Deterministic, mutable, or multiverse? Yes, I speak of time travel and timelines. This is the central question that drives the momentum of the plot in Sisyphus. It is rarely discussed that way, but it underlies almost all of the decisions. Which is also part of the problem at times…when characters only take part of that into account as they make their decisions. And the part they take is often purely emotional rather than logical.
Ultimately, it makes the story primarily about selfishness and greed even through it revolves around a growing romance between Cho Seung-woo and Park Shin-Hye, not to mention the fate of the world. So much could have been avoided at a number of points if characters had been willing to sacrifice, even if only temporarily, for the rest of the world. But they don’t. Is it human? Maybe, but it sometimes felt more than a little convenient for the plot rather than real. Of course, in a deterministic universe, it made complete sense, though it still got frustrating.
But that aspect aside, as it quickly would move off those moments and into the next challenges, this South Korean sci-fi epic is worthy of its 16, hour+ long episodes driven forward by that conundrum. And it stretches out the answers, relatively fairly, till the very last minutes.
In addition to the central pair there are a number of supporting roles. Most notable are the creepy Byeong-cheol Kim (and the kid who plays his younger self is just as creepy), and the ever morphing Dong-il Sung, who’s character evolves over and over through the series. Also, Hye-in Jeong has an interesting path and part to play. There are many others over this long epic tale, but most are playing standard kinds of parts that simply move the plot along. And the plot, and the questions it raises, are the main attraction here. What is nice about the format is that it has room for the story and characters to breathe and grow rather than just having to rush from conflict to conflict.
Admittedly, this is no Dark. However, it is a complex story with a lot of solid logic…and a few fudges. But it also doesn’t try to explain everything in dialogue, allowing the last of the puzzle pieces to be yours to assemble; particularly during the final couple episodes. If you enjoy time travel adventure and Eastern film tropes (cause there are definitely some of those as well), as well as a peek into Korean culture amid the flying bullets and chase scenes, this is a show worth your time. It isn’t perfect and it gets a bit sappy and even silly at times, but it managed to keep me coming back week after week for the new episodes. And you don’t even have to wait now that they’ve all dropped. The best news is that the story is complete unto itself; so no waiting for a conclusion either.