Really, IRIS 2 is happening after all?
They’ve been talking of this for years, but nothing ever came of it and I thought the idea had been shelved. But the latest news is that the drama sequel to 2009’s action-thriller is (back?) in pre-production and courting Jang Hyuk (Tree With Deep Roots, Chuno) as the hero. Jang’s agency confirmed that they received the offer and that he’s considering it favorably, though of course that comes with usual caveats about decisions not being final.
According to president Jung Tae-won of IRIS’s production company Taewon Entertainment, IRIS 2 is currently in planning stages, and the producers intend to announce its broadcast and casting plans soon. Vaguest announcement ever, no? No word yet on what kind of story it’ll be, other than that it picks up three years after the end of the first series.
The time skip is understandable since they’ll be without first season hero Lee Byung-heon, who announced early on that he wouldn’t reprise his role in a sequel. So they’d need a new hero anyway, even if his character hadn’t met his untimely end in truly aggravating fashion at the end of Season 1. Urg.
But here’s the thing about an IRIS sequel: Does anyone care anymore?
I don’t mean that IRIS was a bad show, because I certainly enjoyed watching it, but with regards to a sequel it sorta feels like it missed its window. When the show premiered with a bang (pun not intended, though always appreciated) and recorded impressive 30%+ ratings, there was a ton of excitement about creating a franchise out of it — before it had even wrapped, Taewon was announcing IRIS movies, sequels, comics, and spin-offs.
Then Athena came along and tanked in the ratings, and by all accounts (I didn’t stick around for that one) the story was also a mess. It sure seems like Taewon was in such a hurry to capitalize on the brand that they scrambled to meet demand before making sure there was demand.
I’m always game for a thrilling spy drama, and IRIS did boast impressive cinematography and action scenes. But in the three years that have passed, the drama landscape has upgraded quite a bit, and this is no longer the hot action kid on the block — there are darker, more tightly written, more emotionally pulsing action thrillers around.
I always thought IRIS felt conceptualized as a franchise first, drama second. That showed in the writing, which was more sizzle than steak. So IRIS 2 really has to up its game to stay level with this playing field — although yes, IRIS helped raise the level of play in the first place. That’s the way of the world, though: keep up or get left behind.
Also: I thought Jang Hyuk wanted to get away from action roles, to keep from being type-cast. It’s why he decided against Gaksital, isn’t it? (Side note: How different would that show have been with him as Kang-to? Jang Hyuk is capable of killing it with dark and intense roles, but just by casting him the tenor of the show changes — they’d have to cast an older Shunji as well, and part of why their friendship and rift broke my heart was seeing them both in the full bloom of youthful idealism, before they transformed into battle-weary foes.)
Annnnyway, IRIS 2 is aiming for a February 2013 premiere, though seeing as how it has yet to secure a broadcaster, that date may change.