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Kim So-yeon in a still from The Penthouse season two where shifting allegiances and a shocking death rock Hera Palace.

K-drama midseason recap: The Penthouse season two – shifting allegiances and shocking death rock Hera Palace

  • Hera Palace remains full of deception and intrigue, while the Cheong-ah Arts Festival has students using any means possible to win the revered Grand Prize
  • A potential murder investigation sees allegiances change, and a new character is introduced that will no doubt have a huge effect on proceedings

This article contains minor spoilers of the show.

Things have been moving very quickly this season on The Penthouse and an already charged fortnight of opening episodes led to an explosive midseason climax as another major death rocked the wicked souls of Hera Palace and the Cheong-ah Arts School.

It’s been less than five months since season one debuted, but the breathless twists and turns of this hit makjang drama have become second nature for viewers. For writers, this slaloming plot and its ping-ponging allegiances poses an immanent challenge: how to keep it all fresh and exciting?

The audience is expecting fortunes to soar to magnificent heights and swiftly crash down back to earth. The more characters gain, the more they stand to lose, and as we’ve progressed through the show the chasm between failure and success has gradually widened.

But raising the stakes can only get you so far. Part of The Penthouse’s success has been its judicious shifting of allegiances. Events and revelations are peppered along the path to shock us, but in spite of our surprise, they have generally been in keeping with the characters as we know them, and the partnerships that form and break have been thrilling and believable – admittedly relative to the heightened environment of a makjang drama.

Season two announced itself in a big way with several big reveals, the most significant of which was Oh Yoon-hee (Eugene) aligning herself with Ha Yoon-cheol (Yoon Jong-hoon) in a sham marriage. Since then, Yoon-cheol has been a doting stepfather to Bae Ro-na (Kim Hyun-soo) and a formidable adversary for financial kingpin Joo Dan-tae (Um Ki-joon).

The Penthouse season 2 preview: wickedly fun and twisty K-drama returns

Yet in the high stakes games of The Penthouse, all bets are off, and Yoon-cheol’s loyalties were soon put to the test due to his bond with his own daughter, the utterly unhinged Ha Eun-byeol (Choi Ye-bin).

Episode five is almost entirely devoted to the Cheong-ah Arts Festival, an event which has been looming large in the lives of these characters ever since we were introduced to them. The children are all getting ready to compete for the vaunted Grand Prize, which guarantees admission to the prestigious Seoul National University. Yet with scheming so commonplace within the walls of Cheong-ah Arts School, how valuable is skill really?

That said, the training scenes are a hoot, particularly the brutal and outrageous regimen that Cheon Seo-jin (Kim So-yeon) puts her daughter Eun-byeol through: she drags her down to the bottom of a pool to improve her breathing and bounces a volleyball off her chest as she sings scales.

Choi Ye-bin in a scene from The Penthouse season two.

Then we’re on to the big event. The Grand Prize competitors all wear white dresses while the parents are dressed to the nines. Tensions are rife and plenty is going on behind the scenes.

Dan-tae’s daughter Joo Seok-kyung (Han Ji-hyun) is blackmailing Seo-jin with footage of how Seo-jin’s father really died in season one, and someone seems to be helping Eun-byeol derail Ro-na’s chances. Ro-na is forced to sing in the wrong key on stage, but, bless her heart, she nails it anyway.

Then the show answers the question that was posed in the season opener: who was the bloodied girl in the white dress on the steps? Without giving it away, catharsis and devastation mingle beautifully at the culmination of the Cheong-ah Arts Festival.

Eugene in a still from season two of The Penthouse.

The next episode is just as exciting, with a potential murder investigation darkening the doorstep of Hera Palace and causing a drastic reset in allegiances. Highlights include a character trying to destroy smartphone video evidence.

There are many ways to do this, but extra points have to be given out for removing the chip, putting it in your mouth and crunching it to dust with tears streaming down your face.

Also getting a very fun trajectory is Kang Ma-ri (Shin Eun-kyung), whose moonlighting as a masseuse is discovered in a few riotous scenes at the sauna. She soon gets her revenge, and makes a new friend in the process.

After all this furious activity the next pair of episodes act as a necessary cool down, as the board is reset for whatever crisis will emerge as we approach this season’s finale. A new character is also introduced that will no doubt have a huge effect on proceedings.

Han Ji-hyun in a scene from The Penthouse season two.

Hera Palace is a tither and there’ll be no rest for us at home until we find out if certain characters have truly met their maker, and if the heroes and villains will get their just desserts.

All we can do now is wait to find out what the last four episodes hold in store, but do not forget that plenty will surely be left hanging in the balance as a third season will also arrive later in spring.

The Penthouse season two is streaming on Viu.