K-drama Poong, the Joseon Psychiatrist Season 2: period medical drama starring Kim Min-jae moves from countryside to royal palace
- Poong, the Joseon Psychiatrist returns for a second season and this time, the Gyesu Clinic crew are plying their trade in the Joseon capital
- Season 2 gets by on the strength of its characters’ easy camaraderie, but it is not yet clear what the overarching narrative will be for this 10-episode run
Yoo Se-poong (Kim Min-jae) and the motley crew of the Gyesu Clinic are back in business and this time they are plying their trade in the streets and palaces of Hanyang, the capital of South Korea’s Joseon dynasty that is today known as Seoul.
Operating from their new Hanyang Branch, Se-poong and the older, but not necessarily wiser, physician Gye Ji-han (Kim Sang-kyung) head out on their rounds treating mysterious ailments for all manner of patients, be they at the top or the bottom of the social ladder.
Meanwhile, the rest of the crew get up to their usual shenanigans, bickering their way through the day back at the clinic.
Despite the change in location, which gives Se-poong and Ji-han occasion to frequently visit the royal palace, the main difference compared with Season 1 is the absence of the young physician Seo Eun-woo (Kim Hyang-gi), who was whisked off to an island by her father last year.
But fear not, as the innocent but perceptive Eun-woo returns to the Gyesu fold before long.
The first major case occupying the days of the Gyesu Clinic staff involves none other than the royal palace – specifically, a growing group of vomiting court maids that the Royal Medical Office believes to be suffering from food poisoning.
Se-poong and Ji-han are not convinced of this but neither do they give credence to the rumours swirling around the palace that the mysterious illness is connected to a series of ghost sightings.
Even the king (Oh Kyung-joo) has been struck with ghostly sightings of the treacherous Cho Tae-hak, who met his end at the end of last season.
If it were not already difficult enough to get to the bottom of the usual illness spreading within the court retinue of servants, Se-poong and Gye-han are also stymied by the petty ranks of the Royal Medical Office, who stubbornly refuse to change their incorrect diagnoses and instead spend all their time attempting to discredit Gyesu Clinic and have its physicians tossed out of the palace.
Season 2 glides by on the strength of its genial camaraderie and easy-to-follow narrative but it must be said that even now, the show is struggling to live up to its name.
Back at the start of Poong, the Joseon Psychiatrist, Se-poong was the royal acupuncturist and after an incident involving the previous king, he was exiled from the palace and lost his ability to coolly handle an acupuncture needle.
Stripped of his main vocation, he edged into new forms of medicine. Yet while he has occasionally thought his way through medical cases by interpreting human behaviour, it would be a stretch to call him a psychiatrist and that has not changed at all in this new season.
The stories on screen do not necessarily suffer from this, but the constant expectation that a richer psychological tangent may be just around the corner creates the effect of leaving us wanting more.
Eun-woo eventually returns to Gyesu, to the delight of everyone at the clinic but particularly Se-poong, who is utterly smitten and tends to lose his cool around her – quite a contrast to the unflappable young physician who usually has no trouble standing toe-to-toe with the king or anyone in his official office.
Another person who cannot shake Se-poong is the beautiful but bratty princess Lee Seo-yi (Woo Da-vi), who locks her sights on Se-poong early and does everything in her power to throw herself at him, which includes hitting him with an out-of-the-blue and aggressive marriage proposal, which he coldly brushes off.
Also in the king’s court is the royal physician Jeon Gang-il (Kang Young-seok), who is aligned with the head of the Royal Medical Office and thus at odds with the Gyesu Clinic, although he shows signs of independent thought and mistrust in his thin-skinned superior.
Eun-woo’s appearance also has an effect on Gang-il, who suddenly tries to find ways to be by her side, something that does not escape Se-poong’s notice.
Meanwhile, Se-poong’s rebuff of Seo-yi has unintentional consequences for the Gyesu Clinic. She does not take the snub lightly as she refocuses her love for Se-poong into revenge.
Outside the royal palace, Ji-han’s daughter Ip-bun (Kim Soo-an) attempts to spread her wings and fly as a burgeoning fashion designer but she finds no support at home; when she thinks she finds support on the outside, she lands herself in a spot of bother.
Coming to her aid, though no one knows it, is Se-poong’s trusty servant Man-bok (Ahn Chang-hwan). We have always known Man-bok as a lovable but clumsy helper in Se-poong’s travels, but it turns out he had a former life in Hanyang as “Castor Bean”, a formidable and fearsome criminal and head of a fiercely loyal gang.
While the Gyesu Clinic solves the mystery illness running through the palace within the first two episodes, it clearly will not be long until they are summoned to the palace again.
But it is not yet clear what the overarching narrative will be for this 10-episode second season, beyond Se-poong and Eun-woo dealing with their secondary romantic interests.
Poong, the Joseon Psychiatrist Season 2 is streaming on Viu.