This review is a week late, but not because of a lack of enthusiasm. Sisyphus decided to take almost all of my complaints and burn them in a heap of glory from episode 7. The editing got tighter, the pace got faster, and the story became magnificent.
Sisyphus in the last two weeks has been everything I wanted it to be from the very beginning – or maybe it’s even better. I can’t even remember what I’d wanted now, cause Director Jin Hyeok has made good on the concept he promised.
All of the flashes of brilliance in the early episodes has now coalesced into a really cool story about the paradoxes of time travel and the human cost of progress.
So, let’s dive into episodes 9 and 10. Cause a LOT happened!
As an apology for his heedless pursuit of Sigma earlier, Tae-sul takes Seo-hae to the amusement park for her birthday. There we see why he hated the park for so long. His older brother had worked there as a teenager to make it possible for little Tae-sul to gain free entry. It was yet another reminder of how much his brother had done for him for all these years.
Seo-hae’s enjoyment of the park is delightful and a bit sad, when you recall that she’s roamed this park in the future with skeletons for companions on unmoving, broken rides. But I love that she’s able to so clearly differentiate between her joy in this moment and the tragedy of the future. She even milks it a little to get Tae-sun to sport adorable tiger ears that just shouldn’t look this good on a man.
We get an idea of just how clear-sighted Seo-hae is when Tae-sul asks her what happens if he can fix everything and the Uploader was never invented? Will she disappear? Seo-hae: “Probably.”
But their idyll doesn’t last long. Soon, the control bureau goons arrive, and at a moment when Tae-sul and Seo-hae are separated, they shoot and capture her.
And THIS is when we get our first flashback to the day every thing went wrong. On 31st October, 2020, Seo-hae’s parents were driving out of the city with her, clearly headed towards a safe place, when the sky filled up with missiles and the world erupted in chaos.
Wading through crashed cars and crumbling buildings and highways, Seo-hae’s parents set themselves just one, grim goal. To get to the bunker that would help them survive the radiation of the nuclear bomb.
At one point, a man maddened by the loss of his daughter mistook Seo-hae for her, and stabbed Eun-hee, her mother. Her father managed to kill the man, but Eun-hee was bleeding out and their progress was slower.
When they finally reached the bunker minutes before the nuclear strike, the door refused to shut from the inside. As Kang Dong-gi ran inside to find another way to close the door, Lee Eun-hee realized that there is only one way to save her family. I love that in this moment, Eun-hee tells Seo-hae exactly what she has to do, and why she can’t go with them. There is something more kind about the honesty she gives her daughter than any lies would have been.
Dong-gi arrives to find his wife leaving the bunker, and it’s only when Eun-hee reminds him of their promise to always put Seo-hae first, that he holds his daughter back as Eun-hee shuts the door from outside.
There is this incredible moment when the light of the nuclear explosion lights up the world, and it’s almost beautiful. Then, the world ends.
I love this flashback to bits! It’s horrifying and visualized with such a close focus on individual lives lost instead of just the scale of the destruction, that makes it very, very impactful. Also, it fleshes out Seo-hae’s amazing parents so well, that it makes Seo-hae’s own brilliance, strength, and kindness seem inevitable.
In the present day, Seo-hae wakes up in the Control Bureau’s interrogation room (they’ve finally moved out of the sound booth) and refuses to answer any questions by the Bureau chief. So, he injects her with two doses of a serum that seems to have been created to destroy the “downloaded” as painfully as possible.
Tae-sul gets back to his home and hatches a plot to rescue Seo-hae with Sun’s help. I won’t go into the details cause it’s more fun to watch, plus this post is already going to be long enough.
Hyun-ki, who’d been barred from approaching Seo-hae, manages to sneak into the interrogation room with every intention of killing her. Seo-hae tells him that she didn’t kill his mother, and that his mother never blamed him. At that moment, fire alarms go off, and Seo-hae smiles grimly and says with absolute certainly, “he’s here.”
And I totally buy it. Even though Seo-hae has been doing most of the rescuing until now, she knows that Tae-sul has her back too, and would do anything to get her out of there. I’ve cribbed about a lot of things in this drama before, but this rock solid partnership was one of the few things that shone clearly from the very first week of the drama.
Then, she disarms Hyun-ki and leaves him handcuffed to her chair as she drags herself out. Tae-sul pulls off his plan and finds her, but then nearly gets killed on his way out (thanks for another double-cross, Seo-jin!). However, the Asia Mart gang were escaping too, and Tae-sul makes a deal to get their help.
Sadly, on their way to the car where Sun was waiting, Hyun-ki manages to shoot one of the two Asia Mart boys in the back. Then immediately gets tased by Kang Dong-gi, who was following up some leads which led him straight to the Control Bureau. Later, as he interrogates Hyun-ki, our hot-headed agent finally finds out who Seo-hae is and that the Bureau has been hiding things from him.
When everyone gets back to the Asia Mart hideout – is this place really safe any more after the Control Bureau raid? – they get a doctor who tells them that the boy might not survive and if he does, he won’t walk.
Seo-hae, at this point, has slipped into unconscious after too many doses of the serum, and Broker Park tells a distressed Tae-sul that she’s beyond help. However, once Tae-sul shuts down the Downloader and threatens to destroy it completely, the broker agrees to take him to the woman to created the serum.
Before they go on that trip, Tae-sul makes a stop at Seo-hae’s parents’ place, where he tells them everything truthfully. Kang Gong-gi had seen enough by then that Tae-sul’s explanations made sense, and he accompanies him back to Asia Mart to see the grow Seo-hae.
We dip into another flashback, but this time it’s in Seo-hae’s future after she finds the note book with the letters to herself. She asks her father about Tae-sul and the man reacts badly. He tells her that she’s never to go to the past, because he’d seen her dying. Then, we see her pack her bag quietly and write Gong-gi a letter, where she explains that she could ignore the notebook if it had been written by someone else, but it’s her own words – and she trusts herself.
Back in the present, Broker Park and Tae-sul arrive at an orphanage for Downloaded children, waiting to be sent off to foreign adopters. Tae-sul goes into her office and glances through her shelves before suddenly finding himself trapped in a cage.
The woman speaks from the shadows, but Tae-sul manages to guess her identity. No prizes for it, really. This drama still thinks having more than three women in the script would be too many women in the script. It’s Seo-jin. Much older, but just as petty.
She tells Tae-sul that there’s no cure for the serum, then she says that he shouldn’t have come on that day. Turns out, he had interrupted her meeting with Sigma. The episode ends as the man enters the office and Tae-sul turns to look.
Ultimately though, I don’t care if Tae-sul meets or defeats Sigma. I’m so much more interested in Tae-sul and Seo-hae defeating their worst enemy of all – time. No matter how the story goes, these two have very little time left together, and even the best outcome of all would erase this Seo-hae, the one Tae-sul and I have come to adore.