Gang Seo-hae and Han Tae-sul’s quest to reset time has finally come to an end. The 16 episode drama culminated in a circular fashion, tying the plot pieces in a unified whole. Albeit, this show did not receive as much traction in South Korea as manifested in its ratings which ended with an average nationwide rating of 4.363% as recorded by Nielsen Korea, I actually enjoyed the narrative and how it employed the principles of time as one of its thematic pursuits.
I believe that it is this theme, the concept of time, that made the show complicated for some viewers drawing confusion. But it is this exact thing that had me drawn to the series. I like narratives that are layered in their storytelling. I enjoy storylines that use literary devices that force viewers to think as the story unfolds. I get so hyped up when flashbacks and fast forwards are used as vehicles in a story and this drama used both quite heavily.
If you have not watch this series yet, you might want to first check out our earlier articles on Sisyphus The Myth. For a detailed discussion on the different elements of the drama, however, here are my thoughts:
A circular plot is basically a narrative that ended where it started. Each part of the story is connected as the plot flows. As we have seen in Sisyphus:The Myth, the drama started with Han Tae-sul on a plane going back to South Korea. It is with this plane that an unusual event took place. It was a precursor to what’s to come in the following episodes. The ending of the drama also showed Han Tae-sul on a plane with Gang Seo-hae this time. The beginning is the end although the characters at the beginning of the story are not anymore similar with that at the ending.
Because of the events that each character had undergone, they are transformed. The equilibrium phase of the drama presented us with Han Tae-sul as the self-absorbed and overly confident CEO of Quantum and Time but all went awry when his trip back to South Korea encountered a very unusual event that had him seen his ‘deceased’ brother rushing outside the plane he was on. This event, along with the discovery of the suitcase, provided the drama’s trigger. The equilibrium at the story’s opening became unbalanced when people from the future started appearing in the narrative, especially the appearance of Gang Seo-hae.
The collision of the characters in the present and the ones from the future disrupts the fluidity of time in the story. This disequilibrium forced Han Tae-sul and Gang Seo-hae to pursue the physical and internal quest of reversing the events of the past and the present to reset the future. This to me is a very exciting plot vehicle because it allowed the characters to look back in their past actions and compelled them to see that actions done can very well affect the future, thus, providing them character dynamics and ultimately transformations.
Since the plot is not linear, the story nodes of the drama are bound together for that unified culmination, thus, creating closure by returning to the opening part of the drama. The flashbacks are intentional points in narration as these allow the drama to create a sense of departure from the story but then return again to the original structure for the plot goal story of closure.
Moreover, how each character’s motivations in Sisyphus are connected as in a web making the story nodes progress in a parallel form allowing the story to achieve its goal towards the end as is characterized in circular narratives.
The characters of Sisyphus: The Myth are never boring. This primarily accounts for them being dynamic rather than static characters. Technically, a dynamic character is a character that undergoes internal changes as the story progresses. They don’t remain the same. They transform either for the good or for the bad.
Han Tae-sul: His character is downright dynamic. He was entirely different from when the story started to when the story ended. The conflicts he has encountered over the course of the drama has made him transformed. The hard decision that he made towards the finale is a manifestation of that change. When he finally realized why they keep on circling towards time and that his death is the only solution there is, is a huge transformation from what he was at the beginning who was egotistic.
Gang Seo-hae: Just like Han Tae-sul, Seo-hae’s character is also dynamic. The young Seo-hae in the present is entirely different from the Seo-hae in the future. From the contrast of these two, we can see the amount of growth she has had. The seemingly shy and loving young Seo-hae was transformed into a fighter and very determined adult Seo-hae.
Eddie Kim: His character is an example of a dynamic character turning into the bad side. At the start of the story, he was just a sidekick of Han Tae-sul, doing everything that Tae-sul needs and for the company. But what we have seen in the finale was an entirely different Eddie Kim. This change was brought about by envy. His desire to have everything that Tae-sul has forced him to go dark and betray Tae-sul.
Kim Seo-jin: Seo-jin is another character whose negative transformation was brought about by the decisions she has to make for her family. She betrayed Tae-sul all for the sake of her family. Her choosing her family over everyone else has forced her to walk the same dark path just like Eddie Kim.
Seo Won- Ju a.k.a. Sigma: From my humble analysis, I believe that Sigma is a static character. From his childhood to his future self, he was this person who wanted to end the world because of how he was despised by the people around him. The goal that he has set for himself when he was young during his confrontation with the young Tae-sul was the major driving force of his character which established the major conflict of the story.
Other characters who showed dynamics and static personalities are HanTae-sul’s brother Han Tae-san and Jung Hyeon-gi. Han Tae-san is definitely a static character. What he was in his childhood was basically the same when he was already an adult. His sole life purpose was to keep his brother safe and to be always there for him. This was the driving force of the adult Han Tae-san.
Jung Hyeon-gi on the other hand is a dynamic character. When he was still in the police force, he was a responsible son who lived for his mother- a law abiding policeman. But when he was brainwashed by the Control Bureau he changed- avenging his mother’s death became his reason for living making it the reason for him to revisit his past. What’s interesting about him was when he was presented with a second turning point. His vengeful heart was transformed into one who accepted his wrongs and wanted to change the dictates of time by not killing the head of the Control Bureau. By doing so, he redeemed himself.
With these character developments, the whole narrative provided various tensions and interactions that allowed the story to progress in a manner that is engaging and exciting every episode. Although, I must say that not all of the characters who played significant roles in the story have had good redemptive endings. Eddie Kim for example. His character’s ending is uncertain. Him kneeling at the end might have been a sign of regret but we don’t really know for sure.
The good thing though was the lead characters’ endings. The last frames of the finale tell us that Tae-sul and Seo-hae can finally have that ‘Happy Ending’ they have always wanted. The villain’s ending seems somewhat mysterious. The kindness that Seo-hae’s father showed to Sigma created a change in his character. We have seen how people started to take notice of him in a positive way (the scene in the park). However, when he went home, it seemed he’s back to the old Sigma plotting how to overturn the events changed by Tae-sul and Seo-hae.
But then this I believe is a natural factor in stories that uses time as its plot vehicle. Below is my explanation of the themes present in the drama of which time is a huge factor.
1. The Cycles of Time
One of the most obvious elements in Sisyphus: The Myth is its employment of time. The storyline goes back and forth- from past to present to future. This proves the idea that time revolves around cycles; that past, present, and future are interconnected. The events of the past shape the future events. As evident in the drama, the interactions of Tae-sul and Seo Wun-ju when they were still kids became the trigger on which the future is decided. It is that singular event in the past that sealed the future’s demise. The characters’ attempt to tweak time forced them to go back and forth.
2. Acknowledgment of the absurdity of one’s fate
This theme is inspired by the Myth of Sisyphus in Greek Mythology. In that story, Sisyphus was punished by the gods to push a boulder up in the mountain for all eternity. His punishment is to endure an eternity of hopeless struggle. In the drama, this is exemplified by Tae-sul’s dilemma. He has to go back and forth in time in his struggle to end the cycle. He is trapped in time’s cycles. Tae-sul is basically Sisyphus. They both represent an absurd hero who is forever in a hopeless struggle to break free from the order of time.
Moreover, their acceptance and acknowledgment of the absurdity of their condition are also similar albeit with different physical outcomes. When Sisyphus heads down the mountain to start pushing the boulder again as it rolls down, he is briefly freed from his struggles. This brief moment of freedom allowed him to have a clear understanding of his fate. This clarity in understanding places him above his tragic fate.
In the same manner, when Tae-sul finally understands his fate, he made the hardest decision of killing himself. He is trapped in time because he keeps fighting it so that he can be with Seo-hae. By understanding his fate, he was able to break the cycle. Both of their understanding of their absurd fates set them above the tragedy. One might argue that this realization can be coined as self illumination.
3. Regret as the narrative vehicle
Characters in the drama are driven by regret that is why they travelled through time to change the things they have done in the past. All characters in the drama were driven by this emotion. In fact, if we review some episodes, this has always been mentioned by Sigma. This is very reflective of the human condition. We certainly have regrets and if given the power to change our pasts, we certainly would just so our regrets will be gone. This very human emotion was used well by the drama to allow the plotlines to progress. Regret can be a very defeating feeling but the drama was able to prove and pull- off that it also can be a powerful motivation for change.
The concepts I have presented above are the reasons why this drama for me is a very powerful mouthpiece of expressing the themes that are so parallel with our condition as slaves of the fluidity of time. We are all chained to the rhythm of time and that the only way to break free is to have a profound understanding of our fates for this lucidity of realization will put us above the tragedies that we will face.
Sisyphus: The Myth for me is one of the best Korean dramas I have seen so far. The layers, the literary devices, the thematic pursuits of the drama all work together to achieve the goal of the story in providing a reconciliation for the characters and their struggles with time and their life regrets.
What about you? Do we have similar thoughts? Let me know in the comment section below…
I hope that this article helps you deepen your understanding of the drama in some way… To more reviews together, stay tuned and keep visiting our blog…