Friday, March 23, 2012

K-Drama Review: Dream High 2, Episodes 15-16











Read episode reviews for:

Dream High 2--Episodes 1-2
Dream High 2--Episodes 3-4
Dream High 2--Episodes 5-6
Dream High 2--Episodes 7-8
Dream High 2--Episodes 13-14

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 15-16

This has been a cute, medium-interesting show, so let's see how its final episodes measure up.

As our 15th episode begins, Hyesung is crying while watching JB sing from the hospital where he's recovering from the accident that nearly crippled him. Hyesung gave her last stage--and her last chance to be drafted into the super-idol band--to JB, which is the ultimate gesture of thoughtfulness.


JB and Hyesung now go back to their routine of doing cute, couple-y things. JB even asks her to eat with his special pair of chopsticks, which is kinda romantic in a weird way. JB eventually gets the cast taken off his foot, but he's unwilling to admit that he has recovered because Hyesung promised she'd stay with him throughout his convalescence. If he says he's better, he's worried she'll leave. But it's all semi-pointless anyway, because JB breaks up with Hyesung to save HER future as a music composer, like she once did for him.

Rian is chosen as the last member of the super-idol group, and we get to see Rian growing up and working hard for once, because she's no longer so focused on externals. Yujin was kicked out of the group because he trolled his final audition, playing the same chord dramatically on repeat, since he doesn't really want to do pop music anyway. (Note: The guys that DH2 has playing American studio execs are...Russian, I think. Those accents are definitely from the Eastern Bloc.) JB and Hyesung have a tearful goodbye at the airport, and I should be emotionally touched by all this, but I'm not. There's a massive emotional disconnect between the impact the show is trying to have and the impact it actually is having.

And we have an 8-month timeskip to the future.  The super-idols return to Kirin for their graduation. Hyesung doesn't even come, but she sends a heartfelt note from America.

Then we have yet another time-skip, 8 years into the future. JB is now a musical producer. (Why? He's only semi-creative.) Ui-bong is a dance instructor, and he and Seul are still together. (Yay, they're cute together.) The Shiwoo-Nana-Hongjoo love triangle is still going. (Why? You can't decide how you feel about the two guys after eight years have passed, Nana?) And Yujin is a teacher at Kirin. (Why? He doesn't like restrictions or playing by the rules, so he should really be a starving musician by now.)

Yujin sets up a performance at Kirin where his own graduating class comes back to school to perform a mini-musical about following your dreams. *shrug* Okay. Also, we get no romantic resolution for Rian, Yujin, Hyesung, or JB, just a Buddies-Ever-After scenario. I don't remember ever feeling this non-plussed about the conclusion of a drama. It's like walking down a forest path with pretty scenery and winding up nowhere special, having wasted several hours on the trip.

JB's Expression Reflects My Dissatisfaction.



Things I Loved:

1. Hongjoo's singing.  It's quite heavenly. Normally I'm bored by the full songs in this show, but I'm so glad he got a stage all by himself:



2. Rian and Hyesung making up. Rian finally sees Hyesung's merits and her talent as a composer. Yes, ladies, this is what I'm talking about! Mutual respect. They even acknowledge each other as friends when Hyesung returns a necklace with big symbolic value to Rian.

Mystical Necklace of Musical Success.



3. Cameo: There's a quick blink-and-you-missed-it cameo by Miss A, and it's so cool to see Yujin fanboying over Suzy of Miss A, especially since they're with the same record label in real life.

Complaints:

1. The Speeches. I'm just now noticing how throughout the whole run of this show, characters have used their stages and performances as an opportunity to fillibuster and talk at length about whatever issues are upsetting them. In ep 15, Yujin gives a big speech about how he used to be a child star, and as he's talking, the scene loses so much power because these sorts of lengthy speeches happen in every single episode.

Great at Singing, but Should Probably Stay Away From Speech-Making.

2. The Emotional Disconnect. No matter how many touching montages of past scenes flash past, I don't feel the impact. Dream High 2 doesn't grab my heart.

3. Lack of Romantic Resolution. Not everyone needs to end up happily ever after, but if I watch a show with this much romantic content, I expect for at least one pairing in the main cast to work out. None of them do. Sure, high school relationships rarely last forever, but this show was patently unrealistic to start with--couldn't we have gotten a little unrealistic love and happiness to go with it?

Themes:

Father/Daughter bonding: Hyesung and her dad have a very touching relationship and her father has grown very supportive of her. I teared up when Hyesung's dad told her that she didn't have to work herself to death trying to be exceptional anymore--it's enough that she's his daughter. Also, Seul wants to study music management from dear old dad and to be just like him. She now makes affectionate jokes about her dad's gaudy taste instead of sliding in pointed jabs. It's sweet.



Maybe the Most Aww-Inducing Relationship in the Show.


Cultural Observances:

New words: This is an old one, but "Mianhae" means "I'm sorry" and Yujin sings a song that repeats that refrain. "Mogo" means "eat" which is what JB says when he wants Hyesung to eat using his chopsticks. "Ahjusshi" is middle-aged man, and Shiwoo has Hongjoo looks like an ahjusshi, not a teenager. "Ka" is "go!"...I think it's the shortened for of the verb gaseyo.

Episode Evaluations:

This series was never really the kind that audiences turned to for emotional depth; it just had some nice songs and a cute cast. If I were a little more invested in the outcome of the show, I would feel extremely let down by the randomness and non-resolution of the ending, but as matters stand, I'm just feeling "meh" about it.


The success of this show depends a lot on what you think it's trying to achieve. As a piece of entertainment, I don't think that Dream High 2 gets us very invested in any of the characters or their stories. But as an act of promotion and marketing, it has worked marvelously well for me. Thanks to DH2, I've cemented my love for Kang Sora as an actress, I've developed an interest on Jinwoon's real-life band 2AM where before they hadn't been on my radar, and I've also become invested in seeing JB's actual K-pop debut when it happens. In conclusion, Dream High 2 is not a very high-quality show even among light romantic comedies, but it's populated by people you want to see more of.

5 comments:

  1. I agree that the ending was highly annoying but I can't say I was surprised, I fully expected it. I think the greatest problem with this season is its focus of romantic entanglements, it makes the non-conclusive ending all the more frustrating. The first season had a greater emphasis on the music proper (I took singing lessons and recognized a lot of the techniques used in lessons) even if the romance played a big role.
    In this season even the music/dancing depends too much on the romantic element that is upped to the tenth with triangles that in the end do not even go anywhere.
    Even the characters' accomplishments are not as impressive; in the first we had a Kirin graduate actually win a grammy award, the first Korean artist to have that honor, even. The 8 years later flashback was a bit off, too.
    Even the B class theme was explored much better in the first season with the special class kids facing much greater difficulties.

    This season could have been very good if the main character was Seul. She could have brought something new to the franchise as the leading lady. There were some interesting things, having a rocker in the cast sounded very promising (especially to someone like me who prefers metal to pop any day of the week), the conflict between the famous and the average students, but ultimately DH2 is not half as good as the first one.

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    1. Agree! I'm only just now going back to watch the original Dream High, and already I like it better because it feels more like it counts for something.

      Seul would have been a great heroine. She's tough and determined, and the conflict between her and her dad could have been big.

      And I do wish Yujin could have actually rocked a bit more. So much potential!

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    2. Tell me about it, Yujin does a lot of talking about 'rock spirit' but in the end does precious little rocking. At the very least they could have turned him into a rocker after the 8 year interval but no. I honestly think it might have worked better if it ended with the airport scene. Not that it was all that amazing but at least it had more impact than a school musical 8 years into the future.

      And I agree with you that the Nana/Hong/Si woo love triangle becomes nothing short of absurd after the time skip. It was kind of cute with teens but dragging it for so long makes Nana way too vapid.

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    3. Have you seen "Shut Up Flower Boy Band"? That K-drama has a much more rock-like aesthetic. The characters all play guitars and whatnot, and they're pretty far from "cutesy" numbers. Plus, the writing is really good.

      I know the 8-year gap in DH2 was supposed to mirror the timeskip in DH1, but...maybe they should have rethought that move. What works for one show can't necessarily be repeated with the same affect.

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    4. I just started "Shut Up Flower Boy Band" (still on the first episode) and I already love it. It's much more my kind of music. "Dream High" holds a special place in my heart because it was my very first K-drama, though.

      I think the time skip was supposed to mirror the first season as well but it did not work too well. And we never get to see any of the world tour! Maybe the greatest failure of the time skip, apart from the lack of romantic resolution, is that we don't get to actually see what most of the kids are doing now.

      There is also a certain breakdown in terms of pace. Two time skips in the same episode made it feel too rushed.

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