I just watched a few more episodes and updated this. Still not finished the series and will miss it when I do. The update concerns the paragraph “Unlike really dumb shows about time travel…” (See also edits log in comments)
Warning – Contains Spoilers!
The last ‘Western’ Netflix production that interested me was Lost In Space. Since then I’ve been scouring the international offerings, trying to find something worthy of my time. For many shows, I watched an episode or two and then just felt it wasn’t worth it. The more TV you watch, the more you see the same old story arcs, with slightly different faces and backgrounds. In other words… formulaic trash.
Some of the international shows kept me going for a while longer than an episode or two, but very few compelled me to finish the series.
Sisyphus: The Myth might be an exception.
Sisyphus is actually an ancient Greek myth. But most of us know about that. So I won’t retell in any great detail the story of the man who is doomed to push a rock up a hill for all eternity only to have it slide back down again, forcing him to start again… over and over and over and over…
Then I witnessed the torture of Sisyphus, as he wrestled with a huge rock with both hands. Bracing himself and thrusting with hands and feet he pushed the boulder uphill to the top. But every time, as he was about to send it toppling over the crest, its sheer weight turned it back, and once again towards the plain the pitiless rock rolled down. So once more he had to wrestle with the thing and push it up, while the sweat poured from his limbs and the dust rose high above his head. (Odyssey, Book 11:593)
The South Korean Sisyphus is a lot more fun and sexy than the ancient Greek myth. Well, maybe sexy isn’t the right word. For there is a South Korean wholesomeness about this show. The importance of family values and fidelity permeates this series. Not to say there are no bad apples. God knows, there are.
One bad apple, in particular, is a psychiatrist who tries to dupe her old lover, a tech wizard who lays the foundations for the discovery of time travel. The psychiatrist almost fools her old flame into believing that a plot to destroy him and the woman he loves is a mere delusion brought on by stress and drug addiction. The psychiatrist actually plies her former lover with more drugs to turn him into a kind of zombie who will hopefully give her the information she needs.
The hostile forces behind her – a.k.a. Sigma – will only provide the medication her mother needs to survive if she plays ball and tricks her old lover into revealing the location of a special key.
When I saw this segment I wondered how many twisted individuals do terrible things under pressure from criminals and political hostiles to get the medication or treatment they or their loved ones need to survive. And what kind of monsters would put someone under that kind of pressure?
Betray your old lover and your professional obligations to save your Mom…
However, something tells me this aspect of the show is not so much “myth” but more reality.
Sisyphus is a lof of fun. It’s fresh and deals with an apocalypse and time travel (to hopefully avert it), which when done right are two of my favorite sci-fi themes.
Unlike really dumb shows about time travel, the somewhat complicated plot unfolds as the show progresses. We are often left wondering about this or that detail or character but never for too long. Missing puzzle pieces drop into the narrative just in time to make enough sense to keep us engaged.
The Canadian Netflix ratings only give Sisyphus 2.5 stars out of 5. That may be partly because it’s dubbed and partly because of racism or unconscious provincialism, even though most Canadians like to think they are beyond all that.
True, some of the action scenes are a bit unbelievable and may drag on longer than necessary. But the intricate story, love affair and nuanced psychological interactions are sweet and effective.
Definitely check this out if you have a taste for the strange and beautiful.