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Park Shin-hye (left) and Cho Seung-woo in a still from Sisyphus: The Myth.

K-drama midseason recap – Netflix’s Sisyphus: The Myth comes back down to earth

  • After strong opening episodes, the series seems to have lost the element of surprise
  • The gaps in logic in the plot are balanced by the superb action set pieces, and these are enough reason to keep watching

This article contains spoilers.

Sisyphus: The Myth came out of the gate strong, introducing us to two timelines and the outrageous time travel gimmick that connected them, and delighting us with some of the most bold and ridiculous action set pieces ever seen on Korean TV. But these explosive opening few episodes were always going to be a hard act to follow.

Having perhaps given too much away in its blitzkrieg opening, the show has lost its element of surprise. The plot continues to add new details, but these now feel like filler in a framework that we were mostly clued in on at the outset, and it hasn’t taken too much guesswork to fill in the gaps ourselves. With the stakes already so high, the series needs badly to produce its trump card.

Episode five begins with Seo-hae (Park Shin-hye) and Tae-sool (Cho Seung-woo) after their narrow escape off the bridge. They retreat to the office of Tae-sool’s old flame Seo-jin (Jung Hye-in) and then to Tae-sool’s house to recuperate. The pair get to know each other a little better in this downtime, and Seo-hae fills Tae-sool in a bit more on what is going to happen in the future.

A lengthy flash-forward shows Seo-hae foraging in post-apocalyptic Seoul and getting caught in a firefight with her father as they are pinned down in a supermarket by a group of mercenaries. There’s a certain charm to these future scenes, as Seo-hae is a tough survivor but also a girl at heart who decks out her weapons in pink and adorns her gear with cute toy key chains.

However, the scenes add very little to the plot and tend to drag after a while.

Sisyphus: The Myth preview – outrageously fun sci-fi action K-drama

Things get a little better when our heroes crash a Quantum and Time stockholder party in the hopes of finding Tae-sool’s brother Tae-san (Heo Joon-seok). Things don’t work out and the pair wind up getting separated, but not before some tense stand-offs and a reveal that connects Chairman Kim (Jeon Kuk-hwan) with the mysterious Sigma, who is steadily coming into focus as the main villain of the show.

Tae-sool is caught and wakes up in a hospital room, where he’s told that he’s just woken up after the assassination attempt on him in Busan. He is made to believe that he has imagined everything else.

The show doesn’t keep this up for long and soon Tae-sool escapes, is tracked down by the Control Bureau and then saved by Seo-hae.

Sung Dong-il in a still from Sisyphus: The Myth.

Meanwhile, Seo-hae was saved from the party by her friend Jae-sun (Choi Jong-hyeop), the Chinese food delivery boy, who did end up winning the lottery and now whisks her away in a fancy sports car. She ends up going to the shady Mr Park (Sung Dong-il) for help, and we discover that their plan enabled Tae-sool to escape.

Sisyphus: The Myth then jumps all the way back to 2001, which is when Sigma (Kim Byung-chul) arrives from the future. He stays in a cheap motel and, in a fun series of scenes, amasses wealth through horse race bets and then the stock market, culminating in a massive short deal just as the 9/11 attacks happened.

He then approaches Chairman Kim, offering him a drug from the future that will save his dying wife. In return, he wants the Chairman to invest in an unknown engineer called Han Tae-sool.

Kim Byung-chul in a still from Sisyphus: The Myth.

From here on in, the stakes finally begin to rise. Seo-hae tells Tae-sool that he’s going to die on October 31, which is about a month away. A drip feed of flashbacks to Seo-hae’s childhood also lead us to the day of the attack from her family’s perspective. North Korean rockets lay waste to Seoul and Seo-hae and her father are barricaded in a safe location by Seo-hae’s injured mother just as a nuclear explosion obliterates the city. 

In the present, Tae-sool is trying to find Sigma and Seo-hae helps him, even though she feels this goes against her own plan – to stop Tae-sool from inventing time travel in the first place.

Seo-hae is caught and injected with a drug that causes her to begin to fade from this world. She is rescued in a thrilling prison break sequence and now Tae-sool must try and save her, a mission that finally brings him face to face with Sigma.

Park Shin-hye in a still from Sisyphus: The Myth.

Logic continues to have no place in Sisyphus: The Myth. Despite ageing by 19 years or so, between he 2001 and present timelines, the show has made no effort to make characters look different.

The Seoul attack may be terrifying, but what exactly is the point of blanketing the town with smaller bombs, only to level it with a nuclear weapon a few minutes later? And let’s not get started on why any of this is happening given the ready access to time travel.

It is best not to dwell on the science and plotting of Sisyphus: The Myth, but as a high-octane show driven by action set pieces, there’s still more than enough to justify tuning in, even if the tempo varies from episode to episode. Just make sure to leave that thinking cap in the closet.

Sisyphus: The Myth is streaming on Netflix.