K-Drama Review: The Penthouse (season 1)

The Penthouse: War in Life might just be the craziest Korean drama I’ve ever watched. I can’t recall a K-drama ever inducing this much stress and frustration—and I’m no stranger to makjang (highly exaggerated) dramas. It’s the ultimate revenge thriller with elements of suspense, crime, and mystery. The staggering plot twists and shocking revelations will leave you blindsided, continually second guessing what you think you know. While there are some logical pitfalls and questionable sub-conflicts, Penthouse is certainly a K-drama to remember.

Penthouse takes place in Hera Palace, a 100-story luxury apartment where South Korea’s elites reside. The drama opens with a bang when a student falls to her death, landing on the statue of the Greek goddess Hera; cradled in those cold marble arms, crimson splattered on pale open wings. It’s a symbolic scene that set the tone for the rest of the show. Hera is known as the goddess of women, marriage, and family in Greek religion and mythology. It represents the three women that the plot revolves around; three women with different backgrounds who all seek power and revenge in some way.

No one is completely innocent, except, maybe the poor girl who was murdered, but this drama is full of despicable characters you’ll love to hate (emphasis on the hate). The lies, deceit, betrayal, and corruption—there were times when I felt so upset that I had to take a break. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did, and boy did my blood boil. Aside from the highly dramatized plot twists, Penthouse also meaningfully explores themes of education, class privilege, and female rage. How far is a mother is willing to go to exact revenge when she has nothing left to lose? How dirty is she willing to play? The power of female rage is a glorious thing. Never underestimate a mother’s wrath!  

Character tier list.

My friend and I made several tier lists while watching. This one was from quite early on, when we were only three or four episodes in. As you can see, there weren’t very many characters we loved but quite a few that we despised. As more information and history were revealed, some characters moved up the list and some moved down, and I couldn’t help but pity them because at the end of the day, (almost) everyone was a victim of circumstance, whether it was how they were raised or the mental/physical abuse they faced. Except for the chairman. No pity for him here. He can rot in the depths of hell.

Check out Penthouse if you like murder mysteries, over-the-top drama, revenge stories, crazy plot twists, and the rags-to-riches trope. Keep in mind that nearly all the characters are terrible, and it’s quite stress-inducing! I’m taking a breather before I dive into season 2 because I’m not sure how much more my heart can take, but there’s something undeniably compelling about this series so I’m definitely going to see how things unfold.

The residents of Hera Palace, a luxury penthouse apartment with 100 floors, have many secrets and hidden ambitions. Sim Su Ryeon, who was born into wealth, is the queen of the penthouse apartment. Cheon Seo Jin, the prima donna of the residence, does all she can to give everything to her daughter. Oh Yoon Hee comes from a poor family background, but she strives to enter high society by becoming the queen of the penthouse, the pinnacle of success in her eyes. A battle for wealth, power, and prestige at Seoul’s most coveted penthouse begins.

(From KOCOWA)

K-Drama Review: Vincenzo (spoiler free)

If I had to pick a favorite Korean Drama so far this year, it would undoubtably be Vincenzo. If you’re a fan of K-drama, you might’ve already heard of Vincenzo as it has taken the community by storm. And for a good reason! But if you haven’t, the drama follows a Korean-Italian lawyer and Mafia consigliere, who flees to Seoul in the midst of a Mafia war, and ends up waging war against a corrupt conglomerate where he delivers his own brand of justice. He doesn’t do it alone, and this is where one of my favorite underrated tropes comes in: found family! He forms his own little Mafia with an eccentric, endearing group of misfits.

At times like this, we must find out who their enemies are. Because the enemy of my enemy is a friend.

Vincenzo

Admittedly, the beginning caught me off guard with how quickly the tone shifted from serious to humorous to tragic and back. But once I got a better feeling of the show, it was no longer jarring and instead blended together seamlessly. Vincenzo holds an underlying comedic tone throughout the entire series, interspersed with suspenseful scenes, action-packed sequences, tender moments, and gut-wrenching parts. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly lighthearted tone of this K-drama. It deals with darker, heavy topics and doesn’t shy away from tragedy. It even gets gruesome! What Vincenzo excels at is the element of surprise—you’re never quite sure what to expect. I went from laughing until my sides hurt to gasping in horror, quite a few times. There’s a bit of everything, from tongue in cheek, borderline absurd comedy to a slow-burn heartfelt romance.

I’ve never seen a K-drama use its large cast of side characters so well. I was invested in every single resident and was delighted to see that there was far more to them than meets the eye. My initial impression of Vincenzo was that he was a ruthless, self-serving, pragmatic man who always seemed to be a step ahead of his enemies. While he refers to himself as a villain, I think he falls more into the anti-hero category. Sure, his moral compass is somewhat skewed (he worked for the Mafia after all), but his actions are propelled by a sense of justice. He becomes more of a compassionate character as the drama progresses, and makes plenty of friends along the way. A far cry from the lonesome lawyer who got robbed upon entering South Korea.

One of the most impressive parts of the K-drama was how terrifying yet compelling the antagonists were. They’re so evil, so chilling, so crazy that I just couldn’t look away whenever they were on the screen. The entire cast was incredible, but my highest praises go to Ok Taecyeon and Kim Yeo-jin because their performances blew me away. I watched the whole drama with my friend and he couldn’t stop talking about how scary Kim Yeo-jin’s character was because she played the role so well.

Overall verdict: Vincenzo starts with a bang (or should I say roaring blaze) and ends on an equally exciting and satisfying note. I’ll never look at lighters the same way again!

Rating: 9/10 – Highly recommend.

Bonus rating from my friend who doesn’t watch K-drama but was willing to watch this with me: 8/10

gifs from @jahe

“Villains never break up because they’re tenacious. Even when they’re in love.”

Vincenzo

Blurb: At the age of eight, Park Joo Hyeong went to Italy after being adopted. Now an adult, he is known as Vincenzo Cassano to the Mafia, who employ him as a consigliere. Because mafia factions are at war with each other, he flees to South Korea, where he gets involved with Lawyer Hong Cha Young. She is the type of attorney who will do anything to win a case.

(From mydramalist)

Vincenzo cast:

Song Joong-Ki as Vincenzo Cassano

Jeon Yeo-bin as Hong Cha Young

Ok Taecyeon as Jang Jun Woo

Kwak Dong-Yeon as Jang Han Seo

Kim Yeo-jin as Choi Myung Hee