Dream High or Dream High 2? Which really reigned over the other?
When news that a second season of popular drama Dream High would be airing, I was one of the many avid Dream High fans out there that was intensely worried about what was in store for Dream High 2. My primary source of fear was actually not that it would be terrible, but rather I wondered how a “follow-up” of the first season’s plot would work out. My worst nightmare was that the first season’s characters would come together for a terribly cheesy and completely unnecessary reunion in the second season. As more and more actors were announced though, I quickly realized that this would not be the case, and that instead, the Dream High 2 writers would be going for a totally different story. And just as fast as news of Kang Sora, 2am‘s Jinwoon and Sistar‘s Hyorin being selected to star in the series, a new worry spread throughout me: Just how different was Dream High 2 going to be from Dream High? Would it still retain the “Dream High” spirit of following your dreams, no matter how ridiculous and impossible they were? Would the drama still be horribly cheesy, but emotionally pulling? Would it have a wild unexpected ending like Dream High did?
And now, it’s April, almost a month after the last episode of the second season. Before I begin sharing my thoughts though, and which exactly I feel was the “better” season, take heed to my spoiler warning now. Because I will be rabidly ranting.
As I expressed previously, my foremost worry for Dream High 2 was that the season would be a terrible sequel to the first season’s story. I believe Dream High ended perfectly, and, though I know many were shocked at the ending, I would not have had it any other way.
We begin Dream High as actually a very atypical plot line (at least, for the typical teen Korean drama). The viewers are introduced to Go Hye Mi, a stubborn conceited girl, whom, to repay her father’s debt, is forced to audition for the prestigious musical academy, Kirin Arts High School. After failing her audition though (much to her surprise), Hye Mi receives a second chance at enrollment by the director – she is to find two students, city rat Jin Gook and country hillbilly Sam Dong, and convince them to enroll with her. Hye Mi’s life at Kirin is far from the average student’s; while making ends meet, she must dodge the vicious attacks from her enemy, Baek Hee, keep her friend’s, Pil Suk‘s, head out of the clouds and strive to be the best student at school, in her mission to become a top idol and repay her family debt.
Dream High 2 on the other hand, is a bit more modern. We’re introduced to Shin Hye Sung, a diehard JB fangirl. Hye Sung is, to put it kindly, a loser. Her circle of friends consist mainly of the school freak, the class clown, and the school’s musical genius. Hye Sung takes up the role of the untalented in her clique. While Hye Sung suffers over at Kirin, a school that, since the first season, has now deteriorated to a laughing stock with no reputation to hold, underage idols of Korea suffer from a new minors law passed: All underage idols must attend school at least twenty hours a week and cannot broadcast anything past 10 p.m. The idols at Oz Entertainment, including Hye Sung’s precious JB, are furious about this requirement, and their CEO is quick to find his idols a school which is exempt from this law: Kirin High School. The rest of the season depicts the rivalry between Kirin’s students and Oz Entertainment’s idol groups, Hershee and Eden, to become the next set of Super Idols.
While both seasons were typically cheesy, I can honestly say I enjoyed both seasons. I’m a sucker for cheesy high school coming-of-age stories, and Dream High has honestly been one of my favorite Korean Drama series. Both plots were good in my opinion, but (and I’m going to blame the production crew for this one), Dream High 2 had a ton of plot holes. A ton. I finished the first season fully satisfied, not a question in my mind. All conflicts were resolved, the characters ended up exactly where they were supposed to, and no love stories unfinished. Dream High 2 on the other hand was awful. I (as well as many other viewers, from my personal observation), was left unsated and the season ended terribly. Now this may have largely to do with my unattachment towards the characters, but the way a lot of them ended up after the little time skip was just lame. Dream High 2 had too many unnecessary details and conflicts, and the drama script seemed so rushed, almost as if the writers were trying to add as much drama as possible into sixteen episodes.
Winner: Dream High
In Dream High, we’re introduced right off the bat to Ms. Go Hye Mi, whom seemingly has it all: she’s talented, gorgeous, has an adorable younger sister, a loyal subject and she’s rich. She has everything that is, except for a likable personality. Right at the start of the series we witness her vain, conceit, and selfish arrogance as she horribly berates Yoon Baek Hee (who, up till this time, has followed Hye Mi around like a trusty sidekick and tolerated her disgusting attitude) during their audition duet. Hye Mi’s character is much that of an untolerable person, and throughout the drama, the stubborn girl just can’t let go of her pride. Not to thank Kirin Teacher Oh Hyuk for letting her and her younger sister stay with him while their father runs away from debt, not to apologize to Baek Hee for her awful behavior, and most importantly, not to realize/admit her feelings to Jin Gook or Sam Dong.
Shin Hye Sung, Dream High 2’s protagonist, is a completely different story. Hye Sung is everything Hye Mi is not: she’s meek, humble, clumsy, “unattractive”, and “untalented”. Hye Sung starts off a much more “likable” character. Unlike Hye Mi, Hye Sung was not raised with riches, but instead with religion, her dad being a pastor and her family very homely. We later see how her relationship with her dad has strained due to her dreams of being a singer. Hye Sung is also more appealing in that the audience (or should we say fangirls/boys) can easily relate to her, for, just as I and many of you, Shin Hye Sung is a hardcore fangirl. Her innocence and childishness is much reverated in her obsession with JB, a fictitious top idol star that makes hearts burst in Dream High 2.
Both Hye Mi and Hye Sung demonstrate obvious flaws throughout the drama, more predominantly in the beginning. Hye Mi is a hotheaded stubborn and spoiled girl, while Hye Sung is a much too timid and soft pushover. Hye Mi at first hates the idea of “idolism” in Korea, and finds that sort of entertainment “unclassy” and “trashy”. Hye Sung on the other hand worships idols, and longs for one day being able to stand atop the same stage as her obsession, JB. However cute or quirky the characters are themselves is not what interests me though, because, as with any drama, character development is key. And with the idea of development, only one girl really stood out.
Hye Mi started off a witch (in all politeness). And as imperfect as her character was in the beginning, Go Hye Mi grew. During the last episodehs of Dream High, as cheesy as it was, we fully witness this growth as she 100% strips herself of all pride, arrogance and selfishness as she cries her eyes out to Sam Dong, confessing her heart to him whilst sending off to achieve his dreams. We also witness her growth in her forgiveness for her enemies, sacrifices for her friends and family, full realization of her dream and struggles to achieve it. On the other spectrum, Hye Sung showed a complete lack of development. It would have been absolutely awesome if we saw Hye Sung grow from an awkward turtle to a beautiful swan, but this never happened. Hye Sung continuously stayed timid throughout the drama, and as adorable as her character was, I honestly got tired of her by the 13th or 14th episode. She hardly stood up for herself, and on the few occasions she did (there were like, 2?), Hye Sung almost always seemed to eat her own words and revert back to being a nervous wreck. Even worse so, Hye Sung ends up giving up on her dreams of being a singer, and becomes a composer after realizing she’s much better at composing than she ever was at singing. And okay, I know that, realistically, Hye Sung made the right decision, but this is a drama for crying out loud. Where’s the “Dream High” spirit, Hye Sung? If this were the first season, she would have kept fighting until the end, and extremely unrealistically probably would have become a super idol or something. That’s what should’ve happened.
Winner: Go Hye Mi (Dream High)
The Love Triangle (or Square)
Though it’s already a well known fact, for just a little reiteration: the extremely typical love triangle (or square) is a very key factor in Korean dramas. There are times when I cannot stand the love triangle, and there are times where I die at its overwhelming cuteness. Both seasons of Dream High would be the latter.
The first season of Dream High presented a much more fairytale romance in my opinion. You have the main protagonist, Go Hye Mi, find herself caught between Jin Gook and Sam Dong. What I loved about their love triangle though, was that both Jin Gook and Sam Dong contrasted Hye Mi’s personality, in different foils. While both Hye Mi and JIn Gook were from the city, both these characters represented different aspects of the city. Hye Mi is this prim and proper girl, and then we have Jin Gook who sleeps in a deserted building he likes to call his. Jin Gook is portrayed as the stereotypical city bad boy, with his leather jacket, abusive father, motorcycle, and cliche understanding of seemingly the whole world, and this character is an obvious foil to Hye Mi’s more closeminded and upright attitude. Meanwhile, Sam Dong also represents Hye Mi’s opposite, in a much more literal way: Hye Mi is a hot city chick, and he a country bumpkin. But slowly, while the two don’t understand each other much at first, Sam Dong and Hye Mi begin to be the light of each other’s eyes. This love triangle can best be described by one of my favorite quotes from the drama: Hye Mi always cries around Jin Gook, because she’s comfortable around him, and he understands her, but always smiles and laughs around Sam Dong, because he makes her happy and never fails at protecting her (which is something Jin Gook greatly lacks in). Add the drama’s antagonist, Baek Hee, falling for Jin Gook into this equation, and we have Dream High’s love square.
Dream High 2 took a less fairytale like approach, but more a more unrealistic and very complicated one. The love square centers around Hye Sung, starstuck in love with JB, whom is still in love with his ex, Rian, the face of fictional girl group Hershee, whom is still likewise in love with him, while Yoo Jin falls hopelessly for Hye Sung. I love myself a complicated love square, and Dream High 2’s proved to be pretty darn complex. Add in the fact that Yoo Jin despises JB, JB eventually finds Hye Sung to “not be like other fangirls”, and Rian finds Yoo Jin to be more of a man than JB ever was, and we have ourselves Dream High 2’s complete love story.
Normally, I’m not really a fan of uselessly complex stories like Dream High 2’s, but what I loved was how absolutely connected the whole thing was. The main four leads seemed to always be switching in terms of main character; some episodes it would focus on Hye Sung, and other times more on Rian and JB. The complexity in each relationship was there, and the bond sewn deep. Though I don’t at all think Dream High 2 had more mushiness than the first season, DH2 had a more interlaced love story (such as the background in JB and Rian’s story), that, in my opinion, ended pretty positive. It would have been a shame to see such lovable relationships crumble, and I loved that the characters involved were about to work out their differences and resolve the love square.
Winner: Dream High 2
If you were to ask me who the better villain was, up till the 14th or 15th episode of Dream High 2, I would have said Yoon Baek Hee, without any hesitation. I love Rian, but her “villainous” acts were pretty childish compared to Baek Hee. I mean sure, Rian totally stole Hye Sung’s composition in a devious move, but Baek Hee tried to kill Hye Mi, attempting to strike her head with a clay pot. If that’s not real evil I don’t know what is. I also don’t recall Rian ever trying to steal Hye Sung’s main squeeze (something Baek Hee did repeatedly to Hye Mi over Jin Gook)- or, at least not intentionally. As a devil, Rian had hardly anything to offer, and something tells me if these two were to meet up and have a face off, Baek Hee would send Rian off crying.
Deviousness aside though, I had more reasons to love Baek Hee than I did Rian. Simply put, Rian was a complete bitch. And that’s all she was. Why? She was mean, and this wasn’t just excluded to Hye Sung. I’m talking about being mean to her mom, JB, her groupmates and practically the entire Kirin school population, for no reason at all. And no, I do not count the reason “But she was her family’s only source of monetary support”. That does not give you an excuse to be an absolute bitch to people simply trying to befriend you, your parents, or your ex, whom you’re still in love with. In my opinion, Rian just had a petty excuse, and was just a bully. Baek Hee, on the other hand, had complete right being so nasty. Hye Mi had taken her when she was still vulnerable, sweet and innocent, and crushed her, embarrassing her in front of others and breaking down her dreams to pathetic trash. Baek Hee only then grew to be spiteful and vengeful. Her initial purpose was to make Hye Mi eat her words and regret ever calling her talentless. Granted, Baek Hee got a little power hungry along the way, but we see her realize her mistakes after the Sexual Harassment scandal that happens to her. She and Hye Mi simultaneously apologize to each other, and we see the makings of a great friendship between the two.
Rian was a different story. Now having finished Dream High 2, I can fully say that I love both villains, but for different reasons. Baek Hee’s character was just brilliant- we see her downfall, her desperation to prove herself to others, her insecurities being an idol knowing that at any moment Hye Mi can snatch it away from her, her hateful envy for Hye Mi and heartbreak over Jin Gook that lead to her breaking point, and her steady climb afterwards in hope of becoming a good person. Rian did not exhibit as exaggerated character development, but we see hints of it here and there. In my opinion, both characters grew, but differently. Rian went from being just a mean girl, with no real goals or aspirations in life, pathetically clinging onto the remnants of her and JB’s relationship, and letting her spite for Hye Sung grow, to one of the only decent characters in Dream High 2. A huge problem with that drama was that hardly any of the characters focused on their dreams, and were too busy getting sucked into stupid love triangles. In the end, Rian was the only one that just screwed everybody else off, and focused on herself and her dreams. Rian starts off the drama as the face of one of Korea’s hottest girl groups, and when her position as an idol is threatened, she is the only character that seriously fights to the death to make sure it doesn’t get taken away. I was tired of the lack of “Let’s achieve our dreams!” in Dream High 2, but Rian shining made the last episode worth it.
OSTs are an important part of any drama. But seeing as Dream High is supposed to be a “musical” series, with it taking place in a performing arts school full of aspiring musicians, Dream High’s OSTs have come to be incredibly popular. Both OSTs are great, but in the end, I’m gonna go with Dream High 2 on this one.
In my opinion, Dream High 2’s OST was fantastic. Not a single song was “boring” or misplaced. The OST for Dream High 2 was a combination of slower romantic ballads necessary for those cheesy moments, great solos, and energetic pop works. I get bored easily, and not once did I ever get distracted when listening to this OST. Each song was gorgeously made and connected to a subplot in Dream High 2 perfectly. For those mourning over JB and Rian, we have “Together” (which, by the way, is my favorite song off this OST). For those fans in love with the closeness of the “B Class” students, there’s “B Class Life”. And for those who enjoyed the cute love triangle between Nana, Siwoo and Hong Joo, there’s “Sunflower”. Each song brings a different aspect of Dream High 2 to the table, and this is something I can’t get over.
Dream High’s OST was also good, but, while I can whole heartedly say each song in Dream High 2 was amazing, I can’t really say the same about Dream High. Dream High seemed to have only two types of songs: those that are easily forgettable, and the classics that shall forever more remain in drama history. What I mean is, I really don’t think I could name every song on Dream High’s OST, because most of the songs weren’t captivating enough. And then we have the songs that everyone knows, such as “Someday” and “Love High”. Though Dream High does have those famous tracks, overall, Dream High 2’s OST presented more musical value.
Winner: Dream High 2
The Overall Drama
Apart from Dream High winning in almost every category, I’m gonna say that a huge reason so many more people were fond of Dream High than Dream High 2 was the emotional appeal. Dream High 2 was cute; it really was. The love story between Hye Sung and her idol, JB, is every fangirl’s dream, and the characters were adorable. A bit too underdeveloped, but cute nonetheless. And though I could rant on and on about how adorkable Dream High 2 was, I really want to stress that’s all Dream High 2 was. It was just cute. I’m a sobber, I admit it. I cry easily for dramas, and I enjoy it too (not to be creepy). But not once did I shed a tear for Dream High 2. There were times my eyes stung, and I wanted to cry, but nothing happened. There were no tugging heartstrings for Dream High 2, no heartaches or stained cheeks. There were plenty of “awws” and gasps, but other than just spur-of-the-moment outbursts, there was no emotion. Dream High 2 was good, good for a drama you may want to watch if you’re bored out of your mind and want something cute to keep you busy. It isn’t good for a drama that you want to change your life, if even for a second, or make you cry your eyes out. Maybe if Dream High wasn’t so emotional and easy to connect to; if the characters weren’t so relatable, the story so lovable, or the friendships and crushes so unbelievably cute, I wouldn’t be here complaining about how Dream High 2 didn’t live up to the first season. But Dream High was all of those things, and even moreso. It was a real coming-of-age story about following your dreams and growing up.
Winner: Dream High