Sisyphus: Episode 5
A difference of opinion causes our protagonists to clash as they fail to understand the other’s goal. While our warrior from the future knows the danger that will fall upon the city and wants to stop it at all cost, our genius engineer isn’t as willing to sacrifice his life dream for some uncertain future. However, our two leads find themselves drawn to each other, and with so many enemies out for their heads, they’ll have to stick together in order to survive.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Tae-sool drags Seo-hae out of the river and administers CPR until she spits up water. Once she starts breathing again, he piggybacks her to Seo-jin’s officer where he silently thanks his friend for allowing him access to her clinic. While he digs around for medical supplies, Seo-jin arrives and is appalled by the scene before her.
She grabs the phone to call the police, but Tae-sool stops her. He apologizes and promises to explain everything to her after she treats Seo-hae’s wound, but Seo-jing balks at his request. She yells at him for not notifying anyone of his whereabouts and breaks down crying since she thought he had died.
Against her better judgement, Seo-jin helps Seo-hae, and Tae-sool fidgets by her side. His imagination runs wild as he thinks of all the deadly possibilities, but Seo-jin stares him in the eyes and replies, “She’s malnourished.” Pfft.
While Seo-hae rests, Tae-sool informs Seo-jin of everything he knows including the time machine and Sigma. She understandably calls it crazy and suggests he be hospitalized. Brushing aside her advice, Tae-sool warns her about the Control Bureau and how they appear everywhere.
She tells him that he sounds like Tae-san, but Tae-sool ignores the implications, pointing out his very real injury as well as Bong-sun’s condition. Seo-jin gives up on talking to him and tells him to leave her office by the morning. As she goes, he asks for her credit card, and she drops it on the ground and repeats her warning.
Tae-sool dries Seo-hae’s diary and considers reading it since he did pay for it after all. However, he stops himself since it feels wrong to peek. His attention turns to Seo-hae when she cries for her mom, and he watches over her with concern.
When Seo-hae wakes up, she sees Tae-sool standing over her in the morning. She gruffly asks for her stuff, and he hands over what he managed to salvage (her gun, diary, and locket). He assures her that he didn’t read her diary and tells her to eat since he got them food.
As Seo-hae chows down on the healthy diet of pizza, chicken, and burgers, Tae-sool asks about the future and what she meant about stopping him build the uploader. She tells him about the war and the nuke that will fall on Seoul, killing everyone.
She claims that saving him will stop the war, but Tae-sool wants to know who told her. The alarm behind them blares, and Seo-hae avoids answering. She asks instead if he still plans to go to the address despite the risks, and he nods his head.
After they eat, Tae-sool takes Seo-hae to a convenience store and clarifies their situation. Since he is the one in danger, she’ll be in trouble as long as she sticks with him. Though he is grateful for her help, he thinks that it’s time for them to part and hands her a wad of cash to help her start anew in this world.
Seo-hae reiterates her mission to stop the war, but Tae-sool says that he doesn’t like having a bodyguard around. He asks again why she thinks saving him will stop the war, and Seo-hae finally tells him about the diary.
Tae-sool points out that he would have met his brother at Busan if not for her meddling, and asks if she would do the same thing again if a similar situation occurs in the future. She confirms it, and her answer settles the matter for him. She calls him selfish for risking everyone’s life for his own goals, and she stares out at the people walking by, completely unaware of their doomed future.
Seo-hae changes tactics and begs Tae-sool to let her help him because he’s the only person she knows. She asks if he understands what it’s like to be all alone, and Tae-sool tells her that he prefers it that way. When he doesn’t budge, Seo-hae tells him that there’s a lot of cash in the future since they use it as kindling, and she chucks his money into the trash.
Hyun-gi pounds on his cell door and screams at his captors to let him at least call his mom. From the monitoring room, Officer Choi asks if they should follow protocol, but Officer Hwang has other ideas. While Hyun-gi looks around his cell and spots a message about the end coming soon, Officer Hwang enters and escorts him out.
As he takes in his surroundings, Hyun-gi stares in shock at the shadows locked in the various rooms, and Officer Hwang describes this place as the Control Bureau, which is in charge of handling illegal entrants. Hyun-gi asks where all these people are from, but Officer Hwang corrects him since when is the more important question.
Officer Hwang tells Hyun-gi that in the past, everyone knew everybody in their neighborhood, but now people don’t even know who lives next door. However, their present world is filled with uninvited guests, and that’s where the Control Bureau comes in.
After noting Hyun-gi’s file and his excellent sharpshooting skills, Officer Hwang informs him about the uploader. Hyun-gi laughs at the ridiculous tale of time travel, arguing that everyone would win the lottery then. Officer Hwang smiles at him since that is exactly why the Control Bureau created the lottery commission in the beginning.
When Hyun-gi still doubts the story, Officer Hwang tells him that his mom died while he was detained. He blames Seo-hae for the murder and calls all illegal entrants selfish. Hyun-gi returns to his destroyed home, and seeing the outline on the floor, he weeps for his mom.
Back at the Control Bureau, Officer Hwang tells Hyun-gi that ordinary people like them can never succeed on luck because people from the future have taken that opportunity away. He asks if Hyun-gi wants to fix it, and the bereaved officer clenches his fist.
After parting ways, Tae-sool walks down the sidwalk and spots Tae-san coming towards him. He grabs his brother, but he reels back when Tae-san turns out to be a random stranger. As Tae-sool keeps walking, he starts seeing Tae-san everywhere, and the noise from the streets overwhelms him. He falls to his knees and struggles to control his breathing.
Meanwhile, Seo-hae notices the families playing in the park and remembers calling everyone dumb for laughing when they’re about to die. Her chest tightens, and Seo-hae starts running while avoiding eye contact. She rushes into oncoming traffic and causes a jam in the middle of the intersection. As the cars honk at her, she can only hear her breathing pounding in her ears until Tae-sool grabs her and pulls her back to her senses.
Tae-sool admits to lying before since he knows what it feels like to be alone. His brother used to say the same thing he told her—about finding happiness—and comments on how Tae-san expected him to be happy while hiding his own pain and eventually dying.
He tells Seo-hae that he needs to find his brother, and if she promises to not stop him like last time, then he wants her to protect him and save the world. She agrees to this compromise, and they shake on it in the middle of the road.
Back in the Control Bureau, Officer Hwang hands Hyun-gi a gun and tells him that their organization allows their officers to kill on sight. Hyun-gi accepts the weapon and aims it at the projection of Seo-hae on the wall.
In the future, Seo-hae scouts an area with her dad (who is also Hyun-gi’s old partner in the present). She sighs when she sees a family of mannequins and continues her collection of any salvageable goods. She hits the jackpot when she finds a BTS album and next to it is a magazine with Tae-sool’s face on it. She flips through it and takes the magazine when she finds an interview of BTS inside.
While Seo-hae complains about the lack of canned fruit, she hears something fall in the distance and takes cover. With her gun drawn, she checks their surroundings but finds nothing. As she lets down her guard, bullets start raining down on them, and Seo-hae whips out a bigger weapon.
After checking to make sure the coast is clear, she steps out of her hiding place to face their attacker, but still, the aisle is empty. She hears something crunching on the ground, and looks down at the uncrewed vehicle pointing its gun at her.
Dad tackles her out of the way just in time, and their attackers reveal themselves, shooting their guns wildly into the air. They act as if hunting their prey is a game, and Seo-hae runs away with her dad. They find shelter behind a shelf, and Seo-hae curses under her breath much to her dad’s disapproval.
They topple over the shelf, taking out the vehicle in the process, and shoot down their attackers. However, the rest of the gang comes out to hunt them, so Dad tells Seo-hae to escape without their items.
When the leader yells at them to come out, Seo-hae shouts back at him to come get her. Her taunt irks him, and she splits up with Dad as the enemy divides their forces to chase after her. Though outnumbered, Dad hits all his targets, and Seo-hae takes down a few as well before tripping. Fortunately, Dad comes to the rescue, and they take cover behind a pillar.
While they catch their breath, Dad hands Seo-hae a can of fruit he snatched, and she smiles at the rare find. Their moment of victory is short-lived, though, as more enemies storm into the room. Giving Seo-hae a look, Dad pushes her out of the way and charges towards their attackers.
Using the distraction, Seo-hae runs to a different part of the building and finds the backroom where the drone pilot is standing unguarded. He spots her too late and throws up his arms to surrender. She hesitates to shoot when she sees that it’s only a teenager, but as she lowers her gun, the boy reaches for his own weapon.
When he goes to draw it, he gets shot in the chest, and Dad comes out from the shadows. He berates Seo-hae for hesitating, and she spits back that the boy was going to die regardless. He scolds her for acting weak, but she stops arguing when she notices his wounds. They hear footsteps approaching and escape.
They find shelter in a rundown sauna, and Dad tells her about the past. As they come across a food court, Seo-hae asks him about the menu and wonders what he could choose. Dad tells her that he wants bulgogi which was one of her mom’s specialties. Seo-hae chooses tteokbokki, and like Dad, it’s because she still remembers the one Mom made her. She asks her dad what he would do if he could go back to the past, and he stares at her for a long time.
Returning to the present timeline, Seo-hae tries out a sauna for the first time and tells Tae-sool that the water tastes great. He looks at her incredulously for drinking the bath water but says nothing more. He complains about being in a crowded place, but she tells him that it’s safe.
He catches her looking at the cafeteria and treats her to a meal. She chooses bulgogi—the item her dad wanted—and is lost in thought when the food arrives. While they eat, Tae-sool hands her a cellphone and tells her to save his number. He hands her a new diary as well since her old one was ruined, and Seo-hae looks surprised, mumbling to herself that he was the one who bought it for her.
Remembering the brokers, Seo-hae asks about the key and the safe’s content, and Tae-sool tells her that it’s just research notes. As he describes it, he realizes that it might be the uploader and changes their plans: they need to get back to his house pronto.
Outside Tae-sool’s house, Seo-hae grumbles at him for leaving behind the key, and he tells her that he hid it in a safe place. Once they break in, Seo-hae looks around his messy office and thinks someone beat them to it. Tae-sool defends his organized mess and goes to his drawer of keys to fetch what they’re looking for.
After retrieving the key, they head out, but Seo-hae stops him when they hear footsteps approaching. The front door unlocks, and Seung-bok (who goes by Eddy Kim for most others) enters the room with security. While the guards search the living room, Seung-bok enters the bedroom and heads towards the closet where Tae-sool and Seo-hae are hiding.
Right before he opens it, he receives a call from the chairman. Seung-bok updates him on the search for Tae-sool and says that he’s prepared to let go of the case as well. The security guard tells Seung-bok that nothing is amiss, but he tells them to increase security until the morning. Once they leave, Tae-sool steps out of the closet looking shocked, and Seo-hae looks over at him in concern.
Seo-jin finds her office empty and calls the police as promised. However, she remembers Tae-sool’s warning and decides to not inform the authorities. At her desk, she takes out her files on Tae-san and listens to a recording. Just as Tae-sool told her the night before, Tae-san mentioned Sigma and how they were out to kill his brother.
Mr. Park yells at the other brokers for failing to capture Tae-sool and Seo-hae, demanding them to bring the targets back to him no matter what. Bingbing defends the brothers, telling Mr. Park to find them himself, and he barks back at her since he’s joining the search as well.
Seo-hae stares out the window at the guards crawling around the premises, and the two of them are stuck inside until the morning. As Tae-sool inches towards the window to look, Seo-hae tells him to get away since they’ll spot him, and he grumbles about her standing there this entire time.
Though they go to bed, neither of them can fall asleep. Seeing her new cell phone, Seo-hae remembers her birthday when her parents got her a phone, and Mom told her to call her whenever she was in trouble. In the present, Seo-hae enters her mom’s phone number but stops herself.
Tae-sool grabs a beer from the fridge and notices Seo-hae staring out the window. He comes over and hands her a can, and Seo-hae takes her first sip of alcohol. While they look out at the city together, Seo-hae marvels at what Seoul was supposed to look like, and she tells Tae-sool that there’s nothing in the future.
He asks if she contacted her family, and she shakes her head since meeting them could put them in danger. She sees his family photo, and Tae-sool shares about his childhood, pointing out his old house where he lived with his brother.
He tells her about Tae-san and how he worked all over the country fixing train, which he bitterly notes must be why he hides so well. Wanting to change the topic, he asks if she wants to go somewhere, and she tells him that she hopes to visit the amusement park and ride the Viking.
He scoffs at her dream and suggests hotter places where you can flirt with others, but Seo-hae shakes her head. She explains how she went to the amusement park with her mom and couldn’t ride the Viking because of the height requirements. They promised to come next year, but then the war broke out.
Tae-sool tells her that the Viking isn’t a big deal, though his aversion is due to his own personal trauma. He tells her that he once worked at an amusement park with his brother, but while on maintenance duty, vomit fell from the sky and landed on him. As Tae-sool describes the horrifying moment, Seo-hae falls asleep on his shoulder, and he looks over at her and stays still.
Hyun-gi visits his mom’s ashes, and Officer Hwang comes to pay his respects. He hands Hyun-gi money to help with the costs and informs him of his missing person status. Having figured out their targets’ next move, Officer Hwang offers Hyun-gi a chance to get revenge, and he readily accepts. While Hyun-gi prepares his sniper rifle, Seo-hae sleeps soundly on the couch, and Tae-sool stays up to work on another project.
Despite the world-shaking disaster looming over our protagonists’ future, the show still lacks a certain tension and sense of urgency. The problem for me is that the time travelers and Control Bureau make no sense if a nuclear fallout is supposed to happen next year. Why would anyone travel back in time just to experience utter annihilation again? Why don’t the time travelers go back much further than the twenty-first century? Sure, modern-day technology is great, but these things are worth nothing when the world becomes a wasteland in less than twenty years. Also, the Control Bureau’s priorities seem absurd when taking in the wider context. They must realize that a war is coming since they already know about the lack of fresh air, yet their main concern is stopping these “illegal” entrants from coming back. And for what, to stop them from profiting off the lottery and stock market? Because “ordinary” folks can no longer rely on luck to change their fortunes? Is the government so childish that they care more about these missed opportunities than the fact that almost half of South Korea’s population will disappear in a matter of months? It just doesn’t make sense, and it’s much too big an issue for me to simply overlook. It sucks the tension right out from the show, and though I know the future is bleak, it does make me side with Tae-sool when he asks if this upcoming war is even real.
On that note, Tae-sool’s doubts about Seo-hae—despite all the crazy things that have happened—fall in line with his character. He can no longer deny the existence of time travel, especially now that the science is starting to click for him, but that doesn’t mean he can trust everything Seo-hae tells him. She looks suspicious when she avoids answering his questions, and then when she tells him the truth (my diary told me), it sounds ridiculous. However, ignoring all his misgivings, Tae-sool ends up joining hands with Seo-hae because he understands her pain. He knows what it feels like to be left alone, and it destroys him to do the same thing his brother did. Though I wish the show explored their internal conflict a bit more in that moment, I understand the need to keep our leads together. There’s still plenty of time for the show to delve deeper into these characters, and I’m sure this brewing strife between Tae-sool’s and Seo-hae’s objective will cause more problems in the future.
One of my main gripes with this show is its execution. The production is fine (clearly the producers threw a lot of money at this show), so that isn’t the problem. My issue is that the show has some thoughtful characterizations and interesting worldbuilding, but not all the pieces fit together well. As a result, something feels flat, and ultimately, I have a hard time caring about the characters. For example, I thought the explanation about the Control Bureau using the lottery to find time travelers was a smart setup, yet they aren’t intelligent enough to capture Seo-hae when she’s outnumbered and under-resourced. Also, Officer Hwang gives Hyun-gi permission to kill because their organization operates differently from the police department, but this supposedly menacing statement feels bland because we’ve seen how well the officers shoot so far. In theory, Officer Hwang is a dangerous man in power with a twisted ideology on immigration who knows how to manipulate people, but in reality, he is a simpleminded man who cannot utilize this wealth of knowledge in front of him to its full potential. If he’s so angry about time travelers using their foresight to benefit themselves, then he should use them to help himself and the country. Why make these time travelers his enemy when he could be manipulating them to join their side, instead? There is potential for the Control Bureau to be a scary entity, but the show doesn’t capitalize on its own characters.
In a similar vein, the future scenes are visually haunting, but the actual action that happens on screen does not convey that same sense of foreboding. The wild and reckless gang attacking Seo-hae and her dad was supposed to represent the lawlessness of the future. Since society has crumbled, people have resorted to violence to assert dominance, and killing people for sport has become the norm. Alas, instead of setting up this world ruled by fear and juxtaposing it to Seo-hae’s humanity, the fighting scenes meander, and once again, it goes back to this issue of tension. For some reason, the attackers never notice Seo-hae and her dad sneaking around and miss all their shots. The gang’s lack of ability wouldn’t be so terrible except for the fact that Dad is a beast in comparison to them. I almost feel bad for them as Dad takes down more than half of their numbers in mere seconds, and in the end, the two of them miraculously escape even though they are hopelessly outnumbered. The other issue besides tension is the lack of introspection. Seo-hae has a minor spat with her dad when he shoots the teenager, but instead of wrestling with these questions, the scene changes, and the two of them are back to reminiscing about the past and food. The show raises interesting dilemmas both in the future and the present timeline, but it never mulls on them long enough to actually be impactful. I especially want the show to explore Seo-hae’s character outside of her fish-out-of-water moments because she can bring much more to the story. She harbors a lot of internal conflict that has been barely touched, and it’s these aspects of her character that will help the audience connect with her and care about her mission.