Han Seo Jin, Noh Seung Hye, Jin Jin Hee, Lee Myung Joo all live with their families in SKY Castle, a luxury private town where wealthy doctors and professors live. All of the women wish for their children to enter prestigious universities and are actively supporting their education.
One day, Myung Joo suddenly commits suicide following her son's acceptances into Seoul National Unversity as a medical student. The community is shocked by that and her remaining family quickly moves out from SKY Castle. However, the community is even more shocked, when Lee Soo Im and her inferior-birth family move in. Soo Im takes it upon herself to help the stressed-out children and challenging the other women of SKY Castle, whiles questioning her own ways of supporting her step-son, and uncovering the truth of what happened to Myung Joo's family and their relation to the grade coordinator, Kim Joo Young.
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If I could name a drama equivalent to The Handmaiden, it would be SKY Castle.
SKY Castle is a satirical drama that criticizes practices from corrupt business hierarchy to extreme parenting environments. The drama has impeccable directing, story is full of plot twists, comedy is subtle and melds well, and the cliffhangers are absolutely wild. The drama tends to often be dramatized, especially as it is a satirical work, but the underlying themes are never truly lost.
SKY Castle focuses on a person's wellbeing above all else, be it education, money, or job position. Yes, the aforementioned are important, but at what cost? Certainly not at the expense of giving up all of one's happiness or opportunity for happiness. This drama hits extra close to home and really resonates with people who relate with any of the characters' upbringings, which is fairly common amongst Asian households with views along the conservative side of the spectrum.
As someone that grew up in an environment frighteningly similar to some of the children in the drama, these issues are very real. Some elements of the drama are definitely exaggerated, but parenting ideals are unfortunately very accurate. When I was growing up, anything not perfect was considered failure. Got a B on an exam? Unacceptable. Got an A, but it wasn't 100%? Not good enough. Actually getting perfect? No compliment, only expected to upkeep the results. It wasn't uncommon for me to experience physical abuse for disobeying anything or not achieving expectations. This type of harsh environment is displayed in SKY Castle, and it really unveils how damaging it is to a family.
Abuse shouldn't be a tolerated, period. The drama displays the issues that can arise through punishment especially, as opposed to positive reinforcement . The cycle of punishment can create a rift between a parent and child that gradually expands and expands, eventually leading igniting hatred. So many parents also project their ambitions and dreams onto their children saying it's for the best, never asking or caring what their children want. In some cases, everything works out fine; in others, the child adapts a similar perspective as the parents, and the abusive cycle repeats. In many cases, this absolutely destroys children's relationships with their parents. Often times I thought about suicide, running away from home--these options seemed better than the torture that was presented by my parents. These are serious issues that potentially tread on life and death, and it's very well highlighted within the drama.
At times it wasn't even the studying that was the most draining part of my childhood, but the fact that I felt unloved, only there to satisfy my parents' desires. Endlessly I was told to become a doctor, a lawyer, or insert whatever high paying prestigious occupation. Who cares about what I want, right? Children aren't and shouldn't be a parent's opportunity at a second chance towards their dream; they are their own people, and should be respected as so. Here's a quote that really resonated with me in the drama:
"Who cares if they acknowledge you or not? I just want to be happy."
I was also constantly compared to other children, told how I was inferior to them. "These children can do this and that; why aren't you able to?" This competitive mindset is dangerous; often parents will disregard their children's wellbeing for the sole sake of pushing them towards the absolute limit to be better everyone around them. And...for what purpose? To satisfy the parents' eligibility for bragging rights. Of all things, they push and push and push their children...for bragging rights. Does it matter that your child is smarter or more successful than other children if they're in complete agony?
My relationship with my parents to this day is completely broken. I don't tell them any of my worries and fears, what I'm doing, how I'm doing, because it's unimportant to them if I'm not 'successful' to their standards. Can you imagine being so afraid to tell your parents--who should supposedly be closest to you--anything because you will be disregarded, not acknowledged, and shamed? The characters in SKY Castle can. It's a shame that the people you should be able to lean on are the ones you're afraid of most.
"The greater your suffering, the greater your enlightenment."
This is another quote that I feel can be attributed greatly to SKY Castle on the whole. Often times it's not until you lose everything that you see all that you took for granted. With what this drama presents, hopefully people become more aware of their situations to where such tragedies needn't occur.
At the same time, the drama doesn't fail to also showcase that not everyone is capable of change. Some people, despite losing everything refuse to acknowledge to mistakes and change for the better; they are too blinded by their ego and necessity to be right. That's an unfortunate reality.
With everything previously said, I want to iterate that education is of course vital; this drama definitely isn't making a statement that education isn't needed. It's the balance of a good education with one's wellbeing. Of course, SKY Castle also attributes this not only to education, but jobs, money, titles, and backgrounds as well.
I'm really glad that SKY Castle addresses so all of these issues, and sheds light on how damaging these practices are. Having personally experienced the harsher end of this type of parenting, I don't expect my parents nor many others to change, but small steps in bringing awareness I hope at least has some degree of an impact. This is a very meaningful drama, and I hope everyone that watches it can at least gain something from watching it.
Moving on towards the characters, cast, and acting--everyone did an absolutely phenomenal job.
This drama built and developed characters astoundingly well. Aside one certain character, I could sympathize or empathize with every character on at least some significant level. Even towards characters that I viewed in poor light, I could sympathize with. Despite me not agreeing to so many actions from various people, I could not help but admire the lengths they would go to, especially out of love. It is apparent that many of these characters aren't inherently bad people; you can see that their conscience is slowly eaten away by guilt. They are just widely driven by greed and love for their children, that their perspective is clouded in misjudgment. I couldn't hate them as people for those reasons, only their actions. I believe that is great execution of character depth and development. I've not seen a more convincing performance than from SKY Castle's cast; they were exceptional.
What allowed SKY Castle to be so successful in creating tension and shifting moods ever so flawlessly was its exquisite incorporation of music. The music complemented the brilliant directing and production of the drama. The flow of the drama was never inconsistent. Pure comedic relief scenes were few, but meshed with the drama very well through its music. Ha Jin's "We All Lie" creates a very intense atmosphere, in combination with the cliffhangers, leave you craving for more every episode.
SKY Castle gradually garnered a massive audience as the drama progressed through its satirical portrayal of malpractices, corruption, extreme controversial conservative parenting, neglect, and more. Brilliant directing and production, engaging plot, convincing acting with a powerfully befitting soundtrack to boot. This drama is very well worth your time, further compounded if you can even slightly relate to any of the issues it brings up.
A MUST WATCH !! Every Female character rocks the show.Just AMAZING!! Phenomenal!!
Story is JUST PERFECT!! It delivered everything to you - Comedy, Mystery, Drama, Thriller, School, Slice of Life.
The script is intense and engaging throughout with many twist and turns. Every second, every expression counts, you can't even look away for a single second coz you may miss minute and subtle details in the story.
It portrays the reality of a very sensitive subject of pressures of Education and its toll on the survival of both students and their parents living in the high society. This amazing series takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. One moment you are sad, at others you laugh out loud. One moment you are angry while other moments make you smile with satisfaction. Most importantly, you get to feel all these in EVERY single episode.
The main feeling you get The MOST is the angst you feel while relating to situations of many characters.
You get to know why the person is behaving a certain way and the reason is no nonsense. All characters are multi-dimensional and the actors who performed it are Just FANTABULOUS! Never felt a drama can be this good after My Mister.
I won't go into details about characters coz it will be difficult to describe them in a single word and there are too many characters where I can't decide who did better. But every single female character has STRONG presence in the story. But that doesn't make male leads weaker. They are perfectly blended into the story.
Music is GREAT! Loved almost all the OSTs.
Another plus of this drama is the Cinematography and body language of every single character.
Rewatch is a MUST! I rewatched many scenes even many eps. again because every bit is WORTH it!!