As I neared the end of Sisyphus: The Myth I instinctively mumbled something under my breath, a word I had heard my dad utter hundreds of times while I was growing up, “screwy.” This fantasy drama has superb characters, amazing CGI, excellent special effects, wonderful acting, a fantastic villain, and a suspenseful plot, all nestled inside some “screwy” time travel writing.
“The future is already here. We just don’t know it yet.” – Sisyphus: The Myth
Twenty years after a nuclear war destroyed the Korean Peninsula, a tough-as-nails young woman named Gang Seo-Hae takes a trip via the “uploader” back to the year 2020, intent on preventing the war from taking place. Once in the past, her first order of business is to find and stop the assassination of a man named Han Tae-Sul, the genius engineer who invented the “uploader.” After she saves his life, the two team up in an effort to stop the war from happening and the unlikely pair begin a life-threatening journey to save the people of Korea. Blocked at every turn by a secret government agency known simply as The Control Bureau, a tiny team from Asia Mart who are the brokers for those traveling to 2020 through the “uploader,” and a mysterious entity known only as Sigma, things become more twisted and dangerous than either of them could have imagined.
“No matter how hard we try, we can’t change our past. We can’t undo our mistakes or the things that we regret.- Sisyphus: The Myth
At the tender age of 10 years old, Gang Seo-Hae watched in horror as her mother sacrificed herself to keep her family safe while their life literally fell apart. On Halloween day, missiles came showering down on South Korea and a huge atomic bomb detonated in the capital city of Seoul, obliterating young Seo-Hae’s entire world. She and her father survived the holocaust by taking shelter in a bunker and living there by themselves for 20 years, her police officer dad teaching her how to defend herself for the times when she would have to venture out into the harsh and dangerous new world. As a result, she is an amazing sharp-shooter and can outfight several men at the same time. Her one and only desire is to prevent her mother’s death by making sure the war never takes place.
The CEO of South Korea’s most valuable company, Quantum & Time, is the man who sports the nicknames “Engineering Heartthrob” and “Sexy Brainiac” – Han Tae-Sul. The guy is an engineering genius whose amazing inventions have bankrupted many companies. When he was very young his parents passed away and he lived with his older brother, Han Tae-San, in a semi-basement that was located in a shantytown until he graduated from middle school. Tae-San gave up plans he had for his own future so he could take care of his little brother, believing in Tae-Sul’s ability to make it big in the world of engineering. Take-Sul entered university sooner than others his age and met Eddie Kim who later became his business partner. Ever since he was a little boy, Han Tae-Sul’s goal has been to invent a time machine and travel to the past.
Other main characters…
While working as a mechanic, Han Tae-San learned how to repair trains and went on to work for a train maintenance company. He loves his little brother more than anything else in the world and happily sacrifices his own needs because Tae-Sul has always been his first and foremost priority.
Han Tae-Sul’s university roommate, Eddie Kim, saw immense financial potential in Tae-Sul and decided to hitch his wagon to Tae-Sul’s star, the results of which landed him a position as second in command at Quantum & Time.
Choi Jae-Sun is the first person Gang Seo-Hae met when she crossed over into the past. At first, he indulges her because he thinks she can help him win the lottery but later comes to sincerely like her. Jae-Sun is willing to put his life on the line to try and protect Seo-Hae and actually saves her on more than one occasion. He’s jealous that she is constantly around Han Tae-Sul.
Kim Seo-Jin and Tae-Sul were once an item but now their relationship is simply one of psychiatrist and patient. Although the two are no longer an item, they are still friends. She has shifted her romantic interest and is now secretly dating Eddie Kim. Her father is a major investor in Quantum & Time.
Seo-Hae’s father, Kang Dong-Gi, was a Lieutenant on the police force in Seoul. When his wife died, on the day South Korea was attacked, he began raising his daughter on his own and taught her the skills necessary to survive in their harsh, new world. He loves her with all his heart.
Park Hyeong-Do was in jail for murder on the day the war broke out and, consequently, survived the nuclear attack. He is the owner of Asia Mart, a small convenience store that is a front for his real business – he and the three young people he employs are “downloaders” and brokers of those who come through the “uploader.”
The leader of a secret unit of The Control Bureau is Hwang Hyun-Seung. He is in charge of all the people who hunt down those who make it through the “uploader.” He is focused solely on finding and stopping Kang Seo-Hae and Han Tae-Sul.
The main evil in the story is Sigma. (I’m not going to tell you anything about Sigma so as not to give away the surprise.)
For information about Park Shin-Hae, the actress who plays the part of Kang Seo-Hae, you can go to my review of one of the dramas on my favorites list – Memories of the Alhambra.
Although 41-year-old Cho Seung-Woo, the man who brilliantly portrays genius Han Tae-Sul, has been in a host of films, TV drama’s, and musical theater productions, this is the first time I’ve ever seen him act and I have to admit I was more than extremely impressed! Once I began reading about this man I realized there were so many things to write about him that I’d just mention a few and then invite you to go to his Wikipedia page to read more. Let’s see –
He comes from a musical family. His father was a singer and his sister is a musical theater actress.
His debut came via the film Chunhyang, for which he won the leading role from among 1,000 other actors!
His comeback in 2010 (after his mandatory military service) was through the musical theater production Jekyll and Hyde and his salary became the highest of any other musical theater actor in South Korean history! When he reprised his role in the same show four years later, the 18,700 tickets sold out in just ten minutes!
When the leading actor of the stage production Doctor Zhivago had to quit due to vocal trouble, Cho Seung-Woo stepped into the role just two weeks prior to its opening!
He is the recipient of 27 different awards – 16 are Best Actor, one Top Excellence, and one Grand Prize!
He attended Kaywon High School of Arts, Dankook University majoring in Theater and Film, and Dankook University Graduate School of Culture, Arts, and Design.
The man is incredible and just made it onto my list of favorite actors.
A quick shout out to Kim Byung-Chul for his super villainous acting! His role is that of a bad guy and he plays the part perfectly, right up there with the likes of Namgung Min (Remember and Sensory Couple), Shin Sung-Rok (Liar Game and Return), Park Sung-Wong (Rugal), and Heo Joon-Ho (Come and Hug Me). I really hope the man walks away with at least one Best Villain award.
Are you familiar with Sisyphus? For those of you who, like myself, have never heard the word before, we get a quick explanation about halfway through the drama. Since it won’t ruin the plot by you knowing this ahead of time, I want to tell you who he is. According to Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king who cheated death twice and, as punishment for that crime, was sentenced to roll a giant rock up a mountain. However, once the boulder reached the top, it would roll back down to the bottom, forcing Sisyphus to repeat the process over and over again throughout eternity. So, what significance does that mythological king have to this drama? Hint: Sisyphus was caught in an endless cycle – his conclusion always ending up back at the beginning.
“The beginning and the end are always intertwined. Just like a poor little puppy that chases its own tail in circles.” – Sisyphus: The Myth
Sisyphus: The Myth has a huge amount of amazing fight/action scenes – some of the very best I’ve seen in a Kdrama! And Kang Seo-Hae can really kick butt! Park Shin-Hye (and/or her stunt double) does a fantastic job executing the fight sequences that were blocked out by some obviously talented stunt coordinators. Wow! For those of you who enjoy action, the hand-to-hand combat and gunfights in this show are exciting and, thankfully, plentiful.
I wish the writers had explained who the bad-guy characters were that looked so weird. They are peppered here and there throughout the entire show but we’re never told who/what they are. The ones that stand out in my mind are – the guy that shoots Han Tae-Sul during the conference, the guy that is missing half an arm in an alleyway, and several who are in the church at the end of the drama. All I could come up with was that they were wounded survivors of the war who had come back using the “uploader.” If these kinds of characters were going to be used more than once, we should have been told who they were and why they looked so strange.
Those of you who faithfully read Heart & Seoul’s reviews know how much I love time travel stories. Because (as of now) time travel is a fictional concept, when writing a screenplay anything goes – absolutely anything. However, that “anything,” needs to, at the very least, make a smidgen of common sense, and Sisyphus: The Myth’s time travel ideas just didn’t gel because the show’s screenwriters decided to let their imaginations run crazily wild. Maybe that’s the reason the drama’s fans dropped off as the story progressed – starting out with a nationwide 5.6% rating, peaking its viewership on the second episode with 6.6%, and capping the whole thing off with just 4.3%.
The screenwriting team of Lee Ji-In and Jeon Chan-Ho began writing Sisyphus: The Myth in 2016 while under contract with SBS but the production was canceled due to problems with casting. Then, when the original writer of the drama Fates and Furies quit after the show’s fourth episode, the two writers took over and finished the remaining 36. When they weren’t paid what they had been promised for their work on that drama, they left and took their Sisyphus idea to JTBC and got the green light from that company. Sisyphus: The Myth has been labeled JTBC’s 10th-anniversary special drama.
I caught two major “oops,” which were as big as the one in Let’s Fight Ghost, far too big to just let slip by. There’s a scene where Seo-Hae trips and rolls down a steep hill. However, when she gets up and walks away we don’t see any sign of a slope behind her, not even a small one. “OOPS!” Another scene shows someone holding a gun to the right side of their head, then the camera pans away and we hear a shot go off. When we next see the person, they are lying dead on the ground with a puddle of blood under their head and the right side of their face is up, but there is no wound on their head at all. “OOPS!” Sorry, but these mistakes are too big for the director to have simply overlooked. I consider “oops” of this magnitude to be just plain sloppy filming.
The drama’s soundtrack isn’t anything to brag about. There isn’t a single song that stood out to me as excellent. Stay, performed by GSoul (who also wrote the lyrics) is what I consider to be the drama’s theme song. True, performed by DOKO, has a very strong beat and an impressive electric guitar solo that brings the song to a close. My Last Love, sung by Ailee, and You’re My Light, performed by Park Won, are two pretty ballads. The song I really disliked was the ballad Fight For Love, performed by Sumi Jo. The lyrics are good but the music is way too dramatic sounding for my liking. I’m also not a fan of Sumi Jo’s voice.
As far as the aesthetics go, Sisyphus: The Myth is amazing. The vast contrast between the desolate new world after the nuclear war (thanks to superbly crafted CGI work) and the beautiful city skyline of Seoul before the bombing is extremely sobering. I kept wondering to myself, “Is this what earth would look like 20 years after a worldwide nuclear war took place?” I did find it strange, however, that a building could be completely demolished but some of the items outside it were perfectly fine, or that one body would only be chard while others next to it were complete skeletons. I don’t know for sure what things would be like in reality after a nuclear war (and I pray none of us ever will), however, some of the things I saw on the show made me question their veracity.
I would have very happily given this show a 9.75 rating had the writing concerning the time travel end of things made more sense. If you can overlook the “screwy” bits, Sisyphus: The Myth is an excellently crafted, extremely entertaining Kdrama.
Kim Byung-Chul’s acting and great villainous character
Time-travel writing that just didn’t make sense