After a year-long wait, the second season of Hospital Playlist began airing in June. The much anticipated second installment has been achieving high viewership ratings as it picks up where the first season left off. For both better and for worse, the second season follows a similar formula to the first season.

This review contains spoilers.

The cast of the second season is almost identical to the first. The drama is centred around five friends and doctors at Yulje Medical Centre: Lee Ik-jun, (Jo Jung-suk) a professor of general surgery; Chae Song-hwa (Jeon Mi-do) a professor of neurosurgery; Ahn Jeong-won (Yoo Yeon-suk) a pediatrics professor; Kim Jun-wan (Jung Kyung-ho) a cardiothoracic professor; and Yang Seok-hyung (Kim Dae-myung) a professor of obstetrics and gynecology. Many of the stellar surrounding cast remain the same as well, with some minor changes.

Halfway through the second season, there have been some notable differences in relationships between the first and second season. Jang Gyeo-ul (Shin Hyun-bin), a resident in general surgery, and Jeong-won are now a couple, following their kiss towards the end of the first season. They are one of the first official couples of the season, and although the drama does tease for other relationships, audiences will know that the drama is anything but hasty. While Jeong-won gets his happy ending for now, Jun-wan faces the opposite dilemma. His secret relationship with Ik-jun’s sister Lee Ik-sun (Kwak Sun-young), comes to a heartbreaking conclusion. As the drama is liberal with its time jumps and takes its time with lovelines, the fates of the couples are hard to predict and a part of the gentle intrigue of the series.

As the drama is centered around the five longtime friends and doctors, their scenes together continue to be some of the most enjoyable parts of the episodes. Since part of their friendship revolves around being in a casual band together, their obligatory jam sessions in each episode more often than not fit the overall tone of each episode. They center the drama, and remind the audience that despite the sometimes dramatic instances at the hospital, at the end of the day doctors are humans just like everybody else. They have friends, flaws, and weaknesses, and have their own individual lives outside of the hospital.

Though the drama does mostly take place at Yulje Medical Center, being a doctor or resident or intern is never the focus of anyone’s character. Instead, much like last season, their jobs are used to demonstrate personal characteristics and development. For instance, a doctor in the same department as Jun-wan, Cheon Myung-tae (Choi Young-woo), is dismissive of his patients and their concerns. He rushes through his appointments with them, appearing to be more concerned with finishing his work than making sure his patients are okay. Jun-wan, on the other hand, appears to be reserved with his patients at first; however, he thoughtfully explains details to his patients and even addresses concerns his patients are too intimidated to ask. Despite being known as the prickly one in his friend group, his care and dedication to his work and patients are demonstrated through a scene that could be dismissed as one of no importance.

Along with the great continuation from the last season, there are of course updates and answers to questions posed in the first season. As mentioned, the Winter Garden couple, composed of Gyeo-ul and Jeong-won, is now in a happy relationship. Following their first kiss, their development into an official couple happens off-screen. Their status as a couple is not the defining characteristic of Gyeo-ul or Jeong-won, and there are other characters and plots that the drama needs to focus on.

Another major question that viewers had was about the fate of Ik-jun and Song-hwa. Following his confession and her move to Sokcho in the last episode of the first season. They remain good friends (for now), and it is refreshing to see two adults who clearly respect and cherish each other remain as good friends. It should be noted that Song-hwa’s move to Sokcho ultimately had no effect on the dynamics of the friends. The drama has a habit of teasing for dramatic events that turn out to be inconsequential, and Song-hwa’s move to Sokcho is a plot point that can be categorized as such. As the drama progresses into the second half of the season, their relationship and feelings are just one story of many the drama is expected to shed light on.

On the topic of relationships, some of the best dynamics so far have been the several mentor-mentee relationships. Jun-wan and Do Jae-hak (Jung Moon-sung), a charming and extroverted chief resident of cardiothoracics, build upon their relationship from last season as they continue to learn from each other. While Jae-hak was more clingy in the first season, they switch roles this time as Jun-wan seems to be more childish and initiates the two of them spending time together. As characters with opposing personalities, their scenes as grumpy mentor and bubbly mentee are often light-hearted and good comedic relief.

A slightly subtler dynamic exists between Song-hwa and Heo Seon-bin (Ha Yoon-Kyung), a resident in neurosurgery. Seon-bin has obvious respect both professionally and personally for Song-hwa, and Song-hwa reciprocates that with advice and assistance. As Song-hwa is the only woman in her friend group, it is always lovely to see Song-hwa and the other women at the hospital interact.

Indeed, some of the mentees and the other characters surrounding the five doctors are arguably some of the standouts of the season so far. This has to do with their continuing growth, not just as love interests for the five main characters but as their own individuals and doctors. Gyeo-ul, who becomes a fellow after her years as a resident, is upset as she needs Ik-jun to step into her surgery because she is having trouble. However, she comes to terms with the fact that learning is never a linear line upwards, and that mistakes are a part of anybody’s life. Seon-bin is also relatable, as she faces a dilemma in which has to follow her senior’s orders or follow her gut instinct when it comes to treating a patient. 

In contrast, the five main protagonists remain relatively stagnant. While they are not without their own flaws, such as Song-hwa being a pushover when it comes to accepting more work responsibilities, or Seok-hyung struggling to reach out to others, they are most often the ones giving lessons instead of receiving them. The drama is not unaware of this fact; Jeong-won is often described by others at the hospital as being a flawless doctor and individual. As welcome as it is to see a drama with such a gentle tone and kind individuals, the characters could be improved if they faced more of their own learning curves. For example, Seok-hyung, based on Song-hwa’s advice, becomes more active in answering and reciprocating the questions from Chu Min-ha (Ahn Eun-jin), a resident in obstetrics and gynecology. A subtle scene, it wonderfully demonstrates Seok-hyung taking the first step in actively showing his affection for the people he cares about. Hopefully more scenes such as these are on the way in the second half of the drama as the five friends face their own predicaments, such as Song-hwa’s feelings for Ik-jun.

Overall, the drama continues to be intriguing but heartwarming and gentle. It continues to excel in what made it such a beloved drama, but does leave some room for improvement. Now halfway through its second season, there is a lot to look forward to for the five friends and the rest of the cast at Yulje Medical Center.

(Images via tvN)