Dr. Romantic 2: Kdrama Review

I’ve never watched an episode of the first season of Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim, first because I was confused by the title and second because I didn’t want to see my crush Yoo Yeon Seok kissing another woman. However, even without an idea about the original series, I immediately vowed to watch Dr. Romantic 2 because of lead stars Lee Sung Kyung and Ahn Hyeo Seop, whom I started shipping so badly since I first saw the first clip of the drama. Upon watching the series’ entirety though, I get why the first season was such a hit. This series is seriously an outstanding medical drama.

Synopsis: With three of his ace doctors indisposed, Kim Sabu (Han Suk Kyu) is in a pickle. He is severely understaffed and needs new doctors to meet the workload at Doldam Hospital. Seeking help from his contacts at Geode, he lands himself a talented but troubled general surgeon Seo Woo Jin (Ahn Hyeo Seop), a poor orphan is being chased by loan sharks and ostracized by his colleagues. On the other hand, he also gets a brilliant cardio surgeon who suffers severe nausea at the idea of operating Cha Eun Jae (Lee Sung Kyung). Adding to these two second-year fellows is Yun Ah Reum (So Joo Yeon), a cheerful fourth-year intern. Amid all the chaos of daily life at Doldam, an old enemy rises returns to take down Kim Sabu and Doldam once again.

Warning: Some minor *spoilers* included 

There are plenty of things to love about Dr. Romantic 2, apart from the love line. I liked that viewers can enjoy watching the second season without having any idea about Season 1. Sure, there were villains and issues carried over, and there were references to previous characters too, but the writing takes everything in stride and presents everything at a pace so that new fans can understand and feel connected to the two editions.

I love that the show reminded me so much of Grey’s Anatomy, a show that I followed for 10 seasons. The voice-over narrations, the fast-paced and unique cases, the operations and great OST. It was cool to see the characters discussing the procedures like real doctors and explaining the situation by way of written texts at the bottom of the screen. They also did this with the medical jargons that they used in order to get the viewers familiar with the terms.

I liked the fact that they depicted the competitive atmosphere of the OR and the tension that went with each procedure. While the politics was at play for Geode doctors, Doldam staff remained true to their values and convictions until the end — showing their loyalty, kindness and dedication to save people. The characters looked and felt like a solid cohesive unit with Kim Sabu at the center.

Character Development

Through it all, I loved the evolution of the characters, especially for the jaded Seo Woo Jin and the straightlaced Cha Eun Jae. I loved their individual evolution and subsequent love story because it felt like it happened at the same time. Ahn Hyeo Seop did a great job portraying the tortured Seo Woo Jin, his helplessness, his stoicism, his skills and his talents. He showed equal amounts of vulnerability and strength with a maturity that belied his age.

From an insecure people-pleaser to a bad*ss surgeon, Lee Sung Kyung’s portrayal of her character Cha Eun Jae was a wonderful mix of the toughness of Kim Bok Joo and fierceness of Baek In Ha. From involving Seo Woo Jin in her schemes to protecting the rights of women, talking back to her senior and even slapping him in the back of the head as revenge for past abuses, Cha Eun Jae did not shy away from conflict. In fact, she faced them with courage, standing up for what is right and protecting her patients, Kim Sabu and Seo Woo Jin.

Slow Burn

Believe me, I was so frustrated to see the strong chemistry between Lee Sung Kyung and Ahn Hyeo Seop especially from the college montage only to see these two pussyfoot around each other for some 15 episodes. In episode 14 after Woo Jin talked about crossing the line for the third or fourth time, I may not have been the only one ready to tear off my hair in frustration. On the one hand, I got that he wanted Eun Jae to make the choice but it was still frustrating that they were both too scared to make the move.

I really felt connected to these two characters. I invested emotion and time to see the relationship develop between them so naturally — from bickering, to competing, to taking each others’ side, to protecting and encouraging each other. My heart simply melted at that epilogue of Woo Jin carrying Eun Jae on his back for the second time without her knowing it, and offering to do it again to reassure her that he would always be there for her, in a declaration heard by nurses and doctors in the OR, all while operating on a patient. It was even better than a public declaration of love screamed from the top of a mountain. It was sincere and carried a truckload of meaning.

Their relationship was one of the highlights of the series because it ran deeper than most relationships in dramas where the girls were always saved by the boys. Seo Woo Jin and Cha Eun Jae saved each other constantly. They had each other’s backs. I loved how they tried to convince each other to do things by saying mmm? and oh? So so cute.

Kim Sabu , on the other hand was such a character. I liked that even though he sometimes appeared cheesy with old western music heralding his arrival with a slo mo, Han Suk Kyu totally embraced the eccentricity of the role and gave his all to the character. As a result, Master Kim was memorable not only because of his surgical skills but also his wit and words of wisdom.

The cast members, whom I believe were also part of the first season, were amazing. Nurse Oh (Jin Kyung) was the no nonsense captain that commanded the ship and kept the ER going. Dr. Jung, while considered a secondary character as an ER doctor, had a lot of cool moments throughout the series for his competence. While he was shaken a bit, he still pulled though in the end.

I believe that Kim Min Jae’s character Park Eun Tak had an aborted loveline from Season 1 but I’m happy he was given a second chance with Yun Areum. Manager Jang was amazing, especially when he unexpectedly talked back to Nurse Oh but most of the time, he was welcome comic relief. I also loved anesthesiologist Nam Do Il and orthopaedic surgeon Bae Moon Jung (Shin Dong Wook). It was good that he had his fair share of pivotal moments and that he was given his own backstory as well, although it was a shame it was not explored more fully. His unexpected bromance with Seo Woo Jin was also a welcome development.

As for the villains of the piece, the one I truly hated was Yang Ho Joon who really portrayed the character of an ambitious weasel to perfection. Even when he was opening up his heart to Park Min Guk, I really could not find the heart to feel sorry for him because every time he spoke or did something, I was already ready to strangle him. Congrats for that excellent portrayal actor Ko Sang Ho.

As a carry over villain from last season, I didn’t really feel threatened by Do Yoon Hwan even though he had all the power to shut down Doldam. Perhaps it was because I felt confident in Kim Sabu’s abilities so much that it felt like Do Yoon Hwan’s attempts will once again go down the drain.

Timely Issues, Strong Female Characters

The series was amazing in the sense that it carried many underlying messages like the strength of women in the workplace, women sticking up for women (which happened several times with the battered wife and the rape victim), having confidence and belief in others, love and loyalty. Each unique case had a strong backstory to create an impact on the audience and perhaps this was why the scenes resonated so strongly.

Nurse Oh was Doldam’s fierce protector, speaking her mind openly even to the hospital’s new president. She was the conscience that urges Woo Jin to do the right thing and made Eun Jae realize her purpose in the hospital. In the same vein, Dr. Shim showed a different point of view and the backbone to do the right thing. She was tough and professional and she was revealed to be an honorable doctor. Even the always smiling Areum stepped up and tried to defend herself against an assailant and had the presence of mind to save the evidence to bring justice for her patient.

As I have mentioned before, Cha Eun Jae’s journey was one that clearly depicted the struggles of a woman in a male dominated workplace. She conquered her fears and realized her potential with a constant struggle to prove herself.

The only thing that bothered me was that Cha Eun Jae’s storyline seemed to be deliberately separated from the rest of the Doldam staff. While Seo Woo Jin’s character was a perfect fit for Doldam, being handpicked by Kim Sabu since the beginning, it was the opposite for Eun Jae. It seemed that Kim Sabu had no intention of keeping her in Doldam and only wanted to help her realize her potential.

For the most part, I got that he respected her choice but I felt bad that she was the only main character who was missing in the major confrontation with Do Yoon Hwan. It would have been nice for her to participate in the Oddball project as well since she had always been Woo Jin’s study partner. It would have solidified her attachment to the hospital to help diagnose Kim Sabu’s condition. I would also have liked for her to return sooner to have a playful fight with Woo Jin before the bad*ss closing scene.

All in all, I loved Dr. Romantic 2. It was a strong sequel but also stood alone as an independent series. It had great characters with a strong core message about medicine, morality, love and finding family. I’m seriously hoping that all the easter eggs that they dropped (politics of establishing a trauma center, In Beum returning to Doldam as well as the mentions of the original oddballs) could mean that a third season is being considered with the cast members of the first and second seasons combined. Seeing the surgeries they would perform would be epic. Seeing Season 1 and 2 doctors go at each other at Doldam would be even more hard core. But for now, I will have to backtrack and see Season 1 to know more about Kim Sabu’s backstory and learn about his original oddball set.

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