Its time to Dream Higherererer with a whole new cast of characters, and a whole new universe as well. As it turns out Season 2 is no dummy – we dont just pick up where we left off, or reboot to square one with the same narrative and a different cast. Phew. One bullet dodged.
We get a twist right off the bat that brings Kirin down a peg or twenty, and find out that the trajectory for Season 2 is to revive the place where dreams begin – its going to be about saving the school as much as it will be about each individual character. This time K really is for Kirin – the school itself.
Park Jin-young – Falling Dream High 2 OST
We open on a familiar bus, as a girl runs after it. Its RI-AN (Jiyeon) and shes chasing after… Sam-dong? Wow, Kim Soo-hyuns got the opening sequence? Thats one hell of a cameo.
The bus stops and Sam-dong opens the window, calling her Hye-mi. She puts the K necklace around his neck. He cries and they kiss, as another tear falls from his cheek.
And then suddenly a director yells, CUT! and berates Ri-an for not being able to cry. HA. Is this the drama version of Sam-dongs life? Yup. Someone drops the script for this drama-within-a-drama, called Dream High.
He sighs and leans out the window, while the PD demands to know why crying one measly tear is so hard for her. Oh you and your meta about idol actors. You know I’m gonna call you out on it even if you have the sense to poke fun at yourself, Show.
Meanwhile Ri-an gets carted away by her manager, who insists that they have to leave for her next scheduled appointment. She turns on the tv in the car…
So in this world theres strict enforcement on a law for minors – a 10pm work curfew. The upshot is that idol stars are the most affected by this, and fans take up protests in support of letting their favorite stars be free. Heh.
Theres especially a strain on performance shows like Music Bank or Inkigayo, because if any of the performers are minors, they have to be off the stage before 10:00 exactly, otherwise the group, its agency, and the broadcaster all get slapped with fines and penalties. Its based on real restrictions for idols, but here its an extreme version for dramatic purposes.
Meanwhile Kirin School of the Arts is totally rundown, and now the sign for Kirin reads Kurin, meaning stinky, foul-smelling, and of course, totally unhip. Oh what a difference a year makes. Though in this universe, at least three years have passed since weve last seen Kirin High. The school also has a new addition: a dormitory where some of the students live full-time.
Agency president LEE KANG-CHUL (Kim Jung-tae) and his right-hand woman HYUN JI-SOO (Kahi) run the agency OZ. They run a tight ship and though theyre not fans of the new law, they know to follow the rules to stay afloat.
Their top group is Eden, a two-member beast-idol group, with JB (JB) and SHI-WOO (Park Seo-joon). They dont seem to be on the best terms with each other, or their agency, or with acting for that matter, but hopefully theyll get better. One can only hope.
OZs other act is a three-member girl group called HershE, with Ri-an (Jiyeon), NANA (Hyorin), and AILEE (Ailee).Theyre popular and they have a following, but it seems as though they dont carry quite as much starpower as their male counterparts. Ri-an is especially busy juggling acting on top of her idol career, and its a running gag that shes terrible as an actress.
One particular Eden fangirl is a little more resourceful than the others: its our heroine SHIN HYE-SUNG (Kang Sora), a student at Kirin. She runs backstage and gets a glimpse of Shi-woo and even runs into Pil-sook (a cameo by IU) and asks for an autograph from her sunbae from Kirin High.
But its JB that shes dying to meet, and when she runs into him, she blurts, I love you! at first sight. Hee. Shes adorable. She shows him the sign shes carrying with his name on it, and he quickly dismisses her. That is, until he finds a need for someone to help him break curfew and turns on the charm: I love you too. I have a favor to ask…
Hye-sung is basically at the bottom of the food chain at Kirin, relegated to shoe-shining and various other embarrassing tasks. She lives in the dorms, and her dream is to be cast in the OZ open auditions so she can be a trainee next to JB.
And then we have rocker boy JIN YOO-JIN (Jung Jin-woon), also a student at Kirin High. Hes a singer-songwriter and street performer whos forced to run away from his own performances when curfew hits and cops come asking for IDs. Once his bandmates find out hes a minor, they cut him loose too, not wanting complications.
Yoo-jin sleeps wherever he pleases, though he lives in the dorms at Kirin. The first place we see him wake up is in YANG JIN-MANs bed. (Whoo! JYP!) Jin-man, whos basically the dorms den mother, freaks out to see a student sleeping in his bed. But Yoo-jin acts like its no big thing, and steals a banana, saying its for Teachers own good: You shouldnt eat bananas. People will make fun of you. Ha, because of his face? Hahahaha.
There are two more teachers to note at Kirin: Principal JOO JUNG-WAN (Kwon Hye-hyo) the crotchety old guy who gripes at everyone but doesnt seem to do much else, and AHN TAE-YEON, the hippy singing teacher that I find particularly funny because shes played by the glam modelesque Choi Yeo-jin, looking as nerdy as can be.
Its in her class that we catch a glimpse of Yoo-jins particular talent at Kirin – she gives a songwriting assignment and all eyes turn to him. After class everyone comes running to him as Yoo-jin sets up shop… to sell his songs for 10 bucks apiece. HA.
The inciting incident that sets everything in motion is one act of rebellion by the Eden boys, who decide to make a statement against the new curfew. They head towards the stage of the live music performance show, just minutes before 10 oclock. They take to the stage and perform anyway, breaking curfew with the whole world watching.
One of their background dancers, also a minor and a student at Kirin, ends up complicit in their protest-performance without realizing the time, and ends up getting cut from his dance team because of it.
Hye-sung does her part as Number One Fangirl and keeps OZ President Lee locked in his dressing room while the boys are onstage. As they perform, we intercut between Yoo-jin playing the same song in the street, while Eden performs the pop version onstage. Hm, wonder where that song came from.
Their stunt results in the network banning all acts from OZ for three months. The press goes crazy and the boys give interviews saying that it was their way of keeping their promise with the fans who came to see them. Nice packaging. But behind the scenes JB confesses to President Lee that its because their new single is plagiarized.
Apparently their last album had the same problem, and he didnt want to go forward with another stolen song. Hence the stunt. He adds that what he really wants is time to practice and a chance to do what he really wants: to be a solo artist who sings his own music.
President Lee gives him six months to practice before hell make the final decision one way or another. Shi-woo overhears the entire conversation, including the part where JB complains about having to make up for Shi-woos lack of talent. Ouch.
One person whos happy about the three-month hiatus is Ri-an, whos been overworked to the bone, and tells Shi-woo that she approves of their stunt.
Hye-sung meanwhile gathers up every last item that has anything to do with JB, convinced that an autograph has magical powers like a talisman. She then gets ready to perform a ritual in her dorm room, which is already a shrine to JB. She lights the autograph-talisman on fire as she prays for heavenly intervention… so that she makes the cut at the OZ auditions.
Yoo-jin comes home and smells fire wafting down the hallway and starts banging on Hye-sungs door to rescue her. She panics, not wanting to end the ritual, and keeps going. He finally pulls the fire alarm and the whole dorm runs out in the middle of the night, led by the biggest scaredy cat of them all, Jin-man.
The girls tell him that Hye-sung is trapped in her room, so they send him back in, against his will. (He thinks to himself that he has yet to fall in love, or to debut as a singer… Heh.) He stands at the ready with a bucket of water, while Yoo-jin picks the lock on her door.
He finally gets it open, and Hye-sung screams Noooooo! because her final talisman still needs to burn (so she can drink the ashes)… but Jin-man comes barreling in, water-first, and douses her with the bucket while shes still screaming. Hahaha. Okay, so far I dont care much about anyone else, but these three, Im sold on. Well, I loved Jin-man before, so thats no surprise.
Hye-sung stands there, mortified, while Yoo-jin snaps a picture for posterity. HEE.
Hye-sung wails at her ruined shot at supernatural intervention, and her friends rally around her – her bestie PARK SOON-DONG (Yoo So-young), dancer JUNG UI-BONG (Jr.) who lost his backup dancer gig because of Edens curfew stunt, and nerdy PARK HONG-JOO (Kim Ji-soo) who serenades her with a rendition of Genie to lift her spirits, in another callback to Season 1.
Bolstered with their support, Hye-sung heads to the open auditions the next day, only to find out that theyre no longer accepting minors, which makes sense since their biggest artists can no longer work due to the curfew-related penalty.
Hye-sung runs inside and gets down on her knees in front of agency rep Ji-soo and begs for a chance since she can really sing. Ji-soo remembers her from every audition for the past few months and tells her point-blank that noraebangs are lined with kids who sing like her, and tells her that shell never make it as a star.
Hye-sung stands up and balls up her hands into fists, declaring that she must be remembering her wrong. She repeats her name, Shin Hye-sung, and tells her what it means – a star hidden in the ocean – and declares that someday that star will rise to the sky and Ji-soo will regret this day. Aw, I love her spunk, though I have a feeling shes not as good as she thinks she is.
At OZ, Kang-chul and Ji-soo debate what to do about their minors. Ji-soo suggests sending them to Kirin, where at least they can fulfill their minimum school hours while focusing on music practice.
Kang-chul worries about the current state of Kirin though, and Ji-soo confirms that its basically living off of its former glory. Once the old president went overseas and left it in the hands of the current principal, it all went to hell in a handbasket. She says that anyone with talent left long ago, so the students that remain are basically third-rate.
Hye-sung goes from her audition to meet her father, who turns out to be a country pastor. He tells her to call it quits with this singing business and head to seminary as planned, so she panics and blurts that shes started praying at a temple (HA) and makes a run for it.
We finally get a taste of her so-called awesome singing on her way home… and its totally Not. Awesome. In fact its really really bad. Ji-soos words ring in her ears and she sighs, wondering if she was right after all.
Kang-chul arrives at Kirin with JB in tow, and tells him to look around. He goes to see Principal Joo, and greets him as Hyungnim, and Principal Joo doesnt look too pleased to see him.
Hye-sung chases Yoo-jin up and down the halls for a favor, begging him to help her turn some tinkering she did into a song. He refuses and she asks if he wants more money, but he says its because shes going to submit it to OZ, for the singer-songwriter auditions (what shes considering her last-ditch effort to get cast). He doesnt want his work at that idol factory that churns out kids music (what he describes as hook-songs, ie. songs that only have hooks and nothing more).
He calls her pathetic and she doesnt even hesitate one second before agreeing with him, and continues to beg. She finally gets him to give it a listen and agree to work on it if he likes her song.
He listens and tells her that he couldve written better in his sleep. She stammers that it took her a month to write that, but he tells her to stop pretending to care so much. He knows that all she wants to be is an idol.
Yoo-jin: Idol? Why do you want to be one? If you cant sing, you can lip-sync, and if you cant dance, you can wear flashy clothes. Just do that. Isnt that what you think anyway? Thats how it seems to me. You have no interest or passion for music, but you just want to be famous, so you do what everyone tells you to do – you laugh the same, you dance the same, you sing with that same voice. Dont you think thats gross? People arent dolls.
JB overhears the entire conversation, and it stings him. Flashback to Kirin auditions, where Yoo-jin and JB sat side by side, guitars in hand. Yoo-jin had said the same thing back then, that he didnt want to do what everyone else did, and that he wanted to create his own music, and sing rock.
Principal Joo had told him itd be a hungry road, but Yoo-jin swore hed make it big. And then he sang, and blew them both away. JB went next, a giant ball of nerves, and flopped terribly at his attempt to play guitar. He was promptly asked if hed rather dance instead.
Well the fact that they have a history takes the whole plagiarism thing up a notch, eh? It also explains the complex that JB has, essentially wishing he had the talent that Yoo-jin was born with.
Back in the studio, Hye-sung tells Yoo-jin to get off his high horse, since hes nothing but a song peddler anyway, and at ten bucks a pop at that. Getting angry, he tells her that her precious idol JB plagiarizes his songs, and that its a good thing he pulled that curfew stunt, because otherwise he wouldve faced a scandal.
He sneers that she ought to know what kind of music her favorite singer sings. And at that, JB walks right in on their conversation, asking defiantly, Who says its plagiarized? Hye-sungs jaw drops and he tells her that hell listen to her song and help her. She thinks hes here because she helped him pull that stunt the other night, and happily hands him the headphones.
Over in the principals office, they get past the niceties in about thirty seconds, and Principal Joo asks Kang-chul if hes here to enroll some of his idols. Kang-chul says no… hes here to take over the school. Dun dun. He declares that his company has bought the place, and that hes going to take it over, and bring his artists with him.
JB turns Hye-sungs melody into a song with some basic chords, and when she calls him a genius, Yoo-jin scoffs bitterly, saying he could do better with his feet. JB in turn asks if hes got a complex with idols, and wonders if it isnt a hit to his pride to be so transparent, insisting he hates anything thats popular because its popular.
Ha. I love that they both have sound arguments that I can agree with, though its a little funny to have idols arguing about idols. I agree with the factory-pressed music and doll argument, and I also hate pretentious people who think hating all popular things counts as an opinion. So far, I like the conflict between these two.
The boys get heated up in their argument and Hye-sung tries to intervene, accidentally broadcasting their whole conversation to the school. (I love the random aside in the middle of the argument when Yoo-jin takes issue with the fact that she calls JB oppa, when theyre all the same age, because thats just what you call your favorite idol star when youre a fan.)
JB challenges him to prove that he can do better, and Yoo-jin obliges and sits down at the computer. But instead of fixing it, he scraps the whole song, and Hye-sung panics when he moves to empty the computers trash bin.
He holds the mouse out of her reach and empties the trash, to her horror. JB fumes and grabs him by the collar. Yoo-jin mocks his public statement that keeping his promise to the fans was more important than abiding by the law. He asks if being liked by pathetic people like Hye-sung has made him believe hes actually good. Oh dayum.
But JBs slicker about how to come out on top, and when he sees a group of girls appear behind them with cameras at the ready, he backs off. He challenges Yoo-jin, asking if hes really so good, then how come the world hasnt recognized it?
He says at least if he hits him, hell be famous for something. Yoo-jin takes the bait and sends his fist hurtling towards his face…
But Hye-sung sees it happening and sticks her foot out to trip him just in time, and he goes flying into the glass window like a pancake. Ha. JB gives her a smile.
In some respects its better than I anticipated, since its not a carbon copy of the first season, and its setting up a different story. But Id be lying if I said I wasnt comparing it to the freshness of the original, which was both a more standard story but more compelling. Its only the first hour though, so theres room to hook to me. What I do love are the two main characters, Hye-sung and Yoo-jin, who show lots of promise as interesting people I want to get to know.
Kang Sora is especially great, because youre just immediately on her side, and shes willing to look totally ridiculous and commit to her character, crazy séances and all. JB is sadly the weak link among the bigger characters. I pretty much feel like Im reading the dialogue and not his performance, and can only imagine how much better that main triangle would be if he were played by a better actor. I wouldnt care if he were peripheral, but his story feels central to the main conflict. The rivalry between JB and Yoo-jin is good, but itd be downright awesome if they were evenly matched as actors. Im not asking for Baeksang-worthy stuff here, just believable performances.
I do like that Kirin as a school starts out in the dumps. Its a nice reversal from what were expecting, when Season 1 history tells us its the best of the best. Now the entire school is populated with misfits, from teachers to students, and the overhaul from OZ (which I totally spent half the episode thinking was OG, yo) will be a great clash of the classic stuff that made Season 1 so great. And thematically, its nice to have a focus on the bigger picture (though thats never been Dream Highs weakness) –what it means to restore the place that cultivates the dream.
As a premiere I think I couldve done with fewer characters and more focus on the leads, because we have plenty of time to meet side characters and all the teachers. Basically you only need to set up your two halves of the world – the OZ idol biz and Kirin, and it doesnt take much to figure out who fits where. But I like that inherent conflict between the two worlds, and the fact that OZ might end up being equal parts good and bad.
One addition I love is the dorm – why wasnt that there before? The wacky dormitory hijinks with Jin-man as the harried den mother is already my favorite stuff, and I cant wait till dorm life gets turned upside-down when the hotshots invade the misfits quarters.