Friday, March 9, 2012

K-Drama Review: Dream High 2, Episodes 5-6

Read episode reviews for:

Dream High 2--Episodes 1-2
Dream High 2--Episodes 3-4
Dream High 2--Episodes 7-8
Dream High 2--Episodes 13-14
Dream High 2--Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 5-6

It's time for midterms at Kirin High School of the Arts, which means that everyone sings duets and Principal Joo decides whether they pass or fail based on their performance. Which is kind of sad, really, considering the Principal's general lack of care about anything that matters to the kids. The duets go badly for most of the cast. Ailee's partner is disqualified for not singing at all, Hyesung is disqualified for having no batteries in her microphone while Rian is disqualified for not sharing her mic with Hyesung, and Yujin is disqualified for...I really don't know. He just is.

Hyesung is so assured of her failure during the duets that she sabotages her own self, though everyone blames mean girl Rian for the blunder. In the aftermath of the mic incident, Yujin steps up to defend Hyesung while JB defends Rian, and we now have the makings of a love square (or rather, a love arrow, which looks like: Yujin--->Hyesung--->JB---->Rian). Anyhow, the disqualified kids are sent to a boot camp where they're forced to run laps, do endless exercises, stand outside in the snow, etc. The trip is supposed to be a punishment but also a team-building exercise, but Rian sets herself up as Hyesung's enemy and makes certain that Hyesung suffers for accidentally framing her for the microphone crime.

We do get a new addition to the cast in episode 6. Kangchul's daughter Seul is a tough gal who's getting bullied at her current school, so her dad transfers her to Kirin, but doesn't let anyone know she's his kid. This adds depth to our villain Kangchul, just when we were needing it. Seul's been caught up in a bullying cycle where she beats up others because they hit her first, and I think she's going to be great for the classroom dynamic at Kirin because she has experienced both privilege and mistreatment.

The personal drama is progressing a bit. JB's taking care of Rian a lot lately, not that she needs it (or appreciates it, for that matter), while Yujin is kind of mean to Hyesung in order to get her to improve and stand up for herself. Hyesung resents Yujin's harsh speeches, but finally, after 6 episodes of failure and humiliation, Hyesung improves and sings her heart out while practicing by herself! But interestingly, while I really thought this show was going to give us Yujin-Hyesung and JB-Rian pairings, episode 6 intentionally mixes things up and gives us decent reasons to suspect different pairings. Like this scene...

JB, Putting a Smile on Hyesung's Face, Literally.

Things I Loved:

1. Yujin. Who knew that the artsy indie rocker would become the school's voice of reason? Yujin's my favorite character and while I did not previously know that Yujin's actor, Jinwoon, was a member of the band 2AM, I think I'll be checking out their music now. I love Yujin's singing voice in this show, but since his acting was the best in the cast aside from Kang Sora, I thought he was an actor who could sing instead of a singer who can act. Yujin may be getting the most consistent character development in this series, and although he's flawed, he's becoming more of a leader.

Only Sane Man in the Cast.

2. Kang Sora. I love how dedicated this actress is to her character! I fully enjoy watching her throw herself into the part without worrying about being reserved or looking cool. However, I just can't like Hyesung, not yet. Her motivations don't make sense to me, and her actions are usually kind of wacky and futile. It's an odd moment for me, disliking the character but loving the actress.

Kang Sora, Fighting!

3. Hyesung/Yujin. They're not even close to being a couple, but they're still the most interesting pair on this show, in my view. And that part in episode 5 where they did the Cinderella thing by having Yujin help Hyesung put her shoe back on? Priceless.

The Most Romantic Moment in Dream High 2.

4. Seul. We so badly needed a tough girl who speaks plainly. What a gift she is! She immediately walks into the Kirin dorm and declares that Rian is a jerk and Hyesung is a wimp. She even throws Rian's stuff out of the wardrobe to make room for her own things! Oh, I foresee good things happening with Seul's conflict with Rian.

Lady Vengeance.

5. The Rubik's Cube scene. It's a sweet little moment when JB is watching Hyesung solve an old beat-up Rubik's cube he always carries with him. It shows a friendlier, innocent side to JB, and he's at his best when he's acting shy, inquisitive, or vulnerable. I haven't thought much of his character up until now, because he's not terribly interesting and he's always defending mean girl Rian, but his and Hyesung's interaction over the toy cube is pretty nice.

Confident on the Stage, but Perplexed by Rubik's Cubes.


1. Kirin's Grading Policy. Even in the context of a frothy fantasy world full of musical numbers and sudden school takeovers, I can't fathom how the school manages their academic evaluations. The kids are getting graded for shared projects (duets), and the songs aren't arranged to give each person equal vocal time, either. Thank goodness the parents make an attempt at pointing out how ludicrous this is, but they still can't stop their kids from getting sent to a random boot camp as a result of messing up a couple of minutes of a pop performance.

2. Way-Too-Long Musical Numbers. No matter how great the song is, usually just one verse or chorus is plenty to give television audiences a good impression of the tune. We didn't need to hear Rian sing a full ballad by herself while Hyesung looked on sadly. Even Hyorin's full song was a bit much, though I did love the full outdoor performance by Yujin and the other students.

3. The Editing. The close-ups and reaction shots in this show tend to last 5-10 seconds longer than necessary. Maybe Dream High 2 is just trying to fill its 65-minute time slot with the longer scenes? I keep comparing DH2 to my current favorite show, Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, which normally clocks in at 45 minutes per episode and always leaves you wanting to see more, rather than wishing certain scenes were trimmed or cut.


The Truth Will Find You Out: Rian reveals a letter Hyesung wrote to her dad, confessing about the mic batteries and how she accidentally framed Rian. Everything finally comes to light, even though Hyesung couldn't bring herself to confess.

Our Main Foursome, In Yet Another 4-Way Standoff.

Authority is Unfeeling: Finally, the Kirin High parents confront Kangchul about his crazy methods of running the school and putting down the underdog kids. Kangchul proves himself an even bigger jerk by comparing the struggling students at his school to kids who have fallen into the ocean. He says he can only metaphorically save those who are closest to the shore (the celebrity kids), implying that the other kids will be left to drown if they can't kick hard enough to get into position to be "saved" by him. His ego knows no bounds, does it?

Cruelty vs. Cowardice: In the ongoing Rian-Hyesung tensions, both girls are at fault sometimes, but Hyesung is always trying to do the right thing by others while Rian's only looking out for herself. I dislike Hyesung's cowardly behavior, but I truly hate Rian's meanness because she's a strong personality who verbally rips apart weaker people like Hyesung. On a related note, I still can't believe these two girls managed to milk so much angst out of missing microphone batteries.

Cultural Observances:

Giving/Receiving with Both Hands: In Korea, it's polite to give and receive objects while using both hands, or while supporting your right arm with your left hand. When Jinman (JYP) hands his credit card to a lady at a convenience store, she receives it with two hands.

K-Pop: The kids think that their drill instructor looks like Korean hip-hop singer PSY. But I'm not familiar enough with PSY to know if this is actually a guest appearance by him.

For All I Know, He Could Be the Actual PSY. (ETA: Wikipedia Says It IS Him)

New words: "Oneul" means "today". Rian says this when she asks JB what he's doing today. "Aniyo" means "no," but the students usually use "ani" with each other, which is less formal, kind of like saying "nope".

Episode Evaluations:

Dream High 2 is getting a little more meaningful, I think, despite serious issues with pacing and editing. Hyesung is getting braver, thank goodness! And I don't know if anyone is choosing sides in the romantic plots yet, but for the record I'm staunchly Team Yujin.

But Here's One Last JB Photo for the JB Fans, Anyways.

Watchable Bonus: Here's Yujin, Rian, and some others singing in a street performance. I quite like the song. Sounds kind of like...The Partridge Family.



  1. I've always liked all 4 of the voices in 2am, but after hearing Jinwoon sing rock, I personally think that it really does match him better than ballads. Like, to me his voice is enhanced by the more raw sound of basic rock instruments, if that makes sense. :)

    1. I agree. Now that I've heard some 2AM ballads, Jinwoon sounds great on those, but he's one of the few K-pop stars who can convincingly sing with more of a rock sound. I'm glad he's getting some of the spotlight, now.