wish they’d run for the hills, our heroes have to be heroes, and they run into the thick of it to put their lives on the line. They say love is war, but damn, have you ever met these two?
SONG OF THE DAY
King 2 Hearts OST – K. Will – “사랑이 운다” (Love is Crying) [ Download ]
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Hang-ah gets dragged to the border by Dad, kicking and screaming that she can’t be separated from Jae-ha. Dad spins around on his heels and asks, “And it’s okay to be separated from me?”
Oh, Dad. Now you’re making me feel bad. He says that it took 35 years to see family members after the first war—does she think they won’t end up that way? He says he can wait decades for her if he has to, but his body won’t hold out that long.
Hang-ah starts to cry, as Dad tells her that even if they meet again, it’ll be at his grave. Okay, that’s some hardcore parent guilt right there. What is she supposed to do when you say stuff like that?
He leaves the choice to her – if she really wants to stay, she can. He tells her that South Korea has turned their backs and declared war, and Jae-ha will prove to be no different.
Jae-ha meets the prime minister to ask who the hell approved DEFCON 3. Uh, well if it wasn’t you, I’m gonna say it’s the other guy in the room with the power to do so. The prime minister admits caving to U.S. pressure.
Jae-ha tries calling Hang-ah over and over, growing more panicked by the second. She finally answers, against Dad’s wishes. They check on each other and suss out the situation—Jae-ha needs time to talk to both the U.S. and North Korea to stop this from happening.
The trouble is, North Korea has cut off all lines of communication. Hang-ah turns to her father to ask if he did this, and he reminds her that this is WAR—of course they cut off communication (though it was his superiors, not him personally).
He tells her to come back, but she hesitates, as more tears start to fall. Oh no. “I’ll go to the North. If this is the situation, then North and South have completely split apart. And the only thing that remains is war.”
Jae-ha says that the South always has their end of the line open. It’s the North that cut off their end. Hang-ah knows, and that’s why she’s going: “I’ll open the line.” Oh, wow, what a great mission for the heroine. She says that she’ll convey the king’s position and stop this war.
He protests – there’s no way for the two of them to communicate once she crosses that border. There’s no way to know how bad things will get, so how can he let her go? Hang-ah: “Isn’t your heart my heart?”
She asks if the change in situation will change their hearts. They know the answer, but he still puts up a fight, asking if she’s really going to go, knowing full well that war might break out?
Hang-ah: “I want to see Father for a long long time. And I want to see you for a long time. That’s why I’m going. So that I can see you.” He starts to cry. “Hang-ah-ya…”
Hang-ah: “You’ll stop the war, right? I’ll do the same. If you just remember that, then we’ll see each other again. I love you.” And then she hangs up, before he can even say it back. He just looks down at his phone in tear-filled shock.
They both cry for a moment, and then Hang-ah braces herself. She spins around on her heels as the music turns along with her. She marches through to the North, a woman on a mission.
Jae-ha lingers for another moment in the hallway, and then he wipes his tears and mirrors her walk. I love the double badass turn.
Bong-gu gets the confirmation that the U.S. has approved an attack on North Korea, and calls Jae-ha to gloat about it. I love that till the end, Jae-ha’s like, “Who is this?” which drives Bong-gu crazy.
He passes along the military operation as proof and says that it’s really Jae-ha’s fault for attacking via ICC. That day on the cliff he gave Jae-ha the choice between himself or his people—”You chose yourself. You killed them.”
Jae-ha: “No. YOU did.” Aw, yeah. He says that all he’s done is try to bring Bong-gu to justice, according to the law. Bong-gu laughs that in the end the Koreas will be at war and he’ll walk away.
Jae-ha: “No. I’m going to stop this war. And you’re going to be put on trial.” For all of Bong-gu’s blustering, it’s really Jae-ha who has the upper hand when it comes to poker faces, because he believes in what he’s saying. The report is confirmed to be legit, and the situation escalates as Jae-ha signs off on DEFCON 2 and the country prepares for war.
Hang-ah meets with the prime minister who praises her for her loyalty to country, and then proceeds to ask about what she’s learned in her time in the South, like where are the secret bunkers they can attack.
But when she tells him that they need to reopen the lines of communication with the South, he argues that the king is preparing for war and accuses her of caving to her womanly weaknesses. Oh, because that’s evil, right? Ass.
She narrows her eyes but rises above it and asks the very logical question of why on earth she’d come back home then, if she were just madly in love and ready to forsake her country for a man. I would’ve added a knee kick but clearly you are more civilized than I. But he tells her it’s too late for communication, because both sides have their missiles pointed right at each other. Gah, the art-imitating-life of this situation is so unnerving.
Jae-ha prepares for a public address, and Secretary Eun reminds him that he needs to appear strong before the people. He starts to write his speech, calling out the U.S. for their attack plan, and urging the North to show that they are willing to discuss peace.
He starts to write, “But if North Korea attacks Seoul… then South Korea will by any means necessary…” He flashes back to his moments with Hang-ah, on their 60km trek, and when she held him in her lap. He finishes his sentence with a pang in his heart, “…repay the whole of North Korea in kind.”
Meanwhile Hang-ah’s last conversation with the prime minister has put her father in a sticky position, and he goes entirely in the other direction and presents her with plane tickets for them to flee the country.
He says that war is inevitable now, and even here in the North, they’ll be seen as South-friendly and therefore a liability. He doesn’t trust Jae-ha either, since he heard the speech above.
Hang-ah defends Jae-ha’s need to make an official statement as such, but Dad asks how he could, knowing that Hang-ah is here. He says that a preemptive strike isn’t that uncalled for in this situation. Her eyes widen, “A preemptive strike? Are we going to attack first?” He says nothing has been decided yet. Oh crap.
Jae-ha sits down with his general and asks what kind of casualties have been projected if war does break out. In day one: 200,000 soldiers, 1.5 million civilians. In week one: 1 million soldiers, 5 million civilians. And the cost of course in the tens of billions. He looks up in horror, and the general says these are all numbers projected in 1994, so they can probably double them.
Jae-ha sits, literally the weight of the world on his shoulders. He thinks back to hyung’s dreams of peace and reunification, Shi-kyung’s dying pleas to never give up, and Bong-gu’s words that if a single life were to be lost, it would be on his hands.
Hang-ah in turn thinks back to Jae-ha’s promise during the WOC: “Trust me, and I’ll trust you,” and Jae-kang’s question in presiding over their engagement about joining their strength in a time of war.
Her doorbell rings with a delivery. A mysterious man drops off a package and she asks if he’s from China since his accent is different, but he disappears without a word. She opens it up to find Jae-ha’s I’m-sorry-thank-you-I-love-you skincare set for her (aw) with an envelope buried underneath: a copy of the U.S. military strike against Pyongyang.
This is exactly the leverage she needs. She takes what she knows to the prime minister, but only offers to give him the date of the attack if he’ll reopen the line to Seoul. Awesome. Jae-ha is headed to the border to try and speak to someone from the North, and she asks to be the one to go.
He scoffs at her gall to negotiate with him, so she gets up and breezes that she heard about the preemptive attack, “But it’ll be too late.” He offers to let her go as a representative to start the talks, but only if she gives him the date. She says she’ll give it after she comes back from the meeting, since she’s not about to throw away her bargaining chip. Ha.
The prime minister says he needs something too then, and presents her with the only copy in existence certifying her engagement to Jae-ha (that seems like a big leap, but it’s the gesture that’s important). He tells her to rip it up: “What do you need an engagement for when you are going to meet your enemy?”
She doesn’t hesitate and rips it to shreds. Now he has proof of her loyalty and she has access to meet with Jae-ha. The prime minister adds a caveat, to make sure she gives him the information promised—he’ll be holding her father as hostage until she hands over the brief. Damnit.
Jae-ha arrives first and waits for the Northern diplomat to arrive. Hang-ah calls her father to check in, and he assures her that the prime minister won’t do anything hasty (he’s totally lying through his teeth), and the two men watch the meeting via live feed.
Hang-ah walks into the room and Jae-ha lights up to see her. He approaches her warmly, but she remains distant and formal. She puts out her hand for a shake and he sees the earpiece in her ear.
He takes her hand but he sinks when she just shakes it and goes to her seat. She asks everything she’s supposed to—is he really preparing to join hands with the U.S. and go to war?
Jae-ha sits through her barrage of questions silently, which is doubly infuriating for Hang-ah who’s desperate not to lose this chance to show the prime minister Jae-ha’s true intentions.
He finally sits back and asks casually if she knows that they’ll be attacked on May 24. The prime minister freaks out, and Hang-ah’s father hands over the brief to prove it. It’s less than a week out.
Meanwhile Hang-ah flips out that he gave away her bargaining chip. But Jae-ha is still smiling, calm as you please. “What’re you doing May 24? Going to war?” Hang-ah finally loses the cool exterior, “Comrade Jae-ha!”
He just keeps going, “I’m getting married. To you.” Hahaha. Okay, that’s crazy but kind of brilliant. He’s going to set the date of the attack as his wedding day?
The prime minister barks into Hang-ah’s ear for her to get out, and Jae-ha sees her flinch. He looks up at the camera and orders him to say it directly, and stop using Hang-ah as his shield. Love it.
It works, and the prime minister calls to speak to him directly. He shouts that they weren’t behind the terrorist attack, and Jae-ha shouts back that threatening Seoul is the definition of terror.
He calms down. “You die. And then we die. The U.S. hits you, you hit us, and then if China gets involved… do you think that even one person will be left standing on this land?”
The prime minister scoffs at his solution—if they get married, does he think the U.S. will just pat their heads and wish them well? But Jae-ha makes it clear that he’s not talking about sneaking off and eloping, but standing with both countries behind them.
A wedding is cause for congratulations and if North and South officially present a united front, the whole world will rush to congratulate them. In that situation, on that day, can anyone launch a missile at them?
“I’m not doing this so that South Korea can live alone. I’m saying let’s get married and live together.”
The prime minister says he’ll put it under advisement and orders Hang-ah to leave the room. But Jae-ha presses the Big Red Button and suddenly soldiers from both sides charge into the room, guns drawn.
Oh noes, Young-bae and Dong-ha, guns pointed at each other? I don’t like this one bit!
Jae-ha barks into the phone that he has five minutes to make a decision, “Or shoot me.” He figures that even if they say no, he’ll be dead anyway, so why not just die here? He hangs up.
Then they have to sit like that in the room for the five longest minutes ever. Jae-ha: “Young-bae-ya, you’re a sniper, right? Aim so that I go in one blow.” He points to the center of his forehead. Young-bae’s eyes dart back and forth, Dong-ha tenses up, ready to shoot him if he shoots. Hang-ah looks back and forth between them all.
The prime minister paces back and forth. Hang-ah’s father pleads with him to decide. Time’s up, and Jae-ha calls. Has he made a decision?
There’s no answer on the other end. Jae-ha takes the silence as a no. “Then, war?” He orders Young-bae to shoot. If their leader wants war, shooting the king is the way to start one.
Young-bae hesitates. Dong-ha, “Just try and shoot.” And then Young-bae adorably trembles and stutters, “I-I-I j-j-just can’t …”
But then Hang-ah stands up and grabs Young-bae’s gun out of his hand. She walks over and sticks it in Jae-ha’s face. Dong-ha raises his gun to her head. OH SHIT.
She says (at the prime minister), “Do I shoot? Why, do you think that because it’s the person I love, I can’t shoot? I can kill this comrade. And die with him.”
Well, now we know why Romeo and Juliet weren’t given guns. Because then shit like this happens. Everyone just put down the deadly objects!
Jae-ha looks up at her, his eyes full of love, and her eyes soften, “I’ll follow right behind you.” She cocks her gun. Dong-ha raises his to her temple…
And then in the last possible second before my heart bursts, the prime minister tells her to put down her weapon. Everyone starts breathing again, including me.
He asks Jae-ha if this means he’s really going to help them, and Jae-ha says yes. Hang-ah finally lowers her gun and Dong-ha does too. Jae-ha takes the gun from her hand and hugs her tight.
Bong-gu watches the North Korean news report in shock and demands that the U.S. attack anyway—why not the wedding? The contact refuses because somehow the story determined he should suddenly stop stupidly listening to the crazy man. Whatever, fake America. You are so weird.
Jae-ha gets ready to cross the border on his wedding day, and the U.N. tries to stop him. But the Korean troops help get him through, saluting their congratulations. Aw, that’s cute.
And I frickin’ LOVE that they’re getting married in the DMZ. Hang-ah smiles as she gets ready when she sees two officers North and South laughing together at their post. Dad says it’s too bad their wedding has less fanfare than their engagement and fusses over her hanbok, wishing her mother were here to see her.
She hugs him and says she’s sorry for being such a troublesome daughter, but he says as long as she’s happy, that’s all that matters to him. And then he breaks away from her so that she won’t see him cry. N’aaaaaw, Daaaaad. Okay, I forgive you for the guilt trip earlier.
Everything goes as planned and the U.S. backs off their military strike and offers up their congrats, and then the wedding begins. They each walk down the aisle from either side of the 38th parallel to meet in the middle.
Jae-ha holds out his hand. Hang-ah puts her hand in his, and then he crosses to the North. They face southward and bow.
And then together they cross to the South, and bow facing north. It’s simple, and lovely, and says everything.
And then he picks her up and twirls her around as they beam.
Then sometime later Bong-gu faces trial before the ICC. And the reason you couldn’t have kept him locked up till this point and therefore not make Shi-kyung’s sacrifice moot IS? BAH.
He gets sentenced to life in prison. That’s it? What about the tank of carnivorous snakes?
Jae-ha pays him a visit in jail, and Bong-gu muses that he must’ve been dying to see him like this. Bong-gu: “I won. You went to the brink of war. You were scared.” He chuckles that they’ve experienced trauma now.
“When you hear fireworks, you’ll jump in fear. When you hear sirens, your heart will race. Only Korea is like that. A country that has experienced war. That’s why you will become more anxious. You’ll be scared of what you encountered, and only amass more weapons.”
Jae-ha: “We stopped it. I did. We did. Now we have the confidence that we can stop it. They say that the scariest thing in the world is war. But we stopped it, so what can’t we do? Thank you… for making us powerful.”
He turns to walk away. Bong-gu screams after him that locking him up will do nothing to stop Club M from existing, and attacking. Jae-ha stops for a moment, but doesn’t turn back. He squares his shoulders and keeps walking ahead.
Four years later.
Dong-ha (wearing a much more decorated uniform) comes to find Jae-ha, and he comes to greet North Korean soldiers for the new WOC team. Behind him are Dong-ha, Young-bae, and (YAY!) Kang-seok. Where have you BEEN?
They’re old-timers now, the guys who train the newbies. Jae-ha asks about the female soldier for this team and Kang-seok says she’ll be from the South this time. Jae-ha leans in close to whisper at Young-bae that southern girls are really pretty, and Dong-ha sighs that it’s already too late—Young-bae took one look at her and he’s smitten so bad he can’t even train her properly. HA.
Once it’s just the four of them, Jae-ha greets them happily saying it’s been a really long time since they’ve all been together, and asks them out for a drink. Young-bae adds dejectedly that it’s not really all of them. Aw. Young-bae.
Jae-ha looks down and Kang-seok reminds Young-bae that they already poured a bunch of alcohol over Shi-kyung’s grave—he’s probably already drunk enough. Jae-ha muses that he’d probably have collapsed. It at least warms my heart that they still talk about him.
Jae-shin sits on her wall at the top of the city, and makes a phone call to confirm a concert and says that she can make it there on her own. We pan out to see that she’s sitting up there with her parrot, speaking to it as if it’s Shi-kyung.
She says that she’s supposed to go on a blind date tomorrow. Should she go? She looks over at parrot, only this time it’s Shi-kyung that appears. *Mmmrrmph* He opens his mouth to talk and just that alone makes me cry. Gaaaaah, I don’t know if I can do this.
He tells her to go. She asks if he’s mad and he says no. Jae-shin: “I can’t say that I’ll die old and alone only thinking of you.” He laughs and tells her she shouldn’t do that.
“But you’ll always be in a part of my heart. Like a shadow.” They smile at each other. And then when she looks back at him, he’s gone. It breaks my heart all over again.
We pan over to see that she’s actually at the foot of the wall, in her wheelchair, Birdie at her side.
Hang-ah’s father coos over pictures of his grandson prince, and squeals when he gets to talk to him over video.
Later, Jae-ha rushes to meet Hang-ah for a ribbon-cutting ceremony (for the first joint bank serving both countries) and little princey runs up to daddy for a hug. All the reporters swoon, and then princey calls out for Mom, but uses the North Korean dialect version (omani), which causes a giant ruckus in the media.
The queen mother tells them it’ll blow over, and Jae-ha pretends to be stern, but once she leaves the room, he dies laughing. They’re so cute.
But it turns into an issue (with chatter from Club M) and Jae-ha says he’ll make a statement. Secretary Eun thinks it might be best to leave it alone, but Jae-ha argues that all of his people matter, and he’ll win them over one by one, until they accept Hang-ah.
He gets to work, and Secretary Eun smiles proudly.
Jae-ha and Hang-ah stand side by side, ready to go in for a press conference. He tells her the situation is getting more serious. She chides that saying omani twice will lead to war. They chuckle, ’cause, well, been there done that.
Jae-ha: “We’ve already stopped a war. Hang-ah: “That’s true. Just as long as we don’t give up. The doors open. Cameras flash.
Jae-ha: “You ready?” She says yes. He takes her hand. “I love you.” They smile at each other and with a “Let’s go,” they walk forward in step.
There were a lot of things I wanted for the finale that I didn’t get, and a lot of things that still felt satisfying anyway. The main trip-up for me is the Shi-kyung/Bong-gu war which hit its high at the end of Episode 18 and then fizzled out as soon as Shi-kyung died. It’s not really his death so much as the consequence of it that went so wrong. Had he died to put Bong-gu away, had Bong-gu remained in custody during the almost-war (which by the way was completely feasible and would in no way change the way the final chapter went down), and then be prosecuted, it would have all made sense and I wouldn’t have to tear my hair out. Because how do you even explain that he was brought to trial in the end if the first time took that much effort to get him in cuffs? HUH?
Mishandling that actually took a lot of the villain’s steam away, which I have to assume was inadvertent (because who would do that on purpose?). Sure, Bong-gu was the evil one who set the war into motion, but once that happened, the immediate threat became the world powers and I forgot that Bong-gu even existed. Despite the simplicity of containing an almost-war to four characters, I did like the dramatic climax for the couple, in putting their lives on the line. It’s you-have-to-get-through-us-to-get-to-war, and the culmination of everything they’ve built, from becoming comrades, to finding love, to trusting each other, to letting go. That felt both thematically on point and dramatically riveting, even though you don’t really expect a show to go out with a pair of dead lovers and a world war. Hello, hate mail.
What the two-part finale really lacked for me was breathing room on one score—Shi-kyung’s death in Jae-ha’s eyes. Jae-kang’s death, for instance, happened so early on that we had full episodes to mourn his passing and have Jae-ha learn and grow. And yes, Shi-kyung did already make his crucial impact on Jae-ha before he died. But I wanted that emotional beat. Jae-ha would never have become the king he is without Eun Shi-kyung. And though I loved Jae-shin’s moment remembering him, I wanted the same from Jae-ha. It was the biggest way the finale failed to deliver for me. And now I have a giant Eun Shi-kyung-shaped hole in my heart, and the show ended without patching it up properly.
There were a lot of things that this show never got quite right—the overly simplistic Club-M-is-all-powerful mantra, the over-reliance on wooden day players to give exposition, (Seriously, I can barely stand exposition when it’s served by the most talented of actors, and you’re going to give every bit of explanatory dialogue to extras? Foot, meet gun.) the slow progression of Bong-gu who took a really long time to become an interesting or effective villain. The international incidents were colored in the broadest brushstrokes possible, leading to more than a handful of countries whose leaders seemed more like silly dingbats than powerful movers and shakers. It’s not so much that I take offense, but that I would prefer the opposition to always seem bigger and badder (which makes for better drama) only they were more like dumb and dumberer.
But of course, there were many more things that the drama DID get right. It was shot gorgeously (the cinematographer and lighting team deserve like a medal, or a parade), the music swept me up in every moment and made me feel like it was a living, breathing world I was looking in on. And the cast was brilliant. I’ll be honest—I’ve always thought Ha Ji-won was over-hyped, but here she was amazingly tough, vulnerable, and believable, no matter how insane the situation seemed. She grounded everything. Perhaps it makes a great deal of difference to play a character who’s consistent from beginning to end. Lee Seung-gi had less gravitas than her going in, but gained it through his performance, and though his is still not an effortless kind of acting, it was his breakthrough to the other side—past the façade and into raw emotion. He stole the show, hands down (which isn’t really a surprise, since he played the king in The King). Jo Jung-seok played what was probably everyone’s favorite character, but I really think he’s to credit for a lot of that, because so much of who Shi-kyung was came from the physical performance. A great deal of his character’s innocent/earnest nuance could’ve been lost to a wooden actor, or worse, made to seem dumb, which would’ve been a travesty. And everyone else was already good in an established way—the parents, the hyung, and even Lee Yoon-ji, who’s always been fantastic.
When this show was funny, it hit that darkly funny sweet spot where my blackened heart resides. And when it was badass, it made me pump my fist in the air. And then, when it was deeply earnest about a soldier’s faith in his king or the partnership between a man and a woman in the face of insurmountable odds, it actually got through to my gooey earnest center.
You could say this show is about a lot of things, but it’s clear that the romance is the central metaphor – man and woman as two parts of a whole like a war-torn Korea, always at odds, but always kin. And though actual politics is far more complex than a pair of lovers being able to bridge that gap, it’s the idealistic view that they could, in such a world. What grips me most is actually not that larger idea, but the mechanics of what that relationship needs in order to make it to the end – not just love, but friendship, complete trust, and an equal partnership. A hero who saves the girl is swoonworthy, sure. But a hero who confides in his girl and trusts her to save the day is the winner, by a mile.
My favorite part of the show wasn’t actually the romance (though I loved their epic love story, I promise). It was the making of a king. What this show did right was its character development and relationships, and if you look at it from beginning to end, there are actually very few characters who change a great deal. Hang-ah and Shi-kyung are in large part the same (he gains a sense of humor, but starts and ends a hero, and she learns to play a player, but starts and ends a hero). Jae-shin takes a massive dip, but then gets back to her old self (albeit a better version) because of Shi-kyung.
But Jae-ha goes from a worthless thorn in his brother’s side to a ruler who can stop a war. He goes from someone who thinks the monarchy is a sham to a king who believes with all his heart that he is his people and they are the king. And it’s in the shaping of this character where Hang-ah and Shi-kyung are the traditional heroes of the story—they make Jae-ha kingworthy, through their tough love and indefatigable faith. It’s kind of equally admirable and stupid, but that’s why they’re the heroes. In that sense, Jae-ha really IS the people—he’s the most like us, doubting, questioning, pessimistic, jaded. Even till the end he’s the one who doesn’t want to let Shi-kyung go on his mission or let Hang-ah go on hers. Because that’s what a normal person would do. But they don’t let him be weak.
And perhaps that’s the final step he learns in becoming a true leader—to let his soldiers fight for what they believe in, to put the country and the mission before his heart. I still don’t think it justifies killing Shi-kyung (the lesson would’ve been learned without, thank you very much) but to be a true leader, he does have to live with the harsh choices and the deaths of his soldiers on his conscience. It’s the journey in making a king out of a man that hooked me through the heart, and kept me wholly invested no matter what international debacle came and went. And I guess what’s important is that I feel like the payoff for that was there in the end. And it was. Many other things may have fallen by the wayside, but Jae-ha became a king befitting his hyung’s legacy and his most faithful soldier’s trust. And I like that the point isn’t that he defeated one big bad villain (though of course we need his victory over Bong-gu), but that he finds out that he is strong, and forges ahead to fight more battles and more villains with that power.
And that’s why I really, really wanted Jae-ha to walk away from Bong-gu’s jail cell with this one retort: “I am king.”
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 19
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 18
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 17
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 16
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 15
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 14
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 13
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 12
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 11
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 10
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 9
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 8
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 7
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 6
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 5
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 4
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 3
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 2
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 1