“Penthouse” is back and as crazy as ever and I am here to discuss the madness.
Last week so many new dramas premiered, when I ran a poll on our Instagram account to ask you what kdramas you want me to review the top choice was “Penthouse 2.”
It took me a week to watch and write this, and we’re finally here. Let’s discuss “Penthouse 2” and why I am a huge fan of the screenwriter.
“Penthouse 2” can be best summed by one word ‘crazy.’ I think anyone who has seen even 10 minutes can attest to that, and that’s one of the show strengths.
At the wrap up of “Penthouse” season 1, I talked about my speculations going into season 2 and 2 and I questioned how on earth would the screenwriter ever manage to write 24 more 1-hour long episodes, it’s a very difficult task but after seeing the premiere, I don’t think she’ll ever run out of crazy ideas.
“Penthouse 2” is like a makjang drama on LSD, it’s the craziest of the craziest and its so darn addicting. Its like a train wreck you can’t look away from. So lets discuss specifics.
Note: this will be a spoiler review of the said episodes in the title. This is a subjective review.
The genius writing
Screenwriter Kim Sun Ok is a genius in writing makjangs and I am here to discuss why from a writing perspective.
If you read my reviews in any capacity, then you probably have already heard me speak about writing good/evil characters and how writers struggle with that. I also talk often about how terrible character building makes for the most awful watching experience even when the plot is good.
Writing evil characters at the front and center of any project is extremely risky, not only for Korean dramas but across the board, this is why you’d see that dramas and movies up until recent years have mostly had extremely good and righteous characters facing against evil characters.
In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in the anti-hero character, the misunderstood and abandoned who turns on everyone. It explores how society shapes such characters and pushes them through the edge. This also spilled over to kdramas but manifested into its most extreme form in “Penthouse 2,” you can’t possibly write any worse despicable self-centric evil characters than the leading characters in “Penthouse 2” but somehow, no one can take their eyes off of them. This is where the genius comes.
Screenwriter Kim Sun Ok has mastered the art of writing over-the-top scenarios and shocking characters but managed to still keep us invested. In another writer’s hands, I wouldn’t have given this drama a second chance. While the “Penthouse” can be daunting and an annoying experience, the screenwriter sprinkles these ‘hopeful/vengeful’ moments here and there enough to get you addicted and keep you coming back for more.
I think the “Penthouse” is going to have a massive effect on the way screenwriters in SK write. I’ve seen it already happen but I believe it’ll be more obvious in the coming years. What do I mean by that? I mean that Korean screenwriters and production companies will become more comfortable producing dramas that center on morally questionable characters, because now there is the ultimate example of when it could work wonders. There is no better example than the “Penthouse,” and no one who will probably be able to pull it off as well as she does.
I became pickier as I watched more kdramas, I’ve watched every type of kdrama you could possibly think of and I’ve seen hundreds of them [not necessarily completed], so I’ve become able to spot a pattern and it began annoying me because it’s very restrictive. The female/male lead being extremely good/nice and that having a downside and becoming very predictable and not interesting. There is only so much you could do with such characters and even if the circumstances surrounding them are shocking, their actions/reactions will always be restricted by their moral compass.
It’s better to see flawed characters that resemble us in real life than those goody two shoes female leads we usually see in kdramas. I think I began noticing the trend in 2019 with “SKY Castle” but it has become more common to see characters do questionable things, we might not agree with them and might despise them but humanizes them and could pique our interest in ways that the average nice kdrama lead can’t.
Some beats in the “Penthouse 2” are predictable from a writing perspective; I can see a pattern in the way Screenwriter Kim Sun Ok generally writes but it’s still fun despite its absurdity mainly because of the cast.
And even if some plot devices or major shifts are cliché or stereotypical, the way she goes about inserting them into the plot is still very fun to see. Even if it became too predictable, the “Penthouse 2” will remain a very entertaining shocking experience, the plot might be muddy and have holes here and there but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter because it is very fun/nerve-wracking to see.
While the “Penthouse 2” script is interesting and all, I don’t think it could’ve worked without the cast we have right now. Whoever cast Kim So Yeon deserves the biggest raise ever. They say a project is only as good as its villain and darn it, that couldn’t be more true than in this drama.
Every main actor in this drama has to deliver over-the-top exaggerated lines, some of which would never have worked in real life, but somehow these actors pull it off and at the same time are able to maintain a sense of realism to it. If you read some of the lines uttered by the main characters in this drama, you might cringe if you didn’t know the circumstances surrounding them, leave it up to the actors to try their best to understand their characters as much as possible.
I am happy with the attention every actor; even the minor charatcers; receiving attention from this project. I am very happy for the underrated actor Yoon Jong Hoon who is finally getting some of the attention he deserves. He’s always been there and been a great actor but never enough to capture the attention he deserves. I am happy for him.
The same goes for the teen actors in this drama, I am glad I saw some familiar and new faces in this drama able to garner spotlight. This is the perfect drama for such rising actors to grow and learn more. While not all of them are the best or that good at acting, you can still notice their performances improving over the course of the drama, this is something no one can take away from them. We don’t always start at the top but as long as we’re willing to work hard for it, then in my opinion, it’s all that matters.
I’ve seen a noticeable improvement in Kim Young Dae’s performance as well as Choi Ye Bin who plays Eun Byeol. This is technically her debut project, many made fun of her nostrils and how they appear when she’s acting out difficult scenes, but this season, I can definitely see her taking better charge of her scenes. I am proud of her.
Since the writer will likely kill more characters as the season progresses, I don’t think she’ll run out of content, but I am still deeply invested in how she plans on carrying that part out. This will be a difficult challenge but I think she’s up for it.
So these are my thoughts on “Penthouse2”, so what about you guys? did you like the episodes? let me know what you thought in the comment section below.