Every once in a while, the K-drama gods bless us with a drama that really has it all: the perfect romance with just the right balance of cuteness and angst, the most villainous K-drama villain to have ever existed, heroes who are easy to root for, a dash of humor, and hair-raising action sequences.

MBC‘s King 2 Hearts is one of those dramas. After twelve episodes, King 2 Hearts has set up an amazing plot with just the right number of twists, acted out expertly by our leads, Lee Seung-gi and Ha Ji-won.

If you haven’t been following the drama religiously, check out Gil’s review of the first four episodes here. But when episode five rolled around, the story really began to pick up. The scriptwriters really begin to work in the romance aspect of King 2 Hearts as Jae-ha and Hang-ah confront their feelings for each other.

At the beginning of this drama, the two of them hated each other. Hang-ah thought that Jae-ha was a prissy, spoiled prince (and she was right) while Jae-ha was prejudiced against North Koreans in general. When they worked together during the WOC training, Jae-ha threw so many pick-up lines and player-esque lies at Hang-ah that I was cringing back in my seat while watching, knowing that her naive heart was going to get broken in the end.

And just when it looked like Jae-ha had the upper hand, Hang-ah would go and flip the tables on him in instances such as the announcement of their engagement. They worked the whole push-and-pull aspect of their relationship so much that when the lines finally got blurry for them, neither one of them knew what to do. This kind of relationship is not at all unfamiliar to K-drama fans — the leads start out hating each other and eventually fall in love with a twist of fate — but the fact that King 2 Hearts works political complications and the immaturity of Jae-ha into the equation is unique. It’s easy to draw parallels between Hang-ah and Jae-ha’s relationship and the North-South Korean one — both want to “be together” or at least, work together and coexist peacefully, but misunderstandings just keep popping up, one after another.

However, after his brother’s death when Jae-ha has no choice but to step up to fill Jae-kang’s shoes as the king, Hang-ah and Jae-ha’s relationship take on a more serious note. Jae-ha is forced to mature quickly in a very short amount of time, while Hang-ah has to deal with the fact that he obviously doesn’t completely trust her yet as an equal and someone who can stand by him and offer him support.

Even though there’s a lovely scene in episode eight where Jae-ha lets go of all the emotions that he’s been holding back since the death of his brother and Hang-ah holds him quietly, it’s still clear that there’s a long way to go before their relationship can fully function effectively.

I’m glad to see that Jae-ha and Hang-ah actually have to fight to be together and that love is not easy for them. Instead of being placed in an ideal situation like most K-drama couples are, Jae-ha and Hang-ah are tossed into this whole mess of politics between North and South Korea, almost as if they’re being used as pawns for peace negotiations. One small misstep could throw the two nations into war, just like Bong-gu wants.

As characters, they balance each other out so nicely — Hang-ah is bold but vulnerable at the same time, while Jae-ha definitely needs someone like her to stand by his side in order to be a good king. His growth as a person and a leader while keeping the boyish sense of humor and lightheartedness that I originally fell in love with is also something that I love about him. It’s so refreshing to see a hero with real, believable flaws instead of someone who’s already perfect. Even though Jae-ha still has a long way to go, it’s obvious that he’s going to get there.

If you’ve been following the drama, even for a little bit, you’ve probably noticed by now how unconventional Bong-gu is as a villain. Sure, he’s pretty much evil to the core, but the complexes he has going on under all that fluff he throws at everyone around him is interesting. I’m still curious as to why he believes that he’s king — whether there’s a missing link from the past we haven’t been given yet as a plot point in the drama, or whether he’s just a deranged character.

His relationship with his father was clearly not a healthy one at the beginning of this drama and there are obviously motives behind his actions, but what’s interesting is that instead of promoting conflict somewhere else simply for Club M’s profit, Bong-gu seems to hold a personal grudge against the South Korean royal family. It’s almost like they did something to wrong him in the past and this is his sick, twisted way of taking revenge. But Bong-gu definitely has the scary factor in him — even though he’s a comical character at times, especially when he’s doing crazy little magic tricks and throwing temper tantrums, I have to admit that the conversation he had with Jae-ha during which he admitted to playing a part in Jae-kang’s murder gave me chills. It’s also interesting how it seems like Jae-ha is the only character so far in King 2 Hearts who has the guts to stand up to Bong-gu, even though I have high hopes for Hang-ah’s first encounter with our villain.

One of the the best characters in King 2 Hearts is undoubtedly sassy Princess Jae-shin, who is the perfect foil and love interest for Shi-kyung. She’s the bold younger sister of Jae-kang and Jae-ha and is clearly a free spirit. Her spunky personality adds a touch of comic relief to the drama and the way she tries to reason with her brother, especially about his feelings for Hang-ah, is refreshing to watch because Jae-shin isn’t a character who could just sit back and let Jae-ha do whatever he wants just because he’s king. Jae-shin is also extremely prideful, as shown by her obsession with keeping the people of South Korea from finding out about her “accident,” which is an interesting character flaw because Shi-kyung is probably the most humble character in the entire drama. The developments for their love line are well-paced out and convincing, and it’s going to be interesting to see how and when Jae-shin starts to really fall for Shi-kyung.

I’m really digging the plot development in King 2 Hearts. The scriptwriters really know what they’re doing with the characters and every moment or line that takes place actually has a place in the story. The acting by Lee Seung-gi and Ha Ji-won has also impressed me — even though I came into this drama expecting them not to have any chemistry whatsoever, after watching him in Shining Inheritance and her in Secret Garden, they’ve surprised me pleasantly.

One of the best scenes in this drama was the one when Jae-ha met Hang-ah for the first time after her miscarriage and she gives him this heartbreaking monologue. Her words are icy and full of hurt at the same time, and Jae-ha has to sit there and listen to it all, unable to defend his own actions. The raw emotion was almost tangible during that scene, and it’s easy to see how seasoned of an actress Ha Ji-won was during that scene as she clearly communicates all the pain she went through after that miscarriage while trying not to give in to her feelings for Jae-ha.

As for the other main characters, they’re all equally strong and complement each other nicely. Jae-ha’s mother brings a healthy dose of caring-but-disciplinary K-drama mother into the whole mix, and the evil royal secretary is also an interesting character because so far, he seems to be dealing with what should be incredible amounts of guilt surprisingly well. The drama balances cute, funny moments with darker, melodramatic scenes skillfully so we never get too much of either one, which is working to its advantage. Overall, King 2 Hearts is a drama with no glaring imperfections and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next eight episodes.

What do you guys think?