‘Pandora’ Review: Hasn’t Quite Yet Reached the Glory of ‘The Penthouse’

pandora kdrama review

Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

pandora kdrama review
Credit: tvN

tvN’s weekend drama Pandora: Beneath the Paradise (hereinafter referred to as Pandora), which started with great interest from the public, is struggling with low viewership and a lukewarm response. Prior to its premiere, Pandora was touted as the “next Penthouse.” With Writer Kim Soon Ok as a creator and Lee Ji Ah as the lead actress, Pandora seemed destined for success. However, were the expectations too high? Three weeks into its broadcast, the show is still stuck at 3-4% ratings, and the response to the show has been underwhelming.

The protagonist, Hong Tae Ra (Lee Ji Ah), lives an affluent life with her successful IT company CEO husband and adorable daughter. However, her happy life is shattered when she remembers that she used to be a contract killer who assassinated the president 15 years ago. To make matters worse, the president she killed was the father of Go Hae Su (Jang Hee Jin), who is like a sister to her, and her only sister Yoo Ra (Han Soo Yeon) has been paid to act like her sister all this time. Tae Ra plans to confess her sins to Hae Su after seeking revenge on those who manipulated her life.

The main plot of the story is revenge and conspiracy. With the assassination of the president as the first piece of the mystery, the protagonist who recovers her memories uses her revenge against those who pushed her to the brink as her drive. However, the political conspiracy combined with revenge doesn’t fold as we expect. Tae Ra’s story of determination to seek revenge is often overshadowed by the tangled relationships around her. Hae Su’s anger at discovering Tae Ra’s true identity reaches out to people even more, and the conflict among Tae Ra’s three friends and leaders of Haechi, Pyo Jae Hyun (Lee Sang Yoon), Jang Do Jin (Park Ki Woong), and Goo Sung Chan (Bong Tae Gyu) emerges as the central theme. Then there are also various stories, big and small, such as Do Jin’s older brother, who fell into a coma in a motorcycle accident 7 years ago, Tae Ra’s younger brother who grew up as a killer due to Hanwool Mental Hospital’s skeevy scheme, and Jang Geum Mo, who seems to hold the key to the sniping incident 15 years ago. Although there is much to unravel, the story only focuses on expanding the plot without generating a sense of acceleration, unlike Kim Soon Ok’s previous series, The Penthouse. Moreover, the overused cliché of twisted relationships, a familiar element of makjang dramas, becomes stale because of its excessive usage.

The hurried direction that just piles up the many episodes is another letdown. Especially in the first episode, everything is overflowing. From Haechi’s press conference featuring the super intelligent chimpanzee Red to the excessive love scene of an adulterous couple and the first-person point-of-view action scene, everything is so flashy, making the flow of the drama sloppy and chaotic. It doesn’t match the story and leaves only the impression of being excessive and lacking in uniqueness.

pandora kdrama review
Credit: tvN

The characters also lack appeal. And more than anyone, the protagonist Hong Tae Ra, who should be garnering the audience’s unyielding support, doesn’t stand out. While her memories return to her so easily, her actions are slow. She tries to find the mastermind behind everything but during the six episodes that have aired so far, she has shown more feelings of guilt and anxiety toward Hae Su, which is frustrating to watch. Meanwhile, Ha Su is increasingly showing emotionally-driven behavior, confusing the viewers. Moreover, it’s hard to understand why she’s suddenly trying to reconcile with Do Jin, with whom she’s been at odds since his infidelity. The only interesting character so far is Jae Hyun, who reveals his two faces in episode six. Whether Jae Hyun’s double-dealing conduct will bring some life to this “unexciting” drama remains to be seen.

Some of the actors’ performances in Pandora are disappointing. Despite losing weight for the action scenes, Lee Ji Ah’s delivery of lines and facial expressions need work as they make it difficult for viewers to fully immerse themselves in her character. This is especially evident in emotionally charged scenes. Additionally, Sim So Young, who plays Kim Sun Deok, the director of the Hanul Mental Hospital and one of the villains in Pandora, hinders the flow with her overly exaggerated acting.

In episode 6, Pandora takes on a new dimension when Jae Hyun is revealed as the villain of the piece who manipulated Tae Ra’s life using Yoo Ra. Now that Tae Ra has discovered her husband’s dark secret, how will she retaliate? Will his shocking truth help Pandora see a rebound in popularity? With the stage set, viewers hope that the remaining episodes will cleverly unravel the story of revenge fueled by anger and desire, compensating for the lackluster start of the drama. (5/10)


Edited Hong Hyun Jung: I am a K-content guide who publishes various articles for people to enjoy Korean movies and dramas deeper and richer. I’ll introduce you to the works that you can laugh, cry and sympathize with.

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