Evil in academe

Review: Sky Castle - Pablo A. Tariman - The Philippine Star
Evil in academe
Kim Seo-Hyung as the coach in the Korean drama: Intense acting.

The story of the Korean drama (KD), Sky Castle, is pretty familiar even in a local setting.

This obsession with getting into the best schools, achieving the highest possible honors and being associated with the rich and famous is a familiar cautionary tale Filipinos love to wallow into. You saw it in ABS-CBN’s top-rating Kadenang Ginto where a daughter of the rich looks down on poor students and makes sure she wins all the school competitions. You know it is not a local issue because even in the good old U.S.A., you have heard of rich families turning to bribery or “big donations” just to enter an exclusive university.

But after watching Sky Castle, you cringe at the lower depth to which the characters are capable of swimming into just to realize prime ambitions.

These surreal goals turn humans into vicious evil at the expense of the students. All the characters in Sky Castle are preoccupied with keeping up with appearances. Until they realize later in the day that appearances cannot last. It won’t be long when regrets come and you end up holding on to a useless rope of utter infamy.

True, there isn’t a lovable character in Sky Castle. But when they are transformed later in the last few episodes, you realize the series is a product of good writing and good execution of the writer’s uncanny imagination.

The women cast. Well-written with superb direction.

Writer Yoo Hyeon-mi succeeded in transforming evil into positive renewal in the way she fleshed out her characters to make them look sleazy in the beginning and turn them lovable humans when they come to terms with their salacious ambitions.

Sky Castle is set in a prime Korean university supposedly with the best teachers and academic coaches. Students supposedly come from the best families (in terms of income and upbringing) and with the best connections. Its graduates end up as the most sought-after doctors and famous politicians, or heads of hospitals and other institutions. The writer focuses on typical Korean families with that share of obsession and how they end up paying a stiff price for keeping up with appearances.

The Kadenang Ginto’s supreme attraction is a good cast that gave acting a good name, especially on television. Teleserye acting has become so predictable you can’t distinguish one brand of acting from the other. But in Sky Castle, the characters have sharp edges they rip through the television audiences with deep and lasting resonance.

To this writer, nothing beats the evil in coach Kim Joo Young’s (Kim Seo-Hyung) character profile. She’s way above everyone in character portrayal. But the thing is, she is capable of unusual tenderness in the ending where she becomes the ordinary loving mother she was before she became the big conduit of ambitious parents dreaming of the big time for their children.

Towards the ending, she is up to another evil scheme and that is to get rid of her hidden child by way of poisoning. Probably to spare him from the trouble she finds herself in. With the opening intro from Bach’s Goldberg Variations in the background as she puts poison on her child’s favorite food, Kim Seo-Hyung is at once transformed into a great actress of undeniable deep, if, disturbing insight into her role.

All told, Sky Castle is well-written (Yoo Hyeon-mi), well-acted and well-directed (Jo Hyun-tak) with very fine attention to details. With some episodes aired on Channel 7’s Heart of Asia platform, Sky Castle is a good eye-opener for ambitious parents who will not stop at doing the deprave to keep their dubious standing in polite society.

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