There was a time not so long ago when Korean dramas rarely went past one season. Then U.S. streamers like Netflix entered the scene, and successful series such as Squid Game, Hellbound, and Sweet Home have had their stories extended past the one-and-done format previously favored by Korean creators and into planned second seasons.
Revenge drama The Glory is Netflix’s latest K-drama success. In the 16 episodes released in season one, protagonist Moon Dong-eun (Song Hye-kyo) summarily wraps up her vengeance against Park Yeon-jin (Lim Ji-yeon) and cronies, leaving virtually no loose ends when it comes to the central revenge plot. However, loose ends abound for Joo Yeo-jeong (Lee Do-hyun), Dong-eun’s plastic-surgeon boyfriend, who is still looking to make his father’s murderer suffer for the torment he’s caused.
Yeo-jeong’s unfinished revenge under Dong-eun’s tutelage leaves the narrative door open for The Glory to craft more meticulously executed vengeance. Could a second season happen? Should it? And if it does happen, should it center Joo Yeo-jeong or someone else? Let’s discuss.
Wait, isn’t there already a second season of The Glory?
No, though the confusion is understandable. In an attempt to take a small step away from the binge model, Netflix is increasingly implementing a strategy of splitting up single seasons into two parts (see also the most recent season of You). The Glory season one consists of 16 episodes split into two parts. “Part Two” is the second half of the first season.
First, Do-yeong crashes a truck into Jae-jun’s car. Then, in the construction site Jae-jun stumbles into — presumably owned by Do-yeong’s Jaepyeong Construction — he pushes Jae-jun off of a ledge to his death in a cement pool below. Do-yeong’s murder of Jae-jun parallels Yeon-jin’s murder of So-hee years earlier. It also demonstrates just how many people on this show are capable of killing.
What would a second season of The Glory look like?
The most obvious story line for a second season would follow Yeo-jeong’s revenge against Kang Yeong-cheon (Lee Mu-saeng), the man who murdered his father. In the final episode of The Glory season one, Dong-eun is convinced not to jump off of a building to her death by Yeo-jeong’s mother, who begs Dong-eun to help her son enact the revenge that consumes him. Dong-eun agrees and sets about planning that revenge.
The final scene of The Glory shows Dong-eun and Yeo-jeong walking into their jobs at the prison where Yeong-cheon has been transferred, but we don’t know exactly what their revenge will look like. If Netflix and The Glory creators were interested, this plot could sustain a season two.
Would a story based on Yeo-jeong’s revenge really work thematically?
That’s a good question! Honestly, maybe not. As much as I love Yeo-jeong and his Pinterest-worthy camping setup, his revenge isn’t thematically in line with Dong-eun’s. Dong-eun’s mission is so cathartic and relatable because it is a microcosm for the larger inequalities in society. Dong-eun is a kid living in poverty and without powerful parents to ensure she is protected. Her bullies mostly come from rich, well-connected families for whom the system is designed to protect. Because of this, Dong-eun must enact her own revenge, and it takes her decades to do so.
Yeo-jeong’s revenge is not the same. He was born into a rich family with all of the opportunities and comforts Dong-eun never had. The death of his father, a doctor with a kind heart who is killed by one of his patients, is tragic and traumatizing but not driven by systemic injustices. Yeong-cheon, who was already in prison for previous murders, is also prosecuted and sentenced for the murder of Yeo-jeong’s father. It sucks that he appears to feel no remorse for all the murdering he has done and that he seems to enjoy life in prison, but that’s not representative of a systematic failure. Or, if it is, the failure came in not getting Yeong-cheon the mental-health support he so obviously needed earlier in life.
Is there another plot The Glory season two could follow?
Why, yes. Yes there is. In The Glory’s first season, Dong-eun apologizes to only one person: Ye-sol, the young daughter of Yeon-jin. Imagine a season two of The Glory that follows a teen or 20-something Ye-sol’s attempted revenge against Dong-eun. This could be a bit tricky, given the necessary time jump, but I’m willing to pretend Song Hye-kyo looks 50 if you are.
That sounds like another story about rich people being rich. Are there any other options?
Well spotted. Yeah, a story about Ye-sol’s revenge could hit some of the same thematic snags as a story about Yeo-jeong’s revenge. Alternatively, it could be interesting to see The Glory take on more of an anthology format. If the series went in this direction, season two could center a new character with her own story of injustice and revenge, masterfully penned by hallyu writer-queen Kim Eun-sook.
Is there anything that could prevent a second season?
Always. There is Netflix’s recent strategy shift to scale back on multiple seasons of seemingly popular series. There are also the allegations that surfaced over the weekend that The Glory’s director, Ahn Gil-ho, was involved in a school-bullying incident in high school. Although Ahn initially denied having any memory of the incident, on Sunday, the legal representation for Ahn released a statement apologizing for the harm he caused. In Korea, these kinds of allegations can end a career. Even if they don’t for Ahn, it would make him directing a second season of The Glory — a story about violent abuses of power — awkward at best.
Furthermore, there’s also the matter of military enlistment for Lee Do-hyun, the actor who plays Yeo-jeong. As every K-drama stan knows, Korea requires all able-bodied men to enlist in the military by age 28. Lee will turn 28 next month, which has prompted unsubstantiated but admittedly educated rumors that he will enlist soon. Once he enlists, he must serve for at least 18 months, which would make filming a second season of The Glory — at least one that includes Yeo-jeong — nearly impossible for almost two years.
Should K-dramas have second seasons?
This has been a hot topic in the K-drama community as many fans have enjoyed the one-and-done format that Korean series have traditionally offered. The story format is different (though not inherently better or worse) than the traditional American TV model, where stories can stay open-ended for hundreds of episodes before coming to a conclusion.
It would be a shame if K-dramas lost the one-and-done format completely. The Korean TV industry has built its immense contributions to hallyu on emotionally complex storytelling that prioritizes catharsis above plot or even character. The Glory, for example, has some unexpected plot twists, but they never come at the expense of seeing Dong-eun get what she wants after having suffered so much. It would be tricky to try to hold the totality of that cathartic experience past the first season.
That being said, the Korean TV industry makes more than 100 dramas every year. While Netflix may be interested in spinning its most successful K-dramas into multiple seasons, distributors like Viki offer a much more extensive catalogue of Korean entertainment options, mostly ones that aren’t affected by the traditional American production and distribution model. Who says we can’t have it all?