Edited by Yang Young Jun
Translated by Kim Yoo Hyang
‘Time traveling’ is no longer a foreign subject matter for Korean viewers. Multiple drama series with time as their theme have aired over the past few years. Amongst them, some have received positive reviews. As another time-traveling series, is JTBC’s Sisyphus: The Myth meeting their fans’ high expectations?
The life of Han Tae Sul, CEO of Quantum & Time and genius engineer, changes completely starting from a plane crash. All events root from the USB with the black box footage of the plane crash. Tae Sul is shocked to find out what had hit the plane and caused the accident. The thing that collided with the aircraft was a large suitcase and his brother, Han Tae San, who died several years ago.
There’s more. After finding a film camera full of pictures from the future in his brother’s bag, he is chased by mysterious groups and faces Kang Seo Hae, who claims to have come from the future. Though he experiences a series of incomprehensible events, Tae Sul follows Seo Hae searching for his brother and the truth.
The setting and universe of Sisyphus: The Myth is more familiar than it is refreshing. The savior from the future reminds us of The Terminator, while the selfish genius engineer of Iron Man. Furthermore, post-apocalypse, time machines, and secret organizations’ plans are elements we have already witnessed times and times before.
Despite this familiarity, the actors’ skills are why we continue to watch the show. All cast members including Cho Seung Woo, Park Shin Hye, Jeon Gook Hwa, Sung Dong Il, Kim Byung Chul, Heo Joon Seok, and Tae In Ho add vitality and magnitude to the series. In particular, Cho Seung Woo persuasively illustrates the complex inner side of Han Tae Sul, who cannot escape from the guilt and pain of his brother’s death. Park Shin Hye also brings her character to life by expressing delicate emotions with her performance and pulling off the challenging action scenes after her previous work, #Alive.
First, the timing for revealing the clue is disappointing. Viewers’ questions as to why Tae Sul is being chased after, why they aren’t desperate to catch Tae Sul, or the real reason behind Seo Hae’s protection of him, are all resolved between the 6th and 8th episodes. Considering how important kick-off momentums are in dramas, the progress is relatively slow. By all means, the show should be praised for providing answers to all of the questions it initially raised. However, its ratings demonstrate that viewers have already left the show due to the inhospitable plot development. It remains even more painful as it is rare for viewers to return once they drop out from shows with clear universe narratives.
Examples include absurd dialogues in the show which deal with the #MeToo movement merely as a threat or refer to Tae Sul as a ‘junky’ for being on psychiatric medication. The overall quality of CGI is also poor, and the shooting scene in the center of Seoul involved not one person passing by. Several other points mess with the plot’s feasibility and hinder viewers’ absorption of the show apart from the mentioned examples. This lack of details and reality loosens the show’s tension, despite it being a Sci-Fi fantasy.
With eight episodes aired, The Sisyphus: The Myth lies in a similar situation to Sisyphus from Greek mythology. They put their effort into pushing a rock to the top of the mountain only to have it roll down to the bottom. But as all questions so far have been answered, and the actors are performing with passion. There is a good chance for them to climb back up and keep the rock up there. I just desperately hope that it won’t remain as another average time-traveling drama.
Verdict: I’ve been clinging onto it because of Cho Seung Woo and Park Shin Hye so far, but… (5.5/10)
Editor Yang Young Jun: There is at least one good part in every movie or TV series. A media geek who isn’t picky with genres.