Hospital Playlist Season 2 (2021) Episode 7: Nothing to See Here

When someone declares on the internet that nothing happened in a show I wonder what they mean. I am genuinely curious. Do they mean that nothing at all happened or nothing of any significance happened? I can’t think they mean the former. Even Dragonball Z which is still my closest encounter with “nothing happened” for episodes on end had some trash talking in between fight scenes. Having thought through it I also suspect that it’s largely case of unmet expectations. I understand that to some degree because I do have general expectations about where the show is going but for the most part I’m just in it for the ride. Really.

As I said to one our readers here, it seems to me that there will be critics whatever Shin-Lee does in S2. Of course it’s no excuse for them to dish out a bad product but I don’t think S2 is a bad or mediocre product by any stretch of the imagination.

As far as I’m concerned the friendship of the five is still a mainstay of the show but just because they’re not in the room together in every single episode, it doesn’t mean that the writer has forgotten about them entirely. I very much doubt that and the previews indicate that. Maybe I’m biased but I don’t see how S2 can completely replicate the dynamics of S1 because things have changed. Things have to change because circumstances and people naturally change over time. But in spite of that the friendship is still very much intact. That’s what’s really important. No matter what happens to Jun-wan, Jeong-won and Seok-hyeong romantically, the five will still be friends. Despite being at different places in their lives, once in a while they get together and play music or have a meal together. My own observation is that those who didn’t sign up for the romance will in all likelihood not like the change in emphasis in that regard. I’m not unsympathetic but then I think of a conversation I once had with the other half about this. Whether you or I care about who ends up with whom, romance is such a vital part of life and a drama of this scope dealing with life and death can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. It wouldn’t feel right.

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Believe it or not I didn’t start watching Hospital Playlist for the romance. I never watch medical dramas for romance and I still don’t. But one can’t accuse Shin-Lee of bait and switch because all the foundations of what we now have a clearer picture of were laid in S1. Maybe it was easier to ignore what was only hinted at and it was possible to re-interpret things to suit a particular viewing lens but now… not so much because some things are undeniable. That said, I still think romance is a very small part of the show compared to what else is going on with patient care and staff interactions.

Regardless of what people think about the WinterGarden couple for instance there’s no denying that this is something that’s canon. Contrary to what people think I’m really not an expert on them and all I’ve done is taken a bit of time to think about what the writer is trying to say and do about their dynamic in the larger framework. They are the most interesting to me because of the way they are used in the show’s big themes. When I look at their relationship warts and all, it helps me to understand Shin-Lee’s approach to storytelling and what they’re trying to achieve elsewhere in the narrative. To me WinterGarden is a window by which to understand the moral universe or worldview of the show. Why Jeong-won? Why Jeong-won and Jang Gyeo-ul? Why not Jeong-won and Min-ah? Or Jeong-won and Song-hwa? These are fascinating questions and there are answers in the drama itself. For me authorial intent has primacy.

All I’ve ever done is ask why Jeong-won and Gyeo-ul. It’s really as simple as that. They are called the WinterGarden for a reason. Jeong-won sings about his garden. All of this is deliberate. So to me it is about growth, pulling out the weeds, pruning and planting. One half of the name is a season associated with cold, the other half is a place associated with warmth, growth and flourishing. This was never supposed to be an even perfect dynamic but about an uneven dynamic of opposite personalities coming together and growing so that good things can happen.

Obviously the metaphor means something. Dr Winter is thawing but she’s not there yet. There are things about her that’s frozen in time and it will have to take the warmth of a blossoming garden to remove every vestige of coldness. I can imagine the loneliness she must have felt having to deal with her family’s issues and carry that her entire of life. It’s been a very long winter for her. I’m reminded of a line from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe… “It’s always winter but never Christmas.” That’s what it’s been like for her until Christmas Day 2019.

So all of this tells me that even if I don’t think Yoo Yeon-seok or Shin Hyun-bin have chemistry, their dynamic has ramifications beyond them. It helps me understand something of who they are but it also helps me understand why is it the Bear couple has to be. Or even bidulgi. It isn’t so much that opposites attract but that people are often attracted to someone who is different to them in striking ways. Perhaps it’s a quality they admire and even wish they had. Because of this, growth can take place. Difference can cause problems but difference can also be a catalyst for change. That’s why I think too in all probability that Ik-Song will happen (it probably already is happening) because of that principle of difference. I just think about what Song-hwa said to Ik-jun as she walks around the hospital with him : “I’ve been in the hospital longer than you but you know more people.” This is the principle of accommodation which only happens when people are different. You don’t have to accommodate if you like all the same thing or have the same views but you can learn something about yourself when you are challenged by difference. I would also venture to say that this principle doesn’t just apply to the love lines but also to the doctor-patient interactions. This is probably the lesson Yun-bok had to learn as a once family member but now intern.

For me the tools for understanding the show are given to us in every episode and in the bigger picture of the two seasons. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with bringing our individual lenses to every episode, I do it too I’m sure. However, from a writing perspective, the writer has his or her own way of signalling how something should be seen. Camera work, dialogue, editing, juxtaposition, character interactions… those sorts of mundane basic storytelling techniques.

Whether philosophically, culturally or morally we agree with Shin-Lee’s perspectives I don’t think matters because this ultimately is about engagement. It’s probably true that I watched S1 far too many times than is healthy but it’s certainly helped me understand this season much better.

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Okay, this will probably be the last post on Hospital Playlist for a while. I’m out of lockdown as of this afternoon and will be busy with work and other writing commitments etc. Thanks for reading and being such a supportive crowd. It’s nice not being greeted by a wall of silence.