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K-drama ● Review: Sisyphus – The Myth

English Title: Sisyphus – The Myth

Korean Title: 시지프스 – The Myth

Director(s): Jin Hyeok

Screenwriter(s): Jeon Chan-ho & Lee Je-in

Studio: Drama House & JTBC Studios Released: 2021

Runtime: 16 episodes, ~1h 10m each. (min. 1h 3m – max. 1h 20m)

Starring: Cho Seung-woo, Park Shin-hye, Sung Dong-il, Tae In-ho, Jung Hye-in, Kim Byung-chul


My Verdict: Terminator-like time paradox. Moderately intriguing. Poor execution, inadequately explained plot points and devices.


● Han Tae-sul (Cho Seung-woo) is a genius engineer and inventor. He founded the company Quantum and Time which has become successful. Basically, he is like Tony Stark who has a ridiculously wide range of skills (except he can’t fight well), including some MacGyvering ability. Sometime in the near future, he will invent a time machine.


● Somehow, with the use of the time machine, a war involving a nuke will destroy much of the Korean peninsula.


Sisyphus – The Myth

● Kang Seo-hae (Park Shin-hye) travels from the future to the present in 2020 to prevent the war. Although Han Tae-sul is the inventor of the time machine and therefore his death is an obvious solution, Seo-hae protects him.


● Time paradox and time loops are hardly the most original ideas and it doesn’t try to be. It admits to being like The Terminator whilst it, thankfully, avoids replaying the loop like Groundhog Day. (As a sidebar, Groundhog Day is a good film but there are just too many clones out there.)


● The plot is not quite as simple as The Terminator, and it has to be since it is 16 episodes long. However, any apparent complexity is superficial since that merely comes from having multiple parties involved. If one is hoping for something highly complex like the German series Dark, then one will be disappointed.


● As Kang Seo-hae tries to protect Han Tae-sul, both try to prevent the war in their own way. “Sigma” is the party that apparently starts the war and is willing to hurt Han Tae-sul but not kill him because they need him to invent the time machine. There is some intrigue regarding Sigma but that aspect of the plot unfortunately drags a little.


● In the present day, there is the “Control Bureau” which is basically the immigration department for time travelers. They attempt to capture such individuals. It is a good idea, something Philip K. Dick would come up with, but the series fails to make use of them. They have so much potential but they come across as a bunch of failures.


● And then there is Park Hyeong-do (Sung Dong-il) who runs his own “business” under his grocery store Asia Mart, intercepting time travelers and taking their luggage. There are others and it’s good that there are various characters with their own agenda but, like the Control Bureau, the series fails to make effective use of them.


● Whilst some will note plot holes, a lot of the problems are related to execution. To take examples from the earlier episodes: the Control Bureau want to capture Kang Seo-hae so they send a bunch of agents; they want to keep a low profile but the street is full of guys in black; they use silencers and then they just shoot up the place and make too much noise anyway; they want her alive but they keep shooting, endangering the public; they surround her except for the one spot or exit that anyone with commonsense would cover; one team breaches whilst the others remain outside, which is understandable up to a point, but the latter wait too long when it is obvious those inside need help. It’s so cheesy that it is jarring. It would be more plausible if only one small team could deploy due to time and/or resource constraints, and she gets away because she can realistically deal with one team. As already mentioned, the Control Bureau comes across as a bunch of failures but, to make it worse, Kang Seo-hae is simply overpowered for a mere human.


● There is the trope of Han Tae-sul having the personal issue of “feeling guilty about a dead loved one”. His older brother had warned him that time travelers are after him. Han Tae-sul did not believe this and his older brother subsequently died. In the opening, Han Tae-sul saves the flight he is on from crashing, realizing after that his brother is connected to the incident. It is this crazy mystery along with the arrival of Kang Seo-hae that triggers what follows. [Potential Spoiler] So, Han Tae-sul’s brother is somehow not dead and he is supposed to have done a lot to protect Han Tae-sul whilst in hiding. This is fine but it is not sufficiently explained.


[Potential Spoiler] Other plot devices are also not adequately explained. These include the ability to see the future by touching something from the future as well as the possibility of doing time jumps (as if in spirit) whilst the body is still in the present. If that is how it works in this fictional universe, then it is what it is, but these devices are just conveniently brought up.


● One can see the obvious thematic connection between the story of Sisyphus and the characters repeating the same choices and mistakes, thereby repeating the time loop. On balance, however, the series doesn’t seem to have much imagery or allusions to the myth. As for the time loop, there is the image of secret societies that try to control the future by controlling the past and vice versa but it is not something explored.


● Those who like time paradoxes may like this series. Those who don’t like such a premise, forget it. The production is decent and there is some intrigue, enough to keep one watching, but too many plot points and devices are inadequately explained of which merely a few are mentioned in this review. To be fair, some points that initially come across as plot inconsistencies are explained later on but too many are not. In this regard, the series is poorly executed and there is also too much unrealized potential.

 

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