Drama Reviews

Sisyphus: The Myth: Episode 1 Review

Guys I finished the first episode basically in one second (yes that’s a lie, it took me more like two hours) and I will start by saying: YES. Yes yes yes. Yes, give me this show. Yes, I am excited. Yes I am terrified. Yes, I am going to write nonsense and pretend it’s a review. Yes, it is full of spoilers. Yes, you should read it. Yes, you should leave comments if you want us to do more. 

We’ve decided to go full-lotto (or should I say “lollo” 😂) on this* and potentially we’ll each take different episodes, so you will never know whether you’ll get a smart, thorough and insightful review, or a flailing list of non-sequiturs basically obsessed with Jo Seung-woo’s home-workspace. 

*As long as it stays good. We reserve the right to jump ship.

Definitely not Descendants of the Sun

Sisyphus jumps right into a dark, dystopian future where ragged groups of people wait in what I assume is a time-travel terminal. They’re tagged and loaded and everyone goes with a suitcase—which we later find out is a Big Deal. They are also big suitcases.

We meet Park Shin-hye first, as Kang Seo-hae. Her dad sends her off after making her promise to go live happily, eat all the food, pretend to be mute if anyone talks to her, and stay away from Han Tae-sul.  Why??!!? What kind of an instruction is this? And what does he have to do with Seo-hae’s mother??

Oh forget this, paragraphs are hard. Bullet points it is.

  • She lands! And for some reason chased by scary looking people in goggles at a train depot. She escapes them while lugging around a 30kg suitcase like it’s a purse.
  • They seem to be tracking her with Geiger counters? Is she radioactive?
  • This is all incredibly cinematic. And probably wildly expensive 😱 But also WOW. And not at all low-key lols like LUCA’s opening week was. (Not a diss to LUCA! Just an observation.)
  • Han Tae-sul (Jo Seung-woo) is on a plane home and suddenly something crashes into it causing the engine to fail. He is a badass genius so he saves it…
  • And knocks himself out for a month, during which time he was declared braindead? Lol
  • But he’s not dead
  • Though he is definitely disturbed—there was this goosebumpy moment on the plane where he’s talking to his brother, and his bro is all like, yo, y u not looking at me? And Tae-sul replies, “Because you’re dead.” DAMN. 
  • Then he saves the plane. Did I already say that?
  • Anyway, fast forward: he’s forced to get therapy because he’s been pretty much slowly falling apart since his brother’s death. We will come back to hyung, though. In a separate list.
  • But why is he getting therapy from ex-girlfriend?
  • Still, it sort of works for five minutes, because he actually cracks and tells her real things.
  • Meanwhile, Seo-hae finds a cute puppy boy (who is fleecing his boss) and makes him feed her. She’s intense and scary and good with a knife, but all she wants is bananas and jjajangmyun.
  • And she knows the lotto lollo numbers before they are called, which makes puppy boy extra interested in her, but also he does seem like a genuinely sweet kid.
I felt like I had seen this scene before….that’s Jeon Ji-hyun on the right, in Legend of the Blue Sea, PD Jin Hyuk’s last drama.
  • Okay fine he has a name: Sun (or is that Jae-sun/Jason? Idk), played by rookie Chae Jung-hyup (last seen in Stove League).
  • Then Han Tae-sul comes on TV and Seo-hae is 😱 
  • But then…is she flickering? She’s flickering in and out like a hologram (and the power goes out!). Is she not real? IS THIS ALL LIKE VR TIME TRAVEL? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN
  • Since she passed out (quite unpleasantly—nosebleed and all), Pup takes her home and she wakes up the next day frantic for her suitcase, which she opens in front of him (is that okay??)
  • It’s got a diary inside (hers? Her mother’s?) and two canisters of blue future stuff.
  • She needs to speak to Tae-sul and tells Pup to call him. That’s pretty much like saying “I need to talk to Bill Gates immediately” but she doesn’t know that so it is hilarious that she leaves this serious life-and-death message in response to the customer care department’s recorded message (recorded by Tae-sul).
  • Her message isn’t at all funny though: people are after him and if they catch him, he will die. “Trust no one.”

Back in Tae-sul-land:

  • The copilot of the plane he saved turns up suddenly one night all bloody end embattled. WHY WHO IS CHASING HIM ALSO WHY and hands him a flash drive containing the blackbox video. He tells him it weren’t no bird as wot hit the plane. It was…a suitcase? sdkfjs@3/rkl32
  • It’s…his brother? What in tarnation is happening. Wait, this goes on the hyung list.
  • PS can we take a moment to appreciate this magnificent home-office deal. I want his workstation so much.
  • Tae-sul is way on task now, and goes on a hunt for the misbegotten baggage.
  • We catch up with the copilot about to get in his car, which we can see has been tampered with. It’s eerily voiced over by Seo-hae’s message of doom. Oh no. Oh no, oh damn. Yep, he’s gone. And it seems like he knew he was going. Dark.
  • Just as Seo-hae’s message finishes: “…and you must never open the suitcase. If you open it, it’s all over.”
  • …Tae-sul finds it. Remembering how his brother told him his passwords were always Tae-sul’s birthday (10th of July, 1982, in case you wondered), he tries it…and it works. He opens it…

And that’s it. And I’m absolutely petrified. This whole episode has this increasing sense of unease that really crescendos here at the end, and even if I turn out to be wrong later, I am 1000% in.

It’s so early, but there’s so much to speculate on. The biggest bun in the basket is the question of Tae-sul’s hyung, Tae-san.

  • And this is where it gets odd and intriguing, because of what Tae-san tells him at the Quantum and Time (hereon Q&T) party: that he saw “them” and they were holding A SUITCASE, which definitely means something dark and scary.
  • How/what does he know about the Suitcase People. Is he one of them? When he says “it’s not just us” that could mean either it’s not just them, 2021 humans, but also there are futurers among them, OR it could mean, they aren’t the only ones who came back, others did too. At this point, it could be either.
  • ESPECIALLY if the body that hit the plane really is Tae-san’s. I’m wondering if people who travel back just randomly pop out wherever, without any particular rhyme or reason. You can choose the time but not a precise geolocation? 
  • So what does that mean if that is Tae-san’s body? Where did it come from and why did it come with a suitcase? Is it possible they are unconnected? (No.)
  • Did Tae-san (and therefore Tae-sul) originate from the future?
  • Is the body they attributed to him really his? (Obviously not.) Remember it was unrecognisable? Was he actually alive all this time? Where? Or rather, when? (“The question isn’t where, it’s when” *shouts at LT* 😱)
  • And what he said indicates that he already told Tae-sul about his research/speculations before, so Tae-sul definitely knows things about them even if he never believed it (before).

And that’s really it. I actually had more coherent speculations but then I went away for several hours and now I have forgotten them. HOWEVER: I loved the entire episode. It was great. I do not believe it was confirmation bias. It was genuinely, objectively really superb, and I am so interested in the depth and trajectory of Tae-sul’s character. He’s this really painful mix of dry humour, nerdiness, and high, high stakes, and that makes him compelling as a character from the moment he appears on screen. Part of that is definitely Jo Seung-woo and his ability to basically be anything and then bring more. As for whether the show is ultimately worthy, well, we’ll have to wait and see. This episode definitely had a lot less Seo-hae, but I’m willing to be patient (for now), since we’re also still waiting for our two protagonists to meet.

It’s a little bit harrowing watching their paths slowly converge, so to take my mind off it, here is one more list to finish things off. 

Favourite things:

  • When we first meet Tae-sul and he is ever-so-slightly scruffy and definitely cheeky and I am like OH ARE WE REALLY GETTING THIS VERSION. (Yes yes, I have that God’s Gift review literally sitting here…the only reason it’s not up yet is because I must pore through my screencaps and have to choose and I hate choosing.)
  • I wish they’d keep him a bit scruffy though? Come on, his outer appearance has to match his inner turmoil more, Show.
  • Also how he made the front cover of Eorbes as the big cheese of Quantum and Time. Damn, he good. Not everyone makes the front cover of Eorbes. Only the bestest, quantumiest, and timiest.
  • Tae-sul’s “will” that he makes his pal and business partner Seung-bok (Tae In-ho) record while he’s 2.5 minutes away from imminent death and trying to fix a nosediving plane, and the confession about stealing away his girlfriend for a weekend when they were back in college HAHAHA
  • His response to the first-grader’s fan letter: I cannot lie, I laughed over the shortened telomeres and “find someone with healthier cells” for a very, very, VERY long time. Nothing gets me like a good, nerdy joke. Oh Tae-sul, if you turn people down like that, you can turn me down any day of the week! Every day of the week! 😂😂😂
  • (Telomeres are filaments that hang off the end of your chromosomes inside your cells—one of the theories of the causes of ageing is that it’s due to shortening telomeres, since they shorten with age—as with most things though, correlation does not equal causation—but also, I last looked at this stuff, like, 15 years ago, so if something’s changed since, somebody do update me!)
  • Also when he stood in that field and I suddenly, finally realised: he had been calculating and plotting the trajectory of the suitcase. And he did it WITH HIS BRAIN.
  • please
  • fetch me my smelling salts


14 thoughts on “Sisyphus: The Myth: Episode 1 Review”

  1. I loved everything about the first episode except the somewhat tired way they decided to establish heroism. For PSH it was her chilling on the roof of the train, like she was sunbathing, while scary masked people slowly converged from all sides, and for JSW it was the whole carefree, smartass, genius playboy thing being setup in the plane. I was MUCH more invested after that initial bit was done and the story chopped on. Of course JSW was appealing even when he was being a trope. I really want to know more about PSH’s character tho. She’s gorgeous and mysterious and badass, but I want to know how her brain works beyond the must-save-someone angle. Like, something that’ll let me get a hook into her soul and make me feel like I know her a bit. Come one, show! It’s a decent first ep, but you can do even better!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I thought with TS they moved away from the usual playboy hero jig pretty quickly – that’s not to say pained genius is new, but it’s also the kind of character I always enjoy, ESPECIALLY in such hands as JSW’s.

      I can’t disagree with your assessment of PSH’s char, but I’m also going to give it an episode. After that trailer, I don’t believe she’s here just to look dangerous. I’m also waiting for her to meet JSW, though if the look I sneaked at the preview doesn’t lie, then puppy boy is a fairly significant presence too.

      The other thing I thought when they cut away from both the train scene and the plane landing was that maybe that would’ve broken the bank, so they just sort of elided into safety. It’s a bit, hm, fudgy? Like the climax happening offscreen, but I’m going with it!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Please do more.

    I was thinking about the suitcases. If you suppose they are time machines (pretty much a given with that blue glow), with the twist that if you get too far away from them (or perhaps if you die?) then you snap back to your original time, then maybe Tae-san:
    – was kidnapped by the glow-eyed helmet gang
    – tried to escape by travelling forward in time (or was sent?)
    – through a flux capacitor error, arrived at 30,000 feet
    – was hit by the white aeroplane of doom and killed/separated from the suitcase
    – ended up as a dead body in his own time, severely mutilated.
    There are obvious problems with this (eg the trailer has Seo-hae running around unencumbered by suitcases) but maybe Tae-san’s story is something like this.

    Speaking of tropes, I feel the ex-as-therapist fits right into the violation of medical ethics required for any drama (not only K-, it’s pretty much universal).

    Also, we have established that the FL is a hearty if idiosyncratic eater, which is definitely a thing (spoonworms, anyone?). Bonus points if she’s a messy eater, jackpot if a rice grain or strand of ramyeon on her cheek requires sensitive yet shockingly forward wiping away by another character.

    Also, when the pixellated footage of the body appeared I thought “at least they’ve avoided that physically impossible American trope where they say ‘Enhance’ at the computer and… oh, damn!” Apparently Korean for ‘Enhance’ is ‘Hyung!’

    I assume this is titled Sisyphus because Seo-hae will end up rejuvenated in her own time and will go back again… and again… and…

    Rushed comment because Episode 2 will make it look stupid in about 3 hours. Enjoying this show so far.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. OH those are all great theories! Esp about the suitcases and hyung and the flux capacitor error. The moment the first suitcase was mentioned, I thought it was a weird detail, but it all makes sense if it’s part of the time travel mechanism.

      That then raises the question of why TS opening hyung’s suitcase is the end of the world…will he get sucked to the future? Will he learn something that will change their present tech and understandings and therefore derail the future that makes it all happen in the first place?

      And SO TRUE I feel a certain sense of futility speculating on the ep which is now about an hour away, yet what else do we live for? XD

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! Sorry about the filter – it catches first-time commenters, but once we approve you the first time, you’re good for the rest of your life!

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Also that jjajangmyun shot of PSH – I am pretty sure I have…OH!

      So I have the exact same shot somewhere of Jun Ji-hyun…in Legend of the Blue Sea. Which was also this director’s (Jin Hyuk) drama. Huh. I’ll look for it and add it to the post!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Please, please keep doing the reviews if you have time, that was a great review I finished the episode and immediately came here to see if anyone shared their reaction. It felt like every emotion I looked for Jsw s n 2 seasons of Shi-mok came out in that scene of grief ( not that they weren’t there just less accessible- and why I feel I have to defend a dramas characters emotions or lack thereof escapes me just now🤦‍♀️) but anyhoo I enjoyed your glee and your hyped bullet point style!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. oh if you haven’t, watch God’s Gift – that is PEAK JSW emoting, and he just MAKES the entire show.

      I am so happy you came here first, thank you, that is the best compliment we can ever receive 😭😭😭

      I am watching ep2 right now! Today’s review will be from Anisa! I’m so excited!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. God’s Gift is hurtling towards the top of the list as we speak! How does he look 5 years younger every time I see him!? The only reason I’m not currently watching it -aside from the bazllion new dramas out this month -is because of a Kim Rae -won /L.U.C.A. induced drama/movie spree! Whee- except Thousand Day Promise nope!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Oh fine, I picked it up.

    Like Paroma, I hated the first 10 to 15 minutes or so and honestly the world (or possibly just me) is screaming out for a show like this where the genders of these two characters are reversed because he’s a GENIUS and she has to SAVE him are just so damn tired. Having her save him physically (you know it won’t just be physically) doesn’t change the dynamic and PSH’s whole Deadly Waif thing is just a bit too Whedonesque for 2021.

    It got a lot better when the perfectly coiffed (they have seriously good hair salons in this post-apocalyptic future apparently) but naturally half naked and monosyllabic female lead was not on screen and Tae-sul’s character got a bit more depth. At least until I found out his therapist was his ex-girlfriend and… oh look, I’ll watch a few more. Maybe it’ll suck me in.

    But I guess if I want a genius but emotionally compromised female lead and a Deadly Waif male lead I’ll have to write that thing myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I hereby declare…. this is the best show for 2021.

    Apologies, I mean … the WORST SHOW for 2021. The story lime is lame enough, and as usual, a love story is created between two, out of a sudden… One moment, I don know who you are, and the next, hes in love.

    Jesus….. I wish that Netflix withdraw this show, so that it wont waste one of the ‘boxes’ there to display this show! Yulks


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