Earth Arcade, a 2022 crowd favourite, returns for a second season after a year-long wait. Following their adventures to Bangkok, Koh Samui, and Gangwon-do in the pilot season, Lee Eun-ji, Oh My Girl’s Mimi, rapper, Lee Young-ji, and Ive’s Yujin find themselves in Finland and Bali this time. 

In keeping with its “arcade” lore, games are key to the show. After a successful first season, Earth Arcade brings back familiar games while also introducing new ones. Popular ones, such as Nana’s snack shop, the zombie game, the challenging morning mission, and the “Guess Who?” quiz, return. To spice things up, the crew puts forth a few new games, such as a simple game of hide and seek, and a well-planned escape room. And thanks to these games, they create new on-screen characters, such as Young-ji as the self-appointed “K-Culture president”, and Mimi as “toruk makto”.

This season also places a greater emphasis on Torong’s storyline as part of Earth Arcade‘s lore. Torong, the cast’s perpetual “enemy”, has proven its appeal (and profitability) as an independent brand, even hosting its own pop-up store and attending a fan meet. That said, it’s no surprise that the second season finds the crew sticking to its premise and even expanding Torong’s fictitious universe, with a big portion of episodes five and six dedicated to chasing after Torong and building its story.

While the games are fun and the views in Finland and Bali are stunning, it’s the cast’s perfect chemistry and wit that propels this season forward. From a wider perspective, Earth Arcade includes primarily of “recycled” games from New Journey to the West, with a few new ones thrown in for good measure. On the most basic level, considering how games allow the cast to produce amusing and viral moments that may reinforce their on-screen characters (just like P.O on New Journey to the West where he scored commercials thanks to his viral moment), New Journey to the West finds itself focusing heavily on games and less on the “off-camera” moments. Earth Arcade, however, does the opposite yet achieves the same result. 

As an avid variety show viewer, one way to gauge the cast’s compatibility is to see what they do when the PD takes a step back from directing them. Fortunately, even when they are no games, the cast is funny and their chemistry is gold.

A significant portion of the show is dedicated to their random antics, which Young-ji initiates, Eun-ji supports her from behind, and Yu-jin and Mimi are the icing on the cake. For the most part, the playful quartet makes fun of Na PD, begs him to let them play fun games, dives into adlib skits, and bursts into song. At other times, they showcase their sweet friendship, buying gifts for one another during their spare time, and even going for spin classes together on their own accord (which was previously a punishment). 

In another episode, they’re equally inseparable as they gladly partake in a punishment (a tiresome four-course tour), as Yujin urges Na PD to let them do everything together. As the most proactive member, Young-ji even voluntarily coordinates and films a dance challenge cover of Ive’s “I Am” as a sequel to “Love Dive” from season one.

The cast has this young endless energy that keeps the show going while keeping Na PD on his toes. A big part of the chemistry is not only the one between the members, but also between the cast and Na PD, where they daringly challenge societal hierarchy, particularly that of age and seniority. Despite being a respected PD and being more than twice the age of the youngest members, they fearlessly make fun of him. Yujin, for example, unearths a video of Na PD from 20 years ago, Young-ji interrogates him about his first love, and the quartet daringly criticises Na PD for wearing the same clothes as the day before.

In comparison to New Journey to the West, which relies heavily on games, it becomes clear why Earth Arcade decides to show fewer of those scenes and instead focuses on their friendship. While Earth Arcade has been compared to New Journey to the West, personally, while New Journey to the West is funny in its own way, it may feel slightly outdated when it returns in the future. 

With that, it appears as if the crew has figured out what works: genuine female friendships produce good chemistry. We’ve seen way too many male friendships on TV, and female friendships have been absent for the longest time. Even when we do see female friendships on screen, they are often presented as catty friends. In other words, we rarely see women interacting with other women in a realistic manner. Earth Arcade, however, subverts stereotypes and shows just that. In turn, every episode has been heartwarming and pleasant, especially when we see them having fun on their own, often reminding us of high school girls on a school trip. 

With the closing scene quickly confirming a third season, it once again proves Na PD’s confidence in the members’ chemistry. And to say that I’m excited about the upcoming season is definitely an understatement. 

(Youtube[1][2][3][4][5][6]. Images via tvN.)