Hospital Playlist delivers a mega-finale of almost two hours long with medical cases and movements in all the love stories involving our five core members and their residents. Most of the developments pave the way for a second season (which has just been confirmed – YAY!) and it’s only Jeong-Won and Gyu-wool’s long-drawn “courtship” that gets a happy ending in this episode. While I felt the finale suffered a little in pacing due to the long length and way too many cases to follow, it was a heartwarming and heartfelt end to what has been a very enjoyable series.
One idea that tied many of our characters’ stories together in the finale was that of crossroads. Many of them are at decisive points in their lives, where they need to make critical decisions that will affect their professional lives, their love lives or both.
For Song-Hwa, she has already made that decision in Episode 11 on her own to move to Sokcho branch to rest and fix her neck problem. I always enjoy the confidence of her character, which comes from a position of moral clarity as she knows what is right and what needs to be done. Because of that, all her residents even line up to see her for advice above their research, about their love life or about work in general.
It is only with Ik-jun’s recent confessions of liking her that that she has been more tongue-tied lately, where her usual eloquence is replaced by an uncertain silence. She was similarly silent with Chi-hong’s awkward act of placing his hands on her shoulders last week, but that silence conveyed discomfort and unease. However, with Ik-Jun, I saw her silence revealing a sense of dilemma.
Throughout the series, Song-hwa has been so strongly independent and comfortable with spending time alone. What she’s struggling with also is admitting to her feelings and therefore becoming more vulnerable. I really liked the camera work in this scene – portraying both Ik-Jun and Song-Hwa as being at the ‘borders’ of the middle windowpane – they are clearly in separate spaces, but they are now in that in-between space, whether to move forward and be together, or to move out and therefore be separated again. What’s even more brilliant is that we can see Ik-Jun has moved more towards the centre, slightly away from the border, with his confession – whereas Song-hwa is at the border. My hope in Season 2 is for Song-hwa to agree to exploring the relationship and then seeing how they move from close friends to lovers.
While Song-hwa and Ik-Jun handle more personal cross-roads, we see both Jeong-won and Seok-hyeong struggling with bigger decisions. For Jeong-won, he finally makes about whether to take on priesthood and stay at the hospital. His friends, his parents and the hospital are all clear on what the better choice is. For him, it has been such a huge struggle as he sees priesthood as the best way to honour God. However, he has realised that staying in the hospital allows him to serve God and do good as much. As Song Hwa tells him, “Stay here and save more lives.” The episode certainly affirmed that with his tireless care of the girl for four days, and the whole family noticing and observing it.
Part of me was fearful that the show would go down the over-sentimental line of him struggling and then finally deciding when Gyu-wool cries in front of him. However, the show took a much better route by allowing Jeong-won to make that decision first, and then deciding that Gyu-wool was one of the first he wanted to tell, even before the other guy friends.
Yet in deciding to stay on, he is not abandoning God or his religion – and once again, I enjoy the camera-work and directing of the show as the rosary that Jeong-won carries on his wrist is often highlighted or zoomed in on at critical moments, an affirmation too that kindness and love comes from his desire and love for God.
Seok-hyung has similarly big decisions to make in this episode, both professionally and personally. Regarding the decision to take over his dad’s company, though he was placed in a dilemma, all along we knew what choice he would make. Him going through the thinking process also gave him clarity on what he wants in life and what he want.
As he tells his friends, “I don’t want to waste time. My time is too precious for that. I want to live doing the things I like and the things I want to do right now. That’s why I wanted to start a band. I used you guys.” His touching moment makes everyone silent and awkward, and this is broken by Ik-Jun when he says “As if”, and everyone laughs together. These wonderful friendship moments are what make this show shine.
While making the right choice professionally, Seok-hyung still wavers in his love life, not because he was hurt by his divorce, but because of how much he felt his ex-wife, Sin-hye, was hurt by him. He tells Ik-jun that he does not want Min-Ah to be hurt and that he asked her to date someone better, because his life is complicated. As a caring and loving friend, Ik-jun offers him a different perspective gently – “If you weren’t divorced and in this complicated situation, you would have dated Dr. Chu” and he advises Seok-hyung to open up himself to love again.
Seok-hyung thinks him and Min-ah are back to a professional relationship after he turned her down. However, it certainly is not. This is where the production of this show shines – as Seok-hwa voices over about how the friends differ in terms of how they like to eat, she and Jeong-won share that Seok-hyung loves eating ramyeon by himself while watching videos. However, we see him genuinely smiling even as Min-ah barges into his office with a drink and fishcakes and he enjoys eating together with her.
At the end of the finale, he is faced with a dilemma – whether to open himself up and agree to have dinner with Min-ah, or to protect himself and reject her. He decides to turn her down, and gets a call from Sin-hye. This is one storyline I’m keen to see in Season 2, because Seok-hyung obviously was very affected by this experience. What Season 1 hasn’t been so good at doing is to show us how our characters who have been hurt have healed emotionally. We are aware that there are characters like Ik-Sun, Ik-Jun, Seok-hyung who have experienced pain in their love life. With a second season, let’s hope the show can go more in depth to explore these areas.
And finally, we have Jun-Wan. While he’s professionally adept and makes good decisions, we see him this episode that Jae-hak, who has been under his mentorship, rises to the occasion and makes a critical decision to save the man with a punctured aorta. It is also Jae-hak that helps Jun-wan to make an important decision on the relationship to send Ik-sun a ring. It was endearing to see Jun-wan being so lost and uncertain.
He makes the decision to send her the ring. However, the package he has sent to her is returned. They are such a sweet and adorable couple that we really want the best for them, so let’s hope Season 2 explores them working out these issues in a mature and healthy manner.
The song “You to Me, Me to You” that ties the finale together is a fitting ensemble piece that celebrates how relationships of all sorts – friendship, colleagues, family, love – have been at the core of this wonderful show. While many questions remain unanswered at the end of this season, what we are left with is a comforting sense that these friends will always be there for each other and their friendship is definitely something I’m looking forward to enjoying once again in Season 2. Thank you Hospital Playlist for a wonderful journey. Ending off this review with the song that ends off this season.