This review contains minor spoilers and covers episodes 1-4 of Sisyphus, which is currently available on Netflix.
If 2020 was the year for slice-of-life K-dramas, then 2021 heralds a new age of the dystopian genre for ravenous K-drama fans all over the world.
Enter Sisyphus, with its time-travelling, shadowy operative and fugitive plotlines, yet surprisingly without the big budget that usually accompanies such Marvel-esque dramas on Netflix.
Han Tae Sul (Cho Seung Woo from Stranger) is a once-in-a-lifetime tech prodigy, with the brains of Albert Einstein, the inventive genius of Nikola Tesla and the playboy characteristics of Tony Stark all rolled into one.
He inadvertently finds himself teamed up with Kang Seo Hae (Park Shin Hye from #Alive), a feisty brawler from the future who was sent back to this time. The pair is put into one dangerous situation after another, with multiple parties hunting them down for their own nefarious reasons.
To provide some context, the name is derived from Greek mythology. Sisyphus was a Corinthian king who indulged in his iron-fisted rule, killed guests under his hospitality to perpetuate his tyranny, and fancied himself smarter than Zeus, king of the gods.
Sisyphus even tried to cheat death by chaining up the god of the underworld, Hades. In order to punish his hubris and defiance of the gods, Zeus ordered Sisyphus to roll an enchanted boulder up a hill for eternity. It is a cautionary tale of futility and unending frustration.
Perhaps it is director Jin Hyuk’s aim to express the futility of time travel and those who try to prevent the inevitable and alter the course of history, like Kang Seo Hae tries to do when she travels back in time to try and save Han Tae Sul from his supposed doom. But it is yet unknown if this series has anything serious to say at all.
Despite an explosive and high adrenaline pilot, it is hard to take Sisyphus seriously. As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that Sisyphus honestly does not care about real world logic or science.
Tae Sul saves a plane from crash landing by miraculously fixing the wiring in the cockpit, while casually giving instructions to the vice-president of his company Quantum and Time, Eddie Kim (Tae In Ho), on what to put in his last will and how to distribute his assets.
Even more absurd is the action sequences. Seo Hae consistently manages to fend off 20 heavily armed men from the Control Bureau, led by director Hwang Hyun Seung (Choi Jung Woo). Set up by the South Korean government, the Bureau tries to apprehend all ‘migrants’ from the future, while another group of shady individuals called the Brokers try to get to these ‘migrants’ first to rob them blind.
Also outrageous is how Tae Sul puts together bombs and mobile apps to hack into cars on the spot, all the while hallucinating about his dead brother, who is also (surprise) a time traveller.
Tae Sul tries to pursue the faint leads to find his time-travelling brother to get to the bottom of things.
Yet, it is ironic because his invention of a quantum teleporter is responsible for his brother’s disappearance, and also the rest of the time-travelling migrants who want a better life from the future.
If you want the thrill of a Christopher Nolan movie without the philosophical plot and subtle, intricate nuances, then Sisyphus absolutely takes the cake.