monstrous return feels like filler

It’s been three long years since Sweet Home first took over our screens with horror-filled scenes of humans turning into monsters – and turning on each other. The first season was a huge hit and became the first K-drama to make it into Netflix’s Top 10 shows in the US upon release, a feat that has since been achieved by numerous other dramas. Season two, then, seems primed for yet more big things but, with such a long gap between its successful first season and the next instalment, it needs to deliver something that feels worth the wait.

The new episodes pick up in the immediate aftermath of season one. Cha Hyun-su (played by Song Kang) has been resisting a full transition to monsterhood and has surrendered himself to the military in a bid to help his fellow Green Home residents escape. Unfortunately, not everyone in the building has the group’s best interests at heart and the self-serving actions of Ryu Jae-hwan (Lee Joon-woo) have led to the residents’ capture by the army, who plan to take them to a shelter for survivors.

It’s a straightforward enough premise – until, that is, the groups get on the move. As the survivors are ferried through a dystopian Seoul and arrive at the shelter, things get dicey. Soldiers take anyone with a nosebleed – one of the initial signs they’re about to lose their human form – to the side and beat them or shoot them. Far ahead, the arrival of a grotesque, gigantic monster sends the survivors running, but the discovery of a baby monster tests what’s left of the soldier’s humanity.

Hyun-su, meanwhile, is being taken to a facility where “special infectees” are being tested on under the guise of creating a vaccine to beat this monstrous affliction. On the way, though, he discovers the man driving his tank is season one’s half-human half-monster Jung Ui-myeong, who has taken over former Green Home resident Pyeon Sang-wook’s (Lee Jin-uk) body. The revelation kickstarts a battle between the pair that underpins much of the season.

The fight between soldiers and civilians lasts three episodes, after which point Sweet Home leaps ahead a year. Now, the survivors are living in the bowels of the Olympic Stadium, a faction of the military looking after them (and keeping them in check). New characters are introduced by the bucketload, expanding the show’s world out from Green Home to encompass a much wider scope.

That would be all well and good if it was done effectively. Frustratingly, though, we’re not given enough reason to care about many of these new additions – their backstories aren’t fleshed out enough and it’s hard to keep track of who’s who as the story continues. The plot, too, is chaotic and hard to follow. Some incidents along the way seem to have little to no bearing on what comes next, as if they’ve just been added for a dramatic peak and then forgotten. Others feel important but come with no explanation, the viewer left to figure out what on earth is happening – not always a bad thing, but when so much other confusion surrounds them, it would be nice to get some hints.

sweet home season two review song kang
‘Sweet Home’ season two. Credit: Kim Jeong Won / Netflix

As the series broadens its vision, it loses the focus that the first season had. Even the monsters – the thing the whole show is centred around – feel undercooked; creatures appear for an epic fight scene every now and then, and then disappear. Although the soldiers have worked out there are different types of monster, there’s no exploration into the logic or science behind this or what makes someone turn into what kind.

For all the confusion and chaos, season two does give us some good performances. Go Min-si is a force to be reckoned with as Lee Eun-yu, who is determined to find her brother Eun-hyeok, even after returning to the rubble of their former home. She puts up a steely, unflinching front for most of the season, but the moments where she lets her emotions pierce through her armour are some of the most affecting of these new episodes. Lee Si-young also shines as Seo Yi-kyung, who goes on a conflicted journey of her own as her pregnancy takes a big twist.

Ultimately, Sweet Home season two feels less like a blockbuster sequel and more like a stepping stone to season three, which was filmed back-to-back with these episodes. Hopefully, that next part of the story will live up to season one’s gripping outing and put the focus back on creating a compelling, cohesive plot.

Sweet Home season two is available exclusively on Netflix


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