I guess that I was in the mood for this one because I started and finished it within a few days. Maybe it’s because I was familiar with the (majority of) cast at the Belle Epoque and wanted to continue their stories, but it was probably also due to my preference for contemporary dramas that don’t shy away from some tricky questions. I’ll try to avoid being to spoiler-y in my thoughts, after the jump.
Let’s start with the cast changes. I liked the brassy Kang Yi-na, played by Ryu Hwa-young, but didn’t mind her prolonged absence in this series. The actress seems to be plagued by ‘scandals’ and they scaled back her appearances, but she does appear though, in ways that make sense in terms of continuity, and retaining the feeling of the sisterhood that developed at the share house). But I also really liked the introduction of the ‘gentle giant’ Cho, or Jo Eun (who’s name translates to “good person”), played by newcomer Choi Ah-ra.
The character was a real change of pace for most dramas; she’s a tall (over 5’10”) and slim but not willowy shy boyish figure, with a short haircut, makeup-free face, and a tomboy’s wardrobe. She also has a very close girlfriend who is very attention-needy and this gives off a lovers vibe to the housemates (who weigh up how the introduction of this type of relationship might fit into their world). It’s a simple conversation, but not preachy or judgmental, and I appreciated the inclusion in the storyline. The reasons for her coming to live at the house add to a major plot and create a minor subplot for herself as she comes to the house with her own family story. Her storyline with Kim Min-suk is cute and their height differences is used subtley for humor, and overall it’s a well-done introduction to first love story.
The aftermath of the Ye-eun storyline as she copes with her dating violence PTSD is refreshing (for Korea) as it serves to remind people that A) dating violence is real (and is on the rise in increasingly mysogonistic when it comes to professional young women in Korea), B) therapy is a good and necessary thing, and C) it’s not always easy being supportive of someone who is recovering from trauma.
The actress switch (update?) for Eun-jae (who had her first-love storyline in Season 1) is a little weird, but not so much as to distract. I’m not sure why they didn’t continue with Park Hye-soo (they discovered she wasn’t that compelling of an actress?), but Ji Woo seems more experienced and surely handles some aspects of her developing storyline better than Park Hye-soo might have.
The show-off Ji-won (Park Eun-bin) continues to remind me of Theater Majors everywhere, even though she’s a Journalism Major, but this season explores the dark reasons behind her mythomania and obsession with sex. Very dark. But also very current in terms of what’s happening today. I like her frustrated friend and colleague Sung-min (the actor playing him gets to be intelligent and manly, a nice contrast to his current timid and nerdy one in Go Go Waikiki), and the way he’s a real, supportive friend — the kind who will lend a hand without hesitating and chew you out when you do something stupid.
The house son-bae Jin-myung sets out into the professional world and lands a job that explores a different side of a world we’ve seen done before, and not from the pretty side. But it’s handled with the same kind of realism and honesty as we see in all of the other storylines. In looking up the actor who enters the story in her arc I just realized where I’d seen him before: he’s Bong-soo’s doctor brother in Strong Woman Do Bong Soon. But it’s not a noona romance thing, fortunately, as they don’t make Jin-myung the fickle type. They do a good job, in fact, of maintaining the continuity of the story, and even if her boyfriend from Season 1 can’t be in it all the time, he has small cameos that fit in logically with the story, the same way Ryu Hwa-young’s do.
Oh, and these guys… they toss out an “8 years later” teaser towards the end that is never explained. I think they’re hoping to do further seasons — and I hope they do too.