Sisyphus: Episode 8
The true mastermind pulling the strings from the shadows is revealed, and our genius engineer will stop at nothing to find him. He hates the thought of being fooled for so long, but our time traveling warrior won’t let him risk his life for a personal vendetta. There are too many things at stake, but even if she disagrees with his mission, she will follow him until the bitter end.
EPISODE 8 RECAP
August 6, 2001. Sigma wakes up on the train tracks and flickers in front of Tae-san. He suddenly vanishes but then reappears a short distance away. While hobbling down the tracks, he picks up a rock, and Tae-san yells at him to explain who he is. Sigma turns around and stares before the incoming train allows him to escape.
Out on the streets, Sigma finds a passerby and smashes the rock against his head. He steals the man’s suit and cash, which is just enough to get him a small motel room for a few days. Once he settles in, Sigma checks his suitcase and the date. He takes out a horse racing newspaper, and the following day, he returns to the motel with a large wad of cash.
After making more money through horse racing, Sigma uses his earnings to buy stocks. He approaches fund manager Kim Dong-hyun and gives him specific instructions on what to buy and when to sell. Though skeptical at first, Dong-hyun does as he’s told, and soon enough, he becomes Sigma’s loyal follower.
Thus, when Sigma orders him to open a futures account, Dong-hyun follows through despite the risks. As expected, his boss lambastes him since the higherups are threatening to sue, but the whole office turns upside down as they watch the news of the September 11 attacks.
Sigma moves to a nice apartment, and Dong-hyun comes over to celebrate. He pledges his allegiance, and Sigma gives him more work: set up a meeting with IT investor Kim Han-yong. When Dong-hyun tries to persuade him out of it, Sigma tosses a wad of cash into the fire. Staring into the flames, he mutters, “Money burns easily. People do not.”
Chairman Kim agrees to meet with Sigma, but during their first meeting, Sigma takes out a can of fish and eats that instead of the restaurant’s food. Sigma mentions the chairman’s sick wife and places medicine on the table. He points out that the chairman has nothing to lose and leaves.
Despite his doubts, the chairman takes the medicine and gives it to his unconscious wife. Seo-jin arrives a moment later, and to both their disbelief, Mom moves her hand and wakes up. Not long after, the chairman meets with Sigma again, and the latter tells him to invest in Tae-sool. He informs the chairman that the medicine’s effect wears off in a month, but more will come if he listens.
Skipping ahead to the day of the company’s party, Sigma watches from the doorway as Tae-sool argues with his brother. While everyone else resumes their celebrations, Sigma waits outside, and Tae-san recognizes him. He demands answers from Sigma, but the guards drag him out.
Afterwards, Dong-hyun joins Sigma on the rooftop and wonders why he never smiles. He thanks Sigma again for turning his life around and brags about becoming a father. Filling in the silence, he asks how he knows everything, but Sigma does not answer.
Dong-hyun looks over the city, marveling at the view, and Sigma finally speaks. With a smile, he says, “Enjoy it while you can. Everything will burn down soon. Everyone will die soon. Everyone.”
Present-day: September 20, 2020. Dong-hyun runs through the streets, clutching onto some documents, and trips. He quickly gathers his things and hides in an alley. He calls his wife to tell her to leave the country with their son and says that he needs to warn Tae-sool not to meet that person. After hanging up, he steps onto the road, and a car hurtles towards him.
In his house, Tae-sool uses a facial recognition program to find Sigma, but so far, nothing pops up. He blames Tae-san’s poor photography skills for the lack of results and refuses to give up. Looking worried, Seo-hae asks him to stop, and Tae-sool mistakes her comment for fear.
Tae-sool assures Seo-hae that the Control Bureau cannot hurt him, but she was talking about Sigma. She reminds him of their goal to keep the world safe, but Tae-sool will not stop his search for something that has not even happened. She calls him selfish, blaming him for the death of millions including her mom, but Tae-sool yells back at her since he has done nothing.
He explains how Sigma has been manipulating his brother and him from the beginning, but Seo-hae argues that this is all still part of Sigma’s plan. She says that if he keeps chasing Sigma then he will die. She tells him that he dies on October 31, and Tae-sool lets out a small laugh, “There’s a lot of time left.”
The computer beeps, notifying Tae-sool of his search results, and he finds Sigma’s face in an old article. As they head out, Sun waves at Seo-hae from his car, and Tae-sool scoffs at her fanboy. Unamused by Sun’s antics, Seo-hae tells him to leave, but Sun wants to stick around and tells her to be careful.
During the car ride, Tae-sool tells Seo-hae about Dong-hyun, a legendary fund manager turned millionaire who hung around Sigma. Seo-hae asks if they are going to meet him right now, but Tae-sool says that they cannot because Dong-hyun died last week in an accident.
Officer Hwang gives Hyun-gi some tips when it comes to interrogating time travelers: everything they say is a lie. While they walk past the holding cells, Officer Hwang stops in front of a bloody door and orders his men to open it. Mr. Park looks up at his guests, and Officer Hwang smiles in recognition.
They escort Mr. Park to an interrogation room where Hyun-gi punches him in the face. Officer Hwang says that they are honored to have such a famous prisoner, and he chuckles along with Mr. Park—both of them commenting on how much they have aged.
Officer Choi reads Mr. Park’s profile and calls him lucky for avoiding the nuclear war while imprisoned for murder. He laughs when he finds a picture of Mr. Park’s family and threatens to visit them. Mr. Park snickers and mockingly replies, “I can visit your family, too.”
After knocking Mr. Park unconscious, the Control Bureau holds a meeting about Tae-sool and Seo-hae. For the time being, Officer Hwang wants them to only monitor Tae-sool, but for the girl, he demands her capture. He dismisses everyone, and Hyun-gi bows in thanks before leaving.
Tae-sool and Seo-hae visit Dong-hyun’s wife and show her a picture of Sigma. She recognizes him as her husband’s acquaintance and tells them that he came to their house for the second time last week. She remembers her husband fighting with Sigma since that was the night he died.
Though she knows nothing about Sigma, she recalls a terrifying painting he gifted the family and brings it out for them to see. It is a depiction of Seoul engulfed in flames, and Seo-hae asks if Tae-sool is still curious about what the future looks like.
With a picture of the painting, Tae-sool deduces the angle from which Sigma must have seen the city, and he leads Seo-hae to a building. They end up in front of a room, but before breaking in, Seo-hae makes Tae-sool promise to hide if things get dangerous. He says that hiding is his specialty, but Seo-hae isn’t joking around.
After he glumly agrees, Tae-sool looks at the keypad and notices something odd. He thinks the buttons were never touched, and testing out his theory, he grabs the handle. The door opens, and the two of them sneak inside the unlocked room.
They find another painting in the corner, and Tae-sool identities it as a depiction of Sisyphus, the eternal sinner in Greek mythology. He realizes the meaning behind Sigma, but before he can elaborate, they hear the door open behind them.
Someone stands outside, but as if aware of the intruders, he slams the door shut and runs. Tae-sool chases after him with Seo-hae coming in the rear, and they follow him outside. Tae-sool spots a suspicious figure on the groun, but when he grabs the man, it isn’t Sigma but another time traveler.
The time traveler pulls out a knife, but Seo-hae jumps in between them and grabs the blade. While they tussle, Seo-hae spots a sigma drawn on the ground and looks up just as a pile of bricks falls towards her. Tae-sool notices the danger as well and pushes her out of the way just in time.
He takes her back to his place where he treats her wounds and holds her hand while she rests. Tae-sool steps out for some fresh air, and Sun grabs him, asking what happened to Seo-hae. He wants to know why she risks her life for someone like Tae-sool and blames him for putting her in danger.
Tae-sool tells him that Seo-hae is acting on her own accord to save her mom, so if he hates it, then he needs to bring it up with her directly. Sun admits to his own uselessness since she refuses to listen to him, but Tae-sool has no sympathy for the younger man and brushes him aside.
While thinking of Sigma, Tae-sool becomes curious about Seo-hae and looks her up on online. Multiple posts about little Seo-hae and her family pops up, and he watches one of the videos of her learning to ride a bike. He stays up all night looking through the stuff and learns that today (September 30th) is her birthday.
Sometime in the future, Seo-hae celebrates her birthday by herself and picks out presents at the abandoned amusement park. She sits in the carousel—pretending it works—and finds the Viking which she always wanted to ride.
Seo-hae takes a seat by some dead bodies and finds a bag of chips in their backpack. With a sigh, she tells her new friends about the last time she was here with her mom. Suddenly, the bushes rustle, and Seo-hae whips out her gun.
She inches her way towards the sound, but it’s only a rabbit. She tells herself to shoot, but before she pulls the trigger, a wolf jumps past her and steals her prey. Seo-hae returns to their base without any meat, but she at least found some chips to share with her dad.
While they eat, Seo-hae looks worried about her dad’s sickly appearance and checks on his wound which is now infected. They ran out of antibiotics, so Seo-hae dons her gear again to get him medicine. He warns her against infiltrating the hospital alone, but she points out that she will end up by herself anyways if he dies.
After scoping out the area, Seo-hae uses her grappling hook to land on the hospital roof and goes through the vents to avoid detection. She finds the storage room and waits until the worker leaves to look for antibiotics.
Unfortunately, the labels are written in English, and Seo-hae fails to find the medicine before the worker returns. The worker aims her gun at Seo-hae, but she clearly has no idea what she’s doing as she orders Seo-hae to turn around but freaks out when she moves. Using her quick reflexes, Seo-hae steals the gun away from the worker and forces her to hand over the antibiotics.
The worker gives Seo-hae the bottles, but at that moment, a guard comes up and spots the two of them. Despite the worker’s pleas, the guard shoots, and Seo-hae takes cover behind a door—the worker was not as fortunate.
Seo-hae shoots the guards coming up the stairs and jumps down multiple floors while taking down even more of their numbers. The alarm blares, and all the hospital guards run around looking for the intruder. Seo-hae does not get very far before the guards spot her, but she easily takes them down with her gun. One guard tackles her, but she flips him over and kills him, too.
With too many people chasing after her, Seo-hae shoots at the glass elevator and jumps from at least the third floor to the ground. She escapes to the forested area outside but falls through a door, leading her inside another building. She points her gun at the opening, but the guards stop their pursuit when they hear growls coming from the trees.
Once she feels safe, Seo-hae checks on the medicine and sighs in relief. She winces in pain at the scratches on her arm, but finds comfort in the family picture stored in her locket. She wipes away her tears and lets her tired body rest.
Seo-hae jolts awake when she hears something nearby, but nothing more than a flock of birds flies passed her. Checking the time, she realizes that she slept all day and climbs up to the surface. She follows her map back home, but wading through the dense reeds, Seo-hae ends up on a cliff overlooking the city. Explaining the door on the ground, the camera pans away revealing a toppled building.
Seo-hae notices a grave and underneath the rocks is the pink diary. She reads the first entry and looks back at the grave in fear. Removing the rocks, she lifts the cover and finds two skeletons inside. When she reaches down, one of the skeletons flickers and memories of her time traveling flood her mind.
The rest of the diary entries are too faded to read, but the orders on the first page are clear: ride the uploader to the past and save Tae-sool. As Seo-hae flips through the pages, the wedding photo falls out, and she whispers Tae-sool’s name. Her final request to herself is protecting the person she loves, and Seo-hae stares at the picture of the two of them.
One thing I like about the show is its set design. Tae-sool’s house is gorgeous, but what’s really breathtaking is the scale of and details put into the future scenes. There is a haunting quality to the future that is mostly conveyed through the setting. The overgrown flora signals to the audience that a lot of time has passed, yet despite all the plant life in the area, the destruction of the city still present throughout the scene makes the world feel hopeless and empty. However, there is a contrast to the future we see which is full of greens, and the one Sigma paints which is washed in reds.
Though both settings portray a destroyed world, a clear difference also exists. The future we see with Seo-hae is still one of sadness, but at the same time, life still exists. It is also a depiction of what happens after the war—the consequences. However, Sigma’s future seems to be stuck at the moment of destruction and flames. Instead of the aftermath, he lives in the impact when the world was burning all around him. This contrast may explain why these two characters stand on opposite sides of this battle. Seo-hae wants to save everyone by stopping the war because she knows what it feels like to live in a place without hope, but Sigma seems to not care about fighting for a better future. In fact, the only time he smiles is when he talks about the world ending, which makes it seem like he wants to see everything burn.
While I adore Kim Byung-chul, I’m not a huge fan of the enigmatic Sigma. Thankfully, he is more competent than the entire Control Bureau combined, but so far, he’s a bit too quirky without enough depth. Inadvertently, Sigma comes across as strange rather than dangerous, which is a bit worrisome given the show’s track record with its antagonists. I don’t want Sigma reduced to a cartoonish super villain who simply wants the world to turn to ash, and hopefully, the creators will develop the character more instead of keeping him a mysterious figure until the end just for the sake of having a twist. Similarly, I want the show to make me care about Seo-hae as a person, and in that regard, it would be nice to see them stop portraying her as some superhero if they aren’t going to explain why she’s so much better than her opponents. I like strong female leads, but the show is making her too amazing and her feats come across as plot armor rather than the results of her own abilities.
The entire action sequence in the hospital fell flat, and the editing choices did not help. They made Seo-hae jump down multiple floors without even a proper roll and landing. To make matters worse, the guards rarely shoot at her even when she is in their line of view. The creators are more preoccupied with showing multiple shots of guards chasing after Seo-hae from all over the place to emphasize the odds against her, but the directors should have spent more time making the chase feel intense and meaningful. There’s too much empty space and wasted time in the action scenes, which sucks away the tension. Maybe in better hands, Sisyphus could have been a thrilling, action-packed, sci-fi romance, but right now, it feels like the show is trying to be too many things at once.