K-Drama Review: “SKY Castle” Uprears Habit-Forming Following Owing To Excellent Cast & Shocking Plot Twists
From its simple plot, Sky Castle diffuses to a web of unimaginable family scenarios; to reverse its poor premiere to a record-breaking viewership rating.
Soaring high throughout its run, four families colored the narrative of SKY Castle to intriguing bends. Coupled with proportionate moments for its big cast, its fictional world probed on elite families different opinions on supporting their children’s future.
Title: Sky Castle
Theme: Drama, Satire
Length: 16 Episodes
Broadcast Date: 23 Nov 2018 to 02 Feb 2019
Main Leads: Yum Jung Ah, Lee Tae Ran, Yoon Se Ah, Oh Na Ra, Kim Seo Hyung, Kim Bo Ra, Kim Hye Yoon, Kang Chan Hee, Jung Joon Ho, Choi Won Young, Kim Byung Chul, Jo Jae Hyun, Kim Dong Hee, Jo Byung Kyu
Highlights: Stellar Cast Synergy
Drawback: Vague satire spirit, Circling narrative
Quick Plot Roundup
Meet the Sky Castle families
Living in a posh village, the Kangs are well-acquainted with neighborhood prominent families. They all share a dream of sending their children to the country’s top universities. Hence, they follow strict rules of enhancing the children’s education merits that will be essential for college admission.
Married to a renowned doctor, Han Seo Jin has two daughters: Ye Seo and Ye Bin. For years, Seo Jin has been struggling to be accepted by her mother-in-law, and has hidden her humble background. Her tenacious spirit has made her do whatever she can to aid her eldest daughter’s dream to be a doctor like her father.
Meanwhile, Noh Seung Hye is the wife of Professor Cha Min Hyuk. They have three children: Seri and twins Seo Joon and Ki Joon. Seung Hye’s compassionate heart has always relented to her husband’s strict education regimen for their children. Even when it is breaking her heart to see his children do more than what they really want, she struggles contradicting her husband.
Lastly, Jin Jin Hee, the youngest of the SKY Castle wives, is married to Doctor Jo and is mother to Soo Han. The resident human-rumor mill of the village has been taking points from her older neighborhood sisters as she also wants her son to be a doctor, albeit his passing brain aptitude.
Ye Seo’s SNU med school dream
Spinning the conflict of SKY Castle is Seo Jin’s passion to make Ye Seo enter the medical school of Seoul National University. A proud dream for the Kangs since it will make them a family with three generations of doctors.
Because of that, Seo Jin hires a university admission coach, Kim Yeo Jeong, to guide Ye Seo. She met Coach Kim through her friend who committed suicide. Her friend’s son Young Jae successfully entered SNU med school through Coach Kim’s program.
Discovering how Coach Kim aided to Young Jae’s rebellion resulting to his mother’s suicide, Seo Jin initially backs out. However, her daughter demands getting back the service so she agrees. Justifying Ye Seo is different from Young Jae, they continue to follow Coach Kim’s study guide.
A new family moves in to the house vacated by Young Jae’s family. Dr. Hwang Chi Yeol, his wife Lee Su Lim and son Woo Joo start building relationship with the other three families.
But a complication from Seo Jin’s husband past flame presents herself, Hye Na, school rival of Ye Seo. When Hye Na’s mother died, she learned the truth about her birth father so she decides to enter his household.
Working as her half-sister’s tutor for food and lodging, she soon uncovers Coach Kim’s dirty tactics utilized on her mentoring program. Because of Hye Na’s unexpected stumbling of the villainess’ evil ploy, Coach Kim instigated an accident killing Hye Na and pinning Woo Joo on the crime.
Later on, Seo Jin finally realized Coach Kim’s dark colors and makes a move to stop her from her wickedness.
Stellar Cast Energy
It was inevitable to enjoy peeking on the lives of the SKY Castle families, especially the mothers, and how they interacted with each other. They managed to transform the shallow plot by excellently bringing out inconceivable situations as upper class mothers intent to give the best things life can offer for their children.
For the record, I am not a fan of the idea of having overachieving parents who go to impossible studying itinerary for their kids to get to the top universities. But it was a delight to witness how the mothers in SKY Castle were flawed to perfection to keep up with the high society game.
Incidentally, it was also giving quick lessons on child rearing and family relationships while picturing different looks of dysfunctional households. Housewives-powered dramas have built a reputation threading on miserable extra-marital affairs. That was maybe the reason why Sky Castle became a novelty. The strong female cast that you would struggle to call heroines because of their flawed characters are one of the selling points of the series.
It took time for Yum Jung Ah to realize that her outrageous actions to make her daughter a queen had been breaking her emotionally frail daughter in the process. Nevertheless, it was gratifying. As bitter rivals in school and love, Kim Hye Yoon and Kim Bo Ra gave astounding performances stimulating the heavy sentiments of their characters. Arguably the essential fuse that sparked all the sporadic happenings in Sky Castle, Kim Seo Hyung’s wicked and disturbing portrayal as an antagonist would go down to the all-time list of formidable villains.
Exciting Chapter Cliff-hangers
Credited to the cast members’ impeccable chemistry, the fictional story as a whole piqued enough attention for viewers to commit in watching the series. At times though, because the conflict centered on Ye Seo’s SNU dream, the lulls in the narrative were evident. But the emotional buildup closing each chapter really baited the viewers to look forward to its direction.
With an established core conflict, additional side stories and disputes branched out to propel the trajectory of the narrative.
Technically though, the series was bare, since it pretty much focused on Ye Seo’s university journey. What made the plot moving were the crazy character developments that layered the side headaches of the series.
Furthermore, the chapter runs had peak moments, so strong that passing happenings in the story were often washed out. These poignant highs were strategically placed that it cushioned the repetitive tackling of the problem.
However, if you are a keen viewer, you would easily spot how most of the time the bends revolve around Ye Seo all throughout the series, with different sub-problems still pointing to her. Hence, the other children, although given moments of their own, appeared less shining than Bo Ra, Ye Seo and Woo Joo.
On Raised Criticism About Role of Parents In their children’s education goals
Billed as a satire, the simple conflict involving affluent families determined to give the best possible education for their children at all cost sent me to a spiral of emotions. Mainly, because if it aimed to present how rich families splurge on their children’s education, it would be something irrelevant to all.
If the series was after the presentation on how the rich spent their money to castigate the act and encourage viewers to roll their eyes for the “rich people problem”, it does not make sense? I mean, no matter how much a family earns, it’s natural to give what they can afford to support the dreams of their children.
Are we going to castigate the rich people for spending money for their children’s education? For that reason, I got my lessons through the standout characters and their depicted frustrations. The drama gave a healthy dose for viewers to remain grounded and to always settle for peace of mind. For parents, it gave ample scenarios on what they should not ask their children to do to fulfill the dreams they failed to achieve.
Beautiful on its own right, SKY Castle was not something spectacular that ever graced K-Drama land to be honest. If we mull over the lessons from its fictional world perspective, all those family dramas are honestly sad realities, which can make the viewers retrospect.
If someone asks me what the drama is about, my eyes won’t twinkle describing it and I will just really stick to saying that it’s about the extreme measures rich families do to get the university and profession of their choice for their children. Just one plain sentence like that.
Amidst the impressive ratings this drama got, I was just a casual watcher. The hollow conflict, which was transformed to a big issue with web of lies and side stories adorning it, did not leave an encouraging note for me.
But I am not denying the efficient way of how the broken characters breathe life to the story. That’s what I feel on its fictional narrative treatment.
All the four featured families had imparted indispensable lessons about family relationship, parental failures and marital hitches. Depicting the debilitating pressure of youth on strengthening their education merits for their future was another excellent highlight.
On that note, presenting the disheartening truth of how educational attainment has been an agonizing criterion that contributes to one’s success is my takeaway for all the crazy sentiments I got from SKY Castle. Pictured in context of privileged mothers, I think the rolled complication can appeal to all mothers regardless of economic status.
I chose to review this series in its drama viewpoint than its satire delivery because I really can’t gripe on the audacity of the rich people to spend money for their children’s future.
SKY Castle is available on Netflix and Viu.
ABOUT THE WRITER
abbyinhallyuland reads and sleeps a lot when she is not traveling. Her calendar reminders are mostly K-Drama broadcast schedules and birthdays of her favorite Korean actors. Promoting K-Drama watching as stress therapy is her life advocacy. She is fond of Spencer Reid, Gregory House, Kenshin Himura, Starwars saga, Haruki Murakami and Hunter x Hunter.
Recommended Korean Dramas: Reply 1988, Nine, Misaeng, Gaksital, Discovery of Love, Because This is My First Life, Descendants of the Sun, My Love from the Star, Healer, Punch, You’re Beautiful, Coffee Prince, Princess Hours, The Greatest Love, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, City Hunter, and The Smile Has Left Your Eyes.