Island director Park Kwang-hyun undoubtedly felt the burden of expectation with the premiere of the new K-drama Island. Already acclaimed for 2005’s Welcome to Dongmakgol and 2017’s suspenseful Fabricated City, Park has established himself as a masterful storyteller. He makes his first foray into the supernatural genre with Island, which premiered six episodes in December that were full of breathtaking fight choreography but sloppy writing.
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The first two episodes of Island part 2 elaborate on the history behind the knotty, bloody events of part 1. It starts off with an extended flashback into Van’s intertwined past with Goong-tan, who were both raised as brothers with the sole purpose of hunting demons. They’ve been experimented on to enhance their physical capabilities, put through harsh training and forced to endure cruel conditions while essentially living in captivity at a monastery.
After decades’ worth of senseless demon-killing, Goong-tan in particular begins to develop a bloodlust, going so far as to murder innocent human bystanders for sport while on missions. It culminates in a final battle between the two brothers and Goong-tan being sealed away in an underground prison for the past few hundred years.
When we jump back to the events of present day, we see Goong-tan emerge from his prison, hellbent on vengeance for his incarceration. Both Van and Mi-ho gear up for the battle that’s to come, with the latter focused on her training to regain the knowledge and power from her past life to fulfil a prophecy where she seals the demons away for good.
Island part 2 is fortunately shaping up to be a more compelling story than that of part 1. While Island’s first season was overpowered by high-octane action sequences, part 2 adds some overdue substance to the main characters, specifically Van, Goong-tan and Mi-ho, by delving beyond their surface-level contributions to the series as protagonists and antagonists. In the first two episodes alone, Island part 2 does a much better job at laying out the stakes and the exact threats both Goong-tan and the rampaging demons pose to the people of Jeju Island.
Now that its script has supplied Van with nuance beyond mere combat prowess, Kim Nam-gil now has a real opportunity to shine as Island’s main hero. The visage of a man hardened by millennia of constant battle has melted away to reveal a version of Van who only wishes to experience and embrace his own humanity.
On the other hand, though it might be too early to get an accurate understanding of Goong-tan, Sung Joon has played a fairly archetypal villain so far. Even ASTRO’s Cha Eun-woo is intentional with the way he portrays Priest Yo-han, who was forced to kill his own demon-possessed brother and now questions the line between good and evil. We’ll see if the four remaining episodes will fully flesh out Goong-tan’s character beyond his grotesque thirst for destruction and revenge.
Island’s extensive worldbuilding and lore remains a double-edged sword in part 2 – while it maintains a much-needed level of intrigue, the series tends to rely on recaps to keep viewers engaged and up-to-date. That being said, Island part 2 is well on its way to becoming a focused series that would do justice to the original webtoon it’s based on. Whether the showrunners’ script maintains this upward trajectory for the remainder of the series remains to be seen.
Island part 2 premieres new episodes on Fridays on Amazon Prime Video and TVING.