First Impression Review: “Single’s Inferno” Gets Much Needed Refresh for Season 3

Single's Inferno Season 3 Review

Minor spoilers.

It’s the Christmas season, so of course that means it’s time for another season of Netflix’s reality dating show Single’s Inferno (솔로지옥) to heat up the last few weeks of the year. After season 2 earlier this year, I noted how the series was still fun and enjoyable. But that it needed to switch things up in order to have the show keep up with other more interesting and creative reality dating shows, especially in Korea.

Thankfully, the first three episodes of season 3 show some interesting new twists that help to refresh what at its core is still a good premise.

For the uninitiated, Single’s Inferno features sexy young Korean singles being stranded on an island called Inferno. Through challenges and competitions, the singles can earn a chance to spend the night together in “Paradise,” a luxury resort away from the island and the opposite of the basic necessities the singles receive there. A night in Paradise also allows the singles to reveal their ages and occupations, which they are not allowed to on Inferno. And of course, the ability to more freely get to know each other.

At the end of the series, singles make their final choices and those who match can leave the island toward, one hopes, happily ever after.

The format was a novel idea at season one. Korean entertainment doesn’t usually have reality dating shows. And any romance-focused reality show is either heavily scripted and structured or features celebrities (likely K-pop idols). Single’s Inferno took the familiar format of western dating shows and infused it with a very distinct K-drama touch. And that helped to make the series enjoyable and appealing to a wider audience.

With season two, however, the series kind of coasted along with trying to replicate almost every piece of the season one puzzle. And that held it back. Especially when the season featured an over-focus on Paradise instead of providing the singles with more opportunities to meet and get to know each other outside of the hotel sponsor’s fancy location.

My unsolicited suggestion at the end of season two was that hopefully in future seasons, the show spread out the trips to Paradise instead of having them leaving the island every single night. Have the singles spend time together on Inferno more and make Paradise a truly special reward. We’ll see what happens in the coming episodes.

But these first three episodes introduced other twists that I certainly never expected.

Single's Inferno Season 3 Review

First, Inferno no longer looked like a comfortable glamping site. Instead, the singles were plopped into the middle of what looked like the set of Lost. A plane or ship crash, debris strewn all over the area. Shipping containers for their living quarters. No fancy stoves or sinks or cute little dining areas. Singles now having to rough it instead of enjoying a tropical team building trip.

This creative and simple tweak to just the setting of Inferno already helps to make Paradise feel a bit more like a pie in the sky they aim for. And it can also help dictate how the singles act and present themselves to others. Already in the first two episodes alone, the singles made choices based on each other’s response to the less-than-comfortable accommodations. And the singles ended up having to adjust accordingly.

I will also say though that there are still some parts that are contrived when it comes to setting. Such as containers for their sleeping quarters is fine, but why also rooms for them to chat in? The containers with beds look fine, but the containers with the sort of living room/game room areas look like prisons and seem pretty unnecessary when they could just set up a shaded nook somewhere along the beach or in a clearing nearby.

Meanwhile in Paradise, the show seems to have scaled down the more luxurious aspects. Especially when Paradise is now located at the Grand Hyatt in the middle of Jeju City. That offers a bit more of a grounded and realistic atmosphere, moving away from the more scripted-like encounters in season 2.

But my one criticism is the contrived luxury sports cars the show had the singles drive when leaving Paradise. It’s the kind of hilariously awkward and really unnecessary touches that take you away from the main event. And that is of course the singles and their journeys to romance or not.

The other new twist, which was revealed perfectly, was the existence of another Inferno. It was an unexpected surprise that caught both the singles and us viewers by surprise. But it is an interesting twist that forces the singles to once again adapt and adjust their feelings and strategies. And it is strategy that we’re seeing a bit more now too.

The immediate Paradise decision would have been a bad move without this double Inferno twist. But seeing the singles seemingly settle on the people they originally arrived with and then immediately reconsider and even completely change their feelings was the kind of fascinating character study that was increasingly lost in season two.

I will say that they could’ve dragged out the switching islands for maybe a day or two more for maximum drama. Have a competition/challenge first leading to another Paradise night and one more switch before the Survivor-like tribe merge. It would be good to see the singles forging closer relationships before the merge complicates everything once more.

Both of these twists and tweaks to the format are welcome and refreshing ways to give Single’s Inferno a boost after season two ended redeeming itself, but still with a whimper.

Single's Inferno Season 3 Review

The other area that Single’s Inferno needs to improve on though is with its commentator hosts. Even with the addition of season two’s Dex/Kim Jinyoung to the panel, the hosts are becoming increasingly unnecessary. Even though having hosts commenting on every single thing is a staple of Korean and Japanese variety formats, it feels more and more irrelevant here when other Korean dating shows forego the feature altogether.

Their commentary was helpful, welcome and fun in season one as we were all getting used to the format of the show itself. But so far in these three season 3 episodes, it feels like the hosts are merely phoning it in. Or worse, actively performing in a more scripted manner. That is, saying things just to say things. Or specifically saying things they (or the show’s writers) know viewers will want to hear. Then there’s the hosts recapping almost every other scene mere seconds after we all just watched said scene.

It feels almost like watching YouTube reactors. But with less spontaneous and raw commentary. It also feels much more pronounced with this season when the new twists and tweaks are much more interesting on their own without five hosts telling us how to think or feel about what’s happening on screen. Even more so when their commentary veers toward some sideeye-worthy opinions.

Anyway, the good thing about streaming is you can fast forward and skip ahead whenever you want. And perhaps sometimes that can help focus the viewing experiencing to the most interesting parts of the show.

And that is of course watching these sexy singles navigating Inferno and Paradise while trying to make a love connection and fending off potential competition.

Speaking of potential, so far, the cast feels like they could provide some excellent and fun drama. The fact that many, if not all, of the singles have been more open to exploring their options than in the previous two seasons is a positive. Especially after just two days, it is expected and quite normal for them to be unsure of who they might be attracted to. Unlike the first two seasons where singles chose someone on Day 1 and stuck with them ’til the end. No matter how many signs and signals told them to move on. These singles seem to be promising some juicy drama in the coming weeks.

Single's Inferno Season 3 Review

And so far, season 3 of Single’s Inferno is off to a solid and promising start. From the good potential of the cast and the refreshing twists to the format, let’s hope they can keep up the momentum and capture the magic of when the series first premiered.

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