Just three years ago, if you’d told me that I’d be spending precious drama hours binging a medical show – for fun – I wouldn’t have believed you.
Medical shows have just never been my thing, y’know? 😅
But then, a couple of years back, you guys voted for Dr. Romantic as a group watch (Open Threads listed here), and that’s how I ended up watching – and very much enjoying – Season 1 of this show.
Some of you guys then told me that Season 2 was arguably more enjoyable than Season 1, and so I had vague good intentions of checking out Season 2, but that never happened, because of all the other shows always clamoring for my attention – until now.
Why now, you may ask? Well, it’s because Season 3 is finally here, I want to check out Season 3, along with everyone else.
(And once again, this means that it’s basically FOMO to the rescue, ha. 😅)
DO YOU NEED TO WATCH SEASON 1 BEFORE WATCHING SEASON 2?
The short answer is, No, I don’t think you necessarily have to watch Season 1, in order to enjoy and appreciate Season 2.
They do make a few references to Seo Hyun Jin’s and Yoo Yeon Seok’s characters from Season 1, but it’s just in passing, and doesn’t actually have any impact on the storyline in Season 2.
In my opinion, if you’re curious about Season 2, and not sure if you want to put in the extra time to check out Season 1, you can safely jump in. You can always go back to Season 1 later, if you feel like it.
However, I am guessing that watching Season 2 before Season 3 is a good idea, since our main OTP in Season 2, does return for Season 3.
HOW DOES SEASON 2 STACK UP AGAINST SEASON 1?
Unlike most shows that have sequels, where those sequels often don’t match up to the greatness of the first show, this is one of those rare cases, where I feel like Season 2 is actually better than Season 1.
It feels like Show’s makers actually studied Season 1, had a long think about what could make it even better, and then made that happen, in Season 2.
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it, but at the same time, it feels like that kind of thing hardly ever happens.
So what does Season 2 do better than Season 1?
Off the top of my head, there are just a few things that come to mind, that Season 2 does better than Season 1, but I do think that making these few things better, does have a big impact on the overall enjoyability of Season 2.
1. A more likable, relatable male lead
This is all very subjective, certainly, but I definitely found Ahn Hyo Seop’s character in Season 2 easier to connect to, than Yoo Yeon Seok’s character in Season 1.
My memory of Season 1 is a little hazy by now, for sure, so all I can say is, I remember finding Yoo Yeon Seok’s character somewhat opaque and rather frustrating, at times.
In comparison, while Ahn Hyo Seop’s character in Season 2 also has his own angst and issues, he’s much more approachable as a character, and I found it easier to understand him and root for him.
Specifically, I love that Woo Jin’s clearly got such a good heart.
He’s sincere, earnest, and has a moldable, marshmallow heart, that he hides as much as he can, beneath a sheen of emotional detachment and gruffness, because of how much he’s been hurt in his life.
I just love, though, that he’s so hungry for love and connection, that when the people at Doldam show him the care that he so sorely needs, he responds pretty quickly.
Specifically, I love how quick Woo Jin is, to develop loyalty and respect for Master Kim (Han Seok Kyu), once Master Kim shows him some gruff care, patience and guidance.
He’s almost like a baby duckling glomming onto the first mama duck he meets, and it’s sweet and poignant to witness.
2. A slower, more organic teasing out of OTP attraction
I have to confess that my memory of the OTP relationship in Season 1 is also rather hazy, but I do think that I found it easier to understand the mutual attraction between the OTP in Season 2, and also found it easier to root for this OTP to actually be minted.
Much like Season 1, the OTP relationship in Season 2, between Eun Jae and Woo Jin (Lee Sung Kyung and Ahn Hyo Seop), is a low-key secondary sort of arc; it’s definitely not the Main Event, in this show.
If you’re new to the Dr. Romantic series, this might be a good lens adjustment to make.
The development of the OTP connection is a slow burn – quite possibly slower than the slow-burn in Season 1, if memory serves – but I think it works well.
Over the course of different challenges and milestones, I felt that I could see the strengthening of the bond between Eun Jae and Woo Jin, such that they slowly but surely became important parts of each other’s lives, even if they weren’t technically a couple.
Admittedly, part of the reason I personally like this pairing better than Season 1’s OTP, is because I find Ahn Hyo Seop’s character more easily likable than Yoo Yeon Seok’s character in Season 1, but that’s a natural consequence, isn’t it? 😅
Overall, the minting of the OTP was long in the coming, but did it feel true and earned to my eyes? Yes. 🥰
A tangent on our female lead Eun Jae
On that note, I also wanted to say that I’ve heard that some folks don’t find Eun Jae to be a very likable character, but I personally didn’t have that problem.
Yes, she does come across as rather vain and self-absorbed, particularly in our earlier episodes, but I mentally categorized any not-great behavior from Eun Jae as “room to grow.”
And Eun Jae does grow, over the course of our story, and she does become more easily likable, and that was enough for me.
3. A more interesting, nuanced antagonist
Kim Joo Heon plays Park Min Guk, the new antagonist this season, and I must say, I found him much, much more interesting than Season 1’s antagonist, Do Yoon Wan, played by Choi Jin Ho.
For me, Do Yoon Wan felt more two-dimensional as our Big Bad, whereas Park Min Guk feels more faceted, to me.
While Do Yoon Wan only ever cared about his ambitions, and the politics around that, Park Min Guk cares about his ambition, BUT there’s also a part of him that wants to be a good doctor.
The internal tension between those things, makes him a much more interesting antagonist, to my eyes.
Like, sometimes you want to hate him – but then at other times, you also want to root for him, to follow his conscience and do the right thing.
And the thing is, because there’s a part of him that genuinely wants to be a better person and doctor, watching him in any given moment, you just never know if this will be the time that he’ll be that better person.
I loved how this kept me on my toes, as a viewer.
Of course, Do Yoon Wan’s still providing that hyperbolic baddie flavor, from his corner of the story, since he’s still very much around, in Season 2.
I thought this was a very nice set-up, where we get two layers of baddies, with the main one being complicated and with all kinds of warring emotions, and then the secondary baddie giving us that theatrical hyperbole, to amp up the drama.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF SEASON 2
The Doldam team
Of course, part of the fun of watching Season 2, is seeing the Doldam team together again, working hard to save people – and with so much heart.
The cozy familiarity of original cast members, blended with the fresh addition of new cast members, made for a watch experience that felt nicely balanced.
You feel like you’re with old friends – but there are new friends too, to inject a bit of new vitality into the mix.
Plus, there’s an earnest quality to this whole show, where our Doldam team are underdogs working hard to make good, that feels quite inspiring to me. Watching them work hard, made me want to work hard too. 😁
Some extra poignant cases
Show has a nice amount of emotional heft, and part of that comes from our primary characters’ personal stories, and part of that comes from the patient cases themselves.
I liked that we got a nice mix of patient cases, and without being too spoilery, I’ll just say that the one that got to me the most, was the one about organ donation.
Thinking about that arc still gives me the poignant feels. 🥲
The inclusion of a loveline for Eun Tak
This loveline is even more secondary to the main story than the OTP loveline, but I actually really liked it.
After watching Do You Like Brahms? (review is here!), I’ve come to really enjoy Kim Min Jae in the leading man space, so when Show introduces a loveline between his character Eun Tak, and Yoon Ah Reum, played by So Ju Yeon, I was really quite pleased.
The moments are rather few and far between, but Show does, on occasion, allow Kim Min Jae to flex his leading man type charms, and I was legitimately thrilled each time. 🤩😁
Also, I do think that Eun Tak and Ah Reum make a very cute couple, so I’m hoping that they get some screen time, in Season 3, which I’m planning to start watching, soon.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
In the end, I thought this was a very fitting finale for this season – and for the show, too, actually, because at the time this finale aired, Season 3 hadn’t yet been confirmed, so this could have potentially been the final act of this story.
The way this story is paced, I actually felt like the entire season went by really fast, and that I wasn’t actually at the finale, if that makes sense?
It felt like I was witnessing an important portion of these characters’ lives, but also, that this wasn’t the end, for them; this was just another part of their journey, and I got the sense that this journey would definitely continue, after the final credits.
Perhaps part of the reason this doesn’t completely feel like a finale, is because it’s only in this episode, that our two couples are officially minted.
Eun Jae finally makes it clear that she does absolutely like Woo Jin back, which is great, because as an audience, it’s been clear for quite a while now, that her heart’s been leaning towards him in a pretty significant way.
And, even though they don’t seem to experience a whole lot of awkwardness moving into couple mode, I find that not very hard to believe, since they’ve been spending so much time together at the hospital, as close friends and comrades, and therefore already know each other well.
Eun Tak also moves to define his relationship with Ah Reum, which is great, because like I said, I think they make a really cute couple. I’m glad that he doesn’t allow her familial connection with Do In Bum throw him off, and instead, promises to be a good boyfriend.
Aw. I hope we get to see that in Season 3. 🥰
The most poignant arc, in the finale, has to be the Doldam team losing Mr. Yeo, who’s been like family to them, for so long.
I’m glad that they all had a chance to say their goodbyes, and I’m also glad that Mr. Yeo himself had that chance to see and be reminded of how loved he was, by all these people, before he passed.
On a somewhat similar familial note, I also liked the idea of everyone coming together to help Woo Jin figure out Master Kim’s diagnosis, out of care and concern for him.
I have to admit I was kind of bummed (and shocked) by the reveal that Master Kim is suffering from multiple sclerosis, but then I was rather relieved to hear Master Kim say that it’s mild, and under control with medication.
For me, the main points of interest in this arc, are:
1, Master Kim getting his surgery, and receiving all the love and concern from everyone; this totally reinforces the idea that this is one big found family, and I am very much here for that, and
2, President Park making the choice not to leave Doldam, but stay, and be the kind of doctor that he actually really wants to be.
That scene of him striding into the ER, dropping his briefcase on the floor and taking off his jacket and rolling up his sleeves with such flourish, was so cool, I literally had stars in my eyes. 🤩 Like, YESSS, this is the man you really are!
And then, to have President Park and Master Kim actually come to an agreement to build Doldam into a trauma center? Priceless.
I love how coolly casual Master Kim is about this, but what really gets to me, are the bright tears in President Park’s eyes, as he faces Master Kim, and tells him that he’s really crazy.
Where before, this had just been a disdainful pronouncement, this is now a friendly acknowledgment, and I love the idea of President Park and Master Kim working together to achieve a common dream.
Last but not least, it’s pretty dramatic, but very much within Show’s DNA, to have that final scene, of Chairman Do getting ready to take down Master Kim and Doldam Hospital, only to be told, that Doldam Hospital is now a separate entity (with Master Kim as CEO, hee!) from Geosan Hospital, and so there is now nothing the Board can do, to get rid of Master Kim, or take down Doldam Hospital.
It’s a little convenient, yes, but Show does try to mitigate that by hinting for some time, leading up to the finale, that Master Kim does still have a trump card in his hands.
ALSO. What’s a little convenient plot development, compared to the satisfaction of seeing Chairman Do so thoroughly foiled, and in such a dramatic, tantrumy fashion? 😁
And, the ridiculousness of his tantrum is just amplified, by how our Doldam team just carries on with their life-saving focus, without paying him too much heed, because now he seems so small and petty, heh.
All in all, this was a highly enjoyable season indeed, and I’m really quite stoked that I now get to sail right into Season 3, to see all of my Doldam friends again. 🥰
As slurpy as it is stirring. Very good.
FINAL GRADE: A-
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