Rating:
Average user rating 5.0
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SKY Castle: Series review

Never in my life have I tuned into a drama solely because of its ratings. But watching the astonishing progression of SKY Castle’s viewership ratings had become so entertaining on its own that I just had to jump in. The satirical dramedy had a quiet premiere, with 1.7 percent, and from there on out, an unexpected spark happened. An addictive story was set, with veteran and rookie actors so talented that they made you question whether or not you could even root for their characters.

Needless to say, the hype was real. SKY Castle’s ratings kept going up and up, at such an impressive pace, and what was amazing was that those numbers felt 100 percent earned. With hyped-up dramas, I’m used to a certain cycle: I watch an episode. I understand the hype. I ask myself “What’s the catch?” The catch happens, and I’m disappointed. But that never happened here. As the show topped the list of highest-rated cable dramas, I could only nod and think Yeah, sounds about right.

The show reminded me of Heard it Through the Grapevine, as well as the American series Gossip Girl–all three gave an honest, if not also exaggerated, take on the foreign world of the elite. Because, yes, SKY Castle had the trifecta of excellent directing, writing and acting, but it also had the bravery to tackle sensitive subject matter in an explicit fashion. This particular story may focus on the wealthiest of the wealthy, but it is relevant to anyone living in South Korea in this day and age. Or anyone, period. With that said, it’s time to gather ‘round, pour the tea, and dish.

THE PREMISE

So what is this drama really about? It’s funny because the summary itself would be like a tangled web or an endless maze. It starts off simple, with the everyday lives of four wealthy families in the SKY Castle community, and then it branches off into the dark, mysterious, and surprisingly hilarious antics that they get into when preparing their children for college. And since these children live in SKY Castle, they only have the three options that “SKY” stands for: Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University.

Three of the fathers are big shot doctors and the fourth is a big shot prosecutor-turned-professor, meaning the kids have a lot to live up to. So the mothers put all of their time (and I mean, all of their time) into getting the best resources to ensure their kids’ acceptance into these top tier universities. One household, who we’ll come to know as the Park family, is ecstatic to have their only son accepted to SNU, blatantly showing him off like a prized cow to the rest of the neighborhood. While the neighbors express their congratulations, they’re actually more interested in the methods these parents used to get their son accepted.

Their secret turns out to be a very expensive, very reliable private tutor, and the other mothers are just dying to hire this tutor for their own children. However, right before the beginning of the school year, tragedy strikes the Castle community, turning everyone’s lives upside down. But even in the midst of tragedy, life must go on. The kids’ studies must go on. They keep working their way towards that one acceptance letter, unaware that they are in imminent danger of far more tragedies.

NOTE: The rest of this review will contain major spoilers, so proceed with caution.

THE CHARACTERS

Of the four households, we mainly focus on the Kang family, consisting of mother Han Seo-jin (Yeom Jung-ah), father Kang Joon-sang (Jung Jun-ho), eldest daughter Ye-seo (Kim Hye-yoon), and youngest daughter Ye-bin (Lee Ji-won). Seo-jin’s mother-in-law is extremely cold and strict, pushing Seo-jin to make her granddaughters as successful as her son. So Seo-jin takes whatever measures she considers necessary to do just that, starting with the tutor that the Parks had recommended.

Next, we have the Parks themselves, with mother Lee Myung-joo, father Park Soo-chang, and son Young-jae. However, after Myung-joo shocks everyone by committing suicide, Soo-chang and Young-jae leave the Castle grounds, allowing a new family to move in. This family consists of stepmother Lee Soo-im (Lee Tae-ran), father Hwang Chi-young (Choi Won-young), and son Woo-joo (SF9’s Chani). Neighbor Seo-jin is nervous with their arrival, having learned that Woo-joo’s grades tie with Ye-seo’s.

At the Cha household, we have mother Noh Seung-hye (Yoon Se-ah), father Cha Min-hyuk (Kim Byung-chul), eldest daughter Se-ri (Park Yoo-na), and twin sons Seo-joon (Kim Dong-hee) and Ki-joon (Jo Byung-kyu). With Se-ri studying abroad at Harvard, former prosecutor Min-hyuk prefers to tutor his sons himself. But to his wife and kids’ annoyance, his teaching methods can be extremely suffocating. All he cares about is the pyramid of society, and according to him, if you don’t reach the top, you don’t matter.

Finally, at the Woo household, we have mother Jin Jin-hee (Oh Nara), father Woo Yang-woo (Jo Jae-yoon), and son Soo-han (Lee Yoo-jin). Gossip queen Jin Jin and her hubby are the goofy couple in the neighborhood, always kissing up to the Kang family since Yang-woo works under Joon-sang. Their son Soo-han is good friends with Ye-bin, and to their parents’ disappointment, neither are all that great at studying.

Other essential characters, outside of the neighborhood, include the infamous tutor Kim Joo-young (Kim Seo-hyung) and Ye-seo and Woo-joo’s poor but bold classmate Kim Hye-na (Kim Bora).

THE STORY

On one snowy evening, Lee Myung-joo walks out into the cold, wearing nothing but a nightgown, and kills herself with her husband’s rifle. And with no note or further explanation, the SKY Castle residents are beyond confused. Myung-joo’s beloved son got accepted to SNU and her husband offered her an extravagant cruise, so why would she do such a thing? The residents don’t get the chance to find out, seeing that the only two people who would know–her son and husband–go into hiding right after the funeral.

It’s a shock to us viewers as well, because up until this point, we’re led to believe that Young-jae’s ticket to SNU has sealed his family’s happiness. But as soon as Myung-joo walks out into the snow, the show shifts into this crooked look at pure misery, the background an icy blue and dull gray. Myung-joo’s closest friend Seo-jin doesn’t know how to react or what to think, but she has to concentrate on hiring Coach Kim Joo-young for Ye-seo. So she attends the super exclusive “auction” of tutors and earns Coach Kim’s attention with Ye-seo’s impressive track record. And since Coach Kim has gotten every single one of her students accepted to SNU, Seo-jin can rest easy.

That comfort is shattered real quick when the Hwang family move into the Park home next door. Because not only is Woo-joo Ye-seo’s direct competition in school, but his father and the highly-skilled surgeon Chi-young is Joon-sang’s direct competition at the hospital. And that’s not all–it turns out that Woo-joo’s loving stepmom Soo-im knows Seo-jin from childhood, and from Soo-im’s memory, we instantly know that Seo-jin isn’t who she says she is. Apparently, Seo-jin’s real name is Kwak Mi-hyang, and she comes from a poor family with an alcoholic father. When Soo-im recognizes her, however, a nervous Seo-jin firmly denies all of this.

Seo-jin, being the strict mom that she is, scoffs at Soo-im’s own laidback parenting style. And it’s fascinating whenever we cut to each family, because they actually run the gamut on parenting. Seo-jin is on the far left, having her entire life dedicated to Ye-seo’s studies, and kiss-up Jin-hee pretty much copies whatever her unni Seo-jin does. Seung-hye, while a very sweet mom to her boys, often steps back and hopelessly watches her literary, pyramid-obsessed husband push them to their limit. And on the far right, Soo-im simply lets Woo-joo do his own thing since he’s already such a smart and responsible kid. She’s quite stunned, actually, to learn of SKY Castle’s do or die philosophy, considering some of these kids are only in middle school.

The phrase “Do or die” doesn’t seem to faze Seo-jin at all until she discovers Young-jae’s hidden diary within his tablet. She reads through days of entries, horrified to learn that Young-jae had been suicidal too, and he had been for a long time. He was so sick and tired of his parents only caring about med school and nothing else, only wanting him to study and nothing else. He’d found some way to cope it with, though, with the help of Coach Kim. After discussing his depression with her, she’d urged him to use his hatred toward his parents as motivation to getting his acceptance letter. After that, he would give his parents the precious letter and leave them for good. As Seo-jin reads all of this, we see a heartbreaking flashback of Myung-joo finding the diary sometime before her death.

Myung-joo had tracked down Young-jae, finding him living with the girl that he loved, and I’d have to say that it was this scene that officially sold me. The sophistication of the veteran actor mixed with the rawness of the rookie actor was like absolute magic. It almost felt invasive having to watch such an intense and painful confrontation between mother and son. It was all too real for Seo-jin as well, finally understanding that her unni took her life because she’d thought she’d lost her son forever. Seo-jin then confronts Coach Kim and slaps her right across the face, blaming her for taking advantage of Young-jae and ultimately destroying his family. This accusation leads Coach Kim to revealing the cold, calculating woman she really is. She insists that she only did her job, and her job is to make use of the millions of dollars parents pay her to get them that acceptance letter. So if the family fell into ruin, she believes it’s the family to blame.

What’s crazy is that Coach Kim is right–the family is to blame. They let their greed and selfishness get in the way of being a real family. But what’s crazier is that Coach Kim knows all of this and she still uses the same methods to get her students into SNU. As long as they get into the school, whatever happens after that doesn’t concern her. Now, hang onto your teacups, because it gets even crazier. After Coach Kim warns Seo-jin that the same tragedy could befall her and her family, Seo-jin still lets her tutor Ye-seo. She, of course, goes back and forth between wanting to fire her and wanting to keep her, but at the end of day, she thinks that Coach Kim is Ye-seo’s only surefire way of getting into SNU. It’s like Seo-jin has tunnel vision, seeing every other consequence nowhere near as terrible as Ye-seo getting a rejection.

Unfortunately, this tunnel vision also prevents Seo-jin from seeing the needs of her youngest Ye-bin. While Ye-seo gets all the praise from her parents (making her all the more cocky), Ye-bin always feels as if she’s just standing in the background. Since her grades aren’t good enough to garner their attention, Ye-bin starts rebelling a bit by shoplifting with her friends. Soo-im catches Ye-bin during one of her shoplifting sprees and informs Seo-jin, but Seo-jin prefers cleaning it up quietly instead of having a deeper conversation with her daughter. Seo-jin has enough on her plate as is, what with all the anxieties she’s developed for rehiring a tutor that literally shows signs of brainwashing her students. Ye-bin actually attempts running away, but Soo-im finds her in time to give her the hug that she’s been craving for so long.

As the school year goes on, the Castle kids are weighed down with more stress than ever. And similar to Ye-bin, they have no idea how to get through to their parents. Between studying in the Castle and studying at school, they’re starting to feel like they’re trapped in prison, with their parents as the guards. Soo-han ends up running away too, but thankfully, Chi-young helps a hysteric Jin-hee bring him back home. And though the Woo family is mostly there for a lot of comedic relief, this particular storyline was the first real breakthrough for any of the Castle households. Jin-hee and Yang-woo realize that they were so caught up in trying to keep up with their neighbors that they’d been oblivious to Soo-han’s silent struggles. And after coming so close to losing him, they agree that it’s time they allow him to just be a kid–a kid that maybe skips his morning lessons every now and then and has some (*gasp*) fun.

Meanwhile, those in the Cha household are about ready to explode. And you would be too if you were living under the same roof as Min-hyuk. Seung-hye and the boys try to convince him that, with all the chaos happening around them, maybe it’s time they change things. Like, I don’t know, the dark and depressing interior decorating? The cramped and anxiety-inducing study room? But Min-hyuk’s tunnel vision is probably worse than Seo-jin’s. Anytime anybody brings up change, he gives them the look and says something like “You guys are high school seniors” or “You have to reach the top of pyramid.”

Seung-hye can’t sit back and watch anymore, though, as her husband continues controlling all of their lives. She starts forcing the changes herself, the first major one being the destruction of the study room. She even has the construction workers hand her a mallet so she can experience the satisfaction of tearing down the wall. However, Min-hyuk always finds a way to get Seung-hye back on her leash, so to speak. And this time, after learning his precious study room is ruined, he takes Seung-hye’s credit cards away until she puts it back together. Nothing seems to get Mr. Pyramid off his high horse.

Then, we’re introduced to the Chas’ eldest daughter Se-ri, the Harvard student that Min-hyuk couldn’t be more proud of. She comes back from America, able to brag to everyone in the neighborhood that she’s friends with Barack Obama’s daughter. However, Seung-hye soon gets a phone call from her sister in America, and surprise, it turns out that Se-ri has been lying to them the whole time. Instead of attending Harvard, she’d been working at dance clubs, terrified of telling her parents that she wasn’t cut out for college life. Though Seung-hye is understandably upset, she comes to understand where her daughter is coming from.

And Min-hyuk… Well, he’s the last to find out, because everyone else is just as terrified to tell him. He reacts as expected, threatening to disown Se-ri before curling up in bed to cry. This doesn’t change Min-hyuk’s ridiculous pyramid philosophy–in fact, it makes it worse–but it does make Seung-hye all the more determined to protect her children.

As time passes, Seo-jin uncovers Coach Kim’s shocking secrets one by one, from the fact that Kim has a hidden daughter to the fact that she might’ve killed her own husband. This is when everything within Seo-jin is screaming for her to get this woman away from Ye-seo as soon as possible–I know I definitely screamed the same thing while watching. But Ye-seo is already trapped in Kim’s grasp, and she has no intention of reaching out to her mom again. Seo-jin ignores her conflicted feelings, constantly reassuring herself that Kim can get Ye-seo into SNU and that’s all that matters.

Soo-im decides to write a book about SKY Castle and the dark secrets beyond its gates, but when she gets too close to the truth, Coach Kim manipulates her into a whole new web of lies. Fortunately, Soo-im is not a naive character, and she digs up the truth herself by finding Young-jae and his dad. She gets all the information she needs from them, like the other families that Kim has torn apart, and promises Young-jae that her book will give them a voice. She tries to convince her old friend Seo-jin that Kim is dangerous, but Seo-jin has convinced herself that she’s too far gone to turn back.

At the high school, we meet Kim Hye-na, Ye-seo’s biggest rival and Woo-joo’s not-so-secret crush. When Hye-na isn’t studying, she’s busy taking care of her ill mother in the hospital. She’s a very headstrong girl, being proud of obtaining high grades without the help of a tutor like Ye-seo has. She’s perfectly content having her mom as her only family, but she’s suddenly thrust into the world alone when her mom passes away.

Hye-na is grief-stricken, but a new hope arises when she discovers an old photograph of Mom with Ye-seo’s dad Joon-sang. A string of unanswered texts to Joon-sang tell her all that she needs to know: Joon-sang is her dad too. Nervous that she may lose her only lifeline, she keeps this to herself. She attempts making nice with Ye-seo at school, but she knows right away that it’s futile with her.

Of course, Coach Kim uses her oh-so-efficient resources to learn of this birth secret and uses it to her advantage. She urges Seo-jin to bring Hye-na into her home, that way she has a tutor for Ye-bin and some motivation for Ye-seo. It sounds silly to Seo-jin, but once again, Coach Kim makes something silly sound smart and reasonable. So in a few days time, she has Hye-na move into SKY Castle, having no idea that she’s just planted a time bomb in her home.

What’s interesting is that I wasn’t sure who to root for in this situation. At times, it seemed like Hye-na was putting herself in danger, and other times, it seemed like she was the one bringing danger to the Kang family. She knew very well that one wrong word out of her mouth could bring chaos, and for the first time in her life, she felt powerful. That is, until Seo-jin discovered her secret.

Just like that, Hye-na had made herself an enemy. Seo-jin practically threatened to kill her if she ever told Joon-sang the truth, but she stood her ground; after all, she had nothing left to lose. But Seo-jin saw right through her, knowing she did have a potential father to lose and that the thought scared her more than anything else. They eventually come to the agreement of keeping quiet (for now), which turns out to be much harder than they thought.

Tensions run high at SKY Castle, and soon, Hye-na’s secret finds its way to even more people. Yet, all this time, Joon-sang is still unaware that he has another daughter roaming his halls. Hye-na gets tired of being patronized, however, and tells Ye-seo that she deserves a place in the family. And with Coach Kim, Seo-jin, and now Hye-na causing Ye-seo so much stress, Ye-seo is about ready to snap.

Then, on the night of Woo-joo’s birthday party, tragedy strikes once again. Hye-na is found lying outside Woo-joo’s house, having fallen from the balcony. She’s immediately taken to the hospital, but with another patient in critical condition–a patient with a connection to Joon-sang’s boss–Joon-sang makes the decision of sending Hye-na to another hospital. As she’s gurneyed away, she struggles to say the word “Dad,” but a confused Joon-sang merely turns away. And not too long after that, Hye-na dies in the ICU.

The police rule out suicide and come to the conclusion that Hye-na’s death was a murder. But who could have pushed her? Could it have been Ye-seo, who was threatened by Hye-na only hours before? Could it have been Seo-jin, who was just waiting for the right opportunity to get rid of her? Or could it have been Coach Kim, who was never fond of her in the first place? Seo-jin proves herself innocent when she meets with Coach Kim, afraid that her daughter might’ve gotten herself caught up in a murder case.

Coach Kim suggests Seo-jin do what’s best for Ye-seo by blaming it all on Woo-joo. Seo-jin starts to think that this is far too much to handle, but she’s so desperate to protecting Ye-seo’s future that she decides to follow Coach Kim’s instructions. Woo-joo gets arrested for Hye-na’s murder, shocking his parents, his friends, and poor Ye-seo, who’s harbored a crush on him ever since he moved to SKY Castle.

The more obvious it becomes that it was Coach Kim who killed Hye-na, the more terrified Seo-jin is to step up and tell the truth. Kim reveals that she’d been feeding Ye-seo test answers without her knowledge, and if Kim gets arrested, then Ye-seo will have to give up on SNU. Seo-jin and Ye-seo feel so awful for what they’ve done to Woo-joo, but how can they give up on SNU? A distraught Soo-im figures that Kim must be holding them back, but she begs them to think about what’s really best for Woo-joo and Ye-seo. She tells them that Kim is intentionally trying to destroy them–it’s what Kim has been doing ever since her own family was destroyed.

Seo-jin denies Soo-im countless times, but she knows deep down that Soo-im is right. And it’s at this point that everything falls apart: Joon-sang discovers that Hye-na was his daughter, and he becomes horrified with the man that he’s become. He wants to starts over, to have his family start over, so he tells his wife to stop letting society, namely Coach Kim and her mother-in-law, push her into doing such terrible things. Even if Ye-seo gets into SNU, he says, she’ll be miserable knowing she ruined someone’s life. Seo-jin still hesitates, but when she sees for herself what she’s done to Ye-seo, she finally, finally, decides to set things right.

Seo-jin delivers all the evidence she has to the police and has Woo-joo released to his parents. It takes a lot out of Seo-jin, but luckily, Joon-sang appears to embrace her as she cries. Coach Kim is arrested, but not before she has one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever watched with her grown daughter. And with that, the residents of SKY Castle can let out a big sigh of relief. Ye-seo decides to prove herself by taking the GRE and getting into college on her own terms, while Woo-joo decides to travel the world to really find himself. Seung-hye moves out with the kids, which is what finally gets Min-hyuk to start changing his ways. It’s incredibly sad for him to forget about his beloved pyramid (*rolls eyes*), but he’d rather have his family instead.

The Kangs leave SKY Castle, prompting another SNU-obsessed family to move in. And though Soo-im’s book Goodbye, SKY Castle gets some well-deserved attention, there are still plenty of wealthy mothers going to auctions for private tutors. The series ends with one unsettling shot of Coach Kim smirking.

COMMENTS

Now, at first, the final shot freaked me out because I actually thought that Coach Kim had been released from jail and allowed to tutor again. Then I realized that Kim’s arrogant expression was the show’s way of saying that were will always be people like Kim Joo-young, and there will always be parents desperate to hire them. It’s a scary thought, just as the drama itself is scary, but it’s a reality that I’m grateful SKY Castle was willing to explore.

Once you get sucked into the world of SKY Castle, it’s easy to see why it performed so well. It had those classic makjang elements, and the writing made those elements more universal. And with the addition of great directing and acting, everything was taken up a notch. We’ve seen the things chaebols and their crazy mothers are willing to do, like pay a girl to break up with her son. But nothing is quite as crazy, or quite as scary, as what a mother is willing to do to get her child into college. The activities and behavior within this story are ludicrous and unfathomable, but they are oh-so-real. There is mental and physical abuse, there is depression, there is deceit and betrayal, and unfortunately, there is death. South Korea’s education system didn’t become number one in the world without consequence. This is real life, so I appreciate the drama for presenting complex characters that are neither heroes or villains but a mix of both.

Though this was an ensemble cast, and every character was blessed with a rich storyline, Seo-jin was the main character for me. She would be considered the evil villain or the evil mom in other dramas, yet here, we spent so much time with her that there was enough room for sympathy to develop. And that sympathy grew the more we got to know her and her own struggles. Sure, there were times where I hated her, but just as it was for Soo-im, it was like watching a friend completely destroy herself, knowing why, yet having no idea how to help her. It was brilliant having Seo-jin in the middle of this tangled web because she represented the absolute worst case scenario. I wanted so badly for her to make better choices, and there were multiple instances where it seemed like she was going to, but SNU was too ingrained in her mind. She was so concerned with Ye-seo’s future that she lost track of what was happening in the present.

Admittedly, the finale felt like one long epilogue, so it wasn’t as fast-paced as I would’ve like it to be. Every episode prior was almost an hour and a half long and felt like ten minutes, while the last episode definitely felt like an hour and a half. In retrospect, it actually provoked an interesting reaction for me. Whenever I watched the show, I would lean into my computer, getting more and more tense with every scene, and this episode finally gave me the chance to sit back and actually breathe. I commend the cast and crew for creating an atmosphere equally as suffocating for us viewers as it was for their characters–that way, I could also experience how freeing it was when the parents and kids realized what was most important to them. It’s obviously hard for them to adjust, as we see with Cha Min-hyuk, but small steps eventually turn into big steps. Change is possible even if it seems like it’s not.

I wish I could’ve talked about the show more in depth, but there was just way too much to pack into one review. There’s plenty to say about parents, teachers, students–heck, about society as a whole–making it the most relevant drama in recent years. While the plot may sound average on paper, it grabs your attention from the second it starts to the second it ends. So yeah, its final rating of 23.8 percent didn’t come as a surprise. Who better to crown as the kings and queens of dramaland than the royalty in SKY Castle?

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It truly was an exceptional show - a 10/10 show (which is a rare rating for me). And I think it was exceptional from beginning to end.
It was extremely difficult to watch in places, especially around Hy-na's death. I said at the time that it was the banality of these people that got to me. For all their wealth, status and self-promotion, they were small, myopic people. It made their casual cruelties all the worse. But it also made their decisions around the end of the drama all the more powerful.

I think what made this show so good was that it was about hope. This is one of the few shows I’ve watched where the message is that things can be better if you just choose for them to be better. It’s not about grand societal change or overthrowing the status quo. Their lives were better because they just chose for them to be better. I love that. It’s the most hopeful thing I’ve heard in a long time.

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A sly reference (sorry for the difference in the order of magnitude between evil, myopic parents in a work of fiction and the very real Shoah) to "Einchmann in Jerusalem: a report on the banality of evil" by Hanna Arendt. You gave a good reflection on how evil is usually found not in machiavellian acts by twisted minds but in the casually myopic and insignificantly despicable.

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This brings back memories, recent memories, of an acquaintance who literally spent several thousand dollars for a private tutor for her daughter because she had a "B" in math. I'm only listing the one example. Getting in to the best university is that competitive. I teach at my home privately and when parents come in to wait they fall asleep - sometimes they snore. Sometimes the kids fall asleep.
Being a parent without much money myself, I realize there's no way for anyone who isn't wealthy to compete with kids whose parents can afford to spend thousands on private tutors, spend thousands for sports which apparently is also necessary to enter a good university. But not just sports, they have be the best in whatever sport they're doing. Swim team nationals? A must. Tennis team captain? A must. Live in a gated community? A must. Nothing less will do.
I haven't watched Sky Castle yet but it's coming to Viki.

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Unfortunately, yes this has become the reality of education, jobs and any sector. Basically progress in life for many is easier because of their financial situations and I find it ridiculous that universities and probably even employers demand people to be brilliant at everything. Not all of that comes for free or is based on innate talent and skill.

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Yeah, I've seen it too, but I don't quite understand why this happens in the US. In Korea, it's all about what university you graduated from. They don't even care about your grades at said university, just that you went.

Here it doesn't matter as much which university you go to (unless you go to Harvard for the connections you'll make). Depending on your field, like in science or music, you just go to where the good teacher is for graduate school, not college. Why parents are killing themselves and their kids to get into a 'good' university and then go six figures into debt paying the tuition is beyond me.

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One of the few articles I've read that got it exactly right.

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And yet recently we heard about the American version of SkyCastle when actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin did anything they could to 'cut the lineup' and lift their kids 'above the bar'. This behavior doesn't seem to be strictually cultural, rather instead a sense of entitlement for those with 'more' to think they deserve to take more by bending or buying the rules.

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I work in higher education and some of the resumes of these 18 year old's are amazing and they are so accomplished. When do they sleep?...

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I don't know if I am getting into trouble with this comment, but suddenly Affirmative Action in University entrance seems like a sensible idea at its core, but that needs polishing in its application.

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Ah here come the review. Thanks @sailorjumun for the review. I love this drama, the story really close to the society in my country. I discovered about Yeseoh, I forgot her real name, but I will look forward for her next project.

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Thanks for the review Sailorjumun! I enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed watching the drama. It was a 9/10 for me, as the last episode kind of felt out of place for me.

I might probably be the only one who didn't like Kim Hye Na's character, although she didn't deserve to be murdered.

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It's a very addicting show. So thankfully, I begin to watch the drama when the show aired episode 12 so I can marathon it but still can catch up the hype lol...

2018 are the year of well made drama for me and this drama include in the list.

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Never thought that a show about the education system could be so addictive. When I first read the premise, which described it as a satire, I thought they'll touch on all aspects of the rich. To just focus on one aspect, which didn't even sound that appealing to me on paper, this drama really exceeded my expectations.

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I've watched Sky Castle for Yoem Jung-ah but it was Professor Cha the one that glued me to the show. Overall I love all the characters and as you've mention it Sailorjumun, none of them are that good or villain. Each and everyone with their 'good' and 'bad'.

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I don't like how the parents use their children as an excuse to trample on other people, values, etc. Like Seo-jin who wants her daughter to let Woo Joo in prison for her to be accepted in the university. But her own husband has to fight to be the director of the hospital to make his mother happy. It doesn't stop with their acceptance, parents will be greedy during all their life. Or like with Hye Na's death, the parents are worried for the studies of their children but the fact that a young girl is dead and that she was children's friend, they just don't care. It was pretty scary and sad.
I'm happy that the children become brave and try to fight it.

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@kurama
KDRAMA'S filial piety is a brutal doctrine. It underpins the fiefdoms at all levels of drama society and the "do what ever it takes to survive".

Its why so many rom-com women chose partners that are such trash...in KDrama world their numerous dangerous flaws are insignificant because of their filial piety.

It is the parallel of the West's myopic Victorian morals. As long as you kept the societal facade, everything else was excusable.

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I don't think any of SKY Castle resident were chaebol rich, they were rich professionals but not rich enocugh to not have to work or worry about their children future standing. Chaebols are beyond reach but this people lifestyle are approachable in the terms of getting in to right university, networking and connection. And that what's this drama pointed out too, that "rat race" beginning now at educational level and kids like HyeNa are in disadvantage from the start.

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Yea, these are the mid-upper class that don’t have corporate shares to inherit and so the degrees are their lifeline. To keep their edge over others they not only do they feel they have to keep their own head above water, but also stomp on those trying to break through to the surface for air.

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SKY Castle give me some comforts.

For past five years I often felt unworthy because I dropped out of college and would felt ashamed when people asked about school. All of them told me it's such a waste for me who used to be a student with good grades to drop out. I don't want to tell them why because I think they don't need to know.

Watching this drama finale for me like being told that it's okay even if you failed at school, it's okay to not have college degree because a person's worthiness isn't defined by that.

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I am marathoning the show right now and I really miss recaps or the discussions beanies lead on the fan wall. DB is a drama watching essential now.

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All in all the show is doing the tag of satire/black comedy justice. It is exaggerated to the extent a few things are funny but it's not overwhelming and still too real.

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NOBODY SPOIL ME, NOBODY SPOIL ME!

I'm only up to the beginning of episode 8 right now and I only read the beginning of this post.

I would like to state that I am thrilled by this show and absolutely cackle all the time at Jjin Jjin. 🤣

Also, I am shocked that they have Entrance Exam Coordinators just for the SKY universities. I've only ever heard of them in China for parents who want their kids to go to Ivy League Universities. And the service can be hired as long as the the kids are 2. And above. And I'm like... 🤔

Science says the world is 🌏.
Flat-earthers say it's ⛔ (flat).
Cha MinHyuk says it's ⚠️.

(Why is there no emoticon of a pyramid?! They're one of the 7 wonders of the world and still not good enough for an emoticon?!)

Nae-Ma-ri Nae-Ma-ri.

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2 or above that's amusing (read ridiculous). Plus I too am at episode 8. I thought I was missing out on a lot by not live watching it.

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I think My problem with the ending of Sky Castle not so much about the message. I think they hit in satisfy conclusion and get it right. Nor because I think sad ending will be more fitting.

I feel like it's because the progression to redemption is abit too sudden for every character except Han Seo Jin and Ye Seo for me. Then again, the writers actually pull off the same think with Park Soo-Chang and Kang Joon-Sang before the ending, which abit unbelievable character development, which makes them sound like they have character transplant for the sake of the message the writers are trying to convey. Like they suddenly talk so wise without we are seeing progression to get there. I just can't connectt o them lol.

I'm also has abit problem with the way they handle Seri and Profesor Cha conflict, the show just pointing finger at Professor Cha and make Seri a victim. Though eventually both of them have their point of view.

Then I can forgive this aspect because the writers stay true to the original message she was trying to convey. from the start till the ending. Just abit like The Innocent Man case for me, the the writing is not that perfect, but they are stay true to the original message until the end. So far for that, I satisfy.

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Exactly i was thiking that if no one mentioned it I would. Seri was more than halfway wrong. In fcat dare i say completely. She didn't get in and not only did she defraud Harvard for which she might have faced criminal charges she also wasted a lot of money. I mean her dad sent her Tuition AND pocket money. She didn't save any out of guilt and bombed it all. It was so irresponsible. The best part for me was that she offered to pay.

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Well, to me she was a victim though. This was a child who was sent to the other side of the world and told her entire purpose was to get into an Ivy League school and if she didn't she wasn't worthy of her family. On paper her actions are insane. The fraud didn't get her anything except the approval of her father. Which just goes to show the extent to which he'd warped her sense of self-worth.

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I agree with you completely! I found Seri to be a victim of the way her parents had warped her sense of self-worth. It must have been crushing to be abroad studying by herself, knowing she was falling behind, but unable to seek any support because speaking out about it would have caused even more harm from her parents.

Like she was saying - trying to keep up that facade and living that lie must have been so stressful. Not to mention, she was living on campus and paying for that as well through some means ... I don't think she was able to completely "waste" all that money.

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She probably wasn't even failing or really falling behind; just terrified she wouldn't do well enough to get into an Ivy league school. Adolescence is hard enough without the support structure of friends and family but to be in a foreign country, almost completely alone and told you were a worthless person without a particular piece of paper? I can't even imagine it.

The thing that gets me about this "con" is the sheer illogical desperation of it. It wasn't sustainable and her getting caught was inevitable. It reminds me of Boksoo's nephew, Kang In-ho, who forged all his report cards and awards so his mother would think he was a star student. It's the kind of con that can only work for so long but once you start you just don't know how to stop. Especially if you're still a child.

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@leetennant And @misstia. Interesting take with Seri condition. I agree she is a victim. But what I upset about them handling this is it's upsetting enough she is irresponsible of what she did and be honest and rebel from the start will make it less a mess. She has tobtake the blame. Seri is definitely has no respect with his father. Not only that, she has no bear of coinsience of what she did to her parent and take a victim card. After that revealation, she has the nerve to take her mom a shoping spree. , like what? You just has make your parent loss all the money and face, but shoping spree? It's fortunate her parent can handle the loss of money. If she is not rich, she will get her parent bankrupt in a second.

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Thank you @sailorjumun for sharing your thoughts on this amazing drama!
I have to thank some beanies for raving about this show.. So glad I managed to binge watch 4 episodes.. then it was a thrill to wait every weekend to watch new episodes.
I too felt like the last episode gave a breathing space for the characters as well as the audience.. I loved every bit of the show INCLUDING the last episode!
So well deserved of the ratings and rave reviews!
If you still haven't watched it.. you're missing out on a gem of dramaland
SPOILERS

Oh how I cried when Prof Kang as he just let his daughter die.. what wretched fate </3
And when Young Jae finally realized how much his mom loved him while meeting Woo Jo's mother </3
And when the twin's mom found Seri's truth </3
Aww I'm gonna miss this show soo much </3

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I found this last week. It’s like “Finding Nemo” all over again. Instead of educating the public against taking marine creatures as pets, pet shops saw an increase in demand of clownfish.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/02/02/tiger-moms-tv-drama-fuels-south-korean-trend-cram-schools-shady/

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Oh my gosh, they missed the whole point! *facepalm*

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😭😭 I still miss SKY Castle. Thank you for writing such a wonderful post about it. I try to stay away from family drama as much as I could, but SKY Castle still managed to sneak up on me and boy am so glad it did. I am not a parent myself nor did I come from a dysfunctional family, but this drama gives you so much to think of what it’s like to have a family, to raise a family. “The Qualification of a parent” as per one of the reference books Soo Im was reading for her book. We are quick to judge Soo Jin or Prof Cha, but really how many of their likes are very much real? Soo Jin only cared about her family, she was willing to throw people under the bus as long as she and her family are unscathed. I was so mad that it took for Yeh suh to have mental breakdown to get her to act, but then I think about what she told her daughter - “I can’t give up on your life”. If I think about it, how many would actually be willing to throw everything away, to sacrifice their own family for the sake of others? It’s easier said than done. It’s easy to say as a third person watching and judging from the distance.

Right from the start I’ve been conflicted to love and hate these characters and that’s what made me hooked to SKY Castle. Their struggles felt real. Soo Jin’s constant back and forth felt real and VERY frustrating, as I had that moment in my life too that I didn’t know how to give up, and kept pushing for that “just one more step and I’m already there”. Different event, same wretched feeling.

It’s hard to pick which one is my favourite family, I love them all - the good and the bad, I’ve accepted all of them. ❤️

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This show was good. But intense. A bit too intense. It was very hard and a bit too real for me to watch at times. With the episode extension, I do believe I skipped an episode or 2 and did not notice any difference in the overall plot.

But I kept coming back for more. Nothing was black or white in this show, and I found myself hating myself for loving the people -and seeing myself in people- who did such despicable things. The theme is too real. (Incidentally I think My Strange Hero tried to go into the same theme but it felt ... not as good comparing to SKY castle. I'm excited to see some of the newer rookie actors in the future!

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I didn't skip but I did get stuck around episode 15 or 16 and really had to push through. Those episodes were brutal, totally brutal.

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Oh yeah, this was one of the few shows that disturbed me on a spiritual level lol. Discomfort doesn't even begin to describe how I felt watching the cruelty of some of these characters...

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Each episode did not feel that it was over an hour, that's how gripping it was. *slow clap*

Society can be so cruel in setting the standards and for some reason I want to break it. That's why I'm happy that Sky Castle got a high rating in SK, although there's a lot of parodies out there, I hope it will bring some discussions to the education system in the country and other countries as well.

Way to go casts and crew! Enjoy the reward vacation --- I was hoping it was near mine but Phuket is a gem!

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I know Phuket is a gem... but SK people seems to REALLY like it there, dont they? Reply 1988's reward vacation was also to Phuket wasnt it? I am seriously considering to move there just to catch powerhouse rated Kdrama actors.

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I think it helps that Phuket and Cebu have warmer climate and they offer lots of water outdoor activities which is great for team outings/buildings.

I hope all of them make it to their reward trip! Prof Cha and Dr Hwang have started script reading for a new drama, so hopefully they’ll find time to be with their SKY fam and have fun.

Do we know when they’re leaving?

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I answered my question - thanks twitter. They flew out yesterday! Their airport pics looked amazing!

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So intense, especially the 2nd half. Love all the characters here.

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This kdrama shows that wealth does not necessarily translate to logical and rational thinking. In fact, the notion of 'monkey see monkey do' is so apt here. In the pursuit of academic excellence of their kids, parents in this show have displayed the ugly & stupid side of themselves. It's both hilarious and heart-wrenching at the same time. A really splendid kdrama in a long while.

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I laughed when I saw the title of this post -- how was anybody going to attempt to sum up Sky Castle? But you did a good job of it, SailorJumun!

My favorite part of this whole thing is that JTBC showed us that you can take good actors and a good writer and good staff (I liked the director and music director a LOT) and have a runaway hit just from word of mouth. There was almost no hype for this drama that I remember, and I only knew of it from the What's Coming Up post in DB.

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JTBC rules!

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Man, JTBC been kicking other networks butts across the room the passed few years. It kinda reminds me of when HBO started off.

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The only drama in recent years that i started watching ahead of DB recaps. Been hooked the second JTBC released its description and trailer and their 'dark comedy' and 'satire' theme. The awesome cast also played a huge factor. Was honestly dissapointed that no one picked it up to recap huhu.

But it was a truly exceptional show, no wasted screen time at all (not even the pyramid mambojumbo). The whole production deserves all the ratings and rave critics and the holiday bonus!!

It is really relieving to know some Kdramas can still make my heart flutter after all these years. Too bad the good ones are mostly on cable channel now.

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I went through a smaller scale version of SKY Castle. Studying with a group of privileged kids under a university professor to accelerate ahead of the cohort. Re-purposed a study room out of office conference room with no windows without a single distraction including mobile devices. Attended a British governess class to learn grammar and graces. All that to get into a top school and seamlessly fit into that society. Then all the stress symptoms, resentment, existential crises and feeling trapped that come along with living up to the expectations causing out of line behavior.

So even though I'm not nearly that affluent nor are my folks that over the top, SKY Castle relates to me on many levels.

The only part I really didn't like about the ending is Woo Joo's quitting when he's almost done. Looking back as an adult, sometimes you would only know the purpose of your work in retrospect or through the process.

There's value to just being dutiful, persevere, and wrap up your current task - in this case your high school career - BEFORE taking your time out to discover meaning of life. Sometimes you find the meaning through the people you meet whilst you're studying or working. Or through daily journaling and taking personal retreats.

Cos' there's another kid who wanted your spot in that privileged high school or your work place who missed the boat. There's someone who could have better used the talents given to you.

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Thank you for the review.

I had so much thought about each episode that can’t be summarized coherently all at once.

I’ll just say I loved this drama and every character was awesomely written.

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That was an exceptional show. I rated it as a 10 and went back through my list to remind myself of the other shows I loved, and there was "I Heard it Through the Grapevine". Appreciate that you mentioned that outstanding drama. From the first episode Sky Castle had me hooked with the outstanding, writing, direction, acting and music.

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Looking at the number of awesome reviews, this drama has shot to the top of my 'what to watch next' list. I'll probably start it this week!

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SKY Castle was fantastic perfection and is one of those dramas that deserve the hype and phenomenal ratings.

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SKY Castle was truly a standout show. In one fell swoop it delivered talking points, mystery, comedy and an indictment on current society as it pertains to educational pressures. Simply outstanding from beginning to end.

Thanks for this review @sailorjumun!

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For every hyped drama that I've watched I could never escape the feeling that I was somehow put in a fraud no matter how much I might have found them entertaining, but Sky Castle, along with Signal, are the rare gems that deserve every ounce of their hypes and acclaims. How the screenwriter distributed (almost) an equal amount of character arcs and emotional growths to all (and it has many at that) in merely 20 episodes was a serious question that I've pondered since finishing the show. It never felt crammed and none of the problems was hastily resolved. At first I thought Hyena's death was too makjang and probably an excuse to prolong the show, but by the end I appreciated what came out of it and it was an organically planted trope for the adults to rethink and redeem.

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I enjoyed binge watching this drama for two days straight. I can see why it got the praise and popularity it deserves. Coming from a family being brainwashed to follow my father's footsteps and forced to take a degree I don't like, it really hit straight to my soul. But parts of it does feel a bit jarring. Some parts felt rushed and I feel like they were trying to end it quickly. Han Seo Jin got away with it easily. Given the amount of things she did wrong and how the coach said they're alike, I expected her to be put behind bars. For one thing, she agreed to what the coach did and let things slide multiple times. She also held on to the evidence for months and even destroyed some. Also, as much as I liked how they tied all the loose ends, the last episode felt like a whiplash. I agree that it's more like an epilogue than a finale. Overall, it's an amazing series. It may be a dark satire but it felt too real for me that I even forget that it is one.

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Wow. I actually started watching it the first week it aired and continued to do so without knowing about the hype it was getting. Wow. I'm just learning from this article that the rating went up as high as 23.8. 👏👏👏

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Oh! I just checked and its on Viki. Only the first two episodes available so far, but at least its not one of those 'great series beyond my reach' that I can only read the recaps of.

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Back again.
Viki must be scrambling to catch up with the show's unexpected popularity, too. Because in their haste to upload the first two episodes they forgot to subtitle the second one!

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The theories were the best part of SKY Castle.

Hye Na gets accepted to Seoul-uidae, but Ye Seo is wait-listed, so Kwak Mi Hyang kills Hye Na only to discover Hye Na was switched at birth with Ye Seo by Kim Eun Hye.
Woo Joo is a psychopath who poisons Lee Soo Im's tea, self-harms, and kills Hye Na. He was attracted to Hye Na because it takes one to know one. Hye Na's "mul-juseyo" is actually "Woo Joo-eyo," and Hye Na's finger points at Woo Joo.
Hye Na commits suicide like the dead dragonfly.
K is a child genius who feels pressured by her parents' expectations, so she kills her parents, but Kim Joo Young survives and is charged with her husband's murder.

SKY Castle has the most iconic lines.

🎵We all lie🎵
agalmeori Shall I rip your lips off?
You must trust me, eomeoni.
Omama! Naemari naemari!
Today is a spicy flavor.
Here's a donkatsu for you!
You're Jennifer, right? It's me, Laura Jung.
62,000 dollars.

While the happy ending was lackluster, it does not ruin the drama for me, but I still think Hye Na should have died in the very last scene in the very last episode.

thump
pan to Hye Na on ground, single tear
pan up to killer on balcony
fade to black Sopranos-style

SKY Castle is the nation's drama.

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I forgot to mention. I have five close friends in Korea. One time I talked with them about kids' education, and I said I can't understand the parents who go extra mile to support the kids to enter a well-known (like SKY or Ivy League) university. And I was shocked at their response. They said of course, you should do whatever you could, even if you have to sell your body, to support the kids. These are people who graduated in one of best high school and colleges in Korea. I am still shocked.

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This review has me so tempted to do a SKY Castle marathon. I'm not a fan of makjang dramas which this one seemed like it was right up that alley and all, and I mean ALL, of my friends in Korea wanted me to watch this but it wasn't enough for me to start it but now I am so curious bc it was the most popular drama I feel like in a LONG time. I don't know we'll see tho. I'm not 100% sold on having to watch it but I just need that little push.

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My overall reaction to this series: http://media.giphy.com/media/GQnsaAWZ8ty00/giphy.gif

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I love this show because of how crazy and ridiculous it is but at the same time not far from reality. My mom and I watched it together but she had to stop because she hated all the parents. I kept on watching though because I needed to know that some justice had to be served! The emotions this show brought upon had me crying for so many characters. I love how unique it is but at the same time a topic that is close to the heart of many students not just in S.Korea but around the world. Spoiler in the last episode when WooJoo decides to drop out and travel the world I know so many people were shocked. As a college student I understand his side of things his character may seem naive and innocent but he has gone through enough pain and suffering he knows how short life is and felt that he needs to go out and learn through experiencing the world rather than just reading about it. A lot of people disagreed with that but I definitely would do the same if I had the same support from his family. SKY Castle is a great show and deserves all the awards that they can get!!!

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I just finished watching Sky Castle because of this review, and I must say that like it a lot.

I hope that they give the following their leading role in a drama. They better get the leading role

Yum Jung-Ah
Kim Seo-Hyung
Kim Byung-Chul
Lee Hyun-Jin
Kim Hye-Yoon
Lee Ji-Won

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I have finally been able to watch the last 2 episodes this past weekend and I just have to say: This was an incredible drama, one of the greatest I have seen for the past 6 years of k-drama watching. I put it up there along with "my ajhussi". Oh I wished it would be recapped here, so I could discuss it with other beanies! There is so much to say about it. But above all, what I take away from this is while we want the best for our kids, it is very important to also let them be...so they also learn how to be humans.

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Just finished Sky Castle and I can't stop remarking on how well-made and well-written it is. All the characters (and there were a lot!) had a purpose (even the security guard) and all had interesting backstories and characters arcs. Everyone, from the veteran to the junior actors and actresses did justice to their roles that the drama truly deserved its high ratings. I usually enjoy watching Kdramas for the romance, but this is one exception where I was really in it for the story. As the story progressed, I found myself not knowing whom to root for -- each one had a good and a bad side and even if it was a satire, all the characters felt so real. It also helps that I am almost the same age as the moms there and I happen to have children in high school so I can relate with some of their struggles.

True, the last episode felt like it was drawn out but I honestly didn't mind. The previous 19 all kept me glued to my screen! Will definitely miss this show.

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Can't even finish #SkyCastle. Can already see that those who behave horribly and cause senseless death and tragedy will get away with everything and be completely forgiven at the end. You can't put a viewer through all these horridly wicked machinations (killing Hye Na) and then just excuse it all because the evil grasping, clawing character ended up doing one right thing. Ridiculous.

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Since the first seconds, this drama reminds me of the drama 'Mrs. Ma, nemesis' and 'Secret Mother'. And yes, it is a combination of these two. Kind of boring and repeating. Why Korean really like makeing similar genres drama consecutively in a row?

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