SKY Castle: What Happens When Adults Don't Act Like Adults?
“We all lie
Tell you the truths
Sometimes we laugh and easily lie”
SKY Castle is a satirical, dark comedy-drama that revolves around the lives of four elite families living in the SKY Castle neighbourhood, situated in the suburbs of Seoul. In reality, SKY is an acronym for the three renowned colleges of South Korea, namely, Seoul National University (SNU), Korea University and Yonsei University. SKY neighbourhood is home to top doctors and a prosecutor turned professor, who all want their children to live a worthy life, which according to them, can only be achieved if they get into one of these above-mentioned colleges. Thus, the story revolves around the Korean National College Exam, Suneung.
The show, like most K-drama shows, starts with a straightforward story but manages to leave the audience baffled with its twists and turns. It's a really well-crafted show that makes its audience grip to their screens since the first episode itself. What is commendable about SKY Castle is that despite its twists, never once does it distract itself from the main plot.
The first episode opens with a party being thrown to celebrate the Park family; whose son got into the Seoul National Medical School. But more than being happy, the other families are interested in knowing the methods that led to his admission. As it turns out, an expensive entrance exam coordinator made this possible. Therefore, this information starts a fight to hire her at an exclusive VVIP party. This coordinator who goes by the name of Kim Joo-Young chooses to teach Ye-Seo, whose only dream has been to get admission in Seoul National Medical College.
A dark cloud falls over the Park family when Lee Myung-Joo, the mother, decides to take her own life. We notice that Kim Joo-Young, the exceptional coordinator, definitely had something to do with it. However, Ye-Seo’s mother, even after finding it all out, is willing to look past all this because all she wants is to see her daughter get into SNU. With such a tragedy, Park family decides to move out and this opens the door for a new family to move in. This new family, Hwang family, have a simple and relaxed outlook towards life which clearly doesn't sit well with the other families. From questioning Lee So Im’s teaching methods to constantly treating her as an outsider, they really do give the Hwang family a hard time. Even at the hospital, Dr Hwang, who wants to treat the patients and interns with utmost respect, is criticised by Dr Kang, Ye-Seo’s father, who is more inclined towards making money and asserting his authority.
With each passing episode, we realise that Joo-Young’s flawless result isn’t a work of her own credibility, but her ability to cheat her ways through. Besides, all the families who have hired her have faced consequences similar to the Park family. But by the time Ye-Seo or her mother became aware of this, they are in too deep in to take a step back. What further unfolds is the lie that Joo-Young managed to hide for all these years, which is also the reason behind her desire to destroy each and every family that hires her. At this point, I thought I couldn't possibly dislike this character more, but what happens in the remaining episodes clearly left me speechless.
The other two families living in the SKY Castle neighbourhood include the Cha and Woo families, who have more of a side role to play. In the Cha family, Min-Hyuk (the head of the family) being the prosecutor turned professor, wants his kids to reach the “top of the pyramid” which he himself failed to do. He forces his dreams on his kids through means that only bear negative results. With the twin boys being average at school, which is obviously something that Min-Hyuk cannot deal with, to the eldest daughter lying about being in Harvard, all of it is a result of him constantly pressuring them. On the other hand, Noh Seung-Hye is an understanding mother who clearly sees through Min-Hyuk’s methods and is willing to end her marriage if that is what it takes to save her children.
The last is the Woo family, and here we see a mother struggling to find a balance between keeping her child happy but also wanting him to study hard and get into SKY. With Dr Woo working under Dr Kang, we constantly see them trying to be on the good side of the Kang family. Not to mention, this family really adds the much-needed elements of comedy that takes this show on another tangent altogether.
In the fifth episode, we come across a new character Kim Hye-na, a bold kid studying in the same class as Ye-Seo. Despite her being a poor child, with a sick mother admitted in the hospital, she still manages to surpass Ye-Seo in academics. Ye-Seo, being a child who cannot stand failure, and her mother, who cannot see her child upset, clearly don't take this well. Ye-Seo’s mother even goes out of her way to tell Hye-na to not mess with Ye-Seo and her goal. To be honest, initially, I didn’t think that her role could be any more than a classmate, but the story that revolves around Hye-na's life leaves Ye-Seo’s goal of SNU Medical School, shaken to its very core.
This show started with a rating of as low as 1%, and halfway through the show, it managed to reach skyrocketing numbers. It has nothing common with the popular K-dramas that revolve around romance, which is also why it is my favourite show. SKY Castle is rather a series that very smartly raises some of the darkest issues that exist in societies all across the globe, especially around Korea’s Scholastic Ability Test, Suneung. With a cast so carefully chosen, and with every actor being true to their role, this show really proves why it received such high ratings. From highlighting the harsh reality of the Korean educational system and how it can take a toll on the mental health of children (since all of them are told is to get into SKY), it also portrays how the elite families are willing to go beyond their means to get their children into a good college, by spending huge sums of money or even adopting ways not available to a normal family. It constantly emphasises how parents tend to force their unachieved dreams and ambitions on their children without asking them what they really want, which can have unforeseen consequences. The other thing that needs to be mentioned is the original soundtrack, "We all lie". This soundtrack is so brilliantly curated that it works perfectly with the storyline. And it is definitely one of those songs I found myself going back to. Also, the added bonus being that it's entirely an English song, strategically used to pull international audiences to the show.
While I agree with the majority audience that the last episode could have been better, but by no means does it destroy the very essence of the show and what it's trying to put forward. Throughout the show, we are made to realise that if Ye-Seo's mother wasn't so selfish towards her child's goal, this all could have been easily avoided. But then, we wouldn't have gotten this masterpiece to binge-watch. Therefore, I recommend this show to the audiences as it has a message relevant to all age groups.
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