Adapted from the popular Naver webtoon of the same name, Sweet Home made its global debut on Netflix in December 2020 and quickly proved itself to be one of the premiere series in the streamer’s K-content line-up. By using monsters to explore mental health, survival, and the various dimensions of human nature, the series crafted a compelling narrative that soared in popularity. The Netflix Original series is produced with Studio Dragon and stars Song Kang, Lee Jin-wook, Lee Si-young, Park Gyu-young, Go Min-si, Yoo Oh-seong, Oh Jung-se, Kim Mu-yeol, Jung Jin-young, Chae Won-bin, and Park Won-seok.
Season one centered around Cha Hyun-su (Song Kang), a reclusive high school student who moved into a new apartment building called Green Home. In the face of a crisis where individuals turned into monsters reflecting their innermost desires, Hyun-su broke out of his shell to save others. But now, the previous season is set so far in the past that a whole new and different enemy emerges. Sweet Home Season 2 follows Green Home survivors and Hyun-su, each fighting to survive in new places while other beings and mysterious phenomena emerge.
Seeking shelter in a baseball stadium-turned-sanctuary, the survivors don’t have any time to rest or rebuild in safety. Instead, they are left exposed to military violence, being hunted by monsters, and wandering the city to find a safe place. Featuring an expanded storyline from the original webtoon, Sweet Home Season 2 zigs every time that you think it’s going to zag. Director Lee Eung-bok consulted with writer Kim Kanbi (Kim Carnby) and had in-depth discussions about the hidden premises in the original webtoon and the expanded world-building in the upcoming season while keeping what made the original story so compelling. Season 2 ramps into a full-fledged apocalyptic drama that grows as new characters are introduced.
At the end of the previous season, it was clear that Hyun-su was being driven by Pyeon Sang-wook (Lee Jin-wook), or rather, Ui Myeong (played by Kim Sung-cheol in Season 1) in disguise. The tension between the two half-human-half-monsters is palpable, with one holding onto hope and one looking to burn down society even more than it already has. The complexity of their relationship is fantastic, and their action sequences against one another are the best of this second season.
Sweet Home Season 2 works hard to show not just how you can’t trust individuals when desperation kicks in but that you can’t trust even the systems put in place to keep you safe. The brutality of the military is absolutely on display. In fact, while last season focused on the monstrous things that humans do to each other, the distinction between the monstrous threat and humans still remained mostly clear up until the last couple of episodes. Now, the narrative shifts and embraces the larger story of humans turning into monsters and how that ties to their how fear physically transforms them. Mothers, children, and the intimate connection the series depicts in even the most grotesque creatures is important and makes its take on monsters more than just a gimmick.
The humans of the series become the real danger. Their violence and their prejudice lead to more harm and hate, worse than anything the monsters can do. Whether it is the suspicion of others like we saw in season one or the absolute mania that comes with unfettered power, some parts of the series are hard to watch. This is particularly true for the first episode, where we see how violent the military is, how little they think of humans despite claiming to be protecting humanity, and how everyone not wearing a uniform has become fodder for a fight they just want to survive.
While the CGI visual effects this season leave something to be desired, especially as the action set pieces get larger and less practical, the monsters themselves remain one of the series’ main selling points. This is due in part to their creative designs but also because of the weight that the story puts behind the transformations. Most of the monsters this season move with a sense of tragedy around them, a melancholy that allows the series to be more than just an action-packed fight for survival and more commentary on our positions in life and how those feelings can manifest.
With most of the original cast returning to the series, it’s astounding how quickly their stories merge or end in just the season’s first leg. That said, narratively, the suspense that builds over the course of the season offers up the thrills that solidified the series as a knockout hit on Netflix. More importantly, the relationships between characters Hyun-soo and Sang Wook keep you invested in the world of Sweet Home now that we’ve moved past just looking at the residents of the Green Home apartment complex. The concept of neighbors-turned-monsters grows when the story has to grapple with how present the military is. They track special infectees and experiment on them with no altruistic desire to save humanity. Instead, it’s about controlling the power of the diverse creatures and wielding them in how they see fit.
An added emotional core of Sweet Home Season 2 is actress Lee Si-young‘s Seo Yi-Kyung in an expanded role. Last season, she was pregnant and searching for her husband. This season, she’s involved in bloody battles and has to navigate a kind of motherhood that she didn’t know was possible. She is at a crossroads with choices that mount over time, and when motherhood turns monstrous, her story deepens even more.
For all of its narrative weight, however, this series’ season is far from perfect, and that’s largely due to its pacing. While the first season of Sweet Home moved fairly quickly, immediately grabbing onto audiences and keeping them invested with new monsters and complex relationships, Sweet Home Season 2 doesn’t just hit the gas pedal but accelerates as fast as it can. In fact, the first three episodes of the second season feel as if you’ve watched an entire season of television in just those three hours.
The swiftness of the series pays off at times, moving through material quickly to get to climactic moments. That said, it never lets the viewer breathe or settle down with the characters it asks us to care for. This is particularly an issue as we shift gears toward new characters at a speed that leaves us still holding onto the old. This is particularly thorny as the story strips away any and all plot armor, making every single character from the last season a potential target for an untimely end. That suspense can keep you on edge as new horrors pop up, but it is also a taxing exercise in full tension. In order to build tension properly, a story has to let you breathe and lull you into safety. That doesn’t happen for long stretches of episodes, and it can cause fatigue as the spectacle grows and grows.
The escalated pace teeters erratically, and the amount of twists thrown into the narrative in such a short amount of time as if to get to the next arc of the season and focus on the new cast members is a fumble that ignores how important the existing cast was to the series’ charisma. Sweet Home Season 2 is operating on a larger scale, and you can feel that in every way for better and, unfortunately, for worse.
That said, the last half of the series hones back in on what made the previous season special: the human connections and complexity that come from it. Instead of focusing solely on the spectacle and fast-paced action and thrills, a more natural setting allows the characters to snap into focus. The new season promised to bring the residents of Green Home a tension of a whole new different kind, and it does that. Shedding some characters for a new cast but, by doing so, missing some of the impact they hold.
Sweet Home Season 2 struggles with its electric pace that refuses to slow, but the characters and the actors that bring them to life remain the central draw for the series. Packed with fantastic growth arcs, we see characters move through trauma and find the grit to be resilient even when every piece of them is screaming to break. While the second season isn’t nearly as perfect as the first, it is well worth falling into as quickly as you can.
Sweet Home Season 2 is streaming now, exclusively on Netflix.
Sweet Home Season 2
Sweet Home Season 2 struggles with its electric pace that refuses to slow, but the characters and the actors that bring them to life remain the central draw for the series… While the second season isn’t nearly as perfect as the first, it is well worth falling into as quickly as you can.