TYPE OF REVIEW : FIRST IMPRESSION REVIEW
No spoilers. For the season wrap-up Hindsight Review, click here
Netflix’s very own Korean dating show returned last month and I was finally able to catch up on the first six episodes. Season 2 of last year’s surprise hit Single’s Inferno (솔로지옥) introduced the new group of sexy singles. And it’s been another fun, juicy ride so far. But at the same time, there’s been some interesting cracks in the glossy façade of the series.
First to the positive, the fascinating mix of typical K-Drama romance and a reality dating show were still very much in full effect. The singles immediately falling for and then pursuing (to various success) their fellow islanders have made for both sweet and awkward moments. As a dating reality show should.
But as fun and juicy as the relationship drama can be, there is a sort of déjà vu element to the proceedings this time. Part of that is this season not having the novelty of the first. That is, the first season of Single’s Inferno was so different (or at least, uncommon) from anything done on Korean television. So the novelty of having this very western format in a K-Drama-ish setting was a major part of the first season’s appeal.
Since Single’s Inferno first premiered, a whole slew of similar (and even spicier) reality dating shows popped up in 2022. So that novel appeal is no longer an advantage.
Next, it seems the casting department has tried to aggressively find singles to fit the molds of its season one cast. You can easily pair up singles from seasons one and two as character doppelgangers. And those kinds of comparisons give off a “been there, done that” vibe, not to mention having a pre-conceived notion as to how the character arcs of the singles of season two will eventually play out.
That said, a few of the singles are much more straightforward. A few are not afraid to express themselves and set clear boundaries. They have been the more interesting characters to watch. As opposed to the wishy-washy nature of others who are much more calculative in their actions towards others.
And perhaps it is unavoidable, but a lot of this season’s cast is a bit more self-aware than the first season’s. That is, they know what’s waiting for them after the show. And it’s certainly not a love match, but really their 15 minutes of fame. If there’s anything Single’s Inferno will have inherited from its western counterparts, it’s the contestants’ path to post-show fame. No matter how long that will last.
Also, our four in-studio commentators were good guides for the audience in the first season. But this time around, they come across more as unnecessary noise rather than being insightful or, maybe more importantly, funny.
Still, the voyeuristic appeal of watching hot young people attempt and fail at love is still the main draw of a show like Single’s Inferno. Especially when there is no prize at the end (other than a potential boyfriend/girlfriend).
There’s still four episodes left. And the end of the most recent Episode 6 brought two new singles to the island. So hopefully they can spice things up a bit more. Otherwise, while still a fun guilty pleasure-type of experience, Single’s Inferno 2 has shown that perhaps the format will need a bit more tweaking to remain fresh. But we’ll see!