20130905_seoulbeats_twoweeks_leejunki4This drama should be called Jang Tae-san Can’t Catch a Break. It’s ridiculous how many bad incidents can happen to a guy in just a week. The 16 episode drama has already reached its halfway point, but the action has been packed from the start of the eponymous two weeks, and it’s only getting better as the timeline progresses. The drama stars Lee Junki, Kim So-yeon, Ryu Soo-young, and Park Ha-sun and manages to pack in practically every typical drama situation into one, Two Weeks is fast-paced, tugs at heartstrings, and more than once makes you want to throw things. Sounds to me like a pretty good mixture for a drama.

Beware, foul spoilers await ye.

With all these bad breaks, it almost seems like the scriptwriters got together, put every possible bad event on a giant wheel, and then spun it multiple times per episode. Jang Tae-san (Lee Junki) has already been imprisoned twice, broke up with his girlfriend Seo In-hye (Park Ha-sun) before going to jail to separate himself from her, finds out eight years too late that she went through with her pregnancy and has a kid that needs a bone marrow transplant, is framed for murder, almost gets killed while in jail during investigation, drives the country to start a manhunt for him, manages to stay hidden for eight days even though the boss of his former gang, Moon Il-suk (Jo Min-ki), is trying to get him too because the boss thinks he has evidence that could put him in jail, and the one time that Jang Tae-san actually needs to care about his well-being so he can give his daughter his bone marrow is the one time everyone wants his head on a platter.

20130905_seoulbeats_twoweeks_leejunki3When looking at the events all together like that, it seems like the drama is outrageous, attempting to put together too many plot devices in a situation that would never happen. But when actually watching the drama, it’s the contrary.

One of the positive aspects is no doubt how realistic most events are in the drama. Jang Tae-san is no superhero; he has moments where he falters. Sometimes he has blood all over his face, sometimes he can’t walk properly, and sometimes he collapses from exhaustion and wounds. Those moments ground the series of events by ensuring that Tae-san’s journey isn’t easy. After all, how could it be when he has a large number of forces out looking for him. It is immensely saddening to see the sheer desperation Tae-san’s working on, even more heartbreaking when he gets caught, like on the ship to the Philippines, or when he just knows that he seems like that bad of a person and can’t do anything to change that perception.

Though the drama moves quickly, covering about a day an episode, it makes sure to halt and have moments free of anxiety, mostly through moments with Soo-jin (Lee Chae-mi), Jang Tae-san and Seo In-hye’s child, or during those breaks during Tae-san’s attempts at hiding, which usually end up demonstrating his humanistic qualities. Admittedly, finding a pregnant woman out the in rain was a step closer to the unrealistic side, but it did serve as an important plot device to reveal that Tae-san’s mother had committed suicide when he was a child and to give Tae-san that opportunity he lost to be by a mother’s side and take care of a baby.

20130905_seoulbeats_twoweeks_kimsoyeonAnother significantly more infuriating but completely understandable aspect of the drama is how the audience is privy to the broader details of each interested party while the characters obviously are not. To the viewer, one of the largest downfalls in so many places appears to be a massive lack of communication: “If only X character did this or Y character said this before,” and such. Yet in each individual situation, when taking into account the character’s position and endgame, the decision makes perfect sense, whether it’s to keep secrets or run from someone only the viewer knows can help.

This situation especially comes up in relation to prosecutor Park Jae-kyung (Kim So-yeon)’s scenes: she utilizes the police force to run an investigation against Jang Tae-san and her actual targets, Moon Il-suk and Congresswoman Jo Seo-hee (Kim Hye-ok), fueled by the death of her father in the past. In order to keep her investigation from leaking, she keeps details very close to her and her prosecution team, leading to mistrust between her and the police team she’s working with. She comes across as a strong female lead that will not back down, regardless of who tries to stop her. And it’s especially revealed when she prepares herself for physical altercation, proving herself as capable all around, taken down only by surprise.

The build of the good and bad sides are similar, at least when looking at the key front players. Both have the dubious and notorious characters (Jang Tae-san and Moon Il-suk), and both have the upstanding one with a position (Congresswoman Jo Seo-hee and Prosecutor Park Jae-kyung). What obviously tilts the favor to the not-so-good side is the sheer power they hold. Moon Il-suk, as a gang leader, has ties all around South Korea and the resources to send hitmen, like his son, known only by Teacher Kim (Song Jae-rim). Jo Seo-hee, on the other hand, presents a very different public face, known as the kind Congresswoman that only wants what’s best for others, an act bolstered by pre-planned hits on the woman, faciliated by our Moon gang leader. If she wants something, it is only seen as her showing concern, and there is no end to the line of people willing to do her a favor.

20130905_seoulbeats_twoweeks_kimhyeokAnd speaking of Jo Seo-hee — she comes across as one of the more terrifying characters presented. She doesn’t falter when it comes to saving herself in any situation. The ease with which she transitions from her stern, no nonsense look for shady business to the wide smile and soft eyes of her day job makes her seem like two different people. Her exact connection with Moon Il-suk, aside from their smuggling plot, is as of yet unknown, but most certainly something to look forward to. We know it at least goes back eight years, when Park Jae-kyung saw her father get injured and still unwittingly held Jo Seo-hee as her idol, but it seems to be an older relationship than that. Also curious are the motivations running Jo Seo-hee. Her screen time has been limited to the present moments with no indications of why she plays this double persona, and I’m looking forward to eventually getting a background about her. Personally, I also want to know if Jo Seo-hee is Teacher Kim’s mother — there hasn’t been a mention of a significant other for Moon Il-suk as of yet, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if the two had something going on before.

The character that comes across as well-portrayed but underwhelming is Im Seung-woo (Ryu Soo-young), Seo In-hye’s current fiancé and a sharp detective working on Jang Tae-san’s case. From the start, he firmly announces his belief that people start off as good or bad, and that’s how they’ll be for the rest of their lives. In his line of work, he’s no doubt seen numerous people who never change, but it’s that fossilized mindset that causes him to see Jang Tae-san as nothing but filth that kills other humans.

20130905_seoulbeats_twoweeks_ryusooyoungIt’s only when he learns of Tae-san’s connection to In-hye that Seung-woo finds his normal beliefs challenged: after all, his sweet fiancée couldn’t have gotten together with someone who was completely rotten, right? That conflict plus the idea that Tae-san could be Soo-jin’s dad eats away at Seung-woo for many of these episodes, leaving him in less than top form for the investigation. Add in Park Jae-kyung’s insinuation that Tae-san is probably falsely charged and Seung-woo has a lot to deliberate. It’s weighing him down, and rightly so in this first half. But if it stays any longer, especially when Seung-woo’s ideal responsibility as a detective is to find the truth, not what he wants to believe, it could make his storyline drag too much.

Overall, Two Weeks is moving at an admirable pace, having set a strong foundation from the start with well-developed characters and connections between them that aren’t forced. As the drama moves day by day, what’s nice is that you can’t expect much because everyone’s actions are so interdependent. Anything could happen in the next episode, which is significantly more thrilling than anticipating a certain action to happen. At the moment, I’m most curious about the mole that seems to get a decent amount of information back to the bad side, and more importantly, how to root this person out.

Any other Two Weeks viewers out there? What are your thoughts on how the drama is coming along so far?