Sisyphus: Episode 12
After surviving storms, car chases, and a plethora of battles, our time traveling warrior nears the end of her journey. While she might know a lot about the future, she still experiences a lot of new adventures and emotions in the present and finds some amazing people along the way. However, this also means that our genius engineer is running out of time before he is forced to make his ultimate decision: saving the woman he loves or the world.
EPISODE 12 RECAP
The bustling streets of Seoul shift into a ruined dystopia, and among the wild flora, Seo-hae treks through the wreckage in search of the uploader. She makes it into the forested area, but loses her footing and tumbles down a hill. Luckily, she lands in the right direction and continues her journey.
Taking a quick break, Seo-hae sits down to eat and check her map. The quickest way is through the desert land, and despite the dust storm heading her way, she takes the risk and moves onward. Seo-hae doesn’t make it far before the storm catches up to her, and the strong winds buffet her.
In the distance, Seo-hae sees a shadow waving to her and hears her mom’s voice calling her name. She takes a step forward and falls into quicksand. She claws at the sand to get out, but her desperate attempts only quicken her descent. Suddenly, a rope appears in front of her, and Dad pulls Seo-hae to safety.
After waiting out the storm, Dad builds them a fire, and they rest for the night. He scolds her for ignoring all his teachings and tells her that she won’t make it to the uploader by herself. He suggests escaping the country together, but Seo-hae refuses to leave.
Dad hands over his gun to Seo-hae and orders her to shoot him first if she wants to find the uploader. She asks why he is so afraid, and he tells her that he is scared of her dying. Seo-hae says that her fear is giving up without even trying and implores him to help her find the uploader.
Unable to refuse his daughter’s pleas, Dad accompanies Seo-hae and they pass through abandoned roads and a makeshift cemetery without much trouble. They arrive at their destination, but before heading inside, Dad takes out his pack of valuables which should be enough for one ride.
They hear footsteps approaching from behind and take cover in some bushes. The convenience store gang runs through the clearing in pursuit of them, and Seo-hae wonders aloud how long they have been chasing them.
A voice tells her that it has been two days, and a man emerges from the trees, pointing a gun at them. He asks for their name and why they want to ride the uploader, so Seo-hae says that she plans to stop the war by saving Tae-sool. The man reveals his face, and Tae-sool’s bodyguard Bong-sun recognizes Seo-hae from the Busan attack.
In the present timeline, Seo-hae’s dad and Seo-jin walk into the room and catch Tae-sool and Seo-hae hugging. Dad stares at his daughter in silence and steps out to think. Seo-hae follows him outside and shows him the scar on her wrist to prove her identity. He assures her that he isn’t doubting her existence but rather confused about the whole situation.
Letting out a small chuckle, he comments on how she still looks the same… just taller. This breaks the tension, and Seo-hae smiles at her dad. She tells him about the future and the impending war, and gives him a map to the bunker where they live. He asks about her mom, but Seo-hae shakes her head.
Dad wonders why they did not flee the country if he knew about the war, and Seo-hae tells him that the Control Bureau barred them from flying. She knows his next question as well and tells him that he sent her to the past.
She mentions all the remarkable things she experienced in the past—eating real fruit, going to the amusement, seeing her mom—but most importantly, she found good people who would risk their lives to save her. She wants them to never suffer the horrors of war and will change the future.
Tae-sool sits alone in the downloader room, still processing his final moment with his brother, when Mr. Park saunters in to greet him. He asks about the trip, and Tae-sool tells him to try it out once, too.
Dropping the jokes, Tae-sool asks about Tae-san, and Mr. Park gives him the abridged version of their tangled history: Sigma capture Tae-san first, then Agnes smuggled him out, and finally, Mr. Park stole him from her.
He promised to protect Tae-sool if his brother brought him the key, but when Tae-sool picked up the phone that fateful day, Tae-san realized something went wrong and escaped the brokers. He ended up getting caught by Sigma again, and in her fear, Seo-jin injected him with her drug.
Seo-hae interrupts their conversation and tells Tae-sool that they should leave. Mr. Park disagrees and reminds Tae-sool of his promise to fix the downloader. Though willing to keep his end of the deal, Tae-sool asks what will stop the brokers from killing them once he hands over the solution. Mr. Park laughs at his silly worries since he will kill them either way and calls in Bingbing.
Tae-sool informs the broker about the password he placed on the USB for safekeeping, but Seo-hae tells him to trust her and hand it over. Reluctantly, Tae-sool gives them the password, one-eight-one-eight (which sounds like swear words in Korean), and Bingbing gets the downloader working again.
As the group leaves, Mr. Park shoots at the wall and stops them. He says that they still owe him a debt for all the troubles they put him through, but Seo-hae tells him to take responsibility for his own life. If he believes the future cannot be changed, then everything that has happened was predetermined.
Mr. Park admits to feeling powerless, but his answer sounds like excuses to Seo-hae. She lets him in on a secret and tells him that the future has already changed. The bullet that hit Sun-jae was actually meant for her, and as a precaution, she brought medicine to heal her leg. She tosses them the bottle and drags Tae-sool out of the room. Unable to kill them, Mr. Park shoots the door and screams in frustration.
While Sun marvels at how cool Seo-hae was back there, Tae-sool has a wholly different reaction. Grabbing her arm, he asks what else she knows about the future, but Seo-hae does not understand why he is so mad and pulls away.
Sun-ho injects the medicine into his brother, and in a matter of seconds, Sun-jae wakes up. He nods reassuringly to his younger brother, and the other brokers sigh in relief.
Seo-hae shares everything she knows with Tae-sool, including the grave she found and the subsequent dreams she has about the future. He guesses that she created a time paradox, and according to her future-self’s memories, their final day is in the chapel at their wedding.
Tae-sool has a good idea about what happens next since he met Sigma, and Seo-hae confirms his suspicions about Sigma forcing him to choose between her and the world. She tells him that she will die even if he builds the uploader, but Tae-sool sees it as another chance to fix things. He does not want to lose her, but Seo-hae makes him promise to not build the uploader this time.
Mr. Park gives the other brokers two boxes filled with cash and a list of supplies to buy. As soon as he leaves for a personal matter, Bingbing mentions their boss’s shady background, but the brothers already knew about his criminal record. She wonders if they know who he killed then, but that information eludes them, too.
On his secret trip, Mr. Park visits his old home and watches with disgust as his past self beats up his wife. The money he sent has caused a bigger rift between the couple, and his past self shouts at his wife for having an affair. Fed up with his behavior, Mr. Park hurls a rock at himself, but his intervention only angers his past self and causes more harm than good.
Sun joins Seo-hae outside, and she thanks him for helping save her. He says that he barely did anything, but more importantly, he asks if everything she said about the last day is true. He wants her to leave with him, then, but Seo-hae rejects his offer.
Calling him by his full name, Seo-hae points at the city and tells him that everything is gone in the future. He asks if they can stop the war if they get rid of the person who invents the uploader, but Seo-hae stops him from even finishing that thought.
He asks if she likes Tae-sool, and in response, she returns his watch to him. Adding salt to the wound, Tae-sool comes out with two mugs, and Sun stalks off.
Tae-sool tells Seo-hae about Sigma’s last question, but even after giving it some thought, he still cannot remember how they know each other. He thinks that it might be a bluff, but Seo-hae does not recognize the word. He explains what it means, and she nods in understanding because it perfectly describes Tae-sool. Heh.
With their uncertain future looming in the near distance, Tae-sool voices his irritation with having to choose only one. She tells him to stop spouting nonsense, so he turns serious and says that he does not want her to disappear. He pulls her into a hug, and she hugs him back looking torn.
The two of them study Sigma’s painting for any clues, and Seo-hae points out two buildings that should not exist in the future. Using his gadgets, Tae-sool finds a different image hidden inside and recognizes the style from somewhere else.
Taking out his brother’s suitcase, Tae-sool pulls out his old elementary school yearbooks, and Seo-hae asks if he is alright with her going through his past. He teases her for using a slang term but then frowns when he realizes that Sun must have taught her. Pfft.
While they rifle through the books, Tae-sool shows Seo-hae a picture of a classmate who had a crush on him, and she smirks, telling him to ask her to protect him now. Chuckling at her jealousy, he grabs her hand to calm her down and brings up the day on the beach.
Remembering the kiss, Seo-hae says that she only did it because she thought it was the end and mentions his disdain for marriage. He tells her that this is different and plants a kiss on her cheek. Suddenly aware of their close proximity, Tae-sool leans in for another, proper kiss, but Seo-hae gets distracted by a drawing by one of his classmates.
The images depict Tae-sool’s future and the art style resembles the one in Sigma’s painting. Despite finding the culprit, the name is gone, so Tae-sool and Seo-hae go to the school to check the records.
In the hallway, Tae-sool spots a bulletin board with student introductions and asks Seo-hae about her favorite things. They only have seventy-two hours left, and Tae-sool wants to know as much as he can about her.
She shares her favorite foods as well as her favorite song with him, and he asks about people next. She says that she respects her parents the most, but when he asks who her favorite person is, she gets embarrassed and refuses to answer.
A teacher finds them loitering near the classrooms and brings them into the main office to sign in. When she learns Tae-sool’s name, she immediately gushes about his good looks and calls herself a fan. Seo-hae scowls at Tae-sool’s friendly response and tells him to hurry up.
The teacher asks for a photo before he leaves, and he happily obliges. In return, he asks to fetch his student records by himself, and she agrees. However, once the two of them leave, a thump comes from the closet.
Opening the door, the teacher reveals the real one bound and gagged inside and threatens to kill her if she makes more noise. She then sends the picture of Tae-sool to the Control Bureau, giving them his location.
While Tae-sool and Seo-hae search for the records, he notices her foul mood, and she derides him for flirting with the teacher. He tells her that he was merely currying favor with her, but Seo-hae ignores him and continues looking. As she flips the pages, Tae-sool recognizes a face and finally remembers who Sigma is.
Back in elementary school, Tae-sool found the bullies beating up another classmate, Seo Won-joo, and told them to stop since he is in charge of the library book Won-joo borrowed. When they threatened to punch him as well, Tae-sool made a beaker explode and scared them away.
Won-joo was immediately smitten with his new hero, but the real bully lived at home. With his drawings of Tae-sool scattered across his room, Won-joo trembled in fear as his drunk dad ripped open the door and hit him.
While Tae-sool drew at his desk in school, Won-joo walked up to him and told him that he could see the future. He knew Tae-sool would save the world one day, and Tae-sool stared back at him looking unconvinced. Curious about his drawing, Won-joo asked to see it, but Tae-sool bristled at the request.
Since Won-joo kept pestering him, Tae-sool told him that it was blueprints for a time machine that would send you to the past. Won-joo called it boring since the future was more exciting, but regardless, he asked if he could ride it first, moving closer to Tae-sool with an unsettling smile plastered on his face.
Arriving to school with even more bruises on his face, Won-joo asked Tae-sool about the science experiment he showed the bullies. Not long after, he set off a similar explosion in his own house, killing his entire family.
When Tae-sool heard the rumors about Won-joo’s house, he remembered him talking about seeing the future and rummaged through his desk for his latest drawing. As he feared, he found the disturbing image of the house and family burning.
After school, Won-joo appeared before Tae-sool, crooning about the silence. He said that he followed his instructions, and Tae-sool called him crazy. He pushed the other boy to the floor, and Won-joo glared at him, accusing him for being no different from the others. Whispering in Tae-sool’s ear, Won-joo vowed to kill everyone, and walked away.
As Tae-sool puts all the pieces together, they hear a thud outside and go investigate. The fake teacher launches herself at Seo-hae with a knife, but she deflects her blows and throws her down the stairs. Checking the number on the fake teacher’s arm, Seo-hae realizes that this was all a trap.
A muffled voice calls out to Tae-sool, and he instantly recognizes it. As they head towards the sound, they enter a classroom and look out the window. Standing in the field, Sigma crows, “Tae-sool, come play with me!”
Did I miss something because how does Tae-sool and Seo-hae only have three days left until the end of the world? The last concrete date given was September 30 (aka, Seo-hae’s birthday), so I guess everything took much longer than I initially thought. Seo-hae must have been tortured in the Control Bureau for a couple of weeks, and then it took Tae-sool a couple of more days to save her. Unless Seo-hae was captured for three weeks or more by the Control Bureau, this implies that Tae-sool and Seo-hae were wandering the timeline for days to weeks as well. The odd thing about this is that everything looked the exact same when Seo-hae woke up, and Mr. Park didn’t throw a tantrum for having his downloader broken for so long. While it isn’t too hard to imagine Tae-sool and Sun taking a while to track Seo-hae’s location and coming up with a plan to save her, the tone of the show never seemed to imply that they were running out of time. At most, Sun was portrayed as impatient, and there were hints of people needing to flee but it felt like the war was weeks away, not just three days.
Also, it doesn’t make much sense for a month to have passed especially since very little has happened to move the main plot forward. Tae-sool and Seo-hae still face the same question, and it doesn’t feel like they have gotten any closer to an alternative answer that might save her and the world. We always knew the nuclear fallout was the literal timebomb the leads had to beat, but now it’s suddenly three days away with very little warning in between. Rather than slowly build up tension and raise the stakes, the quick deadline comes across as manufactured tension for the show’s final act. At the minimum, I wish the characters had a bigger sense of urgency to reflect their situation, but maybe that’s asking for too much at this point.
The last half of the episode was dedicated to Sigma and his backstory. Unfortunately, it was a dull segue that failed to raise him above his cardboard-cutout-villain status. The creators added some random character to the story, and while I did feel bad for the child, it’s hard to connect with him, especially since the show kept emphasizing the similarities between little Won-joo and adult Sigma (we get it, the man was creepy since elementary school). The show does not offer much nuance to the character, and he ends up being the crazy bad guy our heroes have to take down. Though Kim Byung-chul is great, even his acting can’t make Sigma an interesting antagonist.
With only four more episodes left, it’s clear that the show wasted too much time meandering around unnecessary plot points and characters. There are too many underutilized characters (the brokers, Seung-bok, Bong-sun, Hyun-gi, etc.) and a lot of the action sequences were dragged out to the show’s detriment. The sets for the future were cool and probably cost a lot, but many of those scenes could have been cut as well. In the end, the show is trying to be too many things at once, and the big budget seems to have taken away from the storytelling instead of enhancing it.