The K2 ups its game in its penultimate episode, delivering an episode that’s fast-paced and enjoyable with some quality exchanges between characters, which has been sorely lacking in the past few episodes. It makes me hopeful that we’ll get a satisfactory ending to this series, but this is largely due to the fact that the writer has stretched out a very thin storyline and left all the best bits till the end.
By all counts, this was far from a perfect episode, and many of its flaws stem from long-term issues that have plagued the series from the start. Before going into what I liked about the episode, I thought I’d just go quick over the issues that bothered me, which are not new:
- Ume-Hye Rin’s death: The show has just dragged out this storyline for way too long. In this episode, we yet again get tiny tidbits to reveal the truth, but we still don’t know what exactly happened except that we now know that Master was present at the scene and President was involved. I’m still interested to find out what happened, but it really seems like the writer is saving the best for last. Related to that is how Anna decides to just fly off without pursuing the truth behind her mum’s death – what happened to her determination?
- Sung Won and CEO Gook’s “plan”: What exactly was Sung-Won’s plan? Just bring a bomb in and believe that somehow Yoo Jin will hand Cloud 9 over? Why would she do that? Just getting into Cloud 9 is barely even half the battle won, because the real issue is access rights to Cloud 9. CEO Gook displayed even more stupidity, given that he has personally witnessed how Yoo Jin has destroyed peoples’ lives using Cloud 9. He did not seem to cover his bases at all and think through the implications of betraying Yoo Jin. Was it so surprising that she would turn on his grand nephews?
- Portrayal of JSS: The portrayal of JSS has been largely inconsistent throughout. Initially touted as an elite security force, their performance in most of their missions has been mostly laughable. It’s unfortunate that the competence of JSS has to be downplayed just to showcase Je Ha’s prowess. However, even more problematic in this episode is how the competence of JSS changes based on what’s needed for the plot. When the plot requires that Sung-Won be allowed to bring the bomb down to Cloud 9, JSS forces are incompetent and so easily defeated. At the end, when the plot requires for Anna to be set free, JSS forces suddenly become so strong and easily defeat those who are holding her in captivity.
Nonetheless, given that the above points are not new, what I did appreciate about this episode was that the plot kept moving ahead, moving from situation to situation, with the characters scheming and devising plans to outplay the other. The intricate web of relationships between the characters was leveraged and every character had a part to play in the elaborate scheme involving the bomb. Park Gwan-Soo was actually relatively cunning in this episode, deciding to kidnap Anna and then also programming the bomb such that it cannot be defused, such that in the worst case scenario that Cloud 9 isn’t handed over to him, it’d be destroyed nonetheless. Of course, given that Cloud 9 is a supercomputer, would destroying the physical location of Cloud 9 really actually wipe out the data?
I also appreciated very much all the exchanges between our key characters, starting with that between Je Ha and Yoo Jin, where she displays more vulnerability. Is it strange that the character that I feel the most for in this series is our villain? It is inevitable that she should get some comeuppance at the end for all the bad that she’s done. Nonetheless, in this episode, we get to see too how she’s a victim, and how she’s been caught up in this power struggle that she can no longer give it up. While Cloud 9 gives her power, it also has power over her. Je Ha knows this well and asks her to step away from it, for her own good. Although Je Ha is largely stern and formal when relating to her, it is evident that he too cares for her, because he’s arguably the only one who has seen first hand the forces that she’s also up against and how they’ve tried to manipulate her. There’s a chemistry and understanding between the two characters; they watch out for each other and even care for each other. It’s a touching and meaningful farewell, which also left me hoping that more could have been done to explore their dynamics, not so much in a romance manner, but possibly even as friends.
Then, we have the negotiations between Yoo Jin and Sung-won, which are tinged with hatred and contempt. To me, Sung-won is evidently on the losing end, but I’ll give him points for still trying to stand strong and trying different means to negotiate with her. I really liked the conversation where he tried to emotionally manipulate her by talking about how she had the courage to marry someone she loved, whereas he ended up in an arranged marriage. It might possibly have been true, but Yoo Jin is not gullible enough to take it in and he responds with snide laughter as well. There’s energy in their exchanges and their visual sparring was fascinating to watch. I wonder if they might actually join forces in the finale when they realise that the bomb cannot be detonated to take out Park Gwan Soo.
We also have the exchange between Chief Joo, Je Ha and Se Joon in the car, where we see each character having their own priorities in this elaborate political game, which seems to now hinge on the thumb drive. This is where we also get a bit more backstory into what exactly happened with Je Ha, which I have since learnt is largely inaccurate from a legal stand point (for more on this, go read RedRossette’s excellent write-up on this, specifically point 3). We also see how Chief Joo has given up his morals in service of politics. It’s Se Joon who comes out more strongly in this exchange as for once, we do see him asserting himself and taking some action for his own victory, even though it really was contingent on Je Ha getting the thumbdrive.
As we come to the end of the series, I’ve also come to appreciate what the writer is doing through the series of K2, particularly the worldview that is being conveyed. While the plot construction and characterisation could have been tighter, the show has certainly been very tight in constructing a world where deception is so prevalent at all levels, such that even personal conversations behind the public political world cannot be trusted. It’s really so relevant to our world of politics today, even in light of recent political happenings, that lies and deceit have become so pervasive that we can no longer trust anything. This has certainly helped to keep things tense throughout the show, where almost everything that the characters say cannot be trusted and we’re left to constantly figure out what the truth is. Unfortunately, this wasn’t used to the series’ advantage as the story constructed around the world wasn’t always compelling.
As we go into the final episode, I truly hope we get a satisfying conclusion to the Ume Hye Rin murder, which will likely lead to closure for Yoo Jin’s story. As a bonus, it’d be great if Je Ha’s story also gets a good close.