Sisyphus: The Myth: Episodes 11-12 Review

Ahhhh this show. How can we be down to a mere 72 hours until the Apocalypse? 😱 Also, how can I gather all my scattered thoughts and pin them down to a coherent body, fixed in time? (Spoiler: not coherent, a LOT of words.)

First things first, though: that OST you’ve all been waiting for is heeeeere:

Okay, let’s start at the beginning, with A for AGNES:

  1. I KNEW IT, AGNES. Like, as soon as I saw her backlit silhouette, I got a little shiver down my spine and knew she would turn out to be Future Seo-jin. How crazy was that!!

  2. Also there’s something about her face now that always looks like she’s lying, even when she’s (potentially) not. But I’m still not 100% sure that the latest Agnes is to be trusted.

  3. Also, is her Agnes-ness in any way a reference to another time-travelling Agnes? Specifically of the Nielsen clan? (Probably not, and probably only I know what I am talking about. 😅)

  4. Is she still in love with Tae-sul? Who really broke up with whom? No, really, real question. We don’t actually know.

  5. It also doesn’t actually matter, actually.

And also actually, there’s no need to dwell any longer on Seo-jin. Not when we have Sigma and Seo-hae and all the other good stuff.

This week’s episodes feel very different from last week’s, not in a bad way—last week was full of action, big moments, big drama and the literal Apocalypse, the focus of this week shifts to the inward, both in terms of mood (introspective) and metaphysics, in the almost transcendental experience of their disembodied journeying through time. I don’t feel quite ready to put my thoughts to words on that yet, so let me circle back.

Oh let’s talk about circles! We’ve talked in our last few reviews about how assured the show is in knowing its story. I really really enjoy how as it has gone on, it has revealed quite a specific kind of ring structure in the way it handles its narrative rather than with a linearly progressing story. We started at the beginning, and at the end: points A and Z. And as the show goes on, we work towards the centre—B to Y, C to X, D to W, and so on. Here is a VERY BAD non-artist’s attempt to diagram how to understand the narrative structure of Sisyphus:

I tried to do this in Paint and it was worse. So here. Have this instead. 😂

And at the centre is the Apocalypse: the end of everything—and the beginning. And as in nuclear fission, the bomb at the heart of this show explodes when you forcibly separate two things that exist together (even if their existence together is impossible). Yes, I’m talking Tae-sul and Seo-hae 😭

But let’s talk about Sigma first, and I am NOT going to get ahead of myself:

  1. I was looking for Sigma to be someone we already knew, and the idea of him being Jae-sun (can I just call you Sun now??) was as alluring as it was appalling.

  2. But then I had a sudden thought, three minutes into Episode 11:

  3. What if Sigma was…Tae-sul? WHAT IF, OMG

  4. That would make a sick sort of sense and it TOTALLY BLEW MY MIND

  5. (This has happened before in a different show. If you know the show I am talking about, you will understand exactly what and who I mean.)

  6. Except it was also totally scuppered by the end of Episode 12. 😂

  7. But at least I had the experience of thinking that, if only for an hour.

Part of why I thought this could be the case comes from how Sigma interacts with Tae-sul. It’s not his manic glee (though that’s there), but it’s in the way every single one of his interactions, near or distant, are about pushing Tae-sul to choose between saving Seo-hae or saving the world, which we see most recently in the amusement park of last episode, and the orphanage this week.

When he puts a gun into Tae-sul’s hand and tells him, “Shoot me,” I can’t lie, I want him to. And while I understand why he doesn’t, I also don’t understand at all. (And given what we learn about him at the end of this week, just choosing to kill him seems even more callous and tragic.) And Sigma asks him: why shouldn’t the world end?

  1. And actually that’s a really great question, especially given how chillingly true his follow-up is: that if you were to give anyone on the street the choice to hit the red button on nukes, so many of them would. That is true. Like, without any data on it, I feel like it’s something we all know in our bones.

  1. And that’s dark. Like, people would press that button out of pure spite. And then they would regret it, like the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party or Brexit.

  2. Sigma’s monologues are really great. Horrible, but incisive and with enough truth to them that you feel a bit gutted by it:

“You just pressed the nuclear button. I bet this was your train of thought: If you kill me, my buddies here will kill you. (…) You won’t be able to get the cure. So that girl will die too. You made a choice that will end the world just because of a girl. But don’t beat yourself up too much. That’s just how people are. Even if everyone were to die, they’d still put themselves, their families, and money first. (…) I gave everyone a chance, but not a single person chose to save the world. I’ll be honest with you. I really don’t care about the future. I mean, why would I? You folks call me despicable, but you’re the despicable ones.”
  1. So is Sigma really evil, or is he just a mirror of the selfish instincts we all carry? It’s an interesting thematic question to think about when you put it alongside what Agnes/Future Seo-jin says about the future being a mirror of the past.

  2. But he’s also backlit like a medieval Italian vampire, so I don’t know how seriously I can take him.

  1. He deservedly gets his “logic” nipped straight in its sophistrous bud. And genius programmers are nothing if not elegant and incisive: his nope from Tae-sul comes with a flashing BS-tag—because your actions are your own, and even if you use the kind of reasoning Sigma does, it doesn’t change the truth of what he is doing, and his accountability for it.

  2. I wasn’t sure who of our various groups and bad guys were Sigma’s sock-puppets, but actually, it’s…everyone? From the Control Bureau to the Quantum and Time bigwigs, even to Boss Park and the illegal brokers. That’s a wiiiide web, and you realise…

  3. Sigma doesn’t have a finger in every pie, he IS the pie.

  4. Or at least, the purveyor of all the pies.

  5. Oh but you know what also cemented my Sigma-is-Tae-sul theory was his little line that he could get in anywhere, when Tae-sul asked him how he got into his house.

  6. Damn I really wanted my theory to be true! I mean, for mindscrewing genius reasons, not because I want Dark Tae-sul. I really really don’t want Dark Tae-sul. Marshmallow-eyed genius Tae-sul is my fave. 😭

  1. But also it doesn’t quite work because if Sigma is Tae-sul, then he should know how to finish the Uploader, right?

I don’t know why I’m so attached to a theory so short-lived that it was debunked within two hours. 😂 And even though my Sigma-is-Sun theory really does have to be put to bed forever, puppy Sun still gives me moments of sudden chill, where I feel like he’s in some way putting to Seo-hae the same question Sigma puts to Tae-sul, if less elegant: Tae-sul, or the world? If she gets rid of Tae-sul, the Uploader is never made. If the Uploader is never made, there’s no time travel so there’s no Sigma so there’s no nuclear war.

The solution itself is the most efficient, economical one there is, in programming terms, and we watch Sun slowly work up to it—he’s frustrated, he cares about her and he’s jealous of Tae-sul, he’s scared of the coming Apocalypse. You almost can’t blame him for asking the question. But also there’s the ominous background music which seems like some kind of cue that we should worry—and I do! I really like him, like I really like him. But I don’t know him, not the way we know Tae-sul or Seo-hae. And with Seo-hae returning the watch he gave her, that’s a pretty clear-cut rejection of the feelings he has offered her, and it also draws a line.

The better part of me thinks this is nothing, or a red herring at most, but the other part of me is noting how nothing in this show so far has been a throwaway detail. So this dark-faced Sun…we’ll have to see how it plays out. He can still be a villain even if not the arch-villain. 😂

However, let’s not forget that this whole Sigma sideshow is a detour on the way to the main course, which is The Saving of Seo-hae.

Eine Reise Durch Die Zeit (Or: A Journey Through Time)

The real highlight of Episode 11 (or perhaps the whole week!) for me was their journey through time. Seo-hae is about to disintegrate thanks to the injections she got while in the Control Bureau’s custody, and it seems irreversible, except we’re told that the person who made that drug, Agnes aka Seo-jin the Betrayer, may have a cure. Tae-sul gets it and grafts into the machine to bring Seo-hae back—his instructions are to find her, come back as close to the present as possible, and then administer the antidote to bring them back.

  1. Paroma just pointed out to me that isn’t it so Tae-sul that he would jump in to save Seo-hae, but Seo-hae is the one who ends up saving him? Which is hilariously true—

  2. BUT ALSO, my primary reading of that is slightly different: to me, it feels like another expression of how they always save each other, and how one finishes what the other starts. They’re a team-deal, in a way that has really developed beautifully ever since Tae-sul accepted that he needed protecting, and that he needed her to do it.

“I came to save you!”

  1. I really just love how much he enjoys receiving her protection and is 100% her fanboy. I may already have said this. 😂

  2. That he’s so willing to jump in and save her hurts a little. Like, his feelings for her trump his fear of being atomically dispersed into the universe across time. Don’t tell me that isn’t beautiful. 😭

  3. But I did not expect at all that we’d jump track from her memories to his, and end up going through his past in all its terrible sadness, or that he would break down entirely. God, Jo Seung-woo.

  1. Watching baby hyung Tae-san sobbing quietly while baby Tae-sul sleeps, and now adult Tae-sul witnessing baby hyung go through all this alone (“It’s the first time I have ever seen hyung cry”), and then having to see himself grow into an arrogant savage who believed he raised himself alone? Wow. Like, the heartbreak and the self-loathing is so visceral and everything about it is oof.

  2. And rightly breaks him, because that’s a multiplication of grief no heart can prepare for. And so you’re with him when he cries that he’s never been happy a single day in his life. You know it’s not true, but also, it 100% is. Because what he’s just learned has changed EVERYTHING.

  1. And how Seo-hae is able to bring him back from that: I love how she gave the weight of joy to all the smallest things. “We all have trivial but happy memories. That’s what keeps us going.” Honestly, that feels like such a needed reminder for us as viewers, living in our own dark world.

  2. And then she carries him through the door, and they have saved each other, and look at how competent and assured her hands on him are. She never handles him politely or uncertainly—she always touches him like it’s exactly what she means to do, and I LOVE that.

  1. All these doorways opening into doorways though: they are trippy. I mean, this whole sequence feels way less hard sci-fi, way more trippy, like something out of Diana Wynne Jones, or like one of those wizarding tests/esoteric initiations—the ones where you have to face your worst memories and deepest fears, and then you come out, and now yer a wizard, Tae-sulie.

  2. And how that brings us to “Sohae Bada”, the West Sea (Yellow Sea), and a sweet callback to the pun that he met her with (Seo-hae/So-hae), and everything that happens here is 😭

  3. His belief in living is restored

  4. The most beautiful goodbye I’ve seen on TV for a long time (Seo-hae)

  5. The most heart-wrenching goodbye I’ve seen on TV for a long time (bro Tae-san)

  1. And I know like, everyone wants to talk about the kiss, but forget that for a second and remember this: how when he opens the antidote case and you experience a moment of sheer, absolute devastation, because one of the syringes has broken.

  2. But he doesn’t miss a beat and goes on to give her the remaining one without a word. And he tells her nobody is waiting for him!! HOW DARE YOU, I AM WAITING

“I’ve come a long way to meet you.”

  1. This goodbye. These emotions. And she comes back and cries over his body as he flatlines, and her grief is so raw. (“How is there no one waiting for you? I’m waiting for you.”)

  2. And then he meets hyung again, MY GOD. “I told you I would be hiding in a place where no one could find.” I have come across people hiding in memories before, but I was still pretty floored that this was how they meet, and in the same moment, it’s a goodbye, and OF COURSE that missing syringe from Seo-jin’s case would be in Tae-san’s possession. Damn. Look, you can call it a convenient plot device, but whatever, it is absolutely perfect. 😭

“I was always right by your side.”

  1. And of all the hollowing, harrowing emotional moments we’ve had in this show, their goodbye is the most romantic, heart-wrenching thing I have ever seen. 😭😭😭

  2. How. does. Jo Seung-woo. do. this.

The Good Ship Tae-Hae (or is that Seo-Sul?)

You know what I like? I like how Seo-hae and Tae-sul have just slipped into this relationship, quietly, almost imperceptibly—there was no confession, no dithering, no “do they like me?” It just went so naturally from bickering antagonism to trust, from hand-holding to life-saving, and I have zero complaints about how it progressed. Nobody needed to say “I like you” or “I love you” because it’s so bleedingly obvious that it goes without saying for both of them, but also it’s beyond words. You don’t go through what they went through and come out uncertain or in need of the words. It’s in everything that they survived together.

So I thought—until Tae-sul started fishing for confessions 😂 And that adds another level of awesome, because, like everything in Sisyphus’ world, the end comes before the beginning. They started off at the altar—before they’d ever even met each other, they each knew that one way or another, that’s where they’d end. And maybe in that, there’s something to be said for knowing the end before you know the beginning or how you get there. I love that the story explores this, and all the emotional implications of it. It’s not simply a mechanism, it’s something that has a profound effect on how they understand and approach each other.

“Who is the person you like the most?” he asks, after sneakily ruling her parents out with his previous question.

Now, deep in their unspoken feel