Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 11 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 12 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 13 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 14 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 15 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 16 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 17 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 18 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 19 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 20 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 21 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Penthouse is a crazy, dramatic, beautiful mess. Leaning heavily into overly dramatized elements (makjang), Penthouse is a 21 episode rollercoaster ride of emotion. Blending elements of a murder mystery, slice of life drama and thriller together, SBS’s latest melodrama is a thoroughly enjoyable romp and despite its obvious flaws, makes for some unforgettable TV.
The story here predominantly revolves around a 100-floor luxury apartment block known as Hera Palace. The residents that live there though are absolutely awful. At the hierarchical peak is Chairman Joo and his two bratty kids, Seok-Hoon and Seok-Kyung. Together they stifle and berate step-Mum Su-Ryeon whom Joo is married to.
Setting her predatory eyes on their family however is Seo-Jin, the Director of Cheong-A Art School. After assuming dominance over the school, rigging exam results and making it so the elite few succeed, she casts her eyes on Joo and engages in a sordid affair with him.
On the fringes of this though lies Yoon-Hee and her daughter Ro-Na. Playing up the poor side of the hierarchical ladder, Ro-Na attends school and immediately finds herself bullied, berated and belittled by teachers and students alike. Still, she presses on and remains determined to make her music career a success. Yoon-Hee however, finds herself struggling in the wake of the venomous ladies inside Hera Palace and looks like she could crack at any moment.
Everything changes though when Seol-A arrives on the scene. Recruited as a tutor to help Seok-Hoon and Seok-Kyung, she immediately finds herself out of her depth and bullied thanks to her upbringing and poor background. This eventually spills over into devastation one night at Hera Palace when someone throws her over the balcony and to her death.
What ensues from here is a compelling whodunit, blended in with school slice-of-life material. There’s a lot of big fights, slaps, screaming and action set-pieces throughout and Penthouse is not afraid to throw in a big plot twist or two. In fact, it throws in so many twists and turns that at times it has a hard time staying upright.
The characters do have compelling arcs though and across the season many of them go through a number of transformative moments. Seok-Hoon, for example, develops an affection for Ro-Na that softens his character slightly while Su-Ryeon quickly becomes the focal point of the entire show and becomes a protagonist that’s very easy to root for.
Then there’s both Logan and Ho-Dong who show up on the scene midway through and have their own vendetta and secrets (no spoilers here!)
With a cliffhanger ending and 2 more seasons already confirmed, this certainly isn’t the last we’ll see of Penthouse. Given the first season cleaned house at the SBS Awards and brought home a number of acting accolades, this is undoubtedly going to turn a lot of heads toward this drama that otherwise wouldn’t.
Penthouse is not perfect, it has some conventional “soap opera” turns and the character development is poor at times. What it sacrifices in characterisation it makes up for with an irresistible storyline that’s hard to turn away from once you’re hooked. It won’t be for everyone but for those who are sucked into the drama of this one, Penthouse is makjang at its gloriously trashy best.
Verdict - 7.5/10