Back in 2019, we witnessed the story of Kim Jo-jo (Kim So-hyun) and how she experienced the exciting moments of being young and in love and at the same time how that same love carved another wound in her already scarred heart.
The second season of this webtoon-adaptation starts with that – Kim Jo-jo as an adult living with a shield in her heart and quite literally in her love alarm. In a world where love equates to ringing another person’s phone app, Jo-jo can be considered as an “error” of some sort in this seemingly perfect programmed way of knowing someone else’s feelings. She won’t be able to ring another person’s love alarm app because of the shield she activated on hers. But that didn’t bother Lee Hye-young (Jung Ga-ram) the slightest. Okay I concede, it bothered him at some point towards the ending of season 2 but the first half shows how he has devoted himself to Jo-jo even if it seems like he is just in a one-sided relationship.
This same devotion is what made Jo-jo decide to look for a way to remove the shield on her Love Alarm. She thinks that the only way to repay Hye-young and showed that she, too, cares is to ring his. On her way to meet the “developer” and CEO of Love Alarm Brian Chon (Ki Do-hoon), Jo-jo met Hwang Sun-oh (Song Kang) again. He discovered about her shield and that caused confusion for everyone involved in this love triangle – which turns into a love square if I include Lee Yuk-jo (Kim Si-eun) in the equation.
Confusion for Sun-oh because it justifies the what-ifs and should-have-beens in his mind but at the same time it invalidates the hatred he harbored towards Jo-jo for years. Confussion for Lee Yuk-jo because she, like Hye-young, is devoted to Sun-oh for years even if he doesn’t ring her Love Alarm. Confusion for Hye-young because that meant Jo-jo hasn’t been truthful in the years they’re together. And most of all, it confused Jo-jo because she doesn’t have any proof that her feelings for Hye-young are true since she never once rings his Love Alarm the same way she did to Sun-oh’s.
The first half of Love Alarm Season 2 focuses on the confused feelings of our main characters. It’s still about young love but unlike in Season 1, our characters are more mature now. They have experienced heartbreaks before and it contributed to how they act in the present timeline. Also, for me, Season 2 is more visually appealing than the first season but still paying homage to the scene we loved in Season 1. Take, for example, the alley kiss of Jo-jo and Sun-oh. It is almost similar to their campus alley kiss here in season 2 but this felt more dramatic. I think it’s in the combination of the well-shot scene and the more emotionally distraught characters.
Meanwhile, the second half tackles darker themes as it reveals what truly goes on in Jo-jo’s mind and heart. Chon Dok-gu (Lee Jae-eung) – aka the most underappreciated character in Love Alarm – gives clarity to Jo-jo’s feelings. The fact that she installed the shield and spear with her own volition means she’s following what’s truly inside her heart. He’s also the person who questioned whether we’re becoming too reliant on technology that we believe more in algorithms than follow what we truly want. Like playing the movie that the streaming apps recommend rather than really looking for the movie we’ve been craving to watch.
The Love Alarm murder is used, on the other hand, to push Jo-jo to reveal what’s going on in her mind for years. She has survivor guilt after the tragedy that befell her family in Jeju Island. In a very poetic and symbolic scene, she returned to Jeju for a marathon run where she slowly let go of the baggage she had from her childhood. And at the finish line, Hye-young welcomes her with open arms. And yes, she chooses Hye-young over Sun-oh.
Truth be told, I’m on Team Sun-oh before Season 2 started. I was so ready for the angsty post-breakup scenes and emotional reunion. I only got the former though. If I’m not mistaken, they followed what happened in the webtoon. And I thought I would get hurt really badly with this decision but I realize, as I look at the ending objectively, Jo-jo made the right decision.
What does Hye-young have that Sun-oh don’t? What’s the reason why Jo-jo choose him over her first love? It is the trust he has in Jo-jo’s feelings. Sure, the spear feature and Jo-jo’s white lie taint this trust but he came around in the end. He chooses to love Jo-jo even if she doesn’t ring his Love Alarm. Something that Sun-oh failed to do in the past. It is probably because of immaturity as that happened when they were just teenagers but it is also proof of the mistiming of Sun-oh and Jo-jo’s relationship.
I think I will include Sun-oh and Jo-jo’s last conversation in my list of the most heartbreaking soft rejections in K-dramaland. I got really emotional when they both look back fondly on their shared memories. Nothing and no one could take away the fact that they are each other’s, first love. They would never be able to love someone else in the same way they love each other – passionate and reckless. They were each other’s world but they moved on already. What present Jo-jo and Sun-oh need is the kind of love that is patient to their bruised and guarded heart; love that is founded by trust and not dictated by an algorithm, and love that is kind to be able to forgive them when they couldn’t forgive themselves on their own.
Their conversation I believe is what also led Sun-oh to look at Yuk-jo – aka the second most underappreciated character in Love Alarm – in a different manner. I have reservations with this because I’ve become attached to this poor girl who didn’t do anything wrong except to love someone like Sun-oh. She deserves better and even though I haven’t seen it in canon, hopefully, Sun-oh treated her better this time.
Some can dismiss Love Alarm as the usual love triangle romance we watch in K-dramas. But if you look at it at a different angle, it actually raises relevant questions. Can our self-esteem be measured on the likes and hearts we receive online? Does an app’s algorithm know us better than we know ourselves? But even if we have the most advanced technology out there, human emotions will remain unpredictable. And just like Jo-jo, even if our options are limited, it is still our choice on where we should go and what we should do, be it in love or in life.
– I would have loved to see Park Gul-mi’s (Go Min-si) character development more. She and Dok-gu could have had a good loveline, you know. With Gul-mi learning that she doesn’t really need to pretend to be someone else to be loved and Dok-gu leaning more in his intuition than technology to know other people’s feelings.
-I have this random thought of Jung Ga-ram making a cameo appearance in Hospital Playlist season 2. He and Shin Hyun-been did two projects together – Mistress and Beasts Clawing at Straws. Can I see him as a cute intern Shin-PDnim? Lee-writernim?
-Can we have Song Kang and Kim So-hyun in another project again? But this time with HEA? Please?
Image credit: Netflix