Netflix K-drama Hospital Playlist season two: soothing medical drama returns, with the halls of Yulje Medical Centre very much alive
- The series has the usual romantic entanglements, full of longing and devotion, and that will always play a big part, but it’s first and foremost a serious drama
- Medical shows provide great moments of tension, but Hospital Playlist’s real goal is to comfort viewers thanks to the work of the kind and competent doctors
The halls of Yulje Medical Centre are bustling once more this summer, as we dive into the lives and loves of the Hospital Playlist cast for a second season.
Lee Ik-jun (Jo Jung-suk), Ahn Jeong-won (Yoo Yeon-seok), Kim Jun-wan (Jung Kyung-ho), Yang Seok-hyeong (Kim Dae-myung) and Chae Song-hwa (Jeon Mi-do) experienced a lot ups and down last year, and finished the season on romantic cliffhangers. As season two kicks off we pick up right where they left off.
It’s Christmas Eve and Seok-hyeong has been invited to a romantic dinner by second-year resident Choo Min-ha (Ahn Eun-jin), who was pining after him all through last year. Not sure how to respond, he eventually shoots off a blunt text and is then called in for an emergency by none other than his ex-wife, whose father has been taken ill.
Jeong-won had been preparing to leave the country to become a priest, but he’s had a big change of heart after falling for fellow doctor Jang Gyeo-wool (Shin Hyun-bin). The pair act like giddy high school sweethearts alone, but have to maintain decorum at work as they keep their relationship a secret, though they can’t keep it up for long.
At home, Jun-wan is staring down the package containing a ring he’d sent to his girlfriend Lee Ik-sun (Kwak Sun-young) in London, but which was returned to him. After a call with her, he’s relieved to hear her say that she never even saw it, but the difficulties of their long-distance relationship appear to be taking a toll nonetheless.
That leaves Ik-jun and Song-hwa, who left us with the biggest cliffhanger at the end of last season. Song-hwa now works at a different branch of the hospital, and Ik-jun turned up at her workplace one day and revealed his feelings for a colleague that is clearly her, asking for her “advice”. He’s still waiting for that advice, and although it doesn’t materialise straight away, their friendship has for the moment not been affected.
Since it wouldn’t do much good to resolve any of those stories so early in the new season, aside from largely positive news for Jeong-won and Gyeo-wool, the gang quickly have to put their love quandaries on the back burner as they focus on the serious cases confronting them at work.
Being a Korean drama, these romantic entanglements, full of aching longing and pure devotion, are an important part of the cocktail, but make no mistake about it, Hospital Playlist is first and foremost a medical drama.
The gang are constantly confronted with difficult ethical questions and life-and-death scenarios, and most of the show’s drama comes from the rotating cast of patients the doctors see.
The models for modern medical drama are American hospital shows like ER, Grey’s Anatomy and House, but while these shows and and Hospital Playlist have much in common, the reality of health care and its impact on everyday life in South Korea is very different from how it is in the United States.
Health care in Korea is cheap, people are for the most part insured, and with one of the world’s oldest and most rapidly ageing populations, people there tend to spend more time in medical surroundings.
Medical shows can be great sources of drama, but Hospital Playlist’s real goal is to be a comfort for viewers. Ik-jun, Jeong-won, Jun-wan, Seok-hyeong and Song-hwa are the kind and competent doctors we wish we could have. Yet it’s not just their bedside manner that is attractive, but also their fantastical success rate.
Despite the odds stacked against them, the cast of Hospital Playlist seldom fail. On the rare occasions that they do lose a patient, those left behind generally make a big show of their gratitude, as if the moral rectitude of these doctors alone allows them to move on from their grief.
Cathartic though these moments can be, on an episode-to-episode basis the lack of true obstacles for the characters does a disservice to the show. They haven’t been truly challenged this season and, seeing as how each of them is already so perfect, we’ve been robbed of the chance to watch them grow.
Then again, Hospital Playlist isn’t about reflecting the tribulations of our lives back at us; its prime objective is to soothe the viewer for an hour and a half each week. Our attention is piqued as patients roll through the medical centre’s doors with their drama; our nerves are calmed by the successful medical and sentimental outcomes; and we are lulled to sleep by the cover band that ends each weekly episode.
This is a comfortable and relaxing formula, but hopefully some real drama can find its way into the corridors of Yulje over the next two months.
Hospital Playlist season two is streaming on Netflix.