It feels sorta familiar, and yet totally different. That’s probably a good thing for a franchise show, because you want the brand to be recognizable, but who wants to see the same thing all over again?
That said, there are certain things Dream High 2 does differently than its predecessor which work for this season, and certain things that I think lose sight of what made the first one so endearing. Hint: It wasn’t the musical numbers (which were often great fun to watch) or the singing performance (which featured nice idol voices) or even the acting (which was great in some cases, spotty in others). It was the characters and the realness of their emotions, their connections, and their fighting spirit.
Thankfully, there are a few characters I love, and whenever the drama focuses on them and their central issues, I’m all onboard. But the show also has a tendency to flit from character to character like it’s got the attention span of a flea, and that gets in the way of establishing a solid connection. I hope this season doesn’t forget its heart, because Dream High without heart is just… one long music video.
SONG OF THE DAY
Toxic, singing what is probably titled “Dreaming” although that hasn’t been confirmed yet. This is today’s ending song and it’s apparently a version of Kim Soo-hyun’s “Dreaming” from the Season 1 soundtrack… which you totally cannot hear in the melody, but the lyrics are 99% the same. [ Download ]
Kim Soo-hyun – “Dreaming” from the Dream High 1 OST. [ Download ]
EPISODE 2 RECAP
With OZ’s idol moneymakers heading to Kirin, they shoot a video feature where they talk about the normal-student things they want to do. It’s mostly a PR move; Ri-an’s teammate Ailee makes a sad face and says she’ll be sad to say bye to her old school, and third teammate Nana retorts, “You only went three times anyway.”
JB starts to get serious and talk about violating the underage performers law, but that’s a buzzkill so the other kids shut him up and joke around.
But first, we backtrack to the end of the previous episode, with aspiring rocker Yoo-jin facing off against idol boy JB, both basically calling the other a phony. (One has no authenticity as a musician, and the other has an “I’m a special snowflake artist” chip on his shoulder the size of Korea.)
Thanks to the PA system the whole school hears, and squealing girls mob JB. Yoo-jin crawls his way out of the crowd, while Hae-sung jumps in front of her idol oppa to assure him that she’ll protect him. It doesn’t hurt that this puts her right in his face, and she starts to pucker up, leading JB to scrunch his face and shrink back. Haha.
Sadly for her (and happily for JB), the almost-kiss gets blocked by agency CEO Lee Kang-chul, who takes over and gets the girls to back off.
Once in private, Kang-chul tells JB that he of all people shouldn’t be getting into trouble, given his current punishment stats. JB’s wording regarding the school transfer is telling: “Of all places, why Kirin?” Ah, so the old place still has demons for him, does it? Interesting.
Hae-sung finds that she’s the talk of the day, but not for the reason she wants: Her seance photo has made the rounds, so now her water-soaked face is plastered everywhere. Her guitar-playing friend Hong-joo even paid for the cell phone wallpaper: “I’m a good downloader!” Ha.
Yoo-jin is feeling troubled about his argument with JB, and asks his roommate Eui-bong (the dancer who lost a gig thanks to JB’s stunt) whether he heard it too. Eui-bong slept through it, “But all the girls cursed you. I never knew till now how well girls swear!” Haha.
One of those girls is Hae-sung, who gears up to give Yoo-jin a major ass-whooping for distributing her humiliating photos. She storms into his dorm room, further incensed to see that he’s been playing darts on JB’s face, and declares that she’ll make him apologize. Yoo-jin retorts that he’ll make her leave first, and they start grappling… except her sleeve catches on his earring, which immediately makes him stand still and at her mercy.
Hae-sung smiles smugly and starts to lecture him while holding his ear, gesturing extra-wildly on purpose to keep Yoo-jin dancing to accommodate her movements. All in front of a crowd of students who gather in the hallway, laughing.
Then there’s the matter of the song that JB cleaned up for her, which Yoo-jin trashed. Tomorrow’s the last day she can audition, and if she fails she can’t even try again for another six months. Gee, somebody else has got a six-month timetable. I wonder how this will shake out?
Yoo-jin points out that he offered to fix up the song for her, but she refused. She says he’s not JB — he’s not even close. That stings, and Yoo-jin knocks her hand away from his ear, even though that leaves his earlobe torn and bleeding.
Den mother Jin-man bursts in, sees the blood, and punishes them for fighting by putting them on gum cleanup duty. Ew. Jin-man is uncharacteristically forceful, and the students behind him ooh and ahh, saying he’s just like a real teacher, which makes him grin hugely. Cute.
While scraping gum off the school walkway, Hae-sung sidles up to Yoo-jin to apologize for the ear, which he’s still peevish about.
A group of reporters and students hurry to the front of the school to watch an entourage pull up to the curb. Out of the fancy cars step CEO Kang-chul and his right-hand woman Ji-soo, then the HershE girls, the Eden boys, and another group dressed in hideous animal prints. The OZ family fans out in formation, like an army of ducks.
Ha, apparently Kang-chul was a singer in the ’90s. He gives a press conference, and the media is suspicious that this is a ploy to skirt the underage labor laws. Kang-chul calls it a way to kill two birds with one stone; his idols will get the education and development they need. He’ll also support promising Kirin students by putting them through OZ’s trainee regimen. Those who prove themselves can contract with them.
This sends the students into a frenzy. And also Jin-man, who sees this as his big chance for a debut, too. Even frumpy teacher Tae-yeon is thrilled, ripping up her resignation letter (decorated with tiny hearts) and transforming herself into an appropriately chic, OZ-friendly getup. Aw, no more hippie-nerd Tae-yeon? I liked her looking all Trelawney-fied.
The only person who doesn’t like this is Yoo-jin, practically wearing a sign that screams, “Bah humbug.”
The catch? Kang-chul has a few teeny rules. He explains this in the form of — no kidding — a dance number, led by himself and Ji-soo. (The dance is one of those musical moments wherein we understand that they’re not actually dancing this stuff out in the middle of the school.)
Yeah, it’s a little strange.
The restrictions: No cell phones. No internet. No snacking. No dating. No hand-holding outside of choreography. No playing hooky. No sel-cas. No playing with the brooms, no jump-roping, no leapfrog, no basketball.
You could save yourself a lot of trouble by just saying, “No fun.” Basically you want robots. The students are in shock at the rules, but Hae-sung reasons that you need discipline to become a singer, and that gets the students back onboard.
Ji-soo sits down her OZ idols for a primer on their new school life, which won’t be so much different from idol life at the agency and its dorms. Shi-woo challenges her, saying this is his private life they’re interfering in. Ji-soo replies that the whole country knows about his so-called private life, and coupled with JB’s previous digs about his womanizing ways, I’m thinking Shi-woo must be the scandal-maker amongst them.
Ji-soo’s the stone-cold manager who rules with an iron fist, but damn if I don’t kinda like that about her. She doesn’t seem to be on a power trip, or bitchy as a personality trait; she’s competent at her job to a fearsome degree, and you’ve got to respect that.
Ri-an starts to head out for her movie gig, but Ji-soo icily reminds her of their enforced hiatus, which applies to acting as well as performance work. Ji-soo tells her she’s been replaced anyway, by someone with better acting skills: Eunjung. (It’s double meta, given Eunjung’s tie to Dream High and status as T-ara groupmate.)
Principal Joo is impressed with Kang-chul’s plans for the school, mostly just relieved he won’t be fired. He tells Kang-chul he won’t mess with his teaching methods, which Yoo-jin overhears. He’s frustrated with his do-nothing principal, who has allowed the school to turn into an idol-making factory overnight.
The students receive their rulebooks with dismay, wondering if the teachers really mean to enforce everything. Hae-sung is willing to abide by every last restriction, which earns her puzzled looks from her buddies. When she hears that the idols will be moving in, she gets the idea to throw them a welcome bash.
Yoo-jin goes to the music store and slaps down stacks of cash, having finally earned enough to buy “my baby.” He means a guitar, of course.
That night the idols are left waiting on the front step of the dorm in the cold, having been told that they can’t come in until they’re all there. They’re still missing Shi-woo, but Ri-an lies and says they’ve all arrived, and the door opens. (She wonders, “Are they dumb?”)
They’re greeted with possibly the oddest sight ever: The kids are all dressed up in extravagant costumes, and Hae-sung leads them in a lip-synched rendition of T-ara’s “Roly Poly,” with the retro outfits and everything.
Then the song switches over to a boys’ performance of 2NE1’s “I’m the Best,” led by Jin-man.
This… is weird. Not weird that they’re performing, but that the production values are so slick that this looks straight out of a music video and not a real scene. It’s meta in a discordant way.
Plus, the fact that is just sort of goes on.
Nana and Ailee sing a duet, and then a Kirin boy tap-dances. Everybody gets into the spirit of the party, except for JB and Ri-an, who stand off to the side with bored looks on their faces.
Okay, drama, I get that you’re a music show, but let’s not get carried away by making this just one long music video. I won’t deny that it’s cute, but all kind of extraneous. Can we have the story back, please?
No? I guess not, because here we go again:
I mean, it’s cute:
But it just goes on forever, and what’s the point?
The extremely long musical sequence displays on a TV like it’s from a fictional Glee-like show. When the TV shuts off, we’re back to drama-reality. The Kirin kids face off against the OZ kids with arms crossed, and now the atmosphere is tense between the two factions.
Watching are the two teachers, Jin-man and Tae-yeon, as the “highlight” of the night unfolds. The Kirin kids tell the idols to pay up for the performance they just watched, and grab at their expensive bags, accessories, and in the case of Ri-an, strands of hair.
The girls mob JB and grab his backpack and outerwear. Hae-sung dives for a CD that falls out of his bag — does the stoic idol boy really carry around an action figure? — and takes it.
Tae-yeon calls everyone to order, rescuing JB and announcing that she will be the teacher in residence in the dorm. She gives out room assignments — JB is rooming with Shi-woo (he doesn’t like that), while Ri-an gets Hae-sung’s room. Tae-yeon explains being short of space, so students whose grades are unsatisfactory have to move out in two weeks. There are a number of affected students, including Soon-dong, Hong-joo, dancer Eui-bong… and Hae-sung.
Hae-sung says there must be some mistake — she’s the student head of the dorm, and she’s on the honor roll. Tae-yeon says that the new grades are based on their artistic grades, and while her academics are high, her practical application skills are null.
Hae-sung is stunned to be told that she was only brought to Kirin on her academic merit, while the students look on in pity, including Yoo-jin. In denial, Hae-sung insists she passed the audition, and runs off in tears.
Kang-chul goes through the student database jotting down notes, which he hides from sight when Jin-man bursts in, worried he’s being fired. Kang-chul explains that he only wants him to step down from overseeing the dorm; he gets to keep his teaching job. Jin-man tells him sadly that he has nowhere to go, but Kang-chul just directs him to find a nice place somewhere else. Or, alternately, he could take up residence on the school rooftop.
Jin-man sadly heads to the tiny room, tearfully remembering when he was scouted to join Kirin and taught Season 1’s talents. Aw, now that’s sad.
Hae-sung takes a trip down memory lane too, remembering what she went through to come to Kirin in the first place. She’d lied to her minister dad about the type of school it was, then ran to the church when he found out, insisting, “Father! Remember where you are!” Haha, she cracks me up, calling on his godly ways to escape punishment. He’d scoffed at her wishes of becoming a singer, but she’d promised to work hard and lose weight — younger Hae-sung was chubby, much like Pil-sook — to realize her dream.
Hae-sung’s locked out of the dorm so she heads to the school, and remembers the CD she’d grabbed from JB. It’s labeled “Good,” and JB is currently digging madly through his things for it. (And yes, he does in fact have a bag of toys. Ha.)
Hae-sung watches slack-jawed at the screen, which looks like… porn? Lol. Well that explains the cryptic labeling. JB mutters with mortification, “The shame… This can’t be happening.” He tries to convince himself there’s no way rumors will spread or leak onto the internet. Though really, it’s not like it’s homemade porn or anything; it’s just some movie he picked up somewhere.
Yoo-jin happens to be hanging out in the room, and he sneaks up behind Hae-sung to tease her about it. She calls him out for taking joy in her embarrassment and turns to leave, but Yoo-jin offers her his sleeping nook, which he’s already got set up with blankets.
Ri-an drops by the movie director’s office hoping to smooth things over after being dropped from the film. She asks him to tell her what she’s lacking so she can work on it, offering to demonstrate the scene she worked so hard on. It’s sweet of her in that she knows she’s a bad actress but aspires to be better. Maybe she’s kind of like Hae-sung in that way, dreaming big despite her limitations.
But the director is confused; he didn’t fire her. It was her agency that withdrew her from the project, saying that she needed to focus on her studies.
In the morning, Kang-chul and Ji-soo enter his office to find Yoo-jin sleeping in his chair. They wake him, ready to berate him for his impudence, but his comment signals a greater concern: He’d gotten locked out of the dorm and found this office open, which is why he chose to nap here. Kang-chul heads for his desk to check on his files, finding that his secret list has been taken.
They accuse Yoo-jin of messing with his papers, which he denies. He gets ushered out by Principal Joo, who scolds him for entering the director’s office. Whatever was on the list must be important, because Kang-chul warns Ji-soo that they need to recover it before it gets out and causes trouble.
There’s a new checkpoint instated at the school today, with teachers checking for contraband cell phones. Hae-sung clears the line, then cheers up to see somebody and heads down the hall beaming.
Coming from the other direction is Yoo-jin, who brightens to see her approach and waves cheerfully… only to have her turn into a doorway at the last second. JB, naturally.
Hae-sung hands him his “Good” disc, which he pretends is a gift from her. She goes with it, saying meaningfully that he should make sure to keep it secret from others, and JB readily agrees. Yoo-jin watches and grimaces.
Ri-an confronts Kang-chul about the movie. She’s not so much angry as she is desperate to find inroads to acting. She reminds him that she became a singer because he told her that singing would get her into acting faster — ha, as this drama proves quite readily — and that she did everything he told her to do, all so that she could act.
Kang-chul says he pulled her from the project because she was so terrible he was embarrassed to watch her, and she says she was so overworked that she didn’t have time to rehearse her lines. She wants to change schools and requests an acting coach.
Dance class. Ji-soo leads her idols in a dance routine, which the Kirin students then have to replicate. As we might expect, the result is the difference between watching Step Up and Napoleon Dynamite.
Ji-soo rips into the kids for sucking, and in particular Yoo-jin for not even trying. He retorts that the idols have been dancing forever and today is just their first day. Ji-soo corrects him: The idols just learned the dance today, too. That Team Kirin is so bad means they’ve never bothered to put in the effort.
Then Yoo-jin challenges, “Do you have to dance to be a singer?” She tells him that learning Korean literature requires more than just the Korean language, and tells everyone not to come to dance class until they’ve sweat at least a liter.
Half the class vacates, and Ji-soo turns over the song to JB. But before he can start, up comes Eui-bong, once JB’s backup dancer and now rarin’ to prove that he’s got just as much dance prowess. He literally gets in his face and dances up a storm in front of him.
JB is dismissive, shoving Eui-bong aside and half-assing some dance steps with his hands still in his pocket, like he won’t even bother engaging.
One more dick-waving dance pass from Eui-bong, however, and JB’s temper gets going. He takes a turn, taking on the challenge, all aggression and posturing.
I actually think the dance looks half-silly, but I appreciate the fact that the steps are basically air-punches and kicks, and you get the sense these boys would be fighting for real if they could. It’s a choreographed battle that ends with JB knocking Eui-bong down and looming over him as he claims “victory.”
Meanwhile, we get a glimpse of that troublesome list, and it’s in the unexpected hands of Shi-woo, who reads the names of all the students designated for expulsion, and the reasons for it. Among those grounds are lack of artistic skill and bad behavior. Looks like Kang-chul’s working a “cut first, make excuses later” operation.
Surprisingly, Shi-woo’s on the list too — for out of control behavior. He laughs grimly, saying, “I knew this place would be a tomb.”
Back at Dance-Off Central, Yoo-jin steps in all pissed off at JB’s disrespect of his friend, and shoves him back. He raises his fist, which Eui-bong grabs to prevent a fight, and damn this scene would be great if JB could emote.
Eui-bong tells both boys to cut it out. Yoo-jin finally lowers his fist, and JB snipes, “Dumbass.” Yeah, well that’s one way to stir up trouble that’s just been calmed.
Yoo-jin turns back and the stare-down resumes as he fumes. JB tells him not to mess around in “my practice studio,” and Yoo-jin takes issue with that wording. So JB repeats, “Yeah, MY practice studio.”
That’s the end of Episode 2, but there’s a tag afterward showing us the full performance of Yoo-jin and his band from Episode 1, which features a cameo by Toxic, a two-member (guitarist and drummer) rock band that won the competition Top Band. The song is the one posted at top.
There are good and bad things about the show, but I have to say, I’m not really feeling it. I’m engaged in any scene involving Hae-sung and Yoo-jin (and also Jin-man although we know right off the bat that he won’t be carrying big storylines). But it feels like the show was in such a rush to introduce us to everybody that it didn’t grasp a core sentiment or conflict.
The big conflict is there, and I like it — the polished idols versus the third-raters at Kirin — but we’re still dancing around the characters’ conflicts, and I want more of that. Last year, we had to wait a few episodes to introduce everybody, and while I was dying to see some people (Kim Soo-hyun) sooner, I think that for the story they were telling, we needed time to flesh out the Hye-mi/Baek-hee rivalry. Here, we’re getting little glimpses at Hae-sung and Yoo-jin, but I still don’t get what they’re about.
Hae-sung’s realization that she’s not talented was a wonderful beat that should’ve had more impact, but I feel like we’ve gotten so little about one of our best actors and characters. It makes me wonder what we’re supposed to want for her — to succeed when she has no talent? Or to find a new dream, despite being in this world?
What I do like about the character setup, which the original Dream High also did well, is that nobody’s completely right or completely wrong. I enjoyed the JB/Yoo-jin idol-versus-Artist argument yesterday, and I’m intrigued to see where the situation flipped around on them, but we barely got any of that. I love the idea of JB being a wannabe musician, an Artist-with-a-capital-A, and having this inferiority complex about it — it’s why he auditioned with guitar when he’s better at dancing, right?
It’s too bad, then, that JB is such a weak actor. He may not be the most terrible actor ever, but he happens to be the least effective at delivering what he needs to. If his were a minor role I wouldn’t care, but he’s got this rich, complex character and he’s barely getting a fraction of the emotion across.
Eui-bong may have lost the dance-off, but he was killing him in the emoting department. As was Jung Jin-woon, who I know is an idol but don’t really know anything about otherwise. I just know that he’s doing so much better that it’s a shame he has to play that angst and rivalry against a wooden counterpart. JB is actually much better playing cute than fierce and glowering; sadly, the role requires lots of fierce glowering.
Plus, Jin-woon has a great face; not in the sense of him being good-looking (though he does have a certain Park Shi-hoo-ian appeal), but in the sense that he’s expressive and hits lots of diverse facial expressions. It makes it fun to watch him, because he’s willing to go there, wherever that is.
Sadly, not only did we waste 10 minutes on dance numbers that had little point, they also took away time we could have been developing the story. It feels like the production needed to up the ante from the first season and give us More-More-More, answering that in the way of Glee-inspired wackiness. And had the segment been, say, a minute long, I’d have been onboard. But the Teacher Rule Dance, Roly Poly, I Am the Best, Nana/Ailee, and all those other songs? Waste of time. We don’t need to see music videos re-created in drama form.
All that aside, I think the show has definite potential. I’m seeing a lot of rich setups for the future: idols versus musicians, talent versus hard work, inferiority versus arrogance. In the first series, the students at the school aspired to be picked up by the big agencies and launched as idols. Here, the hotshots are already idols, so it’s a heightened underdog rivalry. It’s not about which group of trainees wins, but much more an uneven Mighty Ducks scenario.
I do think the drama’s setup and potential are more engaging at present than the actuality of the show, so a lot of my hopes are based on what I think the show could be, and what Season 1 was. I really hope Season 2 picks up next week, because otherwise I can’t see myself sticking with it.
- Dream High 2: Episode 2
- Sam-dong returns: Kim Soo-hyun lines up Dream High 2 cameo
- Dream High 2’s official poster released
- Dream High 2 unveils its idols-within-the-drama HershE
- Dream High 2 finalizes its cast
- Kim Jung-tae joins Dream High 2
- T-ara’s Ji-yeon cast in Dream High 2
- Dream High concert and final thoughts
- Dream High: Episode 1