Sisyphus: Episode 16 (Final)
Our leads make their last stand against the enemy and try to rewrite the future. However, winning has its own consequences since it means that none of the time travelers will exist, so our genius engineer will have to say farewell to the love of his life. As the final fight between good and evil comes to a close, only time will tell who will emerge victorious at the end.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
A crowd gathers around the building as Mr. Park walks up the stairs to his old apartment. He pulls out a gun, but Bingbing appears behind him and grabs his arm. He scolds her for following him and points his gun at her head when she refuses to leave.
Mr. Park resumes his march, listening to his present self fight with his wife, but Bingbing runs after him and calls him dad. She hands him a bankbook, and Mr. Park remembers the time Tae-sool whispered in his ear.
Bingbing tells him that she and Mom rode the uploader to run away from him, but Mom never arrived. As the truth dawns on him, Mr. Park orders her to return to the mart, but Bingbing begs him not to go inside since Mom always told her that he was not completely evil.
Mr. Park opens the door a crack and watches his present self threaten to kill his wife. Trusting Bingbing’s words, he does not interfere as his present self inches closer to his wife. Before present Mr. Park stabs her, their young daughter comes out of her room, and her presence brings both parents to their senses.
Outside, Mr. Park flickers and apologizes to Bingbing, berating himself for not recognizing his own daughter. He explains how the future has changed since he did not kill a person, which means they can see her mom again. She hugs him, and Mr. Park hugs her back.
Sigma’s lackeys storm the church, and Seo-hae drops her weapon. She tells Tae-sool that Sun died, and he assures her that everything was necessary. Hearing Tae-sool’s confidence, Sigma mocks him for his “plan” since all that is left for them is his final decision: the world or the girl?
Tae-sool grabs Seo-hae’s hand and tells her that everything will go well no matter what. His assertion makes Sigma smile, and he orders Tae-sool to finish the code or else Seo-hae will die. As Sigma counts down, Tae-sool stops him to ask about present Sigma’s whereabouts.
His random interruption sounds like stalling to Sigma, but Tae-sool smiles confidently since he knows he will win. On cue, he flickers, and Tae-sool announces, “The future can change. It’s boring if it’s always the same.”
This time, Tae-sool counts down, and a phone rings in the church. Sigma receives a call from an unknown number, and the uploader downstairs shuts off. Smirking, Tae-sool says that this is the sound of nails hammering inside Sigma’s coffin.
Sigma calls it a bluff and aims his gun at Seo-hae, but to his disbelief, his hand flickers. Seo-hae uses his moment of confusion to attack, and Sigma orders his guards to shoot her. However, they vanish into thin air, leaving Sigma all alone.
Sigma gains the advantage when he hits Seo-hae first, and Tae-sool is no match for him in a physical fight. With nothing else in his way, Sigma chokes Seo-hae and tells her that no one is left to save her. As she gasps for air, he flickers again and loses his grip.
A look of shock passes over Sigma’s face, and as he turns around, someone shoots him from the second floor. Still alive, Sigma asks Tae-sool what happened but the others simply stare at him. He tells them to stop looking at him like that and says that he hates everyone.
He recalls the empty city and clear night sky with fondness and asks Seo-hae if she misses that future, too. She tells him that she does not, and the next shot hits Sigma in the chest—killing him instantly.
Unlike Seo-hae, Tae-sool looks rather calm about what just transpired and tells her that their work is not done. When she asks where they are going next, he says that when is the important question. Looking up at the second floor, Seo-hae understands what they need to do, and they head downstairs for the uploader.
They wait until Seung-bok leaves, and Tae-sool tweaks the code so the uploader only works once. Seo-hae wonders if the machine will send them back automatically, but Tae-sool tells her that someone else will come help them.
Seo-hae asks how long Tae-sool knew about this plan, and he tells her that it was put in motion since the time he locked her up in the bunker. She scolds him for keeping her in the dark, and their fight dissolves into petty bickering about Tae-sool lying to her.
Mr. Park interrupts their lovers’ quarrel and brings his crew with him to help Tae-sool with the uploader. While the brokers prepare them for the trip, Tae-sool complains about the shot and orders the younger brother to hand over his bulletproof vest. He asks one for Seo-hae as well, but she declines the offer.
As Tae-sool gets ready to leave, Mr. Park reminds him to visit him and repeat the same thing he said last time. Saying their goodbyes, Tae-sool and Seo-hae walk into the uploader and hold hands as they go back to the past.
They reappear by the Han River, and Tae-sool tells Seo-hae that he is probably locking her inside the bunker right now. He says that the Control Bureau will be too busy looking for her, and Seo-hae realizes that he kept her hidden to buy them some time. She smacks him in annoyance, but Tae-sool just leans into her arms and asks for a quick break.
Tae-sool orders Seo-hae to wait here while he goes to the bathroom, and after disappearing for a few minutes, he returns and takes them to their next destination. They stop by the police station to visit her dad, and Tae-sool asks him to capture present Sigma and call this number when he does.
Dad agrees to do it if it means stopping the war, and they thank him for his cooperation. As they walk away, Dad calls out to Seo-hae and asks to hug her once. She runs into his arms, and Dad pats her on the back like he does in the future.
The next stop is Asia Mart, and the Tae-sool we saw before buying the guns is actually this Tae-sool. He whispers in Mr. Park’s ear the message from the broker’s future self: his daughter was next to him all this time. He tells the brokers to come to the church tomorrow if they can and leaves.
Tae-sool meets Seo-hae in a dark alley and waits for their ride to pick them up. A familiar car drives up to them, and Sun gets out—alive and well. He reveals the bulletproof vest he was wearing the entire time and explains what happened.
Back when Tae-sool left Seo-hae at the park, he went to find Sun and gave him his vest. He told the younger man to keep their meeting a secret and asked him to trust him like he did during their first rescue mission.
Though the vest saved his life, Sun tells Seo-hae that he legitimately fainted back then because of the pain. He flinches when she gets closer, expecting a beating, but Seo-hae hugs him instead. As he lets down his guard, she punches him in the gut. She asks Tae-sool if he has more secrets, and he promises that this was the last one.
While Seo-hae’s present self attracts all the guards’ attention, she and Tae-sool use the back door to get upstairs. They quietly set up her weapon, and Tae-sool looks down at Sigma, muttering under his breath that things are just getting started.
At the park, Dad and his fellow officers search for present Sigma and find him hunched over in a corner. Dad approaches him slowly, and present Sigma stares at him with fearful eyes. After verifying his identity, Dad walks up to present Sigma and drapes his jacket over the shivering man.
As present Sigma looks up at Dad with tears in his eyes, Sigma flickers right at that moment, which allows Seo-hae to attack him. The scene unfolds like before, and upstairs, Tae-sool urges Seo-hae to shoot faster before Sigma gets a chance to hit her. Heh.
Seo-hae stands up to shoot Sigma, but it causes her present self to look in her direction and makes them both flicker. Though Sigma seems to realize what is happening, it is already too late as Seo-hae pulls the trigger and shoots him.
Since Seo-hae is weakened, Tae-sool helps her carry the gun to finish the job, and she tells her present self that she will save her. She shoots, and Sigma falls to the ground once again.
After their present selves leave, Tae-sool and Seo-hae go downstairs to watch Sigma disappear, and as soon as he is gone, she flickers as well. Tae-sool hugs her, knowing that their end is near, and they both hold back their tears.
He tells her that this is all he saw, and she caresses his face before kissing him on the cheek. She thanks Tae-sool for everything, and he leans in for a proper kiss. She slowly vanishes in his arms, and he begs her to stay.
As they embrace one last time, Seo-hae suddenly solidifies, and they pull apart in shock. They wonder what is happening, and the doors swing open. The intruder fires a gun, and Tae-sool catches Seo-hae as she falls. A look of betrayal contorts Tae-sool’s face as he sees his old friend walk towards them.
Seung-bok throws the laptop at Tae-sool and orders him to finish the code. He tells him to build it so they get another chance, but Seo-hae tells him to stop things here. Watching her writhe in pain, Tae-sool screams at Seung-bok, asking why he did it.
His old friend offers to let them go if Tae-sool knows his birthday, but Tae-sool cannot answer. Seung-bok gives him another chance, asking if he knows how many times he kneeled on his behalf, and tells Tae-sool that he sacrificed so much for him.
He claims to have loved Seo-jin first and gave up everything for Tae-sool because he was nothing more than a sidekick. He complains about Tae-sool never thanking him even once and says that he will start over and win back Seo-jin this time. Tae-sool calls him crazy, but Seung-bok repeats Sigma’s mantra: “Don’t look at me like that!”
Seung-bok vows to take everything from Tae-sool and makes him choose between the world or the girl. Though Seo-hae begs him to not build it, Tae-sool relents and asks Seo-hae to try again with him. As he writes the code, missiles streak the sky.
Seo-hae tells Tae-sool that she is fine and points out that this will never end if they continue. Images of the world’s destruction play on screen, and Tae-sool stares at Seo-hae, looking conflicted. He notices the gun on the floor and grabs it.
Tae-sool points his gun at Seung-bok who points his own at Seo-hae. Looking over at her, Tae-sool admits to knowing the solution from the very beginning, but he avoided it in order to be with her. He asks Seo-hae to come find him even if there is no future and smiles at her. Raising the gun to his head, Tae-sool shoots himself, and Seo-hae screams his name.
The missiles in the sky disappear, and all around the country, the time travelers vanish as well. In Sigma’s old headquarters, Tae-san wakes up with a look of understanding on his face. While the rest of the world continues living in ignorance, Dad stares up at the sky and knows that his daughter won.
Seo-hae gently strokes Tae-sool and brings up the questions he asked at the school. Back then she did not answer his last one, so she tells him now that the person she likes is him. She says that she will find him again and tells him that she loves him. Holding onto Tae-sool until the end, Seo-hae vanishes.
A bright light flashes on screen, and Tae-sool wakes up on the flight with the mean passenger from episode one. However, unlike before, Seo-hae sits next to him and asks him to choose their food. He struggles to answer her, and she stares at him curiously.
A flight attendant comes by with his water, and Tae-sool reaches for his pills. He hesitates and looks over at Seo-hae before dropping the drugs. He rests his head on her shoulder, and they hold hands while smiling peacefully. As the camera moves away, a bright light fills the cabin and engulfs the lovers.
In this new timeline, Sigma sketches portraits in the park and even smiles. After work, he returns to his studio and takes a seat across from his painting of Tae-sool. Taking out Dad’s notebook, he reads the different clues Seo-hae’s dad wrote alluding to the other future.
Sigma walks up to his mirror and takes off his jacket—the one he received from Seo-hae’s dad. Underneath it, he wears the same sweater Tae-sool wore in his magazine interview and dons a pair of similar glasses. Staring at his reflection, he tells it not to stare at him like that and smiles.
Mirroring Sigma’s reveal from the previous episode, we watched Tae-sool flip the script and show the audience that he was in control this entire time. It was fun to see him outsmart Sigma for once, and I appreciated the quick pace. Though Tae-sool and Seo-hae’s time traveling adventure brought back some of the show’s whimsy, on the whole, I found this to be a very disappointing finale. Personally, there were too many plot holes and a lack of explanation for me to enjoy this episode, and I still do not understand what exactly the creators wanted to convey to the audience at the end. The show has Tae-sool and Seo-hae fly into the “light,” which could be a metaphor for the afterlife and suggest that they both died and reunited in death. While fans hoping for a happy ending might be satisfied with this scene (though I would call it bittersweet at best), it felt like a poor attempt at a “happily ever after” that puts the leads together with no real explanation. On the whole, I do prefer happy endings, but sometimes sad endings are needed and preferred if they make sense to the story. In the case of Sisyphus, the only way for the leads to “win” was their separation because the show never explored any alternatives.
In fact, the idea of time travel was barely fleshed out in the show, and the characters no longer cared about the time paradox except for using it to outmaneuver each other. It does not make much sense for only Tae-sool to see this future since his and Seo-hae’s body were buried together, but this isn’t the first time the creators have opted for convenient plot devices to suit their needs. I also found it odd for Sigma’s lackeys to disappear first while all the other time travelers went away at the time of Sigma’s death, and when Seung-bok appeared, the missiles were about to hit when Dad and Seo-hae were still outside, which technically means that even if Tae-sool built the uploader, her younger self should have died during the first attack. Again, these choices show the creators’ decisions to make things dramatic at the expense of logic, and while a certain degree of plot holes can be forgiven, they become a problem when they hinder the audience’s ability to immerse themselves into this world and understand what is happening.
The worst part of this ending, however, was Seung-bok. He becomes Sigma 2.0, but a downgraded version, which I didn’t think was possible. Both Seung-bok and Sigma envy Tae-sool because they think he has everything they want. However, the show makes it very clear that Tae-sool is hurting and hiding a painful past. Thus, the villains reveal the ugly jealous nature of humans and depict a lesson about the grass looking greener on the other side. One of the rare moments that I like about the finale was Seo-hae’s dad’s act of kindness. Even though he knows this man probably causes the war, he is the first person to offer a helping hand, and as a result of this, Sigma nearly disappears because he no longer hates everyone. Then at the very end, the creators backtrack on this message since Dad’s warmth seems to hint at the possibility of Sigma recreating this loop all over again. Sigma learns about the uploader and the war because of Dad’s notebook, and though it’s left open-ended, it seems the show is leaning towards the notion that Sigma would still burn down the world even if someone stopped him from dying that day.
What I also dislike about Seung-bok’s last-minute appearance was that it took away Tae-sool and Seo-hae’s heartfelt goodbye. Though the show had lots of problems, this ending captured the bittersweet choice the leads made and was the culmination of Tae-sool’s character growth. His struggle was never about whether he valued his life over others but that he loved people so fiercely that he was afraid of letting them go. This is why he struggled with Tae-san’s death and let his life spiral out of control. This is also why he couldn’t shoot present Sigma when he had the chance because it meant losing Seo-hae. Thus, having Tae-sool finally make that decision out of his own free will felt like the moment the show was building up to, but then, he commits suicide to save the world. It becomes another “hero sacrifices himself for the world” tale, and it nearly unravels the 16+ hours of storytelling the show worked towards. If Tae-sool claims that his death is the only solution, why does Seo-hae think saving his life will stop the war? Was the decision never about Tae-sool having to decide between the world or the girl but actually Seo-hae having to choose the world or the boy? It seems like a cruel ending for Seo-hae who lived through a post-apocalyptic world and went through multiple loops believing that her sacrifice was the only way to save her loved ones and the world, but in reality, she could never succeed in her mission. There are so many things I wished the show did differently since it feels like the creators wasted a lot of potential, but at the very least, I hope the remaining fans enjoyed the ending. As for the rest of us, at least it’s over.