SKY Castle is Shattering Records
In a somewhat unexpected turn, the airing of SKY Castle has completely shattered records since its release in November, becoming the highest-rated drama in Korean cable television history, despite still being on air. The drama beat out the viewership of both Reply 1988 and Goblin, the second and third in views respectively, with a renowned run. This is a notable achievement for JTBC, as they finally managed to beat out tvN for top spot. It is also notable that the drama rose from simply 1% viewership during the first episode to its record-breaking double-digit viewership that is still on the rise as we approach the final episode, airing February 1.
The Surprising Premise
Highly-rated cable dramas are often romance dramas with the focus on one particular couple, but SKY Castle is not bringing that to the table. The main plot of the drama follows four extremely wealthy families living in a luxury community known as Sky Castle. The acronym SKY is also colloquially known as a combination of Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University, the most prestigious colleges in the country. This is noteworthy because it was definitely taken into consideration in the naming of the drama, since the main premise of the drama surrounds four housewives working to get their children into one of these prestigious universities.
While the plot may seem fairly simple and even somewhat boring on the surface, this drama is more than just a dramatic depiction of the competitiveness surrounding Korea’s education system. It is also considered both a satire and a black comedy that shines a light on the darker aspects of this competitiveness and how it affects not only children, but the entire family unit as well. Since the drama focuses on the super rich portion of society, it has successfully piqued the interest of the general population of Korea, offering a peek into the super rich education obsession. The intense focus on education in Korea is a well-known fact, yet still somewhat of a taboo in open discussions. SKY Castle isn’t afraid to bust that taboo wide open and expose it to the majority of the population, making this drama a must-see for the country.
A Quick Look into Episode 1
The story begins by introducing the four families, with a focus on the Lee family, whose son Youngjae has just been accepted into Seoul National University’s medical program. Han Seojin and No Seunghye are battling to get their hands on Youngjae’s portfolio, in order to have all the secrets necessary to get their respective children into the program as well. The two attempt to persuade Lee Myungjoo for the portfolio, even as she reveals that she will not give it up to either of them. It is later revealed that the Lee family is hiding something within that portfolio, a secret that would reveal Youngjae did not get into the program on his own merit. The family also hides the fact that Youngjae is leaving home, and instead tells their neighbors that he and Myungjoo are going on a trip together in order to maintain their good image.
The dynamic between the families is different, with Seojin’s husband Joonsang openly defying his wife’s obsession with getting their eldest daughter Yeseo into the same program. Seojin’s obsession is later tied to an intense need Seojin has to be accepted by her mother-in-law, who has shunned her from the beginning of her marriage. In contrast, Seunghye faces fierce pressure from her husband Minhyuk, who is constantly putting her down and reminding her that Seojin always beats her to the punch. The final housewife, Jinhee, is simply a viewer of the unfolding battle, adding fuel to the fire every now and then for her own amusement. Jinhee’s strong personality shows her bossing her family around most of the time, highlighted by her first scene of her comically waking up her husband Yangwoo in order to have him get ready for a party.
While the plot may not seem fairly interesting early on, the episode ends with an unbelievable twist that will certainly leave you with your mouth hanging open. One of these four housewives (you’ll just have to watch to find out who) walks out barefoot into the snowy, frigid night with a gun in hand. She wanders over to the lake, places the barrel of the gun under her chin, and shoots herself. This shocking scene is merely a glimpse into some of the alarming and sinister scenarios that are to come.
SKY Castle is a drama that is not for the faint of heart, but it is important in shining a light on the hushed topic of the education obsession many parents have, showing jaw-dropping scenes of how far they will go or how low they will sink to put their children on top. It is not a conventional storyline that gains a ton of attention, but it’s definitely something to check out.