Contains Spoilers for Episodes 7-8
Why I'm starting the series at episode 7----I couldn't get into episode 1 at all and I gave up on the show for a full month, but I heart Ha Jiwon so much, I still badly wanted to see her latest work. So I skipped past enough episodes of King 2 Hearts until I was smack in the middle of some good tension. Now I'll see if the drama will hold up to viewers starting in the middle! :-)
In an alternate present where Korea is still a monarchy with an England-style royal family, Prince Jaeha of South Korea and Comrade Hang-Ah, daughter of an important North Korean general, are caught kissing by her General Daddy and his King Big Brother. Needless to say, things could scarcely be more awkward.
Caught Red-Handed, Now Whatcha Gonna Do?
These two have had a downright bizarre battle of wills in the previous episodes, with Jaeha announcing their (fake) love to the world just to spite Hang-Ah. Then she dumped him and hurt his pride, so he flirted with her until she thought he liked her for real, then he said he was just faking it, so Hang-Ah announced on national television that they were engaged, to get back at him. Kate and Petrucchio have nothing on this couple.
Anyhow, Jaeha and Hang-Ah are now going to get married, due to a combination of national pressures and the the fact that they both secretly really, really want to get married but wouldn't admit to it unless they were "forced" into it.
North Korean General Daddy knows that his daughter secretly loves Jaeha, but he still doesn't like leaving his daughter with some bum, even if the bum is also a prince. Jaeha is shocked when dad bows down to the floor in obeisance and all but begs Jaeha to understand how infinitely precious Hang-Ah is. She has been her father's pride and joy for her whole life. She is important.
General Daddy Understands the Severity of the Situation.Hang-Ah moves into the royal palace for a 3-month training period before her engagement to the prince will be deemed official. Jaeha does not make meeting Queen Mom any easier for Hang-Ah, but I do like that Queen Mom is not the typical K-drama mother in law; she's not vicious, just awkward and doesn't know how to relate to Hang-Ah. Meanwhile, our mentally unstable villain Whats His Name is plotting to have his unnerving female assassin kill Jaeha's older brother, the king.
You Can Just Feel the Crazy Radiating Off Him.
Jaeha's fun younger sister Princes Jaeshin gets ready to go visit King Bro and his wife on their weekend vacation. But she is intercepted by assassins! The royal couple is killed by inhaling too much of a chemical put in their fireplace. Jaeshin jumps off a short cliff to escape from the assassins and injures her spine.
And now that the unthinkable has happened and the king is dead, Jaeha will have to take on a responsibility he never expected. Jaeha inwardly mourns for his brother, but gathers his courage and acts like a man. The poor Queen Mother simultaneously loses her eldest son and daughter-in-law, sees her baby girl crushed by a fall, and now knows that her middle son will have a horrible trial ahead of him as king. Queen Mom says to Jaeha, "We must remain strong--you and I must not falter. I will handle the palace if you will handle external affairs." It's pitiful. I really didn't expect to be so touched by this drama.
You'll Feel Everyone's Pain.
At the hospital, it's heartbreaking to see Princess Jaeshin unable to move her legs, and suffering the indignity of losing control of her bodily functions. She falls out of bed and doesn't want anyone to see her, but luckily Jaeha has sent his fiancee to look out for his baby sister. Tough former-assassin Hang-Ah is back now, and she's strong enough to enter the forbidden hospital room and take care of her future sister-in-law. Hang-Ah throws out the soiled bedding, runs water in the bathtub, kicks off her shoes and drags a fussy, self-pitying Jaeshin off to be cleaned.
Queen Mom accepts Hang-Ah into the family after this. She even teaches Hang-Ah how to cook a favorite royal family recipe she learned from the previous queen. Hang-Ah makes the food too salty, and Jaeha teases her about it as the remaining royal family members eat together.
Supah-Cute Royal Dinner.
Later, Hang-Ah does her best to cheer up the overburdened Jaeha by using some learned-from-TV aegyo cuteness that is so horribly sugary, it makes your teeth ache, but then it makes you smile because this is Hang-Ah, trained assassin, doing the horrible cutesy act. Jaeha and Hang-Ah essentially become a real couple in this episode, but grief still hangs in the air and our villain still lurks on the periphery.
Here's One Last Shot of Jaeha in a Tux, Just Because.
Things I Loved:
1. The Secondary Couple! Princess Jaeshin likes the stuffy palace guard, Shikyung. She gets him to wish on a falling star with her, and she teases him about wishing for national security, only to find out that he did wish for national security. He's so stodgy, I love him. He's sad to think that she's making fun of his sincere wish: "Your partying and singing are made possible because of my work. Why do you look down on us (soldiers)?" But our palace brat apologizes to him and sings him a pretty song by way of repentance. I normally miss the main pair in K-dramas when they're not onscreen, but this secondary pair is pitch-perfect.
Well, They're Not a Pair Yet, but They're Gonna Be!
2. Jaeha's Fashion. I'd never been a fan of Lee Seunggi before, but wow, he certainly impresses in his royal costumes, tuxedos, suits, and formal sweaters. Come to think of it, Hang-Ah's outfits are fairly cute, too.
Showdown: Posh Pullover vs. Hanbok
3. Hard Work. Jaeha has no time to mourn his brother because he's got meetings of state and bruncheons and interviews. This new industriousness shows us that Jaeha is totally like Prince Hal in Shakespeare's Henry IV and Henry V; a careless playboy who turns into a king with principles.
Goofball Jaeha=Barely Worthy of Notice.
Smart, Takin'-Care-of-Business Jaeha=Totally Awesome.
1. Did Hang-Ah have to do that terrifying Bo Peep dance for Jaeha? I can't stand the Bo Peep song or the Bo Peep dance, so both in conjunction performed by my favorite actress is just cruel.
2. The Villain. He gets the job done when it comes to blackmailing and killing folks, but this villain just gives me the heebie jeebies.
Our Villain, in His Circle Chair and Socky Feet.
Daddy's Little Girl: I was so touched by General Daddy's speech to Jaeha about how much he loves his girl Hang-Ah. It's too bad that he's probably not going to be part of the cast anymore.
Your Best Isn't Good Enough: Hang-Ah tries her darnedest to learn the ways of the South and the ways of the palace, but her manifold little slip-ups make the queen mother weary. Queen Mom is a nice lady, but to her way of thinking, it's like Hang-Ah was raised by wolves!
Queen Mom Questions Your Upbringing.
Courtesy: Hang-Ah messes up in her interactions with the Queen because she doesn't understand South Korean modes of verbal courtesy. For example, there are several different ways to say "I'm sorry" depending on your own age and social status, and that of the other person.
Regional Dialects: Ha Jiwon has the most interesting accent in King 2 Hearts. I can finally tell a few different Korean accents apart, and hers is very atypical--I think it's supposed to be a Pyongyang dialect.
Sounds Kinda Like a Korean-Boston Accent.
Uri Jaeha, joahaeyo? is "Do you like Jaeha?"
Mama is "Queen"
Malhaejanha is "I told you before"
Kugoh-eomma is "Mother of the nation"
Algetji is "Do you understand?"
Bissada is "So expensive!"
Episode Evaluations: I love the twist on the forced engagement story: these two really do want to be together, but it will only happen if outside circumstances sort of smoosh them together. The political intrigue and the royal family interactions are great, too, and now the sorrow of the king's loss is propelling the plot forward at lightspeed.